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Podcast No. 20: Marcus Filly, Revival Strength Owner and 6-Time CrossFit Games Competitor

April 24, 2019

Today on the podcast we’ve got Marcus Filly, a 6-time CrossFit Games competitor and the owner and founder of Revival Strength training.

By Will Ahmed

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Marcus also has a degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. He left medical school to focus instead on helping people be more fit and live healthier lives.

Marcus and I discuss his background in athletics, from his time as a high school soccer goalie to his rapid ascension to the top of the CrossFit world, and how that led to what he does today. From there we dive into his training methods and philosophies, how he evaluates fitness over time, diet and nutrition, his sleeping habits, and much more.

We also explore how WHOOP helps him to be a better athlete, coach, business owner and father, as well as how he uses it with his clients. Whether you’re an athlete or not, I think you’ll find Marcus’ insight into healthier living to be very beneficial, and we’re thrilled to have him as one of our long-time members.

Show Notes:

3:48 – What Marcus Does in his own words. “I’m a health and fitness professional who is probably a coach first, athlete second … I use my history as an athlete and my continued pursuit as an athlete to inform what I’m doing with my clients.”

4:53 – Soccer Background. “With the community that I was raised in, soccer was the main recreational sport. I think we were 7 or 8 years old, and from there it just kind of stuck. … It was more about being physical and being active.” As a high school sophomore he was asked to play goalie, and that’s when he really started getting bigger.

8:45 – Lifting Weights at an early age. “I think I was 12-13 years old.”

9:40 – Exposed to Crossfit. “After college a friend was like ‘Hey, come do this class with me.’ … It was totally my speed. That sort of transformed the next 12 years of my life.”

10:47 – Competing in Games only two-and-a-half years later. “The landscape today is very different.” Marcus explains how much harder it is today.

12:07 – Becoming a Coach. “It was totally in line with wanting to go to medical school in the first place.” He was eager to help people be healthier on a daily basis as opposed to simply treating symptoms.

15:57 – His Coaching Practice, what does it entail? “Individual coaching where we become their health and fitness guides … The other side is being a thought leader and educator in the space of something I’ve termed ‘functional bodybuilding.’”

19:19 – Functional Bodybuilding? “Everybody’s function depends on what they do in their life.” Marcus elaborates on what can be considered nonfunctional, noting that big people still have the same sized skeletons. “Just carrying more mass on a frame is difficult.”

24:11 – Cold Showers. “I start freezing cold, I stay in there 2-5 minutes.” He discusses Wim Hof’s methods. “I absolutely feel an energetic boost immediately after I get out.” Will talks about how cold showers make him feel less concerned with the temperature outside, Marcus agrees.

29:50 – Preparing Meals for the week. “Everything’s prepped on Sunday. … My whole family is pretty much on the same plan.” They generally cook meat, vegetables and a starch. “We’re big on using glass containers and not plastic. I’ll take 2 or 3 of them to the gym everyday with me.” He focuses on being protein and fat heavy in the mornings.

32:09 – Performance Goals at this point in his life. “Continue to experiment and explore functional bodybuilding, I want to feel healthy in the way that I don’t have injuries and nagging pains. … I don’t want to accept that that’s part of being a dad and a business owner [like competitive athletes do].”

34:42 – WHOOP Data. “As soon as it shows up on my phone I evaluate my sleep patterns and my recovery. Most days I can pretty much tell where I’m going to end up.”

35:15 – Low Recovery Days. “I’ll go into the gym and I’ll still train, but I’ll dial it back a little.”

36:14 – The Long Game. “My key core message that I teach–this is a long game and you win by being consistent. … I would be really curious to have this tool when I was at my peak competing.”

38:19 – CrossFit’s Unorthodox Season. “It’s very chaotic. … There’s no very clear periodization for most athletes.” Many other sports have defined offseasons.

41:41 – Picking a Trainer who’s right for you. “I think the No. 1 thing is somebody who can first listen really well to you, and has good communication skills.”

43:05 – Individual Coaching vs Personal Training, what’s the difference? “I write you a plan which you go and execute on your own. … With individual coaching we teach our clients over time how to be autonomous with their health and fitness and make good decisions.” Marcus talks about how if you do a once-a-week session at a gym with a trainer, you may not be well set up for the next week. “Personal training for most people is not affordable for the frequency by which they need to move.”

50:18 – Coach & Client Relationship. “Really what our business is … developing relationships with clients and supporting them with a training plan, a holistic coach that can look at all the different aspects of their lives.” Including work, sleep, stress, family, nutrition, etc.

51:37 – Community. “I formerly owned a CrossFit gym, one of the most powerful things I learned from that experience was just how impactful that community feel could be.” Marcus focuses on mixing that with individual coaching. “We’re doing big group classes with people that are all doing their own thing.”

53:41 – Social Media & Balance. “It’s been a really interesting growth and journey for me, seeing how it’s become really central to my business and my brand platform. … I continue to give away a lot of great free content because I really still care to do that, and it’s an opportunity to promote things that are within my business to sell.” Striking that balance is a challenge.

1:01:29 – Advice for Building a Voice. “Are you creating other ways to speak to the audience that are not just social media posts?” Marcus points out that Instagram any other social media platforms aren’t necessarily stable. “If you have all your eggs in that one basket and it’s this thing that’s constantly changing and you don’t have insight or access to what’s really happening with it, it’s a scary world to be a part of.”

1:03:26 – Evaluating Fitness Over Time. “I do believe that to a certain extent I’ve hit my physiological maxes, given my age at 34, coming up on 35 … I don’t see myself hitting big personal record going forwards.” He now looks at how quickly he bounces back. “How well am I recovering from training, how much work did I do in a given day, how did I feel afterwards, and how did I feel the next day?”

1:06:31 – Training Journal. “All my workouts are on an app in my phone.” Marcus uses the True Coach app, and records comments on his workouts as well.

1:07:57 – Clients on WHOOP. “We have our WHOOP team with close to 40 global clients on it. … When we have consultations every month we can reference that data.” Marcus likes having his staff on it too. “It’s good to see our coaches have to be accountable to their own sleep and recovery.”

1:09:40 – Enough Time in Bed. “I’m making the time for it.” It’s tough with a baby. “My in-bed time is way up, but my total sleep hours are similar.” He details his efforts to get enough sleep despite waking up multiple times each night.

1:12:32 – Sleep Routine & Environment. “We have a totally pitch black room, and we keep it cold.” He also has a fan next to him in bed. “We do white noise, it’s the one everyone uses for their baby.” Additionally Marcus takes a melatonin supplement pre-bed, as well as magnesium.

1:17:33 – Personal Benefits of WHOOP. “For me, predominantly being able to have insight into what’s happening at night. Sleep. … To know when my body’s signals are things that I can trust.” He also uses it to adjust nourishment at night. “What’s my calorie output on WHOOP relative to a normal day?”

1:22:14 – Self-Experimentation that affected his WHOOP data? Marcus recently took a Viome test that suggested he avoid black coffee. “Within the first week [after eliminating it] my recovery scores were much higher, my HRVs were much higher.”

1:25:15 – Find Marcus Online on Instagram @marcusfilly, and visit to join his email list and get some great free training content.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.