My name is Dave Thomas and I live in Pacific Beach, San Diego by way of the great state of Virginia. For the last six years, I have owned Performance360 where I have programmed training for thousands of athletes, coached over 2,000 classes, written hundreds of articles, and done every job you could possibly think of from hiring and training coaches, creating an industry certification, scrubbing actual shit out of toilets, mopping floors and painting walls.
My journey is a different story than what you’re used to reading in this industry. I have not always loved fitness. In fact, I used to hate it and be very, very average at it. Ask my college strength coach. After college, I nearly punted fitness for good for the #SundayFunday life, before my journey that brought me to your iPhone ever started.
Let me spin you a little yarn here, as I take you through it all.
1996 – 2000: THE “CEREAL FOR DINNER” YEARS
Cookie Crisp, Ramen noodles, white rice with A1 sauce, cheese quesadillas, Breyer’s Ice Cream shakes, 6 for $0.29 McDonald’s Hamburger, Fruity Pebbles.
If you said, “the contents of Dave’s high school stomach” then you would be correct.
At age 18, I was a pretty decent multi-sport athlete in high school in no thanks to my elected diet of 60% processed carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 5% protein. A killer ratio for those looking to play competitive sports in college.
In fact, let’s get my mom on the horn to confirm this claim of mine.
“I tried substituting chicken in chile and tacos – didn’t go over that great. I tried serving eggs for dinner – sometimes worked. But, sadly, as a mother I have to confess David subsisted predominantly on cereal! He and his brother went through a box a day – I tried buying generic and low sugar, because they would eat anything out of a cardboard box. That, and we always had Big Batch chocolate chip cookies – I had a sweet tooth – and passed on a terrible habit! Fortunately, I think they still love me.”
(And to prove my mom wrote that, I didn’t even know ‘subsisted’ was a word.)
Of course we lova ya, ma! You’re the reason everyone is blessed to know me today.
Now, I ate this way for a couple of reasons. First and foremost I had about as much of a clue about nutrition as I did college microeconomics class, which is to say D+ level. My idea of proper sports performance nutrition was to eat as much quantity as I could for my $3 a day meal allowance at school. This usually lead to two apple cinnamon churros at break time (I miss break), an
egg roll with white rice, and a cookie for lunch, and of course the crucial 1 p.m. Veryfine juice from the vending machine to get me out of Trig or whatever else I was busy getting a ‘C’ in for a few minutes.
My second priority for diet was that it had to taste incredible.
After practice? I’d drive my punk ass over to McDonald’s and load up on as many hamburgers as I could and call it a day. Those were the good ole days of $0.89 gas and $0.29 hamburger promotions.
Add those two priorities together and you get a malnourished, void of any muscle mass weakling who somehow earned a DI baseball offer to the University of Richmond with what must have been solely because of Harry’s genes (my father, a very good athlete in his day playing two sports at UVA. Big ups, HT.)
My high school diet was so bad that I swear to you, my best friend Zach’s mom had a standing invitation for me to eat dinner at their house whenever I wanted, because she was so fearful that I was malnourished.
Let’s go to the email again and hear it from Zach, my buddy.
“Mom always felt the need to feed her kids’ friends, especially when she learned about their eating habits. You were a top priority as the after school/dinner refugee as the Cookie Crisp, Chef Boyardee, Campbell soup diet horrified her…by the way, when you get a chance look through some high school pictures, you were a freaking twig. Hats off to you for playing D1 baseball because the canned food aisle didn’t do you any favors. You’ve come a long way.”
Yeah could have done without the jab, Z, but you made my point.
I was 135 pounds as I entered college and had never seriously lifted weights or really understood the concept of protein. My #CarbsAreLife diet left me literally starving for growth and muscle. My body was ready to soak up nutrients and explode, I just didn’t know it until…
2000 – 2004: THE “HOLY SHIT I CAN EAT THIS FOR FREE?” YEARS
“Hey, nerd. Go get me some damn water.”
I was bracing to hear this repeatedly for my entire Freshmen season, however something happened and it happened quickly.
My body started expanding and quickly. Thanks to the glorious notion that is the collegiate dining hall, I could crush whatever I wanted for three meals a day. Seconds? You bet your ass I want seconds, jiggly arm lady serving sassy mac n’ cheese! More corn nuggets? Damn it, I said hit me!
An ALL. YOU. CAN. EAT FROZEN. YOGURT. BAR?
I put on 25 pounds in the first month of school via weight training and the aforementioned massive increase in caloric intake. Fast forward to the end of my Freshmen year and I had pulled a Reverse Lohan, adding 40 pounds and getting up to 175 all in a shade under ten months.
This is where it hit me like a cold hard bench press slap of reality to my Cookie Crisp eating face…I can eat a lot and it will result in bigger and stronger?
Unfortunately, I got a little drunk with my new superpower.
I was a lean, fit and fast 175 pounds after my first year and I thought that this was the greatest realization of all time. Eat whatever I want, whenever I want, in as much quantity as I want and I will just add muscle and improve my play on the diamond?
Eh. Not exactly, it turns out.
My third year is when Tubs McGee started to make a little bit of an appearance and I went up to 190 pounds, to date the heaviest I have ever been in my life. And not a, “Man you look awesome!” 190 pounds. More of a, “Stop ordering Papa John’s on your SpiderCard for the love of GOD” 190.
My strength plateaued that year and I put on probably a total of 10 pounds of fat via this new game called Beer Pong that for some reason I played with Miller High Life. I was slower on the base paths, my previously fast bat speed went to molasses, and the valuable quickness that I needed as a middle infielder vanished like blow in Johnny Depp’s condo.
It was my Senior year when the whole diet and performance combination started to really sink in, and I started to actively seek knowledge on how I could cut weight without sacrificing strength.
Little did I know I was researching performance and nutrition.
This was the first time when I started to be cognizant of my food consumption and my training, as opposed to making a joke out of both. The result was a 12 pound fat loss and back down to my 175-ish playing weight for my Senior season.
As I graduated college I took this recent passion for how diet and training could change my body weight, performance, composition, muscle fiber breakdown and overall energy and…
2004 – 2007: THE “YOU SURE COLLEGE IS OVER?” YEARS
….partied and ate burritos.
Dammit. That didn’t go as planned.
The one athletic constant in my life since 2000 has been that I’ve always worked out with regularity, gone to the gym, and committed myself to routine. Thing is that routine hasn’t always been savory, and I did a lot more “working out” than I did “training”. In these post-college years my diet fluctuated drastically with direct correlation to how often I went out with friends. The more I partied, the worse I ate and at age 23 I partied…A LOT.
Even though I still “went to the gym” I noticed I was gaining weight in a manner I didn’t like. What the fuck? I’m “working out, bro”. How come I am gaining weight in the wrong areas? I was putting on muscle but I was not lean, strong and athletic like I wanted to be. I was puffy. I had no interest in the “get huge” approach where I could bicep curl 50′s and got out of breath by doing the leg press.
I wanted to be strong, but functionally strong and in a lean body weight range. I wanted to be able to sprint a mile, clean jerk, and sidestep ninjas and shit.
Problem was, I still didn’t really know a ton about training. I had a good understanding of power lifting from our college strength coach, Jim Roney, and by ripping exercises from health magazines here and there, but never really tried and experimented with anything other than that because I just didn’t know what was out there.
I continued to toil away in the ‘fairly muscular but feel like shit and not that strong’ area for a couple of years until I moved to San Diego in 2008 and began a committed, serious attack to make a career in fitness.
2008 – PRESENT: THE “STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW WE’RE HERE” YEARS
Shortly after arriving in San Diego at age 27, I quit the corporate world to pursue a career in fitness. I had no contacts, no inroads, and no idea what I was going to do. I hopped on the phone with my Dad and I said, “I don’t like working for companies anymore, I feel like I have no purpose. What I really want to do is get into fitness and open a gym one day.”
Mind you, I had no experience in fitness professionally. None. I was fully expecting my dad to tell me I was nuts, only, he said, “I think you should do it.”
I got my CPT-NSCA and Certified Nutritional Consultant designation in 2009 from the National Personal Training Institute, and started training clients for next to no money. I was hungry for success and to buck the norm of “fitness guy”. I wanted to take what I learned as a regular guy who lived a regular life, didn’t obsess over every aspect of fitness, have an actual life outside of the gym and encourage as many people as possible to adopt the same approach.
I suppose that’s called balance.
My book of clients exploded, and in under a year I was booked completely full, training people for 14 hours of the day, most days. I hustled. I was exhausted. I trained people in a commercial gym, on the bay, at their house. I didn’t give a fuck. I wanted to train and I wanted to learn.
In 2011, with the help of my college teammate, roommate and friend, Bryan Pritz, we opened Performance360, which just as quickly grew to two locations in 2014 and now here we are today, recognized as one of the premier strength and conditioning gyms in the country with multiple locations, a history of thousands of athletes of all levels, and a growing following.
Over the last eight years, I have trained three to six days a week with power lifting, weightlifting, and kettlebells. I’ve balanced out my diet to where I can sit comfortably at a lean, strong body, yet still go out and have the occasional pizza when I am really craving it. Nowadays my idea of partying mainly consists of watching Friends re-runs on the couch with my girlfriend, Anna.
At age 35, with coming up on ten years of professional experience, I am fortunate enough to be sought after for my help and opinions with both fitness and the business of running a gym, and I still get to coach once a week and be hands-on with athletes.
I have obtained various certifications and credentials including:
- USA Weightlifting
- Onnit Kettlebell
- Russian Kettlebell
- OPEX CCP (in progress)
- Nicole Zapoli Gymnastics
I have also created the P360 FCC Certification that has been used to create and train some of the finest coaches in the country.
I have learned more than I ever thought possible and still find I am humbled daily by what I don’t know and continue to get to learn. In this blog, I share everything about owning a gym. The business side of it, my success and failures as a programmer and coach for thousands of athletes, and how you can better yourself to have not just a hobby, but a career.
Thanks for reading.