But the Centr trainer is also passionate about helping women unleash their own inner superheroes.
"I'm always about empowering women and letting them understand that [fitness] is not about how you look, it's about how you feel. And if we can establish that empowerment, I think women can become even more unstoppable!" the Hawaiian-born, California-based trainer says.
This is how I ended up at his first ever Australian Raw Functional Training (RFT) Level 1 course. It’s the same methodology he puts the superheroes through. It starts with dynamic bodyweight movements designed to increase mobility and functionality, and improve the body's ability to adapt, then builds up to doing those same moves with sensory overload. On day 1 of the course, that sensory overload was delivered by coloured cones and loud music. On day 2, it was the sand and a strong surf that we had to contend with.
I’m not gonna lie: It was crazy-tough. But that was the point. Because no matter what your fitness level, Da Rulk – the strong man with the big, hearty laugh who treats everyone as Ohana ie family – wants you to go beyond what you think you’re capable of.
“The training really tests you, mentally. There’s no heavy lifting, there’s no sprinting or anything like that [involved]. It’s really just, can you push yourself through a level of being uncomfortable?” Da Rulk says. “When you come out the other side, you just have this euphoric aspect of, ‘I did it. I can do anything!’ Right? And if that becomes the norm in your life, where you’re able to push through adversity, can you imagine the things you can accomplish?”
That’s exactly how I felt after completing the course. There were times when my body was in so much pain because of the lactic acid build-up that I wanted to stop, but I kept going with Da Rulk yelling out, “Come on, sis!” in the background. There were other times when I had to ignore the nausea from rolling my body in the ocean, because I had to stay focused enough to run out of the surf to bear crawl up on the sand and to the cones, before rolling on the sand to do it all again (20 TIMES in total!). By the end of the last session, everything hurt, I was exhausted, but I really felt like I could take on the world.
Da Rulk has that kind of effect on people.
After I’d refuelled and could feel my legs again, I sat down with Da Rulk to find out more about how he’s able to get the most out of people and how you can incorporate his RFT mindset into your own life.
Lizza: Okay, let's start with a goodie.
Da Rulk: Oh, with a goodie?
Lizza: Yeah. What do you think is the biggest misconception about fitness?
Da Rulk: I think people think fitness is just about aesthetics and how you look, and I think fitness is far more about how you feel about yourself. We talked about it [the day] before, about mental strength, physical strength. It’s more about empowerment, right?
Da Rulk: It’s that synergy of those two things. The element of mental strength and fortitude with physical strength conditioning. Can we pair those together to feel more empowered? Through that empowerment, we start to gather things like discipline and consistency that can help us feed us on a journey to accomplish our goals.
Lizza: How did you learn that personally?
Da Rulk: Like most of us: trial and error. But I was fortunate to work with first responders initially. First responders is a very unique genre where you have to be very selfless, right? And you have to find strength that's more than physical because you're put into situations where you're physically exhausted and mentally you want a break. And there's so much of a crossover from that to real-life for all of us. And it's not necessarily that you're going into a burning building to save someone, but it's dealing with adversity and the trials and tribulations of life; being able to kind of pick yourself up and push through it.
And, of course, from being a father. I have two boys. I want to be a great example of how to never quit, right? I think people are always focused on how strong are you? How fast are you? How well conditioned are you? And my thing has always been how resilient are you? How disciplined are you? How driven are you? And I think all of that comes back to purpose.
Lizza: So, what’s your purpose?
Da Rulk: Purpose for me is my family. I’m a firm believer that our children and anyone around us will follow what we do rather what we say. So you have to live it. And so my purpose is to be that example for my children.
My son asked me once, “Hey Dad, is there more than 100 per cent?” And I said, “Ah, yes, there is. There’s 120 per cent.” Right? It's like running through the tape. If a sprinter's running 100 meters, they run past the tape. They don't stop at the end.
And then my son, at that time, I think he was only seven or eight, he was like, “Do you do that, Dad?” “Of course,” I told him, “Yes, I do,” but in my head I was like, “Shit, I don't do that.” It was a reality check for me to realise he’s going to see eventually that what I'm trying to instil in him, I don't even follow.
In our day and age now, we talk about Instagram and everyone wanting to influence. If you want to truly be an influencer, as someone who’s going to make a difference, you have to be about the change, not talk about the change.
Lizza: Yeah. Actually be the example that you set.
Da Rulk: Be the example. I think it’s not a matter of how many people you affect, it’s can you work on yourself? Can you work on your own character? Can you work on your own weaknesses to be a more complete person?
Lizza: Exactly. So I was the only girl on the course this weekend. What do you think is the current barrier to women trying RFT?
Da Rulk: I think people know that I have trained military and first responders, so they think the training must be too challenging and too hard. And it is challenging, but it's purpose-driven movement and it’s applicable to everyone across all genres.
The certification that you performed over this weekend was really to test yourself mentally. By nature, we don’t want to be uncomfortable. That’s where we feel good, but then there's no growth. And if there's no growth... Life is so short and if you really want to maximise your time here, and really maximise the power that lives within you, you have to push a little bit, you know? And so I try to create something that people can push through, knowing that they're in a safe environment, but it's still challenging.
It's hard [to understand] until you go through that experience, right? I mean, it's one thing to learn things in theory and have people encourage you or inspire you or motivate you, but until you actually go through it, it doesn’t really resonate and make you change your perspective on how you can be the best version of yourself.
Da Rulk hopes to come back to Australia in 2020 to run another RFT Level 1 Certification, so follow him on Instagram for updates. If you can’t wait and want to try some of his workouts now, you can find him on Centr.