He went from tending bars in Oxford to living his dream in the Caribbean, but adrenaline junkie Sam Rossiter learned the hard way what it takes to come from rock bottom to fitness model at BodyPower, three times – as it turns out, you need a super-powered mindset…
Sam Rossiter’s career as a fitness model, free runner and trainer only really came about when he took the risk to transform his life. But the qualified PT, sports masseuse and kinesiologist, now living in Caberete in the Dominican Republic, has almost had his dream snuffed out by body-mangling accidents. He’s become an expert in bouncing back from serious setbacks, but what advice can his experience give us?
RSNG Tell us about the serious injuries you’ve overcome?
SAM ROSSITER, FITNESS MODEL ‘I've had some brutal motorcycle accidents over the last five years, almost 365 days apart, all roughly six months before BodyPower UK expo where I go to represent USN and put on a show. My injuries range from broken legs, ankles, wrists, torn off thumbs and fingers, broken ribs, complete loss of sight in left eye, totally deaf in left ear, destroyed knees, no right ACL, partial MCL, and the list goes on. All eight months prior to show times. So after two months of laying down, I had six left to see what I could do.’
‘The man who says he can and the man who says he can’t are both usually right’
RSNG That’s a horrifically painful list – how did you manage to bounce back in time?
SR ‘In those six months, three years running, I managed to learn to walk properly again, get back to lifting and put on some lost mass, then diet down to contest condition, every year surpassing my previous conditions and then every year having a bigger accident! After so many rebuilds from scratch and basic movements, I learnt that the problem I faced was really my attitude towards the problem. Most people would see this as being faced with two choices: to give up, or push forward. Being raised by my parents that giving up was never an option, my reality was that I faced only one option. To push forward. The man who says he can, and the man who says he can't, are both usually right.’
RSNG But it must have been disheartening, so how did you say mentally up for the challenge?
SR ‘Staying up when we’re down seems impossible at the time, but in hindsight those down times play an important role in growth and development of our mindset. The down times give us a clearer perspective with which to judge our good times. Every injury we get, or mistake we make, should be seen as a life-lesson, not a life-sentence. Take what you can learn, apply it next time, and turn one step back into two steps forward. Remember, for an arrow to be fired at a target, first it must be pulled back as far as possible.’
RSNG How have you transferred what you learned the hard way into training other athletes?
SR ‘It’s important to set in someone’s mind at the beginning of a journey what the end goal is, so when it gets tough and they feel like the struggle or pain is too much, we remind them of the choice they made and that they only feel like quitting because it is what they want NOW, not what they want MOST. It is really down to them to work for what they want, and there are no shortcuts.’
‘When they feel like quitting, I calmly say “It's OK: this is a work in progress. No matter how long it may take, if you truly want to it, you will get it. If you don’t get it, then you don’t want it bad enough.” You can't win physically if you’re losing mentally, but it’s also very hard to stop someone who just won’t give up.’
‘Your weakness should be your focus until it is no longer your weakness’
RSNG What advice would you give to someone who felt they were in a rut with their training?
SR ‘Our bodies adapt to our training extremely quickly, which is why it’s important to always switch up our systems, methods, drops sets, weights and reps to always give our bodies a REASON to change. If it doesn’t challenge us, it won’t change us. When we ‘perfect’ a lift or move, it’s a sign that it’s time to focus on another. Your weakness should be your focus until it is no longer your weakness.’
RSNG If we were to master one free running move today that would be useful in other sports, what would it be and how would we do it?
SR ‘Parkour is fluidity in motion and free running is the same, but with more flips and thrills – if you can transfer that fluidity into other sports, you’re onto a winning formula. Start with ‘The Vault’, which is a ‘hand plant’, where you use a single hand to keep your body up whilst clearing an obstacle with your legs. This is the most fluid way to clear an obstacle or gap, using the power generated from the jump to push off the ledge or obstacle.’
‘For a small fence, first focus on setting your run-up to make sure you plant your feet in an optimal position to take-off from to start your jump. In mid-run, take off on a single-leg (double works fine too, but is less orthodox) biasing your weight towards the side, which you will plant your hand on. Push off with the hand whilst carrying through your momentum with your legs. The result: higher and further distance to assist your jump!’
RSNG You use a lot of calisthenics in your training – what does this give you that lifting weights does not?
SR ‘Lifting as heavy as I can is a primal desire I have to be as strong as I can, but it has truly shown me that to be a master of my physical form I have to be able to control my own bodyweight too. Handstands, balance, jumping and backflips all use our fast-twitch, isometric and rapid eccentric muscle fibres and contractions, which are slightly different to the usual stress for hypertrophy caused by pure resistance training.’
RSNG You must be looking for ways to prevent injury – does calisthenics help with that?
SR ‘Calisthenics to me is a way of insuring your body against further injury when enduring heavy resistance training. It’s like building a house. First, we must build a solid foundation – calisthenics, core work etc. Then, we build the structure – heavy lifting and compound lifts to build mass. Then we’re free to decorate the house as we please by shredding down, dieting, or changing our training. These three phases all need equal attention, however it pains me that most of the world completely misses the first and more important step!’
‘My focus is adding as much life to my years as I possibly can while I can’
RSNG You went from being a bartender in Oxford to working and living in the Caribbean – what made you make the leap?
SR ‘There is a very big difference between living life and merely existing. Normality for the average person is spending their life being cautious and saving in an attempt to prolong their existence. In no way am I saying this isn’t worth doing. My point is that these people are completely missing the point of life itself, whilst their focus is too preoccupied trying to ensure their life continues. Thinking about the future is important, but forgetting to live in the moment is a critical error.’
‘My world revolves around self exploration. My focus is adding as much life to my years as I possibly can while I can, because the truth is, none of us know when we’re going to peace out. So, why did I move away from the UK to the Caribbean? I was scared of living a boring life. The worst thing I could possibly imagine being was exactly the same as everybody else.’
RSNG As an extreme sports athlete you are used to taking risks – what have you learnt about danger and fear?
SR ‘The more I failed and broke myself over the years, the wiser I became with my approach to decision making when risk is involved. Approaching things in a calculated manner, having understood the potential risks is extremely important. The fear of the potential failure is what can cause failure itself. Confidence is key, but knowing when to push your limits and seriously over step your limits is a balance we have to dance on the edge of, in order to not end up injured.’
‘All my injuries served a purpose by making me smarter, understanding what went wrong and why, so I theoretically now have an advantage. Do not misunderstand: ‘danger’ is very real. However ‘fear’ is a product of our own creation. ‘Fear’ is our thoughts of the potential consequences of failure. Separating fear from danger comes down to our judgment. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment!’
RSNG Finally, what advice would you have for someone who wanted to realise their dream life?
SR ‘I come from a family of extreme sports athletes, so I was fast-tracked by them into the realisation that my dream life would always remain a dream life unless I started making it real, piece by piece. I wanted something I had never had before, so I had to do something I’d never done before. Leaving my comfort zone was step one. Pushing my limits physically required me to first push my limits mentally. It’s shown me that I can choose to live in any way I want, move in any way I want, change the function and aesthetics of my body any way I want, simply by trusting in the process and staying dedicated to the training and eating.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Sam Rossiter training while explaining his motivation and mindset…
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time
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Sam Rossiter is an ambassador for sports nutrition brand USN who have just launched their brand new Blue Lab Whey protein