Calisthenics Family: Working Out, Crushing Goals, Building a Business

Calisthenics Family was founded in 2017 by brothers Yannick (left) and Michael (right).

For those who don’t know you, can you give us a quick rundown of who you are and what you both do?

Michael:

Yeah, so I’m Michael. I’m currently 26 years old. I live in Nijmegen, which is in the Netherlands. At the moment, I run my own gym so I’m doing daily personal training, group lessons and, next to that, [Yannick and] I create YouTube videos about Calisthenics.

Yannick:

I’m Yannick, I’m 25 and, yeah, I’m doing the same. Together, we do online coaching, we also make customised programmes and customised meal plans.

Michael, on your website you explain that you became happier and more confident by living a healthier lifestyle. Why do you think this is?

Michael:

In general, getting into fitness made me more motivated to work on myself, but calisthenics pushed me even further. I had a vision and a goal, and I hadn’t really had that before, so it was a real eye-opener for me. It made me more driven as a person.

Do your clients report similar benefits (i.e. improved confidence/greater sense of happiness)?

Yannick:

Yeah, practising calisthenics is way more than just a sport. It’s not just the exercise that gives people benefits but, really, everything around it – the routines that you build, the discipline you acquire from improving at a skill.

It’s different to the gym – in the gym, you lift some weights and then next week you try to lift slightly more, but with calisthenics, you really have to be disciplined; you have to figure out what progressions are fit for you. It’s a long term journey, but I think that the discipline you gain spills over into other areas of your life.

I’ve had some clients who weren’t happy with their lifestyle – like, they were smoking too much pot, drinking too much, and just didn’t know what to do with their lives – but through calisthenics they found their enjoyment back; they had some challenge back in their lives.

They’d start incorporating some of the morning routines that I recommended and, yeah, not only did they start a new sport, but they also created a whole new lifestyle based on the one that we have been living for the past few years. That really gave them joy in their lives.

Can you talk more about the morning routine you mentioned?

Yannick:

Yeah, so for the past year or so I’ve been waking up between 5am-6am and encouraging some of my clients to do the same. Most of them have a 9-5 job; they get home from work and they’re tired – too tired to then work out in the evening. So I recommended that they wake up early and workout first thing in the morning. This made them feel way more energetic during their workouts and better set up for the day.

Our habits are often tied to one another. For example, working out more may lead to eating healthier; eating healthier to increased energy, etc.. Looking back to when you started, were there any other key habits in your journey?

Michael:

Yeah, first of all, eating healthy and taking the right supplements. But also going to bed early; following an evening routine; doing mobility exercises and stretching. For example, when I went to the gym, I didn’t do any stretching because I just wanted to get bigger – I thought there was no mobility needed. But since starting calisthenics I’ve also started training in other disciplines as well.

But I think the most important habit is actually tracking progress. It may be weird to you if you’ve never done it before, like, tracking your food for example – I can imagine that some people will hate the idea of doing this, but, if you just start, it becomes a normal thing to do. You improve much faster if you track progress, and it just feels good to be in control.

Did it help to have each other? How did you influence and motivate one another?

Yannick:

Yeah, well, especially in the beginning; we worked out together for two years. Like, we came from the gym and our first goal was to do a muscle up, so we worked on that. Then, our goal was to do a handstand, so we worked on that.

In the beginning, yeah, I think we just motivated each other to actually work out and to actually work on the goals that we had in mind. I think we made more progress together than we would have if we trained by ourselves.

Michael:

We basically started playing around in our backyards, competing against each other as two brothers would. It was like, “I can do the handstand” or “I can hold it this long” – there was a challenge between us. And that was basically our first year of practice, just playing around and showing off and that really helped.

Actually, right now, I sometimes feel less motivated than I did in the beginning. Because now the goals are harder. It’s much more of a routine, you know. We have more struggles right now; more ups and downs; sometimes injuries as well. So now I find it harder to keep consistent and work towards my goals, compared to when I was just getting started and improving much quicker.

How do you keep working out consistently, when you find that it's becoming more of a routine or you're not progressing much?

Michael:

Basically just by setting goals, tracking and sticking to the process. Those are the main points.

Yannick:

In the beginning, you have some goals which you can usually achieve within a couple months. But now, our goals can take a year or two to achieve. We both know that and that’s pretty much the reason why we keep working out – because we know, to achieve those longer term goals, we have to be consistent.

What do you tell clients who struggle with consistency?

Yannick:

I tell them when they don’t work out it’s like a downward spiral. If you don’t work out, you’re not going to have results, and if you don’t have results, you’re not going to be as motivated to workout.

I tell them that they have to overcome this. Just go work out. When you do two or three workouts per week, you will immediately notice the progress and when you feel progress, you will also feel a sense of achievement and this will make you feel good. And if you feel good, you are then more likely to work out again. 

So, yeah, I tell them that there is an upward or downward spiral that they get to choose.

Michael:

I think also, one key thing that I share with my clients is that the goal shouldn’t be to achieve your goals as fast as possible. If, for example, you have six or eight exercises, and you’ve only progressed in a single one, then that’s progress; that’s an achievement. 

By setting smaller, mini goals, it’s easier to stay consistent. And eventually those smaller goals will add up to the bigger picture of, say, a front lever or a handstand.

Do you find this mentality around goal-setting applies to other parts of your life, such as your business?

Michael:

Yeah, for sure, the same principles apply. At first, we started setting calisthenics goals, but then we also started setting business goals. At the end of the year, we do a reflection to see whether we have crushed the goals or whether we failed to meet them. From there, we can think about what we have to do in order to get there or decide if perhaps they aren’t relevant anymore.

Why do we achieve some goals and not others?

Yannick:

I think it’s mainly down to the level of desire you have. Goals that you really want to achieve, you’re far more likely to. Also, goals that you have fun working towards. If the journey itself is boring, it’s probably less likely that you will achieve the goal. 

With calisthenics it’s different because some things that are boring to work on are really important for those more exciting goals that you’d like to achieve. For example, to achieve a front lever, you have to do a lot of scapula work and I find these exercises really boring, but I know that they’re essential to unlock this cool move that I’d like to achieve.

You just have to know which are important; which tasks are essential that you do yourself and, in the case of business, which tasks you can let other people handle.

Michael:

Yeah, I think it’s important to enjoy the journey rather than fixating on just the end result.

You describe the four key components to calisthenics as: strength, skill, mobility and flexibility. If someone had four hours a week to work out, how should they allocate their time between these four, assuming they’d like to replicate your success? Would it be equal (i.e. one hour for each) or are some areas more important to prioritise than others?

Michael:

It really depends on your goals, but mobility and flexibility are neglected by most beginners and they’re very important; they’ll help you progress much faster down the line. Only after you’ve got some basic strength, flexibility and mobility would I suggest you start practicing harder skills. Of course, you can play around with skills in the beginning but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve not trained at all.

I would say 50% of your time should go to strength training, 25% to mobility and also 25% to flexibility training, in the initial stages. From there, just adjust depending on your goals.

For me, a big goal is the one arm handstand. It’s what I’m working on right now. I know, for that, I’ll have to do a lot of flexibility and mobility; I won’t need much more strength. So it really depends on the goal.

How have you designed your environment to make your goals easier to achieve?

Yannick:

I think the most important aspect is to have as few distractions as possible. So for example, when you’re going to work out, don’t have your phone or laptop nearby, so you don’t get any notifications. Same goes for business, like we have an office now and we like to keep it clean. We don’t like to have distractions.

Funny story – the first year we had the office, one wall was completely orange. We didn’t like working here, but we didn’t know why. Once we painted it and got some nice furniture, we actually worked here a lot more. Basically, you’ve got to have a clean environment and one that you like to work in – the same goes for the gym.

You guys are constantly creating new content. What would your advice be for someone looking to build a similarly strong work ethic?

Michael:

The main rule is just to start somewhere. We talk to a lot of people that have the desire to set something up, but they are afraid, or they think that they have to achieve something else first, before they can actually get going. But it’s really important to just let that go.

Simply start with the easiest task and from there, gradually build your way up. You will notice that once you’ve started the first task, then, like with training, you will get more motivation, and then you’ll move on to the second task. That’s how we built the business that we have now.

But yeah, that’s a good question. Work ethic and work discipline – that’s a hard one man. [To Yannick] Why is it important, why have we never skipped a video?

Yannick:

Yeah, we know how important it is to be consistent, not just for us but also for our followers. Like, if you say that you’re dropping two videos a week, then, by not doing it, you’re actually disappointing your fans.

Michael:

But I think the main thing here is that we would actually disappoint ourselves. It comes down to the standard you set for yourself. But, again, it’s really important that, if you’re just starting, you don’t set the standard too high as otherwise you just won’t start. That’s the biggest and most common mistake that I see. For us, we have already been doing this for three or four years, so we have had the time to get to a really high standard.

How do you avoid burnout?

Michael:

We like to work on projects. So, for example, the ‘Calisthenics Basics Course’ was a really big project for us – it took a lot of energy; you know, sometimes working like 12 hours a day. After the project, you need to create some free time for yourself, and, for us, we like to go abroad or do something completely different.

So, yeah, taking the right time off at the right moment – I think that’s really important. I have experienced it myself where I’ve done too much work and I’ve said to Yannick, you know, maybe I need to take some time off. Now we are a lot more aware of this and try to stop at the right moment. The same has happened working out; I’ve pushed my body to injury but, now, luckily I’ve learned from it.

In your eBook you mention the 80/20 rule and how it relates to dieting, do you apply this concept more generally - for example, in balancing health and fitness with taking time off, having fun and relaxing?

Yannick:

 I think you can apply the 80/20 rule to most things in life. Coming back to what we were saying before about setting the standard too high – people getting into YouTube want to give 100% for a video, but it’s way too hard. They think that, if they don’t, the video will not be good enough compared to the big channels out there. But it’s better to have 10 videos where you put in 80% effort, let’s say, than just 1 or 2 videos that are perfect. Frequency is key.

Michael:

In terms of training, if you’re feeling off on a particular day, and you just don’t have the energy to work out, then it might be better to just take it a bit slower or to simply not train at all. Then you’ve got some time to fuel yourself up and start fresh again next week, rather than make the situation worse.

Yannick:

I’m a huge perfectionist, so I’ve had a hard time with this, but yes, I’ve learned throughout the years that sometimes it’s better to give 80% instead of 100%. Because it’s also commonly said that the last 20% takes just as much time and effort as the first 80%.

Michael:

I think it’s really important to know when you can apply the 80/20 rule and when you have to do something as perfect as possible. Because sometimes, for example, when you’re creating a customised plan for a client, you cannot just say, well, fuck it, I’m tired now, let’s skip that last workout.

What obstacles did you overcome to create and scale your business to where it is today?

Michael:

One thing for sure is just the sheer amount of work that it takes. Also, learning to let things go and to let someone else take care of it. That was a struggle – to find what tasks are important for us to do and what others can do for us.

I come up with a new idea almost every week. I have so many ideas that I want to put out, but for me, a learning point has been the realisation that it’s just not possible to do everything that you want. Sometimes you have to choose one, focus entirely on it and finish it before you move on to the next.

What surprising lessons have you learned as entrepreneurs?

Yannick:

I think, for one, the importance of setting deadlines. You have to set deadlines because otherwise you’re just going to postpone your projects. But they also have to be realistic. When Michael and I are working on a project, we give all we can to try and reach the deadline; it really motivates us to put in the time and effort. With the ‘Calisthenics Basic Course’, I don’t think we would have achieved it if we hadn’t set a deadline.

You’re often working with other content creators, what do you see as being the main value of collaboration (either in business or more generally)?

Michael:

First of all, it’s just good to connect with other people who are doing similar things to you; it helps with building an online appearance. When we collaborate with another YouTube channel, we provide an audience and we also receive a new audience – so that is the benefit from a business point of view. But personally, I just find it good to talk and interact with similarly driven people.

Yannick:

Yeah, I think the networking part is an important aspect. If you get to know people in your own field you can learn a lot – maybe they have an app running and your goal is to run an app yourself, well then, you can ask questions and learn from them.

Who were your fitness role models when first starting out?

Michael:

For us it was THENX. We were just really motivated by their videos. And eventually, [Yannick] went to Miami, and got to meet Chris Heria.

Yannick:

Later on, he came to the Netherlands to give a workshop, and because we knew the gym owner who organised it, and because I’d already met Chris Heria, we hung out with him afterwards and shot a video. So that’s a good example of networking.

Besides working out, what are the things you try to do each day?

Michael:

We both do the same kind of thing, I think. Like, I’ll wake up and do mobility work in the morning; I’ve recently started following the Wim Hof method as well, so I do that every day; I take a cold shower, first warm, then cold; and read for about 15-20 minutes before getting to work on our daily tasks, like answering emails, checking up with clients. Yeah that’s the routine we do every single day.

What do you think is a good balance between keeping to your routine and also breaking away from it?

Michael:

Personally, I break the routine during the weekends. Or, like, if I go somewhere with my girlfriend, say, to visit her parents, then of course I’ll break it. I just try to get back on it on Monday.

Calisthenics Family

Finally, what is your advice for young men?

Michael:

As we mentioned earlier, don’t set the standard too high for yourself. Just start, if you have an idea, just start with the most simple task and from there, gradually build it up. Don’t be scared of what other people will think of you.

Yannick:

I would also say, do what makes you happy. Everyone has different goals – some maybe crazy, but that’s fine. Because, at the end of the day, you just want to live your life doing the things that you enjoy doing.

Michael:

Also, it’s important to know that you will always inspire someone with your actions. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you may think you are – there will always be someone that you are inspiring, so don’t be afraid to share progress with your friends or family.

Don’t compare yourself with other people – especially, you know, on Instagram; all the young guys are getting affected by everything they see on Instagram and YouTube. It’s the internet, it’s not reality.

Yannick:

Yeah, that’s it. Don’t compare yourself to other people who have already achieved the things that you’d like to achieve. Rather, compare yourself to yourself, because you don’t need to focus on what others have achieved; focus on yourself.

If you’re looking to start calisthenics, download their free eBook – it’s a great resource covering everything you need to get started, make progress and avoid the typical beginner mistakes. Check out their YouTube channel too, they regularly upload useful as well as motivational videos.

Enter our book giveaway and

get the latest from us.
Get in touch: contact@fatpoke.com
Copyright © 2020 FATPOKE. Privacy Policy