Power Monkey Camp – Day 1

So I was riding in a minivan with Elizabeth Akinwale…

As you may know, I am attending Power Monkey Camp this week in Crossville, Tennessee. It is a training experience focused on gymnastics and weightlifting organized by two former Olympic athletes, Dave Durante and Chad Vaughn.

It is held at Flipfest Camp, a summer gymnastics camp set on the shore of Lake Frances, about 95 miles east of Nashville.

Upon arriving at the airport, I joined the crew of campers who would be driving over to the camp together.

They were easy to pick out of the crowd thanks to their athletic wear, tattoos and beards. But all as nice as can be.

They were representative of the campers that are here this week – a mix of Games athletes, box owners, coaches and amateurs.

We had a caravan of mini-vans and made our way through the countryside of Tennessee with the appropriate amount of moonshine and Deliverance jokes.

I had the pleasure of riding with Minneapolis-born and raised Games athlete Elizabeth Akinwale.

Rather than talk about her athletic career, We talked about the everyday and the familiar – Chicago traffic, Minneapolis winters, her son, my nephews.

It was perfectly norl and set the tone for how this week will be – an opportunity to be with amazing athletes and coaches but interacting at a familiar level.

This was emphasized by the fact that it truly is a summer camp with cabins and a canteen and a mess hall where we will all sleep and eat together.

It’s a week where dress clothes and makeup are eschewed for sweats and gym socks. No facades, no fronting, just a fun week of playing and learning in the gym.

The afternoon was free for us to do whatever. I took advantage of the gymnastics setting and practiced my handstands for almost an hour.

I rested for a bit and then realizing dinner was still a ways off, decided to go back to the gym and row a 5,000-meter row at a moderate pace.

It was a casual environment with people watching football or working out, staff unloading equipment and everyone shaking hands and trying to remember names.

maDinner, which like all meals at the camp, was prepared by Paleo Nick. It was delicious and much welcomed. I enjoyed two generous plates of the Thai a Turkey Throwdown he served up and now cannot wait for breakfast.

After dinner, it was finally time for the orientation session. Dave and Chad and the staff introduced themselves and went over the schedule and logistics for the week.

In addition, they welcomed Ron Ortiz, Vic McQuaid, Scott Pancheck, Neal Maddox, Amanda Allen, Wes Piat, Elizabeth Akinwale, Amy White, April Lowe, Shawn Ramirez, Anna Toonacliff and Jules Broadbent – all of whom were there to participate and learn alongside the campers.

With such a dynamic mix, Dave emphasized how important technique was to the mission of the camp. We are here to set a good foundation.

It’s with this focus that he encouraged us to approach each and every moment.

Dave believes that everyone is starting the week at the same level. Forget what you know or think you know and appreciate what we all will learn together.

I was struck by the welcoming words of the owner of Flipfest Camp, three time Olympian John Roethlusberger, who said that he doesn’t measure greatness in such a diverse group by the hardware around our necks but by “how close do you get to how great you can be”.

am looking forward to a week to focus on finding out how great I can be in such a truly supportive, fun environment.

…and I’m definitely not shaving this week.

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