There’s a secret that only people who work out are in on: life is easy. OK, maybe not easy, but it’s a lot easier for people who are vigorously active on a regular basis, because once you’ve left your heart and soul in a pool of sweat on the floor, you can’t be daunted by the minor inconveniences and irritations of daily life. As our friend Mitchell Crocker says, “If I can overcome a workout, I shouldn’t have anything stressing me out.”
Crocker, 39, of Missouri City, Texas, is one of the happiest and most positive guys we know, and the perfect subject for our continuing Onnit Stories series—a collection of live interviews with people who have made inspiring life changes with Onnit’s help. See below for a video interview with Crocker, conducted by Onnit Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf, and an edited transcript of the conversation. You can stay up to date with Onnit Stories by following Onnit’s Instagram TV (IGTV), where a new one appears every Wednesday.
John Wolf: You’ve played such a big role in our Facebook community, the Onnit Tribe, and I think people should know how you came to us in the first place. Can you tell us the backstory of how you found Onnit?
Mitchell Crocker: Well, I have a crazy trainer—Justin. He’s Onnit certified. Every time he would go to Onnit to get another certification, he’d come back to our sessions with something new and crazy for me to do. He’d always be like, “Try this,” and I’d think, “Here it comes, another challenging move that’s new to me.”
When the lockdowns hit last year, I said to him, “I can’t go to my gym, but I still need you to train me.” But he was like, “Nope, not going to do it. It’s not safe.” Instead, he told me to do an Onnit 6 program [a six-week workout program you can stream online, so you can train at home]. I bought the Onnit 6 Bodyweight, and I got a message saying to join the Onnit Tribe Facebook group too. I joined, and I posted a picture of myself in the forum. I think I had my shirt off in the picture, just to show what kind of shape I was in before starting the program. I got 300 or 400 likes and comments right away, and that made me think, “This group is something special.” It boosted my confidence.
The group’s attitude was, “Hey, man, come on and do this with us.” It was kind of like I had a trainer there with me all the time. I had somebody there walking me through the workouts and talking me through everything. When I did the Onnit 6 workouts, I felt like I developed a relationship with the models demonstrating the exercises in the program. One of them, Jena, became like my friend. Of course I couldn’t talk to her—I’m just watching her on video—but she was showing how to do the Level 1 modifications for the exercises, and Level 1 is where I started.
I posted videos in the Tribe every day, talking about how I was feeling. I started out complaining a little bit, but then I started to make funny videos, because nobody wants to hear a complainer. I realized that people are all going through the same struggles, and the sense of friendship and family grew from there.
I know your trainer, and he was an Onnit supporter from the beginning, attending some of our earliest education events. You originally connected with him via a corporate wellness initiative at your company, is that correct?
Yes. One of the executives at my company is my mentor. I asked him for guidance, and he said, “You don’t need any help spiritually, or with your career, or education-wise. You’re doing well at all that. But I am concerned about your health.” So he brought me to Justin.
I think we should point out that your mentor is a much more holistic coach than most business mentors, saying, “Hey, if you’re really going to be successful, I need you to be healthy.” And he took it another step too, didn’t he?
Yes, he not only put me in contact with Justin, but he would come in at 5:30 a.m. to have his session with Justin and then he would stay afterward to do my workout with Justin with me—mine was at 6:00 a.m. So he would go through every exercise in his session, and then he would be there right beside me to do mine.
That’s some leadership right there. He not only held you accountable, but he did it with you to make sure you had the support you needed. So, you’re working with Justin for a handful of years and then, boom, the world changes.
Yeah. When I got into the Tribe, it started to not be about just the workouts anymore. It was about the videos I posted and what kinds of responses I would get. I was providing laughter for people, and it was actually inspiring them and changing some peoples’ lives. Some of them were in a rut or procrastinating, and they looked forward to the videos. I had to even watch the times I posted them, because some people were like, “I needed your video before I worked out,” or, “I needed it when I woke up this morning.” So I started trying to be cognizant of what time I posted them.
It’s funny how your mentor stepped up and supported you, and, in a way, you’ve done the same for all these members of the Tribe. Tell everybody how you open up your videos. What do you say?
“What’s up Onnit Triiiiibe!”
You put a lot of juice into that! [Laughs]. You always bring that fire, that enthusiasm. So you were saying that your first chosen Onnit 6 program was Bodyweight. Some of us got more body to move in than others, and the Bodyweight program is probably the one most people find the highest level of difficulty with. Can you tell us about your experience with it?
Bodyweight was the one Justin told me to do. If I’d known about the other ones, I probably would have chosen Onnit 6 Steel Mace, because the steel mace is my favorite tool. But I’m glad I did Bodyweight first. It was the most challenging Onnit 6, so it was the most rewarding. I had to modify some of the movements, and I still do, but I keep pushing and trying. You never stop trying.
I think that’s really important, Mitch. When people work out along with an exercise video, a lot of them will assume they’re doing the moves the way that the person in the video is doing them—they’re not very self-aware—or, they’re very aware that they’re not doing it the right way, and then they feel defeated. It’s OK if you can’t do it like the models do in the video, as long as you’re taking little steps to get closer and closer to emulating that skill. When you had to modify things, how would you determine what the best way to go about modifying the exercise would be?
First, I would pause the video. I would look at it and see where I had to stop, or where it was getting difficult. And then, if I thought I couldn’t do the exercise the way it was demonstrated, I would see if I could alter it to try to get those same muscle groups working. Either way, I still called Justin and said, “I’m unable to do this. I can get to this point…” Then he would tell me, “All right, do this instead, and you can transition later, but try to work on this so you can get full range of motion.”
When other people get stuck like that, they don’t necessarily have a coach or trainer they can just dial up. What would you suggest for people that don’t have the homie hookup?
I have asked questions in the Onnit Tribe, and I’ve looked at the answers to similar questions other people posted. There are always comments where people chime in. “Hey, I tried this instead of that.” And they actually put videos in the comments showing how they did it. That’s the advantage of being in the Onnit Tribe—I don’t even have to reach out to my trainer anymore. I can just go on the Tribe and ask a question and, almost immediately, somebody’s going to answer and give some kind of insight.
How often is it that you see any negativity in the responses in the Tribe?
Almost never, and if there is negativity, we’re a family, man. We don’t let anyone discourage or disrespect our family. It’s really close-knit. People open up and they share stuff that they’ve kept down inside for a long time. It’s freeing. I’ve seen people come out of shells and gain confidence and become stronger. They’re an inspiration for other people now. They were followers and have now become leaders.
Some people have come off addictions with the help of the Onnit Tribe. It’s unlike a typical social media group, where people try to portray themselves as something they’re not. These people are totally honest, and they trust everyone in the community to keep it in the community.
For people who don’t know, the Onnit 6 programs are six-week periodized workouts where you’re using a certain methodology or tool. These include bodyweight, kettlebell, steel mace, barbell, Durability, or steel club. We have six of these Onnit 6 programs. We also recently kicked off these Onnit in 30 programs, which is more streaming fitness content—10 workouts that are 30 minutes or less for under $10. Each one has a theme—like mobility, ground-based movement, or kettlebells. These things are designed to get people to discover Onnit, to enter our system, and then, what Mitchell’s saying, is that once you get inside, you get the mental, emotional, and maybe even spiritual support that you might need to see even better results.
I made a face when you were talking about Onnit in 30 because, man, it’s really worth more than $10. There are so many different options of workouts that you can do with these things. I use them as a mental challenge more than a physical one.
My mood determines which workout I choose on a given day. What I want to do in a workout depends on how my day went or how my morning is going. When I wake up in the morning, if I feel energetic, I’ll do the Morning Mobility Onnit in 30, or Decompress To Defy. If I’m feeling really pumped, or in beast mode, I’ll do My Warmup, Your Workout from Juan Leija. You’re like your own therapist through these workouts. The dialogue from the coaches during the videos is funny, and it can be corny, but it gets me laughing throughout, and then I don’t think about the actual physical movements. It’s like you’re doing the workout, but you’re having a conversation with the coaches who are leading them.
I live every day with joy because of these programs. I’m like, “Why do I need to stress? Why do I need to worry? My only challenge is doing this movement for 40 seconds,” or something like that. I feel like if I can overcome this workout and have a good time doing it, I shouldn’t have anything stressing me out.
It sounds to me like you prioritize activity in the morning that prepares you to face whatever else is going to get thrown at you that day. Like the workouts are a pre-conditioning exercise. The other thing I’ll highlight is that you have this collection of Onnit workouts, and it’s almost like you have different music to play depending on what you want to hear. You have your pump-up playlist, if you’re about to go conquer the world that day—you know what workout you’re going to play for it.
But it’s not about beasting out all the time. It’s about a good balance, and honoring yourself and your intuition on what you need at a given moment.
I can agree with that. It’s wonderful just to let everything go and let the music take over. When I’m doing the workouts, I’m not thinking about the physical part or the mental part. I have a stronger mind, more confidence, and I know I’m getting healthier from these Onnit workouts, but the biggest benefit is having friends that I can share these moments with in the Onnit Tribe.
Yeah, that’s a big point. When we accomplish something, if we do it alone and cannot celebrate it with loved ones, is it really that fulfilling? A lot of us have dreams that require us to make sacrifices. Sometimes the people that we love, or who love us, can’t understand those sacrifices. But people you surround yourself with—your chosen family—can understand your sacrifice completely and help you feel like it’s all worth it.
People reach out to me all the time in the Tribe and say, “Hey, man, I know I don’t post much but I thank you for your inspiration on a daily basis. You keep me laughing. I can get through my day after looking through your videos.” It’s not even about the workout. It’s just about getting through the day. I appreciate all of that. It’s humbling and overwhelming.
You are a rock for our community, man. That’s why I wanted to make sure we took a moment to celebrate that. And I want people to understand that you don’t have to do something grandiose to benefit from the Tribe. You don’t have to post anything today. You can just be open to input and plan out what you’re going to do tomorrow to make yourself better. You can just reach out to my boy Mitchell and see how he’s doing. Ask how he brings this joyous personality every day. I know he’s getting his butt kicked by the workout just like I am, but he stays positive.
And speaking of sharing in other people’s joy and accomplishments, I was having lunch with you when you got some big news. Tell everybody what happened.
I got accepted into the doctorate program at University of Texas, at Tyler. So, in a couple of weeks, I start school in the HR development program.
You’ll be Dr. Mitchell Crocker soon. I was just so thankful that that happened the day we met up and I got to be a part of that. That was a pretty momentous day. I just want to say congratulations again.
Let’s start taking questions from the viewers now. Here’s one… “Mitchell, what keeps you motivated? Your energy is contagious.”
My motivation comes from my purpose. I live for purpose in life, and my purpose is to spread cheer and inspire others to inspire others—to pay it forward. If I’m feeling down, I don’t like to show it, because it’s contagious. Your character is contagious to other people. When you smile, people smile back. I have a girlfriend and two kids that make me very happy, so that’s motivating too. I want to be in their lives for a long time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to participate in an Onnit 6 program or Onnit 6 Challenge? What would you suggest they do to be successful?
Join the Onnit Tribe. You don’t have to post anything, but look at the inspiration everybody else provides. Buy the program, join the Tribe, and just get moving. That’s all. Just do it. But remember that the Tribe is here for you. You’ll get motivation, inspiration, and a laugh or two, and you’ll come out of your shell.
You’re more likely to be successful in whatever your goal is because you’re not doing it alone. Nobody tries to leave you in the dust—the community is going to try to lift you up.
Yeah, I was surprised by that. There’s no real competition between people. It’s not like, “I did it better than you today.” You go at your own pace, and we’re going to support you at your pace. However you’re doing it is the way that you need to. It’s all good. I think a lot of people feel they’re not living up to expectations, but there are no expectations—it’s just about what’s right for you.
Which of the Onnit 6 programs did you like most and why?
Steel Mace. It’s a real versatile tool, and it increased my ranges of motion. My squats got a little deeper when I started doing switch squats with the mace. I could feel my shoulders and everything getting stronger. You can really feel how it impacts your body as you’re moving with the mace.
What keeps you going when you hit a plateau?
Some days you do it just to do it. There are days I don’t feel like doing anything. They’re not my best days, but I just work out anyway. I try to do something. I may alter the workout in some way that makes me feel successful. I may do something light, or I may do cardio. I just focus on the power of positive thinking and get good sleep.
Yeah, sometimes it’s just a matter of honoring the process. There’s a rhythm and a ritual that you’ve committed to as part of your lifestyle, and part of that is just moving. It doesn’t have to be as structured as what you may have had planned that day. You might not want to brush your teeth, but you do it anyway because it’s what you’ve committed to for oral hygiene. It’s the same thing with movement.
Here’s an interesting one. “Is what you’re doing sustainable?” Do you feel like what you’re doing is sustainable long-term?
Oh, of course. I’m glad Onnit has a variety of products, and with the new Onnit in 30 programs, there’s more variety than ever. I think it’s sustainable because I have a mix of things I can do. Whatever mood I’m in determines the piece of equipment I pick up.
I can do that forever. In fact, I don’t like to go more than a day or two without an Onnit 6 workout.
In addition to the fitness products, we also make supplements and foods. Are any of those close to your heart?
and Shroom Tech® SPORT and Total Gut Health, but Total Human has a little bit of everything you need in daily packets. So I don’t have to guess at what to take and when. I don’t have to look at different bottles and wonder, “Did I take this yet today?” Total Human breaks it all down to daytime packs and nighttime packs. That makes it so easy.
Here’s one from another Tribe member. Shroom Tech® SPORTchell being a coach in the future?”
Let me get Onnit certified first. I need to get a certification from Onnit, but then I would love to. Somebody planted a seed in my mind a few weeks ago about having my own gym, so I could see myself as a coach in the future.
I think people see you as a teacher, a leader, a coach, and a friend. I think people love being nurtured and supported by someone who’s walked a harder path. I’m ready to see whatever’s next. Whether it’s coaching, or opening up your own gym, or just supporting people the way you always do. Thanks for being you, and thank you for spending some time with me today on this interview. If you had a message you wanted to close this out with, go ahead and spit it out.
It’s been a humbling experience. I appreciate everything, and I love seeing how opportunities appear just by starting to change your life in small ways. I look at my eating habits… I’ve stopped getting fast food altogether. I’m conscious about what I cook and what I eat. Those things are automatic now. I don’t have to force myself to do it, and it all came from starting on this journey of physical fitness and health. So I encourage you to make small changes, and come out to the Onnit Tribe, because I’m waiting to see you. I’m waiting to make you laugh. Maybe we’ll cry together, too, but it will be tears of joy [laughs].