Breakthrough Spotlight: Evan Halquist

Our Breakthrough Spotlight Member for September is Evan Halquist. As an accomplished coach in his own right, Evan talks about how even coaches need coaches, how the right training is non-negotiable as a firefighter, and his main inspiration for staying as strong as possible!

BREAKTHROUGH: Thank you for chatting with me today, Evan! Especially now that we have quite a few people like you who train mostly remotely, these interviews are a great chance for our members to get to know each other, and a great way for people who read our newsletters to maybe get inspired by some else’s story… So, let’s start with some background on how we first met you. I guess it is almost two years now that we were teaching and met you at…

EVAN: … it is just about two years because I am preparing to re-certify my StrongFirst Lifter Certification. So yeah, two years in December that I met you guys at that certification.

BREAKTHROUGH: Yeah – exactly! And you were already an SFG (StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor) at that point. And then we started working with you when you were going to do the StrongFirst, Level 2.

EVAN: Yeah. I was… well, I’ll start out by saying that every coach needs a coach and sometimes I am my own worst enemy when it comes to programming and coaching myself. I was preparing for the SFG2 and I was making some progress, but I had been preparing for about 8-9 months. In February I was unable to press the 40k bell – 88 pounds. That was bad because, coming up in April, I had to press the 44k confidently, in order to certify. I knew I was in trouble, and I knew I needed help because I hadn’t been making progress for 8 months and I had only been able to press the 40k once. That is when I reached out and sent you guys an email. I needed a coach, and I remembered how awesome you guys were at the cert. I reached out and the rest is history because then I passed the cert. It was awesome! In a matter of 2 ½ months I went from not being able to press the 40k to being able to press the 44k three times before the cert. So, the programming and training worked awesome!


BREAKTHROUGH: That is amazing – and someone has to be willing to put in the hard work that you were willing to do so it is definitely a 2-way street…

EVAN: Ha, ha! I was willing! I am stubborn and I learn the hard way. But I am glad I learned because I was telling my wife, since being with you guys, I feel like I have made the most progress I have in years. Because when you are coaching yourself, you are kind of… you are not held accountable, you are flip-flopping and on to the next new cool thing. And you are never really staying accountable to what your goal is. I have made huge gains since I have been with you guys.

BREAKTHROUGH: I’m so glad to hear it! So, can you share with us the next goal you are you are working on?

EVAN: Well, while my big goal is to do the beast tamer- to be able to press, pistol squat and pull up with the 48K, otherwise known as the “beast bell”, 106 pounds. That is the main goal and that, and to do it at the StrongFirst Bodyweight cert in April. I have to recertify so the most current goal right now is to pass that barbell cert again. When I do the Bodyweight cert in April that will be the last of the four Strong First courses, so I believe that means that you are Strong First Elite which, as you know, means you have all four Strong First certifications. I have always wanted to do the Beast tamer. That has always been on my list and that is my big goal. I have never known how to go about it. Sometimes I have picked up some programming and tried to work towards it. It just never happened. I am excited to see where your guys’ programming and training takes me.

BREAKTHROUGH: Oh my Gosh! Well, you are definitely going to do it!

EVAN: I like your confidence! Ha, ha! Well, thank you! I saw three people fail the beast tamer challenge at my SFG2 so I was like… Awe, man! But I still want to give it my best shot. I believe I can do it, and I am excited for it, so thank you for your confidence!

BREAKTHROUGH: Yeah, I think you have to be a little bit more of an experienced person to know how that huge goal is going to fit in with the rest of your training and the rest of your life. I think you are at the point where you’ve got such a solid foundation of strength and technique that it’s just about building the armor and a little bit of specific work to get there, but you will! You’ve got it!

EVAN: What I like about your guys’ programming is you are preparing me for that, but along the way, I am still maintaining my readiness for life – as a father, as a firefighter – whereas other programs or other things that I have done before in the past, it’s been so narrowminded that it leaves me feeling kind of like a block of wood. Where I am not very athletic, or I feel so bulky or stiff that I can’t do my job, or I can’t be a father. So that is what has been great, and I have exchanged emails with you guys back and forth because I wanted to make sure I maintained my athleticism during this and I have. Which has been great! I have two young boys and being able to play with them on a moment’s notice – which is all the time –


EVAN: …but being able to do that is awesome and not to feel stiff. I know we have all felt that powerlifter-type body and I don’t want to be that one-minded in my training. So, it has been really good.

BREAKTHROUGH: There are trade-offs when you go too specific down any one path. And you are right. You have to look at – what is the rest of my life like? What do I have to do on a daily basis? You do have to strike that balance between, strength, mobility and general athleticism, for sure. So, you touched on something that I want to make sure we mention, and that is obviously your job is a huge reason you have to stay in shape. Obviously, you have to train to be able to do what you do; you have to be strong, like you said, ready at a moment’s notice. So how does your training impact what you have to do on a day-to-day basis?

EVAN: It is just that. You have to be prepared for everything as a firefighter. It is not necessarily meaning that every single day you are going to perform these tasks, but at any moment’s notice, when you are working -and we are working probably 15-20 shifts a month now because we are so short staffed with all the fires -normally it is just ten 24-hour shifts. But during that time, you could go on one call one moment where you are having to pick somebody up that is very heavy. That is just a reality of modern lifestyle right now. There are a lot of people that are very, very heavy that need help up, and you have to be strong enough to be able to do that. Then the next moment, you could be trying to chase the grass fire where it is requiring you to extend a hose line at a very rapid pace while you are breathing smoke and be able to have the conditioning and endurance to be able to catch that fire. Then after that, you could be going inside of a structure fire where it is really important to have that glycolytic, that fast twitch muscle fiber ability where you are forcing the door open with that power movement and you are extending the hose inside and having to – which has been probably one of the most important things- is having your conditioning at a high level being able to then be in that hot, smoky, dangerous environment where you can control your system and control your mind and control your body. And if you are out of shape, or you are unconditioned, you are not going to be able to do that. If you are conditioned and you are in shape, and you practice – which we talked about a little bit too, the breath technique…


EVAN: …Practicing that during your training where you are out of breath and your mind is kind of in that state of sympathetic – fight or flight. Being able to practice that and bring that into that environment has been huge! I think that is one of the most important things because at that time when your brain is starting to freak out, when you are in that dangerous environment, you can bring yourself back down to a focused, more calm state. And if you don’t practice that you can’t expect it to come from nowhere.


EVAN: So, having that well-rounded capacity is this key for me. Now as a captain it is even more important because – being in charge of the crew, being able to think about what is going to happen next, so my guys are safe and then to be able to communicate that on the radio – it is more important than ever to have that well-rounded health and that ability to control yourself, and to control your breath is so important. I can’t stress how important it is.

BREAKTHROUGH: Oh my gosh, well, I am exhausted and mildly terrified just listening to…

EVAN: Ha, ha. Like I said it, its not like that every day. Just some days… so…

BREAKTHROUGH: Well, my job never involves any of that life threatening or lifesaving stuff, so…

EVAN: And you know, I also do the burns for the recruits and I teach fitness for the recruits, too. And so, all this stuff that I am saying right now, I say to them. And when we are in the training burns, we are sitting there in a burning environment and I teach them about fire behavior. I get the whole room to be filled with smoke, the fire rolls over their heads and then I close the door. I control it and we are on a lower level, so it is not as harmful. But during that time your heart is elevated, and your pulse is up, your breathing is up, your mind, you’re in that fight or flight again, that sympathetic environment. I tell them ‘hey what is your training like? How are you preparing yourself? Are you preparing yourself for this environment or are you working out at home doing curls in an air-conditioned room, or are you outside training in this type of environment?’ So, all these things we are talking about are very applicable and you can see the light bulb go off when I talk to recruits about it. it’s like – okay this is what he was talking about.

BREAKTHROUGH: Oh my gosh, well, you are a real-life hero!

EVAN: Thank you for that!

BREAKTHROUGH: I hope you know that because there are not a lot of people who can do the things you do. And it is just such a pleasure to support that in any way we can. God bless you guys!


EVAN: Well, thank you! I am very fortunate to have the job and to be able to do the job. My dad was a firefighter. My wife’s dad was a firefighter, and her grandpa was a firefighter so we have a long linage of firefighters in our family.

BREAKTHROUGH: Wow! You guys have a history of being life savers.

EVAN: Oh, I don’t know. We are all very lucky to have the job and maybe one of these days if I am lucky, one of my boys will pick up the torch. We will see.

BREAKTHROUGH: Oh, don’t say torch! Ha, ha!

EVAN: Ha, ha! Pick up the baton? Ha, ha!


EVAN: That is funny!

BREAKTHROUGH: So, speaking of your boys, I would imagine that they are a pretty big inspiration to you. We always like to ask people what is your why? Why do you do the things that you do to take care of yourself and obviously your job is part of it, but you also mentioned that you have kids and that is always a big thing for people who do have little ones.

EVAN: Yeah, that is slowly taking over as one of the biggest reasons why I train. They just want to play all the time, they just want to run around all the time, they just want to have fun. And if you can’t do the things that they want to do, then you are quickly frustrated, you are irritated, and you are not having a good time with them. Being able to live long so you can see them grow up and have kids in the future. I am trying to plan ahead for that, but I mean, there are so many reasons why I train for them. One is I want to reflect what a healthy lifestyle looks like to them. My four-year-old is already picking up on that. He is already coming outside in our gym in our garage and wanting to train with us. His way. He has a little rubber kettlebell…


EVAN: Yeah, I know! He is really cute. He likes to do the movements and he is so funny because he likes to do the breaths. They just mirror everything you do. Leading your life with strength and taking care of yourself, they see that; they pick up on that. That is the number one reason. I want them to be able to then do that in life and be strong in life – both mentally and physically. And emotionally. I think a big part of that is starting with actual physical strength. I didn’t really have that leadership as much when I was younger, and I wish I would have. I want to pass that on to them. Number two, I want to be able to keep up with them when they are older. One of my goals is to still be able to deadlift two times my body weight when they graduate from high school. And maybe do some other things. We’ll see! I tell my little one that I am going to do that, and he is already telling me that he is going to be stronger than me! He is already wanting to be stronger than his little brother who is one. He is already being competitive. Yes, being able to keep up with them when they are older. The last one that I already touched on is being able to keep up and be healthy with them now. Being physically fit we all know makes you better emotionally, mentally, and physically in the moment right now with everything that it does for you. So that is what is most important -is being able to soak up the moment with them. I can’t do that as well if I am not healthy – not just physically, like I touched on before but emotionally and mentally.

BREAKTHROUGH: Totally! Absolutely. Well, I feel like you covered everything, Evan!

EVAN: Ha, ha! I try, man!

BREAKTHROUGH: I know you are massively busy, and you have really important things to do. I appreciate you taking the time and sharing all this!

EVAN: My pleasure. I appreciate everything that you guys do. You guys are awesome!

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