XPT talks breathing, competition and brotherly love, with the one and only Max Evans
When Scottish pro-rugby player Max Evans joined us for his first XPT Experience in Malibu last August, everyone was inspired and we couldn’t wait to have him back. In December, he returned for the XPT Experience in Kauai, he brought along his brother Thom and together they learned to breathe, move and recover, and, of course, have some fun. We sat down with Max to talk about his journey with XPT so far, how he applies it on and off the field and what it was like growing up with Thom. Here’s what happened…
XPT: How did you first learn about XPT?
Max Evans: I’m very good friends with (professional English rugby player) Danny Cipriani who I’ve known since we were school kids, and we actually played against each other for England vs. Scotland. We use the same sprint coach, a lady called Margot Wells, who was very instrumental in all our careers. I saw on Danny’s Instagram that he’d been spending time with Laird and Gabby at their place in Malibu. I just saw him doing some really cool pool training and weights underwater which I’d never seen before, and so I got in touch with him. He couldn’t speak more highly of Laird and Gabby, the kind of training he was doing with them and their whole ethos. So, I checked them out and found XPT and saw the XPT Experience was happening in August, so I had to sign up for it.
XPT: How do the XPT philosophies and trainings differ from your regular fitness regimen, in-season and in the off season?
ME: We have a fairly intense season for rugby training, and there’s very little off season. Unlike the NFL or NBA guys, we only get four weeks and then we’re straight back in to a preseason, which spans just under two months. Some guys, like Danny, like to spend their offseason keeping up a certain level of fitness, so that when you get back to the preseason it’s not as grueling. Other guys just completely let loose and then it’s obviously a lot harder. Our preseason is a lot of strength work, a lot of aerobic stuff and is focused on your physicality rather than a skill thing. And then as the season starts, the training is more about rugby organization and skills.
Max Evans of Scotland holds off the challenge of Mike Ross of Ireland during the RBS 6 Nations Championship match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield on February 27, 2011 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
For rugby, we have to condition ourselves to a pretty high level. We don’t wear any pads, so they like a lot of muscle and protection for the kind of impacts we sustain. So you’re always in the gym, you’re always doing weights, you’re always doing speed work. But what’s interesting is that a lot of the stuff I did during XPT, even having been an athlete for 10 plus years professionally, was stuff that I’d never done before that was really exciting to me.
XPT: What were some of the highlights of this?
ME: Well, the breathing stood out straight away. I really can’t speak highly enough of this and how transformative it was for me. Throughout my whole rugby career I’ve never taken a breathing class or had anyone pay attention to how I was breathing at certain points of the game or how I could improve my breathing to help recovery. There was a lot of focus on helping with recovery. And had I known what I know now from learning it at XPT with Laird and Brian and Gabby? Well, I’d loved to have known that at the beginning of my career at some point. It was actually a bit frustrating to experience it knowing that it was toward the end of my career. But it’s also enlightening to know it now, and to be able to tell other people– my teammates or young players, and to introduce it to players who are at the college level. To learn more about XPT Performance Breathing click here.
And then the pool training was really great. I’d never done anything like that with the weights under water and focusing on that link with the breathing under water and learning to have trust in how much more oxygen you have, and to push yourself to levels where you can really challenge yourself under water. I’ve sustained a lot of injuries in my career, especially with my knees. I had 5 knee surgeries before I was 27. So, with a lot of the training I did, post those operations, I would always have a bit of swelling and stiffness and achiness, whereas while I was doing the XPT pool training and even afterward, I didn’t feel any restrictions because you’re always supported by the water, and the impact on your joints from doing it is minimal, so you’re able to push yourself even more and get bigger gains. It’s really huge and I’ve continued to do it since leaving XPT.
XPT Waterman Training at the Experience in Malibu
I had already done the ice baths contrasting with heat and had experienced the benefits of those before but still really enjoyed doing it in the XPT world and it was great to see other people’s excitement from doing it for the first time. For more on XPT recovery methods click here.
But a lot of what I experienced with XPT was new to me. And I just loved that you have people from all different walks of life with the same goal, same search for self improvement or more fitness awareness. I was great for like-minded people working together and challenging and pushing each other. There wasn’t any competition, you’re competing with yourself. And I was taking myself to places that I wanted to challenge myself. It may have encouraged someone else but you’re really just competing with yourself and I loved that. In professional sports there’s a huge focus on competition with your team mates and some times that can have a bit of a negative impact.
XPT: What about competition from you and your brother Thom? Any funny stories you can share with us?
ME: It’s just the two of us as brothers. We’re very close, just 18 months apart. We have similar likes and athleticism and we’re both very competitive, but we’re not as competitive with each other these days. We went through a period where we were almost crazy competitive–quite badly where we used to have terrible fights and do stupid stuff, like who was in control for the remote control for the TV.
We were once having a game of tennis and we got into a dispute over a line call. And we got physical over this line call on our court and the two gentlemen on the court next to us, who were complete strangers, had to actually stop their game and break us up because we were trying to kill each other over a line call.
But what was great was that we ended up playing both club rugby and international rugby together, so we were on the same team, fighting for the same thing. They will always be some of my most special moments in rugby. We were in different positions. I was in the position of being more of a creator and he was the finisher. So, I would create stuff and he would finish it off, which worked really well for the team.
Scotland's Max Evans (2nd L) passes the ball through the Italy players to his brother Thom during their Six Nations Championship rugby union match at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland February 28, 2009. Photo: REUTERS/David Moir
XPT: Did you find that you and Thom experienced a different level of communication as brothers in terms of being able to anticipate one another’s moves and did they place you on the teams together intentionally because of that?
ME: We only played together at school in my final year and his second to last year so that was just a natural placing and, yes, that worked really well because we do know each other inside out and can read each other. In a game like rugby and you have a good relationship and it becomes a kind of sixth sense feeling, so yes, being on the same team was huge. We played club rugby together for the Glasgow Warriors and because we were in different positions we were well-suited—I’m very quick off the mark and agile, whereas Thom has got that kind of out and out speed like a track runner. So, I would beat him in sprint at 30 meters but at 40 or 50 I would burn out and he would be like, “See you later!” So, in a game, I would be able to get ahead and give the ball to him and he would finish it off and score. When you play for your country in Europe for both soccer and rugby it’s called a “cap.” He got his first cap before I did, so he played for Scotland before me. And around that time, we played in a club game together where and we were both the standout players of the game. He scored two tries (I’ll call them “touchdowns,” so it’s easier for you to understand in the U.S.) and then I scored a touchdown and I also got Man of the Match and we just shined together. And that was just before this big international tournament, and that was definitely the reason that we got selected to play together for Scotland. So then we stayed together, playing together for Scotland, until Thom tragically broke his neck in an international game and that finished his rugby career.
Being brothers and being on the same team was definitely a huge benefit for the team. And it’s a great achievement and a great honor to just play for your country individually but even more so to play with your brother. You’d think it’s quite rare but we learned that we were the 22nd pair of brothers to play for Scotland, so there’d been a few before us over the many years of Scottish rugby. You sing your national anthem before the game and we’d always stand together. So, that was pretty special for our family to watch, as well, to kind of see us standing there, side by side.
XPT: What was it like going to the XPT Experience with your brother?
ME: As soon as I did XPT Malibu in August I couldn’t wait to get Thom to come with me for the next one. I was excited about doing the Experience with him but also about going to Kauai and experiencing it there in the place where Laird grew up and in his home. And it didn’t disappoint, it was what I hoped it would be. Although Thom and I are similar, we do have some differences. I’m quite flexible and he’s not as flexible. One moment that really stood out during the Experience was when he got picked out during one of the mobility sessions with Kelly Starrett. You look at someone like Thom, and he’s strong and fit but less flexible than you’d expect him to be. So it was great for him to work with Kelly and I think had an interesting impact for the other XPT participants, who might look at someone like Thom and realize that he too could improve his overall mobility, as well.
Mobility session with XPT Advisor Kelly Starrett at the XPT Experience Kauai
We really had so much fun together and with other people. But you can’t NOT have fun at an XPT Experience, with like-minded people, all wanting to push themselves to where they want to go. It’s awesome.
Max gets cheeky with Brian & Laird at the XPT Experience in Malibu.
XPT: What would you say to young athletes who are aspiring to perform at your level?
ME: I would say, just leave your egos at home and just be open to learning as much as you can, knowing that you can always get better. I see a lot of guys coming through who get to a certain level and think that they need to give off a certain kind of arrogance or cockiness, which to some degree you do need in order to be able to handle yourself under pressure, but all the people who get to a certain level and think that that’s it and that’s all they need to do. And that’s one of the things that I loved about the XPT Experience is that you’ve got Laird, who is a legend in surfing, and you’ve got Gabby, who is a legend in Volleyball, and you’ve got Brian, who’s a legend in his field of training elite athletes and runners and all kinds of people, and although they’re the ones that are leading this, they’ve got no egos, they’re completely open, and completely selfless. They have all this information that they’re willing to give even to someone that’s been training only, say, amateur Crossfit, and everyone is there to improve themselves. They are all constantly trying to improve and that’s really inspiring.
Max Evans (far left) with the crew at XPT Kauai in December. (Thom Evans far right).
ME: So, to younger athletes, I say, always keep trying to improve, trying to better yourself. In rugby, let’s say I’d have a good game and maybe make Man of the Match and it would be a great feeling. But I want to do it better and keep doing it. I love that XPT creates that kind of atmosphere and environment.
Join us and experience it for yourself. For a list of dates and locations for the 2017 XPT Experiences, click here.