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Dragon Door Interviews PCC Instructor Dr. Lance Monteau, MD

Lance Monteau does a pull up at the first ever Dragon Door PCC Workshop
Dragon Door: Can you tell us about your medical practice?

Lance Monteau: I practice internal medicine in great detail with adults. My whole day is typically helping patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and thyroid issues.

Dragon Door: How did you become interested in the PCC?

Lance Monteau: It’s been a long process. Thirty years ago, when I first touched a barbell it was like electricity went through my body. Exercise became my favorite thing. I spent a good 20 years lifting weights and poured through whatever I could learn.

In the spirit of the old adage—if you want to become the best, find out what the best are doing—I started reading a lot of Louis Simmons' articles about getting strong. He has a lot of really good information and energy, and I ended up talking to him on the phone. Like any true master, he is still a student of the game. Within the last several months, I emailed Coach Wade, and we've emailed back and forth a few times—I can’t say enough about him!

Over the years I enjoyed powerlifting but I never liked the dependence on weights. It kind of bothered me a little bit deep down. Not to take away from others who train with external objects like kettlebells or barbells, but for myself, I wanted to find out how I could be in world class shape—even on an isolated island! I knew it was possible, but didn't have the knowledge yet.

In the past I tried a lot of different programs, including the SEAL routine. At the end of it you're basically doing 400 push ups, 400 sit ups, etc. in one workout. Of course you have to build up to that volume—and it doesn’t come easy. I thought at some point because I could do all these reps with correct form that I'd suddenly be able to do more advanced strength movements. That never happened, even though I certainly improved alot, and was far stronger than average. But I still wanted to be at an upper echelon of strength—and it didn't happen automatically. While it was a great program and my stamina was terrific, I still wasn't where I wanted to be in terms of strength.

About a year and a half ago I stumbled across Convict Conditioning and it was everything I had been looking for. I thought it was like the Holy Grail! I actually told Coach Wade that in an email, and I guess he might have laughed, but knew exactly what I meant. I knew there had to be a way.

When I came across the PCC system, it all fit. It's what I’ve spent 30 years looking for, and now I have it. It’s unlike anything else. So I ended up going to the PCC Workshop and even though I was already progressing, now I've gone from the stairs to the elevator!

Lance Monteau in Norway 2003

Dragon Door: So you came to the PCC primarily for your own knowledge?

Lance Monteau: I came just for myself—of course I'm willing share the information! Some people are into running or cycling and while I've done those things and enjoyed them, my ultimate goal is strength. To me, strength is the pinnacle—it takes motivation and patience and Coach Wade says that so well in Convict Conditioning. Most people want to get to the final exercises as quickly as possible, and certainly I’ve been the same way at times, but I look at each exercise like it's the only one I'll ever do. The next thing I know I'm able to do that exercise comfortably and easily. Then I'm ready to move onto the next progression.

I’m paraphrasing and I read this in an article about kettlebells, but it also applies to bodyweight strength: we're trying to practice the movements instead of just working out. That’s how I feel with the bodyweight strength exercises. I feel like I’m more practicing the movements than working out because they’re so intense I just feel it all over. I’m like wow, that takes a lot out of you even though in my mind I only focused on practicing the movement.

Dragon Door: What are some of your favorite movements or exercises?

Lance Monteau: Hands down, anything push up related. I’ve always really enjoyed pushups. Even though I have naturally strong legs, I enjoy pushups more than anything else.I’ve been doing them for about 30 years. I certainly did a lot of them in the military! Now, the strength movements are making them very, very difficult. It's openedup a whole new world of extremely difficult pushup exercises.

My progress has really picked up quickly. I'm very close to being able to do an elbow lever on a flat surface, and I couldn’t even think about doing one six weeks ago. It’s justa matter of time. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s a big idol of mine. He’d say, "In my mind I’ve already done it." Now my body’s going through the motions and I have to wait for itto happen. That’s how I feel. It’s a process, a journey.

Like many people involved with this training, I might spend six months on one exercise. When I finally get the required reps to move onto the next progression, I want to scream—it's incredible! I never want that excitement to end, and I don't think there's a limit to the challenges that can be placed upon the body when it comes to strength.

Dragon Door: How did you originally find Convict Conditioning?

Lance Monteau: I found it online. Something interesting I’ve discovered is that there almost seems to be a secret group of people out there who are at the very top of what they do. These groups of people who are elite in each area seem to know each other. I received an email promoting Convict Conditioning, and after finding it have trained with the program exclusively for a year and a half. It’s really the only thing I want to do.

Dragon Door: After interviewing so many instructors, it's very interesting to speak with someone who went to a workshop of this scope to improve his own training. Was there any one thing that you feel really helped your progress?

Lance Monteau: I can't say enough about the PCC manual—even though we didn't spend much time with it at the workshop. The real value of the certification was being able to see everything demonstrated—and being inspired. At the same time, all of the instructors were humble and humility is truth. If I were to choose one thing about the workshop, it was the instructors themselves and their own never-ending passion to improve.

I loved the variety, it’s so exciting. It’s been like a dream since I went to the PCC—the jumps I make every time along with how much easier the exercises are on a weekly basis.I’m really amazed. This is really it—what I dreamed about for all those years.
Lance Monteau in the Persian Gulf 1991

Dragon Door: Several of your comments have hinted towards the mental side of this training, do you have any particular insights to share?

Lance Monteau: It always comes down to the mind and moving outside the confinements we’ve grown up with. No matter the goal, that's the biggest part of the progress. What we have in our minds will allow us to realize we can achieve excellence in whatever we choose. It’s that simple. The process has to happen and like many things, it’s a choice. We have to move past the negativity—which many of us have been subjected to—before we realize we can achieve anything we set our mind to.

I went through a metamorphosis of the mind about 15 years ago and realized I could do anything I want. I literally made the decision and quit my job the next day. I knew I had to go to college. When I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, a friend had suggestedI go into medicine because she thought I'd be good at it. I had actually thought aboutstudying medicine when I was in the 6th grade, and she reintroduced the idea of becoming a physician.

While in a shadowing program, I walked in on an open-heart surgery and knew for sure right then I wanted to become a physician. All of a sudden, I found what I had been looking for in a career. Of course I was excited, but I had to face an interesting but difficult phenomenon. When others in your life are not quite ready for your change, or haven't reached a certain point in their own lives, they will be very negative. Often these people will be life-long friends or relatives and their negativity often comes from a fear of being left behind. It’s a natural human reaction.

There’s a reason that people who have successfully made a big change, or are successful seem to gravitate towards one another. I think this is because they understand the journey they've made in their own lives. I was really shocked on a few occasions by the very, very negative responses I received from people close to me when I told them that I'd decided to become a doctor. Later I was able to look back and realize that they needed to be pitied and opposed—for lack of a better way to say it—because you can't have people hold you back in life. That's all there is to it. We make our own decisions. I decided I wanted to be in medicine 12 years ago and while it was a long road I'm very satisfied with what I do on a daily basis. I’m challenged every day. It sounds like a cliché, but I really believe one of the secrets to happiness is being able to use and develop the special gifts we've been given—if we don't we won't be content. I know that to be true.

Dragon Door: That's amazingly profound, and it makes a lot of sense.

Lance Monteau: It’s something I’ve thought about for many years, having been very un-content at one time in my life. Every one of us has something special that we can do better than anyone else, and instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should work to develop this talent or skill. This is another secret of happiness.

LancePCCMidPullUpLance Monteau, MD is currently practicing medicine in Minot, North Dakota.