Have you ever had a moment while enjoying an experience where you immediately began to reminisce as if you were seventy looking back on the memory made?
My former teammate Bobby “Nashty” Nash recently signed with the UFC and trains full time as a career. After my decision to wrestle in the US Open I jokingly text Nashty probing him to fly out from Michigan to do a week long training camp with me - live the vanlife, explore California, and help shake the rust off my three year retirement.
It wasn't long before his ticket was booked and we were grinding on the mat, ending our days with a swim in the ocean and an ever-changing nightly routine.
The story runs like any other training camp; lots of stance and motion, drilling, technical work, conditioning, and the inevitable grind created when two high level wrestlers lock arms and compete.
The curveball comes when you hear I hosted the future UFC Champion in my van for eight days. He agreed to fly out and help me train for the upcoming tournament but insisted on getting the full vandwelling experience - so thats just what I gave him!
I’ve lived on four wheels for roughly 7 months and have slowly transformed my van into a home - deciding it a good idea to remove the front passenger seat in an attempt to give Kamala a more homely touch. When removing the seat I knew there was going to be the occasional time when I’d have to improvise for a passenger - this was one of those moments. I picked Bobby up at the Oakland Airport and he spent the next week sitting on a cooler plopped next to my chair in the van.
My training philosophy centers around the idea of taking “no days off,” meaning I like to incorporate my everyday life into my training plan. I’m not necessarily wrestling or grinding myself into the ground - it’s more about the things I do off the mat than the things I do on. Living in my van and adopting a more simplistic lifestyle has helped me see the transferable characteristics from the everyday “vandwelling” experience to various aspects of training that I can use in wrestling.
It’s been a cold winter living in a thinly metaled rectangular box without a properly heated interior. I fought the chill by taking cold showers and embracing the elements for the past few months. The week Bobby was out here we used the ocean to train our bodies and our minds - we’d wake up early high atop the mountain; me in the hammock and him in the bed, drive to the trailhead and run to the beach. While on the beach we did wrestling specific drills and finished with a dip in the water.
Our time on the mat was focused and fun - shaking the rust off and feeling fresh. Bobby came in shape so our practices were highly productive. He had the opportunity to condition with my strength and conditioning coach Levon which I believe exceeded his expectations - training our core, warming up with dynamic stretches, hurdling, and pushing it through 200 meter sprints.
Bobby and I stayed at multiple places throughout the week. One night we slept on top of a mountain; one night we slept in a hotel parking lot in Santa Cruz; one night it was a Walmart parking lot near the Oakland airport where we woke up to knocking and a note threatening to tow us at 2:30AM; we stayed at a friends place in the city, the gym one night, and two other friends places while house sitting at one of them.
It was a week full of movement - typical of the vanlife. Rubber tramping is something I’ve truly fallen in love with. In my short vandwelling experience I’ve seen how incredibly adaptable we are as humans. In college I considered myself a homebody who hated to sleep anywhere other than my own bed - now rather than staying in one place I’ve made my home mobile and can sleep anywhere, through almost anything. I live an extremely minimal lifestyle that I’m constantly looking to simplify.
One of the big reasons I decided to wrestle again was because my current lifestyle has helped me become the fittest I’ve ever been. I live and eat as naturally as possible. I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet that minimizes my intake of acidic and artificial foods. I spent 20+ years of my life wrestling so movement and exercise are where I feel most at home and grounded within myself. I’ve gotten really into mountain biking and trail running; doing push ups, pull ups, stance and motion, and meditation at random times throughout the day. I pay for a gym membership that acts more as my bathroom and shower than it does a fitness facility. I like to workout in the Mountains or on the beach - training like a primitive warrior who focuses on mobility, functionality, and strength/explosion in positions. I want my body to fire on all cylinders late in a match and from any position.
Although Bobby and I trained hard on and off the mat during his week stay it was the random shenanigans of having a friend to explore the Bay Area with that were really fun. Within the first hour of his arrival we went to the supermarket Good Earth and he started wrestling an Iranian woman outside the store - no joke she was a real life wildling. One night we went and danced on stage in San Francisco at a Dueling Piano bar where I froze the crowd by dropping into the splits mid-booty shake.
After a week of living and training with current UFC fighter Bobby Nash in my 1998 Ford Econoline I can’t help but imagine what it’ll be like to sit around a fire 50 years from now talking about the experience - especially after Nashty wins the UFC Welterweight title and we can talk about the time he came and trained with me in the van when he first got started.
The US Open is in 37 days and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entering it to win it. Three years have passed since my last competitive match and I’m now living and training out of my van, but my mind is fresher than ever - I feel like a gladiator ready to stand and battle. I have an odd training regimen but I also know there are multiple ways to accomplish any goal in mind. I’m simply excited to get back on the mat to compete with weightless shoulders and a childlike passion.
We’re all writing a story - what does your say?
Dan the van man -
Learning about life while living in a van down by the river!