Sometimes, I sit back and reminisce on my teenage years and early 20s; what was I doing when I was 19, 20 years old? Well, I certainly wasn’t training to become a beastly athlete in multiple disciplines and increasing my knowledge in something I was so passionate about. I didn’t even know I was passionate about this till the start of the year! My next guest is one the privileged ones to have really understood and found out his passion at an early age and progressed so quickly init, that he’s now a super knowledgable, extremely professional and a mean athlete; let me introduce you to: Mister Andre Houdet.
Ever since I was a kid, I was always sporty; swimming, soccer, jiu-jitsu, American football, volleyball, bodybuilding, basically anything you can imagine. Both my parents are super active, my sister, brother are all active people.
About 3.5 years ago, I tried to become a professional football player, so I moved to the United States as an exchange student for a year to try and make that dream come true. It didn’t really pan out the way I wanted it to due to injuries and life. So, after the year, I was back home in Denmark. During the off season, we used to do CrossFit as a way of [bringing us back up to speed]. It was 2014 and CrossFit was booming and I just tried it out and that’s where I [fell in] love with it. In one session, they told me that I had some natural ability and that they would help me [develop]. I decided I’d go all in CrossFit; no more drinking, partying, just full on training.
I used to drink and party a bit, but it was never really a part of me. I just did it because that was the culture. It was sort of the way you had friends. I would obviously drink a lot less but I was still partying every Friday. The only chance I could see my friends were those Friday nights, so I just had to do it. I stopped football and went into CrossFit. I saw the longevity in CrossFit in terms of health. In football, you can snap your neck or suffer brain injuries. The main focus in CrossFit for me is health, I love competing but health comes over competition any day; this was a sport I thought I could compete in every day. Another factor was that you don’t need a team to compete; in football, if 20 players don’t show up, you can’t train but in CrossFit it’s just you. I had the self-discipline and kept myself accountable. I developed really quickly and met some great coaches and from that point onwards [I kept growing] and the rest is history. I finished school, started coaching, I started doing some of the programs for the biggest CrossFit chain in Denmark, and they have more than 20 affiliates. I did a stint in France and here I am in Dubai.
When I was all in on CrossFit, I did a lot of training camps with a lot of elite athletes. I was lucky enough to get a chance to be with them. Some of them were the world’s best; Phil Hesketh, Mia Akerlund and Carmen Bosman. I slowly started seeing these guys move across to Dubai and join InnerFight. At first, I saw Phil Hesketh join InnerFight, the next time I met them it was Carmen and then Mia. I was so like ‘What’s going on guys, why is everyone going to InnerFight? Hah!’ At that point, I was fascinated by the gym and just told them I was interested and if they needed someone I’d be in. A couple weeks later, I got a phone call and a few Skype calls with Marcus (InnerFight gym owner) and got the opportunity, flew down here and took it. I didn’t know where Dubai was except for the fact that it was in the Middle East.
I’ve worked with 3 other gyms and I’ve never seen anything like InnerFight. If you ask me it’s the best gym in the world. It all comes down to the leader, who preaches what he practices. InnerFight’s mantra is ‘Show No Weakness’. We believe that fitness transfers over to your everyday life and frustrations. A lot of people bring their kids now because they want them to become healthier and more confident. Getting them involved and surrounding them with real people.
If a client comes to us with a specific goal, we cater to that. So for example, if a client comes to me and wants to deadlift 500 pounds then we work towards it or a 10 KM run. It’s a big variant but as a coach it’s great because you get challenged and expand your knowledge base. It’s a really unique environment and it breeds mental toughness and strength by showing no weakness but it’s all about proving that even if things are going against you, you screwed up a business meeting that you show up at the gym and you still push to your limits and that is showing no weakness.
I’ve worked in a lot of different industries but there’s nothing like the fitness industry. As a doctor, you don’t get the thank you after someone has recovered but as a coach you get to see people grow and get the positive feedback constantly, which I love. It’s a definitely a job where you need to care about people, without that you can’t be successful.
Andre’s ethos can be described in two words: work ethic. The man loves people and loves improving people’s lives. You can see how his personal ethos is aligned with this gym’s and it seems like a perfect match but you wonder where he gets this drive from? Well, let’s see what he was to say next because his story just goes up a notch.
An Unbreakable Bond
I’ve seen my sister grow. I was [essentially] forced to be active because my sister sits in a wheelchair. She has muscular athrophy; we never wanted to use any machines to carry her. You usually need machines to help to move around the house or go to the bathroom but we wanted her to lead a completely normal life, nothing to be a barrier. Even though she’s physically handicapped we didn’t want that to [hinder] her.
Since she was a child, I used to carry her everywhere, physically we had to be strong, and so we could carry her. My sister was born with muscular athrophy, we are so close, and she’s my best friend. The age difference between us is 4 years. I’ve always carried her through everything. We were brought up with a winner’s mindset and hard work wins no matter what. Never give up. I had that mindset but seeing her grow with that mindset is incredible. She has legs but she can never walk. We put her in a normal school and exposed her to that environment. We wanted her to experience [normality] and make her feel like nothing was different. It reminds me every day how much we should appreciate our physical capabilities. There are people who are in worse positions. She’s very thankful for what she has. Her immune system is very [weak], if she catches the flu, she could get die. I’ve been in hospital with her multiple times, holding her hands not knowing what will come next. At that point, you forget about going out, your friends, everything. You really learn to appreciate what life is worth. She supports me like crazy as I support her. She helps a lot of handicapped kids out there; no one goes to a normal school or skies every year but she does. My sister wants that life for all the other kids affected by this. We made choice of treating her like a normal person and she will not feel any less than anyone else. Today, she has begun her bachelor degree at the University of Copenhagen, which requires very good grades to get into. She is about to move away into an apartment all on her own living with helpers. This mindset changed me.
The emotion and passion he has for his sister was so evident, the fire in his eyes and vigor in his voice made me truly believe his every word. Andre loves his sister dearly and his driving force has a lot to do with his sister and her willingness to move ever forward but it doesn’t end here.
On His Way to Greatness
When I finished school at 20, 3 years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but just something great. At first it was the hospitality industry but I realized that after I discovered CrossFit, that there was another way to fulfill my dream of helping people. I’m half French and half Danish. My dad is one of the hardest workers I know, 80 hour work weeks and has never complained a day in his life. After I finished school, he wanted me to learn French. We have a tradition, you finish school and get dropped off in Paris to become independent and grow up. We have 36 hours to find a job and a place to live. I found a place to live in the last 2 hours of those 36. We found a small studio apartment with the bathroom in the hallway. With no savings and not being able to speak the language very well, it was a struggle but I eventually found a job. I woke up at 5AM and went to a job I hated but it paid my bills.
This is when I also found my part time job as a an assistant CrossFit coach but for me to become certified as a head coach, you need to work one year as a full time coach for free and I didn’t have the financial means to sustain being a coach for one year and leave my other job. The place where I worked offered me a free membership if I coached there a couple times a week because I couldn’t pay for one. Through that year, I met my girlfriend who is 12 years older than me and she’s obviously at another stage of her life but we connected because we both shared similar hardships and values.
I was in a competition in Germany and my phone rang. It was my mom, she called with news that my brother passed away. From that moment on, my whole life completely changed. My brother died from an accident in Switzerland; we had the same relationship as my sister and I. he was 4 years older than me, pursuing his dream of becoming a hotel manager. He had all his savings to go to the best [hospitality] school and marry his fiancé. He was on his way to greatness. Losing somebody that close is a whole other level. He was supposed to be there my whole life and I gained a whole new understanding to life. He was very supportive of my CrossFit. No one else in my family was as supportive as he was. My goal is to reach the CrossFit Regionals and that’s my reason to train every day. I promised my brother that I was going to make it there. I train every day and my motivation, my driving force is to reach the regionals because of the promise I made to him.
What an unbelievable story from an unreal human being who has endured more than most. The way Andre and his family have come back from setback after setback is truly remarkable and is a testament to their unity, mental strength and willpower. He has a completely different outlook on life now, wasting no time on things that make no sense or don’t hold any value. His work ethic signifies his desire and is an attribute that everyone should strive for. If you want to keep up-to-date with Andre or even learn something new then check out his Instagram, website and podcast to keep learning and ever progressing, ever forward.