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Meet the Founders: Josh

Joshua Graef

Posted on August 12 2016

I’ve always been the most active out of my brothers. I did soccer and little league as a child. I remember during tee-ball when I kept hitting the tee, maybe 14 or 15 times in a row. Kids in the outfield starting sitting down and playing with daffodils because they were so bored. Suddenly it clicked and I cracked one way out into left field. It was an easy home run considering nobody was there to field the ball. I thought I was an all-star.

In the later years of Elementary school, I participated in a running event for no particular reason at all and got second. I could have gotten first, but I didn’t know where to go. My mother said something along the lines of “wow! I didn’t expect you to be so fast!” and to be frank, neither did I. This sparked something, and I decided to give running a chance.

Throughout middle school and high school I was always on the cross country team. In middle school I also did track where I was our top 800m runner, toyed with long jump and pole-vault. Being 12 years old and maybe 80 pounds doesn’t lend itself well to being a great pole-vaulter, but it was something new and I wasn’t terrible. I also joined the swim team as a diver - something I was absolutely horrifically bad at, but I stuck with it. I regard myself as the crowd favorite. For years there was a picture hanging on my bedroom wall of me mid jump whereby I was suspended mere inches above the diving board with a crowd aghast in the background. I returned to the swim team the following year as a swimmer.

In the fall I would do cross country, in the winter I’d be a swimmer, and in the spring I would play lacrosse. I loved every second of every sport. Lacrosse was the most difficult for my mother to support considering it can be rather violent at times, but being the youngest brother it felt normal to be on the bottom of a pile-up. Just get right back up and go - that was the routine.

High school ended and college started. I didn’t go to a university with a lot of sports, so I ran on my own and learned to master ping pong with a surprisingly incredible group of adults. I distinctly remember feeling particularly good about my progress when the leader of the club challenged me to several games, but the catch was he had to use a paddle no larger than the size of a ping pong ball. It’s no secret I lost, but I learned a great deal about a new sport from those guys and in my senior year I was undefeated in the break-room. I also picked up some billiards.

College ended and I was still running for fun and health. For my career, I got the opportunity to move to Switzerland where I continued to run and also picked up swimming again. I would swim with my boss who would do two kilometers every day. The first few months I built up my endurance to be able to finish 2km with him, but without a coach to yell at me about technique, I managed to develop very bad habits and really hurt my neck and shoulder. As a direct result of this I started learning more about proper technique in swimming, but also ways to protect myself from future injuries. It was also around this time I had a biking accident and punctured my achilles which made me stop running for over a year and a half.

One thing led to another and I was running and swimming every day. My oldest brother once talked about doing a triathlon and I seriously started thinking about it - so I got a bike and trained for that too. I had no idea truly how to train for a triathlon, but I picked an olympic distance one close to where I was living and just did it. It was the most grueling thing I had ever done up to that point, but highly rewarding.

I have since entered myself in random events like a 15k road race and a 100 mile bike race. For the 15k road race I trained for 4 days, and for the 100 mile bike race I trained a cumulative total of 6 days. I do not recommend that. I finished them, and I did well in the road race (probably because I’d been running all my life up to that point), but I completely died on mile 60 of the bike race. Biking 40 miles when you have nothing left in the tank is an awful experience, but I laughed at myself for the idiocy of not training for at least 32 of those (very very slow) miles.

I moved back to the states and kept running and swimming. I was approached by some swim coaches at a pool as I was helping another swimmer out and they asked if I’d like to join the team as a coach and I accepted. I love coaching kids and teaching them ways to avoid the mistakes I made and to prevent any future injuries.

Ben and I got to talking and we both wanted to start lifting weights. I knew absolutely nothing about lifting except that it was boring. We ended up joining a CrossFit gym nearby and I found out it wasn’t so boring. Because I had been so active all my life I was always very skinny. Lifting weights really started to add some pounds and I really enjoyed it. Now I have a personal trainer at another gym to help get my lifts and my weight up to a level I’m happy with.

The people at these gyms are so supportive of all skill levels which is something I’ve always believed in. If you’re out there pounding the pavement or doing whatever, that’s so much better than nothing at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite athlete or just starting out, you’re out there doing something trying to make yourself better. That’s the main reason I wanted to start Proven Brand: to give people a way to support each other and themselves. Be proud of your achievements because they are yours, nobody elses. Show them off and say “I did that!”.

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