#121: Making The Games – CrossFit Semi-Finalist Ellia Miller & US Army Warrior Fitness Team Athlete CPT Joe Pervall (CrossFit Games 2023)

Saturday October 07, 2023

Elite performance knows no boundaries. Whether conquering CrossFit or the battlefield, success requires the relentless pursuit of excellence. Often that relentless pursuit requires the willingness to put our bodies through pain in order for our minds to become stronger and more adaptable. It also requires us to do the dishes!

From the US Army Fitness Truck at the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games, Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff are joined by Ellia Miller and CPT Joe Pervall, two leaders quickly rising in the CrossFit community and the military. Ellia spent years struggling with the perception of her body as she studied to become a doctor. She started CrossFit to lift weights and quickly lost almost 50 lbs, giving her a new take on life and putting fitness at the top of her priority list. She was one of the first women to serve in a US Army Infantry unit, where she physically dominated her male peers. She now follows her passion to compete in the CrossFit Games. 

Joe is an athlete on the US Army Warrior Fitness Team and currently commands a US Army Special Forces Team where he leads our nation’s most elite soldiers in the defense of America. He also competes as an elite male in CrossFit using the mental, physical and emotional discipline he learned in Special Forces Selection and Assessment to drive him to earn results on the fitness stage.

Success in anything requires resilience, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Tune in now to push your boundaries and reach new heights.Learn more and read the transcript on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

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Making The Games – CrossFit Semi-Finalist Ellia Miller & US Army Warrior Fitness Team Athlete CPT Joe Pervall (CrossFit Games 2023)

Ellia and Joe, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Thanks for having us.

We picked the hottest place here on day 3 for some and day 1 for others of CrossFit Games 2023. I figured this was a great conversation to talk about Be All You Can Be. When I saw the back of the truck on Fit 1 here, I was like, “I have to do it.”

I thought you wanted a sauna session.

I also want a sauna session because we didn’t get a chance to work out yet. I figured we would warm it up. We had a little jump rope but that was in the shade. We’re going to sweat it out. We’re riding bikes but I don’t want to tell them too much about that yet. We’re going to test your grit.

I know you two have been through more before but let’s talk about the CrossFit Games. We’re going to talk about what brings you to the CrossFit games, Warrior Fitness Team, and the interesting different paths you’ve each taken. Somebody asked me the question, “Why do you want to have them both at the same time?”

When we talk about Be All You Can Be and an event like CrossFit Games, CrossFit in general, and the focus on building leaders, we’re talking about taking people who need to invest in themselves. It doesn’t always matter if they’re the best and number one in the world because it starts with identifying our vision and goals and then putting a plan in place to achieve that. Joe and Ellia, you’ve been on the Warrior Fitness Team but you came and served differently in the military and have also gone off to do some cool things, Joe, while you still serve. Your paths are parallel and collide but are also very different.

When we talk about doing things that motivate us, the Army is a place where you can follow your dreams and passion, whatever they may be. This was a great backdrop despite all the metal that is quite hot. Let’s get into it. I want to talk to you first about why you got into CrossFit in the first place. Not only that but we’re going to talk about neuroscience and your whole career. You went to UC Davis and studied Pre-Med. You had this thought, “Maybe I don’t want to be a doctor.”

I was Pre-Med in undergrad. I thought I was going to go on to med school. My original plan was to be a neurosurgeon in the Army. I was in ROTC while I was in college. When I graduated, I was commissioned into the California Army National Guard. I was going to apply to med school and be a doctor. Ten months after graduation, I hadn’t done any physical activity when the Army stopped making me do PT for ROTC.

Were you an athlete before?

I was a dancer and a gymnast growing up. I quit gymnastics when I was in middle school and I quit dancing when I was in high school. The only physical activity I did in college was the PT that ROTC forced me to do. I hated it. I sat around eating a lot of Taco Bell. I realized I was going to have to pass a PT test soon. That was where I first got into. It wasn’t quite CrossFit at that point. It was more strength training. I started doing some powerlifting and Olympic lifting with some burpees and a salt bike here and there so I could pass a PT test.

That was when we had the three-event PT test.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

That was the easy PT test. It was enough that I could pass my PT test. That’s what I was concerned with at that point. Post-graduation, I took out a small loan to apply to med school because that is a very expensive endeavor. I applied to over 40 schools. I didn’t get an interview anywhere but through the process of having to answer 40-plus times, “Why do you want to be a doctor,” I started to realize I didn’t want to be a doctor.

It was something that had been put into my head at an early age when you’re growing up. What do you want to be when you grow up? You have a doctor, lawyer, president, and astronaut. That’s it. I didn’t know what else was out there. A doctor would made sense to me at the time. Once I realized through that application process and having to answer, “Why do you want to be a doctor,” I was like, “I don’t think I want to be a doctor.” It was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t get into med school. I shifted focus to grad school. I was working in a research lab at the time doing molecular neurobiology, decided to apply to grad school, and ended up getting accepted to a PhD program in neuroscience.

Joe, what about you?

I graduated from West Point in 2016. I played rugby there. Before that, I played football back in high school. I always had a good strength and power base from all those sports. We’re in the Army. One of the seniors, when I was a freshman, told me, “Who cares how much you can bench press if you can’t pass a 2 mile?” I was not in good aerobic shape back then.

Fast forward, I decided I wanted to go to SF selection. I needed to find a good gym to start working out. At the time, I was in Huntsville, Alabama. The only good gym I could find was CrossFit Impulse. It is a CrossFit gym. The first workout they had in there was called the Front Squat Party. It was like an emo and build-up to a one-max front squat. I was hooked immediately. I was like, “CrossFit stuff is not bad.” I’d watched all the documentaries and how everyone aspires to be rich for running one day. That got me hooked. I haven’t looked back since. I have been doing CrossFit since 2019.

You guys served differently. Ellia, you served in the National Guard. Joe, you serve on active duty. Talk for a minute about the experience there. You went to an infantry unit and were challenged early on when you first got there at your first PT test. You talked about it but you didn’t talk about the experience you had on that first one.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Talk about walking into an infantry union. We’ve had this conversation a couple of times. We’ve had Shaylin Laure and Ava Georg on the team. Shaylin is an infantry officer and Ava is an 11 Bravo enlisted infantryman but they’re women in an organization that’s historically been met. You went there as a medical service.

After I was commissioned, I spent about a year in an aviation brigade. I was being transferred into an infantry battalion in the California Army National Guard. It was right around the time that they started allowing women into those types of units. I was the only female at the time in that infantry battalion. In my first drill, the day before, I ended up in the hospital. It must’ve been food poisoning. It is some stomach bug. It came and went quickly. I ended up in the ER with an IV.

I was supposed to go to drill the next morning. It was my first drill with the infantry battalion. We had a PT test. I’m sitting in this emergency room with an IV in my arm. I’m like, “If I don’t show up for my first drill and it’s a PT test, it won’t matter that I was in the hospital. They’re going to think I’m a shit back. The female is trying to get out of the PT test. I need to take this PT test.”

I’m texting with my commander. I’m like, “Sir, I wanted to let you know I’m in the emergency room now. It was a stomach bug. I’m still going to try to make it to drill tomorrow morning. I’ll keep you updated.” I ended up making it to drill. I showed up, took the PT test, and got the highest score in the unit. I almost shit my pants on the run.

What do you get tested on in this PT test?

At the time, it was the previous version of the PT test. It was 2 minutes of pushups, 2 minutes of sit-ups, and a 2-mile run.

You beat all the guys in those tests.

I’m not sure where they’re at with the ACFT at this point, whether it’s gender-neutral or not. The previous PT test had separate standards for males and females. For a female to get a passing score, it was 20 pushups in 2 minutes versus the guys having to do 42 or 43. It may have been more similar to the sit-ups.

The 2-mile runtime was very different in terms of what would be a passing score or a maxing score. It wasn’t that I necessarily did, although I did more sit-up reps than all the guys. My overall score was higher than everybody else. It was 100 points per event. To pass, you needed to get 60 points in each event. To max PT test, it would be 100 points in each event. It is a total of 300 points and 180 were passing. I’m sure I got a 300 or close to it.

Do you feel like there’s almost an adrenaline spike when you have to go into a competition like that after something so horrible?

The adrenaline spike came more from going into an infantry unit as a female and feeling like I needed to prove myself. Going back to the idea of it being a very male-dominated profession, especially in the combat arms, for some reason, in the military, we tie all of our worth to our physical fitness level.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

[bctt tweet=”For some reason, in the military, we tie all of our worth to our physical fitness level.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Forget the badges that you wear.

You don’t even have to be good at your job if you’re fit. Everyone assumes you more.

I knew going in it was going to be a simple way to gain the respect of my soldiers. I need to go and show them that I am capable of keeping up with the boys. We’ve got a female in the unit and everybody’s upset about it. That was more where the adrenaline spike came from that got me through that test.

There’s so much pressure in that, not just for yourself but everyone’s looking at, “Can women do this?”

It’s one of those things where it’s like, “I don’t want to be the female that sets a bad example.” Every female feels that pressure of, “I don’t want to be the one that makes them think that females don’t belong here.”Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

An interesting dynamic that you bring up here is control of the uncontrollable. People say it all the time, probably too much. Fitness is one of those things that we can control. When we talk about preparation, the tagline of the show is, “How you prepare today determines success tomorrow.” A lot of times, that comes down to preparation.

Joe and I were talking about getting ready for something like selection for Special Forces. Jesse and I have talked about her training for her competitions. When you can take away an aspect of physical pain and push off how long it’s going to be before you start to feel that, you are buying yourself more time to tackle the mental and emotional challenges. You’re going to need that bandwidth to think about when your body hurts. All of a sudden, that’s where your mind and emotions go. The longer we can push that out, the higher the success we can have.

You can also build tolerance or comfortability in that place of pain. Teach your mind and body like, “This is normal. We function here. Stay focused.” Have that ability to put your focus away from the pain onto the task.

[bctt tweet=”You can build a tolerance or just a comfortability in a place of pain. Just teach your mind and body that this is normal. We function here. Stay focused. Have that ability to put your focus away from the pain onto the task.” username=”talentwargroup”]

You got to live in that world. The more we live in that world, the more we become accustomed to it. Seek it out. Joe, you sought out Special Operations. You and I talked about your decision to go there but also having to dedicate time for training to go to selection. A lot of times, we build great teams through shared suffering, or an event like Special Forces selection has an entire week dedicated to shared suffering after the week of individual suffering.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Talk about training for something like that because that training piece is going to be on your own and having to perform at an individual level but having to come together as a team and quickly making that transition to, “I have to not necessarily think about myself even though I’m being individually graded or evaluated. The success of the team is also my success.”

The big thing there is your level of physical preparedness going into an event like that is going to be the number one thing that allows you to separate yourself. If you are focused on the task at hand and you know you have an objective that you want to get to, physical preparedness is one thing but have the mental drive, mental toughness, and mantra. You want something so bad that you’re willing to put yourself to get there. It’s like the whole David Goggins thing mental callusing. “I don’t care what you physically put me through. Mentally, I’m willing to go there and I’m going to keep going there.”

In training, you have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions all the time. Before you know it, you’re used to being there. You’ve sought it focused inwards on how much you’re hurting. You can look around and start lifting the guys around you. Step one is you have to want it and physically prepare yourself to be there. If the grind of being in a three-week event like that has broken you down to the point that you can’t keep going because you’re not physically ready, that is a failure of preparation. There are a lot of different points that go into it.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

We’re here on day one. It is the most grueling fitness and sports competition in the world. You’ve been in the CrossFit Semifinals two times. Talk about that experience and preparation. When you and I spoke, I said, “What’s your vision and goal?” You said, “I got to get back to the games.” You hear that from so many people who are in CrossFit. Talk about your training and the change in your life that CrossFit has brought you when you think about your body composition and when you look at yourself.

When I started grad school, I moved from California to New Jersey. I had been into Olympic weightlifting. I wanted to continue that in New Jersey. I didn’t know where else to go besides the CrossFit gym. I had been somebody that was like, “CrossFit is so dumb. I’m never doing that.” Here I’m at the CrossFit Games. I didn’t know where else to do Olympic weightlifting besides a CrossFit gym.

I started at a CrossFit gym. With my gymnastics background, I ended up picking up a lot of the CrossFit movements easier than most. I ended up progressing quickly in CrossFit. Initially, it was recreational. I moved to New Jersey. I was about 40 to 50 pounds overweight. When I started in a CrossFit gym, I also got introduced to the nutritional side of things. I started working with a nutrition coach and learning about healthy food choices. I ended up losing about 40 or 50 pounds throughout my first couple of years in CrossFit.

It changed my life. I was in an unhealthy, physically and mentally, place before I started CrossFit. It allowed me to understand my physical capabilities but also my mental capabilities. If you can endure the physical pain, you can train your mind to endure the mental pain and be comfortable in that pain. A lot of it was growing on the mental side of things for me there. I had started a PhD program in New Jersey.

Two and a half years in, I realized that I was unhappy. It wasn’t the career path I wanted to take with my life. I ended up leaving my program with a Master’s degree. I ended up deployed for a year, came back, and COVID happened. I got activated by the New Jersey National Guard for COVID for fourteen months. After I had done what I felt had fulfilled me in terms of what I wanted to give to our country serving in the military, I decided I wanted to start looking at CrossFit as something that I seriously wanted to pursue in terms of competing.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I ended up moving from New Jersey to Kansas. I live in Kansas City, Kansas. I train full-time. I’ve gone from hating CrossFit to joining a gym. I’m taking an hour class a day. I’m in the gym 6 to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, training to try and compete at the CrossFit Games. I have not made it to the games yet. I qualified for the semifinals twice. To make it to the game, you start with the CrossFit Open, which is a worldwide online competition. If you finish within the top 10% of your region in the open, you qualify for the quarterfinals. If you finish the quarterfinals in a qualifying spot, which varies by region, you qualify for the semifinals.

In 2023, I needed to finish the quarterfinals in the top 60 in the North American West region to qualify for the semifinals. I qualified for the North America West Semifinal. Out of those 60 females at the semifinal, the top ten qualified for the CrossFit Games. I finished twentieth in 2023. I missed it by a little bit. I have huge improvements from 2022 at the semifinals. The structure was a little bit different but I finished 22nd out of 28. To go from 22nd out of 28 to 20th out of 60 was a massive improvement.

I heard you speak before about the intimidation factor of going into the CrossFit gym for the first time, where your confidence level was there, and how you were able to rise to those challenges and have such a huge transformation.

Being overweight, I had a lot of issues with self-confidence. I wasn’t happy in my body. With that, I was in a bad place mentally. Going to the CrossFit gym for the first time was scary but one of the coolest things about CrossFit is the community is so welcoming of anybody and everybody. It’s very much like, “You’re here to improve yourself. We commend you for that. We want to help you improve yourself. If you’re willing to put in the work, I don’t care what you look like. It doesn’t matter. You’re here to put in the work. That’s what matters.”

It initially started with me being able to change my physical appearance. At the time, I tied a lot of my worth to my physical appearance. Being able to change that allowed me to become more confident in myself. Through that confidence, I learned to be confident in my body for what it’s capable of instead of what it looks like. It was an interesting journey from superficial reasoning into much deeper reasoning of being appreciative and confident in my body and developing that mental resilience to understand it doesn’t matter what I look like. It matters the effort I put in and what I’m capable of doing.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I feel like everybody who does CrossFit goes through that phase, especially the ones that want to be competitive because, at first, you’re like, “I want to look good because that matters to everyone.” You realize that when you underfeed yourself or you’re low in body fat, you can’t perform the way that you need to. It takes a long time or a journey to realize that.

I’ve gone through all of that. When I first started trying to compete, I was starving myself. I was eating 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day. For perspective, I eat about 3,500 calories a day. In my mind, I was like, “If I want to stay small, I can’t eat.” Going from being so big to losing weight, I was terrified of putting the weight back on. It’s been a journey.

Was that an intentional effort in your brain to make that shift from an aesthetic focus to an achievement and performance focus? Is it something that almost fell into place by being in competition?

It has naturally fallen into place because I still struggle with my physical appearance. Sometimes, I find myself putting weight into that. I have to catch myself and say, “It’s okay that you can’t see your full six-pack now because you are not in a cutting phase. You are in a strength-building phase. You’re going to get a little bit bigger for the bigger goal and picture.” I still struggle with it but it’s becoming much easier to notice when I’m having those moments and remind myself that that’s not the important part.

Anecdotally, I PR my snatch after having about five chocolate chip cookies. If there’s any correlation to causation there, don’t extrapolate.

I also haven’t seen my six-pack in quite a while. Unless it was in my fridge, I haven’t caught a glimpse of that thing quite a bit. You both have brought up a point about closing the gap between being good to being great at the elite level. We had the chance to speak with Roman Khrennikov. He finished second in 2022 in the games. He’s favored in 2023 to be towards the top. We’re rooting for him because we got them on. We want to see him.

The question that we posed to him was, “If you’re going to go from 50 to 30 to 30 to 10, it’s going to take hard work. Let’s not get it wrong.” The spread from 50 to 10 in talent is usually larger than this. Let me quantify that. It’s larger than the spread from 1 to 10. The level of competition is much tighter. The margin of error is much smaller.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

To go from 10 to 1, 5 to 1, 2 to 1, and 20 to 10 is going to take what I call the 1% difference. As you look to 2024 and you walk around here in 2023, talk about your emotions being here in 2023 with a vision of 2024. How are you going to think about your training to close that gap that is inevitably going to be tougher to close than it was to go from 50 to 100?

It’s disappointing that I don’t get to be on the competition field. I have some friends competing. I’m seeing them doing all their check-in photos, getting their gear, and seeing them on the floor. I wish I could be out there with them. I also love this event, sport, and community. One of my favorite things every year is coming to the CrossFit games. It makes me so excited to get back to training because all I’m thinking about is getting out on that field in 2024. Talking about closing the gap from 20 to 10 to make the cut in 2024, it does get much harder to close that gap when you get closer to the top.

One of the biggest things that I took away from my semifinal experience and also that I am gaining, being at the games is developing more confidence in myself as an athlete and truly believing that I am physically and mentally capable of qualifying for the games. Coming out of the semifinal and looking back on my performances, I felt very confident I was fit enough to qualify.

I had some execution errors I need to clean up, whether it’s through more experience or better planning and foresight going into the workouts. I felt like it wasn’t my fitness that held me back in 2023. In 2022, I was held back by my fitness. I was not fit enough to make it to the games. In 2023, I felt like a much different athlete. Coming out of the semifinals and reflecting on that has been motivating to feel like I truly have the capability to make it out there in 2024.

On top of that, being here at the games and meeting strangers who are coming up to me, saying, “I watched you at the semifinals. You’re amazing. I know you’re going to make it in 2024.” Hearing that from somebody who doesn’t know me, has never met me, has no reason to believe in me, and is believing in me makes me think, “This is real. I can do this. If I can continue to put my head down and work, I’m going to make it.”

Something I love about your story is how once you set your mind to do something and become good with the nutrition and your coaching. You went out, searched, sent emails to a ton of different people, and moved to find the best coaching.

After the 2021 season, I had finished the quarterfinals about 100 spots out from qualifying for the semifinals. I felt confident that I had the ability to make it to the semifinals. I didn’t just necessarily know how. I knew I could make the jump but I didn’t know how exactly to make that jump. I decided to start reaching out to different training camps.

I sent emails to a lot of different training camps throughout the States that have populations of successful Games athletes. It was like, “I’m trying to do this thing.” At the time, I was 29. My Master’s in CrossFit started at 35. I’m trying to make it as an individual before I get “too old.” I didn’t want to miss my window. I felt like I was approaching that. I’m like, “If you don’t do it now, it might be too late.”

I had been reaching out and seeing if anybody was interested in taking on new athletes. I ended up getting connected with Jill Glasenapp in Kansas City. At the time, she was coaching a couple of Games athletes. I got on a call with her. We talked for a little bit. She invited me out to train for the weekend and I enjoyed it. She said, “If you want to come out here, you’re more than welcome. We’d love to have you.” I went back to New Jersey. I figured out some logistical stuff. A couple of months later, I was packing my stuff up in a U-Haul and driving to Kansas.

How is it that your role in the Army allowed you to have so much flexibility and move like that?

I was in the National Guard at the time. I had done an interstate transfer from the California National Guard to the New Jersey National Guard. I had been activated by the New Jersey National Guard for the COVID response in New Jersey. I spent fourteen months on active duty orders. I had come off those active duty orders. I was no longer working full-time for the Army. I was back to being a regular drilling guardsman, which meant my obligation was to go to drill one weekend in a month and annual training a couple of weeks over the summer.

I had tried to do an interstate transfer from New Jersey to Kansas. When I moved bureaucratic paperwork, it took forever. Things got lost. It didn’t end up working out. After about 1 or 1.5 years of trying to make that happen, I decided that I had gotten what I wanted out of the Army. I felt like I had given the Army all I could. It was time for me to move on. I ended up submitting my resignation packet.

Joe, you’re earlier in a lot of respects in your CrossFit journey. You’re serving active duty in one of the nation’s modest elite units. You got to balance your time on the Warrior Fitness Team, where you were afforded the opportunity to train and compete with being a full-time active-duty service member.Ellia Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

One of the good things about being in the military, in general, is that it is necessary to be in good shape. With CrossFit, it’s extremely necessary to be in phenomenal shape. At that point, it comes down to priorities. Maybe at that point, the priority is the job because I’m out doing that training. I have to make a decision, “Am I going to sacrifice an hour of sleep so I can get something in or am I going to get the extra sleep and focus on my job that day?” Sometimes, it is coming up with that balance. Maximize your opportunities when you do have time to train to do that. It’s always a balancing act. In the Army, we’re used to having to find that balance. Do you have the same experience?

Yes, it was the time I spent on active orders, both during my deployment and COVID activation. Sometimes, the Army is going to be the priority and my training is going to suffer because of it. When I have the opportunity to make training my priority, I can do that. I can focus on that training, knowing it’s going to swing the other way soon and I’m going to need to start focusing on the job again.

We get time to work out in the mornings, especially if we’re not out doing training actively. I’m maximizing that time all the time and maximizing sleep whenever I can because the Army is notoriously bad about it. Sometimes, you have to take a personal stand like, “No, I’m going to sleep.”

The new regulation approves tactical mapping.

What are you doing with neuroscience?

I’m not in science anymore. I had started the PhD program. I was very interested in science and neuroscience but I didn’t like the practical application of it in scientific research. I struggled a lot with feeling like what we were doing was too narrow. We didn’t understand what we were doing well enough to be able to apply it to the bigger picture. How can I affect people’s lives and improve or promote positive change in the world?

When I was in grad school, I was studying the dopamine system and reward learning. We were trying to figure out what dopamine neurons encode during a reward learning task where you perform an action and receive a reward. It was a super interesting concept to me but it was the specific type of mouse that I was performing my experiments on and everything had to be so controlled. In science, you have to control things because you look at too many variables. You don’t know what’s going on.

We would run into things where we can’t replicate the results this other lab got in this experiment because our mice are handled by men and their mice were handled by women. It changes the results of the experiment. I could tell you all about a dopamine neuron in a mouse but what does that matter for? What am I doing to improve the world? I still enjoy science and reading about things and research papers. I like the pop science that people are doing but I couldn’t spend my life devoted to something that I didn’t feel was the level of productivity that I wanted it to be.

One of my favorite themes looking back on life is seeing how I had one specific goal that was so important and then it ended up not being the way. When that ends, it feels like, “What was I doing? Why did I waste so much time on this thing?” Later in life, you’re like, “All those things I learned suddenly came back in this unexpected way.” Are there any cool things you learned in your science path that you’re able to use in unique ways?

I haven’t thought about that. I’m sure there are things. Looking at something and realizing what I thought was my goal is no longer my goal. Did I waste a bunch of time? I’ve gone through a lot of different career options in my life. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I do see all of the things that I have moved on from, not as wasting my time but as I have learned amazing things from all of them. I have learned what doesn’t make me happy, which is as important as learning what makes me happy.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

If I know that something doesn’t make me happy and I see something in my future, I say, “I want to do that.” I started to notice parallels from something previously. That’s going to be a red flag to me to say, “Maybe this isn’t what I want to do.” It’s important to learn what you don’t like as much as learning what you do like. In a broader context, things have come back to help me along my path in the future. I’m sure if I thought on it, I could think of some specifics but nothing immediately comes up.

[bctt tweet=”It’s important to learn what you don’t like just as much as learning what you do like.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Can we ask about the RISE Athletes?

The RISE Foundation is a nonprofit I started with my friend Jeff Pilon. RISE stands for Resiliency, Identity, Strength, and Empowerment. We are a women-centric organization focused on empowering women, providing a space and resources for females to learn and grow in and out of fitness. We support a couple of athletes. We also had a little girl here. Her name’s Evelyn. She is an individual we’re supporting. She was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome. She’s young. This is something that she’s going to live with for the rest of her life.

What does that do?

I don’t know all the details on it but I believe it’s a female-specific disease disorder. I don’t know the right terminology for it. When she was diagnosed, the first thing the doctors wanted to do was remove her ovaries at six years old. Her dad is very close with Jeff, who started the foundation with me. Her dad was struggling.

He was like, “I have a young daughter who the doctors are saying the best course of action is to take out her ovaries. What do I do? This is going to be a decision that would impact the rest of her life. She would never be able to have the opportunity to bear children. Is that a decision that I am, as a father, even allowed to make?” It was a very challenging time.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

They have shifted to some new experimental treatments that don’t yet require that course of action. She’s one of the females that we support. We cover her gymnastics and CrossFit kids’ classes. Our goal is to use fitness as a way to help females learn, grow, and develop that resiliency. That’s one of our big missions. We also finished up our beta program of a new program that we’re launching called RISE Conversations.

Originally, we had started with the RISE Podcast, which I was hosting and bringing on guests, interviewing them about how they have developed their resiliency, identity, strength, and empowerment through various things within their lives. It’s fun but we wanted something more interactive.

We shifted to a format where instead of recording a podcast and releasing it for people to listen to, we’re doing a weekly Zoom call. It’s a small group open to females who are interested in being part of this group. We talk about different topics every week. We bring on guests who are subject matter experts in various topics like mental wellness, women’s health, and fitness.

A lot of it is the individuals who are part of it and what they want to hear about. If they have a specific topic they want to talk about or hear about, we’ll try to find somebody who can come in and provide that for them. Instead of listening to somebody talk, it’s an actual interactive experience where they get to ask questions and guide the conversation in the way that’s going to be the most valuable for them.

Do you do that weekly?

Yes. We finished up our beta program, which we were doing calls weekly. We’re taking a little bit of a break. Most of us are at the CrossFit Games. It’s been insanely hectic here. After the games, hopefully, we’ll be launching the official program and that’ll be a weekly call.

The Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things to be successful every day, as core foundational tasks they call habits. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. Each of you has heard about that and experienced that in depth. If you do these core foundational tasks with precision every day and that becomes your habit, you can focus your attention on more challenging and complex things that come your way because you don’t have to worry about the routine. What are the three things you each do in your world to be successful every day?Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

One thing I do every day is to plan what I’m going to eat the next day. I follow a strict nutritional regimen. I find that if I plan my food the day before, it’s a lot fewer decisions I have to make the next day. It also means that I’m going to hit my numbers every day because I know what I’m eating. Part of that involves making sure that I have enough macros to have M&Ms with dinner every night. If I know I’m having M&Ms with dinner, I have a lot easier time saying no to the temptations that come up throughout the day. A second thing I do every day is I always do my dishes. I hate going to bed with dishes in the sink. It stresses me out because I like to be able to wake up the next morning and just go.

It says something about somebody who lets their dishes pile up over the course of a week. How can you survive in those conditions?

It stresses me out so bad.

I have anxiety all day long. Some days, I’ll look back on the day and say, “I was unproductive because all I did was clean dishes for everybody in this house.” Jason Khalipa, the performer CrossFit champ, talked about this in my last conversation with him when he was on the show. He talked about the clean sink syndrome. You could probably Google it. They have tied that to elite performers as CEOs and athletes all over that there’s this group of people who demonstrated success. When they walk into a dirty kitchen, they will cease everything they’re doing and clean the kitchen. They don’t go to bed without doing it.

There will be some days where it doesn’t happen but it stresses me out when those days come.

There is a whole other level of these people who will cook and have to clean before they eat.

The third thing I do, I want to do it every day and I don’t always do it every day but what I try to do every day is call my parents. I’m very family-oriented. My parents have lived in California. For the past several years, I have not lived in California. I’ve lived in New Jersey and then Kansas. I call my parents every day to know that they’re okay, tell them I love them, and have that little bit of connection to my family.

Plan your meals for the day, do the dishes, and call your parents to create the connection.

Life has ebbs and flows. Some days with work, you’re busier. You don’t have that much time during the day to do things to work on yourself. Other times, you may have a little more free time but regardless, there are a few things I’ve realized that I always do. One is at some point during the day, I’m doing something that’s self-development. That could be reading, even if I get one page in, at least I made progress, or using my commute to work for an audiobook or a podcast that’s not just pure entertainment but something that moves you forward a little bit and moves the needle.

That can be working out. If all I did was a twenty-minute workout, you did something to get better that day. No matter how busy I am, I try to do something towards self-development. Even if I have all the free time in the world, I try to abide by a healthy sleep routine. I’ve noticed that doing so has made a huge difference in sleep quality, which plays massive dividends in everything you do on a daily basis.

[bctt tweet=”No matter how busy you are, try to do something that’s towards self-development.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I read before bed. My wife helps me to achieve that because she’s always the one that gets in bed first. I’m like, “If she’s there, I might as well go too.” Reading helps wind down and doing things like brushing your teeth but doing it all in the same order helps remind the body, “It’s time to go to bed.” It helps me fall asleep faster typically. I’m trying to do that at around the same time every night. That’s made a huge difference.

It sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time with Major Bragger.

No, but Dr. Matthew Walker spent a lot of time with the audiobook. Why We Sleep, if you haven’t read that book, it is a phenomenal book. You can’t go to bed if you have dirty dishes.Ellie Miller and CPT Joe Pervall join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on The Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

The day is about to close out the adaptive and the age athletes. If they haven’t already started the finals here, that’s going to close out their competition. There will be an award ceremony, and we’re going to ramp it up big time for the individuals and the teams. We’re looking forward to it. I wish you guys the best of luck. Ellia, for you, 2024 is going to be dedicated to that training. We’ll be watching your journey. We look forward to checking in with you in 2024 on that.

I heard that if I come on this show, it means I’m going to qualify for the games in 2024.

I’ll tell you that if you do, you won’t be the first. We have a good success rate. Joe, continue to serve our nation and make us proud. We can’t do anything in this world and country without people who stand up and answer the call. It is about Be All You Can Be. We need them out there. We need them to serve their country, stand up, do what’s right day in and day out, and continue to make sure that our nation is the greatest in the world. Thank you for your service and for carrying the torch. My days are behind me. You’re the new generation. We look up to you for what you’re doing.

Thank you for your service, for doing everything here on this show, and for getting the word out.

Thanks so much for having us. This is a lot of fun.



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