We sat down with …destination member Lance Burton to discuss his training and motivations. Lance grew up in Taylorville, Illinois. He began training at a young age and went on to graduate from the Naval Academy before serving for several years. Since then, he has put his talents to use in various capacities, including stints with Blackwater and the FBI.
What drove you to start training?
I knew from an early age I wanted to be some kind of warrior guy. In fact, I remember it solidifying in my mind when my dad took me to opening night of the original Star Wars back in 1977. I was 4 and after it was over I knew I wanted to be a Jedi Knight. Might sound crazy, but it really had an impact on me!
My dad pushed me hard from a young age; running, boxing and wrestling in the back yard, push ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and stuff like that were just part of my upbringing. He wanted me to have a military career, but he didn’t have to push me for it; I really wanted to do it for myself and was always motivated. My first martial arts master, Thomas Perry, reinforced everything my dad was teaching me and formalized my training.
I applied and was accepted to the Naval Academy. To this day, I’m the only graduate from my town. However, a friend of mine who also trained with Master Perry graduated from West Point a few years after I graduated from Annapolis.
As I got older, my desire to be a literal Jedi faded but the spirit of the idea remained: to be the best warrior-leader I can be and serve others in that capacity. That has always been my primary motivation professionally.
What was the first sport or event you trained for?
Like I said earlier, I did general athletic training with dad and ran track as a kid. But at age 12 I started taekwondo with Master Perry. He taught an old-school version of that discipline that integrated hapkido and judo. By the time I was 14 I earned my first black belt and was competing every other weekend in full-contact tournaments. I won my first national title at age 16 and was considered a candidate for the 1992 Olympic Games. However, I was accepted into Annapolis and gave up my Olympic dream to follow my calling as a professional warrior and military officer. I also ran track as a sprinter in the 100 and 200M and the 4x100M relay.
How long have you been a member of …destination?
I lost track but I think about 2 years! I’ve loved the atmosphere at …destination from the very beginning and I’ve met a lot of great people.
What types of training do you engage in to build an athletic, performance-based physique?
I really am all over the place in my training! One day I’ll do Olympic lifts and the next I’ll do an old-school full body lifting routine using medium to medium-heavy weights and a lot of reps. I also do some kind of cardio 5-6 days a week that consists of 30-60 min on the Assault Bike, 30-40 min on the stepmill, a few rounds with a jump rope, or quarter-mile repeats. I do incorporate some basic power training (bench, squat, deadlift, etc.) 1-2 times a week. I also try to do heavy bag work at least once a week and I train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with a top Gracie* black belt, doing private training with him once a week.
These are my basic rules: Eat pretty clean, train hard 1-2 hours a day, and NEVER take off more than one day at a time. When I can, I’ll do two-a-day workouts for 1-2 hours each session.
Overall, I think it’s the long-term consistency that has paid the most dividends. I’ve done some kind of martial arts for almost 30 years and general conditioning my whole life.
At 44 years old, I’d say that the biggest challenge is that I don’t recover quite as quickly as I used to and I have to watch my diet more. There was a time when I could eat anything and would be ripped no matter what from all the training and a youthful metabolism.
*The Gracie family is a famous Brazilian family known for developing and refining Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Since the 1920s, dozens of members of the extended family have become successful competitive fighters across a wide variety of combat sports and martial arts.
How has my military training effected your performance?
It has had an incredible impact over the years! I’ve pushed myself hard my whole life in one way or another, but I think the primary impact of my military and law enforcement career is the cultivation of a warrior mindset and strong willpower. I was the class leader for BUD/S Class 239 and led them through one of the coldest Hell Weeks on record. Navy SEAL training is all about endurance – physical of course, but primarily mental. The lessons I learned in the Navy, both at Annapolis and in SEAL training, have played a huge role in making me the man I am today.
The combination of elite athletic training, world class martial arts instruction, and the hardest military training in the world makes for a unique experience.
What does it take to balance training with your busy life as an author, operator, instructor, entrepreneur and much more?
I’m accustomed to being incredibly busy. I’m a former FBI agent. I’m proud of the time I spent serving as a counterterrorism agent and on the Violent Crime/Major Offenses squad, but I chose to leave federal service a few years ago. In all, I did a total of about 20 years of service between the Navy, Blackwater, and the FBI. All those years helped develop incredible discipline when it comes to keeping up my physical condition.
My situation really isn’t that different from a parent who finds time to train between long hours at work and caring for their kids, or a student who hasn’t really found a rhythm in life yet that finds a way to fit training in between classes and social activities. When your motivation is right, you find the time.
But generally speaking, there is one main key to training despite long hours or a tough schedule: you have to have a purpose and make a conscious decision every day that training is worth it. You must stop making excuses and simply put in the time. Can’t make it to the gym until 9 p.m.? So what? Do it anyway!
Spiritually speaking, we all have a duty to develop our gifts and find ways to use them in the service of others. Next time you wonder “what is all this pain for, remember that at an absolute minimum you could be the inspiration for someone else. If you lose weight, you could set an example for someone who never thought they’d be able to get in shape. If you get ripped, you could inspire someone who never thought they had the frame to carry any muscle. If you’re a mom or a dad in the gym working on becoming the best version of yourself, that’s an incredible example to your kids.
Remember that what you’re doing is worth it and get after it!
What advice do you have for the person trying to train with a hectic schedule?
See above! But I do have a few “mental tricks” I like to use. One is super simple: I remind myself that it is ALWAYS better to do something easy than nothing at all. If you can just get started, many times you’ll feel better as you get going and do more than you planned.
Other than that, I can say that there was something Master Perry told me as a young black belt that always stuck with me that I used more times than I can count to get my butt to the gym. He told me once that anyone can train when they feel like it, but a champion or warrior trains when they don’t feel like it. That really stuck with me and has been part of my mindset for almost 30 years.
Are the rumors around the gym that you’re a real-life James Bond true?
If I had to choose, I’d say I’m more like Batman. Actually, if you could take Batman, Wolverine, and Captain Kirk and mesh them all together into one dude, that’s pretty close to who I try to be!