I walked up to a crew of more than 30 people stretching in the sand, pre-hydrating with Hydro Flasks full of water, and amiably chatting before our 1-hour workout. It was my first day at Reid Priddy’s INSAND workout at Newland in Huntington Beach, CA, and it looked legit.
Everyone was (almost) unbelievably friendly. They introduced themselves, asked me if this were my first time, and ascertained that I probably knew Reid from the AVP (it’s hard to blend in when you’re 6’3″). And as one of those pro beach volleyball athletes, I felt prepared for an hour-long workout in the sand.
I was both right and wrong.
After our 10-minute warmup and group huddle (where we applauded Isbert on his fiftieth class), the INSAND coaches broke us into two-person teams for the workout. My partner Gabby was a fresh-faced 17-year-old with a phenomenal attitude and impressive endurance.
The 45-minute workout was broken into four quarters. Each quarter begins with instruction from the coaches; they model all of the movements and lay down the rules. In my workout, two quarters were on the volleyball courts. Our exercises included shuffles, passes, blocks, and approach jumps – proper form coupled with high-intensity reps. The other two quarters included classic movements like rope pulls, deadlifts, and suitcase carries.
Each quarter was about 10 minutes of nearly constant work with a quick water break in between. I was completely out of breath after the first series of exercises, trying to hide it from my Energizer Bunny partner by taking deep breaths when her back was turned.
Halfway through the fourth quarter – when my lungs had recovered and I could see the light at the tunnel’s end – I realized the first quarter had been the hardest. As we moved through it, I found my bearings, learned how to adjust the workout to what my body needed. The coaches were encouraging but not pushy; they corrected form and prodded the athletes they knew had more to give.
After the fourth quarter wrapped and we sat in a circle to stretch, the two women beside me sparked up a light but genuine conversation with me. I looked around, and nearly every person was shooting the breeze with the person next to them. After months in quarantine, hardly meeting any new people and desperately missing casual conversation, my heart felt all filled up. That, in addition to my tired muscles and spent lungs, made for an exceptional hour at the beach.
I have to be honest – I’m usually not big on group classes. My competitiveness takes over, and I push too hard in one area to beat the person next to me. Too many times, I’ve left a group class with a newly realized injury. I also dread time limits, pushing as hard as I can, sometimes past where I should, to get maximum results. I’d much rather casually lift with my own regimen, taking my time between each movement to stretch, breathe, and rehydrate.
But INSAND broke the mold, proving the best kind of workout for a variety of reasons. You and your partner split the time, giving you ample time to recover between sets. The coaches are fitness experts, offering a well-rounded, full-body workout. But most of all – it felt comfortable and natural to customize the workout. I adjusted after the first quarter, learned my limits, and set more realistic performance standards. Whether it was the openness of the beach, the kindness of the community, or I’m just more confident in realizing my limits than I used to be – I’m not sure.
But I’m clearly not the only one who enjoyed the workout. The class ranged from 17-year-old Gabby to 79-year-old Butch May (Misty’s lovable and hilarious character of a dad). More than 30 people were there. We all worked hard; we all got a good workout; we all felt great in the end.
Which is exactly why Reid Priddy came up with the idea for INSAND. Once he switched from his illustrious career in indoor to the beach, he put on five pounds of muscle and felt better than ever. Reid is also in the twilight of his career, spending a lot of his time looking towards the next phase of his life. So he began researching, reading nearly 200 books in two years to prepare him for the world of entrepreneurship.
In all of Reid’s research, he realized how saturated the fitness and volleyball markets were. There are a million clubs and a million and one gyms. “I didn’t want to compete against all the people I call my friends,” Reid says. “I didn’t want to go from globetrotting and being super proud of my country and competing for my country, to then coming home and competing against the very people that were in my own community.” So instead of jumping into the world of junior clubs or opening a gym, Reid looked for a missing piece in the volleyball world: team training for adults.
“We built our experience around the team aspect first. We quickly discovered how many people wanted to learn beach volleyball and were just too embarrassed or intimidated, or there was no place for them to start learning at 35 years old. By making it a workout first, then that sort of reduces that barrier to the sport.”
I felt that team aspect from the moment I was greeted with an elbow bump to the moment I said goodbye to Butch as I slid into my car. It’s hard to be grumpy on a beach, harder still when surrounded by cool, like-minded people looking to stay healthy. “We’re not building an organization that’s focusing on the elite. We’re taking all of the elite tactics and tools and building it into the really busy lifestyle of the regular Joe and Jane that’s looking to belong, to be efficient with their time, to have fun and get fit.”
INSAND originated on Huntington beach, but Reid and his small crew of investors are expanding. Their first facility (which ironically closed escrow on the day of my workout) is in Santa Ana, right next to South Coast Plaza. They’re building four sand courts that will continue their signature team training. For non-sand workouts, the new facility will house a covered fitness pavilion, perfect for the post-Covid era. They’re including luxury locker rooms, a pool, and a full recovery area with exposure training to rival the best of the best fitness complexes in Southern California.
“We’re trying to fit a lot into one experience: activity, recovery, social connections, building relationships, and networking. We’re rethinking what the lifestyle fitness club looks like – kind of like tennis club meets golf club meets fitness club meets social club meets spa.”
“We’re really trying to think of the total well-rounded approach to transformation and optimization. I use those words specifically because what I recognize in the fitness space is revenue numbers are like hockey stick growth but results don’t match that. When I look at what really pro athletes do, there’s so much more than just lifting. That’s not even really the biggest part of the scope of trying to become a top performer of your particular discipline.
The INSAND team believes that true change and transformation is a multifaceted effort that includes at least seven core categories of focus with the renewal of your mind being the impetus and crux of the whole thing.
- Diet /Consumption – What’s going in my body, mind, and heart? Not only what am I eating but also what type of media/messages/images am I consuming – hearing, seeing, and mentally digesting?
- Sleep/Recovery – Maintaining adequate rest and use of recovery modalities
- Stress – Monitoring overload to avoid high cortisol and fatigue which leads to breakdown – again acknowledging both the physical and mental aspects of self.
- Activity – Pursue activity that elevates your heart rate, is social and fun, and enjoy the physiological benefits that come with it (release of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline).
- Resistance Exercise – In a safe, controlled, and monitored environment – load your muscular structure to strengthen your muscles to handle the activity in your life. Your muscular structure IS your greatest asset and “brace” to live an active lifestyle. Key considerations here are: balanced and sustainable.
- Connection – To know and be known at a place with accountability, feeling invited, pushed, and recognized. Team is the X-Factor to growth.
- Purpose/Clarity – What am I working towards; what am I working on; where am I working from?
Reid and his team believe that if routines and rhythms are met in at least four of the seven at any given time, INSAND clients can make significant overall progress. If there’s just a 5-7% change in any of them, that’s epic.
With all of these focuses, the most vital one to success is the community aspect. Showing up for people and connection goes further and lasts longer than showing up for washboard abs. Noelle Bay, a longtime INSAND attendee says, “Graduating from college athletics leaves you with a void that nobody prepares you for. For the first time in a decade, that hole is being filled by the community at INSAND. It’s an atmosphere that provides you with the camaraderie of a team to not only keep you accountable but to celebrate you in your victories and support you in your losses, both on and off the court.”
Paul Wilcher, another INSAND member, says, “I’m really happy to have found INSAND where I can workout at the beach in a team environment with a great group of people and exceptional coaches. After trying it once, I was hooked.”
Paul is also a lawyer; he helped Reid navigate the red tape in securing the INSAND facility. Once opened, the brand new space will grow INSAND’S reach and continue in the good work already being done at the Newland Courts in Huntington Beach. But rest assured, INSAND was born on the beach, and they’ll continue those classes as long as they can.