He has been a part of the HumanN team since 2014 and is a father or four, a six-time world mountain record holder, and runs his own roofing business in Alaska. Hear what inspires the man who people call “The Bear” to live his full potential.
I believe in consistent consistency in both
my training and parenting. If you take care of the
small things, big things won't happen.
— Matt N.
Obstacle Course Racer, Roofer, Father of Four, Husband
Born and raised in Alaska, it’s not surprising that Matt “The Bear” Novakovich is an avid outdoorsman. For him, “roughing it” isn’t particularly rough. This husband and father of four isn’t just a 2015 Spartan Elite Team World Champion, Mt. Marathon winner, and a six-time world mountain record holder, he also owns a roofing business, spending his days climbing ladders and carrying hundreds of pounds of materials onto rooftops. He considers it yet another training ground for what he loves to do: endurance sports and Obstacle Course Racing.
As part of Team HumanN, Matt embodies what it means to live to the Power of N—pushing hard every day to live up to his full potential in all aspects of his life. Recently, Matt’s oldest son even started racing alongside him, proving that Matt’s determination, discipline and attitude is infectious.
We sat down recently with Matt as he was on his way to a roofing call to talk about how he balances training, parenting and finding the time to take on new endurance challenges, like boxing 20-year olds, and winning.
What initially inspired you to become an endurance athlete and live the lifestyle you do?
I used to love football and basketball, but was always small. And going back to junior high, I never made any sports teams that I wanted to make. I wasn’t really that good at an early age. But lots of failures led to trying harder and doing bigger and better things.
I think the biggest thing for me was being told by my high school track coach that I wasn’t “collegiate material” when I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me. That was one of the biggest moments of inspiration for me. He told me I can’t do it, so I worked that much harder to prove that I could.
After everything you’ve accomplished, what motivates you to continue training so hard?
The short answer is, my kids. They notice what I’m doing and take on the lifestyle they see. If I sat on the couch and did nothing, they would, too. But my kids climb mountains, they do pull-ups, they do athletic things because they see their dad do it. My kids are starting to do Spartan Races, too.
Has staying at this level gotten harder?
I’m 44. People don’t realize all of this is something you have to work at. When you’re 20, you’re not in shape, you’re just 20. But when you’re 35 and you actually have to work at being in shape, you still have over half your life left. You’ll get good at it if you pursue it.
You’re a father of 4. How does your approach to fitness apply to your approach to parenting?
It’s all about consistency for me in both worlds – training and parenting. In order to balance training, running a business, being a husband, and raising four kids, consistency in the small things helps to make everything more efficient. And with efficiency comes more time to do more with the family because we’re not sweating the small stuff.
So what’s the #1 family rule in the Novakovich household?
Simple. If you get something out, put it away. This rule applies to everyone in the family, including me. If you get a bowl out and eat, put it away right now. If you are playing in your room with friends, clean up as you go. Those kind of things make everything easier if you simply stay organized and take care of the little things. With me, if you go to my garage, I have a really organized tool section, it’s spotless. I’m not anal, I just don’t have time to look for stuff when it’s not ready or where it’s supposed to be.
Talk to us about your training and how you balance your day-to-day of being a husband, father and business owner.
I believe in consistent consistency. You just have to keep doing it and you’ll keep improving. Most people make excuses to not do the most important which is waking up and starting with your workout. It wakes you up, it gets your blood flowing, it makes you better in all areas of your life – from work to time with the kids to anything else that comes up during the rest of your day. For me, I don’t have the time to not start my day with a workout.
So, I wake up at 5 am and do a three-mile run on a treadmill every day. I eat clean typically, which for me means simple ingredient foods. I spend time with my kids. I take sales calls. I do functional training for 1.5-2 hours on an inclined treadmill, carrying a lot of weight.
Then when I’m climbing onto rooftops, that’s training in and of itself. I could hire someone, or get a crane, to carry all those roofing materials up for me. But I don’t. I’ve had to carry 5,000 pounds of roofing materials up by myself to complete a job. At the end of the day, I have also started to swap out my usual bowl of cereal or graham crackers for something that’s better for me, like Protein40 which also helps satisfy my sweet tooth and gets some extra protein in before bed.
With Father’s Day right around the corner, what’s your perfect Father’s Day dinner?
Anything on the grill! Usually Carolyn will grill some steak and fresh shrimp with rice and asparagus on the side.
Let’s shift to racing. When you’ve been on the course, have you failed and, if so, what did it teach you?
Of course. I’ve failed many times. If failure is not winning, then many people, including me, fail most of the time we do anything. But failing should be about improving ourselves and coming back better the next time.
If OCR didn’t exist, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
OCR isn’t my everything, but physicality and competition is — I can always find something. That could be mountain climbing, biking, rock climbing, even bowling. I’d work on being a better softball player, too. I also recently took up boxing and went 5-0.
Boxing? Tell us more about why you decided to get in the ring and fight boxers half your age.
I liked the premise of the challenge of it. I’ve always liked watching boxing matches and I saw these younger guys get massively fatigued going into later rounds. So I thought to myself, what would be it like if I could get through the first round? And get to the later rounds where I was seeing younger fighters getting fatigued.
So my first fight, I got pounded in the first round but I played a good defense and made it to round 2. From there, my endurance took over and my opponent went from fighting like a grown man to a 12 year old boy because he was so tired.
You’re officially undefeated in the ring. Are you going to keep boxing?
At this stage, I think I am going to stay retired with my undefeated record. In hindsight, I took it on because it was a new challenge and it’s a battle. You can’t say “I’m tired and going to lay up” in a boxing ring because you’re going to get hurt. You can in a running race because when you let up, you immediately feel better and get 8th instead of 4th. But you can’t do that in a boxing ring as you’re putting yourself in a completely different position physically, and that really appealed to me.
What does being “HumanN, to the Power of N” mean to you?
I think it’s a big concept: there’s more going on in life than a singular pursuit. To me, living to the Power of N is pursuing every aspect that makes a person a good person. That can be physical activity, how we look at social interactions, our spiritual selves, and so on. It’s the idea that you need to work at everything on a daily basis to reach your highest self.
So, we have to ask. Where did your nickname come from? Who was the first person to call you the bear?
The co-founder of the Spartan Race, Joe De Sana, came up with it. It happened after my first race, where I didn’t realize I had beat a very a good Obstacle Course Racer. Joe asked me where I was from, this new guy on the scene, and when I told him Alaska, he starting calling me “the bear.” It stuck.
We’re a little disappointed to hear it’s not because you’ve wrestled a bear.
No, not yet at least. But there are plenty of bears out here. Hoping that’s not something I’ll get the chance to do, ha.
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