Deep Dive with Charlton Harley

For this week’s Deep Dive Series, we’re interviewing Navy drilling reservist and fitness content creator, @charltonharley.

Charlton has a long and very impressive career in the US Navy.  His content is a mix of military and fitness, where he shares clips of his work training recruits.  In this interview we busted some fitness myths, learned about adjusting to civilian life, got Charlton’s advice for content creators, and more!

Keep reading this Deep Dive to follow this creator’s inspiring story. Make sure to tune in every Thursday at 5pm CT on our @ClapperCreator account to listen to the bonus questions that will only be available on our live radio show: Clapper Talks.

Tell us a little more about yourself! What does a day in your life look like?

I usually wake up about 4:30, get to the gym about 5am, and work out for about an hour and a half. After, I come home, get dressed and go to work, and then I come home and we hang out as a family.  My wife and I enjoy taking walks, hikes, and our boys play sports.  But I have my 5 Fs: Faith, Family, Fun, Fitness, and Food, and usually I’m doing one of those. 

I had a friend who always told me, “the first rule in finance is pay yourself first”. And I’ve used that in fitness, because usually when you wake up, you’re at your best.  You’re at your strongest and most alert.  So I dedicate my best time to my own physical fitness.  And at the end of the day you’ve been through 8 hours or more of work, you’ve dealt with struggles, and it’s difficult to find the focus to push yourself.  It’s the old analogy: if you can’t take care of yourself, who can you take care of?

From your content, it’s clear that you were in the Navy. We thank you for your service. When did you serve, and for how long?

I joined in 1990, right out of high school, and served until ‘94. I was an active duty IO stationed on the US Constellation, homeboarded in Philadelphia and transferred to Coronado, CA. Then I got out for 16 years before I joined the Navy Reserves and did reserve sailing for 4 years.  In 2014, I took orders to Norfolk, VA at an ECRC, a transitioning site where any reservists that were mobilized went through. I did that for a year, then for 2 years I was a coordinator for funerals here in Rochester.  If any Navy member passed away it was my job to make sure an honor guard got to the service.  Then for 5 years, ending just last November, I recruited here in Rochester.  Now I’m back to being a Drilling Reservist and I just got orders that I’ll be part of a CB Batallion – which I’ve never done before!  So this ought to be fun.

A lot of your content is bootcamp training. Could you tell us more about how you got involved? Was this something you always wanted to do, or did it fall into your lap?

When I started recruiting I became what was called an Onboarding Recruiter. I didn’t actively go out and find people to join the Navy; it was my job to train them before they went to bootcamp.  My wife is a teacher and I’ve always heard her say that boys sometimes don’t learn from structured settings.  They don’t learn just by reading books and putting information in front of them: they learn by being physical. So about 2018, I recognized that some of my male future sailors weren’t retaining what they needed to in order to go to bootcamp.  I started having daily PT sessions and asking questions while they’re running.  If they get it right, they can stop running, and if they get it wrong they have to go up and down the field.  They retained that information a lot better than if we just talked about it or went over it in the classroom setting.  That became a staple of my training and I was able to ship about 90% of all my future sailors.  And of that 90%, about 90% graduated bootcamp.

We’ve learned from past interviews that adjusting to civilian life after the military is really difficult. What advice do you have for any veterans who may be in the audience?

The one thing that you miss going from a military life to a civilian life is structure.  Civilian life doesn’t have a great deal of structure and the military is completely based on structure. In the military you always know where you have to go to get something done or who you have to speak to.  And in the civilian world, sometimes that person doesn’t exist.  It’s just a way of changing your tactic, you have to adapt yourself to the surroundings that you’re in. 

You also don’t want to beat people in the head with “in the Navy, in the Navy, in the Navy”.  You’re part of that team now, so you have to perform with that team.  You can’t alienate your new colleagues because they haven’t served: you have to make sure you’re pulling your weight, motivating others, and not get caught up in the workplace strife that happens.  We have workplace strife in the military, but typically it can’t get in the way of work.  What I’ve noticed in the civilian world is that it can actually bring work to a screeching halt.  So I usually try to stay above that, keep things light, keep things moving, and try to have a good time as much as possible.

A lot of people in the office a trying to start a fitness journey! What would you say is the most important element or factor in a work-out regiment?

The number one thing is mindset.  You have to get your mind correct and make sure that you’re focused.  I don’t really have goals when it comes to fitness: my only goal is to make sure I show up everyday with everything I have.  I want to walk into the gym in my 90s.  So I don’t have PRs, I don’t know what my max bench or my max curling is, because I’ve always felt that if you can do something good, you can do something more than once.  But I think the first thing you should do is accept where you are, start small, understand what you’re looking to do, and don’t go into fads.  Don’t fall into things that don’t make any sense – like crash diets or workout plans that seem insane.  Start small, build, understand your body type, work hard, and be consistent.  As long as you’re consistent and work hard, any goal you have, you’ll achieve.

So, when did you join Clapper? How did your journey as a creator begin?

About a year and a half ago I was invited to join Clapper.  I had a significant following on other social media platforms and I got a message saying I should try it out.  I’ve enjoyed it, and I can count on one hand how many negative comments I’ve gotten.  People are supportive and they’re supportive of what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s a great platform!  I’ve tried to get other recruiters because in this age of recruiting, the 18 – 24 year olds we’re looking for don’t go anywhere.  Like when I was that age we’d go to the mall, but this generation goes into their room and turns on their Xboxes.  If you’re not on a social media platform, you’re not reaching a younger demographic.  As a recruiter, social media is imperative. 

Are there any mistakes/issues/gimmicks you often see with fitness advice on social media?

Usually if you see gym posts, that’s not what they look like every day.  And even people who compete cut out carbohydrates, cut out liquids to get down and sucked into a false physique.  But if you see these guys when they’re not competing, they look normal.  If you look at bodybuilders, their life expectancy is very short.  A lot of them pass away from heart attacks because of what they take and what they do to their body.  All physical fitness should add to a long life, it shouldn’t take away from a healthy one.  I’m 51 years old, I have aches and pains like anybody else, but I’m not limited by anything and I can work out as hard as I could 10 or 15 years ago.  Longevity, flexibility, and good health are something you should always look for.

What do you enjoy most about Clapper? In what ways do you feel like Clapper needs improvement?

The same thing I enjoy most about Clapper is the same thing I enjoy most about the military: it’s the people.  Again, I’ve shared many videos on Clapper and I don’t get many negative comments on my videos.  It’s usually very supportive, very encouraging.  

If I could say anything to improve, I think Clapper should do better with advertising to the military about recruiting.  Clapper has an app and a platform that I think the military could use to get the message out, the benefits, things of that nature.  I think the military would use Clapper if they knew this platform’s reach.  Because I’ve used Clapper and I’ve found Clapper to be incredible to get out the message of fitness, service, family, so if I had one thing to improve upon, it’s maybe trying to grow that network to organizations that don’t understand what Clapper offers.

What advice would you give new creators that want to be successful on Clapper?

Be authentic.  I’ll see sometimes people borrowing from other creators; it can make you popular for a time, but anything worth having is always unique.  And I think everyone has the ability to make themselves unique – and don’t underestimate what you’re good at.  I have a friend who’s going to start making videos because a lot of young people don’t have automotive knowledge.  So whatever talent you have, put it out there.  I promise you there’s someone who needs help from that talent.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know @charltonharley– if you haven’t already, go give him a follow! To read meet @videoforbosses, check out last week’s Deep Dive.