We talked to Daniel Balint and his coach Matt Owen about how he earned “The Shirt”

The Gym Jones Shirt is preceded by its reputation. It is earned; never given, never purchased. The Shirt has a long history and has been earned in many different ways. Sometimes the opportunity to earn it is presented, sometimes an athlete creates the opportunity for themselves. In all cases, earning the shirt represents that you rose to an occasion that demanded something difficult from you, and that you can be trusted to do so whenever it is required of you. 

For the next few weeks, we have invited athletes to share the stories of earning their shirts. This week, we speak to Daniel Balint and his coach Matt Owen about how he earned the shirt after a 1:17 500m row.

Tell us about yourselves, how you know each other and how you found Gym Jones.

Matt Owen: I have been involved with Gym Jones since about 2008. I am a Fully Certified Instructor and the Director of Programming for Gym Jones, Seminar Staff, all that good stuff. I run Project Deliverance Gym in St Louis Missouri, and I’ve been training Danny here since 2018. 


Daniel Balint: Back in 2018, I was actually getting ready to do semi-pro football. I was meeting up with some of the players and they recommended Matt’s gym. I was unsure at first, because Project Deliverance is 40 minutes from my house and I wasn’t ready to commit to the commute, but they convinced me to come and I immediately knew it was a good decision. All of those guys kind of came and went, but I stuck around. I started getting involved at Gym Jones when I first attended the seminars during the last year or so. 

Danny and his brothers doing a workout with Certified Instructor Kurtis Frasier during a visit to Gym Jones HQ

When did you first become aware of the existence of “the shirt”? 


DB: Matt has a Gym Jones banner at Project Deliverance, so we were always asking about it. The way Matt talked about it, it kind of became this mythical thing; it was THE gym. Hearing Matt’s passion about it was really cool. So one day, Matt was wearing his Gym Jones shirt, and I asked how I could get one. Matt said, “you can’t buy this shirt you have to earn this shirt.” And I was like, “what do you mean earn it? What do I have to do?” His answer was basically there isn’t a set criteria, it’s not dependent on a time frame or the amount of weight you can lift or anything like that. I came to understand that the shirt was about effort, and how willing you are to really push yourself to your limits. So I honestly kind of forgot about it, kept doing my thing at Project Deliverance. But then when I started getting more involved at Gym Jones, I noticed that Kurtis and Cate and some of the other instructors had their shirts. And I was like, “oh man, those guys have got the shirt! They’ve got the super power!”


Matt, knowing what you know now about Danny’s journey to earning his shirt, could you have given him different or more specific advice about earning it?


MO: Well, because earning the shirt is really about breaking mental barriers, that looks very different for everyone, right? So when I start training someone, I try to really get to know them and understand what their goals are. Usually, when someone has set a goal for themselves that they consider to be super lofty, you can identify that as the barrier that they’ve created for themselves. My job as a coach is to push them past that, past what they think that they can do. And that’s going to involve not only training their body but especially training their mind, because they’re going to have to go beyond what they even believe that the are capable of. So at the end of the day, you could earn the shirt with a 500 pound deadlift, or rowing a 6:45 2k, but really it could be anything. You’ve just got to show me that your mind is ready to accept that you are capable of more than you believe, and your body is ready to execute.


So in Danny’s case, we’d been doing a whole lot of rowing up to that point, and we had talked about going  1:20 on the 500m row and that was the big goal we had really set for him, but that goal was not associated with the shirt. So with 1:20 in mind as the goal, Danny went out to Gym Jones and rowed a 1:17 and that was really just the perfect example of really exceeding what he expected of himself.


DB: Yeah, you know I had come to Matt from a training background that was more like bodybuilding. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to look good, but I just had no cardiovascular engine at all. I remember when 100m sprints seemed like hell! But just like anything, you keep adding on to what you’ve got, little by little and soon enough those sprints are easy. So I think that’s why this 500m row was such a mental barrier for me, because there was a point where just rowing that distance at all would have been a stretch, let alone at a pace like 1:20.

Danny warms up for a workout at the Gym Jones  Intermediate Seminar at Project Deliverance

What did that achieving your goal mean to you beyond that 1 minute and 17 seconds on the rower? Did it impact your life outside of the gym?


DB: Oh it’s a huge confidence booster for sure. Physical efforts like that, you know, a 500m row for time… it sucks and you know it’s going to suck. But you just sit down and you know you’ve got to get it done so you might as well do your best while you’re at it. I’ve carried all these mental things from Matt and from Gym Jones, and I’ve definitely applied them outside of the gym. So like at work, I do cybersecurity for power utilities. So whenever something breaks, there’s a lot of pressure on me to get it fixed right away. So those are stressful situations. But when you’re practicing doing your best in stressful situations every day at the gym, it’s easier to do it when it comes up at work or anywhere else in life. So you can approach a problem with a sense of calm, knowing okay, I can do this. This is going to suck right now but I can do this. 


We have people hit us up all the time, asking if they can buy one of these shirts. And when we say no, their next question is how they can earn it. What would your advice be to someone really wanting to earn their shirt?


DB: [Laughs] Honestly, I would say don’t ask about it! Just put your head down and work. Always have a goal guiding that work. Hit one goal, make another, and just keep going. Your coach sees you working, you know? But honestly it has to be about more than the shirt, because you’re the only one who knows when you’ve given 100%. Only you can choose to offer the effort, and only you can know if you had more to give. So it has to be about the process and earning not just the shirt but the ability to say you’re ready for whatever challenge you’re going to face that day, whether it’s a workout or earning the shirt or something else entirely, always be ready. 


MO: Danny said it perfectly. Make sure you’re setting goals, you’re not training just to train. Bear in mind that it’s not actually about the shirt, nor is it about any one goal. It’s about the journey of who you become while you’re chasing that goal and how you change along the way. It’s about the process.

We won’t sell you THE shirt, but we do have others for sale! Or, contact a Fully Certified Instructor to get some guidance on hitting any of your goals… maybe an opportunity to earn The Shirt will present itself along the way.

Buy a shirt (but not THE shirt)Find a Certified Instructor