outdoor outreach

Non-Profits Over Parties: Why We’re Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary a Different Way


By Chris Carmichael,
Founder and Head Coach of CTS

We had big plans for 2020. Throughout the year, we were going to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the founding of CTS, and then I was going to throw some kind of party or event with the coaches for my 60th birthday (which is today, October 24). The pandemic didn’t prevent me from turning 60 (thankfully), but with so many people, communities, and businesses affected by COVID19, this year hasn’t been a time for birthday parties and anniversary celebrations. Instead, we decided to redirect our money and efforts to a fundraiser for Outdoor Outreach, an organization that connects young people from under-resourced communities with transformative outdoor experiences. CTS and I have seeded the campaign with initial donations, and we hope CTS athletes and fans will join us in donating and helping introduce kids to the kinds of outdoor activities, fitness opportunities, and goals that have had such positive impacts on our lives.

We’ve created and donated to a fundraising campaign to raise $10,000 for Outdoor Outreach. I hope you will join me in making a donation and including a note about how fitness, training, or the outdoors has impacted your life.

The CTS Vision in Action

One of the activities we undertook as a company early in late 2019 was to refocus the vision of the company for the future. Reaching 20 years in business is something I am very proud of, and our coaches and athletes have accomplished so much in that time, but we have much more to do. The challenge of creating a vision for an organization is that it is sometimes hard to get outside the tactical mindset of the product your delivering today and what it will take to achieve growth.

When I started CTS, my vision was to make world-class coaching accessible to athletes of all abilities and create a professional career path for endurance coaches. Over the past 20 years we have done that. CTS was one of a small group of coaching and technology companies that helped define the endurance coaching industry in the early 2000s, and look where those industries are now. Similarly, in 2000 there were very few professional endurance coaches outside of the Olympic teams and National Governing Bodies. CTS helped drive the professionalization of endurance coaching and we have developed hundreds of coaches, many of whom are still with us and many who have gone on to leadership positions in labs, sports teams, professional organizations, and their own businesses.

We could continue pursuing our original vision, and we will continue coaching athletes and developing coaches, but I wanted to turn our eyes to a bigger vision of what we want to accomplish in the next 20 years. Together, the coaches and I created a new vision for the future of the company:

“CTS seeks to change lives and ultimately the world, through the power of movement, healthy habits, knowledge, and inspiration.”

We’re a small company and that’s a big vision. But there’s no reason to put limitations on what’s possible. We have transformed tens of thousands of lives over the past 20 years, and those people have and continue to affect the lives of people around them. Your behaviors around exercise, the outdoors, and living an active lifestyle have a ripple effect, which is why I believe donating to Outdoor Outreach is such a great fit for activating our vision. As adult athletes, we already know how important outdoor activities are to our health, fitness, and emotional wellbeing. Kids don’t always know that and don’t always have access to safe outdoor activities or knowledgeable instructors. Outdoor Outreach makes those opportunities available, hopefully starting more kids on the pathway to active and healthy adult lives.

On Turning 60

As I hit the Big 6-Oh, I feel like the wealthiest man around. My bank account doesn’t necessarily reflect that, but I’ve long since learned that money is a poor way to measure true wealth. There was a time when I was jetting around the world and hanging out with celebrities and the super-wealthy, and one thing I noticed was that some were more focused on what they could buy, but the accumulation of things didn’t seem to bring them more joy. Money can increase comfort, options, and privilege, but by itself it won’t create meaning or make you happy. What I don’t have in dollars I have in unique and unforgettable experiences, many of which are connected to sport, fitness, and the outdoors. I’ve been racing since I was nine years old, lived in Europe and traveled around the world. I was member of an Olympic Team, raced the Tour de France, known many of best athletes in world and coached several of them. I started company from nothing, and that company has developed hundreds of world-class coaches who have transformed lives of tens of thousands of people. Above all, I’ve loved deeply, accepted love, and raised three wonderful children. I’m only 60 years into this life, but I feel pretty good about how it’s starting out.

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Perhaps because I spend so much time riding with and coaching athletes who are between five and 20 years older than me, I can’t see myself sliding into retirement any time soon. And maybe part of the reason I felt the urge to redefine the vision for CTS is because I wanted to create a new vision and purpose for myself.

The COVID19 pandemic revealed to me just how closely my identity is tied to my activities and relationships within in the outdoor community. One of my biggest struggles during the pandemic has been being one step removed from the events, camps, coaches, athletes, team directors and event directors that make up my community. If you’re lucky, there’s more to work than making a living, but it is sometimes hard to recognize how our work defines a large portion of our identity. When those activities are muted, it can be easy to lose your sense of self and community. A period of being forced to spend less time with the people in the outdoor community strengthened my resolve to create future opportunities for more people to participate in the outdoor community.

Going forward, I’m committed to annual fundraising campaigns for non-profits aligned with the CTS Vision. That may mean supporting exercise and outdoor programs, and it may mean supporting renewable energy, conservation of wild spaces and species, and access to public lands so we–and our kids and grandchildren–have outdoor spaces for riding, running, hiking, and playing.

No Time for Retreat

At a time when I am celebrating the results of hard work and a huge amount of good fortune, it is important to acknowledge this is very tough time for a lot of people. Not everyone can afford to make financial donations. Many people are under great pressure to care for loved ones, stay healthy themselves, keep their businesses running or save their own job. Over 20 years I have led CTS through two recessions, 9/11, several product lifecycles, and now a pandemic. I’ve made good decisions and bad ones, had good days and bad ones, but always walked back into work the next day to keep going forward. Progress–whether in training, business, relationships, finance, or changing the world–is made in small steps repeated over long periods of time.


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Comments 8

  1. Happy birthday Chris and congratulations to 20 years of positively impacting lives through CTS. I am happy to support Outdoor Outreach and I wish you many many more years of health, happiness, and amazing success with CTS.

    All the best,

  2. Chris, you have already been doing incredible outreach since March just by making your training videos available for free. Those videos have been a tremendous resource and inspiration for me and I am on a path to be in some of my best shape ever – even at 63 – when next season comes around, thanks to you. BTW – I loved seeing you walking around with a new baby in your arms in one of the videos. I am guessing that was 20 years ago but your and your coaches advice and methods are as effective and timeless as ever. There are lots of excellent on-line and coaching programs, but yours is the gold standard. I look forward to attending a camp in the future. Thanks for all that you do.

  3. Happy 60! The scope of the new vision is wonderful. The wellness, fitness of the individual and the land. Love it!

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