For Cody Ko, energy is everything.
In the early morning, he reaches for his camera, recording himself as he makes subpar oatmeal — which he affectionately calls “b’doats”— and slaps on his baseball cap that reads “Energy is Everything.” Then, he trains. Whether running dozens of miles, spending hours on the bike, or swimming along the California coast before sunrise, Cody Ko trains for his next endurance challenge nearly every day and vlogs while doing it, uploading videos to his newest YouTube channel: “Cody Trains.”
Cody Kolodziejzyk — known to his fans as Cody Ko — is a media professional, with popular podcasts and YouTube channels that regularly garner millions of views. His newest venture veers away from his typical comedic reaction videos and music content, instead focusing on amateur endurance training. Ko started training about a year ago.
“I was in a super bad rut,” said Ko in an interview with The Harvard Crimson. “I've always been a pretty optimistic and happy person, and I just hadn't felt like that for a long time.” Ko was a D1 college diver at Duke University and grew up in a family full of athletes. “I used to watch my family do all sorts of incredible endurance feats. And I realized I'd kind of lost that part of my life.”
His response was to sign up for a 60-kilometer ultramarathon, beginning a pattern of endurance training that he has maintained consistently since.
“I feel like I kind of found myself again,” said Ko, grinning. “It wasn't just specifically going out and running, it was more about being able to trust myself again, that I'd actually show up for myself and complete these workouts and finish something difficult.”
Ko completed the challenging ultramarathon in August of 2022 and uploaded a video about his journey to his main YouTube channel, which resonated strongly with his viewers.
“In the comments, people were saying, ‘this encouraged me to start running,’ or ‘I had never done anything before, but I got off the couch and I went outside for a walk,’” said Ko. “I go back and watch that ultramarathon video sometimes, just to see how I was feeling, and to remind myself what effect that had on my life.”
Energized by the success of his ultramarathon video, Ko started his separate “Cody Trains” channel in September of 2022. His content embraces imperfection and even failure as it follows his newest training adventure: preparing for an upcoming Ironman race. Whether by vlogging the painstaking process of assembling a stationary bike, telling his fans about his injuries, or even making a full breakfast only to acknowledge that it doesn’t even taste good, Ko doesn’t hesitate to paint a picture of the realistic, and even humorous, struggles of endurance training.
“A lot of the reason why people don't start doing things is just that intimidating part of the learning curve where you don't know anything,” said Ko. “So I think it's important to show that sort of thing.” For Ko, the most troubling learning curve has been cycling.
“I don't understand bikes; they seem really intimidating. There's so many moving pieces,” he said, sighing. “Like, I want to focus on my job. I don't want to sit down and screw something in for an hour trying to figure out how a bike works.”
However, Ko has persisted in his Ironman training, weathering bike maintenance, injuries, and other challenges as his fans cheer him on from his comment section.
“Nothing is consistently, linearly up,” reflected Ko. “I've learned to deal with that with this career especially; it’s peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys.”
By confronting challenges head-on with his channel, Ko has inspired his viewers to do the same. His comments are flooded with positive reinforcement — not only for himself, but for other members of his community. This positive community even reached Ko in person.
“When I was in Palm Desert for my wedding, I went for breakfast with my wife Kelsey,” said Ko. “And we bumped into a girl who told me, ‘I watch your “Cody Trains” videos, and it’s changed my life. My brother, who is severely depressed and hasn't gotten out of bed in months, is now getting up every morning and training because of your videos.’” Ko paused. “Kelsey and I just started crying because that's the nicest thing I've ever heard. That just makes me want to go harder and keep doing this sort of stuff.”
“Cody Trains” is more than inspirational: It’s funny. Ko injects humor and running jokes into every aspect of his videos. For instance, his now-classic tagline “energy is everything” came from an old hat he found abandoned in his house.
“I thought the phrase was pretty corny, and who left his hat here? It’s not mine,” laughed Ko. “But then I just started saying it. And now it’s become this thing that ties the channel together.”
Although the blend of humor and motivation is intentional, it is also natural for Ko, who is experienced in the digital media landscape.
“By now, when I pull out a camera, it's kind of second nature to try and be a little bit performative,” said Ko. “I'm only really vlogging maybe three minutes a day, so it’s not a lot to try to think of a funny joke in there. That's what I've always tried to do in my content – make people laugh.”
Ko believes his infectious energy for endurance training applies to more than just the Ironman.
“A lot of the stuff that I talk about around showing up for yourself every day, people think that's specific to just working out,” he said. “But you can apply this to anything else in your life.”
Ko then delivered a piece of advice directly to his readers and fans who may be starting to build motivation for projects of their own.
“You’ll notice that it’s a compounding thing. You start getting better faster and faster, and you start having more fun, and then it's a snowball,” said Ko. “That’s the advice I would give. Pick something you want to get better at and just do it a little bit every day.”
—Staff writer Stella A. Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.