Mix It Up…It Makes You Better

One of the most common questions we hear at the lab deal with training cycles and progressions.  That is to say that people want to know a little about how we do strength training combined with metabolic conditioning.  The truth of the matter is that we do follow cycles of strength and conditioning as any good program should, but it is within these cycles that we break out a little bit.

We do not always put a barbell in your hands to make you stronger.  Sometimes we put a sandbag in your hands.  Other times, we will put you on some Atlas stones and introduce you to the world of strongman training.  We work hard to introduce odd objects into your training because that is what you deal with in real life.

Life is not always neat and balanced.  You do not always get the luxury of everything being perfect and you have to learn to deal with these ups and downs.  You have to deal with the fact that, for most of us, one side of our body is stronger and one side is weaker.  So we lift objects that force us to deal with those discrepancies.

As I have worked more and more with different people and different groups, you find that the variety that we offer in our training models is something that always keeps you fresh and new.  We take pride in the truth that we do not want you to be a great CrossFitter, but rather we want you to be great at whatever life throws at you and whatever you want to do with the rest of your life.

So we make you lift sandbags that only weigh 70 pounds but feel like 170 because it is odd.  We ask you to run an obstacle course because life does not always come at us on a perfect track.  We push prowlers, pull sleds carry yokes.  We attack far more than a barbell and a pull-up rig because for most of us, life really isn’t that simple.

So I welcome all our new faces to the lab, and encourage everyone to embrace their inner strongman!

Frustration or Learning Opportunity?

Yesterday, I got to jump in with a class and do the workout with them.  It fit with my training schedule and was a nice diversion.  The goal of the day was to work on the power clean and hang power clean.  1 couplet every minute for twenty minutes.  Adding weight periodically as you felt comfortable.

My plan was to make jumps every 5 reps.  I started out with a goal in mind and that goal had nothing to do with the weight on the bar.  It had everything to do with feeling the right positions at the beginning of the lift, feeling the hips open up, and ultimately being successful.  If I did five reps and felt good with how they felt, I could allow myself to add weight.

I made it through the first five, and added the weight.  Made it through the next five, and added weight.

Then I struggled.  My elbows felt like they got stuck but I completed the lift.  The next set though, I was in my own head and failed on the hang clean.  I got mad, frustrated and angry.  I tried another attempt and failed on the hang again.

It wasn’t the weight though.  I deviated from what my goal of the training session was.  My goal was not to successfully get every rep or build the biggest bar possible.  My goal was to feel every part of the lift and be successful.

I lost sight of how I felt.  For all my successful lifts, I would look at the clock and get set up when there was 6 seconds before the beep signaled the next round.  After I failed, I did not pay attention to the clock or what I was doing.  I had been pulled out of my mind and lost site of my goals for that session.

I dropped weight to a middle ground between my successful attempts and my failed attempts.  I got another 3 rounds successfully and then I failed again.  My focus was gone.  I took off the weights and put my bar up.

Was my training session successful?

After walking around for a bit, I figured out that I had lost sight of what I was trying to do.  My focus was lost and so I learned something.  So it was a successful training session.  I learned something and knew that next time, I had to keep my focus better.  I have to not let a missed rep pull me away from my goals.

I have to be mindful of the goals of each session and focus on those, not the weight on the barbell.

I share this story because as a coach we often see people frustrated because they fail on a rep or don’t lift as much one day as they did a previous week.  But success in training is learning something every time.  It might be a new drill, a new mobility technique, a new skill or just something about yourself.

Results come from what you do with all those lessons.

So next time, make sure you see every frustration as a learning opportunity.

We All Need Reminders!

I am getting over being sick, so this one hits home for me.  I have a cough, I buy cough syrup.  My throat hurts, I get something for that.  My head hurts, I take tylenol or ibuprofen.  The list goes on and on and on.  So does that size of my bill to keep the old medicine cabinet stocked up.  And all the while, I am really doing nothing to remain healthy and stay there…why?

I am treating symptoms, and ignoring the root cause

As new symptoms pop up, I am taking care of those but really am not doing anything to treat the root problem.  Is it seasonal allergies or is it something I am eating?  Am I taking care of myself to the point that I should not be getting sick or am I letting life get the better of me?

There are three primary keys to remaining healthy that will help you with not having to treat the symptoms:

  1. Nutrition – Sorry but this is a biggie and probably the most overlooked when we get sick.  Are you eating the right foods and enough of them?  What about water?  Are you doing your best to minimize sugar intake?  Are you drinking more than a glass of wine a night?
  2. Exercise – Are you getting any?  Are you getting any activity in during your day?  Exercise combined with the proper nutrition is the key to staying healthy.  There are chemicals released during exercise that help aid in attention and retention of information so it is extremely beneficial for you to get your daily dose.
  3. Sleep and Recovery – If you are taking care of items 1 and 2, then you better be getting enough quality sleep and on a solid recovery protocol.  This is generally where I fail. I am pretty good about eating right and making sure I lift heavy things and lift light things fast.  But I am busy and I make a million excuses to stay up late and neglect a solid sleep and recovery routine.  And so here I am, today getting over something.
  4. BONUS – And here is a bonus item…STRESS!  What is your stress level like?  What weight (and I do not mean the good kind) are you carrying on your shoulders that you need to deal with.  Either you need to drop them and leave them where they are or deal with them.  Stress is a huge burden on getting quality sleep and weakens the immune system.

None of these are new things and most of us know this.  The reason that I am putting this out there is simply because we run from these simple truths.  We hide from the reality that just because we can take a pill to treat the symptoms we don’t need to worry about what it really underneath it all.

BUT today you are just battling a cough or a cold.  What are you going to do tomorrow when it is something that is much worse?  What happens when you are diagnosed with something, look back, and realize that making a few simply changes today could have prevented this?

Start small today and make simple gradual changes.  You will feel better and appreciate all the benefits as you move forward!

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What’s In Your Gym Bag?

Let’s get a little practical today with some information for you.  Many people wonder what equipment they should have.  This has become more and more of a pressing question as CrossFit has grown and developed.  When CrossFit was in its infancy, there was nothing that you had to have in your bag.  You showed up in a pair of Chuck’s your favorite worn out shirt and got ready to jump on the pain train.  Warm up was a couple push ups, some situps, maybe squat some.  A few light lifts and then it was go time!

If you remember those days…you can classify yourself as “old school”.  Pat yourself on the back…there are not a ton of us around!

As our sport, and yes it is a sport, has grown so has our understanding and knowledge of the human body.  So, for today, I wanted to give you an idea of what should be in your gym bag for each and every day.  Then I will close it with some other options that you might want to have based on your individual situation.

Image from King Kong Bags


Outside of the latest gym shirt, you will want to consider having the following items with you at all times:

    1. Water Bottle – this one is pretty much a given.  You need water, daily and quite a bit of it.  You should have one with you in the gym and with you pretty much at all times.  If you have a water bottle, you will be more likely to drink water and not go get a sugary drink from the vending machine or fridge.
    2.  Jump Rope – Generally I recommend having your own jump rope for several reasons, but first and foremost, is that if you are working on getting the elusive double under, triple under or quad…you will want to be consistent in the rope that you are using.  It is also worthwhile to have this if you travel or just in case you need a quick warm-up.  They do not take up a lot of space and are a valuable fitness tool.
    3. Lacrosse Balls and Foam Roller – There are several options here, but I recommend having at least 3 lacrosse balls in your bag.  One individual and 2 taped together to form a peanut.  These coupled with a foam roller or a supernova help with pre and post workout maintenance.  After the lacrosse balls, you will want to have either a foam roller or supernova.  for in your bag, I prefer the supernova or orb.  See pics below.  Both of these items can be purchased from Rogue.  The orb and supernova work similar to a foam roller, they just take up less space.  And in a gym bag, space is precious.

    4. Journal – This one could be number 1!  You need to be able to log where your lifts are at and what you are doing.  Knowing your numbers is important.  This does not have to be anything fancy.  It can be a $1 notebook that you write in everyday.  Keep it in your bag and enjoy seeing your progress!  Log anything that is important to you.  Looking to lean up, log your meals.  Looking to see your progress, log your maxes and benchmark times/ rounds.
    5. Special Equipment – This one is going to be the catchall category.  This are the items that you specifically need to be successful.  You can think of items 1-3 as things everyone should have.  The special equipment are going to be those things that are specific for you.  These might include olympic lifting shoes (recommended once you have a solid foundation in the lifts.  These are not necessary if you are just learning the movements).  This could also be weight belts, knees sleeves, elbow sleeves, and wrist wraps.  What you are looking for here is just the equipment that allows you to perform at your best and is unique to your struggles.  I tend to get pain in my knees when I squat heavy, so I always have my knee sleeves.  Again with this special equipment you want to have it after you have a strong foundation in the basic movements and understand how the movement should feel without the aid of an outside device.  Knee sleeves will not fix your squat.  Learn to squat correctly first.  Always learn proper positioning before relying on outside equipment.  A lack of technique knowledge leads to an increase in risk of injury!

Why Do We Have to Do Gymnastics…It’s Thursday!

It happens almost every week…Thursday rolls around and some people get excited and others dread it. You would think that magically Thursday became another Monday in the week. That’s right, it is gymnastics centric training day. Why is this day important? Why even have it? Why can’t we all just lift heavy things every day?

The answer is simple…gymnastics is about mastery of skill!

The beauty of gymnastics is that it is a day to focus on the perfection of movement. It is about mastering the skills necessary to do anything and everything else. It is not about max reps or even max effort, it is about self mastery and being able to maintain a standard of movement. It is the “perfectionist” component of training.

Most people grumble at gymnastics because they are not good at it. Many others because it is not nearly as sexy as picking up a weight with a couple 0’s on the end of it. BUT gymnastics is a key component to being better at your lifts and with your life in general. It promotes body awareness and understanding where you are in space at all times.

It is about developing the skills that you need to be a better all-around athlete. CrossFit was originally built around a gymnastic mindset. Somewhere that mindset tried to remain, but the focus has moved to lifting and getting stronger. Again, though, you cannot be a great lifter without great body awareness. That does not mean that everyone needs to be able to perform the perfect ring routine or even walk on their hands, but you need to know what an activated shoulder feels like or what it means to have a solid squat with no or minimal load. You need to be able to be aware of why you are pitching forward or falling backward under load.

Gymnastics work at the gym is about gaining this awareness. It engages the Central Nervous System (CNS) so that you can get into better positions over time. So that even as your muscles grow stronger, you are becoming a better lifter and your maxes continue to rise.

The other reason that we do them. They help to promote recovery and developing a better range of motion. This is critical as we all get older. No matter how much we do not want to admit it, there is a need to be able to move fluidly as we grow. Gymnastics promotes this ability.

So the short answer about why you need gymnastics and why we devote a day a week to them is that it helps to develop a mindset for your training, helps you with your lifting and forces you to take a little break from the barbell and still grow!



Alright, everyone should have a training journal…I want you to take it out and find a blank sheet of paper in it.  On that top of that page, simply write the word “Recovery”.  That’s it.  Now take ten to fifteen minutes and write down what your recovery protocol actually is.  Then we will move on.  Does your paper look something like this?



For many it will and it does.  For many we forget that our recovery program is just as important as the weight we are putting on the bar.  What are the important pieces of your recovery protocol?

They should consist of the following items as a minimum:

  1. Mobility Work
  2. Nutrition
  3. Sleep

Those are the bare minimum of things that you need to be exploring when you begin to diagnose why your workouts seem to be slipping as you go through the week.  Are you taking care of yourself by getting adequate mobility work done?  Even a basic (read: the same everyday) set of stretches for your problem areas is better than nothing.

The second piece…what are you eating post workout, pre-workout?  Are you even eating?  The body needs to replenish all the lost glycogen in the muscles.  It needs protein to repair the micro-tears we put into muscles through working out and it needs fats to facilitate the process.  If all you are doing in slamming a protein shake, you are leaving some key components to your recovery on the table.

And finally, are you sleeping enough hours to focus during your day and your training sessions?  Are you giving yourself at least one rest day during the week.  Are you allowing yourself to not be a hero everyday and recover.

In addition to these things there are other areas of life that can inhibit your recovery.  The biggest of these is stress.

What stops you from having a solid recovery program?  Can you make the changes necessary to see better results?  Need help figuring it out…that’s what we do.

Drop us a line and we will set up a plan to help you out!

It’s Bigger than Cross…Fit!

Everyone out there is looking for something.  They want a community of people that are sharing the same struggles.  They are looking for a challenge and they are looking for the power and belief that they can conquer those obstacles.  We all want to be a part of something that is bigger than we are.  We search for that place and somehow, many of us have found that with CrossFit.

But what we want is bigger than CrossFit.  It is bigger than Fran times and Cindy rounds.  What we want is to be the best version of ourselves.  If we really want that, then we have to be willing to compare ourselves to the person staring us back in the mirror everyday.  Are we ready and willing to stop worrying about how everyone else did on a workout or what weight they used and scrutinize ourselves.

Are we willing to stop with excuses and the blame game about our own performance and admit that maybe we just have weaknesses.  Maybe we weren’t feeling our best.  But who we want to become is bigger than CrossFit and it is bigger than the scores we keep.

It is ultimately about me and you.  It is about a coach and an athlete and finding the path for them to get the results that they want.  It is about recognizing where each of us can get better.  It is about me being a better coach and hearing your wants and needs better.  It is about me not holding back the truths that you need to hear.

It is also about you hearing those truths.  Yes, you have trained here for a year or two, but there are still things to learn.  It is about us growing together into a stronger unit than we could be on our own.  It’s about getting better and periodically checking in on the basics.  How is your pushup, your situp and your squat?  When’t the last time you ran a mile or two?  How about some sprints?

I want to help you along your path.  It really is that simple.  I want to guide you down the road…it’s going to take time, it’s going to take effort and you will have to do some things that you do not like to do.  Some days you will feel like I asked you to run into a brick wall…and others you will wonder if you did enough.  We will be patient and let the results speak for themselves.

Your success will be mine…it’s a journey!  Time to get serious about it!

Becoming the Master…

In the last article in the Coaches Corner, we posed the question “What Do You Want?”.  We asked you to think about what you want to achieve and what you are willing to give up to achieve it.  In this installment, we will look at what it takes to become a master of anything.  This applies to more than just lifting, but the analogy works so we will go with it.

Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan seem to be the examples that everyone likes to use.  You know them, they invented the light bulb and discovered lots of ways not to.  Or MJ, the man who took thousands of shots and failed and that’s why he succeeded.  You know their stories, but the key that they have for all of us is that in order to master anything you have to risk failure.  You have to be willing to not be perfect.  It is safe to not want the ball in your hands when the game in on the line.  It is safe to not want to step up and be responsible.  It is easy to just be a member of a team and not the star.

It is easy to give up after failing hundreds of times to create a light bulb.  It is easy to give up after several months of not being able to do a pull-up.  It is easy to walk away and just say, I guess I am not supposed to be able to do that.  It is easy to walk away from mastering something, anything.

But if you want to master something in life, you have to risk failure and more than likely accept that failure is going to be a part of the path that we walk on.  If I want to get stronger, then I am going to fail in some of my lifts.  I have to in order to know that I am pushing my body to new heights and new challenges.

If I am writing programming for an athlete it is not always going to get the results that I want, but I will learn what does and does not work.  A master is a perpetual student of the game, addicted to knowledge and growth for their betterment and the betterment of their students.

If you want to grow into a master of anything you have to absorb the knowledge and wisdom that is out there and then make it your own.  Change it up to meet your specific needs and make it uniquely yours.  Blend what needs blending, remove what needs removing, share what needs sharing and grow.  That process requires that we stumble and fall and fail.

The failure leads to adjustments and adjustments lead to growth.  Growth leads to mastery.  So how do you become a master of anything, you step out there.  You call for the ball when the game is on the line.  You know that you are going to take your shot and come success or failure, you will learn and adapt.

You have the potential to be a master…are you willing to risk failure?









What Do You Want?

It has already been a busy year.  We are wrapping up the Open, wrapping up the Frozen Chosen and are hopefully out of the cold and into Spring (we will not discuss the rain at this time…let’s try and stay positive).  We are moving out of one season and into another.

At home, many of us will go through a process of Spring Cleaning.  We will pull everything out and assess what needs to stay, what needs to go.  We will scrub everything and we will vow to keep it that way.  If you have kids, you will vow that they will clean up after themselves.  As we think about our Spring Cleaning at home, it is also a good time to step back and look at ourselves in those pristine sparkling mirrors.

We are not looking to find our flaws, but to be honest.  To look into the mirror and ask ourselves the hard questions about what we want out of our training.  Do we want to get stronger?  Faster? Better Conditioning?  What is it deep down that you want?

Get out a piece of paper, or schedule to meet with a coach to talk about these items.  Make these goals the items that you want.  Then once you have them…you have to ask yourself one more question…

What am I willing to do to be successful?

That is the tough one.  What are you willing to do in order to achieve it?  Are you willing to stay an extra 20 minutes to put in a little more work?  Come to open gym and work on what needs to be done in order for you to be successful?  What about changing your diet?  Are you willing to get out of your comfort zones and fun zones to accomplish these things?

You answer to these two questions NEED to be written down.  You need to see them frequently and be reminded that success in anything rests on you and your decisions.  We can help, we WILL encourage and give you a PLAN to reach these goals.

It is time to take action…get out a pen and a notebook.  On the first page or back cover write these two questions and answer them:

  1. What Do I Want?
  2. What Am I Willing to Do to be Successful?

Then schedule an appointment and let’s put a plan together!  Let’s get YOU to YOUR next level!

Thoughts on the CrossFit Open

The open is almost over.  It is that final week and we have one more workout to be revealed on Thursday.  If history is any indicator be ready for Thrusters and burpees and it won’t be an AMRAP.

Some of us have enjoyed the workouts, some of us have cussed them and felt they were not a good indicator of where we truly are as athletes.  Speaking for myself, I have been frustrated as the rules of the game have changed from week to week or workout to workout.

BUT let’s take just a step back and see if maybe we could learn something from this adventure.  First and foremost it is obvious that many people are highly competitive and want things to fall their way.  They want to make sure that every domino that can fall in their favor does.  Whether it is a battle about muscle-ups at the start of the workout, pull-ups being a “scaled” element or anything like that…we all want something to help us win and be viewed as better than everyone else out there competing.  We look for loopholes in the system and want to tear it down so that we can build it back up in a manner that best suits our individual tastes.

Some people want more gymnastics, some want all gymnastics thrown into the heavens.  Some want more lifts and challenges on the platforms.  Others want new elements introduced and not the same 15 year in and year out.

To everyone I would encourage you to find a mirror and look in it.  I would encourage you to take a minute and really ask about the frustration you feel and see if it is because of the workouts or because you’re mad that a weakness was exposed.  Take a long hard look and see if you focused a little too much on what you enjoyed and tuned out a coach or advisor when it came time to work on those elements that you don’t dominate the gym at.

Or are you just not there yet?

It’s okay to need to keep working on getting from point A to point B.  It’s okay to be exposed and have weaknesses brought to the front of our consciousness.  We can all stop making excuses about everything and just admit that we are a work and progress.  And you will be next year when the Open rolls around.

Never stop growing and learning.  Never stop being tested.  It is good to have someone else design the test every once in a while.  It helps remove our personal biases.

Use the Open and the workouts to re-assess your goals and dedicate yourself to getting there.  Make the changes necessary to your training and your nutrition (why hello pot, I’m kettle).  Or find peace with where you are and move past the Open.  Move on, know yourself and be proud of what you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish moving forward.  If you want that pull-up, go get it.  If you don’t…let it die and go get stronger doing something that keeps you motivated.

I didn’t love the open, I didn’t hate it.  I just accepted it for what it was…a test.  It did what it was supposed to do, exposed the things that I did not know and things I needed to work on.

And now, I prepare to move on.  No anger, no frustration…it is what it is.  It’s time to keep pushing forward, I have more to accomplish and more work to put in!  See you all at the gym!