Change Your Talk!

One of the biggest barriers that one will find towards achieving any goal, is how they set themselves up to succeed or fail.  We live in a society where it seems we set ourselves up to fail far more than we set ourselves up to succeed.

One of the best methods to set yourself up to succeed is to speak with authority over your own actions.  Whether you are trying to make changes to your nutrition, or trying to figure out how to get to the gym often enough during the week…start taking authority over those situations.

A few things that you can do…first for your nutrition.  Remove the word can’t!

Instead of saying something like “I can’t eat cake” and feeling like you are literally leaving something on the table or beating yourself up, embrace the phrase “I don’t eat cake”.  Or you might have a phrase such as “I don’t eat sugar, unless it is a birthday party”.  The difference in the phrasing simply is a matter of in one instance you are a victim (can’t) and in the other you are taking a stand and owning the decision.  One is empowering (don’t) and one is deflating (can’t).

The same is true about your training.  First let me give the disclaimer that I know that life happens and things do not always go as planned, but you can commit to getting in some sort of workout and not accept the excuses we tell ourselves.  We will say things like “I will go to the gym, if I’m not too tired” or “I will just see how I feel”.  Get rid of the disclaimers and go no matter how you feel.  If you absolutely cannot make it to the gym, commit to going for a walk.

Yes, it is very yoda-like.  You either will or you won’t.  There is no try and the best way to be successful is to not give yourself any excuses before you start.  If life happens and you can’t make it, great…accept that and be content, but don’t start the day or week by sabotaging your efforts.  When we add a qualifier or a “but” to statements, we are already in the mindset that we are going to be too tired to do anything.

Start your Monday by saying “I will get to the gym 3 times this week.” or “I will work out 3 times” That’s it.  Nothing else.  Keep that front and center, not the possible reasons you won’t be able to do something.

It’s Monday, commit to getting better an leave the obstacles and excuses behind you.

Circle of Influence…Control What You Control

If you have read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits book, then you know about the circle of influence and you know about the circle of concern.  In a short snippet, the circle of influence are those things that you have direct control over.  In the book it would be things like your clients, your family, your schedule, etc.  The circle of concern are those things that we find ourselves worrying about but cannot control.  From a business standpoint these are things like, the client who might use your business, the weather…anything that we have no direct control over.

circle of concern

I want to take a minute and have you apply these same principles to your training.  I want you to stop focusing all your time and energy on the things that pop up in your circle of concern and focus more on your circle of influence.

These items fall into the category of circle of concern:

  1. Everyone else’s range of motion
  2. Everyone else’s time and rep count
  3. The weight on your neighbors bar
  4. The weather
  5. The actual workout
  6. How your coach deals with all of the above

You cannot affect these and you cannot change these items.  And more importantly focusing on them helps you in no shape, form or fashion.  If you spend all your time worrying about these things, then you neglect to get better in the areas that you need to get better in.  The areas that you directly influence…the areas we call the circle of influence.  These are:

  1. Whether or not you show up daily
  2. Your nutrition and sleep
  3. Your range of motion
  4. The weight on your bar
  5. Your mindset and attitude
  6. How you and your coach approach your workout
  7. How you handle adversity
  8. Your effort

The neat thing about focusing on the things that we can control, is it has a carry over effect into the things that we cannot control.  If we are consistently showing up, pushing ourselves, moving correctly, eating right and sleeping well.  Others want those results and we have the opportunity to share that with them.  We continue in our path of controlling what we can.  Set the bar high for yourself and push yourself constantly.  All the coaches know that CrossFit thrives on intensity, but that intensity comes from within…by pushing yourself to be better…not worrying about the person on the platform next to you.

See everyone at the lab!

What does a BodyLab Athlete look like?

We recently put a post up on Facebook from one of our Clean and Jerk Days.  As I flip through the pictures of all the people that train with us, I am reminded of how much fun it is to train athletes that are diverse.

The athletes that train with us are not all headed to the Games or to the next major competition.  Some of them are working out to chase their kids or grandkids around the yard.  We celebrate the diversity of our athletes far more than their desire to compete.  We celebrate a healthy lifestyle and the quest for new challenges.

The BodyLab athlete is not afraid of challenges and competing.  They are willing to run the obstacle course, learn to handstand walk and work on getting better in all areas of their life.  They will look at the whiteboard and say “I hate doing wallballs, but let’s do this!”  Then they will give their best effort and cheer on the person next to them.

I love our community of athletes and coaches because we embrace the “masters” athlete.  The one that has a few more years on them than your average fire-breather.  But don’t be mistaken, they can and will take you out back and give you a whoopin’ on the track, on Grace, or on Karen.  They put in the work and train to be the best they can be.  They compete and we show up to support them.

What does a BodyLab athlete look like?  They look like you and me.  They are the young and the young at heart.  The BodyLab Athlete is anyone who wants a better life and understands that they are in control of getting that life.  They understand that it starts within.  It starts with accepting the challenge to change and be better.

When you are ready to accept that challenge, we will be here.  We aren’t going anywhere!

Our Job and Your Job

One of the tricks that we all must accept as coaches is that our goal is to help you reach your goals.  We are here to make sure that you are progressing adequately and that you are seeing the results that you want.  We are here to offer tips, advice, and training protocols to help you get there.  We will talk to you about how often you are training, if that is too much, not enough or just right.  We will offer suggestions for challenges to take on (run that 5K, half marathon, sign up for the competition, take on an O-lift meet) and we will do our best to tell you what you might want to hold off on doing.

We also will encourage you to look at your nutrition and how that is helping or hurting your ability to maximize your progress.  Included in how we fuel our body, as coaches we will do our best to ask questions about what your recovery regiment looks like.  How much do you sleep?  How much recovery stretching and mobility do you do?  Our job is to ask these questions and provide opportunity and means for you to reach the goals you have set out.  BUT this is all that we can do…the actual work, the hard part is your job.

You must choose to take action!  You must choose what you are going to do with those suggestions and tips.  You choose whether or not you work on your lifts or not.  You choose whether or not you work on bodyweight movements and gymnastic skills.  You choose if you want to take training for those challenges seriously or not.  The choice is yours ultimately for everything that you accomplish in your time with us at the lab.  You have to draw some lines in the sand about what you are going to allow and what you are not.

What you eat, how much or how little sleep you get.  You choose.  Do you ask about stretches that help or look into mobility work or not, you choose.

The biggest not-so-small secret of coaching is that we love sharing what we know with you.  We have no problems with sharing knowledge about why we do something or why we tell you to slow down.  As coaches we love sharing if it will help you achieve success BECAUSE that is the only way we are successful.

But the action part of the equation is on you…so what will you choose today and this week, this month, this year?

Control What You Can!

I just got back from vacation.  It was a much needed break from everything.  As I was driving back, my mind wandered…9.5 hours in a car will do that to you.  I thought about many things, but one of the prevailing themes on the return drive was that:

We do not control success…all we control is our preparation.  But in 99% of cases we do control failure!

As coaches and as a training facility, we cannot guarantee you anything outside of our best.  We will take all of our skills and talents and tools and put them to use for you.  We will provide advice on technique, nutrition, sleep, and anything under the sun.  But we cannot control you and what you do.

You can take the advice, you can discard the advice.  Either way, it does not guarantee success.  On any given day when you walk into the gym, you might be successful…you might not.  You cannot control the outcome.  You can control your effort, your preparation and your mindset.  That is all.

You cannot guarantee yourself a sub-five minute mile time on any given day, but you can train to have one.  And continue to work towards and then maybe one day, you have it.  Any coach cannot guarantee that you will be able to deadlift 500 pounds, but they can give you the tools and programs to help you achieve it.  But ultimately the outcome is a matter of not giving up.

Success as an outcome is a process of smaller steps.  The only guarantee that we have in life is that there will always be another step to take.  We control ourselves and that is it.  We control how we react to a great day of lifting and how we react to a terrible day in the gym.  We control what happens between our ears and in our hearts, but that is about it.  We control when we give up and when we continue to fight.

Control what you can…let the chips fall where they fall and move on.  Take the next step, your journey starts now!


Break Out of a Rut!

Every once in a while, you will find yourself in a training rut.  You won’t want to get up in the morning or workout in the afternoon.  It might be hot, rainy, or completely not related to the weather at all.  It might just be a feeling you have that says, stay home.  How do you break out of these ruts?  How do you set yourself back on a track that is excited about fitness.

Try changing it up!  A lot of times we get bored.  A lot of times, we see the same patterns and elements in our workouts and just stop really wanting to do those things.  So find a different way to get the same response…increase the difficulty level a little bit.

How do we do that?

For one, step away from the barbell for one workout and try doing kettlebell presses or kettlebell snatches.  Grab a sandbag for those thrusters that you hate.  Add in one of your favorite movements to your warmup prep work (Turkish Getup Anyone?)

I am not going to lie, for some elements you just have to put in the work and suck it up if you want to consistently gain and grow, but other times, you can have that day where you allow yourself to find something new to enjoy.  Call up your coach and ask for one private session and do something different.  Focus on a skill you really want to get better at.  Work with that coach at a different pace and laugh while you train.

Try a workout from DBWod, or gymnasticWOD.  But find something that allows you to have some fun while still meeting your goals.  Give yourself, as bad as it sounds, a cheat workout.  One that you just enjoy doing because you are going through that rut.  It is better to do that, then to sit it out.

How do you break out of a rut in your training?  Tell us on Facebook!

Smaller Circles and Making Decisions…

We all have goals.  We all have things that we want to accomplish.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we all know what has to be done in order to achieve those goals.

If your goals involve looking a certain way, then more than likely you know that you need to adjust your diet.  That could be consuming more food, consuming less food, cutting sugar, removing sodas, etc.  It could also mean that you simply need to be more aware of what you are eating.

If your goals have more to do with abilities, such as feeling good when you clean, press, snatch, on the rings, with a kettlebell; you probably know that you need to be working with those elements and might even need to look into private training sessions that focus on those movements and those goals.

It does not matter the goal that you set your ability to succeed in it comes down to two things (and unfortunately they are not things that any coach can do for you).  The first is the easiest and the hardest at the same time.

You must DECIDE what you are willing to do in order to succeed.  You have to make some decisions and stick to them.  That is the hard part…sticking to them.  If you are wanting to achieve a pullup, then you have to decide to work on the necessary skills to get a pullup, possible get with a coach, and then you must do those drills and exercises.  If you are wanting to lean up, but know that you have several dozen cookies sitting at home tempting you, then you must decide NOT to eat them and then NOT eat them.  But make the necessary decisions that have to be made.  It is not just about willpower, it is about the power to stand by your word.  Make it bigger than saying, I will do my best or I will resist.

Make the necessary decisions and then stand firm on them.  If you have kids, you know what this looks like.  You tell them no, and then you have to remain strong.  You cannot waiver or falter.  That is how they learn and how they learn to respect you as their parent.

How do we know what decisions we have to make?  How do we figure that out…that is the second part on this journey.  We look for smaller circles. This term, I first heard from Josh Waitzkin in his book, The Art of Learning (if you have the time, read it or get the audio version on itunes).

In order to make the necessary decisions and make smaller circles you start with the larger goal and break it down into smaller parts.  For example if you are fighting the challenge to lean up…you might start a process that looks like this:

Goal – Lean Up

What is stopping me from that?  I eat ice cream every night

Why?  It’s in the freezer

Can you decide not to eat it, knowing it is there? No

What do you need to do in order to be successful with ice cream in the house?  Get it out of the house

Can you throw it out? Yes (But it will hurt…)

First Smaller Circle – Throw Out Ice Cream

Is that all that needs to happen in order to be successful in this goal?  No

What else needs to happen?  Eat more green vegetables

What is stopping you?  Eat out at places that don’t serve green vegetables

Why?  Always on the road

Can you change where you eat out?  No, but I can eat out less by packing a lunch with green veggies

How often? 3x a Week

Smaller circle number 2 – Pack a lunch 3x a week with green vegetables

And so on and so on down the line.  Think through what the smaller issues are that make up the bigger problem.

The same can be done on the learning a new skill or perfecting a skill or lift.  If you want me to walk you through that process, send me an email.  More than happy to.

So what are you going to decide to do today and what is the first smaller circle for you to be successful?

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.

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!