My favorite picture of us
Feeling a little bad that for the first time in a good while I passed over my moms birthday without writing a little post. So, perhaps it’s a bit late, but I wanted to pay a little respect to the woman to inspired so much in me, and continues to do so.
For those of you newer readers who don’t know about my mom, she was one of the greatest fighters I have ever met (and I do know a few elite level MMA crazies, so…). What I mean by that is that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she fought through an incredible number of years going the natural route. She stayed active, she committed to overall health both inwardly and outwardly. She worked on healing relationships and making new and lasting ones with the idea that all of this would allow her body to naturally fight this horrible sickness. What blew my mind about my mother the most was that when she was seemingly at her worst, and I mean stage-4 cancer, disintegrated spine, major osteoporosis, rapid weight loss and probably a whole list of things I am forgetting, she still lived. With all these problems, she still cooked almost every single meal. And a meal for her would easily average an hour or two because it was 100% real food. She consumed nothing processed, nothing fake at all. She would walk twice a day, sometime for over an hour. Put this into perspective people, so many of us seemingly “healthy” people make excuses to not workout, be active, and make our own food every single day. Our country is fatter and sicker than ever before. And yet there was this frail, horrendously falling apart woman who chose to pursue what she believed and loved every single day. She made no excuses, she smiled every day, and she hoped to leave us all with the feeling of deep love in the end. And I would argue that her ultimate goal in life was achieved. She proved that living a life that you can respect and smile about is way better than choosing excuses, prescription drugs, tons of surgeries and a long, painful death.
Now I don’t want to paint a completely positive picture of her, while she inspired so much good, there was plenty she did that caused pain in our family. But this is also something she taught me; to be straightforward about how you feel and to face those feeling with honesty and a clear mind. She strived to be the best woman she could be to all of us, and to everyone in her life. And while she slipped up here and there, she clearly found success in the pursuit of what she wanted out of life.
I am especially aware of her missing in my life around this time of year because we used to go see the Cherry Blossoms together in Kenwood, MD. We would stroll around, talking, silent, laughing, thinking, and just soaking in the power of the beauty of those flowers. One of the most vivid memories I have of her was her spinning and spinning around with her arms out when a gust of wind blew and covered us in a snow-fall of pick flower pedals. It doesn’t matter who you are, there was something so touching about the joy and freedom she clearly felt in those moments. It was impossible not to smile.
I miss her. I hope to remember every day that the best way to live life is to do what you feel deep down to be right. It doesn’t matter if people disagree with you, try to hold you back, argue with you, or even fight you. If you believe in it with all your heart, good things will happen in your life. And when the end comes, you can look back on everything you did, everything you stood for, and be proud. My mother was proud of all of us, and I am so proud to have had her as a driving force in my life for so long.
Happy belated Birthday, Mom!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
For the life of me I can't figure out why I am having such a hard time with keeping this blog up to date. For some reason I just can't bring myself to write like I used to and I know you guys are helplessly sitting by your phones/computers waiting longingly until I finally post again. While I make no guarantee to post every day, I can promise that I will try to get back into the rhythm of doing so. That all being said, I have two posts: a positive one, then a negative one. I'll start with the positive.This past weekend, the last weekend of the CrossFit Games Open, I was up in Massachusetts for my cousins Bar Mitsfah. I was a little worried for a couple reasons: one, where and when would I get the Open workout? And two, how was I going to stay healthy?! Well, everything turned out to be pretty damn good and I am happy to say, I had one of the better workout experiences in a while. Flew up to Providence, hung at the relatives house for a little bit in Mansfield, MA, then headed over to CrossFit Torque, a small, family-run spot about a mile and half from the Patriots Gillette Stadium! The workout space was maybe around 800 square feet, but was very well organized. But what set these guys apart right from the get-go was how freaking welcoming they all were! Not just the owners and coaches, but all the athletes I met in my two visits, so nice, so friendly and it was impossible NOT to feel at home there. So, I hot the workout with the goal of beating my last years score of 111 total reps (for those of you who don;t know what the workout was, it was 3 reps of each of thrusters at 100# and chest to bar pull ups, then 6 each,then 9 each, the 12, then 15 and so on for 7 minutes.My goal was to break up the pull ups early so that I wouldn't burn out, and start breaking up the thrusters around the round of 12. I would move comfortably through everything so that I didn't smoke myself and run out of gas. Well, I didn't give myself enough credit on this and when I dumped the bar 3 times on the round of 18 thrusters, I got so annoyed at myself for throwing such a light bar down that I kind of psyched myself out for the pull ups. I finished 1 rep shy of finishing my 18 pull ups, and a score of 125. About 10 seconds later I came to conclusion that I would do this one again! The bar was SO light! I had so much more in me, and I wanted to get everything out of this last workout that I could. And, if I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to qualify for Regionals, I needed every rep I could possibly get!So, after a wonderful, celebratory Saturday (and eating about 8k calories in not-so-great food, including and not limited to about 4 pieces of wonderful cake!) I woke up sickly on Sunday and ready to get after it! This time around I planned on not putting the bar down at any point (this approach would force me to hold on to it until I just couldn't anymore), and break up the pull ups in the same way as last time which worked really well for me. I also committed to moving faster between exercises. And, to add to it all, I stupidly forgot my Oly shoes, and waiting for them to arrive I had the unexpected surprise of having 6 family members show up to cheer me on. Add the 6 or so people from CrossFit Torque who were waiting on me to finish and I had a whole slew of people ready to pump me up! Now, before a workout starts, having that many people watching you is a little nerve wracking. But, once the fun begins, and all your energy is focused into just getting through the thing; having that many people there supporting your every move does nothing but help like crazy! Needless to say, I was able to bang out 9 more reps, finishing 8 thrusters into the 21's and finishing with 134 reps! This helped a TON in moving me up in the standings. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I finished in 61st place by only a few points (the top 60 make it to Regionals by the way). Such a bummer (and the inspiration for my negative post coming tomorrow).Anyway, if you're in the South-Of-Boston area, check out CrossFit Torque, really cool people there. Now, I want to talk about our Saturday mid-day fun and how my family did some stuff I just don;t think people do anymore. We spent a good 4 hours outside, playing. We played bocce ball, basketball, football, some strange baseball game, rolled around the grass, played with matchbox cars and shot little Styrofoam rockets 50+ feet in the air and tried to catch them. When was the last time you went outside and just played? And I'm not asking this of the 6 year-olds that read my blog, I'm asking it of the teens, and adults, young and old. And if you haven't done it, is it becuase you think playing around is too childish? Is it because you don't have the time, or energy? Those don;t count as excuses in my mind. Because I was so hyper aware of how much time could have easily be spent sitting in front of the TV as a group, or sitting around eating chips and chatting. But instead, we were laughing, talking, playing, moving, running, inventing, imagining, being human and having fun. I think if the whole weekend went horribly wrong, I would have looked back at it in a positive light because of those 4 hours running around with everyone outside. Next time you're with a group of people, especially if there are kids with you all, swallow your pride, take the stick out of your ass, and get out and play. It's more fun than sitting on your ass, eating bad food and melting your brains cells in front of the TV!Mever Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage
Been a bit since I last ran through what I've been up to, so, here you go! The lull in posts over the past 4-5 days has been because I was out on a cruise down to Mexico and internets was insanely expensive, so, opted to just lay low for a while. Let's start off with The Open. As I write this, we are only hours away from the announcement of the 4th workout (out of 5), and the exciting thing for me with all this has been my rapid comeback. After a debacle of a first workout, finishing 375th in the region, I had a respectable 2nd one, pushing me to 103rd. Then, I good score in my eyes brought me down to 82nd overall after 3 weeks. I'm fired up becuase there are a limited amount of exercises they can bring out for us on the last two workouts, and I am very confident I'll do pretty well. My goal is to not only finish in the top 60, but to hopefully get myself down to a better finish than last year (I finished 30th last year). I haven't really made an official announcement yet, but because the chances of me actually making the Games are pretty slim, I'll be joining the Outlaw CrossFit team and competing with them to hopefully get to the Games that way! I am exited to do this as I've never done a team competition and I feel strongly that team Outlaw will tear it up (as of now, we are at 10th in the region, and am pretty sure we'll finish top 5 or so when all is said and done). So, this past weekend. This was an interesting trip all around, and it solidified that I really do know what I like and don't like. So, I met Lindsey down in Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday, grabbed dinner on Las Olas Blvd and then went to get some recovery sleep before doing the 3rd Open workout. After a hearty breakfast we went to The Playground Gym to join their 10am class for the workout. This place was awesome! A HUGE warehouse, just north of downtown and filled with every bit of equipment one would need and more. They had full powerlifting gear, tons of racks and platforms, a great space out back with tires and sleds, and tons of really welcoming and enjoyable athletes, and of course, some great coaches. After getting my 10 rounds plus 27 reps in the crazy humidity of Florida, I hung around for a bit with the coaches to get some light Oly work before headed back to prepare fro the cruise. Had a great time at The Playground Gym (owners of CrossFit Affliction as well) and was excited to head back there on Monday after we got back from the cruise. I was able to get my back squat work, then joined the 7pm class for their conditioning: 5 rounds of 400 meter run and 15 overhead squats at 95#. This was the perfect workout post-crusie bender and I was happy to move through this with a time of 13:41. I would assume that a 12-ish minute time would be doable at full capacity, but it felt so good to just go all out. After that, I hung with the coaches and did a bit more accessory work. So, if you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale, make sure to get in touch with these guys and join in for a class, they are a bunch of damn good people.On to the cruise! Ok, I totally get how some people can really like these things. Everything is right there for you, food, sun, games and such f you want, and plenty of people to keep the energy levels up. We had some fun on the flow-rider, had a really good people-watching time, got TONS of sun, drank and ate too much, and had a absolute blast on our day out on Cozumel, Mexico. The negatives from my perspective (and mind you, these are merely MY opinions! I have a pretty distinct personality, so take these comments accordingly): you are stuck in a limited space. To me, it is scary as all hell to not be able to go anywhere at any time. While the ship was impressively big, you are still completely limited to what's on it, and I could start to feel myself becoming a tad bit claustrophobic. The next is the food. While it was actually pretty decent, it was insanely processed. I could tell that right off the bat becuase no matter how much or little you ate, you felt crazy bloated after, no matter what! When I had fish tacos in Mexico with fried fish and cheese on them and felt awesome, I knew there was something strange going on. And while there was plenty to do (flow rider, climbing wall, basketball court, game room, freaking skating rink and so on) it was just not the same as say, surfing, actual rock climbing, running around in the woods and swimming in the ocean. I found that my snootiness on relaxation is pretty strong and I can't get myself to be totally chill unless I'm in nature. Oh, right, and I'm also NOT an extrovert; as in, I really don't get any energy at all from being around other people. I get my energy from being alone and in nature. Some people are just different, what can I say. So, if you like being around people, if you like having tons of different foods and and drinks and having everything right there for you, then a cruise is perfect for you. And I know tons of people who love cruises, so, makes sense. But for me, just ain't the thing for me!Allrighty, there's the update show for today. I got a few things planned out for posts to come, so look for those through the week!Never Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage
This post is inspired by a few recent incidences where coaches have said some pretty ignorant things about CrossFit, and what I do. I completely understand the misunderstanding that so many people have with CrossFit because there is so much crap information out there. But one must only take a second or two to realize that no matter what you are practicing, it could be wonderfully beneficial, or horrendously detrimental depending on the coach and how things are programmed. CrossFit is a very generally defined strength and conditioning program at heart. And that is what I do. I train people to become the most athletic person they can possibly be, using the theory that training every aspect of athleticism in a hyper-controlled manner will do just that. It is difficult to argue the fact that if one is at his/her best athletically, they will be able to adapt to the demands of their sport better than one who is not in “complete” shape. And because this is the goal of my training, I do not practice what uneducated people believe Crossfit to be: a random collection of exercises thrown at you in a violently intense circuit with the goal of moving heavier and heavier weights as fast as possible. Perhaps I don't actually practice "CrossFit"; but again, it's a vague enough definition, and I enjoy being a part of the growing community, so i will continue to claim to be a part of it.
So, to the coaches and people who refuse to take the time to understand what it is that I am actually doing. I will offer a two-fold post. One point is to explain how what YOU are doing is might not the best for an athlete’s optimal performance and slow gains (kind of a dick thing to do on my part, I know, but every now and then it is deserved). The second point is what it is that I do. After that, if you still insist that I randomly create workouts that are goofy and crazy, and just meant to get people running around, I can do nothing but feel bad for your ignorance.
I’ll start by asking a few questions. How much do you make your athletes run, and how often do you have your athletes max? I have found it to be very, very common for coaches and trainers to use maxing out on lifts (establishing the max amount of weight a person can perform for 1 rep) as their go-to test for where people stand. They then use this number as a base, run the athletes through their program before re-testing to make sure their maxes are higher. Well, it shouldn’t really even be a discussion about how wrong this approach is. It makes me cringe to think about 40 young athletes, or 1 beginner client walking into the gym and building up a to a bar with as heavy a weight as possible for one rep.
“But Courage, how am I supposed to get a baseline” you might ask? Simple, have each person perform an air squat or two. If they can’t perform this basic movement through an adequate range of motion while keeping a stable midline and engaging the proper muscles in the proper sequence, they shouldn’t be loading ANY weight to their body! Your program should begin with basic fundamentals of each movement, mobility, and proprioception training, and incrementally heavier loads to prep their nervous systems for growth. If one person proves to have trouble squatting under control, keep them away from the barbell until they prove they can handle it (and this goes for all other lifts as well).
I could go on for days there, but I’ll leave it at that. Now, on to the running question: I get running, especially for high school athletes and teams. But from my perspective it is a tool to build teamwork and enforce discipline, NOT to “get them in better shape”. The thousands upon thousand of studies and articles out there proving that short interval sprints and exercise are the most effective for anaerobic capacity training should end any argument about longer distance running for athletes (unless you are a long distance runner). But again, for teamwork and discipline purposes, I get it, and I support it (as long as it’s done intelligently). Unintelligent programming of high volume sprints and/or long distance running is just asking for injuries and even worse, negating all the hard work and effort the athletes have put into their other training. And this goes double for doing this stuff pre-practice or pre-gym session. If you want an athlete to get better at shooting a basketball, hitting a baseball, running a very specific route, or l lifting a flawlessly performed clean, you better make sure they get the majority of their reps in as fresh as possible. If they are always practicing under high levels of cardiovascular and/or muscular fatigue, you force them to perform movements sub maximally, forming injury-building habits and sub-maximal performance.
When you are halfway through your season, or a client has been training with you for a few months and all of a sudden minor to major injuries start popping up, it should be pretty clear where they are coming from: the coaches programming. The more difficult thing to process is crummy performance, or, plateau-ing. It’s when a baseball player all of a sudden doesn’t have that fire under them each play, or swing; or that person in the gym has low energy and can’t seem to make any gains at all. This is when a good coach takes a step back, looks over the progression of training this person or people have been through (if it’s not written down somewhere you might as well write yourself off as a good coach now, keep everything charted!) and make an adjustment ASAP.
So, “mister perfect” you might say, how would you do it? Well, first off, I am far from perfect, and that is step one: be humble. You are not the best coach in the world; you do not have it all figured out. If your methods do not change over the years it means you are not learning anything from anyone or anything, and the same issues will continue to occur. If you are not adapting and growing as a coach, your athletes will never be able to grow to their potential. Simply put, if you are not constantly evolving, you're not a good coach.
If you have a good year, or you have a good client, here and there, and it is common thing the majority of the time, generally it is because you had a more talented person/group of people who were able to overcome your flaws as a coach with raw ability. What I mean is that if you tend to have a decent percentage of clients that just don;t seem to get any better; or, a few years at a time on a regular basis of a crappy team, with a good team on some other years, you are clearly not a good coach/trainer. If what worked one year does not work the next, adapt, change and continue to grow.
You must spend so much of your time reading studies and articles, and talking to other coaches and athletes about their thoughts and ideas. Try new things, keep notes, and always be open and available to discuss and question anything. One of my three rules to all athletes/clients is ask questions. They, and of course, I, should know why I am having them do all the things I program. I want my athletes to question what I am doing because then they can learn more. The more they learn, the more they understand about what they are doing, and the better they become and faster they progress.
Know exactly what is you are doing. Have a program. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to a coach or trainer and learn that they have an idea of what they are having their athletes do, but there is zero progression (and yet I have some of these people think that I program complete randomness…hm…). As stated before, if you want your athlete to perform at maximal potential, you will give him/her a program that allows for proper sequential growth. This means that you assess their ability to move, correct flaws, correct imbalances, prep for volume and load, then progressively increase volume and loads through balanced exercises and rep schemes. Attention will always be towards loading the muscles in the proper sequence, performing each exercise as properly as possible before overly loading it, and understanding the program well enough to avoid over-training individual muscles, joints, and the body as a whole. There is no need to go into more detail than this. If you are a good coach, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about and you are probably doing this. If you are an athlete/client, you should be asking your coach if this is what they do, and paying attention to what you are doing and how you are feeling (you should be feeling better and better by the way, and if you are not, you should be able to ask your coach why and be able to easily talk with them about it).
Finally: food. If you are not paying attention to what your athletes/clients are consuming, you are not doing them any good what so ever. As a coach, it is your responsibility to pay attention to the health and well being of your athletes because you are their leader. If you are open and honest with them, they will learn how to take care of themselves pretty quickly, making your job that much easier. But, you cannot expect someone who pays you to help them get better at sports, fitness, and/or life to figure it all out on their own. Simply put, do your job right.
It breaks my heart the amount of coaches/trainers out there that just have no clue what they are doing. It actually scares me because the people who choose to turn to a professional to help them out have no reason to know if that person is total BS or not. Yes, each individual should take at least some responsibility and understand the basics. But, if a person chooses to be a coach, or a trainer, or anyone that puts themselves in some sort of “leader” roll, they better respect that roll enough to know exactly what they are doing. Hopefully what they are doing is good.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
In the words of East Bound And Down superstar Kenny Powers “I play real sports, I don’t want to be the best at exercising”. Freaking hysterical, especially that he said that well before CrossFit was a big deal. Now there are fast-paced Reebok commercials on primetime TV with Iceland Annie and Chad 86 advertising this new, crazy sport. And I both love it and hate it! I have a ton of posts coming on different aspects of all this, but I wanted to throw out a short and sweet one as a big wake up, or a big reminder depending on where you stand. CrossFit is officially TWO THINGS! CrossFit is: the greatest strength and conditioning program (if programmed by an intelligent coach). CrossFit is: the sport of fitness. As a CrossFit athlete myself, and one who trains mostly high school and college athletes, I have to always be aware of the line that is drawn between how we train. My athletes are here to get better at their sport, so the training they do with me is geared towards that, and that alone. I am trying to get better at CrossFit, so my training is wildly different. The same goes for someone coming into the gym to simply get in better shape. An incredible “Fran” time, or being able to rip out 60+ snatches in 10 minutes should NOT be the goal. But if you want to compete in the sport, the same way one might choose to run a marathon and then train for it, then doing crazy things that are risky would make more sense. But, if you are training for a specific sport, or trying to become generally more fit and healthy, use the methods of CrossFit intelligently and your results will be greater than anything in the world. Again, I am always happy to go into exactly what it means to train with these two perspectives; but the main thing is to first acknowledge that there are two distinctly different things at play. Next will be my thoughts on how we all can make the differences more clear. But for now, stop confusing the two!Oh, and got an article up on a great site on this topic by the way. Check it out HERE Never Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage
Just a heads up, this post is specifically about baseball. I haven’t posted about baseball in well over a year, but I was in the cage today and a whole bunch of stuff I had been working on and thinking about last summer came flooding back So, if you’re not into baseball, oh well I guess, too bad!
I have been a big baseball guy for some time now. Many of my readers here know of my background as a baseball player, but in case you don’t, and to get a little better understanding as to how “into it” I actually was, here are a few historical points:
I played on 3 summer ball teams and 3 fall ball teams every year of my high school career. This meant that during a regular season in my teens, I would play upwards to 100+ games. A major league season is 163 games, so, for a 16-year-old kid, getting up into the 115 games range, along with school and such is a bit crazy. Oh, and this did not include camps, showcases, private instruction and getting together with buddies on the ball field to goof off. Needless to say, my life was baseball.
In college I used to go to double practices in the fall (I would practice with the position players, then after that with the pitchers. Then I would join them all to lift. I would then eat my dinner and head back to the gym for tee work and drill work on my own into the late hours. I guess while most people partied, I opted to play baseball most of the time. I just liked it that much.
In pro ball, as a pitcher, I would always keep a bucket of balls and a couple bats in my truck so that I could head over to the field in the late morning and take an hour or so of swings. It relaxed me. Even though we would spend 6+ hours a day at the field, I liked being there more than anything else in the world.
All of my jobs up until I became a trainer were baseball related. I was a grounds crew guy in high school. I interned at The Baseball Factory and did private instruction during college. And I instructed and coached at camps right out of college as well. The first company I ever started was right out of college called Baseball Fitness. Needles to say, I have a good deal of experience in the baseball world and given how I geek out about fitness stuff, one can only assume I did the same thing growing up with baseball.
Ok, pre-theory note. Hitting a baseball is majority visual. The theory I am spelling out talks mostly about the physical and neurological aspect of hitting or throwing a baseball. With that said, my theory should work for pitchers, and should be incorporated into hitting drills. But to become a better hitter, you need to be able to see the ball, recognize the flight of it, and react accordingly.
So, on to my theory.
Cut back your swing repetitions and pitch repetitions per week by at least 50%. This includes swings and pitches you take pre and during games. This does not mean you just swing and pitch les, it is a controlled method of training your reps. Here’s what I propose (I’ll use hitting as my example as hitters generally take way more reps than pitchers):
Day one - take no more than 50 swings to contact. Take plenty of dry swings to warm up, then use tee work, soft toss, or cage swings to accumulate your 50 swings. After each contact, take up to a couple minutes to analyze the swing and break down why it was good or why it was bad. Use that information to adjust to the next swing. Day two - go ahead and accumulate however many reps you feel necessary while incorporating the information you gained from the first session.
Day three – combine the first two days. Take 5-10 regular swings at a time, then take a few minutes to break down those reps and what went wrong/right with each swing. Hit about 5—8 rounds of this and call it a day.
Day four – back to your high rep day, incorporating past information
Day five – repeat day one. This time drill specific types of swings. Go only away, or only pull for all 50 swings.
Day six – high rep day again, this time working very specifically on adjusting to different pitches. Take swings in, middle and away, high and low, and try to have the reps as controlled as possible. If you take 150+ swings, try to make each and every one as close to perfect as possible. If that means taking 30+ seconds between each swing, do it.
Day seven – Same as day six but 2/3 of the swings. So, if you took 100 swings, only take 75 this day. Stick with the same approach.
The reason I think this will work is based on the idea that spending more time understanding what you are doing will do much more for you than just doing, over and over again. Using Olympic weight lifting as an example, it’s about practicing quality reps that helps perfect the ability to flawlessly move insanely heavy weights. The same should go for baseball skills as well. Perfect your ability to actually make contact and/or to throw a perfect strike and any time and you will be a much, much, much better baseball player. I have seen way too many young ball players spend hours in the cage, or on the mound pumping out rep after rep to never see any tangible gains. That’s because they are not letting their minds and bodies understand WHY a specific swing made such perfect contact, while the next one popped up. It is body control, proprioception, having a full understanding of where you, the bat and the ball are at all times. This does not mean you have to have the prettiest swing, it only means you must have complete control over that swing. And fewer reps will allow you to focus on that understanding without over-fatigue and the forming of sloppy habits.
This theory has not been put to practice. I actually am pretty amazed I have never heard of anyone trying this. But, based on my training for other skill-based movements, I am very confident it will help. And help a ton. It will also clear up more time for ball players to work on other stuff, like PFP’s, base-running and learning signs (all things that most baseball players take for granted and then lose layoff games because they suck at them)!! And of course, the more time you have the more time can be spent in the gym getting stronger, or at home recovering.
For all you baseball players and fans out there, I would love to hear your opinions. And believe me, I will be putting this theory to test with as many guys as I can this coming summer. So, then I’ll have real proof!
Never Stop, GET FIT.