I know I have a long list of posts to get to: mobility tests and corrective exercises, the end of summer, a day in the life of me eating, some programming talk, and a whole slew of rants and stream of consciousness posts about food, life, the world and so much more. But tonight I was overcome by thoughts of my mother and I realized it had been some time since I last posted about her. She deserves some love.
Another year has passed since my mom passed away from one of the most inspiring battles with cancer I have ever heard about. Her dedication to cleansing her body of everything negative so that it could respond to any problem in its most natural state has truly been the most motivating factor in my constant pursuit of health and fitness in my life, and my drive to motivate as many people as I can to do the same. I have a tendency to look up to those people who commit themselves to a higher purpose or ideal than most others (kind of why I have a "healthy obbsession with Batman) and my mother did just that. Every doctor she talked to told her she needed chemo and radiation or she would die. And she chose the cleanest and most balanced lifestyle she believed in instead of "poisoning her body and mind" just to get rid of some sickness. It was her belief that she would never be happy living with the many guaranteed problems chemo and radiation (at the level she would have needed them) would bring her. And if she lived 10 or 15 extra years, what would be the point if she was unable to do so in a manner that made her, and the people around her happy. I understand this is a pretty extreme point of view to many, but it rings resounding truth in my ears. I have always believed that the best way to live life is in the pursuit of joy and happiness. If your life is surrounded by negativity, it's a rather horrendous thing to experience, especially if you know what true joy feels like. And no matter what your belief system in life, it is tough to argue with someone who is strong enough to stand by their morals no matter what the cost.
During her fight, my mother was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer on three separate occasions. This means the doctors looked her in the eye and said she only had weeks to live, maybe days, maybe a month or two if she was lucky. She lived for about 7 or 8 years with cancer.
For some of you who have followed my blog for a while, and have read some of my past posts about y mother, you will know that I generally am pretty honest about my feelings. While I look up to her, am incredibly motivated and inspired buy her life, and miss her dearly, I know that her struggle was the cause of much hardship within my family. Much of this hardship we still deal with today. But I do not resent her. She did the best she knew how. And at the base of everything she did, her actions, thoughts, ideas, everything, it was inspired by her love of life and family. What she represents to me now is the idea that I (I speak for myself only here as I understand others may not share my view on how to live life) must always do my best to honesty understand what I truly love in my heart, and do that, no matter what. To surround myself with things that make me smile so that I can naturally make the things around me smile in return. To always offer my hand to others who might be struggling, and if they desire my help, help them with all my heart. And if they do not want my help, to let them go as it will only hurt us both to force it. To not dwell on the negativity and pessimism of others. Everyone has their own demons to deal with every day, and if others chose to project their issues onto the people around them and refuse to listen to offers of support and love, just let them go.
My mother never made excuses as to why her life was so hard. I almost never heard her complain about all the hardships and pains she suffered. She always told me that the cancer was a blessing because it taught her the true meaning of health, love, family, responsibility and humility. I aspire to view the world in that way. It is hard sometime because so many people out there are so quick to defer their problems onto something else. Nobody will take responsibility for being sick, being overweight, being overly stressed and being unhappy. They will not hesitate to blame anything else but themselves. A special light shines around those who always look inward first when a problem arises to see what they can do to help.
I know this post is a bit more sappy then most that I write, but that's just a side of me that will always be there, and will always come out when talking about the things that have inspired me to live the life I am choosing to live. I am lucky to have had had a mother who taught me so much. And while there are many things my mother did to really mess with me and my family psychologically, I have taken the time to realize just what she had to go through to help me, and so many others be filled with so much love, and good.
I only hope that I can live up to what she hoped for in her life, and inspire love, and good in people for the rest of mine.
Addition - After writing this post I sat for a while and thought about some of the cool stuff my mom did. I really wish more people could have met her. She had an astounding effect on people within seconds of meeting her. She had a confidence in who she was that I think both intimidated and amazed people. And for the most part (as you can see from the picture above) she was a damn tiny, and unassuming person. Have you ever met someone who can instantly ground you just by standing next to them, or being touched by them? If you havent, you are either extremely unlucky or lack any hint of humility to accept that another person can own so much presence. If you have, you know exactly what I am talking about. And coming from someone you would never expect. She was an incredibly unique, overwhelmingly passionate person.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I know there are a good handful of people who read this blog that know me personally and are pretty up to date with my life. But, I also know there are a decent amount of readers who read for the enjoyment of it. So, today will be a little update on my life, training , nutrition, direction, approach and so on. A "me" post if you will.
The past couple months have been pretty intense with so much going on for me. I've brought on an emplyee, something that is long overdue with the amount of people I coach and stuff I do, but I could never justify because I work out of a garage and my desk is an antique sewing machine in the corner of a living room. I just don't feel like I run a business in the sense that most people would see it. But, with well over 50 regular clients coming in a week, Courage Bars, blogs, programming, social media, emails, my own workouts and, well, one other thing, it's been a crazy couple months.
So, officially, here is the "one other thing". I am moving back to California. I moved away from the San Francisco Bay area about a year and a half ago and have missed it ever since. Great things happen for me here in DC, I will never deny that at all. I love my clients, I really like the area, but I am a CA boy and with some things happening in my personal life, I have felt the call of the West too strongly now to ignore it. I will be "partnering" with CrossFit San Mateo, as in, I will be running Courage Performance out of their old facility which is right next door to their new facility. I will be programming for Courage Performance, CrossFit San Mateo, and for the advanced CrossFit athletes who will be training out of that location as well. I will also be starting a coaching/programming seminar that I hope to grow out there. Besides that, I will be spending most of my spare time doing what all you know me best for: exploring the great outdoors and having daily adventures in different areas of the wild. While I am sad to leave all the committed peoiple I have met here in DC, my firneds, and of course, my family; I am so eager to get back out to what I have called my true HOME ever since I first moved there almost 3 years ago. I am excited for what my future holds.
This move also brings a few new programs to Courage Performance. First off. we are working very hard on finding a joint location to share where Courage Performance programming and coaching can continue on in the DC area after I leave. Andrew Whitener, a client and friend of mine for over 7 years now will be taking on the East Coast branch of Courage Performance and I have all the trust in the world that he will do great things for the brand. We are working towards an agreement with a facility now and hopeful that the fall/winter will see an exciting expansion of Courage Performance.
Also, I personally will be committed to traveling back to the East Coast twice a year to run assessments, consultations, seminars and training with anyone who wants it. I will post these visits up WAY in advance so that people can sign up for them and get the work they need in with me. And, finally (and this one is pretty damn cool), I am working on a Travel Athletic Strength and Conditioning Camp for any age group for 1 and 2 week long camps in San Mateo, CA in early summer. There will be some serious detail on all this very, very soon, but the idea is that athletes can travel out to CA for a week or two, and get workouts, food, lodging and outings taken car of. Should be a blast!
Ok, on to my own training. What with all this crazy stuff going on, along with some pretty intense emotional crap I've been dealing with, I have let some things slide with my own training and nutrition. Because of serious lack of sleep, stress and whatnot, my gains have been pretty much non existent. So, I tried many different things to get back into the swing of it all. None of those attempts worked. So, it was back to square one for me! This past weekend was a total chill, do nothing but watch TV shows and prepare my program and nutrition program. I broke down all that has worked for me, and all that has NOT worked for me in the past couple years. I took the stuff that has not worked, and threw it out. And then wrote out all the stuff that has worked and began organizing it into a program. Here is what I came up with:
I will be eating very, very clean for the next month. I have tried all sorts of programs when it comes to eating and the one that has worked the best for me in terms of fat loss, strength gains and stress levels was when I timed my meals out and prepared my meals in advance. So, last night I was up late cooking chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes and broccoli for the week. And tonight I cooked up a whole slew of grass-fed ground beef and even more broccoli. I won't bore you all with more details of the plan, only that I'll be eating about every 3 or so hours from wake until sleep, and that everything I eat (besides whey protein) will be about as clean as I can possibly find. I will be consuming proper amounts of fats, tons of protein, TONS of veggies and the only complex carbs I'll have will be sweet potatoes once a day. And there you have it. I weighed in at 244.1 pounds tonight, and that is about the heaviest I have ever been in my life. My hope is to sit around the 220 mark because I feel as though I perform my best at that weight. I am pretty sure, knowing myself as I do, that I'll be at that weight in no time, and pretty damn easily actually. Seriously, all I have to do to stay healthy, strong, fit and so on is eat no sugar at all! Easier said than done for me it would seem. On to my workouts. For about a year and half now I've been following The Outlaw Way pretty strictly. I am proud to say I was one of the original 20 or so exercisers following The Way. It has worked wonders for my CrossFitting abilities and I am very happy with Rudy Nielsens genius programming and generosity in offering it free to the world. That being said, the extent of my commitment to the program has run it's course for the time being and I am on to something new to see how I react. The program I am following now is my own, and one that I have been sold on completely by the incredible gains of all my athletes over the past three months. The strength numbers have literally shocked me and I want to test it on myself, in a CrossFit style. So, I have taken probably too much time and incorporated an Olympic template from Greg Everett at Catalyst Athletics, mixed in my own strength protocol, and am adopting some new theories I have come up with in terms of the best ways to build CrossFit, and general fitness gains. Simply put, I have simplified the program to becoming as proficient as possible in the Olympic lifts, becoming as strong as humanly possible on my strength program, and becoming as proficient as possible in all things body weight and speed. Metcons will be cut WAY back on, and I will condition using mostly sprint work. I will accessories my barbell work with the necessary focuses (tons of posterior chain, mobility, core strength and unilateral understanding) and of course, I'll mix in some fun outdoor play and plenty of goofing off with all the sports I love (baseball, basketball, football, frisbee, slacklining, climbing, etc.). I sure I could go into about a 10-page write-up on all this, but I'll just fill you all in over time. If there is a demand to understand my programming a bit more, I will post up the details of it soon. Let;'s just say that this strength progression I have created has been more astounding to me than any other program I have studied. I plan to do plenty more research on it, get hundreds of additional data points, and only then will I unleash this thing on the world! But I am not hiding anything, that much I can say. As always, I have a ever-growing list of things to write about. And the cool thing is that this and next month are very quiet for me in terms of training clients. So, hopefully, I can get my head around all the stuff I am prepping for, and get to some more posts! Oh, one more thing, I'll be competing in Team SuperFit at the end of September and I am registered for The Mid Atlantic Hopper in early October as well (I finished 2nd last year). Primal Fitness is supposedly hosting their 3rd DC's Most Primal event in early September, and if they do, I will be competing in that (finished 2nd in the first two). So, plenty of events to fill my off season! And when I head back out West, I plan to get signed up for a couple powerlifting and Olympic meets as well. Should be an exciting end of the year!Never Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage
This summer’s training with my athletes has been easily the most incredible I've ever had. I've watched athletes who I have coached for over 4 years make PR's up to 80#, and seen a gym squat average settle in at around 345#!! There are a whole slew of other positive gains that I've seen within the entire group, but that really is not what this post is about. It is about athletes understanding what it means to get better, as athletes. Before going on I need to make one major point: the vast majority of my athletes are baseball and football players, so they are not training for GPP (general physical preparedness) like the majority of the CrossFit world. I make this distinction because the program I have designed for them is a little different then what I would design for a group of serious CrossFitters. Certain movements and workouts (like high rep Oly lifts, kipping pull ups, and longer metcons to name a few) do not translate as well into these athletes’ goals, so there is not really a point to risk their livelihood by programming those things. They are going to get better at their sport by playing their sport, and I am here to assist them in becoming as athletic as they possibly can.
That being said, I have to deal with a good bit of tweaking during the summer because the baseball guys are all in the midst of some pretty serious stress on their bodies. Most of them are playing almost every single day through early August and because that is their sport, I need to be aware that what I program does nothing to risk their ability to perform at the highest level. We do push pretty damn hard (I think our numbers speak for themselves), but I always keep a dialogue with each athlete as to how they are feeling throughout the summer months so I can help them stay at their peak. This leads me to my big question: if you are getting stronger (as in, a better squat, better bench, better deadlift, better clean, better snatch, and so on), does that mean you are getting better?
A lot of really interesting thoughts and conversations have been coming up over the past two months thanks to me having my first assistant coach. His eagerness to learn, and my new focus in generating a seminar to help coaches program and deliver the best coaching has lead to some really insightful discussion on what it means to be a good coach. I have traveled around a ton, been to almost 100 CrossFit gyms around the country as well as many, many other gyms (from globo gyms, to bodybuilding gyms, to athletic training centers, to specialty gyms), and have seen so many different styles and approaches. One of the biggest issues I have seen, especially in the CrossFit world, is how coaches deal with injuries. Injuries are an inevitability in the training world, but I have found, from my own experience, that you can help to avoid the "in training" injuries, and decrease the risk of "on field" injuries WAY more by constantly checking up on each and every athlete.
First step – ask your athletes how they are feeling. Create a feeling of comfort for your athletes to express even minor issues with the body. As any good trainer/coach should know, most injuries in training occur from something very small. So, if an athlete comes in saying his/her shoulder is acting up a little, don't just write it off. Help to work in a little extra mobility with that athlete and then pay close attention to them while they work. If you see compensation, unusual or extra imbalance in their movements, or any form of pain, no matter how small, address it. A good example of this is that I had an athlete (a pitcher -- that's baseball for any of you living with your head under a rock) that complained of some serious biceps pain. Ok, typical for a pitcher to have constant soreness in this area, so, I had him warm up a little extra before approaching the workout. We took out the pressing that was programmed, and I watched him as he very delicately avoided exerting too much force with his upper body. I asked him to push a little harder to see if he was just being a wimp, and saw very quickly that his pain was genuine. So, I shut him down. This did not make him happy (most 18 year olds don't like admitting they are hurt) but we talked for a while after class to see what his throwing program had been like all summer and I found out he was moving very quickly down the path toward some serious injury. Oh, and this guy had just recently PR'd his clean, his snatch, his squat, his deadlift and his bench, along with attaining a whole new level of speed and explosiveness, saying his usually slow fastball was now jumping out of his hand faster than ever. So, he was stronger, faster, threw harder, but he was at such a risk of injury that those gains would all go to waste if he pushed through and kept going. I insisted he get an MRI and we are moving forward with some light PT and modified training along with focused corrective exercises as he has pretty serious tendonitis.
So how do you deal with a gym full of people, all wanting to get better and all with their own unique body issues? And if you run a class-based gym (like CrossFit), how do you find the time for such personal attention? Program in movement assessments. You can do this by using mobility tests of the shoulders, hips, ankles, spine and anything else during warm ups for a week. Chart how people score and begin designing corrective exercises as warm-ups for the next three weeks. Make sure to mark people with serious issues so that you always know who needs modified exercises (like, an athlete with such tight shoulders they can't hold their arms straight overhead would probably not do so well with heavy snatches or kipping pull ups). People can lie about how they feel, but they can't hide their inability to move.
Re-test these movement assessments every 2-3 months to make sure all of your athletes are improving. If your gym’s squat average goes up by 2% in four months, but your average hip mobility decreases, I would argue with relative ease that you have a problem on your hand. I would not be high-fiving your new PR's. And you are going to start seeing more and more issues and injuries in your athletes.
As I mentioned, most major injuries start with something small (unless you drop a bar on your neck or something), so having good communication is key. If you are a coach who just tells people to always go hard, and when they come to you saying their knee hurts you yell at them to sack up and keep doing thrusters, um, you just might be an idiot. Sure, athletes, clients, and people and general might be a little soft, but unless you really know the inner workings of that person, take their vocalization of an issue seriously. Even if you DO tell them to get back to their bar, make sure to keep an extra eye on them to see how they are moving. If you make sure everyone knows you are there to help and support them, you will have a group of athletes who will be open and honest with you. Remember coaches, these people pay YOU to look out for them, take care of them, lead them, motivate them, teach them and support them. They don't pay you to sit on your ass and shrug off their issues.
Athletes/clients: if you are in pain, or if you feel like you are at a serious risk doing something, SAY SOMETHING. Say for example you walk into a gym and you've never done a snatch before. In fact, you are one of those people who giggle when the coach says you all are snatching because you thought he/she was making a racy joke or something. Your coach goes over the movement with a PVC, then tells you all you are doing "Isabel" (30 reps of power snatch at a weight of 135 for men and 95 for women). Well, here's where I become an aggressive writer: that coach is a jackass! For the experienced GPP athlete, Isabel is not really that crazy of a workout. But for a beginner, or an athlete who must use their shoulders in a dynamic and structured manner for sport, Isabel is a horrible workout. Ask your coach why what he/she is programming is good for you and how it will make you better at what you want. And if it makes sense, OK, cool, keep on going. But if it doesn't seem to make sense, or if he/she doesn't give you a full, detailed response, I would suggest moving on. Remember, you are paying that person to HELP you get BETTER, not to hurt you.
In terms of exact assessment exercises, corrective exercises, modification exercises and proper programming, I leave you to ask yourself (coaches) or your coach (athletes). I've written about these things a bit before, and I am sure I will write up a few details on these things in the very near future. And if you want them from me, post to comments or email away. And if you are one of my athletes, I'm sure you probably know a good deal of them already (although, I do question the intelligence of the athletes I deal with every day :-). And in the end, always keep things in perspective: if you play a sport, EVERYTHING you do should be geared towards making you better at that sport. If you just want to get healthier and better at life in general, EVERYTHING you do should be geared towards making you healthier and better at life in general. And if you are a serious CrossFitter, well, it's the same thing as sport, EVERYTHING you do should be geared towards making you better at it. If your numbers are going up, but you are feeling more and more like crap, something is NOT working. If nothing is going up, something is not working. If you are feeling better but numbers aren't going up; give it some time, and if it stays that way, something is not working. And if those things are not being addressed, ask your coach to address them. And if your coach still does not address them, go find a better coach.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Bright and early on the perfect Saturday morning, athletes began to arrive for the 4th installment of The Courage Games. As before, we had a solid group of people show up (including an awesome crowd all the way from Dayton, OH!) and they were all eager to get after the workouts. As with two other Courage Games events, the Washington Waldorf School grounds were super generous in allowing us to use their perfect outdoor space, as well as their air-conditioned halls and bathrooms. We were all set to go for workout #1 and #2 at 9:30am!
1000 meter run
the second you cross the finish line you have 8 minutes to establish your heaviest clean.
This was done as one workout, but scored as two (the run, then the clean). We had a great course with some rough patches in terms of terrain, a few steep hills and everything from concrete, grass, dirt, much and more! Everyone pushed hard and I was so excited to see how people would approach their 8 minutes after such a fatiguing run. Well, we had a decent collection of PR's, so it seemed to go well. I think the biggest battle for the cleans was the sun. Bars and plates were getting hotter with each heat (no pun intended). But everyone fought through and we had some great looking cleans! A funny story going along with this one was that Riley, a young volunteer standing at our turnaround point was approached by a woman who seemed upset that there was a "race" going on in her neighborhood. About 10 minutes later a cop showed up asking why we were drag racing on a residential street! Say what?! Drag racing?! I can't even process how anyone could have thought that. A 14 year old standing by a cone with people running around it and she called the cops on us for drag racing! Too funny.
Workout #3 looked to be the "sprint." We all were excited to see how fast people could burn through the kettlebell work and how they would approach the fun little challenge I threw them at the end.
50 meter KB run 53/35
30 KB swings
50 meter KB run
30 KB snatch (had to switch arms every 5 reps)
1 KB throw
(2 seconds taken off total time for every 1 foot thrown)
Well, this one did NOT disappoint! There were actually a few placement changes thanks to the throw (meaning someone finished about 5 or so seconds behind another, but then got an awesome throw to move ahead of the person by 1 second!). It was a gasser though, and with everyone fighting to move up spots, we had people giving everything they had. The best moment here came when two competitors, Alex and Adam finished at exactly the same time and just exploded to the throw line. The pic is the first pic on this post and was so exciting to watch! They ended up tying the workout as their KB's landed perfectly evenly as well!
Workout #4 was a last second add-on and I was so excited to have it as part of the day, it perfectly added a good deal of diversity to the workouts and did the job of separating a very close race all the way through the rankings. I called it the "skills" workout, but it was more of a test of body control under a very short time domain.
30 seconds for max reps at each station with 30 seconds rest between each:
Pull ups (strict)
Box jumps (extension ON box, step down)
Swing jump throughs
The L-sit hold was a great starter, and a huge majority of the field was able to hold it for the entire 30 seconds! Everyone got rolls in, and it was so interesting to watch people go from rolling around directly to strict pull ups. There were definitely a few stumbles as people walked over to the bar! The box jumps caused more of a problem for people than I think most people expected. I like this because I know that most CrossFitters are so used to being able to bound off the box and/or off the ground, cycling the jumps over and over pretty quickly. The forced step-down screwed with a lot of people who had gotten used to the classic CrossFit standard. And finally, the swing jump through. This is something I started doing with my outdoor conditioning groups and I absolutely love it. It seems kind of dorky and easy, but it actually is really tough, especially if you're trying to go fast. All you have to do is grab the swing chains, and jump over the seat. But the swing starts to move around a TON, and people were getting their feet caught up a good bit. It was a great finisher to this fun workout!
For the final workout I had a typical Josh Courage-style short chipper in store for the group. I knew this would be a nail-biter as the top four men were separated by only 1 point all around! And the top four women were in a dead-race of only a couple points as well! This was going to come down to the wire.
20 deadlifts 185/135
50 meter barbell carry 185/135
20 burpees over bar
-strip bar to 95/65
50 meter overhed carry 95/65
20 push press 95/65
50 meter sprint
50 meter plate carry 45's/25's
20 power cleans 95/65
100 meter shuttle run (50 meters out 50 meters back)
People FLEW through this one, and it was so motivating to watch. It looked like the burpees slowed most people down, and the push presses were easily the toughest lift -- that was when everyone hit the wall. While the power cleans were clearly exhausting, I think that the sight of the finish line gave everyone their second wind and they muscled through. I would say the two best moments of this final workout was Cory (pictured below to the left) banging out all 20 cleans unbroken. Also, Mark, at his first ever event like this, and as the oldest competitor, fighting like mad to finish. As his coach, I was so proud to see him keep such awesome form even through probably the most fatigue he has felt in many, many years! Awesome job Mark!
Man what an awesome event all around! Congrats to Chad (1st), Dave (2nd) and Alex (3rd) for the men, and Alyssa (1st), Sarah (2nd) and Megan (3rd) for the ladies! I could not have asked for a better run event and all the judges and volunteers made everything run so smoothly. I think we got out of there almost exactly when I had hoped to, and then had a good group meet up at The Garage for tons of meat and some pool time! I must say, I love putting on these events and I am hoping I can do a winter one every year in CA, and a late summer one every year in Bethesda!
Finally, I want to make sure I give a HUGE thanks to all the sponsors of this year's Courage Games for everything they gave. I must admit, I was a little envious of what the winners got!Courage Bars2XUMusclePharmProgenexLife As RxGeorgetown Sports MassageAgain, thanks so much to everyone who came out! Hope to see you at another event soon! Please feel free to leave any comments/reviews here!Never Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage