I can pinpoint the day things began to fall apart for me. It was a cruise I took on the third week of The Open, in Florida. I had been progressing so damn well, and for some reason, I just let loose a little, had a couple drinks, indulged in dessert, stayed as healthy as I could on the ship, but the food is far from high quality. But I'm not blaming the ship. From there I just never found my way back to the rhythm I had found before. I was blogging regularly, training with passion, eating cleanly and easily and living my life in a general position of happiness. Even as I write this I am opting out of working out because I feel my energy levels depleted and I cannot seem to comprehend the idea of trudging alone out to the garage to workout in the dark. I could go for a run, but then again, I haven't written anything in a while and at least I'm getting one thing in that I should. My goal with this post is not to be depressing; more to write an honest perspective I know many of you think I never have. One where I completely lack motivation to do all the things I pride myself in. I understand what it means to be a healthy, happy person. I coach it every single day. I write about it pretty often here. But I have valleys in my life just like everyone else, and while I do honesty believe I function at a level where my valleys are few and far between, I think that adds to the severity of them when I do find myself in one. I am just not used to feeling so unmotivated.
I have all the time in the world throughout my days, even when I am coaching 6 or more classes a day to workout. I have all the time in the world to cook my own food, prepare for the coming days' schedules with the proper balances and amounts. I have all the time in the world to warm up properly, program for my weaknesses, work mobility, foam roll and stretch. I have all the time in the world to do all this while still getting outside on a regular basis and enjoying the wilderness because it never fails to bring me peace and harmony. But having all the time in the world means almost nothing when you lack motivation.
A major positive in the time I spend in front of books and the computer is that I get to read a ton, soak up more and more knowledge about the world of health and fitness. I watch videos of training, read blogs, read articles, books, and studies. I read opinions and comments, and study pictures on snatch and clean form until my eyes burn. I can visualize myself, as clear as day pulling a bar loaded with 250# from the ground, and snapping under it in the perfect catch position; heavy weight strong over my head. But when I grab a bar to demonstrate for clients, my back is tight, my knees hurt, my shoulder pinches and I feel like a hopeless, fat old man trying to get through the day quickly so he can crash down on the coach for his third nap of the day.
But then there are those moments. No matter how bad I might think I am, I get under the bar and power through something stronger and faster then ever before. I have surges of energy where I remember exactly what it feels like to be on top of my game. In my "research" I have found an underlying theme and commonality between all the top-level performers in their specific fields: a never-ending commitment and passion to getting better. In the end, the ones who come thorough in the clutch, who perform day in and day out at the highest level, and have the least amount of weaknesses, are those who never get distracted by anything. Because my focus these past couple years has been CrossFit, I'll use that as my example (but you will find these statements to hold true with anything out there, sport, business, etc.). Over the past year I improved. I improved a metric shit ton. Every single one of my numbers not only went up, but also went WAY up, and this is despite gaining a crap load of weight. I was lifting more, and lifting it faster, my motor grew, my running was faster, my body weight movements became smoother and better, and everything just got so much better. But the thing that didn't click compared to those that did was that I had pockets of down time. When I was taking a week to just do nothing, others were getting ahead of me, getting better. Mind you, taking a week off is fine, but active recovery is a must. Working mobility, messing around with skills and so on. I would literally do nothing. It was like my brain would shut off. Then I would have "half-ass" weeks. These were when I would get my workouts in, but I would rush through them. I would not take the time to get extra weakness-focus work in. I would not warm up properly and stretch afterwards. My nutrition would slide just a little farther than I would have liked and while I still got tons of great work in, I would know in the back of my head that I wasn’t working as hard as I could have been.
“I will watch others laugh and fool around in the gym all day, while I am leashed to the platform.” – Jon North
This guy works hard. He has been committed to being an Olympic weightlifter and nothing will stand in his way. If he is feeling down one day, it doesn’t stop him. Every single day he is doing exactly what it takes to become BETTER. Every day is a step forward and there is never a step back. If you want something, if you want to be something, you need to commit to it and never falter in that commitment. The best CrossFitters in the world are like this. They workout because it's what they love, what they know, and what they want. They train hard, every single day, they eat well, they rest when they NEED and SHOULD. They are better because they wanted it more and dedicated their lives, inside and out, to being better than you and me. They are better because they function at a level where getting better is the ONLY option they have, the only thing they know how to do. Have you ever worked out, or performed with someone at such a level? I have many times and it is clear that all they want to do is beat you, to out perform you. The cool ones do this without being ass holes about it; the annoying ones make it clear they want to beat you. But when you pay attention to how they approach the workout, you know that they are working at a level that has one purpose: to win.
My steps back toward to finding my motivation, my drive, and my dedication look a little something like this: reestablish what it is I am working towards. Bring back to the front of my mind what I want out of life, then remove the things that do not support that. Lately I have found myself surrounded by things that assist in my not living my life the way I have always wanted. I need to put on my table (both literally and metaphorically) the things that I know make me who I want to be. Once those things are directly in front of me, and the "bad" things are removed from the table, my choices will be limited and clear. And once I have begun changing the way I live each day, I can then begin to look into the more detailed goals I might have for the next month, few months, and year. Do I want to pursue the CrossFit Games again? Do I want to get into something else? Whatever it is, I must make that choice with a clear, happy, excited, and eager mind. Then I will know that I can do anything I want. Then I will be able to clearly see how to be completely committed to something GOOD.
(I promise my next couple posts won’t be as depressing!)
Never Stop, GET FIT
It's been a few days now and the excitement of Regionals has passed. Now I am sitting around each day, wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do next with all my training. Wondering why the hell I was so close with so many different things over the years, yet just not good enough to really shine. Well folks, it's time for a really self-analytical post here. It may come across as a little negative, a little bitter, maybe a little whinny at times (we'll see how it goes...); but, I need to do this every now and again to gain a better view on what I am doing in life. I have talked very often about taking time here and there to take a serious look at yourself so that you can make the necessary changes in becoming a better person each and every day. And when you feel like you might be in a rut, or in a place you just don’t want to be, in any way, then it's time to take that moment. So, here are some of the thoughts I've had over the past week.
Damn it! CrossFit season is over for me! Just like that. All that hard work, all those extra hours of foam rolling, training, thinking and stressing about how far I could go and in three simple days it's over. At first I was a little relieved. I think that the mental stress got to me just a little as we got closer to Regionals and I was just happy to put my worries away for a while. What I mean by that is I was teetering on the edge of being burnt out. It's tough to be so one-track-minded about something for so long, especially if you're like me and have a mind that wanders off so easily. But that relief turned very quickly into restless confusion and frustration over what my next steps will be in training. I can now look back on everything I did and so clearly see where I went wrong. I got strong as hell, I put on a TON of weight, I somehow got a good deal better with my conditioning, and my body-weight and Olympic movements only slightly improved. My nutrition was streaky, as was my life in general which led to varying levels of motivation throughout the whole process. From a physical standpoint it's pretty obvious what I need to do to get to the level I hope to be with this Crossfit thing. I need to stop being such a wimp with my nutrition and just stop letting food consumption be so closely connected with my emotional state (yep, I am a stereotypical girl and eat sweets when I'm sad. Oh, and by the way, I'm a dude. Just in case any of you were confused by that sentence). When I lose control of the food, I lose control of my stress levels, my sleeping patterns and my overall positive outlook that I pride myself in having on a regular basis. Food does so much for me in terms of how I am as a person (it does for everyone, but this post is about me!), and when I eat like crap, I feel and act like crap. Simple really. Easier said than done of course. I'm also sure that eating better would have helped me stay around 220#, rather then the 230# I ended up getting to right before Regionals. And while I did get better at things like muscle ups, handstand push ups and running, I’m sure I would have gotten WAY better if I didn’t have to move such a massive amount of weight! I am not disappointed with my weight gain at all, hell, I put 40# on my squat, 30# on my deadlift, 35# on my clean and 25# on my snatch, not bad! I just know I could have controlled it a little more and that would have been that much more helpful.
I am not at all worried about where I am headed with my training. I have all the faith in the world with my coach, Rudy Nielsen for programming. I know that for the summer months my focus will be getting even stronger (I already have my weight goals on the board in my gym, and will post a summer goals post in the near future), but the main thing will be getting outside and doing my metcons in the woods and the great outdoors like I enjoy doing so much. I will probably either skip out on The Outlaw Way's conditioning sessions and do my own in the woods, or, find a modification of theirs to use in the woods. I will continue to train at Outlaw on a pretty regular basis so that I can get good coaching points from Rudy and the other athletes, especially on my Olympic lifts. I will also head into the city for a few sessions here and there with a couple different USAW lifting classes. I have high expectations for my Olympic lifts over the next six months. So, from a physical training standpoint, I am right on track with what I need to focus on.
Ok, enough about the physical, I am sure I'll get more into that soon enough, especially the food! On to the important stuff, the mental!
I feel like I’ve written before about the idea that one might hold oneself back by being scared of success. And while I definitely relate a little to that idea, I think that I am probably a little more scared of focusing only one thing. Sure sure, the beauty of CrossFit is that there is no specialty and you get to focus on a ton of different thing. But the fact is, you still are only focusing on CrossFit, and not all the other amazing things life has to offer. I love baseball, trail running, climbing, well, I could just go on a rant here, but you get the idea. I have some strange mental block from allowing me to commit, like, SERIOUSLY commit to any one thing. And this is where I begin to confuse myself. I say this because from an outside perspective I’m pretty sure I appear to be an over-committer. And if I were to compare myself to “the majority”, I’m sure that would be an accurate description of my personality. But the truth of the matter is, I will always find a way to mentally check out, even if it’s just a tiny little bit. I find something else that excites me and that little bit of distraction takes away from gains and successes I feel I really should have.
Sweet, Courage, you get distracted and you should be better. Well, what are you going to do about it? And at what point do you look at your life and say, well, maybe I can’t be better? Honestly, that’s a great question, one I have asked myself in many situations and take pride in being able to answer at almost any given moment. I stopped playing baseball because I lost the drive to play at the level I was at. I put everything I had into the game and got as far as my physical and mental self would allow. Now, with CrossFit, I am not yet there. I keep getting stronger, faster, better. I know that I could reach numbers that are far beyond what I have now. And I know that I can get even more mentally tough and competitive. Well, the question is pretty easy to answer in the end. I know I want to compete again next year at Regionals. And, I want to compete at a high level, as in, I want to give the other athletes a run for their money in getting to the Games. So, I need to take the next couple weeks, look over my training, and assess the best path to get there. I need to light a fire a little deeper in me that will never burn out. I can write here that I want it, and I can tell people I talk to that I want it. But in the end, I have to believe, with every ounce of my soul, that I truly want it. If I come up with that as a conclusion in the next couple weeks, then it’s going to happen. I’ll let you all know.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Me and My Girl being Cool
Hello ladies and gents, I have a response post today from my last post. Yesterday I received an email from my sister who thanked me for the post and then went on a thoughtful little rant about how it's got to be easy for me to have the perspective I do because I am so enthralled in the lifestyle of health and fitness and am surrounded by so many people who agree with me. She has mentioned before that my posts sometimes go a little over her head because she just does not live in the world I do and sometimes can;t understand what the hell I'm talking about. All good points, and I do admit that sometimes I get a little caught up in my thoughts and just roll with them. Or, like I say a little too often: I geek out. So, today I'm going to answer the email my sister sent me and clear up some of my thoughts on how I write and what I hope to get across.
I talk a lot about figuring things out and making no excuses in the pursuit of health and fitness. But, the question raised was how can the "average" person do this when there is just no information around them to get rolling? Well, I have a double response to this, a tough one, and a little more helpful one.
The tough one is: use basic logic, ask questions, use books and the internet. Thinking you don't have enough info at hand, or that you are surrounded by people who don't support your needs in life are just more excuses. It's really not hard to figure out how to be a healthier person, you just have to be honest with yourself all the time. Saying you don't know how to eat better or exercise properly is like saying you can't find enough information to do a presentation on the Battle Of Gettysburg (I had a friend in college actually use that excuse..). There are literally hundreds of thousands of articles, websites, books, and people out there just foaming at the mouth to help you out. And if you are surrounded by people who inspire bad habits in you, well, they are nit good people to surround yourself with; and - and this is kind of harsh - you are being weak. If I have a friend who is begging me to go out drinking with him the night before a competition and I choose to go, it is completely my fault, not his, that I feel like crap during my event. I need to be strong in the way I want to live my life and make my choices accordingly. If I don't want to eat like crap, I shouldn't make life decisions that make me want to eat like crap (and surrounding yourself with people who are a negative influence is just plain stupid to be honest).
The helpful response here will offer some solutions, rather than shove it in your face like I enjoy doing here and there. I think the number one thing anyone can do when trying to make changes for the better is to to take some time and just think about it. Think about what you really want, what you'd be willing to give up, think about all the information you already know about what you are about to do. When you take this time, I think it'll be pretty eye-opening what you actually know about health and fitness (as in, you probably know a ton about it). There is so much information out there on all this stuff that it makes sense people would get overwhelmed and think they know nothing at all? Are fats bad? Isn't whole wheat bread good for you? How long on the elliptical is ideal? Isn't weightlifting only for getting big? Is diet soda better than normal soda?
To help answer all the questions you might have, try not to jump to conclusions because generally, the answer you come out with will be one that was forced on you through faulty information. For example: are exercise machines the best way to approach lifting weights? This is one of those questions I get all the time from people new to serious exercise and I have found that every single person knows the answer to it. All you need to do is take a little time to clear out all the slop that has been forced on us about health and fitness for so many years and in the end, we all know exactly what needs to be done. Ask yourself basic questions: does the human body move naturally, or sit in a single position naturally. When we move around outside, do we use our own body to stabilize and move in random and non-structured ways, or do we isolate single muscles and joints on a regular basis? The answer to these questions should be blatantly obvious. And, with those answers fresh ion your mind, go back and ask weather machines are best for you again. No way Jose!
We all know how to be healthy and fit. Be active naturally (get outside, lift things, run around, climb, play sports, etc), eat real food (not packaged, processed, fake stuff), sleep as much as you can, and smile often. It it NOT that hard to understand. Putting it to practice is pretty hard, sure, I'll admit that. But don't confuse your own lack of motivation with not knowing what to do. Again, I really never expect for the world to be filled with a bunch of super-elite athletes (hell, I'd be so far out of a job I probably vanish into thin air!); all I hope for is that people get their heads out of the asses and start making somewhat sensible choices.
I'll leave you all with one final thought. I have literally never, in my entire career as a trainer and coach, had a person tell me that getting a good workout in was difficult. Most of my clients and athletes, and people I talk to about this stuff with come up with the excuse: "I just don't know what to do!". I'll then throw a little something together and in the end they'll all say: "that was so simple, yet it was still worked!". Exactly people, this does not have to be complicated. And the second you start to overwhelm yourself with all the crazy things you think you are "supposed" to do, you lose track of all the things that should just come naturally to you. Eat good, be active. 'nuff said!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
The past week was a pretty good one all around. I cleaned up my diet as Regionals are getting closer and the immediate effects were wonderfully rewarding. I trained hard, feeling pretty good all around. And, Lindsey and I went out to Catoctin for some hiking and camping. As we move on to another week here, I am feeling excited for the revved-up week Rudy at Outlaw has planned for us, and am looking forward to all the athletes that are coming in to train! Lots of good things all around it seems. So, let me share some of the highlights.Last weeks training was nothing to write home about; it was a de-load week of sorts, so nothing too intense except for a threshold training day. My body officially loves this style of workout for some reason, and this one was no different. It was 5 rounds of 250 meter row, 10 squat clean to thrusters with 95# and 15 burpees, with 3 minutes rest between rounds. And it was all done with a 20# vest. I felt like crap through it, wanting to quite after the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds. But I just kept on trucking and that night, when I posted my results, I found that I had the 2nd best time posted. Blew my mind. I think that I actually react much better to all out gassers then I originally thought, and it has shifting the way i think about my approach to most workouts. I need to stop getting so caught up in gaming each and every little thing, and just go all out. I react better to that perspective for the most part (exceptions would be for workouts with muscle ups, handstand push ups and things like that.I took Saturday off, even though it was a great collection of workouts, I had the opportunity to head out to the woods, and to be totally honest, I would say that most of the time being out in nature is going to win out over pretty much anything. With the big three-oh coming up in a couple weeks, Lindsey hooked up a trip to the Catoctin mountains. The idea of what they had out there was about as perfect as I could imagine: hike about 3 miles into the woods and find a ice little pre-built lean-to. Set up camp, hang out, and have some fun in the woods! In the end, the location was a bit of a let down, just nothing at all to do any where near the site. We hiked about 2 hours, then drove another 15 minutes the next day to get to some awesome hiking, bouldering, waterfall-ing and lake-chilling-next-to-ing that made the whole trip more than worth the time! I think the camping location would have been way better had there been a decent sized group with us, but with absolutely nothing around there at all, it led to some restlessness for sure. It inspired me to build something like that for people on a ridge with a view, or on some water somewhere. No that would be damn cool. Anyway, on our way home we stopped for dinner in Frederick, MD; absolutely lovely city if you've never been.So, this week coming up is supposed to be a crazy intense one for all us in the mid-Atlantic region. Next week is a taper week, and then it's only one week after that until our regional competition, pretty exciting all around. While I'm pumped up for the week of training, i already got off to a shaky start by using today (Tuesday) as my rest day. i ended up spending all day moving equipment from my temporary gym space (officially closing at the end of this month) to The Garage. It took some serious planning, but I was somehow able to cram almost double the equipment in the garage while opening space up. This summer is going to be absolutely EPIC with all the athletes coming into this place. My goal is to have the smallest location that has 65 members or more (and I am certain I'll have upwards to 100 athletes come through the 200 square foot space by the end of the summer!). While the mornings and afternoons are quickly being filled, I have begun taking classes out at outlaw CrossFit as well. With the success of Rudy and Laura's The Outlaw Way, they have been looking for some support at their gym, and I am super stoked to be able to help them out. It also allows be to be able to train with the group there on a more regular basis, and I am feeling the positive effects of training with others on an almost daily basis. Well, there's an update for you all, no PR's, no crazy, insane news, just a boring ol' update show. I have a few topics that I am itching to write about, so I expect to get to at least two of them by the end of the week. Oh, and Regional workouts are announced tomorrow!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.
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.
Already falling off with the posting every day, but it’s all good, I had no internet yesterday! I’m down in Naples, Florida for another Outlaw Training Camp and our Friday night lift has inspired this post. How well do you know yourself in the gym? Do you know when to stop, when to push for a little bit more? This is something I have constantly been working on for myself, and of course, is always a huge focus for me with all my athletes who come to workout. Sure working out hard is extremely important, but working out smart is WAY more important.
This came about yesterday when we were doing out huge Olympic lifting session. About 40 or so of us were packed into a hot as hell Florida gym, throwing weights around and having an all around good time. I felt good, strong, pretty quick, great energy, but for some reason the second the weight got close to my max, I just had nothing. I missed a PR on the snatch by 20#, and on the clean and jerk by 20# as well! Normally, if I am feeling good and healthy and start to miss lifts I would sit there for WAY too long and just keep trying and trying. But there comes a time when the smartest thing is to tone back the weights, work on perfecting that form and walking away from the session with something positive. Last night was a big day for me in really listening to my body and not over-doing things. The desire to lift a big weight in front of everyone, to not fail, to show that my training has paid off, and all that fun stuff is there. But the fact is, choosing to stop after I found my maxes for that particular day was probably the best choice I could have made. I walked away knowing exactly where I went wrong on the lifts and what I need to work on next time. Also, being able to watch some dude pull 400# off the ground and come so close to standing with it (he cleaned it) was one of the most motivating things I have seen in a while!
The conversation of knowing yourself while lifting comes up a good bit in my gym because of the amount of younger athletes that come in. Generally, there’s a lot more “need to impress” mentality with the younger crowd, and it’s incredible to watch how quickly these guys make gains when they get rid of that mentality. One of the most common things I see is guys missing a lift because of some mechanical flaw, not because it was too heavy and then going to throw more weight on the bar. While there is a time and place for doing that (when you are proficient as hell and your miss was because of a minor mistake) if your sucking it up form-wise, you should NOT be adding weight to the bar! I totally understand the desire to lift a ton of weight. It feels good, it looks good, it’s motivating as hell and it generally make s your day that much better. But in the end, you always have to keep your end goals in mind every single time you do something in the gym. If it’s maintenance and avoiding injury, well, that should be pretty self explanatory that you don’t push your luck with overly heavy weights and become WAY more proficient in the lifts. If you’re an athlete, you are using the barbell to learn athleticism, coordination and then strength and power. In the end, it’s about learning how to lift for most people. If it’s not perfect, if you don’t know what muscles to engage and when, you are leaking so much strength and in the end just wasting your time!
The gym should be about learning about YOU. Once you become a pro lifter, or “pro” CrossFitter, then you can spend way more time maxing out. But if that’s not who you are, the time and energy should be spent learning how to do things correctly, how to approach things, pushing your limits in a safe and controlled manner and having fun!
Alright, in about 2 hours I’ll be doing the CrossFit Open Workout number 1 and I am excited! 7 minutes to do as many burpees with a target touch as you can! It’s gonna suck, but being around so many top level athletes is going make it awesome!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This past weekends Training Camp was a pretty big change from the beatdown we received a couple weeks ago. But what we lacked in expended energy, we gained in exceptional instruction and mental preparation for competition. It was a little smaller group but as one might assume with the Outlaws, we all freaking had an absolute pleasure meeting each other and shooting the breeze all weekend. Before I get into this, my o ne regret for the whole weekend was not going out with everyone Saturday night. Seems as though some of the strangest yet, hilarious altercations occur during those outings. Anyway, on to the fun! Friday night – Oly night was pretty successful for almost everyone, with something like 8 PR’s. I am sad to report I wasn’t able to pull more than 195 on the snatch, and yet again, missed 265 on the jerk. The best part (or worst part) was finding out that the thing holding me back from competing with Donny Shankle (no chance in a million years by the way) is my stupid right elbow. Thanks to baseball, I have some pretty serious issues with the shoulders and the right arm in general, so, I got that working against me. Time to get some accessory work done! Saturday brought one workout at Outlaw, then 2 more over at CrossFit Woodbridge, which was awesome! #1 – 8 minute AMRAP of: 7 OH squats 135/95 14 toes to bar 21 KB swings 2/1.5 pood Holy grip killer! I was able to blast through the first round, breaking up the T2B in two sets to save the grip. Then the Kb swings, which were strict as hell standards, I got in two sets as well (with 1 miss I think). Basically after that, T2B and KB swings became a challenge of focusing on keeping you fingers tight. Got something like 2 rounds and 33 total reps (almost though the third round). The whole group battled through in 3 heats and we had a blast. Over at CrossFit Woodbridge (no offense Rudy, but their gym is WAY easier to hang out in for an extended period, but I know you know that!) we hit up workout #3 from last years Games. #2 – 5-1 ladder of: Rope climbs Shoulder to overhead 145, 165, 185, 205, 225/95, 105, 125, 145, 165 Was a little nervous going into this one seeing how I am hoisting 220# up a rope 15 times. But, after going through a fun handstand walking tutorial, then a rope-climbing tutorial, we were all ready to see how this one would go. It was tiring as hell, but I was able to finish in 8:26, a time I would like to shave at least a minute off of, but after the grip killer earlier, was pretty happy with. Another good talk on being prepared for everything and we were all ready for the final workout. #3 – 1000-750-500 meter row with 20 box jumps and 10 HSPU’s each round This one was a pretty interesting one. I paced the row (perhaps just a hair too much), got all the box jumps unbroken (except for one slip up) and almost all the HSPU’s faster than ever before. I was going into the final 10 HSPU’s probably about 20 seconds slower then THE Jay Rhodes, but then I hit my wall at 7 reps. It took me about 1:30 to get those final reps, and it pissed me off. But, that was kind of the point of this weekend, work on problems! The final day brought in incredible talk on nutrition with David “Chef” Wallace. This dude knows his shit! If you can hang, I recommend getting in touch with him because he’ll blow your mind. Then make you strong and ripped (if that’s your goal of course). Our final workout of the weekend was another sneaky one. #4 – 10 muscle ups buy in, then: 4 rounds of: 40 double unders 10 pistol squats Rest 1 minute, then: 5 minute to establish a 2RM weighted pull up Using the higher ring set up made it a little tougher on me, but I burned through the DU’s and pistols unbroken and then hit the pull ups a little over eager. Got only 70# (again, with the 220# body, made it a little tougher); would have loved to get 85 plus, but oh well. We hit a squat clinic after that and called it a weekend! Yet again, an absolutely wonderful weekend where we learned a ton, had a blast and became a crap-ton better at exercising. Looking forward to a couple weeks when we can do it all again in Florida! Never Stop, GET FIT. Josh Courage
Couple things before I get started: Outlaw Training Camp is not a weekend filled with “how to rope a convenience store and get away with it”, or, “lets all learn to ride horses and hijack moving trains to steel a couple hundred in gold”. Nope, Outlaw Training Camp is where the folks who have been following elite exerciser programming genius Rudy Nielson’s program can gather for a weekend and torture themselves with barbells and kettlebells. The second camp he hosted took place at his home gym, Outlaw CrossFit, and I was super stoked to able to join the other 18 or so exercises specialists and throwdown and learn. That is exactly what we did: we learned a shit-ton, and threw down like there was no tomorrow. Also, I didn't take any pictures or video, so, to anyone who was part of this past weekend, please send anything you might have my way and I can post them up! The weekend began Friday night. We all gathered in the grungy gym and got a couple hours of snatch and clean and jerk practice in. Being around so many beasts, and having not only Rudy, but so many other experienced and knowledgeable eyes on all of us was the perfect setting for a few PRs. I was able to snatch a very clean 205 (5# PR), then a pretty messy 215# (Rudy’s words: “I’m happy I didn’t get that on camera, that was ugly!”). I met everyone, chatted it up, joked around and just about got insanely pumped to see how the rest of the weekend would unfold. Saturday had us meeting up to get things rolling around 9am. We chatted about the Outlaw Way, and different approaches to CrossFitting, then hit the first workout: 8 min. AMRAP of: 8 push jerks 155# 8 ring dips 8 KB snatches each arm Immediately following, do a 2 min. AMRAP of Double Unders The idea was to get as close to a competition setting as possible. We judged each other and stayed as strict as we possibly could. Being around this group lit that fire that I’ve been trying to become closer friends with recently and I was feeling really good. I got 4 rounds, plus 16 total reps on the first part, then got 140 double unders (I tried to move slowly and not mess up at all. In hindsight I should have just done what I always do and go all out with those). This was enough for the top score of the day and we were all ready for more! Workout two was: 10 rounds of “Cindy” (5 pull ups, 10 hand release push ups, 15 air squats), then 8 min. to establish a 1RM deadlifts, then 5 rounds of “Cindy”. This was a double workout where we were scored on our overall Cindy time (our overall time, minus the 8 minutes of deadlifting) and out deadlift number. I am not historically good with body-weight stuff, seeing how I am a snugly 220# of rippling chest hair. So, I focused on the Cindy portion and chose to conserve my energy on the deads. In the end, I was able to get 10:31 on Cindy (the 3rd best time!) and a measly 475# on the deadlift (that is 65# off my PR from only a couple months ago…). We then went through a squat clinic that led to some really good reminders on the proper way to squat. I am really excited to put my new cues to practice in the coming weeks, and I have very high expectations for my gains! That all came after lunch, and then we warmed up our aching bodies for the final workout of the day: “Amanda” 21-15-9 of: Muscle ups Snatch 135# Ok, so, this workout is Rudy’s “greatest test of a beast CrossFitter”, and annoyingly enough, one that I have always been certain would destroy me. Not only that, but with the barbell work the night before, and the insanely shoulder dominant workouts leading up to this, we were all wondering if anyone would even finish the damn thing! My goal going into this was to get 9 muscle ups. That’s all I cared about. But, when I began, I popped right up so easily I was able to get all 9 in just barely over a minute (that is damn good for me by the way). I then proceeded to bang out the 9 snatches in two sets (after missing the first two reps) and was back on the rings. I stayed at this easy pace throughout and was able to finish it in 8:40 (I think), good enough for 2nd (I think only 4 people finished this out of the whole group!). I was so fired up to have been able to “blast” through that one. At this point I have a ton of thanks to give my “judge” for the weekend, Erik, he was awesome support on each and every workout (oh, and if you want to pass out laughing, and are ok with some pretty harsh language and opinions, check out his awesome blog at Beastmodaldomains.com). Rolling into day three found us meeting up at T.C. Williams High School (remember the Titans…?) in the morning. To put it lightly, our bodies were crushed! So we were all REALLY looking forward to what Rudy had thought up for us today. 3 rounds of: 1 width field burpee broad jump 1 width field buddy carry 400 meter run This was straight tiring! Luckily I had a damn good runner to chance in Tony Mayo and just tried to stick with him the whole time. He got the best score of the day, and I rolled in about 70 meters behind at 9:50. After about an hour of goofing off, holding a punting contest (eat your heart out fellow 2XU ambassador Steve Weatherford!), and just joking around, we headed back to Outlaw to finish the weekend off: For time do: 10 cleans 225# 40 wall ball 10 front squats 185# 40 toes to bar 10 thrusters 155# 40 KB swings 70# 400 meter plate pinch carry Good times on this one. After hearing Rudy preach to us about how we had to be strong. And how we had to be SO efficient like Brandon Phillips is with every god damn thing he does…. I was determined to tear the head off this workout with everything I had. I got the cleans one at a time, but without stepping away from the bar at all. Got the wall balls unbroken (because I bounced out of the bottom and was generally just bad ass, so there!), got the front squats unbroken, then hit a freaking brick wall on toes to bar. I battled through, then got the thrusters in two sets and the KB swings in 4 sets of 10 (these were INSANELY strict standards, so I stayed as deliberate as possible). I was out the door just over 11 minutes, and about 30 seconds in front ofGames competitor Elisabeth Akinwale. We played a fun game of leap-frog for about 300 meters before she just took off to finish. We ended up being the only two to complete to whole thing, and she got a minute on me (I finished in like 19:10 or something like that). We finished up the weekend with a GREAT deadlift clinic, then brunch. All I can say is that yes, Rudy knows his shit. Yes, training with other people (other beast people to be precise) helps more than anything in the world. And yes, making fun of the ridiculousness that CrossFit truly is, is one of the most enjoyable things to do in the world! To sum up the weekend in a sentence: (said while at the football field) “Most people come here to play football. We actually DID something.” (if you don't get this joke, your not an obsessive CrossFitter who trolls the internet every second that you not "wod-ing". And ) You better believe the sport of fitness has arrived! Ha, hell yes! This was an awesome weekend all around. I am taking this week off for total recovery. I cannot wait until the next training camp! Thanks Outlaws! Never Stop, GET FIT.Josh Courage
Real quick, I have a good collection of posts ready to go, but I don;t have internet in both the gym, and mine and Lindsey's new digs, so, it's tough to get to a WiFi hotspot to get the posts up! Hopefully that will all change next week.
So, are you prepared? This can become a pretty loaded question when you get into it. What happens when all hell breaks loose in your world? What would you do? I’ve actually had this conversation with a few people over the past year or so and it’s so interesting to hear what people think they’d do. Look what has happened around the world over the past ten years; natural disasters, war, craziness all around! I am willing to bet that most of my readers have never been caught in anything like this, and probably have never even experienced it (myself included! The closest I have ever come was the beginning so Hurricane Irene hitting the Gulf Coast as I frantically drive north after a baseball season in Pensacola, FLA). But with all the logic in the world, you can not deny the fact that the way our world works nowadays, it should really not be all that surprising if something happened right here in our back yard.
A well-traveled buddy of mine once said that America is the only place he knows of where we expect good things to happen to us all the time, and get surprised and issued off when bad things happen. He said that almost everywhere else he has ever been expects crap to happen, and is joyously excited when good happens. Now I am not here to go into detail on that point, I like thinking positive at all times, but also don’t want to be that douchbag who gets all pissed off when the weather is “too crazy” to go outside (said in a whiny voice). So, I prepare myself both physically and mentally.
This does not mean that every day I wake up in a paranoid frenzy, collecting bread and water in a safe room and waiting out the apocalypse. This simply means that I allow myself the versatility of training, practice, thought and conversation to better understand and comprehend all that might happen. I train in the cold, in rain and snow, in water, in heat, in the woods, the beach, up on mountains and in canyons (obviously when I can with all this stuff). I don’t use weather as an excuse NOT to train, I use it as an exciting opportunity to got more comfortable with extreme situations. I lift awkward things, I climb, swing, crawl, throw and so much more. It’s as simple as all of sudden being caught inn a flash flood, would you be able to one, be in a non-panicked state of mind, and two, be able to physically do all the things demanded of you? What if you were kidnapped? What if you got seriously lost, anywhere? What if there was a nuclear war? This conversation could go in all sorts of directions, and all sorts of extremes. But in the end, the real question is: are you prepared?
Maybe it’s time to head out and expand your comfort zones a little. Imagine how great every day life would be without needing to worry about weather or not you can simply survive.
Never Stop, GET FIT.