Moving out West to open a gym while also having my hands in a quickly growing gym back East has been a very interesting challenge for me. It has brought forth so many new conflicts, ideas, and responsibilities that I have never really had the need to think about before. Knowing that there would be such a crazy influx of challenges for me the second I moved out here, I sat down for many weeks before things started up to plan out as much as I possibly could. I planned out all the things that could go right and wrong, all the miscommunications that may occur as I grew out here and for keeping tabs on things at the East Coast branch. It was a pretty eye-opening process for me to really break everything down, good and bad, and figure out exactly what I would do in all those scenarios.
The way I began this process was to make sure that no matter what came up, my reaction would be based on the growth of my business without ever compromising what my business is and who I am. And to do this, I was able to do what I love to do so much: re-establish my vision.
I am the type of person who loves to analyze, and loves to self-analyze even more. I see businesses running poorly and I don't want to be like them. I see business running well, and I want to be like them! Um, duh. Then I think about what I really, truly want out of my life and my business and I am constantly critiquing whether or not I represent exactly that at all times. My exact vision is not what I want to talk about here, but more how I go about executing it. I am sure I'll talk at length about what I want out of myself and my business plenty (and if you go back in my blog, I'm sure you'll find a lot of it) so let me talk about the next step. Interestingly enough, if you are a regular reader of my blog, you are going to hear me talking about something I talk about all the time: self-honesty.
Before I go into detail I want to make sure I express that this is not necessarily how I think all business should be run, or that it is the way the best ones run things already. This is simply what I think the best way I, myself, should approach my business. It has worked for me in the past, and with only minor adjustments, it has helped me keep the personality I've always wanted no matter where I am. It's about branding, understanding and believing in your own brand, then letting things happen.
I was at this "leadership" group course a while back and the coach there talked about how if you truly understand what you as a persona brings to the table at your job, there is no need to put any effort into trying to make your company be like that. Because will be like that naturally. So we all did an exercise where we came up with who we are using simple words. The exercise was very intense and all of us came up with one main word that described ourselves, along with 3 supporting words. Then we were told that those things would inevitably BE what are business were because they were who we are at the core. I agreed with this whole-heartedly at the time. But after a while of being able to sit with it, I realized a major flaw: nobody in the entire group mentioned anything negative about themselves. If I am "leadership", "motivation", and "adventurous", yes, my business will inevitably be those things, but where's the bad? If I have over-riding negative qualities, won't those be an innevitable part of my business? So I sat with myself one night and had it out with me. What did I suck at? What were the things that made up the "crappy" side of me? I procrastinate, I am very irresponsible when it comes to anything involving numbers. I am a good bit elitist about programing and coaching approaches, and so on (I don't want this to get THAT "real"...). Then I looked at my business over the years to see where it has gone wrong. And you know what? My negative personality traits were exactly what I could see wrong in my business.
Now I have a MUCH clearer path to walk down as I pursue my vision of my life and my company. It's extremely clear because I was completely and totally honest with myself as to how I am. I am not saying that my business is perfect by any means. What I am saying is that the things that are wrong with my business, I know exactly what they are. I am not blind to them because I am lying to myself about what my company actually is. And I honestly think that this honesty with myself shines through to everyone who approaches Courage performance in any way. It is a company that wears it's personality on its sleeve. What you see is exactly what you get. And if there is a glitch in that, you better believe I will work vigorously to figure it out and fix it.
So if you didn't get my point in there because I tend to ramble in crazy ways, it is that being honest with yourself is far and beyond the best way to go about executing your visions. It's all well and grand that you can daydream up this awesome life for yourself and your friends/family/employees, but if you don't factor in all the negatives that ARE there, no matter who you are, you'll never actually achieve those visions. I think something to always remember is that just because you really want something, doesn't automatically make it happen. You need to believe in what you put down so deeply that every action you make (and there should be tons, and tons, and tons of actions) is moving you towards your vision like a raging river. The less honest you are with yourself, the more blocks you put in place towards your success.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I am very honored to be named an Ambassador for a great sports bag company called Fitmark Bags. Along with representing their brand by being me, I am able to get some of my writing up on their very followed blog. Below is the first of many. And if you'd like a good discount for for one of these awesome bags, click on the link up on the right. They freaking rock.
Over the years, I’ve become known as someone who really, really loves getting outside as often possible. In fact, “Bear-man” has become a bit of a common nickname for me around the gym. While I’ve had moments where I just figured I was just overly “outdoorsy”, I’ve actually settled into the perspective that I, and people in general, need to be outside.
Let’s quickly move past the idea of just sitting outside. It’s been proven time and again that our bodies respond positively to being outside. The benefits of absorbing Vitamin D, disconnecting from overstimulating computers, televisions, and all the new forms of mobile technology, and reconnecting with nature in a sedentary way de-stress the body on all levels. We need to get outside. An article in National Geographic recently talked about a movement in Japan where they actually have programs where you pay to simply go out in nature and hang out. Obviously there’s a bit more to it, like they hook you up and measure stress levels and so on; the idea is to actively promote an incredibly stressed out culture deal with stress through outdoor time. Awesome!
We are a generation of technological and information-needy beings. Even in my lifetime (I’m 30 by the way) technology has advanced at an frightening rate. I had my first crappy cell phone my senior year of college. I couldn’t text. I had that “snakes” game. Now, I carry a mini computer in my hand, and am writing this post from a tablet and bluetooth keyboard in a coffee shop. It’s insane! I could write an entire post about the pros and cons of our technology-dependent lifestyles, but let’s just go ahead and agree our lives are this way. You see, while we have been given the gift of intelligence (enough to create all the crazy, helpful inventions we’ve come up with over the years) we are still animals from a physiological standpoint. We need to run, climb, throw, connect with dirt, grass, rock and wood. We are all wired together with other animals and natural organisms in some way, shape, or form. This is tough to argue; it’s been proven for years and years. And if you doubt this connection, give something a try: just head out to the woods someday. Park, keep your phone in the car, and walk into the wilderness for a couple minutes. Once there, just stand for a moment looking around. When you disconnect from all the things that have progressed us humans to where we are today, it actually feels good; maybe even “right”.
Let’s take this another step seeing how most of the readers here have some interest in health and fitness. What better way to connect with those natural roots and get your workout by doing them both outside? When you think about it, everything you have in your gym you have outside. Pull ups bars, heavy weights, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and plyo boxes are all found in tree branches, rocks, stumps, vines, hills, cliffs, and on and on. This is nature’s gym; nature’s playground. And again, if you are into CrossFit and your goals are to get “real life” strong, what’s better than training with real life objects. Great, you can do a muscle up on rings, or rep out box jumps on a 24″ plyo box and clean a 185 pound barbell. But what about getting up on that high tree branch, climbing over that rock face, jumping over a fallen tree and moving that heavy boulder? All the same movements you would find in the gym, but without “imagining” how doing them would actually help you in real life! And you have the wonderfully uneven surfaces and ever-changing terrains; from grass to dirt, to rock, sand, leaves, creeks, hills and more, you muscles, joints and mind will always be at ready and working. Add the fresh air, the sunlight, the sounds of nature, and the vast openness that is in nature, and you might just find yourself uncontrollably smiling while working your butt off.
If you’re not sold on the workouts, at least try to get out to just connect to nature as often as you can. But if you really want to take your health and fitness to a whole new level and don’t know how, keep following along this blog and reach out to me on some ideas for workouts using exercise equipment of the wild. The weather is turning out here in beautiful California, you can expect to see a ton of outdoor workouts coming from me!
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Never Stop, GET FIT.
The picture above is of my two friends Mike and Mario. Last weekend they were down in SoCal with a group of people running one of those Tough Mudder races and this picture was taken of them helping a friend over a wall (apparently the girl had been trying and trying to get up on that wall and just could not do it). What's even better is there are a couple guys helping Mike and Mario help the girl! Awesome all around.
I've been thinking a lot about the concept of teamwork. There are so many angles to go with this and I think what hit me is that the concept of having a team to support you and that you can support through life is absolutely needed. A good family is a team, a solid group of training partner's business partners, a small group of friends, and so on, all a team. I've been part of really great teams before, and, some pretty damn crappy ones. And through all my team experience, I've figured out a few things:
First off, everybody needs to be part of a good team. You will be held accountable, you will push a good bit harder to be successful at all the things you and your team want, and you'll most likely find success a lot faster. And the best teams will all be there for you no matter what.
My latest team is the creation of Team Courage. We are a small group of athletes so far, but growing surprisingly quickly. My goal is that we all help each other as we grow no matter what. While I may be the head coach, I have built the expectation in the group that all of our voices are just as important and we can all feel comfortable sharing our ideas, thoughts, coaching tips, and suggestions. There is a warm feeling knowing that I have a group of awesome athletes that I can support at all times, and that will support me at all times. It's freaking awesome! I know that when I am struggling through a workout, or with my nutrition, or feeling unmotivated, I'll have at least one of the guys getting after me to make sure I stay on my game. If I can't get over that wall, I know they will all be there to help me up. And they all know that no matter what, I'll be there to help them up.
This is what teamwork is all about. If you don;t have a team in your life, I suggest you go find one that fits your needs perfectly. If you have a crappy team, get the hell off it ASAP! And if you are part of an awesome team, rock on and keep getting better!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I was reminded of this way of saying core stability when talking with some CrossFit coaches the other day. I like it, it makes sense. I also recall it being sort of a "catch phrase" back at my CrossFit Level 1 certification a few years back, and one that you'll read and hear all the time on articles and videos posted up by CrossFit HQ. Again, I like it because it does a great job of depicting exactly what the goal of the exerciser should be: stabilize your mid-line! The core is a catch phrase used in the fitness industry that I feel gets very overused. The core is a theoretical area of your body that is made up of a large collection of muscles at the "core" of your body. Mid-line makes sense as it sort of helps to visualize where that is in your body and gives you a great image of what should be happening while lifting: your body should hold on to a "line" form through the middle; as in, a straight spine. Using the phrase "stabilize your core" is vague enough that it needs much more explaining for most people to actually understand what the heck you are talking about.
OK, now that that's over with, I want to talk about what is really on my mind about mid-line stability. What constitutes "good" mid-line stability? This is an interesting topic as it;s pretty subjective based on what your view of what's important in life. I'll try to stay as objective as I can (I know, I know, I can be pretty damn opinionated, but I'll do my best here). Here's what I believe:
1) Mid-line Strength/Stability: one should be able to lift a load that the strongest muscles in the body can handle for 1-3 repetitions while maintaining mid-line stability. This means that you should be able to deadlift, or squat or pick up an object of any kind, 1-3 times without losing stability through your midsection. The weight should be heavy enough that even your legs would come close to failing under the load for those same rep counts. This would show balance in your full body strength. If you can reach max loads in any manner (what I mean by that is both in the gym with a bar, or out of the gym in life) without "breaking form", you are probably pretty balanced in your strength. This also means you are putting yourself at the lowest risk of injury while moving heavier loads. Sweet.
2) Mid-line endurance: one should be able to hold stability throughout their body while performing high volume, very light loaded work. And when I say light load, I mean like walking, running, sitting, moving around, carrying bags or other things over distances and so forth. If you can stand for a few hours without your torso getting fatigued and needing to lean up against something, you're probably in a good spot. If you can't handle that, you may need to work on things to learn how to engage all those muscles while "doing life". I make these points in reference to what is important to train. It's a touchy topic to go into good and bad programming (a topic I jump all over ALL the freaking time) and I've found some common flaws in the way coaches choose to program for focused mid-line stability. Best ways to build mid-line strength? Heavy loads performed at low reps. If you are doing these exercises correctly, your body will react by becoming very strong and very balanced. This is about as commonly accepted a practice as I know in the fitness industry. But it's the mid-line endurance that is debatable. It is my theory that the best way to do this for the average person in the world, is to move your body under light loads for different periods of time.
But not any load, and not any movement mind you. For example: sled pushing and pulling is probably one of the best ways to build this strength/endurance, while extended deadlifitng and Olympic lifting is probably the worst. Does this mean you should never do high rep deadlifitng and/or Olympic lifting? Well, in my opinion, yeah, what the heck is the point? You can build the same level of gains by doing things that don't put your body at an incredibly high risk, so why not do all those? Deadlifting for more than 10 reps as a strength/stability/power exercise seems more like an attempt to try to hurt oneself rather than get stronger. You could row then plank then KB swing and get mostly the same effects while not putting your spine at such an extreme workload and risk. Instead of 30 clean and jerks for time, you could broad jump and push up and be training practically the same functions of the body while not demanding such extreme form breakdown and incredibly high risk. In the end, if your goal is general heath and fitness with the smallest risk of injury possible, it's not that hard to pursue. And you can do "CrossFit", or any other style of training that suits you. The main thing is simply paying attention to the work you're doing and asking a simple question: "why?". Why high rep Olympic lift? Why high rep power lift? Why kip certain movements? Why scale? Why focus purely on mobility rather than lifting heavy weights? Why lift heavy weights? Athletes should be asking this ALL THE TIME of their coaches. Coaches should be asking themselves this every single day they program something for someone.
And remember, not being able to clean and jerk 135# for 30 reps while putting yourself at an extremely high injury risk does not make you a bad athlete or person. And not being able to deadlift your body weight 45 times does not mean you are weak. If you are a competitive CrossFitter, yes, you need to do those things. If you are the average person, there really isn't a great argument for doing them in my opinion. Make one about power output, about increased work capacity, about mid-line stability over a 5 minute time domain, and I'll simply argue for a program that works the same muscles and functions without the risk. In my head it really does seem that simple.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Last weekend saw the largest Courage Games to date. I'm not going to lie, I was a good bit nervous because i had designed things for a 2-day event but switched it all to one because of people getting nervous about the Super Bowl that would be played on Sunday. I knew the workouts would be tough for one day, but totally doable, and I knew all the athletes would be fine. All I was nervous about was timing everything. In the end, we went over by just under three hours! But, so many people stayed all the way to the end, and I must say, all in all the day was a huge success. Let's recap!
Well first I want to make a few shout outs. First off, CrossFit San Mateo. Co-hosting the event by letting us all in their awesome gym was huge. It would have been total chaos had we not had that great space to workout in and they were all so wonderfully supportive of the event. So big thanks to the San Mateo crew: Brendon Mahoney (who took 4th in the competitor male category), Manny Ferrer (who tied for 1st in the amateur male category and finished 2nd after the tie-breaker), and Melissa Guitron (who was a huge help all day as a judge and volunteer). Next is a overwhelmingly HUMONGOUS thank you to all the volunteers and judges. They were all so on their game and so incredibly helpful throughout the day. This event happened because of all of them and they deserve pretty much most of the credit for everything running the way it did. Thank you, thank you, thank you! OK, on to the event!
Athletes began showing up bright and early around 6:45am and we had a full packed house by 7:30. Sponsorship vendor booths were all set up, athletes had they recovery corners scouted out, both gyms were being explored and the air was filled with excitement for what the day would bring. And the athletes did NOT disappoint! The first workout (a 3-event workout with a max back squat, 400 meter run and 100 double unders, and a max shoulder to overhead) I think had well over 10 PR's amongst the athletes. Things ran very smoothly except for one thing: the damn plates! Luckily all the athletes had to suffer the same challenges so there was no unfair advantage for anyone. But those plates were greased up like nobodies business. Unfortunately we got the shipment in only a day before the competition, and try as we did, we could not rid the plates of their layer of "new plate grease". I know it slowed some people down, but again, everyone had to deal with them! And despite that challenge, there were still so many impressive lifts.
Workout 2 was a quick one, running athletes anywhere between 30 seconds and 50 seconds. This was a short, heavy prowler push followed by a T-drill (an agility test where you must show your ability to change direction, sprint, back-peddle, and laterally shuffle). Given the space, we could only go one athlete at a time, but it went so smoothly and drew a good bit of attention from the CalTrain passengers waiting on the platform. Over 100 people crowded around and cheered on the athletes as they drove those sleds from Courage Performance to CrossFit San Mateo for the agility test. It was damn awesome. The day moved on with a ton of positive energy as the sun broke through the clouds and hanging around outside seemed to be a pretty nice thing to do between workouts. And that good atmosphere was needed as the athlete prepared themselves for what clearly was the "beatdown" workout of the day: 500 meter row, then: 21-5-15-9 of deadlifts (heavy) and toes to bar. I set the cut-off time at 12 minutes and the average time on the day looked to be around 9. We all got to see some damn impressive feats, along with a few athletes who got good and beat by this one. From a competition standpoint, this one really separated the top level athletes from the others. From a personal standpoint, I enjoyed having my gym filled with energetic athletes and spectators all getting fired up as the last reps were pulled. My gym is meant for smaller groups of specialized clients so it was a pretty cool feeling to have the walls bursting at the seams with how many people were in there!
Probably the most interesting event was event 4. With 10 minutes all the athletes had to give one attempt at a max reps bench press, then max reps pull ups, then a max weighted plank hold, then 3 attempts to get a max distance broad jump. For me, watching how athletes prepared for this and moved through it was the most interesting. I honestly didn't even know who won the specific events until about two days later when I sat down to go over all the scoring. Some went all out, others took their time completely, while others paced their rest depending on what they had coming up next. I love this style of workout because it truly tests specific aspects of fitness while also forcing the athlete to plan out their entire approach. And it's as simple as not knowing yourself and how to plan these sort of things out that can cause someone to lose a whole bunch of spots in their placement. That's what made this one so exciting for me. This was also one that our volunteers truly made happen. With all the weight adjustments on the bars, and dumbbells (for planks) to utilizing two gyms throughout the workout, all them them worked flawlessly together to make sure the athletes got the most out of this one.
The final workout began as the sun went down and there was a crazy excitement as the spectators packed in around the final 6 athletes in each division. With a descending ladder of heavy cleans, handstand push ups and varying levels of pull ups (normal kipping, chest to bar, and muscle ups) the top finishers had a beast of a workout to battle through as they closed out the day. And yet again they did not disappoint! They struggled through; some not able to finish as the days volume caught up to them, others pushing to their very limits to fought for another spot and possibly the podium. The competitor men's division was awesome to watch because when they finished those crazy heavy cleans and HSPU's, they had to ruin over to the other gym to complete the muscle ups. Each on of them fought like crazy to the very end, it was incredibly motivating.
In the end we had a tie for first in both the Masters men and Amateur men. The tie breaker was: 1 minute AMRAP burpees to a target touch. It, was, intense! But we came out with our winners:
Crashing down onto my couch after we cleared things up a little and grabbed some food, I was able to soak in the entire day. With only a couple small hiccups, this was far and beyond the smoothest and most exciting event I have put on. I could not asked for a better group of athletes and spectators, the sponsors were an incredible support, and my volunteer crew was overwhelmingly helpful and efficient. The day went so damn well! People have been posting pictures and videos on Facebook and I would love it if you kept on doing so, and tagging myself and/or the Courage Games page.
Thank you so much everyone for making this event such a great one. And please keep your eyes open for the announcement of the Courage Games "throwdown series" coming in late summer (I will be hosting one every summer, and a "combine series" event every winter!). I want to be sure to give a shout out to Breeze Scoring for hooking us up with the most flawless scoring system. I wasn't planning on using one until the last second and I am SO happy I did. We were easily able to just punch in scores directly after the workout and have them clearly displayed on the site for everyone to see. Could not be happier with how that worked out. I also want to give a special shout out to Jon with Merrell who stepped up and was able to hook up an athlete with a pair of their awesome minimalist shoes (I've worn them every day for almost two months now, they freaking rock) after I forgot to load up a bar for him on workout 3. He was a great sport about it and Jon at Merrell stepped in big time to thank him for his understanding. Finally Destino Retreats who donated a FREE VACATION TO CABO to our Competitor Men winner. This is just flat out awesome support and the type of thing you can expect from Courage Games events!!
And of course, thank you to the sponsors:
Again, thank you everyone for making this such a great day. I am eagerly looking forward to the next one!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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