_ In the words of East Bound And Down superstar Kenny Powers “I play real sports, I don’t want to be the best at exercising”. Freaking hysterical, especially that he said that well before CrossFit was a big deal. Now there are fast-paced Reebok commercials on primetime TV with Iceland Annie and Chad 86 advertising this new, crazy sport. And I both love it and hate it! I have a ton of posts coming on different aspects of all this, but I wanted to throw out a short and sweet one as a big wake up, or a big reminder depending on where you stand. CrossFit is officially TWO THINGS!
CrossFit is: the greatest strength and conditioning program (if programmed by an intelligent coach).
CrossFit is: the sport of fitness.
As a CrossFit athlete myself, and one who trains mostly high school and college athletes, I have to always be aware of the line that is drawn between how we train. My athletes are here to get better at their sport, so the training they do with me is geared towards that, and that alone. I am trying to get better at CrossFit, so my training is wildly different. The same goes for someone coming into the gym to simply get in better shape. An incredible “Fran” time, or being able to rip out 60+ snatches in 10 minutes should NOT be the goal. But if you want to compete in the sport, the same way one might choose to run a marathon and then train for it, then doing crazy things that are risky would make more sense. But, if you are training for a specific sport, or trying to become generally more fit and healthy, use the methods of CrossFit intelligently and your results will be greater than anything in the world.
Again, I am always happy to go into exactly what it means to train with these two perspectives; but the main thing is to first acknowledge that there are two distinctly different things at play. Next will be my thoughts on how we all can make the differences more clear.
But for now, stop confusing the two!
Oh, and got an article up on a great site on this topic by the way. Check it out HERE
Never Stop, GET FIT.
_ 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.
But just with writing! While I have not been posting on any sort of schedule, plenty has been going on. I am re-committing to getting back on the writing, so be sure to read away through the holidays! So what's been going on? Well, I am now working out of a temporary gym space out behind White Flint Mall in North Bethesda. This is not the final stop for Courage Performance unfortunately (but fortunately, the last stop will be not so far away for so many people!). I am in the process of negotiating a lease at a spot that is about as ideal as anything I have ever seen. Fingers are crossed!
What else? Well, in terms of training i have been feeling very, very good. Friday I hit 1RM deadlifts in an empty Garage and was able to PR by 30# with a 535# pull!! So stoked about that one. Today I hit a 200# snatch. While this should be warm up weight for someone who has other lifts like I do, I have struggled so much with Olympic lifts that my numbers hover where my technique keeps me. This actually was a PR for squat snatches for me by 15#! Again, pretty stoked. This Saturday coming up I have competition out at CrossFit Hoboken, and the first is a snatch ladder. I fully expect to hit another big PR there. And on that note, please make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend as I'll be giving constant updates as things moves along.
Food update? Well, it hasn't been perfect I can tell you that much. But as stated before, I'm not too worried. I am feasting on plenty of food to keep up with the work-load of my training. My plan is to clean it up around January once i am feeling real good with my strength work and begin to cut the body fat down a little to make the running and gymnastics a but easier!
Ok, enough of the update crap, I know how badly you all want to keep completely up to date with all the inner workings of my life! No, no, let me get a little into some other stuff that I've been missing writing about for a while. Something that's been on my mind the past few weeks is leadership. I have been talking with and dealing with more coaches and trainers recently as I've been looking into expanding the company. What I have found is hours upon hours of conversation on what it means to be a good leader (while I speak of coaches and trainers in particular, i am sure it can be translated to any other form of leadership). I know there are plenty of points to be made here, but one that has been on the forefront of my mind has been the idea of having your students (I'll refer to them as "athletes" from here on out) respect you. I do NOT understand in any way why a leader would choose to scare the living crap out of his/her athletes. A great way to test how your athletes feel about you, or how you as an athlete feel about your leader ("coach" from here on out): how does the athlete react when the coach walks into the room? If there is a bit of excitement, a "hey coach!", a smile, a bearing down and getting ready sort of feel, then, I am willing to bet that coach is a damn good leader. But, if the coach walks in the room and it becomes silent, uncomfortable, stiff, and even awkward, well, that coach sucks! This does not necessarily mean the coach does not know how to coach his/her sport. It merely means he/she is a bad leader. I say this because I know plenty of people who are incredibly good at teaching the materials they need to teach but are horrible at motivating their athletes and making them feel comfortable challenging themselves each and every day.
I really want to touch more on how to react to this as an athlete rather than come at it from a coached perspective. I have been on the athletes side plenty, and perhaps that is why I have taken the time to find the best ways to become a halfway decent coach myself. So, if you're an athlete and don;t respect your coach, are scared of your coach, intimidated by your coach, feel uncomfortable around your coach, so on and so forth. Well, the most obvious response is to leave, go somewhere else! If that is not an option, go talk to him/her. Perhaps this should be the first step to be honest. One would assume that a crap coach probably won't take to criticism of concern very well, but it's always worth a try. After all, you are practicing your sport for YOU, not for them. And you never know, maybe the coach will open up an you things could change. But if he/she gets pissed at you for trying to be open and expressing your concerns, well, find a way to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. STAT!
But I'm sure there are still a bunch of you that can;t get out of the situation despite all of this crap (for example: a young athlete who can't just leave school becuase their sports coach isn't all that great), what do you do? What did I do? I nodded and smiled when the coach told me to do something I KNEW was wrong, then I searched like mad for coaches I thought were great and that I could truly believe in and practiced what they taught me. You see, sometimes you can;t escape from a crap situation. But what you can do is change they way you respond to the crap.
Always question, always voice your opinion and concern, always challenge. If people don't like that, do what you an to not be surrounded by those people, they will do nothing but bring you down.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This past weekend was a great learning experience for me. First and foremost it showed that I am improving as a CrossFitter. To be able to head into such a well-respected CrossFit competition as The Hopper, and do so well says a good bit about my level of fitness. Ok, cool. Now that the positive comments are out of the way, it's time to get on to the critique!
I found out two major things over the weekend that are the primary sources holding me back from being the competitor I truly want to be. But before I go into them, I want to be sure to let you, the reader, know that the goal with this post is two-fold: to articulate an analysis of myself so that I can help myself get better; and, to inspire you all to do the same with yourself in the process of making YOU better. I am willing to bet that the two issues I detail here are two EXTRAORDINARILY common issues with most people as they drive towards their goals. Next point to be made is what my goals actually are. Well, when I moved back to the East coast I decided that I would make an attempt to calm my absolutely out of control mind by focusing on only a few things for a while. I've written about this a bit before, and if you know me, you know that I come up with a new idea to "change the world" pretty much every few hours. I have literally hundreds of pages of notes, drawings, scribbles, phrases and more, collected over the years, it's crazy. I am very aware that to actually get anything done, I need to pick a few of them and just focus. So, when I moved back I picked two: open a gym, and, make it to the CrossFit Games.
So, back to this weekend. Well, it wasn't really the weekend that showed these issues to me, it really was just the straw that broke the camels back if you will. I know that I am a very good CrossFitter. But, I also know that I am not at the level of those at the very top. If you take the top numbers of all those elite CrossFitters, I would be on the bottom of the charts for pretty much everything. But that's not what I am concerned about. I have faith in my training program and my determination that my numbers will creep up there come Games season and I'll be able to hang with any of those guys. It's my weaknesses. Just like anyone, I have a collection of weaknesses. Except mine are VERY weak. I can not do more than 3 strict handstand push ups. I can not walk on my hands for more than 6 meters. I can not do more than 5 muscle ups. While an elite CrossFitter will show strengths and weaknesses, the differential of ability is nowhere near as great as mine. That is why I placed 1st, 1st, 3rd, 19th, and 3rd on this past weekends events. Clearly I need to "kill my goats". So, upping the body weight work and incorporating that intelligently into my programming is an absolute must.
The second thing I found was that I don't have as strong a fire as the top level competitors. Perhaps it's my baseball background (that's a reference to the fact that baseball by nature is a much more passive game than most sports, and I have learned to approach my athletic endeavors a bit more "chilled" out than others), perhaps it's the marathoning (10 in a year will slow you down a bit). Or, it could be that I legitimately LOVE CrossFitting. I enjoy the struggle of getting through a workout so much, that sometimes I feel as though I just lose myself in the middle of it just to ride the wave. All those top beasts I have met have this intensity before, during, and even after a workout that I just do not share. I don't really compete with the person next to me, or to someone elses' time, I just feed off their energy and then spend what attention I put into each workout seeing what I am personally capable of. Now don't get me wrong, I am still a highly competitive person; just not at the level of most other elite CrossFitters. I feel like those guys want to seek and destroy at all times!
Now here's where the fun begins. From this weekend on I have committed myself 100% to the effort of being a "Serious CrossFitter". This means that everything I do is going to be based around achieving my goals. I will not miss workouts. I will not go on a binge week with food, or sacrifice a portion of my program to go hang with friends. I am lighting that fire as bright as it can be lit and going all out. I am making CrossFit "My Sport", and doing what it takes to get to the next level.
I can see a lot of my friends rolling their eyes at me right now. And to that I respond: everyone knows me as someone who likes a challenge and is willing to experiment with pretty much anything in the activity/fitness/sports/nutrition fields. So, I am experimenting with the idea that if I actually commit myself 100% to something, I could actually be really freaking good at it. This does not mean I am going to spend the rest of my life walking around with a cooler of steamed broccoli, grilled chicken and protein powder. This does not mean I will never again indulge in a brownie or 15, or have a drink or two, or three. It just means that from now until the Games I am going to be "that guy" I am going to be a little more one-track-minded about my priorities in life and I am going to see what I am TRULY capable of doing.
This is going to be a really fun and interesting adventure.
The fire has been lit.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
If you were to walk into my massive, spacious, cavernous, 200 square foot Garage Gym and ask any of my athletes what the number one focus of this past summer was, you would hear a resounding “body control” echoing from the rafters 8.5 feet above your head!
You see, one of the main things I have always been extremely focused on, in my own training and with training others is learning more about ones own body. The way I talk about it is body awareness, and body control. But in the fitness world, this is generally understood as proprioception. This is basically the idea of a sixth sense, which we all actually have, some more than others, but we all have the ability to be aware of things within us and around us without really knowing how. I am absolutely fascinated by this stuff and I found, through research and trial and error, that learning more about proprioception will very quickly help you become a fitter, healthier person.
Here’s a little bit about all this works. All your senses are pretty self-explanatory. When you touch something, you feel it, when you see something, your process it, same with hearing and tasting. I really don’t know the inner mechanics of all that, but I know it to be true because I can hear the tapping of my keyboard, I can feel the keys under my fingers, I can see the words appearing on the document and I can taste the bacon I just ate in my mouth! But what about this sense of awareness; how do I have the ability to put my arms, hands, fingers and head in the most effective position for this whole typing fun? Well, from what I can understand it goes a little something like this: your brain says, “arm, move to the computer”, your arm then moves to the computer, then your arm says, “hey brain, I just moved to the computer, give me another game to play!”. This sort of thing happens hundreds of thousands of times a day; think about it, just take a moment and try to comprehend how many movements you make each and every day and that there is a full-blown process for each and every one.
We just take this stuff for granted all the time, but when you take a moment to realize that this stuff can actually be improved, you all of a sudden realize just where you stand might stand athletically. I mean, look at like a pro football player: his ability to comprehend how to change direction not once, but twice, or three times even, all while catching a football, avoiding a couple massive dudes wanting to crush him and this all takes place while airborne. Yeah, that’s body control. The best athletes are the ones who can control their own bodies the best, I mean think about this: if you didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other, how would you be able to do anything athletically? That’s a bit of an extreme example, but you get what I’m trying to say here.
So how do you become more aware of yourself? Well, one of the quickest ways I have learned is to practice basic gymnastics. Do headstands, handstands, forwards and backwards rolls, cartwheels and on and on. The more you move your body through space, the more you’ll be able to understand HOW to move your body through space. If you spend the majority of your time moving other objects through space (as in: lifting weights…), sure you’ll get strong, but you will rarely allow your mind to connect to the body in an intimate way. I am not discounting the effects of connecting to the barbell, or anything else for that matter, I just think that getting your mind and body syncing is probably one of the most important things you can do for overall health. If that is way too tough to get to right now, start simply buy doing very basic body weight movements (squats, push ups, sit ups, pull ups, etc). To help out even more, do these in front of the mirror, and, place your hands on the portion of your body that you’re moving. What you’ll be doing is using your main senses to assist in understanding how you move. The more you move, and the more focused you are in each and every movement you make, the better you’ll be at those movements! Easy as that!
In the end, it’s my belief that while lifting heavy things is really cool and impressive, the most impressive thing in the world is being able to have full control of your body. Google any gymnast, or Parkour athlete or B-Boy and you’ll know instantly what I’m talking about.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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