Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coaches Week: Justin Lascek

The last two guest posts have been all about "coaching the coach". Today is all about coaching you - the athlete. This morning's guest article delivers a serious poke in the chest from a guy who is, most likely, training harder than you. Justin Lascek (the new head coach at CrossFit Wichita Falls - otherwise known as "Coach Rip's box") talks about a lesson he learned while training with Rip - the importance of doing damn hard things on a regular basis.

"Do Hard Things"
(an article by Justin Lascek)

I’ve had the opportunity to train here at Wichita Falls Athletic Club (a CF affiliate) as I create their CrossFit classes. During that training, I am lucky enough to have Rip’s coaching eyes on me. I haven’t had any coaching in weight training since high school, and those coaches were not the caliber of Rip. I was immediately a better coach after receiving the concise, efficient methods that Rip has groomed and utilized through years of experience.

Recently I actually trained with Rip. Well, we were both training at the same time. He was still coaching me, but I experienced firsthand how he trains.

I had been awake since I opened the gym at 6:00 AM. I trained in the manner of the “Starting Strength” protocol (working on a linear progression) by squatting, bench pressing, and power snatching. After training, I coached a very enthusiastic CrossFit class. Afterward, I quickly ate some food, and then coached an impromptu CrossFit session. It was after 11:00 PM when Rip started training, as is his custom. Rip planned to clean and press and coach me with the push-jerk. Before we started I was already drained; dead if you will.

Rip had already started warming up, and you could almost feel him crackling and creaking. He is not a particularly old man; however he was a competitive power lifter for a decade. This is an incredibly different situation than someone who is training for fitness, with an incredibly different demand on the body . An extension of this thought is that when Rip warms up, it looks like an incredibly painful endeavor.

So, what was I going to do? Tell him I was tired and sleepy?

I went and got my lifting shoes.

When you watch Rip move, you can see that he is in pain. His face contorts like twisted leather. As he struggles to lock out each press, his grimace darkens with intensity and concentration. His right elbow and left shoulder cannot lockout very well, yet he presses nonetheless. When Rip locks a press overhead the best he can, he lets the bar fall to the ground. He immediately walks away from the bar, and sometimes mutters an obscenity, squinting his eyes closed and then opening them as wide as he can. It’s the kind of thing a person would do if they are experiencing immense pain.

“Does every rep hurt like shit?” I ask him.

“Yes. Every fucking rep.”

He makes a note in his log book, and says over his shoulder, “I haven’t had a pain free workout in twenty years.”

Imagine every rep in your workout being one of the most painful experiences of your life. Imagine knowing that it is going to be that painful every time you step towards the barbell. Imagine having to actively ignore the current and future pain you are and will experience every set. Imagine doing that for every workout. Now imagine doing that for twenty years. A lesser man would have given up long ago. And that is exactly the point.

I am not here to build up any kind of legend that might be Mark Rippetoe. I’m breaking him down to what he simply is; someone who does something really f***ing hard on a consistent basis, knowing full well that it is going to be really f***ing hard before he does it. This concept is infinitely important to us all.

First, we should never avoid doing something (like training) when we know it will suck. Avoiding any activity that is hard makes you a coward, and you can never experience or learn anything by being a coward.

Next, by convincing ourselves to do something that is hard when we don’t want to, we are growing. We are displaying a quality of strength that will correlate and resonate far beyond the barbell.

Lastly, by overcoming hard obstacles on a consistent basis, we set ourselves up for success. Our thoughts formulate our feelings, our feelings compose our emotions, our emotions are exhibited through actions, and our actions define who we are. So you see, if we can structure our thoughts in a successful mindset, one that strives towards success regardless of the obstacle, then it makes us a better person. One of the best ways to train to do this is to do something that is really f***ing hard. And then do that on a regular basis.

Am I saying you should continue training when your body clearly needs rest? Am I saying that you should train while injured? Of course I’m not. However I am saying that when you skip the 3-3-3-3-3 deadlift workout because it is hard, you are a coward. I’m saying that when you half “Murph” knowing full well you are capable of the full deal, you are setting yourself up for less success, and over time, long-term failure. And I’m sure as hell saying that you are capable of training if you are experiencing mild to moderate pain, as long as that pain is not associated with structural damage. There is a difference between injury pain and regular pain. There is a difference between working damn hard over not so hard. There is a difference between a successful athlete and a mediocre athlete. That difference is vigor and vitality.

If you don’t want to listen to me, you could always ask Rip. Just don’t be surprised when he rolls his eyes.


Justin Lascek is the head coach at CrossFit Wichita Falls in Wichita Falls, TX. Originally from GA, Justin was one of the original founders of CrossFit Statesboro. He has a B.S. in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science, and is a CrossFit Level II Certified Trainer. Justin is also a contributor to the CrossFit Journal - you can check out his latest article, "All (Mistakenly) Bow to Fran", here.

Justin is at this very moment under the bar getting stronger, and wants you to know that you are not eating enough.


Dan said...

Great Article!! I really appreciate the brutal honesty in Justin's descriptions of why he thinks most folks aren't working hard, rather than trying to sugar coat and hopefully gently coax us into our best effort. Now I have to go find something I don't like to do and get it done!

Kevin Daigle said...

Mox, is this the Justin that checked out my DL? Thanks to him if it is, that was very helpful (I'm attempting to apply that advice today in the gym).

Secondly, good read. I don't know if you're doing this intentionally Melissa but it seems so. The progression from article to article is excellent and ties in each succesive one on a fundamental level.

The best way to sum up this article Justin, is to borrow a quote from JFK when he told our country we had to go to the moon. "We do these things not because they are easy, but BECAUSE they are hard." That is the fundamental reason we do what we do as athletes. At 5'5 215lbs I did not play offensive/defensive line in college because it was easy. I did it because I loved it, and BECAUSE it was the hardest thing I could do...not to mention everyone told me I could not do it. We don't do the filthy fifty cause its a nice way to break a sweat. We do it because it's an absolute BALL BUSTER. When its over, you're spent but you can live with yourself the rest of the day because you owned it HARD. Thats what this shit is all about.

Gant Grimes said...

Nice article.

Rip is one of those people who needs the pain to remind him he is still alive. It also gives him an excuse to drink good single malt.

Justin is going to be an outstanding contributor to the CF community. He is polite, thoughtful, and free of douchebaggery. He's a good coach and will only get better.

We've to take care of your abs though, Justin. They don't play in our gym. I was pleased to see you eat your first sopapilla yesterday. Fried Mexican treats do more for your press than ripped abs do.

Justin said...

C'mon Gant, I'm eating ice cream with peanut butter at least two times a day with a half gallon of milk.

Kevin said...

hehe douchebaggery.. i like that word

Peyton Knippel said...

This is the best series of articles yet! I think Mel should write a book. She seems to have the skills :)

Jay Ashman said...

this is a great article. I'm copying and pasting this to a .doc file and putting it on my phone for those days when I feel like I don't want to hit the gym and take an undeserved rest day... great, great article.

Staci said...

Great week of guest articles! Thanks!

Grace said...

Great article Diesel! I'm a big fan of Coach Rip :)

It's been a while since the early posting days at HQ. Great to see your immense impact in the CF community. Congrats on getting your affiliation! You'll do awesome! Keep up the great work. I'm always a big fan of yours!

Bill said...

I'm the same age as Coach Rippetoe and I never learned the lesson of this article until it was ALMOST too late to be Born Again Hard. Awesome job, Justin.

Anonymous said...

Dude- what's your full Murph time?

Patty said...


That is very motivating!!

Makes me glad I finished my horrid Turkish Getup workout.

Andrew Darqui said...

i agree with this statement:

"crossfit is for people who love pain and enjoy puking"

crossfit and type IIx fibers don't like each other very much.