## Friday, February 27, 2009

### Jack Bauer is an evil ninja

I hit CrossFit Brooklyn last night for an all-star evening of high bar back squats and an unplanned Main Site WOD. The cast of characters included Max Lewin from CF East Bay (and the originator of my 3x5 strength program), Jay Ashman (a bad-ass CrossFitter from Long Island), Brynith Ensor-Estes (CFBK trainee and a hot little blogger), Jack Bauer (Greg Casimir, CFBK trainer and all around ass-kicker), Thor (Justin Algera, CFBK trainer and master of the high bar) and Leslie Algera (Justin's wife and my new squat idol).

I rolled in at 6 PM and spent some time warming up and catching up with Max and Jay. Max just happened to be in town for a few days, so it was cool that we could hook up. Jay lives local, and came by to check out the BK box and say hello. After opening my shoulders and hitting some stripper stretches, I got under the bar for a lesson in high bar back squats. Both Greg and Justin have transitioned from low bar to high bar, so they had lots of good feedback on my form.

Warm-up sets at 95# felt great. One cue (stop trying to shoot my ass back - just go down and up) fixed 80% of my issues, another cue (big breath, chest up) will fix the rest. Justin, Greg and Leslie took turns coaching me, each offering well-placed cues.

I hit working sets across (5x3) at 125#. That weight is a full 10# more than I've ever used with my high bar form. Greg coached me through, staying in my ear the whole time. They went well, although in each of the five sets, the third squat was a bitch to get back up. I kept dropping my chest just enough to stall me out coming out of the hole. Still, they got done, and I was happy to learn some new cues for this form (instead of trying to stuff my low-bar form into a high-bar position).

It was at this point in the evening that things got ugly.

I had announced loudly and firmly that I had ZERO intention of doing the Main Site chipper, since (a) I was going to be tired from the squats, (b) I still wasn't well rested enough to be pushing hard and (c) the WOD included - yep, of course - pull-ups. Like, 81 pull-ups, to be exact. It's either a conspiracy between Glassman, Satan and my lats... or I have some terrible gym-related karmic retribution hitting me right now. (Was it the time I deliberately mocked that douchey trainer at Gold's by doing gorgeous dead hangs RIGHT after his tragic attempts?) Despite my best intentions, Jack Bauer decided that I was NOT getting out of this one. Here is a reenactment of how it all went down:

Me: Whew. Thanks for the squat tips. I'll strip the bar.
Jack Bauer: You're doing the WOD now.
Me: (Pause. Blink. Swear internally.) Yes, sir.

Because that is just what you do when Jack Bauer tells you to do something. Damn his persuasive ways - that shit was straight-up NINJA*.

*According to the Urban Dictionary: "Ninja (v.) the act of stealing, swooping, or snaking something. Usually the person who has been ninja'd upon does not realize it for a little while." In my case, Jack Bauer ninja'd both my common sense and my quadriceps in such a smooth fashion that I did not realize it until I was halfway through my first set of walking lunges.

Main Site WOD at CFBK:
• 100' walking lunges (about 28 steps with my giraffe legs... finally something where height has an advantage!)
• 21 pull-ups
• 21 sit-ups
• 100' walking lunges
• 18 pull-ups
• 18 sit-ups
• 100' walking lunges
• 15 pull-ups
• 15 sit-ups
• 100' walking lunges
• 12 pull-ups
• 12 sit-ups
• 100' walking lunges
• 9 pull-ups
• 9 sit-ups
• 100' walking lunges
• 6 pull-ups
• 6 sit-ups
14:42

I lost about a minute in the first round screwing with my pull-up set-up. I needed to scale them, so I used a 1/2 loop of their lightest band. Which, in all fairness, was still about twice as supportive as the band I use at home. I wasn't complaining, though - I needed all the help I could get. And while I generally kick ass at walking lunges, after heavy squats... not so much. The last two rounds were positively brutal - and I wasn't the only one who was hurting. At one point, I looked up to see Greg lunging like a drunk. He did some really heavy squats pre-WOD, so I felt his pain.

In retrospect, I'm really glad I sucked it up and hit the chipper. Last night was a welcome change from how I felt after the hot mess that was my CF Fairfax workout. After posing for a bunch of pics with the boys, I bounced to meet my sister for dinner. Where I drank my weight in mojitos and tried to forget about how much my legs were going to hurt tomorrow.

Today, Kelly and I have the day off - we're just cruising around. Dinner with Martone and Keith Wittenstein tonight pre-cert, and then I'm off to coach some kettlebells at the Black Box this weekend. Holla! Big thank you to the Brooklyn boys and girls for their hospitality, and to Max and Jay for meeting me out there.

Jack Bauer coaching me through some high bar back squats

## Wednesday, February 25, 2009

### Intensity \in-ˈten(t)-sə-tē\ (noun): An extreme degree of strength, force, energy or feeling

Apologies in advance, but this post brings The Return of the F-Bombs. From the author's perspective, they are deliberate, and essential.

Since I was only in Virginia for a few days, I wanted to make the most of my time here. That meant sucking it up and deliberately (but carefully) overtraining while I was in town.

The gymnastics cert, on its own, was a serious workout. Two full days of pull-ups, ring work, handstands and L-sits did a number on my core, and more significantly, my shoulders. All my overhead work qualifies as "goat", so being upside-down for five hours on Sunday left my shoulders, back and traps completely trashed. And while my core is pretty strong, it is no match for hours of skin the cats, ring inversions and L-sits. Now think about adding 20 minutes of kettlebell snatches, clean and presses and high pulls on Monday night and you can imagine how my shoulders felt. So when I read the CrossFit Fairfax workout for Tuesday morning, I had to laugh. I'm pretty sure Satan himself checked out my blog and thought, I really need to chime in here.

AMRAP in 20:00
• 5 OHS
• 10 pull-ups
It might as well have been called, “You’re Fucked, Byers”.

Previewing the workout the night before was a mistake - I was up all night thinking about how I would get through the next morning. However, the chance to be coached by Maggie Dabe-Colby was impossible to pass up, no matter how tired I was. Plus, it was a great opportunity to get some feedback on two Goat exercises. So I rallied early Tuesday morning and headed over to the box.

Meeting Maggie was a really big deal. She has been a long-distance inspiration – I even wrote about her “3, 2, 1, GO” cue in my CFJ article in January. So I was really excited to see how far she could push me - and how hard I could push myself under her watchful eye. I decided to hit the OHS light – 45# - given how my shoulders were feeling. But I wanted to kip as many pull-ups as possible, even if it meant I got less rounds. We managed the introductions, hit a quick warm-up, talked a little bit about my form, and got straight to work.

The first four rounds went well, although the OHS were shaky and my pull-ups failed fast in rounds three and four. I would do one, and have to come down and rest. The second my foot hit that box, Maggie was right there in my ear, saying, “Two, one, go”. And I WENT, every single time, without hesitation… although in my head I was thinking, “Damn, girl, don’t I at least get a three?” My lats and grip were so fried that Maggie told me to switch to jumping pull-ups in round five, so I could spend more time under the barbell. (As a rule, they don’t use bands at their gym.)

At that point, the scaled pull-ups went fast. The overhead squats, however, were a totally different story. The actual weight of the bar no longer mattered, because it was the heaviest thing I have ever put overhead. Maggie stayed right there with me, giving me GREAT cues. Big shrug. Big breath. Lock it in. PULL yourself down – don’t drop too fast. She spent a lot of time with me, and I hung on every word she said. But my body refused to cooperate. My shoulders were failing, my coordination was shot and by round six, I was dumping just as many squats as I was making. And every time I got into the hole and lost it, I had to stand up, clean the barbell, get it up overhead and start all over again. As hard as I was trying and as great as Maggie’s cues were, my muscles were simply no longer responding to the commands my brain was giving them.

I
t was frustrating. So, so frustrating. I swore a lot. I took a deep breath and refocused after every miss. I clenched my teeth and gripped the bar and tried to simply DO what Maggie was telling me to do. But the squats were relentless, and they quickly inflicted some irreversible mental and physical damage. I’ve heard others talk about getting emotional during a workout – crying, even, out of pain or frustration or exhaustion. But I have never experienced that myself, until yesterday. Every failed rep saw me more pissed off, more discouraged, more physically and mentally defeated. It was impossible not to let it get into my head. “You’ve missed two in a row. You’re wearing yourself out just picking the damn bar off the ground. How are you going to get through four more?”

I’d make a squat, then dump one. I did twice as much work as I needed to, and I became more and more unglued as each minute passed. But I never stopped. I did not take a break, I did not give up. I just kept standing up and starting over, because that’s what I was there to do. And one by one, I knocked those squats out. Each successful rep was a victory, each failure drove me to choose - break down now, or pick up the fucking bar. By the end, I was moving on auto-pilot; not thinking, just doing. Clean. Press. Snatch grip. Press. Maggie. Slow down. STAND UP.

I finished with eight rounds, plus three overhead squats. I did not stop moving until the whistle blew. And then I kind of lost it for a minute. I felt crushed. I felt beaten. I felt relief. I felt proud of myself. At that moment, all I could do was put my hands on my knees, bend over, and fight to catch my breath as I tried my hardest not to cry. I did not entirely succeed. I have never experienced that feeling before – not from a workout, at least. It was, for lack of a better word, intense.

I was still a little overwhelmed when I thanked Jeff and Maggie for having me. I told Maggie how much of an inspiration she was, and how much I appreciated her getting me through that workout. And then I left, needing time to mentally and physically regroup. An hour later, I was already feeling myself again. I was tired, sure, but I was able to reflect back on the workout and see it for what it was. Those 20 minutes brought the very best effort I had to give – regardless of the result, regardless of the weight moved, regardless of the rounds earned. In this one, special instance, I don’t care what was measured – I care about what I FELT. And that feeling is what I will take with me as I continue my training. The next time I think I’m at the end of my stamina, my strength, my endurance, I will remember what it felt like to give more than I thought I had to give. And I will push through again.

Thank you to Chris, Maggie, Jeff and Tony for the coaching and encouragement.

## Tuesday, February 24, 2009

### Gymnastics Cert II - STRENGTH is where it's at

I’m in Sterling, VA now, hanging out here for one more day before heading back up my sister's place in NYC. For today's post, I want to get back to the gymnastics cert. I met some really fun people there, but more importantly, I had my brightest CrossFit LBM (Light Bulb Moment) yet.

First, the only reason I traveled for this cert (besides the cert itself, and Tucker) was to train with Jen Conlin again. I first met Jen (of the famous “Jen’s Gym” blog) at the Boston gymnastics cert, but I had been following her training and her blog for quite some time. She is an awesome role model for women - she helped to build the soapbox I’ve been occupying. Lift heavy. Eat lots. Get strong. It was great to see her in her element this weekend, training with us, coaching us, demonstrating for us. I’ve said this before (and a few of you have taken me up on it – Daniel, Rebecca and Christopher!), but if you’re in the DC area, you should go hit a training session with Jen at CF Potomac.

I also FINALLY got to meet Jason M. Struck, RKC and owner of CrossFit Full Circle. Struck and I have been internerd friends since he first ran a little profile of me on his blog. He’s been one of my “go-to” people for questions about squats, kettlebells, programming and all kinds of CrossFit stuff, and he’s contributed to my blog on several occasions. Usually by posting some sort of smart-ass comment. He likes to give me shit, and I’m not sure why, because I’ve been NOTHING but nice to the kid. But we had a great time at the cert, and his gymnastics stuff was looking good. AND I have a picture of him wearing my arm-warmer, and that WILL get posted.

Tucker’s demo girl was Andrea Seward, of CrossFit Old Town. I’ve watched her “intro to handstand” video on a few occasions, and she’s also done some great work with Again Faster on the squat clean. Andrea was the perfect demo girl – her gymnastics skills are beyond impressive, and damn if that girl isn’t the most bend-y person I’ve ever met. She is also just a spunky little bundle of sunshine – her attitude is so positive and her smile so bright that you don’t even realize that she is seriously kicking your ass. Also, since everyone seems to be pointing out that New England people are giants (I’m 5’ 10”, my Trainer is 6’ 4”) I will say that Andrea is damn tiny, and not just by comparison. I would like to think I could hold an L-sit like hers if I didn’t have eight feet of leg hanging out there. (Wishful thinking, Byers.)

There were lots of strong women at this cert. In fact, this was a really strong group in general. Which brings me to the lesson that was just HAMMERED home on all fronts this weekend – strength is where it's at. I’ve been working my 3x5 strength program diligently since the beginning of the year – even a little longer, if we take out my time off because of the mono. I haven’t deviated from squats, presses, deadlifts and the 3x5 rep scheme, despite the fact that I’m mentally longing for the long, light met-cons. And it was harder than ever to stick to the program in the past few weeks, knowing I had this cert coming up. I wanted to skip the squats and spend time on my rings, or doing handstands. But I was determined to see if this “strength” stuff really does translate in the manner that everyone keeps telling me it would.

My own experience answered that question quickly, but my Trainer’s experience is what really opened my eyes. (My Trainer's name is Dallas, by the way. He's kind of private, so I've kept him listed here as "Trainer"... but since he's going to partner up with me on this affiliate, I'm outing him. HIS NAME IS DALLAS.) Anyway, Dallas has no gymnastics background whatsoever, and yet was able to knock out whatever Tucker threw at him this weekend – back levers, front levers, straddle press to handstand. And the reason Dallas was able to successfully work through the progressions is because he’s a freakin’ MONSTER. Pound for pound, he is the strongest person I’ve ever trained with. And that strength allowed him to muscle through the movements, even though his technique was far from perfect. Watching him go through the progressions made me realize, more than ever, that there is no such thing as “too strong”.

I was also able to keep up far better than I anticipated, right up through the end of Day Two, despite not allotting any extra attention to gymnastics skills in the month prior to the cert. Let me emphasize this point - I got better at gymnastics, simply by getting STRONGER. And if that is not the biggest light bulb moment of my CrossFit career, I don't know what is. Of course, “strength translates” is not brand new information. However, I am (at times) a slow learner, and I am (at all times) a “prove it to me” kind of girl. And this weekend showed me in no uncertain terms that I simply CANNOT go wrong by continuing to eat more, build muscle and increase strength.

Below is a quick note on the fun kettlebell workout I did with Mike Krivka of CrossFit Koncepts. And tomorrow will be devoted solely to my visit with Maggie Dabe-Colby of CrossFit Fairfax. That experience was so intense, it deserves its own write-up.

### Four on the Floor

Monday night, Chris Bloom (RKC and CF Level 1 Trainer) and I headed up to Gaithersburg, MD to run through a kettlebell workout with Mike Krivka of CrossFit Koncepts. Mike and I have been emailing for quite some time now - I sent him a workout about six months ago, and he ran his folks through it. At one point mid-workout, one of his guys asked, "Who's the bitch that came up with this one?" And the workout called "Melissa That Evil Bitch" was born. (It was a simple one, really... move the kettlebell 500 times. In any combination of movements, in any order... swing it, snatch it, squat it, walking lunge it. Just move it. Five hundred times. For time, of course.)

Mike put us through a really fun couplet workout that included some moves I don't work on a regular basis. (Constantly Varied? CHECK.) I went really light on the KB (12K for most, 16K for swings) and skipped a few moves that involved a dynamic shoulder (like donkey kicks). I should have rested after the gymnastics cert, but the opportunity to train KBs with Mike was too good to pass up, so I just scaled appropriately.

The workout was four minutes on, one off, for four rounds. There was a different couplet for each round. You had to complete an ENTIRE couplet for it to count (so if you got three quarters of the way through and time ran out... zero points). This was a fun, fast workout that definitely satisfied my met-con craving.

Mike Krivka's "Four on the Floor"

I. 10 V-Ups + 10 KB swings (16K)
II. 10 deck squats + 10 KB snatches (12K)
III. 10 hip thrusters + 10 KB clean and push-press (12K)
IV. 10 reverse lunges + 10 KB high pulls (12K)

Total rounds completed: 6/3/3/4 = 16

Mike gave me CONSTANT cues through the workout, which I really appreciated. He fixed my snatch landing position (and made it MUCH stronger), he helped me focus on push-pressing through the heels (a constant battle for me), and gave me tips on my foot position during squats. It was great to have that much personal attention during the workout, and I really appreciate that he took the time to work with me.

He also gave me a ton of good ideas about our new affiliate - everything from how to track clients' workouts to keeping a list of all the functional movements (by category) to how to best equip the box. Mike has a lot of experience training kettlebells and martial arts, and I'd tell anyone to drop in and go through one of his custom (killer!) workouts. Thanks to Mike and Chris for taking such good care of me.

Chris Bloom, Mike Krivka and a very sweaty post-workout me

## Monday, February 23, 2009

### Suck it, parallette handstands

I am behind in my blogging, but that's because I've been too busy DOING to be WRITING. I'm sitting in a Barnes & Noble in Gaithersburg, MD getting caught up on line and waiting for Chris Bloom, so we can head up to visit CrossFit Koncepts and Mike Krivka. I don't have as much time to write, so these posts from the road will probably be a little rough around the edges. Although my grammar and spelling will, of course, remain perfect.

My Trainer and I attended the CrossFit Gymnastics Cert at CF Potomac (with Jen Conlin) this past weekend, and I am pretty confident in saying that it was the best weekend of my life. Running through the cert as a participant was 100 times more fun than as an assistant/demo girl... and about 100 times more physically and mentally demanding. I know I've said before that you (yes, YOU) really should find a way to get to one of Tucker's certs. I am going to be even more adamant about that fact now that I've run through it myself.

Gymnastics is, admittedly, my biggest goat. I don't like being upside-down, I don't have a ton of shoulder strength for moves like handstand push-ups and I have a serious mental block as soon as I catch glimpse of a set of parallettes. This weekend, I was able to get past a lot of that fear and successfully work some new skills. That opens up all KINDS of new doors for me, in that I am now much more confident adding in some of these movements to my own training. And yes, that now includes free-standing handstands.

The first day we worked on mostly bar and ring work. The pull-up work wasn't tough, as I've been working Tucker's gymnastics kip. The ring work, however, was a whole different story. I've been doing inversions and skin the cats for months now... but according to Tucker, I've been cheating them. Dammit. This weekend, I figured out what it felt like to pull aaaall the way over and all the way back using JUST my core, stabilizing with my shoulder girdle. Damn if that's not an entirely different movement. By the time we got through STC/back lever/front lever work, my abs were killing me. It hurt to laugh, which was unfortunate, because Andrea Seward of CrossFit Old Town was our demo girl and assistant coach, and she is the funniest person I have ever met in my whole life.

Day Two was much more challenging for me on all fronts - handstands, in all different forms. The free-standing on the floor weren't too tough, once I got past the fear during my first kick-up. My Trainer was spotting me, which made me feel totally comfortable, and I've worked enough handstands with Tucker to know that my form is solid. THEN we brought out the parallettes, and I had a full on (but silent) anxiety attack. I have a serious mental block about kicking up onto a set of 12" parallettes. Like, I just DON'T want to do it. But Tucker made us work the hell out of the movement, and even though my kick-ups weren't fantastic, my handstands on the apparatus got much better throughout the day. Even handstand push-ups on parallettes went okay... scary, but okay. Point is, I got through them with some decent form and skill.

What I learned this weekend was this... I am, today, a better trainer than I was on Friday, not just because I learned some new moves and coaching cues to pass along to my clients, but ALSO because I tried things that scare me. I paid attention to how Tucker and my Trainer worked me through that fear, and I remember very clearly the sense of accomplishment I felt after coming out of my first really solid parallette handstand. I reflect back on Lu's "Coaching with Empathy" essay, and realized that MY coaches at this cert used tough love in some spots, and kid gloves in others, to move me through the exercises. And I thought about Justin's "Do Hard Things" essay, and didn't bail or surrender to ANY of the movements that scared me, even when I had the option to back out. And all of those lessons make me a better trainer.

As for YOU, you need this cert. You need to learn how to move your body through time and space. You need to know what it feels like to REALLY use your core, in a manner totally different than, say, overhead squatting. You need to develop body awareness in different positions - right side up, upside down and all positions in between. You will learn moves that will open up SO many doors into your own training, and the training of your clients. Finally, it's a hell of a lot of fun. It's basically a two-day playground session for big kids, and you'll move your body in ways you haven't since you were ten. And that fact alone makes you feel pretty happy.

I'm off to sling some 'bells now, but I will update you in my next post as to (a) the cool people I met this weekend, including kettlebeller Jason Struck, and (b) whether my strength program translated effectively to this gymnastics work. In closing, a HUGE thank you to Tucker (heart), Andrea Seward (who makes some AMAZING coffee) and Jen Conlin (one of my Girl Power idols, and a ridiculously cool chick) for taking such good care of us this weekend.

## 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.

### Coaches Week: Lu Crenshaw

I first met Lu Crenshaw of CrossFit Allegiance while at the Science Exercise Cert in Forth Worth. She and I were inseparable all weekend, stirring up trouble and annoying Tucker through breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the moments in between. Aside from connecting immediately from a cool chick perspective, I soon discovered that Lu's athletic coaching style was a perfect fit for how I like to train. She figured out right away that I need to be pushed and I'm not afraid of tough love, but she also picked up on some of my weaknesses as a trainee, and some of my insecurities as an athlete. Our session at GSX was some of the most productive time I've spent in the gym. She made fun of me, she explained concepts to me, she encouraged me and she demonstrated for me... a special and unique set of actions that, as a coach, brought out the best low-bar squats I've ever done. And she did it all in less than ten minutes.

As a new trainer, I am constantly thinking about how best to communicate to my clients the technical aspects of the movements I am trying to teach them. But Lu is helping me understand that HOW I communicate WITH them is just as important - if not more - than WHAT I communicate TO them. Below, Lu talks about what it means to you and your clients to be an empathetic coach.

Coaching with Empathy
(An article by Lu Crenshaw, CrossFit Allegiance)

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." - John Maxwell

As a former Division 1 soccer player turned CrossFit coach, I have found that empathy and understanding are my biggest challenges. I am used to digging deep and busting my ass every WOD because of who I am. Because of this, I hold a very high standard for others, and expect the same from them. This is not necessarily a bad thing – my high standards and expectations usually drive good results for my clients. However, I have found that when I temper these standards and expectations with empathy, I can drive my clients to perform truly great achievements.

Most clients are reluctant to even walk through our doors. They've got plenty of reasons why it took them so long to come in. FEAR is really and truly the underlying factor. New clients are scared. Stepping into a CrossFit box is a whole different world, and they are usually grossly unprepared for what we are about to ask of them. CrossFit is physically demanding, but even more than that, it is a mental battle each and every minute. We have to teach them to win that battle, to dig deep and find the potential they never knew existed. In many, this is mental, emotional and physical strength that has been dormant far too long.

This process also requires a client’s vulnerability, and trust. Clients need to know they can let their walls down and allow their insecurities to emerge without the fear of rejection. They need to know that failure is okay – in fact, that failure is an important part of the process. And if they fail, they need to be confident that we will be there to push them through… whether that be encouraging them with, “You’ve got this, I know you do”… or telling them to get up, stop being a pussy and PICK UP THE BAR. Both of which, of course, I would say in the most loving and empathetic of tones. They need us to be tough, but we need to know who our client is and how far we can push them. How deep is their deep… how intense is their intense?

Our clients desire our approval and need to know that we are proud of them and the effort they exert. This is manifested in a different way for each client - and that is where a coach’s empathy comes into play. Clients need to feel safe both physically and emotionally; but they also need us to bring out the best in them, through any means necessary. The Firebreather doesn't need us in the same way as the insecure, weak, over-stressed "desk jockey" (who drinks too many venti caramel frappaccinos, extra caramel, hold the whipped cream). The Firebreathers already know what is inside them - they just need us to DEMAND it of them. The Desk Jockey, however, doesn't understand CrossFit. He needs us to teach him what “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” is truly all about - and what it can do to change his life.

CrossFit is a unique program, in which you can take many generations (grandparents, mothers and fathers, young adults, teenagers and pre-teens) and have them all do the exact same WOD. But we as coaches must understand that they are all at a different place in their fitness levels and in their lives. Through our coaching, each one will find something new, inspiring, even life-changing within themselves. Whether they remember what it was like to be fit somewhere in their past, or discover new potential to be powerful, or see an improved quality of day-to-day existence through fitness, it is our job as a coach to bring that out in all of them, while bringing them all together.

I challenge you to find empathy in your own coaching – the kind of empathy that takes you AND your clients from good to truly great.

_____

Lucianne "Lu" Crenshaw is the owner of CrossFit Allegiance, in Medford, OR. Lu has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Physiology, and is a former D1 soccer player. She is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and is certified in Barbell, Gymnastics, Running/Endurance and Science of Exercise. She currently travels on staff as certification coach with both Mark Rippetoe and Jeff Tucker.

And I'm just gonna say it, 'cause you're all thinking it... DAMN, that girl has a rockin' ass.

### Affiliate Tramp , Mid-Atlantic Edition

I'm hitting the road tonight, for ten pee-your-pants exciting days of CrossFit fun.

First stop - CF Potomac and Jen Conlin, for another CrossFit Gymnastics Cert. Yes, I'm running through it again, but this time, as a participant. Gymnastics is my biggest, nastiest Goat. (I mean, I'm 5' 10". I have NO business doing gymnastics.) The interesting part - I haven't been especially focusing on my gymnastics skills in the past month. At all. So I'm curious to see if my dedicated 3x5 strength program (and I HAVE been dedicated) will translate. I'm betting it does, which would be sweet.

Then I'm sticking around the DC/VA area to tramp around with Chris Bloom ("Big Chris" on the message boards). He's a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and an RKC, and he's going to show me around a little bit. We're heading up to see Mike Krivka of CrossFit Koncepts, a big kettlebell guy and affiliate owner. He even uses one of my workouts in his box. He calls it, "Melissa - You Crazy B*tch". True story. I'm flattered.

Then we're visiting CF Fairfax so I can FINALLY meet Maggie Dabe-Colby (the trainer I wrote about in my CFJ article), and finally, we're hitting CrossFit Quantico, so I can get in a workout with Rich Martin and the Marine Corps. Hoo-rah.

After that, I'll cruise back up to NYC. Thursday night I'm meeting up with Jay Ashman - and we're pulling up on my Brooklyn Boys! I'm excited to visit with Moon, Thor and Jack Bauer again - I'll be working on my high-bar back squat with them for sure. Finally, I'll be helping Jeff Martone coach the CrossFit Kettlebell Cert at the Black Box, CrossFit NYC on February 28th/March 1st.

And then I have to come home. Booooo. I'm not sure why I can't just grab my husband and the dogs and take this show on the road on a permanent basis. I asked Scott about that last night. He said something like, "Stability and security, financially". Which does not sound anywhere near as much fun as "Squats and milk, bitches".

I'll be blogging next week when I can get to it - in the meantime, I've got a few more guest posts coming.

## Wednesday, February 18, 2009

### Coaches Week: Byers Gets Up

Coaches week continues with my very first attempt at a kettlebell video tutorial - the get-up sit-up. I work this move often, and get a lot of questions from blog readers about what it is, what it does and how it's supposed to look. Instead of pointing you to someone else's video on line, I decided to show you myself. I mean, I should probably contribute to my own damn blog during "Coaches Week", right?

This is one of my favorite exercises, as it demands both massive core tension and shoulder stability. It is also a great assistance drill for the Turkish get-up. Do you find during the sit-up portion of the TGU, your leg comes off the ground? Working the get-up sit-up will teach you how to maximize core tension and translate all your "get-up" power straight through to the kettlebell. You can also work these in as a variation to the TGU - I'll often complete the movement with the reverse portion of the get-up sit-up.

Now you, CrossFitters, kettlebellers and fitness enthusiasts, have a job to do. Go try this exercise. Review the video, think about the cues and give them a shot, whether you use a kettlebell, a dumbbell or a water bottle in the "up" hand. Today, it is also YOUR job to coach ME. I'm looking for feedback on everything from my video kung-fu to the cues I've used to my demonstration of the exercise. And if you're an RKC, or a Level 1 or 2 CrossFit Trainer, or someone else with some authority in the field, I'd especially like to hear from you.

I hope to make more of these fun little tutorials in the future, and while I know they will never replace REAL coaching, I should at least be able to communicate the major points to my audience. If I can coach someone new through this drill via video, that's a step in the right direction. So get-up, kids, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

The musical track is from the Beasties Boys "The In Sounds From Way Out", called "In 3's". And stay tuned for more from Lu Crenshaw, as tomorrow's guest contributor.

### My revenge on thrusters and burpees

I woke up deciding I needed a self-imposed butt-kicking, and only one workout came to mind...

21-15-9
• thrusters (55#)
• burpees
The last time I did this workout was November 4th, and it took me 16:55. SIXTEEN FIFTY FIVE. Which pissed me off to no end, and I swore right then and there to get revenge.

Today, I hit the exact same workout in 11:52... more than 5:00 faster. Sweet.

In the battle of "legs vs. lungs", my cardiovascular capacity is still slightly ahead of strength as my limiting factor. I had to stop and breathe more than I had to stop and rest my shoulders during thrusters. Which, again, I am really quite okay with. I do need to learn to pace thrusters better... I can't max out on the first set. I should have split 7/7/7 rather than slamming through the first 11, then doing a slower 6/5.

This is going sub-10 the next time I hit it, say, two months from now.

Buy-in included front squats, push-ups and some 65# thrusters (for contrast). Cash-out was the kettlebell arm-bar stretch (12K).

## Tuesday, February 17, 2009

### Coaches Week: Danny Vee

I've had the privilege of working with Dan Vadala ("Danny Vee") on several occasions, the first during my initial CrossFit kettlebell certification. Dan is a phenomenal coach - he quickly figured out the cues that would "translate" the best for my style of learning, and effectively helped me to improve my kettlebell snatch technique during the cert. More than that, however, he is someone I am proud to consider a long-distance coaching mentor. He devotes a tremendous amount of his time and energy to becoming a better coach, and he generously shares the lessons he has learned with his clients, fellow CrossFit trainers and those new to the coaching game, like me. His philosophy (below) on what it means to be a "coach" is part of the reason why I consider Danny one of the best trainers I've been fortunate enough to work with, and to know.

(an article by Danny Vadala, North Shore CrossFit)

The fitness industry is inundated with people who coin themselves “fitness professionals.” There are countless organizations that certify people in group exercise instruction and personal training – and most of those are suspect to say the least. On the other hand, there are only a handful of coaching certifications. Coaching is the art of being able to translate skill to many different audiences with many different learning types. It is a craft that is honed over a lifetime, and a good coach takes that responsibility seriously, whether he’s coaching one hour or one hundred hours a week.

Teachers do not enter a classroom after a weekend seminar and attempt to instruct your second grader’s math class. A future teacher is first educated by other teachers for thirteen years, before moving on to four years of more formal education by professors. In Massachusetts, they are then required to work with mentors for a specified number of classroom hours, and student teach for a certain amount of time, and pass a barrage of teacher exams before receiving a provisional license. After five years in the field, a teacher must then earn a Master’s Degree to obtain their professional license and continue teaching. That is a collective of almost 20 years of reading, researching, learning and teaching practice before an educator is allowed to legitimately instruct students in the concepts of basic arithmetic. So what kinds of processes does it take to become a fitness or strength coach?

I submit that becoming a real coach requires more than just seminar participation and certifications. While both are necessary in our field, real coaching is done one-on-one and in small groups. Let the personal trainers and aerobics instructors pass off a weekend certification for an “education”. We know better than that. As professional coaches, the burden is on us to get a real education. We know that an education in any field is both expensive and time-consuming, and we have a responsibility to our clients to take it seriously.

Our education starts with being coached by our elders in the field. This part of our coaching education should never end. There will always be others you can learn from, whether you’ve been in the field for nine months or nineteen years. One hour working one-on-one with an experienced kettlebell coach will give you more of an education than an eight hour “Intro to Kettlebells” seminar. All the Olympic Weightlifting books and videos in the world aren’t worth the $100 you can pay a top-notch lifting coach to work with you directly. Not only do we need to be coached ourselves, but we need to observe others being coached. I am a terrible basketball player, but I am extremely comfortable leading a youth basketball team because of my involvement with great basketball coaches. When I was a kid, my local YMCA would run clinics with Joe Billante, a talented high school coach who was extremely passionate about the sport. And the local middle school held camps every summer run by Steve Rowell, a former European league player, and his staff of Division I players. Because I wasn’t a great athlete, I paid a lot of attention to the coaching. The good coaches could break things down in a completely unique manner, depending on who they were instructing. A youth blessed with coordination and agility learns very differently from one who has just had a growth spurt, and something as simple as a “pick and roll” is going to be taught on different levels from one student to the next. Being a third-party observer to good coaching, I learned new cues, tactics and strategies for working with children learning the sport of basketball. I was a student of the CrossFit system for a long time before I began instructing others. There are so many skill sets that need to be learned and observed to do Crossfit well. Let’s take a collective step back and look at what it is that we teach in a CrossFit facility. Gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, sprinting, rowing, kettlebells, powerlifting… and it doesn’t end there. Any one of these disciplines takes a lifetime to master and a lifetime to learn how to coach. You owe it to yourself and your clients to do more than simply attend a two day Level 1 Certification seminar, especially if you have no other previous experience in strength and conditioning. Would you accept a job coaching a high school gymnastics team after simply attending a weekend certification? (If you answered yes to this question, please seek help from a mental health professional.) I am nowhere near the best coach around. I meet better coaches than myself all the time. I am lucky enough to have learned most of what I know from a much better coach than myself, Dave Picardy at North Shore CrossFit. Before Dave hired me to work with him, I took private lessons from both him and Dawn Adam-Brown, a master’s national champion in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. I enrolled in the group program and not only took classes but shadowed the coaches, and eventually did some student-teaching. I wasn’t asked or even encouraged to do so, but I knew that I needed an education and I was going to utilize every available opportunity to get there. Newer coaches, however, find themselves stuck between needing to coach people as much as they can, while still needing to learn as much as they can about the coaching process. Ask Greg Glassman which is more important, mechanics or intensity? His answer is simple; both! The same goes for developing as a coach. It is equally important to get in front of individuals and groups and teach them what you know as it is to get serious about your own development as a coach and an athlete. My advice for new CrossFit trainers and affiliate owners is the following: • Find an experienced coach to be a mentor to you. • Coach your friends, coach your enemies, coach the mailman, just do it! • Learn from everyone you work with – trainers and fellow athletes alike • Read, a lot! Readers are leaders. • Keep up with your own coaching. Trade services if you have to, just find a way. • Don’t coach what you don’t know! You’ll lose the respect of your clients forever. We take our coaches’ development here at North Shore CrossFit seriously. Based on my experiences in becoming a CrossFit coach, Dave and I have developed an apprenticeship program at our facilities. Prospective coaches must be enrolled in our program full time, attending five to six group classes per week. As they learn the program, they begin shadowing classes and eventually lending a hand to the head coach. It is a long process, and it usually takes someone a year of apprenticing and seeking coaching from outside of the program to be at the acceptable level to teach one of our group classes. Regardless of their past experiences in the field, we have found time and again that rushing the process is dangerous for our clients and detrimental to the development of the coach. This weekend, my daughter’s doctor called my house at 8:30 PM to go over some test results from earlier in the day. By no means was there a life-threatening issue at hand, but this doctor takes my daughter’s health so seriously that she was analyzing the results at home on a Friday night. If you are working with a coach, make sure it is someone who takes their profession just as seriously. Regardless of what it is that you coach, dedication to your craft is paramount. You expect your clients to see the value in working with a good coach, so get out there and lead by example! _____ Danny Vadala ("Danny Vee") is a Crossfit Level 2 Trainer, a USAW Club Coach, and a CrossFit Certified Kettlebell and Running/Endurance Trainer. He is the Head Coach of North Shore CrossFit in Beverly, Massachusetts. ### More squats, please Again, separating my workout post from today's guest article. I worked low bar back squats again, my second attempt since Lu fixed these for me in Texas. I'm again using the new bar position and a narrower stance. Last week's weight felt easy today. I know Chuck Carswell would say that's irrelevant in measuring power, but I'll argue that at the very least, it's good for my confidence. Buy-in • 72 get-up sit-ups (12K), in an attempt to create a demo video that did not (a) cut off my head, (b) cut off my feet or (c) include any sloppy-looking reps. Sweet flying Jesus, I need to get a camera man. • Squat warm-up (stripper stretch, air squats, goblet squats) • LBBS warm-up with 45#, 75#, 95#, and 1 @ 115# LBBS, 3x5 @ 120# (same weight as last week)* • 5 @ 120# • 5 @ 120# • 5 @ 125# My form didn't get the requisite B+ last week, which technically means I shouldn't be moving up in weight. But my 120#s today looked GOOD on video replay, and they felt good, so I worked my last set up 5#. I think it was my best set of the day. I am confident that video review from my Trainer will OK me to do sets across at 125# (or even 130#) the next time out. I am feeling really close to sets of 5 at body weight (currently 135#), which has been a goal since I first learned the movement. Cash out • 10 KTEs + 5/5 presses (55#), for form ## Monday, February 16, 2009 ### Byers Gets Diesel Presents: Coaches Week I've been spending a lot of time lately posting my thoughts on the subject of coaching. As a newly certified Level I and a soon-to-be Affiliate owner, I have been working hard to improve my own skills as a trainer by attending certifications, teaching others, reading and researching subjects of interest and picking the brains of various CrossFit trainers and coaches. As a result of these efforts, I've had some great discussions with some really Smart people, on a variety of CrossFit-related subjects. I thought this week, I would dedicate my blog to sharing some of those conversations. Whether you are an experienced CrossFit trainer, a new Affiliate owner or simply a CrossFitter looking to give effective feedback to your fellow athletes, these next few posts should provide some (sugar-and-grain-free) food for thought. We'll start off with the most important coaching lesson I've learned thus far, and the one I apply the most frequently. If faced with a training-related question for which you do not have an answer, you'd better have someone on deck who is Smart enough to get the answer from. Since I am so new to the game, I am still lacking lots of answers. Luckily, I also know LOTS of Smart people. Jason M. Struck, RKC and owner of CrossFit Full Circle, is one of those people. So when someone posted a KB question here last week to which I did not have an answer... of course, I sent it straight over to Struck. "Jason" posed this question in my comments last week: "Why (does CrossFit use) the American Swing? Why not just Snatch? I see CF has videos of Jeff Martone teaching the snatch but we never see the KB snatch in any of Main Page WODs." Struck has more years of CrossFit and kettlebells under his belt than I do, and he is never lacking a colorful opinion. On anything. Whether you ask for it or not. On this subject, however, I was asking, and sure enough, he's provided a colorful opinion. The short answer is that the KB snatch is difficult to perform for high repetitions without very specific coaching... and that CrossFit has stepped away from exercises that are too equipment or coaching intensive. But that's just the short answer... Struck goes into the details on his blog, and offers some good advice concerning high-rep KB snatch training, and ways to sub KB snatches into your CrossFit WODs. His article is best read in situ, so I will direct everyone to River City Physical Culture to check it out. Poke around a little more while you're over there, too - Struck has a little bit of everything, from kettlebells to gymnastics to straight-up circus tricks. Also, when I see him next weekend at the CF Potomac Gymnastics Cert, we're gonna have a windmill-off, so you can place your bets in his comments section. He's a really good kettlebeller... but I think I look better in short-shorts, so it might be a close one. Stay tuned later this week for an article on "The Importance of Being Coached" by Danny Vee of North Shore CrossFit, a write-up on "Coaching with Empathy" by Lu Crenshaw of CrossFit Allegiance, and a tutorial on the Get-Up Sit-Up by yours truly. I mean, as a Coach-in-training, I should probably contribute to my own blog this week, right? Thanks to Struck for the post, and thanks to the original Jason for submitting the question. And one last thing - my Affiliate application is officially IN. Fingers crossed (no pun intended) for a quick response from CrossFit HQ. ## Saturday, February 14, 2009 ### The Path of the Buttercup Yesterday, I addressed “Constantly Varied” by (a) performing a new workout (b) in the middle of the day (c) while in a non-fasted state. I had an intro session with a new client at 2 PM, then took my first run at “Karen” (150 wall-ball shots, 12# ball). It sucked harder than I could have imagined. One hundred and fifty doesn't sound too bad... until you get to about number 50. I got to 50 and though, ah, HELL no. But I finished in 10:48, with the last 75 reps taking almost 2:00 less than the first 75. (I finally figured out if I caught the ball in a “throwing” position, I could catch and squat at the same time. DUH.) I’ve decided to take some extra rest this weekend – Saturday and Sunday. I’m feeling burnt out from the week – between the Level 1 Cert, a late night with CF Radio, a late night with Thursday’s training and a few new workouts, my body is one giant neon sign flashing, “SIT THE F*@# DOWN”. The subject of rest, recovery, overtraining and injury are hot topics on the CrossFit Boards. There are entire sections devoted to these subjects, and the debate between “should I rest or push through it?” is never ending. The Girl Power thread recently entertained this discussion, but from an interesting perspective. Emily Maissanes from Alexandria, VA wrote, “It always seems to me that pain and discomfort are inevitably handled the wrong way by most people. Either you are like most of “us”, and you're really tempted to train through it, and some make the mistake of doing it. The (other) kind of people…are the kind that use pain or discomfort as an excuse to give up the program all together. So why is it that we all deal with discomfort in the wrong way? Those that NEED rest are tempted not to take it (while others) use it as an excuse to throw their hands in the air and give up. What Emily was proposing is that both groups – the CrossFit population and less committed non-athletes – handle overtraining in the opposite fashion. “We” push through the pain, even when severe, while “they” choose to bail under only mild duress. From this, it sounds as though the motivation for both sets of actions – pushing through and bailing - are polar opposites. Upon thinking about it further, however, I propose that both groups are, in fact, doing the same damn thing. People naturally choose the path of least resistance. For the non-athlete, a little bit of pain (usually in the form of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS) is an easy excuse to abandon their program altogether. For those who aren’t committed, aren’t motivated, aren’t excited about hitting the gym, skipping their workout (or a week of workouts) requires the least amount of effort, and is quickly justified to themselves and others. “Better safe than sorry” is far easier to tell yourself than, “Suck it up, buttercup”, despite the fact that moving around is often helpful for general muscle soreness. As a CrossFitter, however, I know the difference between DOMS and overtraining, being beat up and being injured. Where I go wrong is ignoring that difference, and continuing to train through more serious conditions. See, MY path of least resistance is for me to ignore the pain, weakness or illness and simply push through it. That path is easy for two reasons. First, by pushing on (even when I know I shouldn’t), I can then maintain my Training Plan. The alternative is to take an unscheduled rest day, and deal with the consequences of having to abandon The Plan. So I will ignore pain in my shoulder if it's bench press and pull-up day, because, well... it's BENCH PRESS and PULL-UP DAY. And if I miss that, then when am I going to make up that workout? Because I can’t skip deadlift day. Or squat day. Or met-con day. I guess I could do two workouts on Saturday, but even I know that doesn’t sound very Smart. But if I miss pull-up day, then there is no way I’ll hit ten dead hangs by the time I visit CrossFit Brooklyn, and that CANNOT happen. So given all of these competing, confusing, seemingly unsolvable issues… it is easier just to stick to The Plan and train through the pain. Just as significant is the fact that unplanned rest can be even more mentally taxing than your physical training. Spontaneous and unwelcome days off can wreak havoc on a CrossFitter’s constitution. As Laura Kurth from Boston, MA, puts it, “Often (extra rest) can far surpass actual physical discomfort or pain. I know I need to rest, but my brain says - you are a wuss, you should just suck it up and do the WOD, all the cool kids are doing it”. Amen, sister. Successfully making it through an unplanned rest day is, for me, an exercise in mental discipline. I feel weak, lazy, chubby, slow. I feel like a quitter, a slacker... worse, I feel like a PRINCESS. And that little voice inside my head can be pretty persistent… which makes it even easier to just say, “Screw it, I’m going to the gym anyway”. But look... that course of action is no different than the other side of the coin, where the non-athlete would abandon the entire week's efforts because of one day of discomfort. Where the “difference” is often erroneously perceived is that to others, it appears as though I am so dedicated that I can will myself to train through anything. But pretending an injury or illness doesn't exist is taking the lazy way out... no different than giving up entirely. Recovery is an active process, and requires serious effort. I have to devote time and energy to my recovery – I have to get enough sleep, eat enough quality food, drink enough water, stretch and care for my muscles. I can't just sit back and expect it to happen all by itself - yet that is what I am trying to do, every time I decide to blindly follow my Plan despite being overtrained, ill or injured. So the next time you're thinking about taking the lazy way out, remember this - your recovery deserves just as much attention as your physical training, and demands just as much mental discipline. Which means that, “Suck it up, buttercup” may just need to be the mantra for your next REST day, too. For a great read on rest and recovery, hit the Again Faster archives. ## Friday, February 13, 2009 ### "Constantly Varied" hits home Last night, I hit Lakes Region Fitness (LRF) to test it out with my new CrossFit affiliate perspective. What equipment do we have? What do we need? How would we do Fran, FGB, or a CrossFit Total? I'll get into the evaluation of LRF as our new CrossFit base in a later post - overall, the evaluation was positive, which is good news. I also planned to meet up with Chris Meeken, who hit me on Facebook, excited about the possibility of some CrossFit in this area, and Kevin Daigle, my friend from MA, who wanted to do some more kettlebell training and hit a WOD. I figured this session would attack two of the three tenents of CrossFit at once - "constantly varied" and "high intensity". For one, I can't remember the last time I trained at night, and I normally hit Gold's in Manchester during the week. Right there are two variations - the first one, a pretty big deal. Two, doing a workout with Kevin pushes that intensity. While we planned to do different WODs, the fact that he would be there and glancing over every few minutes would make a difference in my efforts. I managed to work some KB swings (American, bitches) with my 20K and some KTEs to warm up before Chris dropped in to check the place out. We did a quick tour and talked about some ideas for the affiliate, and then he bounced and Kevin came in to do some KB stuff. I checked his Russian swing, and went through the American, the one-hand and alternating swings. I also reviewed his TGU (really good, two minor form tweaks and he was looking solid) and taught him the renegade row. Which, I'm pretty sure, kicked his ass. That movement has that effect on people. Then Kevin went through Cindy, and I hit the mats for some 3x5 DLs. There's only one decent pull-up bar at LRF (and "decent" is generous), so that is our first order of business. Can't do CrossFit without pull-ups, and I finally have the opportunity to build a GOOD pull-up bar - the owner of LRF is totally on board with that one. Buy-in: • 3 rounds, 20 swings (20K-A) + 10 KTEs • 45 minutes of KB coaching 3x5 Deadlift @ 160# (+5# from last session) • Warm-ups at 45#, 95#, 135#, 155# • 3 x 5 @ 160# (from a dead stop - reset each rep) Cash out: • Talk CrossFit, 40 minutes And "I Want To Be a CrossFit Affiliate" lesson #1... I do not like to pick up heavy shit after 9 AM. Heavy deadlifts at night suck. In fact, last night I realized how tough it is for me to train at night, in general. (Think about me waking you up at 4:30 AM and then pointing at a loaded barbell. How many of you would give me the finger and go back to sleep?) I am very much a creature of routine, and I like my AM training, and total down time after 5 PM. I use evenings as a time to catch up with projects or hang out with Scott or just read or watch a movie. So it was an eye opening experience last night to have to boot to the gym after work and be "ON" as a coach for the next hour, and THEN try to put out a solid performance as an athlete. I'm going to have to really challenge myself to mix up my routine without feeling off kilter. I'm going to need to schedule classes at all times of day, and I need to give my athletes the same energy and drive at 8 PM as I would at 8 AM. This is going to be an effort in personal development, as I have grown very comfortable in my routine and any deviation tends to leave my feeling unbalanced, anxious and kind of pissy in general. However, I owe this development to myself and my soon-to-be affiliate. And frankly, it's been a long time coming. I've grown comfortable, and my CrossFit Brooklyn t-shirt says specifically, "Performance is directly correlated with intensity. Intensity is directly correlated with discomfort". The best part of this effort towards "constantly varied" and getting uncomfortable? ALL of our training efforts (mine and my affiliate CrossFitters) will be better for the variety... and Chuck Carswell will be happy, too. Me and Daigle. Notice I'm holding the bigger kettlebell. I'm just sayin'... ## Thursday, February 12, 2009 ### The Affiliate Tramp finds a home First, I'd like to thank Neil and Justin from CrossFit Radio for having me on last night. I had a great time talking about kettlebells, CrossFit, the recent certifications I've attended and some of my favorite inspiring CrossFit moments. If you couldn't listen live, the MP3 will be available for download at some point in the next day or two. I had no idea during the interview that we had talked for so long - almost an hour. Jesus. No one needs to listen to me for an entire hour, but I thank those of you who did. In the final minute of the show, I had the opportunity to make my big announcement... I AM AFFILIATING. Yep, there's going to be another CrossFit Affiliate in NH, for all my fellow Lakes Region and White Mountain bad-asses. It's all coming together really fast, but I am ridiculously excited about taking this next step (towards Total World Domination). Details, as I have them so far... First, we haven't officially settled on a name yet - my Trainer and I are still working on finalizing that. Unfortunately, someone's already TAKEN "CrossFit Diesel". Bastards. (Just kidding - I am sure the guys that stole my identity are really nice people.) Second, we'll be running classes out of the Tilton area - that's a definite. I have a meeting with the Lakes Region Fitness folks tonight (where I currently teach kettlebell classes). It sounds like they are really excited to open up their gym to the CrossFit community, and that place has serious potential. At some point, I'll be looking for my own space, but for the first year or so, running things out of LRF (and hitting the high school track just behind it for summertime WODs) will be perfect. Third - well, there is no third. That's about all I've got for now. This is all happening really fast, so first order if business is getting my paperwork in and getting approved. Finally, here are some additional pictures from the Level I to round out the post, since I have no workout to contribute yet. In the spirit of my Level I, I am addressing both "Varied" and "Intensity" today by training tonight instead of this morning, and by having Kevin Daigle come up from MA to tag-team Cindy with me. Details to follow. Me and Jason "Rhabdo" Kaplan. Did you guys know Rhabdo has his own blog, documenting his road to the 2009 CF Games? Me, Pat Sherwood and EC And as for you, Arsenuk... THIS is for the alleged "sweaty belly" picture on Guerrilla's February 10th post. Ha. ## Wednesday, February 11, 2009 ### In Memory of Snicker Doodle Conley I met Coach Rippetoe and his new head trainer Justin Lascek at the Science Exercise Certification a few weeks ago. At some point, I mentioned to Justin that I had designed a few CrossFit logos and t-shirts. He hit me up the following week with one of the coolest projects I’ve been involved with to date. Justin’s email said: “CrossFit Wichita Falls is hosting a special CrossFit Total Meet on Saturday, February 28th. While the meet is a traditional Total (back squat, press, deadlift), the event is being held in honor of Snicker Doodle, a pet raccoon cared for and loved by two members of our gym. His recent passing was a sad day for all of us. In his honor, we are calling our event the Snicker Doodle Conley Memorial CrossFit Total Meet. Would you be able to come up with some kind of graphic for the web site, registration form and t-shirts?” Yes on all counts. For one, once I saw a picture of Snick, I fell in love with the little guy immediately. Two, it’s fun to branch out from the bad-ass vibe of your typical CF-related design. Three, this is a very cool event – who wouldn’t want to do a CrossFit Total at Coach Rip’s gym? I wanted to hear a little bit more about Snick, so I asked Justin to pull together some history for me. The below is a commemoration from Janet (Snick’s “Mom”), as displayed on the wall of the gym. "Snicker Doodle, our very special raccoon friend, was born on the warm night of May 10th, 1998. Discarded by his biological mom, he was born with a bad back. He never had the ability to climb like all the other raccoons, so he was always dependent on us. We raised and loved Snick like a child. He was involved in all our daily activities, like watching TV, taking showers, and eating dinner -- plus some of the bigger projects like working on the house and gardening with Mom. He was truly an angel sent from Heaven to teach us patience, anger management, and unconditional love. He always had a way of making us smile and making us stop and smell the roses of life. On January 11th, 2009, he died from old age. He lived 10 years and 8 moths longer than he should have, and he definitely lived a full and happy life. Although we are going to miss him so very much, we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. So Snick, go and play with your puppy and best friend Katie and climb all the trees you missed out on here in this life." And you are a heartless bastard if that didn't make you sniffle just a little. The SDCMCFTM will be held on Saturday, February 28th, with weigh-in at 11:00 AM and lifts starting at 1:00 PM. There is a$10 registration fee, which will include a commemorative event t-shirt. And Justin passes this message along: “Are you or your members worried about not training for it? Hogwash, says Rippetoe (or maybe it was something a bit more obscene). Just come out for a good time and a bit o' lifting.”

Visit the Wichita Falls Athletic Club web site to download the meet information and registration form. You can also e-mail Justin Lascek at jlascek@gmail.com for more information.

### Little bunny push-jerk

I'm keeping today's workout separate from the Snick post, because that deserves today's spotlight. I'm still pretty beat from the weekend, so I decided to work on my push-jerk form today in the form of a relatively light 5x5.

This past weekend was the first time I've been formally coached on the push-jerk. Not surprisingly, my form needs WERK. I took video today, which I will send to my Trainer for review. I'm hoping to get EC's take on it as well, as during our snatch skill session, she cautioned us about the "snatch-hop"... that little forward leap before you receive the bar. Well I've gone ahead and applied that to my push-jerk, which I suppose adds a bit to the "distance" component of power... but I'm pretty sure that's not what Chuck Carswell meant.

• Dislocates
• Coach Boz OHS warm-up
• Push-jerk, PVC
• Push-press, 45#
Push-Jerk skill (at 80%-ish of overhead 1RM)
• 5@55#
• 5@65#
• 5@70#
• 5@65#
• 5@65#
The first two or three jerks in each set were decent. The last two were a bit of a disaster, and the 70# reps kind of fell apart. It's not that they were heavy, my technique just fell apart. I am physically incapable of staying in my heels. There's just one cue missing - something that will click that concept for me. I noticed a few other things - my elbows drop a bit just before the push (not my torso, just elbows) and I am not moving my feet at ALL... there is no need to reset them between reps. Plus the whole bunny hop thing. Video tomorrow.

Cash out
• 25 KTEs, all reps must be valid (Ks touching Es or higher)
• Done in sets of 5, with 1:00 rest between
These are getting GOOD. The first three sets were beyond horizontal, as I'm working these in prep for the gymnastics cert and things like skin the cats and back levers. They're getting stronger fast - today was the first day I really felt my core and shoulder girdle working together. It gave me an extra few inches on almost all my reps.

## Monday, February 9, 2009

### Wheel of Fitness

I’ve had some time to think about what I learned at my Level 1 Certification this past weekend. The lectures were interesting, the demonstrations were fantastic, the skill work was exciting and the workouts hammered it all home. I took a ton of notes, impressed by the finer points of the clean, the ten components of fitness and the Zone diet. There were so many details - nuances in theory, information, movements, and I really thought those details were going to be the most important part of the weekend for me.

So I almost started to drift off a bit when they asked us, "What is CrossFit?" Sigh. Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Prior to the certification, I must have heard that statement 4,722 times, and recited it even more often. How could there be anything more to that concept? It's, like, three things. The words aren't even that big. Can we please get back to the push-jerk, because my dip-drive needs work.

Except just then, a funny thing happened. My brain started to actually listen to the words. Constantly varied. Functional movements. High intensity. Something in my head started to hum, and those words started to reshape themselves. And slowly, one piece at a time, my brain took those three simple concepts and redirected them to my attention like a hard-ass, tough love Wheel of Fortune puzzle conceived by Jon Gilson himself.

How "varied" are my workouts, really? Sure, I incorporate lots of different movements. I do an okay job with that - I work goats, I try new things, I use different tools. But how VARIED are my WORKOUTS? I always train the same days of the week. I always train at 6 AM, in a fasted state. I always train at Gold's Gym. I always train alone. I always spend one hour at the gym, regardless of how long the actual workout takes. Sound "varied" to you?

I thought I had this piece right, because the movements I program and the workouts I put together are pretty varied. But this weekend, I realized that you need to stress EVERY ASPECT of your training, in order to promote better general fitness adaptations. I am so comfortable with my early AM crew at Gold's, my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday routine, my 10 minute buy-in, my Friday deadlifts. I need to get outside that bubble of comfort and go train with Samy's Savages, or arrange a play date with another CrossFitter at their gym, or go outside and do something in the snow. I need to try hitting the big lifts at the end of the day, and see how my body reacts to being well fed, but tired. What about doing a 2-a-day once in a while, or trying the 3-1 schedule for a week or two? There are so many factors - an infinite number - that could be "varied". And the more I mix it up, the more of a well rounded athlete I will become.

Day One was all about the nine foundational movements. Air squat, front squat, overhead squat. Press, push-press, push jerk. Deadlift, SDHP, medicine ball clean. Nine movements, from which an enormous number of OTHER movements are based. Now, let's look back at my workout log and see how often I work my air squat. I'll save you the time - the answer is, pretty much never. (And trust me, it ain't 'cause it's perfect.) Compare that to how much I'm working my Sots press pistol - pretty much every week.

What is wrong with this picture? Sure, I like to work the sexy stuff. Pistols are sexy. Double-unders are sexy. Kettlebell windmills are sexy. But all the time I spend on those peripherals is time I could be spending building my athletic foundation. I'm not saying there is no time for the sexy stuff, but they belong in the buy-in, or the cash out... not in the bulk of my workouts. The workouts belong to the foundational exercises - learning them well, working them hard and (for some), going heavy. And if I learned one thing this weekend, it's that working on my air squat and press is going to do nothing but good things for those hot, hot Sots pistols.

It is the constant, annoying, jabbing poke from my brain that still continues to this very second... "YOU ARE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH". And dammit, my brain is right. Let's take this weekend's Fran, for example. I scaled it WAY down... I wasn't sure about the weight, and the time limit, so I used 45# for my thrusters. Made sense to me, considering my attempt two weeks ago with 55# was littered with broken thrusters, and took me over 14 minutes to get through.

Except damn if I didn't do every single thruster in my first AND last set unbroken. That is 21 unbroken thrusters, then a set of 10/5, then a full set of 9. I finished this weekend's Fran with 45# in 5:00 and change. With 55# thrusters, it took me over 7:00 to finish the first ROUND.

What does that tell you? Did I magically get SO much stronger in the last week leading up to the cert? Ha. I wish. It just means that the last time I did Fran, I was seriously slacking in my intensity. Just one example of the fact that I am not working hard enough - and believe me, there were many more along those lines during the weekend. (The fact that my (cert-fueled) BTB tabata score was the same as my last (Gold's Gym) regular old tabata score is very, very telling.) Good news is, this could be tied back to "constantly varied", where I'm always training by myself with no one to push me, yell at me, compete with me. So while I need to ramp up the intensity on my own, I can also give it a jump start (and hit two "lessons" at once) by visiting CrossFit NH for a workout, or inviting Daigle up to LRF for some kettlebell work and a few rounds of Helen.

And finally I can tie all of these in together with the last big-picture revelation from the weekend... if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. I mean, I'm a business analyst in my day job. You'd think I would have figured that part out. But no - I mix up workouts, rep schemes, weights too frequently. I do stuff "for practice" and I put more stock in how it FEELS, not how it actually WAS according to the load, the distance moved, the time it took.

I will tell you this, though... if I'm going to be really pushing my intensity, then I'm damn sure going to make sure I've got something concrete to show for it. So I'm going to start repeating workouts now, calculating power, determining my real products of fitness. Let's start measuring in cold, hard stats all of these things my brain is telling me I need to do better.

In conclusion, while I did learn the finer points of the push-press dip and the effect of carbohydrates on insulin levels and all the other details that the certification so neatly packaged for me, what I came away with was something so much biggger than the sum of all the parts. I would even call it EPIC. Mix it up. Get back to basics. Work harder. Those three short and unassuming lessons alone have already made me a smarter athlete. And you can bet that the second I set foot back in the gym on Wednesday, they're going to make me a FITTER athlete, too.

3, 2, 1, GO.