I Bet You Have Done CrossFit to Justin Bieber and Didn’t Even Know It

I recently had a conversation with one of the coaches where I do CrossFit about music. He wanted to do an experiment where he did not play any music during class. I want to say I encouraged this idea, but well, I did not.  I have been in class once or twice without music and bitched the entire time. I suggested perhaps he phase it out once the workout starts to see if anyone even notices. Much to my chagrin, the Great Music Experiment never happened (which, if it had, this blog may have been written very differently. Not to point any fingers, Ricky!)

Anyways, working out often is synonymous with music. We cannot workout without music, or more specifically without the right music. I agree with this… to a degree. There are tons of articles out there in regards to the benefits of listening to music: how the beat of music can match the cadence of your heartbeat. Or how the right tempo or song can boost your effort: the faster the beat the faster you move.

In my own experience, music does matter to me when I am working out solo. With running, I need music that gets me hyped up the same way it does when I am home procrastinating on putting laundry away. I blast Spotify to get me moving because for some reason, the idea of moving around my room putting items in the closet and drawers without music sounds like pure torture. There is something with music that gets me motivated.  When I think about kickboxing, I would not want to be punching a bag with a sappy Celine Dion song playing. Hearing “My heart will go on” are not the most inspiring words to give a swift left hook to the bag. When I take cycling classes, I strongly believe in the concept of “shared energy” which music is a big attributing factor. It gets people excited, nostalgic even when an old favorite comes on, and gets people to pump those legs harder.

Yet, when it comes to my steady favorite, CrossFit, I want to ask, how important is music to the workout? I may notice what is playing during the strength portion because there tends to be sets with rest in between. However, when it comes to the workout portion, I notice what is playing for maybe the first ten seconds, but after that, I could not tell you if it was Justin Bieber playing or Metallica. (And for the record, if you are rolling your eyes at the Bieber reference, I defy you to deny that he actually has talent). At any rate, I am curious, who else experiences this in CrossFit or am I on my own lonely planet? What other workouts do you feel music is more of a supporting role than a lead?

The more I think about this topic of how important is music to working out, particularly CrossFit, I come up with question after question. I could attempt to answer them, which I have contemplated the reasons within the confines of my own brain, but it brings me deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. So in the spirit of interaction, I am deliberately leaving much of this open ended. I would LOVE to get feedback from all of you as to your thoughts and perspectives.

Let’s start with the obvious: why? Why do I not notice what is playing? I mean, I am aware something is playing, and I am fairly certain if the music stopped, I would notice (mainly because I would hear my breathing coming through in full force). So what is it about CrossFit that is different than other workouts? Like cycling, it’s shared energy, yet it does not seem that music is the driving force. So if it is not what creates energy, what does? As I ask that, I suppose the answer is fairly obvious. With cycling for example again, it is instructor lead. They drive the pace and the intensity. For the most part, you are pushing yourself just as hard as the person next to you. Sure, you may require less resistance on the bike than the next, but generally speaking, people are moving at similar speeds. (It is not like driving 50 on a highway with someone coming up next to you going 80).

Perhaps with CrossFit, it generates a different kind of energy.  It generates a sense of competition WHICH IS A GOOD THING. It could be competition with the clock, competition with fellow athletes or competition with ourselves.  In all instances, I believe, as is the case with me, perhaps I am more focused on other variables. I am focusing on keeping good form. I am focusing on mentally pushing through some difficult reps. I am focusing on not burning out too fast and losing my lead on the person next to me. Are these valid reasons why music really does become background noise?

Is it that with CrossFit, it is not about just getting a workout or burning calories?  Is it that it is so varied, you do not get into a rhythm like other sports? If I compare it running, I tend to want to get to a steady running pace and stick with it. I also recognize though there are all sorts of training to do with running, from intervals to sprints. For all you avid runners, I am curious, does music, particularly what music is playing, factor into how well you train?

The funny thing is, I know a lot of coaches who put a lot of time into playlists for classes. I am wondering though, is it necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I have been known to yell out “what the hell are we listening to?” I’ve worked out to music that sounded more suited for the bedroom (and I voiced that complaint). But again, in looking back, I really only think part of the class I am even aware of what is playing. There comes a point, as I said usually within seconds of when the clock starts, that what is on that playlist does not even matter, at least not consciously.  On the flip side though, does it somehow impact us even if we are not cognizant of what we are hearing?

I can go on more about this, but I suppose I should ask a telling question that will either validate or disclaim this blog post. For those who CrossFit, can you name a song you heard while you were last getting your sweat on?

 

*In lieu of not yet having a trademark to put on my blog, consider this a small Public Service Announcement. I am all for sharing my writing (in fact I am flattered!) Please just give credit where credit is due. Thank you.

 

To All You Creatures of Habit: Go Towards The Unexpected

 

A few weeks ago, a close friend of mine was raving to me about a product, keto/os, she had been trying and was 100% sold on. She had all this sudden energy and new found excitement and lust for life. She was so smitten with it that I naturally wanted to try it. I barely needed any other information because hello? Who wouldn’t want more energy? I got my ketone samples a few days later and within a few days, I completely and utterly understood why she was elated over ketones. I too was hooked.

My friend gently nudged me about how I would be perfect to promote. She told me I embody health and fitness. I love CrossFit and I love working out and she was positive that it would be a natural step for me to take. I was hesitant to say the least primarily because I do not consider myself to be the sales type AT ALL. If anything, it is nothing I ever envisioned myself doing. Yet, something about the proposition was appealing to me. I could not deny that she was right about my passion, and let’s be honest. Any chance I get to talk about it, I gladly do whether it is in a meeting at work, bumping into a friend or chatting after a workout  with my fellow athletes. When she pointed out that is it not a sales thing when it is something that is an authentic part of my life, I knew she was quite right. It’s a lifestyle I am completely on board with and essentially really all I am doing is sharing that with others. She’s a smart woman who I trust (and for the record, the only person I would trust to lead me on this journey) and so I signed up. I got myself samples and well, here I am, just a few weeks later. I am not the top promoter by any means (YET!) , but I definitely am an improved version of myself.  And here is why.

It’s like this crazy confidence booster.  The primary way that I have been generating hype and interest is by posting on social media. I have had quite a few unexpected people reach out to me asking, “OK, Missy, I am intrigued. What are these ketones you are taking?” It is gratifying to me and a testament to my character, to my integrity that friends and acquaintances (even family!) trust and respect me enough to know that if I am raving and posting relentlessly about anything, it is because I completely believe in it. I am not trying to scam anyone or stimulate interest on something that I think is mediocre. I have had people reach out to me who I haven’t exchanged a single word with in years. I am humbled knowing that they trust me. I am humbled that they are not shying away from reaching out to me. I am humbled knowing that they do not view me as like an annoying infomercial on social media. One woman in particular, who I have not seen in two years, even told me that she reads my blog posts and gets inspired (in addition to wanting to learn more about ketones). Total bonus. It really fills my heart with this new warmth and bliss knowing I am having an impact on others.

Similarly, for those who have tried keto/os (the product I am promoting) l I have received so many messages telling me how much they are loving it. They are experiencing the same things I am that are almost hard to describe. They are full of energy, full of excitement and vigor. They are feeling stronger when they workout and are just overall feeling recharged.  It is so gratifying for me to know that I am playing a part in sharing this with people and guiding them to embrace this lifestyle. It’s filling a void I suppose I had without even knowing it. I have always been passionate about health and fitness and I always derive enjoyment whenever people talk to me about it or ask me about my experiences or for advice. With ketones, it harnesses those same emotions and qualities, but it is on a whole different level. People are taking my recommendation on a product that sounds like it is too good to be true (spoiler alert, it is that good! And there is nothing fantastical about it.  It is as real as it gets). Our bodies are sacred and I completely understand why people are cautious about what they put into them. So along with their own research and my little humble opinion, they are deciding to try it. And I thank everyone who has. I thank them because it is truly the highest form of flattery.

Another really rewarding aspect of this new journey is all these people I am getting to know that I would probably not otherwise have crossed paths with. I am meeting so many other women (albeit virtually) who are promoting for keto/os and every day I find myself absolutely inspired and awestruck by them. (For the record, there are plenty of men who are also part of the keto/os family). It is really special and unique to be promoting for something along with all these other women who are so completely and utterly vested in. We chat all the time about the importance of being positive, manifesting our intentions and what we want from the universe. I realize it sounds really cheesy and like I am in a hippie time warp and maybe it is and maybe I am. For me though, it is nurturing this part of me that clearly is shouting to be heard. We share information on ketones,  we seek advice, we share successes (and failures).  Through it all, it’s like there is this understood and agreed upon no-negativity policy. Sure we vent about frustrations but we do not spend much time in those lows. We learn, we encourage and we move on. We all live in different places across the country (Kentucy, New Mexico, New jersey to name a few..) and we all lead very different lives. We all also have our own different angles and spin on how we promote ketones. Yet we all have this common ground and respect. It is the most unique “work” environment I have ever been in. Perhaps I am in a bit of a euphoria because I do not look at this like a job (and yes I am not solely supporting myself on promoting). But it is like a dream work environment where EVERYONE seems to be on the same page. It is not something that happens everywhere, and I am no fool to ever take it for granted.

I am a total creature of habit, which can be good but it also can be limiting. Promoting is something that is so far out of my comfort zone and completely out of my norm, yet in this short time, it is already opening my eyes to things I would not have been receptive to otherwise. It is reminding me that it is ok to go after things even if they seem to defy my norm.  (If you read my blog last week, this nicely ties together. Link here). It is reminding me to trust. Trust myself. Trust the universe. Trust that things happen for a reason. I have no idea where promoting ketones will take me. I have no idea if it is my end game. I have no idea if it is short term or long term. And all of that is ok. Right now, it is in my life for a reason and I am going to get the most out of it. The most important aspect in all of this is that it is something I am not doing on my own. I get to share it with all of you and so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for going along with me.

 

 

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Judge: 6 Tips and Tricks for Making Your Next CrossFit Competition Gratifying

 

I had a blast this weekend judging at the BattleGround CrossFit competition in San Pedro (despite the dreadful farmer’s tan I am now sporting).  As a judge (and even a spectator), I got to see the good, the bad and the ugly. I witnessed inspiring moments as well as cringe worthy ones. For those who have competed before or intend to compete for the first time, I want to share them with you. (As a side note, competing is something all of you should consider at some point for the sheer experience of it.  It is like nothing else you will do). When you do compete, I want you to have the best experience doing it. It is not always about winning and for most of you, it is going to be about getting out of your comfort zone to really shock and amaze yourselves.

  1. Have a game plan. This seems obvious, yet not everyone goes into a competition prepared. For most competitions, the movements and workouts are announced before the big day. Prior to the competition, ideally you have time to do a test run or at a minimum, practice the movements. Have a plan for how you want to execute. You may consider planning how you want to break up reps or which movements you want to move faster through to compensate for another movement that you anticipate being harder to push through. For teams you want to know who is doing what to make it as flawless as possible. Athletes tend to feel more prepared and confident going in when they know what their part is.

    I had the honor of judging one of the RX teams as well as a few scaled teams, one in particular which is most memorable.  I was equally impressed by both despite that the RX  team had competed before while the scaled team was competing for the first time.  Both teams stayed in step with their mates, and nobody dominated or took over. They went in assured (even considering they were nervous!) and walked away feeling triumphant. It was beautiful to see.

    On the contrary, I judged a team who was well, to put it bluntly, a hot mess. They had no game plan and their communication was atrocious. They barely knew what the workout was (which is also indicative of a lack of preparation or simply not listening to the organizers go over in detail the workouts prior to the first heat). I have yet to see a team ever (in my times judging as well as competing) where “winging it” worked out well. Granted, competitions are whatever you make of it and for some, they may not care how they get it done as long as they do get it done. I would say though you will enjoy competing more if you feel prepared and have a plan.

 

  1. Communicate with your teammates! I cannot stress this point enough. Of all the teams I judged, the ones that inspired me the most were the ones who communicated well with each other. They had a plan going in and performed like a true team. They knew who was doing what and they did not stumble. They also encouraged each other before and during. They were respectful towards each other and communicated calmly. It really made a difference in how they executed. It also built team camaraderie because they could trust one another.

    Something else that you may not consider until game day is that competitions are quite noisy with music, spectators, announcers, etc. When verbal communication is not an option, you will need to rely on body signals or head nods to communicate to your team. Equally important though is that you need to establish in advance what physical cues to look for. The Hot Mess Team, for example, had none of that. They barely looked at each other which made their transitions sloppy. They lost a bit of time and got many no reps.  They also got to the end of the workout where it was a team relay of a 200 meter run followed by 5 burpees (each person had to do this before the next went). When it came time to do this, they all were standing around not knowing what to do or who was going.  I had to shout, “GO!” before someone finally made a move.

    Lack of communication leads to a higher level of stress and poor output, which is the opposite of what you want when competing. Pay attention to your teammates both verbally and visually. Know when someone needs help or when someone needs a word of encouragement to keep going. Know when to go.

 

  1. Communicate with your judge! Before each heat, I prefer having a moment to talk with the athletes. I like to tell them my counting scheme. For example, trying to count someone else’s double- unders is one of the hardest things to do when judging. There is also no way to count each one out loud and keep up with what rep they are on. I would count out loud by10’s. I would tell the athletes this before they started so that they did not lose focus or worry that I was daydreaming and not counting.  They appreciated this and thanked me for it.

    Some of the teams and individual competitors even told me ahead what their game plan was which makes it easier to judge. For example, the RX team told me that the male was doing all the bar muscle ups and then the female would start on the snatches. This made it more efficient for them (and me) as I knew who to look at for reps (and it did not cost them time waiting on me).

    On the contrary, the Hot Mess Team, as they showed up at the last minute before starting the workout, missed the opportunity to know my game plan in terms of counting. This lead to them asking me a million questions as I was judging which as a judge is absolutely annoying and distracting.  I am pretty sure this cost them extra reps because it took my attention away from counting. Had they communicated with me ahead of time, we also would have been more in sync and they would have a more fluid time competing. (This team was my least favorite to judge… can you tell?)

    Bottom line on this point, just like you should communicate with your teammates, you will want to communicate with your judges.

 judge.jpg

  1. ALWAYS set properly before executing. In competitions, nerves (and often inexperience) results in athletes going for a movement, particularly barbell lifts, before even setting properly. And quite often, that leads to failed movements (aka the dreaded NO REP!). If they do manage to hit it, it’s ugggggggly (and cringe worthy as that is typically when injuries happen). One of the workouts in the BattleGrounds was a clean ladder where the teams had 4 minutes to get as many lifts as possible, with each athlete being able to attempt 2 before tagging in the next athlete. I saw athletes running from platform to platform going right into lifts and those were the ones that often failed. Setting up is so key! When I watched the more seasoned athletes, they all took those few extra seconds to set up and they executed beautifully. (Haste makes waste guys!) And I get it, everyone feels the pressure of the clock and every second matters. It is better though to take that extra 3 seconds to set and get that rep than not and fail (which means less points).

 

  1. Stay calm and composed. Similar to setting properly, it is so important to not let your nerves take over. Quite a few of the no reps I had to make were because athletes lost focus, like on double -unders. Those are just a tricky movement to begin with and they are one of the easiest to flub on. One you get out of rhythm it causes frustration (and continual fails). Athletes got in their own heads and instead of taking that extra second to regain composure (much like setting properly on barbell lifts), they would trip themselves up.

    Losing composure also happened when athletes were so determined to go fast, they ended up inadvertently cheating movements (and getting no reps). I even saw athletes start scanning their neighboring competitors to see how far ahead or far behind they are.  This resulted in them losing focus and slowing down.

    It is so important to stay composed and stay focused on what YOU are doing.

 

  1. Give yourselves time to prepare. When the announcer says “athletes in Heat 4, please go to the field”, GO! As awesome and tirelessly as the volunteers work to get everything set up, there will always be unexpected snafus. Sometimes the bars may not have the right weight on them (as sometimes people’s lanes get reassigned at the last minute). There was a team (ok fine, it was the Hot Mess Team) who showed up late and almost did not have the chance to get the right weight for the women’s bar. They were close to having to contemplate snatching 95 pounds instead of 75. Showing up promptly gives athletes a chance to check their equipment, do a few warm ups even, and get themselves situated on the right bar on the rig. For us shorter athletes, we want to ensure we can reach the bar to do pull-ups. Similarly, for the taller athletes, there were cases where they were assigned to a lower bar and had the chance to move to a higher bar for muscle-ups.

    We all are used to working out at our respective boxes which means we are familiar with the equipment and set ups. At competitions, even though you are doing the same movements you have done before, there will be an element of unfamiliarity and discomfort initially. Give yourself time to get to comfortable before you hear that buzzer to start.

 

These are all really easy and practical guidelines to follow when competing. Follow them and you will have a much better experience competing. So go get after it (and let me know how it goes!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

One Week Left in the CrossFit Open: Time to Get Smart

Foreword: What is the CrossFit Open? Well according to the CrossFit games website https://games.crossfit.com/about-the-games it is a test to find the “Fittest on Earth”. To get there, the first step is the Open which anyone over 14 can do at affiliates around the world. Thousands and thousands and thousands of athletes register not to make it to the games, but to test their own fitness for 5 weeks enduring 5 grueling workouts.

With just one mysterious and sure to be harrowing workout left in the 2017 CrossFit Open, it is the perfect opportunity to regroup and remember what is important as we go into the final stretch. To date, I have seen so many inspiring moments that make me pretty emotional actually. (I love seeing my fellow athletes triumph and conquer).  I have also been witness to many of the downsides of the Open. In all the hype, it is quite easy to lose focus. Many athletes forget that The Open is not about where you place on the leader board. It is about how you tackle it, both mentally and physically.  It is about exposing weaknesses so that you stop running from them and start working on them. It is about how you did compared to yesterday and about where you want to be tomorrow.

  1. There is no shame in scaling. There’s a misconception that when it comes to the scaling option that it will not be challenging or it is seemingly easy. For those who are not quite at RX but (they perceive themselves) to be above scaled, they often are torn as to which to do? Do you go out of your comfort zone to RX or do you scale and just haul ass? The question should be, which makes sense for you and your goals?Athletes need to understand there is no shame is scaling. People often want so badly to RX because they think it has more prestige. Maybe it does but it is not about prestige. It is about doing what your body can handle and using it as a benchmark. Take 17.4* for example. The women’s deadlift weight was 155 (RX) versus 95 (scaled). If 155 is close to your 1 RM, my personal philosophy is why why WHY would you want to do that? You may get a few reps but you probably will not advance to the next part. 55 reps are A LOT which will inevitably lead to form being compromised (which is not a good thing)-if you can even lift the bar after a few reps. A friend of mine thought the scaled would not be hard at all, and despite that her 1 RM is about 160, she contemplated doing RX. Fortunately (and thankfully after our coach told her hellll no), she did decide to do scaled. And guess what? It was still a challenging workout despite that it was not RX. And guess what else? She killed it scaled and walked away feeling gratified.
  1. The Open is not the end all be all. Many athletes get so hell bent on achieving greatness in an Open workout as if it is the only ever true defining moment. The Open ought to be viewed as a milestone to set new goals to work towards for the next year. The Open is not the last chance to successfully ever complete a movement or get a new PR.  Doing 17.4* twice in one day just to attempt to get your first ever Hand-Stand-Push-Up (HSPU), for example,  is not advisable and can be argued that it is rather foolish. (athletes get Rhabdo making choices like that).  Not to mention, that perceived ego is what gives the CrossFit community a bad rep.

    Similarly (and in my own personal experience), for 17.3*, I knew going into it my goal was just to get to the chest of bar pulls up in the 4th round, and then gracefully call it quits. I was asked why I didn’t even try to snatch 95 pounds, and my response was because it’s 20 pounds over my 1RM. It’s like a 0.00421% chance I could snatch it. If I ever want to challenge my 75 pound PR, I rather do it strategically and not in an open workout where not only am I beyond my capability, I would be extremely fatigued with bad form (which would  be compromising to my health even if I failed). I would prefer setting a new PR on any old day when the strength portion calls for snatches.  I would be able to SMARTLY work up to (jumping from 65 pounds to 95 pounds as was the case in 17.3* is a ridiculously big jump for an average munchkin like myself). I do not want to go that heavy when I am racing against a clock. I am confident I can snatch more than my existing 1 RM, but I don’t need the open as the forum to try it.

    There are plenty of chances after the Open to reach your goals, so do not put unrealistic pressure on yourself to achieve something when you are quite frankly just not ready for it.

  1. Focusing on the “can’t”. There are always going to be times that even the best of the best will come across movements they struggle with or simply cannot do. Bitching about them though is counterproductive. There were a lot of complaints, for example, on social media about how unfair it was to have pull-ups in 17.2* for the scaled workout. “But I do not have pull-ups!” and  “This is ostracizing a lot of the CrossFit community” and other sentiments were expressed. If you look at the history of the CrossFit Games, the programming gets increasingly more difficult every year. Take last year’s Games where ring hand-stand push-ups  and the peg board were introduced. Many of the most elite competitors struggled with them.  It took them further out of their comfort zone which is the point.  I strongly believe it is symbolic of how much more evolved CrossFit is getting, and that the standards are constantly being set higher and higher. It demonstrates there are always scales with varying degrees of difficulty to achieve. Never stop at the next progression and never focus on not being where you want to be. If you can only get jumping pull-ups today, that just means you will work harder to get to pull-ups. And once you get pull-ups, you will find yourself one day doing weighted-pull-ups and bar muscle ups. It is about where you go and not where you start.

 

For the most part, I kept my sanity throughout the Open. Yes, I had moments where I wish I did better (like why the hell was it so hard to lunge with two 35 pound dumbbells? And why am I a snail on the rower? I wanted a HSPU!).  What prevailed for me is constantly reminding myself that this last year has been the first year since I started CrossFit that I have not been injured.  It is like every prior year of CrossFit for me was practice and full of mistakes, bad form and bad judgment. This is the first time in ages that I consistently have felt healthy and strong. In my recovery, I have focused on solid form, training smartly and progressively gaining strength back (and beyond). So during the open when I had moments of self-doubt or longing to be higher on the leaderboard, I reined them in by telling myself well this is far more than I would have been able to do a year ago. And I am damn happy with that. I cannot worry about how I ranked against other people because as we have established, it is not about that. It is really about me. I want to walk away feeling good about what I accomplished and not beating myself up for what I fell short on.

snatch.jpg

Do not become one of those people who are ruled by the whiteboard or the Open. It is just 5 weeks and 5 opportunities out of hundreds a year where you will have endless chances to continue to be a bad ass. And to continue to be an even more fierce bad ass than you thought you ever could be. Go into this last week of the Open with an open mind and a mature perspective. Do not worry about what the person next to you is doing. Do not worry about what you cannot do. Focus on what you can and you will leave this crazy experience feeling accomplished.

 

*To see the 2017 workouts, click here

 

 

4 Common Reasons CrossFitters Divorce Boxes

*Foreword: Since I anticipate being asked by several inquiring minds if this post means that I am not happy and switching boxes, let me clear the air and emphatically say, no… and yes. No, I  am not unhappy. Yes, there is truth in that there is a possibility I may make another box change, but that possibility is always there. (Ok so I just answered that like a politician…)  Your next question is, am I directly correlating the points below to where I currently CrossFit? Again, no and yes. I have been a member of 3 boxes, I have dropped into at least half a dozen other ones and I have friends at boxes around the country. So know that this post is not commentary on any one box in particular. It’s my collective experience and feedback.  Of course there are parallels to where I CrossFit now (admittedly both negative and positive, but that’s also any box).  When you read this blog, you will see that CrossFit is not cut and dry and it’s a journey. If this post causes any waves, I view that as a positive. I am ok with being  a wave.

Anyone who loves CrossFit will attest that it is a journey, and that is why it is not surprising that many of our journeys take us from box to box. It is really easy to fall in love with CrossFit and to fall in love with the box you sign up at. It is also just as easy to fall out of love. I wish there were published stats as to the percentage of athletes who switch boxes but if I had to guess  in my unscientific opinion based on experience and observation, I would venture to say it happens more times than not. Possibly at least 50% of the CrossFit population changes boxes. I personally have switched boxes twice in pursuit of adjusting to my own journey and doing what made the best sense for me at those times.

This begs the question obviously: what do athletes and members look for in a box? More importantly, what keeps members loyal and happy?

  1. Coaching.  Strong, great, dedicated coaches are an absolute must have. Great coaches can really keep members happy. They have positive energy and are encouraging. They are 100% focused while coaching. They treat members equally. They know athletes’ strengths and weaknesses so that they can give proper cues and instructions.

    When I think about why coaching is so important, I find two distinct reasons: One is to of course keep athletes safe and continuously progressing.  We perform complex and technical moves that when not done correctly lead to a high propensity for injury. NOBODY wants that, and so we rely heavily on stellar coaching.

    The other reason is because CrossFit  is a business and athletes are paying members. We expect the same professionalism we would get anywhere. This may be harsh but it needs to be said. Just like coaches expect a positive attitude and a can-do mentality from athletes, it’s reciprocal. Coaches expect athletes to come in and give it their all, and that is no different than what athletes expect of their coaches. Athletes do not want to be coached by someone who is paying more attention to their phone than the athletes working out.  And I get it. We are all human, including coaches. People can’t be “on” 100% every day. Off days will happen, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

    When an athlete feels like their coaches are checked out or not giving them the right amount of attention, it is to be expected that they are going to sign divorce papers to find a better suited box.

  1. Programming. This is possibly my #1 criterion these days. People want to get the most out of the hour they spend a day at their box. They want programming that is methodical and part of a bigger plan. Athletes want to constantly be challenged and see improvement.  Athletes want consistency without getting burned out. We want to be pushed beyond our limits smartly, and conversely, we do not want to walk away from a workout feeling like it was a warm-up.

    It happens that athletes may even outgrow programming at their boxes. I have seen blogs and posts and have had conversations on this topic.  Often athletes find they need to switch boxes to either train with more competitive people or have more competitive programming. I do not look at it necessarily as a slight to any box. Every box has to cater to a different demographic. For example, I drop into a box back east where many of their members do not have prior weight lifting experience and can get spooked by heavy weights. So their programming caters to that.

    If I am being honest, one of the reasons I have left th­­­e first two boxes I trained at was because of inconsistent programming. The programming each day was good, but collectively I did not find it to have a long term plan. While I respect there are benefits to having different coaches program on a rotating schedule, I found, for me, it did not work. Some months might be heavy on gymnastics while others may be highly focused on squats. I rather do everything regularly but more strategically and evenly distributed. I am highly prone to injury (and I am no spring chicken) which means I need to treat all muscles equally. I cannot afford to favor or discriminate.

  1. CrossFit is a business. I alluded to this in my first point about coaching. Members pay for a service so like any other business transaction, they shell out anywhere from $100 to $400 a month to get something back in return. So in addition to remarkable coaching and programming, there are many other factors that play into expectations when it comes to thinking of CrossFit as a business.

    It is like when I go to get my hair done or my nails done (yes I love my nails), I expect  the space to be clean, sanitary and safe. It shows pride and maturity by having a smart, positive space. Being a business also means that there is a schedule that works for athletes. Logistics play a big part in why people join a box and why they leave. Unlike global gyms where you can go whenever you want, having a class schedule that works for you is key in picking and staying at a box. When class schedules change (or jobs change or athletes move houses), it will happen that a box switch is inevitable.

    Being a business means constantly changing. I work for an Entertainment-Telco company, and I see this theme loud and clear every day. If we still sold only traditional cable and installed land lines, we would be out of business. To change, that means the owners and coaches need to be attuned to what the trends are, what the CrossFit market demands are, and what members and aspiring members require. CrossFit is ever evolving and continuously exploding which is a marvelous thing! Keeping up with it though I can appreciate,  is not easy but it is an absolute necessity. This is the perfect time to mention a perk of having a diverse membership. We come from all different walks of life with different skills and talents to offer. People who CrossFit WANT to help their box not because they expect monetary compensation. They want to help because it is their community and they have a vested interest in assisting to make it the best ever. Members are essentially a whole pool of business resources that should be tapped.

  1. Speaking of community, that is another reason it itself why people join and leave boxes. It is like dating: sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. Much like how boxes have to cater to their demographics, athletes need to find the demographic and vibe that works for them.

    Community in the world of CrossFit also implies that members look for more beyond just the classes, coaching, programming and the business side of it. Most boxes heavily promote their members and offerings on social media. They keep people connected so even if you go to 6 am class, you still may interact (albeit virtually) with the 7 pm class. Community also means Paleo challenges, burpee challenges (yes this is a good thing), social events and a slew of other non-workout specific activities. They all promote happy and healthy living, which is fundamentally what CrossFit is about.

    Good boxes in my opinion are inclusive. Anyone should feel welcome in any class they walk into. The responsibility of this does not just fall on the coaches and owners.  It is something that all members need to be accountable for.

Even though I do not personally own a box, I would be willing to bet many owners would agree that enticing members to join a box is hard and keeping them is even harder. My advice to owners and coaches for whatever it is worth is to listen to your members. Listen to your colleagues. Listen to what social media says. With boxes sprouting up everywhere, there are a lot of options for athletes. People will leave if they do not feel like their needs are being met.

To athletes, know that every box is unique and sometimes it takes being immersed in one to decide if it suits you or not. Athletes who CrossFit ultimately want to be their best selves mentally and physically, and should have the freedom to decide what environment, what box, will best foster that.

When I left my prior two boxes, I had very different experiences with the owners. One treated it more matter-of-factly  and basically just gave me the terms of my termination and the terms if I were to decide to rejoin. The other appealed more to the human side of me. He was heartfelt in wanting me to stay and was genuinely interested to know why I was choosing to leave. He listened to my feedback and vowed to make changes and even offered me a free month to give it another chance. While I politely declined, that box has been thriving, and so I would say it’s a testimony to his abilities as a good business owner.

Anyways, I digress.  I have so many points I can still make but I will leave you with this. Like anything else, there are pivotal points in any journey where you need to reevaluate where you are and where you want to go. Both times I switched boxes they were really hard for me to do. It is like switching jobs or moving or starting/ending a relationship. There are pros and cons but ultimately you have to do what’s best for you. I strongly believe if people can find all of the 4 mentioned things (good coaching, good programming, a business centric box and community) they are more inclined to be a loyal happy member.

 

 

The Lost Art of Journaling When it Comes to CrossFit

I picked up the habit of journaling years ago from my former Personal Trainer, Drew. He got me one of those little itty-bitty-tiny-hand-sized notebooks where we would write my workouts in along with the weights I did, scales and times I completed them in. It was by no means fancy, but it was efficient.  I still have that journal and am grateful for it, not just for the entertainment value . (I laugh at the scales I used or the “heavy” squat days I had). It is really easy for me to see how much I have improved since then and how much I continue to get stronger. Incidentally, my trainer had told me when I started working out with him, that he became certified as a trainer when he was in the army, which he was just coming out of.  A few years later, when I found that very same journal, I was struck by how oddly similar the workouts were to CrossFit.  I saw things like “Jackie” and “workout for time” scribbled in. It turns out Drew had been certified specifically in CrossFit (and either he neglected to mention that minor detail or he did and I just had no clue or appreciation for what that was). I discovered I was doing CrossFit well before I consciously made the decision to. At any rate, I have been journaling ever since.

Drew.jpg
Note that was back in 2008 and at that time, I could not do any unassisted pull ups. Also note Drew’s comment about needing more depth on back squats. Today, when it comes to both pull-ups and back squats, I am crushing them!

The benefits of keeping a journal are quite obvious, yet so many of us do not do it!  It is a way to track progress, and declines as that does happen. It is a way to track benchmarks and 1 Rep Maxes (RM) and things of that nature.  When you see  a workout and the coach says, “You should be snatching about 70% of your 1 rep max,” you don’t irritate him/her by saying “Errr but I don’t know what my 1 Rep max is.” Tracking helps guide us to know how much to lift or how to scale based on our workout history.

Call me old school, but my preferred method to journal is in an actual physical one. The journal I currently am using is just a simple lined paper one. I like to have it to flip through, sometimes to go down memory lane and sometimes to check and see what I should be doing for that day’s workout.  I also journal on the app, Sugar Wod for different reasons. I use that more for the social aspects of it: to fist pump my athletes and give positive encouragement in comments.  It also automatically stores benchmarks, hero WODs and 1 RM’s making it easier to have a place to go to as reference. As I also tend to workout in the first class of the day, I would like to think my commentary and tips help the athletes in the later classes.

Regardless of your method, be sure to include details in your journal. (I found this really great quick read on journaling here with some tips and methods). I personally do not have a formal method but I always add my own commentary in it. For example, if an old injury was flaring up, I’ll mention that to explain a scale I did.  From time to time, I’ll put notes to the effect of “felt really sluggish” or “was too tired”. Or on the contrary, “holy shit, I actually did that RX”.  I even use simple smiley faces and frowns.

I strongly recommend not just tracking successes but failed attempts as well. I will note when I fail at lifts, particularly when it comes to retesting 1 RM. I want to know that maybe in November I failed at  a 140 pound squat clean so that when I retest it a few months later and succeed, I can celebrate. Also as we know, not every day is going to be our best day. We may be weaker for a given number of reasons (more info on that here). Noting reasons or “off days” keep me grounded.

It is so very and utterly essential to write down what your specific scales are when you do not go RX. I note, for instance, how many ab mats I used if any for Hand Stand Push- Ups (HSPU). Maybe I did the last workout with 1 ab mat as there was a higher rep scheme, but today when the workout calls for HSPU at less reps, I may opt to do them without an ab mat.

The same is true for so many movements, like pull ups. Back before I could do them without a band, I would track what color band i used so that I could gradually and smartly wean myself off of them, which I did successfully after just a few months.   I can’t really speak to the science of seeing written data, but I can attest to there being a compelling mental or psychological element to it.  It often helps me mentally prepare  for the work at hand. There are days where I will see the RX workout and think, “I can’t  possibly ­do the prescribed  Shoulder to Overhead  weight at 105 pounds  for 30 total reps. That is just beyond me.” Then, I will find a past journal entry where I did do that same weight in a workout.  Recalling I did it before  (even if it was absolutely miserable) motivates me to do it yet again.

journal.jpg
Note: I wrote a failed rep at strict press, no band for ring dips and I scaled a workout on 10/5/16 to be kettlebell swings in lieu of clean and jerks due to soreness from the flu shot. I also threw in a cute little sad face. Again, my very own albeit antiquated but efficient methodology.

For those who use or are considering using SugarWOD, I strongly recommend you treat it like your own personal journal as otherwise, it can be deceiving at face value. Rx is Rx. It’s a fair playing field in that it is a given everyone is doing the same exact workout. When you see times and scores of your fellow athletes, it is evident who went the fastest and who had the most reps. When it come to the scaled sections, it is more complex (which I also should note, it is why CrossFit is really for everyone. It demonstrates how many different ways there are to scale to your level. #shamelessplug). More details are better than none. If you use bands in ring dips, or do push-ups in lieu of HSPU or maybe you do less weight in cleans, whatever it is, include it in your notes. Again, you will want those details down the line to benchmark.  I digress a bit but I feel compelled to mention this pearl of wisdom: You may have gotten the slowest time doing a scaled workout but it is quite possible your scale was the hardest. Use discretion when you either celebrate your finish or wallow in it. Keep in mind it is not apples to apples.

Journaling takes minimal time when you keep up with it daily or even weekly. Make it a part of your workout routine and that will prevent you from feeling burdened by it. It is a great tool for CrossFitters (and other athletes might I add). Think of journaling much the same as you do performance reviews at work. It is a way to set goals, track them and measure them regularly. For journaling to be effective, it needs to be much more than just logging for the sake of it. I had a conversation about this with one of my coaches at Concourse CrossFit, Ricky Sandoval. If you just write it down for the sake of writing it down, it is not really serving any purpose. It would be like counting calories for the sake of it without using it to actually tweak your diet or evaluate food choices.  There is power in knowledge, and having a workout log history can only help you in constantly progressing.

If this has encouraged you to journal, please comment and let me know how you are loving it! (Or hating it but I am confident that will not happen).

 

I Love “This Is Us” as Much as Pittsburgh Loves the Steelers

Foreword: Wiki sums up what the premise of This Is Us (more details  here):

The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall as their lives intertwine. Kate and Kevin were originally part of a triplet pregnancy, conceived in the bathroom of Froggy’s, a bar, during Super Bowl XIV.[4] However, their biological brother was stillborn. While their due date was October 12, 1980, they were born six weeks early on August 31.[5] Their parents, Jack and Rebecca, intent on bringing home three babies, decide to adopt another newborn (Randall), a black child who was born on the same day and brought to the same hospital after his biological father abandoned him at a fire station.[6]

Episodes weave through the stories of the past and present of the characters, with most scenes taking place in 1980, 1989–1990, and the present day (2016–2017). Flashback scenes take place in Pittsburgh, while current scenes are typically split between Los Angeles, New Jersey, and New York City.

this is us.PNG

­

I tend to be drawn to movies, television shows and books that keep me thinking even after the story ends. I am drawn in because they leave me wanting to understand the characters or think about how I may be similar (or not) to them. They force me to put my own judgments to the side and really look through the lens of others. Given that, it is no wonder that I have been hooked on the television show, This Is Us, from the first few minutes into the first episode. I love how every character in the show could have its own episode where you almost forget there are other kids or parents involved. It is because they all have their own identities, their own struggles. The show has so many basic (but complex) and simple (yet powerful) messages that resonate.

As a 1970’s baby, my generation was raised to pick colleges, majors and jobs that would provide money and stability. I wanted to major in writing but I remember being advised against that. After all, what could I do with a risky and noN lucrative major like that? I settled on minoring in it and majoring in Child Development and Child Care, which might I add I never pursued professionally. And here I am, years later, working for the man but often wondering what life would be like had I followed my passion, my talent. Now as we are well into the 21st century, that kind of thinking has changed.  We are realizing that life is short, life can be stressful and life is definitely not meant to be indebted to jobs we do not love. This is why so many people have career changes and the norm of working for the same company for 30 plus years is a dying ideal.

When it comes to This Is Us, we see so much of this theme play out. Jack, the show’s family patriarch, did take the path of stability and money to work for his friend, Miguel, abandoning his own dream of starting his own business. Not that I can blame him (after all he had 3 kids and a wife who depended on him). But that was in the 80’s.  Look at his son, Kevin: an LA actor, age 36 in our modern world.  Sure we can mock him for having high class problems where he walked out on his demoralizing, unfulfilling acting gig as The Manny and decided to pursue a career as a serious stage actor. While his circumstance may not be completely relatable, his reasons and emotions are.  Kevin struggles with not wanting to feel like a sellout (Sound familiar? How many of us feel like we have sold our souls to big corporations for a cushy pay check, a 401k and a slew of vacation days?) He also struggles with confidence issues, which is crazy when you look at him. I mean the man is incredibly, ahem, HOT and he exudes ego. Yet, he questions his abilities and if he will even be taken seriously in his new career venture. He is taking a major leap of faith, which to his credit, is something that I dare say most of us shy away from.

While we are on the topic of Kevin, this brings me to the next important theme and message of this show.  He seems like a guy who has it all right? Good lucks, money, charisma, no shortage of women and amazing biceps. Same as his brother, Randall, who has the picture perfect family, career and house. He’s got a smart, savvy, beautiful wife and two adorable, charming, endearing daughters who live in an upper class NJ suburb. On the surface, like Kevin, we would believe he has it all.

These characters remind me of also growing up in the 80’s and into the 90’s, coincidentally in a middle-upper class NJ suburb. We judge people often by how things look on the outside: well landscaped front lawns, fancy cars, designer clothes. We assume their biggest problems in life are which Ivy League college to go to or which European country should be their next vacation destination. We assume people in these situations have everything handed to them, that they do not have to work for any of it. It just is not true. Behind closed doors, there are harrowing stories of abuse, eating disorders and financial ruins. Randall may have the perfect job, the perfect house and the perfect family with his wife and two daughters, but that does not mean that he is immune from real problems. He has struggled with finding his biological identify, of growing up an African American child in a predominantly white populated school. He is a perfectionist to a fault. I actually admire a bit that his character struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. It shows that 1) he is human and 2) even someone as tough as nails as he is has limits.

I am a strong believer that timing is everything. We see implied scenarios of this throughout the show. Randall had searched for his biological father and when he finally did find him, he discovered that he had only months to live. This seems like a horrible twist of fate but in reality, Randall met him when he really needed him the most and was open to learning what William had to instill in him. William taught him in a short time to let loose, not always be so rigid.  He taught him that not every risk in life can be mitigated, and you certainly cannot always avoid taking them. William reminds us that sometimes we need to venture to the unconventional.

William’s character is also another reminder of nothing is ever as it seems on the surface.  We may have judged William from abandoning his newborn son or for fighting his demon, drugs. It would be easy to dismiss him and label him as someone not worth knowing. Yet as his core, William I a wonderful, strong man who experienced his own hardships. He did what he thought was best at that moment, and not without regrets.  I like to think that had  Randall met William as a 9 year old or as a 16 year old or even as a 30 year old, that his story line would have been drastically different and maybe not for the best.

Like her brothers, Kate has her own demons. She struggles with insecurities and weight issues. While she is on the extreme end of the spectrum of this, it is something that is so prominent in many of us. I am by no means overweight, but I completely understand what it is like to be consumed with body image issues. Many of us do. Have you ever counted the number of decisions you make a day that tie to weight or body image? Think about it. On any given day, I may choose to wear my beloved LuLaRoe leggings over jeans because I feel a tad bit pudgy. I may refrain from eating that taunting bagel at a work breakfast in fear that the carbs will go straight to my thighs. The amount of time I spend a day willing myself to go back to CrossFit for a second workout that day is ridiculous. Yes it is neurotic, but it is a reality that I know I am not alone in. So imagine someone like Kate, who has real health threats of being overweight (much like her fiancé who had an unexpected heart attack). Imagine the struggle of making choices every minute of the day to break habits and a lifestyle that has been with you for over 30 years. Imagine constantly comparing yourself to others (Kate does this with her beautiful, thin mother and even her fiancé’s ex-wife). This is an exhausting and stressful way to live and takes a toll on us just as much emotionally as it does physically.

One of reasons I feel America has fallen in love with This Is Us is that we feel connected to the characters, even those that perhaps we had different struggles than. It reminds us of  allbeit obvious reality that at the end of the day, all of us have one thing in common no matter what our circumstance is: We are human.  We all have limits to what we can take on without cracking. It is totally normal yet people feel shame when they are in a situation where they just do not feel like they can get through it independently. It is fascinating to follow the lives of 3 siblings who grew up with the same family, the same environment, the same opportunities yet they all evolved into 3 very different adults. It reminds us that we all have our own identities, our own complexities, our own struggles and our own triumphs.