Here’s last week’s recap and my goals for the upcoming week.

Last week:

  • Fitness- Wednesday was a big deadlift day in the gym. I hit 410lbs for a strong triple, then did a workout with 405lb deadlifts in it. Then on Friday, I did a workout that was absolutely gross. It took me 16:33, and I accomplished my goal of completing each set of barbell work unbroken. But seriously, it was gross:
    • For Time:
      15-10-5:
      – Bike for Calories
      – Thrusters (95/65)
      Directly into…
      15 – 12 – 9:
      – Row for Calories
      – Hang Squat Cleans (95/65)
      Directly into…
      12 – 9 – 6:
      – Burpees over Bar
      – Overhead Squats (95/65)
      – Row for Calories
  • Missed one of my goals from last week, and didn’t make time to finish the book I’ve been reading. Other than that, I hit all of them.

This week:

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“Do as I say, not as I do” is a saying that is often associated with negative scenarios. A kid gets yelled at by their parents for saying a bad word, that they learned from hearing their parents say in the first place. A prosecutor being arrested for some heinous crime that he fought against for years. *Insert the story of any current politician resigning due to reason x, y, or z* You get the point.

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In personal training and coaching, however, I feel it’s much more common to encounter this situation. Some clients are elite-level athletes that are able to do things that their trainer could have never dreamed of doing themselves. Other coaches are past their own athletic prime, but have an incredible understanding of human performance. And then there’s the coaches who were never amazing athletes by their own right, but are simply incredible educators and motivators.

My old friend, Kevin Ogar (Owner of CrossFit Watchtower), always said that the best coaches were the second-tier athletes. Top tier athletes were typically so good, and so genetically gifted, that it would be hard for them to explain what comes so natural for them to others. Second tier athletes became good at their sport or craft because of years of hard work. Since they got to where they were through trial and error over time, they would often be more effective in helping others with progressions, and offering support through their trials and tribulations.

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I had a conversation with a personal trainer last night who explained that he would never ask his clients to perform something he couldn’t do himself. Now, I understand the concept of what he was trying to say. Be responsible, don’t create absurd movements or circuits for your athletes that could get them hurt (which happens a lot in our industry), and so on. But I fundamentally disagree with him. In my opinion, being an effective coach means training and empowering others to perform to THEIR full potential safely. Not your own.

For example, in CrossFit the Strict Ring Muscle-Up is considered a fairly advanced movement.  I know dozens of trainers who aren’t able to this movement themselves. Does that mean that they should never teach others to do them, as long the movement and progressions are taught safely? To me, the answer is obvious.

This also brings the up to question of the physical appearance of the trainers, themselves. Some people love looking at trainers who are specimens of human perfection! Six pack abs, a booty strong enough to bounce a quarter ten feet in the air, arms or legs the size of tree trunks. But does the body of a trainer have anything to do with their ability to help others? I don’t think it does. Of course, there’s a distinction between a coach who is 80lbs overweight and eats fast food every day and someone who works out regularly and is still “normal person” healthy. I’m not suggesting that anyone wants to be coached by someone who has “really let themselves go,” merely saying that there isn’t necessarily a correlation between physique and effectiveness.

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I know there’s no Right or Wrong answer to this topic, but I think it’s a really interesting one to discuss! Do you feel it’s important that trainers are able to do all of the things they ask of their clients? Do coaches need to look a certain way in order to be effective or credible? Let me know!

I love a good Flashback Friday post just as much as the next person. I have also posted a LOT of videos of myself working out over the last decade, so I’ve got quite the arsenal to pull from. Therefore, the first installment of my Flashback Friday series comes from one of the first workouts I ever did at CrossFit Lodo with my friend Grayson.

I’ve been doing CrossFit since September of 2008 (almost a decade now?!), but I’ve never had a coach. That means all of my barbell work was self-taught, and I’m still trying to break bad habits to this day. But man did I ever try hard.

The video below was taken two and a half YEARS into my CrossFit journey, and my technique is still so painful to watch! I just remember being so nervous to be in Grayson’s home gym, with his friends around, and wanting desperately to keep up. Well, when I was working out against someone whose nickname was Thor and looked like an action figure, let’s just say I was not able to keep up. What ensued, was some of the worst excuses for cleans I have ever seen. (Guys, did we all look like that back then? No? Just me? Ok, cool.)

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I know… I know…. It was bad.

Please only take this video as a fun little throwback of me and a friend working out, and do not try this at home! This is the “what not to do” video, not the proper example! So funny. Kind of. Since then, I can at least say that I’ve learned how Power Clean.

One of my favorite parts of CrossFit, is that it has introduced me to so many friends from all over the country and the world. I mean, I even met my wife through CrossFit! Thanks Grayson for making my first few years in this crazy sport of ours more fun. Enjoy, everyone!

If there’s one thing CrossFitters love, it’s buying new gear. Twelve pairs of shoes? Of course. Wrist wraps in every color of the rainbow? Yep. Headbands to match the Stance socks you choose for the day? Uh huh. That cute t-shirt with the clever saying that makes you laugh every time you read it? Well, I mean… it IS true that “Burpees hate you too”, so….

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With the 2018 CrossFit Games Open quickly approaching, it gives athletes the PERFECT excuse, rather opportunity, to step up their fresh and deck out their WOD gear! I’m pretty sure the Nano 412’s are gonna be released soon, and if you want to make your Toes to Bar a little easier, I think you know which kicks to pick up!

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All jokes aside though, if you’re planning on upgrading any of your gear before the Open, the time is now. Finding a jump rope that you like can be a process. There’s nothing worse than showing up on Game Day still not knowing if you really like the rope in your hands. If you buy new shoes, it can take a few days or weeks to break them in. Are you going to experiment with working out with a belt on for the first time, or finally pick up a pair of those gymnastics wraps? Practice with them over the next few weeks first, so that by the Open you’ll know what you do or don’t like.

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Photo cred: WireCutter.com

When it comes to fashion, anytime is a good time to rock that new shirt or sports bra. But when it comes to function, I highly encourage you to take your time and accumulate gear that you really like, and helps you perform at your best! Quality over quantity. When it’s all said and done, if you start now, your squad will be looking like these two for workout 18.1! Happy Shopping!

A few days ago on this blog I mentioned how I’ve seen athletes push through fatigue to the point of getting injured because they convinced themselves it’s better to be able to put the #NoRestDays hashtag at the end of their Instagram posts than it is to take care of themselves properly. I made that comment kind of in jest, but it’s also true. It happens more often than you might think, and people will often push too hard because they see others doing the same.

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To be honest, I don’t really have a problem with the #NoRestDays philosophy. What I do have a problem with, is people thinking that No Rest Days means that a person should lift heavy weights and push themselves to the max 7 days per week. I do not support that prescription. Instead, let me tell you what I do encourage. Doing things to promote recovery (such as self-guided stretching, mobility, and/or yoga), performing active rest (such as going for a slow jog, easy row, or casual ride on the Assault Bike, or body weight movements done at a low intensity just to keep the blood flowing, etc), easy skill work that doesn’t tax the nervous system too much, and self care (like massage, cupping, dry-needling) are always thing I support.

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If you’re a Type-A personality that’s convinced that you absolutely must do something every day, then it’s fine. But, when you wake up and can barely get out of bed, or when it’s hard to get off of the toilet at work even when you use the railing in the stall, and when you walk around with your shoes untied because it hurts to much to bend over to tie them… then maybe you should simply rethink what it is you can do to still be productive. For those athletes who push their bodies hard all the time, remember that your body needs time to recover. You’ll see more even more gainz when you give those muscles time to rebuild stronger than before.

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So next time your friends peer pressure you into doing “that one WOD I saw Rich Froning do four days ago” or when you decide to see if you can test all of the Wodapalooza workouts… in a single afternoon “just to see how you stack up,” ask yourself if the potential risk of getting hurt outweighs the ability to say “I would have placed third to last” to your friends. If your body is telling you that you should rest, usually you should listen. If you absolutely cannot take a “Rest Day,” then tell yourself that the 20 minute ROMWOD flow you picked out is your work for the day. When tomorrow comes, you can crush those weights all over again!

Stay safe. Keep your body as healthy as you can, since you only have one. Dedicate time to proper recovery. And as always, if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know!

Each year after the CrossFit Games Open, roughly 29% of CrossFit athletes say: “I’m going to train SO HARD for the next 330 days and DESTROY Chest-to-Bars and Thrusters next year!”

Then, January 16th rolls around and they start to panic. If that’s you, don’t worry, it happens to a LOT of people! SO many, in fact, that memes are popping up all over the place from amazing places like the UnitedLifters Instagram page.

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@UnitedLifters on Instagram

Now don’t get all butt-hurt if that’s you. Don’t say, “But life just got really busy! Stop being mean!” I’m saying I UNDERSTAND! I’m sure I told myself I’d snatch 275lbs and row a 5k in under 18 minutes by “next year,” too. The point is, for some of us, it DIDN’T happen.

Does that mean you should just give up if you don’t have your muscle-ups yet? Or quit if your double-unders aren’t where you’d like them to be right now? OF COURSE NOT! I’m writing this post just to help everyone establish realistic expectations for themselves.

If you can’t do a few strict pull-ups and a few strict dips, it is unlikely (not impossible, just unlikely) that you’ll get your first muscle-up in workout 18.2. If there even are muscle-ups in workout 18.2, but you get the drill. So many athletes set a goal to acquire a new skill by late February each year, and if they don’t have it YET, they view themselves as a failure or that the last year is a waste. If you DID work on something all year, or even for a few dedicated weeks, that is ALWAYS something you should celebrate!

Find yourself a good coach, or someone you trust. With them, work together to develop a plan that will help you accomplish your goal over time. Most of the time it just takes hours of practice achieve a new skill. Often, learning and rehearsing simple modifications of something until it becomes second nature is the best thing for you. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but “perfect practice” with purpose can certainly help even more!

So, if there’s something you want to improve before the Open starts, more power to you! I believe in you! If I can help you get there, let me know! But at the end of the day, you just need to remember that the Open is a random five week competition. For fun. If you want to learn a skill, learn it just to learn it! Learn it to get better. If you have it, keep practicing until it’s even easier.

People say, “It’s about the journey, not just the destination!” It’s true. Pick a skill, and master it because it’ll just feel great to learn something and improve little bit more. I’m here to help in any way I can. Few good things happen overnight, so put in the practice, and reap all of the rewards of it.

Yes, friends. I’m talking about practice.

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I started posting meal prep videos on my blog years ago as a resource for athletes on how to eat cleaner. I never claimed to make the healthiest meals, but my goal was to offer a few new ideas and show how easy it can be make better choices, inspire those who are intimidated by the kitchen, and occasionally demonstrate how economical “cleaner” eating can be for anyone!

Today’s prep was a throwback to two of my most commonly made meals:

Breakfast Scramble (eggs, green and red pepper, onion, and a bit of chicken and steak)

Salad (spinach, carrots, steak and chicken, blue cheese crumbles, candied pecans)

All in, the groceries for this prep ran just over $50 and I estimated that it produced around 11 meals for me. For context, that comes out to around $4.50 per meal. If I were to run to Chipotle, my usual burrito costs me $13.67. So yeah, it’s a lot cheaper for me to take a few hours and make food that’s better for me anyways!

There are still times where I won’t feel like cooking, didn’t have time to make a grocery run, or just craved a Motomaki Sushi Burrito. The point of posts like this, though, is to show that eating well doesn’t have to be intimidating. I’ve said this many times on my blog before that since people in our community by and large share the goal of wanting to get in better shape: “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” Nutrition is the base of the pyramid of success that CrossFit created, so if I can help at least one person feel more confident and equipped with some simple ideas, I’ll be a happy guy.

 

Sunday Status Update 1/14/18

Posted: January 14, 2018 in CrossFit, Training

 

We’re fourteen days into 2018, and I’ve published 14 posts on the blog. Starting strong this year, folks. We’re doing it!

Here’s last week’s recap and my goals for the upcoming week. Feel free to share yours with me, too.

Last week:

  • Fitness- After not even being able to remember the last time I did the lift, I hit a really strong Front Squat at 300lbs. I also hit 230lbs for a Hang Snatch, which is the first time I’ve hit a number that high in a long time, too! I’ve been trying to add in more accessory work in my life, so when my buddy Peter dropped in to train with me we did 150lb sandbag holds. 2 rounds of 1:00, and 1 round of max time; I got 1:48 (because Peter got 1:44, ha!)
  • Hit all of my goals from last week: Two posts about the Open, worked out 4 days, was in bed by 11 one night, started my first book (Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, by Jacko Willink), and ate “meal prepped” food for every meal!

This week:

  • Write two more “The 2018 Open is Coming” posts
  • Hoping to work out 4 days between Monday and Friday, and be in bed by 11 at least TWO nights.
  • I want to FINISH the book by next Sunday and write a brief summary
  • Went food shopping for the week yesterday. I used to do Meal Prep videos and posts on the blog a long time ago. To get back into the swing of things, I want to do another one this week!

What’s going on with all of you? I still want us to be “Accountabilibuddies” together. Let’s hear it!

Just watching the time go by…

I’ve been a full-time personal trainer and coach for over half of a decade. My reason for remaining in this profession all this time is that working with someone and having them improve is the most rewarding feeling in the world to me. When I lead a class, I convince myself that every single person in that group is putting their trust in me to help them get better. Sounds dramatic when I see it written down, but it’s true.

At gyms like the ones where I work, all around the world most athletes show up, do what’s on the board, then leave. Fitness isn’t much more than that to them. But on either end of the spectrum from those athletes lie two groups that I lose sleep over sometimes! These three groups have led me to create “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve“:

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Middle of the Bell Curve: MOST”

Most people live here. These athletes are in the gym for fitness and fun. They try their best to make it in 3-5 days per week, love seeing friends, blowing off some steam, and hope to see incremental improvements (see also: Gainz) over time.

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Right side of the Bell Curve: HELP

Typically these are newer members at the gym, or just shy people in general. They want to get better, want coaching, and would love for you to check out their technique and give them feedback. They just don’t feel comfortable asking! Asking “which one is a hang power clean again” for the 10th time embarrasses them, but maybe it was never explained to them in terms they were able to understand in the first place. Making breakthroughs with this group is my favorite. As athletes become more confident asking for help, they usually start to improve faster, and quickly join their friends in the middle of the curve.

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Left side of the Bell Curve: NOPE”

Thankfully, this is the group work with least of all, but it can still be frustrating to think about. These athletes just don’t like you.  Maybe you made them feel stupid one time a few months ago, maybe you have an annoying laugh, or maybe they don’t like going to your classes because you have horrible taste in music. Maybe your coaching style doesn’t work for them, or maybe they just don’t like who you are as a human being. They are simply not impressed. Sometimes, you’ll never be able to create a meaningful relationship with these individuals. I still try, though!

When all three types of athletes are shown together, “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve” is the result!

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There’s nothing wrong with being in any of these groups. While I wish I was able to connect with and help 100% of the athletes I come in contact with, that’s not how the world works. Just know that my goal is to live in that middle space where:

  • People enjoy working with me
  • Athletes feel like I’m there to help them
  • No one ever feels attacked, picked on, or criticized
  • I’m equipped with tools to actually add value in a meaningful way

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As a coach, it’s important to know your audience and to tailor your approach to each person individually. In a class of twenty athletes, you may need to exercise twenty different coaching styles. Effective communication should be the primary goal in order to strive for success; both in the gym, and everywhere else.

Don’t spend years coaching the same way. Learn new cues, try new approaches, and check to see if what you’re saying actually registers with people. Saying the same thing in a slightly different way can create a major breakthrough for someone. Keeping the lines of communication open and regularly checking in with your athletes not only gives you a current update of who you’re working with, it can also show people that you actually care. While we’re personal trainers, we’re also a special kind of therapist! Sometimes, just showing someone that you care about them is enough to make their day.

Our most important job is keeping our athletes as safe as possible. If we’re able to create meaningful relationships and help foster positive change in their lives, that’s icing on the cake!

(HUGE shout-out to Heather for helping making Photoshop magic out of my silly idea!)

One of the strangest phenomenons I’ve noticed about the CrossFit Games Open, is that the trend of wanting to “redo” workouts to improve one’s score exists with both beginners and CrossFit Games athletes alike. Today’s post is on the motivation behind the do-overs. WHY do people choose to put themselves through the same torture they just experienced, with only a few days (if that) between attempts?

***Before we dive in, let the record show I am 100% one of those people who typically retests!***

In my experience, athletes will typically retest the Open workouts for one of a few reasons:

  1. “On the Bubble”– These people find themselves right on the cusp of those who might qualify for Regionals. (Or at least they think they’re on the bubble…) It’s so crazy to think that over 5 the course of workouts ONE SINGLE REP could be the difference between making it, or not making it, to the next phase in this worldwide competition.
  2. Beat Friends– Here’s something that you might find hard to believe: CrossFitters are typically very competitive people! That means if you go head-to-head with your friend and they beat you by a few reps, you only have one option: Redo the workout, beat THEIR score by a few reps, and defend your family’s honor! Am I Right? Obviously.
  3. Type-A / Perfectionists– These folks “shouldn’t have set down the bar” with only 5 reps to go. They “could have rowed” just a little faster. That chalk break “wasn’t really necessary” at the end. We know, we know. We all feel that way. Just because you could have squeezed out a few more reps during round 4, though, doesn’t mean you need to do the workout again.
  4. Leader-boarders– A lot of times, these people don’t even know why they do workouts over! They’re not going to qualify for Regionals. They casually work out a few times per week to stay in shape and hang out with their friends. The Open is just a fun few weeks out of the year, then it’s back to normal. Yet for some reason, going from 2,528th in the Region to 2,194th in the Region on workout 3 makes them feel a lot better about themselves. Improving a mostly (completely?) irrelevant ranking usually isn’t worth putting your body through doing 200 deadlifts at 225lbs in 48 hours! Be smart. Train safe. Recover adequately. Repeat. As one of my friends used to say: Don’t Let Ego Be Your Amigo.

If you’re one (or more) of the people above,  I’m not here to judge you! I have done nearly every single Open workout (since the Open was a thing) more than once. Nearly every single one! From the list above, I’m a ‘Reason #3’ person.

For MOST of us, though, please remember: Your score on an Open workout doesn’t really matter!

I’m serious. That’s not meant to hurt your feelings. In fact, it’s meant to encourage you to NOT hurt yourself! CrossFit is hard. The Open workouts typically make us push even harder. That means that doubling or tripling down on the stress you’re putting your body through will take more out of you than if you just did them once. Decide if it’s really worth it to give it another go.

After all that, if you still decide to retest workouts each week, more power to you. The only thing I want you consider is: Why?

If the risk (of being too fatigued, getting hurt during your attempt, the frustration if you don’t do better) outweighs the reward (a few higher spots in your ranking and a higher score?), maybe sit it out. To truly perform at your best during the Open, it takes months of training and preparation. Retesting because your body just knows where the pain hits doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any more fit, either. These workouts were designed to be one-and-done. When it’s Game Day, you typically don’t get a second shot anyways!

Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room about “Reason #2” people. I know you love competing with “so-and-so” at the gym. Maybe they know it, and you push each other every day. Maybe you’ve never even met them, but you always see their times and scores on the whiteboard. And just maybe, they’re your “Gym Nemisis”… the person you HAVE to beat or it ruins your day. Our competitiveness in this fitness thing can quickly turn into something negative. Instead of wasting energy being mad that someone beat you, criticizing them and making up “excuses” as to why they beat you, maybe this is the year you can just be excited for everyone! Positive and encouraging energy in a gym is so contagious! Unfortunately, so are those people who sit in the corner scowling because someone beat their score. You know, at the end of the day, they might just actually be better at exercise racing than you are in those particular workouts. Guess what? It’s ok. Don’t lose sleep, or friends, over a stupid competition!

All that said, I’ll still likely redo some of them. So, there’s that.

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