Posts Tagged ‘health and fitness’

WE DID IT!!! We survived the 2018 CrossFit Games Open!!!

As someone who has done every single Open, no matter how much the workouts change, one aspect of the event remains consistent year after year. There are always first-timers, athlete’s doing it “just for fun,” those looking to compete against their friends, and individuals sincerely hoping to make it to the next level of competition. Regardless of which group you identify with, when coach yells out, “3, 2, 1, GO!” every single person in the gym gives each workout their all. It’s so much fun to watch, and even more fun to coach!

In a post last week, I talked about intelligent ways of planning out how to structure your next year of training. (If you haven’t already, I really think you should check it out!) A lot of athletes have put in countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears into preparing for a five week competition. Between sleepless nights, sore muscles, and redoing workouts, our bodies are tired! If your Open season is over, I’m here to encourage you to give yourself time to relax. It can be tempting to jump onto a new programming or add in a ton of accessory work, but your body needs a break!

Today, I think it’s important to take a step back and breathe.

I often talk about the impact proper nutrition and adequate sleep can have on your performance, your brain needs some time to recover, too! In every other sport, there’s a clear “Off-Season;” a block of time where athletes are almost forced to take a break. In CrossFit, we don’t really have that. Since “going to the gym” is such an integrated part of our lives, a lot of athletes refuse to acknowledge the fact that resting for a few days, or even weeks, might make you better! The whole “No Rest Days” philosophy is something I’ve written about in the past, and will certainly write about in the future, but not today.

Today, I want to ask you to pause, take a few minutes, and reflect.

Really think about what has happened over the last five weeks of your “fitness” life.

And only allow yourself to think in positive terms.



What did YOU get out of the Open?

Did you finish any workout faster than expected? Were you able to complete a movement for the first time? Did you go “Rx’d” on your first Open WOD? I know several people who are simply happy with how positive they kept their mindset, and how well they kept their nerves under control. The happy things are easy to identify!

Now, it can be easy to look back and only think of the negative aspect of things. But not today! Were you frustrated about anything? Did you not hit the weight you were hoping to on your heavy clean attempt? Did the handstand push-up rule impact your results in workout 18.4? Were your double-unders a disaster for 18.3? Fine. Now, shift your mindset and let’s rephrase how we look at those scenarios.

  • Disappointed in weight for clean
    • “Over the next year, I will work on challenging myself to hit heavier weights when I’m tired.”
  • Handstand range of motion
    • “By devoting time to slowing down and ensuring I’m in complete control of my lockouts, it will make me much more effective at that movement.”
  • Inconsistent double-unders
    • “A few days per week after my workout, I’ll spend some time practicing my doubles. That way I’ll be used to jumping when I’m tired, and when Castro programs that workout again next year, I’ll be fine!”

Today, I want you to think about THREE THINGS you learned from the Open that are POSITIVE. They can be things you’re legitimately proud of, or areas for improvement that you’ve been lucky enough to identify for yourself!

Take a few minutes and really think about your three things. Then, share them in the comments of this post. Let’s help congratulate and encourage one another to celebrate these positive moments!

Only positive thoughts.

Here are my three:

  • This year, I reestablished a healthier personal relationship with CrossFit.
    • I’ve been doing CrossFit for almost a decade. In that time I have gone from working out in a Bally’s (globo gym) after work, to training nearly three hours per day to try and qualify for Regionals (never did, by the way!), to simply viewing CrossFit as a fun way of working out.
    • I workout by myself over 90% of that time, and while that can be really hard for me, I’m starting to appreciate those moments more. That’s where I get to recharge. It’s my hour to push myself. And it’s a block of time where I can make myself better through this crazy workout program. I’m back to liking CrossFit again.
  • I may have conquered one of my GOATS!
    • In CrossFit we call skills or movements that we aren’t good at, or just don’t like, our goats. Thrusters have always been a goat of mine. I’m not great at squatting OR pressing, so when you put them together, I’m double-excited to work out! With the final workout of this year’s Open, though, a workout presented itself that I had already done four times in the past! Instead of letting it ruin my week, I simply made a plan of how to break up reps, stuck to that plan, and survived! Yep… I did a movement I didn’t like, lived to tell the tale, and realized that maybe I’m not as bad at it as I used to be! Just imagine if I trained to get even better at it one day?! I probably won’t, ya know… because it’s thrusters… but just imagine if I did!
  • The Open has sparked a renewed interest in my blog!
    • I put my heart and soul into trying to provide valuable content for people who decide to visit my blog. My “Open Strategy” videos started way back in 2012, and although it’s a (self-imposed) stressful time of the year for me, it’s so rewarding to see messages from those who feel better prepared to attack those five workouts each year. My goal is to keep giving people a reason to come back here week after week! Whether it’s how to approach a workout, general fitness advice, something cool I’ve come across, or just some insight into this crazy brain of mine, I hope you like what you find here!

So…. what are your three? I’d love for you to share them with me!

Something pretty funny happened last week during a personal training session with one of my clients. They were in the middle of a workout, and like a lot of us do when we’re tired, they miscounted reps of one movement before moving onto the next. Conveniently, it was the movement they enjoy performing the least. “Whoa, nice try. Three more,” I said with a smile on my face. “No way, that was 10!” they replied back to me, obviously unimpressed with my challenge. “We’re in a gym with no one else around. I’m literally watching you work out and counting your reps for you. I’m pretty sure I know how to count to 10,” is the only thing I could think to say. Just waiting for the witty response I knew was coming next, they hit me with, “I guess you’re right. Do trainers even know how to count past 15? I feel like you’re all just glorified counters!” We both laughed, they finished the three reps, and we continued the session.

I’ve been a full-time personal trainer, athletic coach, health and fitness professional (or whatever you want to call what I do) for over half of a decade, and I have been doing some combination of all of those things part time for most of my life. Yet when I’m asked what I do for a living, I still don’t really know how to respond. When I say personal trainer the image of a person texting and sipping on a Big Gulp while standing next to their client who is “warming up” on a treadmill with a 20 minute jog for the first third of their hour-long session is the what pops into my brain, so I don’t love saying that. But, it IS what I am, right?

I remember sitting in my high school Psychology class with Mr. Will, and thinking to myself, “People are awesome!” Every single person we come in contact with in the world is a completely unique individual. With their own beliefs, past, goals, and quirks. And in my line of work, I get to come into contact with people from so many walks of life. I liked the subject so much that I ended up majoring and getting a Psych degree in college. It’s also one of the best parts of my job today! In one class there’ll be a high school sophomore tripping over their own legs as their body goes through some major changes, a stay-at-home dad coming to terms with not having a 9-5 because his wife is the primary bread winner and their kids love having him home, a retired couple that chose to improve their health and reconnect through fitness, and the CEO who has to block out an hour on their calendar in order to find time to work out.

While it may sometimes seem like being a personal trainer is just reading words on a white board and barking orders at paying customers, I’ve always viewed it as much more than that. It’s being given the privilege to help shape the moods and lives of the people I work with. Have a stressful day at work? Want to celebrate fitting into that dress for the first time in years? Need to let off some steam after a fight with a significant other? Earning the beers you’re going to have after work tomorrow? I’m tasked with navigating the “right now” of every person I train, every single time I see them, and understanding that tomorrow that person could be in a completely different head space. The best part is that I absolutely cherish the responsibility. So yeah, I’m “just a personal trainer,” but it’s so much more than that to me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!


First of all, I’m not sure if I’ve ever written the word don’ts before, but it looks weird!

Ok, back to the focus of the post: Accessory Work

If you are an athlete that steps foot into a CrossFit gym on a regular basis, odds are that there are three to four-hundred things you’d like to improve to become a better athlete. Identifying some, or all, of those things typically leads athletes down one of three paths.

Path Number One

“That’s way too many things to try and improve… therefore, I shall choose to improve none of them!”


Path Number Two

“I want to get better at Handstand Push-Ups. My legs need to get stronger. If I can improve my engine, I’ll get more rounds in workouts. With more flexible ankles, my rowing will get better. I want to get a PR on Murph next year. But I’d also like to beat my Fran time. ROM WOD 8 days per week will help me. I think I want to go that Double-Under clinic next weekend.” ~ The consecutive thoughts of one person


Yes, there is a laundry list of things we can all improve upon, but trying to attack too much at once is unrealistic and really not smart. Why, you ask? Because some people (yes, I’m talking to you) will spend 30 minutes after class every day working on Muscle-Ups. Thirty minutes. Hanging and swinging from rings or a bar. After they’re tired from a workout. Not only will that likely lead to tearing hands, but trying to be explosive and technically precise after 60 minutes of torture (excuse me, I mean intense physical exertion) isn’t usually the best plan.

Path Number Three

Be a planner. Pick a few things you’d like to start improving. Find a person, or people, who can help you create an intelligent training plan or progression. If applicable, have someone who can watch you practice, or if you video your attempts, those who can give you constructive feedback. Too often “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and having a more experienced person in your corner can help foster huge breakthroughs. After a few weeks, note your progress on those items in your training log (yay, progress!) and create a new list!

Now, I’ve got Good News and Bad News:

The Good News is that in our sport of CrossFit, you LITERALLY have an ENDLESS list of things you can choose to improve at any given moment.

The Bad News, is that you’ll never be good at ALL of it. So don’t even try.

But, really, that’s also still the Good News! I’m telling you that (for most people in nearly every circumstance) you can work on a single skill foreverrrr, and still be able to keep improving over time! That is so awesome. Most things that are worth keeping don’t happen overnight, either.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know. Set realistic goals. Have a plan. And actually try your best to enjoy the journey. If all goes well, we’ll be on it for a long time!


Dr. Mike Evans posted a video on his YouTube page a few weeks ago of a speech he gave entitled “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?”

I’ll leave you with only three quotes from the video, along with a brief note to put it in context. Please watch the video and gather the rest of this amazing info yourselves.

This is POWERFUL STUFF, everyone…

As always, please leave your own thoughts, comments and questions at the end of this post!

~ Discussing what can be done to most effectively improve certain aspects of peoples’ lives. (Reduction of progression of dementia, reduced progression of diabetes, anxiety, and blood pressure increase in quality of life, to name a few)
“The best thing you can do for your health is spend half an hour being active, maybe an hour…”

~ Explaining a finding in “Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study, by Prof. Steven Blair
“So LOW FITNESS was the strongest predictor of death.”

~ Ok. Exercise is good. We get it.
“So if exercise is the medicine, what’s the dose? … essentially, more activity is better. But I must say that the rate of return seems to decline after 20 or 30 minutes per day.”

Thanks to my friends at Alpine CrossFit for this one!

Thanks to Lisbeth Darsh for sharing a great article with the facebook world.

Now while I do think that CrossFit is the most effective strength and conditioning program out there, and while I do think that (when done safely) it is also the most effective training program to get and keep people physically and mentally sound, I try very hard not to bad-mouth other programs out there.

At the end of the day, here is my stance on fitness:
“Doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing.”

So go ahead and grab that P90X DVD. Do you love dancing to Zumba? Go to Zumba class and dance, then! Do you prefer hot yoga? Go get your sweat on. Do you like doing ALLLL of these things? Even better! Switch it up and keep your body guessing.

My only request is that you try not to make false and insulting statements about “the other guys” along the way. Out there, another person is trying to get the same results as you are. They’re just trying to get there a different way.

This article below, written by Penny Love Hoff (Huffington Post health/ lifestyle/fitness coach), is probably one of the most condescending articles on CrossFit I’ve ever read. To each their own, and I respect her for having her own opinion… but I do not agree with her one bit. 🙂

Here’s how she ends her full article:

“All I believe you need to do in order to live just about as long as the CrossFit cult members is 25-30 minutes of cardio exercise (meaning that you are sweating and you could talk but not sing) four times per week, fifty crunches and twenty push-ups, modified to your knees if needed. Do these most every day. And you will live just as long. Unless there’s a natural disaster and it’s survival of the fittest, then the CrossFit peeps will survive beyond most of the rest of us. But that’s okay with me. I’m not into sleeping on the ground and I’m not much of a survivalist anyway.”

I’ll say one thing more about this approach to CrossFit. Yes, I am aware that many people are “fanatical” about it, and I realize that it can be a turn-off to many. However, I still firmly believe that if someone were to come in and NOT be fanatical about it, they would still become “healthier” and “more fit” than someone who wouldn’t even walk through the door to give CrossFit a shot.

Ok, read on…

Is CrossFit Only For Maniacs?

by Penny Love Hoff (Huffington Post)

Just to keep me on my toes, I’m going to resist the urge to use the term “audacious radical fitness zealots” when referring to CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program for what I would call the “over-the-top” athlete.

On the CrossFit website, they summarize their program in 100 words:

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week. Mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

Okay, I agree with a lot of that. But after looking at some YouTube videos of some of the main CrossFit workouts, I’ll bet that in ten years, they will have bad knees, torn rotator cuffs and more artificial joints than me. And the sad thing is that they won’t be able to keep doing what they love to do, which is continue to move with ease and speed. CrossFit is a fitness craze.
Virginia Heffernan wrote about it in The New York Times Magazine. She called it a “grueling online exercise regime that requires near-devotional commitment” and in my (sort of) humble fitness opinion, she is politely understating it.

Of course, nothing’s wrong with have a Goliath-style work(out) ethic and a lofty Olympic-like fitness threshold, but this workout is a joint-buster. It puts the “man” back in “maniac.” Although I did find myself lusting after their handstand pushups and their rope climbs, their hurling, snatching and dead-lifting with near impossible speed. After all, I’m still working on mastering one pull up, but I also imagined their knees exploding on the next ever-deeper squat or their shoulder dislocating as they balanced in a dangerously unnatural angle on the gymnastic rings.

My reaction could just be the mom in me. Or the CPR certified aerobics instructor. Or the non-idiot part of me. Then I had a horrifying thought. What if some of my readers who read my articles about working out look upon my fitness suggestions with an equal sense of disbelief or a similar feeling that I had while reading about CrossFit — that the exercises prescribed are equally impossible?

So the point I want to make is that nothing you have to do to be healthy is super-human –although on some rainy Mondays mornings, it may feel like it. All I believe you need to do in order to live just about as long as the CrossFit cult members is 25-30 minutes of cardio exercise (meaning that you are sweating and you could talk but not sing) four times per week, fifty crunches and twenty push-ups, modified to your knees if needed. Do these most every day. And you will live just as long. Unless there’s a natural disaster and it’s survival of the fittest, then the CrossFit peeps will survive beyond most of the rest of us. But that’s okay with me. I’m not into sleeping on the ground and I’m not much of a survivalist anyway.