Health Insurance

 

 

As I write this I am approximately 36.8 years old.  I just finished a recovery row, noting that I’ve rowed 130k over the last year, which does not include any mileage accumulated during WODs.  I have never run a mile over 6:20, I’ve never had a body fat percentage over 7% and I’ve never weighted more than 192lbs.  In fact, my adult life has been spent gaining and keeping weight, rather than trying to losing it. 

I consistently train 5 days a week but I do something every day.  I do not smoke or do drugs and my alcohol consumption has dwindled down next to nothing over the years.  Although I have been injured, I have never ceased training.  This includes having 2 hernia surgeries in my early 20’s.  In fact, following my first surgery the doctor recommended I avoid weight training all together and opt for body weight exercises.  Had I listened to him at the age of 20 I would not be in my current profession.  Which reminds me, the worst shape I’ve ever been in was during boot camp simply because all we did was calisthenics.  Today I have a 1.5 times body weight Clean & Jerk, a 2.2+ body weight squat and a 5:30 mile. 

Although my training methods have evolved over the years three things are consistent:

  1. I have 20 years of bench, squat and deadlift under my belt
  2. I have always pushed myself as hard as possible, rarely saving anything for later
  3. I have never stopped learning and competing

I have always been driven and determined to drive those around me.  I have always believed that everyone should seek the highest levels of fitness.  People have argued that everyone is different and not everyone shares that mindset.  They are wrong.  There is nothing different or special about the essence of human physiology.  My pursuit of knowledge over the years coupled with my experience has reinforced that the true essence of human nature is to live at the tip of the spear.  Challenged people remain eager, alert and hungry.  Keeping one’s self at a heightened state of physical preparedness ensures the system is ready and the mind remains sharp. 

Overweight, out of shape people are lethargic and have poor attention to detail.  They are not operating at their very best and they fail to live up to their potential despite any success they may appear to have at face value.  If observed closely this is an undeniable fact. 

These thoughts have been on my mind lately.  As a young professional I heard it all. 

How do you think fit people become fit?  You cannot lose something you never let go.  I swore to myself in those early years that I would remain an example through the years.  At 36 I continue to push boundaries.  It is my intention to stave off the walker and be bad ass at 90.  How will you challenge yourself?  

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Coconut Goodness

I was experimenting with the blender on this rest day and concocted something that makes up in taste, for what it lacks in overall quality.  Yes, it is a sugary sweet but it’s a lot better than a soda, it tastes excellent and there’s a decent dose of good fat.

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Pour 2 cups of boiling water in a blender, add the ingredients listed below, stir and serve.

  • 1 Tablespoon Honey – 60 cal – 17g Carb
  • 2 Tablespoon Coconut Cream Concentrate – 62.4 cal – 2.2g Carb, .6g Protein, 6g Fat
  • 3 Tablespoons Coco Mix – 110 cal – 21g Carb, 1g Protein, 2.5g Fat
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk – 40 Cal – 3.5g Carb, 2.5g Fat

272.4 Calories = 43.7g Carbs [77%], 1.6g Protein [3%], 11g Fat [20%]

Disclaimer: this would be considered a “cheat” drink and not something I’d recommend to increase your squat potential… but its really good!  Also, I don’t care about the calorie content but I added it for those who do.

Welcome To The New Normal

Mental strategy is important in every athletic endeavor and arguably most aspects of life.  Most experienced athletes have developed some form of “mental game” or cue to aid in performance and minimize anxiety.  Often we have a running dialogue happening at all times… whether we are tuned in to this is another story.   I’d like to preface this by saying that developing a mental game is not something you need to buy on cassette from a late night infomercial.  This is personal, deeper and more philosophical.  It is about searching your mind for that which motivates you, tuning out the world and tuning in your own mental dialogue. 

Often, when gearing up or mentally rehearsing for an event, the task may appear too imposing.  I recall the years when my working weight for a back squat was in the 200 range.  As I’ve progressed the range is closer to the mid to high 300 range.  For me, few tasks can be as imposing as the back squat.  Whether it’s the night before or the moments leading up to it, I’m prone to performance anxiety for this particular lift when the weight starts to pile on.  I remember early on when my numbers began moving from the high 200’s into the low 300’s.  Gradually, I was being taxes with weights that were more psychological than mental.  In preparing for this I would quietly tell myself, “welcome to the new normal.”  The process of telling yourself this is right and this is who you are now can be powerful. 

  Few lifts can be physically and mentally challenging for lifters than the Snatch.  This technical lift combines strength with speed; technique with violent aggression.  Given the nature of the lift and the level of commitment, it can be imposing.  This feeling can easily extend to the Clean and Jerk or any other lift that forces a person to accelerate their body under a heavy load.  Early on I would try all sorts of aggressive tactics to prime myself for the action, with little success.  For me, quietly addressing the barbell with poise and focus is far more beneficial than thumping my chest and kicking a garbage can.  I’ve never been one for the theatrics of the weight room! 

One day it occurred me the feelings of agitation I felt stemmed from nervous fear.  Some part of my brain feared the barbell as the weight increased to a particular increment.  Standing in front of the barbell one day I quietly told the barbell, “I will not fear you.’  Kind of corny?  Perhaps.  This has become something that I quietly state out loud as I address the barbell.  I say it through the warmup and into maximal lifts.  I do not scream it dramatically but I do not whisper it without conviction.  With each statement and every successful lift I draw power, emboldened by my ability to confront the challenge.  Does this mean I PR or lift successfully every day?  No.  But I will not let this challenge be the reason I fail to execute the task, regardless of the outcome. 

A few final thoughts on the mental game…

 

Trust your preparation.  If you aren’t doing the work or if your programming is not consistent they it is difficult to draw confidence.  I like to remind myself to “trust my preparation.”  This includes trusting your coaches, your programming and your work ethic.  If you’ve done things right you should have nothing to fear.

Don’t be afraid to say it out loud, even if it sounds corny.  There is power in hearing your own voice.  When you hear your own voice speak with conviction and commitment it sends a powerful message to the brain.  Be defiant.  Be relentless.   Be vocal.

There is no Tony Robbins approach that will help you better than your own self reflection on the task.   People who work for extrinsic motivators can only go so far.  People who work for intrinsic motivators have no limits.  The source of motivation, inspiration and mental focus lies in each of us.  We simply have to quiet our minds and find that voice.  

Crossfit Sucks?!

Today I received yet ANOTHER email of someone who’s had a bad first experience at a Crossfit gym.  On average I receive 2-5 emails a month from people who’ve attended a Crossfit gym for the first time and had a bad experience.  This does not sound like a big number but keep in mind, I am one person and every bad experience with Crossfit should be taken seriously, especially when each one was preventable.  Every negative experience is a huge blow to Crossfit because, by original design, Crossfit is an outstanding program in every facet.

The bottom line is if you do not have an introductory program for newbies or a method of scaling, everything else you do is void.  All the promotions and call back procedures can go out the window if you are turning people off without knowing it.  Yes, without knowing it.  What I hear in email, you are not privy to in person.  These people will often quit immediately or suck it up for a short period before they can’t take it anymore.  And when the critics say “Crossfit is about natural selection,” they are somewhat right.  Survival of the fittest?  We should be more interested in setting up for success every person that walks through our doors.

Of every negative email I’ve received 94% refer to some aspect of the first workout whether it involves throwing newbies in with experienced athletes or failing to scale the workout.  The other 6% of emails involve bad coaching that resulted in a negative experience, exasperation of an old injury or infliction of a new injury.  Each of these stories involves people suffering needlessly to the end of their first workout or not finishing at all!  According to sports experts perceived competency is one of the elements of success for coaching athletes.  How competent does one feel if they can’t even finish the first workout?

When you see Crossfit online or TV, you see everything great….  people smiling, looking strong and proficient, and helping one another.  In reality these things are built.  It takes time, resources, smart coaching and smarter programming.  Smart coaches know how to partition off newbies and ease them into the herd.  Ease them into the herd, not cull the herd.  Hell, even the military has an introductory program.  It’s called bootcamp.  Recruits are eased into military life, not shoved off to war.

This story happens all too often.  Someone gets really excited about Crossfit but has their hopes dashed when they are thrown in the mix.  And this scenario isn’t isolated to small unknown boxes.  The email I received today referred to a large Crossfit box in New York City.

 

Here are some tips I share with newbies interesting in finding a Crossfit gym.

Meet with as many coaches and owners as possible.  Try to get a sense of what makes them tick.  Number one question(s), what are their methods for scaling and progressing new clients?  The facility, equipment and cleanliness are all well and good but do they know what they’re doing?  Can they teach complicated movements with relative ease?  Do they scale movements to meet ability levels?

Number two question, how’s the community?  Look at the walls of the facility (or website) and observe a class.  Talk to some of the clients if possible.  Do you see comradery between people and coaches?  Is there connectivity exhibited in the atmosphere around the box?  Do you get the sense you would fit in there?

Finally it helps to look at class structure and the actual box.  Do the location, pricing and class times fit for you?  Don’t be a wall flower, get out there and get a feel for the environment.  Do you feel comfortable with the environment?

Often coaches and athletes become too comfortable with their environment to consider how a newbie feels walking through the doors for the first time.  I believe it was Tony Blauer who referred to Crossfit workouts as “stress inoculation?”  The comfort zone for the typical coach or experienced athlete is very large.  The comfort zone for your newbie can be very, very small!  Will you help them expand their comfort zone?

 

 

 

Calibrating Your Motivational Compass

My grandfather used to say, “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”  He also used to say, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  How do you teach someone to give more of themselves than they ever thought possible and to make this attitude common place?  We all admire heightened physical ability, exceptional human performance and the above and beyond endeavors.  Yet we throw motivational quotes around like comedians do punch lines without ever really contemplating the depth or meaning.  How many times have we heard someone say “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?”  Yet how many of us have completed the physical journey, and stood on the moon?

The excuses of many are fodder on the ground that great people trample on their path to success.  How is it that some people so driven they can’t stop, but most people so unmotivated they can’t get started?

Now I know what you are saying, “I am motivated!”  Well if we sit down and really analyze the past year, 2 years, 5 years, of your life there is a good change, for the majority of folks, we will find some plenty of slack in the results.  The perception of our abilities have become so inflated, yet our ability perform critical self-analysis is inadequate.  The intent of what follows is to adjust your Motivational Compass and correct your perception of being a more engaged human.

Yes, life is about being engaged.  Present.  Purposeful.  It isn’t about getting stuck in a rut.  Have you ever hear of someone winning a bowling match by throwing straight gutter balls?

Doing the bare minimum does not qualify.  This includes: getting a job, getting a raise, getting married, having kids, going to Yoga last Wednesday night when you were really tired but your girlfriend wouldn’t stop texting you so you decided what the hell and you went anyway, cleaning your house, cleaning your car, going for a jog, not even working out 365 days consistently!  These are things that are expected.  You do not get an award for doing the bare minimum in life.   Oddly enough time’s they are a changin, but one thing remains the same…  we cannot escape responsibility.

Some examples of being an engaged badass include: starting a business, retiring after decades of service, entering your first triathlon, skydiving for your 80th birthday, taking a bullet (physically or metaphorically) for what you believe in, raising kids who become exceptional citizens (not underachievers), being hospitalized after fighting off an attacker only to learn he is in the Intensive Care Unit right down the hall from you, biking through Cambodia to provide a human service.

The vigor of life is best found in tasks that are challenging.  The mundane repetition of life, that which one does not find invigorating, does not cause one to live to one’s potential.   How often have you woke up feeling like you hate life, dread the day or feel anxious over an impending appointment?  Do you follow life’s prescribed plan?  Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, own 2.3 cars, have 1.4 kids, work 40 years, take 2.7 vacations per year to the same destinations (all inclusive because God forbid you wing it!), die.  Sound familiar?

When we get to the end of our life we will want to look back with purpose and feel remembered for who we were.  We will not care how many hours we worked, nor will we be overly concerned with how much money we made.

Be Engaged

Olympic Gold Medalist Janet Evans was known as “mighty mite.”  She was small compared to most Olympic swimmers but she was powerful in the water.  A reporter once asked her, what goes through your mind when you’re in the water?  She said, (referencing her competition) “how dare they get in the water with me. Don’t they know what they’re in for?”  At 39 years old she is making a comeback onto the swimming scene in an effort to make the 2012 Olympics.  She’s a lifelong badass!

I use athletic examples because this is most near and dear to me, however, the athletic pursuit is irrelevant.  The purpose is in the journey.

Was I a good person?  Did I do good and was I able to help my fellow man?  Did I constantly challenge myself and those around me to be better at everything?  Will I leave behind a memory that is noteworthy?  Have I reached out to others, made strong interpersonal connections and are those people better for having known me?  Did I move forward, worry less about the future and be more present in life’s precious moments?  These are just a few of the many questions we should ask ourselves daily.

In cultivating a more engaging persona, here are some personal tips:

  1. Worry less about how clean your car is and more about how dirty your sneakers are.
  2. Don’t be a whiner.
  3. Get lost… on purpose.
  4. Challenge a fear.
  5. Question and challenge everything, but always keep an open mind.
  6. Frequently learn new things.
  7. Pay attention to the world around you.
  8.  Look for opportunities to teach others.
  9. Be a winner but embrace losing.  Learn from both.
  10. Honestly evaluate who you are.

As a disclaimer these are only useful if they are practiced daily.  How do you feel when someone cuts you off in traffic?  How do you feel when you let someone into your lane, they look at you, smile and wave?  There is a difference.  Practice the one that feels better.  You are the product of 4 billion years of successful year of evolution, act like it.

Intent

Six years ago I was kayaking a river solo in March (yes I know this is not recommended but I’m not you).  If you know anything about whitewater kayaking, the early spring and late fall are ideal times because the water table is high.  The water temperature was about 42 degrees with a light snowfall and I had planned a familiar route that was just over 3 miles.  Kayaking to my stop point, I would change out some gear and run back to retrieve my truck.

About 500 yards down river I entered a bottleneck when I miscalculated a rough spot and was tossed.  A series of additional mistakes made sure I went head first into the drink.  I don’t know if you’ve ever jumped head first into 42 degree water but it sucks.  It literally takes your breath away.  Unable to right the boat or breath, I bailed and scurried like a wet rat towards a rocky ledge.  On the rock I was out of the water but on an island.  The embankment was a twenty foot swim away and my truck was parked 500 yards upstream.

I tell you all of this because it was a surreal moment that I recall with clarity.  I have 4 good stories of nearly drowning: 3 in a kayak and 2 in water of similar temperature.  Although I do not perceive this as “nearly drowning,” I clearly recall the initial feeling of hitting that water, the moment panic set in, the desperation of pulling my body (and my boat) onto a rock and the decisiveness of standing there precariously weighing my options.

Every day I’m confronted with people who struggle with their desire for rewards and their fear of risk.  People want to be more powerful, more capable, lose weight, increase health, fight off disease, look better or just feel good.  We want the rewards but we fail to understand the commitment.  It is easy for people to attain a small taste of success.

Consider this:

Person #1: weighs 278lbs works out for 5 months and loses 50lbs.

Person #2 has been training for 8 months and can back squat his body weight.

Person #3 works up to a 100lb deadlift.

Person #4 learns how to perform an Olympic clean.

Each example demonstrates outstanding improvement.  Now consider this:

Person #1 remains at 225lbs for the next 6 months.

Person #2 has only added 5lbs to his back squat in the next 5 months.

Person #3 has been at a 100lb deadlift for a year.

Person #4 cannot move past the bar when performing a clean.

Although this is not a great deal of information I can tell you these people show up every day, appear to try hard and desperately want to improve.  Or do they?  Are they really desperate?

Desperation is a funny thing.  We say things like “I’m starving,” but are we really?  Have we ever really been desperate enough to attain a goal?  Desperation drives us to reveal our intent and our intent is either to find an escape or confront the task.  Unfortunately this is not something we can synthesize. This is a primal response to a particular stimulus that increases exponentially as we improve.  What elicits one person to consistently improve over a year while another stagnates?  It is that individual’s intent to confront the fear of challenge each time they grip that barbell.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, feels this pressure.  The person who is intent on improving will allow fear to excite the neuromuscular system without letting anxiety creep in.  They will find motivation, not despair, in desperation.

This is important to understand for those who have worked hard, demonstrated some improvement but struggle to progress.  It’s easy to say “no fear,” but that is not helping the individual who’s struggling to produce the necessary skills to get under a barbell.  Imagine if you are a novice who is inundated with the successes of others while being told “no fear!”  Clearly you will perceive your feelings of fear as inadequate and out of place.  You will struggle to balance hiding your emotions with your desire to perform.  This will not work.

Watch Julia Rohde here.

Ask any sports psychologist if the top athletes have ever felt: desperation to perform, or nervous anticipation prior to a training session.  Consider how many times an experienced athlete has failed a lift or been sandwiched by a barbell only to go back and attempt the lift again, and again, and again…

Perfection is inspiring but failure is motivating.

I did not deliberate on that rocky ledge very long.  It was an easy swim and a quick run to the warmth of my truck.   There were no witnesses, no one to judge me.  Once I made my decision to resolve my situation calm set in.  Before giving it any more thought I got back in the boat and slipped off the rock.

My intent to get back in the water is no different than my intent to generate more force as the weight increases or my intent to get back under the bar after a failed lift.  We all struggle with the same emotional spectrum.  Our intent, whether is achieving goals or demonstrating force, is a conscious effort that only we can make.

An Open Letter To The Unfit

We love you.  In fact, we adore you.  You are welcome, accepted and admired.  We understand the majority of the commercial fitness industry has made you feel unwelcome, inadequate and even inferior.  Please trust that the day of the meathead and oiled bodies is dead.

We all see you come through the doors doe-eyed and nervous.  We all appreciate your fears and anxiety.  Our hearts go out to you but for one reason or another it is not in our grasp to call attention to this fact.  All we can do is watch and wait.  All we can do is hope to see you come in more than once.

We understand the pressure you feel.  We all feel the same pressure.  In fact, the fitter we get the more pressure we are under to perform.   Keep in mind much of this pressure is self-imposed.

We understand your fears.  The Snatch makes us all nervous and there is a box jump height that puts fear into everyone.  You are not alone.  Everyone, at some point, was new.  We all had to go through the process of learning new movements before we became proficient.  Stay strong, stay committed, we will help you.

We see you quietly shy into a corner with your scaled devices and plug away at the workout.  We see the strain in your face.  We feel the pain in your muscles.  We can sense the doubt in your mind.  We know how much you are suffering.  The human in us just wants to rush over and help you or permit you to stop… but the athlete in us knows this is for your own good.  We know you must learn to hold your own.  You must learn to finish and give effort.  We know that Tough Love is sometimes the hardest love to give.

Although we all admire the elite, the exceptional, we are often stopped dead in our tracks watching someone perform their first box jump or plug through their first bout of legit burpees.  Which brings another point, we all hate burpees!  It isn’t just you.

Everyone hurts.  We all wake up feeling like we’ve been hit by a Mac Truck.  Our backs are tight, our shoulders ache.  Stay with it!  In time the soreness is less significant and with training your body will adapt and cope better with this stress.

I have seen people glance at the elite but I’ve watch whole rooms come to a halt to watch the newbie perform their first repetition of anything.  You are vital to our identity.  In our world effort is respected over natural ability.  This is the great equalizer in our ranks.

You remind us of what it means to preserver and give effort.  It is easy for the strong to game workouts.  The most elite in the room never have to worry about finishing last.  You quietly plug away long after others have finished.  We cheer you on because you remind us of what is great and powerful about the human will to commit.  We want you to know that in these moments you inspire and bring us all together.  As you progress we all get to share in your achievements.  The experienced lifter is satisfied with a 5 pound improvement but you are genuinely excited.  The room may stop to watch the experienced athlete but everyone genuinely celebrates your accomplishments.

Your excitement, your progress, your struggle is like putting everything we do under a microscope.  It is like watching a movie in real time where the hero, our underdog, comes out on top.  We love you.  Next time you are sitting at home or in your car debating on whether or not to come in… come in!  We are waiting for you!   You are somebody very special.  You have value beyond measure.