Eric Hurst: Feat. Athlete of June 2019


Coachable | Hardworking | Positive

These are the attributes we look for in the Athletes of The Hill.

“Each human within our walls is so uniquely wonderful, and Eric is no exception to that.

Someone who is here truly for himself, but doesn’t behave selfishly. He doesn’t get up caught up in comparing his workout to anyone else’s, because he knows and understands that his effort is his alone.

No one can add or detract from that, and he takes great ownership of that fact. He’s always here to encourage, support, and cheer others on, the true embodiment of living the value of positivity.

I look forward to coaching Eric anytime he is in my class, he is always hungry to learn and apply what he is given, even if that means slowing down or taking weight off the bar. Eric believes in fitness for life, and it’s a joy to be a part of his journey.”

-Coach Brianna

Let’s get to know more about Eric…

What is your favorite color? I’m partial to blue, but mostly wear black because it’s simple and I once read that people who wear all black are perceived to be intelligent. Whatevs.

Pick a silly question or answer them all: What would your spirit animal be? If you could have one superpower, what would it be? My spirit animal is California. Really, the only superpower I want is the ability to not get angry. Especially with my kids.

Row, Bike or Run? & Why? This is going to sound so Coach’s Pet, but I really like each quite a lot. Rowing is such a great all around workout. We have a Water Rower and it’s quite soothing. Biking is, again, a great all around workout, but my family has gotten in the habit of taking rides together and I wouldn’t ever trade that. Running is just a great solo activity. Put on some headphones and hit some hills. Feels great.

What is your favorite CrossFit Movement? Anything with a sledgehammer. Followed closely by anything with a barbell.

Favorite Restaurant in KC? Or favorite Cheat Meal? Naked Burnt Ends at Char Bar with all the fries.

When did you start working out at The Hill? August, 2018.

What were some of the emotional or physical challenges you were having before you started at CrossFit Memorial Hill? I felt like I had reached a plateau. It’s tempting to blame programming, or a coach, or whatever, but when it comes down to it, I wanted a change, and knew that one would do me well. I was in pain all the time, mostly from allowing myself to be guilted into doing more than I should. Emotionally, there was a lot of over the top machismo I allowed myself to take part in. It wasn’t healthy.

What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve those challenges before you started at The Hill? It felt like the morning after you drank WAY too much and you’re mad at yourself because you promised yourself yesterday you weren’t going to do that but here you are with the worst headache running to the nearest bathroom and moaning, “OH GOD I’M DONE DRINKING FOREVER!” and then later that night you’re cracking open another cold one knowing good and damn well what tomorrow morning holds.

How have you seen those challenges improve since joining The Hill? What does life looks like now? I’m much more comfortable scaling back and being honest with myself about what I’m truly capable of. Additionally, I’m able to recognize that if I do the prescribed weight, I may not finish, but if I drop down a few lbs, I’m still going to get a great workout and that massive endorphin rush at the end that I’m a complete junkie for. In the end, it’s about staying active well into my later years. That’s all I want.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Eric is that he is one of the most encouraging members we have at The Hill.

Within our gym, he is usually the first to celebrate the successes of those around him, and it’s clear that he does this because he genuinely likes to see those around him improve their lives.

Since joining us last fall, Eric has improved his fitness and movement tremendously by always showing up willing to listen and work on his weaknesses, which is inspiring to everyone around him. In the gym (and in life), it’s easy to cherry pick and focus on the things we’re good at, but Eric isn’t one to take the easy route, and I firmly believe that’s why he’s made so many strides lately.

Not only does Eric show up to the gym ready to work hard, but he’s an incredibly passionate individual when it comes to his work and social issues, and that shines through in all the conversations he has. Eric is a dedicated family man and a prime example of how the work we do inside the gym translates to leading a healthier, more balanced life outside of the gym as well.“

-Coach Jay

How is The Hill different than other gyms you’ve been to? The community is like none other. I haven’t been to a lot of gyms, but the ones I have been to do not seem to foster a community with such intent and care like The Hill. I need that.

What keeps you coming back? And where do you find your motivation when the workout looks difficult? I tell people, “Come for the workout, stay for the community,” and that’s what keeps me coming back. Cherry picking workouts has never been an issue for me. I’m very motivated by doing physically hard things just to have done them.

How do you make working out fit into your busy schedule? I’m really fortunate to have a very flexible schedule and a very supportive family. My wife constantly helps me make room to get to the gym later in the day if I’m unable to make it to my normal noon class. Also, I work for myself, which is to say I work when there’s work to be done.

What would you say to someone thinking about starting CrossFit? Be gracious with yourself. Ignore what everyone else is doing. Be honest, find what feels truly challenging, and do that. This is for you, no one else. Also, say “Hi” to everyone. You’ll be back.

What are some of your goals in or out of the gym? Personal Records or achievements that your proud of? I’m trying to model to my kids what a healthy adult looks like, both mentally and physically. I’m proud that my kids LOVE coming to the gym with me and love being around the good folks at The Hill.

What would your dream workout be? (list your favorite movements) A loooong grinder where you beat down a tire with a sledgehammer, then flip that tire for a while, then climb a rope. I love the awkward movements with weird objects.

“If you have ever wondered how to make friends instantly, Eric has the secrets. Eric is incredibly kind and positive while also secretly a sucker for punishment.

He gives his all in every workout but is also one of the first to peel himself off the floor to offer a high five or fist bump. He’s also a pretty kick ass Dad to his 2 kids who are regulars as well.”

-Coach Josh

Anything else you would like to share with our #fitfam? This might be off topic, but it’s something I care about deeply. Suicide is a global epidemic. The chances of your life being affected by suicide are near, if not at, 100%. Men die by suicide nearly 4x more than women. It’s also completely preventable. If you think someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or even has a plan, it is okay to ask them if they’ve thought about hurting themselves. You will not cause them to do it by asking, but you might help them realize someone cares and open the door to them getting help. http://www.sprc.org is a great resource for learning about risk and warning signs and how to help someone in danger. Finally, if you are someone contemplating suicide, please talk to me. I will help you.

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Is CrossFit right for non-athletes?


If you’ve never played organized sports or you don’t consider yourself athletic you probably feel like CrossFit isn’t for you. Don’t worry. You’re in good company. Most everyone has had this same feeling.

Where does this come from?

I think there are two things at play here: what you see on the internet and what we tend to see in others.

The Internet

Do you have an  Instagram account? What about Facebook? You know that we tend to post the highlight reel; the top 10 moments of our lives. The stuff that would make Sports Center.

You’d never post a selfie (unless it was an ironic selfie) of yourself at work, working on a spreadsheet with messed up hair from an un-flattering angle. No! You post that perfectly angled picture when you’re dressed to the 9’s  getting ready to hit the dance floor at a wedding.

Fitness is no different. We’re only interested in dramatic feats of strength and skill or a massive transformation story. No one is going to click on a picture or video of a 50-something gym-goer getting their first pull up. That’s not very impressive by internet standards. But it’s really impressive and very common by everyday life standards. 

Remember: the things you Google about CrossFit aren’t real life. It’s the highlight reel of a professional sport. You’re familiar with the NBA. Do you think you’d need to be able to dunk to join a pickup game at the YMCA? You’re familiar with Serena Williams. Do you need to be that good to swing by the courts? Of course not.

CrossFit has only been around for 20 or so years and in the midwest for much less time. It may be confusing that there is actually a difference between CrossFit the training program and CrossFit the sport.

What we think about ourselves.

BUT EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE LOOKING AT ME. 

That’s harsh. If it were the case it would be a very sad day for us. Thankfully that’s only true in your own head. In fact, it’s a survival response to new situations. You feel the same thing when you enter a crowded room at a party where you  don’t know anyone. You feel like everyone’s looking at you.

But fitness enthusiasts are much more supportive than you could ever imagine. Most of the “in shape” people you know have found that fitness helps them manage stress, be better parents, and helps with depression. Everyone I know is very excited to share that with others — especially people who are “not in shape.”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, too. Coaches prefer people who are “out of shape” vs. people who consider themselves “athletes.” We’d much rather start from scratch than to fix bad habits and then start from scratch.

So… if you’re way out of shape, never worked out before, and always got picked last in gym class — that’s the perfect person to coach. If you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone and start to find your better, we’re standing by to assist.

5 Things to Consider Before Joining a Gym


So you’re ready to get in shape? Great! The first place you’ll probably look to is a gym. Trying to decide what  gym to join can be a very daunting task. Each facility believes that their version of fitness is the best and the  gym down the street is the worst. The truth is that you need to find something that works for you. Here are 5 things to consider before you sign up for a membership.

1. Are you working out now?

This is a big question that will really help you decide which direction to turn. If you’re not currently getting the recommended 3 days/week of vigorous activity ask yourself “why?” Is it your schedule? Are you too busy to work out? Have you tried to work out in the past and your schedule just got in the way? Have you had multiple gym memberships that you just didn’t use? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you should look to a gym that has some level of coaching or personal training. Accountability will be key. If you are currently working out with a consistent schedule, move on to #2…

2. Are you bored  with your current routine?

Have you ever walked into the gym to see people with headphones in, jogging on the treadmill for 30 minutes only to aimlessly wander around the free weights doing the same thing everyday? Unless you’re a hardcore bodybuilder, this same routine can get very, very boring. If something is boring, you won’t stick to it long-term.  Find a routine where you can mix it up everyday. Unless you’re training for a sport or a bodybuilding competition, you should try out all kinds of different workouts with all kinds of different equipment.

3. Are you achieving the results or feelings you want?

Even if you consistently stick to a routine for a year or two, you’ll eventually plateau. This is completely normal. Our bodies are built to adapt to anything we throw at it. Remember that first day in fall when the temperature dips below 50? It feels like an arctic tundra! But  soon you adapt and 50 degrees feels warm in January. Similarly, if all you do is cardio you’ll eventually begin to put back on the weight you lost because cardio is your new normal. In the same way, if all you do is lift weights you’ll miss out on all the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. You need to mix it up.

4. Do you plan to actually go to the gym you join?

This may sound like a no-brainer. But this is a sneaky trick that the fitness industry plays on our brain. When you’re first looking at starting a new fitness routine, you’re probably feeling really motivated. You can’t imagine not sticking to this new healthy habit! Most gyms plan on this early motivation and lock you into a long-term contract knowing you won’t be around in 6 weeks. How do you know if the gym you’re considering plans on you actually stepping through the door? Price. Here’s the rule: The cheaper the membership fee the less they plan on you showing up. Gyms with fees north of $150 may sound really expensive to you. But they’re entire business model is built around less members that all show up to receive coaching.

5. Do you have any unique circumstances?

Does the thought of stepping into a gym make you feel very anxious? Do you have any injuries or pain to consider? Do you have a medical need to lose weight? Is mobility and flexibility an important factor for you? Do you feel you’re too old or too out of shape to lose weight?

If you answered “yes” to any of these you should consider finding a gym that has some level of individual customization. This is typically a meeting or introductory program with a coach. Ideally you’re able to maintain a relationship with this coach throughout the duration of your membership. If you fall into this category it will be important that you find a gym that employs professional, full-time coaches. They will have an extensive knowledge of health, fitness, and nutrition to help you along your journey.

Just like hiring a realtor, accountant, or attorney, a coach can help protect your most important asset: your health. The more you can lean on a professional, the better you’ll feel, look, and perform.

Matt Scanlon on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast


John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing recently interviewed Scanny about the history of The Hill, The Hill 2.0, and following a vision.

We dive into:

  • Have you changed people’s perception of CrossFit in order to open your business up to a wider range of people?
  • How are you hoping to expand The Hill KC in the future?
  • How did you manage keeping your existing clients happy as you transitioned to a new business model?

CHECK IT OUT! >

5 Tips for Easier Meal Prep


There are a few universal truths when it comes to either losing weight or gaining muscle. Truth Number 1: Nutrition is #1. Truth Number 2: If you do not meal prep you will fail at #1. Meal prep doesn’t need to be nearly as daunting as you think. Follow these simple tips and practice, practice, practice!

1. Plan to Fail

You want to lose that last 2o pounds. Or maybe you want to get a bit stronger. Whatever your goal is, you should just assume right off the bat that you’re going to find a way to not follow through. You’ll say you’re too busy. You’ll say family obligations got in the way. You’ll say that you just don’t know what to do.

But none of these are true. The truth is deeply rooted in behavioral science. Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when you’re forced to make decision after decision throughout the day. Your cognitive ability goes down and your ability to make decisions becomes worse and worse. By knowing exactly what you’ll be eating from each meal in a given day you’ve “pre-made” a decision, eliminating the risk of decision fatigue.

The second factor at play is that you’re starting a new habit. Any new habit you start will be the first one to go at the first sign of difficulty. You’re never “too busy” to brush your teeth are you? What about being “too busy” to shower? What about being “too busy” to chit chat at work? Why are we never “too busy” for these things? Because these are normal parts of our routine and habits; it would feel weird to not do them. The newest habits are always the first to go.

2. Should you change your own oil?

Do you change the oil in your car? Could you do it? Probably. It’s an easy enough task after all. But should you do it? Let’s say that you can go somewhere and have it done for $35. If you were to do it yourself, you’d probably spend half that on oil and a filter. Seems like a great deal, right?

Wrong.

By the time you run to the store to buy your oil and filter, you’re about 40 minutes into the project. Then, you change your oil. Now you have a bunch of old oil in containers in your garage. You’re a good citizen, so you won’t just dump that stuff in the road. Now, you have to find somewhere to dispose of the old stuff. You probably have a solid 2 hours invested in this project. That 35 bucks doesn’t seem so bad now does it?

Get real with yourself. If you’ve tried to meal prep time and time again but can’t seem to do it on your own, budget to have someone else do it for you. This “expense” is an investment in your long-term health and wellness. I promise that money spent to have healthy food on hand is money better spent than your dumb car payment, clothes, drinks at the bar, or any other non-investment that will be obsolete in a matter of months.

3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress

Will your first week of meal prep be perfect? Of course not! You’re a beginner. Think about healthy food decisions in the same way you think about your development in any area of your life. The first time I picked up a guitar, I wasn’t shredding Stairway to Heaven. I wasn’t doing algebra in 2nd grade either.

Start small. Maybe you only prep breakfast for a month. Hell, that’s a win! Let’s even dial it back a bit to just snacks. Instead of heading to the candy machine at 2:00 this afternoon, pack some beef jerky, an apple, and a dozen almonds. You don’t even need to cook that!

4. See meals as formulas, not recipes

Imagine a plate divided into 8 equal parts. Here’s the breakdown of how each plate should look:

  • 4 parts colorful vegetables
  • 2 parts lean protein
  • 1 part starch
  • 1 part healthy fat

No talk of “macros” or anything complicated. This is just a plate of broccoli, skirt steak, a couple small potatoes, and a thumb-sized piece of avocado. A little salt & pepper and you got yourself a delicious meal!

Grocery shop with the same formula

Meal prep will get expensive if you go to the store to buy ingredients for recipes. If you shop according to a formula, it won’t be as expensive nor daunting. As an example, let’s look at how I would buy protein for myself for a week.

I shoot to eat between 150-175 grams of lean protein in a given day, broken into 3 meals. I’ll get Postmates or go out for 2 meals in a given week. So, in a 7-day week, I need to prep for 19 meals each containing roughly 40 grams of protein. Here’s what that’d look like:

  • 10 medium chicken breasts
  • 5 medium sized sirloin steaks
  • 18 large eggs, 1/2 whites

Pretty basic, right? You just need to sit down and write down what are your daily needs then you’ll eventually be able to eye-ball it when you go to the store.

5. Get inspired

There is some emerging research suggesting that one’s ability to eat the same thing repeatedly may be linked to lower rates of obesity. I’ve often dubbed this one’s ability to “eat like a grown-up.” Yeah, I don’t love vegetables either. Kettle Chips are better than chicken breasts. And Sour Patch Kids trump everything. But I also don’t enjoy feeling like garbage and spending another year complaining about not reaching my body composition goals. As you’re learning to live a healthier life, you’ll need to tolerate some level of discomfort.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in this rut of dry chicken breast and raw broccoli. Food should be pleasurable! If you’re having a hard time getting inspiration for new meal prep ideas, I recommend you try what Maggie and I do every summer: Meal delivery.

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and a whole host of other companies have come on the scene to offer ready-to-cook meals delivered to your doorstep. What a time we’re living in! Here’s what to do:

  • Sign up for one of the 3-week specials that these companies offer (don’t forget to cancel!).
  • Repeat the above for one or two other first-time specials.
  • Find 3-4 recipes that you really enjoyed but were also fairly easy to prepare with simple ingredients.
  • Make note of the portions of the 3 elements of your plate – veggies, protein, and starch.
  • Scale up the portions, make a grocery list, and make however many meals you’d like to prep for the week.

Repeat this process 1-2 times throughout the year. As you switch from one provider to the next, they’ll send you more coupons to get you back. Then, you’ll learn some new recipes to keep things fresh throughout the year.

What have you done that has really helped with your meal prep? What’s keeping you from doing it if it’s still a struggle? What actions can you take this week to step it up?

 

How to break through a CrossFit plateau


One of the most effective aspects of CrossFit training is its variety. Not only does the daily variety of stimuli help keep athletes interested in training, but it also serves the important function of staving off a plateau well into your training life.

When does a plateau occur?

Let’s set some parameters for this discussion and assume that you are training consistently for at least three hours per week. If you’re struggling to get in the minimum effective training time, your plateau is more behavioral than physiological.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For most consistent trainees, the plateau in this graph usually represents the 18-24 month mark in their training. You’ll see that improvement happens very rapidly at first but then slows as time goes on.

Why does this occur? 

This plateau can be summed up simply: The thing that resulted in you initial fitness won’t be the thing that improves your next phase of fitness. There are two distinct types of plateaus that are caused by basic physiology. As I’ve talked about before, continued improvements in fitness require that you not violate the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In short, you can’t run the same speed and distance or lift the same weight at the same speed and expect to improve. In CrossFit, we measure the improvement of fitness with power.

Power = Work / Time

Let’s turn back time 20 years and look at our old formula to understand the new formula. Back in the days of leotards and body-building, we didn’t have a tight definition of improved fitness. That’s because how your body looks was superior to how your body performs.

In bodybuilding, the formula looks like this: cause as much muscle fiber damage as possible during training, then eat enough calories to put on muscle but not excess body fat. 

Still a pretty simple formula, but very few people with full time jobs and families have the time to effectively train this way for years without a plateau. That’s why most of your “globo-gyms” are set up to encourage this type of training. They know that you’ll never show up after six weeks, so they over-sell their memberships by a factor of 10. Imagine an airline sells 10 times the seats on each flight, knowing that only 10% of the people who have paid them will board the plane.

So we changed the formula of fitness. Power encompasses performance, not just looks. But — turns out — power also has favorable benefits to physique. Win-win.

Plateau type 1: You’re not doing enough.

In our power equation, “work” can be reflective of the size of a dumb bell, a wall ball, the distance you run, or the calories you row. “Time” is simply how long that work took you to do; either the total time it took to perform the workout or the nanoseconds it took for your elbows to turn around on a clean.

The first type of plateau occurs when you settle into the same “work” each time. Type 1’s were usually very intimidated at the thought of CrossFit and barbells and relative intensity. You probably spent upwards of 12 months considering even stepping foot into an introductory class.

BUT YOU DID IT!

Nice work!!! But still in the back of your mind there is this nagging fear of failure. That you don’t want to try too hard and fall flat on your face.

I’m not advocating for unsafe movements or loads whatsoever. 

I’m saying that you’ll need to eventually swap out your 10# wall ball for a 14# wall ball. You’ll need to get knocked down the mountain just a tad in order to push through this plateau. It will feel as uncomfortable as day 1, but it’s absolutely necessary.

Is this me?

  • Track your workout times for a week and make note of where you fall in relation to the intent and the rest of class. If you’re 10% or more under that number, choose something each day that is just a tad more difficult than you normally would.
  • Make a mental note of your fellow athletes’ post-workout response. Are they writhing on the floor in a heap of sweat after one of Coach Josh’s “Impossible WODs?” If you had the energy to notice someone else’s response or performance, you probably weren’t doing enough. 

Plateau type 2: You’re doing too much.

This one is a little more difficult to diagnose because your judgement is clouded. You were plateau type 1 at some point and then you took my advice and did more. And it worked!

You started to do “Rx” weights and you maybe even started seeing yourself at the top of a few leaderboards. So you did more of what worked the first time. But then your equation got a little top heavy.

A top-heavy power equation results in injury, fatigue, weight gain, and — hopefully this is the one you recognize first — a decrease in performance. 

A top heavy power equation inevitably leads to a lower “time” in the bottom half of the power equation. By nature, an empty-barbell thruster will travel at a greater speed than a bodyweight thruster. But there’s a balance in there that must be met. Here’s an example workout to illustrate this point:

5 Rounds for time of: 

5 Power Cleans, 225 / 155
10 Handstand Push Ups
15 Wall Balls, 30 / 20

Intent: sub-12:00

Pretty nasty workout, right? But, what makes it “nasty”? The sub-12:00 intent. This intent exists to create balance in your power output equation; it assumes ~2:00 rounds. 2:00 rounds means that your power cleans will need to be quick singles with less than 5 seconds rest in between, your handstand push-ups unbroken, and your heavy wall balls unbroken.

But “time” in the power equation isn’t just your WOD time. It’s also the speed at which you lock out a push-up or the micro-second turnaround time on your dumb bell snatch.

The question you ask yourself becomes not “can I do that” but rather “can I do that with the power output required to meet the intent.”

If the intent were sub-22:00, we’re shooting for a low power-output stimulus. You can do those heavy power cleans every :45, you can break up your handstand push-ups into slow, slogging sets, and you can do three sets of five wall-balls. Same workout, entirely different stimulus. Both versions of this workout have a place in your training — you’ll need to start to recognize the difference.

I’d personally opt for a 175# power clean, stick with the HSPU as written (they’re a strength of mine), and do 2 rounds of 30# WB & 3 rounds @ 20#. Could I power clean 225? Yes. But it’d be sluggish, outside the intent, and result in me having a worse overall power clean than when I started.

Are you type 2?

  • You’ve been time-capped more than twice a year for reasons of load or gymnastics complexity (time caps are typically set 15-20% outside intent; i.e. shouldn’t happen).
  • You’ve thought “yeah Bill got a faster time than me, but I did the ‘rx’ weight”
  • There is a big discrepancy between your efficiency in one area vs. another; this is typically endurance/strength or strength/gymnastics.

What everyone can do about it.

  1. Don’t use a WOD to get better at gymnastics or stronger on a barbell. This will result in poor power output, making your plateau even worse.
  2. Take a video of yourself. Set up your phone against a chalk bucket and look at your lifts compared to someone you’d consider “fast” or “snappy” in their lifts (i.e. Coach Mindy). Use weights that have you looking like her in a conditioning workout.
  3. EMOMs are the best thing, ever. You’re likely here 5-10 minutes before or after class starts. Use that time to work on something. Here are some of my favorite ways to get better:
    1. 10:00 EMOM of 2x Snatch: start with an empty bar, adding 10-20 pounds each minute. Make note of the weight at which your reps slow down.
    2. 5:00 EMOM: 3x PERFECT handstand push-ups
    3. 5:00 EMOM: 5x butterfly pull-ups, adding 1 rep each minute
  4. Only good reps count; bad reps subtract. There’s a lot of debate on the “10,000 hour” rule. But, let’s use it for the sake of argument. Performing 10,000 power cleans will not make you world class. Performing 10,000 excellent power cleans just may. BUT each sluggish power clean performed while fatigued will count against your 10,000.

Be patient when pushing past a plateau. Just like climbing mountains, there are times when you’ll need to backtrack in order to find a path of less resistance. You got this!

 

 

The 3 Things Your Fittest Friends Have in Common


I’ve heard a TON of really inspirational transformation stories. My response has usually been some version of “nice work… you should be so proud of yourself!” Two years ago, I changed my approach to ask “what was the thing that finally made it stick?”

After diving deep into the psychology of behavior change, I learned that most adults will go through four to five attempts to lose weight or “get fit” before they settle into the thing that works.

Personally, I’m incredibly grateful for my weight loss occurring at a fairly young age — I got serious about it at 13 years old. I was pretty overweight, got made fun of a lot (low hanging fruit when your first name rhymes with “fat”), and I had no concept of what a healthy meal looked like. I’ll never forget the day a teacher mentioned that he was giving up soda to lose weight. I never had another Coca Cola after that day.

Life was easier then. Aside from showing up to school, doing my chores, and practicing music my responsibilities were pretty much nonexistent. Combine that with a new interest in girls and constant jabbing from my peers and you have a pretty simple recipe for behavior change. All the motivation was there even though much it was negative. Compared to most of my peers, I was given the gift of learning to say “no” to treats and “yes” to exercise two decades ahead of time.

Behavior change as an adult is a much harder endeavor. We’re talking about re-wiring decades of stimulus-response mechanisms with all the responsibilities and stressors of adulthood compounded with a media barrage telling us there’s a “secret” that we just don’t know about yet. Here’s the real secret: there is none.

Here are the three characteristics I’ve discovered by asking folks just like you “what was the thing that made it stick?”

1. They take the long view

Warren Buffett famously said about investing “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” To use a recent example, the time to buy bitcoin was when everyone was afraid to buy bitcoin. Or, the time to pull your money out of real estate investment was when people were saying “this is going to increase in value forever!!!”

What does this have to do with weight loss?

In my example of losing weight at 13 years old, I had very important (to a 13 year-old boy) consequences staring me in the face every day — I wanted a girlfriend and to not be made fun of for being overweight.

As an adult, these consequences may not be as immediate or in-your-face from external sources. You probably have health insurance from your company. You probably have a car and a bed and a cell phone. You actually don’t need to be fit

Until you do.

The consequences of ignoring your health and well-being won’t be felt for 10, 20, or 30 years. If you’re experiencing a medical consequence due to poor nutrition and lack of movement, the preceding actions occurred decades ago.

2. They never say “I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have the time…” is an interesting thought. It’s one of the only objective measures that has vastly different feelings associated with it. I really started to notice this phenomenon at the gym. From students to surgeons, attorneys to bartenders — everyone is busy. But, objectively, are they all? That can’t be the case, can it? If one person starts their day at 4:30am and works until 6pm, they’re definitely busier than someone who works 8am-5pm aren’t they?

But the feelings are the same.

People who are successful at anything — not just weight loss — have a different feeling about time. They prioritize things that are important long-term despite how their schedule may feel. They know that they’ll never find time, so they prioritize time.

In the case of weight loss and fitness, prioritizing that time actually has a scientifically-proven benefit to your work and productivity. So you’re killing two birds with the same stone; by investing time you’re actually creating more of it.

3. They settle into discomfort

I’m not talking about SEAL training “Hell Week” discomfort here. It’s more of a low-grade doing the right thing when it doesn’t feel great discomfort. Things like:

  • Packing a lunch the night before
  • Getting a gym bag ready the night before
  • Working out early in the morning if your afternoon gets busy at work
  • Pushing yourself just a touch harder in your workouts

It’s nothing crazy, but it does require a crazy level of consistency. The average time it took all those people who lost over fifty pounds was nine months! These folks weren’t living in a monastery eating celery and drinking water. But they did all the small things to set themselves up for success.

It won’t feel pleasurable but it will feel good

The folks who make big transformations have — either consciously or subconsciously — settled into the idea that something doesn’t have to feel good in order for it to be rewarding. They’ve learned to separate pleasure from happiness. They don’t deprive themselves of pleasure because this is an amazing part of being human. They enjoy cupcakes because cupcakes are delicious and pleasurable, not because cupcakes are a way to feel happy. Lasting happiness comes from accomplishment. Think about all of your greatest accomplishments — they probably had more moments of discomfort than pleasure.

 

 

How to do a partner WOD


What feelings stir up when you hear “Partner Up”?

My guess is a reaction somewhere between woo hoo! sounds fun and oh-my-god this is 7th grade gym class all over again. Both are totally understandable reactions. There are a bunch of reasons to do partner workouts — most of which are simply a practicality.

Adequate rest period

On a strength day, your coaches prefer you to partner up simply to ensure you take proper rest between sets. Novice trainees especially like to do their 5 sets of 5 reps at a light load, very quickly. This will inevitably result in stalled improvement and less reps being performed under the caring eye of a coach.

Relative intensity

High-intensity interval training is — as far as we know with current evidence — the most time-efficient way to add lean muscle mass, reduce body fat, improve cardiovascular function, and reduce injury. It’s really effective stuff… IF you can get to your individual relative intensity. NOT match your neighbor’s but work to your own “redline.” Partnering up is a great way for someone to push their working intervals just a touch higher than they normally would knowing that their partner will pick up the work on the next working set.

Equipment and time

Frankly, this is the main reason the partner WOD exists. There are times throughout the week when most of you prefer to work out. Sure, we could do 8am, 9am, and 10am classes on Saturday morning but you and your coaches all have a weekend of well-earned rest to get to. So, instead of three 12-person classes like you’d see throughout the week, we’ll do a big group class in partners so you can get on with your weekend and your coach can safely keep eyes on half the room working at any given time.

Why the weirdness around partner WODs?

It’s OK to not like interacting with people. It’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to hate small talk. It’s OK to not want to interact with other people during your hour. These are all completely acceptable reasons to avoid the partner WOD and I applaud you for knowing yourself so well.

BUT IT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE FOR YOUR NON-PARTICIPATION TO BE A RESULT OF YOUR FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY. 

Dig deep and ask yourself what your real hesitation is here. I’m only calling it out because I hear these things about 842 times a day.

“You’re gonna lift a ton more than me.”

“I’m going to hold you up.”

“You’ll gonna breeze right through this.”

“I’m going to need to scale/modify the rope climbs.”

Now, I’ve fielded a lot of complaints and “suggestion box” comments over the last six years — ranging from “huh, that’s a great point; never thought of it” (tampons, hair ties, and full-length mirror in the ladies’ restroom) to the absolutely absurd. In fact, I don’t believe that any suggestion or comment could surprise me at this point.

But, there is one comment I have never, ever received in the LAST SIX YEARS, 9,000 ATHLETES COACHED, AND OVER 5,000 PROGRAMMED WORKOUTS… wait for it… 

So-and-so lifted way less than me in the partner WOD. So-and-so held me up in the partner WOD. So-and-so had to modify muscle ups. NEVER. Not once. Not even a hint of a whisper of a thought in anyone’s head, ever about how their workout was somehow tainted by a partner with different abilities.

So why do you think you’ll be the first?

This probably gets to a psycho-social discussion that I’d prefer to not dig into now. But, really ponder the question — why do you think that you will be the first one someone is “held up by” or is looked down upon for not using the exact weight as someone else?

If you were really honest with yourself, you know the answer. You know that there’s a group of people that has a 100% track record of not judging someone based upon their current abilities. You know that your coaches modify workouts on an hourly basis for people with physical limitations that blow yours completely out of the water.

I’ve said it a million times – it’s your hour. If that means you don’t want to interact with other humans — totally cool. I can relate with that on a very deep level.

But your “I’ll hold someone up” rationale is BS. You know it is. It’s much easier to externalize onto someone else our own feelings of inadequacy. But, it’s in that vulnerability that we learn some pretty amazing things about ourselves. And it’s in that vulnerability that we grow.

Will lifting weights before a metcon make you stronger?


Ah, the age-old debate. And one that — with a basic understanding of physiology — is beginning to look like the recent Flat Earth movement.

The answer to this question is NO. Definitively no. To even entertain this statement as true demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of strength training. 

(But in all fairness, lifting weights doesn’t make you stronger either)

Ask a better question.

More often than not, this debate descends into “but Rich Froning…” or “When I was doing ____ I was the strongest I’ve ever been.”

But these anecdotes don’t really answer the actual question. So let’s start with a better question:

“How do I get stronger?”

Answer: Recover from resistance training.

This isn’t a “recovery is more important than training” post. My goal is to help you understand the fundamentals of how your biology actually works.

When you run, jump, lift, do push ups, or ride your bike, you’re causing a bunch of tiny little tears in your muscle fibers, bones, and connective tissue. After you do this activity, you consume energy (food), breath oxygen, and rest. Through a web of interconnected organs and hormones, your body magically repairs those tears with a stronger bond than previously existed. Your body becomes stronger during the repair — or supercompensation — period of recovery. 

The bubble athlete

If I had unlimited resources to get someone as strong as possible, I would do a series of blood tests immediately prior to a training session to calculate the exact minimum effective doseNotice I said minimum… not maximum. Remember, the goal from training is recovery which means WE ACTUALLY WANT TO MINIMIZE TRAINING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Immediately after the training session, I would feed my bubble athlete a perfect combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Adequate carbs so bubble athlete has insulin in their bloodstream and adequate lean protein so the insulin can do it’s job of delivering amino acids to bubble athlete’s muscles to repair the damaged we just caused.

Bubble athlete would go back into the hyperbaric bubble to sleep, get massages, practice mindfulness, and get ready for our next minimum effective dose.

So where did the Lift then Sweat come from?

Lifting and then doing some type of sprint or plyometric exercise has been a mainstay in strength and conditioning for years. Then, CrossFit came onto the scene. It wasn’t too long before CrossFit became a full blown sport. And, just like strength and conditioning, what the pro’s are doing has trickled down to high school athletes (that’s us in this analogy).

In a day-long test of fitness, competitive CrossFit needed to measure strength, endurance, power, and speed in the same setting. CrossFit has never been interested in absolute strength, but relative strength. In essence: “Cool. You have a 500 pound deadlift. But can you run a sub-20 minute 5k?”

So athletes needed to train to be able to hit ~90-95% of their 1 rep max deadlift in the same day they do Fran. So, that’s how they started to train.

But they always knew that doing so meant that both their deadlift 1 rep max AND their Fran time would suffer as a result. The question of competitive CrossFit has never been “how do I get stronger?” It has been “how can I perform good enough on game day?” 

So competitive CrossFit coaches started getting their athletes ready for game day accordingly. And the programmatic effects have trickled down to those of us trying to be the fittest person in the cubicle bank.

So what’s the answer?!

The answer is simple: if you want to get stronger, you need to begin the process of recovery as soon after the lifting session as possible. Some of you may have experienced my weird, hippy breathing drills after hard workouts. This is an intentional signal to your body to begin to super-compensate – or recover.

But, yes, there are days where we’ll program a lift with a Metcon. Here’s another peak behind the curtain: we don’t do it because it is effective, we do it because it is efficient. Seriously… we have a discussion along the lines of “yeah… this isn’t ideal, but there’s a short WOD today and we want our athletes to leave feeling like they ‘got a good workout.'”

So… the answer: Lifting before a Metcon gets you better at lifting before Metcons. It does NOT make you stronger. 

This has a place, however. If you’re doing an exercise competition where there is a strength piece BEFORE a metcon, you should begin to train accordingly ~6 weeks out from competition. If the workout is Metcon – Strength – Metcon, you should also train that way.

The novice effect

The reason the “Lift, then WOD” has had a lot of us (including myself) getting stronger is due — almost exclusively — to the novice effect. This means that any stimulus — no matter how ineffective — will have favorable results. This has been the dirty little secret of the fitness industry forever. It doesn’t matter what you do for a reeeeeallllllllllly long time. And most gyms know that folks won’t stick around for long enough to move beyond the novice phase to where we actually need to start having the discussion of minimum effective dosing and recovery.

In the world of the barbell, the novice is generally someone with less than 10 years of consistent training. Consistency means uninterrupted, intentional practice. Those weird starfish power cleans with wrist wraps you did in high school don’t count toward intentional practice.

Do I need to WANT to get stronger?

This is the beauty of the entire thing – NO!!! We have a major rule amongst the coaching staff: we will never project our own goals onto you.

Does lifting before a WOD make you feel strong, powerful, and capable? Then freaking lift before your WOD! I will be your number 1 supporter. Just do so knowing that it is not the best way to get strong.

As I’m sitting here writing this, each of your coaches PR’d their deadlift today. We’ve each been under a barbell for a really loooong time. If you told me I could add more than 5 pounds a year, I’d be the happiest guy in the gym. Today, I PR’d my deadlift by 15 pounds! How? I lifted waaaay less (~24 reps per week) than I ever have and put all my focus into recovery.

If you’re still crushing PR’s left and right – don’t change a thing! If you love hitting the WOD each day and high-fiving your squad after – don’t change a thing! But if you feel like something is missing; that your “gainz” are stalling — holler at me! I’d love to take a look at what you’re doing and provide any guidance I can.

 

You’ve COMPLETELY Misunderstood Lifestyle Track


TL; DR: Our “Lifestyle” programming track is written as the most intense version of the WOD, the Development is written as the least intense, and the Strength Track written as the most intense FOR REGIONALS ATHLETES, but most of our athletes land somewhere between Lifestyle and Development.

Intensity Drives Results

The “performed at a relatively high intensity” piece of the CrossFit methodology is referring to the longest standing principle in strength and conditioning — the SAID principle. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In layperson’s terms, the SAID principle means that, in order to increase your 1-mile run time, you must run differently. Add sprints, run 2 miles, run a mile backwards, do some jumping — the world is your oyster.

The definition of SAID and the definition of insanity are somewhat similar: repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Scaling should make things MORE difficult, not less.

We often confuse complexity with difficulty. Let me give you an example. “Fran” is written as 21-15-9 reps of 95 /65 pound thrusters & pull-ups.  The workout should be finished in about 2-5 minutes. If I saw that workout on the whiteboard, I’d be much more nervous than if I saw 21-15-9 reps of 155 / 105 pound thrusters and ring muscle ups. Why? The second workout is clearly more difficult.

I would argue that — for me — the second workout is actually less difficult. But, why? Well, first off, I can’t cycle 155 pound thrusters. So, those would be single repetitions done about once every 10-15 seconds. Compare that to the roughly 8 repetitions I would complete of the 95 pound version in the same amount of time. Secondly, I could probably push myself to do all the pull ups relatively unbroken in “Fran.” I would probably need to do my muscle ups in workout #2 in sets of 2-3 with about 10-15 seconds rest between each set. Workout 2 would take me in the neighborhood of 16-18 minutes whereas it would take an elite CrossFit Athlete about 7 minutes.

Believe it or not, my “Fran” would probably feel — to me — similar to how workout #2 would feel to Mat Fraser. This is the point of the Lifestyle track. 

Reframing things.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered changing the name of the Lifestyle track to “Intensity” to trick you into achieving the desired stimulus. You’re an intelligent adult who can handle unbranded science. I know there’s a human tendency to create hierarchy. So, I understand why you’ve (incorrectly) felt Lifestyle = chill, gonna just get in a sweat and not push it and Strength = the most advanced, intense, athletic thing that I’ll never attain. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since no one in our gym is on the cusp of a Regionals appearance, the truth is actually the other way around.

Lifestyle – the most intense track.

With the Lifestyle track we’re trying to adjust load, repetitions, and range of motion to achieve a stimulus. The question we’re asking ourselves is: How can we make the Lifestyle version of this workout FEEL like the strength track would feel for an elite, regionals-caliber athlete? YouTube 2018’s Regionals and ask yourself is that how I felt after yesterday’s WOD? 

Development – the least intense track.

You want to learn new skills – climbing a rope, doing a muscle up, learning a more efficient jerk. When acquiring a new skill, you’ll need to pump the brakes a little bit. This means dialing down the intensity to make room for some more focused practice work. For most of us, this means gymnastics and high-skill barbell movements.

So we dial down the load, decrease the reps, and create a little space for some intentional practice within the day’s WODs. Personally, I will opt for a Development version of the day’s workout during times when I have a little more mental energy and time in the day to focus on getting better at certain skills. If I want a “good, hard workout” I’m always doing the Lifestyle version.

“But Scanny… what if I can do Strength Track weights but not gymnastics?” Well, athlete, if you don’t want to get better at gymnastics, stay the course. If you want to get better — do what’s written. That may have come off as sarcastic, but I truly mean it. It is your hour. If that’s where you are in your training it’s all good! Your coaches are here with a roadmap – you’re behind the wheel.

The Development track shouldn’t leave you writhing on the floor in a heap of your own sweat and tears. That’s Lifestyle’s job.

Strength track – Lifestyle intensity for Regionals athletes (or somewhere between the two for you)

Strength Track is where it all comes together for regionals-level athletes. The intensity of Lifestyle combined with the complexity of Development. Notice I said Regionals Level Athletes. Strength Track is written in such a way that — if you achieve the intent with every workout in a given 4-week bloc of programming, you’ll likely make it to Regionals as a Masters Athlete (by Masters, I’m not referring to age per se but rather that you’re not a complete genetic mutant who is a full-time exerciser).

For most of us “normies”, Strength Track will be slightly less intense or difficult than Lifestyle. Remember, the point of scaling is to make the workout less complex, but more difficult. 

So where do you fall? Are you guilty of Lifestyle = Easy track?

Here’s a good self test: Think about a “Strength” athlete in the gym. Next time you’re in class with him or her, take a look at them after a tough workout and ask yourself “do I feel how they look?” That’ll be your indicator of whether or not you’re meeting the stimulus of the day.