As CrossFitters we like variance in everything we do. It is one of the fundamental concepts of our program. We vary our movements, our weights, our time domains, and our music. In the amended words of Lupe Fiasco, “all varied everything.” Variance is a good thing. It helps us break through the traditional plateaus seen in traditional fitness from doing the same movements all day every day. It is also entertaining. Continually switching what you do will continually show you things you need to improve on. I would think that is a concept that keeps so many people coming back. The continual thirst for improvement is continually supplied by the ever-changing skills and movements.
There is one thing that should never be varied: your intensity.
CrossFit = Constantly Varied, Functional Movement performed at High Intensity.
Not: Repetitive movements you like performed how you like them at whatever pace you want.
You want to strive for absolute intensity every time you partake in a workout.
The definition of absolute: not qualified or diminished in any way; total.
The definition of intensity: the quality of being intense.
The definition of intense: of extreme force, degree, or strength.
Therefore, absolute intensity = performing a workout at extreme force, degree or strength in a non-diminished fashion relative to your best ability.
Situational intensity is the act of qualifying/diminishing your intensity due to external circumstances. It is an un-desirable trait.
Situational intensity all starts with mindset. There are many different paths to sparking this un-desired mindset but all of them result in an athlete doing this: giving less that the highest level of intensity they can.
Your intensity is situational if you see a movement in a workout that is challenging for you and drop your intensity level because of that. You cannot attack any movement with a lower level of intensity regardless of your ability to do it. That also means that you have to attack a scaled level of a movement just as hard as you attack the movements you are very good at.
Example of how to do it right:
CrossFit Waukee Co-owner Reggie Hoegh.
Reggie struggles with handstand push-ups (in a strict and deficit fashion). However, I have never seen another individual attack a movement with such resolve. He doesn’t shy away from them when they arrive in a workout and for a while it seemed like every other day he was doing supplemental work to improve them. If they come up in a workout he will still attack them as hard as he can, his mindset doesn’t waiver just because they show up.
That is how you need to respond to all workouts regardless of movements. Attack every workout as hard as you can.
If you look at the board and decide you can’t do the prescribed weight therefore it is stupid that is a problem. Having to drop weight to do a workout isn’t a death sentence, it is a challenge. The challenge is for you to go as hard as you can (absolute intensity). If you continually do that with the weights you are capable of you will progress to doing workouts as prescribed much faster. Don’t assess a workout and let your intensity waiver just because you can’t perform the weight written on the board. Slacking and dragging (basically pouting) because you can’t do something will get you nowhere fast.
Check that ego. Work your tail off to get stronger. Reach your goal. Repeat.
This one is simple.
If you have a 30+ minute workout, attack it as hard as you can.
If you have a -5 minute workout, attack it as hard as you can.
If you have a workout between those domains, attack it as hard as you can.
If you work out at any time ever, attack it as hard as you can. (ß Dramatic but you get the idea)
If the workout feels hard to perform during, you’re doing it right. If it hurts after, you did it right.
We have finally arrived at the worst excuse for a drop in intensity level.
Music is not a good nor will it ever be a good reason for your intensity level to be below absolute.
For starters, “workout music” or “pump up music” is a completely subjective opinion. I asked the CrossFit Waukee 6:15 a.m. class to write on a white board today what kind of music gets them “pumped up.” Pretty much all of them wrote different things (some of them seemed like they couldn’t make up their minds :)). You wouldn’t catch me dead working out to Kenny G. That doesn’t mean that my sweet sweet grandmother wouldn’t. For all I know, KG might be super motivating to granny before and while she crushes “Fran.”
The music will be what it will be. You should still strive to do the workout with absolute intensity. If that goal changes because there is country music in the background then you’re doing this thing wrong.
CrossFit = Constantly Varied, Functional Movement performed at High Intensity.
If you perform what is written on the board at absolute intensity to the best of your ability regardless of external circumstances then you are doing CrossFit right.
I leave you with a picture of “Pukie the Clown.” Pukie is CrossFit’s mascot. I used to hate him. That is because, like many things in life, I didn’t understand him. At first, all I saw was a sickly looking clown puking on the ground. I thought to myself, “who would want this thing to represent their company?” Look deeper than the creepy clown face vomiting on the ground. Pukie stands for absolute intensity and the feeling you get when you perform at absolute intensity. Absolute intensity is the very thing that is required for anyone of any age or fitness level to move towards a higher standard of fitness. That is what we all do this for isn’t it? A higher standard of fitness, for ourselves, our community, our loved ones, is the desired result of CrossFit. Pukie is the representation of what you have to feel to raise that standard.
We’re all here to do one thing: get better. That applies as much for the CFDM coaching staff as it does for each athlete we work with. If I stop progressing as a coach that can directly stunt your development/improvement as an athlete. If you stop developing as an athlete that stunts my development as a coach. I will not be faced with new scenarios that I must help you improve upon. The pursuit of improvement can lead to one negative side effect: Over-coaching.
Coach initiated over-coaching:
This is when a coach feels the need to correct every movement in-efficiency they see right at the moment they see it, every time they see it. I did this a lot when I was just beginning to coach CrossFit. I was so over the top about every minute detail that most of the times the corrections I made weren’t sustainable and the athlete couldn’t feel them. You have to understand and feel what you were doing wrong to understand and feel what you are doing right once you have been corrected. A coach that is all over you every other part of the lift isn’t allowing you to feel your way through the lifts. If they are doing this, when adjustments are made they won’t be impactful and actually produce a change in movement pattern.
Diane Fu, a well-known weightlifting coach within the CrossFit community, won’t coach an athlete (beyond the fundamental basics) for the first month they train in her gym. This isn’t because she doesn’t care about them, she is letting them develop an understanding of the movement. They have to engrain and understand the fundamentals before higher level concepts are available to supplement their movement habits.
Athlete initiated over-coaching:
“Will you come watch this lift and tell me what I am doing wrong?”
It happens every day. It is promising that our athletes are so eager to improve but many times that questions is asked multiple times and the chances are if I haven’t come over to you before you asking me that I have assessed what you are doing without you knowing it. If I didn’t come say something to you, there is a reason for it. An example would be: I need you to build your feeling bank. I need you to continue to do what you are doing so that when I come over and make the change, the cue is meaningful and impactful. This happens more than you think. A lot of coaching can be compared to being a life guard. If I assess your movement and it is a train wreck that will get you hurt, then I will be there in a second to correct asap! It you show an understanding of the particular movement we are working on and there is a minor adjustment that could be made, we should seek to make the adjustment at the most opportune time. This is the moment when you are most likely to immediately understand and apply the adjustment. I spend the majority of my time coaching chasing those culminating moments. Those break-throughs are the ones of real value and what you should seek as an athlete.
As coaches we should seek to offer the highest of quality in our instruction not just relentless quantity.
As an athlete you should seek the cues/adjustments that are highly impactful. Look for the cues that are going to alter your entire way of thinking about and performing a movement. Don’t over concern yourself with insignificant things that are easily discarded and don’t lead to improvement.
Quality/Quantity is the goal. Working together to make it happen is what makes us both stronger.
My article released Friday discussed learning how to handle situations you will be faced with in CrossFit appropriately. Let’s continue down this path of enlightenment with the issue of injuries. I want to start this conversation with two points:
1. Injuries will happen. They can happen outside the gym, and they can happen inside the gym. That is right, I said it, THERE IS THE POTENTIAL TO GET HURT IN THE GYM. However, the health benefits way out way the risk in any gym injury scenario.
Think about it like this:
The health benefits of swimming and running are well known. You can drown in a pool and you can tear your achilles tendon/fracture your ankle on a nice summer jog. I don’t see people keeping themselves out of the pool/off the road because there is the POTENTIAL for injury.
2. When you are injured, ceasing all physical activity is not the answer. Your fitness doesn’t have to suffer because you are limited. It is at this time you NEED to come to the gym. I AM BEGGING YOU, I WANT YOU TO COME TO THE GYM. Any coach worth their salt is going to assess the injury and get excited because it is our opportunity to get creative.
As you can see, Kristen has a boot on her right foot. She got injured outside the gym. Kristen has kept coming to class and every time I see her we modify the workout to fit what she is able to do right now. Tonight’s workout was as follows:
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of,
150 Double Unders
90 Wall Ball Shots
30 Power Snatches
Kristen’s workout looked like this:
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of,
50 Wall Ball Sit-ups Shots
30 Supine Ring Rows/Ring Rows
There are many other ways I could have gone with this as a coach. If I wanted to keep the workout as true to form as possible I would have had her muscle snatch off the blocks. However, due to the massive press volume I put Kristen through last week I thought it best to balance the scale with some pulling. The point is, Kristen is not halted from continuing to work on her fitness.
Good job Kristen! You are an athlete that gets it. I truly appreciate your hard work.
I can think of other examples as well:
I remember my boy Josh Boyle out at CrossFit Waukee showing up bright and early every morning while his wrist was out of function so we could work together to come up with a workout that was equal parts challenging and do-able. I remember thinking the whole time how cool it was that he was continuing to push himself when others think their life must halt.
Another shout out to a CFDM Original Gangsta Ryan Burr. He has had an injured shoulder for some time now, and he continues to press. OH MY GOODNESS HE CONTINUES TO PRESS?!?!?!?! That’s right he does. He can’t go overhead, so we find ways to have him press parallel to the ground (push-ups, bench press, etc…)
The point is, these people very much fit the theme of this week. Sometimes, crap is going to happen and you might get injured. You do not have to quit challenging your fitness because of it.
I leave you with this quote from Travis Mash on a Barbell Shurgged podcast (world class power lifter and weight lifter & now coaches weightlifting professional athletes):
“Man, get out of here with your hurt wrist. Don’t come to me with your (expletive) hurt wrist and tell me you can’t do anything. If you come to me with a hurt wrist, your training just got fun cuz now we can get creative.”
(Not sure how accurate that is but I vividly remember the statement and thinking, “right on Travis, right on.”)
If you are doing this thing right, then you are learning lessons in the gym that you can apply to your life outside the gym. In the gym as well as in the outside world people like to say things like “you control your own destiny.” While that is true, it is true in this respect: most of time you don’t control the situation you’re thrust into but you do control how you respond to the situation.
CrossFit should be preparing you for the unknown and unknowable. It is notorious for thrusting skills/rep schemes/time domains/movements at you that you may not like. That doesn’t mean you shy away from these things. It means you step up, give it your best, and then at least the result will guarantee no regrets. Heck, if you do this, you might even find yourself doing things you never thought you could do.
That will be the best reward.
Here are some things that as an athlete you need to learn to react positively to:
Not being able to do something does not make it stupid.
Ring and bar muscle-ups. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say “normal people can’t do those” or “I’ll never be able to do that, it’s stupid” I’d be rich. In reality, if you have been doing CrossFit for 1-2 years and are in proper shape it is your fault. Chris Spealler was asked at my CrossFit Competitor’s Course seminar what he thought of muscle-ups being the first movement in one of The Open workouts. Without hesitation he said, “If you have been doing CrossFit for 1-2 years and can’t do one it’s your fault. I have 8 and 9 year olds at my gym that can do them.” He wasn’t trying to be a prick, he was merely pointing out, that if you have been shown progressions/been told how to get there, then you just haven’t put in the time.
I have a high school athlete that trains here during the winter to stay in shape for his sports which are spring/summer sports. He and I have different personalities so we crash heads a lot. However, he works his tail off. Out of that hard work came respect. He respects my knowledge and I respect his work ethic. His goal was to do ring muscle-ups. He showed up every day, EVERY DAY, 30 minutes before class and worked on muscle-ups the whole time. The first thing he would do is hop on the rings and go for it, and every day I would give him a little different piece of information. He does them with ease now. It wasn’t a fancy progression that carried him into dip control and finally into lock out. It was hard work. He would not be denied therefore he wasn’t.
The things you can’t do aren’t stupid. Talk to a coach and have them set you on the right path. Once you have that, you just need to work harder.
The order a workout is performed in only matters if you let it.
In CrossFit, you will have to do movements that aren’t easy for you. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. The order of the movements is insignificant unless you make them significant. Think of life in baseball terms: 99 percent of the time you’re trying to hit, it’s a 100 mile per hour fastball coming at you. The ball is never set on a tee for you to smack it however you want. However, you still need to try to hit to the best of your abilities. If you refuse to step to the plate because the situation is not perfect, then you have let the situation control you, not the other way around.
For the love of all that is awesome don’t shy away from the things you struggle with.
Here is a novel idea: work on them with a tenacity that exceeds the tenacity with which you do the things you are good at. You might just find yourself turning weaknesses into strength.
I will be posting videos throughout the next week with more scenarios like this and discussing how to better react to the things that are thrust your way.
1. How did you first get involved in CrossFit Des Moines and how long have you been working out here?
I work with Andy Dobbins who told me about CrossFit Des Moines but never pushed it on me. I was looking for somewhere to work out and Andy told me to try it for a week. When I first showed up the staff and other members made me very comfortable. The positive atmosphere and constant encouragement make CFDSM the best gym around. I have been here for 7 months.
My biggest accomplishments would be losing 35 pounds. More important than the weight loss is that I am starting to become healthy.
My goals have always been to become healthy. I had not worked out for so long that I had to change my lifestyle. I want to continue to improve my fitness, work towards the prescribed workouts, and continue to improve my health.
4. What are your favorite and least favorite movements?
I don’t know that I have a favorite movement but my favorite aspect of CFDSM is the constant variety. If I have to pick a least favorite it would be running. Running has never been one of my favorite things to do.
5. What would you tell someone thinking about giving CFDM a try?
I always tell people that this is the friendliest and most positive place you could ever come to for a workout. The coaching staff will always help you with whatever you need and it is always in a positive way. The people you get to work out with are friendly and helpful also.
6. Explain what your time at CrossFit Des Moines has meant to you.
CrossFit Des Moines has changed my life. I am slowly becoming healthier, my family loves the changes in look and attitude, and I have so much more energy. I am also able to deal with the stresses in my life much better now.
Thank you for this honor. I have a great deal of respect for CrossFit Des Moines, the owners and coaching staff.
“I would love to try CrossFit but I need to get in better shape first.”
Know any friends or relatives that have said this or felt this? At CFDM we have heard this statement and have created a program aimed at introducing people to CrossFit concepts in a smart, fun and progressive manner! This program has no barbell work in it to help reduce intimidation that the barbell may bring. It also runs at the same time as our regular CrossFit classes so you can still share in the community aspect that make CrossFit so unique.
Unleaded runs on the same schedule as our regular classes. It is $99/month and you can come to any session at any of our three locations.
Here are the operation hours of our three facilities:
CrossFit Des Moines Urbandale Class Times
Monday – Friday
6:15 pm (Not available on Friday)
9:00 am Large Group WOD Open to anyone (member or not)
North Ankeny CrossFit Class Times
Monday – Friday
8:00 am Large Group WOD Open to anyone (member or not)
CrossFit Waukee Class Times
7:30 am Large Group WOD Open to anyone (member or not)
For information about the program, contact the Director of the Facility that you plan to attend!
Urbandale: Tyler Lloyd – 515-783-2542 or firstname.lastname@example.org
North Ankeny: Jennifer Kahler – 515-339-2199 or email@example.com
Waukee: Reggie Hoegh – 515-865-2973 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month I was watching my intern lead the warm-up for my 5:15 p.m. class at the Urbandale location. I died a little inside when the following came out of his mouth: “Let’s head back inside and grab some pull-up bands for mobility.” The fact that these bands have become associated with pull-ups and ring dips is troubling. Note this: YOU WILL ADVANCE TO DOING PULL-UPS AND RING DIPS FASTER IF YOU LEAVE THE BAND OUT.
There are three muscle actions to every compound movement (pretty much every movement you do in CrossFit is a compound movement). The three muscle actions are Concentric, Eccentric and Isometric .
Concentric is the muscle shortening action or the “up” part of the movement. To move concentrically the muscle is required to contract forcefully. This is the muscle action that CAN be strengthened through banded assistance assuming you continuously decrease the assistance of the band.
Eccentric is the muscle lengthening action or the “down” part of the movement. To move eccentrically the muscle is required to extend to full length. As an athlete this requires control of your pace as you descend into movements or bad things can happen (examples: dropping out hard on butterfly pull-ups, dropping hard on to your abmat in handstand push-ups, bottoming out through the rings on ring dips). Using a band will not make you better at this portion of the movement, in fact, it will slow your progress in this area as the band allows you to “bottom out” without the consequences that will face you if you ever hope to do these movements un-assisted.
Isometric is the static muscle action that occurs when the muscle is either at full contraction or full extension. To hold isometrically one is required to show control in both the bottom and top portions of a movement. The bands will not make you stronger in this muscle action either. Take a ring dip for example. To have the ability to perform a ring dip, you must show that you can hold and control the rings tight to your body at the top and bottom of the dip. If you use a band, it will hold the rings in place for you allowing you to bypass this important muscle action for minimal actual gain.
So 2/3 of what is required to do the things you want to eventually do are not strengthened through using bands.
There is more than one way to skin a cat. If you use bands you can still progress to pull-ups, dips and other movements, but the bottom line is it is a less efficient way to arrive at your desired goal.
Do you want to achieve your goals in 6 months or 6 years?
If you are o.k. with the latter then keep using that band! If you’re looking for a better solution, building your strength through body weight alternatives to prescribed movements is the more efficient way to go.
If you need alternatives to building your pull-up/dip strength, keep your eyes peeled to CFDM’s facebook feed this week. You can also ask your coach to show you a smarter progression and they should be able to help you out!
You do it every day, and if you aren’t, you should be. Posting your scores on the whiteboard is for the competitive and non-competitive athlete alike. It is the tangible evidence of the work that you put in that day. Posting a score on the whiteboard gives a real-ness to your performance that day that is stronger than just knowing how you did in your own head. Remember, if you posted a score on that scoreboard, regardless of what it is, you are becoming a more functionally fit human being than the other 99% of the world that doesn’t participate in CrossFit. If you are a non-competitive athlete, you must find intra-motivational utensils. If you are a competitive athlete, you must find inter-motivational utensils. Neither form of motivation is negative and if you have a coach that puts either down/discourages one, then they are ill-informed. BOTH REQUIRE YOU TO WRITE YOUR SCORE ON THE WHITEBOARD.
Non-competitive athletes (intra-motivated)
The score that goes on the whiteboard can be just for you. It is the greatest intra-motivational utensil you have. It can reveal many things to you about yourself. Surpassing your own personal rep/time goal for a workout can be confirmation of a job well done. Not meeting your personal expectations because of a specific movement can inform you of what elements in CrossFit you need to improve upon. Coming in severely underneath your goal/expectation can also be the swift kick in the rear that says “you didn’t have/bring it today.” All three of these are different avenues to motivation. Some of you will respond better to one or the other, but ALL OF you need motivation, and this is a great way to create it for yourself.
Competitive athletes (inter-motivated)
The score than goes on the whiteboard can be for others. It is the greatest inter-motivational utensil you have. It can reveal things to you about yourself through comparison to others. Beating someone close to your skill level or someone you are chasing can be confirmation of a job well done. Seeing what scores others post when they have movements they are exceptional at that you have traditionally struggled with can inform you of what elements in CrossFit you need to improve upon. Getting crushed by someone close to your skill level or someone you are chasing can be that swift kick in the rear that says “you didn’t have/bring it today.” ALL OF you need motivation, and if you can’t create if for yourself, then here is a way to create it through comparison with others.
Final thought/Pet peeve
For the love of all that is holy, post your score in total reps when you have completed an AMRAP! Why? If someone that knows nothing about the workout walks up to the whiteboard and sees the scores for the day, they know exactly how much work you put in/where you finished in comparison to others/themselves. Example:
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of,
20 Wall Ball Shots
20 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls
20 Push Press
60 Double Unders
Jesabel’s score: 3
Ron Burgundy’s score: 2+119
It’s Tuesday morning, this was Monday’s workout and it is long gone from the whiteboard. Little Timmy Thompson missed Monday and has no idea what the workout was. In this scenario he has no idea that Ronald is only one rep behind Jesabel. For all Timmy knows, there were 754 reps in a round, and Jesabel beat Ronnie’s behind so bad he cried the next 24 hours before he came back to the gym.
Another scenario is that Ronald is a space case (I love all of you but a lot of you do this) and he has forgotten exactly what the workout was the day before. He now has no idea what the exact amount of work he did the day before was. Ron now has nothing separating him from the “Bros” at the local treadmill and bicep curl establishment that did 3 supersets of ladeedadeeda on “arm day.”
Now consider this:
Jesabel’s score: 360 reps
Ron Burgundy’s score: 359 reps
Little Timmy Thompson knows Ron and Jesabel had a heated battle that ended tightly contested. He can now find out what the workout was and set out to beat that score. When he posts his score in total reps, then Jesabel and Ron boy will know exactly where they stack up against Timmy.
Ronald comes in, looks at the board, and thinks to himself, “Dang, I did 359 total reps yesterday? I am a beast. The bros at the curl shop got nothing on me!”
All is right in the world in the latter.
Come join us August 1st to celebrate a fantastic summer of fitness at our Sand Volleyball Social. There will be a WOD at our Waukee location at 11:00AM and a sand Volleyball tournament at Centennial Park in Waukee starting at 1:00PM. We will have the grill going for a cookout all you need to bring is a meat and side. Drinks and paper products will be provided by CFDM. Please RSVP at your location so we can be sure to have enough drinks and utensils for all. We ask that you would also RSVP 2 days prior for the workout to be sure we can accommodate all the athletes and get done within an hour.
Sand Volleball Tournament Information:
– Sign up at your location (must have a creative team name)
– Teams of 3 guys 3 girls
– No limit on number teams
– Winners get $50 gift certificate for CFDM merchandise (for all teammates $300 total).
– Runner up gets $25 gift certificate ($150)
– 3rd place gets 4 pack of kill Cliff (24 Kill Cliffs)