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Should our ideas be concrete?

 

It’s easy to dismiss a change of mind as wishy washy, or that it was some type of ignorance, simply dispelled by updating the software. As a society we appreciate a change of mind—at least in theory—but in practice we generally look at the behavior of change disapprovingly, fucking “flip floppers”; that is unless someone is changing their mind to fall in line with our current beliefs. 

I have changed my mind on almost every aspect of fitness, but also in politics, relationships, and spirituality (more than once). And it’s true; I view my former self as ignorant, uninformed, and even stupid in some cases but with that same thought I also assume that what I believe as of this moment is “correct”, which is unlikely and makes it more difficult for me to learn from this point forward. Just think, if you have an accurate and well-informed idea about the world in every subject you are interested in, then what’s the point? There is nothing left to learn, you have all the answers you seek, you are simply suffering.

Recently, someone who should have no interest in our project (because of certain relationships) reached out and asked to know more. Something made him change his mind, and I am thankful that he did—because I was unable to without his help. It was the single most refreshing act I have seen in a while and it really changed what I had already made up mind about this person. It’s such a simple, yet revealing act to change one’s mind, and it is sometimes the hardest thing for us to do. 

The arguments for our intelligence being a result of our brains being predictive machines is astute, but the same quality that makes us human is also the quality that makes us bad at being a human—strength as a weakness.

The space you hold, whether your home or your gym may in fact be made of concrete, but it shouldn’t mean that your mind is. 

 

Training

Warm:

10min easy bike

Conversational basketball (make sure to note the lack of athleticism)

Single-leg work:

10m of each

-walking alternating kicks

-walking alternating kicks + quad stretch

-walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch

-walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch + single leg deadlift

-walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch + single leg deadlift

-lunge + walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch + single leg deadlift

-lunge + walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch + single leg deadlift + spiderman lunge

-lunge + walking alternating kicks + quad stretch + instep stretch + single leg deadlift + spiderman lunge + pistol

Squat therapy:

Third world hold 2min then add:

-10 cross reaches

-10 spinal stretches

-10 sit out pistol

-10 deck squat

-10 burpee-squat-deck

-10 candlestick to pistol

-10 prone scorpions into cosack squat

Work to heavy technical high hang snatch (This will limit most people to less than 50%, but technically efficient lifters can see 90% + of the 1RM, It should go without saying but I’ll mention it anyways: this session will feel very different to the comprehensive athlete than it will to less “able”)

Then

12min AMRAP

50x burpee buy in

17 pull-ups

17 AB cals

17 ball over shoulder


I would first and foremost rather see height on the ball and depth in the squat before I would appreciate a heavy ball.

I would first and foremost rather see height on the ball and depth in the squat before I would appreciate a heavy ball.

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Let’s face it, you’ve never been this happy on a rower.

Let’s face it, you’ve never been this happy on a rower.

Is there a practical way to develop mental toughness?

 

We all quit. Most of us would prefer not to. But there is little to no information on how to develop the skill of resilience other than telling people to especially NOT quit, or that it is a common quality found in most successful efforts. This session is an earnest effort into the practical application of resilience. The trick is to pick the appropriate load—one that is heavy enough to trigger the negotiation of wanting to stop but not heavy enough to make stopping inevitable. The fine balance is between choosing something that you are arrogant enough to believe yourself capable of, but also humble enough to accept the lesson that biting off more than you can chew can provide. 

Remember this is just one session, it may make sense to repeat it, albeit with higher standards or to address an issue that came out of first doing it, but aside from that take the feeling associated with the session and apply it to other time domains or stress positions.

Training

Warm:

10min easy bike

3x10m alternating kicks

3x10m walking lunge

3x10m bear crawl

3x10 air squat

 Strength: The misconception is that I need to add weight in order to develop strength, but that is far from the truth. Strength (at least physiological strength) is a result of the signaling pathways for increased muscle contraction, the beginner lacks this ability because it is painful and pain is foreign, we load them so they have to push against a force. But someone familiar with the sensations of high contraction rate can recruit unloaded, making the body stronger even in the mundane. The trick isn’t to work through but to work with…

3x5 off-box squat (strict by lifting toes on the trailing foot—but use the box to guide the dragging leg)

3x5 stiff leg landing box jump (this is essentially practicing to over shoot the landing)

3x5 tuck jump over box (the box allows for an object to enforce a fast tuck)

 

Work:

3-6-9-12-15…30

-Assault Bike calories

-Wall balls 20/14—some might use as light as 10lbs to get the desired effect (unbroken) 

The penalty for breaking is 10x burpee pull up before you return to finish the wall ball set (no one yet has had to take the penalty which makes me proud as a coach but disappointed as an observer)


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Should I listen to the pain?

No, at least not fully.

The perception of pain is peculiar. It is a sensation that demands attention, like a toddler or a German sports car. But the sense of pain we most often feel is not one of injury. Sit perfectly still for longer than 90-seconds and you’ll understand what I’m talking about—even silence hurts.

This brings about questions into the accuracy of our senses when feeling pain during exercise. The majority’s first goal is most often to shush the signal. People have their own special mantras to try and accomplish this. They use masculine idioms to mask it, attempt to laugh it off, some even might try and scare it with an grimace or maniacal grunting. Few try to sense it, even fewer try to make sense OF it, believing that the signals your brain interprets are accurate—or worse, are for your benefit. But this practice of concentrating on it, homing in on its message is alarmingly effective—like looking into the eyes of a crying toddler and really showing empathy. It’s worth repeating that this won’t make it go away, there will still be what is effectively a small child crying at you, needing something that you can’t provide—reprieve. 

We lump pain & suffering together but they are vastly different; one exists only when we concede to the other. Pain then, is an enabler, without it we can never learn to overcome suffering. Without suffering we can never learn to enjoy that toddler when she turns and smiles about the simple things that we also tried to ignore. Listen, ask questions, and under no circumstances should you believe the answers.

 

Training

Warm:

5-minutes easy bike

3x10 shoulder dislocates (banded)

3x10 band pull-a-parts 

Single foot 3-spot drill: anterior, lateral, posterior (as many touches with both hands on one foot without falling before switching) 3-times through

Third-world squat (be still…till you can’t) Then…

-lateral stretch (all of these are done form the bottom of a squat)

-spine flexion

-pivot to pistol

-burpee to foot through

-supine scorpion

-supine scorpion to cosack squat

 Work:

3 rounds through for time (teams of 2—shared reps)

43cal Ski (partner holds ball overhead 14/20)

43x push up (one working at a time)

43cal Row (partner holds plank)

43x sit up (one working at a time)

43cal Assault Bike (partner dead hangs)


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What does it take to pass the test?

I had the pleasure of attending a black belt test at Unified BJJ, the school I’ve been training at for the last year. I have to admit I thought I was going to witness the most arduous effort, I was hoping to see what the highest level test would look like. Based on how difficult it has been for me to learn BJJ, I was thinking I could garner some insight from the “masters”. But I couldn’t have been more wrong in my presumptions of what the test actually looked like. My professor, Johnny Carlquist opened the ceremony by explaining that the day was more of an acknowledgment of work done than it was an actual test. He added: “We already know these guys are tough, we test for that almost everyday, and have for almost decade [in most cases].” How awesome it feels to be punched in the face with recognition of your own ignorance. 

 

But is there anything worth earning that isn’t like this? The journey to black belt is a close equivalent to earning a PhD in self-awareness, at least time and effort wise. The test is in the time—the procession at the end is just a ritual for outsiders to recognize the accomplishment. And an outsider I was, looking in and remembering all the times I quit, never really recognizing that THAT was indeed the test, and I had failed. We are some times so focused on the objective that we fail to “feel” the process, to know what we are really being tested for. Congratulations to all who worked hard enough and long enough to not need a test, it was a refreshing reminder. 

For more insight on Time

training

Warm:

to the idea that this is not fast, that there is no way to envision a destination because you can hardly find your current location.

Work: To be better, no matter how difficult this seems. Don’t practice unless you are willing to PRACTICE.

Cool, only a few more decades and the test will be easy.


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In a world where commitment is currency most people are fucking bankrupt. 

 

In fitness, quitting is a reasonable reaction because so much of this industry is hell-bent on persuading one to either follow, buy or both. Being a customer is a bad incentive, it only takes momentary presence, but in the world beyond marketing—in the world of real effort—your buy-in is a direct manifestation of your will and your consistent ability to keep pushing. The only way to change is to commit to the forces that allow for adaptation. This is painful. This is not easy. If you quit, it doesn’t work. Even worse, if you stick with it, it still might not work. It is this lack of guarantee that has most people seeking the quickest exit. We all do it, so this shouldn’t be taken as some soapbox where I (the guru) tell you (the plebeian) a new “Grind-Hustle” mantra. What I’m telling you is that the “self” you can imagine—that is yet to exist—is on the other side of a high risk investment, if you only go half-way then breaking even is probably your best outcome, If you go all-in you may in fact lose everything but it is certainly the only way you can gain.

 

Although we make misanthropic presumptions about the intelligence of our era, it should be recognized that some people are too smart for their own good. They tend to avoid especially difficult tasks under the banner of self-preservation; they excuse a lack of commitment to a higher sense. More often than not this is a rationalized excuse. What would happen if you truly went all-in, if you committed to a plan of action despite the dire consequences?

 

Testing:

Warm:

10min easy on the assault bike

then a progressive 10min 10/50, 20/40, 30/30, 40/20, 50/10 then go back down.

 

Dynamic work 10m of each

-bear crawl

-bear crawl backwards (stay low)

-spiderman lunge

-crab walk

-plank lateral walk (switch halfway)

 

Breathing drills(this is as hokey or “new age” as you want it to be but breathing is a subconscious/voluntarily conscious action, we can either leave the control of our breath up to circumstances or we can choose to control it. Given what we’ve said about the things you should control, we tend to train the breath as an aspect of preparation, it is mechanical, adaptable, and helpful from what we have seen):

30 breaths 

10x breaths: inhale deep, hold for one second, exhale forcefully

10x breaths: inhale fast and deep, hold 3 seconds, exhale forcefully

10x breaths: inhale deep and slow (belly and chest), hold for 5 seconds, exhale forcefully

 

Work:

 

1-minute maximum effort, choose your poison. (“maximum” means that there is no room to question whether you could have done better. I’m not saying it’s “healthy”, I’m not saying it’s good for performance, but I do think it’s necessary if you have ever questioned what you are capable of. Good luck and godspeed)

 

Cool:

10min easy spin


What’s the hardest work you can do?

In short, to keep fucking learning. 

I suffer from mind-numbing uncertainty. Not the kind that makes it difficult to choose between the chicken Piccata and the pan-seared halibut, but the sort that makes it hard to decide if it’s worth getting out of bed. 

Most days are simply an exercise in futility, except for one thing—I wonder. 

My mind wonders so that my body can wander, I’m curious. So when the dread of facing the same thing day after day attempts to break me, curiosity is my cure. 

I wonder what I can do given the same circumstances—can I make a difference? Not in any “LIVE concert to save Africa from itself kind of way” but in the little things, can I heal this broken ankle, can I eat in a way that changes how I see myself, can I train in a way that makes me stronger without breaking myself, can I feel different during this moment when something similar has dictated how I felt before?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, which is exactly the point, the point is to find out or at least come as close as I can to finding out. I have done this exact training session maybe 4 or 5 times. I don’t know why. It’s hard, painful, and it doesn’t seem like I ever get better at it…but maybe thats the point.

Training

Warm:

10min easy bike

10m of each:

-alternating kicks (Frankenstein kicks)

-alternating single foot good mooring

-squat + walking lunge (squat + one lunge +squat + other side lunge)

Barbell warm up, 3 of each at each position(clean grip):

-shrug

-shrug jump

-muscle clean

-press

-power clean

-clean

-jerk

Then:

“Grace-Twins Do Triathlon To Hell” (before you do this, first ask yourself why, do I just need something to do, because I have run out of creative steam? or are you trying to feel what we feel? There is no right answer)

50cal: Ski, Bike, Row

15x clean and jerks @ 135#

40cal: Ski, Bike, Row

15x clean and jerk @ 135#

30cal: Ski, Bike, Row

15x clean jerks @ 135#

20cal: Ski. Bike, Row

15x clean and jerk @ 135#

10cal: Ski, Bike, Row

39:38


Is programming the right word?

I ask because I hate it. The word “Programming” denotes the idea of set-instructions, an algorithm, a path that abhors deviation, which in my experience—as well as many others—is the opposite of coaching. 

Coaching is nuanced, a balancing act that conforms and becomes what it needs to. It is malleable, at least as much as the one applying its pressure is. The art is in visualizing the end point and adjusting known/controllable variables to keep that target in sight—like hitting a moving target, from a moving, blind platform. 

It probably wouldn’t bother me except for the marketing that goes behind it, which also insinuates words like: “data”, “science”, “validated”, which reeks of an implied sense of “guarantee” and entitled success. Nothing worth attaining is guaranteed, none of us are sure to succeed.

To follow a program is to give up control because you are giving up your senses and feeling around your very specific conditions, in some cases this is useful (beginners or those prone to over/under doing it, same same, but different). You are taking your mind out of the process and relying on whatever will and intelligence that inspired one to write the plan to begin with. As someone who writes “programs”, I can tell you it matters what mood I’m in. Just noticing is sometimes enough to control that variable but sometimes not. I don’t know how other people do it, but I do know this profession is filled with charlatans who also happen to be lazy, fuck-twats that feel entitled to unfair-compensation for their mediocre-thought process.

We are not against “programs”—at least when used properly. If a program is an idea, a hypothetical answer to a theoretical question then it is a thinking exercise, not just a plan to exercise. This seems useful, it can demonstrate progression, or translate a complex idea, but what it can’t be is a determined rule to follow, the sub for thinking or the opposition for developing your own sensitivity.

Training

The appropriate response when you understand what you are in for.

Warm:

5min easy bike

3x10 of each:

-shoulder dislocates

-band pull aparts

-band high pull

-air squat

-single leg DL

-pistol

Work:

6 rounds for time:(start @ 90min pace, if you know you know)

500m ski

10x burpee

80m farmer carry @ 2x53#KB

500m row

10x wall ball

80m walking lunge

1000m Bike erg

10x box jump @ 30”

80m bear crawl


Why Am I Not Improving?

It’s worth recognizing that the vast majority of gym goers stops making meaningful progress after about 6-months. This implies that the hours spent in the gym is little more than a useless, costly habit. “No!” you might scream at me “But I go HARD!!” And you might, but I would ask to see quantifiable proof—this is where most people start stuttering, usually referring to the holiday season or some injury that is to blame for the lack of noticeable improvement. It seems odd that people have been at this for close to a decade and yet they load the same weights, and they do the same movements, they suffer and even lay on the ground after—they have fallen victim to “gyming off”. 

To inquire about the usual fitnesser’s routine wouldn’t be much different than to question their masturbation practice. Sure, there are some note worthy times, but for the most part, one session melds and looks just like the next—there was that one time that they tried something new, but it was a mess and made everyone uncomfortable.

The difference is in one’s intention. You cannot just go through the motions, simply showing up isn’t enough—you need to examine every inch for improvement and seek to make it better. Better is better, the same is the same—even if you mix-modal the fuck out of everything. Being accurate and honest with your current condition and what your future could look like is the ONLY way to consistently make improvement. It doesn’t feel good to acknowledge that your body composition is exactly the same as it always has been or that you use the exact loading for the exact same movements despite your “going hard”, but this “discomfort” with reality is what allows you a chance to change it.  

Training

Warm:

50-40-30-20-10

AB cals

Row cals

Progressive pace (it starts easy, whatever pace you can average for the first set of 50cals, then increase by a logical amount that will prepare you—not wear you—for the work)

 Shoulders:

10x of each:

Banded pull aparts

Dislocates

Banded pull aparts (thumbs out)

Dislocates (thumbs out)

3 rounds (the point of this is to put as much acidity in the shoulders as possible, if it is agonizing then good, if it’s easy—be more intentional, do more.)

Wrists:

3x10 DB circles each direction

3x15sec DB plank balance

3x5 wrist push-up (these need to be controlled so remove as much bodyweight as needed in order to do that)

 

Work:

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1

Snatch Start @ 35%ish + 5-10lbs each set (a snatch is a snatch is a snatch, If the bar moves from the ground and you catch it overhead, you have performed the movement correctly, we let the weight determine the catch position {unless working a specific deficiency}. If you can’t load for this rep scheme you have a skill deficiency—learn. If think the snatch is dangerous or too complex, you are too dangerous and unwilling to learn complex movements, fix that or reread the above.)

Rest as needed to avoid misses

5x10 back squat @60% (back squats are one of the most simple of movements to progress, yet people often get stuck, I prefer volume, first in reps then in sets. It is often said by those much stronger than myself “strength is in sets”. It took me years to understand this, I recommend others train to understand it as well.)


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What are we willing to do to protect our space?

The answer is simple: anything and everything. We shut-out, kick-out, block, deter or simply ask those to leave who do not add something to the experience. We believe a controlled environment is so necessary to what we do that we often remove ourselves to stave off complacency. We can only demand of our guests what we demand of ourselves, so we demand the best.  

We protect what is expected by often “exercising” elsewhere; by that I mean non-purposeful training, which is sometimes needed to balance out intentional, stressful efforts. I consider what we built here a facility that allows one to journey, to go from A to B, this requires intention and if I want to train without intention I go elsewhere so that I don’t dilute the richness of other’s experiences. I protect what is sacred, often times from myself. 

I often visit a friend’s CrossFit gym, where I know the training will be fun but I won’t have to concern myself with “thinking”. I can just show up and exercise, maybe blow off some steam or simply try out what someone I respect is programming for others. The example down below is of Josh Cook’s design ( @acmestrength on instagram), he is a state record holding weightlifter and has been coaching personally and in group scenarios for longer than I have, on top of this, I happen to think his training is somewhat insidious and often tricks me into going harder than I can when I design the training for myself.

Training

Warm:

2 rounds NFT

20 air squat

10 toes touches

10m shuttle run

10m side shuttle

10 wall balls

Work

Front squat 1 rep max

then

20min AMRAP

3 rounds

10x deadlift @ 135

8x hang clean @ 135

6x Front squat @ 135

3 rounds

16x wall ball @ 20/14

12x burpee over bar

8x toes to bar

(scores are by total reps, I hit 616, Erin hit 568)