Grapes…then Raisins: Quantifying Quality in the Gym

Preface: I’ve spent more time reading in 2015 than I have at any other stage in my life, college pursuits included. This year, I set a goal of reading 20 substantial books by year’s end. It’s an arbitrary, scoreboard-like number, I now realize. Whether my reading habits are directly correlated to a back injury or not, I’ve yet concluded. Maybe it’s consistent – this desire to build one’s own library of books – with aging in general? I am 31 after all.

Of my most recent readings, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has commanded a respectable amount of thought on my behalf. In a egregiously brief nutshell, Robert Pirsig (the author) chronicles a cross-country motorcycle trip he and son embarked upon in the early 1970s. Without delving too deeply into the plot, it’s outlines his metaphysical attempts to define quality and apply it to his philosophy (I haven’t tainted the story, should you choose to peruse – I promise). Quality. Perhaps a word you’ve heard us frequently harp upon? Ultimately, Pirsig’s struggle to define ‘quality’ provided the impetus for my quest to better articulate what we mean in our daily harangues. What exactly does rule #7 mean?

Let’s first examine life outside the gym. I surmise 99% of us live in quite a rush. We speed from one task, to the next. Scramble through our chores. Fly from work to the gym, and dash on to the next social engagement. The result is a sort of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony leaving one to wonder what happened [to the last 5 weeks, months, years] and sorry for the passing. I’m 31. What?! Such is life and I admit to much of the same behavior. To coin a common cliché, life happens…there’s no circumventing it. We put our heads down and run blindly to the next task begging for attention. We hurry. In truth, our culture focuses mostly on an end result – who wins and by how much. It’s life’s perpetual scoreboard from which we define and categorize everything and it’s all quantified.

In an eerily-similar way, we apply this result-oriented approach to our gym behavior. We hurry. What was the finish time? Load on the bar? Score? What was Rx’d? It’s [mostly] the nature of CrossFit. Anyone having trained in a CrossFit gym or group can attest to pursuing, against better judgement, the coveted ‘Rx’ badge of honor – myself included (of course, that’s not to say competition is without merit). CrossFit has encultured the same quantifiable, business-like approach. It’s a culture where judgements are passed, consciously or not, based upon a result. Fast, we define ourselves exclusively through the lens of a daily scoreboard and often we depart defeated – hopefully uninjured – filled with regret and wondering what happened. And more, searching for answers as to why improvements have not.

Quality (n) – the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something

With all the buzzing about, I’d want to offer a solution, a definition from my vantage at least, to this everlasting rat race; a shift in perception. Finally, here comes the quality stuff. Through my thinking, I’ve developed a visual definition – hat tip to Pink Floyd – to simply shift focus from scoreboard pursuits to the real kind. It’s rather simple:

In other words, I’d challenge you to change your perception. Shift that focus from ‘what’ (quantity) to ‘how well’ (quality) and you are certain to edge closer to achieving your ‘why’ (goals). Why did you begin this journey? In real applications, what does this mean? It could mean a host of thing, like staying aerobic when aerobic intervals are programmed; having the foresight to decrease a barbell load in favor of better positions (positions that will better serve your long-term goals, instead of the temporary pacification of a score on the whiteboard). It may mean a complete substitution – KB swings in favor of a Snatch or a press instead of a Jerk. It can even mean, heaven forbid, modifying a few weeks of training in the name of longevity.

Does this mean I want you forever in limbo, a pull-up purgatory? Absolutely not! Instead, let’s simply find a better way. What is best…not for a score, but for you? Let’s lessen the haste to reach our next achievement (a muscle-up) and spend some time with the steps necessary to make it possible (scapular strength, mobility, coordination, etc). I simply ask you to slow down. See what happens if you don’t click the Rx button one day…nothing! Rushing implies that we no longer care. That we have other things demanding our attention. I lobby for your change because I KNOW you care. I do too :). With diligence, energy and patience – if we embrace this focus on quality – we’re sure to lead happier lives both in and out of the gym. Grapes…then raisins, said Marcus Aurelius. It’s not about the ‘not’ but the ‘not yet’. In all pursuits, acknowledge a process. Then, trust it. Still unsure? Ask Jon Eskola, he’s a pillar of knowledge on the topic.

To travel is better than to have arrived,


Gainz, Trains and Galpin’s Ideals

In lieu of our recent surveying, we journey, once again, back to our Paleo f(x) gleanings. This week we address the age-old question about strategies concerning post-workout nutrition. If you’ve perused any fitness magazines, you’re sure to have been bombarded with volumes of ‘thought’ on the subject. Skip breakfast. Eat this. Do that. Dissenting opinions flow copiously ad nauseam. And, as many situations crassly display, misinformation often reigns king. Lucky for us, Dr. Andy Galpin provided – your favorite and mine – relevant points of scientifically supported advice. To grossly summate his resume, Dr. Galpin is a professor at Cal State Fullerton, physiologist, former Nationally competitive Weightlifter and a member of the Barbell Shrugged team. He also trains a number of UFC athletes. Most interesting of all, he was a part of the first team to render a singular muscular fiber in glorious 3D. Geeks, celebrate with me!Before delving into the science-y stuff, it’s important to define what we’re discussing. Theoretically, the ‘post-exercise anabolic window’ is the notion that one has a diminishing period of time [following exercise] to consume X amount of protein, carbs, etc. Again, in theory, only during this window, can one capitalize upon or cannibalize, for lack of better term, their freshly completed work. Surely, most of you are familiar with ill-concieved [from my vantage] buzz words like, ‘gainz’, ’shredicated’, and the sort. These ideas, in general, have sparked a behavioral revolution in a number of gym-goers…guzzling their pre-workout energy drinks. Then, chasing their training with post-workout shakes. Sound familiar? But, is it all for nothing?

Does the anabolic window exist?

Conditionally, yes. And, according to Andy, conditionally – no. What?! Can such a calorie conundrum exist? Like almost everything, the truth lies in the degree of our application. As it turns out, the nutritional strategies we follow more adversely dictate the importance of feeding post-workout. Dr. Galpin, in a simplistic manner, boiled his research down into two truths. If training while fasted, the anabolic window should be managed with a serious sense of urgency. Contrastingly, if training occurs during a fed state, the window should be viewed with much less concern. Even more interesting, from my perspective, were his conclusions about the particulars of post-workout nutrition. He says, ‘the sooner you ingest carbohydrates, the better…and ingesting protein won’t hurt either.’ Yep, the name of the physique-progressing game is spelled with a CHO (carbohydrate).

Do I really care?

Let’s hope so. Remember, ‘shredicated gainz’? Whether we admit it or not, hypertrophy – the increase of lean, muscular tissue – is a prevailing theme. Want real strength increases? Hypertrophy. Looking for a leaner overall physique? Hypertrophy, too! After a healthier composition and general well-being? Hypertrophy to the rescue. As a general rule for our experimental purposes, exercise – strength AND conditioning – remains the control (see: constant). It’s the nutritional tweaking that elicits a coveted result.

Okay. So, how much is enough?

Dr. Galpin offered a few standards from which to begin our experimentations. In general, he doesn’t recommend fasted training simply because our ability to produce, and reproduce, high-level performance is [generally-speaking] tied to the amount of glycogen available for use. When fasted, those stores are considerably lower. And, unless we’re ketogenic (a disputable topic for a wholly different post), are better suited leaning (pun, intended) on carbohydrates for energy. His macronutrient recommendations for pre/intra/post-training are as follows (note: these parameters apply to those pursuing most every fitness-related goal):

  • Everyone should consume .5 – 1.5g per kilogram of bodyweight in carbohydrates
    • fruit is not a favorable source due to the type of sugar it contains (fructose is slowly metabolized by our liver)
    • glucose is the preferred carbohydrate and there are countless options – yams, rice, potatoes, honey, etc…anyone seen my post workout rice bowls lately? He suggested 3Fuel(if there’s enoug
h interest, we will look into carrying this stuff).
    • Drinking vs chewing seems to be preferred method of consumption – it’s simply more simple
  • Everyone should consume .4 – .75g per kilogram of bodyweight in protein (whey protein preferred)
  • Everyone should drink 1-2 liters of water
  • Those seeking weight loss should maintain the same habits, but err towards the lower suggested ranges
    • focus feeding around training times and slightly lower calories during other parts of the day

And there you have it. A a rubric, a template, a place from which to begin you nutritional tinkering. How simple…protein, carbs and water (fat is essential at all other meals). Remember, these are numbers to be consumed before, during and after your training – NOT, to be confused with cumulative, daily requirements. In the future, we’ll dig even deeper. For now, let’s all take the time to digest Dr. Galpin’s well prepared advice.



Trial, Error, and Forgoing Elite God Complexes

We wrap up the Outlier Lifestyle Challenge with a touch of melancholy. Yes, the sun has set upon one of our most successful community-wide events. I wholeheartedly hope that, while showing breadth and depth in design, it only proves to be a starting point for an ever-inspired life, a place (or opportunity) from which to continue pursuing your evolution. Perhaps, new habits abound. Perhaps, you developed a delicate awareness of what might be possible. Perhaps, nothing changed whatsoever. Regardless of your success, and there was an abundance, I’m certain of one thing: the end of your journey is nowhere in sight. And another trial or challenge, if you will, awaits.

It’s easy, following a period of struggle, learning and success, to consider ourselves enlightened. In life’s perpetual pursuit of ‘something’…something like happiness, we find ourselves more informed than before, than others. Forging ahead, we develop a deeper understanding from our trials. And, after experiencing a certain amount of success, find what works. You mean the truth? That’s right – THIS is it. Hallelujah! It’s ours! Gradually, we develop an unshakable and inflated sense of infallibility. Proclaiming ourselves as an expert on matter X (see: nutrition, fitness, etc), we condemn the frail attempts of those not in the know, or at least ‘our’ version of it. This is the god complex and, sadly, it’s more common than we’d care to admit. I’ll be the first to confess, I’m sometimes guilty of wearing both the know-it-all and the one-upper badges of shame. It’s too easy to assume our habits are the best. What I do works, why would anyone dally elsewhere? Because! Because, like any of life’s venerable pursuits, those proclaiming to possess the answer are, typically, those furthest from it. Follow the man who seeks truth; run from the man who has found it, the old saying goes. Dogma, anyone?

During a cold December night in 1914, a substantial chemical explosion erupted in New Jersey. More than half of Thomas Edison’s plant was ablaze and with it, an immense part of his life’s work. Multiple fire departments sped to the scene, but the chemically-fueled inferno was beyond control. Edison’s son, Charles, in an article from Reader’s Digest (1961), recalled standing beside his father as they watched the flames destroy his work. Tranquilly, Thomas said, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” Stunned, Charles tried to rebut but was silenced by more stoic words – “It’s alright. We just rid ourselves of a lot of rubbish.”

I dare not enumerate the volumes to be learned from the life and times of Thomas Edison, but, it seems appropriate to ferret out a lesson from this story. Particularly, his approach to what most perceive to be a monumental loss or, better yet, a challenge to his research. Regardless of his mighty success, Edison, in beautiful fashion behaved in a manner proving to be the antithesis to a god complex. He lived a life that embraced challenge…even those challenging his research. Embrace an obstacle? Yes, to Edison, a challenge provided opportunity to broaden understanding, chase evolution, discover…everything.

Before entirely ushering you gently into that great [OLC-ending] good night, I’d offer you a final challenge. It’s simple: forgo the assumption of having THE answer and seize opportunity to make mistakes while seeking it. ‘It’ being our next pursuit. Fail? Yes, fail! With gusto, I challenge everyone to face their, and every conscious being’s, most innate fear, the fear of shame and failure. These worries prevent progress on every front. As discussed, our most common misstep is one towards arrogance – assuming you’ve the answers to all those questions in pandora’s ‘box’ [of fitness]. I, along with Socrates, would argue that ‘only true wisdom lies in knowing you know nothing’. The rules of the OLC were meant to be broad with their stroke. Are they legitimate standards? Absolutely. Are they life determinants? Not quite. Without fear, go tinker. Try putting a wrinkle in your training, in your nutrition, your sleep. Then, observe the difference. Do you feel the same, better or worse? Use pictures, film, and other techy, tracking tools and, while you’re at it, pay extra homage to Edison for his additional help along the way. Try and try again, until you fail. Then, embrace the next opportunity, with fresher understanding and less ‘rubbish’ in tow.

Sure, it’s comfortable to lay down the law. It hurts to be challenged, to change, to adjust course. Admitting our fallibility is hard. But, you, like Edison, have the paradox of choice while facing obstacles. Pursuit of happiness, you say? Nay! That approach depends much too heavily on a destination. I simply ask you to seek happiness in your pursuit. Once you learn to embrace the eternal cycle of trial and error, you’ll notice immeasurable improvement in your disposition. Failure is an inevitable part of life….as is success. It’s no small task – to make mistakes. Particularly, making them in the right direction, but it may prove most enlightening along your way.

Seeking wisdom from the woe,


From Chuck Taylors to Nanos: Reflections From a Half Decade of Fitness Business

I suppose I’ll open this rudimentary exposé with our sincere and resounding gratitude. To those traveling alongside for the duration, those contributing (even briefly) along the way, those supporting from afar, and those recently joining our ranks, our parents, our siblings, and everyone from the in between – thanks! Without you, we are nothing. 423 Strength & Conditioning is simply an idea. You give it life and legs. You provide it’s breath, it’s breadth and a pulse to continue in perpetual evolution.

Some say an entrepreneur jumps from a plane without a parachute and learns how to build it on the way down. On July 24, 2010, Justin and I took the proverbial [CrossFit] lovers leap. Both of us forgoing moderately successful, yet completely miserable, careers in favor of a new pursuit. A pursuit aimed squarely at hope. Hope for happiness and fulfillment. A genuine hope for something greater (we weren’t sure what ‘greater’ meant). What we did know was twofold: we loved CrossFit and thought the greater East Tennessee area would as well.

At that time in Tennessee, we were the only gym of our kind East of Knoxville. And, as I mentioned during the 423 Games, we opened shop in similar fashion – with a competition, a birthday (baby J was 25) and a group of early-adopting, crude CrossFit-ers (maybe 15). We ‘prescribed’ a workout titled, My Pet Rock. It was terrible. Terribly programmed, terribly judged, terribly hard (considering the capacities of participants), and…terribly fun!

Oh, much has changed throughout the past 5 years. And, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to wax nostalgic for a bit…

There was a time when we, Justin and myself, coveted a 100 kg  Snatch (that’s 220 pounds) like Blue covets Trista’s affection. In fact, I’ll never forget the day we both made the lift successfully. It only took 25, 30, or more attempts, but we did it. And, had you asked us that day, we’d have forever been satisfied with our first ‘three-digit Snatch’ for the remainder of our training life. I’m fairly certain we celebrated with a nice meal too. No, not 3 Hardee’s ThickBurgers, but a NICE meal – Golden Corral. A video, you ask? Good grief, I’m glad there isn’t one. We probably would’ve have spelled technique with a ‘k’ and looked equally as wonky. Yes, these were days predating Instagram, #hashtags, and most forms of self-loving, social media. Today stands in quite a stark contrast. A couple of weeks ago, Justin hit a 143 kg Power Snatch from the hang. Let that settle for a minute. For a period, we had ‘the chosen one’ – Trevor – join our ranks (he lifts professionally at MDUSA – look for him in the 85k A Session this weekend at USAW’s National Championship). His first Nationally earned medal hangs proudly in our halls. How much has changed in 5 years? This year, 6 of our lifters qualified for the American Open.

There was a time when we were enthralled by a series of videos posted to the Journal (THE journal, anyone?) titled, ’The Lake Tahoe Throwdown’. They featured an all-star team of proven CrossFit champions and a team with some unknowns (spoiler alert: see your program for team rosters). In Lexington, soon thereafter, we met Rich Froning Jr. and shared a conversation with him about this attractive chick with the voice only a mother could love (Camille). Yes, he was a ‘Jr.’ then – I’d bet his pops isn’t happy by the usurping of his namesake. By the way, he (Jr.) cursed freely in those pre-champion days. And, at the mention of videos, I’d be horribly remiss if I weren’t to reminisce about 2011’s YouTube sensation, ‘Caveman Kitchen’ – a Paleo cooking show offering a variety of weekly themes, dishes, and outtakes. I blush just thinking about the complete silliness we held in such esteem. Don’t bother looking, they’re safely set to private. But, if you’re lucky, we may share them again one day. As you’re all aware, CrossFit athletes are slowly turning into household names and the Games are broadcast on ESPN. Now, our idea of contributing to the canons of fitness knowledge is through a newsletter (The Outlier). By the way, we coined ourselves ‘Outliers’ before the book was ever sold.

There were times when we yearned for a 25 minute 5K run. Hell…not much has changed in that department. #hatetheruns. Speaking of them, they didn’t even exist. And we, Justin and I, were the great white hope for qualification (emphasis on great-in-size). Remember CrossFit Sectionals? It’s okay if you don’t. These were days predating the CrossFit Open. And speaking of the Open, the first workout asked for hand-release push-ups. Hand-release push-ups!? Around this time we called Steve, ‘Big Steve’, for obvious reasons. When he joined during week 1 (no, he hasn’t always been a coach), he could complete this many pull-ups —> 0. Goose egg. Now, he competes as a part of #hatetheruns at the regional level. This year we finished 20th in our region (our highest finish ever). And, ‘Big Steve’ has grown into the finest of coaches.

Yes, we trained with yard sale barbells before the Eleiko. We trained in Chuck Taylor’s long before Nanos. Much has changed throughout the last half-decade, indeed. And, while these changes have proven most enjoyable, much remains the same. Books, blogs, and podcasts alike preach from different stations to those seeking success. Often, they say, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ I tend to agree. Our ‘room’ simply masquerades as a gym and we’ve gleaned aplenty from your presence. To those that were, are, and all of you to come, I raise my glass to what you’ve always been – that je ne se qua, the fulfillment of hope…something greater. I’ll forever owe you a debt for supporting us along this journey.

Cheers to the next five,


Post Script: As an aside, I offer a both rare and rich glimpse into days long past. Months before 423 S & C crossed our mind, Justin and I attempted programming, competing and even a touch of writing in our very first blog. It was a flash in the pan and ironically titled, Fit Happens; Half Wits -N- Full Squats.

CrossFit: It’s Not A Cult, It’s A CULTure

Here we are, the final week of our Outlier Lifestyle

Challenge. How are things? Good? Great? Meh? Excited about retesting the OLC workout? Me, neither! Throughout the course of the past 60 days, you’ve doubtlessly experienced some struggle. I’d wager there’s been the internal, self-worth questioning type and more of the social-decision-making-in-front-of-friends type, too. Most likely, these instances hinged on nutritional choices, lifestyle changes and a general, from the outside looking in, faux pau-ness. Yes, like Hershey often alludes in their, “unchanged since 1899” campaign, change can be uncomfortable. It forces us to examine (see: On Knowing Thyself) our historical habits and consider the impact of future ones. Indeed, change discomforts both those experiencing and playing witnessing to it alike. And, if you’ve participated in any modicum, you’ve made those around you, aware or not, less than comfortable. Why? I posit it’s a much deeper issue rooted among fear of the unknown (or grossly misinformed) and there’s bound to be a touch of shame. But, we can get into all my psyche theories later. This week we delve into the domain of talking to friends, family and anyone else seeking your guidance about _____ (insert: your gym, your training, your diet) with grace…and, more importantly, without finding yourself divorced, defended or fired. Let’s begin.

Problem: Their Concern For You Is Real

How many times have you heard something similar this? “Squatting, weight lifting, high-intensity, eliminating dairy, eliminating gluten, or ______ is bad for you. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into? CrossFit is a thinly-veiled cult – they’re all crazy.” I can’t begin to count the iterations. Is it frustrating? Sure. Is it genuine? Perhaps, but I’m reminded of an old cannon saying something to the extent of, “knowledge is power”. If you’re able to learn the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ behind your new behavior, you’ll find your critiquing comrades much more accepting (and at a misinformed disadvantage). Explain your reasoning in an eloquent manner with reason and logic. Then, watch their furrowed brows soften. Maybe then, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and other self-professed, internet gurus won’t command as much of their blind loyalty (always be weary of those waving a guru banner). Who can argue with legitimate, resourced information? Wait, don’t answer.

Problem: Feeling Left Behind, Jealous and Rejected

Face it, those taking issue with your change largely feel as if you’re leaving them behind. These ‘healthy’ habits and changes increase your exposure to new ideas, new groups of like-minded individuals. And, from their vantage, this behavior may indicate an erosion of your relationship. “What will happen to our late night movie binges, gallons of ice cream, and willy-nilling lifestyle?” It may really feel as if they’re being kicked to the curb…alongside all your no-longer-necessary, ‘fat’ clothes. With this new group of ‘fit’ friends, a touch of jealousy is also to be expected. “All he/she does is workout – it’s no wonder they look that way. I bet they have a terrible personality. Anyone could look like that if they lived in the gym.” I guarantee you’ve all heard utterances like these in some fashion or another. What’s an Outlier to do? First and foremost – focus on your relationship, reassure them of your bond. Then, and again, explain your personal reasons for change. Share the benefit you plan to witness and plan activities outside of food or the gym. More importantly, set a quiet example through your behavior. My father, a wise man, once said, “don’t tell me, show me.” I believe there to be take-aways aplenty in his axiom.

Goal: A Positive Dialogue Through Graceful Discourse

I get it. When we undertake a challenge, a trendy new diet, or en vogue training protocols, we want to climb to the highest peak and proclaim it’s greatness worldwide. If you disagree, I’d challenge you to observe postings via any medium of social media. Change, in that frame, is most exciting. But, on the opposite side of that pane, friends, family members and coworkers may find themselves pained, ironically. And, it’s often easy to find ourselves on the condemnation side of the window. “I can’t believe you STILL eat bread. Our workout is YOUR warmup. They don’t even CROSSFIT, bro.” It’s nauseating to those outside of the ‘know’ (sidetone: If you know me, you know how hard those sentences were to type). Clearly, impressions from posts and general conversations of the like, leave plenty to be desired – assuming grace is the goal. Is it wrong to be excited about your new pursuit? Absolutely, unequivocally, and emphatically – NO! I’d simply challenge you to mind your words. Stay positive and, should you find yourselves compelled to socially promote, offer a non boastful, relatable statement or two. Aim for agreeable humility. Then, #423nation 😉

Goal: Enroll Them In Your Change And Influence The Outlier Lifestyle

The best way to silence the naysayers is to enlist them. Without sounding peachy and appearing condescending, enroll them in your change. Explain the challenges you will face. Tell them how they can help you become more successful. Find a way to earn their vestment in your success and the impetus for their behavior will change entirely. Easier said than done, right? Maybe not. We’ve built-in a solution to the problem. This week’s challenge: bring at least 1 pal to the gym with you. How beautiful is that? They may help you realize success in the final week’s challenge (see their investment?) AND you can practice your gym/training/nutritional presentation simultaneously. It’s almost poetic.

When in doubt, I always reference John Welbourn’s golden rule for blending, pun intended, social behavior and personal change – “Don’t be weird.” Side note: you’ll find a number of other fantastic rules for living on that page. In other words, a drink here or a meal there, a missed workout, or a degree of unplanned variance won’t entirely sabotage your pursuits. In fact, I’d argue that they’d allow you to #bemorehuman than otherwise. And, as an added bonus, I’m sure your friends and family would appreciate the concession. Through all this agreeable behavior, our critics may glean what it truly means to live an Outlier lifestyle. More, if we’ve played our cards proper, they may even ask to tag along sometime. What’s the sweet spot? The answer, for everyone, will vary. But, to be sure, you’ll find it with a bit of tinkering.

Stay cultured, my friends.


You Are Not an Athlete: On Knowing Thyself

Openly, I consider myself a two-bit philosopher. Yes, I’m a nerd. I look for inspiration in language. I seek comprehension and knowledge from others’ experience. I ruminate. To me, our words and thought are powerful beyond measure. Socrates, known for his question-based method of teaching, is one of my favorite philosophers. If you’ve been around me much, you’ve likely posed some question relating to training, nutrition or, possibly, any topic. And, with great chance, I’ve offered an ambiguous, ‘let’s find out’ or ‘know thyself’ in response. If that’s been your experience, you may partially blame Socrates (and now, OPT). As a coach, I think I possess the capacity to understand my own faculties or, at a minimum, the limits of my understanding. Perhaps to combat the ‘meat head’ typecast, I’ve long embraced the path of a consummate learner, a struggling student of life.

A few months ago, and in a recent pursuit of fitness academia, [Justin and] I enrolled in OPEX’s Coaching Certificate Program (formerly OPT). In their own words, ‘[the CCP] is much more than a simple seminar, it is a 360 degree education that creates a distinction…it is in the OPEX DNA to pursue higher learning.’ As you may guess, being a self-proclaimed life-learner, I leapt at a chance to seek guidance and knowledge from OPEX’s founder, James ‘OPT’ FitzGerald (watch linked video, please). It’s my opinion that James stands atop the pinnacle in both the fitness and coaching arena. He is responsible for instilling the lion’s share of my programming convictions. You’ve possibly heard about the CrossFit Games? He was the first champion. James has been a pioneer in the strength and conditioning community for almost 20 years. In addition to developing a premier coaching certificate, he has worked with leaders in medicine to perform heart rate variability testing (HRV – look for articles on this soon), advanced the studies on recovery protocols and plays coach to a host of CrossFit Games and GRID athletes. Truly, he’s the maestro to a Beethoven-like symphony of fitness.

OPT – the coach’s coach. Terrible picture, fantastic experience.

“Coaches are more than educators. They are role models, life advisors, and leading community members that have far-reaching impacts on the lives of others.” – James FitzGerald

Shortly after registering for the the OPEX CCP modules, Paleo f(x) released their panel of presenters and, low and behold, James was among them. I was elated. The title of his talk, “You are NOT an Athlete”, garnered considerable interest. And, as expected, it was incredible. It granted me fresh vision and renewed zeal for coaching, for learning. I was left, and still am, inspired.

Preface: Again, the following summation is, to the best of my recollection, a fair analysis of James’ presentation. Please read with the understanding that my interpretations, while written in a sincere and most inspired manner, may not directly represent his assumptions. And, in the case that they contain falsehoods, I beg for both your and his pardon. 

In a profound manner, James began his lecture with a question – why do we exercise? A few attendees offered their answers and a concerto of crickets chirped in harmony. For 99 percent of us, the goal of our exercise, is to ‘live long and prosper’, to possess physical capacity in whatever we pursue. On the tenants of exercise, James did share that anaerobic training is worthy of a deeper investigation and aerobic activity, the sustainable stuff you’ve heard me babble about, likely has a positive impact on cardiovascular health. According to him, exercise with proper prescription, proves beneficial for normal, obese, older, and diseased folks alike. Sure, these are all things we claim to know.

He ambiguously moved on to another question – why be an athlete? Again, audience members took a couple of throws at answering the mostly rhetorical question. However, a couple of general themes did emerge. As athletes, we participate in an attempt to win, to compete, to satisfy our alpha and competitive design. Sports, specifically team sports, provide an opportunity to contribute towards something beyond what we can individually achieve. Seemingly, these answers are obvious. Interesting, I thought. Was he leading us down a path to examine the validity of exercise or condemning exercise as a sport? Neither, as it would turn out.

After showing a slide containing images of an NHL player, an elderly couple, and a farmer, James posed another reverberating question – what does an exercise program for these people look like? The variety in response was too varied to recall. As an answer, James offered a most interesting health continuum:

vibrant -> balanced -> imbalanced -> athletic -> sick -> dead

The visual effect was rather influential. Yes, in terms of general health, James posits that ‘athletes’ are much closer to death than vibrant, thriving beings. The stress they endure to witness marginal adaptation (see: improve performance), often exceeds healthy levels. What?! Blasphemy! You mean to tell me Rich Froning is closer to being sick than he is optimal and balanced? In some of ways, yes. Here the training road diverges and, where all-too-often, we choose the misinformed path most-traveled, proclaiming ourselves to be ‘athletes’. Sure, it’s sexy to title ourselves as ‘athletes’, daily wading our way through multiple training sessions. Certainly, spending hours at the gym and logging miles on the track have a certain touch of romanticism. However, if our goal is to live long and prosper, yet, our training more closely resembles Rich’s, we’ve clearly zigged when we should’ve zagged. All this without mention of the countless concessions a serious athlete makes to sustain their training habits (see: 20+ remaining hours of the day centered on sleep, food, recovery, social life, etc).

It’s here in which James’ Socratic and most philosophic nature subtly presented itself to me. Simply, beautifully, and without waiver, he teaches self-examination. Why do we train? What are we doing to support that pursuit? Does it make us feel more alive? Does it inspire? Without proper vision, it’s all too easy to find ourselves muddled in the latest flavor of the [training] week – I saw X on Instagram or so-and-so did this on YouTube…it MUST work. Fast, we find ourselves in a dangerous dance of mimicry and misinformation – following an athlete’s programming lead without conforming to their less-visible and less-appealing lifestyle. It becomes a slippery, injurious slope and, I dare say, an unhealthy one.

Perhaps, it’s time we examine the dichotomy between an athletic pursuit and one aimed squarely at vibrance. So, are you an athlete or an exerciser? Good question. From my perspective, James wasn’t condemning athletic pursuits. No, not whatsoever. The emerging theme was rather clear: to encourage more thought on the path and direction of our training. In particular, what do we find in exercise that provides such fulfillment? There’s a rooted reason. Is it to live long and prosper or, contrastingly, chase performance? Endeavor to find those answers. And, then, does your training serve that purpose or are you just a slave to an unexamined pursuit? Sit, think, and dig into what you really want from your fitness, from your life. Then, if necessary, adjust the pitch of your sail. What are your aims? Start defining them and, then, come find me. I’ll be anxious to chat about it.

Still knowing nothing,


It’s Not Your Fault (But It’s Partly Mine): On Robb Wolf, Fandom and the Misplaced Blame Game

‘…the one that is most adaptable to change.’

If you were ‘fortunate’ to have spent much time around me during the infancy of our gym, you’re bound to have been exposed, through some medium or another, to a Paleo haranguing or two. Admittedly, I was an early adopting, Paleo extremist (circa autumn 2009). When opportunity afforded, I would seize every chance to play Paleo martyr. At heart, I accepted an unconditional mission to silently judge and inwardly condemn any noncompliant food habit, lifestyle, and basically all behavior raising, from my vantage, the [gluten-filled, processed] red flag of doubt. Ironically, if Kool Aid could’ve been Paleo, I’d have been drunk. And I’d have been served by the most adroit bar-keep around, Robb Wolf. If you doubt me, I’d be inclined to reference a younger Trista. Luckily (for me, at least), she carried the same warm and spritely disposition then too and, much to my chagrin, remained mostly unaffected.

Hopefully, by now, you’re all acquainted with my softened – I prefer ever-evolving – nutritional views, particular the ones centered on Orthodox Paleo practices. And, while these purist ideas have waned, my admiration of Robb Wolf has been nothing less than augmented. Robb is the New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution (aka the gospel from those days of martyrdom) and owner of NorCal Strength & Conditioning (one of the Men’s Health ‘top 30 gyms in America’). He hosts a top-ranked iTunes podcast, is a former California State Powerlifting Champion, Weightlifter, Ju-Jitsu practitioner, and, equally impressive, a father of 2. Basically, he’s still the bees knees. As you may expect, I was excited to hear him speak at this year’s Paleo f(x). The title of his talk was, “It’s Not Your Fault: On Novelty and Evolutionary Biology” and it was fantastic. In the following, you’ll hopefully find a respectable overview of his, perhaps my favorite, talk.

*I’d be remiss without first prefacing this read. While the following largely centers on the material Robb presented, the deductions and summations are largely framed, and limited, by my comprehensions. Should they not represent his declarations directly, I beg for both your and his forgiveness.

Robb’s Paleo Solution podcast is worth everyone’s while.

Throughout the previous 50+/- years, society has taken a staunch, and mostly unspoken, moral stance on the means and habits with which we eat. Eating X food is BAD, but Y food is GOOD (I wish there were a way to put horns and halos upon those respective words). When it comes to meals, we’ve even attached moral indicators like, ‘cheat’. At what point did eating become an ethical battlefield? Hush, vegetarians. The word ‘cheat’ implies an air of immorality, does it not? Without question, yes. But, Robb presented an entirely different spin on this morally-rooted, nutritional blame game.

If you are fat, if you are sick and if you are broken, you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. And, in actuality, you’ve done everything right. In fact, Robb even argues that you’re a success story. As we all know, super markets, fast food chains and Krispy Kreme are neolithic, and terrific, creations. Had they been available to ancient man, you can bet he’d resemble Ronald McDonald more than Cro-Magnon. Instead, though, our ancestors were a foraging bunch. Foraging, in my nonpracticed understanding, is, calorically-speaking, a low-efficiency activity. In other words, it requires lots of energy-spending risk without the promise of much reward.

Imagine pushing a sled around all day in search of berries and roots. Ouch! Ancient man was no fool, though. He quickly developed an optimal approach for foraging and it was simple – obtain as many calories and nutrients as possible, while doing as little as possible. Is there a catchy, new acronym to be coined here – AMCAP while DaLAP, anyone? Nah. In short, we learned to be efficient, energy-storing (see: nutritional calories) machines when times were tough.

Evidence based social fandom.

Interestingly enough, during that same time, we also became picky, to a certain degree, eaters. Robb defined this evolutionary development as palette fatigue. Yes, enjoying a large helping of berries sounds quite palatable to most everyone. But, can you imagine eating the same food during every meal for weeks on end? I, for one, cannot and, as it turns out, our Paleo parents couldn’t either. Moreover, ferreting out novel foods was even more beneficial to Grok than we might initially assume. Nutritional novelty was the key to his and, ultimately, our survival. Those tiresome taste buds limited his and his clan’s exposure to bioavailable toxins in food. I could be wrong, but I needn’t outline the affect of consuming lethal amounts of toxins. Variety, then, was truly the spice of [an enduring] life.

Yes, the definitive forces that made us who we are, are completely working against us now. All of us, myself included, eat like a professional. We’re all capable of downing dreadful quantities of salty food, only to chase it with super-sweet treats. The variety of palatial flavor, by evolutionary design, permits us to eat sinful (again with the morality) amounts of food that our body, in its machine-like efficiency, can store for times of famine. But, what happens? The famine rarely comes and the foraging, for most, is impossible to label as tough. Remember, Krispy Kreme?! And, adding to that tragedy of taste, our supermarkets offer 50,000 items with an average of 11,000 new and, wait for it – novel – products added annually. Shesh. We’re doomed! What on earth can we do?

With the sagacity I’ve come to regard, Robb acknowledged the dilemma and provided guidance. The easiest way to combat our evolutionary efficiency is to keep things simple. With the use of his Food Matrix, it’s easier to dispel this notion of boredom with common, nutrient-rich foods available at most grocers. Eat protein, veggies/carbs, herbs/spices and fat with most every meal. In the end, the math doesn’t lie, there are over 80,000 nutritious and financially, feasible meal combinations awaiting you and your finicky palette too.

Lastly, and what I opine to be most important, Robb suggests our dietary struggle remains for a reason. And, while waging the ever-changing nutritional sea, can our human brain always reign victorious over the more primitive lizard one? More simply – will we always take, conscious or not, the proper dietary direction? Of course not – much like the religious adherence during my pubescent, Paleo years, perfection should never be considered realistic nor obtainable. We should, contrastingly, embrace those trying times of turmoil and, like Justin already eluded, consider a shift in our perception of struggle. If we’re capable of making legitimate, sustainable change, novelty, morality and all those judgmental connotations dissipate. Yes, the struggle is reaI, indeed. Robb simply recommended embracing this evolution and the one to follow. We are, after all, the result of 4 billion struggle-filled years.

Long live the king,


For Dad, Forever

“If it’s cancer, I’ll do whatever necessary to fix it.” These were exact words from my father on a sunny but frigid Saturday afternoon in January. For a majority of the three preceding months, he suffered from irregular abdominal pain, sleepless nights and witnessed an unexplainable loss of bodyweight – 35 pounds. Enough that, for the first time since his teenage years, his bodyweight dipped below 200 pounds. There was something amiss, it was certain. In due time, a number of tests were performed, a couple of weeks passed, and whatever healthy hopes I held onto were swept away with tempestuous force. It was Wednesday, February the 4th, when he phoned to share the results. He called at 2:39pm and, again, the weather was chilly, but brilliant and bright, especially considering the bleakness of this winter. The call lasted 10 minutes. It’s contents, I’m not wholly able to recollect, but all the tests confirmed – he was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma aka the C word. I yet struggle to articulate the truth, but reality is, my father has cancer.

Straightaway, I welled with emotion. My thoughts edged toward monomania. Question after unanswerable question reverberated like booming thunder in my unending monologue. My father, to me, possesses the pillars of every archetypal hero. He’s the definitive man: courageous, moral, erudite, ambitious, etc. How could he, possessing such breadth, such development, be stricken with a sickness of this magnitude? Incredulous. Without preparation, I was forced to consider his life as finite. And I was ill prepared. Worst still, acknowledging my father’s illness compelled me to face one of life’s much deeper and less comprehensible canons – my own mortality; a truth, albeit nebulas, that is rarely breached in my mundane, daily thinking. Once more, I was left with ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ aplenty.

When the emotional gale waned, my personal lesson was at long last comprehensible. This lesson wasn’t about cancer, nor did it concern mortality. It didn’t center on anything melancholy. No, it touched on a different C word altogether – character. Just like the sun had beamed on the days that bore grim news, the character of my father shone bright, brighter than ever, in his first words to me, “I’ll do whatever necessary to fix it.” What prose could be more revealing of character? My, what a sublime revelation! In the wake of his darkest day, my dad, my coach, my hero, had a lively and most gallant approach to news that cripples nearly everyone (myself included). Now, more than ever, I revere him with the highest veneration. Wearing a Stetson hat and sporting an attitude that would rival John Wayne, he fast approaches his third of six scheduled chemotherapy sessions with radiant optimism. His spirit is one to behold and, likewise, emulate. There is no despondence. There is only hope.

In the two-month interim, I’ve been permitted substantial time for self-reflection. My early reactions probably weren’t entirely atypical. And in reality, I doubtless took multiple throws at each stage of denial. Moreover, I realize that the words I’ve written are less about him and more of a soul-searching exercise for me – one where I brood for untold periods of time in search of a greater lesson.
Now, while these ruminations are self-serving, they do absolutely nothing to raise money, awareness, and fund research designed at curing this disease. It is for this reason I decided to share his story. Please – I beseech you – donate to the cause! Do whatever necessary to help others, like my father, like Charles, like Tom, like Pam, like Leanne…all those unnamed heroes willing to undertake what’s necessary to convalesce. Paraphrasing Lincoln, fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of [disease] may speedily pass away.

How can you help? My friend and associate, Grant Scalf, from CrossFit Ktown has already started campaigning for the LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). He is also lobbying to be the LLS’s Man of the Year…and he has my vote. Please, share this story with those that may also feel compelled to do the same. Then, follow the link below and donate! Everything helps and all is appreciated.

CrossFit, our chase of fitness, and other trivial, by comparison, pursuits don’t merit much mention on topics like this one. But, through the lens of someone like my father, we are afforded considerable perspective while we, too, face our own set of ‘problems’. During this time of year, at the culmination of the CrossFit Open, I often witness dejection, frustration and other forms of self-loathing. It’s written on your faces. Should this be your case, might I offer a challenge? This month, this week, today, whatever your goal may be, whatever problem you face…will you “do whatever is necessary to fix it?” In the words of Edmond Dantes, I can only wait and hope…for Dad, forever.



UPDATE: If the things you think determine the quality of your mind, I posit your smile takes on the color of your thoughts. Witness the smile of my father, the stoic. My teacher and advisor – a cancer survivor. I love that he’s holding my mom’s hand while ringing victory’s bell. She, the grandest of all optimists, played every bit a herculean role during his convalescence. Fondly did we hope, fervently did we pray, and now, nearly 18 months later, this mighty scourge of disease has steadily passed away.

When the .1 is Worth 1,000,000

TomKat knows both the Open and how to cut a rug!

Next week, the world’s largest fitness competition commences. It’s Open season. I could provide you with a barrage of reasons why you should register, how it’s one of the most rewarding experiences for any CrossFitter. I could outline the benefit of friendly competition, or why, yes, even YOU, are good enough to participate – but, I shan’t. I do, contrastingly, hope to elicit an observable change in your approach. In years’ past, some of you have, undoubtedly, heard my haranguing centered on the Open and the importance of the ‘point 1’. 15.1, like 14.1, 13.1 or any previous year’s .1, is the most valuable workout you will perform during the 2015 open season. It probably won’t be the hardest, longest or shortest, heaviest, skill-rich or most entertaining, but its importance cannot be overestimated. Why? Because of attrition. Attrition, in definitive terms, is a gradual reduction in strength or effectiveness over time. And, for this article’s purposes, the strength and effectiveness of the CrossFit Open is exploited annually, vis a vis the occurrence and sequential forfeit of eligibility from injury, user error, travel, indifference and a host of other reasons.

For my uses, these reasons permit attrition to take root. How? It’s simple, every year, hoards of motivated people acting unitarily, as the strength and effectiveness for the Open, register. History has indeed, through successive years, revealed the pool of participants grows somewhat exponentially. For example’s sake, let’s say 1 million people register in 2015. Let us not reference, less we be indefinitely distracted, how much revenue is generated for HQ via team, judge, and athlete fees. Regardless, of that 1 million person ‘pie’, it’s fair to assume 95% of them will actually submit a to-be-validated score for 15.1. I assume this less-than-whole participation based on what I’ve seen first hand. Yes, it may be anecdotal, but I dare say the trend is universally prevailing. Therefore, we are left with 950 thousand scores and their appropriate points/rankings to be appointed – all before the initial week of the competition concludes.

This leads us directly into the second week. Again, to be fair, let’s assume the same percentage of participation occurs (remembering, of course, that 50 thousand people have already disqualified themselves following 15.1). Enter: week 2, 15.2; currently, we would be left a bolus of 900 thousand participants and subsequent points/rankings. Assuming this generous notion, a weekly participation rate of 95%, by the Open’s culmination, 15.5, a mere 770 thousand contributors remain – a reduction of almost 250 thousand participants. Ipso facto, the strength and effectiveness of the Open, 1 million spritely, optimistic folk, has fallen victim to a war of attrition (a theoretical war, of course). Ultimately, realizing a decline of (roughly) 25% participation and, more importantly for this article, the resulting erosion of previously legitimate scores. Sure. But, what does this really mean for 15.1? In the most simple terms, it means the points from 15.1 are weighted most heavily – by default, more than any weeks to follow. Furthermore, the preciousness of each point you are able to amass within the first workout cannot easily be described. I would even wager that one’s ranking, following the conclusion of week 1, can forecast one’s final placing, save a tens place or two. With a considerable amount of one-time contributors to the pie, the pie will be at its richest. And, inevitably, 180 thousand pieces of that pie will be sullied. Gone to waste. Points that could have served you, instead of Jane and John Doe. Sadly, the weekly wasting of points and rank, through this sort of attrition, continue upon their point-devaluing path throughout the entirety of the Open. It is after all, from those points that we are, by default, ranked. This ranking, as we know, eventually determines the best, but only of those still eligible. Ineligible scores, points, and athletes from previous weeks live to provide a perdition-like reminder of performances past, squandering points and gapping the week’s rank.

I posit it was CrossFit’s founder, Greg Gassman, that once said, “It is our observation that men will die for points…by keeping accurate scores and…defining the rules..we [are rewarded]…data [that] has important value well beyond motivation.” Such would arise a rare-but-worthy case deserving all the eggs and just one basket. Can it spell doom if our 15.1 performance is a flub? Maybe, but I’d reference Hate The Runs’ rise from the lackluster performance ashes of 14.1 to evince a regional berth – another anecdote. Perhaps, .1 can, by some manipulative prose, be as valuable as the 1 million. Perhaps, not. It is my optimistic hope that you are left with a two-fold lesson upon the completion of this petite read. One, whatever the hopper delivers on the eve of 2/26, you are physically and, more importantly, emotionally prepared to ‘die for points’ during your stab(s) at 15.1 – truly, in all the Open workouts. And, two, I implore that you not spoil any pieces of pie for those eyeing the entirety of 5 helpings – don’t be the statistic. Now, with all my love, go register and let us onward to the Open!


Tending Our Pride (and Prejudices) Ver. 2.0


When you cannot be just through virtue, be so with pride. -Eugenio Maria de Hostos

What are the first thoughts to arise when you hear or see the word ‘pride’? Are they thoughts of virtue or of vice? Do they produce a tone of disdain or one of admiration? Without dispute, there are compelling arguments for both responses. And, for my purposes, I dare say you are correct, unambiguously, despite any prevailing theme. Externally, pride attempts to tells the world who we are. It exclaims our worth and offerings. Conversely, its tune can malign, tell-taling of insecurity, egocentrism and pompousness. One that decries that I am the center of my world and, if descrying my behavior, I am of all importance. When we begin witnessing said ‘pride’ during our approaches to fitness, or life in general, through innate behavior, we are bound to witness heroic success and crippling failure.

As a Virtue:

Virtuoso: (noun) – a person who has a cultivated appreciation of excellence, as a connoisseur or collector of all things interesting and tasteful.

With an understanding of the lexicon, it’s not ironic that CrossFit institutionalizes such a definitive stance on virtuosity (CF Journal: Virtuosity). And, to be honest, we are undeterred, still pursuing vetted, virtuous efforts of our own. With patience and thorough mindfulness, we can venture towards perfecting our prideful and, moreover, a reflective approach to taming the pride within ourselves. And, similarly, when internalizing this notion, are then afforded the utility of our pride in it’s purest, unadulterated state. In such a state, it is quite powerful. When viewed through the lenses of our fitness pursuits, a governed control of our pride can serve as an ally. It’s mirrored in the quality of our movements (not just the sexy ones like Snatch and C&J, but in air squats, pushups, and dislocates; in the warm-up, for God’s sake). Pride, healthily harnessed, maintains integrity and honesty in recording scores/times, contributes to the preservation of our training area, and controls the ‘checking’ of our subjective opinions on programming. When successful, we have exploited a legitimate and providential power within the canons of these pious ideas on pride. Success here will only generate pleasing and…wait for it…virtuous outcomes. Take pride in your gym. There are countless other places where you can whittle away at this nebulous idea of fitness, but you have chosen us. Why? I’d like to believe it’s because of our (and particularly, my own) intoxicating personalities, exquisite beards, fashion sense, and well-developed calves. However, I would be amiss if I failed to mention the overwhelming support of our ever-flowering community, the diversity seen within our programming, and the boon of friendly competition experienced daily (with others and yourself). Not to mention, enumerable other descriptors concerning the distinctiveness of all places 423. So with gusto, I say, take pride in your training and your training space alike! There is no other place quite like it. Can you recount the times have you shared a success story about CrossFit or Weightlifting with a friend? More than you realize, I’m sure. Why? I choose to believe it spurns from a deep-rooted sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You achieved something you didn’t otherwise think you could. And the result? A swelling of your pride. Bravo! Pride can, and often will, lead to virtuous endings. It fuels competitors when they need it the most and catalyzes all things related to peak, athletic performance. It fosters a calm, internal strength that provides solace and grit during times of desolation. Simply put, it aids in the tempering of specific personality traits that we, collectively, admire (Monte Bowen, anyone?). It develops leaders. In life and in sport, leaders are the lynchpin of success. And successful people wield such pride to fortify their perseverance, resilience, and resolve. Dare I say, defining characteristics, indeed.

As a Vice:

Vice: (noun) – a fault, defect, or shortcoming; a particular form of depravity.

In every manner previously described, and countless others, we can contrast the vice-like vagaries of pride. Here, we edge towards egocentric malevolence. I have, at my own liberty, given the thinly-veiled brother of pride a the proper moniker of ‘arrogance’. Arrogance is ‘cocky’s’ older, and mildly more cultured, brother. Examples, it seems, are all but obvious, but humor me nonetheless. In truth, and permit me to fully disclaim, I’ve never witnessed these literal murmurings or anything of the like. But I like to think have perchance (remember, I’m no soothsayer), witnessed similar unspoken monologues. Admittedly or not, some of you may have soliloquized identical pieces of prose during fleeting moments of prideful frustration. “It’s just a warm-up/mobility. I don’t need to fret with attention to detail or quality unless it’s for time or…”– too prideful to concern ourselves with small stuff. This small stuff, or otherwise known as the dynamic and purpose-driven warm-up, is intended to be preventative, injury-wise and more importantly, elicit higher levels of performance. Have you experienced a nagging knee, elbow, shoulder issue? Yes? There’s likely a correlation to your habitual warming-up and successive mobility focus, or lack thereof. Marty Stern once wrote about taking a ’60 minute approach’ to each class we attend. I thought his ideas were brilliant (foreshadowing of another piece worth revisiting? Yes, quite plausible). “Someone will probably put this notebook, water bottle, loaded barbell, and my curious child away.” – no pride in taking care of your gym and more importantly your comrades’ too. The gym not only belongs to you, but everyone else. Let me elaborate here: we don’t expect the halls of any 423 facility to resemble the Taj Mahal, the Vatican, or JoJo’s best lift (super Clean 😉 ). We only ask that you leave it a little better than before you arrived. “There’s no way that so-and-so had a better score or time than me, I must have miscounted.” – that insecure voice of pride impedes our ability to see the bigger picture and, worse, improvement in others. When viewing training subjectively, ours and our peers’ feelings often find themselves between the crosshairs of judgement and frustration. But, when we can remove ourselves from the humdrum of these common mishaps and bad days in the gym, we’ll soon ascend towards objectivity. Hopefully, then, permitting ourselves to comprehend the frivolity of such emotion. For our purposes and for most any individualistic purposes, n=1. You are your own experiment and you control the variables. The progress, digress, or otherwise of your peers may lay no claim to the control of your purpose. “This training doesn’t serve my purposes, I’ll take a pass today and do what I prefer.” – my pride tells me I know better than those whom I have entrusted with my fitness. In the most emphatic manner, I say, our success hinges on yours! You may take issue with certain decisions along the programming path. And you may even dislike or distrust some of our requests. That’s ok. In these cases, talk to a coach about those concerns. Ask questions – we (all of us) love to talk-shop. Our way isn’t exclusive. There are scores of trails that lead to a promised, utopian fitland. But, mind you, ours has proven a successful one. Embrace your struggle and trust the journey.

Pride of the 423:

Our tallest task is finding the balance between permitting our pride to propel us towards virtuous summits and allowing it to drag us to the vice-rich caverns of dissolution. In life and in the gym, pride is a double-edged, melodramatic sword. One edge serving as our ally. The other, our nightmare antagonist, piercing every throw at progress. Chances are great that you’ve once heard the aphorism, “check your ego at the door.” But, I might suggest a small edit – “check your ego and start honing your pride after entering the door.” Learn to apply your pride to advantageous endings. If you do things right every time, you’re bound do things right all the time. Take pride in the quality of your air squat. Prove how attuned you are to a nurturing gym atmosphere. Reinforce a habit that’s actually worth reinforcing. Yes, these ideas seem trite, but in practice, still present a noble challenge. At its best (and worst), pride sets an example for others to follow. What can be said about your approach today? Yesterday? How about tomorrow? I’ll be the first to admit – there are days when my vigor vanishes, leaving me with a most loathsome temperament. Undoubtedly, at times, my pride turns vice and leaves me depraved. And far be it from me, to claim any profound state of enlightenment on the matter. But, I realize we must always leave room for improvement. I’ll never recoup enough time to reflect on the outcomes of my behavior, but I guarantee – I’m seeking solutions. And I’m doing so with…you guessed it, pride. Tomorrow is a blank page. Chase your felicity and do so proudly.




Post Script: Don’t think for one second that I wasn’t burning to make the theoretical lion reference. I know, I know – big surprise coming from the guy with a couple of lion tattoos and hair that may (or may not) mimic a mane. Pride is also the term used to describe a functioning, social group of lions. A group that suffers and succeeds together. Honestly, I didn’t need one, but you’re free to insert any pun-rich segue of your choosing here. As my group of ‘lions’ you provide me, unequivocally, with copious pride. Watching you struggle and, consequently, evolve daily is an experience most cannot comprehend. And unknowingly, you’ve allowed me to take small part in those lessons. It’s grand – this consummate learning. How fortunate am I, to have been afforded such a precious perch? It’s a position to be envied. Rarw.