Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Your Own Person

Posted: December 4, 2013 in Advice, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Neil Young

One of my favorite music artists is Neil Young.  In my opinion, his best music was written at a time of in the US where we were at war in Vietnam and there was a quickly evolving youth movement.  Because of this, many of his songs have real social meaning to them unlike today’s garbage.

One of his greatest is the song “Old Man”.  The song is about a man Neil bought a ranch from.  Through talking to him, Neil realized that their lives aren’t too dissimilar and that in many ways, the needs of a young man are the same as those of an older man.  Although the song itself doesn’t apply as much, one line always hits home for me:

“It doesn’t mean that much to me, to mean that much to you”

I think this always hits home to me because it is how I try to live my life.  There are few people in this world that I actually want acceptance from.  Those are my closest friends and family.  The rest are friends and acquaintances but their acceptance is not something I worry about.  For example, my coworkers think the fact that I eat the same lunch everyday is weird.  Does it bother me?  Not at all.  I think the fact that they refuse to take care of themselves is weird.  When they go to lunch, I stay behind at the office with my baked chicken, apple and pistachios.  Do they talk about me at lunch and mock my eating habits?  Probably on occasion.  Do I care?  Nope.

Every damn day

Every damn day

I was reading one of the recent “CrossFit is dangerous” articles on the train to NYC for a work function while listening to “Old Man” and it got me thinking.  It got me thinking about what we do at CrossFit 717 each day and life in general.  And I came to some conclusions.

People spend too much time worrying about stupid shit.  For every “CrossFit is dangerous” article there were about five “No it’s not and here’s why” defense articles.  I actually felt sorry for all the people who spent a second of their day defending themselves and their exercise of choice to the masses.  It showed the world that they cared what other people thought about their lifestyle.  But why?  Who really gives a shit if some dumbass blog-writing troll thinks what you do is dangerous.  Do you like doing it?  Is it enjoyable for you?  Is it legal? If you answered yes, isn’t that all that matters?

We have read ad nauseum from the defenders that everything we do in life carries a risk (as if we needed to be reminded).  To this point I would bet that most of our worst injuries have been doing something other than CrossFit.  None of that should matter though.  We all come to 717 to exercise and a good number compete.  But for some of us, CrossFit is so much more.  It is a group of friends we never knew we had.  It is an outlet for our everyday problems and a place we can effectively “check out” of life for an hour.  It is a sense of community we can’t find elsewhere.  It is a group of like-minded individuals coming together to help our community in times of prosper and in times of need.  The CrossFit community is more than just a “dangerous” exercise methodology.  The haters don’t recognize this.  And again, who cares?  I don’t care what anyone thinks about me being a (former) CrossFitter and you shouldn’t either.  As long as you like what you are doing, that is all that matters.  Life is too short to waste your time defending your exercise plan.  Which brings me to my next point…

Relax, it's just exercise.

Relax, it’s just exercise.

Life is full of trolls and enough people feed them already.  You don’t need to.  The internet has created an entirely new sub-species of human.  Trolls used to be confined to internet forums but have now made their way out into the general internet and even into real life.  This is largely due to the free blog sites out their like WordPress, Tumblr, etc. where every self-righteous nincompoop can create a blog and share their opinion.  Yes, me included.  Combine stupid opinions with social media and you get someone’s stupid opinion going “viral” for everyone to read or hear about in the real news.  And there is the problem.  We now have someone who is not an expert on anything (except stirring the pot) getting national distribution because their opinion has tweaked a certain group of people.  In our case, competitive exercisers.

The reality is that most people write these types of thing to get a reaction and to get publicity.  They know their opinion will light a fire under the group they are attacking and do it just so people will engage them in the argument.  I have done it on this very blog and on Facebook. Guilty as charged.  Sometimes that is not a bad thing.  In order to evolve we need to challenge accepted norms and the resulting discussions can provide some good viewpoints on each side of the argument.  But feeding trolls who are obviously uneducated on the topic they wrote about is just a waste of time.  Don’t bring yourself to that level.


The more you feed them, the bigger they get

People need to stop justifying what makes them happy.  We all like different things.  What I like is certainly different than what you like.  What do I like you ask?  I like watching and reading science fiction, including comic books.  I like building 1/35 scale models of WWII era tanks and painting them to look battle-worn.  I like watching horror movies.  I like wearing bow ties. Are these things traditionally considered nerdy?  Possibly.  Do I give a fuck?  You know the answer.  These are things that make me happy.  I enjoy doing them.  As long as they aren’t illegal, I don’t need to defend that to anyone.

CrossFit and its variants (weightlifting, strongman, endurance, etc.) are one of the things that make us happy.  I can see it in all of your exhausted faces as I sit on my lazy ass.  After you finish the workout and catch your collective breath, smiles start to emerge.  The camaraderie that started the training session often ends it too.  High fives are given and encouragement is shouted (although some of you do the awkward “high five meets handshake”. Just sayin’).  We LIKE what we are doing or we wouldn’t come back each day.

Yep, I built this and don't give a fuck what you think about it

Yep, I built this and don’t give a fuck what you think about it

Stay off social media.  Wait, nevermind.  I take that one back.  You all entertain me too much with your selfies and life updates…

I hope this blog hits home to some of you like the line from “Old Man” did to me.  Bottom line is this: It shouldn’t mean that much to you what others think about what you enjoy to do.  The more you acknowledge their opinions, the more you will drag yourself down.  Keep doing what you love and ignore the haters.  Their opinion doesn’t matter anyway.

In the end, you will be happier for it.


6:00 AM the alarm sounds but I have been up since 5, tossing and turning under the covers.  Today is competition day and I often have a hard time sleeping soundly the night before I compete.  Anxiety mixed with a little adrenaline surge doesn’t make for a very good sleep aid.  Doesn’t matter though, I won’t be tired.  Hell, I can’t be tired given the circumstances.

After brushing my teeth I head straight for the scale.  You see, there are weight classes for weightlifting meets and I had planned my meals all week to make sure I had some room to spare.  I always like to have some food before I lift so this is a pretty important weigh in for me.  I step on the scale and the numbers start to shuffle.  And……. 181, 6 pounds below my weight limit.  Perfect. Time to eat and chug some coffee.

Weigh-ins for my session start at 9 so after eating and packing, I jump in the car and head down to York around 8:40.  Checking in at the head table is easy but giving them my openers is another thing.  I wasn’t expecting this and even though I was “sure” which weights I was going to open with, I begin to second guess my decisions.  Am I going too light?  Maybe too heavy?  In the end, I just give the meet director the weights I had settled on weeks before and figure I will let the cards fall as they may.  80kg (176) snatch, 100kg (220) in the clean and jerk.  Safe weights for me on any ordinary training day but this is no ordinary day as I will soon find out.

Next I go weigh in and oddly I weigh less on this scale than I did at home.  Whatever.  As I walk back out to the seating area, I take a look at the stage where the young kids are competing.  I see a platform raised about 3 feet off the ground with a loaded barbell and a small theater filled with spectators.  “Holy shit”, I think. “This is not what I expected”.  In fact, the scene is quite nerve-racking.  I expected to be lifting on a platform but not a stage and not in a room this large.  Oh well, nothing I can do about it.  I just have to go and lift like it is any other day.

I take a seat in the common area and no sooner than my butt hit the seat do Dan and Jamie come walking in.  Dan asks me how I feel and I assure him that I am ready.  I have some nerves but nothing too crazy.  Just picturing this as another training day with a lot less wiggle room.  He smiles and then goes to check on times and openers for the other lifters.

After some more small talk, I go start my warm up around 10:00 AM.  I go through my normal routine: leg/hip stretches, arm/chest/shoulder stretches, pass-throughs with PVC, foam rolling, and some voodoo band work for my joints with tendonitis.  Then I move on to some empty bar work and movement drills.  Snatches from Pendlay position 1, tracing the bar into my hips, explosion drill on my heels, and jerks with a focus on pushing from my heels and driving the bar behind by ears.  “Heels and ears” I hear in my head, replaying all the Muscle Driver videos I watch over and over again.

I soon realize that the warm-up area leaves a lot to be desired.  The are about 5 platform to use but only two of them actually have kilo plates.  Most of you have never trained with kilo plates but to me, they feel heavier than pound plates.  The only thing I can come up with is that the same weight is compressed into a thinner plate making it less spread across the bar, causing a more concentrated point of resistance.  Plus, I want to warm up with the kilos so it can be a direct correlation to my competition attempts so I begin waiting my turn on one of the two platforms.

I do my normal progressions: 40 (88), 50 (110), 60 (132), 70 (154) and 75 (165) about 5 minutes before my first attempt.  Dan walks back and tells me to relax a bit, I look too tense.  He is right.  My heart is beating faster now and I can feel the tingle you get right before competing.  I take a deep breath and begin to visualize my lift and tell myself positive cues.  “It is 80 kg. I have done this hundreds of times in practice.  It is an easy weight for me.  Stay on my heels and explode through the hips, drop under the bar and punch the sky.  Easy money.” Then I hear my name called.

Heart racing, I step on to the stage to chalk my hands.  I look out to the audience and see Stacy sitting dead center.  Perfect, something to focus on that wont distract me.  As I approach the bar, my heart kicks into third gear.  I bend down to get my set up and just keep telling myself a list of things that help me focus: “No one works harder than you”, “You deserve this” and “the only person that can beat you is yourself”.  People may notice I am talking to myself but I don’t care.  I literally sing at the box while lifting so this is mild compared to that.  I grip the bar, set my hips low and draw the bar into my shins.  It is now or never.  I push hard through my glutes and the bar rises off the floor.

The silence, as they say, is deafening.  Before I can even process it the bar is smashing off my hips and I am dropping under it.  I catch it in a strong position but I pulled so hard I am a little back on my heels so I have to quickly adjust and stumble back a few steps to make sure I steady the lift.  Close call but the lift is good.  Relief.  I have officially made my first lift in a USAW sanctioned meet.

Dan meets me at the bottom of the stage and we discuss my next attempt.  We decide to go with 87 (191) which is what I had planned to do at the start of the day.  “Lets see how this one feels”, he says, “and then we can go from there”.  87 is a weight that I make pretty consistently in practice but 15 pounds is a good jump, especially in a competition where you only get three total chances.

About 5 minutes later, I step on the stage for my second attempt.  Routine is a good thing and I go through the same process I did in my first lift.  I drive the bar off the ground, stay on my heels and fire my hips through the bar.  This time, I catch the bar much better and my feet barely move from where they started.  I stand it up and get 3 white lights.  Good lift.

Dan again meets me at the bottom of the stage.  The original plan was to go for 90 (198) for my third attempt but he tells me I power snatched that last attempt (a PR power snatch) and that I look strong.  “What do you think? You want to go for 92?” At this point, I am confident and on an adrenaline high.  “Fuck it”, I say. “I am here to lift so let’s do it.”  That classic Dan smile creeps across his face; the smile that simultaneously confirms his approval with your choice while motivating you even more because you know in that moment he believes you will make the lift.

About 10 minutes go by and it was time for my third lift.  By now, I am more comfortable on the stage because I have made my first two attempts but 92 (203) is a weight that worries me.  I make 90 in practice about 50-60% of the time and have only made 92 once without straps.  My max ever with kilo plates is 93 with straps so this lift will tie my all-time PR if I make it.  I quickly push that out of my head as I approach the bar.  Setting my hands, I start talking again. My mind goes from a place of uncertainty to a place of absolute confidence. When my attitude is right, I begin the first pull.

Doing this for so many months, I can tell when the bar gets above my knees if I am going to make a lift or not.  As the bar passes my knees I know this is a good one.  92 feels like 80.  I fly under the bar so the only thing left to do is catch it.  My arms lock into place and I stand it up.  I have officially gone 3 for 3 in the snatch in my first weightlifting meet and tied a PR.  For me, it doesn’t get much better than this.

92 kg Video

Next up is the clean and jerk portion of the meet.  For me this is much less stress as it is more of a pure strength movement than a technical one.  Once you hit the clean, you just have to dig deep enough to fire that weight overhead and lock it out.

I open at 100 (220) and make it with little drama.  Dan and I decide that we will go with 105 (231) for my second lift which is another weight I make pretty consistently in training but can give me trouble from time to time if I am not committed 100% in my head.

I step on the stage and zero in on the weight, telling myself to make sure I don’t short the second pull and leave the bar out in front of me.  The bar comes off the ground smoothly and I feel tight through my core.  I explode through my hips and drop to catch the bar which lands in exactly the right place, allowing me to bounce smoothly out of the bottom.  At the top I reset my stance, dip and drive myself under the bar.  I look to the judges and I see three white lights.  Awesome.


The Whey It Is

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Advice, Original, Thoughts


Most of my blogs have an inspirational/motivational slant but this one will be a little different. So if you read this and it rubs you the wrong way, tough shit.

I have been at CrossFit 717 for a little over 2 years now and I have seen things come and go. Let’s talk about something that comes up over and over again that I am actually quite sick of hearing about: protein supplements. More specifically, finding a substitute for whey protein as it doesn’t work with a vegan/vegetarian/paleo/etc. diet. I have heard all types of substitutes thrown around from plant protein to pea protein to rice protein. Here’s the bottom line. Nothing works as well as whey protein for replenishing and building/maintaining muscle. Period.

In fact, if you are using any other type of protein supplement I think you are wasting your time and money. Don’t agree? Let’s delve deeper.

Whey protein is the most bioavailable source of protein you can take. What does that mean? Here is Mark Sisson from everyone’s favorite Primal/Paleo site, “Mark’s Daily Apple” explaining why whey protein is his favorite:

Of course, whey isn’t the only protein powder around. It’s my personal favorite for a few reasons (the anti-atherogenic qualities, the fast absorption, the positive effects on lean mass development), but a number of you asked about other sources, so here’s some info on a few of the more popular varieties, including their respective biological values (BV).

The BV is one way to measure a protein’s “usability.” The higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Higher BVs also indicate a greater amount of essential amino acids – those amino acids that the body cannot synthesize or convert on its own and must instead obtain from the diet. Whey protein concentrate, for example, has a biological value of 104, while isolate has a BV of 100. Milk itself? 91. Beef? 80. You want a high biological value in your powders especially, since their only reason for existing is to provide a quick, easy influx of dietary protein. Interestingly, BV goes down with greater protein intake. Whey’s BV of 104 is at intakes of 0.2g/kg; it drops to around 70 at 0.5g/kg. While this isn’t really an issue for a PBer who uses shakes sparingly as supplements and gets most of his or her protein from whole foods, it might dissuade one from getting all their protein from powder.

Note, though, that biological value does not refer to the amount of protein in the powder; it only refers to the usability of the protein in the powder. A particular powder might be 60% protein, and the biological value would tell you exactly how much of that 60% is usable by the body. Different powders have different protein contents. Hemp protein, for example, is often about 50% protein, but it varies by the manufacturer. A quick glance at the nutrition facts should clue you in.”

Mark goes on to explain the different types of protein powders and their BV scores. You can read his whole post here.

Let’s look at another example. Since we all CrossFit, I am sure you have heard of Progenex. If you haven’t, Progenex is a recovery supplement that sponsors many of the top CrossFit athletes. Here is a list of the athletes they sponsor:

Rich Froning (2011 and 2012 CrossFit Games Champion)

Annie Thorisdottir (2011 and 2012 CrossFit games Champion)

Graham Holmberg (2010 CrossFit Games Champion)

Chris Spealler (competed in every CrossFit Games)

Jason Khalipa (2008 CrossFit Games Champion)

Ben Smith (3rd place 2011 CrossFit Games)

Cheryl Brost (7th place 2011 CrossFit Games)

Yes, all of the athletes at the top of the sport use Progenex. Guess what it contains? You got it, whey protein. In fact, almost none of the top CrossFit athletes eat Paleo or Zone but that is another blog for another time.

Khalipa protein

The reality is that any athlete at the top of his or her game that uses a protein supplement uses one that has whey protein in it. You can’t even find a high level competitor in any sport that uses a protein supplement other than a whey protein supplement. You think Lebron James is dunking in people’s faces while taking pea protein? You think Tiger Woods hits the ball 320 yards by taking hemp protein? You think Albert Pujols smashes 50 homers per year taking rice protein? Fat chance.



It happens to all of us.  We have all found a way to muddle through a workout, quit before finishing the entire thing or even hit the alarm and go back to sleep.  It’s only one missed opportunity and you have plenty of time this month to make it up or get your exercise in.  No big deal.  You aren’t missing anything you can’t do tomorrow, right?

I have been involved in sports since I have been 6 years old.  I have played just about every major sport you can imagine and have been a part of many teams.  With a lot of teams comes a lot of coaches and with a lot of coaches comes a lot of different coaching styles.  Coaches are a funny group.  They can run the table from a volunteer dad who has never played the sport they are coaching to a highly paid collegiate coach who was the tops at their sport.  No matter the experience, one thing stays consistent.  Coaches will always do their best to get the most out of their athletes through motivational speeches.  Some are cheesy, some are regurgitated from sports movies and some are downright funny.  But few are truly inspirational.  Few stir so much emotion inside that it not only inspires you in that moment but sticks with you throughout your athletic career.  Fortunately, I have experienced one of those speeches and I remind myself of it almost every time I train.

My defensive coordinator at college, Jay Stalfort, brought the defensive unit together after a pretty lackluster practice and asked us what the problem was.  Why were we not playing up to the level we have previously played in the days and weeks prior?  No one seemed to have an answer so Jay told us about the mindset he subscribed to during his playing career.  He told us that you never want to be able to walk off the field and ask yourself “What if?”.  What if I would have tried harder for that groundball instead of pulling up to avoid contact?  What if I would have given 100% in conditioning instead of sandbagging the first 3? What if pushed by teammates all practice instead of going through the motions on some drills?  Basically, how much better could our team be if we all gave 100% every day?

Then he drove home the point with the question, “If you couldn’t play tomorrow, how hard would you play today?” Jay explained to us that there are thousands of kids who would give anything to be in our position.  From the kid who worked his ass off who never got recruited to the kid who suffered an injury and could never play the sport he loved again, they all would trade places with us in a heartbeat.  “Don’t take anything for granted”, he said. “Tomorrow is never guaranteed”.

We see examples of this everyday.  People paralyzed in a car accident.  A cancer diagnosis.  Debilitating injuries from participating in a sport.  The list goes on and on.  I don’t meant to be too morbid but these examples are real.  The scariest part is not that they could potentially happen to us, it is that we never see them coming.  The only thing that separates you from doing what you love is a fraction of a second.  That’s all it takes.

Think about that.  If someone was going to take away the ability to do what you love, how much would you cherish it in the present?  It’s something you should ask yourself every single day you have the opportunity to come into CrossFit 717 to train.

I had to remind myself of this just this week.  5:30 AM workouts are a grind, compounded by the fact that your body has barely had the chance to wake up before you start your workout.  My perpetually sore knees were creaking louder than normal and my shoulder was still sore from the weekend session.  I had every excuse to get back in bed and not train.  Sipping my coffee, I pulled into the parking lot expecting this training session to be less than stellar.  With the help of my music, I persevered through my snatches and moved onto the squats.  The first set at 60% felt heavier than it should have.  My knees hurt.  My shoulder was sore and bruised.  My lower back ached.  All of these things ran through my head as excuses to just pack it in and call it a day.