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Category Archives: Coach’s Blog

Hi guys,

Thanks so much for following along on our first 5 years through the past few blogs.  We’ve gotten some great feedback from those of you that were there, loving the reminders of “the good old days”, as well as a lot of newer folks appreciating the insight into where it all started.  And if you were part of this great journey or you’ve been reading my recollections, you might have noticed some themes.  Those themes have been very apparent to me looking back through the years, but the most fantastic part is that those are the themes that WE WANTED to be the core values of our business from the beginning.  So it really is coming full circle, and our coaching staff got together to formalize our mission statement and those core values, and I’d like to share them with you now.

CFKI MISSION STATEMENT
Our mission is to help people get awesome.  We aim to build a strong, kind, resilient, and confident community united by a common purpose of spreading health and wellness.

The phrase “get awesome” started as a joke, morphed into a motivational phrase often written on the old gym floor in chalk, and eventually solidified into a gym motto.  What does awesome mean?  The definition of awesome is “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.”  Let’s throw “daunting,” “apprehension,” and “fear” out, because that’s not what we are about, but I love the part about being “extremely impressive” and “inspiring great admiration”.  We are not trying to focus on external motivation here and look for admiration from everyone, but I do think we are striving to be DESERVING of admiration.  So, yeah, we want all of you guys to GET AWESOME!!
The second part of the mission statement describes the kind of traits that we want to mold into our members as they become integral parts of our community.
First, we want you to be strong – physically of course, but also mentally and emotionally.
Second, we want to model kindness toward each other and our great community.
Third, we are training you to be resilient.  Ever wonder why we program Hero WODs and other long-ass grinders that push you to your mental limit?  It’s because we want you to feel like you’ve been tested, and you passed, and passed again the next time, so that when something really shitty comes into your life (and it will), you know you can handle it, you have the resilience to bounce back.
Lastly, we want you to be confident.  PR’ing your overhead squat or shaving a minute off your mile time creates confidence that you can translate into your job, your relationships, your life.
What we are trying to do, our MISSION, is to help you GET AWESOME.  And that starts in the gym but expands to all parts of your life.

CFKI VALUES
These are the main themes that intersect between what we wanted to do when we started, and what we have realized our our core strengths now.  I hope you agree!

DiligenceHard work and persistence breeds success
This is number 1 because it’s what’s going to bring you results.  Want to lose weight?  Want to gain strength?  Want to get that first muscle-up?  You have to consistently work hard.  Look at all of our members that set goals and meet them, and that is their theme in the gym, as well as their lives.

GrowthCommit to constant improvement
This applies to our athletes, our coaches, and our business.
We ask our coaches to be relentless with our athletes on constantly improving their technique.  We all know you know how to squat, but if you’re not doing it exactly right, we’re going to fix you, again and again.
We encourage our coaches to follow their passions and pursue “advanced degrees” in CrossFit or elsewhere.  We have four coaches that have multiple certifications from CrossFit, including Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Kids training and the Level 2 Coaches Course.
In our business, hopefully you’ve noticed since you’ve been here that things are constantly changing for the better.  We evaluate opportunities that come our way with a growth mentality, as well as “would this be a positive change for our current membership,” as you being happy is our biggest and most successful marketing strategy.

ServiceTake your eyes off of yourself and help others
Fight For Brian
Blasting for the Brave
Rowing for #TeamCharlie and the Tour de Cure
Barbells for Boobs
Kent Island Tornado Relief
Lift Up Autism
You guys are incredibly talented and successful at raising money and awareness in the rest of the community for these important causes, and more.  I knew getting into CrossFit training that there was a precedent for CrossFitters being generous, and I’m not sure I knew why, but now I do.  It’s because of the other awesome thing about CrossFitters that you all could immediately point out.  We take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on others during a workout.  When we see someone that looks like they’re reaching a mental breaking point, we stop what we’re doing for a second so that we can shout out their name and make sure they know we’re watching and they can do it.  When we see someone absolutely killing it, we cheer them on and push them further.  Doesn’t it make sense that this trait that we are practicing in the gym would translate into our feelings toward our greater community?  This is the Value that I am most proud of, and I think will pay the biggest dividends for all of our lives.

FunCreate fun and a little weirdness!
This one is really a no-brainer for me in terms of looking at our athletes and our coaches.  We attract people into our gym that like to have fun, like to throw some jokes out there, and generally don’t mind some weirdness in their lives!  And honestly, with our heavy focus on growth and hard work, if fun wasn’t also a part of it, would you be in?

Well there you have it – our Mission and Values.  I’m interested in your thoughts here, leave them in the Comments on this blog post or on Facebook if you dare.  Anything we missed out on?  Anything else you want us to highlight on an upcoming post?  Let us know!  And in the meantime, train hard and have fun!

Ryan

09.13Year 5

The wait is over, it’s time for Year 5!  As you will see, our fifth year was one of continued growth, a lot of great times with hilarious people, and it was where we solidified our culture of service.  I hope you enjoy looking through these as much as I did!

Early in 2016, Liz, one of our regular 6am members, let me know she was raising money for diabetes research by participating in the Tour de Cure, a team biking event.  I knew Liz had Type 1 Diabetes because she had briefed me on what to do if her blood sugar got too high or low, and as a professional fitness trainer I of course just made jokes about it constantly.  But Liz also mentioned that the main inspiration for her team was her 3-year-old son Charlie, who was recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes himself.
We decided that we would help out Team Charlie, but it would take the collective effort of all of our members to make the biggest impact.  Throughout the month of March, any extra biking or rowing that our members did outside of classtime would contribute to the cause.  If someone rowed 10 calories, CFKI would donate $1 to the American Diabetes Association, on behalf of Team Charlie.  It was a quick success, and the momentum grew throughout the month.  In the end, we donated $1,015, which helped Team Charlie be the highest fundraising team in the Chesapeake Bay Tour de Cure 2016!

As we continued to grow our membership and add classes, it became clear that we needed to add more coaches to our team!  We are lucky to have so many great athletes that have previous backgrounds in instructing and leading teams, and they haven’t needed that much convincing to step up and coach at CFKI!  Tristan has always been a formidable athlete, especially when it comes to long, grind-it-out workouts.  He is also a leader in his Baltimore firehouse and a firefighting instructor, so we started talking about him starting to coach and in early 2016 he joined the team!  Tristan brings a special New York charm to his classes, and as previously mentioned he likes to work hard and likes it when you do, too.  Don’t attend his classes if you are allergic to pepper spray, burpees, or Billy Joel.

 

Getting your body ready to move properly and recovering well are crucial to getting the best performance in the gym, and continuing to improve.  In the last couple years we have been more focused on mobility, both in terms of programming pre- and post-WOD smashing and stretching, as well as offering dedicated classes to make major improvements in range of motion.  Josh is a tireless learner and teacher of mobility techniques, and very creative in his approach.  He has also been very “flexible” (get it?) with his schedule so that as many athletes as possible can attend these classes and seminars.  Kudos to Josh for his extra effort, and hopefully more of you reading this will continue to see the importance of making mobility a regular part of your fitness regimen!

 

Taking a quick break from highlighting some of our amazing coaches, I want to share another awesome community experience that we’ve been a part of from the beginning – the Eastern Shore Affiliate Challenge, or ESAC!  As in Year Two, we came away from the competition  with two podium finishers – Mike Harkema was the top ranked Masters male athlete at the end of the day, and Paul Sullivan won the Scaled Men competition!  Awesome job to these two and all of our competitors.  We’ve made a tradition of placing some CFKI members on top of the podium at these events, and I can’t wait to see how we do next time!

This ESAC was particularly memorable because of the addition of a sloppy outdoor workout that consisted of heavy sled pulls and even heavier Atlas stone cleans.  That workout wiped us all out, and was an awesome test of strength and stamina.  Needless to say, Mike and Paul did very well on that one!  It was also memorable because at the end of the event as we were driving through the gym owner’s front yard to leave, I got our Honda Pilot (loaded with lots of heavy balls) stuck in the muddy grass and it took us a couple hours, another stuck vehicle (owner’s tractor) and a lot more yard damage to get out of there!

The ESAC happens a couple times per year, rotating between volunteer gyms around the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.  There is another one coming up soon on October 28th – I encourage you all to try it out!  If you ever have a competitive itch, or if you watch the CrossFit Games on TV and daydream about what it would be like to be competing in a sport that you put a lot into every day in the gym, this is for you!

 

Our final big happening of the year brought 2016 to a close just as it had started, with an opportunity to give back.  Barbells for Boobs, as funny as the name is, is an awesome organization dedicated to helping women that can’t afford it get screened for breast cancer, a disease that has touched so many of our families’ and friends’ lives.
We began by asking our members to create personal fundraising pages, fueled by the promise of sweet gear like shirts, sweatshirts and even bags depending on how much you raise.  All of the efforts of our individual members would then add up to our overall CFKI total.
Behind the organization of all of this was our newest coach, Jason.  Jason had prior experience with fundraising for BFB at CrossFit gyms in Annapolis where he had previously coached.  He is our first coach to not first be a CFKI member, but he immediately became a huge success with his energetic personality (and warm-ups!), and his genuine passion for constant improvement.  Jason spearheaded our Barbells for Boobs effort with so much energy and enthusiasm, it wasn’t hard to get hooked and try to bring the same energy to your own fundraising.  By the time of our live workout and event at the gym in late October, nothing was certain but it looked like we were going to raise the most money out of any gym in Maryland, due to all of our individual efforts but also Jason’s persistence and leadership to keep the momentum going.
The event planning was a real team effort, with lots of folks volunteering their time and creative energy to make the gym look like a pink wonderland!  As Halloween was close at hand, we turned it into a costume party (and of course competition) and had a very hard but hilarious time picking the winners.
A partner workout of “Helen Meets Grace” fed into a championship workout of “Karen”, and everyone involved got a great workout in, donated a lot of their own money at the event, and then had a blast hanging out afterward.
As the year 2016 ended and the Barbells for Boobs fundraising drive officially wrapped up, Jason got an email and forwarded it to me – CFKI was in fact the highest fundraising gym in all of Maryland, beating out a number of very high-profile CrossFit boxes.  I was and continue to be so proud of this, not only because this was our first experience with BFB and we did so well, but because it demonstrated one more time how thoughtful and giving our members are to a world that truly needs our help.

In my next post, I’ll try to wrap this all up and talk about what we’ve learned about our collective values and our mission.  For now, though, looking back one more time at the past 5+ years, I just want to say thanks and leave you with a quote, one that I have loved for a while but previously thought of it only in the context of military or political heroes.  But now I know it applies to you, to all of us whenever we step up to the plate to do what is right.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.  It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
 – Arthur Ashe

Please enjoy another great nutrition article from our resident expert, Laura Tricarico!

After Labor Day, we heard many of you loudly exclaim in the gym, “Summer is over, now it’s time to get my nutrition back on track!”  And we absolutely agree!  But don’t expect yourself to do a complete 180 and be a full-time paleolithic caveman right away.  Be OK with making small changes in your diet for the better, and the positive effects will snowball and propel you closer to the absolute best diet plan for you.

Now here’s Laura:

Change does not happen overnight, but in our fast pace world, it can be the expectation. Be reasonable about your dietary goals and slowly begin working on them. Making small adjustments to your lifestyle can ensure permanent changes in your diet. Participating in fad or crash diets will produce results for a short time, but will not encourage a healthier lifestyle in the long run. Instead, slowly implement one change at a time. Select an area you are in need of modifying the most and work on that. Once you have mastered the change, move on to something else. For example, rather than trying to change every meal of the day to your whole food diet standards all at once, begin switching your breakfast options from cereal and juice to two scrambled eggs and spinach sauteed in butter. Once you have mastered that mealtime, you are ready to adapt your dinners to match your whole food diet and then lunch.

This healthy habit can be particularly helpful with children and less than enthused spouses. If you take away all food comforts at once, you will most likely have a full on rebellion in your house. Making once change at a time, will not overwhelm your family and instead may gain their support if you are providing delicious and filling meals that help everyone to feel their best. Remember that animal fat makes everything taste better and that really applies to those veggies!

Keep in mind that your health and wellness is not a race, but rather a journey that will twist and turn. Maintaining balance means understanding there will be times you stumble and revert back to old, poor dietary habits. You have not failed, you are simply human. Your health is worth a second, third, fourth try. Even a small amount of success is enough to build momentum.

09.04Year 4

The summer of 2015 began our 4th year in business!  There were a lot of “goings-on” in the beginning part of 2015 that I’ve missed up to this point though, so please excuse the extra time travel.

Year 4

Late in 2014 and going into 2015, we began offering CrossFit Kids classes!  Denee and Dana were first to get certified, and I was relegated to “helper” duty.  It’s important to have coaches that have been trained in how to work with young kids, as it is very different than running an adult class as you may have seen, or can imagine.  Both Dana and Denee have bubbly, energetic personalities so they are natural fits to coach kids’ fitness, and Dana being a middle-school teacher really helped as well!!  I, on the other hand, find the need to “jack up” my personality a bit when I interact with kids, but that’s fine – it keeps me on my toes and I love the challenge of working with all these little dudes and dudettes!

 

 

In March of 2015 a few of us got ourselves signed up for another GORUCK Challenge.  This would be the first for a couple of our “Ryan’s” (Grantham and Matis), and while the rest of us from CFKI (Craig, Denee, and myself) had already done at least one, you always get a little bit apprehensive as the date draws closer.  That apprehension grew to dread as with just a few days to go, the weather forecast looked straight-up crazy for March – lows at night in the teens, and a lot of snow and ice on the ground from a very recent storm.  I tried to back out, but was pulled back in by Denee and Matis, who reminded me that these events were called “Challenges” for a reason.
Before we started, we met one person that we didn’t know yet – David Oliva, who lives on KI but hadn’t yet been to the gym!  David ended up being an absolute animal during the ruck, and has since become a regular member, eager to constantly improve.  The event itself was all that we had feared it would be – long, dark hours of trudging through snow and up the very slippery Baltimore-Annapolis trail all the way to the northern end of Severna Park!  We had very few people to carry a lot of extra weight, and it was the toughest but most rewarding GORUCK Challenge I have been a part of.

 

Early in 2015 we also secured the help of a great local photographer and web design expert, Krista Jones.  Krista was a gym member along with her husband, Davey, and we started talking about redesigning our website and getting some professional shots of our coaches.  I’m so glad we did this, as Krista made our new website so much cleaner and easier to navigate, as well as a great site to look at.  We continue to work with Krista on updates to our site, and probably owe her and Davey a lot of money for how many times we’ve asked for their expert knowledge!

I’m also really glad we got this great picture of Lori, one of our first coaches and the person you will most often see coaching at the gym except for me.  Lori came to us after coaching bootcamp classes locally and wanted to get into CrossFit, knowing all about it because her husband Josh was a CF-L1 coach back in the day (administered by Dave Castro himself!).  Lori has been an amazing stabilizing influence for us, not only coaching and improving all of our athletes’ movements and especially core strength with her extra Pure Barre cash-outs, but also with her management of our inventory and her Instagram prowess.  Odds are, if you see an Instagram pic from CFKI, it’s Lori behind those creative hashtags.  Lori and Josh have also become our personal confidants, vetting important decisions and letting us know the current opinions and feedback from gym members.  Thanks so much for everything you contribute to the gym!

Another group of members that deserve special credit are the Little’s.  Andrew, Drew, and Maddie came to us late in 2015 after doing CrossFit on their own for a little bit.  They needed some coaching on Olympic lifts, and with our help they have thrived and become amazing athletes.  Drew (pictured doing a split jerk here) plays competitive hockey, and his sister Maddie plays lacrosse and volleyball.  They have grown from beginning weightlifters (or not wanting to lift at all 🙂 ) to competitive CrossFitters, placing very high in the CrossFit Games Open in the teenage division last year.  It is so amazing to see not just one athlete but a family develop into proficient, confident athletes, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings!

Finally, 2015 began my incorporation of SEALFIT methodologies into our daily programming.  Most of you that have been around CrossFit Kent Island have heard of SEALFIT, but if not you may have experienced it.  Have you ever started a workout you didn’t know if you would finish?  Have you ever been asked to do weighted lunges for 400 meters, or a 1-mile farmer’s carry?  There is something about entering into an extremely difficult crucible and successfully coming out the other side that creates character, heart, and toughness.  SEALFIT training aims to forge these qualities by exposing you to difficult workouts or events, and also by practicing techniques that will help you thrive in them, like breath control, positivity, and goal setting.  If you hear you CrossFit Kent Island coaches teaching and developing these ideas in class, it is the result of my SEALFIT training and our CFKI coaches’ education.  If you find yourself in a workout that seems “way too long” or “can’t be done”, it’s because I want you to know it’s not too long, and you can do it.

Year 4 was a great one just like all the others.  I’m already looking forward to poring through Year 5 photos, and I hope you enjoy our look back as we continue to move forward.

 

 

 

 

08.23Year Three

Just like the first few years themselves, I feel like these last two weeks of reminiscing about the old days have come and gone, and here we are already at Year Three.

First of all, our third year marked our second location, as we quickly grew out of our 500-sqft space and graduated to a big-boy space near Matapeake Beach.  Those that have seen both locations know that of course we have a lot more “room for activities” at our new spot, but the cozy feel of the old gym is missed sometimes.  We’ve also had a terrible time with water leaking in the front of the gym when it rains (pretty sure buildings are supposed to be waterproof) and we’ve been visited by more wildlife in this more rural location (plenty of birds, prehistoric dragonflies, a squirrel, and even a couple snakes have entered the gym without a membership!)
Here is a picture of Everett getting the new location ready.  This may look like unfair child labor laws since it’s so dark, but we didn’t have any lights yet and this was actually at noon!

 

As we built the space out, we also felt the need to cover the huge bare walls.  Josh, a former Navy linguist and current environmental scientist, has at least one more hidden talent – he is a brilliant artist!  Josh can take a rough idea and very quickly turn it into a creative image.  Over beers one night we came up with the plan, “our gym slogan is ‘Get Awesome’, and my last name is Wolf.”  Within a couple days, Josh had several versions sketched out on his computer of what would be our first mural.  Those of you that have seen it in color on the wall and on our t-shirts can appreciate the simple but elegant and energetic design, and I thought it might be fun to look back on where it all started.  Josh also created, drew and painted on the wall the CFKI trident that towers above the squat racks, as well as several shirt designs.  Thanks Josh!

 

 

Not long after opening up our new location, we learned that one of our members, Brian, was very sick.  His two sons had been working out with us for a while to get ready for their lacrosse seasons, and he had recently also begun to get into CrossFit himself.  He hadn’t been to the gym in a while so I called him to follow up.  We didn’t know at the time exactly what was up, but he knew he was too weak to workout.  Brian was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), a super-rare disease that attacks multiple organs and the immune system.  It is so rare that although the most effective treatment option is chemotherapy, which Brian started immediately after his diagnosis, his insurance company refused to pay his hospital bills because he was getting chemotherapy when it was “not medically necessary”.  Having a background in health insurance (and fighting health insurance companies on behalf of hospitals), I got to work on his medical claims.  We also decided that we needed to do something to help Brian and his family out with their financial situation in the meantime.  In November of 2014 we hosted an open competition named “Fight For Brian” that featured three workouts and a great lunch and get-together afterward.  We were able to provide Brian and his family with over $9,500 in donations from our members and his friends and family.  As I write this, I am still stunned by that figure – that our small community could generate such a big financial response to a crisis.  But as you will see in future posts, at CrossFit Kent Island we consistently rise to the occasion when one of our community, our family, is in need.  We discovered in November 2014 that one of our core competencies, and indeed one of our values, is Service.

In Year Three we also added a new coach, who had been WOD’ing with us for about a year.  Dana was an immediate lock as a CrossFit coach because of her great weightlifting and gymnastics technique, and her experience as a middle-school teacher.  If you wonder why a middle-school teacher specifically would be a good CrossFit coach, just look and listen around the gym at the maturity level of our athletes as they’re warming up…
Dana, her husband Jimmy, and their son Ashton were a huge part of our CrossFit Kent Island community in the first three years and into the fourth, when unfortunately for us they moved to South Carolina so Jimmy could pursue his dream of managing a big-time race track.  We love that they are doing so well in Darlington, SC, but we sure do miss them!

 

 

 

As we continued to grow our membership in the new gym location right next to Matapeake Beach, getting outside for a WOD was a must, either right behind the gym in our new huge parking lot (you can see here that it was not fully done yet), or at the beach itself.  We are truly blessed to have so many outdoor areas to express our fitness on Kent Island!

08.16Year Two

Last week we reviewed our first year in existence – Year One!  What an exciting, new time it was, and lots of new members to experiment on!  In this post we examine Year Two – a year full of more hard work, growth, many more “firsts”, and a year where we started to grow into our CrossFit Kent Island culture as we know it now.  Enjoy.

Year Two
The year starts with an homage to the little dude that really made this gym happen.  This is Oliver, and we started this whole thing because I said to Denee, “I don’t know if I want to keep traveling every week, what if we start a CrossFit gym?”  Instead of shooting it down, she asked me for a business plan, which of course I already had (maybe…) and when it looked semi-promising, we decided to make it happen.  Oliver was less than 1 years old here, and most of you probably know him now as a fixture in the gym.  In the beginning, he was usually sitting in a car seat in the back of the gym, but here we let him get in on some deadlifts for the first time.

 

 

 

In 2013 we also started to follow the CrossFit Games, and two CFKI athletes began to differentiate themselves as competitors.  Most notably, Ryan Matis and Ryan Grantham decided to test themselves at a CF Games workout that most would not attempt – a half-marathon row.  We put the Concept2 rowers outside the gym on a misty evening, and the Ryan’s raced each other for 1.5+ hours.  No one else would attempt this feat, and the pair would cement themselves as the most determined and consistent CrossFit competitors on Kent Island in 2013 and for many more years to come.  Their futures would align later as successful CrossFit coaches in Baltimore and Kansas, and they remain connected to CFKI to this day.

Around the 2013 summer we also began a CFKI tradition of posting our Hero workouts to the wall of the gym.  A Hero workout is one that is created to memorialize a fallen soldier, sailor, marine, airmen, or law enforcement officer that gave their life in the line of duty.  As they sacrificed their life, so do we sacrifice ourselves in their honor in the form of a grueling workout.  It is usually longer, heavier, and more mentally strenuous than other CrossFit workouts, to remind us that in the military and law enforcement communities, “all give some, and some gave all.”  When you spill your heart out in these workouts such as Tumilson here, you will never forget the sacrifice that they made.

Writing these workouts on the wall of the gym is still a tradition we continue at CFKI, and if your name appears here you know you have become a permanent part of our special community.

 

Not so coincidentally, it was also about that time that we began a long-standing tradition of making Friday night a party night!  Our weekday schedule included 5:30pm and 6:30pm classes each day, but 6:30pm was not very well attended, for obvious reasons – everyone wants to hang out with their family and friends on a Friday night.  So one Friday evening, our 5:30pm class finished with a bunch of heavy tire flips, and before the last rep I stashed a case of beer inside the heaviest tire.  When it was found, the 5:30 class cracked a beer to toast to their great week of workouts and general domination, and when the 6:30 class showed up, they went ahead and grabbed a beer too.  And that was the end of our Friday 6:30pm class, and the beginning of something that makes CFKI great – our focus on community and fun!

Later on in the fall, we got involved in the Eastern Shore Affiliate Challenge (ESAC)!  This was the second time we were included, but this time we had a significant portion of our gym competing and it was a blast and a half.  There were lots of fun challenges, from scaling a wall to 1-rep-max snatches to a team swimming event.  A complete test of fitness!  Everyone had a great time, and we got packed up to go.  The results were being announced, but having felt accomplished with our feats and being ready to go, we headed for the cars.  When the Scaled winners were trumpeted over the loudspeaker though, we had to call Lori and Claire back – they had won First and Second place!

This was to be the beginning of a streak of CFKI podium winners in the ESAC, and more importantly the establishment of CrossFit competitions as a great test of our individual fitness and teamwork.  Plus, they are just a really good time!  We have since hosted two ESAC competitions and look forward to more on Kent Island!

In 2013, we also were a part of an inaugural event that continued the momentum we had built with GORUCK and further cemented their ideals of service, personal challenge, and teamwork into our collective mindset.  The GORUCK Nasty was an obstacle course race based on the “Nasty Nick” O-Course (US Army Special Forces) and the BUD/S O-Course (US Navy SEALs).  The special operations cadre of GORUCK designed this course to be the ultimate civilian test of stamina and endurance, and it proved to be just that to our members and all competitors.  Pictured here is Coach Ryan adding his flag to the wall after enduring a long, vertical climb halfway through the course.  Ryan’s brother Barrett is also pictured in the right background, showing the muddy results of an arduous course that wound up and down a sloppy summer ski resort.  The race was hard and resulted in our collective mental toughness for similar events to come, but it also was a great time that resulted in the continued bonding of our members, and the meeting point for Ryan Matis and Grace Kunkel, mow happily married!

Toward the end of the second year, we convened at the Cambridge Beer Festival, which ended up being rained out!
Making the best of it, we had an amazing time, and a joke in a local bar (pictured here) became a motto that has since become a tagline for us going forward:  “GET AWESOME!”
To us, GET AWESOME means to become as healthy, kind, resilient, and confident a person possible.  We aim to GET AWESOME every day in the gym and in our personal and professional lives!

Our second year expanded upon the lessons and successes of the first, and we continued to thrive.  We are looking forward to GETTING AWESOME in years to come!!

08.09Year One

We didn’t really make a big deal of it, but our 5-year anniversary as CrossFit Kent Island happened this summer, right about Memorial Day actually.  So, maybe we did celebrate – Murph style!!

I want you all to know that I have enjoyed every single day of our 5+ years now in existence, and there are so many special people and moments in time that are forever etched in my memory, and on my computer’s hard drive as pictures.  So what I’d like to do is to begin to share some of those memories, one year at a time.
First there were blogs, and then video blogs or “vlogs”.  Let the record show that I am now inventing the picture blog, or “plog”.  Maybe someone’s done it before but I doubt they called it a plog.  And if they did and they come after me and I’m ruined financially, at least we got a solid 5 years in.

Year One

It’s funny to look back at some of these pictures from 2012 because of how different CrossFit Kent Island looked back then.  The “old gym” as it’s now mostly affectionately known, was a 500-square foot box of aged concrete blocks nestled between other small businesses behind Food Lion.  Here’s a picture of half of the gym (yep, that’s right) set up with equipment for the first time.  I was so proud, and so scared, but we knew that if we didn’t hit 25 members within the first year, we would close it up and that would be that.  Luckily, you guys showed up!

As we opened the garage doors for the first time, four dudes, one of whom was already shirtless having researched proper CrossFit protocol, were standing outside the gym.  “Is this gonna be a CrossFit gym?” said Andy Booze, “We were just about to join CrossFit Annapolis but now we don’t have to go over the bridge!”
And that’s exactly why I opened the gym in the first place – I knew there would be interest because CrossFit was starting to pick up steam in the fitness world, and the closest gym was over that monster of a Bridge.  Alex, Andy, Chris and Kenny became 4 of our first members before we even had our equipment unpacked, and we had a lot of fun coming up with workouts that were all a little bit harder than the previous one.

…which leads to my next picture of our first equipment replacement!  Lesson learned:  plyo boxes are not to be used to crash heavy barbells onto like jerk blocks.  Andy, a carpenter by trade (always good to have in a gym as we would learn), pulled up some online directions to create a plyo box in the exact dimensions of our others, but for good measure painted a CFKI trident right on the handle.  We still have this box, and I try to use it every time I do box jumps.  Andy also built ACTUAL jerk blocks for us to use, just in case we decided we hadn’t fully learned that lesson yet.

 

Around the late summer timeframe, Chris recruited someone that he met at Hemingway’s where he was a server.  Her name was Alyssa, and she and her twin sister came in to check us out.  As luck would have it we were learning handstands that day, and having learned of her gymnastics background I leaned on her to help out with some instruction.  I don’t know how many times I asked Alyssa over 4 years if she would ever want to coach with us, half joking at first because of her busy work schedule, but eventually she relented and has been such a great asset and role model to all of our athletes!  This picture is from the first time she, Jay, Andrea and Kyle did “Fran”.

 

Two more of our first members were Craig and Heather, along with their kids Byron and Athena.  All are good athletes, and firey competitors when the clock starts.  We added more classes, and I feel like at least one of them was in every class.  We started discussing taking rest days, and Craig would have none of it!  Byron was the inspiration behind our rule of “If you have a near-death experience in the gym, you owe 5 burpees,” due to his significant lack of the self-preservation instinct when at the top of a 15-ft rope or getting out of a GHD.

 

In November of 2012, I got a call from a dude named Lou at GORUCK, a gear company that made high-end rucks and were starting to run overnight rucking challenges in major cities.  There was one coming up in Baltimore, and he wanted to know if anyone from our CrossFit gym would be interested.  We were, and Craig, Byron and I pretty much dominated GORUCK Class 320, which started with a quick dunk in the Inner Harbor and only got more nasty from there.  I felt like I had really earned that patch and cold Budweiser on Sunday morning, and was glad I did it but never again!  A couple weeks later I was back on the phone with Lou, who happened to be the Lead Cadre of all their Special Forces instructors, talking about pulling together a custom event on Kent Island.  There’s something about suffering together as a group that not only binds people together, but also insulates you from future hardships.  “If I did that, then I can do anything” sort of a deal.  GORUCK Challenges have become an annual or even more frequent personal crucible for me, and I always encourage more people to participate because of the enormous personal growth that follows.

Overall, Year One was one of learning, one of meeting people that have since shaped my business and my life, and was a huge springboard into Year Two and beyond.  More to come soon!

Ryan

 

We’d like to start sharing some of the Nutrition Newsletter topics that Laura Tricarico wrote in 2015 and 2016 to help us all understand how to live more healthfully, and how to eat for CrossFit performance.  Please enjoy topic #1!

Break Up With Sugar

It is time.  You have been in an abusive relationship for far too long.  You could say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” or “I need to work on myself.”  Whatever cliche breakup line does the trick, it is time to kick sugar to the curb and for good reason.  Sugar is the leading dietary cause of inflammation which is linked to most chronic diseases.  Never before in the history of mankind have we had an emergency need to lower bloodsugar.  Never.
According to the USDA statistics, the average American consumed 196 POUNDS of sugar in 2010.  In order to accomplish this, one would need to ingest eight ounces of sugar a day or 227 grams.  It’s actually not that difficult to do, considering sugar is found in almost any processed food under a multitude of different names.
Let’s take a look at why sugar consumption is such a big deal.  In one word: diabetes.  One in three children born in 2000 will become diabetic and 90%of diabetes is associated with a high carbohydrate consumption. When ingesting high levels of refined carbohydrates the pancreas, adrenal glands, and liver are greatly impacted.  Under such duress, the pancreas will eventually stop making enough insulin to combat the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, the adrenals become exhausted affecting hormone production, and the liver begins to have difficulty managing the glucose in the bloodstream.  Unfortunately, the damage does not stop there.  Immune function decreases, cells lose their ability to react to insulin and eyes, feet, kidneys, and the brain suffer from narrowed microvasculature.  The progression to diabetes is not as far off as you might think because it begins slowly with hypoglycemia, progressing to insulin resistance and ends with Type II diabetes. Without knowing it, many (dare I say most) people following a standard American diet (SAD) suffer from low bloodsugar or hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia can be characterized as needing to eat every few hours, dizziness upon standing, shaking of extremities, mood changes when hungry (aka hangry), low energy, and frequent urination.  It may be also affecting your children.  Does your child have focus issues, tantrums, low energy then overactive?  If this sounds like you or your child, it is time to break up with sugar -for good.
“I have tried it all.  It takes all my willpower and after a few days, I cave to that one latte or cookie and I am
back at square one.”  Sound familiar?  This is not your fault.  Manufacturers spend a lot of time and money creating (yes, in al ab) foods that become addicting to the brain.  Trying to eat ‘only a little’ will eventually snow ball into ‘all the time’ because sugar affects the pleasure centers in the brain, making us continually chase the sugar high and happiness that quickly follows.  So ditch the guilt and mindgames and kick the habit for good.  The only method I have seen successful at helping individuals eliminate cravings and correct blood sugar imbalances is a sugar control diet or an elimination diet. A popular diet today calls it Whole30 or 21 Day Sugar Detox, but essentially any diet that removes sugar and processed foods is a sugar control diet.   When following a sugar control diet, the body’s sugar control mechanism re-calibrates, increasing energy and eliminating cravings in 2-3 weeks. A side benefit is it can also help individuals with weight loss or gain issues, giving your body a rest and reboot.

In order to find success during a sugar control diet or elimination diet,the following guidelines should be followed for 2-4 weeks:

  • Ideally, eat three complete meals with no snacks in between, giving your body time to digest properly and regulate hunger (keep in mind that you you may need to snack during the first week to avoid withdrawal symptoms).
  • Eat only whole foods found in nature including meat, vegetables, nuts/seeds, some fruit, and little starch.
  • Avoid ALL processed or packaged foods, all sugar, grains, dairy.
  • Include some raw foods everyday.

    Once the 2-4 weeks are complete, you may choose to reintroduce the foods you avoided. Please be incredibly mindful regarding how you feel if you choose to consume dairy, grains, and/or sugar.  Once your body has had the opportunity to heal on the elimination diet and inflammation has been reduced or resolved, you may discover that those reintroduced foods make you feel poorly or you can only consume them infrequently.  Use the education of the elimination diet to help you live the healthiest lifestyle with a diet that fits your body’s needs.

    Will it be hard?  Possibly.  Will it be worth it?  Absolutely.  Imagine a life FREE from the constant inner dialogue with your willpower.  Feeling in control of your emotions and energy all day.  Not feeling dependent on food or uneasy when your meal schedule is thrown off.  Freedom from food.  By completing 2-4 weeks of hard work in the kitchen, cooking your meals and being aware of the food you eat, you have the opportunity to take control over your body and how you feel. Forever being aware of the affect food can have and having the knowledge to right the wrongs in the future.

    Go ahead and tell sugar and those manufacturers that you have found someone else (fat and protein) and you deserve better, because you certainly do!

     – Laura Tricarico, Certified Nutritional Therapist

06.16Failure

“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
– Tadashi Nakamura

In the course of life, we’re all going to fall down.  You might find yourself wavering off of your workout or nutrition plan more than you planned, or you might get fired from a job.  You might have one of those days at the gym where you’re constantly missing easy lifts.  It could even be a physical fall, where all of a sudden you find yourself flat on your back, wondering what happened!  In all of these situations, there are a couple universal truths. First, as the beginning sentence already laid out, it’s going to happen to everyone — sooner or later, we all fail at something.  Secondly, it’s how you respond to it that counts.

Falls, or failures, whether self-imposed or brought on by things out of our control, can at times be devastating.  But it is important to remember that sooner or later everyone is going to have to face some sort of failure.  We all face them every day to one degree or another, and we usually show resilience by standing back up and pushing through again for success.  When a significant failure occurs, it’s important to not just try to push it aside and move past it, as if somehow it didn’t happen.  Use the failure and the following downtime to find the ingrained lesson.  What can you learn from this and take on board so that it doesn’t happen again?  Maybe you have learned about yourself – a new physical or mental “limit” that you can now use as a goal to push past!

Mark Divine is the founder of both SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind, two organizations that I very much subscribe to (even when my own often spectacular failures might not show it!)  His karate sensei was Tadashi Nakamura, the man quoted in the beginning of the article with that great quote on resilience.  He has another quote that I stumbled across again recently, which boils down to “One Day, One Lifetime.”  It was the subject of a speech that he gave to his students about simply living each day as if it was your entire life, not taking anything for granted, not wasting any precious energy on being negative, and certainly not dwelling on the past.  That was very eye-opening when I first read it, and I am glad I came across it again.

I’ve started incorporating these two quotes into my daily routine, and I encourage you to do the same.
Each evening, I recount my day in my head and start thinking about the positive things that happened.  Then I think about my failures, even those that were only apparent to myself, and think “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”  I make sure that I “get up” again in my mind, taking the lesson from the failure and moving on positively.
Each morning, as part of my daily planning, I think “One Day, One Lifetime” as a way to remember to make this day count, be positive and stay in the present.  And then I go get it!

Take some time to reflect on a recent failure of your own.  How did you respond?  Hopefully keeping these quotes or a similar mantra that has meaning to you will help you move forward positively!

Ryan

06.01Discipline

“Discipline equals Freedom”
 – Jocko Willink

Summer is just about in full swing, and that season brings with it a new set of challenges when it comes to fitness.  For those of us that are parents, the kids are out of school and now have camps, swimming lessons, and play dates that must be attended to.  For those of us in school, summertime might mean a part-time job or maybe even the start of a new career.  All of these things are pulling from our limited resource of time in new ways, which can be frustrating!

Don’t let these summer plans derail your fitness goals.  Use the value of Discipline that you have begun to forge in the gym to recommit to your top priority – your physical and mental health – even if that means that your workout schedule has to change a bit.  Your usual 4:30pm class is right when you need to pick up the kids from camp everyday, and after that is dinner and family time.  That sounds great — you are now a 6am workout fiend!  The sun comes up well before 6:00 this time of year, so it’s not like you’re slogging to the gym in the pitch-black December darkness.  We all know there will be days this summer where despite your best efforts, you can’t get to the gym for a CrossFit WOD.  Find a way to make fitness happen!  See if you can scale today’s CFKI WOD with equipment you have around you – which might be nothing!  Go for a bike ride or a run, knock out Tabata Burpees for 4 minutes, do 15 minutes of yoga before bedtime.  It’s all good stuff!

Find the Discipline to make it happen every day, and you will receive (at least) two benefits.  First off, the personal satisfaction from continuing to meet your physical fitness goals.  Secondly, the daily practice of Discipline towards a worthy goal (your health) will continue to build your mental toughness and decision-making skills.  Every day that you choose to go to the gym at 6am rather than sleeping in reaffirms your commitment, strengthening it for the next morning, or the next challenge in your life where you need to make a decision to go the hard but positive route, rather than taking it easy.

What Jocko Willink’s quote “Discipline equals Freedom” means to me is that if you choose to value Discipline, making the right choice in a daily crossroads like going to the gym or not becomes easier and easier each time you do it.  When it’s no longer something you have to think about each day, then you are Free to spend that precious mental energy on other more awesome things!