“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
– C.S. Lewis
Denee came across this quote the other day and sent it to me, and I love it for it’s simplicity and applicability to so many situations in our lives.
One audience that comes to mind immediately for me is folks that are having a hard time starting a workout regimen like CrossFit. You’ve all probably heard it as many times as I have, “I want to do CrossFit, but I need to get in shape first.” Think about where you were in your fitness journey before you started working out at CFKI. Even those of us that THOUGHT we were in shape were rudely awakened with our first few WODs. So, if you hear this from someone, remind them that their starting point doesn’t matter, what matters is that they do start.
Of course, this quote could also apply to all of us that have taken the leap and are serious about our fitness. Now I’m thinking of the upcoming holidays that will disrupt our work, family, and fitness schedules to no end. Many of us spend a lot of extra time in the gym before the holidays and plan to do the same afterward, to account for our plan to not work out or eat right at all during that stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. We’re automatically writing off that whole time as a “no fitness zone”, but that doesn’t have to be the reality!
If you really tear it up on Thanksgiving, layering on the turkey and stuffing with two pieces of pie (you have to try them both) and then 6 beers watching football on the couch, that’s fine! Another great quote to live by during the holidays is “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” So, don’t beat yourself up and feel guilty about going overboard once in a Blue Moon (get what I did there?). That leads down a spiral that can continue the debauchery for much longer than you planned. In addition to enjoying all the food and drinks with your friends and family if you’re away from home, spend some time hiking outside or tossing the football in the backyard. If you’re at home, take some “me time” to get to the gym in the morning before the whole crew is awake. You’ll feel great from the endorphins released when you move around with a purpose, and because you know you’ve once again committed yourself to a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, I’m sure we can all read that quote and think of another area of our life that it really seems to fit. Something that you know you should be doing but haven’t been able to pull the trigger. That feeling that is holding you back may be a fear of failure or even just a fear of the unknown. “What if I make the leap and things suddenly are a lot different?” Or maybe it’s just that the objective you have in mind is so daunting when you look at the big picture that it seems like too much to bite off at one time.
Thinking about our quote again though, we’re never going to be able to find the perfect starting point, the perfect beginning. The thing to do is to take small actions that lead toward your future state. As part of your morning routine, identify ONE THING you can do today to make progress toward your goal. In the evening, reassess where you are and determine the next appropriate action toward your goal. The next morning, review your plan and then go out and take action again! As you continue progressing toward that final objective, the bigger picture will come more into focus and your momentum will keep you energized.
So in the end, whether we’re talking about starting or maintaining our commitment to fitness and health, or even creating a meaningful change in our lives, the process is simple but not easy. Wherever we are in the continuum of “ready”, all we need to do is start. Take one step in the right direction, which leads to another… and the rest is your story!
In my last blog post I outlined how to become more consistent with your workouts by planning out your week of fitness and then executing on that plan. But let’s bring it back up one level. Why workout anyway? What are you training for? PR’ing your Fran time and your 1RM Clean and Jerk every few months is pretty awesome, and at first just being noticeably better at CrossFit is all the motivation you need! But if you hit a plateau in your Wodify weightlifting graph or find yourself searching for motivation to get in the gym on a regular basis, you might need something else, a meaningful challenge in your future that you can keep in mind.
This special, looming challenge could be CrossFit-related like competing in the next Eastern Shore Affiliate Challenge, or even just committing to doing better than last year in the CrossFit Open. Maybe even more powerful would be an event that you don’t feel like you’re currently prepared for, something you’ve never done before. A Spartan Beast obstacle course race, or a GORUCK Challenge, or an Olympic Weightlifting meet. Of course, it must be something you are interested in — otherwise the motivation won’t really be there — but also the more outside of your comfort zone it is, the better! Think of it like this – if I sign myself up for a 50K trail run that is going down in March, I am going to be super gung-ho about creating a stepwise training plan for myself that will address all of my weaknesses that would be exposed on those rocky hills. If I sign myself up for a 5K road run on Kent Island, I wouldn’t feel too bad about neglecting my training and nutrition for a while — if I get ramped up a couple weeks before the race I’ll be good to go. So make it something you will enjoy training for and then crushing on “race day”, but also something that you do NEED to train for.
On those days that we all have when you’re lacking that internal motivation to get in the gym or even just get out of bed, keeping that difficult event in mind will be that external motivation that you need to work on improving your fitness and your mental game. We all know that CrossFit makes us more physically fit, but practicing that discipline to do the hard work when you really don’t feel like it will also pay big dividends during the toughest times of your event.
So, as this year wraps up and the colder weather is dragging in shorter days, I encourage you all to commit to a tough challenge to loom in your near future. Sign up, put it on your calendar, and your winter workouts will be fueled by motivation to arrive at that event ready to kick ass, and a huge success at the event will propel you forward to even greater challenges!
This week I’d like to offer up another guest blog from our own Laura Tricarico, who among other things is a CrossFitter and a Nutritional Therapist. Halloween is just behind us now, and that means we all have bags full of candy sitting around. As the candy supply starts to wane, it would be a great time to think again about how to best feed our kids and set them up for eating success in the future. Please enjoy this informative and motivating article from Laura!
Make it a Family Affair
Creating a healthy lifestyle as a family when children are young can build long term habits that will follow your children through their lives, but we all KNOW that by now. No parent sets out wanting their children begging for treats or negotiating with dessert. Unfortunately, parenting doesn’t come with a guide and over time you may find your kids battling their own sugar dragon or having other less than ideal habits. So what do you do? How do you build healthy and happy kids who have positive – relationships with food? Answer: with immense amount of patience and consistency! Below are a few tips to begin the transition and suggestions for getting the entire family on board while hopefully resisting all-out meltdowns!
GIVE THEM TIME: Change takes effort and time especially for the littles. Make small shifts and resist changing all their comforts at once. Start by making one healthy switch a day and slowly alter their expectations at mealtimes. Also keep in mind, it takes 10-12 times for a child to truly determine a dislike to a new food so give them plenty of opportunities to try new foods before you determine they don’t like it.
GIVE THEM CHOICES: Children love exercising their independence and autonomy. Allow them to make their own healthy choices by giving them two parent-approved options to choose from. For example, offer apple slices with peanut butter or carrots with guacamole. Both are great snack ideas, but they will feel empowered by the choice. Win-win!
GET THEM INVOLVED: Try taking them to the grocery story with you and letting them pick two or three produce items to try during the week. Have them help you prepare the purchased foods to eat. Let them toss veggies with healthy oils and spices (who doesn’t love getting messy) or chop veggies or fruits using kid appropriate knives. Not only will they be proud of their contribution, but you are spending time together and sharing responsibilities. Plus you are showing them a life long skill of preparing food – their future spouse will thank you!
LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Mommy and daddy eating fresh and healthy food goes a long way in the impressionable eyes of kids. Also, show them how being healthy is fun by choosing to be active together or going outside. Kids are incredibly observant and will mimic what they see from their role model – you!
KEEP IT COLORFUL: A plate full of vibrant colors is incredibly appealing. Remember that we have five senses and that how food looks can be just as important as how food tastes. We eat with our eyes first!
DON’T OVERCOOK: Cooking foods appropriately will ensure ideal texture and flavors. Overcooked veggies become mushy and bland and leave a lot to be desired. Make sure you add healthy fats to vegetables and plenty of spices to bring out their flavor. My favorite way to prepare vegetables is to toss with avocado or coconut oil and sea salt and roast at 425 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned. I haven’t met a vegetable that doesn’t roast well. Super easy cleanup too!
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Remember that a child’s stomach is about the size of their fist. Small kids = small fists. So make sure you provide appropriate serving sizes to match the size of their belly!
BE CLEAR: Without discussion, kids may interpret the dietary changes as punishment or simply resist based on confusion. Eliminate that path by explaining why you are making changes as a family and how those changes will benefit them.
LAST RESORT – SNEAK ATTACK: If all the above suggestions fail, add healthy ingredients to their favorite foods or find healthier ways to prep your family’s favorite dishes. Blend veggies into sauces, smoothies, or casseroles. They will likely have no clue! Cleaning up your child’s diet may not be easy and may come with a few tears (yours and theirs), but remember the struggle gets easier over time and only if you stay consistent. Stay focused on the end goal of building a healthy body and food relationship. Also, it is much easier to resist giving in to tantrums if those offending foods aren’t in the house. Bottom line – as the parent, you control what goes into the pantry and fridge. If you don’t want your kids eating it, don’t put it in the grocery cart.
So I’ve signed up for a 3x/week membership at CrossFit Kent Island. Yes!!! That’s an awesome step toward accomplishing my fitness goals, and I’m ahead of the pack compared to 99% of the population! Alright, next step – on Monday afternoon I sign up for Monday’s 5:30pm class, and come in and kick ass. Awesome!!! I’m rocking it! Let’s keep it going. I should probably spread out my fitness, so I plan on coming in on Wednesday sometime, and then maybe Friday or Saturday, depending on what the workouts are. I decide to come in on Wednesday morning, but then I sleep late on Wednesday, so of course I’m going to come to the 5:30pm class instead. But what’s with this traffic coming back from DC? So I miss the Wednesday workout, which seemed pretty sweet – Pull-ups and Power Cleans, they’re in my wheelhouse. On Thursday, I’m a little hung-over from the happy hour I hit on the way home because I knew I wasn’t making the 5:30 Wednesday class, but it’s no big deal, I’m going to go on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s WOD has burpees in it though, so I guess I’ll wait for Saturday’s WOD and really crush it. On Saturday, I show up, get crushed because of course it also has burpees, and waddle away thinking that maybe I need to change to 2x/week.
Does that sound familiar to anyone? If so, are you looking to reduce your membership cost to 2x/week? Or maybe instead you’d like to increase your fitness and get your money’s worth. Keep reading if you’re in the second camp.
Here’s an alternative scenario, and the difference is characterized by an increased level of planning, and commitment.
So I’ve signed up for a 3x/week membership at CrossFit Kent Island. Yes!!! That’s an awesome step toward accomplishing my fitness goals, and I’m ahead of the pack compared to 99% of the population! Alright, next step – on Sunday evening I sign up for Monday’s 5:30pm class, Wednesday’s 5:30pm class, and Friday’s 5:30pm class. Each of those days, I plan out how I’m going to make it to those classes, and I make it happen. I got 3 tough workouts in in a week, but I’m feeling good knowing that I pushed myself hard this week, and I’m ready to do it again.
In the second scenario, I’ve not only gotten in three varied workouts that will increase my physical fitness, but I’ve also strengthened my ability to commit to a plan and see it through. This is an area of mental toughness that must be trained, and will become stronger with time. And although the physical benefits from working out more consistently are huge, the advantages to be gained here go beyond physical fitness, as training your ability to plan and stick to a plan will transfer to your job, your schoolwork, and your life in general.
In summary, I hope you can picture yourself as someone who can consistently create that second scenario. Someone who can plan out your week of workouts, and even expand to your week of nutrition. Plan it out on Sunday, using your work and family schedule as known constraints. Starting on Monday and each day through the week, attack your plan, knocking out workouts and eating healthy meals, and just blazing through other tasks you’ve planning for yourself for each day. You will feel amazing at the end of each day, and your ability to keep planning effectively and generally getting shit done will improve and evolve over time. And that will manifest itself in an improved level of physical and mental fitness that others will marvel at.
So next Sunday make a plan. Carry it out throughout the week. Look back and feel good about it. You’ll be ready to go again!
This year has been great for CrossFit Kent Island. We have had lots of great special events, lots of great participation and success in the CrossFit Open, and lots of great new members. Many of our newer members have also been admiring and marveling at our experienced athletes who seem to be able to lift way more weight than seemingly possible, and fly through workouts with grace and ease, barely stopping on their way to new PRs. I get the question all the time, “How did they get so good at this?” The simple answer is that first they focused on technique, and then consistency, and then intensity. It can seem like a long process to get through, but if you are patient and keep your long-term goals in mind, it will pay off.
CrossFit is known for being an intense workout regimen. Pairing weightlifting and gymnastics in a 5-minute all-out-effort workout like “Fran” is a great example. But before you can safely move with intensity, you need to be very well versed in the proper techniques. Before loading up a barbell with 95 pounds, you first need to understand and be able to execute a Thruster with a PVC pipe. Then we move to an empty barbell, and gradually add weight until we notice flaws in your technique and we correct them until the movement once again looks solid. Focus on technique, striving for virtuosity in your movement first, before adding the intensity of added weight. Those firebreathing athletes you see in the gym that seem to be able to move flawlessly have put in the time practicing those techniques and getting feedback on their movement to the point where there is not a lot of thought involved anymore, and they understand the weights they can lift without risking injury. This all starts with our On-Ramp program, and continues with our warm-ups and skillwork before daily workouts.
When you have developed a solid foundation of technique, the next piece of the puzzle is consistency. Even if you understand the entire repertoire of CrossFit’s weightlifting, gymnastics, and conditioning techniques, if you only make it into the gym once per week, you will not be able to effectively add intensity to your workouts because your fitness level won’t allow it. Get your body used to working out consistently, and the muscle soreness associated with new movements will fade and be replaced with the adaptive physical and mental stamina required for an intense session.
Finally, once the technique and consistency have been established, we are ready to add intensity. Intensity in CrossFit is measured by your power output, or more specifically your ability to do more work in less time. If we use “Fran” again as an example, finishing the workout in the same amount of time but with more weight on the barbell would produce more intensity. Finishing the workout with the same weight but 1 minute faster is also more intense. But as you can imagine, that sort of increased intensity, resulting from increased work capacity or power, does not happen automatically. It stems from your ability to execute the movements with precision and grace, and your body’s adaptation to doing those movements consistently over time.
So all you beginners out there, stay focused on technique and consistency and gradually add that intensity when you are ready for it. Your coach will let you know. And for those that have been around the CrossFit block but find yourself stuck at a plateau, there’s a simple answer too – re-double your efforts to master the techniques, find the extra time to get in the gym and consistently practice, and you will move more efficiently and find the increased intensity you’re looking for.
See you at The Box!
“So, why did you start a CrossFit gym?”
I get that question all the time. And if you only have a minute, I’ll let you know it’s because I really love CrossFit and wanted to take the opportunity to do what I was passionate about. And that’s true, but it’s not necessarily the whole truth. If you have a few more minutes and a couple of beers, I’ll get a little more into it. More than being passionate about fitness, it has to do with family, friends, and my own personal purpose.
When I was growing up, my dad wasn’t around a lot as he was traveling around Europe for work, and my parents ended up getting divorced. I realize that is nothing out of the ordinary in today’s times, but for me that was a big deal, and having understood that boys tend to turn into their father, whether by genetics or upbringing, I made a conscious decision as I settled into family life to not follow the same path.
My first career brought me out on the road, traveling to hospitals around the country for 9-month projects. After my second son Oliver was born, I realized it was about that time to take the different path, and started soul-searching and brainstorming other careers. Once again, I was passionate about CrossFit, having been a devoted follower for a few years, and I pitched a CrossFit gym to Denee and she agreed. So, I started a CrossFit gym because I am passionate about CrossFit. But even more than that, it’s because I wanted to be close to my family.
As our CrossFit Kent Island community has grown, something has happened that I truly did not anticipate. Our clients, people that were paying to be members at our gym, became our friends. And not just acquaintances or workout buddies, but close friends that have become like family. Maybe it helped that before we opened the gym we didn’t have any friends on Kent Island, having only lived here for two years with tiny babies at the time! But more than likely it’s because when we started the gym, we did it because we were passionate about CrossFit, not making money. And CrossFit is about fitness, but it’s even more about community and friendship. So, I started a CrossFit gym because I was (and still am) passionate about CrossFit. But an especially powerful reason that keeps me going is because we have made the best friends.
As the gym matured, I started to reflect back on why it was in the first place I became passionate about CrossFit. What was it about the intense workouts, or close-knit fitness culture, or even the political incorectness and rejection of popular opinion? Maybe it was all of it. Actually, I’m sure it was all of it. And the reason I’m sure of it is that it all lines up with what I originally thought of as my goal in life, to be a Navy SEAL. It was very strange, but when halfway through my college experience a fraternity brother who was in the Navy asked me if I had considered joining up, I locked onto it and wasn’t able to think about doing anything else with my life. Anyone who has been close to that community can tell you that the characteristics of the CrossFit community line up very well with the SEALs or any military special ops team. They workout harder than anyone else, they stick together, maybe at the expense of other relationships, and they just don’t care about whatever else the world is talking about because they know they’ve found the answer. That career goal eventually slipped away from me, but when I made the mental link of the CrossFit community with the elite warrior community, I suddenly was at peace for the first time with not achieving my goal, because I was fulfilling my purpose in life in a different way than originally imagined, but all the same this was it. I’ve never had an intense desire to go to war and kill people, although I was steeling my mind to the thought. What I really wanted was to be a part of an elite community, one that knew what it’s ideals were and would be willing to sacrifice a great deal for them. And I found it in CrossFit Kent Island.
So, yes, if you’re asking, I started a CrossFit gym because I’m passionate about CrossFit. But I’m passionate about CrossFit because I’m passionate about my family and my friends, and because through CrossFit I’ve found my true purpose in life.
I appreciate you all reading these blogs and giving me feedback. Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to hear about!
In this week’s blog post, I’d like to recount some of the events of the GORUCK Challenge that a few of us did this past weekend. And I’d like to do it from the perspective of someone who experienced a paradigm shift as part of the event – and that would be me!
On Saturday, Jess, Ken, Ryan, Tod and I met up in Arlington with 44 of our closest friends to participate in a GORUCK Light Challenge. As a bit of background, GORUCK is a company that started making rucksacks, and then transformed into a company that puts on challenging events that are meant to be physical tests as well as lessons in teamwork, leadership, and generally building better Americans. They are super fun. As another bit of background, I’ve done quite a few of these GORUCK events, mostly the 12-hour “Tough” overnight challenges. I had done one GORUCK “Light” before as well, and so I knew what to expect – a watered-down version of the Tough, about half as long and half as intense… or so I thought!
Although this Light challenge was definitely much shorter, there were a few new evolutions that made parts of it pretty physically grueling! Our group picked up 4 heavy logs about halfway through our ruck, and the instructor had us walk for extended periods of time in the “High Boat” position – holding the log with our arms extended overhead. That gets old in a hurry!
We also had a fun but difficult crowd-surfing exercise where we had to lay down on our backs in a line and pass each other down, racing against another team.
I went into this event assuming that I was not going to be challenged, but there were a few unexpected moments of brilliant intensity that blew my assumptions out of the water, and after that I realized I had better stand by for more!
I didn’t mention earlier that this GORUCK Light had a special significance – it was occurring near the anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, where several Army Rangers, Delta Force operators, and special ops Air Force pilots died in October 3-4, 1993. This battle was made most famous by the book and movie, Black Hawk Down. We knew that at some point we would be recreating the Mogadishu Mile, in which US forces had to get their dead and wounded comrades out of the Black Hawk crash sites and back to the Mogadishu airport where they were based.
What we didn’t know was that we would be joined during our entire event by a veteran of the Battle of Mogadishu, a man named Gregg who was a newly minted Delta Force operator at the time. Each time we stopped our ruck to hydrate or get instructions, Gregg would spend a few minutes telling war stories from his time in Somalia. It was so interesting to be able to not only learn about this historical event, but hear it from someone who was there. He was mostly unemotional, although sometimes I would notice him pause before continuing on to tell us about another one of his buddies that died that day. There were many strategic military lessons that his unit learned there, and also many political lessons that our country learned there, and Gregg was a master at weaving these all into his account.
By the time we were about to start our own Mogadishu Mile which ended the event, Gregg had finished his story, and there were a few detailed questions from the group, but many more somber, silent faces. I experienced another unexpected moment of emotional intensity here, one of great pride and sadness for our fallen warriors but also massive appreciation for those that have the courage to come back and tell the story.
My point in framing my GORUCK Light experience in this way is to provide a cautionary tale against making assumptions. Don’t assume something is going to be easy – maybe a workout that even seems too easy for you to waste your time with it. Don’t assume that something isn’t going to be fun. Be open to new opportunities to get out there with your friends and experience life, because it just might be interesting. You never know when and where an unexpected moment of intensity will be waiting for you!
I was completely glued to Facebook Live this past weekend, watching the completion of the latest GORUCK Selection event. Have you heard of it? Probably not, so here it is in 20 words or less: GORUCK Selection is a 48-hour endurance event modeled after the US Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) course. That was exactly 20 words, I killed it. Want more? GORUCK Selection is a brutal, unforgiving test of your physical and mental stamina. As with many other crazy endurance events, you need to train hard in order to even be in the field of people that can show up, but it’s the shell that you build around your mind that does not let the instructors’ damaging verbal attacks in that will pull you through to the finish line.
Why am I talking about this on our blog today? In about 1 month we have the next installment of the Eastern Shore Affiliate Challenge. A bunch of you have signed up, but many more haven’t, and I understand — competing in CrossFit is not what everyone gets excited about. But everyone does get excited about something. And I’m talking about fitness — get your mind out of the gutter, people! Whatever your dream fitness accomplishment looks like, this blog is for you.
There were 36 guys and girls that started GORUCK Selection this year (they do it annually), and one finished. A dude named Alex. Alex was obviously physically prepared, but so was everyone else that eventually quit. So what was the edge that he had that made him the cream of the crop? During the event, there was a clue. As I mentioned, this event was being broadcast on Facebook Live, so they would check in with the competitors every once in a while and ask how they were doing. We would hear, “My legs really hurt,” and “it’s so hot” a lot – the event was held in Jacksonville, FL. But when Alex got in front of the camera, he was very stoic and would simply say, “mentally, I’m a 10 out of 10.” We all knew that he was hurting, as they were rucking with 60 pounds on their back, low-crawling through the mud and sand, carrying and throwing sandbags all over the place, and being harrassed by the cadre of instructors every minute of their event. But he did not show it, and thus the instructors had nothing to work with. Imagine you are a Special Forces veteran instructor, and one candidate says, “I’m really hurting,” and the other says, “I feel fine.” Which guy are you going to focus on to see if they are going to quit?
At the end of the event, once it ended at GORUCK HQ in Jax Beach, they asked Alex his secret. Consistent with his previous man-of-few-words character, he answered, “Pick something, F&@#ing train your ass off, and then WIN.” Super-simple, but yet powerful advice for all of us that are looking to compete and win at something in our future.
As mentioned earlier, some of you already have, with the ESAC. Awesome!! Some of you haven’t yet figured out what you are training for, and this is a crucial first step so I encourage you all to find it. What are you training for? Your CrossFit workouts are going to be that much more motivated and powerful if you can figure that out. Maybe it’s a race, or other event. Maybe it’s a weight-loss goal. Maybe it’s a skill you want to develop, like a Muscle-up, or a lift you want to PR – a 200-lb Clean & Jerk. Whatever it is, you need to pick one thing, and focus on it during every training session.
Train Your Ass Off
If you’re reading this, you’re already coming to the gym and doing CrossFit, and that’s awesome! But we all need to remain focused on that one thing that we are training for, and use it as motivation when the body is tired and sore. Remember why you are coming to the gym, or putting in those miles on the road, and use those training sessions when you really don’t feel like starting to create that mental toughness that you will need when the going gets real tough as you are competing towards your goal.
Once you have picked a goal, this is also the point where you need to identify parts of your life that need to change outside of the gym that will propel you toward that goal. Invariably, that will mean taking a hard look at your diet and committing to some sacrifices that are hard in the short-term, but will pay long-term dividends. Cutting out booze and sugar is a great step. Whenever you want to eat that cookie, bring your focus back to your training and your goal. Do you value that snack more than you value your training? Every good decision you make will strengthen your willpower, and over time you will feel sharp and ready to attack that event.
Create a positive, energizing mantra that can motivate you during tough training sessions or moments of sacrifice. One that I used during my SEALFIT Kokoro training was, “Tough, Focused, Resilient, Impossible to Stop.” On a long training run I would recite that mantra in my head when I felt that tug to stop or slow down. Whatever your mantra is, make sure it is meaningful to you, and get in the habit of bringing it to the forefront of your mind on a regular basis.
Your training is complete, and it’s time to win. If you’ve stuck to your plan, and strengthened your willpower by sacrificing things that you know will not help you, this part is simple, but certainly not easy.
During the event, or your attempt at a big skill or max lift, you need to be aggressive and absolutely focused on that end goal. You have put in the hard work, and now it’s time to perform. Be confident in your preparation and shut out any negative influences, which could include instructors shouting at you or your own negative self-talk. Now it’s time to get it done, and there is nothing that will prevent you from achieving your goal. Use your mantra to remind yourself of your training and that you are not going to stop. And then WIN.
And let’s not forget, WINNING does not mean just finishing or not quitting. During the event, give your absolute best effort during the entire event, and if you are competing against other people, beat them! Your mindset needs to be that they did not train as hard as you, they did not sacrifice like you did, and you showed up to win. So DO IT!
These are three simple steps toward achieving your athletic goal, and although like most things in life that are “simple,” they are not easy. However, if you follow this process, I am confident that you will succeed!
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.
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!
Diligence – Hard 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.
Growth – Commit 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.
Service – Take 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.
Fun – Create 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!
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