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The Benefits of Defeat

In October of 2012 I noticed dozens of my area CrossFit friends posting photos from an event down in Charleston. The event was outdoors with tons of competitors and looked challenging but also fun, in a twisted way.  I was still in my first year of CrossFit and knew I wasn't anywhere close to being able to compete with the people I saw in the photos and videos, so I set a goal to be able to compete in the 2013 event.

Fast forward to last weekend, and I was in Charleston ready to compete in the 2013 Integrity's Revenge event, held at the Riverdogs' minor league baseball stadium (cool venue to be sure).  The WODs were released one at a time in the weeks and days leading up to the event, so each of us had time to both prepare and/or freak out if there was a skill in which we were currently deficient (more on this later).

After a lot of internal debate, I decided against entering Men's Scaled division and decided to jump into Men's Rx.  I made no disguises about the fact I knew I was in over my head against some of the better CrossFit competition in the area, but figured since I don't have to scale down WODs during my training, it would be equivalent to "sandbagging" to enter a competition and sneak down into the Scaled division.  For perspective, I've never been in a competition with more than one or two Regionals-level competitors.  This event had probably ten or more.

My goal for the weekend was pretty simple but still somewhat intimidating -- don't finish in last.  There were 72 men competing in the Individual Rx division, and all I wanted to accomplish was 71st by any means necessary.

The first event took place with competitors standing on top of the dugouts and featured four rounds of 30 double unders + 15 heavy DB thrusters at 45lbs each, with a 6min time cap. 

I felt decently good about this WOD, since I'm not too bothered by heavy thrusters or double unders, plus it was the first event right out of the gate so in-theory I would be somewhat fresh.  

Once I got into the second round of thrusters, that was the last time I would ever use the word "fresh" to describe how I felt during the weekend.  It was a good WOD and tested most of the field since quite a few of us did not finish under the time cap.  Even the best of the heats barely cleared the time limit and we were all spent.  This one took a lot out of our shoulders which would be a key factor heading into the next event.


The next event (titled "WOD 2.5") was about two hours later which was another meant to severely tax the shoulders.  An 8min AMRAP of 15 Overhead Squats (115#) + 15 Toes-to-Bar, then 12/12, then 9/9.  Once finished with the round of nine, we had to complete 18 ring muscle ups in the remaining time allotted.  

Since I had only made my first successful muscle ups within the past two weeks, I was realistic about my chances.  I hoped to get at-least one, but knew that trying to pull this off on tired shoulders would be difficult.  I ended up improving on my time from a testing session during the previous week (from 7:47 to 6:20) but failed three times on the muscle up rings as time elapsed.  This would be a foreshadowing of things to come later.


Saturday morning I was pretty beaten up, but not in as bad of shape as I anticipated thanks in large part to a new carbohydrate supplement I picked up before the weekend -- Vitargo.  This supplement (works for both pre and post workout) clears the stomach and loads into the muscles at a much faster rate than things like Gatorade, and it was a huge benefit to me with such high volume over a two day period.

Saturday morning we hung around the stadium and cheered on fellow boxmates from CrossFit Dilworth and other friends competing in team divisions, then dealt with "WOD 3" which was my favorite of the weekend.  We had five minutes to set a 3 rep maximum of front squats, from the ground.  Squat cleaning the weight was allowable.  

Once the five minutes elapsed, a one minute clock started immediately where we had to score max effort power cleans at 155 lbs.  We had to change and replace all weights ourselves.

I felt hopeful about this event during the week since while I am no all star, Olympic Lifting is one of my stronger areas in CrossFit so far and this WOD would hide my prime weakness (metabolic conditioning).  My heat was due around 2pm and by that time I was beginning to feel fatigued after my morning coffee wore off.  Strategy is key in a competition like this, and due to the time limit plus having to change our own plates, athletes need to have a strong idea of which weights they will attempt with confidence. My initial plan was to nail 205#, then 225#, and hopefully complete 245#, which is ten pounds off of my PR. During warmups I felt solid on 185# but failed twice on 225#, which got into my head badly.  I had very little confidence as we left the athletes area and marched into our lines to meet our judges and get ready for 3, 2, 1, Go.

I remembered my coach's earlier suggestion to "just go for it", so even though I had failed repeatedly in warmups, I put 225# right on the bar for my first attempt and nailed it.  I failed on 245# after that but took a quick walk around the bar and gave it another shot. I nailed the clean and first front squat...but on the second squat my decision to wear a sleeveless tank backfired because the bar slipped off my sweaty shoulder. My left hand grip was fine but I held the bar on my right side like a baby and somehow the judge gave me credit for showing control at the top on the third and final attempt.  No more tank tops during competitions. I finished 18 reps in one minute on the max effort power cleans, which wasn't a great score (the elites were in the 20-25 range) but definitely in the range of being respectable.

The final event ("WOD 4") had been staring me in the face for over a week.  8min AMRAP of 7 burpee box jumps + 12 Wall Balls + 1 rope climb.  We don't currently have a rope at our gym, so my boxmates and I who competed in the event don't have the same amount practice as other competitors did. Saturday morning, during some of my down time I found a man (clearly a CrossFit veteran) and his teenage son doing a brief workout on their own and asked him for pointers in climbing the rope.  I explained that I was competing in two hours and had only learned about rope climb strategy three days ago.  The man was extremely helpful and encouraging, teaching me to get up the 15 foot rope one solid time which definitely went a long way in helping my confidence with WOD 4 looming.

The event run of show fell a bit behind schedule so after WOD 3 (squats/cleans) there was an effort to move things along quickly.  I was sitting in the athletes village finishing my shake when I heard the emcee call out athletes for "Heat One in WOD 4".  Since I was in Heat Two...that meant I needed to throw my crap back on and sprint across the field and up the stairs to go check in and have a fight with these rope climbs.

Things did not go well.

After the first set of 7 burpee box jumps, my strategy of taking everything slow and conserving energy didn't matter. I was out of gas. I was like your iPhone when the battery meter turns from green to red. I made it through the wall balls (a regular nemesis) fairly easily then got to the rope.  At this point, much of the event became a blur.  I remember failing a few times (even with gloves) to hold my grip, but eventually made it up the rope thanks to teaching tips from the man I met, plus my judge who was an incredibly supportive guy during my failures.  

After reaching the top of the rope and descending, I remember feeling completely empty. I was spent and out of gas. I walked (read: stumbled) back over to the burpee box jumps and worked through both those and the wall balls.  

Coming back to the rope a second time was a long miserable walk, and I proceeded to fail more times than I can remember.  My arms were completely out of gas. My grip strength was non-existent.  

I've been doing CrossFit for a year and a half and have never been in a workout before when my mind kept telling my body to do something that it refused to do. I could feel the other competitors in my heat moving up and down the rope climbs without problems on both sides of me, while I kept failing and failing, then grabbing my shorts bent over gasping for air.  In reality it was probably two or three minutes of clock time passing, but it felt like an eternity until the clock hit zero.  

It was a bad failure and the lowest moment I've had in CrossFit since I first started doing this.

One of the unique things about "failure" in this sport is that it presents you with two choices, two paths. In one sense, CrossFit mirrors life, because failure and defeat present us with a fork in the road.

We always have the option to accept our defeat, and let that failure be part of what defines us moving forward. In the course of accepting that defeat, there is comfort in the litany of excuses nearby, ready to be grabbed and claimed.  I could talk about being much older than most of the competitors in my division that weekend.  I could point to the fact that my work travels were abnormally high leading up to the event which kept me from training with anything close to the consistency necessary to compete well. I could point to our gym not having a rope installed and use that as a crutch to excuse my poor performance.  

I always like to say that there is a difference between a reason and an excuse.  A reason is the cause that leads to an eventual effect or happening.  An excuse is meant to eliminate blame and responsibility. Reasons will always be present to hold us back from achievements.  Excuses are the things you latch onto when taking the easy way out after a failure or a defeat.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The second path involves facing up to those reasons, then pushing them aside and continuing to get better.  Despite the debacle in the final WOD, it was still both a fun and productive weekend in Charleston.  I know where my deficiencies lie.  I know what steps need to be taken to work on them.  Once in a while it's good to have a low moment like this, because it teaches you a lot about yourself.  Both who you are and who you desire to become.  This doesn't have to apply to CrossFit, it carries over into any walk of life.  A bad test score, a failed relationship, losing out on a job or a promotion or sales account, defeats happen.  Failures are inevitable when you challenge yourself.  

Minutes after WOD 4, I sat alone in a corner away from the crowd and had a fairly depressing pity party. Light-headed and dripping sweat into puddles on the concrete, I felt like never seeing (let alone trying to climb) a rope again in my life.  A little while later, a friend pointed out that Rich Froning had his rope climb failure in the finals of the CrossFit Games (2010) with everything on the line.  If he could endure something like that, then I could endure this.  I laughed off his comparison at first, but then it started to make sense.  One reason why Rich is such a great ambassador for our sport (read his book, it's good...) is because he was introduced to us by first being humbled.  Then he came back from his failure and choked out his weakness the following year.  Something we can all learn from.

Defeat can have benefits.  Once it shoves you to the floor, standing over you laughing and pointing, the question becomes how will you deal with it?

Which of the two paths will you ultimately take?

As for me...I have to get back on the rope.


 *Note - I made my goal, I did not finish last in the Men's Rx division.  68th place out of 72 overall. (fist pump)



First Year of CrossFit - Lessons Learned

I'm late on this topic by a couple months, but this past May I celebrated my one-year anniversary after starting CrossFit. 


To some, that is the same thing as saying "I’ve joined the cult!", but one overlooked aspect of being in the cult, is that you have no problem with other people accusing you of being “in the cult”. In-fact, this brings a sense of pride.


One year of regularly practicing any sport or form of exercise will produce quite a few key learnings, some positive, some negative, but almost all being useful in some way. Over the past 12 plus months there have been PRs, ripped hands, nervousness before competitions, fun during and after competitions, dieting mistakes, explorations in new equipment/apparel, and everything in-between.


I've learned a lot in the first year of CrossFit (the main thing being that I love it and have finally found my "thing"). Here are a few of the other main high points and helpful lessons:


1 - Some days are just not your day.


I think one of the reasons so many of us get swept up in CrossFit is the fact that there are both highs and lows. There are some days when you set PRs and feel on top of the world. You stand up on a Dead Lift, pulling more weight off the ground than any other day in your life. You feel like Superman (or Wonder Woman).


Just the same, there are some days when you feel like you are running in quicksand. You feel like on every burpee, there is a large bear standing on your back with both feet ground and he won’t get off. You feel like no matter what, your chin just won’t get up over that bar for one last pull up. Your feet are three sizes too big and trip the rope on your double unders EVERY single time. You want to throw the rope on the ground and stomp on it like Wylie Coyote. 


Some days, the programming seems like it was written just to fit your individual strengths and talents. Other days, it feels like your coach is trying to punish you by personally writing your goats up on the whiteboard and compiling them into one hateful AMRAP. 


You'll have great days, and less-than-great days, just learn to ride out the waves over the course of the weeks or months. Eventually you'll level out if you stick with it (and work on your weaknesses).



2 - After a while, it's OK to cherry pick.


First, before coaches everywhere punch a hole in their computer screen at this next topic - let me explain. Someone who is new to CrossFit needs to only focus on two things - showing up consistently and giving max effort.  


Eventually however, your weaknesses will become apparent. At that point, you will need to (with the help of your coaches) pinpoint which aspects of your toolbox need greater attention. Some folks are weaker in-terms of overall physical strength. Most of us could use sharpening in our Olympic lifting disciplines. Others (like me) need work on our cardio gas tank to increase work capacity against the clock. Maybe you're extremely well-rounded but just can't quite nail your first muscle up. 


No matter what it is, once you begin to get serious about yourself as a CrossFit athlete, you will need to approach your training calendar each week/month with a specific focus to ensure that your weaker points are being attacked towards improvement.


Put your pride aside, be honest about your weaknesses - then ask your coaching staff to help formulate an attack plan that will turn that weakness into a strength.



3 - Diet Matters.


Perhaps the most obvious thing I'll write, but the way you fuel your body matters. You may not need to convert completely into a Paleo lifestyle, or Zone Diet, but your food should be viewed as fuel for both performance and recovery. Pure overall calories, in the form of junk food or fast food isn't sufficient and both your WODs AND recovery will suffer. It may be over-stated but I’ll state it again – NASCAR drivers or Formula-One racers don’t put garbage into their gas tanks.  We need to view our bodies the same way. 


While not a mandatory, it's a sound idea to investigate a recovery protein to replenish after a brutal WOD or lifting session as well. (Personally I rotate between Progenex and SFH)



4 - Calming down is better than pumping up.


Most football players try to get as amped up and hyped as possible before a game. One thing I've learned in a year of CrossFit is that getting too pumped up can actually hurt your performance. CrossFit requires an athlete to maintain both mental and physical control during a WOD. You can't be so jacked up that your mental focus goes out the window, and you lose sight of your strategy while navigating through a chipper WOD, or forget your technique cues with the barbell. 


Jason Khalipa once mentioned listening to reggae music before competitions to help himself mellow out. The first few weeks of trying CrossFit, I went into workouts jacked up like a football player, but the more time went on, I learned from the experts (as well as personal experience) that it pays far more dividends to keep a calm approach before and during a WOD. 


Trying intentionally keep calm will also help regulate oxygen consumption (well, at-least to a degree) and keep yourself relatively mellow instead of artificially elevating heart rate and pulse, since the workload in the WOD will likely do that for you anyways.



5 - Know when to take a break


As with any intense pursuit in life, there can come a time when you've pressed a little too hard and the psychological cost starts to weigh on you. Burnout can happen with anything, even our passions and hobbies. The large majority of us took up CrossFit because we love it. Hardly anyone was forced into this. It's important to keep balance and avoid hitting the point where you become both physically and mentally exhausted. 


Former Games competitor Azadeh Boroumand actually experienced this and stepped back from competing in 2013 to give both her body and mind a chance to recover. 2012 runner-up Julie Foucher decided months in-advance that she would focus on medical school and not pursue the Games this year. Both ladies showed that they understand the concept of balance, and that at the end of the day CrossFit is supposed to be fun. 


We do this because we love it. Sometimes you may need to take a few days (or a week) off from the box completely - and you'll come back refreshed inside and out, and ready to crush your WODs again. Plus, odds are that the people in your box have missed you as well and will be eager to have you back.



6 - Injuries can happen, be as safe as possible.


As with any intense form of training, injuries can and will happen. Hamstrings get tweaked, back muscles tighten up, shoulders feel a little too loose, ankles get rolled, bad things happen. The key is to control what you can, and avoid the injuries that were within your own doing. I've dropped a kettlebell on my foot during a WOD by letting the fatigue cause me to forget the simplest of safety points. I've tweaked a neck doing kipping pullups without warming properly, then made it worse by trying to do HSPU days later before I was completely healed. (Yes, both injuries help define “stupidity”.)


Listen to your body. If something feels off one day, don't be too proud to scale a WOD appropriately. Do your mobility work a couple times each week. Learn how to warm-up and cool-down properly and figure out which parts of your anatomy warm up faster or slower than the rest. Injuries happen to anyone who trains intensely and consistently, regardless of the sport or exercise discipline. Be sure to control the parts that are within your control.



7 - Equipment Matters


While it may not be necessary to go out and shop for the latest in Reebok CrossFit apparel (though sometimes it feels nice to blow your money on a cool pair of WOD shorts) – there are certain pieces of equipment that truly do matter.  Wrist straps/wraps can definitely help your stability in movements like handstand pushups, shoulder-to-overhead presses, front squats, etc.  

Knee sleeves are also helpful in any heavy or high-volume squat programming (I cannot imagine my life without them).


While I have not personally invested in a pair yet, the majority of those with a pair of Olympic Lifting shoes say that the difference in ankle flexion and heel stability is noticeable and extremely helpful.  

It can also be helpful to purchase your own speed rope to practice double unders when you’re away from the gym, or to toss in your suitcase for vacations or work trips.

Invest in quality equipment, in the long run it will be worth it, both from a performance and safety perspective.



One year ago this month I was in Carson, California at the Home Depot Center (now the Stub Hub Center) watching the Friday track triplet at the Reebok CrossFit Games.  Three of my best friends convinced me to take a later flight home from a business trip in L.A. to hang out with them and use one of their spare tickets.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I’ve attended four NCAA Final Fours, college football bowl games, NFL games, NBA games and even the Olympics – but nothing compares to the feeling of being at the Reebok CrossFit Games LIVE and in-person.  

One year later, and one year into my CrossFit venture I’ve learned a great deal – some good lessons and some pretty difficult ones. Whether you’re a recreational CrossFitter, or if you’re Rich Froning or Samantha Briggs, I think most would agree that in this sport we are all learning new things every day.  We learn things both about CrossFit as a competitive sport, and about ourselves overall. And that’s one of the main reasons why we do this.


How CrossFit Applies In The Workplace


One of the best parts of CrossFit is that it has teaching points which carry over into other aspects of life.  Many people fall in love with the sport because of how it pushes them beyond their normal boundaries, and teaches life lessons along the way.

Specifically, CrossFit does have takeaways that are applicable for those of us who spend most of our waking hours in an office building or workplace.  As you get deeper into your training and experience with WODs, you can begin to sense a few crossover lessons that will help you in the conference room, or with co-workers Monday through Friday.


1 - Staying calm in the midst of chaos.


Let's be honest, regardless of your given occupation, sooner or later there will be a stressful and chaotic situation.  Success or failure in that instance can be dictated by one's ability to maintain calm and focus

Any CrossFitter past his or her first WOD can attest that after "3…2…1…GO!" - the entire scene around them turns into complete bedlam.  Loud music, barbells  and bumper plates clanging against the floor, the whoosh of the rowing machines, feet stomping at the top of box jump landings - a CrossFit box during a WOD is pretty chaotic.

Part of your responsibility during a WOD is to work hard…but remain calm.  You have to remain calm to remember the safety cues and teaching points for your Olympic lifts.  Calmness and awareness of surroundings is crucial to avoid danger as people sling kettlebells all around you.  You also have to maintain awareness for simple tasks like remembering how many rounds of an AMRAP you've already completed.  A CrossFit box mid-WOD can be a chaotic setting…actually it is ALWAYS a chaotic setting.  It is crucial to keep composure and situational awareness at all times.

 (*Note - After clanging a 24kg kettlebell off my right foot during the final few rounds of a Hero WOD last month, I learned a tough lesson about remembering your coaches' safety cues while things get hectic.)

Just as when CrossFit requires an athlete to maintain calm in the midst of bedlam, this applies to the workplace as well.  An employee who loses his or her ability to remain focused, or execute the simple tasks during a stressful situation is one you may hesitate to depend upon moving forward.


2 - Understanding your weaknesses


Most of us have a weakness somewhere in our CrossFit toolbox.  Regardless of your athletic background or specialty, there is always something that (initially) holds you back from achieving better WOD scores or times. (Mine is gymnastic bodyweight skills like muscle ups, and overall cardio work capacity.)  I've come to believe that the difference in pretty good CrossFitters, and those who become great, is the willingness to face those weaknesses and be honest about a current deficiency.

In the workplace, we all have different skill sets and areas of expertise.  You may be highly proficient in budget templates and financial spreadsheets, so your co-workers regularly seek out your help in those tasks.  Someone else may be more skilled in manipulating creative elements like PowerPoint templates or creative presentations. At the end of the day, we all have areas in our jobs that can be considered strengths, and accordingly some areas where we are not quite as proficient.  The task is to be honest enough with yourself to reveal where your deficiencies are.


3 - Invest in your improvement


Once you've identified your CrossFit weaknesses, the question now becomes "what will you do about it?"


There are basically two options to proceed:


Option A - Choose to do nothing about those weaknesses and groan, "Ugghhhh...I suck at (muscle ups/running/double unders/wall ball/insert skill here)..." whenever it appears on the whiteboard for that day's WOD.


Option B - Find time before class, after class, or during Open Gym times to attack those weaknesses until you proficiency improves.


Just like in CrossFit, employees have to invest time in their weaknesses in-order to gain greater proficiency.  It may mean signing up for a training course for budget templates and spreadsheets.  It could mean using a Rosetta Stone program to get better familiar with foreign languages. It may also mean requesting more presentation opportunities to become more comfortable speaking in-front of groups.


Whether it's in the workplace or in your local CrossFit box - weaknesses only improve with additional effort and time spent, working to get better.



4 - Applauding others' successes


In CrossFit, 95% of the time there is someone who is better than you.  To make things worse, usually that person is someone you know well and see on a regular basis.  One of the great aspects of the CrossFit culture is that despite the HIGHLY competitive nature - people don't let their motivation to compete hard morph into a desire to see others around them fail. 

Fellow box members offer support during WODs, and celebrate each other's PR's regardless of what they may (or may not) have been able to accomplish that day.  I'm sure it exists out there somewhere, but thankfully I have yet to experience a CrossFit box where members feel threatened by each others' success and openly (or privately) root for those around them to falter.


This can be a challenge in a workplace setting where promotions, bonuses, and raises are given out.  Our economic system creates an environment where not everyone can get ahead at the same time.  Sometimes your success means the person next to you will be passed over, or vice versa.  Certainly it varies by company or industry, but a workplace or an account team ultimately will not survive if its members are undercutting each other's success opportunities so they can grab success for themselves. 

A CrossFit box where members aren't happy for each other's PR's and improvement probably isn't a pleasant place to train.


Similarly, a workplace where employees try to derail each other's successes most likely isn't a tolerable place to work.



5 - Expand your network


One of the great thing about local CrossFit competitions is the chance to meet others in the city and develop new relationships outside of your own box.  It can be a chance to make new contacts with which to train, or share workout tips or diet strategies.  I appreciate having friends and contacts at a handful of CrossFit boxes in the local area, as well as a couple more in other states across the country. The more CrossFitters in your personal network, the better.

The same thing applies in your business career. The more contacts that can be made at networking events, happy hours, and mixers - the more resources at your disposal to either improve at your current occupation, or possibly learn of the next opportunity to pursue. The same principals that apply in CrossFit with regards to branching out to meet new people and expand your base, apply in the business world.


The joke goes that the easiest way to tell if someone does CrossFit, is that they won't shut up about it.  This is probably true - however in this case there are enough valuable similarities between CrossFit and the business world or office that it was worth the side-by-side comparison.  Hopefully this helps highlight some of the easy benefits that carry over from your next WOD, into the workplace.


Most Inspiring Fitness People & Stories of 2012

As the 2012 year comes to a close, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look back at a few of the people in fitness that provided tremendous inspiration. They all bring something different to the table, but the common thread is that their actions or stories help provide motivation to stick to your diet, or get off the couch, or fight through setbacks and injuries, or not let your age be an excuse, etc.

The Most Inspiring Fitness People & Stories of 2012, enjoy and be motivated.

Debra Cordner-Carson, CrossFit

A crippling fear of the ocean caused her to be disqualified from last year's CrossFit Games. The first event featured an open-water swim, and the emotional struggle caused her to be out of the competition from the very beginning.

She refused to let her fear take the same toll at the 2012 CrossFit Games. The intimidation of the ocean was still quite strong, needing several pep talks from coaches and judges while on the beach before the event began.

Cordner-Carson fought through her fears and finished the open-water swim (which was the starting leg of a sprint triathlon).  

After not making it past the opening event in 2011, she overcame her emotions in 2012 to finish 13th (out of 45) overall. Her inspiring attitude and example won the "Spirit of the Games Award" for 2012.

She also suffers from lymphedema, which causes build up and retention of fluid in one of her legs, but has not let this or anything else prevent her from becoming one of the fittest women alive.

"You don't always win everything. There are always roadblocks in life...I'll keep overcoming them."


Adrian Peterson, NFL Running Back

One of the NFL's best running backs (and one of my personal favorites since his days at the University of Oklahoma) suffered a horrible knee injury, tearing his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve 2011 game against the Washington Redskins.  After surgery on New Year's Eve 2011, Peterson battled back to start the 2012 season opener. 

One year to the day from his surgery, Peterson rushed for 199 yards and scored two touchdowns in a regular-season finale win over the Green Bay Packers.  He finished with 2,079 rushing yards for the season, 2nd-highest total in NFL history and is a front-runner for NFL MVP. No athlete in the modern era has been able to return from ACL surgery and return to top form so quickly.


Kevin James, Actor 

The "King of Queens" sitcom star kept his hefty shape for movies like "Hitch" and "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" - but managed to lose 80 pounds to play a school teacher-turned-MMA-fighter in "Here Comes The Boom".





The Rock, Actor/WWE

As we (well, I) get older - it becomes increasingly important to find role models that prove aging is no excuse to let your fitness suffer. One of my goals is to be the best "older" version of myself - and one of the best examples of keeping fitness momentum is The Rock.

Even at age 40, The Rock looks better than he did at age 20.  2012 saw him relentlessly busy shooting movies like "Snitch", "Pain & Gain", and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation".  

He also made his much-anticipated return to WWE, appearing several times on Monday Night RAW and on pay-per-view events at Survivor Series, and  WrestleMania XXVIII in his collegiate home town of Miami.

"The People's Champion" trains like a madman, even on days packed with 10-12 hours of movie shooting and stunts.  

His diet is high carb (and standard high protein) to fuel his activity - eating up to seven meals each day with items like sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, chicken, fish, veggies (with each meal) and occasional steak and eggs.

His cheat meals were legendary (trust me, take a look...) as well, proving that you can enjoy yourself with treats every now and then provided you've earned it.

The Rock continued to prove in 2012 that getting older can also mean getting better.


Matt Chan, CrossFit

Continuing in the theme of proving that age doesn't have to be a limiting factor, Matt Chan (34 years old) became the oldest man ever to achieve a Top 3 finish at the CrossFit Games.

In a sport requiring both immense work capacity (15 events over 5 days) and recovery efficiency, being an older athlete can surely become an obstacle.  Most of Chan's fellow competitors fell in the 22-27 year age range. It's a simple fact that the human body is not capable of the same things at 34 as it used to be at age 24.

Matt Chan combats age limitations by being smarter and more strategic.  Many Games competitors train multiple times daily, Chan trains once each day focusing on making that workout longer and more intense to compensate.  He is also a possessor of advanced-level knowledge of nutrition and recovery tactics (ex: he spent 10-20 minutes on the rower after EVERY event to flush waste products and lactic acid out of his muscles to speed recovery).

Chan continues to inspire that whatever the body loses with age, the wisdom gained can help compensate and still allow a person to maintain a high level of fitness and performance.


Carrie Riggin, Fitness Writer/Consultant

One of the enjoyable parts of fitness is sharing what you know and learn with others, while hoping to directly inspire them to better habits healthier lifestyles.


Carrie manages a busy lifestyle balancing work, writing fitness columns, catering to NHL fans as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes' Storm Squad, but also continuing to find time to focus on herself and her own fitness.

"Regular people" need to find role models and examples that they can relate to, and between her columns, blog, and Instagram offerings Carrie keeps her fans motivated while showing them fitness can be fun. 






Lindsey Smith, CrossFit

Continuing the thread around not allowing the busyness of life to impede on your fitness schedule, Lindsey Smith balances family life at home (including a young daughter), plus a full-time job as Athletic Director at an all-girls school in Ohio and Level-1 CrossFit Seminar Staff instructor (which requires frequent travel). Her training schedule is built around balancing overall life, which necessitates workouts as early as before work in the mornings, or even close to 10pm at night.

She's also one of the fittest women alive, competing in the CrossFit Games in 2009, '10, '11, and again this past year in 2012.

Read, or watch (here and here) to learn more about how busy her schedule is - and it may cause each of us to hesitate before using how packed our schedules are as an excuse not to find time to train during the week. I know I personally feel put-in-check about blaming my schedule for missing workouts after learning about Lindsey Smith's dedication.



Thomas Davis, NFL Linebacker

As a Carolina Panthers' fan, I'm admitting my bias from the start.  With that said, any athlete who is able to overcome three consecutive torn ACL's on the same knee to regain his starting job in the NFL deserves placement on any list of inspiring athletes.

Thomas Davis proved in 2012 that sometimes, when everyone else says you should probably just quit - you don't have to listen.




Kortney Clemons & Tatyana McFadden, United States Paralympians

I had the opportunity to have dinner with Kortney Clemons and his family in Indianapolis prior to the U.S. Track & Field Paralympic Trials this spring.  Clemons is a sprinter who lost his leg serving as a combat medic in Iraq.

He won the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Track & Field National Championship, and was featured in the 2009 documentary Warrior Champions.

Tatyana McFadden is a two-time Chicago Marathon wheelchair winner, who won a gold medal in London this year in the Women's 400m T54 event. 

McFadden was born in Russia with an underdeveloped spinal column and sent to live in an orphanage. She spent the first six years of her life using her arms and hands to get around before being adopted by a U.S. family and brought to live in the States.

She began to participate in wheelchair athletics as a young girl, and progressed to winning Parlaympic medals (silver, bronze) in Athens (at age 15), Beijing, and her first gold in London this year. She was even nominated for an ESPY as Best Female Disabled Athlete.

To call the atmosphere at the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Trials "inspiring" would be sadly ineffective. To watch men and women who have lost limbs serving our country, or battled disease or deformity their entire lives, but declined to make excuses and continue to work hard and compete was one of the most incredible sporting environments I've ever witnessed.

I bought a dry-fit t-shirt at the event to remind myself during workouts once in a while that no matter how tired I am, how sore my various "injuries" may be, I'm still truly blessed to be able to do the simple things like run and jump with both legs. We fall into traps of complaining about nagging injuries, but these Paralympic athletes fight through far worse conditions everyday and still show competitive spirit out on the track in their respective events.  It was an honor to watch Kortney, Tatyana, and the rest of the field compete that weekend.



Jenny LaBaw, CrossFit

Continuing in the spirit of overcoming obstacles, Jenny LaBaw is one of my favorite CrossFitters for that same reason.  Without question an elite athlete (finishing 6th in the world in the 2011 CrossFit Games), she also spent most of 2012 as a prime example of how to fight and overcome setbacks.

LaBaw battles epilepsy, and decided to open up to the public this year about her condition in this powerful video:

She qualified for the 2012 CrossFit Games, and got off to a solid start - placing 7th and 4th (out of 45 women) on the first two events, a triathlon and military-grade timed obstacle course.

Hard luck struck her two days later, as a pre-existing neck injury flared up, causing her to struggle through the next two events.  I was in the stands with the crowd that day as she missed the time cap for the morning event, featuring 400m runs, split snatches (an Olympic Lift for those of you about to Google it), and bar muscle ups.  

It was a tough scene watching such a skilled and inspiring athlete struggle so mightily that she was moved to tears.  For me, and others around me, moments like that "humanize" great athletes because it makes them a little more like us.

Eventually her neck injury would cause her to bow out of the 2012 CrossFit Games, but true to form she did not cause that to interrupt serving as a role model, as she met and inspired a 5-year old girl also dealing with epilepsy later that weekend.

Winning, setting PR's, and earning medals are great things - but sometimes athletes like Jenny LaBaw provide us with greater levels of inspiration with the things they power through and overcome than anything else. There's no doubt that she will be back in 2013.


Hopefully this small list is a solid reflection of just a few inspiring athletes and stories from this past year - and serves to help set the positive tone for 2013.



Thoughts on CrossFit From a Woman's Perspective - Part II

The second installment in a continuing series of testimonials from the ladies of CrossFit Dilworth. Once again, this is hopefully a great chance for some of the women I train with each week to provide a glimpse into what CrossFit has added both to their fitness, and their lives overall.



As a female, what does CrossFit mean to you?

"I started CrossFitting for purely superficial reasons – to get “in shape” for my upcoming wedding. I’m almost embarrassed as I type that. While CrossFit did change my body in ways I never imagined any form of exercise could do, at some point it became more than a daily trip to the gym.

The initial intimidation wore off, and I began to welcome what I previously considered fears. The movements whose names I did not understand (what is a Clean and Jerk?? A Manmaker?!), the knowledge that I would finish last in the class, and the nausea that ensued from pushing myself beyond my physical limits were somehow addicting.

What’s more, these fears were empowering because little by little, I overcame them. Except the nausea – that still happens, just ask any Crossfitter."


How has CrossFit changed the way you approach your fitness?

"Empowerment is perhaps my favorite word to describe how I feel as a female crossfitter. Feeling strong inside the gym translates to feeling strong outside of the gym.

Working out alongside like-minded males and females who share in both my triumphs and defeats is exhilarating and motivating. I could not and do not remember what exercise was like before CrossFit, nor do I care to ever go back."




What does CrossFit mean to you?  

"Well, where do I begin…..I got to a place in my life where I had gained weight and was at my heaviest. So I tried: P90x, Group Power, Spin classes, Insanity and Kickboxing, which I did see some results but not enough because I still struggled to keep the weight off, tone up and I got bored. So I decided to try Crossfit (which I was pretty intimated by) and my body started changing, I noticed definition in my arms/abs and legs.

Crossfit also introduced me to a new way of eating and I have never felt better. So what does  Crossfit mean to me? I can’t really sum it up in one word because it’s so much more then that…..Physical, Emotional, Life-changing, Community, Healthy Living, Challenging and Passion but in order to really know what Crossfit means--you have to experience it for yourself!!"


How has CrossFit changed the way you approach your fitness?

"I was never really scared to weight lift: light weight and high reps. I was very scared of lifting heavy weights because I never wanted to look like a bodybuilder, I always wanted to have lean muscle and be tone. So when you so start lifting heavier weights you do get a little bulky but what is happening is your muscles are getting bigger and pushing the fat out.

Over time your muscle/body burns off the fat and then you have a lean/tone body. The important thing to remember is muscle burns more fat than anything! Now, I get excited when I post a PR (personal record) with any of my Olympic lifts! I also learned it doesn’t matter how long you work out, but the intensity you workout at…..Now I can’t imagine working out for two hours (like I use to at a gym)."


What would you say to other women who may be scared of, or intimidated by CrossFit?

"We were all there….walking into your first Crossfit box - everyone is yelling at/cheering for each other, dropping weights, equipment you never seen in a gym before, men with no shirts on and women in sport bras. It’s a lot to take in but after your first couple classes you find yourself craving that atmosphere and then you wonder how you ever workout before.

Working out a regular gym with different machines, treadmills, trendy classes, and everyone with iPods on (with no interaction with each other) is pretty boring and not effective to reaching your fitness goals. Once you start, your friends will begin saying stuff about Crossfit and won’t understand why you love it so much….. some of my friends call me “Crossfit Kristi” and personally I don’t mind it at all because I have never felt stronger and healthier!"




Why is fitness important to you?

"Growing up I never thought much about fitness, ate horrible and thought if I'm in decent shape now I'll be fine later. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with a heart condition and had surgery did I realize how important it was to challenge myself mentally and physically at the same time. My biggest struggle was as simple as walking up the stairs. I couldn't go but a few steps before my heart would pound, I would have a hard time breathing get frustrated and have to stop. I knew I had to do something if I wanted to enjoy everyday activities long term."

Why did you start CrossFitting?

"I decided to start CrossFit after talking to multiple people who had been doing it for only a short time and their bodies were completely transformed. I would get text messages from a friend in Seattle with a daily WOD and thought she was talking a different language. I had to keep asking “what is this?”, “what does that mean?”....”TTB...(toes to bar)...where is the bar??”

It took a while to convince me that what this fitness fanatic was doing was something I might be capable of. I was told I would absolutely love it and become addicted but I still harbored a fear that I would be too weak and not be able to keep up. I finally faced my fear when Jackie (who also trains at CFD) said, "Try it once, if you don't love it you don't have to come back. Just realize that everyone around you is at a different level and you go at your own pace."


What keeps you coming back to CrossFit Dilworth?

"The challenge, sheer exhaustion and the definition I see in places I never knew there were muscles! But most of all, it’s the environment. From the first class I took and still today, I've been encouraged not to give up and take it at my own pace.

The support you receive from people when you're the only one who is still doing the WOD and yet somehow you don't feel judged....it’s a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s the chants from those around you telling you "You got this, Amber" that make you seek out that last ounce of energy you thought was spent. The coaches and members at CFD have provided an environment that makes me want to push myself and make me realize it’s not what you can't do, it’s doing the things you never thought you were capable of."