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Entries in CrossFit (17)


What's Your Motivation?

I'm closing in on my first month after starting CrossFit, and as many of my friends (both "real" and Facebook) can tell I am officially hooked. Last Summer, watching the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games on ESPN, I was floored at the feats of strength, endurance, and competitive drive the participants showed. ESPN rebroadcast the 2011 Games this weekend, to coincide with the Regional Qualifying rounds which are currently  underway. 

Watching the Reebok CrossFit Games takes on a whole new meaning to me now that I actually am a CrossFitter. I can identify with the competitors in a whole new way. Their sweat and struggle "makes sense" to me now that I can sympathize with countless burpees, t-shirt and shorts covered in powder from grip chalk, blistered hands from kipping pullups, and the trademark post-WOD celebration pose.

Watching athletes like Rich Froning and Annie Thorsdottir (and the others which are too many to list) compete motivates me in a way that I haven't felt since college.

But despite the opening, this is actually NOT a post about CrossFit. 

This is about finding your motivation.

Are you motivated by an unflattering photo of yourself and want to lose weight? Keep that picture close by as a reminder of why you want to make a change.  Or you can spin it positive and post a few inspiring photos on the fridge or bathroom mirror. (Or try searching #Fitspo on Twitter or Tumblr)

Are you motivated by the countless runners and joggers hitting the sidewalks and roads now that the weather is warm?

Are you motivated by all the Before & After testimonials of former chubby people now flaunting their six packs seen on infomercials for "P90X" and Insanity?


Are you motivated by a family member or close friend who has a health scare or ominous report from their last visit with the Physician?


Are you motivated by the yoga instructor you always bump into that seems so fit, healthy, calm, and upbeat no matter what?

Are you motivated by the occasional television coverage of Ironman Triathlons or the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games?

Don't let seeing those brilliant and dedicated athletes cause you to feel discouraged because you're "not on their level".  I could easily feel the same way watching  the world class CrossFit competitors, because I'm not on their level, or anywhere close. Instead it still motivates me to get out and continue to work to be the best I can be, because I know that the current version is no where close.

Can you honestly look in the mirror, or ask yourself in a quiet moment alone if you are the best version of yourself that you can be? 

If the answer is no, make a decision to make a change, starting today. There is no such thing as it being too late to start the process of improving your fitness, nutrition, and health.

What is your motivation?


CrossFit Debut

If you've read this site for any reasonable amount of time, you've probably picked up on the series of references to CrossFit.  I've mentioned having several friends who are avid Crossfitters and have been gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) selling me on how much fun it would be to join them for a workout (or "WOD" in CrossFit vernacular).  Between my teaching schedule and work travels taking me out of town, finding the right day and time has been a battle for several months. 

Finally, this past Saturday the stars aligned correctly and I made the appointment to join my friends Howie, Jill, and Jenneane at their gym, CrossFit Charlotte for my first ever WOD. 

For background context, Howie (pictured above man-handling some Dead Lifts), Jill, Jenneane, and their brother Joe are all related and are part of the larger group I consider to be All-Star Alumni of my athletic conditioning classes.  We met there originally, and they have now graduated on to bigger and better things.  It may surprise people when they hear me applaud athletes and friends for "passing through" my classes at the Y onto new challenges after a few months, but that should be the goal of everyone who trains, to continually try new things and advance to new fitness levels.

 Anyways, after solidifying plans on Friday there was no backing out of joining them this time.  Most Crossfit gyms post the WOD (acronym for "Workout of the Day") the night before, so I was able to go to sleep with somewhat of an idea as to what I'd be in for.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have been training for several months in-preparation for this day.


As seen above, the WOD featured as many rounds as possible ("AMRAP") in 20 minutes of the following:

  • 5 Clean & Jerks (Prescribed weights: Men 135lbs, Women 95lbs)
  • 10 Pullups
  • 15 Overhead Lunges (Rx weights: Men 45lbs, Women 25lbs)

I mention the prescribed weights, because one aspect of CrossFit I was not aware is that the weights are all scaleable.  Not everyone in the gym is as diesel as Howie, so everyone could bump their weights down to whatever amount is managable for their body type or skill level.


I ended up finishing with 6 rounds plus 8 reps (5 Clean & Jerks, 3 Pullups) as the 20 minute period expired. I made quite a few beginner's mistakes, which I suppose is to be expected.  For one, I started the period with mis-matched weights on each end of the bar, which is inexcusable stupidity for someone who has been weightraining since they were 14 years old. My first few Clean & Jerks felt awkward and unbalanced, then after two rounds of constantly adjusting my grip and altering my foot stance, I realized I had a 25 on one side and a 35 on the other side.

My form in kipping pullups (according to the Coach) was good for a first-timer, but mid-way through the #CrossfitHands WOD once my shoulders and forearms began to tremble and burn, form went south. 

Beginner mistake #2 was not using enough hand chalk for grip.  I've never been the type of person who likes making the same mistake twice, so after ripping open both palms (see graphic photo) I'll probably be either using more tape, or investing in some of the hand grips that gymnasts use.

We finished the WOD by heading outside for 10 hill sprints, which as sadistic as this sounds, took me back to the memories of football conditioning, and was a fun way to end the morning (again, in the sadistic sense).

I've made my feelings about CrossFit fairly well-known on this site so I won't bore by repeating once again.  After finally taking my friends up on their invite however I truly do "get it" and see why so many people have been swept up by this fitness wave.  Obviously every gym is different, and each has their own "vibe", but the atmosphere at CrossFit Charlotte was great.  A tough, competitive atmosphere that definitely made you realize you were in for a battle, however everyone was encouraging and positive. 

There was also a big emphasis on form and teaching, which is another of the widely-held drawbacks of  CrossFit among the masses.  It's true that Olympic-style lifts can be dangerous for those with limited experience, so qualified teaching and coaching is an absolute mandatory.  The coaches at CF Charlotte took special attention to any of the "first timers" prior to the WOD.  

We also spent a solid amount of time on warm-up and joint mobility exercises beforehand, which anyone who takes my classes can attest that I emphasize as well. 

Howie, Jill, and Jenneane always joke that I will soon be drinking the "CrossFit Kool Aid"...(as soon as the raw skin on my palms heal) they might be right.

He's much calmer than during yesterday's WOD, but here's an old video introduction with Coach Andy Hendel of CrossFit Charlotte as he first opened the facility:


Interview with @FitnessChamp


I’m obviously no celebrity athlete or fitness model, but I do get lots of questions around my own eating habits, workout patterns, and which fitness sources have taught me the most. 

This is the only time that I’ll ever “self-interview”, so here you go…

What’s your athletic background?

I was a basketball player growing up, and that’s my first love.  GOD had other plans for my body type and picked up football my freshman year of high school.  I went on to play running back in college, and also ran track for three years, competing in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay.


What are you currently training for?

I ran two half-marathons within a month between October and November 2011, but am done with endurance events for the time being.  I trained hard but realized that endurance sports are just not what I am cut out for, both physically and psychologically. Several friends are avid CrossFitters and have been giving me the hard sales job to get me involved. The competitive-but-positive plus testosterone-fuled vibe keeps drawing me in little by little.


What does an average week’s workout look like?

I don’t get as much time as I’d like to dedicate toward my own workouts, but I do what I can with the time I have.  I try to go for intensity over duration, so I’m usually hitting some form of HIIT intervals or  tabatas on the bike or rowing machine for cardio.  I’m a big fan of Olympic-style lifts, so each week I try to hit some hang cleans, power cleans, push press, and dead lifts.  I’ll mix in some pull ups, heavy rope  work, and box jumps if available.  

As I mentioned,  I have several friends who are CrossFit addicts and have been giving me the hard sales pitch to join them soon, so this workout approach will keep me in close enough shape to hang with the group (hopefully anyways).  Once or twice each week I also add in some typical standard bodybuilding work, as well as some sprint work (100s, 200s, 400’s, court gassers) to maintain my capacity in that area as well.


Describe your fitness classes.

The best way to describe my classes would be 45-55 minutes of multi-faceted intervals and running drills, very similar to what you might see on infomercials for “Insanity” and “P90X”.  I try to model the workouts for a demographic that used to play sports in high school or college, and desire that style of training as adults compared to simply running on the treadmill, lifting weights alone, or logging repetitive sessions on the elliptical. I also try to make sure the playlist is continually up-to-date because if the women in class don’t like the music, they will turn on you quickly.


What does an average day’s eating look like?

It’s not inaccurate to say that I’ve tried almost every nutritional philosophy out there.  Currently (and perhaps for the foreseeable future) I’m sticking fairly close to a Paleo eating style.  Like I said, I work out in the mornings, so it’s either an empty stomach workout, or possibly a scoop of whey protein in water before heading out the door.  I used to down a banana, Gatorade Prime, and/or a gel before hitting the gym but while this was great for my performance, this was surely killing any fat loss goals I was after (due to the over-reliance on Simple Sugars).

Post-workout is usually another scoop of whey in water, then 3-4 scrambled eggs with some spinach, and a couple slices of lean turkey tossed in.  I’ll usually eat that with half a sweet potato (3-4oz).  Mid-morning snack is a protein shake with almonds or sunflower seeds,  then lunch is usually a few turkey meatballs with some green source like asparagus.  Depending on whether or not I have class in the evening, I may eat the second half of the sweet potato here.

Late afternoon might be some turkey jerky and sunflower seeds, with perhaps a tablespoon or two of almond or peanut butter.  If I’m teaching a class in the evening I’ll either repeat lunch, or go with a tuna pack and an apple. 

Dinner lately has been white fish (tilapia, cod) with steamed shredded cabbage (seasoned with oil & vinegar, lemon pepper seasoning, and mustard). “Dessert” is a blended smoothie with carrot juice, acai juice, whey protein, blackberries, almond butter, half an avocado, and 2-3 handfuls of spinach.  Sometimes I'll swap out the avocado for coconut milk as an alternative healthy fat source.


Must-have vitamins and supplements?

Standard: multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin B, vitamin D. 

Nice to have: vitamin A, BCAA (Scivation Xtend), chia seeds


What’s your favorite cheat food?

There is a local smoothie shop across the street from where I live, they make a Green Tea Smoothie with non-fat frozen yogurt that is my biggest guilty pleasure. I used to go 5-6 days a week, but chopped that down to once a week on Saturdays in an effort to tighten up my diet for fat loss goals.

If I am REALLY, legitimately cheating, I love French fries, pizza, and burritos. The funny thing however, is that once your diet really gets in-tune, these foods stop being as fun once you see them as set-backs from ultimately having the body you want.  You can eat almost anything once or twice a week, but the saying is true – nothing tastes as good as being lean feels.


Who are your favorite fitness follows on Twitter?

@JadeTeta, @JillFit, @RobRiches, @cutandjacked, @SPNetwork

Who are your other fitness inspirations?

The Rock (obviously), Greg Plitt (#1 male fitness model in the world), Mario Lopez, Georges St. Pierre, Pauline Nordin (creator of “Fighter Diet”, her dietary discipline is a tremendous motivator) and “normal” people like my friends Demi, Philip, Brendan, and Lyndsey.


What’s your biggest motivation?

Aside from the standard stuff like wanting to fit well in my clothes and like what I see in the mirror, long term health is very important.  I had a close relative battling colon cancer several years ago, and a few others with high blood pressure issues.  My eating habits were terrible in graduate school during my early 20’s, and I spend every day trying to undo the fat, unhealthy condition I was creating for myself.


What’s the one thing you wish you could share with others at the gym?

I'd tell them that More isn’t necessarily better

I see so many people (often the same faces) logging away hour after hour on the stairmaster or elliptical every week and their bodies never change.  People training for specific  events like a half-marathon or 5K certainly need to get their mileage in, but others wanting to shed pounds, or look good for the beach really need to learn that you can meet your goals in less time, by working smarter. 

For fat loss goals, intensity trumps time spent.  The body is not like a calculator, fat loss is more complex than eating 500 fewer calories and burning 500 calories more per day.  Things like stress hormones and insulin manipulation play a big role in whether or not one’s body will give up stubborn fat.  This is usually sad to see, because I see lots of effort and “want to” from people in the gym (or even jogging down the street), they just don’t have the proper tools and information to accomplish what they are working so hard to achieve.

Will you ever grant yourself another interview like this?

No way. This was an obnoxious thing to do and I'm ready to go back to interviewing other people.


Weight Loss All-Stars Volume 2: Brendan

It's been a while, but previously I highlighted one of my friends for her inspiring weightloss story.  For volume two of the Weight Loss All-Stars, we're going to look at one of the more incredible body transformations you'll see.

Pictured on the right, is a "before" photo of my friend Brendan.  He has become one of the regulars who crushes the workouts at my YMCA Athletic Conditioning classes each week.  

I want to avoid spoiling the details of hisBrendan [Before] awesome story, in which he lost close to 95 pounds.  He was nice enough to share his story in our Q&A session below.

Be inspired.


What's your athletic background?  

 I have been involved in sports my entire life. Was a three sport athlete in High School (Football, Basketball, and Baseball). However; my main sports were football and baseball. I attended Catholic University of America and played both Baseball & Football my freshmen year. It became too much so I chose to focus solely on football.


What was your weight at its highest, vs your current (average) weight? How long did the process take?


I graduated high school in 2000 right around 225 lbs. Finished football my 5th year Dec 2004 right around 265 lbs (although it was an in shape 265 lbs). Once I graduated I dropped back down to 225 lbs. From Jan 2006 to May 2009 I slowly put on weight. The most I ever saw on a scale was 296 lbs in May 2009 (although it was very likely that I was 10 to 15 pounds bigger than that a few weeks before, just never got on a scale). In Dec 2009 I hit 203 lbs on the scale. On average I have been about 215 since.


What caused you to want to make a change?


One of my roommates from colleges’ girlfriend was venturing out on her own as a health coach. She had success in the corporate world as a health consultant and decided it was time to branch out on her own. I was her first client. I knew in order for ME to really make a long term change I would need to make a pretty big financial commitment. This way I would be forced to stick with the program (in fear of just wasting my money).

So it was time for my yearly checkup at the doctors office. On the way to the doctors office (I knew I was going to have to get on a scale and was mortified at what I would see) So, I called my Buddy’s gf and signed up. I paid $1400 upfront and the program lasted 6 months. I lost 93 pounds. Best money I have ever spent.

What were your initial first steps?


I had completely stopped working out for nearly 3 years. Which was odd because I had been so active my entire life. So I slowly started working out again. Along with working out again (at first just 2 times a week) I was watching what I ate. I was eating a great deal of organic foods for the first time in my life. I was also consuming a ton of fruits and veggies. However; I still ate what I what I wanted one day a week. She encouraged me to find things that I enjoyed to do. I started volunteering at Big Brothers and Big Sisters and started attending a class 2 times a week at the YMCA (Athletic Conditioning). I got hooked on both, and still do both to this day.

Did you ever get discouraged during the process?


I was by far the most out of shape person in the Athletic Conditioning Class. I was running 12 minute miles where the slowest person besides me was running under 9 minute miles. I couldn’t do a single pull up and I could barely do 5 push ups, where the rest of the class were doing sets of 25 push ups. However; I stuck with it and it paid off.

 Did your diet change at all from your heavier days, to now?


I have changed my diet, but not a great deal. I don’t eat fast food or anything like that, but for the most part I eat and drink what I want.



Describe your fitness activities these days 

 Working out has become a part of my everyday life.  I continue to take athletic conditioning class about 4 times a week. I am also a member of Crossfit, which I love. I also run competitive races now and compete in Crossfit events.

I have recently got my mile time down to 5:16 and can do 30 pull ups at once. I am by far the most fit I have ever been and stride to improve that fitness level each day.







(Above is Brendan's "After" photo.  Doesn't even seem like the same guy, does it?)




What would you say to heavy people who feel like remaking their body composition is "impossible"?


 Losing weight is really quite simple. The key is to stay dedicated and find something that you really enjoy doing. Once you find something that you enjoy, it doesn’t become work anymore it becomes fun and you look forward to working out.


What other advice would you give to a heavy person who has yet to make a change?

 It took me 6 months to loose my weight. It comes off fast, you just have to stick with it and make a lifestyle change. The key is taking it off and keeping it off. Once your workout and diet become a habit, then its smooth sailing….


There are many different paths to significant weightloss and body transformation, however the main consistent is a combination of work ethic and an internal desire to make a change in your life.  I hope to continue spotlighting people once in a while that have made dramatic physical improvements in their health and nutritional lifestyle. 

For anyone reading this who may not like what they see in the mirror, on the scale, or struggle fitting into their old jeans - hopefully Brendan's awesome transformation story help to inspire that with hard work, patience, and a plan, anyone can achieve great results.



CrossFit Charlotte - 6th annual Fight Gone Bad

One of the regulars at my YMCA fitness classes told me he was competing in the CrossFit event, "Fight Gone Bad".  This was the 6th annual event, also serving as a fundraiser for three different charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project

I've written about CrossFit before, but as a reminder each workout has a unique name, often in-memoriam of fallen soldiers and servicemen and women.  "Fight Gone Bad" was designed to mimic the physical endurance demands of a mixed martial arts bout, featuring five minutes of work, one minute of recovery, over three rounds. "FGB" got its name after all-time great UFC fighter B.J. Penn undertook the workout one day, and described it afterwards as being much like "a fight gone bad".  The name stuck.

Here's a glimpse at the workout structure:

Three (3) rounds of:

  • Wall-ball, 20/14 pound ball, 10 foot target (Most reps) 
  • Sumo Deadlift High-pull, 75/55 pounds (Most reps)
  • Box Jump, 20" box (Most reps)
  • Push-press, 75/55 pounds (Most reps)
  • Row (Most Calories according to meter)

The weather was much cooler than a normal early September Saturday thanks to the cold front that came in yesterday, but the athletes toughed it out and I saw some tremendous performances. 

I had been debating taking a few breaks from my half-marathon endurance training (races in October and November) to add some Crossfit-style workouts.  Being in this atmosphere has definitely motivated me to get off the spin bike and put the running shoes away once in a while and not to forget mixing in a CrossFit-style workout.  I'll also be adapting the FGB workout for my YMCA classes, beginning next week.

Here's a sample video of "Fight Gone Bad":