Wednesday, December 20, 2017

More than just physical fitness

A student of mine named Jules recently wrote this short essay on the impact CrossFit is having on her life and I thought I 

would share.  As you can see below, it is more than just a fitness program.

     This year in August I joined a CrossFit and biomechanics class. Since starting, I have noticed many changes from my mental capacity to strength and stamina. In our Crossfit class we had managed to create a very supportive and powerful community where we all support and motivate each other. Mental sharpness is key in CrossFit. You have to be focused enough to count reps, rounds, memorize the workout and focus on your form during the workout. When you are drained and just fighting to finish, this is very hard. Overtime, I have been able to build up my focus even when I am exhausted. This has been beneficial even outside Crossfit, especially in school classes.
          The CrossFit community we as students have made is really amazing. People that, in school, wouldn’t generally socialize with each other at all come together and connect. It’s something we all love. We get so suffer together, we get stronger together, and we accomplish together. School status doesn’t matter and everyone is willing to help and cheer on each other.
          Stamina and strength is another important aspect of CrossFit. Throughout the year I have experienced increases in strength and mobility. Stamina goes hand in hand with strength for me personally. When we retest a benchmark that we did at the beginning of the year I am able to go heavier on the weight, keep a constant pace, and often shave minutes off my time.
         All aspects of CrossFit: strength, stamina, consistency, mental strength, endurance and community have been applied to other activities outside the workout. The benefits of which can be easily noticed. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Biased Programming?

The longer I coach and program workouts for my students, the more I become keenly aware of my need to evaluate my programming for biases, holes, weaknesses, etc.  It is so easy to fall into a routine, especially when you have limited equipment available.  An invaluable tool has been the "Programming Analysis Worksheets" found in the L2 Training manual.  In my L2 course we used these to evaluate 9 days worth of programming and then program the next 3 workouts based on any deficiencies you might find in the initial programming set.  You can easily convert these worksheets to a spreadsheet file so that you can continual evaluate your programming and keep running tallies of the various programming parameters.  Remember when programming your workouts to stick with what works.  "Intensity is king" and "keep it simple stupid" are accurate when it comes to effective programming.  Use the following checklist and the Programming Analysis Worksheets to keep yourself on Track.  You can still come up with endless combinations of effective workouts if you spend most of your time emphasizing these points. Thanks to the L2 staff and CrossFit Training for reminding us not to over-complicate things.

  • Couplets and Triplets 
  • Complimentary Movements (push/pull)
  • 10-15 minute Time Domain
  • Don't avoid Heavy Days (we have to get creative with Sandbags and Tires since we don't have barbells and bumper plates).
  • Task Priority 
  • Full Body 
  • High Power Output movements 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Progress is Motivating

We just ended our first block (roughly 8-9 weeks) of programming at Vision CrossFit (2017-2018 school year) and the results are in! My students have even surpassed my own expectations for where I anticipated their fitness would be this early in the school year.  I have to say that I am just as proud of the improved mechanics that I am seeing on a daily basis as I am about their improved scores, times, etc.  I think it is important for coaches to point out these subtle improvements about the way the athlete is moving and be really careful not to focus entirely on what ends up on the whiteboard that day.  I had several students who had a very similar Karen time to the first time they posted, but this time they hit full depth on all their squats. They showed a greater grasp of the points of performance, and as result exhibited improved mechanics.  I am constantly trying to remember to praise mechanics, consistency, and intensity in that order.

I thought this post would be more meaningful if you could hear the student's exact words based on their responses to the following fitness journal prompt that I posted in class one day: "Pick one workout that we re-tested during the last 9 weeks (Baseline, Cindy, or Karen), and describe how you improved for that workout. Specifically, why you think you improved (overall fitness level, mindset, etc.), and how you felt when you saw your fitness level go up (sense of accomplishment, pride, etc.)." Here are some of their responses in their own words.  I have so many more of these positive responses, and it was hard to limit them (to keep this post as brief as possible) because they were all valuable to me as their coach.

"I feel so much more durable and have greater endurance than I did at the beginning of this course.  I did 4 more rounds of Cindy this time, but my form also improved greatly."
"I didn't get all 150 wall balls before the 15 minute time cap, but my squats were better than before.  I told myself that I could still beat my record and I did. I still need to work on putting my weight in my heels."

"I am so very proud of myself for not giving up and ignoring the burning sensation of the lactic acid building up in my muscles."

"One workout that struck me the most was baseline.  On the very first day that we did it, I could barely run or complete it.  I even threw up a little bit after the workout.  When we retested the workout, I improved by over 3 minutes and I was incredibly happy."

"I improved significantly on Karen, I improved my time by 7 minutes and 30 seconds on the dot.  I believe the improvement came from my mindset, the way I deal with discomfort, and practical experience like learning and using correct movement patterns."

"I could definitely tell that I have grown from the first  time. I was able to more efficiently move the wall ball and that there is mental pain and physical pain. I learned that you don't give into the pain, the pain gives in to you."

"I have started to love doing workouts like Loredo and Whitten, which I used to hate because they contained running.  My mindset has improved as well.  I am using positive self talk to push myself; as well as focusing on my main goal of going to the CrossFit games."

"The workout that we re-tested that stood out to me the most was Cindy because I was able to Rx the whole thing this time.  Not only did I do pull-ups instead of ring rows the whole time, but I also improved by 3 rounds too."

"At the beginning of the year I completed Karen in 9:27 with a 14lb med ball.  I used a 20lb med ball for the first 100 reps and a 14lb med ball for the last 50 reps and I still improved my time to 9:07 even with the extra weight for the majority of the workout."

"Baseline is the benchmark workout I chose to compare.  The first time I did baseline my time was 17:05.  The second time I did it I got a time of 9:45.  I believe that I was able to improve my score so much because I improved both mentally and physically."

"The first time I did Karen, I used a 20 lb med ball and my time was 14:10, I used the same weight and did it in 7:22 this time."

"When we first started the year, I was not able to do a single pull-up and now I can do quite a lot of pull-ups.  When we re-tested Cindy I did 13 rounds of pull-ups with no ring rows."

"At the beginning of the year, my goal was to just finish and get it done and over with because it hurt so bad.  Not even a few weeks into CrossFit my goal had changed from finishing, to pushing myself and testing my limits.  My mindset has changed completely.  Seeing myself get stronger and improve my work capacity is motivation in itself."

"The first time we tested Karen, I used a 14lb wall ball and finished in 11:25.  The second time we did this workout I did it in 6:03 with the same wall ball.  I was shocked by the improvement I made, but I know that I put the effort in to get a better time. Doing the workouts and seeing improvements gives me a sense of accomplishment, and I have learned that I can achieve a lot more than I think I can.  I have noticed in school that when I have to complete assignments that take a long time, I no longer want to give up because CrossFit has taught me that I can survive discomfort to reach my goals, it has taught me that once you get past the mental preconceptions of an objective, it will be easier to accomplish."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Being Creative

If you have followed this blog at all, you have probably seen a post or two about our equipment needs.  We are a non-profit school CrossFit Affiliate, we do not have a weight room, we have no athletic facility, and we only get the gym two days per week.  We have to be creative, we have to take advantage of working out outdoors, and we have to look at unique ways to build and utilize equipment.  Sandbags, recycled tires, pull-up bars welding to old storage units, you name it we have done it over the last couple of years.  Recently, I went to a home supply store and bought some cheap wheelbarrows ($39/each).  We drilled a hole in the front, put in an eye bolt, and hooked up some rope with a carbiner.  We through our sandbags in them for some weight, and in the end we had some nice sleds for the students to do sled pulls outside. This is what I love about CrossFit, you can get creative and still get a tremendous workout. The students loved our new sleds.   

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I am still a newbie, but the longer I coach teenagers in the 9 foundational movements of CrossFit, the more I am convinced that our PE programs across the country should emphasize sport specific skills less and functional movement more.  After all if you look at the following pyramid:
Sport is the pinnacle that we often emphasize to the neglect of the foundational pieces below it.  I think that sport is important and definitely a critical application of one's overall fitness. In order for students to achieve high levels within their sport and do it in a healthy and safe manner, we must look at the areas that we are neglecting.  It starts at young age, but often we lack the will to change the status quo.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Year 2 in Full Swing

We are now in year two at Vision CrossFit.  With a new school year comes new athletes, new challenges, and new breakthroughs.  I had opportunities to meet with my mentors this summer and they really helped me see the big picture in regards to programming from a macro scale and I feel even more confident entering my second year of coaching.  I am blessed to have tremendous resources at Snake River CrossFit  in Nampa whom I can collaborate with to make Vision CrossFit a better place for students to train with each passing week.  I have learned to identify the fitness testing that I want to use with each new block, and make sure I am taking a more balanced approach to programming while still focusing our our weaknesses.  At this point we still don't have barbells and bumper plates, so beyond our skill work with PVC we don't have the opportunity to practice Olympic lifts as much as I would like.  This hasn't been a bad thing because we are spending more time with sandbags, kettlebells, a variety of loaded carries, and strongman type movements.  Based on the research available, this might be even more beneficial for these students in the long run and prevent injury while promoting fitness at the same time.  We have grown from 20 students and one class in 2016-2017 to 40 students and two classes in this school year.  It is amazing to me to hear students talk about the difficult work they are putting in day in and day out, and to see the pride on their faces after finishing a difficult WOD.  We are 6 workouts into the school year and students are already squatting better, encouraging each other more, eating better, and promoting the Vision of CrossFit to their peers.  For this I am grateful and excited about the upcoming year.  More to come!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

CrossFit Teaches Grit

I have been teaching middle school and high school students in the areas of biological science, physical education, and health for over 15 years now.  My perception has changed during this time concerning the teenage mindset.  For many many years, I must admit, I thought teenagers were lazy, entitled, and could not focus on any challenging task for more than 5 minutes at a time. Teaching CrossFit to teenagers has radically altered that perception.  Students in my CrossFit class are determined, goal oriented, and gritty.  They rise to new challenges, accomplish and set goals, they are extremely motivated to succeed,  and they push themselves to new limits daily.  Maybe, just maybe, this prior perception didn't have anything to do with teenagers? Maybe they were just a product of an outdated educational system that no longer challenges, stimulates, or motivates today's teenager?  What if CrossFit was an instructional model for our classrooms? Think about it, students competing with each other on infinitely scalable challenging tasks that are measurable and quantifiable.  Meeting the needs of this generation requires a shift in our mentality, a shift that has slowly taken place in my own mind over the last 15 years.  Does this look like a group of students who don't want to work hard? I think not!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Retesting Builds Confidence

At the beginning of the school year, I programmed the benchmark workout "Karen" (150 Wall Balls for time) for my CrossFit class.  I quickly realized that it was too much for them to handle, so we scaled the the reps down to 100 Wall Balls and gave them a 10 minute time cap to finish.  Most of them, with the exception of a few, could not finish 100 wall balls in under 10 minutes, weren't hitting depth, and were definitely not hitting the 9-10ft mark.  Fast forward to yesterday, all but 3 students completed the full "Karen" WOD, getting all 150 wall balls in under 10 minutes, hit full depth in their squat on every rep, and hit the 9-10ft mark on the wall. Some students even increased their rep count by close to 60 reps and did the workout 3-4 minutes faster finishing around the 7 minute mark! The 3 students who didn't finish all 150 wall balls still improved their rep count by an average of 35-40 reps within the same time domain.  After they peeled themselves off of the floor, they stood tall and were extremely proud of their progress.  It is so important that we re-test workouts so that students know their hard work is paying off.  Great job Vision CrossFit, keep up the good work!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Vision CrossFit Spring Highlights!

The 2017 Open: Snake River CrossFit graciously allowed 9 of my students (almost half my class!) to participate in their first ever CrossFit Open.  Considering many of them have only ever snatched or done thrusters with a PVC pipe, they did an amazing job and moved fairly well through the grueling Open workouts (some of them even liked thrusters, WHAT!).  Quite a few of them placed well in the teens scaled division and more importantly experienced the encouragement of the CrossFit community.  I believe they are now hooked for life!

Retesting Workouts:  The students are seeing drastic improvement in their scores/times from previous workouts.  For example, yesterday we retested the hero workout "Loredo" which is 6 rounds for time of 24 air squats, 24 pushups, 24 walking lunges, & a 400 meter run.  Student after student crushed their previous times ranging anywhere from 3-6 minutes faster on this grueling workout.  Even though we don't run the mile we test it, and students have improved their mile times by an average of over 2 minutes! The since of satisfaction I see on their faces after they PR a workout is truly priceless. They are showing more determination and more grit than I would have imagined after only 8 months.

Enrollment in the program:  This class has been so popular that they added a second section to the 2017-2018 school schedule for next year.  We will again partner with NNU to offer this class to our high school students for college credit. This means we will jump from 20 to 40 students next year, doubling in size.  This is posing some logistical and financial needs, but ultimately I welcome the growing process. Growth for my students, growth for the program, growing interest in fitness, and personal growth as a coach.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Open 2017

About half of my students have volunteered to compete in the 2017 CrossFit Open Teens Scaled division this year.  Once again, Snake River CrossFit has graciously opened their arms to my class and allowed my students to participate in their annual "Friday Night Lights" event during the 5 weeks of open workouts.  It has been a tremendous experience to have my students engage in a competitive and supportive environment.  I am certain that they are becoming lifelong converts who will spread the gospel of fitness long after high school.  I recently had a junior in high school go workout with the Marines and she indicated that "she was the only female who could complete many of the physical  requirements."  She said that "she could not have done it without CrossFit." So proud of all of my student's effort, their mental toughness, and their willingness to try new things.  I would say that the most challenging part of the process has been the fact that these students don't have any weights to train with at school.  Even though we train them with PVC pipe on the foundational movements, it is a challenge to put a dumbbell or barbell in their hand for the first time.  They have definitely risen to the occasion.

*Students getting some barbell training with Coach Madi Lewis at Snake River CrossFit prior to the open workouts.  Guess we should have been working with dumbbells : )