CFNP Blog

A Year in Review – by Corina Powell

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Last year was the first time that I had ever competed in the Open. It was something I knew I would “eventually” do but it just wasn’t high on my priority list. I had just moved for the second time, acquired a new job and I hadn’t been CrossFitting for long enough to feel like I would do well. I went into the workouts thinking, “Well hey I enjoy CrossFit and I’d like to know where I am so let’s give it a whirl.” I did each of the workouts twice at Gabriel’s recommendation and ended up placing 352 in the Southern California Region. For my first time ever competing in the Open I was pretty proud of my accomplishment but it was also what lit a fire for the year to come.  

Ending that Open, I reflected on my fitness and my goals and decided that overall, my biggest goal for the year was to just “get better at everything!”. Now to anyone who coaches goal setting, I know that my goal was not even remotely what it should have been. It wasn’t descriptive, it wasn’t measurable and I had no idea how at the end of the year I was going to assess whether or not I had accomplished that goal other than to say to myself “yep, I got better.” Lucky for me, I’ve got a coach who also happens to be the love of my life who is (in an adorable way) obsessed with the creation of goals and how to set goals that you can measure. He asked me what my goals were for the year and challenged me to define a goal that would push me for the entirety of the year. After creating small measurable goals focusing on specific movements (I still hadn’t mastered a muscle up) we came to the conclusion that my overall goal needed to focus on where I wanted to end my Open season.

Break into the 200’s by placing 299 or lower in the Southern California Region. I knew it was an ambitious goal, jumping even a few spots when new and amazing athletes are breaking onto the scene everyday and the veterans seem to just keep getting better would be an accomplishment. I knew there was  a good chance I wasn’t going to get there but I decided that deep down in my heart and soul that is what I would be striving for. A couple of months ago, Gabriel wrote a blog where he talked about not being a coward when setting goals for yourself and embracing the challenges that truly scare you. The goal that I had set scared me, I didn’t want to fail, I didn’t want to be embarrassed if I didn’t reach my potential and I didn’t want to admit to myself that the only person to blame for not reaching my goal would be myself.

After one year of work here is the summary:

I didn’t reach the 200’s, I ended the Open season in 302nd place in the Southern California Region.

Now while I know it is still an accomplishment and I am still proud of the progress that has been made, to me it is significant to tell myself that while 302 is better  that 352 it isn’t the best and I am still unsatisfied. I place the failure in bold as a reminder that it is my goal and the only person who can change the outcome of the goal is me. A new goal looms  ahead of me to make it under 225 in the next Open and while it is again a huge jump and maybe one that I won’t reach, I will be damned if I don’t give it my all trying to get there. Whatever your goals are, I hope that you keep making new ones and I hope that in the beginning those new goals seem impossible because if that isn’t how far you’re reaching or how far you’re pushing yourself then how will you ever improve?

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The 2017 CrossFit Open – A Debreifing

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Well, that was interesting. An Open unlike any other seen before, countless movements were added, new toys used; to say box owners were knocked back on their heels is an understatement. Nothing says “caught with your pants down” like gym owners all around the world running around trying to borrow or purchase equipment. Despite all the moving parts and intricacies that we may have seen, the settled dust revealed the same resulting question, “How fit are you?” For many of us it is a question that answers with one brutal cold hard number. “Despite your efforts you sir are officially ranked #451 in Southern California” or “good job madam here is your worldwide #3,273 ranking, good day.” It almost makes you cringe at the number. How can five weeks of obsessing over workouts, hours of practicing skills, a month of nerves and stress, all boil down to one measly number? I have mentioned before in my writing that we now live in a society that doesn’t like the cold hard truth, if people could give out decimal points for effort in workouts I guarantee they would fight for that. It hurts to put yourself out there, for the world (or your gym) to see you legitimately try your very best, only to get smacked in the mouth, shoved on the floor, and have a number slapped on your forehead. So why on God’s green earth do we do this to ourselves? Why do put ourselves through this? Well the answer is the same as why you come limping back into the box day after day, because it’s not only about that number to you, it’s about the intangibles and you understand that. This Open alone, I witnessed multiple new 1RM lifts, newly acquired skills, and have already heard three stories of the Open helping people through life difficulties that they were experiencing outside of the gym; you can’t put a number on those things. Now before you go off into #hallmark land and get all fluffy, let’s stay on track. The CrossFit Open in my opinion has never failed in it’s ultimate task. It does a fantastic job of overall testing “general fitness” and as a result, that number you got after 5-weeks, yeah it’s pretty accurate as to how fit you are as an athlete. The question to ask yourself regarding this number is “What are you going to do about it?” I’ve already seen people attacking skills that they never dared before, because looking at 2017 they see how much better their ranked could’ve been had they focused on it sooner; so for them it is “Look out 2018, you’re mine!” Fantastic! Now here come the intangibles that I was talking about that you can’t really put your finger on. For some athletes it may not be quite so simple as to “I need to learn DUs,” they flat out may need to face the harsh reality that they simply need to spend this next off-season getting more uncomfortable. Maybe pushing the pace just a tad-bit faster on their rowing, maybe connecting just a few more reps of Pull-Ups from here on out. Whatever weaknesses the Open exposed in you, be prepared to face them. The common joke that I hear said regarding the Open is, “if you want to do better on 17.x then jump in a time machine, go back a year, and simply CrossFit harder.” Although facetious, it’s the truth. Sure once a WOD was announced we all took to strategy, but miracles aren’t going to happen every week, at the end of each week, your strengths and weaknesses will be exposed. If you have spent the last year sandbagging the rowing workouts, it will be exposed, and it will be exposed in a way that may possibly sabotage the following movement that you are good at. Embrace the truth of what this Open has shown, there is no shame in weaknesses. As my favorite author said, “There is more beauty in truth, even if it’s a dreadful beauty.”

 

Challenge to the Reader

Make a list of which movement truly made you uncomfortable or ditch your plan. If there was a movement that knocked the wheels off of you, identify it, ask a coach, decide that come the 2018 Open, that movement is going to be “yours.”

 

Open 17.5

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A few of the primary prescriptions of CrossFit methodology are:

  1. Couplets and Triplets (meaning “rounds” of only two or three movements)

And

  1.  Task based (meaning to complete a specific task “for time”).

As a gym we fancy ourselves as CrossFit purists. Metcons are usually what does the body good, and too often people get caught up with new bells and whistles. Bless Dave Castro for bringing the old school style back into the Open. Now here comes the rub, the reason why old school couplets work so well? Because they burn like a son-of-a-gun and require some good ole fashioned sweat and tears. Think about Fran, no real place to hide. How about Diane? You’re either deadlifting the barbell or on the wall. Most famous workouts are surprisingly short and simple; and once again that’s where the magic lies. Let’s get started in breaking down an already very simple workout.

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The Thrusters
Break em up. For a very small population this workout is a sprint, if you’re not in that group, then think long term and break these Thrusters into sets. We’re not a fan of doing WOD-math, but here comes the harsh reality, this is a double-Fran; and just like Fran, you do not want to pick up that barbell until you’re prepared to do a decent number of reps. In other words avoid doing singles at all cost; lest you simply add a dozen extra squat cleans to this workout (ain’t nobody got time for that).
Suggested rep schemes would be limited to:
9
5-4
3-3-3

Double Unders
Well we knew these were coming. And as usual they are simply being treated as the mortar that fills the gaps between movements. However don’t overlook these, they are intended to punish inefficiency and fatigue the shoulders if done incorrectly. Therefore the cue to combat this pitfall will be “keep your hands close,” this means avoid the arms wide out (wing-flap) during your double unders. If your hands stay close to your body then your wrists will be forced to rotate the rope and those lovely shoulders will be just a little less tired for the thrusters. Lastly, although an unorthodox way of approaching double unders, don’t be shy to take a 3-5 second break during the double unders. Too often we go all-out on double unders to the point of exhaustion and only rest once we’ve begun failing; we have 350 to do in the workout, so treat these like you would any other movement and consider breaking these into sets as well.

In summation, congratulations on making it to the last workout of the 2017 CrossFit Open! A surprising amount of people don’t make it through all five weeks for a number of reasons. You however have persevered and taken each WOD head-on. So for that we applaud you. Now that you have no week six to look forward to, empty your tank. Push as hard as you can and finish this Open with a crescendo of effort. You’ve made it this far, might as well sprint the last few meters. Best of luck to all you athletes, and go win, because winning is fun 😉

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Open WOD 17.4

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I’ve said it hundreds of times, there is no better way to test yourself, than to repeat a workout. Here you have it, the longest interval rest ever, one entire year! Same movement standards, same weight on the barbell, a more fit version of you from one year ago; so let’s smash that score. You have something to chase, this workout is not some abstract concept from which you can create a vague goal; now you have an exact score to chase, so go get it!

The WOD

I strongly feel that there are three ways to test a person’s form on specific movements found in CrossFit:
1. Adding load
2. Adding speed
3. Adding fatigue
Welcome to a test of #3, fatigue. Sure you can do a few HSPU, but can you do fifty-five reps? Oh you did “Diane” last week with 155lbs, that’s cute, here are fifty-five DLs in a row for you to do. If you want to see how well a person can pace a row, put them on that rower for fifty-five calories and watch that pace go up and down like a heart rate monitor. Sure we may not like it, but this workout has some magic to it. This WOD, by nature tests one movement at a time, with deep reps, intentionally revealing what happens to people’s form under fatigue. SO now that we have an idea what the Evil Genius Dave Castro is looking to get out of this, let’s plan ahead and form a strategy.

WOD Strategy

DeadLift (DL)
Regardless of what weight you are doing on the DL (Rx, Scaled, Teen, Master, etc), you are going to be tempted by the same thing as anybody else. Picture this, “3-2-1 Go!” The music blasts. The judges are yelling out reps. Weights are banging on the floor. That voice in your head begins telling you to slow down, but nobody else is…and oh snap my boy Justin Timberlake just came on the speakers with some fire, there is no way I’m stopping now…and that’s how you die.
Listen up, everybody is going to feel pretty good or amazing at the beginning of this workout, the reps happen fast, your adrenaline is off the charts; you need to stay calm. Last year when doing this workout I broke the reps up as a rough 15-10-10-10-10 because I knew that just because I could do larger sets, didn’t mean I should. You need to have an idea of how you’re going break up these reps, keep them small and DO NOT reach muscle failure here. You should not be dropping the barbell because you can’t hold on anymore, we are trying to avoid reaching that point of fatigue.

Wall Ball
Again with the principle of “Could vs. Should.” Yes we are all sure you can do tons of WBs in a row, but that doesn’t mean you should. With a lot of reps comes early and quick breaks. Don’t concern yourself with the pacing of others. Have your plan of small sets of reps, and stick to it. *If WBs are a strong point for you then at the end we will discuss another option.

Handstand Push Up
Oh boy, good ole’ HSPU. Nothing will make you understand muscle failure like the HSPU. When those dinky little shoulders run out of juice, you my friend are SOL. I have seen many a great competitors push it just a little too hard, and spend 3 minutes getting just one last rep. The HSPU is often times failed near the top of the lockout which means it uses just as much if not more energy than even getting a good rep. Listen closely because I’m about to drop some Gandhi wisdom, “Whatever you do, do not risk a no-rep.” This means as soon as you feel shoulder fatigue that makes you even question your next rep, kick down and let the arms relax for a bit. You do not want to throw any of these reps away. Last year there were thousands of points sitting in the 1x HSPU to 49x HSPU range. Meaning every single rep equated to hundreds of leaderboard points. So again treat each fatigued rep with great caution, be sure to listen to your body, sometimes it feels better than we thought it would, still stick to your plan.

Pacing
Aside from the obvious theme of me pleading with people to pace this workout and “no matter what” do small sets of reps. We are going to speak to the more advanced athletes for a second that maybe still wanna push it and gamble a bit. Decide which movement is your home run movement; the “smack it out of the ballpark” movement. THAT movement is when you go all out, now understand if that is the DLs I stand by my words of caution, but if it is any of the other movements, then that is your chance to smash it in 2-3 mega-sets. Notice I said ONE movement, I meant it, choose one, that’s it, no more than that. If you were to even go hypothetically unbroken on one movement, that would be enough of a boost to keep you ahead of any pack for a while. So if you decide to pick a home run movement then make it good, because that is when you are going to be turning heads.

As usual guys, have fun, if you’re not having fun then you’re missing the point, if you’re not nervous you need to take it more seriously. Find that balance, that’s what CrossFit is all about. Oh and by the way, winning is the most fun, so go do that.

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About the author:
Gabriel Perez is the owner of CrossFit North Pasadena in Pasadena, CA. He has owned his affiliate for over 5 years and owns the oldest running CrossFit gym in Pasadena. He has been competing in CrossFit since 2009 and has qualified for Regionals in 2012 and 2013, and finished top 60 in 4 of his past 6 CrossFit Opens.

Open WOD 17.3

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CrossFit Open WOD 17.3

You happy now? No dumbbells for week #3, enjoy that barbell thrown at your face. Good Sir Castro has heard your whining and has given us exactly what we wanted, a lovely barbell >:)
Now before we go into a panic, take a deep breathe, and let’s figure out our game plan; and let’s also chat a bit about technique while we’re at it.

The WOD

I’ve already heard people belly-aching about shoulders. “Oh this is so dangerous,” blah blah blah. Look, in the past three weeks you have been asked to do ONE workout with DB snatches, and a second workout with Bar-MU (if you went Rx), in those three WEEKS I’m sure you’ve recovered just fine, and if you haven’t then there are much more pressing mechanical issues that need to be addressed. This WOD is programmed brilliantly whether you like it or not. How you may ask? Well let’s look at the mechanics involved, a Snatch should be a leg driven movement with shoulders as a secondary mover and stabilizer, while the PU tends to be primarily a pulling movement. Therefore, when done incorrectly, an athlete will pull the barbell early with their arms, couple that with the pulling on the PU and viola, your arms fall off. This means anybody that has a bad habit of pulling the barbell up primarily with their arms rather than using their legs, will be punished exponentially as the workout goes on.

WOD Strategy

Snatch
A few definitions need to be cleared up before we begin. Green weights are light and easy. Yellow weights are moderate and can be approached with confidence. Red weights are at/just under your 1RM. Looking at the weights identify when the weight goes from green to yellow to red. Your job is to go as fast as you can through the portion of the workout that contains your green weight (touch-n-go if possible) this will save you extra time on the clock and give you a good tie-breaker score. Once you enter the portion of the workout tat contains your yellow weight you are still trying to get through it quickly (specifically the PUs) for a good tie-breaker with the emphasis of a short break between snatch reps and a fast full-depth drop under the barbell. Once you are in the WOD portion that contains your red weight you hit the breaks! Now the workout changes. We need long breaks. This workout suddenly becomes a matter of which athletes can avoid missing the most reps. Expect to see a ton of athletes feeling rushed, attempting reps too soon, only to miss the reps and feel even more flustered. This is your Red weight so don’t necessarily expect to get out of this round, each rep needs to be approached with rest and focus, this is not the place to rush.

Chest-to-Bar PU / Jumping-PU
In the CrossFit world the running joke during the Open is: If you want to do well in the Open, you need to go back in time a year, and CrossFit more. In CrossFit we focus on General Physical Preparedness (GPP), this means we don’t necessarily focus on any one thing, we simply try to get better at everything at a steady rate. This includes Pull-Ups, and in CrossFit the Pull-Up is like the cement to your house, they’re everywhere, no matter how much your fitness improves, they need to always be there; do they get any glory? Nope. How many of you are dying to post a video of yourself doing Pull-Ups (sexy right?). They are the unsung hero of fitness and they aren’t going anywhere. There are no major tips on the Pull-Ups other than they are your key to saving time for more lifts at your barbell. Stay close to the PU Rig, don’t wander, as soon as you come down from a set of PUs, be prepared to get right back up there and knock more out. When the clock’s ticking and your staring at your snatch bar later in the workout (with a weight that’s close to your 1RM), you’re gonna wish you had rushed on the PUs just a little bit more. If your Pull-Ups aren’t where they need to be then do your best, but no, there is no magic tweak to suddenly add thirty reps to your PUs. If you don’t have them down yet, take note, and as soon as the Open ends, start working on them.

Clock Management
Hopefully you remember this WOD format from years past (it’s been used a few times) but you do NOT have to stop and wait for the clock to begin your next rounds. So if you are a few minutes ahead of the CAP time, then great, move faster and get even further ahead of the clock! When you are at your heaviest weights you are going to need that buffer-time to rest up. Take advantage of the lighter weights and knock those out (along with your PUs) as fast as you can; although it may seem short-sighted to sprint, this workout is not about the early rounds as much as it’s about how much time you give yourself once you’re at your heaviest snatch weight.

As usual guys, have fun, if you’re not having fun then you’re missing the point, if you’re not nervous you need to take it more seriously. Find that balance, that’s what CrossFit is all about. Oh and by the way, winning is the most fun, so go do that.


About the author:
Gabriel Perez is the owner of CrossFit North Pasadena in Pasadena, CA. He has owned his affiliate for over 5 years and owns the oldest running CrossFit gym in Pasadena. He has been competing in CrossFit since 2009 and has qualified for Regionals in 2012 and 2013, and finished top 60 in 4 of his past 6 CrossFit Opens.

CrossFit Open 17.2

CrossFit Open WOD 17.2

Ok get all the whining out. “What happened to barbell movements?” “Ugh I hate dumbbells!” “My back is still sore!” “Ugh lunges were used last year!” Ok we all done now? Keep in-mind that nobody has been able to avoid these workouts, we are all in this together and if you are sick of dumbbells, well then many others are as well. But as is usual in competition, whomever accepts and adjusts the quickest, will separate themselves from the pack. So let’s get great at moving that dumbbell with some tips, add some strategy, sprinkle in some sweat, and viola you have yourself a great 17.2!

WOD Strategy

The good news is that this workout is much shorter than last week’s workout. The bad news is that this workout is much shorter than last week’s workout. 12’ is right in the wheelhouse of what we train for, this means we know it’s going to burn, yes we will run out of energy, but not before that familiar lactic acid burn begins to climb up those legs. Push your pace, again twelve minutes goes by surprisingly fast when you are looking to complete a whole round but instead have to spend minutes lunging across the room when you really want to get reps at the dumbbell or PU rig.

DB Movements

Here is the thing with dumbbells, they each have a mind of their own. Unlike a barbell which limits your individual arms into agreement, with DBs both weights must be controlled at the same time. So let’s chat about how we can control these bad boys.

Power Cleans
These may be called DB Power Cleans, but in case you didn’t notice, they look a whole lot like swings. Think “swing” on the way up, and reverse swing on the way down. This goes great with the front head of the DB touching the ground (that’s the standard btw) and goes nicely with the DBs having to rest on the shoulders with one head behind/on your shoulder (again this is a standard). Also notice that the workout demands 8x Power Clean, but mostly people in their exhaustion will foolishly do 8x Power Cleans, only to drop the weight, and then do a 9th Power Clean to begin their walking lunges. So plan your breaks, do 7 reps, take a breather, then do your 8th power clean to begin your lunges.

Walking Lunge
The dumbbell has an interesting design to it, you see it has a weight on both ends, and a thinner grip bar in the middle, said-design happens to fit perfectly on the shoulder (with one head in front and one behind) so let’s use that design and put them on your shoulders, this means when you are lunging that weight is making as much contact with your body as possible (by rules you have to keep your hands on the DB) but allow your actual shoulders to support that weight as much as possible. Working hard is great, so is working smart; well hot-damn let’s do both shall we?

Pull-Up Rig
At this rig right many people will turn to mush. They will get over excited when the Toes-To-Bar come along, “Oh hey I can do these, watch this,” don’t be that guy. Understand the TTB are meant to do one thing and one thing only, exhaust your trunk before you have to kip for all you’re worth. People need to break these TTB into small pieces because when the actual kipping needs to happen (B-MU or PU) then you will still have some explosive core flexion available. Maybe 32 TTB isn’t big deal to you, but for most, after doing 32 reps of TTB those kips are going to be weaker.

As usual guys, have fun, if you’re not having fun then you’re missing the point, if you’re not nervous you need to take it more seriously. Find that balance, that’s what CrossFit is all about. Oh and by the way, winning is the most fun, so go do that.


About the author:
Gabriel Perez is the owner of CrossFit North Pasadena in Pasadena, CA. He has owned his affiliate for over 5 years and owns the oldest running CrossFit gym in Pasadena. He has been competing in CrossFit since 2009 and has qualified for Regionals in 2012 and 2013, and finished top 60 in 4 of his past 6 CrossFit Opens.

The 2017 CrossFit Open

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On February 23rd the 2017 CrossFit Open begins. For five weeks, every Thursday night at 5PM, CrossFit Headquarters will release a WOD online and CrossFitters around the world will complete it at their respective boxes, submit their score and see how they measure up. What are they measuring up against you may wonder? Well on the grand-scale, some want to see how they rank in the world. Others will try their hand at ranking within their region (SoCal, NorCal, Northeast, etc). IF an individual ranks among the top 35 men or 35 women in their region, well hot dog, they get to go play at the Regionals! Once at the Regionals, the top five males and females go to the 2017 CrossFit Games (the stuff you see on ESPN.) It should go without saying that this worldwide event is a huge deal in the CrossFit community and is what many consider to be CrossFit’s version of the Playoffs.

Now let’s allow reality to sink in for a bit and take three giant steps backwards.

No we won’t be sending anybody to the CrossFit Games. Fingers crossed, we may send an athlete or two to the California Regionals someday. However, most athletes (approximately 98% of those trying out for the Open) won’t even make it past the Open. You heard correctly, on February 23rd around 7,000 men and women in Southern California will begin the Open with high hopes; and around 6,930 will end their season with disappointment.
So why even try? What’s the point? If I can’t win, well poo on that, I ain’t playin!
In order to truly understand the idea behind the CrossFit Open we need to dig deep and understand the meaning behind CrossFit as a whole. Ask yourself how many times you’ve looked across the box during a WOD and seen somebody lifting a heavier weight than you; did that stop you? Did you drop your bar and say “Well if I can’t lift what they’re lifting then I quit.”? Probably not. You didn’t quit because you understand that what really matters is YOUR personal improvement. What matters deep down is embracing the challenge. Maybe you’re lifting a lighter weight than that other girl, but you’re lifting a heavier weight than you did last month and that’s what matters. The truth is, we don’t CrossFit to beat everybody’s WOD times, because let’s be real, there is always somebody better and that would be a long path of disappointment. We CrossFit because we like to see ourselves improve. We love knowing that running around the block doesn’t leave us in a sweaty heap on the floor anymore. We get satisfaction in knowing that those size 10 jeans don’t fit anymore because they’re too big, which beats the OPPOSITE reason they weren’t fitting a couple of months prior. We thrive on the feeling of accomplishment.

Now lets bring it back home to the CrossFit Open.
Why would you participate in a huge event like the CrossFit Open? Because you can! We are in the sport of challenging ourselves folks, and here is the ultimate gauntlet being thrown down at your feet. Do you have what it takes? Not to make it to the Games, we don’t care about that. Do you have what it takes to stick with this Open for five weeks and give it your all? Heck if you get curious, you can look up how you rank among all the other 37 year old men in SoCal if you really want, but in reality this is an opportunity to take on a worldwide challenge, and stick it through to the end. For five weeks you will be a part of something much larger than yourself. You will be suffering, overcoming, and doing incredible things that you never thought possible. For these five weeks you will see what it feels like to be a part of the CrossFit community in its entirety. In addition to this personal challenge, by competing under the CFNP name you will be contributing to CrossFit North Pasadena’s ranking as a team in Southern California. So we can even see how our gym ranks amongst all of our peers!

Now as a preemptive move I have created some excuses and smashed them; enjoy.
1. I don’t have time for this (ain’t nobody got time for that!)
A. The CFNP Saturday WOD will always be that week’s Open WOD. So you will end up doing it as a WOD anyways, why not make it matter?
2. I dont have the money for this.
A. It costs $20 and extends over a 5 week period; I think we can all spare $4/week.
3. I don’t want to get embarrassed online when people see my score.
A. There will be around 8,000 people in Southern California, and over 300,000 people worldwide submitting scores; you really think somebody’s going to search for YOUR name and laugh?
4. I don’t know how to register
A. Copy and paste the link below, follow the instructions, and don’t forget to register under CrossFit North Pasadena.
https://games.crossfit.com/
I apologize for such a long post guys, it was meant to inform, inspire, and make you laugh. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing how many people we can get to register for this awesome worldwide event!

The Pyramid of Fitness

The Pyramid of Fitness

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If you take a look at the image above you will see the “Pyramid of Fitness” as defined by the CrossFit community. Pretty simple in theory, but it can get quite complicated in application. First we will take a look at why it is structured the way it is; then, what people have done to try and change it (which never works);

  1. The Structure

Quick architectural lesson: a pyramid’s stability comes from it’s base. Thus making the base the most important aspect of the structure; no base, no pyramid. The larger the base, the more stable the pyramid can be built. If you were to attempt a pyramid with a small base and larger second and third levels, well that would collapse.

Taking a look at this pyramid we see that if an athlete is eating doritos everyday although a pyramid can be built, it won’t be very stable one since the athlete is running on poor nutrition and that is the base. Skipping up the structure we see that before an athlete has any business doing heavy back squats they first must show the gymnastic ability of an air squat (aka: mobility). Furthermore, if an athlete wants to compete in a competition, “sport,” then we definitely need to establish if their conditioning is up to par for such a test. You see the order of these pyramid levels is not chosen at random. Each step requires a proficiency in the preceding step, lest the pyramid structure become unstable as it is built vertically. Men much more experienced than myself (Greg Glassman) were able to not only hypothesize this pyramid, but also observe it in application, noting where an athlete’s fitness begins to shake and collapse (weaknesses in the structure).

  1. The Pyramid Gets a Facelift

Amateur Coach- “Why did my athlete run out of gas after their first CrossFit workout? They are SO strong!”
Experienced Coach- “Well what is their conditioning like? Or even more so, what are they eating on a daily basis?”

Amateur Coach- “My athlete can overhead squat 300lbs, how can they burnout after 20 overhead squats at 95lbs!?”
Experienced Coach- “Well how long can they hold a handstand?”

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You see the pyramid is not a challenge, it’s not a dare, it’s a mere fact. A fact that cannot be fooled. I have been caught trying to cheat the pyramid myself. I can compete in sport. I can perform in weightlifting. However I have been guilty of ignoring a specific gymnastic movement, the pistol squat. Guess what has been programmed at every single Regionals event I have ever competed in? The pistol squat. You cannot outthink the pyramid, all you can do is respect it, and work on the areas in proper order. This does not go to say that you should not work on weightlifting before you eat perfect, nor should you neglect sport before you start conditioning. However it is important as an athlete to always take a look at the pyramid and check your overall progress.

So what has gone wrong? A running theme that I tend to find in all things fitness, is that brilliant minds spend years creating a program, they meticulously place each theory through tests; pages and pages of research, whiteboard sessions, debates and discussions. Finally, these brilliant minds publish or make public their findings, people all around the fitness community “Oooh and Aaaah” at it’s brilliance. They share it with their friends, they try it themselves, they get the results and fall in love with it. Then… these same people who were just amazed a second ago decide, “Hey you know what I’m gonna do? Ignore all that mumbo-jumbo and tweak it a little bit. Sure those scientists did months and years of research, but my system works a little different.”  They decide that if they weightlift enough, well then that pyramid doesn’t really apply anymore and they decide general conditioning is not necessary. A person decides to begin running as their sport. So they decide that because they now run so much, they can burn off the poor nutrition. Another one I’ve heard was actually made by a weightlifting coach and it made me cringe. They said “Well when you start weightlifting you can eat whatever you want.” Oh is that right? You mean you’re going to have the athletes under your care, hitting up McDonald’s as a treat because they did a lot of back squats and power cleans that day? Or that intense CrossFitter that openly says, “Yeah I can do great in typical CrossFit WODs but don’t’ make me run, I don’t waste my time with running.” Oh so you can move your body every which way with and without weights on your back, but dare we ask you to propel your own body forward for 200m and you’re gonna sit that out? Do you see how silly these things are to say? To tell your athletes to skip on the FOUNDATION of the pyramid because they’re lifting so well? To encourage them to ignore conditioning when they are preparing for a competition (sport)? Most importantly please know that I am writing this from a position below you, for I have broken every rule of the fitness pyramid on my own, several times over, throughout the past decade. I was guilty of saying I didn’t need to lift weights as often, because gymnastics were “my thing,” I got smashed for that in the 2012 SoCal Regionals when a WOD called for Hang Power Cleans at my 1 rep max. I was that guy that said, “Well I’m doing two WODs a day, so I need the extra calories of that burger.” Let me give you a little spoiler alert, that shortcut around the pyramid, won’t work. I’m sorry to say it, but once again, the simple principles win again, the day-in, day-out weightlifting program will get you stronger, so stop trying to speed up that process and get to “sport.” That plate of veggies, yeah that boring plate of food, sorry to say it but that is going to get you closer to that size 6 before doing three workouts today. Believe me I’ve tried to get to a size 6 by doing sit ups and it just won’t work (just kidding).

As CrossFit athletes we have to always remember that the reason CrossFit works so well is because it doesn’t simply focus on one area of athleticism it focuses on all aspects. CrossFit as a program is a strength and conditioning program designed to create the most POWERFUL athlete possible, that means for every bit of speed you have, strength needs to be right there with it; and for every bit of agility you create, it must be fueled by proper nutrition and conditioning. We as CrossFitters openly steal from the best in their field: track and field we will steal your 400m run, but leave the pole vault. Olympic weightlifters we will take your lifts, but leave a few of those sport-specific rules. Gymnasts thank you for the handstand, but that iron-cross is gonna be put on that backshelf for a while. CrossFit succeeds as a program because we train to not win at anything,but be good at everything, knowing that the specialist in anything will get destroyed in their non-specialty. We specialize in NOT specializing, being prepared for anything, knowing that the stronger pyramid we have built, the more things we can take on and be prepared for.

Challenge to the Reader:

And now I leave you, the reader, with a challenge. To ignore the glitz and glamour promised on social media. To ignore that person that discovered a shortcut. To stay true to the journey in front of you. To check yourself against this pyramid. To strive for improvement. To learn new movements and master old ones, but never forget what your fitness is built upon, because as strong as you may become in the weightroom, can never outlast the foundation upon which that strength is built.

Why the Pain Cave is Your Best Friend and Why Nobody Cares About Your Calories

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“Why the pain-cave is your best friend and why nobody cares about your calories”

Thesis: The pain cave is that moment of burning exhaustion. It’s when nothing specific is burning, but everything is aching. The pain cave is when you begin letting out those grunts you didn’t know you had, those sweat angels you didn’t know existed, and those selective words you didn’t know you knew. The pain cave is a fun term we use in CrossFit to explain the burn we have all experienced and survived. The lactic acid building in your legs, the pressure building up in your lungs. What builds camaraderie is not that we have all experienced the pain cave, it’s that we have all overcome those moments of doubt, and await one another across the finish line. What else can we find inside this pain cave? The magic pill to leaning out. The magic pill that everybody will spend hundreds of dollars on, is actually readily available to anybody willing to walk into the pain cave. It’s sitting there, right in front of you, but you have to be willing to suffer a bit, you have to endure that burn. Does it get easier? Absolutely not, you simply get better. Once you have it, does it stay with you? Nope, these benefits are on lease, and rent is due every single day. So how do we get to this pain cave? Well I’m glad you asked…

First we will need to agree on one unavoidable aspect of human nature, that we love to be comfortable whenever possible. Frankly, anytime it comes down to choosing between two activities of any kind (especially workouts), we will naturally desire the easier of the two; the path of least resistance if you will. As a result, we have become master negotiators (with ourselves) to fight on behalf of the easier option through any number of mind tricks. So where have these compromises embedded themselves? Why calorie-count of course 🙂

We have learned to embrace long, sweaty but ineffective, calorie-burning sessions as the end-all, and  an unfortunate amount of people strive for this grinding-style workout. Are long brutal workouts uncomfortable? Sure they are, but ask yourself this question: “Would I rather do a 40′ long slow jog around the rose bowl or a 15′ interval workout consisting of 20-second all out sprints? Remember the path of least resistance? We can already imagine the discomfort of a 20-second sprint repeated over and over again, never mind that it’ll take less than half the time, most would choose the 40′ workout, avoiding that pain cave, and never reaching that much coveted “magic pill.”

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In a study using active women, Group A was put on an endurance cycling program working at 60% intensity for 40′, while Group B was put on high intensity cycling sprints working at 100% intensity for 20′ utilizing 8-second all out sprints followed by 12-second rests. Both groups burned the same amount of calories. Group A lost 0% body fat. Group B lost 11% body fat. Yet what does society say to this?

“Oh well they must have good genetics.” Or “OMG girl like what are you taking? Is it that new chia seed found in the foothills of Brazil?” Or “Dude….steroids.” But the truth of the matter is that study after study continues to show that in the “game of fat-burning,” intensity is king and there is no close second place. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) not only utilizes all three types of muscle fibers in our body (all of which serve vital purposes), all three metabolic pathways (all of which serve vital purposes), BUT most importantly, has a profound hormonal effect on the body. During HIIT the body produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which is essentially the high-octane fuel that builds muscle and burns fat. Let’s put it this way, many times when professional athletes are busted for using performance-enhancing drugs, it’s often times steroids or….HGH. Imagine that, the very thing that these million-dollar athletes are spending thousands of dollars on to cheat with, is the same thing that lies within the pain-cave, FREE to all that choose to work for it.

Now get ready for the one-two punch that successfully keeps our society unhealthy and overweight, not only are they told to burn more calories in slow workouts, but then they are told to cut back their calories! Now we are setting up for quite the beautiful disaster. We have people deciding to skip meals and cut back calories (causing fatigue) then putting themselves through a 40’ workout that doesn’t burn any fat!

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Man, if only there were a workout regimen that understood HIIT training, and managed to keep it constantly changing, and fun. If only there were a philosophy of training that had the word “intensity” in the actual definition, yeah those people would get it.

“CrossFit – Constantly varied, functional movements, operating at high intensity”

CrossFit North Pasadena is dedicated to the prescription of CrossFit. I have never boasted on my accomplishments of making it to the Regionals level, but instead I have always reminded people that I have never focused on Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics training, or Endurance running, rather I have simply done CrossFit to the best of my abilities every day I trained. I have done CrossFit workouts at intensities that I felt would push my growth as an athlete; it has never been about how long my training sessions have been, you’ll never hear me brag about a training session that lasted three hours long, instead, you will hear me brag about how a six minute workout left me on my back gasping for air. Now does this mean that you should never dabble in other training techniques? Absolutely not, I have joined olympic lifters in their session because it’s something new and fun, but it must never be forgotten as the foundation to progress. In short, trust the programming. Is it fancy? Not, you wouldn’t want it to be. I have always said that simple workouts are brutal, there is no place to hide when a workout has two movements in it. All that is left is to push the intensity and enter that pain cave.

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Here is my challenge to the reader. Show up every day. Do the workout that is written on the board, scale what needs to be scaled rather than what you want to change, and enter that pain cave. For in that pain cave your body will begin to change, you will begin noticing your performance will improve, and that magic pill will suddenly become not-so-much magical, as much as it will become a way of life.

The Safe Choice

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“It is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.
The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

If you grew up playing sports then you’ve won games, lost games, and if you’re lucky you may have even experienced the thrill of a championship game or two. There is nothing like competing. The highs, the lows, the thrilling victories, and of course the devastating defeats. Competition has a way of tugging at the heart’s strings. Nothing quite pushes an individual like the possibility of a victory, and nothing freezes a soul like the lurking shadow of defeat. Many people choose to not enter competition for this exact reason, and rightly so, why risk the possibility of that disappointment? Why risk experiencing such a devastating “low” for a miniscule-sized promise of that “high”? That “gray twilight” referred to by Theodore Roosevelt is tempting. It’s so safe and comfortable. Why gamble on those once in a lifetime experiences when you can merely stay safe and steady, not really expecting anything less…or more, you will never fall, you will never slip back, you will never fly.

To dare a mighty thing is a sure way to get a face “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” it is a sure fire way to make errors, get frustrated, and become flustered, however it is in those moments that you tend to learn the most about yourself. You will fail in daring, to guarantee there will be no failure would be a tremendous lie, what can be promised however, is that once you decide to take that step, to take on that challenge, you will become better because of it.

I have participated in the CrossFit Open for the past 5 years (this will be my 6th year). Each year has been a learning experience and I take pride in saying that few have felt the pain of disappointment quite like I have.

In the 2011 CrossFit Open, out of thousands of participants, I missed the 60-cut by 8 spots (68th in SoCal). I still remember to this day walking into the box the day after the rankings were finalized, I looked at one of my coaches and asked, “What should I have done better?” He looked me in the eyes and said, “Well Gabe, I hate to say it but you’re just not good enough yet.” Ouch. The truth can hurt, but again, had I not stepped to that challenge, I would not have been as motivated the following year (in which I did qualify for the 2012 CrossFit Open).

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In the 2014 CrossFit Open, out of even more thousands of participants, I missed the 60-cut by 2 spots (62nd in SoCal). Ouch again. I even emailed Dave Castro (Director of the CrossFit Games) in 2014 and asked if any additional spots would be opened once I saw that a few of the 60 athletes declined to participate in the next stage of competition (Regionals). The reply was a strong “No.” Ouch again. Man oh man wouldn’t it be a safe choice to settle down and simply call it quits. I’d rather not risk getting that burn again, it drove me up the wall when it happened both times. Nights of analyzing the leaderboard. Going through my training. Reorganizing my strengths and weaknesses. The only thing that got me to truly dissect what I was doing, was in feeling that disappointment. Had I always played it safe, well, I’d never have become more mentally tough and proud of little accomplishments along the way.

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So let’s get started with some tough love. YOU, the reader, are not going to make it to the CrossFit Games, should we get more real? YOU the reader, have a .001% of making it to the CrossFit California Super Regionals. Better yet, go buy a powerball ticket, then lose that drawing while you’re at it to really get the hang of this probability game. You are not good enough to beat Ben Smith (current Men’s champion). You are not good enough to beat Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir (current Women’s champion). So when you read about becoming the Fittest in the World please understand that hype is targeted to a very specific niche and (relatively) insignificant group. The Open is a chance for those who have lived in the gray twilight for years, to step into the arena, get a little dirty and grimy, push their limits, find new limits. You will fall, but it is also your chance as an individual to rise. To become a better you. A tougher you. On Thursday 2.25.16 CrossFit.com will release the first of five weekly Open workouts. These workouts will be tough, not so much in their absolute calibre, but in their relative nature. Don’t forget there will be scaled divisions in which you will still be able to compete at your highest level with more manageable weights and movements. You will be competing against your toughest opponent, yourself. The videos on YouTube will taunt you to test your fitness against the world. See if you have what it takes to be the top CrossFitter in your region. In my opinion, that is a surefire way to get people to NOT sign up for the CrossFit Open. Instead do it for yourself, step into the arena, dare to do something great, for even if you fail, it’s better to have failed trying something great than to have played it safe and lived in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

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See you at the Open…

 Register at games.crossfit.com and be sure to sign up for our team!

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CrossFit North Pasadena
3636 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91107
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CrossFit Journal: The Performance-Based Lifestyle Resource
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