CFNP Blog

Location Location Location

*The next series of blogs we release will be themed with the early stages of CFNP. In a time where mega-boxes are popping up, there is no better time to revisit the grassroots beginnings of CrossFit North Pasadena; the early concepts and obstacles, and what it looked like for a 24 year old to chase a passion and allow life to provide the steps along the way.

Part 1 – “Location Location Location”

February 2011

Dad – “Gabriel put the things back into the patio once you’re done with them!”
Gabriel – “Dad why do they all need to go in the patio?! Just put them in the garage!”
Dad – “Put them away right now!”
Gabriel – “Dad I’m just going to have to pull them all out again tomorrow at 6 in the morning!”
Dad – “I don’t care! That’s where they go! This is my house, not a place for your little workout gym!”

This “conversation” occurred at around 11am every single day. Usually in high volume as we yelled and faced off across the backyard pool. We both had a point. My dad likes his house a very specific way, everything has it’s place and there is a place for everything; how could his own son not respect that? I knew that what I was on the verge of building was something great, a CrossFit gym that would someday change lives, how could my own father not respect that? So there we were every other day, bickering over the precious real estate that was our backyard patio. Looking back on it we can all laugh about it, but at the time a major shift was happening. I knew what I was building was something that my dad could not understand. Where he saw a few boxes and barbells for personal training, I saw the first pieces of equipment to a major CrossFit affiliate.

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I didn’t know in which city my gym would be built. I didn’t know what the gym name would be. I didn’t know what colors we would have. I didn’t even know if the plan would work. What I did know was that this was a vision that kept me up at night. “There’s going to be a kids program and there’s going to be wooden lanes for lifting, and there’s going to be benchmark boards, and and and….” The topic gave me goosebumps and raised my heart rate instantly. I knew this was something I was going to do. I knew it was going to be to change lives. Was there going to be money made? Hopefully. But there was not a single financial forecast made nor was there even the faintest idea of a goal for income. I knew that if I followed through with the plan I had, money wasn’t going to be an issue of discussion, good or bad. That’s the goal isn’t it? To be driven by a passion. A passion that burns inside you. The saying of passion getting you out of bed in the morning is so cliche…until you experience it. Until you find yourself working 7 days a week because well the “traditional work week” is just too short for all the things that have to get done. A lot of people use the term “motivated,” as in “I’m motivated so nothing can stop me.” However then that motivation runs into an obstacle, and suddenly things change. Motivation is a mere emotion, and a fleeting one at that. It gets you out of bed in the morning…as long as you’re somewhat rested. Motivation keeps you moving throughout the day…as long as you’re not too exhausted. The scary thing is that obstacles can never be predicted, and sometimes they can make it appear that your vision was absolute nonsense. Now passion…that’s something worth having. Passion drags you by the leg and pulls you out of bed because otherwise you’re mind won’t rest. Passion creates creative solutions that nobody would have seen coming because to not get the task completed would have been equal to losing everything. How did I know this dream for a CrossFit affiliate was a passion and not a motivation? Because before the gym was even open we were experiencing obstacles of having classes. Because I was willing to transform my parents’ backyard into an outdoor/patio CrossFit gym before they even know what that meant. Because at 6am I’d move bikes and chairs out of a patio, only to get yelled at and put them all back at 11am…so that I could do it all again for the “evening class” at 6pm. So it’s a good thing I got through that tough obstacle right? Man oh man that was bad wasn’t it? Not really, because the obstacle returned and in a very very very big way.

August 2011

I was so nervous. Every single landlord had laughed at my proposals. Some 24 year old schmuck wanted to lease their million dollar building with ZERO capital and no history of business. On top of that, I couldn’t afford to pay for the entire building so unorthodox offers were made such as paying for half of the building for the first year and then increasing the following years. I finally gave in and asked my dad to cosign for me, it took a lot of convincing, but he finally gave in and agreed. The offer was accepted. So there we were, signed copy of the lease in-hand, awaiting the real estate agent and landlord to show up, sign away, and off we’d go. The business license application was already set with Pasadena City Hall and expected at this location in 6 weeks. The business cards were already designed and ready to print. The website was up and running.  The grand opening was set for a month down the road, and the pre-registered members were already signed up. Nerves nerves nerves. I had never done anything in leasing real estate so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had already told my current CrossFit gym that I was fleeing the nest and starting my own box. They gave me their blessing and kept me encouraged when the paperwork was taking too long; it’s true, the paperwork had taken an awfully long time. Everybody took notice of it. Between opening of negotiations for this building and to today, the running joke became “Gabe get those keys already,” “Gabe you got those keys yet so we can go workout?” The answer was always no…until today. Today was the day. Over a month of painfully slow responses, but finally here it was, signing day. We waited for over an hour at the door of the building, nobody showed up. I called the real estate agent, no answer. Something wasn’t right. Did I get the appointment day and time wrong? I called over and over again, still nothing. We left, my dad was convinced it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t know what to say. Finally a phone call from the real estate agent, the landlord had gone missing, or out of town, he kinda went between the two reasons. I didn’t know what to say. I had waited for over a month with daily phone calls and emails, and here it came down to the signing day and it was still a “not sure.” The walk of shame was heading back into the gym to tell everybody that it didn’t seem like the deal was going to happen. The grand opening was going to have to be postponed and now I had no idea what city the gym would even be in. I had to begin looking again, from square one. A few days later another gym member told me he got a hold of the landlord (he happened to know him through other business contacts); and he was considering leasing the building for his landscaping company, he would gladly sublease to me. All the visions came rushing back as if they had never left. I wished him luck as I knew how difficult it was for me to even schedule a signing day much less actually get the keys. A few days later, the lease was signed, and the keys were in his hand. Nothing seemed right about it. The speed in which it happened, it wasn’t possible unless things had been in the works for a few weeks prior. He had me come by the building the following week to see the space I would sublease from him. Upon my measuring the area, all the while explaining where certain equipment would be installed, eyes wide and brain moving a mile a minute, he looked at me and said he was planning on opening his own CrossFit facility in that building, and would let me sublease it from him for 50% of what was to be my gym.
I. Was. Devastated.
I’ve never experienced tears of anger and frustration until that day, but I’ll tell you that they’re different. They have a heaviness to them. A warmth to them. As if the very blood boiling inside of you is escaping through your tears, slowly warming your face. I didn’t have a leg to stand on, I was outplayed by an sly experienced businessman, if that’s what you’d wish to call him. The gym had never seemed as far away as that day. It was as if somebody broke into your office and grabbed all your plans for success. I suddenly couldn’t see my visions anymore. What was this gym supposed to look like again? At this point that feeling of motivation ceases to exist. Those clever and inspiring memes on instagram do nothing for you. When you’re left with your own thoughts of disappointment few things can help; however if passion is there, few other things are needed. I scrambled for another location almost on auto-pilot, if there is ever a double-edged sword to my personality it’s that I am able to overlook emotions and see tasks through.

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We found a horribly unpromising coffee shop with a rat infestation and caving ceilings… and I dug in. Spending 16 hours a day cleaning and demolishing, sometimes through tears in my eyes and honest resentment in my heart, but I knew the task had to be done, I knew the older me would be thankful that I pushed through. A few months passed and we had our grand opening. The other box owner had the audacity to call me one day and tell me that my (voided) business license had arrived at his facility, he asked if I wanted to pick it up, I didn’t really have an answer for him. Ironically enough, to this very day, that facility is referenced to as “the old box” and people still talk about it endearingly to this day.

Old Box Before After

The earliest days of CrossFit North Pasadena tested me before I even knew I was to be tested; before the doors were even in existence to be open. Nowadays it seems that there would be a ton of phrases or terms people would say to me to warrant quitting. Some would scratch it off to being bad timing. Others would say it just wasn’t meant to be. My more religious friends may have said God was closing a door and saying no. Finally the business savvy peers would have said the business model was no longer feasible and warranted abandonment. And if they were speaking to a motivated person, they would’ve been right…but they weren’t. To be honest looking back at it, the passion I had (and still have) amazes me as to how much it accomplished. It is almost another entity you can give credit to “Oh that wasn’t me that did that, it was that lunatic Passion that did all that.”

In case you were wondering the other box owner’s name was Tom S. Since a few years back he has abandoned operating a CrossFit facility (go figure) and has since handed it to a far more driven and quality individual. It may seem odd that I am thankful to have run into Tom in such an early stage of CFNP, but since the events that took place with him almost six years ago, it has provided me a very strong image of the type of business man I would never want to be; and for that I am quite grateful.

The earliest days of CFNP may be seen as obstacles to make me stumble, but looking back, they were obstacles to show myself that the passion was genuine. I am proud to say our box began the way it did, with not a big-wig investor in sight, with not a high-quality brand within its walls, and with a passionate gym owner with a few black eyes.

 

A Master’s Focus

Masters Focus

“A Master’s Focus”

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I began sports at the age of six, and am yet to stop competing. For the past twenty-four years I have viewed and treated my body as nothing more than a tool for competition. How fast can I make it go? How much more power can I produce? When I’ve suffered from an injury it’s just a quick repair job and back on the field I went. To say I’ve treated my body roughly is an understatement and I don’t have a single regret about that fact. In the twenty-four years of training sessions and competitions, I have noticed changes in how my body reacts to workouts and recovers from injuries. I no longer am willing to risk an injury for a new heavy lift (ok maybe a little bit), however if I do sense an injury creeping up, I know this is no longer a scenario in which I’ll roll the dice like I used to. Things change, the body you used to have is different than it was four years ago, and (spoiler alert) it will be different all over again in another four years. It is my firm belief that CrossFit has allowed itself to get caught up in the objective competition rather than relative competition. Sure people SAY that it’s “You-vs-You” but what do their actions say? Sure a coach will SAY one thing about scalability, but once the clock is running and the music is playing, what atmosphere does their box exude? Ladies and gentlemen it is a silly observation to make, but here comes Captain Obvious with a fact-drop; no athlete stays at the top, they age, they tire, and they will be faced with a very difficult decision; to continue breaking themselves trying to compete objectively, or to come to terms with basic biology and decide to compete relatively…as a masters athlete. This my friends is the future of CrossFit, the longevity, quality of life, fit life that we maybe didn’t see coming when we were twenty-three years old.

So as a result CFNP has been the first of it’s kind to have a specially tailored and specific class aimed directly at the masters athlete, and we have defined a masters athlete as any athlete over the age of 40. Understand it takes a lot of work to foster a program such as this, we have proudly been working on this program for over two years now and have continued to refine it. At CFNP we know that many “theories” and “promises” float around nonstop, but it takes another level to refine such a program in actions and daily maintenance. Welcome to the CFNP masters program

When taking on masters athletes we need to break the concept down into four major parts:

  1. Injury Prevention
  2. Smarter Training (80% Threshold)
  3. Recovery Recovery and Recovery
  4. Steady Distant Goal

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention requires the mind of a cynic. You always have to assume the worst and work backwards from there. Let’s say you have box jumps today, what can go wrong? Strained calf muscle? Maybe you hit the box because your legs aren’t awake yet? So thinking this way in the most paranoid manner; you better get some warmup hops in, and stretch out those calves extra! Back Squats today? Sounds like some knee pain can start up, quick let’s get the IT band rolled out and even do some lunges to open up the hips. Go a step further? What scares you the most? What is the one injury that could absolutely sideline you? From now on, choose an aspect of that fear and work on small bits and pieces of it during every warmup you do. To be preventive you have to know what is going to be under attack. Get to know your body, no body is the same, therefore a slightly unique warmup should be seen happening around the box before the masters athlete’s workout begins.

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Smarter Training

So how do we workout in this competitive high-energy environment, but also keep the training smart and safe? How do we keep the mileage low on our bodies? How are we expected to keep getting more fit, but have no breakdowns?! The key is to keep our output at a level high enough to improve, but not high enough to wear us down. Remember there are no trophies for doing well on a random Tuesday workout, so keep things in perspective. 80% is where we will live. Particularly in the weightlifting aspect. When it comes to less joint-intensive movements you push as hard as you can. When it comes to burpees, set a record! On running days, run like you stole something! Enjoy pushing yourself when your body feels good. However when it comes to weightlifting, very rarely do we need to go past 80% of our 1RM. Is 80% a strange concept to you? Maybe it’s a bit too much hassle to compute every time you get to the barbell; well we also have a system called “5-rep minimums” which is where the athlete decides the weight on the barbell with the rule in mind, that if it is a weight that they CANNOT do 5-reps in a row, then it is too heavy. You really wanna do Rx today, well can you connect 5x Front Squats with that weight? All this percentage talk seems simple doesn’t it? Push yourself when you can, but never too hard to risk injury; kind of moronically simple if you ask me. HOWEVER, here comes the kicker, what do you do when you see that 20-something year old athlete sliding on a little bit more weight than you? Or what do you do when you feel your form falling apart, but if you finish that final set of three reps you’ll beat that girl across the gym? This is where things tend to go astray. This where the contrast of Objective vs Relative competition comes to life. If you decide to roll the dice and gamble on that one lift, and an injury occurs, you end up in the valley of icing your shoulder/back/ankle/etc for a few days and missing an entire week of training. See how easily that valley can happen? So the plan is perfect, but the execution is dependant on an imperfect people. Too often I see people pushing themselves to an unsafe level, OR I see a masters athlete pushing well-past 80% and they need a friendly reminder. Leave your ego at the door because at a masters level of fitness, that is by far your worst enemy.

Recovery, Recovery, and Recovery

Bodybuilding is a game of breaking down muscle, and then rebuilding it. For teenagers in puberty this rebuilding is a non-issue; it literally happens as soon as they complete working out. Human growth hormone is running through their body at a rate that any adult athlete would be envious of. Then it begins decreasing, sure it sticks around for normal bodily function, but that edge is dulled and before you know it, you are sore from almost every workout. The issue with a masters athlete is that what used to be an equal [breakdown = rebuild] ratio becomes an unbalanced more [breakdown > rebuild] ratio. So what does this mean? Recovery must become more important than training itself. Using the example of the car, what good is it to have a lamborghini if you decide you’re never going to service it enough to keep driving it? A warmup is no longer enough for successful training, a cool down must now become mandatory for yourself. Sleep becomes more important than eating. Recovery is the only thing that will enable the long steady athletic growth we are looking for. It does no good to have three great training days only to not recover enough and rest the remaining four days due to excessive soreness. The foam roller and lacrosse ball must become as familiar as the barbell. The yoga mat must become just as cozy as the squat rack. Recovery is the key factor to prevent almost any valleys in your fitness journey. Here is a great  standard rule of thumb for recovery. Your cool down is always 20’ minus the amount of time you actually trained. This means if you do a super intense 8’ workout, you have earned yourself a 12’ recovery session.

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Steady Distant Goal

As an older athlete (again this is a relative term), our focuses must change or else we get injured. Consider the car analogy again, yes you know how fast your car can go; you could peel out at a red light if you really wanted to…but you don’t do that anymore. It’s not great for the car, it wears out your tires, and overall we now see it as a silly thing. You can get those RPMs to scream if you really wanted to, but we all know to save that for dire moments; in younger years you could get away with it, heck you could have a break down on Monday, and feel great by Wednesday, that is no longer the case. Living life with your engine revving at it’s redline every single day is no longer a wise decision. Learning when to visit that redline and push yourself, that my dear friends is what makes an athlete…a masters athlete. I’ve always told our older athletes that your fitness life is not meant to be peaks and valleys of being super lean and trim vs. being injured and overweight. Your fitness life needs to be a slow and steady climb of fitness, with no valleys (injuries) along the way. The fitness terrain begins to look different, it’s no longer about having a six-pack, it’s about feeling good Monday-Friday, and then using your fitness to do something fun Saturday-Sunday. The brutal truth of the matter is that when we are in our 70’s and 80’s our grandkids aren’t going to care how shredded we were in our 30’s they’re just going to care if grandpa can walk or even jog alongside them when they are riding their big wheel down the driveway.

Conclusion

I don’t care where you are in your fitness journey. I don’t care if you’re in your 30’s and in a valley of injuries, or if you’re in your 50’s and experiencing a peak of fitness. You are either a masters athlete or you are a decade from it and it’s time to acknowledge the changing of the game. If that day hasn’t come, hopefully you’ll see it in the horizon before it hits you, but one day you will need to decide that feeling healthy finally outweighs looking good (disclaimer: when done correctly, you can look good and feel good). One day your motivation will need to go from being the fastest runner, to being able to run every weekend period. The times are a changing, and soon enough, Fitness will be defined as not only who’s still walking, who’s still standing, but rather who is still squatting, who is still deadlifting, and who has been able to stay the course over the long steady goal of being a masters athlete.

Challenge to the Reader

As usual a write up isn’t a write up without a challenge to the reader (yeah that’s you). For starters, identify where you are in your fitness journey and don’t pull any punches. That shoulder ache that has lasted over a year, yeah that’s not going to passively get better. Once you’ve identified where you are, then it’s time to figure out your plan of attack. At CrossFit North Pasadena we have been catering to masters athletes for over two years with specialized programming, private masters classes, and an ever growing knowledge-base of what to expect in the long run of CrossFit and how to navigate that journey. For the remainder of July and all of August we are offering free attendance to our Masters 40+ class for any individuals qualifying as a masters athlete. All we’d ask is for you to email us at info@CrossFitNorthPasadena.com to reserve your spot and provide us with a brief health history.

Pride in Effort

Pride in Effort

Pride in Effort

You won’t hear a sold-out stadium cheering and screaming. There is no announcer narrating each rep as the music blasts over the arena. You won’t see top notch athletes alongside him. There is no camera crew gliding alongside trying to get the best angles of each lift. The equipment he’s using is four years old at-best. If he’s lucky he grabbed one of the good Rogue bars, but he’s scaling today’s WOD, so it’s likely one of the six year old training bars that the owner bought from China when the “box” couldn’t afford much. It’s his lucky day, there is no jumping required in the workout today, so the strained ligaments in his left foot get a rest (he is a master pianist and has been playing concert piano for longer than our CrossFit kids have been alive) so his foot has developed an over-usage injury from hitting the pedal on the piano; often times causing him to modify the workout beyond recognition. However today is his lucky day, no jump ropes, only the Karen workout. He had no idea who Karen was or what it entailed, as usual he simply asks when he arrives at the gym. So on a brisk Wednesday morning at 9am he begins his warmup, it’s the same warm up it’s been for a week, but he’ll still ask for details on how to improve the same movements, every time repeating an “Ohh I see” as he instantly attempts the cue provided to him by the coach. Once the workout is over, as usual, he forgets to look at the clock for his score, frankly he doesn’t care about his time, he just likes finishing the workouts. He just wants to know that he did the movements correctly (as he is usually so insistent on asking mid-exercise). Usually as soon as the workout ends his priority is to go around the room and ask how people did in the WOD, and comment “That workout was an absolute killer.” Larry Evans won’t ever make it to the CrossFit Games. There I said it. You hear that no coach should ever “limit” their athlete’s potential with the word “never”, but to be honest you couldn’t pay the guy to workout in a stadium under the scorching sun, in the middle of July. Instead, every Mon/Wed/Fri morning at 9am you will find Larry working hard at CrossFit North Pasadena. No, Larry won’t ever make it to the Games, he may need another year before he even completes a WOD as prescribed, but regardless every other day you will find the pianist sweating and gasping for air as he tries his best to complete the day’s training. He doesn’t need a packed arena cheering him on, he doesn’t need an announcer narrating what rep he’s on, the camera crew might be a member with their iPhone recording his movements to share with him later, and he definitely wouldn’t want world class athletes around him as he struggles.

But that won’t ever discourage him from pushing his hardest, and for that, the small crowd of 9am athletes (maybe 8 athletes on a high attendance day) slowly surrounds him as he completes his final reps. They cheer him on through the finish line. You would think somebody would be embarrassed when others (that have already finished) surround them and root them on, but CrossFit tends to bring a nice plate of humble pie that we all partake in, and as a result, there is no shame in finishing last, it just means you get the cheers from your fellow teammates. They aren’t world class athletes, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. So why does he get the royal (scaled down) treatment that elite athletes get at the CrossFit Games? Effort. CrossFitters are drawn to the glitz and glamour of top athletes yes, but in most boxes around the world, there are no elite athletes to be found. So if there are no endorsed athletes sitting around, what earns respect in a typical box? I mean we are in the sport of fitness aren’t we? The type of culture that tends to put elite conditioning on a pedestal and worship the almighty six-pack, so why do we find ways to respect one another if more than half of us scale workouts? That simple, short, and incredibly powerful word, Effort.

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There are a few clever maxims around the fitness world that I like, one of which is, “Nobody cares what you got, but everybody cares if you cheated.” Now assuming we are not talking about cheating, the theme is that people don’t care what score you got, they care what it took to get that score. The more you are around the same community the more you learn about one another. On days where pistols are programmed, I already know Ben is going to have to dig deep. On days where deadlifts are programmed I know that Gina and Cheryl are going to have to get a bit uncomfortable. You learn what one another can do, and when they push extra hard, it goes very noticed.

In today’s workout Larry got smashed by the Karen WOD. On the whiteboard his score was very average, but (and I spoke with him later about this) a new grit showed up in him today. He was clenching his teeth and connecting reps like he had never done before, and the other athletes noticed. Larry has nothing to be proud of in objective scoring, he was average at best in the gym’s scoring, and (like most of us) near the bottom in the worldwide spectrum of scores. But in effort and personal abilities Larry earned a ton of respect today, and as he drove away he knew that his effort was both noticed and respected.

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“Pride in Effort” is a concept that took me a very long time to come to terms with. Growing up I played on a football team where effort was loser-talk. You got the job done or else we lost. As a team captain I didn’t care if one of my lineman tried really hard, he needed to get the job done. Oh you have a dislocated finger? I don’t care, get the job done or I’ll grab somebody off the bench to do your job for you. [This actually did happen and I did end up bringing another lineman onto the field that I could depend on.] Don’t give me “try” give me results. Getting into CrossFit was upside down culture shock. The goals changed dramatically, now there was no giant scoreboard that you either won or lost, the score is now how your quality of life can be changed and improved day to day. There is no trophy for winning a workout or hitting a PR, the motivation is much more intrinsic and I love that. In athletics, if you are winning you run out the clock and collect your Win. In CrossFit, if you are ahead of your goal great, now pull away even more and smash your personal best. Effort is a concept that is in no way limited to CrossFit. With some limits of course, most employers when deciding between two employees will almost always fall back on attitude and effort. The great John Wooden will forever be quoted as saying, “Hard work beats talent, when talent isn’t working hard.” This quote is echoed throughout high school and college locker rooms all around the country both before championship games and before daily practices. However, this quote is never more relevant than later in life, when the sea of competition grows exponentially and we see how very rarely we are at a predisposed advantage amongst our peers. At that moment my dear friends, is when effort begins to differentiate the tough from the weak, the gritty from the soft, the excuse makers from the go-getters. That is where you can choose to back down because life’s not fair, or step up because you know every bit of effort can lead you a mile. Sure sometimes you’ll have to scale back a bit, but don’t you ever quit. As the line goes in the Count of Monte Cristo, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you.”

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Challenge to the Reader:

In everything you do. From your 9-5 job, to mowing the lawn, and all the CrossFit stuff that happens in between. What does your effort say? The starting point is one thing, the ending point is another, but the effort that lies between, that’s the good stuff. What does your effort say about you? Can you take pride in that effort? When you sit down to eat a meal, how much effort is going into eating healthy? In everything you do, there is effort, the question is, how much is being put forth. Make each task your masterpiece, and “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”

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!

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