Counting down from 10!

10. Meeting and hanging out with some micro-celebrities. It was pretty fun to meet and chat with some folks that have been putting a lot of media content out this season to cover this year’s lead up to the Games. I got to chat with Marston Sawyers (one half of the Buttery Bros), Julian Marquez, Tommy Marquez (unrelated to Julian), Tommy’s parents, Craig and Jas from Team Richey, and more!

9. Watching Team CrossFit Mayhem catching up and winning the Strongman event by a few steps. The entire event, Mayhem was in second behind CrossFit Krypton, but in the last 10 feet, Mayhem was able to catch up and pass them. Throw a Rich Froning fist pump and triumphant yell at the end, and it was perfect.

8. Reebok Fit Barge. Last year they had the fit barge out on Lake Monona, but it was booked up so fast that I didn’t have a chance to go on. This year I hopped on the waitlist and it didn’t take long for me to get signed up. I was able to do a 9am CrossFit class to start off Games week. We were the first group on the barge and it was a blast! I got paired up with two first-time CrossFitters so I was able to turn on my coaching mode and help them out.

7. Thuri Helgadottir’s clean at 215lbs. This was just the opening weight for the max clean event, but it was the first time I got blown out of my seat from excitement this weekend. Before her lift, we had two athletes fail, and one athlete (Amanda Barnhardt) just power clean it. Thuri missed her first attempt at 215, and on her second attempt, it took her almost 4 whole seconds to stand that bar up after the initial clean. This was just the beginning of the hypetrain for the rest of the event.

6. Alec Smith’s Sprint. Dat boi fast. It was so crazy to watch Team CrossFit Krypton catch up and win each heat. Jessica Griffith has some speed to help catch up, but when Alec Smith took off, it was like watching the boy from The Incredibles zoom around.

5. Introducing our members at CrossFit Citrine to the Sport of CrossFit. About 80 to 90% of our members are first time CrossFitters, so they had zero exposure to the elite competition side of CrossFit. It was so fun to watch them be blown away at what was possible. I saw the fanboy and fangirl spirit start to grow within them. I’m just glad I’m not the only one at the box anymore that geeks out about this stuff.

4. Mary. Who would’ve thought that an AMRAP would be actually be exciting to watch. First, it was awesome to watch Logan Collins fight through a bad calf cramp near the end of his heat and finish strong. I know what that cramp feels like and he recovered way faster than I would have. Second, Kari Pearce beating the other girls AND the guys with the highest score from cranking out strict handstand push-ups! That girl cray. And lastly, the battle between Mat Fraser and Noah Ohlsen to finish the event. Wow, just wow. Congrats to Noah on his first ever event win!

3. Specialty Seminars in the Vendor Pavilion. Like the big ol’ CrossFit nerd that I am, I was stoked to add some more tools to my coaching belt by checking out the different seminars held throughout the week. I was able to soak up information from the Gymnastics Course, CrossFit Kids, Chris Hinshaw from Aerobic Capacity, Mike Burgener from Burgener Strength (formerly CrossFit Weightlifting), and the seminar staff teaching the L2 course. They were all so good. I can’t wait to take the full weekend long courses from each of those! I also got a chance to chat with Stouty about the CrossFit Adaptive course too!

2. Getting my yearly InBody scan at the Games. Sure I could get the body composition scan done at other places, but since 2017 when the Games first came to Madison, they had an Inbody booth in vendor pavilion where they were giving away free scans. I got my first ever one there and learned that I was at about 14% body fat. 2017 Games was the first time I got a real glimpse into CrossFit. By 2018, I was a fanboy and I got the InBody scan again, except this time I went up to 16.8% body fat. CRAP! August 1, 2018 at 3:44pm, after receiving my scan and realizing that what I was doing wasn’t working, I made the decision to commit to CrossFit for at least one year. Fast forward to August 1, 2019, I coincidentally took the scan at 3:28pm, and I dropped down to 12.3% body fat! LET’S FREAKIN GOOOO!

1. Running into familiar faces and long lost friends the entire weekend. First I have to give a shout out to Marty and Reb were my Games mates the entire weekend. They dropped in from Australia at CrossFit Citrine for the whole week of the games and I ended up giving them a ride to the games every day since they stayed right across the street from the box. It was a blast to hangout with them all weekend long. Then I ran into Chris Comma from our coaches mastermind group. It was great to connect with like-minded coaches who are seeking to constantly improve themselves so we can better help our members. Then I ran into friends from high school that I haven’t seen in years and other CrossFit friends like those who got me started on this CrossFit journey. All weekend long, I ran into people who dropped in at the box so it was a ton of fun to keep seeing familiar faces everywhere I looked. It’s what separates this sport apart. It’s the community.

After returning from my Costa Rica trip with the family, I was invited to officially begin coaching at CrossFit Citrine. I’m now coaching four to five classes per week which is a great start to begin my coaching career. Since I’m now coaching by myself, the lessons I’m picking up have increased significantly. WIthout someone to assist or cover any holes in my coaching, I’m learning the do’s and don’ts much faster than I was when interning. And just like if I was starting to ride a bike without training wheels, I’m definitely going to fall a few times.

Here are a few lessons I’ve already picked up from my first few official weeks of coaching:

It’s not just working out, it’s FUNctional fitness. Bring the energy, joy, and excitement. This is the best hour of their day, and it should feel like a place to relieve stress, not create more. For my first solo coaching class ever, I decided to check out the 5:30 am class hosted by Coach David. It was a struggle to wake up that early, but it was well worth it. It was his advice that it’s important to put the FUN in functional fitness.

Admit your mistakes, then adjust. I made the mistake of overestimating distances for a movement when we had to adapt for poor weather which skewed one of the class’ scores. And then I decided to maintain that decision for the following class, because I thought it was more important to keep the scores similar. In hindsight, I should’ve made the adjustment and reduced the distance for the following class. It’s not about the scores, it’s about the desired stimulus that we want for our athletes.

Always be learning. The athlete’s job is to work towards improving so much that they don’t need the coach anymore. The coach’s job is to continuously improve their own knowledge base and skill set so that never happens.

Keep cues simple. Give verbal cues as if you were talking to a 5 year old. The simplest formula is ‘body part + direction.’ Examples: ‘knees out’, ‘butt back’, ‘elbows up’, ‘eyes forward.’

Don’t skip warm-ups even if a member is late. Warm-ups are hugely important. Make sure all athletes go through some kind of warm-up, even if it means cutting out some teaching pieces or cut into their workout if they show up late. It’s on them to make it to class on time, so we need to set the right expectations.

During the whiteboard brief, remember to check in with athletes to see if there are any injuries or sore spots. In one of my classes, I learned a little too late that one of my athletes does additional morning workouts aside from CrossFit class. The workout included deadlifts, and he did deadlifts that morning — which I would have modified had I asked questions earlier and probed a bit more.

Set the right expectations…for EVERYTHING. Usually we set the expectations for movement standards, culture, and attitude, but we also need to remember to set expectations for equipment usage. I had an athlete drop a completely empty bar from overhead 5 feet in front of me. My heart and soul were crushed.

Be prepared for handling ‘front desk’ logistics. Since we don’t have a front desk, I need to be better prepared to receive drop-in’s and getting waivers filled out. I always forget to ask for waivers for athletes’ guests.

Learn everyone’s story. It’s important to understand why each member shows up. Is it to get fitter? Look better in a bathing suit? To be around longer for their grandkids? To be around good people? Knowing what makes them tick will help you connect with each athlete. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Speak to the average skill level of the class. If the class has an average intermediate skill level, then you can focus a bit more on the advanced techniques, then have side conversations for the beginners or advanced athletes. Don’t get caught spending too much time explaining modifications for one beginner if the rest of the class is a bit more advanced. And vice versa.

Inspect equipment regularly for defects or malfunctions. There was a resistance band that snapped during class. These things will happen, but make sure to mitigate it by routinely checking items.

Coaches need coaches. It’s not enough to just pass seminars or get certificates. Just like in other industries or aspects of life, a mentor is needed for continual growth. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, so learn from others that have already walked the path.

Learn by observing other classes. You don’t have to always be coaching or participating in a class. I learned how to scale for a 60+ year old grandpa with Fibromyalgia by just observing.

Youth doesn’t translate to higher fitness level. I had a 15-year-old that I had the mistake of assuming he had greater capacity, but moved similarly to a deconditioned 40-year-old.

Use the warm-up to assess fitness capacity and movement mechanics. This was useful for the above scenario of testing a new athlete, regardless of age.

Get your reps in. Just like with anything that we’re trying to improve in, experience is important. It’s hard to become a great coach if you only do 1 or 2 classes per week.

Don’t assume fitness levels for new athletes. Regardless of how ‘fit’ they look, gauge their movement and ability during the warm-up sections.

Take advantage of small class sizes. When a one-on-one teaching situation is available (class of 1 or 2 people), feel free to use the time to dial in the mechanics. I was able to get into squat therapy with an athlete, because of the class size.

For 95% of the time, first timers should be scaling. We had one of the largest classes to date with 4 new athletes as guests, but I completely forgot that just because they ‘look’ more in-shape that the rest of the room, it doesn’t mean they have the capacity or skill to do well in the workout. I was too overwhelmed with the class logistics due to class size that I completely forgot to scale movements/load for those athletes.

Have a watch that can function as both a stopwatch and clock. When the gym clock is used for a clock, use your stopwatch to keep track of time during warm-ups or timed portions. When the WOD is happening, use the watch to keep the class flowing as to not bleed into the other class time.

Triage movement cues. Be wary of overwhelming the athlete with too many cues in one day. Unless it’s a dangerous position under load, get them to focus on one correction at a time. Give positive feedback on the correction, even if other faults are present. Some athletes that receive multiple cues may feel like a failure.

Remember to teach the setup position for warm-up movements. Reinforce points of performance for these movements as well.

Prior to class, set up the room to accommodate modifications. Usually the room will already address the WOD movements, however the choice of modification varies between coaches. Ex. Getting boxes or bands in place for pull-up modifications. This will speed up set up times during class.

Water breaks! Athletes need transition triggers and time to hydrate. Usually after general warm-up and before the WOD.

Volume control on background music needs to be adjusted for different sections of class. Quieter during teaching portions especially. And pump up the volume during the wod!

Some athletes may require direction to skip the workout today and just do mobility. Ex. An athlete came in that’s been having a nagging knee injury for over a week, but has come to class consecutively for the last 3 days. Although they’ve been doing modifications, it’s necessary to restate the importance of rest, recovery, and mobility.

Make deposits into the athlete-coach relationship account. In the large class size, I quickly remembered 4 new names and was able to give positive feedback with their names. It’s better than just saying generic pronouns. People feel a stronger sense of accomplishment and recognition when they hear their name.

After I got my CrossFit Level One certificate, I immediately dove into getting hands-on experience by doing some co-coaching with the coaches at CrossFit Citrine. Each CrossFit class can be seen as 5 different pieces:

  • Whiteboard Briefing
  • General Warm-Up
  • Movement Teaching & Specific Warm-Up
  • WOD (Workout of the Day)
    • Strength (2-3 times a week)
    • Metcon
  • Wrap Up / Cool Down / Scoring

For the most of June, I was able to lead a piece or two for each class I was assisting in. At the end of the day, I would reflect and journal at least one lesson I learned that would improve my coaching ability. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

Say less, be clear and concise. When I did the whiteboard briefing and talked in circles. Explaining a lot during the whiteboard brief is unnecessary. As coaches, we’re not here to show off how much we know. Be quick and clear, so we can get the athletes moving right away. It’s about them, not us.

Come to class prepared to be able to teach the movement to someone with zero fitness background. During my first time teaching a movement, and I had no clue how to explain the box jump in simple instructions to an athlete that’s never seen them before.

When a prescribed movement leans towards high skill and less GPP (General Physical Preparedness) focused, modify to a GPP variation. Example: Hang Squat Snatch modified to Hang Power Snatch with an Overhead Squat. Athletes looking to compete in CrossFit can still do the Hang Squat Snatch.

Instructions need to be short and actionable. Don’t ‘suggest’ to the new athletes, direct and tell them what to do. This is necessary for the new athletes that may get overwhelmed with all the modification/scaling options. Many look to the coach for specific directions and guidance.

Teaching movements means reinforcing the points of performance. Only teach strategy for intermediate/advanced athletes after proper mechanics are visible. I realized that teaching strategy to new athletes just overwhelms and confuses them even more and can introduce bad habits or bad technique in the WOD.

Also know how to teach the warm-up movements. Don’t assume that everyone has a small background of fitness knowledge. I need to be able to know how to teach warm-up movements just as well as teach WOD movements.

Plan scaling modifications before class. When reviewing the lesson plans, think about scaling options for athletes in class. Not only do we have constantly varied movements, we also want constantly varied modifications. Ex. If an athlete always does ring rows for pull-up modifications, switch to jumping pull ups.

As with many weight loss stories, there tends to be a period where we may or may not gain some of that weight back. For some, it’s a complete 180 degree turn and they gain it all back due to many reasons: lack of sustainability, lack of continuing motivation, traumatic event, poorly developed habits, or pizza. For me, it was a gradual gain of weight over the span of 3 years after losing 75 pounds. But first here’s a recap of my weight loss story.

July 2014, my starting weight was 210 lbs. After my post graduation trip, I gave up alcohol for 90 days straight. Lost about 20 lbs from removing alcohol and the accompanying late night foods that normally followed.

October 2014, I started P90 with Jay Flores as my coach. Went from 188 to 164.

February 2015, I completely give up alcohol FOREVER.

April 2015, I start 21 Day Fix Extreme. Finished around 154 lbs.

May 2015, I run my first OCR – Spartan Stadium Race at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

June 2015, I start P90X3. Even though it was a 90 day program, I think it took me about 4 months, because I had to repeat a few weeks from skipping workouts.

September 2015, I hit my leanest weight at 134 lbs.

By the end of 2015, I had run 3 OCR races.

In 2016, I had run 8 OCR races.

In 2017, I did 15 races and had a perfect season — all races with 100% obstacle completion. I also qualified and raced at Obstacle Course Racing World Championship in Canada.

In 2018, I did 3 races, and began doing CrossFit in August.

April 2019, I’m weighing in at 169.2 lbs.

My weight gain story isn’t as dramatic as others’, but it’s one of the most relatable. We gain a few pounds here and there and we think nothing of it. We tell ourselves, “it’s just water weight” or “I had a big meal this weekend, that’s all.” Pants get a little tighter, shirts a little more snug, but we don’t mind it too much. Then one day, we get tagged in a photo on Facebook, and it’s like WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED.

I mean I definitely noticed that I was gaining weight each time I stepped on the scale. My friends and I even have an accountability group where we check in on each other to make sure we’re eating healthy and working out, so I thought I was doing the right thing. For the last year, I tried to lean out, but my lack of consistency meant that I would also have a lack of results. I knew I was putting on muscle from doing more heavy weight lifting due to CrossFit, but at the same time, I also knew that my body fat was increasing too. I didn’t want to be another one of those guys that say, “it’s bulking season” but really, they’re just giving themselves an excuse for their current state. I would always look at them and think in my head “well I didn’t know bulking season lasted all year.” But now I’m the person in the mirror I’m saying it to.

So what was the trigger for me to kickstart this new run to lean out? After I started going to classes at CrossFit Citrine and developed that desire to want to become a coach, it clicked.

Previously, I lost weight to prove to myself that I could do it. This time, it’s to prove to others that they can do it.

Like most gyms or group based fitness, there’s the committed athletes and then there are those who are trying, but don’t fully believe either in themselves or the process. There are hundreds of books written to help someone believe in themselves, and usually it’s something that is developed intrinsically. But to develop belief in the process, one of two things needs to happen.

  1. They see the results of the process for themselves.
  2. They see the results of the process for others.

Since I can’t control the actions of other people, I decided to focus on what I can control.

And so, I set myself up similar to how I had done it in the past.

  • I took my before pictures.
  • I set up my accountability system with my friends.
  • I decided my workout routine: one hour afternoon class at CrossFit Citrine, 5 days a week with Thursday and Sunday as rest days.
  • I had coaches to help guide me to make sure I was moving well and showing up.
  • I decided to retake control of my eating habits by following a Renaissance Periodization Diet Template — to simplify it, I just ate whole unprocessed foods for 80-90% of the time (eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no added sugar).
  • I established how long I would strictly adhere to this: 12 weeks (just under 90 days).
  • And most importantly, I had a strong why: to prove to the athletes at CrossFit Citrine that if you CONSISTENTLY eat well and just show up to class 3 to 5 times a week for 1 hour, the results will follow in time.

Like many, I sit at a desk when I work. If you have just one hour of your day to workout, that’s enough. And you don’t have to be 100% perfect when eating, but you have to at least try to eat well for 80% of the time. The goal is to keep it as simple as possible so you can be consistent in showing up. Consistency is key.

I also wanted to do something that was sustainable so I don’t get burnt out which happened to me during my OCR career. I got bored of the workouts and so when my routine of exercising was broken, all the good habits that accompanied it also dwindled. It’s important that once you get the momentum going, you only need to add small pushes to keep the wheel turning. And just because these 12 weeks are over doesn’t mean I’m going to throw all these good habits away. I’m here to play the long game.

Starting April 9, 2019 and “finishing” July 2, 2019, I have gone from 169.2 to 158.0. My pants aren’t as tight anymore. My energy levels are higher. My eating habits are in check. My shirts aren’t as snug. Performance in the gym has noticeably increased. And my hair is shorter.

To end this post, I’m going to leave you with a graph, because who doesn’t like graphs.

Image result for the plateau of latent potential
We often expect progress to be linear. At the very least, we hope it will come quickly. In reality, the results of our efforts are often delayed. It is not until months or years later that we realize the true value of the previous work we have done. This can result in a “valley of disappointment” where people feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results. However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored. It is not until much later that the full value of previous efforts is revealed. – from Atomic Habits

Recently I’ve been neck deep in the vast world of becoming a CrossFit coach. It’s a completely different life from my current profession of software engineer. This venture has been in the works for quite some time even though I didn’t know it at the time. Ever since I initially lost 75 pounds in 2015, I’ve had friends and family always asking for advice or help on the subject. Of course I could only share my experiences and talk about my process. Then I let them do their own research and make their own decisions on what best fit them.

From just pointing people in the right direction to different reference guides, coaches, and books, I’ve seen so many of my friends transform their lifestyle and healthy habits. For some, it was just enough to show people that something was possible gave them all the motivation and inspiration they needed to make a decision to change their habits.

In the past, I’ve always been in the space of teaching and mentoring, even as a kid. Once I had my black belt in Tae Kwon Do at around 8 years old, I was helping the instructor lead the class. When I was in 5th grade, I was a safety cadet assigned to assist the teacher in the kindergarten classes. In high school, I mentored the underclassmen in computer science classes, and I was captain of the chess team. In college, I was a student assistant where I helped lead the discussion section of calculus classes, and I was president of a student organization. After college, I had to help manage interns on projects for work, build and lead a team in my nutrigenomics business, and had speaking engagements in rooms of over three hundred attendees.

Having grown up with two parents who both are high school teachers, leaders in their communities, and business owners, I often found myself in a position of teaching and mentorship. But why did I decide to specifically become a coach in the fitness space?

In one of my recent trips this year, I found myself in a globo gym to workout while I was on the road. Like most globo gyms, it’s filled with machines where it’s pretty self guided with nice little instructional stickers attached to them. However, equipment like the squat rack requires some prior knowledge. As I was doing my squats, a nice elderly couple approached me, and the gentleman asked if he could try, pointing at the barbell. I took a quick look at him and then my barbell which had about 155ish pounds on the bar. I could tell he was a deconditioned person (someone who hasn’t physical exerted themself in awhile) and so I took off a pair of plates off the bar. And then I looked at the way he walked and his posture, and so I chose to remove the rest of the plates and empty the bar. But then as soon as he positioned himself under the bar, I knew right away, that maybe we should just try an air squat, and so I moved him towards a wall where I could teach him basic squat mechanics.

Here was a man who was maybe in his mid 50s, but moved like he was in his 70s. We’re in an environment where most people have their heads down, headphones on, and judgement written all over the faces. The personal trainers there aren’t actively going around assisting people either — they’re only going to be training others when they’re on the clock with a client. It bothers me that the standard commercial gym is the first choice that comes to mind when people want to start becoming physically active, yet is not set up for the average person to succeed. Just imagine how intimidating the globo gym is with this massive sea of machines and equipment. Then you look towards the dumbbell and free weights section where you’ll have the young and lean bodybuilders doing their sets in front of the mirror.

Even the people who regularly show up to the gym may see very little progress. They’re the ones who rotate from machine to machine to do a few reps, and then maybe hop on the treadmill or elliptical to get their “cardio” in while taking breaks so they can snap pics to prove to people that they made it to the gym. I commend them for at least trying to get healthier. They’re trying to make a positive change in their life. They’re trying to develop new and better habits. They’re trying the best way they know how.

These are the two populations that I so desperately want to help: the deconditioned person who hasn’t physically exerted themself in 20+ years, and the athlete who is trying to develop a healthy lifestyle, but just doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. The reason that these two populations are the ones that stand out to me the most is because they are my parents and many of my friends who “have tried everything” but just can’t seem to find progress. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen my parents “commit” to going to the gym only to stop going after the second session — and I definitely know for a fact that they have no idea what to do when they get there.

This is another reason why I love CrossFit so much. It’s funny to think that when most people hear CrossFit, they picture what they see at the CrossFit Games. People throwing around 300 lbs on the barbell and doing high skill movements like ring muscle ups. Or they think “injuries”. First of all, in CrossFit, we believe it is important to teach mechanics first, followed by consistency, then and only then intensity; injuries occur when ego gets in the way. What’s more dangerous than getting injured from being physically active? Sitting on your butt and watching Netflix will lead you to your death much faster than working out ever will.

Walk into a CrossFit box and what you’ll actually see is people of all skill levels and ages, working at an intensity relative to their physical and psychological tolerances, modifying their movements to best fit their capabilities, an engaged coach that can provide attention and corrections to help the athletes move better, and most importantly, having fun in a supportive and welcoming community. This isn’t even exclusive to CrossFit; I’d recommend going to any group class based fitness regimen (unless you’re allergic to people or thrive in a one on one environment).

After that experience with the elderly couple in the globo gym, I knew that I not only wanted but needed to become a CrossFit trainer so I can do my part in helping people “kick ass in their 90s” as Ben Bergeron would say.

During my time solo training and self teaching stint, one of the resources I used was the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide. Usually that guide would only be read if you had plans on getting your CrossFit Level One Certificate (CF-L1), but I found it very enlightening and useful to correcting my movement mechanics and technique. It “pulled back the curtain” for me on what fitness really means and why the CrossFit methodology was created. After learning that, I officially joined the cult.

I also had started listening to different CrossFit related podcasts; one of them is Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron, coach to many games championships and creator of CompTrain. On the podcast, he talked about how he had transitioned from working a typical corporate job to now thriving not only as a CrossFit coach, but business owner, father, and husband. In one of his episodes, he mentioned how he would transition into coaching in this day and age. Instead of just getting your L1, and then applying to different coaching positions and random gyms — he said his recommendation would be to explore and actually become a member at a gym to find the coaching culture that fits you.

Not only do the coaches and owners of that gym get a chance to get to know you, but you also get to know them. It’s important to find a place where your core values are in line with theirs — otherwise coaching will become more of a job or meaningless task than a passion. When I got injured and was looking for a box to train, I was also looking for a place to grow as a person. I don’t know if it’s the universe or the power of law of attraction, but when I looking at different CrossFit gyms near me, I saw that CrossFit Citrine was having their grand opening soon. I remember seeing the hashtags on one of their Instagram posts: #BuiltByBergeron and #HappyHumbleHungry (Ben’s mantra/mission statement for his gym). I immediately got the chills and said “no way”.

It didn’t take me long to realize that CrossFit Citrine was the place of growth that I was looking for. While I was “just a member” at the gym, I intentionally observed what and how they taught the class, how they interacted with each athlete, and how the modified certain movements for each athlete. I kept taking mental notes on coaching long before I even started studying for the L1. It helped me tremendously when I was restudying the training guide, because I could see how I could apply what I was reading in the class setting.

I went to the seminar on June 1-2nd, cancelling my trip to the Granite Games where I was supposed to volunteer for the event, and I received my email saying that I passed the exam the Friday afterwards. Now I’m in the process of shadowing & co-coaching where I’m learning TONS from my experience in all the classes. Getting the L1 was the bare minimum, now is where the real growth and learning begins. I’m so grateful and appreciative to all of my past experiences that have led me to this new path. And immense gratitude to Ashlynn and Billie Buss of CrossFit Citrine for leading the way.

I’d say that I’ve had an atypical start to my CrossFit experience. I wasn’t invited by a friend to come try a workout at a box. I started self-teaching myself by following free programming by MisFit Athletics and a whole lot of Youtube/Instagram videos. I only knew what movements looked like because of the Games athletes that I started following on Instagram. That may or may not have been a good starting point, especially since they’re moving HUGE weight which means proper technique isn’t always present.

But since I did have at least some experience in basic functional movements, I just winged it. I bought a barbell and bumper set to go in my garage gym and I started hammering out the pieces from the programming. MisFit Athletics would usually program 3 to 4 pieces: a warm-up, a strength piece, a metcon (metabolic conditioning), and accessory work. I found out 5 months later after I was way deep into it, that I didn’t have to do all of the pieces each day unless I was training to compete — which I wasn’t.

I was fortunate to have been blessed with natural coordination to be able to start learning some of the mechanics of all these CrossFit movements (olympic lifts and gymnastics) relatively quickly. The use of cycles in the workout programming made it easy for me to track my progress in not only the weight of my lifts, but also the technique when executing the lifts. Of course, it was mostly for “the gram” but having videos of my lifts allows me to see how I’ve progressed in how I move.

There’s so much that I learned from just video recording myself when working out. I was able to see so many faults and compare them with videos that I would see on CrossFit’s Instagram (RIP) or other athletes’ videos. I also constantly drilled myself in front of a mirror with a PVC pipe. I didn’t even know that was what you were supposed to do to learn proper technique. I just thought it was the easiest way for me to learn and fix my movement faults in real-time.

As grateful as I am to MisFit Athletic’s programming and my natural ability to pick things up pretty quickly, there were some big downsides to doing this alone. Sure, I occasionally had workout partners who would help me fix my technique or give me that extra push when I was meandering through the metcon, but for about 80% of the time, it was just me and my thoughts. Now looking back at it, they weren’t fully experienced CrossFitters or even athletes with good technique / mechanics — so the examples set by them weren’t the greatest to mirror.

Although two of the checkboxes were marked for what keeps me motivated to workout (challenging and constantly varied), one was still missing: community. There were times where I would skip a workout, because I didn’t like what I saw in the programming or that I just didn’t feel like it. And even during the workouts, I would pace myself a bit slower than if I would workout with a group which means my intensity level was low. And since CrossFit and fitness results stems from intensity, I wasn’t growing as an athlete as fast as I could be. There’s also only so much I could fix on my own in terms of movement mechanics and technique.

It’s February 2019, right in the middle of the open, the monday after completing 19.2, I get my first CrossFit injury. And of course, it came from doing a heavy snatch. At the time, my current snatch PR was 150 lbs, and here I was building up to a heavy weight for the strength piece of the day. I do a few lifts at 95 lbs, felt good; 115, felt good; 125, failed. Tried again after some rest, failed again. Tried again after some rest and empty bar drills, failed again. Tried one more time, I hear a snap crackle pop in my left shoulder, the bar comes crashing down, hits my forehead, and I fall back. Ouch.

Shoulder hurt just a tiny bit — little did I know that was just the adrenaline masking the pain, so I said screw it, no heavy session today and still finished the metcon which was GHD’s and double unders. The next day comes around and boy oh boy did I feel it.

This put me out of commission for about 6 weeks. I realized it wasn’t a surgery requiring injury so I fully rested it for 2 to 3 weeks, then started doing shoulder rehab and strengthening movements for 10 minutes a day. For some reason I found myself on the CrossFit directory page and just happened to look up CrossFit boxes near my location. I already knew of two boxes near me, one which was 3 minutes away, but I saw that there was a new one opening up one week from then!

After that injury, I realized I could only get so far on my own. Sure I improved really fast in just 6 months with most of my lifts increasing by over 30% in that time frame, but I knew that if I wanted to move with proper form and technique, I would need a consistent pair of eyes to correct my movement. What were the chances that a brand new CrossFit box was opening up right as I needed them at the tail end of recovering from my injury. The best thing about newer gyms (assuming there’s good coaches there) is that the class sizes are much smaller so you get more personalized attention on you. Having a coach pay attention and correct your movement is difficult when you’re in larger class sizes.

Besides just getting more eyes on my technique, the CrossFit box provides a community for me to grow with. Having the injury was one of the best things that happened to me. Not only do I appreciate having good movement mechanics even more, but also patience in developing strength and competency in new skills. Going to the CrossFit box gave me more options for movement modifications to work with my recovering shoulder which allowed me to get back into good health more quickly than if I was doing this alone.

However, this wasn’t the first instance I’ve spent time at a CrossFit box. This past winter, I spent a month in Tampa, FL — why? because it’s warmer. While I was there, I became a one month drop-in at CrossFit Warrior Eagle where I got my first experience in CrossFit group classes. I absolutely loved it! The community and culture there was so fun and the coaches were great too. I learned a ton in just one month of classes there.

The other gym I was previously at was part globo gym, part specialty fitness center for group bootcamps, olympic lifting, and bodybuilding — there wasn’t much of a CrossFit culture there. With this new CrossFit box (CrossFit Citrine), it was a lot more fun being around people who believe in the methodology as much as I did. Having people cheer you on, makes pushing through the workout that much easier. I also don’t see working out as something I have to do anymore, it’s basically social hour with a good sweat now. It’s become something I get to do.

Now that all three of my requirements (challenging, constantly varied, and supportive community) for a good training regimen are fulfilled, my consistency in showing up to workout has increased as well as my intensity levels. I haven’t been this consistent in working out since 2015 when I was doing 90 day workout programs at home.

I’ve been more consistent since starting at CrossFit Citrine. The only times I missed a workout were due to being out of town on the weekend and even then, I worked out wherever I was.

Transitioning from solo training in CrossFit to now taking classes at CrossFit Citrine reminds me of a quote from leadership expert, John C. Maxwell.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Being an Obstacle Course Racing athlete was awesome. It was the reason I was able to stick to my weightloss goals for the long run. I developed performance goals beyond just the initial goal to lose weight. And the idea of conquering every obstacle you encountered, the camaraderie and community aspect of climbing over walls together, and being able to travel the country every other weekend to race with your friends was a blast. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy too much was what I had to do during the weekdays: run…a lot.

In my 27 years of life, I quickly realized that I constantly crave new experiences. Routine is my enemy. But let me be more specific, routine workouts are my enemy. I loved everything about OCR except for the running part — which is about 85% of the entire race. This also meant that I had to supplement all of my standard workouts with runs. The idea of the same monostructural movement 4 to 5 times a week was so boring to me. So after I successfully accomplished all the goals I set for OCR, there was no more interest for me to keep racing competitively.

Enter CrossFit. My first ever real exposure to CrossFit was in 2017 when the CrossFit Games moved to Madison for the first year. Prior to this, I thought CrossFitters were just a bunch of bulky athletes that had no engine and only did pull ups like a dolphin. I honestly had no idea what or who I was watching at the Games, but I remember seeing the 60 year old masters athletes just crushing it. They were throwing big weight around, running fast, pulling sleds, doing gymnastics, and what really caught my eye was their performance on the obstacle course. I mean we have impressive masters athletes in OCR, but this was just something I’ve never seen before.

Goals for August 2052

The 2017 Games occurred in the middle of my best OCR season, so I didn’t revist CrossFit again until February 2018. The CrossFit Open was going down which is the worldwide competition where people would complete announced workouts for the next 5 weeks. This was a way the average CrossFit athlete could see how they stack up with people all around the world, and how the elites would qualify to the next stage. When I saw 18.Zero (the workout before the official ones) get announced, I decided to give it a shot for fun.

The workout was

  • 21-15-9 Reps for Time of:
  • Dumbbell Snatches (50/35 lb)
  • Over-Dumbbell Burpees

All I remember is how silly I felt doing a high intensity workout in the corner of Planet Fitness behind all the ellipticals and treadmills.

To think, that someone felt silly…working out…in a gym…because they were pushing hard, creating sweat puddles, and panting louder than everyone else.

But that’s a whole ‘nother topic about globo gyms that I won’t get into right now. I remember doing 18.1, 18.2, and then 18.3 where I encountered double unders for the first time! I was like, ‘WHAT IS THIS MAGIC?!”

Double unders was my first encounter of a CrossFit movement that I could not immediately pick up, and I’m usually pretty good at learning new movements within 20 minutes. This, however, was the first movement that I couldn’t get, not because of lack of strength, but it was just because I couldn’t get my brain wrapped around it. For the next few weeks, I remember practicing double unders 10 minutes every other day. I eventually got them 3 weeks later, but that was just my first taste of so many more CrossFit movements that I would have to work for more than 20 minutes.

For the rest of 2018, I started digging into all the CrossFit documentaries on Netflix, then the Road to the Games series on youtube, then the vlogs (specifically the Day in the Life Of w/ Team CrossFit Mayhem). I became a HUGE fanboy after consuming all that content. That’s when I really fell in love with the sport of CrossFit and the athletes. At the time I still hadn’t really started training exclusively in CrossFit. I was pretty much dragging my feet and half-assing my OCR workouts — I think I did a total of 4 races all season in 2018. On occasion I would hop in the group CrossFit workouts at my friend, Lisa’s gym, and each time was a blast because each workout was a surprise.

When the 2018 CrossFit Games rolled around, I knew all the athletes and their stories which just made it so much more entertaining. By this time I was basically hooked on to CrossFit. After the 2018 Games, I went from drinking a glass of the CrossFit kool-aid to doing a kegstand. I found a sweet free online resource of programmed workouts by the MisFit Athletics crew where they would release a new workout everyday. Cycle 1 began about a week right after the games, so it was perfect timing for me to fully commit to the training methodology. And so began my CrossFit journey.

There are two big reasons why I found CrossFit way more appealing than how I was training in the past. The reason I loved obstacle course racing so much was because of the obstacles. When you encountered one in a race, you could either conquer it or spend 4 hours trying until the race officials pulled you off the course. When I encountered double unders, that was CrossFit’s version of OCR obstacles for me. There are just SO MANY movements in CrossFit that are high skill movements and require a TON of practice.

The second reason (and biggest) was the fact that CrossFit is constantly varied. Every single day the workout is a surprise. My initial weight loss journey consisted of at-home programs which was great, but after awhile it got dull, and I would need a new program every 60 to 90 days. Even within each program there would be maybe 7 to 10 workouts for the entire 3 months. My desire for novelty was just too strong to ignore. Add in running as a workout supplement to workouts that I’ve done over and over — my motivation to workout went to almost 0. What I also love about the concept of constantly varied is that it doesn’t mean random. CrossFit is not a collection of random workouts everyday; there’s a method to this madness, but I won’t get into that. Never before have I ever gone to bed anxious and excited to find out what the next day’s workout is going to be.

I get the same jitters as I used to get every Friday night before an OCR on Saturday morning — except with CrossFit, it’s EVERY night.

Add in the community aspect of shared suffering during the workouts, and you’ve got all the right lures to hook me in.

On the next episode of Anousone’s CrossFit story, you’ll find out how I fared training mostly solo and self-teaching the CrossFit movements.

Well, it’s been awhile (sometime in 2017 to be exact) since I’ve last logged anything related to my journey. So here’s a quick recap / state of the union.

At the end of 2017, I completed my personal athletic goal of competing at Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Canada which was an absolute blast. It was the first time I ever did three back to back to back races in one weekend.

In 2018, I also took a step back from building my business with LifeVantage — to be honest, the flame sort of fizzled out. I believe it was caused by a combination of misaligned vision between me and the corporate team, as well as the target market that I envisioned myself leading versus the reality of the target market the company actually acquires. So I found myself in a transitional period which brought a lot of new opportunities in for me to grow my software consulting business. I was able to bring on three long term clients and a handful of one-off projects.

On the fitness side of 2018, there was no more enthusiasm for me to continue growing in the sport of OCR. Being able to compete at OCRWC was my pinnacle achievement as a casual mud runner. I’m also not a huge fan of running in training, so if I can’t enjoy the process, there’s no point in continuing. I felt as if setting a new goal in OCR would only happen because that’s what my OCR friends would expect from me instead of what I actually want to do. However I will be forever grateful to OCR and the community. OCR gave me a target goal to reach during my initial weight loss journey — it became less about just losing weight and more about doing things I never thought I could have before with people that share the same obstacles.

So in the transition period of my fitness life, I wanted to explore and try different training regimens. I even started a Youtube channel that would document me visiting different gyms around the country where I could dabble in different fitness domains. However that quickly ended, because I found something to satisfy my thirst for constant novelty — CrossFit.

First I fell in love with the sport of CrossFit. The CrossFit Games moved to Madison in 2017 where I was exposed to the sport for the first time. I had no idea what or who I was watching when I went to go check it out, since I was still focused on OCR at the time. Then I dug into all the documentaries, Youtube vlogs, and other media, and I immediately got hooked. The 2018 CrossFit Games rolls around, but this time I’m a fanboy. Right after the games, I decided to actually start doing CrossFit (August 2018).

After falling in love with the sport of CrossFit, I then fell in love with the method of CrossFit. I’ll explain in a later post why CrossFit fit me so well. However that passion for the method led me to the theory and the reason why CrossFit was created. Fast forward eight months, and now I’m doing everything I can to develop and grow my knowledge base to help others achieve their own personal goals through CrossFit.

And that’s my brief synopsis on what’s happened since where we last left off.