11 10, 2019

The True Value of the Open

The open to many of us is viewed as a competition. This is its intention, the first stage of the competition of crowning the fittest on earth. Many people enter the open to see where they measure from where they used to be, many people enter the open to be a part of the community, many people do it just because that’s what everyone else is doing. But there are motivators in between being a games hopeful and just doing it for fun. There seems to be a deeper challenge that people are curious about and it is more individual. Doing the open is a test with black and white results. Tests like this happen all the time and they don’t just test us within their given parameters they innately test our ability to thrive or survive. That’s why we love watching sports, we watch at first because the particular sport intrigues or interests us, but we keep watching because we want to see the hero triumph in the heat of battle. We get chills when this happens in a dramatic fashion because we are imposing our own struggles and they are personified through whatever sport we are watching on a deeper level than just entertainment value.

 It’s when we get too focused on the outcome or feel entitled to a certain outcome that we start to see negative results. The open is there not necessarily just to test the fittest, but the reason why 90% of people do the open is because there is some sort of opportunity that lies within the mental and physical struggle of a competition like this.

The Open

Our Process at CrossFit Oshawa is practiced and trained all year, we speak a lot about practice and training as it is the most crucial aspect of athletic progression.

The open is an opportunity for this progression not just in your Fitness but an opportunity to learn how to overcome, persevere in the face of pressures and adversity, via a trust in your process when the heart rate goes high and the pressure of the situation grows. I think we can all relate to this scenario in crucial moments within our lives. The more we overcome and work hard through those situations, the better prepared we will be in the next situation that presents itself with these struggles, regardless of the outcome. After experience with the infamous difficulty of doing “Fran” for the second (or the tenth) time and trying to beat your personal best, we tend to notice people’s perspective shift on what they thought was difficult in their everyday lives. 

This is what the open brings for 90% of it’s participants. A challenge for the sake of the challenge. 

Let’s go 2020!

26 09, 2019

Success is Uncomfortable


“Happiness can be dangerous. It dulls the senses.”


Phil Knight

Happiness is a very discussed topic, and it tends to get thrown around as if it’s a mental state to be in, when the truth is that its just an emotion. The pursuit of happiness is a rollercoaster because happiness is elusive, we will experience happiness, sadness, anger, joy, and many emotions throughout our lives. Asking ourselves to be happy everyday is a dangerous thing as other emotions can become suppressed. A human being should be able to experience every emotion that surfaces, an effective human being should be able to productively utilize those emotions, the good and the bad. Happiness is not an entity that we can catch or even chase for that matter. It comes to us, along with many other positive and negative emotions.

A happy memory that sticks out in my childhood is playing pond hockey on freezing cold days right into even colder nights, my face about to freeze off. Even still, my parents would have to drag me off of that Ice, when I came inside warm soup or chili and hot chocolate awaited. When I sat with my cherry face by the fire, watching hockey night in Canada, after a full day of pond hockey, soup and mug in hand, I remember that as one of the most comforting feelings of my life. 

As a person now attempting adulthood, part of me wishes that I could simply live in that comfort as I did back then, stay quiet, and eat my soup. But, now I think: Would I be so comforted by the fire, the soup, and the hot chocolate if I wasn’t freezing my butt off all day? Would that experience be as gratifying without the struggle? The cold made the warm that much warmer.

My childhood spent in the cold by choice is definitely a low level example of a struggle, it actually sounds like a pretty great childhood, and it was. However, there are different levels to struggle and we would think as the struggle increased the happiness would decrease but continually throughout history we have found the contrary. Every human being experiences forms of struggle every day, some small and some exponential. Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who was also a WWII concentration camp survivor explains struggle as a natural occurrence that we can generally find meaning from if we look for it:

The Meaning of Suffering

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves…

We live in a world today where we seek the path of least resistance, we search for comfort. In this search for comfort we also live in a time with incredibly high rates of depression and anxiety, which in turn has us pushing hard for external bandaid solutions. But, to address the root of our societal issue, we must look internally and examine our response to when we are uncomfortable rather than run away from struggle by chasing happiness. This is not an easy thing to do, it’s much easier to sit back and stay comfortable. As ironic as this sounds, a tactic that many use to rise to this challenge is to find something external to chase, but it’s not an emotion. It is simply a purpose.

Label it anything you’d like: purpose, passion, destiny, goal. We all have something we can find or create as our purpose. Something we can struggle through, something we can earn and learn. Something where we can simply experience the cause and effect of struggle & failure, achievement & success.

Failure only exists when you make the choice to quit. The answer to failure, rather than run from the struggle, is to embrace it when it comes. You might be beaten, but if you choose to adapt through your uncomfortable struggle, you will come out of the other side happily ready for more.

None of us are a product of our suffering, but we will become our response to it.

19 09, 2019

The Necessity of a Training Plan

To many CrossFit is a General Physical Preparedness program, a way to be ready for anything at all times, if this is our goal then training programs become irrelevant, the work can be random. However, I don’t believe that the majority of people outside of the emergency services and military think of GPP when thinking about their fitness goals within CrossFit, it’s not the reason why we work so hard in the gym everyday. Most of our motivation directs toward gradual progression towards a specific goal, we want to see improvement in our fitness over time. if this is your goal, training cycles are more than warranted, they are a necessity. Here are some reasons why a training program that cycles through a progressive plan will prevail over programming on the spot or without a thoroughly thought out plan, a randomized approach.

 Preparation

 “Every battle is won before it is fought” – Sun Tzu

  If our training sessions are battles (they definitely feel this way sometimes and rightfully so) the cycle is the war plan. This is why a macro yearly plan must happen first, if this plan is not put in place nothing we do has a backbone or point of reference and we will run into unintentional mistakes. If nothing else, having a plan helps to direct our focus; to be properly prepared is to have confidence in your actions, and having confidence in your actions is key to more efficient and effective training sessions. 

Varied not random

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

The precision of a training program lies in the ability to be well balanced, with proper planning and constant refining we can include balanced variance. Without proper planning, our program is random training and therefore cannot be varied. This is basic probability, if you’ve ever been to a casino and played your luck at roulette you know your odds are far better at guessing the wod the next day than guessing on a random number where the ball will end up. A truly varied program is somewhat predictable given a little bit of research into its history, a random program is unpredictable and cannot be tracked as diligently. The refining process is therefore a lot more manageable and precise when evaluating a well thought out training program.

The fine line of adaptation: DOMs vs plateaus 

“Man is an animal who more than any other can adapt himself to all climates and circumstances.” — Henry David Thoreau

Adaptation is our best friend and our worst enemy in training, it is a necessity and a curse, a very fine line. When training we experience change and we grow, if we change too much we fall apart and if we adapt too much to the changes we become stagnant. Rapid change includes things like Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMs) and too much adaptation yields plateaus. A training program will never be free of the aforementioned and even if it could be we wouldn’t want it to be. Overtraining and plateau’s will happen if we are doing our best to navigate our training, if they weren’t occurring the program wouldn’t be as effective. True progression happens in our response to these occurrences, do we adapt our training and our program to our physical adaptations? As soon as we start thinking about our response we revisit preparation and we start all over again. Then the question becomes how much can I live between overtraining and plateauing without running into those edges and as we grow the edges get closer and closer together.

People pay for programming and come to class because the necessary steps to develop and maintain a program that elicits progression requires a lot of boring, unsexy, legwork. Preparation is a boring answer but it’s what is necessary to facilitate our goals, because as the old adage goes, a goal without a plan is a plan to fail.

16 08, 2019

The Nazca Spiral, Part2: Virtuosity

Part 1: Recap

When beginning a new sport, workout regime, or learning anything new at all; there is an initial learning curve where we tend to see linear progression. This is when learning is fun, engaging, and we often see improvements. We soon come to realize that our line of growth is not and cannot be exponential, there are natural progression limits. If we look not at the linear progression graph, and rather at the Nazca spiral, it gives us a more realistic visual aid as to what progression looks like over time.

In CrossFit, getting new skills is damn sexy, it makes us feel good instantly. Something we are very used to- instant gratification. What is it to work for something? There is a learning factor amongst the grind, the basics, the very core of hard work. If we can recognize and trust ourselves to have confidence with our progression, we can go from depending on daily motivations to thriving off of the discipline we were looking for in the first place. Because when you are disciplined, motivation is unnecessary. 

Part 2: Virtuosity 

A professional golfer will literally stand in the same place for hours hitting the same shot for hundreds of repetitions at a time. A weightlifter will rep out low percentage technique work for most of their career spending time under heavy barbells that they have lifted every day for years. Both of these athletes compete in very different sports but with very similar mentality. They have trained to have the discipline and fortitude to trust themselves and their process. This is why athletics continues to be an incredible and valuable tool for individuals to learn and implement into everyday life.

With the natural course of society, individuals have seemingly fallen to the dependance of a quick fix mentality which makes it even more difficult to see and trust that our progression will happen if we stick to our charted path. Google, is a great example, of an amazing company that has done outstanding things for our society in many ways, a global leader of humanity. But, we can see some damaging effects to the psyche of society who are used to having their questions answered at the touch of a button, in milliseconds.

Athletics, art, business, anything that requires mastery of sorts, teaches us to be resilient through dedicated patience, otherwise we do not see progression. Without these teachings we tend to compare our progression in life to the answers we get on google. The cause and effect to this is simply unrealistic expectations,  the nazca spiral gives us a visual aid and reference point to ground our expectations and remind us that not only will we experience plateaus and struggles but we should embrace these happenings as part of our journey to mastering whatever goal we have set forth to achieve. 

With the natural course of society, individuals have seemingly fallen to the dependance of a quick fix mentality which makes it even more difficult to see and trust that our progression will happen if we stick to our charted path. Google, is a great example, of an amazing company that has done outstanding things for our society in many ways, a global leader of humanity. But, we can see some damaging effects to the psyche of society who are used to having their questions answered at the touch of a button, in milliseconds.

Athletics, art, business, anything that requires mastery of sorts, teaches us to be resilient through dedicated patience, otherwise we do not see progression. Without these teachings we tend to compare our progression in life to the answers we get on google. The cause and effect to this is simply unrealistic expectations,  the nazca spiral gives us a visual aid and reference point to ground our expectations and remind us that not only will we experience digression and struggle but we should embrace it as part of our journey to mastering whatever goal we have set forth to achieve. 

8 08, 2019

Reframing Competition

We live in a world where every society has a different level of freedom. Although, many types of societies have different rulings on this freedom, some with less and some with more, there is one freedom that runs consistently through the world, and that is the freedom to choose our own thoughts and response. No matter what happens to us, we are the only ones who control our minds and ultimately the direction of our responses to these happenings, good or bad. This is part of being human and will never change, this has been true since the beginning of human history. We have the freedom to respond with courage, bravery, and kindness, or with doubt, cowardice, and revenge. It has been demonstrated throughout history in our heroes and villains, and in our athletes through competition. Whether it be war, sport, or the business world, competing is part of who we are. More so now than ever, competition receives a negative connotation, and for valid reasoning, competition for most of civilization has brought war, slavery, hunger, and depression over entire societies. However, it has also brought prosperity, truth, triumph, growth, and wellbeing to the entire world. Competition has a way of forcing the individual’s hand into a response. The growth we have experienced from the brave and courageous has been so vital to the survival of mankind; we have seen that we learn from competition, we grow from it, and we prosper. We currently live in the most peaceful time of all human history when most of competition is seen in sport rather than bloodshed, but it seems we are running from competition now more than ever. Humanity has come so far from competition, without it we would never have gone to the moon (and now pushing to colonize mars), developed life saving technologies, ran 100m’s in under 10s, humanity is amazing and continues to have exponential potential to do great things, but we need competition to do it. Competition has been the platform for our societal growth, without its highs and lows we have no means to push for learning, achievements, or even self discovery.

The answer is not to avoid competition by eradicating scoring methods and handing out participation trophies to make everyone feel the instant gratification of being equals, because the truth is that we are not equal, we have different strengths, weaknesses, fears, and passions, which run so deep that it’s challenging to discern them even for ourselves.

Our scores on the whiteboard are important because they do elicit a competitive response allowing us to learn about ourselves and others in our community. The answer, therefore, is but to relish and embrace competition, relish in the learning that comes with it’s failures and successes. It is up to us as individuals to answer with a paralyzing response to competition of worry and shame, or with a growth response of learning, courage, and exercise our ability to compete in a productive way.

15 07, 2019

The Nazca Spiral, Part 1: Progression Parallels

The Nazca plain in Peru has large figures laid out on the ground. They were made from about 200 BC until about AD 600, and they are still there because there is practically no rain. There are animals and other shapes, including the left, which might be a maze. There is one theory that these shapes were walked through for ritual purposes.

Now if we pause to reflect, this strange phenomenon that has seemingly no significance to the context of an athlete, can actually start to harbour some meaning. When I look at this spiral I cannot help but see it as a natural course of improvement, development, or progression. When beginning a new sport, workout regime, or learning anything new at all; there is an initial learning curve where we tend to see linear progression (left). This is when learning is fun, engaging, and we often see improvements. We soon come to realize that our line of growth is not and cannot be exponential, there are natural progression limits. But when we are immersed in our goals, it becomes hard to see this macro perspective. It’s when athletes start to doubt: themselves, their training, their nutrition, their program etc… which is not all bad, we learn a lot in this phase of the athletes progressions because we are questioning. If we look not at the linear progression graph, but at the Nazca spiral, it gives us a more realistic visual aid as to what progression looks like over time. If we start at the beginning of the Nacza (with our goal to be to get to the centre), it looks identical to the linear progression, we start moving towards the centre right away. But rather than just falling off the graph, the charted Nazca path circles around the center briefly and then starts to move away. If we continue following the path, we can see that there is a pattern of moving toward the centre, then moving away, but ultimately getting closer to the centre or our goal over time. Observing this from a macro perspective, it is very clear that the path eventually leads to the centre, but in reality when we are walking the path, living the micro perspective, it’s almost impossible to see.

In CrossFit, getting new skills is damn sexy, it makes us feel good instantly. Something we are very used to- instant gratification. What is it to work for something? There is a learning factor amongst the grind, the basics, the very core of hard work.

Herein lies the paradox. The intention of crossfit almost always goes against the mentality of the athlete. Blame the alluring feeling of getting new skills like the pull-up and the muscle up, the pr.

CrossFit’s intention is a training program to be fit in all areas, to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains. It has since become a sport to see who exemplifies its intentions in the best manner. Who is the most virtuous within CrossFit or fitness. Games athletes are always held in high regard, and made examples in our vastly growing community. We can learn a lot from them, however, with our skewed perspective of what we think is accomplishment we actually digress from using these athletes as examples. We do not see the forest for the trees which causes our mentality on training to be skewed.

The games athlete is a great exemplar of virtuosity and achievement of pursuit, they seem like they are living amongst their goals, they are living in the centre of the Nazca. It is clear that this is highly untrue, they might be in the centre of your Nazca, but the games athlete, the professional, the virtuoso is most likely further from their centre spiral then the average person from a relative standpoint.

If we can recognize and trust ourselves to have confidence with our progression, we can go from depending on daily motivations to thriving off of the discipline we were looking for in the first place. Because when you are disciplined, motivation is unnecessary.

5 07, 2019

A two way conversation

Coaching must start with relationship, we put a high value on the relationship between the coach and the athlete as a crucial step to progression. Logically, if we have not built a relationship first, we do not have access to the emotional tools in order to provide insight and ultimately results. Like in any relationship it takes two people having two way conversations which means authentic communication and authentic listening, from both sides. In no way should coaching an athlete ever be a dictation, the coaches responsibility is to allow for this natural communication. But results cannot come from the extreme opposite either, where the ownership falls solely on the coach, because it is ultimately about the athlete.

There is a lot of social media buz in our industry about coaches being the ultimate listeners and relationship builders. This is great, but very one sided and comes from a place of confirmation bias; it’s also a self fulfilling prophecy approach for the coach and provides lack of accountability for the athlete. 

What we are in fact speaking about is coachability, when we teach coachability we are not just teaching how to learn more effectively in the gym, this habit spills into our every day lives and allows us to develop valuable skills like patience, authentic listening, ability to understand others, allowing us to be more productive absorb more information and basically allows us to become better at learning in general.

In the name of two way conversation, the athlete must be willing to listen and grow with the coach, the coach must be willing to guide the athlete to this level of coachability. The two people involved in a coaching situation form a team that both have a common goal; where the athlete would ultimately like to make progress toward achievement and have fun doing it, the coach is invested in assisting that athlete toward their achievement. It is in every sense of the cliche a two way street. Our growth happens together and as a team, not just a one sided view point from either side, both have to build a relationship that allow for productive communication. The fitness industry, it seems, has gotten to a tipping point where the old adage “the customer is always right” is now on steroids; chalk it up to a fear of bad social media reviews or a misguided approach, it is apparent that effective coaching has been lost in the social media wave.

It is difficult to have learning scenarios without coaching or guidance, we cannot have coaching without a relationship, because when we care about the subject you’re going to gain knowledge on the subject, but if we care about and value the person delivering the material on the subject, we will gain more than knowledge we will gain experience. We are so lucky at CFO to have the culture that has been shining on our social media as of late, our athletes not only hold their coaches accountable but they are ready to be held accountable themselves, because we know that on the other side of accountability are the results we’ve been looking for.

20 06, 2019

Building Community through Culture

Love them or hate them, there is no better process on our planet, currently, than the 2000-present New England Patriots. It is the reason the New England Patriots have appeared in 5-6% of all of all time Super Bowl Championships, 41% of the ones that take place in this century.

Another team with a world famous process is the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team. In the decade from 2000 to 2009, New Zealand won 100 tests for an 82% winning percentage.

Most people like to assign a hero to the story and attest that the talent of Tom Brady, the Genius of Bill Belichick, or the secret training of the All Blacks is the reason why teams like this are consistently winning. One may be lead to believe that the teams have a secret ingredient that nobody else has. But the real reason why these teams have found everlasting success is because they have found a way to allow their process to be dictated by their culture.

The two teams have been able to build in a relentless commitment to their internal culture, thus creating a substantial process, and with every individual contributing, it forms their community, the teams are unstoppable making the individuals unstoppable by default. Momentum is a great tool. When the people develop the culture that provides the community with momentum, it can then foster the process that serves the people for success. This is our “success loop.”

We put so much emphasis on our community, in order to build a culture that promotes the success of everyone involved. We all know the feeling of being involved in a process with a solid culture. There is an unbeatable momentum surge that we feel whenever we are in the presence of it. It’s why working out alone feels nothing like working out with a group.

At CFO, we offer two memberships, a class membership and an open gym only membership. The open gym is a much more affordable option, you can come into the gym whenever you would like and the daily program is still accessible. Athletes have all the tools they need in order to be able to go through our process on their own. The only difference between the two is the community; having all of the tools and being a part of a culture that breeds a community of people who thrive using those tools is why 99% of our athletes chose to be a part of our community.

We choose our words carefully. We haven’t created, found, or fashioned our community but rather built it, we have built it “brick by brick” (Belichick) from a culture of purpose, virtuosity, and health. We are nowhere near the New England Patriots or the All Blacks, however the foundation of our culture is rooted deep, so as long as we keep adding bricks and our people are a part of the success loop, we will continue to build greatness within our culture and ultimately serve our athletes in their pursuits.

10 06, 2019

The 4 Factors of Stimulus

T

Stimulus: The intended physical stress of an effective training program.

4 factors that comprise Stimulus:

1. Muscular activation
2. Joint performance

range of motion and lever angles:
Upper body: push/pull
Lower body: push/pull
Ankle flex/ext
3. Metabolic Range
4. Scaling and progression.

Scaling (training)
This is completely Horizontal, it is not a vertical hierarchy or a progression ladder. Scaling is using movement as a tool to gain a desired stimulus within the athlete. This is why people with muscle ups still incorporate pull-ups and even ring rows into their training.


Progression (practice)
This one is vertical, we don’t control for stimulus in our progressions, we use specific drills for a specific purpose to progress for specific reasons. Think of a beat swing (kip swing) as a specific muscle up drill, the benefit is seen in the practice of the movement, not in the training stimulus.

Thus, at the intersection of scaling and progression we find our ideal ability. We have found that the struggle for most people is attempting to operate where we want our ability to be. If we focus on stimulus, ability is a lot easier to see because it is simply a result of our progressions and scaling. We essentially remove the guessing game and ultimately lay a much stronger foundation. A virtuous approach and endeavour.

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4 04, 2018

Process

To take our focus from magic recipe’s and secret shortcuts is not an easy task. Without a process to direct that focus it becomes a near impossibility. People are naturally inclined to take the path of least resistance; it’s ingrained in our DNA as a survival instinct. But, any success story will reveal the person with their story of their arduous process. Emotionally, we love hearing success stories that involve triumph and overcoming the impossible, it’s why we love the underdog stories so much. But, our focus here is on the outcome, because the process is the boring part. As far as process goes, not much rivals the 2000-present New England Patriots. It is the self proclaimed reason the New England Patriots have appeared 41% of all Superbowl games played in this century. Outlined by the team mantra “Do Your Job.”

Another team with a world famous process is the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team. In the decade from 2000 to 2009, New Zealand won 100 tests for an 82% winning percentage. However, most people will tell you that the talent of Tom Brady, the Genius of Bill Belichick, or the secret training of the All Blacks is the reason why teams like this are consistently winning. One may think the teams have a secret ingredient that nobody else has. Some don’t understand that without a commitment to the ‘Patriot Way’ or to the All Black culture, this level of success doesn’t happen. It’s not a secret ingredient at all, ingredients help, but it’s the act of following the recipe to the Nth degree that is what brings these margins of success.

There is a recipe or a process in everyone’s lives, whether they are aware or not. Odds are, if they are unaware of their own process,’ they are most likely ineffective. They are simply our daily routines, how we react to situations, and essentially how we live our lives. When we become aware of these process,’ we have the powerful ability to take ownership over them and learn how to create more effective versions of them. On the contrary, when we jump around look for that perfect process, they never end up working how we perceived them to because we were looking for that ‘fairy dust magic’ that never existed. The ‘magic’ is in the hard work it takes to learn from the art of building your own process; there is no secret, there is only the nobility of hard work and the ability to execute your efforts in difficult times.