26 05, 2020

Core Limitations

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

-Bruce Lee

As human beings we all have limitations, some we can overcome and some we are defined by. When we set our goals, we are usually met with struggle and adversity because we are confronted with unexpected limitations in pursuit of these goals. S adversely, one might think that we should expect limitations to prevent the unexpected nature of them, but then we run the risk of allowing ourselves to fall victim to our limits before we even become limited. So then, we question how to overcome our personal limitations when finally confronted by them, but yet again we run into even more limitations because as human beings we are built with limits; we can’t fly, we can’t read minds, we can’t breathe underwater. So maybe we embrace our limitations, there is definitely some merit to this. We fall in love not in spite of limitations but because of them, without our limits we are nothing. Even superman has his kryptonite, without it there would be no story. We all have surface limitations, our daily struggles that can be overcome with some determination, but we have core limitations as well that when embraced cause very positive outcomes.

Obesity is a limitation but it’s not a core limitation, it is a burden to our lives brought about due to a core limitation. There are many different reasons why a person becomes obese, but study after study shows that obesity happens as a result of  lifestyle. Our core limitation is what is causing the lifestyle which translates to our obesity. 

For instance, there are passive people and there are aggressive people, these traits can become core limitations. A person who becomes too passive can find it difficult for motivation, causing a lack of effort to stick to a healthy lifestyle. This is a person who finds it difficult to stick to things like diets, training programs, and workout schedules. An overly aggressive person develops a craving for more. Although they will stick to things, they will fall into binge eating, procrastinating, and overtraining to the point of injury or adrenal fatigue. This person shoots themselves in the foot before they get started.

“Rightness of limitation is essential for growth of reality.

Unlimited possibility and abstract creativity can procure nothing. The limitation, and the basis arising from what is already actual, are both of them necessary and interconnected.”

― Alfred North Whitehead

It is in our best interest to attempt to understand our core limitations not run from them or even overcome them. Because when we can understand them, we can begin to transcend them, we can turn our core limits that define us into our core strengths. Realizing that it is not wrong to be passive or agressive; we can guide our passive behaviour towards patience and direct aggressive behaviour to a focused diligence. We can soon realize that when we used to either fight or run from our limits that this was our direction all along. Maybe we can’t fly, but we now have the airplane, maybe we can’t read minds, but we are progressing in the science of conscious thought, maybe we can’t hold our breath, but we can scuba dive. The outcomes in our lives come down to our choice to control our intrinsic behaviours or be controlled by them, because we cannot controll the weather but we can choose to dance in the rain.

19 05, 2020

Take Aim

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

-Viktor Frankl

Life is not a series of events in a uniform line, a track with a runner simply putting one step in front of the other easily concentrated on the one task of crossing the finish line ahead. We like to perceive our lives as it relates to our goals in this manner because it’s simple. But, if this were so, we wouldn’t need coaches, teachers, mentors, and even stories to guide us. It’s easy to be pulled off course through cause and effect of external circumstance, but it doesn’t mean we write off circumstance all together, as it’s these very externals that assist us in aligning our aim. It’s easy to direct our focus and zero in when things are going right, when everything is aligning. The abruptness and unpredictability of life will veer us off course; and it’s not that they could veer us off course, its that they will. Then our aim will become multiple aims and When we are aiming at everything, we are aiming at nothing. 

So, life is not a track, it’s a sea of events where we are left to navigate the waters. The bills coming in, unread emails compounding in our inbox, the influence of emotion from our peers. It’s inevitable to be thrown off track, a ship never steers in a perfectly straight line. It’s what we do when we are thrown off track that really makes a difference, and if we aren’t the type of person that makes corrections, we can always learn to build ourselves, to become better over time in making those corrections by starting with very small manageable corrections. A ship thrown off course does redirect that course when it is thrown off it’s aim, if not it will be left to drift in a sea of the unknown.

So, how to we direct our focus to keep our aim? We can use a multitude of tools, we are usually dependant on others in order to hold us accountable. We can lean on exemplary role models,  interdependent friends/family, or coaches. If we are more introverted and independent we can rely on calendars or goal setting reminders. We can learn to conduct our lives rather than have our lives conduct us. This way, the beautiful music of our lives is still playing, only we are controlling the rhythm and the tempo.

Accountability is powerful, all of these analogies and explanations lead to the simple fact that planning for accountability is like revealing our north star. Which helps to guide us when other things get in the way of our navigation, blurring our sites on our target. Many things can be thrown at us and we will bend, sway, and even be pushed around by external things. But as long as we are accountable to an aim, we will be able to direct our focus and correct our course in order to once again take aim.

Always keep your aim.

12 05, 2020

Situational Wisdom

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

― Miles Kington

Life is made up of many situations, it is within these situations in which we position ourselves in the world. Often, our situations reveal truths about us, about others, and about life. A human being has been given the gift of conscious thought, but with consciousness comes distortion.

We have evolved to only use what we need, we are very efficient, so we have become masters at zeroing in on targets with our eyes and hearing only what we need to in order to move through the world in accordance with maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. In the depths of our evolution, we developed the ability to see bright colours to recognize food and danger. Through countless ancient documents, we have uncovered that humans battled snakes, mostly of which were bright in colour, they were our biggest foe. Fruit was almost always bright in colour in contrast to its inedible vegetation counterparts. Our ability to be focused on an important, complex task and block out distractions is an important ability that has been a necessity for human kind to raise to the level that we’ve gotten to today. This purposeful nature is what drives our human behaviour and our reactions. To juxtapose another fact: our human history is recorded on the selective memory of the very human beings it attempts to explain, memories that in fact become distorted and swayed via emotional bias, before events, during events, and after events have concluded. As tolstoy explains,

“The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible do they become to us.”

-Leo Tolstoy

If we observe our individual history, our situations become our personal accounts of our past.  Our history is whatever we have naturally selected to pay attention to and recount in that moment. It is a sum of realities. the realization that we choose to focus on certain events and repress others is a difficult one. This means that individually we choose to remember events and situations in the manner that we are accustomed to. Which explains why two individuals can experience the same situation and walk away with two completely different accounts of it, both equally convinced that their views are the correct ones. But we don’t realize there is so much we both cannot see.

This phenomenon is what makes us effective, the ability to be able to consciously focus on a task at hand and problem solve is what makes us human. When you watch an incredible athlete, a brilliant painter, a book where the words jump out of the page and reach into your soul, we are observing those that have full control of their situations in a focused manner. Imagine that Micheal Jordan was focused on learning every fan’s name and where they came from, or the concession profits, if he knew everything about everything inside of the arena. He would not be as good of a basketball player and he would, most likely, become very frustrated within the daunting task of trying to remember every detail outside of what is beneficial to him and his team in their ultimate goal of winning. 

The simple awareness to our natural human ignorance is a large part of keeping an open mind and ultimately having empathy towards others. We share this earth with almost 8 billion people, it is a highly beneficial viewpoint, that there are things we can learn from others, that there are things we cannot see, that there are other beneficial perspectives. It is so easy to become absorbed in conditioned thinking, listening to similar podcasts, reading similar news articles, and following similar social media pages. We become drawn further and further into our own biases and slowly our thinking becomes more pin pointed, our emotions more hostile to anything opposing our information bubble. It’s comfortable in the bubble, our system is built this way, but our mental health parallels our physical health. What is comfortable is usually the wrong direction and the more momentum we build this way the harder it is to reverse. 

We cannot see the unseen, but a start is to recognize that there are things we do not see. In turn, If we can take control where it matters to us and direct our focus in our situations, our life situations do not have to change for us to have a better attitude and behaviours within certain events.

5 05, 2020

Better Distance Running

When it comes to running, every step we take is a step in the right direction.

It is a seemingly natural human tenancy to over complicate things that are complex and underestimate things that are simple. Since humans have been alive we have been running, therefore it should be a natural and simple endeavour. However, evolutionary and revolutionary progress has led to a natural degradation of our ability to do some simple, ordinary human tasks, running being one of them. Because we have genetically modified our running capabilities over time, we tend to undermine this natural human capacity. Popular culture has us many of us thinking that for better distance running we should mirror forest gump, when forest gump’s running was a fiction within a fiction. I wish the following didn’t need to be stated, but I am not writing this to condemn humanity for its growth, we simply must realize certain facts. Rather I feel compelled to write this to encourage the ambitious runner as a guide to practically building running back into their human abilities in a gradual approach, safely and effectively. As for our limit to running, well, we are still searching for that. People continue to push the boundaries through world records in speed and distance, as well as the discovery of age old cultures like the mayans. 

Be it an olympian track star or someone attempting to run for the first time in their lives, deal with limitations. We have seen two major limitations throughout every level of runner, that come in the form of volume (distance) and intensity (speed); we can’t run far enough or fast enough. What we must realize is that when overcoming these limitations, we can use three main tactics: 

  1. Technique
  2. Pacing
  3. Basic principles

Between volume and intensity lies pacing. A runner must know themselves well which is a major limitation when first starting out, because how can we know the unknown? We can’t. We have to find it. So, we start simple, with a warm-up.

Warm ups

If you’ve ever felt like when you are running you have been fighting you’re speed the whole way or you are simply fighting to keep running, you’ve probably bitten off more than you can chew initially in regards to volume or speed. Adversely, if you have ever felt like you are ‘in the zone’ sort of speak where you feel like you are gliding across the ground with very little effort, focused on breathing through your strides, you have most likely initiated, and built, your run productively. Our run starts before we start running.

It’s best to think about running like we would weightlifting, when going for a 1 RM back squat we don’t simply load up the bar and go for it, we progress to it through proper warm-up, drills/skills, and load progressing, running is no different. 

So first, we should look at how we are initiating our runs: are we warming up at all or enough? Are we doing a proper warm-up progression that includes the right tools?  When we get to running, are we focused on our speed progression?

A warm up is intended to prepare the body for the task it is about to do. A simple concept when preparing to run with a warm-up is the longer the distance the lighter the warm-up, the shorter the distance the heavier the warm-up. This is because shorter runs will be faster, longer runs will be slower relative to the athlete and speed is force production, the greater the force production the greater the preparation. Each warm-up no matter how involved should include a general warm-up to initiate blood flow to specific areas, specific joint mobilization, and drills that address the skill of running.

Here is a 5km sample warm-up that includes all of the above and  takes 10mins:

A. General

3min Easy run, nose breathing

20 straight leg front to back swings/leg

20 straight leg side to side swings/leg

B. Mobility

Piked runners calf pedals 60s

Standing quad pull 30s/30s

-Squeeze the glute to increase hip flexor range

C. Specific

ABC drills 50ft x 2 on each

Running starts, like anything else, with proper progression. There will be a significant increase in your ability to sustain faster paces and greater distances when initiating your runs with proper warm-ups.


This is one of the most neglected aspects of running, we are dealing with major full body movement; when we are running we are dealing with a complex movement pattern through the transverse plane. Take this fact coupled with the idea that humanity has been deconditioned to this movement and we have issues that start right here. It is vital to, at least be thinking about running technique and mechanics. My main point on running technique is get a coach who has experience running. A general rule on a running coach: if they discuss proper footwear more than they discuss technique they do not have enough experience to teach you about running (more on that one later).

The first thing to note regarding the mechanism of running is that runners will use a lot of quad engagement because more than our bodyweight strikes the ground through the balls of the feet. It is more than our bodyweight because we are adding velocity to our bodyweight at the point of impact. Therefore, primarily our quads, secondary our calves, will become heavily use when running. Tracing this up the kinetic chain, our hip flexors, spinal erectors, and even our front delts will also become heavily used. So in order to maintain a balanced engagement we want to keep the body tilted forward, if we find ourselves reaching too far with our foot to increase stride length, we will strike the heels, engaging too much posterior chain and putting on the breaks in the process. 

So rather than increase stride length, we want to focus on a quick toe strike on the ground to increase our time spent in the air, as there is less friction this way making for faster, more effortless, and decreased injury risk running. Think gazel or moonman.

The second thing we need to address with our technique is that we actually initiate each running stride with the arms, not the legs. This is true for not just distance runners but even more so with sprinters, watch a sprinter use their arms to propel their stride, it’s not the other way around. If we put our focus into our shoulders and arms when we run, our stride will naturally fall into place. The key to this is that our shoulders must remain relaxed and we must understand the concept of energy transfer. I see a lot of runners start to benefit from using the arms, but in an aggressive attempt to create propulsion, the arms will start to twist creating lateral momentum. This is a problem because distance running happens in a very straight line, meaning we want as little lateral force as possible. Momentum should all be generated forwards, with nothing being expended sideways. A rule of “thumb” for the arms is to relax the shoulders by relaxing the fist, hold the elbows at 90 degrees, driving the knuckles from the shoulders in a straight line. Like taking a key from our pocket and inserting it into a lock at shoulder height. 


Pacing is simple mathematics because of complex biology. The first thing that a distance runner, or any endurance athlete should become aware of is how our body’s metabolic system works. When putting in longer duration efforts we are generally within our aerobic metabolic energy system, this means oxygen is very important to us. It also means that if we become too eager and burn up our energy too much at the beginning of our effort, the rest of the effort will not be enjoyable and our performance will ultimately decrease. On Top of this, if we train in this manner, we are more at risk for injury, adrenal fatigue, and exponential performance decrease.  Adversely, if we gradually build our pace starting slower and gaining speed through the effort, we can find the ideal pace best suited for our ability and how we are feeling that day. For new runners, this poses a problem because it becomes a mere guessing game. But, if we are attentive to our pacing times, we will be able to gradually dial this in and watch our running get more effective and more enjoyable over time. It won’t feel like we are fighting ourselves anymore, it will feel like we are pushing ourselves.

Distance running is best thought of like driving a very simple car. You are the car, your energy is the gas tank, and your ability to pace is the pedal. If we push the pedal all the way to the floor, we will quickly run out of gas to the point where we are running on fumes. The closer the pedal gets to the floor, the more quickly our “gas” is used up. If we are attempting to run greater distances, than it is imperative to note that we only have just enough gas in the tank to get us from start to finish. As the Km’s decrease, we can afford to press the pedal down little by little. This can be a guessing game at first, and is not as black and white as we would like it to be.

However, it becomes very simple once we have our best times in a few different distances: 400m, 1,600m, 3km/5km are popular. Once we have these distances tested, we can use our times as a guide to our pacing. Hypothetically, if I have a 25:00min 5km as a best time there’s no way I should start at less than a 5min/km pace for a 5km effort. In fact, if I want to pr my 25min time, the best thing I can do is run a little bit slower than that at the start. Because, metabolically, if I work above an aerobic level, I will start burning up glycogen at a much too rapid pace, my body will start to feel weaker as my respiratory rate starts to skyrocket in response to this metabolic surprise. I will feel the body respond with lactic acid, and I can even experience exercise induced asthma this way. On the flip side, our fastest speed should be saved for the end of the run because the Anaerobic energy stores, such as ATP, that we need in order to produce our fastest speeds will only last up to 2mins in the best of conditioned athletes.

 We don’t bank time, we bank energy in the endurance game, this is a principle that will drastically change the game for us with regards to endurance. The name of this game is to be patient with ourselves and observe our running from a more macro standpoint. Run slower to run faster.


I is actually best to think of running as mostly strength, not cardio, from a definitive standpoint. What limits us from greater speeds and going further distances, is a very specific type of strength and/or power depending on the distance. The greater the distance the more strength endurance, the shorter the distance the more explosive power, the middle distance is the goldie locks zone, it elicits an Anaerobic threshold response that if trained properly through smart intervals, it can help us become better runners at many distances and overall better endurance athletes. This is the biggest mark missed by most runners who simply hit the pavement and push only the distance envelope, left to wonder why they can’t run more than 3km without stopping.

Volume vs speed 

We need to incorporate both in our training but rarely at the same time. We can do so via three training days: Endurance Day (volume), Speed Day (Intensity), and a Tempo day (Finding a feel for pacing). We can calculate as much as we want and have all the fancy watches and gadgets, but nothing beats a runner who can accurately feel their pace. So,  if we currently only have the strength to run 3km without stopping, the most ineffective way to improve is to keep trying to run greater distances. A most efficient way is to break the 3Km’s down into various speed and tempo intervals that total 3km’s or higher and run faster. This coupled with longer slower training sessions will catapult us to greater distances, faster times, and more comfortable running.


If we wouldn’t train with a max effort everyday in gymnastics or with a barbell, we shouldn’t do it with running either. When we are reaching outside of our distance capacities everyday our ambition stunts our growth, staying in the realms of our capacity and extrapolating what we can from within is the way to build a solid foundation and when it’s time we will watch our capacities start to grow exponentially. The answer to an overwatered plant is definitely not more water. This is why we must address all three endurance training areas every week: Speed, Tempo, Distance. When we train all three in a balanced manner, we will start to build real capacities, built on a foundation of rock, not sand.


Injuries must be addressed when having any running discussion, since injury rates among runners are higher than they should be. Runners experience injury for many controllable reasons, including: Technique, equipment issues, track methods. 

Technique is the obvious contributor, as stated previously. Equipment issues range from shoes to treadmills. Now, I am a big believer that runners don’t need anything fancy in regards to footwear, we do not need a shoe salesman to analyze our running stride in order to safely pick out shoes to wear. The biggest problem with our footwear happens after we make our purchase, not beforehand. Most runners hold onto running shoes for too long, the shoes begin to deteriorate, losing their rigidity, and the support turns into a soft cushion; not good when repetitively striking the feet to the ground. If running 3x/week with 5-12km/session, a runner should change their shoes every 6 months. Keeping the shoe rigid is very important, if not you might be better off running bare foot (which is not ideal). 

The treadmill. 

if this is our only option, we might want to consider investing in some outdoor gear and selling the treadmill. It’s that bad. I began training with a running coach when I was 9 years old, I had 5-6 different running coaches through the 12 years I was a runner. Not once did I train with any of them on a treadmill. The treadmill causes future problems because of the artificial nature of the treadmill stride. The athlete’s foot strikes the machine and the belt pulls the foot back for us. This causes a disengagement of the hamstrings and overdeveloped quads over time. Something, like an air runner is much better and can drastically help our technique. However, nothing beats the outdoors. 

Finally, when running on a track, runners do not often think about direction of travel. We have seen specific injuries such as patella femoral syndrome (runner’s knee) specifically linked to running the same way on a track each day. Simple fix: alternate directions of travel each session if possible. 

With some attention to detail, running is a very safe and effective way to build an athlete’s endurance capacities.

You better be running

My highschool cross country and track team had this quote engrained in us that I want to leave you with, as it always revs me up to get out and hit the pavement:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

-Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

7 04, 2020

Strength among change

“People create their worlds with the tools they have directly at hand.”

-Jordan Peterson

There are those that look to the past for guidance, those that look to the future, and those who live in the present moment. I am a believer that we need to use all three to map out where we are in life; learing from the past, enjoying the present, and planning the future. 

We speak to many people with goals in the fitness industry, but deeper than the external goals that we might want or even think we want, lies self awareness. A crucial internal step in learning where we are in life that is missed by many in search for the external in where we want to be. Before we get to where we want to be, we must know where we are.

Anyone that has dug deep and hit pay dirt with their goals has, at some level, discovered a little bit more about themselves as a person. We are not our goals, and our goals do not define who we are. This is not to say that having goals is not important, on the contrary, goals are necessary in order to stay true in life. But having goals without attempting to learn about ourselves,  is like trying to arrive at a destination in the dark. Self awareness is our gps system in our navigation and will allow us to observe our past, absorb our present, and see our future with open eyes. To discover ourselves we must observe ourselves in order to gain a perspective shift. Just as the feeling we get from seldomly hearing our own voice on a recording, some of what we see in our self discovery will disturb us at first. This is the major deterrent for most of us because it becomes too scary to face, this is true for all of us, we all have low points in our lives that are hard to adress. But we will come to find, the courage to stay strong through the uncomfortable will eventually start to light up the map towards not just we want, but what we need.

Choosing Strength

Our lives on a whole are the sum of the choices we make. After we are born into what nature has provided in parenting, genetics, geography, and social status the rest is up to us. Which direction we travel, is up to us. We can go in two directions with each decision, we can go up or we can go down. If we are without values or principles hearing this truth of cause and effect can seem stressful, because there are so many choices to be made over the course of just one hour of one day in our lives. However, if we can center our choices on values and principles, decision making, although still difficult, becomes directed. We can give ourselves the strength of knowing that we are choosing the right things for ourselves because we govern our own choices by what is important to us. 

Handling Change

As a fitness community we discuss many topics surrounding adaptation because the analysis of how we are adapting to our past situations will define the path of our current and future adaptations.  

I have had a few major relocations, or moves, in my life and it has always been consistent in mental and emotional adaptation, only now do I realize that this was all just adaptation to my ability to handle changing circumstances. When we are among major change, like relocating where we live, we often fail to recognize the macro viewpoint because we are usually too involved in the chaos presented within the change. But with each change large or small, we have the power to make a choice, which is why there is discrepancy among us when it comes to change. Some people fear change and can never go anywhere, they easily become stuck, and others close to them become stuck along with them. Where some crave too much change and are always looking for something new, never being able to see things through and overwhelming those who are close to them. 

In both of these situations we are running, in one situation we are running away and the other we are chasing, but nonetheless we are running when it is best to observe. But rightfully so, change is quintessential to mental barriers because the adaptation to change is to face ourselves, our deep selves, in essence we become the barrier to ourselves. That is downright scary for all of us whether on a conscious level or otherwise. However, if we can direct our choices and stay focused on our goals, we can find our way through those barriers of change more calmly, productively, and even find that the barrier is not a barrier but a new possibility. “When we experience change, everything is up in the air, it’s stressful, but in the chaos there are new possibilities.” (Peterson) Change presents itself differently and comes in many forms, one thing that is consistent about change is always chance. It is a chance for us to start new and redefine ourselves by either confronting ourselves when we would normally run away, or stay our course when we would normally stray.

24 03, 2020

The Mind of an Athlete

This article was written a few weeks ago, before any of us new what state we would be in today. But I feel that it applies to the times we are in now, keep being and athlete, keep training, when we get through this and we come out the other side, we will be glad that we did.

Bill Bowerman, one of the most prolific track coaches of all time, has been quoted and has embodied the quote fully, “if you have a body you are an athlete.” Many high level athletes, coaches, competitors alike will go on to attempt to educate the world on the extreme benefits of treating yourself like an athlete. There is an interesting stance on this from those who have wide experience with athletics, the benefit seemingly transcends the body and helps to develop and shape the mind. I know we have adopted this mantra at CFO because of the incredible benefit to viewing any situation through the eyes of an athlete. 

Thus, we enter the mind of an athlete.

Human Performance

We learn the value of learning, because we are not born with much, a bunch of genes and 23 pairs of chromosomes. And to advance our human performance, we must learn and develop the behaviours that allow for our growth. Most successful athletes have experienced this and have seen that we can gain so much more than physical attributes. Because learning to develop our physical human performance is a manifestation of something bigger. The process of developement in general teaches us, about ourselves and about life, it shows us guiding principles. Because the weight on a barbell is absolute, as are our gymnastics capabilities, and our metcon scores.  It is a truth, not an easy truth to uncover, but when we are open to see it for ourselves we see a challenge that confronts us. And we learn that we can live in avoidance of this challenge or accept it. Further, an athlete learns not only to embrace the challenge that struggle brings, but to embrace the truths that surround the personal growth necessary to our developement. 

This brings us to Courage.


We learn that courage is our necessary response to challenge. An athlete learns to embrace challenge rather than avoid it. When confronted with challenge and our fight or flight response kicks in, the first thing to learn is that flight is generally the most comfortable and the least beneficial, but fighting abruptly will yield poor results. The second and hardest thing athletes learn is that fighting can happen in different ways. When faced with an opponent or a challenge, be it another human being or simply a challenging situation, we must realize that ‘fighting’ should include steps. Patiently pursuing the understanding of the situation and the challenge is the middle ground between fight and flight, if we take the necessary steps in a process to learn fully about the challenge and evaluate our response we can develop the courageous habit of facing challenge rather than reacting too it or running from it. Because reaction is linked to failure, where response is linked to learning, because when we are open to evaluating situations we are learning and absorbing. This way we can build on our past behaviours knowing which steps to take in the future. So, this becomes the third thing an athlete will learn, that failure and success are not grand or scarce, they are very insignificant and abundant; both will inevitably happen continually, in small steps travelling up and down. An athlete learns that courage itself is the biggest challenge of all: to face a challenge without knowing if we will being stepping up or down. What can help to initiate our steps in the face of the challenge and proceed to give us courage is knowing that whatever happens, we will gain experience and we will learn because we are open to it. 

This brings us to Virtuosity.


We learn the courage to continually practice virtuosity. Virtuosity is a term usually given to world class artists that have seemingly perfected their craft. Many world class athletes who make an art of their sport through their proficiency in their attention to detail and technique can be known as virtuoso’s as well. Think of a gymnast, executing a flawless routine on the rings or the floor.  This display of virtuosity requires the relentless pursuit of learning, it is a place just outside our comfort zone but close enough that we can endure it day in and out. It requires a tremendous focus and desire, it is the mental sweet spot, the zone, we are serious and focused but we are having fun. Directing our focus to the place that yields us the best results which come with the typical feelings of joy and frustration. But an athlete learns to block those feelings out because both are distraction.  It is a place where success and failure are not even on our radar, it is the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and developement for the sake of knowledge, understanding, and developement. 

This brings us to purpose.


We find our purpose through our ability to courageously challenge ourselves to practice virtuosity. It is not a paint by numbers, the above process is difficult to say the least, it is life teaching us about life. If we have built up fake walls, it will tear them down and expose our truth to ourselves, it will take our fears, our ego, our anxieties, and our weakness, and it will chisel away at them until they become usable. Until we realize how to gain success. But let’s define success for our purposes. As a coach who guides athletes, we should be viewing success as progression toward what gives us peace, and there in lies the athlete’s purpose. For instance, there are many people who look successful on the surface who have progressed in their lives, but have learned little and have no peace, this is not our definition of success. Internal peace is not comfort and it’s not happiness, it is a mind that is free to be focused and unclouded. Purpose gives us this chance to pursue with a free and clear mind. 

7 03, 2020

Master Your Recovery

Recovery specifics for CrossFit Masters Athletes

By: Kevin Bowles

 “Know yourself, understand the workouts by walking through them first so that your body can adjust to the movements.”

-Gord Mackinnon

Working with CrossFit Masters Competitors presents itself with obvious challenges without obvious solutions, it’s a mixture of new school approach with old school bodies and minds. Programming and coaching for the master is kind of like cement mixing, where equal doses of recovery and training volume must apply, and just like any competitor each individual Master’s Competitor presents many differences. This extra dynamic makes it an exciting adventure to embark upon as a coach. We have found over the years of working with these incredibly impressive athletes that even though each master comes with a unique set of limitations, strengths, weaknesses, and aversions, there are some universal principles that apply which mainly encompass recovery. 

The Importance of Recovery 

It’s not a glamorous topic, but we don’t write things for click bait, we are attempting to discover truths within the fitness industry. And the truth is, in this world, if you can recover better than your competitors it has a compounding effect over years, months, even a week-end competition. Providing us with the greatest return on our training investment. This is true for all competitors, however, for masters it becomes amplified because of the nature of the athletes that make up the field. One of the masters athletes I have been privileged to coach but more so learn from is veteran CrossFit Games competitor and international Canadian Rugby player Gord Mackinnon. He is a person that when speaking, the entire room stops to listen, because there is an overwhelming sense that you will learn a wise truth:

“The big difference is that 100% of masters CrossFit athletes are dealing with either current injuries, old injuries that have resurfaced, or general pains like arthritis to some degree. Everybody trains more effectively these days, because the science behind exercise and biomechanics is so sound now, technology has advanced. We didn’t have any of that, what we were told in our day was all wrong and these things are catching up with us now.”

-Gord Mackinnon, 3 time CrossFit Games Masters Champion

Masters deal with a lifetime of sports injuries and old war wounds that individuals don’t necessarily have to deal with, that’s why the masters athletes who crush it in competition are also some of the smartest when it comes to recovery. So much so that it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that given the scope of recovery and what it means, it could be the most important aspect within a masters athletes training program. In other words, If there’s a secret to becoming a successful masters competitor, the answer lies in recovery.

Recovery is more than method

Despite common knowledge, recovery doesn’t begin post workout, it doesn’t ever begin because it never ends. Recovery is best thought of simply as response, how does the body respond to training stimulus? And when we respond do we respond to the stimulus with positive results or negative ones? Our job is to find ways to recover positively. Thus, recovery must be a determining factor in all aspects of training, from the warm-ups, through the actual training, the cool downs, the post training recovery, sleep, in a cyclical fashion. Because if we isolate recovery to post training methods like ice baths and massage we could be shooting ourselves in the foot without realizing it during training, rendering recovery as attempts at just preventing bleeding or injury management.


 As we naturally age, hormone receptors become less sensitive, leading us to a decline in endocrine function. Meaning, the ability for our bodies to grow and metabolize becomes more irregular, making the body slower to adapt to training methods. Given this fact, for a masters athlete, it is a good idea to keep training slightly less varied than the individual competitor which will afford the master the opportunity to adapt to the training stimulus. Masters athletes tend to react very well to a structured routine approach to their training. Seeing as recovery starts within our training methods, this is a good principle to include to ensure we are setting our athletes up to recover productively. 

Warm ups

These are typically viewed as a way to prepare for the workout, but sometimes it’s also beneficial to view a warm-up as a way to flush the previous days damage, an extended active recovery. A masters warm-up must be longer and less demanding, a masters athlete is always ready to throw down, what we must realize is that they don’t necessarily require as much activation or central nervous system priming, but would benefit more from a long general active recovery style warm-up. Something that Gord and I used heavily at the games was tracking resting heart rate and heart rate elevation rate during his warm-ups. We wanted to ensure that his heart rate was not spiking drastically but gradually increasing to a manageable rate. This is much different than an individual young gun who can hop onto an assault bike, crush a quick 15 cals and be ready to rock! Masters need time, remember everything is metabolizing slower, relative to an individual competitor, we should see the master’s warm-up as more gradual and encompassing more volume. More is more in the warm-up.

Less Is So Much More

A Masters athlete must be proactive in their training to give themselves a chance to recover, including: decreasing intensity and volume from the individual competitors, we would be best to practice movements more often than to train for stimulus. When we want to do more, we do more practicing, because a truth for any competitor is that consistency will always beat overtraining, and as a master we are walking on a balance beam when it comes to training volume. Where an individual athlete might be held more accountable to sticking to a program, the masters athlete must take their program with a grain of salt. Nobody knows your body better than you do, this is one of the advantages to being a masters athlete, the experience. If we can influence the athlete to be confident enough to listen to their body and attempt to master it, it will allow us to see more effective training over time. This is a difficult concept for a competitor to digest, no true competitor wants to do less training, but if there is buy in between coach and athlete it will be known that the program is smart and empathetic, creating an environment where it is not simply okay to alter the program on the fly but it is necessary to see athletic growth.

Central Nervous System

As we age our CNS will begin to atrophy, like the endocrine system, this system will slow down the messages from our brain to our body. Meaning, the CNS will be taxed more aggressively for a masters athlete making power style training much less effective. A masters athlete will benefit more from endurance style training, but continuing to allow for varied training methods, such as: Muscular endurance training, speed play training, lower demanding gymnastics for longer sets, movements that require less demand per repetition. We rarely ever go to complete failure, our pacing must be dialed in, masters athletes should break up repetitions more often but the time between those reps needs to be limited for more consistent efforts over the workout. Being smart about our approach and finding ways to rest in the workout are of enormous benefit, for example, resting with a bar on the back rather than dropping it to the floor if possible so you don’t have to clean it back up over multiple reps can drastically reduce the load on our CNS, and cut down on a major work load.

Because the CNS responds more slowly it doesn’t mean we can’t expose a masters athlete to heavy lifts, power training, and extreme intensities, we will need to manage the exposure over smaller doses. 

Active recovery 

For full recovery methods for the general high performing athlete, my previous article can be referred here: recovery 101. Active recovery for a master must become a daily ritual in order to have any lasting effects. A masters active recovery is also going to incorporate more than the average active recovery session, we are going to include longer tempo endurance, mobility, “injury management” such as physio therapy, massage, and chiropractic care, as well as specific accessory work. The truth is, when Gord was in his 20’s he proclaims he could play two rugby games in one day and his body felt great (but he also proclaimed he had to his games up hill both ways and in the snow. Kidding). But fast forward to his 30’s, after one game he would be stiff and sore for a full week until the next game. Now in his 60’s he opens up each day with active recovery, doing 150 air squats to move and maintain in order to keep consistency in his body.

Recovering during the qualifier

This article is timely with the CrossFit Games Age Group Online Qualifier quickly approaching. So I will leave you with some specific words from Gord on the topic:

“know yourself, understand the workouts by walking through them first so that your body can adjust to the movements. Do your strengths first coupled with shorter workouts, If there is a glaring beast wod save that one for last. 

Make your physio appointments ahead of time, plan for pains.

Don’t be afraid to gear up!” 

28 02, 2020

The Discipline Wheel

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most.”

-Abraham Lincoln

People usually reach out to us when their fitness and their goals are looking a bit shaky, we have seen this time and time again and they are simply just stuck in a wheel of “the grind.” We are fed, through social media, how the grind is all we need, that it’s all about that grind. We have seen over the years that, yes grinding is better than sitting on our asses, but after a while grinding just to grind has no direction, no purpose, and it leaves us feeling paralyzed in our current situation, often leaving us feeling stagnant, anxious, or simply just bored. When the reason we are grinding in the first place is to better our current situation. 

Couple this paralysis with the fitness & mentality trends displayed on social media and the sum of the two equal a perspective problem. The challenge with reacting to such events is that the external circumstances rarely have anything to do with your specific situation and plan. We are left to rely on continual motivation to fuel our desires. Motivation is a tool that we can use, it is not bad, but when we become dependant on motivation that’s when we get stuck or see marginal gains. We’ve all been there, we watched the latest CrossFit Games documentary, an athletes youtube channel, or an instagram page and we become motivated to get ourselves to the gym for the week, then after 10-14 days our attendance resembles that of the Toronto Maple Leaf 2006-2016 playoff schedule.

Adrenal Fatigue

We tell ourselves we have a motivation problem and we start the cycle over again. Even if we continually motivate ourselves and we are consistent, this mindset is never sustainable. It is very mentally taxing and can be physically daunting to the point where the stubborn ones might experience what we’ve seen as adrenal fatigue.  We can see that adrenal fatigue is an extreme version of overtraining and it does happen, that’s why it’s a good idea to keep track of things like sudden behaviour changes when we are training, as our hormones are drastically effected by physical exertion. 

Athlete Psychology

You’re not alone with this motivation problem, it presents itself in many different ways and we have routinely seen athletes of all skill levels struggle with this on some level. From individuals who struggle to get off the couch and haven’t even tapped into the athlete contained within themselves yet, to athletes that are finding that they are training so much and intensely that it’s hard for them to manage the next days session, therefore experiencing symptoms of overtraining and in some cases adrenal fatigue. 

Scientifically, this is why we include variance coupled with waves of weightlifting percentages and metcon intensities to ensure that we control for adaptations, but individuals who struggle with this are usually mistaking motivation for discipline. Motivation is like a spark, it’s great for starting a fire within us, motivation charges us up and gives us some short term energy. However, it is terrible for keeping that fire going and burning hot! Hopefully we can develop that spark, seeing motivation turn into habits, then habits into routine, and finally we have discipline. 


Habits are just motivations that become automatic responses, that can be good or bad. Think about a habit you have, we are usually triggered (or motivated) toward this habit. Knowing this allows us to control the trigger. We simply attempt to motivate athletes toward turning their goals into habits. The best example is a smoker, smokers are not drawn to pull out a cigarette until they are triggered. It could be that they couple smoking with drinking coffee and that sip of coffee triggers the response to crave a cigarette, or getting in their car to commute home, ect. If we learn the trigger, we can control the response or the trigger itself. When used with good habits like a fitness routine, we already have so much power.


Once our habits are formed, the conscious application and recurrence of our habits form a routine on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. When we put that habit in a schedule we have solidified the routine. 


Holding ourselves accountable is discipline, when motivation has started the fire and it becomes burning hot through habits and routine, discipline is keeping that fire going. There are not many things worth doing in life that are “set it and forget it.” Athletes of all levels struggle with discipline in one way or another, the discipline to understand movement and keep learning, the discipline to stick to a certain type of programming and not let our minds get carried away with ‘grass is greener’ thoughts, or the discipline to keep our routines fun and engaging. 

Discipline is difficult to implement, the word even has an eye rolling reputation. But becoming truly disciplined is generally a game changer to those who take the time to learn and develop the behaviour. 

You can book a call with us here for more information on better steps to becoming disciplined with your training in order to actively pursue your goals.

22 02, 2020

Recovery 101

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

-Zen Proverb

Recovery is a widely covered topic in the fitness industry, like nutrition there are many versions of implementation towards specific goals causing a massive sea of information that can be hard to differentiate. Also, like nutrition, recovery implements are not as beneficial in a general setting, they should more effectively be tailored to individual and specific demands. 


Everything we do relies heavily on the human body’s response to adaptation. Because we adapt we develop, but it is also this same phenomenon that forces plateau, which is why training programs must be thoughtful. The methodology of variance has been one way that we have overcome adaptation in training. Variance has become a widely known method to disrupt adaptation and expedite progression in most training programs. We must recognize that one of the things human beings are best at is adaptation, and just like in training, we adapt to methods of recovery as well. So as a general rule of thumb, your recovery should mirror your training in the sense of variance, but also in intensity and volume. For instance, when the training is at its peak recovery methods should be most intense during this time and less intense when training is not as rigorous. 


The ultimate goal of our recovery is to illicit supercompensation by the next training session. Supercompensation is a response to a given stimulus, where we see an elevation in the athlete’s performance following the recovery period. When we train we are exposing our bodies to damage; this is why our performance declines during and immediately post training. But with properly executed recovery, we gradually get back to homeostasis and, in a well thought out training/recovery program, we can routinely achieve supercompensation.

Means of Recovery


It is commonly known that human beings optimally require 7-9 hours of sleep per night at a minimum, But concerning recovery the quantity of sleep is just step one, the quality of sleep is something we can dissect further into how we are sleeping. 

There are four stages of sleep preceding each other in a cyclical manner in a 90-120min frame:

Stage 1- Transition- drowsiness and relaxation begin

Stage 2- Stable sleep- Chemically reduced senses

Stage 3- Deep sleep- Growth Hormone is produced

Stage 4- Rapid Eye Movement (REM)- Brain is very active, body is immobilized 

Lack of sleep or sleep disturbance that inhibits REM sleep has shown to drastically increase cortisol which is our stress hormone and decrease growth hormone which stimulates the rebuilding of tissue. In athletic recovery we are very concerned with the bodies ability to decrease cortisol and increase growth hormone. 

The goal of our sleep is to spend more time in deep sleep. Some methods that allow us to do so are all centered around non-disturbance and relaxation. An athlete should not eat a few hours before going to bed, immediately beforehand a glass of warm water is beneficial. Any stimulants like caffeine and alcohol interfere with getting to deeper stages of sleep as their effects are felt long after consumption. So we might even be aided in falling asleep by these stimulants, but our quality is reduced. A higher carbohydrate meal before sleep tends to provide us a more restful sleep than a lower carbohydrate meal, but it increases REM and decreases Deep sleep, as do spicy condiments. 

A hot bath at any point in the evening can induce sleep faster and cause greater relaxation allowing the body and mind to progress through the first two stages more quickly. 

The atmosphere of the bedroom should be as dark as possible with fresh air circulation and a cool temperature (17-19 C). The head remains cool while the feet are warmed with an even and firm mattress in order to maintain the curve of the spine.

Contrast Recovery

We can even think about our recovery in the shower. Using contrasting temperatures of water as not only recovery but as a means of physical well being has been used for centuries. A 5 min shower, alternating 1min of hot water and 10s of cold water, post workout can speed up recovery by 15%.

A warm bath can be used after strength or speed workouts to flush muscular tension and fatigue pains. An endurance athlete would require the opposite, a cool bath followed by a fresh shower. As overheating the body is a great means of recovery, an endurance athlete requires a cooling of their core temperature to aid in recovery.

A sauna can help to relax muscle increase elasticity of joints and ligaments, and even increase metabolism. However, saunas do increase blood flow at a superficial level at the expense of internal organs, so a sauna should only be used during intense training and no more than twice per week. A sauna should not be used during menstruation or with an elevated core body temperature. 

When using a sauna athletes should enter for 5-7min followed by a cooling period of either fresh, cool air or a cold bath for 10-15 seconds, with a 7-10min rest for 4 total rounds.

An athlete who lost more than 2% of total body weight during a workout is dehydrated and should not elevate their core temperature for more than 24 hours.

Active Recovery

When we increase the heart rate to 50%, around 90-110bpm, for prolonged periods the body decreases cortisol and increases blood flow through the muscles which allows for increased metabolism and a reduction in lactate.

Active recovery between sets, for speed training, a 1:1 work:rest ratio is recommended; and for endurance training, it can be as little as 9:1 to see a benefit.

Active recovery in place of a workout should last 40-60mins with a heart rate between 90-110bpm. Using a method that is enjoyable to the athlete has shown to elicit an even better response. Aggressive hiking, light jogging, physical labour, cycling, swimming, cross country skiing are all great methods of active recovery. Following the session with joint mobility will allow for increased blood flow.

Post Training Recovery 

We live in a world where convenience tends to take precedence over long term value, and although it is convenient to practice our recovery at the tail end of a training session, pairing the two together, it is less than beneficial. Specific recovery methods used inside a 3 hour window post training session leave athlete’s performance in worse shape the following day. However, athletes that use the same recovery methods after that 3 hour window see performance benefit. Further, athletes that recover 6-12 hours after a training session experience supercompensation the following day. 

We can effectively use recovery sessions to not only see elevated performance results but to also foster healthier lifestyles. Recovery is beneficial on a cellular and hormonal level even without accompaniment by a training program. Recovery is the platform for growth in the human body whether we are attempting to become the next greatest of all time or we are simply looking to get more out of our lives.

14 02, 2020

My Quest For Longevity

By: Julia kruetzmann

I do not want to die; I want to live an extremely long time. This is a common sentiment for most sentient life on this planet. I was, however, travelling down a path toward a stunted and chronically diseased, untimely death. At 35 years old, I was super morbidly obese, pre-diabetic, and pre-hypertensive accompanied by major depression. I had a husband that adored me and four amazing children, but I still found myself withdrawn from life, self-conscious and anxious about everything. If I truly wanted a long happy life, I had to make a drastic change. After thorough research, I underwent gastric-bypass surgery in order to lose the weight quickly. Given my personality, I knew I had to see rapid results in order to stay the course. I am thankful for this surgery, as it facilitated the weight loss, but also helped me to re-establish my relationship with food. I have forever changed the way I choose to nourish my body, which will hopefully prove to be beneficial in my quest for longevity. However, diet alone will only protect the body to a certain extent from disease, with exercise and good mental health also major contributing factors. I have come to realize that all of these components must be in check in order to reach my ultimate goal of longevity; living to 120 years and devoid of chronic disease. With my diet now in line, it was time to move on to the next task, exercise.

At around six-months post-surgery, I had lost nearly 80 pounds and was on the verge of thinking about possibly considering implementing an exercise regimen. A friend of mine was visiting from New Jersey at that time and we found ourselves engaged in conversation around this topic. My friend was quite excited to tell me all about this thing called “CrossFit” that she had been doing for exercise back in New Jersey. She was quite adamant that this was the type of training for me. She explained that since I was a competitive dancer and weight trained throughout high school, CrossFit should appeal to my natural tendency toward challenge and competition. With ever so much passion, she continued to rave about CrossFit. She spoke of the exercise components themselves, but went on to describe the supportive nature of the people who train this way. CrossFit was more of a lifestyle; a community of like-minded individuals supporting each other through their journeys toward whatever their goals might be. My immediate thought was, oh my, she drank the Kool-Aid and what exactly is in my coffee right now? Being a natural skeptic, I embarked on a new research project, topic: CrossFit. Many academic papers, documentaries, and blog posts later, I decided to give it a try. By this time, it had been a few months since my Jersey friend visited and my weight loss was at 110 pounds. My goal before implementing exercise was to lose 100 pounds, so it was time to stop thinking about possibly considering it and to just do it. Again, I conducted exhaustive research of all the gyms in Oshawa before I opted for CrossFit Oshawa.

On a hot sunny day in July, I walked through the doors of CrossFit Oshawa, hoping to be granted an on the spot consultation (for free perhaps?). I was welcomed by a seemingly, almost overly, joyful coach who was more than happy to explain to me all that is CrossFit and what his gym could do for me. It was quite refreshing to meet someone so exuberant and knowledgeable about their craft. Not only did he have an answer for all of my questions, he put forth the effort into exploring my motives for enquiring about CrossFit, and to determine if this really was appropriate for my goals. He showed a genuine interest in my life overall, my surgery, and my weight loss up to that point. He reinforced my friend’s assessment that those who gravitate toward challenge and competition tend to experience success with CrossFit. I appreciated his candour (and free consultation) and signed up on the spot.

Fast forward a year and a half; minus 170 pounds, sitting steady at my goal weight. I’m feeling happier now than I could ever remember in my adult life. What I have found in CrossFit has far exceeded my expectations. I have gained, physically, what I set out to; I am leaner, stronger, and fitter. I am metabolically more efficient, in so that I have an abundance of energy to make it through a long day of work standing at my desk, then enduring a workout at CrossFit, after which spending quality time with my family. I can do this now, without feeling physically drained, nor do I dread the energy I’m about to expend. Quite the contrary, I look forward to it. I can check off the exercise component to longevity with CrossFit, as it conditions the body for this exact purpose. It’s foundations are embedded in dynamic functional movements; whereby the all of the body’s muscle groups are stimulated throughout the workout and mimic ordinary daily movements. (For instance, picking something up, carrying it across a distance, and then putting it down.) What far surpassed my expectations though, was the vast improvement of my mental health. This is a much welcome side effect. To a degree, the weight loss certainly helped to increase my self-esteem. But, what I experienced from CrossFit was much more transformational. I finally feel confident. I feel accomplished. I feel I have worth. When I step through the doors of CrossFit Oshawa, I know that for the next hour I will accomplish something great; improvement of myself. I can do this with the support of my coaches, who treat me like a real human being. They show kindness and respect to all of their athletes. Their encouragement has helped me to realize my full potential in all my roles in life, far beyond that of an athlete. I take the life lessons I learn at CrossFit and apply them daily. This is far greater than any physical training; being respectful to yourself and others. Encouraging myself to do better and be better because it truly is possible to improve all the time and I am worth that. I am grateful to CrossFit for helping me to realize this.

For me, CrossFit checks both the physical and mental wellness components to longevity. So now that I have diet, exercise, and good mental health all lined up, it is conceivable that I will live to 120 years, disease free.

Author: Julia kruetzmann