1 02, 2020

The progression of an athlete

“The wisest, knew the secret of all life. That struggle and inequality are present even in beauty.”

-Fiedrich Nietzsche

The drive toward human performance is a value of CFO because it makes athletes of us all. Everyone’s an athlete regardless of ability. An athlete is someone who is driven toward human performance, which is simply a spectrum of what our body is capable of. We might not perceive ourselves to be this way, but once we find the athlete in us, we have witnessed people of all ability types start to realize some amazing things about themselves. We can all be athletes, but it’s beneficial for us to realize the progression and what it means to train like an athlete versus someone who just exercises.

Athletes of all sports go through natural phases as they progress.

The Beginner

A beginner is an athlete learning new things, they are met with first wave adaptation. It is rare for a beginner to not develop quickly because human beings are designed to learn new things.

Some people relish in this phase simply because they love the learning process, and sure enough, these are the people that accelerate through this phase most quickly. The beginner is a very fun stage once we are past the point of the intimidation of learning something new.

The Intermediate

This is a tempermental phase, athletes can spend a lot of time here. This is usually where we experience our first plateaus and we start to reflect on what we are learning, the first time we plateau can be frustrating but it is a natural progression in learning and very important. This situation becomes our best teacher if we can stand back and reflect on our training and practice objectively. Our reflection, becomes an actionable step forwards. After we’ve been through the beginner’s learning curve and our performance progression starts to level out there is a massive mental response from an athlete here; some athletes experience frustration, others blame external factors, which are all very natural emotions and reactions as long as we face them and use them to progress forwards they can be beneficial. We never like to see athletes get to a point of acceptance, this is a progression killer, accepting where we are at is likened to giving up and many athletes become stuck in human performance purgatory because of this. Very few athletes respond to the intermediate stage plateau with a beginner mentality, but ironically this is the mentality needed in order to progress to the next stage of development. The continual pursuit of learning.

 The Advanced

A challenging phase to get to, the athletes we see in this stage understand their sport and have a certain level of confidence in their progress, even though this is the stage where progress is slowest. We hear people talk about a process all the time, this is the stage where that process will actually make or break an athlete, before this it’s all just hard work, dedication, and making sure we stick to our process. Now, athletes have to fully be aware of themselves, their sport, and the differences in their adaptations. What the process is made up of actually starts to matter in this stage. The Advanced athlete can go through similar reactions and emotions as the intermediate but very few people reach this level and when we have learned to develop at an advanced rate we have most likely learned to react effectively to the realities of training. Of the few athletes who make it this far in their development, even fewer will ever make it past here.

Elite

This level is the best in the world, very few people can make claim to being an Elite level athlete. This factors in talent and perseverance. The athletes at this level benefit from squeezing blood from a stone: programing, the coaching, the recovery methods all need to be dialed up to 10. What we have observed from the athletes at this stage is a very cool phenomenon, they have come full circle back to beginner because they are doing things that have never been done before, they are pioneers, making these athletes beginners of a different kind.

Summary

We have just taken a glimpse at athletic progression, not once did we mention ability level, this concept applies for anyone in any sport as a way to keep ourselves pointed in the right direction to reach our goals more effectively. 

The irony in the progression is that we are all attempting to level up, but what we might not realize is that most of the fun and progression happens all in the beginner stage when we are open to learning. As we progress and learn more about ourselves and our sport, it is natural to challenge for newer and better learning. 

As a coach I welcome this because that’s when I learn the most. What I have seen from a beginner right through to an elite level athlete, is that with an immense craving for learning from the athlete and the coach is what aides progression. There is no sport that has figured out every little detail, there are always alternative programs, methods, and process. The answer that most athletes search for lies in the process of figuring all this out not in actually figuring it out.

To find out more about pursuing your goals you can book an athlete meeting with us here:

crossfitoshawa@gmail.com

25 01, 2020

The Theory of Supercompensation


“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t Quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
-Muhammad Ali

Supercompensation 

Supercompensation is a response to a given training stimulus, where we see an elevation in the athlete’s performance following the recovery period, which immediately follows the stimulus.

Our base level is called homeostasis; this is when our body is in balance at a cellular level. Our blood ph levels, blood oxygen saturation, when hormones are regulated. When we train we are actually 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 program, supercompensation. A simple concept, but hard to nail down in reality, because, as human beings, our physiological state is always in flux. This is a very micro viewpoint of one training session. Imagine what the graph would look like over an entire years worth of training or even a lifetime. 

The idea is that supercompensation occurs enough to see gradual improvements over time. An ideal training program will take athletes through purposeful training cycles to illicit compounding supercompensation responses and the effect will have a graph that resembles the housing market.

Easier Said Than Done

One of the best things that a human being does is adapt to its environment and exposed stimuli. We will eventually adapt to supercompensation, making it more difficult over time to experience in the same ways. Training cycles are a necessity at this point for an athlete to see any sort of physical improvement response to their training. That said, on a macro program, we must account for a deficit and supercompensation over time. Your progression as an athlete is rarely linear. If we zoom out and look at a lifetime of a very successful athlete, their progression charts all over the place, like the housing market – up and down with an average line of progression, not decline. But an athlete’s progression will never be in a uniform straight line. 

So one of the best things about human beings is adaptation, but it’s one of our biggest complexities as well.

The Theory of Supercompensation

We’ve discussed the science behind physical supercompensation, but what about the theory of mental supercompensation. Can we become mentally stronger through supercompensation in similar ways that we become physically stronger? When we expose ourselves to adversity and failures, our realities are immediately worse off, but we can view this as mental strength training for the future. This is no simple concept, we cannot use this theory to excuse our failures, we need to use it to learn about our failures and pose the greatest question we can ask: “Why?”


17 01, 2020

Words From our Coaches

Nutrition

Most of the time the money in this industry is spent on supplements and quick fixes, when the most crucial step is making a lifestyle change that supports healthy behaviours. Most athletes don’t realize just how important nutrition is with regards to fitness. Fitness on a whole is largely about lifestyle, not just working out.

Weightlifting

Use your legs! When athletes are first introduced to the snatch and clean & jerk, they see mainly arms. The reality is that it’s not a pull with the arms, its rather a push with the legs that generates the force required to lift the weight effectively. 

Mentality

Don’t be afraid to fail, keep pushing yourself. When the future you looks back at the old you, you will surprise yourself with how far you have come. When we first start something it can be discouraging but it quickly becomes something you can be proud of because you can do some pretty cool things. Staying consistent through the rough days is key to getting there.

Whether you’re first starting out, a year into it, a veteran, or a games athlete, you should own your goals and your progress. It’s tough to come in brand new and not feel out of place a little bit, not as strong, not as fit, too old, too small, ect.. But if you are coachable, apply what we teach you, you will see more than progress, you will see fulfillment in yourself which comes before success. Putting things into perspective to where you came from goes a long way towards keeping you on track when feeling discouraged.

But, most importantly, we should enjoy what we do! This stuff can be really fun if we allow it to be. Take every warm-up, workout, skill work, and even your failures and make the best out of it. We should realize that anything can be fun, we are the ones who make it so or not.

Build with purpose, execute with virtuosity, in the name of human performance.

10 01, 2020

Hormonal Response to Physical Exertion 

Many studies have shown the benefits that physical exertion have on our hormones which affect all four areas of our human development alone. When we experience physical exertion, not just exercise (there must be sweat and a lot of it) we reduce cortisol levels and increase serotonin levels.

This is of great use to us, as cortisol is our hormonal response to negative stress, when our cortisol levels are high we release more glucose from the liver as a fight or flight response to provide us with quick energy. Although initially a good thing, over time, prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar can lead to catastrophic health effects and with elevated cortisol we can experience drastic mood swings, abdominal weight gain, high blood pressure among other negative health and wellness effects. Where as serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and improves digestion, sleep, sex drive, and even social behaviour. These two hormones fight for their right to dominate within our bodies and I think it’s clear which hormone we want to promote when we can control it.

 There is one more hormone to be aware of in this dynamic and it’s a tricky one. Many of us have heard of dopamine it’s known as the “happy hormone” and like cortisol has positive short term benefits, like serotonin it is also a neurotransmitter and has a vital role in our cognitive and physical functions. Dopamine is beneficial in small doses, but this hormone becomes tricky in large doses as every action has an equal and opposite reaction. With large releases of dopamine, the action allows us to feel happy in the short term, but the body inevitably responds forcing us into the other side of that large happiness spike caused by the initial rush of dopamine. People that have exposed themselves to prolonged elevations of the dopamine hormone are inclined to ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorders, binge eating, addiction, psychopathy and schizophrenia. Dopamine is linked to happiness but it is a hormone responsible for things like motivation, arousal, and reward signal. 

When we exercise our cortisol and serotonin will take care of balancing themselves out, however, it is a good practice to become aware of the things that promote serotonin and reduce cortisol.

Serotonin Synthesis:

To promote the bodies ability to utilize serotonin we trace back through the process of synthesizing stages of L-tryptophan to L-amino acid decarboxylase. The following methods can be used to strengthen this process:

Diet- Increasing dietary tryptophan, such as: chicken, eggs, cheese, turkey, beef, salmon and tuna, tempeh, beans, lentils, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and chia seeds, and nuts. 

Exercise- High intensity exercise 

Lifestyle- Get outside, Vitamin D is a major factor in boosting serotonin. Get your 8 hours of quality sleep that is also consistent is vital for serotonin synthesis.

Cortisol Reduction:

In reducing Cortisol we need to think about calming down the stress patterns on the nervous system using the following methods:

Diet- Omega 3 fatty acids (wild salmon), Vitamin C (citrus fruits), L-Theanine (green tea), Glutamine (meats, beetroot), Phosphatidylserine (soy, egg yolks)

Exercise- Moderate to high intensity exercise, without overtraining. Exercise, although a positive form, is still a form of stress. Overtraining can lead to reverse intended effects.

Lifestyle- Relaxation and down time. Avoiding mental stress is a major factor in reducing cortisol. Strategies on reducing mental stress using lifestyle include: Journaling, physical intimacy, positive relationships, proper respiratory function. 

The Outlier

With Serotonin levels going up and cortisol going down, we can start to experience major health, wellness, recovery, and performance benefits. All sparked through mainly physical exertion. 

However, the dopamine hormone is sneaky and we should understand it in order to be aware of its benefits and downfalls. When we release dopamine, we crave more of its release, this is how it aides in addictions and habits. Dopamine does not have a govern and it doesn’t have a conscience, it causes compounding results, whether you are receiving the response from gambling, watching netflix, checking off the box on your to do list, or working out, dopamine doesn’t care which one is better for your health, it just wants to be released and when it gets a taste of freedom, it wants more of it. Yes, people are different, but if you’ve noticed some people have addictive personalities and others seem to not have addictive personalities, I’m not sure if it’s a personality trait or a hormonal balance/imbalance. 

Further, we tend to label addiction as negative, like gambling or drinking excessively, but we can be addicted to good things as well. The name of the game for us is simply turning the worse habits into better habits, one at a time to guide your dopamine response and regain control. We can control our hormones through our habits, it doesn’t happen quickly, but with some guidance we can help get it on track.

Book a free call or email us to set up a 1-on-1 consultation with us today to find out more about building better habits:

www.crossfitoshawa.com/contactus/

4 01, 2020

The Four Aspects of Human Development


All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.

-Albert Einstein 

We are beginning to understand that CrossFit, or any true athletic endeavor for that matter, carries with it more benefits than only the physical changes that we see, it seems to routinely transcend the physical allowing for personal growth in other areas. We have witnessed four main aspects of a human being where our development in these following fundamental aspects allow us to be more effective and healthier human beings towards the world, our friends, and ourselves.

1. Social

Our relationships formed with others.

If you’ve ever been involved in a team, group, culture, or conversation where things just seem to be gliding along without friction, you have been part of a good social experience. This synergy experienced allows social development through a multitude of its microcosms, including a willingness to serve, empathy, self confidence and instinctual collaboration. 

A focus on building relationships with others that are measured not by the amount of relationships we foster, but the depth we receive and value we offer. This approach to developing relationships takes a thoughtful, hardworking approach and will allow us to experience the world in such a way that eases anxiety and depression, the emotions that are tied to superficial relationships. The ease in anxiety that comes from having less superficial interactions can make room for real relationship development. There is no bigger example of these workings than social media, it has been built to bring us closer together, and in some cases it does. It has proven to be a great tool in many ways, my family and far away friends wouldn’t be as close without it. However, in some ways social media pulls us apart, because when it comes down to it a relationship requires eye contact, body language, natural conversation, vocal tone, even physical stimuli. Social dynamics require us to process information from multiple avenues. As far as our technology has gotten, it still can’t replace being part of a culture, team, or simply going for dinner with family/friends. Human-to-human interaction.

2. Mental

The specific stimuli affecting our cognitive function, form, and wellbeing.

We live in the information age, this topic is widely discussed as of late. We can pretty well open our phones to discover the latest and greatest tips on more efficient ways to absorb information. Right now you are reading this blog. We have gone through many societal stages; we were cave men who formed tribes where information was exclusively shared through social interaction via word of mouth. Somewhere along the line we developed the written word, then fast forward to a time in which we are most familiar with: the industrial revolution. This brought about many great inventions and sparked from this we now absorb information among a multitude of mediums. In a society inclined to mental stimuli we have to be careful through this bombarding of information that we keep our critical thinking sharpened. Although we live in a great time for intellectual development and this growth should be encouraged,  It is very easy to misconstrue this wealth of information if we are not intentional in our pursuit of it.

It is our responsibility to attempt to navigate the waters of the information age with precision. We have a great power with the information that we have access to, and “with great power, comes great responsibility.” 

3. Physical

The specific stimuli affecting our physical function, form, and wellbeing.

There are many things we can do to develop our physical selves, the main areas that affect us physically are exercise, nutrition, sleep, and recovery.

Seeing that today’s culture does put a lot of emphasis on the brain in this information age, often leads us to neglect our physical nature. Our bodies are so much more capable than we believe them to be, right under our noses our body breathes, sleeps, digests, our heart beats, it even repairs itself and adapts to new environments, all without the conscious brain. Our minds are powerful, but our bodies are underrated and underdeveloped. We have gotten to a point where we have so much mental stimuli in our lives that it has taken place of the physical. In today’s day and age we cannot rely on the natural, daily demands of life to give us our physical stimulus, it doesn’t exist. We used to gain our physical requirements just from simply living, doing chores, hunting and gathering food, fighting off things that might want to kill us. 

Times have definitely changed for the better, because now we have a choice and there are a lot less things trying to kill us. The innovation that we are achieving is incredible to witness, I often think of how our grandparents have adapted to so much exponential growth and change. But, we often make the wrong choice when it comes to physical development.

 Physical exertion is a fundamental and universal aspect of being a human being, it is a necessity to use our bodies. Now with this abundance of mental stimuli fighting for our limited attention, a lot of people’s physical development is washed away in the flood of this competition. It is up to us to get outside and ride a bike, run, join a CrossFit gym, ect.. The options are there for all of us. And just like our mental development, there is no limit to our physical development either, otherwise we would stop seeing world records being set.

4. Spiritual 

Our relationship with ourselves.

Philosophy and religion have made this area fairly complex and it can be, and I’m not here to debate certain philosophies or argue religious reasoning. When we think about spirituality in simpler terms and not in the differences between philosophies, but the similarities, we can start to see that spirituality becomes the relationship with the self. Our spiritual wellbeing is vital to ensuring the above aspects of our human nature have an established base. This is the standing ground of it all, of our whole world. There are many things we can do to work on our relationship with ourselves, we can pray, we can read self help books, we can journal, all of these methods have us doing one main thing: paying attention to our internal dialogue. What are you saying about yourself and what are you saying about others? If your thoughts are not well, the other aspects cannot be well. For instance, if the relationship we have with ourselves has not been developed, how can we expect to develop relationships outside of ourselves?  It’s like being in a plane crash, we are taught to put our own oxygen masks on before attempting to help others. 

Summary

There seems to be a natural phenomenon that occurs when we start to intentionally develop the four aspects, and that is when we develop in one area it will help us in the others by default, as they are all interconnected. When you work on your spirituality your ability to form relationships will develop along with it, with deeper social interactions your spirituality will evolve in turn. When you work on your mentality and you form better habits you make room for a physical development plan (workout routine) and so the upward spiral and positive momentum begin. 

Call me biased, but there is one of these human aspects alone that has the potential to develop all four at once: Physical Development. When we experience physical development we are rarely alone, we are generally part of a culture of like-minded people who are participating alongside us or interactively with us. Unless we are working out alone in our garage, we are either playing a sport with others or in a gym with others. This allows for spiritual awareness via the abundant internal dialogue that occurs when experiencing a challenging workout. It creates mental stimulus to the challenge and task at hand, and we develop our ability for social interactions through building relationships within the culture we have become immersed in. Finally, through physical development we trigger a massive hormonal response that causes an internal balance spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially, seldom achieved through other means. Next week I will discuss the science behind this balance and the things we can do to achieve it.

6 12, 2019

Our Story

Part 1: Rebels with a cause

“If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

-Bill Bowerman

It was 2006, we were two University students and washed up ex-athletes, Cam Cassidy and I had found something that would change our lives forever, like millions of others, only we didn’t know it yet. 

We were rebels of the fitness Industry, we were young, brash, and we approached fitness with a relentless intensity paired with an unwavering curiosity not seen in the average gym; we weren’t even CrossFitting yet. We were outside of the box, we trained, we moved large loads in the squat rack, we did a massive amount of supersets; but we hogged equipment, and we scoffed at those in the dumbbell corner, wearing jeans & flip-flops, staring at themselves in the mirror. We also turned our nose up to memberships offered at what we called: “globo-gyms,” we were students always on the move, we couldn’t get locked into unreasonable contracts. Although rough around the edges, we were not only two CrossFitters in the making, but two coaches and business owners in the making as well.

That summer, Cam had introduced to me a new exercise regime called: CrossFit. He said, “Look at this website [crossfit.com], it’s basically like what we are doing now.” I looked it up and it had box jumps, rope climbs, and burpees in the workout of the day. It took me months to look into it again. I liked our little routine, I saw no reason to change what was working. I played for the Laurentian University Lacrosse team at the time, after our season ended late that fall, I wasn’t hitting the gym as much and thought it would be a good idea to check out that strange CrossFit site. But, this time the workout of the day read clean and jerks, which I had been learning with my Lacrosse coach George Sheppard, who was also a lifelong weightlifting coach out of North Bay, Ontario, the mecca town of weightlifting in our province. George had been teaching me the basics of the snatch and the clean and jerk outside of lacrosse practice because I had shown an interest in the barbell, anything to get away from that narcissistic dumbbell corner. George and I had a great relationship, although his coaching influence on me was brief, he is definitely one of the top 3 coaching influences in my life. I don’t remember why, but I held off from going to the gym to do the clean & jerk workout, I went the next day when the workout read “Fran,” I did the workout wrong, went back the next day, did the same workout properly, I was hooked. Since this day in the late fall of 2006 I have done nothing but CrossFit style training.

I personally reaped the benefits of CrossFit training in the first month, I remember feeling like I had a secret recipe that no one else had. So after one year of nothing but CrossFit, I ran faster, hit harder, and outlasted everyone on the lacrosse field the next season in 2007. This almost made up for my lack of skill on the field, I was a true midfield grinder, when we got an opportunity on offense I used my speed to get my ass off the field and get a better stick on the field. 

When I wasn’t in the gym, I was reading and watching instructional videos on the CrossFit site. I learned how to lift better because in the CrossFit videos I was hooked on, they were incredibly thorough on how to execute the mechanics of the lifts. Before beginning CrossFit I was trying to mimic the compound movements I had seen from the power lifting team (with no coaching) and I was getting injured a lot, these videos I was watching was my first introduction to coaching and even they were helping me, I wasn’t getting injured anymore. They weren’t sexy videos, they were in fact boring and dry, even for a fitness addict like myself. But I couldn’t not watch them and try to absorb everything I could, some internal force was pulling me to everything that was CrossFit. My numbers in my lifts started going up dramatically, I was only 150lbs with clothes on and didn’t gain much more weight, but my lifts went up, my heart felt strong by exposure to doses of intensity I had seldom felt before, and I was able to control my body in space better than ever before. I was on the pull-up bar, on the floor, even upside down. I must have looked foolish to others in the gym, but this thought never crossed my mind, I was possessed with a cause I didn’t know I had yet.

So when I found CrossFit it didn’t just fit, it was a force on me like gravity, there was nothing I could do but let it pull me in.

That winter away at school, I was dedicating myself to CrossFit in the gym and outside of the gym, if you asked me what I was studying in school I would have looked at you without a word and a blank stare across my face. I was studying CrossFit as I experienced it. So I was very excited to come back home that summer and go to the gym with Cam to have a workout partner. We pushed each other that summer pretty hard, there wasn’t enough equipment usually at the globo gyms and we only had one stop watch, so Cam would go first and do the workout while I timed him and then we would reverse roles. We were starting to coach each other and we were loving it. This was 2007, the fitness industry was skinny girls and guys with similar legs but puffed up chests and arms, looking like they were ready to topple over with a slight breeze. This was the opposite of what athletic performance looked like, we were foreign to them and they were foreign to us. They couldn’t recognize the value we brought to the table and conversely, we were too ignorant to understand their true intentions. 

We definitely had big 21 year old ego’s, but we were responsible enough to know that we needed coaching, from coaches with experience. Back then there were only a few CrossFit gyms around and we wanted to learn from the best, so we eventually found Mark and Eric who owned and coached full time at CrossFit Mississauga. I called CrossFit Mississauga and Eric answered the phone, “CrossFit!” I stammered around organizing a time for us to come in, I was not good on the phone or with first time introductions. Eric’s reply, “Yeah, bro, come by whenever, we will be here.” I remember being super excited because it sounded unprofessional, laid back, unorganized… legit, everything that the globo gym’s weren’t. 

We left from Oshawa to Mississauga, a 1 hour drive, to workout. I remember both of us being pumped up, we had been to other CrossFit gyms before, Cam had even done CrossFit Toronto’s foundations program. But this I remember being different, there was something competitive in the air, I felt like I had normally felt before a lacrosse game. We had found their ‘box’ in the classic industrial space, and before we even pulled in we observed a dude running around the building with no shirt on and a sandbag slung over his shoulder that was almost as large as he was. We looked at each other and smirked, before we even parked Cam’s car we knew we were in the right place.

 Then we walked in, Mark and Eric were in the middle of a deadlift session, they were lifting more than I had ever seen anyone lift in person, and I had watched many power lifting sessions in the laurentian weight room. These two fellas were on another level, they crushed workouts harder than anyone I had ever seen, and it motivated me even more. Then we were able to get in with some people on a workout, it wasn’t an operation like CrossFit gyms are today, it wasn’t a gym. At CrossFit mississauga it was a group of bro’s and gals who would hang out and throw down workouts until they could no longer physically, whenever they wanted. The only thing taken seriously was the programming and nutrition. 

A lot of people would be concerned about the coaching hearing this, but Mark and Eric more than made it work, they were excellent coaches with an outstanding mentality that they fostered in their gym. It was no excuses and no bullshit, their T-shirts read: “CrossFit Mississauga: on the front and “Hard as Fuck” on the back.

We had found our new Mecca and our first ever CrossFit Coaches, we would work out daily at our local globo gym and travel to Mississauga whenever we could. There was a point where we were going once/twice per week. I remember being jealous of the regulars, I was so grateful to be able to use their chalk for gymnastics, their bumper plates to drop the bar, flip tires, get up on rings, I felt as if I got 5x fitter each workout at CrossFit Mississauga than at the regular gym doing the same workouts.

Eventually the summer had to come to an end, but I was excited to go back to school and start Lacrosse season. However before I went back, I went over to Cam’s place, he was living in his mom’s basement. We went downstairs, opened the computer, and we registered for our Level 1 CrossFit certification. It was to take place over thanksgiving weekend in Toronto. We had dedicated so much time to ourselves with CrossFit and learned from some amazing Coaches, we naturally wanted to share this with others. We wanted to spread the amazing secret of fitness and rid the world of the corporate performance killing globo gym. This was the mentality. 

If going to CrossFit Mississauga was a ray of sunshine in our exposure to CrossFit, the Level 1 was full blown nuclear radiation poisoning.

Our Story Part 2: Pioneers of Fitness

“Everyone can be an athlete- CrossFit is about exploration of fitness, There can be no govern on that”

-CFO

 Pat Sherwood, now CrossFit legend, ran the weekend certification and did so with his regular flare. CrossFit has changed exponentially since that time, but Pat Sherwood is still Pat Sherwood, and that I mean in a good way. Being introduced to his perspective was a beyond a privilege. The level 1 opened our lives up to an entire world that we were fully embracing, we were immersed in CrossFit, and what we loved about the CrossFit kool-aide was that it wasn’t about CrossFit. It was bigger than a fitness program, it was an ideology. On the surface CrossFit looks like a cult, we wear the same clothing, we have acquired a unique terminology, CrossFitters have an unspoken etiquette, a bond, a strength of community. And yes this sounds like a cult or at least a clique, but in the middle of those two things is something very natural and that people have participated in for hundreds of years. It involves a uniform, unique terminology, and team mentality of bonding and stronger together than individually mentality. CrossFit sits in the middle of clique and cult as an organized sport with an ideology that has reshaped the entire fitness industry from a training and business standpoint. It is more than a cult, it is a culture.

Between this moment in 2007 and opening the doors to CFO in 2009, few events occurred, but the ones that did transpire were massive, programming and our introduction to the CrossFit Games. Cam began personal training in what used to be called Extreme Fitness. He boldly walked into his interview and told the interviewer that he was certified in CrossFit and he was going to teach only CrossFit to his ‘clients’ (i still cringe at this title), to their credit they hired him on the spot. Cam did very well and built up a solid client base while attending firefighting school. In the meantime I was training who I could under the table back at school in sudbury at the Laurentian weightroom, they had just renovated the entire facility, including the addition of bumper plates that I was able to access since I was CrossFit level 1 certified. I was stoked about that. 

This is when I fell in love with programming. If I was going to train ‘athletes’ (this title makes way more sense to me) I was going to provide them with everything, I needed to become well versed in programming. I had dabbled in Triathlon programming back when I was competing within the Junior Canadian Triathlon Circuit and I had always loved working with my coach on yearly program design, now I got to try it out with CrossFit. To this day my programming style has changed dramatically, but my process remains more or less the same. I tested a bunch of interesting workouts over a certain period, quickly and frantically write down a bunch of ideas spurred from the testing that look like a giant doodle more than a workout program, I put it through a template in order to balance out the program, then I retest after changes. This all goes into a larger plan making Macro, Meso, and Micro training cycles. The evolutions to this process have been: including other athletes in the testing, adding a high performance program for CrossFit competitors, linking the macro to the micro through the mesocycle, and jotting the rough notes up on my large whiteboard rather than scribbled in a hidden note pad. Finally, the best change to my programming process thus far came from the CrossFit Level 2 I did in 2014 where after all this I would begin to run my program through a program analysis to thoroughly check the corners of the CFO program to learn where it can get better in the future. I note any trends or biases and move forward. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that this is my favorite aspect in life to ‘geek out’ in. I’ve never tapped into my inner geek until I began programming.

That year we both were working on developing ourselves as coaches and athletes, then we heard about the 2008 CrossFit Games. If CrossFit has changed our lives, the CrossFit Games changed the map of that life. CrossFit HQ was hosting the second annual CrossFit Games that summer, this was our first introduction to the sport. We followed along every second of the games. CrossFit released the games workouts on the website live that weekend, “live” meant the day after back then. So once all the workouts were released we did a mock games at the globo gym the best we could, there were three workouts in an every second counts format that year. Today the average CrossFit Games runs over 5 days and 10-12 workouts plus.

As athletes, that year was all about improving upon our weaknesses as they were relative to the games standard. My programming started to develop a style, our coaching was starting to develop a confidence, and we inevitably began to discuss opening our own gym to share this with our community.

I went back to school and Cam trained CrossFit Oshawa’s first ever ATHLETES. When I came back in 2009, we started looking for spaces and found a small 1,500 sq/ft space across the street from where we are today.

On June 1st 2009 We opened the doors to CrossFit Oshawa and we had a giant to slay: The globo gym. I was grateful to have competition, because I knew that if it was a competition that we would win, we were competitors, through and through. What we were fighting for? I had no clue, and I’m sure we were the only ones who knew about the fight. I just basked in the excitement of competition like I had done throughout my life. We were opposite in every way from the globo gym experience, where the mainstream fitness industry valued muscular looking men and magazine model women, we valued performance, we valued competition. Working out became training and trainers became coaches. We were leveling up the fitness industry without realizing it, the revolution had begun and we were just having fun, doing what we do, competing as the underdog.

Our Story: Part 3- Discovery

“There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.”

-Leo Tolstoy

So, there we stood in an empty warehouse at 23 years old in June facing a debt, a one year lease, one official paying athlete, Mattie A, and I still had to go back to school in Sudbury come September. This was not the way to do business, but from our perspective, we were reaching out to coach CrossFit and build our own community that would influence our larger community.

The timing of opening our passion project was not the best from a business standpoint, but couldn’t have been better from a coaching standpoint, we were starting to come into our own and scratch the surface of our coaching and entrepreneurship identities.

I was essentially the heart of CFO, I worked with passion, gave life to the gym and sparked ideas. When I was beating to my own pulse, Cam quickly developed as the brain. Without him the life of the gym would have no direction, nowhere to go and most importantly no filter, because the blood pumped from the heart carries a lot of good ideas but also a lot of terrible ones. To this day I am forever grateful having Cam by my side because the body cannot operate without both the brain and the heart in good health.

Mistakes. A lot were made and many more will be made. The difference is back then we were admittedly afraid of making them, and now we are excited just to have the opportunity to be in a place where making mistakes is a possibility! 

We had no idea what we were doing from a business perspective, we built it and hoped that they came. Fortunately we broke even financially that first year and we were on top of the world! We had some amazing people in the gym that year, some of them still around today, one being Evan Bombino and another one of these athletes is a full time coach now with CFO, Coach Becskei. 

We were pioneers of the local CrossFit movement, we all had different training perspectives and approaches, we often argued over who’s was the best. Was zone or paleo the better nutrition plan, low bar or high bar back squats, volume or intensity, it’s come a long way from our dichotomous debates. But, in the end, we mostly let the results speak for themselves. What we had in common was what drove us in the first place, no one had done this before, we were explorers traveling into another world.

 the CrossFit revolution sparked more CrossFit gyms with new ideas and boutique fitness started popping up, the fitness industry continues with this trend today. All of this growth, can be traced back to the beginning of the CrossFit movement. They were taking the rough road that we had bushwhacked; they paved it, painted the lines, and put up the road signs. A much needed addition to our industry. If we were trailblazers, the newer CrossFit Gyms and boutique fitness made our trail accessible.

I like to read but I enjoy writing much more, because I learn while I write. I find there are those who read, learn, and innovate from what they read. We need these people, they are vital to our societal growth. But I much prefer to write, to create, to pioneer behind the scenes. To be the first one. There’s something daring about it. To venture into the complete unknown and clear the path for people to join me in the pursuit. These are my general thoughts on synergistic efforts and competitive nature. There is a large movement in society, that I think mainly derives from insecurities, that we must play to everyone’s strengths and show positivity at all costs. This is a very nice sentiment on the surface but as history shows, completely ineffective and growth stunting. I think this works in the short term but carries no weight in a grander perspective, if we give participant medals to every competitor but no trophy to the winner, where is the direction? All we are doing at that point is telling ourselves that our ego must be fed at all times and it starts to take the driver’s seat. Nowhere in history had this ever been a good thing.

I think the confusion comes from the irony that a focus on results does not yield our desired results, rather a focus on the process to get there is what enables our goals. But, we cannot take away the result completely, the goal cannot be to safeguard our human emotions from the inability to achieve the results we seek, but to experience the emotions that come with this failure fully and learn to respond appropriately to our failure. I believe this to be the only way to achieve anything big or small. The bigger the goal the more failures to overcome in the pursuit. 

 To battle through competition, face our failures and rest our heads at night knowing that we endured morally, that’s life, that’s CrossFit. Expelling competition is like being in the middle of an ocean and riding the ship of all compass and navigation. We are left to drift aimlessly. 

As we battled on through the early years our small community seemed to grow with CrossFit the sport, we had many athletes competing in sectionals, regionals, local competitions, weightlifting competitions. Not surprisingly, our athletes all loved to compete because I loved to compete, but I also loved to Coach. I remember always feeling torn at local competitions, I wanted to be there for the CFO athletes but the competitor in me needed to focus on the task at hand. Nonetheless, CrossFit competitions proved to be an amazing experience for myself and my athletes, back then it was common to spend an entire day at a competition, hit up Quiznos on the way home and go out drinking that night. We were in our early 20’s… Water and rye was paleo right?

So, the years went on and we had some big athletic achievements come through this gym, we built athletes that were capable of amazing things. In 2012, we had 4 individual male athletes in the regional and a team of 3 females and 3 males to accompany them. This was a big year for us. Connor Vale, one of the male individual athletes, ended up finding himself lodged out west in B.C. where he went on to compete at regionals for years thereafter. He was always a stud in training, but he had that ability to keep himself so even keeled during competition that he never got in his own way. Many athletes, especially in CrossFit, struggle with this, it’s a very hard thing to do, and Connor just seemed to be as cool as a barbell in December. 

After 2012 came 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2013 Cam and I bought our first homes, In 2014 I got married, we were living our lives and coaching our small group of growing athletes. We felt like amazing businessmen, we were on top of the world. Man, we were naive.

Time passed where we were focused a little more on our homes than CFO, there were some good people in that gym over those years that I wish I could go back in time and thank for all of their dedication to the community. As Cam and I were living what we thought was a balanced life, coming in to coach at our gym and going home to our lives, nobody was taking care of actually running the gym. The walls started falling apart, literally. To us, we were coaches we cared wholeheartedly about that, we were still going to seminars, certifications, reading material, working on programming. But externally, I can see now that it looked like we didn’t give a shit. Big mistake from two young kids way in over their heads.

I remember I was out cross-country skiing with one of our ex-members (who I still get together with routinely), It was midday on a week-day, and I received an email from Cam: “Dude, we need to talk,” attached with our monthly finances. We were in the hole. We hand never. Been. In. The. Hole. We got together, argued a bit, went our separate ways and both tried to come up with answers. We slowly got our shit together and started progressing through some books, I would read one then Cam would read one, and Visa Versa. 

Then along Came 2015, my Alaska trip. 

I had put so much of myself into CFO, and for a couple years it was trying times. I was fortunate to have my wife, Tanya, stick by my side through it all. Tanya is a teacher, who if anyone reading this knows her will agree in a split second, she is the most thoughtful, warm-hearted, but level headed person they know. She is an amazing influencer, leader, and developer of minds. 

Since we had been together it was all about CFO all the time, I had definitely neglected this part of my life. I wanted to do something big for our relationship and for myself. We were really into camping, outdoors, and self reliance, along with just seeing “Into The Wild” for the 5th time. So I got the idea to take Tanya to Alaska, we would pack up with our Dog and drive across Canada, and then go North. To me everyone has their way of dealing with a moment in their life where they need to get in touch with who they are, some call it self discovery, some call it spirituality. I called it Alaska. It was my right of passage, to rely on nobody but ourselves and rather than our trip be an escape, it was a calling. I learned so much from this trip, It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am glad I got the chance to take advantage of Tanya having summers off for once. The problem was that we were gone for an entire month. July 5 to August 5. That is too long to stay away from a small business with only two people running it.

 I will always be forever grateful for the trip, some might think it was an answer to my burn out, but I have “burned out” many times in my life, in many different ways and I have always found the answer in simply working through it and not only does it go away but the effort seems to compound and the resilience to burnout grows stronger. Thus, I really don’t think burnout exists. Sort of like overtraining.

After the Alaska trip, I had settled back into the gym and started to take a larger role in 2017 as Cam stepped back. I started to notice amazing things. I had a new perspective, I would continue to develop myself, but I had a larger purpose than my own gym and my own accomplishments. I really wanted to see my athletes succeed, I wanted to develop to be a better husband for my wife, and eventually a father.

We had amazing accomplishments from our athletes, we’ve had accomplishments that you wouldn’t even think of. Previous to the Alaska trip, we had athletes accomplish massive competition goals, but the goal was always to bring an athlete to the games. Fast forward to currently, sitting here in 2019 I have brought 3 athletes there. The first athlete to make it to the games from CFO was Braden Groeneveld as a 15 year old in 2018, training Braden throughout 2016-2018 was definitely a highlight of my day each day in and out, it got me out of bed in the morning. But I noticed that it all got me out of bed, we had athletes from all different perspectives and each accomplishment over adversity gets me in tears. We’ve had multiple athletes lose 100+ lbs, we’ve had athletes come off of antidepressants, kick away drug addictions, we’ve had hundreds of people change their lives not just physically, but mentally, socially, and spiritually.

It’s funny that this all came together with forces like gravity pulling down on Cam and I, there was nothing we could do to resist it. We had to learn to go with this force when we have spent our lives in so many ways battling gravity.

In the first few years leading up to opening CFO and the first few years after, it was about us establishing ourselves as coaches and a business. Through much trial and error we were able to understand that what we were doing had nothing to do with us at all, we are a mere facilitator, this place of competition, learning, development, is bigger than us. It is a vehicle for any human being to pick themselves up, hop on, hang on for the ride, and make themselves better.

CFO is the birthplace of fitness for most, and for some it’s the climax. I am always hesitant to speak about myself and why marketing my business is hard. But, writing about the CFO story I have quickly come to realize why our story is so vital to tell:

Because our history, is the beginning of your story.


2 11, 2019

The Path Towards Fitness

We discussed fitness last week. The CFO way is to ensure that we are training people to become athletes of fitness, we believe everyone has the ability to tap into and find their true potential in human performance. We’ve done this time and time again, only to show what’s on the other side of this amazing discovery that more is possible than we can imagine.

Our Path

Since fitness is our metabolic, spacial awareness, and external load capacities. Simply: How much work can we do across a broad spectrum of time and movements. 

This requires us to train in a balanced proficiency, with a focus on developing attributes such as strength, endurance, flexibility, stamina, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance.

One of the greatest parts of our work at CFO is that we get to work with people who are motivated to make a change in their lives for a true purpose. This is such a humbling experience to be part of. We get to be a part of so many journey’s.

We have countless goals and assessment meetings with our athletes to dig deeper into achieving tangible things to help us on our way towards fitness. Goals range anywhere from athletes just wanting to stay active and have fun with it because they want to live a healthy and positive lifestyle, to athletes wanting to see just how far they can push their potential in the field of human performance. 

Finding strategies for these goals is where we come in, essentially we are mapping out a path of least resistance towards those goals, although it often feels like the path of most resistance, resistance training is what we do!

So in working backward from the athletes goals, together we plan our route towards it. Despite what some say about goal setting, we use the approach of “the bigger the goal the better,” because the longer the journey the more we learn about ourselves, setting smaller attainable goals along the way.

Once we have the goal and the strategies, we can find a starting point and get to work. Our start point is set last. The details are important, but we need the guidance of principled strategies first and foremost.

The Human Experience

At first, all of this seems very detailed and borderline obsessive, but it is all just a part of the human experience. We’d like to take ownership over our human experience and ensure that it’s a positive one that allows us to grow in other areas of our lives as well as in the gym. This commitment from the outside looking in seems wildly daunting, but with small steps over time and learning from a like minded and incredibly supportive community, the path towards fitness becomes a daily challenge that we look forward to. This is because we reap benefits in the long run and only commitment will reveal this truth.

25 10, 2019

Redefining Fitness, Again

What is Fitness?

Instagram persona’s, models, and actors. We perceive people who look good to be in our definition of “fit.” What’s more is we have been told that this is what looks good through popular culture and social media. If we think about what these people are like, what characteristics make up a fit person, some people might say they are genetically gifted or even vain, self serving, and egotistical. 

Our culture is conditioned to value looks over health, surface image over depth and truth; this creates massive dissonance with people looking to become fitter and the results they are chasing.

We have newly tapped into what fitness actually is, Fitness is only decades old and is it any wonder that most of us struggle greatly when it comes to becoming fitter?

Yes, looking good is a byproduct of fitness, but Fitness is really just working hard in different ways to better oneself and initially has nothing to do with our image. 

We all have many reasons for this self improvement and most of these reasons are not so self serving and not at all vain. 

Fitter people are statistically around longer for their children, are more helpful in society, more mentally stable, have better relationships, are more successful, and have a positive impact on the economy. 

Security

We might be financially, socially, mentally, and spiritually very secure, but there is another security 66% of our population doesn’t have: Physical security. For so many years, western culture has focused mainly on being financially and socially secure, which has left our health and wellness to be neglected. Rather than a proactive approach via healthy diets and exercise, we have pushed our physical well being aside until it becomes a problem and then we still look for the easy band aide solutions with pills and supplements.

Dedicating time to our fitness is like depositing money into a savings account or investments to increase wealth, if we are never depositing we run very large long term risks.

Fitness Illusion


As we put more emphasis on our Image, we create an illusion of fitness that becomes dependant on others and the way they project themselves. We view an instagram page that looks sexy & happy, and it creates an influential internal need for us to project a similar persona because we want to be viewed as being “fit” or sexy and happy. On goes social media’s marketing cycle, with more time spent on the apps and more likes for the “fitness influencers.”

Our own capacities and true health & fitness become hidden through our outward obsession. The answer, if not outward, can be found inwards.

So, What is fitness really?

Fitness is our physical well being, our health. Basic human functions like being able to move ourselves around without aide, being able to move our joints through certain ranges like full depth squats, push-ups, pulling ourselves over objects, and even being able to move heavier external loads through these ranges, like picking things up off of the ground and putting them overhead. 

When we have developed these capacities to a basic level, we can look to broaden our perspectives to long and short time domains, along with more advanced movements like Olympic weightlifting and athletic endeavours.

 Fitness is human capacity, what can you DO? It’s nice to have great abs and usually being fit leads to this and more aesthetically, but just because some of us have acquired great abs does not make us fit. 

Fitness is difficult, it’s not a quick fix and it never stops, because our human capacity can always grow, even to simply maintain, fitness is a daily chore. The CrossFit Games athletes are the guinea pigs to all of this and they continue to surpass expectations of what humans are capable of. 10 years ago people said it was impossible for a single human being to run a sub 5min mile and squat 500lbs, that ceiling was smashed a few years ago. 

Underneath all the daily fist bumps, the celebrations, the things that seem to outsiders looking in as overzealous, we know we are celebrating each other’s ability to constantly push the corners of what it is to be a physically capable human being. We are developing our human capacity and it has become the best part of our day.

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.