Workout of the Day

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When it comes to weight loss, studies show that one of the best things you can do is track what you eat. Now, before you run off to download the latest food-tracking app because I’ve handed you the next great secret to weight loss (there are no secrets), let’s take a look at what’s really going on here.

Tracking your food, of course, isn’t the whole picture. Eating five donuts and not writing it down in a food log vs. eating five donuts and writing it down in your food log will have the same net effect on your body. You still ate five donuts. The difference, of course, is that tracking your food brings awareness. This awareness leads to habit change, which means that maybe you opt not to eat five donuts. Don’t eat five donuts and you’ll lose weight -- what a crazy concept. (Remember when I said there are no secrets?)

Full disclosure: my use of weight loss as an example was a cheap trick to get you to click and read. This post isn’t about losing weight, per se. But if we look beyond the immediate goal (lose weight, squat more, run faster) and look to the practices that will get you there -- wherever “there” may be -- we find a valuable set of tools and transferable skills for creating change. While I’m keen on the idea that there are no magic bullets or secrets in this game, I’m willing to say that awareness (and its friend accountability) might just be some of the most powerful tools you can have in your pocket. Pay attention, folks -- it just might save your life.

- PS


6/20/18

  • Work up to a heavy 100’ keg carry

Then...

  • For time:

    • 400m run

    • --

    • 3 rds

    • 100’ keg carry (AHAP)

    • 20 hand release push-ups

    • --

    • 400m run


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I appreciate the imagery evoked by the idiom of “low-hanging fruit.” You have a problem (you’re hungry) and are searching for a solution (a fruiting tree); it makes sense, then, to solve this problem quickly and easily (picking the fruit right in front of your eyes) rather than overcomplicating it (fetching a ladder or a long-handled picker to get the fruit from the top of the tree). It’s silly, of course, but a potent reminder nonetheless.

I don’t doubt that every one of us, in a situation of desperate hunger and stumbling across a peach tree full of ripe fruit, would go for the easy-to-pick peaches on the bottom branches rather than opting for those near the treetop. But the same isn’t necessarily so for how we address many of the problems we come across in health and fitness.

Let’s say you’re perpetually tired and low on energy, and so you find a hormonal specialist to have your hormone levels measured; they’re off, and so you’re put on hormone replacement therapy or a stack of herbal remedies to try to address the problem. Meanwhile, your sleep habits are a disaster and you sit idle in a desk/car/couch for 14 hours every day. This is your low-hanging fruit. Of course there’s a time and place to seek professional medical help or consider that you may have a condition requiring hormone replacement, but let’s first check the box on giving yourself the basic human needs of adequate sleep and regular movement.

Perhaps this is where the analogy falls apart a bit, because the lowest-hanging fruit, though it is the simplest and most immediate solution, isn’t always the easiest to execute. It often isn’t the answer you want. It’s the answer that involves changing habits or lifestyle or making sacrifice, and so instead you go on the hunt for the elusive fix that will let you keep all your bad habits and live consequence-free. But like it or not, sometimes the best answer is right in front of you.

- PS


6/19/18

  • Power snatch - 3rm

Then...

  • For time, 12-9-6 reps of:

    • Power snatch (135/95)

    • C2B pull-ups


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If you’ve spent much time around the fitness world or perusing any fitness-related social media pages, you’ve likely heard or seen the phrase “no days off.”

On the one hand, this might come off as something of a showy “I’m more hardcore and committed than you” platitude. I know that I, for one, don’t train every day, and I don’t know many people who do. And let’s be honest: spending 365 days of the year in the gym is probably beyond what most of us reasonably need and would benefit from.

On the other hand, I am an absolute believer in this notion of “no days off,” but with a caveat. No days off doesn’t necessarily refer to no days off from stepping foot in the gym and completing a standard “gym” workout. Rather, I stand by the idea of no days off from the practice. The practice may, on some days, involve going to the gym; but on other days it may involve a hike, or it may involve relaxing in a hammock, or meditation or a breathing practice, or preparing meals for the week and playing frisbee. The practice is a global concept that captures what it is to be an active, engaged, and intentional human being. It may not even look the same from one person to another.

The important reminder here is this: no, you don’t need to be in the gym 7 days/week, but just because you’re not in the gym doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from being an actualized human. The practice (call it lifestyle) goes far beyond what happens within the four walls of a gym.

- PS


6/18/18

  • In 20 mins...

    • Max distance row

    • Every 4 mins, complete a 300m run


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Perhaps this is news, but your body doesn’t entirely know the difference between the stress of your 20 minute commute taking an hour and a half because of traffic and the stress of exercise. To a large degree, stress is stress is stress.

Of course it’s not actually that simple. Medical papers don’t exactly sing high praises of the health benefits of your daily crawl home from work along the I-405, whereas there’s quite a bit of evidence for the far-reaching benefits of exercise.

For one, exercise is acute. It’s a concentrated dose of stress, which means that when followed by a time of lower stress (recovery), your body is going to adapt to the stress and get better. This is the instruction manual for fitness summed up in a sentence. Physical stress, then chill, equals adaptation.

Exercise differs also in that it is a stress over which you have control. While we’re condensing complex ideas in a handful of words, this is the aim of the whole field of exercise science -- how to dial in stress (and recovery) just right to yield health and performance.

What this all spells out is the importance of a) how you recover from your training, and b) how you approach your training.

Traffic happens to you (only your response is under your control). Exercise on the other hand is a process that you consciously engage with: stimulus and response are both in your hands. Done right, this looks like intention and awareness in training.

If you’ve spent the last week, for example, missing out on sleep, chasing impossible deadlines, sitting in traffic, and eating like a five year old left to his own devices, how much good are you really doing if you show up at the gym with the aim of thrashing yourself into health and performance? This pervasive “exercise as punishment” mentality is, at best, unsustainable and disorderly.

Compare this to the deliberate practice of showing up at the gym to move with intention, listen to your body, and meet yourself where you are (mentally and physically) on that day, and you have two completely different stimuli (and responses).

In addition, let this “stress is stress is stress” idea act as a reminder that your practice extends beyond the 60-minute class. Compiling chronic stress (traffic, taxes, boss, family, etc.) onto an acute stressor doesn’t fit into the equation for how adaptation happens. Create space for recovery, mental and physical. This is not optional.

The difference between a medicine and a toxin is dose. Stress is much the same: it’s not good or bad, it’s a tool. Dose appropriately.

- PS


6/15/18

  • Ring muscle-up transition skill work

  • Max unbroken ring muscle-ups

Then...

  • 3 rounds for quality:

    • 10 false grip ring rows

    • 10 strict ring dips

    • 30s ring support hold


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It was George Bernard Shaw who first introduced the rather scathing idiom that “those can, do; those who can’t, teach.” While Shaw was undoubtedly influential in the arts and politics, I think he missed the mark on this one.

To know is one thing, but to teach what you know is a whole different ball game. Google Search, for example, knows quite a bit; and while Google can certainly be used as a tool to teach, I don’t think we would herald Google as a great teacher. The discerning element here is communication. It’s a bit like taking a dozen ingredients and turning them into a meal -- anyone can have those dozen ingredients in their kitchen, but not just anyone can throw together a beautifully prepared beef wellington. And as such, in a world with no shortage of knowledge but in desperate need of understanding, I’d wager that a) good teachers (in all respects of the word) aren’t as dime-a-dozen as Shaw may imply; and b) we could use a whole lot more of them.

This concept of teaching is of primary interest in our ongoing Coaches’ Prep Course at No Boundaries. We set our sights on what it means to communicate, both specifically (in the realm of movement) and generally, and immerse ourselves in the cycle of practice, critical feedback, and refinement with the aim of becoming master communicators. While the context of Coaches’ Prep Course is movement and athletics, the purpose is much larger. Teaching and communicating are what we like to call transferable skills. A coach who is a master at communicating and teaching a kettlebell is going to be a much better teacher of woodworking than a well-skilled woodworker who is challenged to communicate and inspire.

George Bernard Shaw clearly put considerable value in the “doers” of our world; I think he forgot, though, that not much is done that isn’t first taught.

- PS


6/14/18

  • 3x100’ sled push (AHAP)

Then...

  • 4 rds for time:

    • 200m run

    • 20 wall balls (20/14)


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How do you start a dance party? By dancing, of course; and maybe some danceable music. But the thing is, it can’t just be one person dancing. One person on the dancefloor is an oddball, an eccentric or a little too free-spirited. But when a second person joins in, things change. Maybe they’re two oddballs still, but now more people start to get that feeling that perhaps it’s okay to be an oddball. Two then turns into four, which turns into sixteen, and now it’s a dance party. At this point, you’re more of an oddball to not be on the dancefloor enjoying yourself.

Maybe you don’t like dancing, and that’s okay. But what if you actually do like dancing -- you’ve just convinced yourself that you don’t like dancing because you’re afraid you’re not good at it, or not sure whether it’s cool to like dancing? This, I think, is about 90% of the population.

Every dance party (and just about everything else, for that matter) starts with one person and then two, and to those people, I think we should be grateful. But in addition to gratitude, I think we can learn a lesson from the dance-party-starters of the world. Rather than sitting around the sidelines or talking about dancing, maybe we could all endeavor to be that first or second person on the dancefloor doing the thing we love. I think we might all find there’d be a lot more of the right stuff happening this way.

- PS


6/13/18

  • 15 min EMOM

    • Min 1: 5 deadlifts (275/205)

    • Min 2: 40s AMRAP DUs

    • Min 3: 20s L-hang hold


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It’s disappointing to see potential capped low. I remember, when I coached middle school football, watching a particular athlete quickly approach and begin to run into his ceiling. He was a talented athlete -- the most “naturally” talented athlete on our team, in fact -- but he knew it and believed it a little too much. What he had in speed and strength and ball handling he lacked in humility and therefore coachability. And so almost as soon as he started the sport, he started butting up against his potential in it.

He had likely been told all his life that he was a superior athlete, a natural, a stud, and so he was conditioned to see coaching and negative feedback as either a falsehood or a threat to his identity as the “natural athlete.” Meanwhile, I wouldn't be surprised if some of his fellow athletes who didn't have half of the natural talent he did were better athletes today (though I hope I am wrong and he was able to change his mindset).

Squandered potential is tragic, regardless of levels of natural talent. As a coach and teacher I am disappointed and saddened when I see students set such low ceilings by believing more in their current ability than in their future potential. Whoever you are, I firmly believe that you have incredible potential. The first step is the acknowledge that. The next step is to recognize that you'll need to go forward humbly if you ever intend to get there.

- PS


6/12/18

  • For time:

    • 300m run with (45/25)lb plate

    • 30 pull-ups

    • 30 ring dips

    • 30 pistols

    • 300m run with (45/25)lb plate

    • 20 pull-ups

    • 20 ring dips

    • 20 pistols

    • 300m run with (45/25)lb plate

    • 10 pull-ups

    • 10 ring dips

    • 10 pistols

    • 300m run with (45/25)lb plate


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I’ve wrangled on occasion with the question of the importance of what I do as a coach. On the one hand, I recognize that thrusters, for example, really aren’t important in the grand scheme of things. Unless your profession (pro athlete, coach to pro athlete) depends on thruster ability, their significance is pretty much nil. On the other hand, I recognize that everything that we do in the gym is connected. Individual movements are connected to each other, they are connected to movement and physicality as a whole, and they are connected to behaviors that have nothing to do with movement. Thrusters are really just an implement that we can manipulate to address things that are far more significant than thrusters. So yes, in some sense, they really do matter.

Life is not a neatly divided series of isolated events or unrelated elements. As nice as it would be to put “work” in one neat bin, “family” in another, “health” in another, “hobbies” in another, and so on, it’s more akin to a tangled web where everything’s tied with fishing line to everything else, and so when one piece moves, so do all the others. What this means for me (as coach) and you (as student), and for me and you (as humans) is that training that may take place in the gym is a lot bigger than what takes place in the gym. Translated into real-life terms, this looks like opportunity and responsibility. As a coach, I have the opportunity to have a meaningful impact -- though perhaps an impact I’ll never see or know -- on every student through this language of movement. At the end of the day, the heavier thruster doesn’t have its own value, but the process behind it is a transferable skill that may earn a promotion, or may manifest as increased self-esteem and confidence. On top of this, I have the responsibility to use my platform to create momentum and energy daily that carries far beyond the gym walls.

As a coach, I can’t help your finances or your family life or your workplace environment, but I can help your movement (capital M and lowercase m). I can provide the guidance and resources to help you invest in, improve, and pursue mastery in this element of life, and that change could just be the tide that raises all boats. The superficial goal of being a coach is to provide the guidance and tools to improve movement, and that is something that I enjoy; but the real meaning of it is to be a teacher of excellence, and that is something that I believe has real significance. The coach’s raw material is movement and athleticism and sport, but the coach’s true aim is the person as a whole.

- PS


6/11/18

  • Back squat - 5,5,5

Then...

  • 10 min EMOM

    • 15 KB swings (AHAP)


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I’m going to throw out a very straightforward bit of advice for anyone who has ever struggled with motivation to go to the gym or get in some exercise: get to the gym every Monday.

It’s not that Mondays include any special training, or that there’s some scientific benefit to your metabolism or your cardiovascular fitness to working out at the start of the week. It really has more to do with the psychology of adherence. In plain English, it creates momentum and keeps you from backloading your week.

I see this play out frequently: a student doesn’t attend the gym on Monday; they wake up feeling far too tired on Tuesday, and so put it off until Wednesday; then demands of work make it nearly impossible to get to the gym that day, so it is put off until the next day (“I’ll just get my three days on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, then I’ll be good”). Thursday is met with the sort of mental and physical malaise of a week that has been characterized by disappointment in oneself and general lack of accomplishment, and by then the student says “screw it, this week is already shot, I’ll start fresh next week.” Next week, quite often, looks the same.

Mondays are not some magical trick or hack. Getting up early on a Monday to show up and work hard is not easy, and never really will be. But it is a powerful tool in fighting the ongoing human battle of discipline and adherence. Show up Monday, and you might just find yourself showing up the next day and the day after with a bit more ease.

- PS


6/8/18

  • 5k row


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If you don’t ask the right questions, there’s a slim chance you’re going to get the right answers. Or, to take it a step further, if you aren’t asking the right questions, you may not be sure when and if you ever do get the right answers.

I think most folks have a funny relationship with questions and answers today. We’re conditioned to the call and response of a Google search bar or Siri: we ask the simple question, we get a straightforward answer. End of story.

Of course, the reality of questions and answers looks nothing like a conversation with your smartphone.

I’ve been asked some questions maybe 1,000 times at this point (“should I stop eating carbs?” or “how many sets and reps should I do?” for example), and I sometimes have to bite my tongue not to immediately dive headfirst into the rabbit hole of drawn-out conversations about metabolism and supercompensation; because the reality is, no one really cares. That’s my job. Care about and understand this stuff so you don’t have to, then synthesize it into something palatable and actionable. You don’t need to know about the concept of supercompensation to get stronger, you just need a coach that can shephard you to actions that get you there.

All that being said, you are not immune from the need to ask the right questions. The question “should I stop eating carbs” is not the right question, not because it’s not relevant to you or not actionable (it is very actionable), but because it’s step 7 in a 10 step process, but you’ve actually skipped over steps 1-6.

The “not right” questions are the questions that skip right over laying the foundation and putting up the frame of a house and go straight to laying tile flooring and putting in ceiling fans. And so we have unsturdy, foundationless, and frameless people walking around with their commitment to and convictions about tile flooring choice and ceiling fan placement, and it’s almost like something out of a surrealist work of art.

You have homework (and, bad news: it’s an assignment that never really ends). Start asking the right questions. Many of these questions can only be asked to and answered by yourself: For what? To what end? What am I willing to do? Where is my destination? Do I actually know my destination?

Ask and answer these questions, and you may just find that the question “should I stop eating carbs” isn’t really what you need to ask.

- PS


6/7/18

  • Log clean and press - 1rm

Then...

  • 4 rounds:

    • 1 min max log C&P (120/80)

    • 30s rest

    • 1 min max burpee box overs (24”/20”)

    • 30s rest