Workout of the Day

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Imagine a world in which, upon being called downtown to an apartment fire that’s growing in size and threatening nearby buildings, the fire crew rolls up and, rather than pulling out the fire hose or checking for people still stuck in the building, they get busy pointing out all of issues they see with the situation. The fire captain points to the fire and suggests that the problem is that someone started a fire in your building, and it’s getting bigger, some members of the crew busy themselves by explaining to you that it looks like someone didn’t remember to use their fire extinguisher, that’s why the fire continued to spread, and the rest of fire crew all offer their warnings against common mistakes that typically lead to fires, reminding you not to have curtains near your stove and to never leave candles unattended. Meanwhile, the building is completely engulfed in flames and turning into a pile of rubble.

This hypothetical picture, of course, is an exercise in the absurd. Firefighters are employed as firefighters because they are problem solvers. They don’t stand by, watching a building burn to the ground while pointing to all of the problems with the situation; they rush in, they take action, they work together to mitigate damage, save lives, and stop the fire.

Anyone can point to a problem. Anyone can gesture a finger at a burning building and say, “well, that’s bad.” The world doesn’t need any more problem-pointers.

What we need is those who see a problem and go to work finding solutions. Leaders, innovators, problem solvers, owners, helpers -- there are all sorts of titles we could assign.

Personally, you would do well to surround yourself with these people, and to aim to be such a person. Globally, we would do well to all strive to be such people.

You don’t have to look far to find a problem (hint: we can all find a few if we look inward). Now let’s get to work solving them.

- PS


4/20/18

  • Squat clean + front squat - 8x(1+3)


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Let’s say you’re set on improving your basketball shooting in preparation for a big game. To do so, you give yourself plenty of time on the court throwing hundreds of balls: layups, in the key, three-pointers, free-throws, etc. And, for the sake of argument, let’s say you walk off the court a few hundred balls later with a pretty impressive shooting average. You’ll probably feel pretty good about yourself, your skill development, and your chances in the game.

But come gametime, you flop. Your shooting average isn’t even half of what it was in practice. You can’t even get off the three-pointers you sunk before, your layups are blocked, you miss some shots even right next to the hoop. And now your confidence has tanked and you don’t feel quite as good as when you walked off the practice court.

Unsurprisingly, practicing basketball in the setting of an empty court where all external variables (opponents, crowds, timing, energy, emotions, etc.) are controlled for doesn’t carry over quite so well into the dynamics of the real game. When I hear people excusing themselves from the practice of lifting heavy weights because they feel the need to “go light to work on form,” I am can’t help but think of the ineffective basketball practice that doesn’t carry over to game time.

Here’s the thing: there is absolutely a time and place for lighter weights that allow you to focus on form by removing the added stress of a challenging load. A beginner, for example, will need to spend some time with lighter weights to gain familiarity with a movement itself, outside of the context of intensity; the same for someone fresh off of an injury, or an athlete relearning a movement to get rid of poor patterning. But to rest on “form” as a justification for not touching heavy weights -- that’s just lazy practice.

In order to play the game, you have to practice the game, not just take easy three-pointers in an empty court.

- PS


4/19/18

  • Handstand skill work

  • Establish max unbroken HSPU

Then...

  • 10 min AMRAP

    • 20 cal row

    • 10 HSPU


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No Boundaries is excited to announce the upcoming second iteration of our Weightlifting 101 specialty course, starting next month. The first run of Weightlifting 101 last Fall was a resounding success, and this Spring it returns to the No Boundaries community even more refined. Of course we’re a little biased, but we’re pretty confident that you’re not going to want to miss this one. Look for details to be announced in the coming days.

Sign-ups start soon. Contact your coach if you’d like to get your name on the list!

- PS


4/18/18

  • Sandbag load - 1rm

Then...

  • 12 min EMOM

    • Min 1 - 5-10-15m shuttle sprint

    • Min 2 - 4 sandbag over shoulder (AHAP)

    • Min 3 - 30s max burpees


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We are always in search of disobedient individuals: those who will stand in defiance of what is common in order to pursue what is better. We want students, leaders, coaches, and community members willing to openly reject the commonly average, and ready to chase the uncommonly good.

(I feel it goes without saying that this inclination towards disobedience must be coupled with an inclination towards quality and high standards. Disobedience without these values is just unscrupulous and unprincipled behavior.)

Following the herd is easy. Discerning value from detriment and moving against the herd is not. It takes grit. And a propensity towards disobedience is sure to drive action and movement in the face of adversity more than any inclination towards the status quo or servility.

A community and culture of value-driven disobedience is a powerful thing. We hope you’ll join us.

- PS


4/17/18

  • 5 rounds for time:

    • 10 deadlifts (225/155)

    • 20 toes-to-bar

    • 40 air squats

  • 22 min time cap


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Daring Greatly
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

- Theodor Roosevelt

This past Saturday, members of the No Boundaries community got together to exercise their mental muscles. The first gathering of the NoBo Book Club was full of stimulating conversation around Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. This has been a great avenue for us to think about how we can take what we do in the gym and apply those principles to other areas in our lives. Being able to explore this question together allowed us to laugh, commiserate, and share our unique perspectives about how we can continue to “dare greatly,” both inside and outside the gym, and how we can support each other in those efforts.

What makes the No Boundaries community so incredible is the people who form it. Hearing those who attended share their stories and thoughts was a powerful reminder of just how awesome a community we have, and how much we all have to offer.

I hope you’ll be able to join us at the next meeting, scheduled for May 19th! Even if you come just to listen, I am certain you’ll come away with something valuable.

Or, at the very least, you’ll get to enjoy some tasty snacks, good wine, and great company.

- PS


4/16/18

  • DU skill work

  • Establish max reps in 90s

Then...

  • 3 rounds

  • In 3 mins, complete:

    • 75 DUs

    • Max cal row

  • Rest 2 mins


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I'm not going to say that we'd all be better off if we threw away our bathroom scales, but I do think there's something to be said about the relationship many people have with body weight. Body weight is a measure of one thing: your relation to gravity. And while changes in body weight certainly can and often do associate with changes in health and fitness, our fixation on the number on the scale is of questionable value at best.

Take, for example, the results of our most recent Whole Life Challenge at No Boundaries. On this 6-week challenge, numerous participants watched their body weight remain the same, and their actual body composition change dramatically -- considerable body fat was lost and lean body mass was gained. The scale told an incomplete story and, were these individuals to “listen” to the feedback from their scale, they might have abandoned the practices that were in fact changing their body for the better.

When it comes down to it, 150lbs is 150lbs, whether it's 150lbs of lean and functional human, 150lbs of little muscle and lots of fat, or 150lbs of potatoes.

So how are we to measure progress if not with the scale? Measuring your body fat and lean mass with underwater body composition testing or DEXA scans is going to give you the most accurate results, but you have some built-in measurement tools as well. Do your clothes fit better? Do you look better in the mirror? Do you feel better? Perform better?

Feeling, looking, and performing better is the ultimate goal, after all, not some arbitrary number on a scale.

- PS


4/13/18

  • Ring skill work (MUs, levers, dips, supports, pulls)


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Let’s talk for a moment about standards.

I am of the belief that there are some basic “performance standards” that all human beings (barring special populations) should be capable of executing. Of course these standards are, by nature, somewhat arbitrary; but if we look at the basics of human physiology and its upper and lower limits, we can draw a handful of reasonable expectations for what it is to be a “functional human” at the most basic level. To put it simply, these are the physical shoulds of being a human.

I believe all human beings should be able to…

1 - Lift an object equal to their bodyweight from the ground and carry it 100’.

2- Sit comfortably in a resting squat for 5 minutes.

3 - Run 3+ miles continuously with relative ease.

(Special populations such as the elderly, children, and those with major physical limitations will of course require modified standards.)

Keep in mind that these are the most basic standards -- the equivalent of elementary school standards for basic literacy. If we look at human performance potential, all of these standards are a mere fraction ( .25 and less) of the capacities of high-level performers. And yet, I’m guessing many people would look at these standards with some exasperation and surprise, and the number of folks who can actually check all three boxes is probably staggeringly low.

Lift my bodyweight? Sit in a full squat? Run 3 miles without stopping? That’s easy for you to say -- you do fitness. You’ve got to be crazy -- those expectations are far too high.

And that response, I believe, is a problem. What is common is many tiers below what is normal, and slowly but surely, we are becoming more okay with it.

It’s time to wake up, folks. We, as a population, are poor examples of what it is to be human. We’re not asking for much here; let’s see if we can all start by covering the basics.

Do you pass the test?

P.S. Have your own ideas for basic physical standards? Start the conversation -- post them in the comments!

- PS


4/12/18

  • Yoke carry - 3x50’ (AHAP)

Then...

  • 12 min AMRAP

    • 250m row

    • 30 KBS (53/35)


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Where do you draw your lines in the sand? Standing your ground on something is powerful, vulnerable even. But where these lines are drawn is as important as drawing them in the first place.

Do you draw your lines in the sand below you? Do you say, I will not allow myself to go any lower than this, I will not deviate below this standard, I will not allow myself to step down from this challenge?

Or do you draw lines in the sand above you? Do you say, I cannot move beyond this point, I will not attempt to do anything beyond this, I do not or cannot do this or that and so I will not take the risk or accept the challenge to do so?

If all of the lines you’ve drawn in the sand exist to protect you from challenge or failure or uncertainty, they will undoubtedly contain you and hold you back.

If, however, the lines you’ve drawn in the sand serve to catch you when you fall, to act as a safety net and hold you accountable to a higher existence, they will certainly do just that.

- PS


4/11/18

  • Overhead squat - 3rm

Then...

  • 12 min EMOM

    • Min 1: 3 rope climbs

    • Min 2: 30 DUs

    • Min 3: 30s max overhead squats (95/65)


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I’ve probably had as many bad training days as good, and I’d be willing to bet some money that I’m not in the minority here. By “bad” I don’t mean catastrophic -- I just mean days that leave uncertainty (“am I even getting any stronger?”), days in which you don’t perform as well as expected, or days where you know your head wasn’t in it. The good news is, this is normal. The bad news is, this is normal.

What’s important is less the goodness or badness of any given day, and more the zoomed-out trendline -- the big picture. A well-respected sports psychologist frequently tells her athletes to never underestimate the value of a sustained contribution. This is a powerful idea to defer to when things don’t go as well as you’d like. Rather than becoming mired in how today went, you can rest assured that your training still added a little more to the “sustained contribution.” This applies to training, and it applies to just about everything else you do, too. Of course you have to apply yourself, and a deliberate practice will always yield greater results that one not grounded in intention, but the key is that even bad days can contribute to the overall good.

- PS


4/10/18

  • For time:

    • 100 unbroken air squats

    • 50 unbroken hand-release push-ups

    • 25 unbroken pull-ups

    • 25 unbroken toes to bar

    • 50 unbroken burpees

    • 100 unbroken air squats

  • *every time you have to break/rest during a set, complete a 150m row

  • 25min time cap


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This last week I decided it was time to pick up my old guitar that sat on display, gathering dust, and learn to play again. Notice that I said learn to play again. I had no expectation that I’d be able to pick up where I left off (and I was right), and I went into things with the intention of approaching guitar playing as a beginner. I searched YouTube for “beginner guitar lessons” and started at lesson one.

For some background, I spent the better part of my teenage years playing guitar quite a bit -- I took some lessons, practiced and fiddled around in my free time, and spent a few years pretending to be a rock talent in a garage band with friends during high school. I was never great, but I could demonstrate some level of competence on the guitar. This put me perhaps in the intermediate category.

But now, more than a decade later, the way I see it, I have no reason to consider myself anything more than a beginner; and so I took on the intentional practice of learning as a beginner. Not only am I desperately in need of the opportunity to redevelop techniques and recall chords and scales, I am eager for the opportunity to take on the role of beginner and fill in gaps that may have been missing before. And to assume that I should be able to jump back in to this practice as anything more than a beginner would be an error that could only result in frustration and sub-par results.

I see this same scenario play out frequently in the fitness arena. Individuals come into a new practice resting on the laurels of a long history of athleticism and training. Only, that history’s been sitting idle for 5 or 10 or 30 years. While this past experience is certainly significant, the unspoken assumption -- and the thing that gets folks in trouble -- is that this long-aged experience somehow earns them a free-pass to skip right over being a beginner. I’ll just spoil the mystery now: this never actually pans out.

Let’s get two things straight.

First, we believe in giving everyone the opportunity to be a beginner, whether they’ve never trained a day in their life or they were a highly-trained stud athlete back in their day. We’ve found this to yield the greatest results, and, unsurprisingly, we find that assuming everyone is a beginner tends to be a pretty accurate assumption 99 times out of 100.

Second, we all ought to put on the beginner’s hat on the regular and engage with learning without putting up the barriers of assumed expertise and superiority. Day one or day three thousand and one, there’s something you could still take from adopting a beginner’s mindset.

Maybe you still see yourself as a total beginner, maybe you find the word “beginner” offends you (it shouldn’t), or maybe you see yourself as an old new beginner or a new old beginner; regardless, we think you should give it a try. It’s a productive place to be.

- PS


4/9/18

  • Crossfit Total

    • 1rm squat

    • 1rm strict press

    • 1rm deadlift