Workout of the Day

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You’re quite different from a computer in that a line of improper code in a computer program can have a massive cascading effect and cause dysfunctionality rather disproportionate to the “size” of the error. Your body, on the other hand, functions within a system of averages. Your average input, whether it be dietary or exercise-based or otherwise, will determine your output. One “improper” input will not take down the whole system.

So that slice of cake and bag of Cheetos you decided to splurge on at your kid’s birthday party? Almost negligible, assuming that it only accounts for 3% of your choices, and the other 97% of the time you eat minimally processed food, lots of plants, and pasture-raised meat...

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CrossFit’s description of “world class fitness in 100 words” finishes with the prescription to “regularly learn and play new sports.” This is perhaps one of the most frequently forgotten elements of our physical practice, and unfortunately so. I would expand the prescription to include physical endeavors that may not traditionally be included under the umbrella of sport (dance or hiking, for example), and say that this is perhaps as pivotal to your physical development as training with intensity or employing variety in your exercise. Learning and participating in new sports and physical endeavors is our one-way ticket to expanding our understanding of what it means to be a mover, and how we can be a better one.

Imagine if your exposure to the world outside of your hometown was limited to a single source -- a single TV channel, for example. Imagine that you never traveled, never left a five mile radius from your home, and never read, watched, or heard of anything that didn’t come from your single media source. Your scope would be limited and your view would be inherently biased. A total lack of exposure creates a heavy bias, and to assume that you could have a healthy depth or breadth of understanding of how the world worked with your limited exposure is absurd.

A physical practice that does not endeavor into new sports and activities is equally as biased and absurd. The individual who never ventures to act as a physical being outside of the walls of the gym is, as much as their in-gym practice may reflect, resemble, or prepare them for other activities, still operating from a place of heavy bias. I’m not saying that you need to be capable of summiting Everest and driving a ball 300yds down the fairway and open water swimming across the English channel, but let’s not mince words here: the athlete who can quickly cycle pull-ups and deadlifts all day in the gym, but who falls apart on a short hike up a steep incline, is a physically illiterate and deficient athlete. And this isn't an uncommon phenomenon, either.

You can only grow to the boundaries of your experience, and to constrict those boundaries to strictly in-gym activities, or strictly running, or strictly barbell conditioning, or strictly weightlifting, or anything else is an exercise in willful limitation. Perhaps your biggest opportunity to expose (and subsequently improve) holes in your game is to challenge yourself with new sports and physical experiences. There is no amount of barbell or body weight training that can alone prepare you for and teach you the lessons of a Jiu-Jitsu match or a long mountain run.

Don't be that person who only watches one channel.

- PS


9/21/17

  • Strict press - 3,3,3,3

Then...

  • 5 rounds for time:

    • 15 double KB thruster (70/52)

    • 15 push-ups

    • 15 sit-ups


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If you’ve ever had the good fortune of wearing a tailored piece of clothing, you know the feeling of having a piece or an outfit that truly fits. Even if you’re lucky with pulling a piece straight from the store rack, it takes some level of tailoring to get a piece of clothing to really match your physical idiosyncrasies. For the same reasons, wearing a suit or dress or pants that are tailored to someone else’s body has very little chance of giving you that personally tailored fit. It would be an absurd request to go to a tailor and ask them to tailor your suit to the measurements of that guy pictured in the poster on the wall, or to visit a dressmaker and request that they sew a dress for you with the same fit as the one worn by the model in the magazine. It’s one thing to want a suit or dress designed with the same fabric and general fit as one you saw on someone else, it’s another thing entirely to want that exact same outfit, tailoring and all.

You’ve likely been nodding along in, “well duh” type agreement thus far, but as absurd as it sounds for a 6’3”, 245lb gentleman to request a suit tailored to Brad Pitt’s dimensions because he wants to look more like Brad, people eagerly and frequently make the same foolish mistake in following exercise and nutrition plans that are tailored for someone else. It’s easy to get swept up in the thinking of “well he/she did this program and performs at this level and looks this way, and so if I do I should look and perform that way, too,” but this is the same as having you dress cut to someone else’s dimensions. What’s more, tailoring clothing is a relatively simple task compared to tailoring exercise and nutrition: for every waist, hip, chest, and sleeve measurement, there are a dozen unique physiological and psychological qualities that will affect your outcome with a nutrition and exercise program.

The idea behind tailoring is customization, and customization is by nature personal. This is why your tailor spends time with a measuring tape before sewing and cutting fabric, your coach spends time learning, asking, and observing before tailoring your program, and your nutritionist spends time surveying and analyzing before tailoring your diet. There is no “one size fits all,” and there is no “their program fits you.” Let’s not fall victim to following the program that worked for someone else and assuming it will necessarily work for you -- you’ll be much better off wearing your own clothes.

- PS


9/20/17

  • Hand over hand rope sled pull - 3x100’

Then...

  • 4 rds

  • In 75s:

    • 100m sprint

    • 8 deadlifts (225/155)

    • AMRAP burpees

  • Rest 2 mins

*record total burpees


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Being quite interested in both linguistics and mindset, I often find myself drawing connections between the two. How you speak of yourself or others, for example, reveals quite a bit about how your think of yourself and others, and about your mindset in general.

The word “condition” and its various derivatives provide some insight into this phenomenon. Grammar? So grade school, I know, but let's dig in.

When talking about one’s state or status (mental, physical, emotional, economical, etc.), people tend to speak either in regards to their condition (noun) or their conditioning (gerund or present participle verb).

When people speak of their condition (noun), their language communicates something which is innate or has befallen them, whether positive or negative. A medical condition, good fortune, genetic makeup, innate qualities.

The message is “this is who I am,” not “this is who I have become.” Unsurprisingly, this way of speaking (and thinking) tends to correlate strongly with a greater focus on negative conditions and outcomes. “I am unable to do ________ because I am ________.” It is a linguistic deflection of responsibility.

On the other hand, language surrounding a mindset of conditioning (gerund or present participle) centers around processes, earned or developed qualities (whether positive or negative), and a degree of continuity. The message is not “this is who I am,” it is “this is who I have become and am continuing/not continuing to become.” Also unsurprisingly, this way of speaking (and thinking) tends to correlate strongly with a greater focus on moving in a positive direction, continual development, and earned outcomes. “I am unable to do ________ because I have not done ________,” or “I am able to do ________ because I did/do ________.”

Of course, “reality” (in the most impersonal sense) is composed of both conditions and conditioning. The individual with Type I diabetes, for example, did not make any choices to have Type I diabetes. But with a mind to conditioning, his language will reflect less the fact that he has some innate affliction, and more what he has done and continues to do to make progress despite his condition. There is no denial that there is some inherent condition, but the focus is on what conditioning can be done with or despite this condition, not how the condition is a defining force.

What defines you: you condition, or your conditioning?

- PS


9/19/17

  • Farmer’s carry - 4x50’ (AHAP)

Then...

  • 15 min AMRAP:

    • 15 cal row

    • 15 overhead squats (115/80)

    • 150’ farmer’s carry (224/144)


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“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Aristotle

The idea that habits and regular action are pivotal to making change and improving oneself is far from new. Aristotle recognized the significance of regular practice thousands of years ago, and it holds equal importance today. When you follow a practice regularly, it becomes a part of who you are. This is more than simple habit-forming -- this is the answer to the ever-relevant question: who are you becoming?

When you adopt new practices and make them a part of your every day, you are quite literally changing your physical and psychological self. The change, of course, is not linear, nor is it always easily identifiable. But when we recognize that we are beings capable of nearly limitless and constant development, the significance of daily practices that continually move the needle is quite evident in the pursuit of excellence.

The challenge, then, is to pick a practice and follow it for 100 unbroken days. The practice must be something extra-ordinary -- outside of normal routine and necessity -- and it must be something that drives you to advance yourself. Daily journaling, a movement practice, a meditative practice, a social practice, a health practice, etc. The prescription of 100 days is fairly arbitrary -- a length of time that is long enough to be challenging and test adherence, but short enough to be comprehensible. And hopefully, with 100 days under your belt, the practice becomes something that makes more sense to continue than to toss aside at th accomplishment of some arbitrary number. The mission isn’t just to pick up a positive habit for a while to see if it defers some benefits, it’s to lay another brick in the foundation of always pursuing a better you. Who’s in?

- PS


9/18/17

  • Strict weighted ring dips - 5,5,5,5

  • Hollow rocks - 4x10

Then...

  • For time, 21-15-9 reps of:

    • Burpees

    • Pull-ups


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There’s a potentially dangerous trap involved in high-intensity training. In this case, it has very little to do with the frequent topics of conversation like injury or overtraining, and is more an issue of what we can gain in the cognitive and experiential side of movement. When we layer intensity on top of movement, and particularly when we push into threshold efforts (think of the last 100 meters of a maximal effort mile run), we frequently encounter a point where exertion blinds our intention and awareness. We lose touch with how we move and why we move, and redirect all attention to just moving. Think of the sight of someone caught off-guard, tossed and tumbled underwater by a large wave -- movement becomes haphazard and desperate. There is little intention or focus; only a reactionary, desperate attempt to move somewhere in the hopes that it will pull your head up for a breath of air. Yet ask any big-wave surfer and they will tell you that intention and awareness in such a situation is the very thing allows you to make it to your next breath.

Without dedicated effort to awareness, there is an almost numbing effect of maximal exertion. Not a numbness to pain or the feelings of fatigue, but a numbness to our actual presence in movement. We disregard whether we move well and instead direct our efforts simply to keep moving. We ignore whether we move with attention to the purpose of the movement and instead simply work to get the task done.

The thing is, intention and awareness are not mutually exclusive to intensity. They, in fact, are supportive practices, and can yield greater results and capacity for intensity in the long-run. The challenge is that they demand more from our intention and mental dedication to the effort.

We have countless opportunities to be present in our movement. Our strength and skill work provides the perfect opportunity to step into a place of focus and awareness of the finer details, to direct attention to singular attempts rather than repeated efforts. And when the clock starts and we aim to move fast, we have to opportunity to double-down on our focus -- to move with intention and awareness despite the distractions of fatigue and high-speed, high-threshold effort. Next time you’re sprinting that last 100 meters of your mile time trial, or completing those last push-ups before the timer sounds, take a moment to be present and aware. Are you moving well? With purpose? With understanding? It will be hard, and it will take vigilance, but it will be worth it.

- PS



9/13/17

  • For time:

    • 1 mile run

    • ---

    • 21-15-9 reps of

    • Thrusters (95/65)

    • Pull-ups

    • ---

    • 1 mile run



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There’s a common misconception that in order to “work on form,” the load must be light. This idea implies some disconnect between challenging/heavy weights and the ability to practice position -- that they cannot coexist. While I understand where this way of thinking comes from, it’s an overly-simplistic and misapplied understanding of what “form” is and how we develop it.

If we assume that our very general term “form” means something along the lines of the ability to move through and maintain safe and effective positions in specified movements, we are faced with an immediate need for some qualification and specificity. I can get most any untrained person to move through the archetypically “right” positions for a bench press in a matter of 60 seconds with no weight in their hands, but add a heavy barbell to the mix and all of their positioning and control will go out the window. This person does not by any means have “good form.” They can just follow basic instructions for how to move their arms with no additional stress on the system.

Form requires loading, and I would argue that it even requires heavy loading if we are going to be willing to slap the word “good” on there as a qualifier. An athlete who is able to perform squats with proper positioning while loaded with 15% of their max capacity does not necessarily have good form if their position and movement patterns fall apart when we get up to 60% of their capacity.

Form is, in fact, load-specific. Because we consider intensity in the relative sense (your 90% intensity squat may be 500lbs while my 90% squat is 300lbs, but both are the same relative intensity), our load-specificity refers not to exact pounds on the barbell, but to its weight relative to our physiological limits. And while training adaptations at lighter weights absolutely can and do occur, there is a point where the system must be stressed under a high intensity load in order to develop form at the high intensity load. Lifting a barbell loaded to 90% is, effectively, a different exercise than lifting a barbell loaded to 40%. While external mechanics may look the same, the distribution of weight between bar and body changes the internal mechanics of the movement. This is why performing a snatch with a PVC pipe feels massively different than performing a snatch with 90% of your max. Your body must act differently to move those different loads through the same ranges of motion.

On top of this, some exercises benefit from heavy loading as a tool for forcing proper movement. This tactic requires careful application (as it can be injurious or counterproductive if inappropriately applied), but in weightlifting or strongman, for example, a heavy implement will demand proper form. A heavy stone cannot be lifted from the ground and loaded onto a 52” platform if the athlete does not execute the movement with violent hip extension and proper position of the arms around the stone. A barbell cannot be taken from the ground and caught in the bottom of an overhead squat without speed under the bar, a strong squat position, and stable shoulders. The heavy load diminishes the margin for error, and leaves the athlete with two choices: perform the movement with good form, or fail the lift. While you may be able to get away with successfully performing the task demanded in a stone load or a snatch with poor form at a light weight, this is not possible at a higher relative intensity.

It must be made clear that the message here is not that we must train heavy all the time, or that there is no purpose in practicing movements and positioning at lighter loads, or that there is never reason to decrease load. I firmly believe that beginning athletes have no reason to be handling loads at their physical max capacity until they have developed some consistency with lighter loads, and when position is irreparably sacrificed at or above a particular load (i.e., your knees always cave in when you squat about 85%), it is a mistake to spend any time training at or above this load until the mechanical fault is corrected. Training at a load in which you are incapable (because of physical strength limits or neurological faults) of performing the movement properly is strictly counterproductive.

But let’s get the idea out of our heads that when the weights get heavy we’re no longer working on form. Form is trained at all ends of the spectrum, and neglecting one end or the other is leaving a massive hole in your game.

- PS


9/12/17

  • Log clean & press - 1rm

Then...

  • 2 rounds

  • In 3 mins, complete

    • 5 log clean & press (155/105)

    • 10 box jumps

    • AMRAP wallballs (20/14)

  • Rest 3 min


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Walking out of a birthday get-together for one of the gym kids at a local pizza place today, I saw a young boy, maybe 12 or 13, putting on quite a show on one of the arcade games. You know the game where you get 4 small basketballs, and one or two minutes to shoot as many baskets as you can into a small hoop that feeds the balls back to you as quickly as you can shoot them? I hesitate to describe what this kid was doing as “playing,” because that doesn’t give it enough credit. He was doing work. In the 15 or so seconds that I took meandering by on my way out the door, he didn’t miss a single shot, and he probably shot the ball 20+ times in that short span of time.

While I don’t really think arcade free throw games are a practice that will earn much authority, money, or large-scale acclaim, I think the kid is probably onto something, whether he knows it or not. I don’t know anything about this young boy, but I can guarantee that he didn’t walk into a local arcade one day and shoot 115 successful mini-basketball free throws in 90 seconds. He has probably spent hundreds of hours and thousands of quarters standing in front of that game, practicing his craft. And sure, right now he’s probably spending more on quarters to play the game than he is making back in stuffed animal prizes and the awe of his peers, but he’s in possession of a transferable skill that has application far beyond arcade game mastery: unrelenting application of self.

This is a skill that’s in no shortage among those who earn titles like “genius,” “industry leader,” and “master of their craft.” From the outside it may look obsessive or bizarre or even unhealthy, but it’s a foundational skill in the world of human potential and self-actualization. And it should be no surprise that this skill is common among the world’s greatest intellectual, creative, and influential leaders. Prodigiously gifted or not, if you spend thousands of hours unrelentingly applying yourself to a very specific skill, you will rise above the rest. I don’t know why this particular arcade game captivated this kid, or if he has other hobbies, or if he will ever advance to founding a new tech startup, mastering the stock markets, playing professional sports, or leading us closer to a cure for cancer; but I’m pretty sure that he’s in possession of arguably the most important skill for doing any of those things.

Find that thing that captivates you or drives you crazy, and learn how to unrelentingly apply yourself to it.

- PS


9/11/17

  • Make 2 attempts at a max effort 250m row

  • Rest ~ 4 mins between attempts

Then...

  • 12 min AMRAP

    • Max cal row

    • Every minute on the minute, complete a 50’ sandbag front carry (AHAP)