Plan for Success

We have had a higher than average rate of members cancelling their class reservations lately, I think.  I can’t be sure, I don’t have historical data on this from our Wodify system.  But it just seems like there are a couple more names crossed off the list when I look at the class rosters.  And I’ll tell you what I like about that.  People are PLANNING to come to class!  They are planning their dive, as I’ve written about before.  And that’s step one of the two-step system for consistency in your fitness results.  Now, of course step two is showing up and doing the workout, and I’ll address that in next week’s blog.

Cancellations come mostly from the early morning classes, those 5am and 6am athletes that everyone else says are “crazy”.  I wouldn’t say they’re crazy – I feel very safe in the gym with them – but I would say they’re “committed”.  And they are great planners – they have to be!  I don’t think anyone has every popped out of bed at 4:30am and spontaneously decided to go to the gym.  You have to plan it out at least the night before, maybe even lay out your gym clothes so that you’re not rustling around in the dark in the morning, waking up the rest of the household.

Adding your name to the class roster the night before is also a great way to hold yourself accountable to the team that you’ll be training with.  Over time and lots of tough sessions together, that special bond develops that prompts a “where were you this morning?” text from several people in class when you don’t show your sleepy face.  That’s why we sign up for class in advance – to plan out our day and commit to ourselves that we are training today, but also to commit to our teammates that we’ll be there for them, ready to take on another challenging workout together.

You can sign up for class up to an hour before it is scheduled to start, but of course the best practice is to plan more than a day ahead, penciling your name in for the whole week.  Plan out your week of training on Sunday as you plan out the rest of your week, understanding where the 6am class won’t work because of an early meeting and instead signing up for the 4:30pm class that day.  Then before bed each night as you recap your day and look at the next day’s schedule, you already have that hour of training committed, and you can plan other new activities around it.  When you finished the On-Ramp program and became a member at CrossFit Kent Island, you committed to yourself that your physical fitness and health is a major priority, so remember that in your weekly planning and nightly recommitment to your plan.

Waking up in the morning and hoping to have time to make it to the gym at some point during the day does not sound like a highly successful plan.  It’s not a plan at all – it’s a wish!  Your health and fitness is more important than that.  Make a plan, make it as far in advance as you can.  When you review your daily schedule, then you can recommit to your training scheduled for the day, and get fired up about knocking it out of the park.  The next step is to push all distractions aside, and just show up to the gym!  More on that next time…


Climb the Mountain

“Because in the end you won’t remember the time spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.  Climb the goddamn mountain.”
– Jack Kerouac

I haven’t read Kerouac’s On The Road (but kind of want to) and I know that he lived a life that was not wholly worth celebrating, but I came across this quote and it struck me as true, and in line with a philosophy that I strive to remind myself of, especially when I get “stuck” or feel bogged down by lots of little things in my life that tend to pile up once in a while.  We all have to go to work, and pay the bills, and take care of the house, and shuttle the kids to their practices, and catch up with our parents and friends and people that used to be friends but we haven’t talked in… years.  We have to read books because other people tell us that they are good.  We have to try to stay up on all the craziness that is happening in the world around us.

At times I feel stressed out with all of these commitments that I have made – which are all worthwhile, mind you – and I feel like I am not prioritizing any of them correctly.  I feel my energy level backsliding towards negativity as I know I’m not performing well in all of my roles in life.  And then my high school friend – who I don’t talk to nearly enough – texts me out of the blue and asks, “do you want to run a 50K race with me?”  Almost instantly, my perspective changes.  As soon as I said “Yes” and went through some quick stages of fear, nervousness, and instant buyer’s remorse as I clicked REGISTER on the race website, I transitioned to a positive, EXCITED energetic state.  Each morning as I review my daily plan, I make sure that there is a specific time allotted for physical and mental preparation for this race.  This race is now my mountain looming in the distance that Kerouac beckons me toward.  Quite literally actually, we’ll be climbing a mountain, and then descending, and climbing again, you get the idea.  But this mountain gets closer every day, and it makes me feel ALIVE.  And that motivation of upcoming adventure doesn’t make those other commitments go away, but instead provides me with positive energy to take them on with gusto after I have completed my daily training.

Our CFKI community is chock full of athletes that are climbing different mountains, but just as steep and full of exhilarating risk and reward.  We have people taking on similar trail races coming up, all of which I would say are out of their comfort zone.  We have new members that are taking on CrossFit training for the first time, which we all know feels like the highest mountain there is at first – good for you!!  And this year we have three teams competing in the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge in just two and a half weeks, many of them for the first time!  A full day of CrossFit competition is a big chunk of fitness to bite off, but these animals have been training hard individually and as teams, and all are ready to throw down.  I’m super proud of all of our community for taking on these audacious goals, and then working so hard to smash them.

When we have successfully climbed these mountains, the feelings of personal accomplishment and strengthened friendships will change our perspective on what we can do, shattering our current limitations and negative self-talk.  Leaning into adventure creates a snowball effect of growth and confidence that then bleeds over into all aspects of our lives.  It makes us feel ALIVE when what we’re doing every day is connected to a goal that is exciting to us.  This is truly Kokoro training – connecting to your heart and leading your life with that deep-seeded desire to do amazing things.

Reading with a Purpose

“Books are door-shaped portals carrying me across oceans and centuries, helping me feel less alone.”
– Margarita Engle, Tula (“Books are door-shaped”)

Just about a year ago in August 2022, I established a personal goal of reading more – specifically one book per month.  This was a way for me to refocus on personal development, learning new ideas and ways of looking at the ideas I already have, and also to get away from more destructive habits that were taking up my time such as social media.  I’m proud to say that our CFKI Book Club has now been reading and meeting for a year, and it has been a great experience to connect with members of our community on all kinds of topics.  We’ve read books on outdoor adventure (and catastrophe), inspiring books on personal struggles and growth, books on social issues like the tug of social media and the psychology of interacting with strangers.  We’ve read relatively new books and some dating back to WWII and the experience of concentration camps.

All of the books we’ve read have been recommended by CFKI Book Club members, so if none of these themes sound like a good time to you, throw a book out to the group, and we’ll read it!  We’re definitely not too big to accept new members (averaging about 3-5 members per month), and would love to get new perspectives.  The idea is always to be reading different stuff to open up our minds and have an interesting dialogue – maybe even debate – with actual human beings.
To that effect, one of our new members this month (what’s up, Mark!) suggested that we start meeting in person rather than Zoom calls, to encourage more of a social aspect and be able to communicate more effectively with each other.  Our next meeting, in the beginning of October, will be at the Kent Island Yacht Club!
We’ll be discussing the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  It was written in the 1930’s and set in the year 2540 as a dystopian warning of what can happen if we allow ourselves to be constantly fed mind-numbing pleasure, vs allowing for creativity and free thought.  I think – I haven’t read it yet but that’s the vibe that I get from reading the plot spoiler!

Finally, as a side benefit to reading more, I hope to get my kids to notice and to disconnect from the phone in favor of reading, which I think we all can agree is more developmentally important for young brains as well as old.  And if I want my kids to read more, when we get those rare fleeting moments where we are around each other and have time to chat, wouldn’t it be better if I had a book in my hands rather than my phone?


Give $80, Get $80

First of all, I wanted to personally thank you all for being loyal members at CrossFit Kent Island.  Myself and all of our amazing coaches are committed to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals. We appreciate you supporting our small, local business, and we have an exciting announcement to share.

We’ve previously had a referral bonus but haven’t talked it up enough, and so now we’re going to sweeten the deal and also try to get it out there more often.  Our best new members are your friends, because they’re going to consistently make it in to the gym… because you’re there!  And it will make it more fun for you to have a new workout buddy to beat.

So now, when you refer one of your friends and/or family members and they sign up, you’ll get $80 off of your next invoice, and the person you referred will get $80 off of their first invoice.  Workout with friends, save money, help your friend save money, and help our community grow!  I see no downside here!

So, how do you take us up on this offer? We’re going to make this super easy for you and help you start the conversation. We all have at least one picture of ourselves working out at CFKI that we like – among lots of others that we don’t like at all!  Seriously, why is that my workout face??  Simply write something about your experience at CrossFit Kent Island and post your picture on your favorite social media platform.  If you tag us we’ll share it too!  When someone sends you a message, give them this link to contact us and let them know to mention in the comment section that you referred them.  When they become a member, we’ll be sure to apply the credits to both accounts!

If you don’t have a great pic yet, let’s stage an awesome one next time you’re in the gym!  And if you’d rather not post a pic of yourself at all, feel free to steal your favorite picture from our website or Facebook page.

Let’s make our friends fitter!


Kokoro – Leading From the Heart

“What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself?”
 — Eckhart Tolle

If you’ve followed along with my blog or know my background of training with the SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind programs, you might know that I attended an intense 3-day training event called “Kokoro” back in the winter of 2016.  I was emptying my ruck out today as it has accumulated lots of random gear over the past couple months of summer travel, and pulled out the patch I received after completing the event.  It’s always fun to think back on these life-altering moments in our lives, but as I looked at the patch it actually reminded me of what Kokoro means, and reenergized me to focus on training my Kokoro spirit.

According to Mark Divine, founder of SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind, Japanese culture sees the heart as “an essential organ of life and the source from which all action should emanate. The Japanese term used is a word that vibrates the resonance of the warrior.”  That word is Kokoro.

Kokoro describes a person’s way of being. It means “heart, mind, and spirit aligned in action.”  There isn’t one word in English to capture this essential nature.  Most believe the mind is the end all, be all.  As the Western world has evolved in our understanding of the body-mind-heart connection, we use the word energy more and more commonly, just like the Japanese use the word Kokoro.  For example, you may hear someone say, “She has good energy,” or “I don’t like their energy.”  Also, the word spirit is thrown into the mix, which somewhat embodies what Kokoro means because it’s really about a person’s essence: how they feel, think, and communicate when operating from their higher Self, with aligned body language, words, and actions.

If you have been training with us at CrossFit Kent Island or following another hard training program that tests you physically but also mentally and emotionally, teaching you about yourself and evolving your body and mind simultaneously, you have been developing your Kokoro intelligence. The integration of the first four “mountains” in the Unbeatable Mind system (physical, mental, emotional, intuitional) creates mastery at the fifth mountain, the “Kokoro-spirit” level.

With your body, heart and mind all working together as a team, the obstacles in your training — or in your life — don’t stand a chance.  You are acting from your whole mind like a enlightened Zen master, and shifting your life toward a positive trajectory.

Final thought:  when you have strong Kokoro, you’re tapping into your true Self.  If you’ve been searching for your “why” or “purpose”, I believe this is the way to do it.  Train hard, remain focused, listen to your heart, and you’ll get there!


An Insight on the CrossFit Community

There were so many awesome moments from the CrossFit Games last weekend, from Roman Khrennikov breaking his foot but still continuing to compete and placing third, to Laura Horvath winning for the first time and using her interview time to talk about positive body images for women.  Denee and the boys and I were there, soaking it all in and experiencing all of these exciting and motivating moments firsthand.  But what really got me at the CrossFit Games was not one single moment, but just a vibe.  Can I say vibe?  Am I cool enough?

The VIBE at the CrossFit Games is one of positivity and inclusion, and it struck me and several others that I overheard that you just don’t get that vibe very much anymore.  Within our own CrossFit Kent Island ecosystem, we experience it every day, and that’s a big part of what keeps us coming back to the gym for another brutal workout.  It’s the fitness, for sure, but it’s also the community feeling, which when we play it up sounds a lot like a cultish thing, but call it what you want – it’s incredible.  Now imagine, if you haven’t been to THE GAMES before, what that would look like at a global level, and then condense that globe into the 1 square mile that is the CrossFit Games event space in Madison, Wisconsin.

Let’s get the first part out of the way – everyone is fit.  There were guys there that I don’t think brought a shirt with them.  They may have been shirtless on the plane, and no one would have said anything.  But all jokes aside, that’s part of it.  Everyone there is fit, and because of that, they are confident.  And happy.  I think that says a lot about what physical fitness can do for your life in general.

Now to expand on the happiness part.  When you enter the Coliseum and sit down and look around, during an event or in between when people are chatting and getting ready for the next one, everyone is not necessarily smiling, but they are exuding happiness and contentment.  You can feel it.  It’s not like at an NBA basketball game where people are disconnected and doing their own thing, on their phones and waiting for the game to end.  They are genuinely excited to be there and connecting with each other in a very meaningful way, because they are experiencing their way of life – fitness and hard work – at the ultimate level.  When we were flying to Wisconsin, I was wondering what it would be like to hang out with a bunch of workout-crazed fanatics, because honestly I was thinking I was not really into the competitive aspect of CrossFit anymore.  I think that’s why I never made it to the Games over the past couple years when I had the chance to – I didn’t feel like I wanted to be around people that were SO INTO IT.  But I was dead wrong.  They’re not SO INTO thrusters and pull-ups.  They’re so into being positive examples in their local societies, and they yearn to connect with other people that feel the same way.  And I saw it, and it was amazing.  I’ve been to my share of sporting events before, and left as the same person.  I went to the CrossFit Games, and I understand.  I understand why people that have been before insist that I go.  And now I must insist.

If you are a CrossFit coach reading this, reach for the next level.  Go to that next CrossFit training seminar that you want to attend to expand your knowledge.  You will meet people that you’ll never forget and you will grow as a person.  And you’ll be reenergized as an active member of the CrossFit global community that is so inspiring.

If you are a CrossFit Kent Island athlete reading this, go to a CrossFit event, like the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge coming up this fall.  Or go to another CrossFit gym for a workout.  There are three in Annapolis.  Seek awareness of what CrossFit is like outside of our (outstanding) island community.  Here’s a hint – it’s going to be awesome, maybe in a different way than you currently know, but you will leave with so much energy and motivation to bring back to your CFKI community and your family.

In closing, a funny but true comment that we overheard as we were entering the CrossFit Games event area for the first time.  One of the ticketing staff that hadn’t been a part of the CrossFit Games staff before said to a colleague, “I love CrossFitters.  They’re so nice.  They may not agree with all the rules we tell them they have to follow, but they just do it.  They’re not like normal people.”

Let’s keep being not like normal people.  Let’s be CrossFitters.  Let’s be nice, and happy, and let’s keep moving this community forward.

See you at the Games next year!


The Bay Swim Debrief: A Current of Emotions

As I sat down with my journal to get my thoughts together on the 2023 Chesapeake Bay Swim, I started reliving the experience and realized that every phase of the event was characterized by a pretty strong emotional state.  In the almost 4 hours I spent in the Bay, I think I experienced the full range of human emotions, some of which were hard to deal with as an adult male of the human species (we’re generally not that great at acknowledging the fact that we have feelings…)  Some of them are always difficult to deal with, like fear and shame, but luckily they were balanced with some amazing feelings of joy and peace.  These all were brought on by forcibly being “in the moment” – I didn’t really have another choice! – and how flimsy the line between success and failure can feel when you take on a challenge that is way out of your comfort zone.

To make a long story short, I finished the 4.4 mile swim, accomplishing the major physical goal I had set out for myself this year.  But it was a struggle, and there were absolutely times that I resigned myself to understanding that it wasn’t going to happen, including all the way up to the 4-mile mark of the race.  But I was able to push through pain and exhaustion to cross the finish line, and for that I am very proud of myself.  I hope that what you’ll take from this account though is not me bragging about how awesome I am for finishing an event (that 400 other people also finished, the majority of them faster than me), but rather a bit more of a raw look at how negativity almost derailed my performance and some strategies I used to get myself back on track.

The Start
“I’m an idiot.”  “This is going to be freaking horrible.”  These were just a couple of the thoughts that were consistently spinning through my head, even as I stood on the beach before the race trying to focus on slowing down my breath, and not look like I was freaking out.  In speaking with my friends and family in the days leading up to the race and letting people in on the fact that I was pretty nervous, every single person reminded me that I had trained hard for this and I had completed long endurance events before.  I would respond with, “you’re right,” and nod, but privately the nervousness never dissipated, it just grew until the night before the race I couldn’t sleep at all.  When I got out of bed on Sunday morning at 5am, at least I knew that race day was here, there was no more waiting – that made it a little bit better.  But still bad.
As I looked around the beach at the other swimmers, I was reminded that there were several people here who had already completed this swim several times over the years, and some of them looked to be in their 60’s.  “If they can do it, I can do it” was my positive mantra to combat the negative thoughts.  But then, I would think, what if they finish and I don’t?  Doesn’t that just make it worse?
Finally it was time to enter the water, and I got in about midway through the pack.  Still feeling overly unconfident, I dove in and started to stroke toward the buoys that marked the turn to get under the north span of the Bay Bridge.

The First Leg – 400M from Sandy Point State Park to the Bay Bridge
The morning of the race, as Denee dropped me off she reminded me to swim my own race.  When I swam the 1-mile event last year, I immediately tried to stay with swimmers that were faster than me, maybe because I thought they knew what they were doing more than I did, or I didn’t want to fall back right away.  The result of that was that I got really gassed right off the bat and ended up having to slow way down and catch my breath about a quarter mile in.  So to prevent that happening today, Denee coached me to forget about everyone else and just begin at a comfortable pace that I could maintain for a longer time, which was perfect advice.  And I thought I was doing that – I definitely wasn’t swimming very fast – but my high heart rate from my pre-race beach terror carried into the beginning of the swim, and I couldn’t figure out how to breathe.  Those of you that have swam triathlons or other open-water events know that in the beginning you’re also running into everyone else, resulting in kicks and claws to your face, legs, and back.  It’s all very disorienting, and that added to my stress.  I also learned that I am the most polite swimmer in the world, or maybe everyone else that swims these events is an asshole.  Every time I would run into someone or they would hit me from behind, I would stop and pick up my head and apologize.  I don’t think anyone heard me though, because everyone else just kept swimming.  I guess I understand because you don’t want to get out of your rhythm, but at the time I was kind of insulted!
Before the race started, one of my main mental strategies to employ was to always have my next micro-goal in mind that I was shooting for.  I knew that the initial distance from the beach to the bridge was about 400M, a tiny fraction of the whole race, but after that we would start swimming between the two bridge spans and the crowding would settle down a bit.  I reminded myself that if I could just get to the bridge, things would start to get better, but I had spent so much physical energy on this first leg that I started to really question my preparation and started to imagine failing.  Shame and disappointment welled up inside me as I thought about how I would tell all those people that knew I was doing this and would be asking me about it in just a few hours. 
How did you do?  I failed.  Why?  I think I just mentally quit.

As I played that scenario out in my head, I knew that there was no way I was going to let that happen.  All the people that I had told about my training plan, that this was a big personal goal for me – I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye if I didn’t either finish the race, or be pulled for an admin reason like I was going too slow (there were cutoff times for every mile marker) or I had swam off-course (you can’t go outside the bridges again until the very end).  This became my “why” – I needed those conversations at the end with you all to be celebrations of my effort, not dissections of where I became mentally weak.  As I made the turn under the bridge and started to head east toward Kent Island, I knew that there were three options available to me at all times:  hold my hands up and tell a boater that I was quitting, swim, or don’t swim and see what happens.  I’m pretty sure if you don’t swim in deep water that’s called drowning.  I wasn’t going to quit, and I didn’t want to drown, so I swam.

Under the Bridge – the curve left and straightaway to the north span suspension bridge
Don’t worry, this will be a short one.  I started to feel great.  As I started to swim the big lefthand curve of the bridge, going from southeast to east, the sun came out and the water was relatively calm.  There was a little surface current pushing me north because of about 10 knots of wind, but nothing too big and I just tried to stay in the middle between the two spans.  As I breathed to one side, I would make sure the bridge was still relatively the same distance away as my last breath, and I didn’t have to “sight” very much, or look ahead.  Every couple minutes I would sight just to make sure I wasn’t going to run into anything, but it was pretty open!  I felt confident in my pace, my breathing was very manageable.  I was comfortable.  I was even having fun!  I started to visualize the finish, now 100% certain that I would complete the event.  I imagined myself clumsily getting out of the water as everyone cheered and the race director called out my name.
Where is the second mile marker?  Oh yeah, it’s the huge concrete structure that supports the beginning of the suspension bridge on the north span.  It’s just up ahead!

Mile 3
Can there be a false summit in swimming?  I thought I had heard the race director say in the pre-race brief that Mile Marker 3 was the second huge concrete structure at the end of the suspension bridge.  It seemed pretty close, but hey, maybe I’m just crushing it!  I wasn’t wearing a watch and really had no sense at all of how long I had been swimming.  But when I swam past that structure I was wrong.  I looked up and there was SOOO much more water left to cross.  OK, if that wasn’t it maybe it’s within sight?  At that point though, probably 2.5 miles into the swim, I started noticing a much more significant southern swell starting to pick up as I was now in some much deeper water.  It wasn’t pushing me out of the course as much as it was making it a lot harder to breathe with my normal timing without getting slammed in the face by a wave.  I slowed my pace down a bit more, and alternated between breathing on my left side which would tend to also pull me to the left, closer to out-of-bounds, and breathing on my right but trying to time my strokes and breathing to be on top of a wave.
I was definitely alone at this point, and figured I was at the back of the pack.  I was absolutely not going to stop of my own accord, but started to feel that doubt creep in again – under these tougher conditions am I going to make this next 45-minute cutoff time?  I reminded myself of my “why” – too many people are rooting for me right now – and Mile Marker 3 began to loom in the distance.  Just have to get there in time.  As the conditions got worse, I knew every stroke was getting me a little closer.  Just swim.

The Longest Mile – to Mile Marker 4
I got to Mile Marker 3 and no one pulled me out of the water so I was elated!  1.4 miles to go, easy day!  I had now done twice that already, and although the chop was hard to deal with, it wasn’t going to stop me.  What made this mile different and I think a lot longer was that I started to experience a lot of pain in my shoulders from all the pulling, and in my hips and knees from kicking.  Basically, all my joints hurt.  I hadn’t seen that coming, but it makes sense because I had never swam more than 3 miles at one time, and those were easy pool miles.  My confidence was still high though until two different kayakers checked on me, paddling up to ask, “Are you OK?”  As some of you know (Robie!), that’s not a question you want to be asked when you’re swimming, because it means it looks like you are struggling.  I think I had unknowingly dropped my pace even more, and it must have looked like I was busting my ass in the water but not really going anywhere.  I took this as a coaching cue to try to look better in the water, and started lengthening my stroke, trying to streamline my body for more efficiency.  I felt my pace coming back up a little bit – the pilings to my side were moving a little faster, and my kayaker friends faded away for now.
The tidal current picked up a lot during this mile as well, and was more actively pushing me north, to the point where I was swimming diagonally just to make some headway and not lose my course.  If I had to guess I would say this mile alone took me an hour.

The Finish
When I saw Mile Marker 4 ahead, I was so excited.  In my mind I had just finished the race, because all I had to do now was swim under the south span of the bridge, then make a left hand turn and swim the last 0.4 mile to Libbey’s and a cold beer.  The turn and swim under the bridge though was probably the most physically demanding swimming of the day.  Big swells with a lot of force were coming right at me, and I felt it was all I could do to not get pushed backwards.  I was scared that this was it, I was going to get pushed into the bridge pilings and disqualified, or I wouldn’t have enough left and just wouldn’t be able to swim hard enough to finish this.  I changed to a sidestroke as I had done a few other times to try to keep my head facing away from the waves, but this time I had to go right through them.  I would scissor kick hard and dive into the wave, glide for a bit underwater until I felt my momentum stopping, then pull myself above the surface for a breath.  It took five minutes of really hard swimming to clear the rock wall where the bridge ends enough to make a left turn.  Then it was just a matter of not getting pushed into the wall so I wouldn’t get sliced up by whatever would be under the surface there.
After another 10 minutes of swimming parallel to the rock wall, I put my feet down on the sandy bottom.  What a feeling!!  I walked in chest-deep water for a few minutes, and one of my kayaker buddies pulled up alongside and said, “I won’t tell.”  What??  Was walking illegal?  I looked at the finish line that was about 200M away, and dove forward to start to swim again.  It really hurt to swim, and the alternative seemed so much better, if a bit slower.  I ended up walk-swim-walking the home stretch, feeling pretty damn good about myself.  In the end I was very close to the event cutoff time of 4 hours, which means I had to be very close to the cutoff at the 4-mile marker too.  If I was over the time, I am very grateful for whoever it was that made the decision to keep me in the water and struggling for the finish.

There are people that have done this event several times, and even make it an annual tradition.  For me, this was a monumental achievement and a life-changing experience.  Even though I trained hard for it in the pool and got several open water swims under my belt before race day, I was super nervous about the Bay Swim, building up to the point where I couldn’t sleep and it was all I could think about.  I’m glad that I told everyone in the world that I was taking this on and was training hard for it, because that ended up being my “why” during the event.  I did not want to have to explain to my friends and family, the CFKI community and everyone reading this, that this thing that I had said was so important to me suddenly wasn’t, because it was too hard and I quit.  So, thank you for providing me with the motivation when I needed it – the spirit to keep fighting and accomplish my goal.
People are already asking me “what’s next?” and I don’t know.  For now I have regained the drive to train hard in CrossFit – something that I had avoided quite a bit in the last few months especially.  Look for me on the CFKI leaderboard!

If you’re looking for that next special challenge that will elevate both your physical and mental training and propel you forward toward even greater things, remember that in the tradition of the Japanese misogi, it should be something that you feel like there is at least a 50% chance that you will fail – just because it’s too hard.  But commit to it, and that will create the condition for hard training and immense personal growth.  And if you find yourself at the starting line whispering to yourself, “I’m an idiot,” you’re doing it right.

Thanks for reading!


Challenge Accepted

In less than two weeks, or exactly eleven days, I will be taking on the Chesapeake Bay Swim.  As I wrote that sentence I recognized that I knew immediately it was exactly eleven days because I’m starting to get pretty nervous.  OK, scared.  The swim is 4.4 miles across the Bay from Annapolis to Kent Island, and for some people that identify more as aquatic mammals than humans, that’s not a really big deal – there are some that do this event every year.  But I have never swam in open water for more than a mile, so this is a big deal for me.  Those of you who know me well know that back in the day when I was a young pup I was training to be a Navy SEAL.  But it wasn’t because I was an elite swimmer – I was hoping just to gut it through that part.  I can hold my own in the water, feel pretty comfy swimming and diving, but when I first showed up to my first Sunday morning swim training at Penn State Navy ROTC, I was surrounded by all-state swimmers wearing Speedos and talking about their best 100M freestyle times, and I was wearing board shorts and mentally wavering between making fun of these kids that I didn’t identify with, having never competitively swam, and thinking I was in for a world of hurt.  I was right about the second part.  I worked hard in the pool, moving from consistently last to midde-of-the-pack, but an elite swimmer I was not.  So back to present day, the Chesapeake Bay Swim has been something that I have wanted to do for a while now, to prove to myself that I can do it, and also as the next hard challenge in my life that keeps me motivated and always advancing in my training.  Every time I drive over the Bay Bridge though, I look down at that choppy water and pucker up a little bit.

Many of you are taking on the 12-hour Heroes Challenge this weekend, which is another hard physical and mental challenge in itself.  Twelve hours of CrossFit hero workouts that are each designed to test you in a serious way.  We’re taking on the workouts with a team, which lightens the load a little bit but also adds a special intensity to each workout.  When it’s your time to go in a team workout you have to be ready to push the pace, and when you’re resting you’re staying motivated and encouraging your teammates.  Not an easy thing, to be “on” the whole time.  But as the day presses on you will find that extra gear and finish strong, which is a pretty amazing feeling.

These hard challenges that we take on are important and very valuable because they provide us with something looming on the horizon that we know we need to train hard for.  These crucible events also propel us forward with great momentum and confidence to take on the next challenge, whether it’s something that we have planned or the unknown challenge or crisis that we’ll need to respond to with the same vigor.  I’m super proud of our CFKI community for consistently stepping up to the plate for these special events in the gym as well as all the crazy challenges that you take on on your own.  Asking around during a regular class at CFKI, I’ll hear all kinds of tough races that you all are getting ready to crush, or individual goals in strength and endurance that are well beyond the “normal” person’s reach.  We belong to a pretty incredible community of individuals that make up a super-motivating team.  Yes!!

Here are the Hero workouts that we will be taking on this Saturday.

7am – “Glen” for US Navy SEAL and CIA operative Glen Doherty

8am – “Tumilson” for US Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson

9am – “Kalsu” for US Army LT James Kalsu

10am – “JT” for US Navy SEAL Jeff Taylor

11am – “Badger” for US Navy SEAL Mark Carter

12pm – “The Seven” for seven CIA operatives that were killed in a suicide bombing

1pm – “Holleyman” for US Army Special Forces Sergeant Aaron Holleyman

2pm – “Coffland” for US Army Specialist Chris Coffland

3pm – “Adam Brown” for US Navy SEAL Adam Brown

4pm – “Hammer” for US Army 1st Sergeant Michael Bordelon

5pm – “Randy” for LAPD SWAT Officer Randy Simmons

6pm – “Tama” for New Zealand Army Corporal Luke Tamatea

If you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still time, and we can find a team for you to join.  Click this link to register, and then we’ll help you out from there.  And if you’d like to come out and cheer us on and contribute to the cause for the Catch A Lift Fund, you’re welcome to do that too!  We’ll be raffling off some great prizes, and raffle tickets will be going on sale at the gym tomorrow!

Thank you all for continuing to train hard and step up to hard challenges.  This is how we keep evolving, getting stronger and tougher every day.


Murph Prep

Memorial Day is now just days away, and that means Murph!  Many of you reading have completed Murph before and so you know that this is just another CrossFit workout – a little on the longer side but nothing that can’t be done if we’re smart about scaling and preparing our bodies for the effort.  More on that later.  The first thing I’d like to do is remind us all what this is about.

The reason we do the “Murph” workout every Memorial Day is because Michael Murphy very honorably represents all of our fallen heroes that have died in service to the United States.  Lieutenant Murphy died while knowingly exposing himself to direct enemy gunfire so that he could find a radio signal to call for help and get his team out of a dire situation, one that would be fatal for himself and two teammates, but it eventually saved the life of “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell.  Because of his heroic and selfless actions, Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military honor.
When we workout and remember Murph, we also remember all of the other brave soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen that have laid down their lives in less publicized battles but fought and died just as valiantly.  In our Hero Month this year, we will have completed 12 hero workouts that honor other military heroes – including one from the Italian army as well as one of the original CrossFit hero WOD “Michael,” named for LT Michael McGreevy who was killed in the rescue mission attempting to get Murph and his squad out of harm’s way.
Finally, we have made a tradition of sharing  this essay that was written by Andy Stumpf in 2018 in memory of one of his Navy SEAL teammates.  It’s a powerful reminder of what Memorial Day is really about.

How to get ready for Murph.  Guess what – if you’ve been doing CrossFit consistently, you are ready!  We run, we do pull-ups, and push-ups, and squats.  We do long workouts, with high reps.  And we have been doing a lot of workouts, especially during Hero Month and on Saturdays in April and May, that are very “Murphy”.  And yet the workout still seems physically daunting because of the way it’s laid out.  But that’s the point!  It’s supposed to be hard, and it will be.  You are physically prepared now, there is nothing more that you can do other than to come into the gym on Monday feeling rested and ready.  Our 9am workout planned for this Saturday will be a 30-minute circuit of slow cardio movements to just get the blood flowing, and then a nice cooldown.  If you’d like to get in and do your own thing for a little bit, Coach Jess is also OK with that.  Just be smart and don’t crush yourself on Saturday if a solid Murph performance is important to you.
To prepare mentally, what we need is a plan.  Step one of the plan is to determine how you will attack the workout, including how to modify the workout in a smart way.  The goal is to complete Murph in 40 to 60 minutes.  After 60 minutes, the amount of repetitive movement that you have stressed your body with will be too much, and move into a dangerous overtraining situation.  So, modifying the workout will be focused on reducing the overall volume of work.  One simple way to do that is to establish a time cap for the pull-up/push-up/squat portion of the workout.  Run one mile, then do as much work as possible in the gym in 20 minutes, and then run your second mile.  Boom, you got your appropriate dose of Murph in!  The next time you attempt the workout you can try to get more reps in that 20-minute window, and that will be a new PR!
Of course, the other way that many of us will modify the workout is to scale one or more movements to make them easier.  Good options for pull-ups would be banded pull-ups or ring rows, at a difficulty level that allows for at least 5 consecutive reps relatively easily.  Push-ups can be scaled to incline push-ups with your hands on a box that allows for 10 consecutive reps easily.  One round of 5 modified pull-ups, 10 modified push-ups, and 15 squats should be completed within 2 minutes or less.

When the clock stops and the high-fives and war stories commence, it’s easy to get right back into Memorial Day festivities, and we should absolutely make time for that.  However, with a long and intense workout like Murph, we should also discuss some positive steps we can take for recovery.

First, what to do:  HYDRATE!  Memorial Day is such a fun time because the weather is always nice and HOT – it’s the unofficial beginning of summer!  So make sure you’re pumping the water and electrolytes through the whole weekend, during and after the workout.  It’s the single best thing you can do for recovery.
And then, what not to do… dehydrate.  Murph is notorious for producing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, or “rhabdo”, which is essentially a failure of your muscle cells to repair due to acute overtraining, and instead they release protein into your bloodstream, resulting in kidney damage.  Think, going “zero to hero” with way too many pull-ups in one session, to the point where you can’t pull any more but you’re still trying.  If I’m being very specific here it’s because I’ve been there, and it makes for a less-than-awesome week and potentially a hospital visit.  So when your coach gives you a scaling protocol for Murph that is within your physical capacity and not beyond, this is for your safety.  And, one thing that can drastically amplify the effects of rhabdo is dehydration.  Crushing your body with a hard workout and then continuing to stress it out with alcohol is not a smart move in general, so let’s be smart on both fronts:  train hard but safely, and stay on the positive side of hydration during your post-Murph festivities.

Can’t wait to get together and honor Michael Murphy and all of our fallen heroes with a great workout and some food and fellowship afterwards.  We’ll be starting a workout heat at 9am and another at 10:30am, and then hanging out for some burgers and dogs afterward.  Even if you’re not going to do the workout, I hope you can come celebrate Memorial Day with us!


Hero Workouts

CrossFit is awesome because it’s an effective fitness program that everyone can do.  We all know that now, although you might have doubted that second part before you took the plunge and tried it out.

What really drew me into CrossFit in the beginning though was another reason I thought it was awesome, and something I hope you all feel too.  When you define yourself as a CrossFitter, you become part of a massive community that stretches across the globe, from people that regularly attend classes at their local “box,” to people that follow WODs and complete them as they can with their home equipment.  After you finish your workout each day, you can compare results with your friends but also faceless but very real online profiles that have previously completed that workout.  These other people provide you motivation, and you in turn provide it to them.
Another subset of this CrossFit community are the warriors that use CrossFit as their fitness program, both at home and when deployed.  There are thousands of airmen, marines, soldiers and sailors that get together with whatever equipment they can muster to throwdown in cramped, dusty bases around the world, because they are proud members of the CrossFit community, and because they know it works.  There are police officers, firefighters, and other first responders that workout together after their shifts or even in between calls, because they know that they need to stay physically and mentally prepared for that next big one.
And sometimes, tragically and heroically, one of them falls in the line of duty.  As their family and friends mourn their loss, their local CrossFit community is also hit hard.  To memorialize their life, a Hero workout is written on the board, and completed in honor of them.  Many of these are submitted to CrossFit, Inc., and if approved that is when we see new Hero WODs populate programming.

Those of you that have taken on a Hero workout know that they are very physically demanding – maybe a little bit heavier than normal or an extra-long timeframe is expected.  Because of that, they are also mentally and emotionally taxing.  All of this extra suffering is meant to pay homage to the fallen warrior, and put ourselves just briefly in their shoes.  After all, this workout is something they would have gladly taken on, if they could.
When you walk in the gym for a Hero workout, begin to prepare yourself mentally for a battle.  It’s not going to be easy, and it shouldn’t be.  Your coach will help you scale the workout appropriately for your current fitness level, including any dings or dents you’re dealing with.  But it’s meant to be a challenge, so make sure you lean into it.

In addition to taking on the workout with a fiery spirit, we also want to respect the warrior, the workout, and each other, by completing each movement to the best of our ability, and accept coaching and scaling if we can’t.  There is absolutely no place in these workouts for half-assing a squat or otherwise counting reps that shouldn’t.  When I was at a SEALFIT event, one of the trainees decided to cut a couple reps out of his push-up sets during “Murph”.  Unbeknownst to him, one of the coaches was watching and counting, and all of a sudden he had 3 Navy SEAL instructors surrounding him, asking him point blank if he was cheating their brother.  In our case at CFKI, nobody in the gym will be able to watch every single rep of your workout, except for you.  Make sure every one of them represents everything you have to give.

We are now two weeks into our Hero Month, which means that at least two Hero WODs will appear in the Monday-Friday programming each week, as well as one on Saturday.  So far we’ve done eight Hero workouts in twelve weekdays!
Having laid out the significance and the relative intensity of Hero workouts, there are a few things we want to take especially seriously for the rest of May in terms of recovery, meaning getting ourselves repaired and ready for the next challenge.  This is probably something that should have made its way to your inbox earlier in the month, but better late than never, yeah?
We all know recovery is important, but many of us don’t prioritize it as much as we should to optimize our results.  When we’re talking about adding more stress to the body with longer, heavier workouts, the following should be at the top of your mind to keep your body primed and ready to go:
– Hydration – Drink your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.  It’s easy to do if you always have your water on you, and it’s really easy not to do it and to fall way behind on hydration and get yourself into a bad spot during a long workout if you forget.  Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine.
– Sleep – Aim for the same bedtime each night, and turn off the TV and phone a half-hour before bedtime so your brain is ready for sleep.
– Mobility – Last but certainly not least, prioritize your pre-WOD mobility so that you don’t get hurt, and stick around for some smashing and flossing after the WOD to cool down your muscles and improve your range-of-motion for next time.  Spend an extra 15 minutes each day stretching and mobilizing, and it will pay off with less little injuries and more consistency in the gym!

On Memorial Day, we will culminate the Hero Month with “Murph”, and then the following weekend will be our 12-hour Hero Challenge on Saturday, June 3rd.  It’s my favorite month of the CrossFit year!