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!


An Evening Practice

Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL training, or BUD/S, is a 6-month course intended to select only the best, most well-rounded candidates from a group of physical studs that show up to take on the toughest military training in the world.  After just a few weeks of learning the basics comes the infamous Hell Week – a constant barrage of day and night physical training that leads to the most attrition in the whole course.  After a weekend to recuperate the trainees are back in action, and now they know that they can withstand anything that the instructors throw at them, so the training gets harder.  4-mile soft sand runs at first had to be completed in 32 minutes.  Now it’s 30 minutes, and by the end of training it will be 28.  2-mile ocean swim times in the cold Pacific are also ratcheted down.  Every phase of training gets more physically demanding, so that at the end only the strongest, fastest, toughest men are left.

Throughout training, the BUD/S instructors have a saying that dates back to the origins of the SEAL teams that they will repeat to the class, to remind them of their old-school frogman heritage but also to help the candidates, to keep them hyper-focused on the here and now.

“The Only Easy Day was Yesterday.”

This was probably originally a response to a question that we hear a lot in CrossFit too:  “When does this training get easier?”

But what does “The Only Easy Day was Yesterday” mean?  That yesterday was actually easy?  Because it sure as hell wasn’t.  That tomorrow is going to be that much harder?  Maybe, but you really don’t know until you’re in it.

I think maybe what it means – and where this has value for our non-SEAL lives as well – is that yesterday is easy because IT’S OVER.  Yesterday is behind us and we have no chance to do it over.  We can rest easy in the fact that whatever hardships we had to endure yesterday are now safely in the past.  All we can effectively focus on is what we’re doing right now, and of course making sure that what we’re doing right now is the right thing to be doing!

I’ve written a lot before about my morning practice, centered on beginning with gratitude and then focusing on how I can take steps today toward fulfilling my purpose.  “The Only Easy Day was Yesterday” leads me to another powerful tool to add to your day – an Evening Practice to identify the lessons learned and big wins at the end of the day, and then to move on in a positive way toward tomorrow.  Try this to add some structure to your bedtime routine and allow yourself to go to sleep having put the past to bed as well.

An Evening Practice

  • First, spend a few minutes box breathing or just in quiet “breath awareness” – notice your breathing and try to direct your focus to it, letting go for now of all the other thoughts racing through your head.
  • Recap your entire day, starting from the beginning and going all the way up to the present.  What went very well for you today?  Where were you “on point” and winning?  Grab your journal and note these wins, as a way of creating positive momentum coming into the next day.  On the other hand, what didn’t go so well?  Where did you fall short today?  Rather than dwelling on the negativity that is possible here, reframe these experiences as lessons learned.  What can you do better next time?  Where can you be more prepared, or act with more integrity, or be more flexible?  Note your lessons learned and your plan for improvement the next time these situations show up.  Eradicate any regrets or bad feelings with this positive recapitulation of your day, internalizing the wins and lessons learned and then leaving the past behind you.
  • Finish by thinking of any open questions that are on your mind.  Maybe it’s something as simple as “how can I be mentally stronger next time this situation comes up?”  Maybe it’s one of the big ones – “what am I supposed to be doing with my life?” …yep, that’s probably the biggest one!  After removing the stressors of the day with your Evening Practice, your mind will be free to focus more on these questions that you need help on, instead of the negative chatter that usually occupies it.  Spend some time breathing and focusing on that question, and the answer may become a bit more clear.  Don’t be surprised if you wake up with even more clarity as your subconscious mind delved deeper into it overnight as you rested.

With a consistent Evening Practice, you’ll fall asleep at night with the contentment that the day is over and now in the past, and you were able to experience successes and failures and learn about yourself, where you’re strong and where you can improve.  When you wake up in the morning you’ll feel that positive charge, and be ready for a gratitude- and purpose-filled Morning Practice where you lay out your plan for the day and get ready to crush it.  Today’s gonna be another Easy Day!


The Coach: CrossFit’s Force Multiplier

Until CrossFit, I did not put the coach and the fitness trainer in the same category. In my experience, coaches were people who changed my life in a profound way. This was due only in part to their expertise; the rest was due to their genuine care for me and my goals. They were people who could see my potential better than I could and who always wanted just a little more for me than I did for myself. Then they applied their expertise to helping me get there.

On the other hand, my experience with fitness trainers was either the monkey-see-monkey-do-style aerobics or group fitness class instructor, the “celebrity trainer” shouting motivational slogans, or the largely unskilled, uninterested, and uninteresting person teaching low-skill isolation movements, counting reps, and pushing pins into a machine.

This is because when CrossFit arrived on the scene, commercial gyms were retail spaces filled with shiny machines. Physical training had been dumbed down to non-functional, often isolation-machine movements devoid of any skill requirement. Leg curls, leg extensions, lat pull-downs, biceps curls, and triceps kickbacks had replaced squats, deadlifts, and presses. Gym owners and managers sold as many memberships as possible while secretly hoping their members wouldn’t show up. Trainers were on hand to pass out towels and upsell memberships. They definitely weren’t needed to coach the movements their clients were doing, and they did not have the skills to teach effective ones. Women kept to cardio machines and tiny color-coded dumbbells while men used the big machines and cable columns with impressive weight stacks. In this environment, clients’ health and fitness goals weren’t even a consideration, and the results achieved in these gyms were subpar at best.

We changed all that.

CrossFit gym

Professionalizing the Fitness Trainer

From the beginning, CrossFit’s take on what it meant to be a fitness trainer was different. In the hallmark article “Professional Training,” CrossFit’s Founder Greg Glassman put forth a charter for CrossFit trainers that imbued purpose and impact, elevating the vocation and professionalizing the fitness trainer:

“I am a fitness trainer. My practice is more than just a job; it is my passion. My clients are my top priority and their successes are my life’s work — I am a professional. … Being a professional, I believe that my competency is solely determined by my efficacy.”

The North Star for CrossFit trainers has always been an unrelenting commitment to athlete results. Our curriculum for coaches was developed (and continues developing) out of the singular goal of making great coaches who can deliver the best possible results to the people in their care. This is why our trainers have much more in common with a sports coach and why, over time, we’ve come to use the term “coach” more than “trainer” within our vernacular.

In the previous articles in this series, I’ve discussed the CrossFit methodology and ethos — the two most foundational elements of our formula.

In short, the CrossFit methodology is the mechanism that enables coaches to understand the what, how, and why of CrossFit in order to optimally apply the program to an individual in service of their health and fitness goals. It also provides a framework for our education that makes developing professional coaches a robust, repeatable, and scalable process.

The CrossFit ethos is the expression of the methodology in practice. Our ethos represents our values and culture. It both attracts and develops character, and in many ways draws people into the CrossFit community before the results they achieve ensure they stick around.

But without the CrossFit coach, the methodology and ethos are little more than concepts. It’s the coach who brings them to life.

CrossFit Santa Cruz Handstands

The Power of a Great CrossFit Coach

Back in 2004, I walked into my first CrossFit class at a small gym in Santa Cruz, California, called CrossFit Santa Cruz. The person running my class was Greg Glassman, CrossFit’s founder and owner and trainer at the very first CrossFit gym.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Greg at first. He was different from any trainer or fitness instructor I’d had before.

He did not do the workout with us, but he actively engaged us the entire time. He was relentless with regard to how everyone in the class was moving. He’d cue and challenge us and make sure we were hitting the standards and working hard. But he still somehow made it fun — giving praise when people were doing well, making jokes, and telling stories. He was having fun and making sure we were, too — even as we were working our asses off!

So while I was not sure what to make of it, I knew from the first class that I liked it better than any other fitness class I’d been to before. There were no mirrors, no silly machines, and we all did the same workout. Even if you scaled the workout, it was scaled with such intention that you still felt very much that you were doing the same workout. You were challenged to move well and work hard, emboldened by a great coach who set a tone of uncompromising standards, fun and camaraderie, and hard work.

I kept going back. Then came the results.

CrossFit Nicole Carroll

The results are why, after my first three months of CrossFit, I felt like my relationship to the Earth and to myself had changed. My feet hit the ground differently. My posture was different; I stood taller and firmer. I took up the space that was mine to take. I knew something had shifted — not just in my body but in my whole being. As someone with a tendency toward depression, I have always felt that CrossFit raised my natural baseline to something happier and lighter. All of this after only three months of consistent CrossFit classes, even after years and years and years of trying other fitness programs.

I now know this is because I had a great coach — a coach who understood the methodology well enough to uphold the uncompromising standards that produce the greatest results in terms of safety (kept me in the game), efficiency (I got results quickly), and efficacy (I got the greatest results).

Put more simply, I was the beneficiary of the true, undiluted potency of CrossFit only because of my coach.

Paying It Forward

After about one year of CrossFit, Greg invited a few dedicated clients to become coaches themselves — including me.

I never expected that this single decision would change the course of my life. I never expected to be in the “fitness industry” — I thought it was a vain, shallow, and artless enterprise. A “look-at-me” culture that blunted the development of the finer points of being human in favor of gazing at oneself in the mirror all day. But my experience as a client of a great coach, a truly professional coach, changed all that.

Beyond that, the experience of coaching others and having my own athletes broadened my capacity to see beyond myself and become more deeply connected to the experience of helping other people. Coaching became my biggest source of joy and satisfaction. To give what I had been given — to watch people who’d never done CrossFit before get stronger, fitter, take up more space, become more confident — up to this point in my life, I’d never had the direct experience of being part of something this meaningful.

Nicole Carroll speech CF

“My Competency Is Solely Determined by My Efficacy”

As a coach at CrossFit Santa Cruz, I learned firsthand the truth behind those words from “Professional Training.”

I learned that the better I was at what I did, the better I was for the people I trained. I really took that in: My goal was to keep growing as a coach, in service of my clients — and that wasn’t unique to me; that was the culture. As coaches, we strove to improve every single day. We watched each other and took notes. As peers, we made each other better. And we all wanted to be as good as the coaches who coached us.

This was especially true around quality of movement: The standard was the standard. If your people weren’t meeting the standard, it was there for all to see. As a cohort of aspiring trainers, we took pride in our relentlessness and the increasing precision with which we could see and correct movement flaws. If your people were not moving well, if you were not on them like a hawk and some other coach stepped in to correct something you missed, you would be embarrassed. To this day, when I see someone moving poorly, my first question is: “Who is your coach?”

The goal was to be great, and the competitive environment of CrossFit extended to the trainer as well as the athlete. And in the same way that healthy competition with the athletes around you pushes you to grow, so does working with a cohort of trainers you respect who are aiming for the same high standards you are. This manifested as shadowing other trainers, running clinics in off-hours, and endlessly educating ourselves.

CrossFit Deadlift

If you want a road map for this process, read “What Makes a Great Coach” by Matt Swift. As Matt’s article makes clear, being a great coach is a rigorous undertaking. And yet this is the work our best coaches do every day. They do not settle for “good enough.” They pursue the education and experience needed to understand the CrossFit methodology inside and out. And they take all their knowledge of the methodology and the ethos, and then they learn about people and refine relationship, communication, and leadership skills to apply it in real life, with real people.

Doing this well is an art. It’s not easy, but when you get it right, you have something akin to magic.

Changing the World

It’s one thing to have a great way of doing things. But if it weren’t for our coaches — and our Seminar Staff — we could not have passed on the methodology and ethos to millions of people.

We had to figure out a way to reach more people without sacrificing standards.

Greg had already been distilling these lessons into his teachings at Level 1s, and around 2007, we began to standardize all the L1 material from an oral format to a written format that would become our “instructor guide.” We brought on a small cadre of instructors who’d been around Greg, teaching or working seminars in some way since 2005.

Throughout this early process of standardizing the material and bringing on more staff, we held ourselves to the same high standards: relentless pursuit of sound movement; knowing your shit inside and out; seamless conversational delivery of the material; professionalism and service; credibility; fun. We were charged with educating, inspiring, and entertaining every person we taught. That remains the charter for Seminar Staff to this day.

CrossFit Seminar Staff

Today, we have filled our staff ranks with the best coaches and affiliate owners from our community — a group of people drawn to what we do because of their character and willingness to work hard in service of a mission, committed to the pursuit of excellence and making everyone around them better. These coaches have internalized the methodology, ethos, and coaching standards and proven their ability to have a profound impact on their athletes, and that is why we empower them to pass on our culture.

CrossFit’s Coaching Standard Is the Gold Standard for Fitness

There’s nothing like our coaches in the fitness industry outside of CrossFit. You may find them as one-offs in sport coaches or retired strength-and-conditioning coaches, but you do not find them en masse at any other “chain” of gyms or emerging from any other system of credentialing. No one who is coached by a great CrossFit coach will confuse that experience with what’s on offer from any other fitness company, service, or app.

Group fitness classes are usually about packing people into a room and having them follow along with the instructor to the best of their ability. This is often used as a way to scale fitness: the higher the ratio of participants to instructor, the more profitable you can be. Typically, participants may get a workout in, but they don’t get the same benefits — the results — they would when working with a really great coach.

We think the act of coaching or training is very different from simply leading a class. The CrossFit coach is not a cheerleader. The act of coaching is deliberate, focused attention: looking at one person at a time, considering their specific context, caring deeply about their goals and challenges, and helping them progress step by step so they can discover their true potential.

CrossFit Coach

Additionally, the CrossFit coach is not there to make a display of their own personality in a performative sense but to display character through knowing and serving someone else with the goal of making them better — keeping the client’s particular well-being in mind.

Coaches who uphold these standards of professionalism with a dogged commitment to the CrossFit methodology and ethos are equipped to provide an experience in a group class setting that is often only found one-on-one. This is an approach that sets us apart from all of our competitors.

We ask a lot of our coaches, because we know that while the CrossFit methodology is an incredible thing, the potency of that methodology is only fully expressed in the hands of a great coach.

When our coaches practice the above art form effectively, the methodology and ethos of CrossFit come to life. This is CrossFit at its fullest and best expression. This is how it changes lives. It’s how the magic spreads.

— Nicole Carroll, GM of Education, CrossFit

The CrossFit Ethos

“Imagine if you went to one of your friends and said: ‘How would you like me to dress so you would like me better? … How would you like me to speak so you’ll like me more?’… And your friend will tell you, ‘Just be yourself. That’s what I like about you.’” —Simon Sinek


In part 3, “Understanding the Methodology,” I talked about how our steadfast commitment to our methodology and only doing what works has made us an arbiter of truth in an industry rife with get-fit-quick hacks. This commitment is the principle behind our authenticity.

Authenticity, Simon Sinek says, is doing and saying what you actually believe. CrossFit has had this in spades because, in my opinion, what we believe grew out of what we do and how we do it.

In the last few years we have seen the rise of fitness franchises like F45, Orange Theory, etc. These competitors have tried to replicate what we do. Sometimes, they may come up with something that looks vaguely like CrossFit. But all you have to do is step into one of their gyms or read their “About” page and you will know they are nothing like CrossFit. They see the ecosystem and try to replicate it, but they don’t understand the methodology that drives our results or the ethos that is born authentically out of it.

Ethos is a Greek word meaning “character” and can be used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize an individual or a culture or community. It’s another way of saying, “This is who we are.” If you want to know what defines the CrossFit brand, turn to our ethos. And if you want to know what defines our ethos, turn to the methodology.

It’s important to recognize the ethos that has come to characterize our culture did not come from a focus group or strategy session. We did not run a “values” exercise to come up with our values. Nor did we ask fitness fanatics at large, “What do you value?” or, “What should we do or not do so you will like us more?” Instead, the CrossFit ethos developed organically from the methodology. What we believe was born authentically out of what we do and how we do it.

This means our measurable, results-based methodology is inextricably linked with the things that make us uniquely us: what we believe, what we value, and how we do things. But what does this actually mean?

I believe the ethos can be best understood by examining CrossFit’s prescription and the values that have very naturally developed out of it — values that have come to characterize CrossFit and the CrossFit community.

These values include things like results, personal responsibility and accountability, belonging, humility, camaraderie, service, integrity and excellence, work ethic and discipline, resilience and grit, humility, and virtuosity.

CrossFit Coach Overhead Squat


Results are at the crux of what we do. We use what we know works. If we do not know it works, if we cannot prove it based on measurable, observable, and repeatable results, we will not try to sell you on it. Our quantification of fitness leads to a no-bullshit (i.e., honest and transparent) approach to fitness and health.


Your effort in the gym is measurable. We have turned fitness into sport using a whiteboard as our scoreboard. We ask you to record your results to measure progress, and we ask you to share your results with coaches and with each other to help support that progress. This is tied to results, but it also develops accountability.

The whiteboard drives effort and is a place where everyone gets to see, scaled or not, that we did the same workout, and in the act of sharing how each of us did that day, we make ourselves vulnerable. Effectively, we say, “This is what I had in me today, for better or for worse.” There is no hiding. It takes courage to do this, day in and day out. You cannot hide or deflect; you take responsibility for where you are on any given day. This approach fosters a community built on deep accountability: personal responsibility plus courage.


CrossFit has surprisingly exacting resources and tools at its disposal for creating healthy individuals and communities. One of them is the opportunity to work so hard in front of one another that we lose, and witness others losing, some semblance of the death grip on our tidy, protective layers. In the gym, we work hard in front of others to the point where we’re not sure we can do it — finish the workout or not, pick up the weight again, or jump back up on the bar. In our workouts, there’s the chance of failure, but we do it anyway, and we share that effort and the outcomes of that effort with others who have just experienced the same thing.

This is the recipe for creating connection and camaraderie. There is no posturing, just genuine, solid effort — and the willingness to cheer each other on. Through this process, we are reminded of our shared humanity. It breeds connection. It creates a space where we feel more welcome and free to be ourselves — a space where we belong.

The CrossFit Community


It’s been said that CrossFit is not for everyone, but it is for anyone. Not everyone will want to put the work in, but for those who do, the results will follow. This is true for CrossFit Games hopefuls, Olympic-level athletes, and our parents and grandparents alike.

In every “What Is Fitness?” lecture at every Level 1 we say, “The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind. One needs functional dominance, and one needs functional competence.” Therefore we do not change programs; we simply adapt the program to a person’s physical and psychological tolerances and capabilities. In this way, everyone knows the challenge everyone has faced, albeit relative to the individual, and that shared suffering or striving creates a bond between us.

No one ever told the fittest to go over and cheer on the rest. No one ever told the CrossFit Games fans to be one of the most engaged groups of fans in sport. It just happened. It happened because everyone knows from firsthand experience the effort required to do what you’re doing; they know the dedication, the commitment, the grit.

The camaraderie isn’t manufactured. It’s innate and genuine.


In our CrossFit classes we do not face mirrors, because it is not about what we look like; it’s about what we can do. Instead of looking at ourselves, we face the coach and we face each other.

The CrossFit experience is built on the coached workout. This is not your typical “follow along and face the instructor” as everyone only watches themselves in a wall full of mirrors. The coach briefs the workout, instructs the movements, and then coaches the class to ensure everyone is moving well, using the right loading, and pushing themselves appropriately. The coach is coaching in a way that is much more akin to the sports coach than the fitness instructor. And class participants are much more like teammates at a practice than they are like automatons imitating an instructor in an aerobics or cycling class. Furthermore, we have almost nothing in common with the isolating self-in-mirror relationship of the bodybuilding big-box gym culture.

At the highest expression of their craft, our coaches are leaders. They are not trained to say, “Look at me”; they are not there to show you how fit they are and how good they look. Their work is about service. The focus is on how fit they can make you. Similarly, our members are watching each other, whether to learn, be inspired to push harder, compete, or simply lend encouragement and support.

CrossFit Kids Coach Front Squat


Think about the demands of our methodology: constant variance across broad time and modal domains; optimizing fitness across skills and drills, adaptations, energy systems, etc. There is always a chance that something will show up in a workout that we are not very good at. Our weaknesses are exposed regularly, and this means to progress we need to do a bunch of stuff we are not good at — and often. And just when we think we are “that good,” something shows up, some flaw we’d not noticed or known before. This keeps us humble as individuals and as a community.

Integrity and Excellence

We have a very important charter for working with athletes to optimize results: mechanics, consistency, and then intensity. This charter is the single most important guide for how to implement and apply CrossFit’s constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity in service of increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. It’s essential for optimizing the safety, efficacy, and efficiency of the program.

In practice this means we want you to do it right first and foremost. Focus on moving correctly to keep yourself safe (and keep others safe if you are a coach) but also to get the most out of the time and effort you are putting in with us. We are not sticklers for moving well because we want to rain on your effortful parade. We are sticklers because we know you will get more out of your effort and stay in the game longer when you do it right. This not only optimizes the efficacy of the program; when this is fully embraced, it cultivates a culture devoted to integrity and excellence.

CrossFit Toes-to-Bar

Work Ethic and Discipline

You have to show up and do the work. Consistency is one part of our linchpin charter: mechanics, consistency, then intensity. If you’re committed to results and your results are measurable, snake oil and fitness hacks quickly lose their luster. With us, you just need to make the choice each day to be consistent with both exercise and diet. Do that and you will get results.

Once again, this value builds the culture. It attracts people who know that things get better when they put in the effort — people who share an appreciation for hard work and self-discipline.

Resilience and Grit

If you want results, intensity is necessary. No matter what you want from a fitness program, intensity will get you there. It’s built into the equation we use to measure work capacity and drive adaptation (force x distance / time). In other words: You have to lift more, travel a longer distance, and do it all in less time in order to drive results.

In practice, this looks like consistently pushing a bit harder than you might want to or getting more than a little uncomfortable. But the more you do this, the greater the adaptation will be.

CrossFit Wall Balls

Showing up and consistently doing any kind of movement or exercise is valuable. Showing up and consistently doing CrossFit at tempered intensity is better than most things. But showing up and giving each workout as much as you’ve got in you that day — letting the clock, whiteboard, the coach, and the people around you drive you to dig deeper than you thought you had in you that day — this is where the magic is (and the science, too).

In a world that often valorizes comfort and convenience above all else, CrossFit trains you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You get to experience the one-for-one reward of effort and results. This develops resilience and grit that are transferable to every aspect of life. And it nurtures a culture where discomfort is welcomed for the benefit it brings rather than avoided.


In the pursuit of optimizing the safety, efficacy, and efficiency of our program, we use threshold training. One of Greg’s favorite anecdotes at Level 1 courses goes something like this: “‘Coach, do you want me to do it right? Or do you want me to do it fast?’ ‘Yes. Both. I want both.’” Why? Because this is how we optimize adaptation. It is how we optimize safety, efficacy, and efficiency.

Technique matters. Full range of motion equates to improved functionality, both in terms of flexibility and mobility, as well as a longer distance traveled. Better technique is more work in less time (eventually).

This insistence on movement quality in the face of also trying to go faster gets us results, but it also does something else. It affords even us not-so-athletically-inclined gym-goers a taste of the pursuit of mastery. It develops composure and virtuosity — that is, it gives us the chance to do the common uncommonly well.

CrossFit Turkish Get-up

Everything Good About CrossFit Has Grown out of the Methodology

CrossFit’s ethos and methodology can’t be separated. Our culture and values grew organically out of the methodology. And in practice, our ethos and methodology reinforce each other in a virtuous cycle.

Our ethos was born out of the initial objective of CrossFit: to develop a broad, general, and inclusive fitness. It came from seeking to advance human performance. It came from defining terms and demanding transparency. It came from turning fitness into sport. It came from the methodology, implemented in service of results. This is what fostered the ethos that has bred the culture and community everyone recognizes as CrossFit.

To protect our ethos, we must protect our methodology. If you miss or dilute a single piece of the methodology, you start to lose its efficacy, its “magic.” In other words, you don’t just mess with the methodology, you mess with our ethos. You mess with the very heart of who we are and what we are recognized for.

CrossFit Affiliate Summit

Imagine, for example, that we stopped measuring results. Suppose we stopped putting points on the whiteboard because it intimidates some people or makes some people feel bad. You can easily see how all the values would fall apart like a house of cards:

  • We’d lose our understanding of what truly works and end up adopting unproven methods.
  • We’d lose our accountability because we’d no longer have to display the courage and personal responsibility to own our results, to tell the world, “This is what I had in me today.” Instead, we’d be able to hide.
  • We’d lose our strong sense of belonging and camaraderie because the connection that comes from sharing our effort and the outcomes would be gone.
  • We’d lose a critical tool our coaches use in the service of helping us reach our fitness potential.
  • We’d also lose the community-driven inspiration and lessons we get from fellow athletes’ results.
  • We’d even lose some of our resilience and grit because we aren’t being held accountable to push ourselves, to dig deeper and drive adaptation with intensity. Without data, we’re just guessing at how hard we’re working.

We Must Protect Our Methodology and Ethos at All Costs

As business leaders, affiliates, coaches, or anyone involved in the CrossFit community, it’s imperative we understand the link between what we do, how we do it, and the culture that is born of it.

If we don’t, we could unwittingly dilute the potency of our program.

This is not to say there isn’t room for individuality, experimentation, or evolution. For example, affiliate owners and coaches will naturally put their own unique stamp on things, and they will be part of the mass experiment from which best practices emerge. A large part of the program’s beauty is that this is welcome and enabled by a set of operating principles (i.e., the kernel), not a set of franchise-like dictates.

But for all of us involved in the CrossFit brand, we must understand and appreciate these core tenets of what makes CrossFit uniquely and breathtakingly effective. And we must protect and uphold these things, even as we grow.

In doing that, we ensure the magic of CrossFit will reach those who need it for years to come. And that when they receive it, they get the full benefit of the undiluted potency of this program, just like we did.

— Nicole Carroll, GM of Education, CrossFit

Unparalleled Efficacy: Understanding the CrossFit Methodology

The CrossFit methodology is the driver of our unparalleled efficacy. What I mean by this is:

Not only does CrossFit make people fit, but arguably we make them fitter faster and more safely than any other program out there. Our results are universal, predictable, and repeatable. Our methodology works for everyone, can be scaled for anyone, and the results accrue over the long term.

The results our methodology drives are what pulls people into CrossFit and gets them hooked. It’s not magic; it’s just what happens when you put in the work — results follow. And once you experience it, you want more of it. This is how we revolutionized an industry and changed millions of lives — and will change millions more.


CrossFit Believe

CrossFit Believe

The Core

CrossFit’s methodology is founded on the first precise, scientifically rigorous definition of fitness, and the program produces results that can be measured and replicated. Our methodology is a set of universal principles and definitions that can be applied in many different contexts and that make CrossFit accessible to both athlete and coach.

The stimulus — what CrossFit is: constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity combined with eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no added sugar in quantities that support exercise but not body fat.

The adaptation —what CrossFit achieves: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Pursuing this goal is pursuing fitness, and aiming to maintain your work capacity over your lifetime is pursuing health.

These elements are the basis of the CrossFit methodology, and we’ve precisely and comprehensively defined each element — from work capacity to fitness to health — in quantifiable terms.

These definitions did not exist before CrossFit. Our contribution to fitness is that we have defined fitness and health in a way that can be measured.

A Graphical Representation of One’s Fitness (Work Capacity) at a Certain Time in His or Her Life.

A Graphical Representation of One’s Fitness (Work Capacity) at a Certain Time in Their Life  


A Graphical Representation of One’s Health (Fitness Throughout His or Her Life).

A Graphical Representation of One’s Health (Fitness Throughout Their Life)

We have referred to these elements that form the basis of the CrossFit methodology as CrossFit’s DNA and also as the L1 kernel. “Kernel” is a term borrowed from computer science that refers to the core components of a computer operating system. The kernel is fundamental to making the computer work, provides a platform for software to be created specific to that kernel, and is a universal interface that allows many different users to access software running on the computer. In this sense, the CrossFit kernel is the same. It is the fundamental knowledge that makes CrossFit work — for a variety of people in equally varied contexts.

The kernel — both in terms of stimulus and adaptation — enables the CrossFit methodology to produce observable, measurable, and repeatable results. It is the scientific foundation and explanation for the entire program.

Putting It Into Practice

What we call “the kernel” should look familiar to many people, as it is what we teach at the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course. Its elements make up the heart of who we are and what we do. It is our North Star.

The kernel also determines our methods; how to implement CrossFit. It provides objective definitions trainers can utilize in practice along with methods for implementing:

How to Build an Athlete

The CrossFit practitioner’s athletic development comes from performing constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity in combination with sound nutrition. Each of these elements is critical for optimizing fitness and health.

A Theoretical Hierarchy for the Development of an Athlete

What we eat is so important that nutrition forms the base of the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development for an athlete, which provides an explanation of how athleticism should be built. Consuming the right types of foods in the proper quantities is how we maximize all the levels of athletic development and is the critical component in longevity and protecting your health.

The next three levels in the Theoretical Hierarchy of Development include functional movements that represent the backbone of CrossFit workouts and programming. These are safe, natural movements that duplicate muscle contraction patterns found in sport, combat, and everyday life. They safely generate high amounts of power, taking advantage of the body’s ability to produce force and move at high velocities due to their core-to-extremity nature and ability to move large loads through complete ranges of motion.

Over time, adherence to our nutritional recommendations and methodology will lead to increased power output. An athlete’s ability to produce power determines their workout intensity level, and it is intensity that breeds results. CrossFit is a high-intensity program, but we are not focused solely on moving faster, farther, or heavier at all costs. Instead, we emphasize technique, the importance of proper mechanics, and consistency and proficiency of movement before increasing intensity. We also ensure intensity is relative to the physiological and psychological tolerances of the individual and that no matter who walks into the gym, they will do CrossFit. This means there is an intended stimulus for each movement in a workout. If an athlete is unable to perform a specific movement, the coach will not offer a random substitution. Instead, the coach will offer a scaled option that preserves the intended stimulus and is accessible to the athlete. In this way, CrossFit is accessible to anyone who wants to do it. This is what makes CrossFit infinitely scalable.

CrossFit Cornerstone

CrossFit Cornerstone — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

These are the keys to balancing safety, efficacy, and efficiency and are the necessary pathway to athletic development and long-term results.

In sum, CrossFit’s simple yet potent nutrition prescription is combined with a general-physical-preparedness program based on functional movements and intensity. This prescription can be modified to challenge people of all ages and abilities — an Olympic athlete or an elderly, overweight, chronically ill individual who has never worked out before.

How This Sets Us Apart

CrossFit’s methodology differs from other fitness programs in its commitment to defining its stimulus and results. It is precisely these definitions, and the elements within them, that provide our athletes a clear and distinct understanding of what CrossFit is and the results they will achieve.

The methodology is the mechanism that enables coaches to understand the what, how, and why of CrossFit in order to optimally apply the methodology to an individual in service of their health and fitness goals. It also provides a framework for our education that makes developing professional coaches a robust, repeatable, and scalable process.

A Level 1 Certificate Course in Ohio — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

A Level 1 Certificate Course in Ohio — Photo by The Michael Patrick Studio

Many programs try to market familiar elements of our model — the experience of community, nods to high-intensity workouts or functional fitness — but without our methodology, they cannot deliver the same results. They see the ecosystem but don’t understand the kernel that drives it.

The kernel and the methodology born of it are the heart of why we are so good at producing and predicting results. In fact, we have yet to find anything that comes close to CrossFit in producing a broad, general, and inclusive fitness; for forging elite fitness; and for staving off or reversing chronic disease as safely, effectively, and efficiently as CrossFit.

The Right Thing for the Right Reasons

Our steadfast commitment to our methodology and the results it produces has made us an arbiter of truth in an industry rife with get-fit-quick hacks.

Most importantly, the proven efficacy of our program that is born of our methodology allows our coaches and affiliates to actually change lives while building tight-knit, supportive communities which, quite literally, make the world a healthier place.

CrossFit offers an open invitation to anyone interested in joining a thriving community at a local box anywhere in the world — boxes filled with weights, racks, ropes, and rings athletes can use to complete uniquely challenging workouts composed of truly functional movements under the watchful eye of a skilled trainer. People from all walks of life, old and young, fit and deconditioned, training together in the same workouts with coaches who skillfully adapt those workouts to their levels and cheering each other to new levels of performance.

We’ve been given all this. All we really have to do is not mess it up.

— Nicole Carroll, GM of Education, CrossFit

The Magic of CrossFit: Magic or Real Science?

Last week, we presented this formula as a framework for explaining the “magic” of CrossFit:

Methodology + Ethos (Coach + Community) = CrossFit

Next week, we’ll begin to dive into the elements of that formula, but first, we need to unpack why we can say CrossFit is grounded in science but feels like magic.

The Magic and Science of CrossFit

For a long time, magic and science have both been common elements in the CrossFit lexicon.

Back in 2005, CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman said, “The magic is in the movement, the art is in the programming, the science is in the explanation, and the fun is in the community.”

The results we experience when we put in the work and commit to CrossFit’s fitness recommendations feel like magic. An 80-year-old who performs squats and sled pushes with athletes in their 20s may look like they’ve found a fountain of youth or some other such sorcery to someone who is unfamiliar with our program and our community, though we know the formula that got them there. We have transformed the paradigm for aging — we’ve witnessed countless transformations, both mental and physical in nature. And we’ve heard from scores of athletes who have used CrossFit to slow, combat, or reverse a range of chronic diseases they believed would result in their inevitable decline. Such stories may seem anecdotal and even magical in isolation, but collectively, they supply the data that shows the CrossFit formula works.

Pat, 80, rows at CrossFit Utah — Photo by Jake Dickerson

Pat, 80, rows at CrossFit Utah — Photo by Jake Dickerson

Bad Science

CrossFit’s results feel like magic only where we have outpaced the science that would explain them. It often takes years for the scientific community to set up experiments to test what we are doing and affirm what we already know.

For example, in the early 2000’s, as science backed by the food industry decried fat and touted the benefits of cereals, grains, and other refined, processed carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet, CrossFit was advocating for a higher-protein, higher-fat, and lower-to-moderate carbohydrate plan. The validity of CrossFit’s nutritional recommendation to produce elite levels of fitness and stave off chronic disease has been supported for years by the results (data) of thousands of CrossFit athletes. And now, at last, conventional scientific research is agreeing with CrossFit’s nutrition advice.

CrossFit recommends eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Learn more about CrossFit’s nutrition recommendations in the CrossFit Nutrition 1 Course.

Similarly, 20 years ago, CrossFit debunked a popular recommendation from exercise science that the best way to get fit was two or three days per week of low-intensity cardio combined with two or three days per week of strength training, which could be done with isolation exercises on machines. Again, thousands of CrossFit athletes recording their workouts all over the world provided measurable, observable, and repeatable data demonstrating the superiority of CrossFit’s methodology in creating fitness over the cardio-bodybuilding split. Today, exercise science is replete with studies confirming the value of programs based on functional movements (deadlifts, presses, squats, etc.) and intensity for developing fitness over the machine-based isolation movements and lower-intensity programs so popular in commercial gyms.

Real Science

Real science starts with a testable hypothesis followed by an experiment to test this hypothesis. Through experimentation, measurable, observable and repeatable data can be used to support or discredit the original hypothesis. If you do CrossFit, and you record your workouts and track your nutrition, you’re participating in a massive experiment designed to test the hypothesis of how to optimize human fitness and health.

In CrossFit, we don’t get our results from a lab. Instead, the data that guides our training and nutrition philosophy is collected from countless athlete workouts where time, weight, distance, and reps are measured.

The measurement and recording of workouts is part of our culture and makes CrossFit a giant, efficient scientific undertaking conducted in garages, affiliates, and parks all around the world. Every recorded workout is its own experiment that provides a data point. It is this measurable, observable, and repeatable data collected from tens of thousands of athletes that has allowed us to prove the value of intensity, functional movements, variance, and whole foods eaten in the proper amounts for optimizing fitness and health.

Jennifer Reichert Reid at CrossFit Tilt Waltham — Photo by Patrick Quinn-Paquet

Jennifer Reichert Reid at CrossFit Tilt Waltham — Photo by Patrick Quinn-Paquet

Another benefit of CrossFit’s scientific approach to fitness is that it allows for the evaluation of any method that claims to help increase fitness and health. Put simply, we are an evidence-based program. That is, if someone can prove — with data — that their methods improve work capacity today and over the long term in a novel way not practiced by CrossFit, then we will absorb these methods into our program. And because CrossFit was created as an open-source model, our best practices permeate the community and are readily implemented by our athletes to be further refined by ongoing experimentation. This rigorous, scientific testing of our methods allows CrossFit to deliver what really works while eliminating or refuting practices that just don’t measure up.

As we continue to gather data from our enormous sample size of athletes’ workouts and lifestyle habits (nutrition, sleep, stress management, etc.), we will ultimately gain the ability to predict the outcome of an athlete’s specific combination of lifestyle and exercise. Even more valuable, we will be able to predict the mixture of lifestyle factors and exercise that delivers the best quality of life (fitness) and the best quantity of life (longevity). That’s how the real science CrossFit practices can influence our actions and help us achieve our health and fitness goals.

Millions of CrossFit athletes performing and recording their workouts all over the world have provided measurable, observable, and repeatable data that demonstrates the efficacy of our program and the consistency of our results.

Article on by Stephane Rochet with Nicole Carroll and Melissa Yinger