Coach Highlight: Erin

What’s up everyone!  In our third installment of “Get To Know Your CrossFit Coach”, this week we’d like to highlight Coach Erin Madden.  Erin has been with us since 2019 but as you can see she has an extensive coaching and athletic background before that.  Erin sent me a stream of consciousness over several emails and I cut and pasted it into the following story.  The cherry on top was a one-liner that I didn’t know where to plug, so I’ll just drop it right here:  Erin once held a plank for 11 minutes and 39 seconds.  Whoa!!  Hands, or forearms, Erin?  The world needs to know!!

Now, without further ado, the life and times of Erin Madden:

A little bit about me:

I was born and raised in Annapolis, MD. I played Lacrosse and Field Hockey at Archbishop Spalding in High School, played Division 1 Field Hockey in college at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and then went to Towson University where I won Outstanding Senior of the Year.  They had a ceremony and everything… I think I have a pic somewhere.

I guess you can say that I am the ultimate nerd because I’m always learning and taking classes… but I’m also a PE teacher so does that make me a cool nerd? I’m a huge fan of Marvel, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. I watch Home Alone and Hocus Pocus all year long. Not kidding. They are my favorite movies of all time. Fun fact about me is I bartended and managed a bar for six years before I become a teacher. My husband Kyle and I met while he was the doorman and I was a bartender.

I have medaled as a 59 kg and 64 kg weightlifter. The biggest meets I’ve competed at have been the American Open Series and The Masters Pan American Championships. This December, I am qualified for the American Open Finals in Atlanta… I’m still deciding whether I’m going to compete or not.

My favorite grades to teach are 3rd and 4th. My favorite moments as a parent are seeing my son find joy in sports and exercise. It’s amazing how much they pick up just from watching us. Sometimes it’s the cuss words but sometimes it’s walking up to people after they finish a workout and giving them a fist bump while saying “Good Job”. He did that to someone in class last week and I thought, “ya know maybe I’m not that bad at this parenting thing”. 

This month I will be hosting my 5th “Reps For Recovery” fundraiser. My parents and I started the fundraiser after my brother died from a drug overdose at the age of 26. He had been battling addiction for 10 years and mental illness for much longer. I recognized the important connection between physical and mental health and started Reps for Recovery as a way to connect the two, while benefiting the Samaritan House in Annapolis, MD. My dad serves on the board of directors there. Since he has passed, I find a lot of meaning in the words “Stay Humble” – a tattoo my brother had on his hand, He had those words above a picture of an anchor. If you look at my lifting shoes, there’s an anchor on one and the letters SH on the other. I also have an anchor tattoo on my foot as a reminder to honor my brother by always Staying Humble and Grounded.

At the end of a long day of teaching… and some days seem longer than others… hello Kindergarten…. I look forward to going to the gym and hanging out with grown-ups. A teacher’s day is insanely busy and you are making a million decisions a minute so it’s so nice to walk into a gym where a coach just tells me what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I love just showing up and not having to think about anyone but myself… it’s definitely my “me time”. Even though my little buddy, Keegan, tags along with me most of the time… thank goodness for the kids room. Kyle is the CFKI weightlifting coach, and he doesn’t even realize how good he is. He is patient and supportive and really cares about his athletes not only as athletes but as people. He is also insanely knowledgeable about the Olympic Lifts.

I’ve been coaching CrossFit since 2013. I started at Baydog CrossFit, then coached at CrossFit South River, then True Core CrossFit and now have found a home at CrossFit Kent Island after moving to Kent Island in 2019.

I wanted to coach because it aligned naturally with being a Physical Education Teacher. I always believed that a huge part of my job as a physical educator is staying active and exercising. I like to lead my students by example. I have a CrossFit Level 2 certification, CrossFit Gymnastics cert, CrossFit Kids cert, and a USA Weightlifting Level 1 cert. I also have a Bachelors in Education and a Masters degree in Athletic Administration.  I am pursuing my National Board Certification so I can become a National Board Certified Teacher. I am also hoping to start studying for my CrossFit Level 3 test next summer. I’m not sure what that gets me other than a raise lol.  The most fun I have coaching is that I get to coach people I consider my friends. That’s what I love about CrossFit, everyone is like family so it is just one big community helping each other create the best version of themselves.

 

Wow!  Thanks to Erin for spilling the beans on all of her great achievements, and what drives her to continue working hard.  As all of our coaches are seeing, It’s not easy to write about yourself (if it is, then you may be a narcissist), but this is such a good way to get to know your coaches better as people.  As superhuman as they look with a barbell in their hands, they are just like us!

Erin coaches the 5am class on Wednesday and we are hoping to find some more time for her to coach. She currently attends the 5:30pm class on Monday and Thursday, and 5:30pm Weightlifting class on Tuesday, as well as the 4:30pm on Friday and 9am on Saturday.  Come take a class with her, or brew some strong coffee and join her with the infamous 5am crew!

Ryan

Coach Highlight: Alicia

CFKI – Coaching – CrossFit – Community

As the next part in our series of highlighting our outstanding coaches, I would like to introduce you to Coach Alicia!
* Ryan’s note:  Alicia gave me some detailed bullet points, but it’s very hard to write about yourself so I might paraphrase and add on a bit.  If you see an overuse of the word “awesome”, that was probably me.

Alicia Higginbotham, Coach (Level 2 CrossFit, Obstacle Course Race prep)

Alicia’s athletic background originally centered around basketball.  In high school she scored over 1,000 points, and went on to play at Grove City College.  If you’ve noticed the basketball hoop outside the gym, that was me sharing a fun idea to have a hoop at the gym and Alicia running with it, making it a Christmas gift from all the coaches.  Thanks Alicia!
After college Alicia started getting into obstacle course racing (OCR) like Spartan Race, and has won or podiumed in her age group at races ranging from 3 to 10 miles long.  Awesome!

I asked Alicia why she started coaching:  “When I started CrossFit I was immediately hooked. After about 8 months I got my Level 1. I’ve always enjoyed the teaching/learning process no matter the subject. I love the challenge of teaching the same thing in a different way in order to better communicate with someone and help them improve.  I also love watching someone piece the info together and work hard toward their goal.

Of course there’s the building relationships side to coaching. Not only do you better understand where a person is coming from and what they need because of it, but It’s always amazed me how close you can get to the people you workout with. There’s something special about suffering next to someone.”

After the rather traumatic birth of her daughter and a rough recovery, Alicia’s focus shifted more to pregnancy and postpartum, and also training women in general. “Women are not small men” and should be fueling and training differently.  A large majority of research in health and fitness has been tested on men, and Alicia has found a passion for educating herself and passing on that knowledge to other female athletes.

As far as what is next for Alicia, athletically:  “Throughout the year I like to dabble in various competitions. Weightlifting, the CrossFit Open, obstacle course racing, and some good old-fashioned CrossFit competitions. My goal this year is to make the top 10% in the Open which I just barely missed last year. I’m open to being dragged into other competitions and sports if anyone ever wants a training buddy for an event!”

 

Thanks so much to Alicia for letting us know a little bit more about your background, your goals, and your “why”!

Alicia currently coaches the majority of our 10am classes and is there for Open Gym 11am-1pm.  And if you’re there, she will coach you up!  And maybe take pictures of you.  Come check out one of her classes!  You’ll have a blast, learn a lot, and come out the other side a better athlete!

Ryan

CFKI – Coaching – CrossFit – Community

Those of you that have picked up one of our new shirts and tanks may have seen a really cool new logo on the back.  CFKI – Coaching – CrossFit – Community.  Thanks so much to Alicia’s sister Maggie for the awesome design!

The idea for this logo started a couple years ago as a napkin sketch and dinnertable discussion to rebrand CrossFit Kent Island, as CrossFit was getting a lot of bad press.  It ended this year as a decision to refocus and recommunicate our priorities as we crossed the 10-year threshold.  We are a CrossFit gym.  We always have been, and always will be.  CrossFit is the absolute best training methodology you could select for general physical preparedness… just getting really really fit.  Want to get strong?  CrossFit.  Want to build endurance?  CrossFit.  Want to build strength and an engine at the same time?  Oh, man, that’s a lay-up.  CROSSFIT.

But covid taught us that CrossFit classes are actually not our biggest strength, as much as they would seem to be.  Remember, we couldn’t workout together in the gym, and everyone had a different combination of equipment at home.  We assigned every member that wanted to continue to train (something like 90% of our membership) a coach.  And they COACHED.  They took each daily workout and made it work for each person at home.  They checked in to see how it was going and what sort of adjustments they could make.  They made personal connections on goals and aspirations and what life was like at home.  They coached.  That became a revelation for me — that it didn’t matter if we were coaching people through group CrossFit workouts, or virtually through a single session in the driveway, or a work-up to a Spartan Race or a weightlifting meet, or a personal issue at work.  Our coaches are very understanding, and caring, and authentic, and really good at getting people to achieve the results they are looking for.  They are outstanding at COACHING.  And that is our biggest strength and our main selling point.  So, thanks covid for that!

We connect with each other through coaching, we practice CrossFit, and because of those strong focuses, we have become a COMMUNITY.  And our community itself has become a strength, and a force to be reckoned with.  You can’t just blow a tornado through this town and expect people to not band together at CrossFit Kent Island to raise money and find places to stay for one another.  A member of our gym has a life-threatening illness?  You better believe our community is going to surround their family with love, raise money for their medical bills, and support them through their fight.  Negativity cannot penetrate our community – it will be repelled by the positive attitudes and love that we have for each other.

CFKI – COACHING – CROSSFIT – COMMUNITY

What we’d like to do over the next few weeks is highlight our amazing coaches that have helped to shape this awesome CFKI community, along with all of you.  I volunteered to embarrass myself first, but next week stay tuned for a personal look in on another of our coaches.  Why do they do what they do?  What inspires them?  We need to know!

 

Ryan Wolf, Coach (CrossFit, Unbeatable Mind, and Flag Football)

My “origin story” of coaching goes back to my first career before CrossFit – 8 years of management consulting in the healthcare industry.  If you like to wear suits and fly on planes, this is the job for you.  If you like to sleep and have a family life, this is not the job for you.  I did enjoy the job most of the time – the people I worked with were the most talented young consultants I ever could have imagined, and our clients always started by hating us and after 9 months were giving us hugs for saving their hospital and asking us not to go.  Eventually, Denee and I started to have a family, and when our second son Oliver was born, I began to get on the plane Monday morning seriously depressed.  I knew that I needed to make a change.  In thinking about what I should do, I started by thinking about what I liked about my current role.  As a project manager, I loved developing my project team as consultants and as young leaders in the world.  As a mentor to my clients’ executive teams, I loved identifying where they could lean into their strengths and hedge their weaknesses with strong subordinates.  In short, I loved developing people and seeing them succeed.  I was really into CrossFit training myself at the time, and so starting a CrossFit gym of my own seemed like a very good fit.  As the coach of every class, I would have the opportunity to help each member find a goal to shoot for and achieve it through CrossFit training.  As the years went by, my role shifted a bit to develop new coaches, mostly by identifying members that shared a love for personal development, and helping them find their leadership role within CFKI.  Although all of our coaches have different styles and come from different backgrounds, we all share that love and focus for connecting with and developing our members, and we all know that through CrossFit training and coaching we can affect many people’s lives for the better.

When I’m on the job, my personal methodology of coaching starts with understanding my client’s goals.  Wait, I take that back – their GOAL.  I think it’s important to have a singular focus on one most important thing that you would like to accomplish, or a vision of who you want to be, from your training.  Having a laser focus on one goal will give you something to quickly snap your mind to when the training seems too tough, or your motivation to get to the gym is waning.  Splitting focus into multiple goals can be pretty easy once you learn of all the movements that we practice in CrossFit – and how many of them you are not great at yet!  But trying to work toward multiple goals that are equal in your mind can diffuse your training focus and become demotivating when you’re not progressing toward any of them very quickly.

In my own training, my goal has most often been an upcoming event of some sort.  Each winter, my short-term goal becomes to perform better than the previous year in the CrossFit Open.  But most often, the event on my horizon that fuels my training is not CrossFit-related, but instead is a crucible event that checks at least two boxes:  1. It’s not something I’ve accomplished before, 2. It seems difficult enough that there is a decent chance that I will not succeed.  In the awesome book The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter, I learned that this type of maybe-I-can-do-it-maybe-I-can’t challenge is what the Japanese call a misogi.  A misogi challenge offers me the external motivation to train hard and smart toward the looming challenge, usually chosen about a year out.  I truly then enjoy the process of training, because I’m looking forward to testing myself and my training during the event.  When I finish the event, I feel like I have not only “checked that box,” but I have elevated myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I have even more confidence leading into the next one, whatever it is.  Some of my previous misogi challenges have included earning a full Navy ROTC scholarship when I was two years into college, a 31-mile trail race through the woods of West Virginia, this year’s 1-mile Bay Swim (it had been a while since I swam open water!), and SEALFIT Kokoro – a 50+ hour gut check administered by current and former SEALs.

Each of these misogi challenges tested me in different ways, but they all went way beyond the physical work into forging more mental toughness and emotional resilience.  These experiences, and the lessons I learned from them, guide my coaching with small groups and with individuals that I train toward their own specific goals.  I try to integrate physical, mental and emotional training in each session, identifying opportunities to practice techniques like breath control, visualization (win in your mind), positive self-talk, and setting micro-goals.

If you haven’t picked up a new shirt yet, do it soon, they are going fast!  If you have, we thank you for your support.  You, wearing our gear and spreading the gospel of CFKI, are our best marketing tool.  We actually don’t have any other marketing tools.  So, you’re alone on the front lines out there, sorry.

Seriously though, thank you so much for everything that you guys do every day to make this such an amazing place to work.  On behalf of all of our coaches, we love you and appreciate you.  You are CrossFit Kent Island!

Ryan

Supplementation – and a 20% discount from Thorne!

Supplementation is an often overlooked aspect of nutrition, but one that we should look more closely at as people that like to work hard in the gym and want to feel our best – recovered and ready for the next session.  A diet of whole foods (and avoiding processed foods) can cover most of your bases as far as getting the macro and micronutrients you need for general health, but recovery from hard CrossFit workouts might also require more help from supplements such as fish oil, creatine, and additional protein.

It’s hard to know what your body specifically needs, so it’s a good idea to work with a doctor to create a personalized supplementation plan.  Denee and I started working with Wild Health this year, where we have virtual meetings with a doctor (and a health coach) who review our bloodwork for genetic risk factors as well as missing nutrients, and recommend a supplementation regimen.  I encourage you to give them a try, or if you have a good relationship with your doctor, stick with that!  A quick blood draw can give you some answers that you might not be aware of yet.

After our Wild Health initial visit, I started working with Thorne.  They are a supplement company that has recently gotten into the CrossFit space, and they are known for very high-quality products.  They have everything that you would need from whey protein powder to vitamins to sleep aids.  Thorne is also offering discounted rates for CrossFit gyms, which we can then pass on to you!   I just invited you (check your email right before this one) to get a 20% discount from Thorne, if you shop on our CrossFit Kent Island dispensary.  I’ve added all the products in our list that I think you all would want, but you if there are any that we don’t have in our dispensary just let me know and I can add them so you get the 20% discount.

Denee and I have been using Thorne supplements for the past few months and I can say they have been very effective.  My knees have been doing great since taking the Glucosamine/Chondroitin as well as the Curcumin, and I can start to feel it if I don’t take them for a couple days!

My current regimen is:

  • Collagen in my coffee in the morning
  • Once daily with my first Yeti tumbler of water (you can take these more than once a day but I don’t):
    • Fish oil (heart and brain health)
    • Glucosamine/Chondroitin (joint health)
    • Curcumin (joint health)
    • “Basic B” vitamin (my body does not ingest this easily from food)
    • Vitamin D/K (same thing, I have a deficiency here)
    • Glutathione (workout recovery)
  • A shake after my workout with
    • Chocolate whey protein (really good)
    • Creatine (maintain and build muscle)

Take advantage of this deal, unless you have a better one going on.  Supplements are not cheap but if you’re going to save 20% off of retail that you would buy at a store or from Amazon, that’s a huge savings!  Just make sure that you sign in with your email address and shop on the link that I sent so that you do get the 20% when you check out.  You’ll see all the products actually listed at full price when you’re selecting them, but then the discount will be applied at the end.  Also – any “bundles” of supplements will not get a discount because they are already discounted as part of the bundle.

Please let me know if you have any questions or issues with the site, or again if you’d like to see any other products that are not in our CFKI list.  We can make that happen!

Ryan

Kids Training

Last week we discussed CrossFit training for seniors as a viable – and necessary – option for improved functionality as we all age.  We started with the insightful quote from Greg Glassman, “The needs of the elderly and professional athletes differ by degree, not kind.”

We could also take this same idea and flip it to the other end of the spectrum – kids!  The physical training needs of kids and adults differ by degree, not kind.  The great thing is that kids, just like the rest of us, want to be fit.  They want to be fit so that they can grow up to have physical jobs – baseball player, firefighter, Army Ranger.  They just don’t know how to get there.  They don’t know the path to walk to get to Mount Olympus where their heroes live, but they know they want to be there.

We teach the squat to kids because their target is on higher-level “hero” skills, like a box jump, and then dunking a basketball.  We teach the deadlift to kids because they know their mom can deadlift 200 pounds, and she’s stronger than any of the other moms they know.

We keep the weights light and demand near-perfect execution, so that the movements are engrained properly in their muscle memory, and they don’t make all the same mistakes we did growing up.  I can still remember one of my high school football coaches telling us to “do 3 sets of 10 power cleans” and when we asked him how to do it, he said, “just freaking pull that thing up to your shoulders!”  Thanks to CrossFit and weightlifting coaching becoming more widespread, now we insist on proper technique before ever increasing in weight on our pull-ups, push-ups, squats, deadlifts, presses, clean and jerks, and snatches.  This is path toward functional competence and confidence as kids get older and get to test their skills on the playing field.

As our CrossFit Kids classes are populated with kids that want to have fun in the gym (and sometimes we get them to put their little foot on the gas and work hard for a few minutes), our CrossFit Teens classes are full of “kids” that are now engaged in sports and want to get better.  Practicing your sport is the highest priority of course, but strength and conditioning training is a close second for a teenager that honestly wants to improve – at any sport.  In the Teens class, you will find motivated boys and girls that are willing to work hard, both because of the opportunity for improvement but also because now they know that it’s fun!  We have lots of examples of teenagers that grew up in our Kids program and now enjoy the idea of pushing themselves and the camaraderie of the group.  Whether or not they realize it, CrossFit Teens is quite literally a sport that they get to compete at, sometimes win, mostly lose, and always be a good teammate.

Thanks to all of our CFKI parents that have entrusted us with the physical development of your kids.  It’s truly an honor and one that motivates us all the time.  If your kids haven’t given CrossFit a try yet, see if they want to come in and experience how fun and rewarding it can be.  I’ll go ahead and say what I’ve heard all of our coaches say before: “I wish we had this when I was a kid!”

 

Our CrossFit Kids class is Saturday at 10:15am.  You can purchase a class or a package of classes here, or just shoot us a message and let us know you’d like to try it out.  First class is free!

Our CrossFit Teens class is currently meeting on Mondays and Thursdays at 3:30pm.  This will change in the next few weeks as schools starts up again, and we will communicate that next schedule as it is solidified.  You can purchase a class here, or a monthly membership for your Teen here.  Or again, just give us a heads up and bring them on in to give it a free try.

The kids are our Future, and it’s going to be AWESOME.

Ryan

Our needs differ by degree, not kind

The 2022 CrossFit Games begin today, and the second workout includes progressively longer intervals of running and pressing 300 lbs overhead for maximum reps in a given time.  If that sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.  The absolute strength required to even qualify for this annual event to crown The Fittest on Earth is amazing, and also non-negotiable.  If you can’t lift that weight, you can’t compete, and that’s it.  But while strength might be the most impressive athletic capacity on display at The Games, if you don’t also have world class speed, stamina, endurance, and the coordination to quickly learn and apply new physical skills (that are announced on the day of competition), you will not be competitive.  The eventual winners of the CrossFit Games this Sunday are not going to win every event over the course of the week, but they are going to be very good at everything.  They are the best athletes in the world, and while I no longer consider myself to be a competitive CrossFit athlete, I get so excited to see these guys throw down at the CrossFit Games each year.

On the other hand, the CrossFit Games have also become our biggest detriment as CrossFit affiliates to get new people into our gyms.  If my only interaction with CrossFit was The Games, I think I would be pretty wary of stepping into a CrossFit gym too!  We get messages from folks all the time who are interested in CrossFit because they have heard of its effectiveness from their friends and family, but feel that it might be too much for them, or maybe they are past the age where it would be a safe training program for them.

I went back to one of the first articles from the CrossFit Journal in 2003, searching for a succinct quote that I remembered from CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman on the broad effectiveness of CrossFit training with all age groups, and how to implement it.

“The needs of the elderly and professional athletes differ by degree, not kind.  Where one needs functional competency to maintain independence, the other needs functional mastery to maintain dominance.  Improved hip capacity will help a pro ball player’s throw to first; it will also reduce the chances of grandpa falling in the tub.  The squat is the perfect tool for both.”

What this quote means to me is that we all can benefit greatly from CrossFit training, as long as we understand that the program can and should be modified to match our current capacity.  While this might sound like an obvious exaggeration, an example would be that we would never expect a new CrossFit athlete – of any age – to attempt the above CrossFit Games workout of running and heavy overhead barbell lifts as written.  However, that workout, modified to include walking or jogging at a manageable pace and pressing lightweight dumbbells would be a great starting point.

To that extent, we would like to offer a few group “Introduction to CrossFit” classes in the near future for anyone who would like to see what we do and if it would be a good fit.  For our first class, we will focus on the squat – why it is important, how to do it safely and efficiently.  As Coach Glassman mentions in the quote above, we all need to be able to squat in order to maintain a full, independent lifestyle!

Feel free to pass this message along to anyone you know that might be interested or need to see this.

Happy CrossFit Games Week!

Ryan

On Discipline

Hi there teammates — a quick one this week, but one that has been percolating in my head after discussing motivation with a couple athletes in the gym.  We’re in the hot, sweaty center of summertime.  Kids’ schedules are all over the place, vacations and long weekends are popping up all the time, and it can be hard for all of us to stay motivated to get into the gym on a regular basis.

Here’s the thing – motivation is great.  When you’re motivated to achieve a goal, that can really drive you to push through a workout that an “unmotivated individual” wouldn’t even show up to.  If you’re signed up for a race or a competition, you have that goal on the horizon and if you’re really excited about it and want to do well, you can ride that motivation to achieve awesome results!
Sometimes motivation can be brought on externally as well – the push that you get in a workout by competing against someone else that is matching you rep-for-rep, or a coach that you respect telling you to “pick up the barbell and move” – thanks Jimmy for that during The Joe workout this week!

But what do we rely on when the motivation isn’t there?  I can think of a few scenarios where this might be the case.  You check out the workout online, and any motivation you were trying to muster fizzles away.  Or maybe it doesn’t even matter what the workout is, you just don’t feel like working out today – it’s been a tough week and you’d rather just relax at home.  When that motivation escapes you for a while – if you don’t have a goal to drive you or other priorities start taking hold, that is called a rut.  And it’s hard to get out of!

That’s where Discipline comes in.  Discipline means that you follow through with your plan even when you don’t want to, and it’s one important marker of mental toughness and a hell of a good value to internalize if you want results.  The good news is that discipline can be trained, and whenever you do, just like a muscle, you strengthen it.  It starts with waking up in the morning.  Wake up at the same time every day (alright, let’s start with every weekday), and be consistent in your morning routine including reviewing your plan of the day and solidifying what time you’re going to train.  Remember, if you don’t think your evening schedule will allow a workout to happen, we have some awesome 5am and 6am classes that are filled with disciplined people – and you might even find some extra motivation by surrounding yourself with them once in a while!
Practice discipline throughout your day by getting the things done on your workplan that you know you need to do, creating freedom later in the day to do what you want to do.  And when it’s time to workout, practice discipline by showing up ready to work hard.  You might not always have the physical energy to set new PRs every time you walk in the gym, but consistently getting the work in and building your strength and endurance will create the opportunities to break through barriers when you’re feeling at the top of your game.

Motivation won’t always be there for you.  Develop discipline in your fitness regimen and in your life, and that toughness and consistency will drive you to achieve great things.

Thanks for reading, and I will see you at the box.
Ryan

Personal Training Options

Kent Island is a small world.  We are connected by a major highway to Annapolis and the rest of the Eastern Shore, but it still feels like a little isolated world unto itself sometimes.  And it can definitely feel like you know everyone else and their business!  So, when I go to the grocery store and I see people I don’t know, I start to wonder why.  I mean, I own and operate a CrossFit gym, which is one of the most fun places in the world to be!  There are so many awesome people, awesome coaches, so much awesome equipment and awesome skills to learn.

So if someone lives on my tiny little island, and I don’t know them yet, that means they are not training with us.  And after each of these one-sided grocery interactions, I go through all the stages of grief, which I’m pretty sure are confusion, staring, paranoia, hiding, burpees, hunger, sweating, and back to confusion.  I might not have nailed all of those by the book, but I’m just going from experience.

As a bit of self-directed therapy, I wanted to put myself in someone’s shoes that hasn’t yet sprinted into CrossFit Kent Island and demanded a membership as soon as they move here.  There are a few common scenarios that come to mind.  From that exercise, I began pairing up these scenarios with some of the other non-traditional training programs that we offer.  Check this out and see if you can relate with any of these:

 

Remote Programming

Working out at home is now once again a thing. If the market for fitness equipment during the pandemic was an indicator, there are A LOT of guys and girls out there now that like to workout in their garage.  Maybe they used to like to go to the gym and workout, but – for good reason – they chose to make their home a personal workout space free of viruses and masks.  Now they have spent a good bit of money on their home gym, and don’t want to leave it behind for a membership at a gym with all the same stuff!!

Here’s the thing though…  if you are serious about achieving or maintaining a high level of fitness, you need a coach.  Why?  Because without a program that you didn’t design yourself, and someone to hold your feet to the fire once in a while, you will avoid the things that you don’t want to do.  Case-in-point:  ME.  When I started “doing CrossFit” on my own, I was a decent runner.  I hadn’t done a lot of weightlifting other than crushing my arms with bench presses and curls in high school and college (and avoiding squats), but now I was really getting into the weightlifting world.  So I started following CrossFit.com daily workouts, but any running workouts would be subbed out for more weightlifting.  Interestingly, I got really strong and my running and conditioning level for anything longer than 10 minutes suffered greatly!  The point is that we have to keep identifying and then working on our weaknesses if we want to avoid becoming one-sided from a fitness perspective.

At CrossFit Kent Island, we have several coaches who have become very skilled at assessing where you are right now and then creating a program that you can follow along at home.  This program will be tailored to your goals, and the equipment you have access to. We are currently programming for at-home fitness enthusiasts with access to barbells and weights, as well as newcomers to the fitness space with access to nothing more than a single dumbbell.  You don’t need much at all to get a great workout in at home – just a fun, creative program that will keep you moving toward your goals!

 

Remote Coaching

There are some folks out there that do not necessarily want to join a CrossFit gym and attend group classes, not because there is a lack of value, but a lack of time.  They are the obstacle course racers.  The trail ultra-runners.  The teenagers looking to serve in the military.  The amateur swimmers vying for a chance to swim the Chesapeake Bay 4.4-miler (PS – that’s me!).  Many understand the value of CrossFit training to achieve the best overall fitness level for their sport.  But then again, attending group CrossFit classes 5x per week is probably not what they need, given their already demanding training schedule.  So they have written off CrossFit as a training option and instead do some “cross training” that may or may not be effective at building strength, stamina, work capacity, and flexibility that will help tremendously on race day.

Here’s the thing though…  Attending group classes is not the only option in a CrossFit gym!  In fact, the way that CrossFit started was not giant groups of people working out in sync, but one or two people with a coach.  As the coach got to know them and their goals he would send them on their way with a program to follow, checking in regularly so that they could monitor progress and make adjustments.

Remote Coaching is a step up from Remote Programming in that it also includes regular email/phone check-ins with your coach.  “How are you enjoying your training?  How are you feeling?  Here is how you can approach the tough part of this workout.  Let’s retest your baseline strength numbers to see how this is working.”

Because you and your coach are not meeting at the gym on a regular basis, this is a more economical option vs. onsite personal coaching.  And guess what – I bet we have a coach who has done what you want to do and knows what works and what doesn’t.  They know how to fully prepare you for your event or big goal and they want to see you succeed too!  In addition to being accomplished CrossFit athletes, our coaches that are available for Remote Coaching include a champion obstacle course racer, a DC-area police special operator, a Division 1 gymnast, and coaches that have trained for and successfully completed 50-hour endurance events, not to mention doing “Murph” every day for a year.  If you want to do it, we have done it, and we can guide you along the path.

 

Onsite Personal Coaching

What we’ve traditionally called “Personal Training” we now want to differentiate as Onsite Personal Coaching.  You and your CFKI coach are working together in the gym.  And you are receiving coaching on all the physical aspects of training, but also on the mental strategies associated with training, and the nutritional and other lifestyle habits that will allow you to achieve your optimal results.

You might be a great candidate for this option if you’ve ever said…

“I’ve had a couple knee surgeries from high school lacrosse.  I obviously can’t do CrossFit.”

“I’m 70 years old.  I obviously can’t do CrossFit.”

“I just had a baby 3 months ago.  I obviously can’t do CrossFit.”

“I was injured in combat and have a prosthetic leg.  I obviously can’t do CrossFit.”

Here’s the thing though… I could keep going with these examples but I wanted to clarify something.  These are all stories of real CrossFit Kent Island athletes!  And so now you know the negative ending that I tacked on to each story is false.  They may have thought or said these things in the past.  But they are doing CrossFit!  Some of them have enjoyed coming to some group classes because they are motivated to train with a team.  Many of them have continued to do personal training with me or one of our other talented and creative coaches.  We know how to work around injuries, and how to adapt movements so that anyone with any condition or body type can safely benefit from them.  And if we don’t yet, we love a challenge!

If you think you have a reason that you can’t train and get functionally fit, we want to know it.  We invite you to come check out the gym and see what we have to offer.  We have a 4-session On-Ramp program for all new athletes to learn the fundamentals of movement, and let our coaches get to know you.  During the On-Ramp you’ll likely get a chance to see a group CrossFit class in action, and you might want to become a member and attend classes!  If you would rather stay with a program that is completely tailored to you – what you like to do and what you need to be able to do – then our Onsite Personal Coaching program is your best fit.

 

If you’ve seen me lurking around the grocery store, squinting and staring with a puzzled look on my face, now you know why!  In addition to trying to find my favorite peanut butter, I’m also wondering why I haven’t met you yet!  We want you to train with us, whether it’s remotely or onsite.  Wherever you are in your fitness journey, you are at the perfect place to start at CrossFit Kent Island!

Ryan

Year Nine: Shrinking Pains

I’m writing this blog post a day late because I’ve been super busy this week and the last few weeks with lots of new folks that we’re “On-Ramping” into our CrossFit program.  Which is awesome!  That takes a lot of time as I try to get to know each individual that requests access into the CFKI community, to understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as your goals that will define success.  Then I communicate those to our outstanding coaching staff as you transition into our group classes for continued development.  I find a lot of joy in these individual sessions as that is why I started coaching in the first place – to witness the beginning of a new development process that can be very challenging and then to teach and encourage you to stay on the path and continue to get incrementally better each day!

In Year Nine, it wasn’t always like that.  In late 2020 and into 2021, the pandemic persisted and while the state regulations allowed us to gradually move back to our regular training model and have max capacity back in the gym, many people were not quite ready for it.  Our members that many times in the beginning of the lockdown said “keep my membership going, I want to support the community” started to fade a bit.  Some transitioned to full-time at-home training.  Quite a few people moved during the pandemic or changed jobs, bringing their focus away from regular training in the gym.  And not that many people outside of the CrossFit world wanted to get started.  In a word, our community shrunk.  For the first time in our history, we decreased in membership from a high of 203 active members to a 3-year low of 149.

In our classes, you might not have felt it.  The energy that everyone brings to a CrossFit class continued to be high, and those that stayed the course were still improving and felt the strong pull of the community.  But questions of “where did Steve go?” were sometimes met with a shrug and “they decided to take a break.”  Alicia and I spent a lot of time reaching back out to former members, staying in touch and reminding them of the good old days and their training goals.  But it was tough sledding to regain old members as the natural tendency toward safety and health prevented many from re-engaging with the group.
As our membership shrunk, our costs continued to rise, as our cleaning and maintenance budget increased and everything just seemed to cost more!  We went from a pre-pandemic high to a “this has gone on for so long now” low, and like many small businesses, were forced to take steps to stay in business and be able to make rent and payroll, like SBA loans and second- and third-guessing every expenditure.  From a business perspective, it was scary, as we now knew what we didn’t know – how long the pandemic and this downturn in revenue would continue.

I’m sharing this now in order to be real about our CFKI history – this is what Year Nine at CFKI was like for Denee and I as we tried to batten down the hatches and withstand the storm.  And as always, reliving that experience is a bit cathartic and therapeutic for me as I internalize the lessons.  The first lesson, and what I think we did a good job on right away, was to double-down on our members’ experience in the gym and make sure that we didn’t lose anyone for the nebulous reason of “it’s just not for me.”  If anyone leaves that way, we have failed them and we need to learn why and fix it.
The second lesson, which took me a while to execute on, was to find other ways of conducting our core business of coaching and developing people.  To that extent, I refocused on my Unbeatable Mind coaching training in 2021, and looked to find new people to train one-on-one and in small groups, both physically and mentally.  I freed myself up for more available time to coach individuals, and let our coaching staff take on more of our group classes as they were available.  This additional revenue stream, as well as the recent resurgence of new blood into our group classes, has us now back on track and looking forward to continued growth once again.

There are so many case studies out there of businesses that were not structured to be able to pivot and find new ways to serve their community, and they failed.  Hopefully they can rise up soon and continue their mission.  There are others that, like us, were able to take some hard knocks but come out of the fight stronger and even more resilient, with more tools in their kit.  Looking back to Year Seven, after the tornado that ravaged the island and our members’ lives, we made a shirt for our fundraising event that said:

“Fate Whispers to the Warrior, You Cannot Withstand The Storm.
The Warrior Whispers Back, I AM the Storm.”

We can all take this approach to big challenges in our lives, whether they are brought on from outside us like a pandemic, or something brewing within that is keeping us down.  If you would respond to a storm that is wreaking havoc on things that you hold dear, you must become an even more powerful storm and take back control.  Year Nine is in our rear-view mirror now.  Let’s continue to grow and become stronger and more resilient in the gym and within our lives.  We are the storm.

Ryan

Year Eight: A Study in Resilience

“What are we going to do?”
— CFKI community sentiment, March 2020

These “year in review” blog posts have been fun for me to write, both because I can reminisce on good times and great pictures of smiling faces and hard work, and because I get a chance to contemplate and reinforce the lessons learned.  They are re-instructional for me, if you will.
Writing about Year Eight feels different… maybe due to the global pandemic that ground the world to a halt in the beginning of 2020.  But yet looking through the pictures, it looks almost the same.  Still lots of smiles and hard work, just a smaller cast of characters being tagged on Instagram.  Our social media feed throughout the spring was devoid of “gym pics,” but they were replaced with driveway workouts, muddy backyard family fitness adventures, and biking/running/rucking – anything to reduce the symptoms of cabin fever we were all acutely feeling as social fitness animals!

The Wolf family was featured prominently as the online face of CFKI, but I know you were all staying active and eager to remain part of the community.  I know this because so many conversations I had with you all individually as we would catch up on the phone or via email during the initial lockdown revolved around this question:

“What are we going to do?”

Initially, I didn’t have the answer to that question, and Denee and I and our coaches spent two weeks thinking and planning.  But I was overwhelmingly encouraged by the fact that you were asking, and I want to pick apart the language to explain why.

“WHAT are we GOING TO DO?”
The tone of this question implies that we are GOING TO DO something.  We are going to respond to this situation with a positive move forward, rather than doing nothing.  The person asking the question assumes that the CFKI leadership and community is not going to sit idly by and wait for further instructions that could come tomorrow or in a year.  We would be proactive and do SOMETHING.  This was your expectation, and I love you all for that.

“What are WE going to do?”
Think about the implication of the word “WE” chosen by the speaker.  I believe “we” in this sense means the CFKI community.  “We” is the team of CFKI members, coaches, and owners that need to come together at this time to act.  If I ask, “what are WE going to do?”, I am including myself in that community and holding myself accountable for leading and acting to pull us out of this hole.  You, as a community of “WE”, took responsibility for helping to craft the best plan and then supporting it wholeheartedly.

You all know the rest of the story.  After our two-week hiatus, we took the approach of providing the most benefit to our members as we could, giving away our equipment and remotely training everyone that wanted to at home.  We all started with a workout-of-the-day template and an assigned coach modified the workout for the equipment we had access to, as well as our ability level.  This remote coaching idea was a success, and at least kept our conditioning level up (maintaining strength was an issue).  We still have several members that are training with this model now, with Alyssa as their coach!
Eventually we were allowed to return to the gym premises and train outside, which produced some awesome tans in the heat of summer and maybe some low-grade hand burns from those black mats!  I got burnt to a crisp during our Burpee Hour (as many burpees as you can do in an hour, then order takeout food from a local restaurant).  I was super confused until I realized I was facing the same way under direct sunlight and soaked in sweat for an hour straight!

We are fortunate that regulations were lifted and we were gradually able to return to “normal operations.”  But I think we are even more fortunate to have experienced this pandemic and that we were able to stress-test our operations and make our business, and our community, stronger from it.  I am confident now that whatever disruptive challenge comes our way next – and there will be one! – we will come out the other side even smarter, more prepared, and more resilient.  Bring it on!

Ryan