Hero Month 2022

We now take a quick break from your regularly scheduled trip down memory lane for an announcement that has been painfully obvious to those of you that have ventured into the gym this week… IT’S HERO MONTH!!

Making the month of May “Hero Month” is something that we started to do in the olden days (pre-pandemic!) and has become more organized and official every year.  Whatever CrossFit programming we have been following up until that point takes a backseat for a month, and in May we complete an extraordinary number of Hero workouts.

For the uninitiated, a Hero workout is a tradition that CrossFit started on July 6th, 2005 when they posted the Workout of the Day (WOD) and it had a name: “J.T.”  This named workout was not like the others, it wasn’t a benchmark workout to be repeated regularly to test your fitness.  J.T. was a real person.  Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor was a Navy SEAL that was killed in action the previous month.
Hero workouts were a huge reason that I started doing CrossFit a couple years later.  I loved that even in a training methodology known for intensity and daily workouts that prompted me to yell at the computer screen, “you want me to do WHAT??”, there were some infamous Hero workouts that were known for their relentless demand for even more work, even heavier weights, even higher skill.  And they meant something.  These workouts represent a person who dedicated their lives to hard, miserable work for the greater good.  They loved doing it, but now they can’t anymore, so it’s up to us to honor them by pushing through a workout that no normal human has any business taking on.
The idea of dedicating an hour of sweat and pain to a fallen warrior, and that others throughout the world were doing the same thing that day, drew me in big time.  They became my favorite workouts, and they still are.  Taking on a new Hero workout is a solemn experience, and repeating one turns them into brutal benchmarks of fitness and determination.

We choose May for Hero Month because it culminates every year with Memorial Day, and the “Murph” workout.  Murph is by far the most well-known of the Hero workouts because of it’s traditional tie to Memorial Day and because of the staggering amount of work to be completed, but as we will see this month there are other Heroes that will test us just as much, if not more.  These Heroes, many times delivered back-to-back on consecutive days, are designed to test you physically, for sure – CrossFit is after all a physical training program.  But more than that they are designed to test your will to give something everything you’ve got, and then do it again, with what feels like no time to recover.  This is where we find mental toughness and resilience.  This is where we find grit.
Is this a smart training plan for an extended period of time?  No way.
Will you be more sore than using a “normal” CrossFit regimen?  Absolutely – this is your body responding to an overload in training volume.
Can you complete the whole month?  I guess we’re going to find out.

Your coaches are here to help you navigate each daily challenge with smart scaling strategies that adapt the workout to an appropriate challenge for you.  We will not make it easy on you, if anything you will find out this month that you can do more than you think you can.  But we will keep you safe and healthy.  You just keep showing up with a fighting spirit befitting the warrior we honor that day.

Now onto a couple administrative points.  In previous years we have given away t-shirts for Hero Month.  This year we are going to focus our t-shirt energy on our 12-hour Hero Challenge that is going down on Saturday, June 11.  So get pumped for that!  We do want to commemorate our Hero Month in a special way though and celebrate everyone that took on the challenge of completing all of the Heroes we throw at you in May.  More specifics to come, but our Heroes names, along with YOUR NAMES, will be a part of our gym forever.
Also, you do not have to complete each Hero workout on the day that we program them.  Work, kids, travel, these are all enemies of a regular training schedule, and may prevent you from getting in the gym every single time you want to.  You can complete these Hero workouts anytime during the month of May.  Come in for Open Gym on the weekend.  Ask a coach if you can meet them at the gym to knock out one that you missed.  Maybe they’ll throw down with you!  Do a workout on vacation with a sandbag or a big rock to replace your barbell (get a picture for Instagram, ok?)  Be creative and honor the fallen Hero, and you’re adhering to the spirit of Hero Month.

If you can’t tell, I’m more than a little fired up for Hero Month.  It’s an oversized physical challenge characterized by mental struggle, emotional turmoil, and yet always big smiles and solid fist bumps.  It’s the best part of CrossFit, and ties us back to the men and women that shared our passion for fitness, and service.

In the movie Lone Survivor, Shane Patton, who was killed alongside Jeff Taylor in a mission to try to save Michael Murphy and his team, quotes an old salty World War II verse called The Ballad of the Frogman.

“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing.  Moderation is for cowards.”


Year Five: Professional Coaching

In 2016, a few things happened.  The end.  Haha, that would be pretty lame, huh?  In looking through our Instagram pictures though (my favorite way of remembering each year!), the year was filled with so much diversity, it’s hard to focus on one thing!

But one theme does come to mind – this was the year that we started coaching the s#$% out of people.

In our Instagram feed, we liked to announce upcoming events or new classes that we were offering, to get the word out and generate some buzz.  Beginning in 2016, the number of non-CrossFit classes and seminars that we began to put out dramatically increased, as we began in earnest to improve our members’ flexibility and mobility through targeted seminars and weekly yoga classes (when it was warm enough!).  Thanks to Coach Josh, our focus and our coaches’ and members’ education on mobility was at an all time high, something I’d like to return to.
We also began offering nutrition seminars through one of our members, Laura, who is a nutritional therapist and amazing at presenting and writing about how to implement nutrition strategies that are right for each individual, and not the classic “everyone should eat this way, it’s the best and only way to do it.”  How could there be so many best ways to do it, and all of them diametrically opposed to each other?
This was the year that we became more complete, more professional, as fitness coaches.  It had finally sunk in that it’s not just about leading a group of people through a CrossFit class.  It’s about looking out for each individual member and offering the education and training that they need to accomplish their goals, as different as they might be.

In 2016 we also were gifted with a new coach, Jason.  Jason was new to Kent Island but not to coaching, as he had coached CrossFit across the bridge for a few years already.  One thing that immediately set Jason apart when you took his class was that he is a professional coach.  I don’t mean that he does this for a living – he has a successful career in sales – but his approach to coaching CrossFit was new to us, and we have learned a lot from him as a coaching staff over the years.  His preparation, his attention to detail, and his presence when leading a group are unparalleled.

Here is Jason’s approach to coaching, in his own words:
“At the basic level, I coach to get athletes to move better and have fun learning to do so.  I try to impart all I have learned in my 40+ years in an entertaining way while also pushing athletes to be their best self, whatever that is to them.  My goal is always to meet people where they are and then help them get to where they want to go.  I strive to really get to know our members on a more personal level.  I think talking about ours and our kids accomplishments, upcoming trips, and big life events is just as important as how much someone deadlifts, their nutrition goals and their Fran time.  Coaching the 5 am class, working with CrossFit Kids, and personal training are often the best hours of my day, outside of the time I spend with my own family.  My hope is our athletes often feel the same way.”

That’s what it’s all about, guys!  Thanks to Jason for joining our CFKI community and making us better for it.

In my own way I took a step toward becoming a more well-rounded coach in 2016.  In preparation for a 50-hour SEALFIT crucible event called “Kokoro,” I began training my mental and emotional game with a program called Unbeatable Mind.  From previous blog posts you might remember that I should have been training my mind a bit earlier, as Kokoro was a serious struggle from the start, but after my event I doubled down on the Unbeatable Mind training.  Fast forward 6 years and I became an Unbeatable Mind coach in 2022!
What I’ve learned about mental toughness, emotional control, and leaning into tough challenges has prepared me to train individuals training for elite sports or the military, to lead other teams through extreme challenges of their own, and maybe most importantly to lead our coaches and our community through the unique challenge of the last two years!

Here’s to five years!  Looking forward to recapping the second half of our CFKI history.


Year Four: The Future is Awesome

In the spring of 2015 as we began our fourth year in business, we celebrated our two sons’ 4th and 6th birthdays.  Now they have just turned 10 and 12, and it’s crazy to look back at pictures and see where they have come from as young men, and indeed as athletes!

It was around this time that we looked around the gym full of young parents and kids that wanted to join in on the workouts that we decided it was time to put together a Kids program!  Denee and Dana were tapped as our CrossFit Kids coaches for their bubbly personalities and Dana’s teaching experience, and off they went to a CrossFit Kids training seminar.  They came back bursting with energy, as often happens at any CrossFit seminar, and also some great strategies and tactics for coaching different ages of kids.  The seminar is as much about how child psychology changes through developmental stages as it is about teaching movement, but there is plenty of that as well.  You also learn to bring your own energy level up a notch or three when teaching little kids – fast forward a couple years to my own CrossFit Kids seminar when the instructor bluntly told me, “You have to completely change your personality if you’re going to coach kids.”  At the time I think I growled back at him, and I have definitely received feedback from other CFKI coaches to not treat the Kids class as if it’s a Marine bootcamp, but since then I’m happy to say I really enjoy coaching the little guys and girls and have genuinely changed my demeanor when leading those groups because of it.  It’s a blast!

We had always had a few older kids that would join their parents for class — including Ashton who that year did Murph with us at 10 years old – but it was apparent that they also needed a different environment for training with their peers.  Many of them were very proud to be able to train with the big dogs, but coaching an adult class with a teenager present always became more about watching them to make sure they wouldn’t do anything reckless and get themselves hurt, which took attention away from everyone else.  Coincidentally, this is also why we insist on an On-Ramp program for new adult athletes!
And so we began a CrossFit Teens class a couple times per week, focused on teaching a single gymnastics or weightlifting movement each time, then featuring it in a CrossFit-style workout.  The workouts were no joke, and many times were modeled after a similar workout we had just done with our adult athletes, just scaled down to the ability levels of our teens.  It’s maybe not surprising that our Teens class also used some of the more “fun” equipment a bit more often, like our tires, sleds, sandbags, and that nice new mulch hill leading down to Matapeake Beach only a quarter mile away.  The CrossFit Teens class became a mix of quick-hitter CrossFit workouts and long SEALFIT-style stamina workouts that would prepare these young men and women for sports or for life, whatever it threw at them.
We had – and still are helping to create – many awesome stories of athletes beginning to really excel in their sports after attending CrossFit Teens classes for a year, or in some cases all four years of high school leading to the ability to compete at the college level.

Our own kids, Everett and Oliver, having literally grown up in a CrossFit gym and watched all of us train, experiencing all the highs and lows, PRs and failed lifts, finally got a chance to start training themselves.  And they have never looked back!  Fast forwarding back to the future, these kids are now young athletes.  Even at 10 and 12 years old, while they like to have fun in the gym as we all do, they are also serious about their training, and provide a good model of determination on tough workouts to some of the older kids at times!  I know I’m biased, but we are raising some pretty awesome CrossFit Kids.

As we started posting on this new-fangled contraption called Instagram back in 2014-5, our most used hashtag became #getawesome, which started as an inside joke (ask me and I’ll tell you, maybe) and became our company mantra.  When posting about our CrossFit Kids classes though, I would always change it to #thefutureisawesome.  I believe the future WILL be awesome when I’m in the gym with our CrossFit Kids and Teens classes.  These kids love being active, support each other and work as a team, and work hard for what they want to achieve.  They will be leaders one day in a world that desperately needs them to step up.  Let’s keep training our future!


Year Three: A Focus on Service

Year Three of our growing CrossFit business was marked by new beginnings and opportunities to grow our community further, both in size and in breadth of culture.

First of all, our third year marked our second location, as we quickly grew out of our 500-sqft space and graduated to a big-boy space near Matapeake Beach.  Those that have seen both locations know that we now have a lot more “room for activities” at our new spot, but the cozy feel and established construction of the old gym is missed sometimes.  Throughout the years we’ve had a terrible time with water leaking in the front of the gym when it rains (pretty sure buildings are supposed to be waterproof), we can tell from inside when it’s windy outside, and we’ve been visited by more wildlife in this more rural location (plenty of birds, prehistoric dragonflies, a squirrel, and even a couple snakes have entered the gym without a membership!)
Overall, though, we have enjoyed our extended beach vacation, and looking forward to many more years to come.

As we built the space out, we also felt the need to cover the huge bare walls.  Josh, a former Navy linguist and current environmental scientist, has at least one more hidden talent – he is a brilliant artist!  Josh can take a rough idea and very quickly turn it into a creative image.  Over beers one night we came up with the plan, “our gym slogan is ‘Get Awesome’, and my last name is Wolf.”  Within a couple days, Josh had several versions sketched out on his computer of what would be our first mural.  Those of you that have seen it in color on the wall and on our t-shirts can appreciate the simple but elegant and energetic design.  Josh also created, drew and painted on the wall the CFKI trident that towers above the equipment racks, as well as several shirt designs.  Thanks Josh!

Not long after opening up our new location, we learned that one of our members, Brian, was very sick.  His two sons had been working out with us for a while to get ready for their lacrosse seasons, and he had recently also begun to get into CrossFit himself.  He hadn’t been to the gym in a while so I called him to follow up.  We didn’t know at the time exactly what was up, but he knew he was too weak to workout.  Brian was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), a super-rare disease that attacks multiple organs and the immune system.  It is so rare that although the most effective treatment option is chemotherapy, which Brian started immediately after his diagnosis, his insurance company refused to pay his hospital bills because he was getting chemotherapy when it was “not medically necessary”.  Having a background in health insurance (and fighting health insurance companies on behalf of hospitals), I got to work on his medical claims.  We also decided that we needed to do something to help Brian and his family out with their financial situation in the meantime.  In November of 2014 we hosted an open competition named “Fight For Brian” that featured three workouts and a great lunch and get-together afterward.  We were able to provide Brian and his family with over $9,500 in donations from our members and his friends and family.  As I write this, I am still stunned by that figure – that our small community could generate such a big financial response to a crisis.  But as you will see in future posts, at CrossFit Kent Island we consistently rise to the occasion when one of our community, our family, is in need.  We discovered in November 2014 that one of our core competencies, and indeed one of our values, is Service.

Over the years we would consistently come back to Service as something that genuinely binds our CFKI family, organizing community fundraising events that benefited the American Diabetes Association, the Navy SEAL Foundation, our own members and neighbors displaced by the infamous Kent Island tornado, and of course women who need but can’t afford mammograms through Barbells for Boobs, of which we were two-time state champions for fundraising.  A small community gym just should not be able to raise as much money as we have… but maybe that is what makes us such a strong, active, and close-knit community.

Our members care for each other and those that are less fortunate, and live with a mindset of generosity and abundance.  At the core of our collective purpose is Service.  At the end of Year Three, I could not have been more proud to be a part of this community of givers, friends, and leaders.


Year Two: Faith Hope and Love

When we decided to push our chips all in and start CrossFit Kent Island, Denee and I made a deal that if the gym was still losing money after one year, we would consider it a “good try” and go ahead and liquidate the small amount of equipment we had bought and close up shop.  Well, looking back at the books after one year, we were still losing money… and we didn’t quit.  Why?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest is Love.
  — 1 Corinthians, 13.13

You know that guidance counselor saying that goes something like, “find a job that you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”?  When I was consulting, I thought I had a pretty sweet job.  I got paid a lot. I was working with ultra-talented people that were really fun to be around.  I got to work and live for 9 months at a time in Utah, Boston, NYC, DC, rural Louisiana, South Florida.  I got to help hospitals that were struggling turn themselves around and literally stay open to help their patients, or help prestigious health systems develop new systems and advance patient care with the money we helped them make.  I even got to focus most of my time on developing client leaders and developing my teams, something I’ve realized I’m very passionate about.  And yet I still couldn’t check that box and say that I loved my job.  Having contemplated why, I believe it’s because I was away from my growing family for 75% of the time, and because I have a strong aversion to being told what to do or how to do it.  Enter CrossFit…

When we came up against the backstop of one year in business and were still not “in the black,” we had a decision to make.  And we had already made it before we started – we were going to stop.  But we didn’t.  We didn’t because I couldn’t imagine doing something else that I loved as much as running my own fitness business, and doing it with CrossFit – a company that famously (within the inner circle of affiliate owners, I suppose) does not tell you what to do!  CrossFit is not a franchise but instead an affiliate model, where we pay for the opportunity to use the CrossFit name and to market ourselves as a “CrossFit gym”, but that’s basically it.
** As a quick aside, I spent this past Saturday at a CrossFit affiliate owner meeting in DC, and that model of not offering help to the affiliates is going to change soon with our new CrossFit leadership team, which I’m now excited about after living the “I can figure this out by myself” life for the past 10 years!

We had carte blanche to create the type of gym that we would want to join, program the workouts we would want to do, and bring in the members that we would want to be around.  Of course we wanted everyone in the world to join, because we wanted to spread the CrossFit gospel… and we wanted to make enough money to survive.  I couldn’t believe it – and still can’t – when I wore my CFKI t-shirt to the supermarket and not everyone in the whole place was like, “oh my God, I have to join your gym!!!”  But at the same time, if someone joined and then self-selected out of the community because they felt like they didn’t belong, we were OK with it.  We didn’t want everyone to have the same personality or share the same strengths and weaknesses – we needed a well-balanced team.  But we wanted everyone to get along, because we were all about to spend a whole lot of time together, and somehow I think we knew that.
So we were selective in the sense that we didn’t go out and actively seek every potential member that we could.  When we got someone new that became a part of the community, we trained them hard and we showed them and told them that we cared about them, and they stuck around.

We didn’t close the gym after one year, and that was not a sound business decision based on the data.  But it was a decision based on faith that we could make it work with just a little more time, based on hope that others would see what we were doing and feel compelled to give it a try.  And most of all, based on the love of what we were doing and the freedom and endless creativity that we could do it with.
We formed strong bonds with our members.  Three of them, Dana, Kenny and  Lori, became coaches with us.  We competed together at local competitions, and got beat badly but had the most fun.  We hung out at the gym after workouts, and hung out at each other’s houses.  Our young kids (ours were toddlers) became best friends out of necessity and remain close now.  We didn’t talk about it often, but when we did talk about the gym there was an outpouring of love for what we were doing, and genuine excitement for what was to come.

In the second year of business, we grew by 100% (25 members to 50 members).  That’s a decent growth rate if you ask around, and our proof of concept was complete.  We weren’t lighting our cigars with $100’s just yet, but we were now making a little bit of profit each month.  I would not actually pay myself for another two years, but instead we would use the excess cash to buy more equipment, and get another run of our (internally) famous t-shirts, thanks to a new member Jim who ran a promotional company, and who is to this day our clutch hook-up for new CFKI gear.

By the end of year two, we were up against a physical constraint with the small gym space that we occupied, and decided to grab some space at a new warehouse building that was under construction.  We moved into a blank canvas that looked like an airplane hangar, and got to work outfitting it as the new CrossFit Kent Island.  We lost our security deposit on the old gym as we had gotten into a habit of writing all over the walls… it was worth it.

Year three would bring a new beginning and new opportunities for growth.  And it was when we heard the call to Service, which became a cornerstone value of CrossFit Kent Island.  More on that next time!

Thanks for reading and allowing me to reminisce on what seem like simpler times but really good ones.  Look for some more stories, and more news on exciting stuff we have planned for this spring and summer coming to your inbox soon!


Year One: On-the-Job Training

“Please, dear Lord, don’t let me f*** up.”
 — Alan Shepard, first American in space, seconds before liftoff

I got a lot of nice notes on my blog a few weeks ago about making the decision to start CrossFit Kent Island ten years ago, and while this is not a popularity contest, if that story proved to be powerful or helpful to some people then I wanted to keep the ball rolling with the next chapter.  I’d like to let you know what my personal experience was like, and what I was feeling as I waded through the phases of starting and operating a small business, beginning now with Day 1.  If there are any lessons that I think are worth highlighting, I’ll pull them out separately – maybe even for my own benefit as I reflect back on this in another ten years!

I wish I could say that after I made the decision to open the gym, I was super confident in the next actions that I took, and it just sailed onto greatness from there.  But the reality is, as you might imagine, I felt very humble.  Not humble by choice, mind you, but humble in the sense that I had read everything that there was to know about starting a CrossFit gym and been to several as a client, I had spoken with a couple gym owners about their experience, but I still felt very unsure of myself.  Looking back, I wish someone had told me that it was OK to feel this way, that you don’t have to be an expert right away about everything.

When we begin something new, most of the time we’ll lack the skills, knowledge, and experience to take care of even the most basic tasks.  Of course!  If we had the experience we needed, we’d already be done.  Embrace the humility of not knowing even what you don’t know, and keep taking the next courageous step.

And so we (Denee and I meeting on all these important decisions from the start) bought enough equipment so that a few people at a time could work out together, and scheduled two early morning classes and two evening classes, anticipating all the CrossFit-hungry athletes milling around Queen Anne’s County.  And it turned out there weren’t that many on Day 1 or Day 10 or Day 60, so we walked the class schedule back a bit and settled for one morning and one evening.  I don’t regret starting with more classes than we needed, but I regret even less adjusting our approach after a quick test window.  One thing that we did well right off the bat was “fail forward fast.”

We will fail, especially in the beginning.  And that’s not only OK, it’s essential.  But we must be resilient so that the first failure is not the last.  Make adjustments to the plan based on data, and push forward.

We printed t-shirts (actually before we even had a physical space) and window stickers, and handed those bad boys out like it was our marketing strategy to have human and vehicular billboards scattered throughout the neighborhood, which it was.  This might seem like just a way to save money on advertising, but it was a real strategy right from the start.  Our “product” that we wanted others to know about was our happy, fit (if constantly sore) clients.  And so we focused all of our attention on making sure that we were always:

  1. Getting people more fit
  2. Working hard together as a team
  3. Having a ton of fun
    … not necessarily in that order

If you’re getting results from a fitness program, you’re going to tell someone that asks you what you’ve been doing.
When you work hard and sweat and suffer with a team, you create the strongest bonds outside of mother and son.
When you do both, and it’s fun as hell, you’re going to feel like everyone else you know is completely missing out and they just have to get in and be part of the greatness.

So the gym was off and running!  In the first year we made it to a whopping 25 members – not exactly raking it in, and in fact we had yet to make any profit on a monthly basis.  But you can’t quantify the tightness of that group, other than to say over the next couple years we attended four CFKI weddings (one couple actually met at a gym function), and Coaches Alyssa and Jess joined us as some of our first members.

Looking forward to reminiscing on our next chapter of Growth!  Until then, train hard, have fun, and I will see you at the gym!


Change Yourself to Change the World

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

I turned on the news this morning just to catch up on what’s going on, and turned it off in less than a minute.  I could get the whole picture by just reading the massive headlines at the bottom of the screen, but really I turned it off because I could feel myself getting angry with the situation in Ukraine.
“Why can’t this guy see that he’s needlessly hurting millions of people?”
“What is wrong with him?”
“What can I do?”

These questions came at me rapid-fire, with no answers.  Frustrated, I opened a book that my mom had sent me about being a good dad, one of those read-a-page-a-day deals.  If you know me, you know that I don’t like inanimate objects telling me what to do (I know, I’m working on it), so I intentionally flipped to a different page and it started with Gandhi’s quote above.  It’s funny how these things come together.

I see this very insightful quote from a couple different angles.  First, before I can expect anyone else to change, I need to model that change myself so that I’m believable.  The old adage that when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointed back at you is so true in the sense that if I’m asking someone to be more humble, more compassionate, more world-centric, my request holds no weight if these are flaws of my own.  And so we must do the inner work, always, so that when we step up and demand accountability we have a strong platform to stand on.

Secondly, if I genuinely model that change that I wish to see in the world – if as many of us as possible can do that – we can make a difference!  It may be a super-long stretch to infer that if everyone reading this message models positive relationships with others, love for humanity, and strength against hatred, that Putin will call off his dogs.  But we live in a very connected world right now where information travels with the speed of light.  As disconnected as social media has made our society as we share our false avatars with people we don’t even know, we have the power if we choose to to share our real feelings and hopes and demands for a peaceful world.  We don’t even need to attack others that we think are wrong.  We just need to lead with our hearts and remind the world that there is a different way.
The next big potential tyrant in the world who is being fed negativity and hate might not follow me on Instagram or read these words.  But he might follow someone that follows me, or further on down the algorithm.  I believe that if we can model the change that we want to see in this world, we can actually make an impact.

At the end of 2021, I fulfilled a long personal journey to become an Unbeatable Mind coach.  Unbeatable Mind is an integrated body-mind-spirit training program that has impacted my life in a big way and I wanted to share it with others.  If you want to see how you could “be the change” that we all as individuals – and the world as a whole – desperately need, please reach out.  We have a cadre of 10 leaders from the CrossFit Kent Island community that are meeting on a weekly basis now to discuss how we can master ourselves, so that we can be of service to the greater good.  We will be starting a new one within the next couple months, and I’d love for you to join us.

Before we can expect the world to change, we must first change ourselves.  And the world needs us to do it now.


Action Eliminates Doubt: The Beginning of a 10-year Journey

Action eliminates doubt.  I heard this phrase on Mark Divine’s podcast earlier this week as he was explaining how to get motivated to do something you don’t really want to do.  It really struck me and I ended up rewinding and replaying that segment a few times, because it seemed like such a powerful, succinct summary of something I know to be true.  I have coached many athletes in the gym who are anxious about trying something new, or friends that are anxious about stepping out and taking on a challenging role at work with this same advice, though never put as eloquently as this.

Action eliminates doubt.  It’s powerful for me because I know it to be true, and I remember vividly when I finally proved it to myself 10 years ago.

In the spring of 2012, I was dressed in a suit and tie on a plane waiting to take off from BWI, headed to my last consulting engagement at a hospital system in Boston.  As the plane taxied to the runway, I thought of what I had just done, and the emotions finally broke through and tears welling up in my eyes turned into a full sob.  I don’t know if they were tears of joy or tears of relief, but the guy next sitting next to me probably was a bit confused!
A few days beforehand, I had finally signed the paperwork for my new LLC – the company that would become CrossFit Kent Island.  I say “finally” because this action had been several months in the making.  I had done all my due diligence, put together a business plan (at the urging of my more practical partner, my wife Denee!), and decided that I was going to do it, but the anxiety of walking away from a lucrative salary that I had spent the previous 10 years cultivating, and thus the fear of putting my young family at risk, had been burying me in doubt.  All the “what if” questions that you can imagine were constantly swirling in my head.  What if nobody shows up at this dream gym I had concocted in my head?  What if they do show up and they realize that I’m no good at this?  What if I have to crawl back to my consulting gig with my tail between my legs and admit defeat?
At the time, I hadn’t been well-schooled yet in visualizing success with a “win first in your mind” mentality, but the formulating of a plan, with lots of help from Denee and other gym owners who had walked this path, helped me to identify what I optimistically hoped would happen, as well as more realistically where the pitfalls would be and how I could avoid or get through them.  We also agreed on a timeframe at which we would make a “go, no-go” decision on continuing with the new business, or cutting bait and walking away.
I came to realize that my worst case scenarios that kept me up at night would not be the end of the world, and that my plan, if executed well, would give me a good shot – call it 50/50 – of success.  And yet I hesitated.  I hemmed and hawed, and came up with more fake reasons to delay.  Denee had always been the voice of reason, and fed me with all the questions I needed to ask and contingencies to consider, but I knew she was always all in, and it scared me to potentially let her down.  And then she hit me with one more question that pushed me to burn my boats and commit to an all-out frontal assault.

“What if you don’t do this, and then someone else does?”

That Monday morning on my way to Boston for one of my final trips away from home, I was no longer in doubt.  I was nervous, thinking about the amount of work that laid in front of me, but I was excited, and relieved.  All that pent-up negative energy that was holding me back was gone, and I wiped it away with my Southwest drink napkin, and I opened my laptop as I did every other Monday morning and got to work.  But this time, with hands trembling but my mind clear, I was buying a 5-person equipment package on the Rogue Fitness site and negotiating a lease on a 500-sqft warehouse space behind Food Lion.  Next on the list was planning how to sell my car, and sending laughable logo ideas to Denee that started with Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, overhead squatting a trident.

This year marks 10 years that CrossFit Kent Island has been in business, and as we started from humble beginnings and continued to grow, I’ve tried to keep this lesson in mind.  When you’re afraid to do something that you know you need to do – when it’s what you know is the right path for your life – you plan, and then plan, and then plan some more, identifying all the risks and mitigating what is real and dismissing those that aren’t.  And then you act.

Action eliminates doubt.

Happy 10 years, everyone!  We’re going to throw a massive party in July, stay tuned.


It’s About the Team

Are you pumped for the CrossFit Open?  Yeah, me too.  Are you also terrified of what the first workout will be?  Yeah, me three!  But no matter what medieval torture awaits us in The Open, I’m always all in as soon as registration opens, because it’s my favorite part of the CrossFit season.  It’s the part of the year that most highlights for me the absolute best thing about CrossFit – the community.

We have a strong community at CrossFit Kent Island.  We have members who would do anything for each other – and have.  Luckily, we get to experience the fun and camaraderie and love for each other every time we get together or jump on the CFKI Members page on Facebook.  But sometimes we forget that we are also part of a much larger CrossFit community – hard working individuals at gyms like ours as close as Annapolis and as far as Ankara (there are three gyms there, I just checked).  And during The Open, we get to connect with them, cheer for them… and see how we compare to them on the leaderboard!  At times like these when we’re wondering how many days away the next world war is, the CrossFit Open is happening just in time.
PS – invading another country during the CrossFit Open should definitely incur a major burpee penalty, am I right??

The other AMAZING thing that we’ve started doing over the past few years is the CFKI Intramural Open.  It follows the same timeline of the CrossFit Open and we will take on the Open workouts as part of the experience, but it’s much more than that.  It’s an awesome time to celebrate that CrossFit Kent Island community that we all love to be a part of.  And for all you new guys and gals out there, this is an AWESOME time to jump in headfirst and feel the love!
Just like the worldwide CrossFit Open, we’ll get the chance to connect with each other, cheer for each other, and just generally have fun getting fit while waiting for the first beers to crack on Friday nights at the gym.  And to add some fun competition to it, you get to be part of a team!
PPS – if you haven’t signed up for the Intramural Open yet, teams are being picked later this week, so drop everything you’re doing right now unless you’re literally holding a baby, and email Alicia@crossfitkentisland.com!!!

Being on a team like we all have the chance to do during the Intramural Open can be an awesome bonding experience, especially when you’re having fun together or going through something tough together, both of which we’ll have the chance to do!  There will be times when you don’t want to do one more box jump, and your teammates will surround you and cheer you on to finishing strong (unless you don’t like that, in which case they will respectfully clap from a distance).  But there will also be times when you will have to emotionally pick up your teammate when they don’t want to get into the gym that day, or maybe they just need someone to talk to.  A high-performing team needs everyone to be a leader when they’re at their strongest, and for each teammate to also show the humility to ask for support when they need it.  To succeed, everyone puts the team first and does what it takes to push the whole team forward, knowing that the team will be there for them to fall back on when they need it most.

“For the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.”
 — Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book

It’s not about you, it’s about the team.  I see it every day at CrossFit Kent Island, with our people not letting their teammates give up on a Hero WOD, with our coaches demanding an even more perfect squat in the spirit of continuous improvement, with the care that we take of our equipment and our space.

We are all part of one of the greatest teams I’ve ever been associated with.  I can’t wait for the party to start next week!

To learn more or sign up for the CrossFit Open, click here.
To learn more or sign up for the CFKI Intramural Open, email Alicia!


Do Hard Things Because the REAL Hard Things Are Coming

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
– President John F. Kennedy

A week ago, we shared Coach Jimmy’s podcast appearance on The Sevan Podcast, which is always an entertaining show.  Sevan knows a bunch of people in the competitive CrossFit world, as he was previously the director and lead videographer for the CrossFit Games documentaries, before CrossFit ditched their media team.  Sevan has stayed very close to the industry, and when he talks about something on his podcast, people listen.
This made it so cool when a couple months ago, Sevan started talking about Jimmy on his podcast.  He would have other guests on, and he would ask if they had heard of this crazy dude named “Jimbobroski” on Instagram that was doing Murph every day.  At first, Sevan was on the leading edge of this story and people hadn’t heard of Jimmy yet.  But then people started agreeing with Sevan about him – “yeah he comes up on my feed every day, that dude is nuts!”  And then Jimmy was invited as a guest, just about halfway into his quest to do Murph every day for a full year.  If you haven’t listened to the podcast, stop reading now and go check it out!

Of course, the first real question that people ask Jimmy after they verify that he’s a real human being and that he’s not insane, is Why?  Why are you doing Murph every day?  I, of course, have also asked Jimmy this question, both directly and indirectly, like “are you sure you want to keep going?”  And I asked him after the podcast if he would crystalize it in writing for me, and I loved what he wrote.

“I’ve learned that you can callous your mind over time and that doing something hard every single day makes everyday life just a little bit easier.  I don’t recommend Murph everyday but I do recommend finding your “quit” moment everyday and pushing a little bit past that… 
Do something you don’t want to do.  Over time there’s less and less you don’t want to do and more things you know you’re capable of.”

This is a pretty strong, and constantly reinforcing reason.  The more times he completes the workout, the stronger this “Why” is to him, because he knows he can do it (he’s done it 240+ days in a row now), and he knows that if he doesn’t do it, he’s choosing an easier, weaker path.

As I was listening to the podcast, appreciating Jimmy’s value of hard work in order to broaden your capabilities, and thinking about how to get this message out to our community, disaster struck.
One of our friends and a former CFKI coach responded to a rowhome fire in his duty as a Baltimore City Fire lieutenant.  Four of his firefighters became trapped in the building when it collapsed on top of them, killing three of them.
I reached out to let him know we were thinking about him and his family, and part of his response really drove this point home in very real way:

“Pass on to anyone that may need to hear it that nobody will regret going the extra mile when it’s time to give 100%.”

Our modern society is not going to help you prepare for the REAL hard things that are coming your way.  In fact, doing hard things seems absolutely ridiculous for 99% of Americans these days.  There has been a rejection of physically hard things, probably because everything in our lives has become so easy.  We can be as comfortable as we want to be.
But life has a way of testing us, at unknown times.  WE HAVE TO BE READY.  The excuse of “I didn’t know that was going to happen,” is not valid.  None of us know what it will be.  But we know it will be HARD.  Let’s raise our tolerance, raise our standards for what HARD means.  Bring yourself to that point, and don’t quit.  Never quit.