2024 Hero Challenge Partner: Adaptive Athletics Foundation of Maryland

At CrossFit Kent Island, our core values are Hard Work, Growth, Service, and Fun.  We put Fun last not because it’s the least important, but just because it’s good to remember at the end of the day what we’re doing should be fun.  And it usually is!  Hard Work and Growth are a symbiotic pair – if we focus on one, we’re going to get the other, and vice versa.  Service doesn’t necessarily fit in with the other three upon first inspection, and maybe that’s why it’s the one value that we need to hyperfocus on from time to time, because it is just as important as any of the others.  Living on Kent Island, on a sunny day like today when we really can enjoy all the benefits life on the Chesapeake has to offer, it’s good to bring back into perspective how well we are living, and how much we have to offer to others that need our support.  We need to focus on helping our friends and neighbors, and I’m proud that our community does have this inclination toward Service.

For this year’s Hero Challenge, our partner organization that we will be giving all of our proceeds to is the Adaptive Athletics Foundation of Maryland.  The founder of this organization is our friend John-Edward Heath, who is an elite adaptive athlete in his own right, a champion of adaptive athletes across the globe, and has recently started this nonprofit to lobby our Maryland state government to create legislation supporting adaptive athletes in our home state.

On May 16, 2024, Governor Moore signed the So Everybody Can Move Act of Maryland into law.  This requires prosthetic companies in Maryland to provide a second prosthetic for movement.  Before this law was passed, insurance companies were only required to provide one medically necessary prosthetic, and a running leg was not seen as necessary.  With this legislation, which John-Edward was highly involved with creating and pushing through Maryland’s congress, individuals with prosthetic limbs are now covered to also use athletic prosthetics and continue their development as athletes.

John-Edward realized that the next step was to create space for adaptive athletes to train, and we are currently lacking in adaptive gym equipment and trainers.  So, the next step for Adaptive Athletics Foundation of Maryland is to turn 10 gyms in Maryland into adaptive training spaces by providing grants to gyms for these adaptive equipment packages, as well as certifying 10 coaches with the Adaptive Training Academy.

Adaptive Athletics Foundation of Maryland is the bridge between knowledge, education, and equipment to help turn Maryland into the first all adaptive state.

This closely aligns with our goal to serve the military and law enforcement communities with our annual Hero Challenge, as disabled veterans will be supported in their health and wellness by having adaptive equipment in gyms throughout the state of Maryland.  We are proud to support John and the Adaptive Athletics Foundation of Maryland, and look forward to raising as much money as we can with event registration and raffle ticket sales.

If you haven’t registered for the event yet, you can do so here, and raffle tickets will be on sale soon and also live at the event.  So far we have eight great raffle prize packages that we will be giving away, with a few more being finalized.

Let’s continue to model our core values of Hard Work, Growth, Service, and Fun, and provide support to a great and worthy organization!

Ryan

Two Reasons You Are Not Achieving Your Goal

#1. You don’t try hard enough.  No, that is definitely not the case for those of you reading this!  As a CrossFit community, if there is anything that we do really well, it is try REALLY hard in the gym to get the results we are looking for.  It’s the whole competition thing, working out with a team or a buddy who is doing the same workout, and not letting up on the gas until they do, leaving us all in a sweaty pile on the ground after the final round.

So, if we have a goal in mind, and we keep on seeing it just out of our grasp, what is torpedoing our efforts?

Here’s the real #1: You Didn’t Write It Down.  Just above, as I wrote “a goal in mind,” I meant that literally.  When we think we have decided on a goal, it is still just a nebulous idea in our mind.  Having a goal in mind is a terrific start, and you’re a lot further along than many people will go.  But something happens when you write it down.  It becomes real.  It becomes a commitment.  So, write down your goal, and be specific.  Rather than blasting a full page of your journal with “LOSE WEIGHT!!”, how about “I am going to weigh 185 lbs by July 1st when I’m going on vacation.”
The other great thing about writing it down is that it is something that you can look at each day.  I have my purpose and my current goal in a Notes file on my phone, and every morning during my Morning Practice I will take it out and read it.  Then I match up my goal with my daily schedule and plan.  Do they match up?  What am I going to do today to make progress toward achieving that goal?  Does anything on my daily plan look like it will take me further away from my goal?  If so, that’s getting crossed off the list.

Secondly, you might not be solid on WHY you want to achieve that goal, so when push comes to shove, you will fold.  Your deep-seeded reason for wanting to achieve your goal is a very personal thing, and other people might not even understand it if you told them.  It might not be something that other people consider extremely virtuous – maybe it is that you want to look good in a bathing suit this summer!  But don’t judge it, or let other people judge you.  If it is important to you, and it keeps you fired up about achieving your goal, then that is what you lean into when the training gets tough, or when a situation comes up that could derail you if you let it.  Your WHY should be the deciding factor in which road you take – away from your goal, or toward it.
My WHY during most challenging endurance events that I have completed has generally revolved around not ever wanting to feel the shame of coming home and telling my family that I quit.  That embarrassment would be so painful for me that it has pushed me beyond my physical limits in training and in the event, and led me to accomplish my goal.  To me, that was a very strong WHY.

We all have goals that we want to achieve, and the best ones are pretty freaking hard to accomplish!  That’s why we are in this hard physical training game.  To give yourself the absolute best chance to cross the finish line, take the necessary time to Write Down Your Goal, and know WHY you are going for it.  With those two steps checked off your list, you will be unstoppable.

Ryan

KISS

“Keep It Simple, Silly”

When we take on a new member at CrossFit Kent Island, one of the first things we want to know is “what is your goal?”  Keeping the KISS principle in mind, I like keeping it to one goal, hence the singular – it is easier then to focus.  The number one answer is “to lose weight,” which is great because that establishes a vision in your head of the future – I look like this, and I’d like to look like THIS.  Perfect, we like that goal.

In order to help you achieve it, we need one thing from you – consistency.  We need you to consistently come into the gym, do our workout of the day, and go home with a smile.

If I’m trying to help a new member come into the gym consistently, I need them to be focused and motivated.  On weight loss?  That’s a good start, but it’s realistically more of a long-term goal, as all of us who have been on that path know.  So how about a more short-term target to keep their sights on?  Keep It Simple, Ryan – give them one movement to improve on, where we can see measurable results, and soon.  But there are so many movements that we practice in CrossFit, where to start?

The pyramid of fitness and health that you experienced CrossFitters might have seen starts with Nutrition at the base (see below for more there…), and then has Conditioning stacked on that, Gymnastics after that, Weightlifting next, and then Sports or applied fitness.  I can’t very well say, “get better at Nutrition,” and send them home where I can’t see them anymore.  I will address that eventually, but for now I’m going to move up the pyramid a bit. Sports and Weightlifting are super cool and sexy, but also complex and nuanced and take time to master.  What I can more readily improve, and if I do I improve everything else, are Conditioning and Gymnastics or bodyweight strength movements.

With all of my new personal training clients, one of the first things that I do is an assessment workout called the “Baseline”.  It is very simple and quick, and very effective at ferreting out a good Conditioning or Gymnastics strength goal.  Here it is:

“Baseline”
For time:
Row 500M
40 Squats
30 Sit-ups
20 Push-ups
10 Pull-ups

Imagine doing that workout.  What movement would give you the most trouble?  Could you complete some of the movements without having to stop, but one of them would need a lot of breaks?  Are there any that you can’t do at all?  Would the 500M Row be a tough way to start the workout, getting you really winded?

After completing this workout, I will debrief with my client and highlight one movement that, if improved, could make that workout go a lot faster if we completed it in another month.  And there we go – we have a short-term mission that will lead to consistent work in the gym and the overall result we’re looking for, whether it was weight loss or building muscle or a faster 10K time.

Going back to Nutrition, the same KISS principle can be applied, and I think this is the most common advice I give people who want to take the plunge into a weight loss plan.  If you’re asking, “what should I eat?” the KISS principle would dictate that we focus on one thing.  If you lay out your current diet over the last week for me and I notice a significant lack of vegetables, there it is.  Eat more vegetables.  The cool trick here is that vegetables contain a lot of fiber, which makes you feel full because our human bellies do not digest it very efficiently.  And because we do not digest it efficiently, we don’t absorb many calories from vegetables.  So, eat more vegetables = feel more full from eating = absorb less calories = Keep It Simple.

If you’re already a vegetable-eating pro, then you’re probably all set.  Two more KISS tricks to get on the weight loss train, master these one at a time.  Don’t regularly drink alcohol.  Don’t regularly eat (or drink) sugar.

No need to overcomplicate things!  Keep It Simple, Silly, and focus on one small thing at a time.  You’ve got this!

Ryan

CrossFit Open – Real Talk

We currently have 23 CFKI members signed up for the CrossFit Open.  This is the actual online competition run by CrossFit each year, rather than our Intramural Open.  I love that we have 23 athletes stepping up to take the challenge!  But I think we should have more.  My goal with this blog post is to convince one more person to sign up today.

I get emails from people or comments at the gym of, “I feel like you were writing that blog directly to me.”  In general, that is not the case.  But if you are signed up for the Intramural Open and planning to do the three weekly workouts, but not signed up for the CrossFit Open, I am now writing directly to you.

If you are currently training with CrossFit, then you should enter into the CrossFit Open.  Part of what CrossFit is about is measuring our results so that we can see improvement.  This is the only fitness program that I know of that does this on a consistent basis.  We track our results every day in the gym, and it becomes that much more important if we do a CrossFit benchmark workout, like “Fran”.  These are named workouts that we repeat on a regular basis so that we can see if we are getting stronger, faster, more skillful.  The CrossFit Open is the ultimate expression of that “measure to improve” idea within CrossFit.  Every year we take on the challenge of The Open as a benchmark test.  Over the course of three workouts, we will test different aspects of our fitness and come up with an overall result.  You can see what percentile you are currently at compared to people that are in your age group, in your city or state, country, or the whole CrossFit world.

So once again, you should do the Open this year, no matter your experience level.  If you don’t, one year from now you will be very disappointed in yourself for not having data on where you were in your fitness journey in the spring of 2024.  Do it for 2025 you, and you’ll be able to see your growth year-over-year.
Guess what?  The workouts are going to be hard, but only because you’re going to push yourself to do your best.  Because guess what?  You’re a badass, and that’s why you decided to go all-in on your fitness game.

A common question:  Should I “Rx” the workouts or do the Scaled version?  Bottom line – in the Open, if you can do the workout as “Rx”, you should.  If you can do 1 rep and meet the Rx standard, do that.  If you scale the workout, you will be ranked on the Open leaderboard below everyone that did the workout as “Rx”.  Remember, this is not a regular training workout, this is a test.  Max out what you can do per the Rx standard, and then move on to the next training day where we will encourage you to scale the workout as needed to get the best outcome for that day.  If you can’t safely meet the Rx standard of the Open workout, then we will absolutely scale the workout and get the highest score possible that way.

Again, treat The Open like an annual test.  What did you do on a test when you were in high school?  You did your absolute best, tried your hardest to get the best grade possible.  The same applies to your effort in the Open.  On Friday, or whenever you “take the test”, you are going to give 100% effort and max out your result – fastest time possible, most reps possible, heaviest lift possible.  This is not a training day, this is not supposed to get you more fit.  This is a test of your fitness right now.

Follow this link to check out more about the 2024 CrossFit Open, and get yourself signed up!

Ryan

4 Reasons Why You Should Not Do the Intramural Open… DEBUNKED!!

In my travels around the gym this week getting people signed up for the Intramural Open, I have come across some pretty good reasons people have offered for not joining in this year.  But one of my first jobs when I was in high school was as a telemarketer, selling magazine subscriptions to people over the phone that they did not want or need.  Don’t do that job, by the way, it’s horrible!!  But I learned how to not take “no” for an answer, and that persistence paid off in my new role as Alicia’s Assistant-to-the-Regional-Manager of the CFKI Intramural Open.  I wanted to echo some of the conversations I’ve had with you all, and offer up some answers to these 4 classic Reasons You Should Not Do the Intramural Open!

  1. I’m pretty new to CrossFit, I’m probably not ready for The Open
    • First of all, welcome once again to CrossFit Kent Island!!  The CrossFit Open and our Intramural Open is one of the most fun times of the year around here.  That also means it’s one of the best times to get involved and get to know your fellow CFKI members.  Be on their team!  Support them and be supported by them.  Going through something together with a team – it could be difficult or even super fun – is a proven way to bond together.  This will be a great way to REALLY get started with your CrossFit Kent Island experience!
  2. I probably can’t do the Open workouts “as prescribed”
    • No sweat!  There will be clear standards for the “Rx” version of each workout, but also standards for a “Scaled” version and a “Foundations” version for those of us just getting started with CrossFit movements.  You will get the same credit for completing the workout in any version, and you can switch versions from week to week.
  3. The Open workouts are on Friday, but I can’t always get there on Friday for class
    • That’s OK!  Completing the Open workout on Friday is not required – you have from Thursday at 3pm when the workout is announced live (https://games.crossfit.com) until Monday at 8pm to get the workout done, and the CFKI coaches that are on your team will make sure they can be there for you and help you complete the workout when you’re available.
    • Completing the Open workout is also just one way that you can be a good teammate!  There will be other weekly challenges, anywhere from physical challenges like most calories rowed in a week, to fun challenges like posting funny CrossFit memes for all to enjoy.  The whole point of the Intramural Open is to take the sole focus off of the weekly workouts and make it more of a community building experience!
  4. I don’t like being on a team
    • Alright, Grumpy McGrumperson, time to get out of your comfort zone a little bit.  Don’t you enjoy working out in a group class, vs. by yourself in a gym every day?  Remember the joy of winning (and the sting but also lessons learned of losing) that came with being on that high school team that almost made it all the way to States, BACK IN THE DAY (said in a cool Jocko voice).  This will be just like that, except no asshole coaches in tight shorts… unless you’re into that.

So, can I put you down for a 5-year subscription to Golf Digest?  Or maybe just start at a 2-year plan?

Ryan

The 2024 CrossFit Open

The CrossFit Open is near.

According to the CrossFit Games website:

Anyone, regardless of fitness level, is invited to join the largest participatory sporting event on Earth, where all members of the CrossFit community will have an opportunity to participate in the competition season.
Participants will complete three workouts across three weeks at their affiliates or home gyms. The workouts are released on the CrossFit Games website on Thursdays at 12 p.m. (noon) Pacific Time, and you have until Monday at 5 p.m. PT to do the workout and submit your score online. At the end of each week, you can see where you stack up by affiliate, age, or worldwide by viewing the CrossFit Games Leaderboard

The Open
 brings the CrossFit community together to pursue something that would not hold the same meaning or possibilities if we were just working out on our own. It’s the time of year when we see many people achieve significant firsts: PR snatchesthrustersmuscle-ups, toes-to-bars, handstand push-ups, and double-unders, as a few examples. The Open will provide you with interesting data on your performance in the gym, which can guide you when setting goals for the following year.
So, if you’re not in it to win it, the Open is a way to check in on your fitness, hold yourself accountable, stay motivated for the upcoming year, accomplish personal goals, and celebrate with the community. 

We are now a month away from the start of the Open, which will feature three weekly workouts to test our overall fitness beginning with the first workout which will be announced on February 29th.  Per the blurb above, there are three weeks where everyone is competing, and then there are further tests in the following weeks for the top 25% of CrossFitters in the Open who will qualify for Quarterfinals.
The time is now to focus your training plan on preparing for the Open.  This starts with workout selection and overall volume of training.  What we can expect in the Open is a combination of short, super-intense workouts featuring tests of strength and skill, and longer (20 mins) grueling workouts that require mental toughness to keep going.  But one thing we will not see is multiple workouts in one session.
If you have a goal to do well in the Open, your training volume should now be focused.  If you’re in the practice of doing multiple workouts per day, consider just one workout per day now, and focus on maximizing your effort and results in that workout.  Additional training time should be focused on practicing weak gymnastics movements and improving your mobility.  Doing multiple workouts per day will not allow you to maximize your intensity on each individual session and also will inhibit your recovery between training days.  You will enter into the first workout of the Open depleted, not at your peak.  Take the time now to dial back the amount of training that you are doing, and focus more on the quality of execution.

Speaking of quality, the other thing about the Open is that as fun as it is — and it awesome that everyone can participate no matter their experience within the sport — there are real, enforced standards.  That’s how we can use the Open as a feeder into the CrossFit Games!  What this means as far as the athlete’s experience in the Open is that rather than a coach letting you know you’re not getting your chin over the bar during your set of pull-ups, and suggesting some ways to improve, it will be more like a judge (a coach or another CFKI member) telling you that that rep did not count, you have to do it over.  If you are someone that has a hard time always meeting the movement standards, but you can do it sometimes, the time is now to meet the standard in your training 100% of the time.  Ask someone to watch you and call you out on your wallballs – “Am I squatting all the way below parallel?”  Fix your movement patterns now (and your mindset that close is good enough), so that the Open doesn’t turn into a hard-to-swallow pill that your perceived fitness level and your actual fitness level are not the same thing.
And once again, the Open is for everyone!  If there are movements that you cannot complete “as prescribed”, just like in a regular training day in the gym, there are scaled standards that everyone can do.  They might not be easy, as we all know a scaled workout is still a tough test to get through, but you will step up to the challenge.
There are also different standards on many workouts for masters athletes (35+), teens, and adaptive athletes.

If you can’t tell, I’m super pumped about the upcoming CrossFit Open and can’t wait for the excitement of the workout announcements live each week on Thursdays, the thrill of competing in this annual test, and especially for the new personal records that the adrenaline of competition often brings out.  We’ve seen many first pull-ups, first handstand push-ups, and muscle-ups come out of these springtime weeks every year!

You can learn more about how the Open works and whether or not it’s for you (hint: it is) at the CrossFit Open site here!

Ryan

So you want to run an ultramarathon?

Oh you don’t?  OK… I thought you were going to say yes.  Well, I was in your same non-running shoes about 4 months ago, recovering from COVID when my high school buddy Joe texted me to ask if I wanted to run a 50K race with him near his home in North Carolina.  I knew he was a runner, and had run a couple of marathons recently.  But there was definitely some anticipation in how he asked me, as if he was nervous and didn’t want to do this by himself.  And he had every right to be nervous!  He told me later that of all the people in the world that “run” – people that run for exercise or for competition, only about 1% will ever run a marathon.  The percentage for an ultramarathon (any distance more than 26.2 miles, really) is closer to 0.1%.  Joe was asking me to join that 0.1% statistical group, but I wouldn’t even have considered myself a “runner”.  Many of us that get into CrossFit do so precisely because WE DON’T LIKE TO RUN.  So, an ultramarathon – in this case a 50K trail run called the Southern Tour Ultra – sounded like a bit of a stretch.

But I felt myself pulled toward doing this race for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, like a lot of you, I have a hard time saying no to a friend who is reaching out with something to do.  This would be a really great chance to reconnect with one of my best friends from high school, after which we hadn’t stayed in great contact but whenever we would see each other it was like old times.  So, hanging out with Joe for a weekend sounded like an awesome time.
As for the running part, that sounded less than awesome.  OK, terrifying.  To put a 50 km (31 mile) run into context, the most I had ever run consecutively before was 13 miles in the Miami Half Marathon.  A couple key points here though – after I finished that race in a lot of pain I was glad it was over and mentally checked off distance running as a thing I wanted to do.  A marathon seemed way out of my reach, physically and mentally.  Secondly, that was 18 YEARS AGO!  So a 31-miler seemed WAY out of my comfort zone… but as scary as it was, it also was intriguing.  I knew that an ultramarathon was beyond my current capacity, but I didn’t like how that felt.  I don’t want to ever accept that there is a physical challenge that I cannot take on.  I’ve also always liked to have something to train for – I’m not someone who just loves going to the gym and working out for the sake of it.  I need a goal!  And Joe was very conveniently laying one out for me.
I hemmed and hawed for a day, and then got back to him, “I’m in,” along with a lengthy explanation of how far away from ready I was for this challenge.  He responded with a training plan that he was going to follow, a 50K Improvement Plan, which implies that there is a previous result that you’re trying to improve on.  I laughed but resolved myself to get started, just as soon as I could breathe properly again.

I started the next week by continuing to train with CrossFit workouts 4 days a week, and incorporating the weekly long run from the 50K plan on Thursdays.  Within a couple of weeks, I realized that the purpose of the training plan was not just doing one increasingly long run each week, but it’s the cumulative mileage of the other 3 shorter training runs.  It wasn’t going to be enough to just run 8 miles once and build from there, I needed to be running 15 miles in a week, and build that weekly mileage to toughen up my legs.  I started following the 50k training plan as written, which washed away a lot of my CrossFit training.  I just didn’t have the energy for both, and had to prioritize the mileage.  Looking back, I probably would have benefited from some more well-scaled CrossFit workouts focused on building leg strength and stamina, but at the time I told myself that I needed to be all in and build my capacity and confidence as a distance runner, so that is what I did.
The first major milestone I hit was when my long run for the week of Halloween was a 14-miler.  I started at my house and ran to the Romancoke fishing pier and back.  Then I celebrated that as my longest run ever!  From there, the long runs kept ramping up and then slightly down to get ready for a 26.2 mile training run… a marathon!  It was supposed to be mid-December, but Robie sent me the link to a marathon that was happening in DC the week before I was supposed to run that distance, so I moved some weeks around in my plan, and signed up.  On December 3rd I ran the EOD Warrior Holiday Dash along the C&O Canal.  It was raining to start the race and the gravel trail was washed out with deep mud puddles that at first I tried to run around, but eventually was running right through them.  Getting my feet cold and wet actually felt refreshing.  I finished the marathon in 5 hours 18 minutes, not a good result for a marathon but to me it was a training run and I kept a nice comfortable pace.  It wasn’t a very well-organized event, and when I crossed the finish line there was no fanfare or even a banana or bottle of water offered, so I looked around for a minute and then just walked to my truck and drove back to Kent Island.  Getting out of my truck and doing absolutely anything with my legs was a super painful experience, but within a couple days I was back on my feet and getting back into training.  But knowing that I could finish a marathon supercharged my mental energy for the 50K – I would only need to run 5 more miles on race day.  I redoubled my efforts to stay healthy with daily mobility work and fueling my body well.  Now just to stick to the last few weeks of the plan, ramping down mileage a bit so that I felt like 100% for the ultra.

The day before the race I drove down to Wilmington, NC and stayed with Joe, hung out with his awesome wife and son.  We prepped all of our gear and nutrition, planning to eat enough calories to stave off serious muscle cramping.  Thank you to everyone at the gym who I talked to about fueling during long runs!  We would be running 3 10-mile loops in the coastal Carolina woods, so we would have a chance to adjust clothing/shoes, eat and drink some more and pack more energy gels and water for the next loop.  The day of the race it was 28 degrees at our 7:30am start time, so I wore a sweatshirt and long pants over my long sleeve shirt and shorts, but within 5 miles I had taken off those extra layers and packed them in my running vest – a gift from our CFKI coaches!  I ran the first 10 miles in just over 2 hours, a comfortable pace for me.  Joe ran a bit faster and finished 20 minutes ahead of me.  He was already gone when I found our gear stash and loaded up for the second loop.  I was feeling good so ramped up my pace a bit, and finished 20 minutes faster.  At this point, with 10 miles to go, Joe was now 30 minutes ahead of me.  We passed each other on the trail when I was at mile 1 and he was at mile 4.  Both of us were at this point starting to get very uncomfortable, but both resolved to getting it done.  Only one more loop and we’re ultramarathoners!  I joked afterward that every mile on that last loop it felt like I was hit was another tranquilizer dart, and was just fighting to stay upright.  I tripped and fell a few times but dusted myself off and continued making forward progress, as slow as it was.  The course was very well marked, and I looked forward to just seeing that next mile marker.  I finished the last loop in 2 hrs 50 minutes, a full hour slower than my second loop.  Yikes!  But there were no more loops to run, I was done!  Joe guided me over to the water table and I chugged a bottle of water as I staggered over to the beer truck – I thought I wanted a beer, but ended up just holding it in my hand, in a daze.

I wanted to write this in part as a personal debrief, to relive the experience and pull out any lessons learned – for myself and also any of you that are interested in taking on a running challenge or something similar.  And so here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Practice fueling early on in your training plan.  Any of your long runs should include getting some calories in (easily digestible carbs like Honey Stinger waffles and energy chews) about every 45-60 minutes.  If you don’t, the “bonk” of suddenly feeling like you have nothing left or having your muscles start to seize up, is real.  Plan to drink plenty of water with electrolytes as well.
  2. Practice setting micro-goals to stay positive on long runs, especially distances you haven’t covered before.  Planning out those breaks to get calories in can help in chopping up your run into manageable sets, and you can look forward to that next fueling point.
  3. If you can, find pictures or videos of the place that you’ll be running, and use them to visualize yourself out there on the course, feeling strong and having fun.  Visualize finishing the event with a smile on your face and your friends and family congratulating you.  If you know already how great that will feel, you can rely on that to propel you forward when the pain sets in.
  4. Understand that this is hard for everyone.  There is a lot out there about the “runner’s high”, and being in a flow state during running.  I will admit that running in the woods and enjoying the natural beauty around you is a lot more fun than running on the road.  But you’re doing this because it’s going beyond your current capacity and experience, and that means that there will be aches and pains.  You will be at times very uncomfortable.  Looking around at other people that appeared to be very experienced runners, they were also feeling the pain.  I’m saying this to point out that it’s not just you, and if they can keep going when their body is telling them to stop, then you can too.

I could keep going for a while as this is all so fresh in my mind, but this has turned from a blog post into a not-so-short story.  Come grab me and ask me about anything you’re interested in hearing more about.  I’d love to help out with selecting and planning for your next big challenge!  As for me, I’m looking forward to getting back into some hard training in the gym, to get ready for the Open and whatever comes next.  I’ve built up some great endurance and leg stamina, now time to put it to use and also build back up my strength.  Look for me under a heavy barbell.

Ryan

There Is No Tomorrow

We’ve talked a lot recently about finding your Purpose, and I’ve had some great conversations with some of you about it – I’m so glad you guys are putting in the work!  But where do we go from there?  Once we know what our true life’s Purpose is, we can start to distill that into a long-term Mission that we want to accomplish, and some short-term Goals aligned with that Mission.  There is a lot out there on the interwebs about goal setting, and you can also check out our blog post about identifying your best goals here with the highest chance of success.

What I wanted to dig into today is a mindset around being laser-focused on your Mission and Goals.  I’ve shared a quote before around prioritizing your day to make sure you get the most important things done.  There are a lot of similar quotes out there, but I really like the simplicity of “One Day, One Lifetime”, which was a philosophical lesson taught by Mark Divine’s karate sensei Tadashi Nakamura.  What I get from this is that every day that we wake up is a new beginning, a new chance to do our absolute best.  There is no room, and no reason, to obsess over trivial things like what might go wrong, to be afraid of failure (or success!)  There is no time to reflect negatively on people that have hurt you or why you are in a bad situation.  In this One Day, One Life, we have to hit the ground running toward achieving our goals and accomplishing our mission.

The other powerful way of looking at this is that we are not guaranteed another day.  Today might be our last!  I’m shamelessly including a clip from Rocky III here, where Rocky is having a bad training day with Apollo Creed, and sheepishly mumbles something like “tomorrow. we’ll do it tomorrow.”  Apollo shouts back “There IS no tomorrow!!”  Apollo is reminding Rocky that if you know what you need to do, what your One Thing Mission is, there is no time to waste!
At the risk of being morbid, reflecting on your own mortality and thinking about what you want to accomplish in your lifetime, and that there might not be a tomorrow to get it done, can help solidify where your priorities need to land today.

When you wake up in the morning, don’t pick up your phone and start checking emails or scrolling through the ‘Gram.  Make a daily habit of reviewing your Purpose, and what Mission that is leading you to accomplish.  Then plan out what big step you are going to take toward mission success.  Today is the day!  There is no tomorrow!!

Ryan

New Year, Who Are You?

New Year’s Resolutions are funny.  I think most of us take on some sort of lifestyle change that we want to make, because the New Year seems like a new beginning.  So it’s a good time to reset and refocus on establishing good habits and kicking out the bad.  But they generally fail within two weeks of the start point, or quicker!  So then you have a lot of self-help influencers telling you that New Year’s Resolutions are garbage, don’t do them because they’re going to fail.  But what do they offer as a way to improve ourselves?  A product that they are selling, or just a premium account to follow for more recycled advice?

This New Year, I encourage you to Resolve to continue your journey toward self-discovery.  We started a few weeks ago with learning to breathe, and using that to learn focus.  Then we moved on to witnessing our thoughts, and interdicting the negative thoughts that come up in our breathing practice.  Now, after some increased skill in these practices, we’ll add another tool – that of ASKING QUESTIONS.

After completing a box breathing practice to slow down and quiet your mind, we’re going to ask ourselves some questions that will help create our personal vision of who we are, and where we are going.

Who am I?  This is the most important question of all time.  If you try to answer this question from your quick-thinking “monkey mind”, you will get weak answers.  This is the seat of your ego, and asking your ego will generate responses of an outward nature.  Answers such as I am 43 years old, a father, a CrossFitter, a Christian are all an aspect of you, but not the “real you.”

After you learn to connect with your Witness, asking the question “Who am I?” will generate absolute clarity on who you are and why you exist. Could there be any more important work for us to do in the world than figure this out?

To get more detail on your true self, just in case “Who am I” doesn’t do the trick right away, ask yourself these questions with a journal close by so you can jot down what comes up:
– What am I passionate about – what makes me feel most alive?
– What are my core values, or principles, that I stand by no matter what?
– Using the answers to the above as a base of understanding, what do I believe my purpose is in life?

In Unbeatable Mind training we call these questions the 3 P’s: Passion, Principles, and Purpose.

My own 3 P’s have evolved over the years and I review them each morning and go through this questioning exercise on a quarterly basis.  As an example, here are my answers now:
My passions are Reading, Learning, Writing, Cooking, Teaching, Languages and Travel, Mental Toughness, Elite Warrior Cultures, Unlocking New Capabilities
My principles are Family, Laughter, Accelerated Growth, Physical Fitness, Mental Toughness, Emotional Control, Quiet Confidence
My purpose is to master myself daily through learning and tough challenges, so that I can serve others as a Warrior-Teacher

You can see that mental toughness permeated both my Passions and Principles, which informed me that my Purpose may have something to do with that.  Reading, writing, and teaching to me are interconnected, and make me feel as though my true role in life now is as a teacher, and that what I have to teach may be related to my other passions and principles.
I find a tremendous amount of power and energy every morning from reviewing these lists which comprise my personal ethos, and use this to guide my daily plan of action.  I also can tell by reviewing my ethos and my other daily tasks if there is something that seems out of alignment, and I examine that more and figure out if that is something I should not be doing.

If you’re following these practices on a daily basis, you will find some answers.  Don’t worry if they don’t come right away, you can’t force or rush it.  Just be open to what comes up.  Part of the difficulty here is that who or what we think we are supposed to be has been conditioned by other people – most notably our parents – as well as the media and a lot of other influences.  Another question you might ask is “who do other people think I am, or want me to be?  Do I agree with them?”  This is all up to you, and when you do find that kernel of truth and align your actions with it you will have so much clarity and peace of mind.

Please let me know if you’d like to dig into this further.  We’re just cracking the surface here, and I can help you if you feel stuck and need some guidance on next steps.

Keep breathing, and keep practicing!

Ryan

Stay Positive

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”
— Buddha

Negative self talk can be an absolute performance destroyer, and as a CrossFitter you probably have some experience with it.  Reinforcing to yourself that this workout is going to be really hard, or that your goal is out of reach, can actually make that a reality.  On the other hand, establishing a positive self image and internal dialogue can push you to achieving greater things – especially if you really believe it!  In this blog I’ll cover how you can eradicate negative self talk, and flip the script to create and maintain a positive attitude during the toughest training sessions.

In my last two posts, I introduced the concepts of box breathing in order to practice focusing on one thing, and then during that breathing practice how to “witness” the thought patterns that arise.  Once we have worked with these practices for a bit, we can then shift to not just noticing and dismissing the thoughts that come up, but doing something about the negative thoughts.  This process is called Interdiction.

The word Interdiction means to “prohibit” or “forbid” something.  If we dissect the word Interdiction, we get “inter” – meaning between, and “diction” – or words.  So if we are interdicting certain thoughts, we are forbidding them from taking hold, even in between words.  As you witness a thought arising during your breathing practice, if it is tinged in negativity, like “I don’t want to do this workout today,” or even “I don’t have time for this breathing practice, I wonder what I missed on Instagram,” you immediately interdict the thought with a powerful phrase like “STOP.”  Then you will reframe that thought in a positive way, like “this workout is going to help me reach my goals,” or “this is important to me, I need to stay consistent.”

Practicing this in a controlled setting like when you are in a quiet space will hone your ability to notice the negative thoughts and have a strategy to combat them.  Then, when you are in a more chaotic environment like a 25 minute AMRAP of burpee box jumps and sandbag carries, you will have that skill in your back pocket.  As you notice the negativity seeping into your active thoughts, you can stop what you’re doing, come back to focusing on your breath, and interdict the negativity with a positive affirmation.  “I’ve done harder things than this before!” or “Never quit!” are mantras that I will (internally) shout to myself during the hardest training sessions that test my will to keep going.  Then, charged with a positive vision, you pick up the weight and keep on trucking, stronger than before.

In my next and final post in this series, we will shift gears away from training and get more introspective with our newfound focus and positivity.  We’ve created a strong base of mental control, and now we will layer onto that a series of questions.  Negative thoughts will still rear their ugly heads, but we have the skill to knock them out and ask, with a quiet mind, who we are and what we want to become.

Until then, keep practicing, and stay positive!

Ryan