Tips for a Successful Back Squat Cycle!


Here we are! It’s time for back squats! Below are the dates for all of our upcoming back squat sessions! We have already hit 1 of 12. If you have not pretested your back squat yet, I HIGHLY suggest you get your booty in here before next Thursday (2 of 12) and find your max.


If you truly want to see progress on your squats this cycle, below are some tips to help you out!

1) Be consistent – most weeks we’ll have 2 sessions on the back squat. They are spread out well enough that you should be able to recover between sessions, but there is no way you’ll see progress if you’re only hitting a handful of the sessions. Put the dates in your calendar and do your best to make it to class those days!


2) Follow the prescriptions (percentages & tempos) – when it says “sets across” or “same weight across” that means that all sets & reps are done at the same weight. The percentage range, 65-75% for example, means you’re choosing a weight within that range that you can complete every single rep successfully. This is also necessary for tracking purposes. If you build on every set and only record the heaviest set, that is not representative of what you truly did in the session.

A note on tempo – You will see varying tempos on both the squat and the db row in this cycle. This isn’t meant to punish you and if you’re truly sticking to the tempos, you WILL see improvement!

Don’t skip out on the rest either!!


3) Track your sessions – Make notes & record accurate numbers. Simple as that. Depending on the tempo and rep scheme you may want to stick to the lower end of the percentage range. When you are tracking your numbers, you have a better understanding of what’s happening and where you may need to make adjustments from session to session and week to week.


4) Points of Performance – Don’t do crappy squats… (or bent over rows…) All those little short cuts people take to make a movement easier…. Yeah… it’s not helping you. Going too heavy for the day and not hitting depth… Yeah… it’s not going to help you…

If you struggle to do a decent back squat at depth without losing position (butt wink, knees caving, back rounding, etc…) you should stick with a box squat.. Aim for a controlled descent to the box with about a 2 count pause on the box. Don’t lose tension on the box (legs still contracted 50% or more)

Leave the ego out of it and do the work YOU should be doing… #fitnessmaturity

Strive for the best rep every single time. Good range of motion, bracing, foot placement and engagement…. We’ll have more videos throughout the cycle, but don’t stunt your progress with bad reps! Also, it makes your coaches sad…


5) RECOVERY – Take care of your bodies, y’all! There are so many things you can do to help yourself recover. Normatec has spots open on Tu/Th every week, we have an ice bath day coming up (3/7), foam roll, active recovery, massage with Heidi, eating and sleeping well… Don’t ignore those little nagging pains either. If you have something going on, talk to your coaches. We can help you get to the bottom of it so you can keep training (safely). Recovery is just as important as the work!


Ok, dates below… I’ve also included the post test for our Push Press and the Pretest for the next cycle after back squats!



Mon 2/17 – Pretest
Wed 2/26 – 1 of 12
Thurs 3/5 – 2 of 12
Tues 3/10 – 3 of 12
Fri 3/13 – 4 of 12
Mon 3/16 – 5 of 12
Thurs 3/19 – 6 of 12
Mon 3/23 – 7 of 12
Fri 3/27 – 8 of 12
Tues 3/31 – 9 of 12
Fri 4/3 – 10 of 12
Mon  4/6 – 11 of 12
Fri 4/10 – 12 of 12
Mon 4/13 – Post Test

Other days to note:

Push Press Post Test – Monday, March 2

Pretest for the next strength cycle – Jerks – Monday, March 30

Kitchen Adventures || Carnitas Taco Bowls

Meal prepping is all about making life easier, right? Well, part of that for me is packing things in a way that allows an easy heat and eat for me at the gym! There is some assembly required with these because I like a lot of ‘stuff’ on my bowls, but it’s still a pretty simple lunch!

The carnitas recipe I’m sharing is an instant pot version because my life basically revolves around my instant pot now, but you could also go with a basic crockpot version using the same spices and ingredients!


INGREDIENTS – This made 4 bowls for us


Olive Oil for browning meat
3-4 lbs pork shoulder chopped into smaller chunks
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp pink salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp coconut sugar (optional, but tasty)
2-3 cinnamon sticks – 3-4 inches long
2 oranges, halved
1 lime
1 cup water

Rice Mixture

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 yellow onion – diced
1 bell pepper – diced
1/2 cup corn – I used frozen corn and just defrosted it
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/8 tsp cayenne for heat – optional
juice from 1 lime

Sliced avocado
Sliced jalapeno
Plain Greek Yogurt
Green Onions
Additional limes


Carnitas –

Mix the spices together in a small bowl and rub evenly over the pork pieces. Heat instant pot on saute’ setting and add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil.

Once hot, add meat. Brown meat for a couple minutes per side, completing in batches if necessary. Remove and set aside.

Change the instant pot setting to manual pressure cook and add the water, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom from browning the meat.

Add the meat back in and squeeze the juice from both oranges and the lime over top. Toss the cinnamon sticks in and give everything a quick stir.

Secure the lid and make sure the venting valve is closed. Set the timer on high pressure for 40 minutes. Allow to naturally release for another 15 and then vent the lid.

While the pressure is releasing, turn the oven to high broil and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Remove the meat from the instant pot and shred in a bowl. Then add the meat to the prepared baking sheet. Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the edges begin to get crispy. Remove, sprinkle with a little more salt if you prefer and squeeze lime juice on top!


Cook rice according to the package. You’ll need about 2 cups cooked.

In a large pan, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute’ for 3-5 minutes or until it begins to soften. Lower the heat and add the corn, cilantro, salt, pepper, and rice. Stir well to combine. Squeeze lime juice on top. Adjust seasoning as desired!

Divide the rice into 4 bowls. I used rectangle pyrex containers and did half rice, half meat and put the lid on. I prep all the toppings as well (except for the avocado – I cut that fresh 🙂 )

Reheat, top it with your favorite goodies, and serve with tortillas or chips to your liking!


Kitchen Adventures || Mexican Gumbo

So, to be completely honest, I really didn’t know what this was going to be when I started cooking, but I’m thrilled with the result. This was very much an effort to make a quick, easy, nutritious, and filling meal for dinner on a weeknight. I just started chopping and dumping things in a pot and this is what came out! Mexican Gumbo is about the best “name” I could come up with, but if you make it and think of something better to call it, let me know!

The whole thing took less than 45 minutes for me. Using a rotisserie chicken saved some time and effort, but you could just as easily cook some chicken breast or thighs if you wanted. Enjoy y’all!


Olive Oil for cooking
1 bell pepper – any color – diced
1/2 onion – diced
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 jalapeno – remove seeds and ribs – diced
1 7 oz can diced green chilis
1 14.5 oz can fired roasted diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black beans – drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup rice
2 lbs (approximately) cooked shredded chicken – I just used a rotisserie chicken and shredded it up in the pot!
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
salt & pepper to taste

To top
Green Onions
Sliced jalapeno
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Tortilla Chips


If you aren’t using a rotisserie chicken, cook your chicken and shred to go into the pot later.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno, and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, green chiles, black beans and all the spices. Stir to combine well. Cook for about a minute or until fragrant. Next, add the broth. Bring the mixture to a low boil and add the rice. Add the shredded chicken and stir to mix all of the ingredients well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice has cooked.

It should be a pretty thick mixture, but if you prefer it to be a bit thinner you can add some more broth. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as desired.

Serve it up with avocado, jalapeno, greek yogurt, cheese, whatever you like!  Tortilla chips give a nice little crunch!

Kitchen Adventures || Venison Meatloaf

Dinner is served!

Salad or meatloaf ingredients?

Will you look at that gorgeous color?!

Baking pan set up
All done!

Whoever decided meatloaf and meatballs needed breadcrumbs… I disagree. They claim it’s a “binding agent” but in myexperience, the egg does a fine job of that and using vegetables gives it a lovely texture and keeps it moist! There is nothing worse than a brick of dried out meatloaf.. This is also a great opportunity to sneak in some extra veggies if you have a hard time with that! I outlined a couple of options for cooking in the instructions so do what you’re comfortable with.

As for the pre-cooked ingredients…. Is that not gorgeous! That basically looks like a salad before it gets mixed up with the meat and MY GOD that venison is beautiful! You know you’re getting really good quality meat when it has that beautiful rich color.

A little bit of planning needs to go into this because of the baking time, but it really is a very simple weeknight meal that will yield enough leftovers for lunch the next couple of days. We had this with an Italian salad and some green beans… dang we ate a lot of veggies!

Ok, enjoy guys!

2 lbs Venison (Obviously I used Force of Nature because I’m obsessed)
1/2 medium yellow onion – finely diced
1 rib celery – finely diced
1 large carrot – grated
1 small zucchini – grated
1/2 cup kale tightly packed – stems removed and finely chopped
1 small bell pepper – any color – finely diced
2 large cloves garlic – minced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 large eggs
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP brown mustard
1 tsp pink salt1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dry rubbed sage

For the glaze
1/2 cup ketchup
1 TBSP Worcestershire
2 TBSP coconut sugar (or brown sugar)


Preheat the oven to 350. Wash, chop/mince/grate all the vegetables. In a large bowl, gently break up the venison being careful not to overwork the meat. This is important in keeping it from getting tough when it’s cooked. (This goes for all meats in meatloaf/meatballs)

In a separate bowl, mix all of the rest of the meatloaf ingredients until well combined. I started by mixing all of the vegetables first and then added the seasoning and wet ingredients. Once all of that is combined, add the desired amount to the bowl with your venison. I like my meatloaf to be totally packed, but that’s up to you. You still want it to somewhat hold together.

You have a couple of options for how to cook this. I have taken to just forming a “loaf” and cooking it on a baking sheet. I have found it cooks faster and I can drain any excess liquid or fat very easily. If you want to stick to a traditional loaf pan though, that is totally acceptable.

Mix the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl until well combined. Using about 1/3 of the glaze, spread a thin layer over the top (and sides if using the baking sheet method). Reserve the rest to serve with the meatloaf once it’s done. Baking times will vary depending on your method. For a baking sheet/pan about an hour should do it. It may take just a bit longer in a loaf pan or glass dish, but shouldn’t take more than 1:15. You can use meat thermometer to check the internal temp if you’re unsure.

Because I like to drain the extra fat/liquid, I checked it about 45 min in and drained it and then finished out the last 15 min.

That’s it guys. This packs in so much flavor, a ton of great veggies, and is super simple to make. Enjoy!

Kitchen Adventures || Lasagna Soup

So, between a wedding and the Super Bowl last weekend I got some meal prepping done, but not enough to get us through the week and I had NO idea what I was going to post of this week’s Kitchen Adventures. We had another lovely week with a 30 degree drop which changed what I wanted to eat. I meal prepped lighter things like taco salad for earlier in the week, but today had me wanting something warm and hearty.

This afternoon, lasagna popped in my head… It’s been a really long time since I’ve made lasagna…  I like it, but I wasn’t really in the mood to do all the work to make it AND I wasn’t sure I really wanted all that cheese and pasta. I also thought about making another batch of some version of veggie soup… then…. Lasagna Soup came into my mind.

Y’all…. This is such a great alternate if you like lasagna. It’s not nearly as heavy. YOU control how much cheese goes in. I’m not a HUGE fan of the texture of ricotta so this was great because I could add just a little to my soup to get the creaminess and the flavor without going overboard! You also have the option of using a grain free or veggie based pasta if you like!

Anyway, this was quick to make and so insanely delicious. Enjoy!

Lasagna Soup


1 LB Italian Sausage – I used FON Wild Boar and seasoned with Italian Seasoning
8-12 oz of pasta – I used a small penne veggie pasta
1-2 TBSP Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic – minced
½ yellow onion – diced
4 TBSP tomato paste
6 cups chicken broth
(1) 28 oz (or 2 14.5 oz) cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 cup mozzarella
Fresh basil – chiffonade
½ cup grated Parmesan
8 oz whole milk ricotta
Salt & Pepper to taste


Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and open the cans first because this recipe moves pretty quickly so you’ll want to have everything ready to go.

In one pot, start some water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the box. Drain and set aside. A little al dente is good for this because you’ll be adding it to a hot soup.

While the water is heating for the pasta, heat a tbsp of olive oil a large pot (as always, I used my enameled cast iron Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the meat – if using the Force of Nature Wild Boar, add 2 TBSP Italian Seasoning and brown, crumbling as it cooks.

Once browned, drain any excess fat or add more olive oil as needed and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to soften. Next, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then, add the tomato paste and continuously stir for another minute.

Add the broth, bay leaves, tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Bring the whole mixture to a boil, then stir, reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until it begins to thicken.

While the soup is working, mix the ricotta, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl and set aside. Chop the basil and shred the mozzarella (or open the bag… 😉 )

Finally, add the pasta and stir well! Serve in a giant bowl (or a normal sized bowl…) and top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture, shredded mozzarella, and basil. Enjoy.

February Athlete of the Month || Denise Valdez!

Each month we spotlight a different CFA athlete who stands out and shows just how awesome they are. What is it that makes up an Athlete of the Month? It may not be the person that finishes the fastest, Rx’s every WOD, or gets a PR every time they walk in the gym. Although we love and celebrate when those things happen, the Athlete of the Month is made up of much more than physical ability. This person shows up, gives their best every time, and then gives a little more. They are hungry to learn and always ready to do the work. They support their fellow classmates and encourage them to reach their goals. This athlete embodies what we believe the CrossFit Austin Community should be about.

Our February Athlete of the Month is Denise Valdez! Denise is one of our OGs! She’s been with CFA since February of 2012 which is appropriate for her to be AOM in her “gymiversary” month! Denise is one of the sweetest people we know and you can guarantee she has a smile and a ‘hello’ for everyone who walks through the doors. Both she and her husband George show their daughter Danica a great example of taking care of your health and we love to have sweet families like their’s training together! Denise exemplifies so many of the qualities we look for in an AOM and has found a place both in our hearts and in our community. Denise, the CFA Team is proud to honor you as our February Athlete of the Month and as an awesome part of this team. Thanks for your all your hard work and we look forward to seeing all you accomplish in the years to come! Congratulations!

State your Name and/or Nickname please:
Denise, Dee Dee, or D
Words to live by?
“Win in the mind.”- Mark Divine, former Navy Seal
Fight Through.
There is always someone out there who has it worse.
What is your fitness background?
In middle school I played a few sports and in high school I was in the marching band(if you consider that a sport). Pre mommy-hood, I trained for sprint triathlons and half marathons.
How long have you been CrossFitting?
I started CrossFit in February 2012.
Take us back to your first day of CrossFit… How did you feel? How do you compare it to workouts today?
George and I hit a plateau at the “global gym” and decided that we needed a new challenge. So we looked into CrossFit and CFA showed up in our search. The day of our 1-on-1 session was a Saturday. I remember being nervous and excited. Before our session began, we had the chance to spectate the athletes working out to “Fight Gone Bad”. It looked intense and was rather intimidating. I almost hit the ground running, but I have ”No Ragrets” joining CFA. (“Not even one single letter.”) -We’re the Millers, 2013.
The WODs today are still a challenge and just as intense.
What’s your favorite part of CrossFit Austin?
My favorite part of CrossFit Austin is definitely the community. We have the best Coaches who strive to make us a better version of ourselves.
The Members. I know I can always count on ya’ll for motivation, a smile, good laughs, and Thirsty Thursday. Great friendships grow here.
Current Training Goals/PRs?
When it comes to upper body strength, I’ve always been a light weight. I want to be able to lift heavier weight and continue to get better overall in all skills(DU, HSPU, unassisted PU, etc.)
I also want to get back into training for races, eventually making my way back to a half marathon. In April, I plan on running the Longhorn Run.
What advice do you have for folks just starting out in CrossFit?
Quality first. Quantity will follow.
No matter how tough the workout gets, just keep moving and fight through.
And have fun.
What is your cheat meal go to?
Definitely a burger or pizza.
How do you use your fitness outside of the gym?
As Danica gets older, she is more active and I need to be able to keep up with her. At work, I sometimes have to transfer a patient from their wheelchair to my operatory chair. And for fun, fitness comes in handy for adventure hikes.
Tell us about a moment you felt most proud of yourself during a workout.
June 2019, MURPH. I thought I was going to only do a third of MURPH. I ended up doing a half MURPH.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your fitness journey?
In November 2017, I was set back having been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I gave myself only one option. Overcome UC.
Each workout is always a challenge. I remind myself that it’s ok if the new me is slower. I tell myself to push a little harder to a capacity that my body will allow. Working out really helps me to feel accomplished physically and mentally.
If you could create a WOD and name it for yourself, what would it be?
“New Hope” for Time
5 Burpees
5 Deadlifts
5 American KB swings
400 m Weighted Tire Drag
10 Burpees
10 Deadlifts
10 American KB swings
200 m Weighted Tire Drag
15 Burpees
15 Deadlifts
15 American KB swings
100 m Weighted Tire Drag
What keeps you going on the days you don’t feel like it?
Mental fortitude. Sometimes I’ll get off to a slow start. Once I start moving, I have to just keep moving, and finish strong. Danica and George are my reason, therefore, I will not let this condition dictate my life.
What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit?
I enjoy the outdoors(camping and hiking), Longhorn Football, and lately trying new restaurants. I’ve also dabbled a little in photography.
Tell us something we don’t know about you…
I love Barbra Streisand.
They’re, their, you’re, your…when it is not used correctly, it irks me.
I make a pretty tasty arroz con pollo.
Leave the fine folks of CrossFit Austin with some parting words…
I am humbly honored to be AOM.
I love that I have the opportunity to be under the tutelage of amazing coaches and get to work out amongst positive and influential athletes. CFA is CFAmily.

Kitchen Adventures || Bourbon Cider Meatballs

Happy Wednesday! Meatballs have kind of become a staple for me because the base is so simple and you can get really creative with the flavors/sauces/etc… I also love making meatballs because you can sneak all kinds of goodies inside. I pretty much always have some kind of vegetable hidden inside them… cauliflower, carrots, zucchini… As long as its fine enough to roll nicely in with the meat, you can put just about any veggie inside them. This recipe actually has cauliflower AND apples inside the meatball!

This one is VERY easy and turned out so tasty that I ate 3 of them before Tim even made it home for dinner… This is something I would even consider taking as an appetizer or something for a potluck or a party or something, but last night I paired these with some roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato tots.

Also… my meat’balls’ almost never end up round haha! Maybe yours will be a little prettier than mine.

Give them a shot!

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 medium apple – finely grated and pressed
1/4 cup (1 medium) shallot – finely minced
1/4 cup riced cauliflower
2 TBSP raw apple cider (don’t get “spiced” cider if you can help it)
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pink salt
Thinly sliced green onions to top

For the sauce
1 cup raw apple cider
2 TBSP low sodium soy or coconut aminos
2 TBSP bourbon or whiskey of your choice – this is optional, but it does really change the flavor
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp arrowroot powder mixed equally with cold water to dissolve (may use tapioca starch or cornstarch)


Preheat the oven to 400. Using a grater, grate the apple and using a cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel, squeeze the excess liquid out of the shavings. In a large bowl, add the apple, egg, shallot, cauliflower, cider, vinegar, mustard and seasoning. Mix well until combined. Add the ground turkey and mix until combined, but be careful not to over mix the meat. If it is too wet, you can add a little more cauliflower.

Mold into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. I think I got 14-15 (1) inch meatballs. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden.

While the meatballs are cooking make your sauce. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix all of the sauce ingredients except the arrowroot powder mixture. Bring the mixture to a light boil. Lower the heat to low-medium and slowly, while continuously whisking, add the arrowroot mixture to the sauce. Continue whisking over low-medium heat until the sauce thickens. If it becomes too thick you can add a little water or cider.

Once the meatballs are done, you can add them directly to the saucepan to coat. Serve with thinly sliced green onion sprinkled on top and enjoy!