Training on the Road – Wes Kimball

What is “CrossFit”?  Back in the early days it was wrapped concisely up in two foundational articles Foundations, and What is Fitness.  These two articles describe a comprehensive and effective strength, and conditioning program. But times have changed and “CrossFit” has grown beyond just a incredibly effective fitness program.  The word CrossFit now extends beyond many things: a brand, definitely a sport, a career, perhaps a lifestyle, and a rapidly and almost exponentially expanding market of independent fitness instructors, and facilities*.

Two weeks ago one of our CFA family members was seriously injured at a CrossFit in McAllen, TX.  Days after I received another email from a CFAer recapping a unpleasant visit to a different CrossFit in the midwest while on the road. While we don’t hear them often, over the last 3 years there have been stories of folks being bullied, and mistreated at various gyms around the country.  This has made us take notice, so my aim of today’s article is to arm you with knowledge in terms of things to avoid when visiting other gyms.  Additionally we’ll use this article as a bit of a behind the scene look into what we do to avoid said problems here in South Austin.

1. Excessive “volume” in workouts
Volume simply put is the total amount of repetitions completed in a set, round, or workout.** When done correctly high volume workouts are especially beneficial for building strength endurance and aerobic work capacity.  The best way to accomplish these benefits safely is to gradually build volume weekly over a 4-8 week period.  Jumping straight into a ton of volume after a long layoff or with out a good ramp up period is a recipe for disaster.  While appropriate volume varies from person to person, workouts north of 75 reps per exercise or isolated muscle group*** tend to fall in the category of doing more harm than good. Take home message here is to progress into higher volume workouts over a period time like we do with the CFA programming. If you find yourself in a situation where you know the volume is inappropriate for you, opt out or scale down accordingly.

2. Movements that tax the muscle over the energy systems
This is another common mistake that goes hand in hand with rule one. Simply put different movements have different effects on the body.  Some movements tax our energy system holistically when repeated (think running and rowing) while other simply isolated muscle groups (thinks dead hang pull-ups, and back squats).  In the context of a CrossFit “Metcon” the goal is always to tax and therefore improve an energy system either aerobically or anaerobically.  Using movements that cause you to repeatedly hit muscle failure in this context do nothing but cause muscle damage and fatigue.  That will at best impede progress and at worse end an injury.  Be particularly weary movements with and pronounced lowering or “eccentric” phase****.

3. Know yourself and know your numbers
While we give you guys a variety of ways to appropriately load your workouts,  some trainers and gyms live by the “Rx or nothing” philosophy. This philosophy is incredibly stupid, and should be avoided at all costs.  The best ways to combat this is to know yourself and your numbers so you can adjust a workout with an “Rx” weight accordingly.  If you’re not sure how to convert your 1 RMs into appropriate weights here is a good chart that will help.  Don’t let your ego get you in trouble, and more importantly don’t let some idiot bully you into something you know isn’t appropriate.

4. Avoid high risk movements
If you’ve followed my first 3 rules, 99% of the time everything should be fine. However one movement stands above the rest as a particularly risky in CrossFit workouts: GHD sit-ups.  We have one GHD machine in our gym and we use it primarily in strength and individualized programs.  The GHD sit-up has the highest potential of Rhabdo***** in CrossFit workouts, and does little to make you better conditioned.  GHD sit-ups while useful in a controlled enviroment, are not a good movement use for “Metcons” or conditioning/energy system  focused training. Take home message: Don’t do GHD situps in the “WOD”.

Alas we at CrossFit Austin Strength and Conditioning put effort, intelligence, common sense, and allot of hard work in designing and delivering programs to our clients. In short we offer a comprehensive and effective strength and conditioning program the way it should be everywhere. While your experience with us may not be indicative of what you receive at every CrossFit facility, the majority of CrossFit gyms and coaches do the right thing. So in an effort to end on a positive note I will include some of the best gyms that I’ve visited nationwide in the comments. I’d appreciate anyone who has a good gym that they visit on the road to do the same.  Safe travels to everyone this week, and happy Turkey Day!  One final tip when training on the road or at home  don’t be “that guy” (see below)

*Estimates say that 5 new independent CrossFit affiliated and branded gyms start every day. To put that into perspective in the heyday of Starbucks growth they were adding an average of 6 stores a day.

**Total volume can also be calculated over training weeks, months, and years to analyze training effects

***Muscle groups defined as an area of the body and its plane of movement: upper body pulling (chin-up, curls) upper body pushing (push-ups, presses), lower body Squatting (squatting), lower body hip Bending (Deadlifts)  etc.

****Negative Pull-ups are a big culprit on this front. While effective in a strength building context of low reps with lots of rest, they should never be used in a “Metcon” or conditioning workout.

*****Rhabdomyolysis is a dangerous condition that can be induced via intense workouts.  What it is and how to avoid it is covered extensively in the CrossFit certification, and the CrossFit Journal.

Welcome New CFA-ers!

Welcome to the Circle of Awesomeness, New Members!

October has been such an exciting month! We opened and celebrated our new spacious addition, raised money for those affected by the recent fires, enjoyed a happy hour, celebrated our members as they competed in various activities, and welcomed a large group of new members to CrossFit Austin!

We know there’s been a lot to keep up with, so we wanted to take a moment to introduce our new members and let everyone know about our expanding circle of awesomeness…

Albert Pomales Anita Uresti Becky Carter Charlie Koehn Chris Boling
Chris Geck Christina Torres Cory Duck Cynthia Clark Eric Reis
Gadiel Arellano Gary Kanning Haley Hunter Jennifer Irlbacker Jerry Gregoire
Jessica Buck Jordan Pellien Jorge Gonzalez Kelley Davis Kristin “Bubbles” Wallner
Lamar Young Laura Leukhardt Lawrence Celedon Lola Garcia Maria Leyendecker
Martin Goman Mel Romero Meredith “Mer” O’Brien Michael Oakley Mimi Stewart
Monique Lalonde Patrick “Paddy Ice” Breland Robyn Taliaferro Ruth Untermeyer Ryan Bailey
Sarah Hunter Siddharth Sundar Tierra Thomas Tiffany Syfan Kimberly Hendrix
Mike “Greybeard” Flury Elivra “L.V.” Johns Leah Alter

We’re so glad y’all are here!

The Training Balance: Essentials to Improvement

Training is a funny thing: at times, pure and complete common sense rule the roost, while other times the most backwards unnatural thought processes are necessary to overcome plateaus and continue to improve. As the journey winds further and further along, striving for balance ensures continued progression, and can help us assess what is holding us back. Today we’ll stay in the realm of common sense and explore three essentials to training that must be balanced to ensure we stay on track and continue to improve.

Work Hard. Although this seems like a given to anyone that’s put a sweat angel down on the mats at CFA, it’s generally the biggest obstacle to folks when they first set out on the journey to change their fitness and health. We live in a world that revolves around convenience and comfort; this has created a prevailing mindset that very little effort yields satisfactory results. Well I hate to break it to you but 99.9% of the time that’s not how it works. Hard work and high effort are the only things that elicit change, period. If your training doesn’t involve you being uncomfortable, or challenged consistently, then chances are you are just running in place (some more literally than others).

Recover Well. So I know what you’re thinking…“Boom this is in the bag, I’m working my butt off every day, I can sleep when I’m dead, stack the weights on and start the clock, punks!” As Lee Corso would say “Not so fast my friend.” Our second essential to improvement is not rest, it’s not even recover, it is recover well. This is of paramount importance as the recovery process is actually what yields results. Let me break it down…The stress from our hard work breaks our bodies down, which in turn forces them to adapt and rebuild. If this process is repeated correctly, each time we work hard or stress the system we should have a bigger stronger machine that requires more stress to drive adaptation. But what happens if we don’t give ourselves time to rebuild into that stronger machine? Not to be dramatic but it’s pretty easy to see that if you constantly break something down it will eventually be destroyed. In the training sense, destruction at best may show up in the form of lost motivation, plateaus, and/or diminished results. At worst it manifests itself as an injury. That said, we have two choices when it comes to recovery: If you put some effort into your recovery, you’re building a solid sturdy foundation that will be there to support you for years. If you choose to half-ass your recovery, you’re building on shaky ground that can crumble at any time. What constitutes recovering well and recovering poorly goes beyond the scope of this article, but let common sense guide you here. If you’re not confident in your common sense skills ask a coach for some tips!

Consistent Consistency. So we know that we have to work hard to drive change, and we must recover well to see the results of that change. Unfortunately that’s still not enough, one can work hard, recover well, and still fall short. Why? Well consistency is the glue that holds this cycle of improvement together. If we train hard once a week we will no doubt stimulate the system, and also be very recovered from week to week, but unfortunately by the time our next training session rolls around, most of the benefits will have walked right out the back door. Along the same lines, hitting it consistently 3-4 times a week for a month straight will yield some killer results, but those results will be fleeting if your month of consistency is followed by bouts of inconsistency. So what’s the reality of all this? Well, good training isn’t just an every once in awhile kind of thing, it’s an always and forever kind of thing—both short term and long term. Just like any habit (good or bad) it will stay with you forever if you make it constant part of your life.

There you have it, the three essentials: Work hard, recover well, and consistent consistency. These concepts go beyond training and can be applied to any aspect of your life, just sub the word training with work, nutrition, or family and the same concepts still apply. These are macro concepts but they can also be applied at the micro level as well, i.e.:

  • Are you working hard at improving your snatch? (hard work)
  • Are you allowing adequate rest and reflection times between the bouts of hard work or are you trying to force it by doing it non-stop? (recovering well)
  • Are you practicing your snatch consistently enough to maintain the cycle of improvement? (consistent consistency)

These are the essential folks, so now it’s time to put them into action. Take one aspect of training—or life—that you’d like to improve. Ask yourself, are you applying all three of the essentials? If not, find which ones are lagging behind, and make a concerted effort to improve in that area. Then let us know how it goes. Training, just like life, really comes down to the simple things.

Yours in Awesomeness,

Coach Wes

October Athlete of the Month: Cody Skinner

State your Name and/or Nickname please
Cody Skinner

I’m a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym Cedar Park, an educator at lululemon athletica, and a semi-professional rockstar. I’m also an occasional guitar teacher and pedicab driver.

Words to live by?
No shirt, no shoes, no problem.

What is your fitness background?
I grew up playing every sport imaginable. My dad was a college and semi-pro football player and a competitive baseball, softball, and volleyball player. My parents actually met on the volleyball court. I started with roller skating and t-ball, and by high school I was playing baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. I was actually on a tripple-A hockey team out of Dallas before I got burned out on the sport. In college I did a year of rugby before switching my major to music and getting lazy. After spending a couple of years getting fat and out of shape I became a gym rat, then went through a rock climbing phase followed by a marathon running phase. At some point along the way I heard about crossfit and started messing around with some of the main site WODs. Then I joined up at CFA and the rest is history.

How long have you been CrossFitting?
I think it’s about a year and a half now. Maybe not quite that long.

What’s your favorite part of CrossFit Austin?
I love the workouts and I love the people. Wes and Tristy are AMAZING coaches, plus we have access to people like Chad Vaughn and Carl Paoli. And that’s just the staff. Some of our members are truly amazing, one-of-a-kind people. Anybody who’s worked out in the same class as Sleeves or Darlene or Carissa knows what I’m talking about. Seeing Darlene in the final WOD at the games might be the high point of my year so far.

What are your training goals?
Achieve total awesomeness! Basically, the way my personality works is that I’m fairly compulsive about seeking out new skills to learn or areas to improve on (read obsess over). My ultimate goal is to compete. Right now I’m working on getting my shoulders healthy and trying to get crazy strong. I also want to master muscle ups and hand stand push ups. And the olympic lifts. And everything ever.

Favorite sport or activity?
CrossFit wins it hands down. Rock climbing is a distant second.

Recent adventure you’re planning?
I’m hoping to take Fresh Millions on tour to NYC and back in October. If it all goes according to plan we’ll be crammed into the mini-van with all our gear for about 18 days. Travel WOD, anyone?

Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I read 3-4 books a week.

Longhorns or Aggies?

You were the run away winner of the mustache contest last spring and not coincidentally you also just finished playing ACL for the first time. Explain to us the rock star/mustache relationship/evolution?
It was a long journey, one that began several years ago in a place called Denton, TX. I was studying classical music and sporting a beard. When I moved to Austin, the beard was right at home but the classical music was quickly replaced by an insatiable need to plug in and play that funk! Eventually I just out-rocked the beard. I knew only a curly mustache would give me the proper swagger to finally achieve that next level of strength, speed, and rock stardom.

Leave the fine folks of CrossFit Austin with some parting words?
crossfit gives us plenty of opportunity to feel pain, frustration, and exhaustion. Fortunately, it also gives us a chance to make friends with those feelings, and that’s the beauty of the sport. So next time your legs are burning and you’re gasping for breath trying not to puke as a callus rips open on the palm of your hand, just remember how much fun you’re having. 🙂

Thank you CrossFit Austin! -from Darlene

This is a great big THANK YOU to all of you at CrossFit Austin for your awesome support and inspiration, not just during the Games, but since the first day I joined CFA. I doubt I can tell you fully how deeply you have touched my heart, but then one of the many lessons I have learned from CrossFit was printed on a T-shirt I saw in the stadium: “Achieve Failure.” So here goes.

Most of you already know my story, so I won’t belabor it. If not, you can watch the testimonial Sleeves created, posted on the main page. Let’s just say I traded in a beat-up clunker of a body for a sporty (vintage) convertible. And surprised the hell out of myself in the process. As MG Jenny said, “If NowDarlene told FirstDayDarlene she would be standing on that podium…she never would have believed it.” Nope. Not in a million years.

But this story is about YOU—about the spirit of CFA that first healed me, then made me strong, then flew me across the stadium in Event 5 to your banner held by Jamie and Boone. From the first phone call with Wes before setting foot in the gym, I was assured that being weak, older and significantly overweight would be no problem at CrossFit Austin. It never has been, although I seriously questioned that promise the first day, when I observed Blake back-squatting 3000 lbs. (Whatever weight it actually was would have impressed me no less.) On the contrary, even when I finished at the bottom of every WOD, I received encouragement and support from everyone.

While your enthusiastic support was a huge factor in my success at the Games, your stories were the greater one. From day one, I have been awed by the stories I have heard at CFA.

There are the ladies who trained with me between Regionals and the Games, starting with Tristy, CFA’s Manager. If you’ve had even one class with Tristy, you know that she is a task master about form. If your form is not what it should be, Tristy will let you know it, and she will work with you to improve it. If that attention grates, know that what motivates her is protecting you from harm. Did you know that Tristy is partially blind in one eye? A band hit her in the eye during one of her early classes, and several surgeries were required to repair it. Did that stop her? Not on your life. But she will not stand idly by and watch you put yourself in danger. She can’t.

Liz would have trained with me if she could have, but she was busy healing from surgery. Liz unwinds from saving lives every day as a paramedic by moving mountains in the gym. She just set a new CrossFit Total of 610 lbs. But the first mountain she moved was herself. Since joining CFA, Liz has lost over 70 pounds. You might think she would take it easy coming back from surgery before setting new records. Not Liz. The instant she was cleared to return to normal life, she shot out of the gate with a 165 lb jerk PR. Jeez.

Then there’s Carissa (Teamie!). Carissa and I teamed up during Sectionals, and her drive to excel propelled me, too. Carissa can both back squat and deadlift almost twice her body weight. How such a small frame can generate so much power is nothing short of marvelous (ha ha, I pun!). You probably don’t know that six years ago, Carissa’s life had spun out of control. The destructive path she was on nearly cost her life, a path that did take the life of a dear friend. Carissa chose life instead, moved to Austin and found CFA, for which I am profoundly grateful.

Like Carissa, Christy can both back squat and deadlift significantly more than her body weight. Her kipping pull-ups are poetry in motion. She jumped in with both feet and pushed me through the grueling workouts Wes constructed for me in July. Christy has an amazing story, too, but she’s shy about it. When you get to know her, she’ll tell it to you herself. It’s fair to say that adopting paleo nutrition and CrossFit transformed her life. Today she is healthy and strong and a force to be reckoned with. Christy’s courage fuels me every time I watch her.

When Leigh (rhymes with LEE, not LAY!) walked in the door in early February, every woman in the gym breathed, “Whoa.” I’m pretty sure every guy did, too. The excitement was electric. You might say that Leigh came to us as Rx. When we heard she was new to Austin and deciding which gym to join, I remember thinking first, “Wow, finally, competition for Stacey,” and then, “Oh no, what if she decides to choose that other gym?” (You know the one I mean.) What relief when she chose CFA and what joy it’s been to watch her and Stacey support and push each other to ever new PR’s. You might think Leigh has always been rock solid—I did—but if you ask her (and she’s not feeling vulnerable), she’ll show you the photo she carries of chubby pre-CrossFit Leigh.

When I joined CFA almost two years ago, Stacey was my idol. She still is, of course, but now there’s a LOT more content behind that statement. Coming from a soccer background, she was already a star athlete when she joined CFA, and the epitome of the team player. As I struggled to do a single push-up, Stacey was ever there encouraging me. The story that for me crystallizes Stacey’s awesomeness I heard from Dale Walker, owner of CrossFit Valor in Cedar Park, and Stacey’s judge for the muscle-ups at the 2010 Regionals. Stacey was in 12th place going into the final event. Wouldn’t you know, that event included muscle-ups, a skill Stacey didn’t yet possess. Did that fact stop her? Dale told me it broke his heart to watch her as she tried and failed time after time, until time ran out, to do just one. Stacey worked all this past year to acquire this skill, conquering it only days before Regionals. And this year, she did THREE muscle-ups.

She almost didn’t get the chance. That brings me to the men of CrossFit Austin.

Dr. Nick, of the Killer Thumbs, kept me patched together for the Games. His performance at Regionals was amazing. You’ve heard the stories of the blistering heat that weekend, of bars and kettlebells and blacktop so hot they seared skin off competitors’ hands. It was excruciating to watch. Despite the brutal conditions, by the end of Saturday our team had moved from 19th place after Sectionals to 5th place and qualified to advance to Sunday. We were on fire! Sunday morning Stacey and Nick teamed up for Amanda: 9-7-5 reps of muscle-ups and squat snatches. We all expected Nick to fly through the first nine reps and turn over the stage for Stacey to break out those shiny new muscle-ups. What we didn’t know was that Nick had injured his shoulder and elbow. For 15 heart-wrenching minutes of the 20-min event, we watched Nick attempt time after time to nail those nine muscle-ups. For me, with Dale’s story branded on my memory of Stacey in 2010, it seemed an eerie déjà vu. Like Stacey, there was no quit in Nick. His whole being focused on getting it done, so Stacey could, too.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Sleeves, because—forgive me, guys, but I have to put this in terms Tony Sleeves will appreciate—he’s just f*ckin’ beautiful. Sleeves trains with focus and ferocity that is a joy to watch. Yet he will interrupt his own training readily to help you improve yours. Many times over the months preparing for Regionals, Sleeves took the time to help me, whether it was improving my pull-ups, kettlebell swings, weight lifting, nutrition, you name it. He has helped and inspired me in so many ways. Even when he didn’t end up competing at Regionals, Sleeves was right there, roaring for our team with every fiber of his being. The photo above says it all, and I love him for it.

Chad Vaughn visits CFA weekly to teach us the finer points of Olympic weightlifting. I owe my 110 lb clean & jerk PR at the Games to Chad’s skillful coaching. You probably know that Chad just won his SEVENTH national weightlifting championship. Holder of the American record in the clean and jerk, Chad is a two-time Olympian and is currently training for a position on the 2012 team. Awesome, right? So I was dumbfounded when I read that Chad was born with a club foot. It was surgically repaired while he was an infant; he learned to walk while the cast was on his leg. A debilitating handicap that would have defined the life of nearly anyone else, Chad simply never let it matter. And totally conquered it.

These are just a few of the stories of the Circle of Awesomeness at CrossFit Austin. There are so many. Colleen, Miguel, 2×4, AG & LG, Big Shug, Fro, Walker, Melicious…. they filled my mind and heart as I paced back and forth waiting to start the last event at the Games. I kept thinking how grateful I am that Wes and Boone created this amazing place that has attracted such people. I’ve never owned a business, but over the past 25 years I’ve been fortunate to work for three successful small firms. I’ve witnessed first hand the strength of character it takes, first to step into the unknown, and then to create a thriving long-lived concern. There are so many details to cope with—taxes, regulations, insurance, bills, staffing, on and on—details that have nothing to do with the passion that created the business in the first place. It’s no surprise that the vast majority of new businesses never make it past year three. To master all of these challenges while maintaining a vibrant and imaginative atmosphere, constantly striving to refine and improve your product, focusing on the success of your clients first, this is no small feat. To further possess the integrity to follow your best judgment, even when your decisions cause friction and resistance, in order make real that vision that you see, to do all of this, while attracting a faithful group of such amazing members, who themselves form treasured bonds of love and friendship—all this—it truly is Awesomeness. I love you guys.

Finally, to have such people screaming their hearts out for your success, to have them believe in you and see in you the things you’ve worked to create in yourself, and hoped to make real…. if there is a sweeter gift a friend can give to you, I’ve never discovered what it is. All this you have given to me. Thank you, my CrossFit Austin family, with all my heart.

August, 2011

July Athlete of the Month: David Cantu

State your Name and/or Nickname please.
David Cantu, Can2

Broadcast Engineer at KXAN

Words to live by?
Respect, Control, and Motivation

What is your fitness background?
I’ve always been active but CossFit made exercise a lifestyle not a chore.

How long have you been CrossFitting?
On July 5th I celebrated my one year anniversary.

What’s your favorite part of CrossFit?
After every workout it’s a new me.

What are your training goals?
My goal is to lose more body fat and gain more muscle.  Oh yeah..I would like to do a muscle up within this next year.

Favorite sport or activity?
Other than CrossFit, I enjoy football, softball, beer pong, flip know the outdoor games.

Recent adventure you’re planning?
Hey gimme a minute I just got back from Vegas.  If theres a football season a Cowboys game for sure.

Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I’ve met Chuck Norris and live to tell about it.

Longhorns or Aggies?

Greatest mustache of all time Burt Reynolds of Tom Selleck…. go!
Tom Selleck

Leave the fine folks of CrossFit Austin with some parting words?
Learn it, Live it, Love it

Murph Day Updates

First off if you haven’t signed up yet do it! The spots are filling fast! Its going to be a great day at CFA! On to the updates…..

  • HyperWear has generously agreed to lend us 10 of their HyperWeight Vests for those of you that want to do a true Murph. They also donated a new HyperWeight Vest as the grand prize for the Male competitive division.
  • If you’ve signed up for the event please email your donation receipts to, remember this is your official ticket to participate.