Rally the Troops, CFA! The 2012 CrossFit Open is Here!

It’s that time again! The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open is here! With registration beginning tomorrow (February 1), and the release of the first WOD on February 22nd, CrossFitters from all over the world will be able to showcase their abilities in hopes of being crowned the “Fittest in the World.”

Last year’s Open at CrossFit Austin was an amazing experience, and one you can join in this year! You may not be striving to become the next Annie Thorsdottir or Rich Froning, (and even better if you are) but I can assure you, the dynamic of CFA during the Open is electric and something you WILL want to be a part of! Instead of spouting off reasons as to why to join the Open, I’d much rather recap last year’s CFA experience in hopes that it will get you excited to be a part of something that not only is fun but makes our CFA family that much more motivated and supportive.

I remember when the first WOD of the Open was released. They were late in releasing it, causing everyone to stay up well beyond their normal bedtime, hitting “refresh” every five minutes on the CrossFit Games website. As soon as it was released, Facebook exploded with CFA members updating their status’ with the Open’s first WOD. The road to the Games had begun!

Every Wednesday (this year is will be Thursdays) for 6 weeks, CFA’s WOD was that of the Open. Whether you were registered for the Open or not, you were doing the WOD that CrossFitters from all over the world were doing. It was a big deal! Members were coming in early and staying later to support others who were doing the WOD (registered or not). I remember some coming in at 4:30 pm to cheer others on, get their shot at the workout at 5:30 pm, and then stay to support others in the 6:30 pm class. Every Wednesday, CFA turned into a mini-competition arena with music blasting and our members playing the roles of competitors, spectators, judges and coaches – all at once. We even had the “media” there, as I remember Geno recording the evening classes as they completed the WOD. We had athletes of all levels performing the WODs which brought out a newer and higher level of intensity from everyone!

I know for a fact the Open brought a stronger sense of community and pride to our CFA box. It was a great way for members to push themselves and others beyond normal limits. It added a competitive edge where we could check our individual standings and also see if our efforts could keep CFA within the top 30 boxes in our region. The Open allowed for more work to get done faster among CFA members as everyone’s hard work and intensity motivated their fellow athletes to push even more. Rankings among individuals within CFA were going up weekly because they had friends, next to them, pushing them to produce bigger numbers.

For the most part, the Open took over the lives of CFA coaches and members for six weeks. It was six weeks of having set times or days to perform the Open WOD. It was a great opener that unknowingly prepped CFA for the proverbial “Road to the Games!” Last year, after the final scores of the Open were tallied, we had two people qualify as individuals to advance to Regionals, we had a high enough score to qualify a team to represent CFA at Regionals, and we had our very own Darlene Price qualify to compete at the Games in California in hopes of being crowned the “Fittest Woman in the World” in the Master’s Division. That being said, CFA had no idea how well we’d actually do. Miguel finished strong with a 15th place finish in the individual Men’s Division at Regionals. Our team went into Regionals ranked 19th and left with a solid 7th place finish. And Darlene? Well, if you haven’t heard, she went to the Games in California and came home as the 2nd Fittest Woman in the World!

All of these things couldn’t have happened without the community the Open had strengthened within CFA. I can NOT wait for this year’s Open and am excited to see our CFA members, new and old, exceed all my expectations again. Again, I encourage everyone to participate (if you don’t, I will personally stalk you and make you do wall balls until you do)! Throw yourself into the adventure of the Open and get excited for the hype and improvement it will bring to you and your fellow CrossFit Austinites! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain! If anything, it’ll help solidify why you joined this crazy community we call CrossFit Austin!

GET EXCITED!  -Coach Leigh

Want to get involved? Sign up for the Open here!

A Culture Based on Values: The Zappos Happiness Principles

A Culture Based on Values: The Zappos Happiness Principles

At the end of every year, Boone and I review the Core Values of CrossFit Austin.  Core values are the principles most companies use to guide decision making throughout the lifetime of the business. Sometimes these principles are set forth from day one, or, as in our case, the core values develop and evolve through experience. The online retailer Zappo’s has one of the most famous sets of Core Values of any modern company.  In the book “Delivering Happiness,” Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh breaks down how following their fundamental set of core values has created a thriving unique culture.

The 10 Zappos Core Values resonated with me, and like most good ideas I come across, I immediately thought about how they apply to CrossFit Austin.  So, today and in the following weeks I’ll be exploring how to apply what I call the “Zappos Happiness Principles” to our little gym in South Austin.  I’ve adapted the list slightly to fit CFA; if you’d like to check out the original list or, even better, read the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.

1. Attitude is everything.

Nothing trumps a great attitude. It’s number one on the list for a reason. If you can muster up a good attitude for a task, big or small, you can persevere regardless of how much adversity gets thrown your way. With a positive attitude channeled through perseverance, success is within your grasp 99% of the time.

2. Embrace and drive change.

Change is uncomfortable, but paramount  to growth. The world is constantly evolving – you can either spearhead that change in a positive fashion, embrace it with enthusiasm, or stand by idly comfortable with the status quo. CrossFit Austin prefers to spearhead evolution and we want you on board with us.

3. Create fun and a little weirdness.

This one is easy, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We always try to make our gym about  fun, which in turn gets a little weird, sometimes.  However the diverse group of personalities we work with every day makes this a slam dunk at CrossFit Austin.

4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.

Try something new. Play a new sport, lift instead of run, run instead of lift, play instead of train, train instead of play. Look outside the box: sometimes success lies beyond the obvious choice.  Being adventurous and creative, which in turn means being open-minded, allows for discovery both intrinsically and extrinsically.

5. Make growth and learning an endless pursuit..

Goals and actions steeped in education are purpose driven. Understand what you want to accomplish, understand why you want to accomplish it, create a path to get there, and understand what constitutes success. This is a fool-proof formula for success.

6. Develop open, honest relationships grounded in communication.

Relationships are the foundation of happiness. Without relationships, there will always be something missing – whether it be life, work, family, or training.  The only way to build and/or strengthen relationships is through open, honest communication.  The resulting trust and faith in the relationship is powerful beyond measure.

7 . Build a positive team (and family) environment.

One thing that CrossFit and CrossFit Austin has made clear to me is that unified pursuits of like-minded goals drive people. It drives them beyond what they believe they can do.  This team spirit and commitment only works when you strive to build the people around you up. Negativity permeates everything around it and sucks the life out of the room.  Do your neighbor, and yourself, a favor by choosing to keep the energy in the room positive.

8.  Work Hard.

Like I’ve said before, there are very few things that will beat hard work.  If you’re committed to the first 7 items of this list and you approach it by working your butt off, there’s no stopping you.

9. Have passion and determination.

These are both incredible byproducts of hard work, good attitudes, and a commitment to fun. Just try not to be passionate and determined when you’re working hard and having fun doing it. That, my friends, is harder than any workout I, or anyone else, can throw at you.

10. Practice humility.

Humility comes when we decide that there is more to this journey than ourselves and our egos. Humility is not only a result of many of the actions listed above, it’s something that some people have organically. But, more importantly, humility can be developed over time through experience.  Humility is hands-down my favorite quality a person can possess.

Read this list a couple of times. I will be expanding on each item over the course of the next 10 weeks.  Ask yourself how you can apply these actions and traits, not only in the gym, but in everyday life.  The best thing about this list is it is not just something I see as a goal at CrossFit Austin, it’s a list of qualities that I see and love about everyone involved in our gym community. The principles clearly define what I love about our culture, and I’m hungry to experience this culture more with each and every one of you.


I see you rollin… – Leigh Legare

Today Coach Leigh weighs in with the “why” of foam rolling and some good tips to get you started.  When Leigh isn’t coaching or training to be a CrossFit Games champion, she works as a Certified Recovery Specialist at Airrosti Rehab Centers.

So, we’ve seen them at one time or another in the gym.  You know, the long, circular, white or black foam rollers. We know they must be beneficial, because so many people use them. You might have tried using one, only to be left scratching your head and wondering why you were rolling around the floor.
Foam rolling can be very beneficial to your routine, if you know what you’re doing. I know what you’re thinking…. “If everyone else is doing it must be working?” Although your mama probably warned you about following the crowd,  foam rolling is for everyone—CrossFitter or sedentary Joe!

Let’s start with the  physiological aspects (nerd alert) of foam rolling.  It’s a form of self myofascial release therapy (SMRT) used to break down scar tissue and adhesions that form on soft tissue after repetitive use.   “Myo” is Greek for “muscle” and “fascia” is a web of connective tissue found throughout the body.   Myofascial release is stretching of the muscle and fascia.

We all have a pretty good idea as to what a muscle is but sometimes I lose my audience when I say “fascia.”   To really understand the importance of foam rolling, we have to understand what fascia is and how it works. Fascia is the connective tissue surrounding our muscles, which as a whole is known as the myofascial unit.  Picture a sandwich (the muscle) wrapped in saran wrap (the fascia).  The saran wrap holds the sandwich together and they move as a unit. Since these two are interconnected, if we stretch our muscles, we stretch the fascia surrounding them. The same concept applies for injured muscles.  If we damage or tear them, we have damaged and torn the fascia.  Thus, we can’t “tear” into the sandwich (the muscle) without “tearing” through the saran wrap (the fascia).

So now you know if you tear muscles, you tear fascia. What you don’t know is every time you work out, you are tearing muscle fibers. It’s nothing to be scared of as that’s how you build strength.  However, both the muscle fibers and the fascia become tighter and shorter each time.  Picture your body as a chain.  When there is a kink (shortened muscle fibers and fascia) in the chain, it causes stress in other parts of the chain.  Will a kinked chain still be able to perform its function of let’s say holding up a large speaker over a football stadium?  Sure!  But over time, the added stress on the chain from that kink will cause the chain to break, dropping the speaker onto the stands…ouch!
Our body is durable but it’s not invincible.  Breakdown happens when we get out of shape, and develop more “kinks,” making us more prone to injuries.

Foam rolling alleviates these kinks,  by breaking down scar tissue and the adhesions that form on the soft tissue after repetitive use.  These scar tissues and adhesions are formed from the micro tears we create daily from not only CrossFitting, but also our lifestyles and habits outside of CrossFit.  The micro tears eventually build up onto each other and lead to bigger problems.  Imagine your torn muscles and fascia (after tightening up) as dough balls and the foam roller as your rolling pin.  We smooth out dough balls to form wonderful, light pastries.  Similarly, the foam roller stretches and lengthens your distorted myofascial units back into a functional state so that your body works more efficiently.  If you can be consistent with it, foam rolling not only prevents these “dough balls” from hindering your fitness or lifestyle goals but also helps:

• Increase range of motion
• Increase long-term flexibility
• Relieve pain
• Prevent injury
• Improve strength

Moral of the story?  Start to incorporate foam rolling into your daily regimen.  Come in early and knock it out before a workout.  Long day at work?  Get on that roller and release the stress your body is carrying.  It may not look pretty and it’s definitely not one of the most flattering things to do in public! But if you’re looking to see gains in your 1 RM snatch or kipping pull-ups, you won’t until you work out your kinks, lengthen those dough balls, and finally gain the flexibility needed to realize your body’s full potential.

Remember these rules of foam rolling:
1. It will hurt
2. Pain is good, it means you’ve found those dough balls (aka trigger points) needed to release the tension.
3. Once you feel pain, roll over that spot until you feel some relief.
4. BE CONSISTENT…see it as corrective, preventative, restorative, and daily maintenance. The more consistent you are with foam rolling, the less pain you will feel in the long run.
5. Make it a part of your life!  Embrace it and all of its glory…yes, even the awkward positions you may have to get into in order to roll out tight areas.
6. Foam rolling is FUN.  Much more fun  than watching others train while you sit out because you injured yourself.

The perfect Christmas gift…. a new deadlift PR!

Ahhh yes… December is here, there are so many aspects of December that I love!! First of all it is my birth month, its finally cold outside again, fantasy football playoffs, bowl season starts, and Nugget is finally justified listening to Christmas music (its been on his Ipod since September). We might as well add one more joy this December, a good ole fashion strength block culminating with CrossFit Total day! Its like adding Bing Crosby and Uncle Eddie’s egg nog to your CrossFit party.So what is a strength block you say? One thing we do when designing the program for CFA is set specific focuses for set periods time within the broader program. Think of it as an overarching theme or purpose that drives our actions over the course of 4-6 weeks. We call that a “block” and we just finished up a 4 week block of work capacity (you may have noticed the burning in your lungs) so its time to get back to the business of getting strong. Below are some tips for maximizing strengthiness this holiday season. 


As we’ve discussed before training is not about constantly tearing yourself to pieces. Its about systematically breaking yourself down then recovering enough that you’ve rebuilt a better, stronger more efficient machine. This becomes exceedingly important when we train for strength. The stress and intensity placed on the body’s muscles and nervous system is at its highest during bouts of strength training. Therefore one must be extra mindful that they are recovering. This includes things like getting good sleep, taking an extra 5-10 minutes before/after class to stretch/mobilize, and eating enough calories (particularly protein) to facilitate the muscle recovery process. All of these extra little details (strengthtails?) will help maximizes the benefits of the strength block. 

Complimentary conditioning not counterproductive conditioning

Although strength is our focus we’re still doing a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. That means we will be conditioning throughout the block, our strength focused days will fall on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays with conditioning dispersed throughout the week. Conditioning is something that will actually help us recover and facilitate strength gains if we do it right. Basically three big things are needed for this to work:

  • Extra focus on mechanics, efficiency, and form during conditioning efforts
  • Staying out of the red line
  • Use weights and movement scales that encourage quality movement over nervous system demands

First things first, everyone knows that we hold you guys to a high standard in terms of movement technique. That said, proper mechanics will be even more important this month as we want to reinforce the most efficient and powerful positions possible. For an in depth synopsis of how technique contributes to overall strength development check out today’s article.

Secondly “stay out of the red zone” during conditioning efforts this month. We are dolling out a great deal of stress via the strength work, and mind scrambling can’t remember my last name WODs will leave your nervous fatigued right when we need it to be fresh and firing on all cylinder. In short, shoot to finish conditioning workouts standing tall knowing you’ve put in good work, not laying face down on the mats drowning in a pool of your own sweat and tears.

Finally, use weights and movement scales that allow you to move consistently, sustainably, and correctly. Don’t get caught up in Rx baby momma drama, if you can’t do it correct consistently its probably to heavy. Pushing and challenging yourself correctly with the strength work will drive the neurological adaptations we are trying to achieve. IF you let that happen the heavier WOD weights will come shortly there after.

That’s the low down for the CFA Holiday season folks. If your not to keen on being stronger, or you have competition goals that require more conditioning work, take this month to try out Coach Aaron’s running classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Other wise lets get our squat and deadlift on, Merry Christmas my friends!

Yours in Awesomeness
Coach Wes

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.

I Took Them Both… Two pathways to better running

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood, and I…
I Took Them Both.

Two pathways to better running.
By Aaron Davis

Since I can remember I have been conditioned to make difficult decision and to stick with my choices.  When I was 2, it was either to gnaw on my thumb or the cat?  At the tender age of 10, it was the blonde Rachael or the brunette Brandy?  Even today with my running do I…

A. Focus on the long slow miles and improve endurance?


B. Focus on Strength Training and Faster running to improve power?

Decisions…decisions, but, since the age of 2 one thing has remained constant in my life.  My ability to choose both!  Now, would I suggest this attitude for everyday life?  No, but for your running?  I would say “yes” a million times over.  It may be the one decision that defines your running, helps the miles go by faster, and keeps you injury free.

The Two Paths

In the sport of running there are two ways to improve, either Endurance or Power.  Endurance, the focus is extension, i.e. running more miles, and running those miles faster.   While on the Power side we want to generate more force with each step, while making each step more efficient.

Today in the running community the primary focus has been improving all aspects of Endurance with little attention paid to the Power end of the spectrum.

In my best Johnny Castle impression from Dirty Dancing I say, “No one puts Baby in a corner!”

Working on Power, year round, will not only make you faster but could help you stay injury free.

Don’t Say Dirty Words

“I haven’t started Speed Work yet.”

Ah…that hurt to write.  In Fact it’s even hard to look at, but unfortunately I hear it all the time.  It is a common phrase most runners use to explain their training.  Why is it Dirty you might ask?  Here is my simple line of thinking on the subject…

“Repetition is the mother of learning.”

I am a firm believer in whatever you repeat your body will adapt to.  If you eat a lot of McDonald’s you will one day look like the Grimace.

If you run a lot of slow miles you will inevitably turn into a slow runner!

So we must always work on “Speed”.

Don’t get me wrong you always need a good base of miles, but the body loves variety.  Mix it up!  You wouldn’t eat PB&J’s all day, every day.  So don’t do it to your running.

Twice a Week will keep the Slow Running Away

An easy protocol to follow is to incorporate Hill Sprints into your weekly training.  All you need is a Hill 100m in distance and perform the workout below.

Hill Sprint Workout.  (Perform after easy Endurance running twice a week)

6-10 x 10 sec Max Up Hill Sprints with 3 minute walking recovery.

It’s an easy workout that will improve the following in 3 to 6 weeks…

  • Force Production
  • Strength
  • Efficiency  (Reduce Energy expenditure and injuries)
  • Slower paces will feel easier
  • Improvement in Running Technique (Correcting Over-Striding)
  • Faster times

Make a conscious decision to train Power and Endurance. It will make all the difference.

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

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

Coach’s Spotlight: Tristy “Mac” Stephens

We are taking a quick break from our “Athlete of the Month” series, to give you a glimpse into the journey of your coaches.  We will do this periodically, to let you know that we’ve all fought a lot of the same battles some of you may be fighting right now. In the process hopefully give you the inspiration to continue fighting through the tough times.

You all know Tristy, as the kick ass trainer that makes you constantly stretch your hips in unbearable ways, doesn’t put up with you eating crap for breakfast, and won’t let you stop when the going gets tough in a WOD.  To us she’s an absolute rock, who is just as responsible for making this gym a success as either of us.  Everyone of you is blessed to work with Tristy, she is one of the most caring,  genuine people I’ve ever met, and has this silly habit of changing peoples lives on a daily basis. 

This is her story….

I have spent my entire life battling with my weight.  I have been overweight since I was in first grade.  There were even times in my life when I was considered “morbidly obese.”  In middle school, I hovered around 200lbs, and my mom started taking me to a doctor who specialized in weight loss.  Throughout middle school and high school, I tried almost every fad diet that was released onto the market.  I would lose a couple of pounds here and there, but nothing significant and it would never stay off.  I played softball, rowed for a crew team, and I also worked out in a gym as much as I could.   I wasn’t scared of hard work, so I tried to stay active, but nothing I did made the weight come off.

When I got to college, most of the friends I made were athletes at my university.  I was surrounded with people who were in fantastic shape, and it was a constant reminder of the changes I needed to make.  So, I hired a personal trainer, started rowing for my university’s crew team and started making major changes in my diet.  I was working out twice a day 5 days a week and once a day on the 6th day.  I started to lose a good amount of weight for the first time in my life.  I went from a size 16-18 to a 14 and I was thrilled.

Over the next 5 years, I traveled extensively and lived all over the world.  I managed to stay very active and almost always had a gym membership in the countries where I lived.  My diet was more difficult because it was controlled by my environment, but I tried to remain conscious of the things I was eating.  However, despite my best efforts, the weight started to pack back on.

At the end of 2007, I moved to the Austin area with my older brother, Shane.  For years, Shane has been very dedicated to his fitness and health.  He has always been a good influence on me in that aspect, but since I hadn’t lived near him in over 10 years, it was hard for his influence to stick.  When we moved here, the first thing we did was join a Globo gym.  We worked out daily, made meals together and did everything we could to be healthy.  After about 8 months, we started getting bored with our routine and started looking for something new.  Shane mentioned that he had heard of this thing called CrossFit, so we started doing some research.  We did our first CF WOD on our own at our Globo gym, and after we finished, although we were lying on the floor gasping for air, we both agreed we were sold.  We followed the CF main page WOD’s for about a month on our own, and then we started looking for a CF gym to join in Austin.  We knew that we needed coaching in order to get the full benefits of the program.

In Nov. of last year, I came across a website that was promoting CF Austin in South Austin, so I immediately emailed  them (ed. note: about 2 seconds after the website went up!) to see if Shane and I could come join the free workouts they were hosting.  I was so excited and unbelievably nervous to go to our first workout.  I had visions of a group of people with ripped ab muscles, bulging biceps and perfectly sculpted calves who could all run a 4 minute mile.  I knew I would be the most out-of-shape person there, and it scared me to death.  When, I found out that Shane had to work and couldn’t go with me, I let my nerves get the better of me and didn’t go.  The next day, Shane had to work again, but I was determined to make it to the free CF Austin workout anyway.  My stomach was in knots, but I went and met Wes and Boone and did the workout.  Shane and I continued to go to all of the free workouts that CFA hosted in the park and then, as soon as they let us, we joined CFA!

Since starting CF a little over a year ago, my life has changed dramatically in so many ways.  The most obvious change has been that I have lost over 60lbs, and I am officially half the size that I was at this time last year (I started at a size 16 and now am a size 8).  I see differences in my body composition almost daily.  The most rewarding part of the weight loss is that I know that it will never come back.  The lifestyle changes I have made are permanent ones!  I attended a CF nutrition certification in March of last year, which totally changed the way that I eat, but more importantly, the way that I look at food and nutrition.  The most significant change CF has brought for me has been that I have gained self confidence for the first time in my life.  Every day, I look at the WOD and think, “man, there’s no way I can do that,” and then I go in and do it, and it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment.  This attitude has translated over into every aspect of my life.  I attended my Level One CF certification last month which is something that I would have NEVER had the confidence to do a year ago.  For 28 years I made excuses, and overcompensated in so many areas of my life because of my weight and lack of self confidence.  It is a wonderful feeling to finally not have to do that anymore.  I have a lot more work to do to reach my goals, but I am proud of the progress I have made so far.  CrossFit Austin and the amazing owners/coaches have helped me make the changes in my life that I was never able to do on my own! I am blessed to be a member of the CrossFit Austin family, and I am so proud to be part of a community filled with such outstanding individuals!

We love ya Tristy, keep up the great work!

What’s with all the Rx talk?

by Boone Putney

First let me say that I have a couple main goals when it comes to training you:  To make you a stronger, faster, healthier person… and, more importantly, to keep you safe.

Rx is a term from the medical world that stands for “Prescription” we use it in the CrossFit world to mean that you did a workout “as prescribed.”  So, the infamous Fran workout is 21-15-9 of 95lb Thrusters and Pull-ups.  Any scaling from there would mean the workout was not done Rx.

What must be realized is that the workout “as prescribed” is designed for top-level athletes, and will not and should not be the proper level for most of the people in the gym.

“My goal is to wear the same shoes as Shaquille O’Neal.”

What’s wrong with that statement?  Well… forget about Shaq’s horrible taste in footwear, with the noted exception of the neon-blue CO2 auto-pumps of ’94.  The shoes are designed to fit his specific feet, U.S. shoe size 23 (You know what that means… he has a REALLY big  …bill from the custom shoe store), and even though you can probably get your feet in them and hobble up and down the court, it won’t be pretty and you won’t get much out of it.

First the easy Topic: Safety

We can all understand that in any given movement, there will be a line where a movement becomes unsafe:  too much weight, too fast, for too long, etc.  Even though you MAY be able to pull a 500lb deadlift doing your constipated dog impression, it probably isn’t the best idea.

How’s my form?

If you really want to sit on the couch for the rest of your life, there are better ways to go about it than attempting to shoot your vertebrae out your ass.  If you guys don’t understand this, just ring your call button, and Tommy will come back there and hit you on the head with a tack hammer.

…and now Performance

a.k.a. Results a.k.a Why you guys are in here busting your asses

Wanting to do workouts Rx’d is the same as the Shaq situation.  Although our strength and conditioning programming may look more or less Random, there are set stimuli and responses that we’re trying to achieve through thorough and methodical planning.  These WODs (and strength sessions, skill sessions, movement preparation, and mobility work) are designed to maximize effective time in the gym, and more importantly… drive results (or as Kelly Starrett would say: “dirty sexy nasty performance increases”).

BEWARE: Science & Graphs follow…

There are three metabolic pathways that provide the energy for our movements. These “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. The energy production and time domains are displayed above.  The phosphagen pathway dominates intense movements that last less than about ten seconds. The glycolytic pathway, dominates moderate-powered activities that last up to several minutes. The oxidative pathway, dominates low-powered activities, those that last longer than several minutes.  Hint:  You’re probably in the oxidative pathway right now, unless you’re sitting at your preacher curl station reppin’ out sets of 10 while reading this (in which case you’re probably still in your oxidative pathway).  Each one of these metabolic engines will tax different systems and elicit a certain response.  We program for these specific responses.

So, if someone does Fran in 4 minutes, they will achieve the desired stimulus and the designed results.  If someone is stumbling through Fran for 15 minutes, do you see how they might not be getting the same stimulus?  While you will probably still get something out of lifting 95lbs overhead 45 times, if you scale to 65lb thrusters and band pull-ups, to a level where you can get the desired stimulus, you’ll see much better gains in the short and long term.

At the same time, maybe someday we will ask you to do Fran with 95lbs, even though it won’t be easy, and it may take you a little longer, because we’re trying to build your strength and mental capacity that day.  We do these things for a reason, not because we love torturing you, or making you look bad on the world wide internet by displaying your time with some scaling next to your name.  Chances are good that your grandma, or that cheerleader you dated in middle school, or your dog Duke won’t ever even read the results… but come pool-time, everyone will notice.

…So if someday you want to get to the place where you’re one of those top-level athletes who steals Mikko Salo’s milk-money on his way home from the gym… THAT’S AN AWESOME GOAL.  It’s our goal to get you there, but if we want you to do 75lb thrusters so you can stay in the desired metabolic pathways, and generate gains, realize it’s with good reason.  Take your 75lbs and run with it.  Bust out Fran in 2 minutes with perfect form.  Show us you deserve more weight, and keep grinding away.  You’ll get there!  Just understand if it’s not today.