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!

I went to a Wimhof workshop…Here’s what I learned || Coach Heidi

TL/DR: Wim Hof breathing techniques and cold training are definitely worth checking out for recovery and building grit.

I don’t like the cold. Let me say it again, loud and clear: I DO NOT LIKE THE COLD. I often joke that I’m Thai, and I grew up in Houston, Texas; therefore I’m built for hot, sweaty, humid weather. So, when I started hearing about this crazy Dutch guy named Wim Hof years ago, I thought, “Yeah, that’s cool, but I’ll never, ever do that.” Fast forward a few years, and there I was, voluntarily signing up for an in-person workshop.


Who: Wim Hof is probably best known for his extreme-cold adventures, like swimming underneath the ice, running half-marathons barefoot in the snow, and hanging out in tubs full of ice on the regular. They call him “The Iceman” for good reason. 


What: The Wim Hof Method includes the pillars of cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. I attended an in-person workshop the second weekend in January with nearly 40 other people at a Bikram Yoga studio in East Austin. It was led by Elizabeth Lee, a Level 3 Instructor, who was playful, professional, and best of all, practical. 


Why: While the WHM is still met with some skepticism, it claims to relieve symptoms of several diseases due to its effects on one’s physiology. However, within athletic circles, the touted benefits are improved recovery, increased sports performance, more energy, and a boosted immune system, among others.


Before attending this workshop, I watched the Vice documentary about Wim Hof so I’d have some idea of what to expect. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that some footage seems a little over-the-top. Nevertheless, I decided to have an open mind about it and to give it a solid effort. After all, why pay money for an in-person workshop if I’m just going to act like a grumpy skeptic the entire time? 


The first portion of the workshop was on breathing. We jumped right into the practical application of it, and while I know a bit about breathwork and practice frequently, I’d never gone as far as this. We laid on the floor, and we deepened and sped up our breath for 10-15 minutes, and before I knew it, my hands started to curl up (T-Rex style), my face was going numb, and I felt my entire body start to buzz. It was nuts. In my head, all I could think was WTF, since I genuinely couldn’t believe that focused breathwork could make you feel so… well, high. Wim, being the character that he is, says that’s energy moving through your body and “getting the s*** out.” The lack of scientific explanation (hyperoxygenation) is probably one reason his methods are met with skepticism from many, but I’m touchy-feely enough to be okay with the layman’s version!


Then, segueing off of that breathing exercise, we started playing with “power breaths” and holds. Holds are when you take a big breath in, let it out, and hold there for as long as you can before having to take the next breath. We did a baseline measurement, and I got to 20 seconds before wanting to take another breath. To be fair, I was trying to do what felt natural without turning myself blue. We followed that with the breathing exercises and took three more measured holds, and I ended at 1:42, 1:51, 1:46. Again, all I could think was WTF.

Then came the part that had made me the most anxious in the week leading up to the workshop: the ice bath. We preceded it with 20 minutes in horse stance to get ourselves revved up and warmed up for the 32-degree ice-water (yes, they measured the temp exactly). I won’t drag this part out, but it was… really freaking cold (duh). If you want a good laugh, just watch the video of me freaking out and struggling to breathe for the first minute, and then eventually surrendering to it. I never got my arms into the pool because the bottom was slippery, and I was just trying to keep myself upright. In any case, once I’d settled in, it wasn’t so bad. I was totally invigorated and proud coming out of the tub, having toughed it out for a full two minutes. I even danced through the water a few more times to celebrate with my classmates!


VIDEO: https://youtu.be/WWlQgrSpOeA


The Takeaways: The big question coming out of this workshop is what I would do with what I learned. I am definitely going to learn more about the breathing exercises and their supposed benefits, so stay tuned for that. I’m still not fully certain how or why I should be creating a daily practice for this. As for the ice bath, I am 100% going to incorporate that into my recovery routine. There’s a reason athletes do ice plunges regularly! For me personally, the mental toughness is just as important as the physical recovery. The cold training will never be fun or easy for me, but I can almost guarantee it’ll be worth it. As a CrossFitter, I also know that doing hard things is almost always easier with friends, so be on the lookout for community cold-plunge days at CrossFit Austin!


Further Reading: The Way of the Iceman by Wim Hof and Koen De Jong and What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney are both on the bookshelf in the office at CrossFit Austin!

Kitchen Adventures || Lentil Falafel Bowls

Definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone this week! Mine and Tim’s favorite food truck is a place on East 6th called Halal Time and they make the BEST Falafels. Mine don’t even hold a candle to those, but they did actually come out falafel like this time! I tried once before to make falafel and it was a big fail. Not because they didn’t taste good… they were just a big mushy mess… This time, consistency was on point! I think traditionally, falafel is made from chickpeas, but this version uses lentils and herbs. I’m sure you could do the same thing with chickpeas, but since I was doing roasted chickpeas in the bowl I wanted to use another source.

While the falafel was my big win for this recipe, they are not the only thing in this bowl. It’s packed full of colorful veggies with rich flavors and all topped with a zingy yogurt sauce. If you’re looking for a tasty, filling meatless option, here ya go! This recipe made 4 large bowls for us this week.


For the falafel
1 cup (large handful) fresh parsley – leaves and stems
1 cup (large handful) fresh cilantro – leaves and stems
2 cups cooked lentils – slightly undercooked is better for consistency
1 TBSP olive oil
1 jalapeno – seeds optional for more spice
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-2 TBSP flour of your choice – best would likely be almond or cassava

For the bowls
6-8 carrots – peeled and sliced into
1 small red onion – cut into thick slices
1 head cauliflower – cut into florets
2-3 beets – washed
2 cans chickpeas – drained, rinsed, and dried
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil and coconut oil for roasting
Optional – 2 cups cooked quinoa to bulk up the bowls if you prefer

For the sauce
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic – minced
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp fresh dill
pinch of salt


Cook your lentils and if you’re using it, quinoa and set aside to cool. Remember, a little under is better for the lentils.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. All the veggies for this recipe are roasted and timing will be the most important part to be able to load your bowls easily at the end. Wash and trim the tops and tails off the beets. Coat in coconut oil and roast until fork tender (about 30 min depending on size). Carrots – wash, peel and cut into thin sticks. Coat in olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes. Onion – peeled and sliced into thick slices – coat in olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes. Cauliflower – cut into floret – coat in olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes. Keep the seasoning simple with a little sea salt and black pepper!

For the chickpeas – drain, rinse, and lay them out on a layer of paper towels. Pat dry prior to roasting. This will help them crisp up a bit! Then, you guessed it – coat in olive oil and roast on a lined cookie sheet for about 20 minutes. Once finished, combine curry powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and toss the chickpeas in the seasoning.

For the falafels – In a food processor, add all of the falafel ingredients except the flour and pulse until well combined. A little at a time, add the flour and pulse until the mixture becomes thick enough that it sticks together and can be handled and molded. To make things cleaner and easier, I used a greased mini muffin tin for mine and it was FANTASTIC. You can also mold them into balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let them cool before messing with them so they don’t lose their structure.

For the sauce – combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl or jar. Cover and refrigerate and drizzle on after you’ve reheated your bowl.

Once everything is done, divide evenly amongst 4 bowls. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat!

Kitchen Adventures || Smokey Chipotle Stuffed Poblanos

Ok… Who has tips for cutting onions without crying your eyes out? I swear, I even tear up cutting lil ol’ green onions… Short of wearing swimming goggles (which I have) I don’t know what to do! Anyway… I love onions and I don’t think I could cook regularly without them so, I’ll get over it.

This week, I’m completing my saga of the Force of Nature meats we have available! Aside from the bison/bacon burgers which don’t need a recipe. I’ve done recipes for ancestral beef, bison, wild boar, & elk, so this week we have venison! I’ve eaten a lot of venison in my life, but I haven’t prepared much of it.

This recipe is born from kind of a mash of different dishes I like to make and I thought would pair well with the natural flavors in venison. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would turn out, but I must say I’m pleased! I love the smoky tangy flavor of chipotle peppers in adobo so that gives this dish much of it’s flavor, but be warned they can pack a pretty big punch. I’ve paired this with a cool lime crema sauce to go on top that will bring down the heat just a bit and give it a little extra zing.

Like I do with a lot of dishes, I served this with some roasted sweet potatoes. To my surprise, however, I ended up with one orange and one white sweet potato! Pulled out of the same bin! I do have to say I like how they turned out visually 🙂 I seasoned this batch with cinnamon and chili powder for a bit of contrast.

This is a quick weeknight dish that will yield 4 total peppers so Tim and I will have some left over for tomorrow’s lunch!


1 Package Force Of Nature Venison
1 Cup (uncooked) brown rice
4 Large Poblano Peppers
1 small yellow onion – diced
3 cloves of garlic – minced
1 can black beans – drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
3 tsp pureed chipotles in adobo sauce (I bought it pre-pureed, but you can do this in a food processor)
1 TBSP chili powder (I like a dark chili powder)
1 tsp cumin
Olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

For the sauce
1/2 cup Mexican Crema
Juice from 1 small lime
Pinch of salt
Cilantro – chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cook the rice according to the instructions.

Mix all of the ingredients for the crema in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. If it’s too thick, add a splash of cold water.

In a glass baking dish, place the peppers in about a 1/4 inch of water. Microwave for 3 minutes. Check the peppers for tenderness, flip and microwave for another 2 minutes or until softened. They should be soft, but still hold shape. Drain the water and set aside to cool until they are cool enough for you to handle.

Heat about a TBSP of olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the venison and cook until browned. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and some S&P and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Next, add the tomatoes, beans, and rice. Stir well to combine. Finally, add the chipotle puree and mix well. Turn down the heat, taste the mixture and adjust to your liking.

When you can handle the peppers, cut the top off, and slice one side open. Remove the seeds and stems. Coat the outside with olive oil and sprinkle some salt on each one. In the glass baking dish, fill each pepper with the venison mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until you start to see the skin blister. Be careful not to let the filling burn!

Remove and serve with a drizzle of the crema and some extra cilantro if you like!

BodySpec at CrossFit Austin || What is DXA Scanning?

BodySpec LogoAt CrossFit Austin


In years past, we have had a few different methods of body composition testing available. Most recently, you’ve probably seen a hydrostatic weighing truck (water method) parked out front, but this year we wanted to try something a little different!

Body composition tests measure the specific  percentages of bone, fat, lean mass, and water that make up your body. When you step on a scale, all of those things are combined to give you your total bodyweight, but with composition testing you can see exactly what that number breaks down to. If you’re interested in body composition testing, DXA scans are one of the most precise and accurate tests available.

For more info and what to expect, keep reading! 

From the BodySpec site:

“DXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Our DXA scans are performed using the same medical-grade machine used by hospitals, universities, and professional athletic facilities. The DXA uses very weak x-ray beams to detect the composition of each square inch of your body. These results are interpreted and aggregated to give you not only a total body fat percentage, but also complete visualization and analysis of your lean tissue and bone density.”

If you have specific composition goals for yourself (as most of us do) like getting leaner, adding mass, etc… it’s important that you understand the make up of your own body. Diet and exercise are not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of deal so by knowing and understand your own individual make up, you can then make choices that will actually guide you toward your goals!

How does it work?

The process is simple! Basically, you’re going to lie on the scanner for about 10 minutes and then you’ll sit with a consultant for another 10 or so minutes to talk through your results. Easy!

* Make sure you wear closing without metal pieces – workout clothes are great!

* Take note of your circumstances if you plan to scan again at a later date – time of day, water/food intake, etc…

* Additionally, if you have recently had a barium x-ray, a nuclear medicine scan, or any other x-ray procedure involving ingestion or injection of a tracer substance, please wait at least 2 weeks after that procedure before scheduling a DXA scan.

* Finally, if you are pregnant, please do not sign up for a DXA scan.

How do I book?

CrossFit Austin is bringing a truck right to the gym! You can reserve a spot through our personal link! Plan to allot about 20 minutes for your scan and results. You can fill out your intake form ahead of time to save time the day of!


Monday, February 10 || 4:00 – 7:00 pm
Pricing – 1 scan $45
2 scans $85
4 scans $170



Check out the BodySpec website for more information on DXA scanning and FAQs! 

Kitchen Adventures || Itty Bitty Elk Burgers

I’m back! It was a couple of weeks without recipes over the holidays, but honestly I didn’t cook that much either. We had SO MUCH FOOD over the holidays with family and had left overs and everything else.

We had an awesome time, but man… I’m glad to be home and getting back into a normal schedule/routine. Maybe I’m just a creature of habit… or I’m boring…. but I like routine.

Back to the grind means back to the kitchen! I’m coming back to the Force of Nature stuff here because I’ve been thinking about this elk for weeks so I figured it would be a great return to the blog.

The measurements in this recipe made 4 sliders so if you plan to do this with leftovers in mind, I’d double it. Otherwise this was a great dinner! It felt decadent and fancy, but y’all…. this. was. easy.



Stuffed Elk Sliders


For the sliders
1 Package Force of Nature Elk (y’all know you can get this AT the gym, right?)
2 ounces of brie – remove the rind and cut up into small cubes – you can sub any cheese you like, but this was awesome (or no cheese if you prefer)
1/2 tsp pink salt
1/2 tsp black pepper (if you can get smoked black pepper I highly recommend it!)
Olive oil
Mini buns – I used whole wheat

For the sauce – Do not skip this… maybe make extra to dip your sweet potato fries in….
1/2 cup mayo
1 clove of garlic – minced
1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 TBSP dried tarragon
pinch of sea salt

We served these with sweet potato fries that I baked in coconut oil and sprinkled with paprika.


We don’t have a grill at the moment, but you could absolutely grill them. If you’re going the oven route, preheat the oven to 475 with a cast iron griddle plate inside.

If serving with baked sweet potato fries, cut, coat and start those in the oven first on a lined cookie sheet. Bake to your liking and sprinkle with paprika.

In a bowl, mix the ingredients for the sauce well until combined. I actually threw mine in the food processor, but up to you. Cover and put in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

In another bowl, season the elk with salt and pepper and divide into 8 equal parts. You’ll use two parts for each burger. With 1 part, form a small patty and place a couple of small chunks of brie in the middle. Cover with another patty and press so the edges combine leaving you with 1 small patty with cheese hidden nicely in the middle. Once you’ve made 4 stuffed patties, brush each on both sides with olive oil.

Place the patties on the grill plate and grill for about 4 min/side or to your liking! This got me to about medium/well in my oven. Cook them the same way you’d cook your favorite burger.

Assemble your sliders and enjoy!

I served these on wheat buns with some arugula, red onion, and tomato. Next time, I’ll definitely double the recipe!

Introducing your 2019 Iron Buffalo Recipients || JoAnna Brand & Sayyed Naghaviani

Every year, we’ve chosen a male and female that stood out to us and exemplified the things that we look for in members of our community. In year’s past, this award has been called the Push-Up Man and Push-Up Woman of the Year award. While we will always be proud of our Push-Up men and women, we chose to bring to light a new award with our new ownership. Our first Iron Buffalo recipients were announced in the 10th year of business in 2018!

The Iron Buffalo award reflects many of the same things we looked for with the PUM/PUW. The athletes chosen were not limited to physical ability alone, although both of these athletes are quite talented in their individual areas. It also encompasses their ability to connect with their fellow CFA members, their continuous drive, and their commitment not only to this community, but to their own longevity, health, and overall being.

As Tim was considering the elements of this award, he turned to his own family and his own history. The Buffalo has been a symbol in his family for many years. From family homesteading a ranch in Buffalo, Texas where he and his brother made many childhood memories, to his hometown in Bartlesville, OK where Buffalo statues line the intersections of the city. Even the company he formed to purchase the gym, The Buffalo Collective, uses the symbol.

The Buffalo, in Native American culture symbolizes a spirit of abundance and friendship. As a totem it symbolizes earth-centeredness, selflessness, and the power of a team unit. The buffalo itself is a symbol of power. It has the strength the carry heavy burdens, not just physically, but in all aspects. We find all of these qualities to be what we looked for in our athletes of the year and could not be more proud to call them the Iron Buffalo recipients.

These athletes exemplify all of these amazing qualities and more. They lead by example. They work hard. Their family and friends are a priority in their lives and they uplift and encourage those around them. We are so honored to share the interviews of our 2019 Iron Buffalo recipients, JoAnna Brand and Sayyed Naghaviani. Congratulations you two! We’re grateful to have you as a part of this team and this family.


JoAnna Brand

When did you join the CFA community?
2014 (2009 for CF, but 2014 CFA)

What is one of your most memorable moments from your early days at CFA? Any ‘newbie’ stories you’d like to share?
Getting those first couple bar muscle ups and having Gen there to record them!

What is it about CFA that you love or that is different from other sports/programs you’ve tried?
It’s like playing. Just fun stuff. sometimes a struggle, but always worth it. And FUN. Even when I have to row.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to when you first started CrossFit?
I just wish I could have started it in my teens or 20s, before broken ankles and poor form set in… 

What was your initial reason for starting (your ‘why’)? How has that ‘Why’ changed?
Looked like fun, and to be a challenge. And I love pull ups and push ups!!!

How did you create long term fitness/CrossFit success for yourself?
Finding things I enjoy, that I can do alone as well as with others for motivation. Running around in the woods, CrossFit, and just sustained movement throughout the day.

What makes you come in and train on days when you don’t want to?
I always want to!! But if my body is telling me to rest, I have no problem listening!

Recent PRs?
I have recently adopted a “by feel” policy, so not many recent PRs. But I feel good every day!!! Or most days, anyway. 

Current training goals?
Just stay healthy and keep enjoying my CFA and trail tribes. 

Tell us about an obstacle you have had to work through in your training. How did you work through it?
I am getting older and despite being pretty fit and able to do most of what I want, I have had to re-evaluate goals like hitting a 300 pound deadlift. It is more important to stay strong and healthy and be able to do the things I enjoy. If I am forever stuck at 285# on my DL as a PR, so be it!

What is your cheat meal go to?
Not a meal, really. But cheese.

What does the Iron Buffalo title mean to you?
It’s an honor and I am humbled and proud all at once. I love this community. 

Thoughts upon winning the title?
See previous statement. Honored and humbled and proud and also grateful and thankful. So many folks in our community worthy of this…

How will you use your new found Buffalo Strength?
Continue with my slow, forward progress, with some occasional skipping thrown in to keep things fun. 🙂

What are you most excited about in the upcoming year? Gym related and/or personally?
I’m in a good place, so just maintaining the status quo. BALANCE!!

Leave the fine folks of CFA with some parting wisdom.
Be grateful for every day. There’s a song with a line about having good days when you keep your level of gratitude above your level of expectations. Do THAT.






Sayyed Naghaviani

When did you join the CFA community?
Feb 2017 started CF in March of 2013.

What is one of your most memorable moments from your early days at CFA? Any ‘newbie’ stories you’d like to share?
Most of y’all know I work out at the 430PM class but I started working out at CFA during the 730am class.  At the time I was thinking I was going to be one of these early risers who seized the day and felt “energized” after working out in the morning.  What happened is after about a month my back locked up on me while we were warming up back squats and I laid on the ground for about 30 minutes.  I don’t think I went back to a 730am class after that unless it was forced.  430PM is my jam.  Morale of the story is we all know what time of the day we are at our prime.  Focus your training at that time and you probably will do a lot better and wont hurt yourself squatting just the barbell.


What is it about CFA that you love or that is different from other sports/programs you’ve tried?
Everyday is different but the same.  Different meaning it’s rare we do the same workout but when we do its a benchmark to see if you have improved from the last time you did it.  Variety keeps me interested and allows you to crush some workouts and be humbled by others.  Same meaning I see the same lovely faces everyday that push me to do work harder and not sandbag.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to when you first started CrossFit?
Be patient. You don’t need to PR every time you lift.  If you push yourself too hard you will get injured and all that will do is frustrate you and set you back.  Have patience, learn the proper techniques and
skills, and your gains will come.  I can promise you that.

What was your initial reason for starting (your ‘why’)? How has that ‘Why’ changed?
I guess the question is why did I get into Crossfit. It was 2013 and I was working out with a friend of mine.  Tiny beanpole of a girl.  She wanted me to do a CF workout with her, 10 minutes in I was so frustrated because I couldn’t do half the movements, I quit, threw the dumbbells across the room and went back to a treadmill.  I went and found a CrossFit gym a week later.  Nearly puked on my first workout which was a half “Cindy”.  I knew then I was completely out of shape. 

Why do I do it now?
Because my health is my number one priority and being almost 40 I have never been healthier. 
How did you create long term fitness/CrossFit success for yourself?
See last few answers. But to sum it up have patience, create a routine, and stick to it.

What makes you come in and train on days when you don’t want to?
Honestly skipping days makes coming in the day after even harder.  Be consistent and you wont want to not come in.

Recent PRs?
235 Squat Clean, 335 Deadlift, 100 Dubs, 215 Jerk, 205 Push Press, 175 Squat Snatch, 300 Back Squat, 30′ Handstand walks, 2 unbroken Ring MU, 6 unbroken Bar MU
Current training goals?
this is what I would like to see in 2020:
225 Bench, 225 Clean and Jerk, 250 Squat Clean, 225 Jerk, 350 Deadlift, 310 back Squat, 275 Front Squat, 225 OH Squat, Snatch 185, 50′ Handstand walk, string 3 ring MU and 10 bar

Tell us about an obstacle you have had to work through in your training. How did you work through it?
Injuries are an obvious one but considering how much I travel for work I could easily “skip” days.  What I do is I try to book my meetings so I can drop into a class wherever I am at.  I don’t cherry pick.  I drop into the gym that is most convenient given my travel schedule.  Being the new guy makes it almost like a mini competition every time which is kind of fun.

What is your cheat meal go to?

Pizza, Shitty domino’s pizza.

What does the Iron Buffalo title mean to you? Thoughts upon winning the title?
I like to think that I provide a good example to others given the experience I have and how hard work pays off.  Not just in the gym but outside the gym as well.  I guess this award exemplifies that so the recognition is kinda nice.

What are you most excited about in the upcoming year? Gym related and/or personally?
Finally getting to Machu Pichu in the fall.

Leave the fine folks of CFA with some parting wisdom.“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.  Success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations we are willing to have, and by the number of uncomfortable actions we are willing to take.” – Anais Nin and Tim Farris

The short of it is don’t be afraid to fail.

Tip Tuesday || The Set Up – Clean vs Deadlift

Over the years, months, or weeks you’ve been doing CrossFit, you’ve likely picked up on most of the key points of performance for the various movements. There’s a lot to know, and with experience comes muscle memory. You probably don’t think too much about your setup for the most common lifts. But, it’s important that you take yourself off of auto-pilot and continue striving for virtuosity.


Part of the practice context for Thursday’s programming is knowing (and showing) the difference between the hip position for the clean and the deadlift. Coach Dylan shows a clear distinction between his hip positions in the clean and in the deadlift in the photos below.


In the clean, his hips are lower, shoulders slightly over the bar (stick). In the deadlift, his hips are higher, shoulders definitively over the bar. 


If he set up for a clean the way he does for a deadlift (hips higher), he’d have a harder time getting into a proper position to initiate the second pull of the clean, position 3 (hang) to position 5 (triple extension). If this is a problem for you, as it is for many, let the bar come out over the middle of your foot a bit and sit back.


In full disclosure, the hip position for both cleans and deadlifts may look different on different people based on anthropometry (i.e. limb length). Also, it is worth noting that your setup will change based on the type of deadlift you are doing — conventional, sumo, hex bar, etc. Some folks even prefer to set up for their deadlifts with a lower hip position as it helps them use more leg drive to get the weight off of the floor.


Questions? Ask one of your coaches for help!

Kitchen Adventures || Peach Blueberry Breakfast Bake

Happy Hump Day! Guys…. next week is Christmas! How did that happen so quickly?? Anyway… I decided to switch it up a bit this week because I’ve been doing a lot of heavy dishes and soups with all the new Force of Nature stuff we have! That will definitely come back. I think I’m going to do Elk sliders next. Stay tuned! But, just to give you some other ideas, here’s a super easy breakfast option that is even easier to take on the go!

This recipe is extremely diverse. I used peaches and blueberries, but you could do apples, bananas, raspberries… whatever fruit you like really! There are also a lot of choices you can make in terms of your sweetener, nuts, milk choices, etc…. Use the oatmeal as a base and go crazy! You could even mix in some almond butter or something. I like to top this with a little drizzle of maple syrup, but do you boo!

If you make another version of this, I’d love to know what you put in it!




2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut sugar (choose an alternative if you prefer, but coconut sugar has a flavor similar to brown sugar)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (can also use coconut, unflavored, churro…)
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds (walnuts or pecans would be great too!)
2 cups milk unsweetened almond milk (can use coconut milk or any other option you like)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBSP melted coconut oil or grass fed butter
1 large egg – lightly whisked
1 cup peaches – sliced or cut into small chunks


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish and set aside.

In one bowl, combine the oats, coconut sugar, protein, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and almonds. In a separate bowl add the milk, vanilla, melted oil (or butter), and egg and whisk lightly to combine.

Line the bottom of your greased dish with part of the peaches and blueberries. Layer the dry ingredients on top and then add another later of peaches and blueberries on top. Then, pour the wet ingredients over the whole thing. Shift the dish lightly or use a butter knife to create little spots for the liquid to soak through the dry ingredients.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until the dish is set and starting to turn slightly golden brown. It should not be liquid in the middled. Let cool and serve! Or, divvy it up into meal prep containers for the week. This reheats really well in the microwave!

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