Training for Love Not War – Training with Your Significant Other

As an owner of a gym, and competitive athlete, whether it was college football, amateur bodybuilding, or CrossFit, I’ve learned a lot over the years with regards to where my passion for fitness fits into my relationships with girlfriends. More often than not, it didn’t. There was almost always friction between my training and making progress in the relationship department.

Well here I am, about two weeks from getting married to the woman of my dreams and here are the three maxims that keep us happy as couple in and out of the gym when it comes to keeping fitness a priority.

Understand Each Other’s Goals: Hands down, the most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of any relationship in my opinion. For my wife-to-be and I this was a hurdle that we overcame early on after she moved down from Chicago and we began training together in CrossFit consistently. For me, most importantly, it was acknowledging her goals as a coach, and not riding her like I would someone with “Regional” aspirations. Both of us have been competitive our entire lives. However, where I thrive on throwing my hat in the ring and finding out where I stack up locally and regionally against other competitors, she is what I would call “recreationally competitive”. All she wants is to do a competition or two per year and simply enjoy the experience, while training her ass off in between. Where I’m at the gym all day, and squeeze in extra sessions outside of classes, she has a real job, and multiple training sessions on the regular are not necessarily realistic. All that being said, she supports everything that I do, and doesn’t nag me for the long hours I put in working on the business and in my own training. Similarly, I simply push her through workouts and encourage her when she sets her sights on a  competition. However, I am not in her ass day in and day out to make sure she’s in here killing herself with extra metcons and auxiliary work. I want her to listen to her body, and put in max effort when she trains. Without the understanding of each other’s wants and needs when it comes to training, it can really put a strain on our relationship that is completely avoidable.

My advice: Do some digging and figure out what training means to your lover, and figure out what needs are to be met to support those goals


Meet Them Where They’re At: If you are more experienced at any facet of fitness than your partner, then chances are that’ll show itself when you train. Don’t be that asshole that rolls into it with a bunch of unsubstantiated assumptions. This will undoubtedly lead to unrealistic expectations and kill your lustful buzz. It would have been a huge mistake to assume that because she was a college athlete, that she would be a “regional ready” almost immediately. In the game in which we play now, there is no telling what someone is absolutely capable of at a  glance or because they’ve picked up a weight once or twice in their life.

My fiancée was a D-1 hoopstar once upon a time, while I played football. Her sport, requires more time on the court year round developing technical proficiency than it does in the weight room, where as the off season football programs I was involved had a little time working routes and coverages, more time spent getting bigger, faster, stronger. Needless to say, her finesse game and engine are solid, where I excel in the weight lifting aspects of CrossFit. She can wall ball, burpee, and hit double unders all day and has decent strength, while I’m built and trained for a couple maximal lifts and workouts 5 minutes or less. She was stringing double unders for 50 reps inside of three months. It took me nearly a year to stop hitting each rep with a high knee tuck.

When we train we make a conscious effort to appreciate the progress we’ve made in each other’s performance. At the same time, we never allow ourselves to be down about a shitty workout in areas that aren’t necessarily in our wheelhouse. We constantly reinforce improvement, and pinpoint areas that need to a little more attention to detail.

My advice: High five each other’s strengths, help each other build up weaknesses and celebrate your respective progress along the way


Be Encouraging, But Hold Each Other Accountable: There is no room for slacking in this relationship. While she is my best friend, there is no doubt that my Lady Love will put foot to ass when the situation dictates. Likewise, if we have an off day, or don’t do well in workout involving movements that aren’t a mainstay in her training, we are each other’s reality check.

“Well, when was the last time you stuck around and worked on that?”

“You knew pistols were going to hand you your ass, why are you so surprised right now?”

“It’s been a rough week of training, was a PR at all realistic today? I bet you nail it next time.”

This is just a little of the dialogue that we find ourselves in from time to time. I have her back and she has mine 100%. However, neither of us is so naive that we’ll let ourselves get away with bitching for the sake of bitching. They say that misery loves company, but it doesn’t have a seat at our table. It’s more than OK to have a bad day of training. It happens. But you also need to get over it, fix what needs to be fixed, and move on. Sitting around recruiting  pity party never solved anything.

My advice: Be supportive of your partner, but don’t allow them believe their own negative self talk. Help them to be proactive in their training, not reactive

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.


What Yoga Taught Me

imageOnce upon a time I played football in college. Six games into my junior year, I had the misfortune, or fortune as I look back on it now, of blowing out my knee. During rehabilitation all my trainer would preach was, “We need to get you mobile first. Then we can get to work on getting stronger.”

About a month later they brought a yoga instructor to the campus rec center. All I knew at that point was that yogis are the most flexible people on the planet. While developing the ability to tie myself in knots would by no means boost my athletic prowess, something short of that could turn out to be good for my repaired knee.

I ended up taking a class or two, and I was hooked. Not only did my rehab speed up, but the functionality and performance of everything else got exponentially better. My joints responded to contact better. I also became much more limber which afforded me the tools to move better on the field.

Yoga’s benefit to the body is well established: fascial release, the opening of joints, lengthening of connective tissue, enhanced recovery, etc. The list goes on. However, it’s what yoga has taught me and brought to my life outside the physical that has truly enhanced my life on a daily basis. Here are the three most important things I’ve taken from yoga:

Clarity – once you get away from what is going on in the room physically, you are then able to attack how you breathe. Breathing not only frees tension in the body but also in the mind. This freedom, this creation of space, truly gives me the opportunity for expansion. As a coach and an entrepreneur, diving deep into neglected training practices or expanding the scope of my practice are next to impossible to manifest with an unclear mind. When I lose touch with my physical self and control my breathing amidst what would otherwise be a chaotic or nervous situation, that is when I’m able to really manifest progress.

Calm Courage – there was a time when I would do all kinds of crazy things to satisfy my ego. When I put lessons learned in yoga into practice in the gym, all the grunting, yelling, and gyration (which I still do from time to time. Old habits die hard, what can I say) that I felt was a must to hit a max lift, have fallen by the wayside. I have visualized, and hit the lift countless times in my mind before I even approach the bar. This practice has proven itself over and over again, without the element of visualization and the confidence I draw from it, I will almost surely miss, or the lift will be way more difficult than it needs to be.

Perspective – at the end of the day, what the person next to me is doing is of zero consequence. Yoga has taught me through posing and stretching a little further and a little deeper over time to accept progress for progress’ sake. Regardless of how little or how much better I get, the bottom line is, I’m getting better. That little bit of progress, that one new member, that five pound PR, that new found willpower to opt for a healthier choice than I would have made yesterday, that is indeed progress. And guess what? It should be celebrated!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.


The Honest Approach to Assessing Our Performance


How do you approach your workouts? Let’s face it. Most CrossFitters are not competitive, in the “Rich Froning” sense of the word. There are other ways that we should assess and acknowledge before we allow ourselves to become discouraged with our performance, rather than comparing ourselves to the “Fittest Man On Earth”.

The way we program here, CrossFit PHX literally allows our competition ready athletes to train alongside the brand new novice lifters. The rationale behind this training environment, versus separating competitors from recreational athletes, serves two purposes. First, to provide a certain amount of motivation for the newbies as to how far you can go with TIME and DEDICATED PRACTICE. Two, for those further along and more conditioned in strength and stamina, to give back and provide motivation and support those who are just starting, or still working, on the journey to the best version of themselves.

When it comes to training, there has to be a progression. I think this has become a common theme in my blogs. Where do we start, how do we start? Here are a couple things to keep in mind as you continue on your fitness journey.

1. UNDERSTAND, Do Not Accept, Your Limitations – Are you a smoker who just quit? Do you have a few too many cocktails during the week? Are you a “foodie” and not the cleanest eater in the world? How long have you been away from the training game? Where is your mobility at? How consistent have you been over the years? The answers to questions like these will allows to establish a baseline of expectation. These answers will also let us know how far we truly are from competing in the CrossFit Games. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just IS. Being honest with ourselves in answering questions like these will go a long way in identifying weaknesses that need to be worked on before we even touch dropping your Fran time.

2. MOBILITY – Does the bar keep falling forward when we get anywhere deeper than our power position in the snatch?Having trouble getting full depth in our squat? Can’t hold that front rack position with our elbows high and the bar resting across our collar bones? Chances are we lack dexterity in the shoulders, mobility in the hips, or are imbalanced front/back left/right, or potentially all of the above! For many of us, lack of performance has nothing to do with lack of strength or endurance, and everything to do with lack of mobility. Mobility is the often overlooked performance metric when we assess our ability to do work as athletes. How much we lift, and how fast we get things done almost always trumps quality movement and body position. If we take the time to correct these deficiencies, we’ll see an exponential increase in performance simply because we are no long fighting against our anatomy for optimal position. We’ll be able train harder for longer and decrease injury risk along the way.

3. SPEED COMES WITH PROFICIENCY – As we become more and more mechanically proficient, as movement patterns get less choppy, we magically become faster without actually working harder to do so. In the very beginning, depending on how coordinated you are and how fast you pick things up, movements such as cleans, snatches, deadlifts, and even seemingly simple stuff like pull ups and push ups can be a huge kick in the ass. Muscle sequencing is huge. If we attempt to execute a pull up and start that pull with our biceps first, instead of our lats, its only going to take a handful of reps or a set or two to discover you’re doing it wrong. However, if we take the time, slow down, and focus on body position, movement sequence and mechanics, over time we can move twice as fast with half the effort.

4. AMRAPS (Time Domain Workouts) – Before we set a goal for ourselves of a 30 round Cindy. How about we work to establish a pace, however fast or slow, that allows us to move steadily for the whole 20 minutes? We’ve all seen the folks that burn themselves out in the first five minutes on pace for 30 rounds, only to find themselves accomplishing 16, drastically less work than they are actually capable of. . The smoother we become in the movement, the less effort they actually take. When things require less effort, we can do a lot more.

5. Rounds/Reps for Time (Task Domain Workouts) – Once we figure out that a thruster is more about the hips than the shoulders, and our pullups are more efficient with a  stable shoulder girdle and a strong pull from the lats through the biceps, we’ll literally shave minutes off our Fran. When moving through task oriented work outs, we should probably understand the intent of the workout. Unlike an AMRAP where we are trying to accomplish as much work as possible in a given time allotted, we’ve now shifted to getting a certain amount of work done as fast as possible. Once we account for #3 on this list, let’s now focus on avoiding the redline. So what if we can get through 21-15 in less than 3 minutes, but we take another 5 minutes to get the 9’s done because we can’t catch our breath and our muscles have shut down. Before we look at attacking WODs as prescribed, we should ask the question, “When this was programmed, how long did our coach intend for it to take?” For our muscle science nerds out there, “What energy system are we supposed to tapping into?” Workouts like 30 Clean and Jerks at 135 pounds were set up to be done in less than 5 minutes, while 3 rounds of 400m Run, 21 Kettlebell Swings, and 12 Pull Ups, are more for the 15-16 minute range. If they take you any longer chances are the weight is too heavy. Your mechanics aren’t quite there yet and your making each rep way harder than it has to be. Or the reps are too high for your current fitness level. All of these issues can be fixed with scale: choose a lighter load, run a shorter distance, do less reps at the prescribed weight, or substitute less complex movements. We need to take the time to ask our coaches how long things should take if they don’t offer up that information right off the bat.

Focus on these factors and giving ourselves an honest assessment will alleviate a lot of head aches and make for huge gains, safer training sessions, and an overall more enjoyable experience from one workout to the next. Keep the intensity high, and our focus sharp, then everyone wins!


Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Being Strong Helps… A Lot!

I am writing this entry with a huge grin on my face, as I am truly proud of our athletes! The progress made, as indicated by all the personal records this week couldn’t make me more proud. Numbers don’t lie. Our athletes’ consistency and dedication as started to bare fruit!


This was a tough stretch of strength focused training! However, everyone who saw it all the way through, reaped the benefits in some not obvious areas. Why is getting stronger awesome? Here’s a handful of reasons:

1- The Obvious: Being strong is just plain awesome! There is probably no greater satisfaction than being able to press, pull, squat, clean, snatch more than ever before. No one ever said, “I need to scale back. I’m getting too strong.”

2 – Motor Unit Recruitment: Most of our athletes are making huge gains and not necessarily having to drop major coin on a new wardrobe. This let’s me know that the adaptations occurring are at the neuromuscular level. They are increasing their ability to awaken and utilize as many muscle fibers as possible as FAST as possible to accomplish these newfound feats of strength. In addition, the order in which these fibers are activated is becoming more and more efficient.

3 – Movement Quality: For many, a major hurdle to be overcome was simply range of motion. Especially with regards to Olympic lifting, coordination and stabilization were key factors that needed to be worked out. Keeping the load over your center of gravity, while sitting back in your hips, while keeping your elbows high can be a daunting task for the novice lifter. However, though lots of repetition, you run out of ways to mess things up over time. Our athletes have been afforded the TIME to develop the proper movement patterns that increase range of motion, makes movements as efficient as possible!

4 – Increased Capacity: Now that you’re stronger, you’re  able do more at a submaximal level! 30 Clean & Jerks for time at 135 pounds isn’t as bad when your max goes up from 185 to 225. Now you have the ability to kick your own ass that much faster! As your strength increases, so does your ceiling. Assuming that you’re still conditioning, when strength goes up, so does performance at submaximal intensities. When speed is introduced to the equation, this is where power is developed and the stronger athlete will typically move lighter loads faster than the competition who is bumping up against their 1 rep max.

5 – Confidence: There is nothing more boosting than walking in on test day, CRUSHING AN OLD PERSONAL RECORD, and walking out with a sense of accomplishment. Heads are high! You put in the grind. You suffered alongside everyone else. Now you get to reap the benefits. I love it when I hear our athletes say something like, “I’ve never done that before.” And then they DO IT!

6 – Motivation: Above all else, this is the most important on the list. As you progress as athletes, its these milestones that keep you going. You may not see progress in our physical-selves day to day or necessarily feel like we are getting better daily. That’s perfectly normal, especially since you tend to be your own worst critic. The proof is in the pudding as they say. You put in the work, and you crushed it when it came time to test. Now it’s time to see how much further you can go. You have documented proof that the process is effective. There is no doubt that it works. What’s next? Where do we go from here? What new challenge can I set my sites on?



Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.




It’s been the talk of the town in my gym as of late about programming, competitions, additional training, etc. What is truly the best programming model for achieving gains in fitness?

Here’s a list of common mistakes people make when subscribing to programming:

1 – “Rich Froning does this. Jason Kalipa does that. We should try it.” They want to try everything all the time. Listen, however the big dogs train to compete, there is most definitely a system in place. Think big picture, and get away from the sheer variety with which they train. They utilize periodization just like everyone else in conventional strength and conditioning. There are periods where they train for volume, because volume drives movement patterns: the more you do something, and the more often you do it, the move efficient you become. There are periods where they train for straight up output: How much can I pull in a single rep? How many repetitions can I accomplish unbroken, before my form breaks down? Then there are periods where they train for proficiency, getting all the little things right: when to start their second pull in a clean or snatch, when to hit the gas in a MetCon, or simply keeping the core tight and levers long in gymnastics movements. Where people get lost in the noise, and truly the beauty of CrossFit, is that you can attack each of these points of emphasis ALL THE TIME. But rest assured, there is a method to the madness, and there is a point of focus, regardless of the energy system being taxed, or the modality being worked.

2 –  “Have you tried a (Insert Scandinavian Name Here) Cycle to improve your squat max?” They train out of context. Too many people too often adopt these fantastical training methodologies without reading the fine print. Many of the strength “cycles” out there for bench press, back squat, you name it, were put together in an environment that accounted for any and all external influences. The athletes that made the astronomical gains that create the foundation for whatever protocol’s popularity were guaranteed the rest needed for the body to recover from the loads, volume, and frequency of whatever the training demanded of them. Most people do not get enough sleep/rest (and yes, turning off your brain so your body can devote energy to recovery and repair is the biggie here), or the foundation of training to truly make the stimulus worth their while. Therefore, when their gains are minimal if any, and they are exhausted by the end, they are left wonder why this didn’t work for them when they Olympians the program was designed for killed it. That’s not to say they don’t work. As a matter of fact they can be quite the killer addition to your regimen, just keep in mind all the OTHER STUFF you may have going on that could inhibit those gains.

3 -“I’ve been at this for almost a year and I still don’t have (insert skill here).” You haven’t put in the deliberate practice. As I said earlier, volume drives consistency. If you’re not putting in the time on a consistent basis to promote the appropriate adaptation, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to be able to do one double under EVERY TIME before you can ever expect to get one hundred strung together. It’s probably a good idea to pick up a 225 pound deadlift before you expect to clean it. There is definitive progression to progress. There are certain steps that can not be skipped on the road from good to great.

4 – “You’ve reached your ceiling.” You’re not even close. When people say that you’ve reached your ceiling, DO NOT accept that. The reason it is an unrealistic expectation to walk into any given box to see what CrossFit is all about and try and fast track it to Regionals six months later is because you’re not even close to your ceiling. In reality, you’re closer to the floor. All things being equal if the top of human physical potential is equal for everyone, those athletes at the professional or Olympic levels are pretty damn close to the absolute top of that spectrum. The difference between you and them isn’t so much PHYSICAL AGE, but more importantly, TRAINING AGE. How many hours of dedicated practice do you have with respect to Games athletes. How many thousands of reps are you behind in your clean and jerk? How many ropes have you climbed over the course of your life? These are all questions you should ask yourself, and be honest with the answers before you start laying out your master plan to get you to the CrossFit Games next year.

5 – “I don’t get it.” They have no idea why they train the way they do. This one is my favorite. There has to be a method to the madness. It is our job as the coach to communicate the rationale, or at least be willing if asked to explain the “WHY”. This does two things: it creates confidence for your members that they are be lead in the right direction and furthers your credibility as a coach that you actually know what the hell you’re doing and understand the intent of any given workout if you’re not the one handling the programming.

At the end of the day, it does not matter. Do not hear me incorrectly, HOW YOU TRAIN means everything in terms of making progress. However, the model you follow, does not. Assuming that you follow something put together by someone who is knowledgeable and experienced, you should make progress. But when you jump from program to program, cherry picking your favorite workouts, lifts, or movements, you’ll never get to where you want to go. Be present, have faith in the process, hold yourself accountable, and be consistent. Do that, and I promise you’ll find success in fitness.


Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Training and Mt Everest


Training is a lot like climbing Mt Everest. The process can be long, and you spend way more time below the summit than you actually do at the peak. But you’ve reached the summit, none of that other stuff matters.


For those of you not familiar with my analogy, when you look at the way you train and your expectations of setting Personal Records and accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself, there a few factors that come into play that get you where you want to go. Just like when tackling the highest mountain in the world, first and foremost, you must continually put one foot in front of the other and BE CONSISTENT in your efforts.

Secondly, as you ascent towards the summit, you’ll spend a bit of time in the beginning acclimatizing at base camp. This is where you establish your FOUNDATION OF FUNDAMENTALS and give your body a taste of what you’re about to put it through. Now you are consciously conscious of where you are and how much further you have to go, as well as an idea how much work its going to take to get there.

Once you’ve been accustomed to the lack of oxygen and the extra effort required to accomplish things that were simple at sea level, now set off on your trek. At this stage of the game, you’ve exposed yourself to all the things wrong with movement patterns and started consciously working on the little nuances of IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY of these movements. Right about now, is where you’ll start attempting max lifts and recording workouts for time and volume so you have a GAUGE OF YOUR PROGRESS along the way.

Are ready for the biggest kick in the nuts? After making all that progress up to “Stage 1”, you get make your way back down to Base Camp. Then you’ll head back up to “Stage 1” for a bit before you press on to “Stage 2”. Then, guess what? Once you get there you get to come back down to “Stage 1”. And so the process goes, until you get the peak, look down at the trail you’ve blazed and get your first look at the world you left behind on your way to the glory of accomplishment. The same principle of ADAPTATION AND ACCOMMODATION applies to your training. As you improve and achieve benchmarks, you’ll scale your intensity (volume, duration, loads, speed, etc…) to let your body and nervous system adjust to their newfound capacity for work and output. After a while, even though the challenge hasn’t disappeared, you’ll become consistent in your performance and you will need to up the intensity to stimulate improvement.

However, let’s not forget good old mother nature. You need to be prepared for the occasional gust of wind, or storm, or worst case an avalanche and have the patience to weather through it on the way up the mountain. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Blah blah blah! Life doesn’t work like that. SHIT HAPPENS. We get sick, we have kids, we get injured, we move and switch gyms. The variables are endless. Whatever yours are, hopefully you’ve experienced enough gratification in your progress to this point, that when life temporarily gets in the way, it won’t completely derail you. If nothing else, it will just force you to alter your course a bit. You sprain your ankle, well Olympic lifting and most things ballistic are out, so take that time and be productive! Become really efficient with your gymnastics, or more solid with you squats. Then once you’ve healed, you’ve weathered the storm, pick up where you left off and keep going! At the end of the day, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD.

Before you know it, after all the bad weather, the setbacks, the inherent ups and downs of the climb, now you’re at top. You spent so much time looking up at your goal along the way, turn around and witness the journey that you just finished. Take pride in the struggle. No one ever made it to the top of the mountain and said it wasn’t worth it. Enjoy the view, you’ve earned it! You were CONSISTENT. You were PATIENT. You were SMART. You HAD A PLAN. You BUSTED YOUR ASS! This is your reward! Enjoy the view, you EARNED IT!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.



Moving from Conditioning to Strength


2 Months for $240 @ Crossfit PHX, Now – August 31st

Here we go!! We’re going to utilize a very concentrated effort over the next couple of months to improve not only your strength but also anaerobic capacity. Now that we’ve pushed though an amazing conditioning phase its time to get back into a strength cycle. This strength cycle will be broken into 3, 4-week cycles, each with a different emphasis: Base, Growth, Power.

As we establish your base for strength, think of it as reconditioning your body for heavier loads in the coming weeks. We’ll be using gross lifts such as deadlifts, squats, and presses in conjunction with gymnastics and explosive movements. The goal through this first phase is to not only reconfigure your system for going heavy, but also increasing motor unit recruitment through compound movements to assist later on with your Olympic lifting development. For example, the heavier you are able to deadlift, the more comfortable you’ll be pulling a clean quickly though the first and second pull. Furthermore, the stronger your front and overhead squats become, the better you’ll be at receiving the loads you land with in your clean and snatch.

That being said, we’ve spent so much time over the last couple months improving your ability to control your body in space, now its time to put all that skill work into practice. Look forward to skill and gymnastics work to be worked into your strength progressions along the way.

In our growth phase, we’ll manipulate the sets and repetitions to strength and size. Ladies don’t be scared, you won’t turn into the incredible hulk. Most of you have been with us long enough to know that it takes much more than touching a barbell or two to become Mrs. Olympia. We train like athletes, so that we can perform like athletes. Somewhere along the way, we may just become stronger and healthier as well. In this phase, gymnastics and skill progressions will be reintroduced to drive home the basics improve coordination through movements in their entirety.

Lastly, our Power cycle will focus on moving loads quickly. Not only will there be critical development in Olympic lifting, but just like our gymnastics, these movements will be broken down and compartmentalized, then executed as fast as possible. Just a simple example would be pausing at the bottom of a front squat and driving out of the bottom with a load roughly 50-60% of your max clean. The point of our power cycle is to improve force and velocity by speeding up your rate of force development. Not only will we dismantle your Olympic lifts, but we’ll also rebuild them so they are better than before.

As far as WODs are concerned, expect them to quick and fast. They’ll be orchestrated so that you’re able to push your engine to its limits, but also increase your lactate threshold. This adaptation will allow you, over time, to push harder prior to “redlining” during a workout. This, is why we precede strength with a conditioning phase, so your body is able to use oxygen more efficiently in working tissues, especially when the INTENSITY and TIME components limit its availability. For those of you interested in competing in the coming months, this is your preparation! For those of you who have no interest in competing with anyone but yourself and the clock, expect to finally hit Benchmark WODs as prescribed or scale less as the weeks go by. Either way, expect IMPROVEMENT and RESULTS!


Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

“It’s NOT about Keeping Up, It’s About Moving Forward”


Many of us get lost in the spirit of competition when it comes to CrossFit. For me, I fell in love with the competitive aspects of our community. Like many of my members who played collegiate athletics or had solid strength and conditioning programs in high school, the structure of CrossFit is the closest thing to the environment created when we were in our athletic prime. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a member say to me, “Man, if CrossFit was around when I played (insert sport here), things would be so much different.”

There is enough content online about the levels at which one performs CrossFit, but I really want to take the time to talk about BEAUTY OF SCALING. Regardless of whether you’re the soccer mom who wants to tone up, the competitive athlete looking to augment their current strength and conditioning program, or a competitive CrossFitter on a mission to increase work capacity across all domains to the likes of Games athletes, scaling is what allows all of us, regardless of goals or fitness levels to WOD in the same room at the same time.

Unfortunately, this also the EPIC failure in many CrossFit boxes across the board as I travel around. As a CSCS, one of the requirements to maintain my credentials to obtain continuing education units over time. Without fail, I sit in on these fitness seminars and listen to other industry professionals who subscribe to ACSM protocol, or other certifying bodies’ methods of achieving fitness and bash CrossFit for high volume Olympic movements, and lack of emphasis on technique amidst fatigue, a high propensity for injury, etc. Although, according to the last research article I read, for every 1,000 documented hours of CrossFit, there are only 3 incidents of injury. This is on par with conventional strength or resistance training at large, and less than injury occurrence on athletic playing fields across sports. So, the reality of the situation is this: CrossFit is no more harmful to people than going to Globo Gym and trying to figure out what NOT to do on your own.

These claims, whether or not they are truly substantiated, can be mitigated with proper scaling. WE CAN DO BETTER. We as programmers, trainers, or coaches need to TAKE AN INTEREST IN OUR ATHLETES, and conduct our classes with this frame of mind: “Within an intended time domain, are my athletes able to complete a given workout within a handful of minutes or rounds/reps of each other regardless of fitness level or experience?” If the answer is no, your scaling is off.

I like to look at the results of a given workout as a bell curve. There will always be outliers: those who absolutely destroy the workout because the modality or the order of movements played to their strengths, or those who are ill-conditioned or unfamiliar with a certain movement pattern that go outside the intended time domain or rounds/reps to be completed. However, the vast majority of your athletes should fit inside that bell.

If it’s too heavy and your member is suffering through the workout trying to go “Rx”, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY as the trainer running your class, TO CHECK THEIR EGO FOR THEM and strip the load so the desired effect of the workout is achieved. “Fran” was not programmed to take 30 minutes because you’re hitting thrusters as singles and taking 20 seconds between reps. Scale it down. Likewise, when it comes to gymnastics and bodyweight movements, give those less capable the MODIFICATIONS needed to eventually progress and strengthen a range of motion (banded STRICT pull ups, elevated platform handstand push ups, to name a few). As time goes on and they scale away from these modifications, they will get a real-time sense of their progress and you will have an accurate assessment of where to go next with their progression.

On the flip side, I see scaling is also under utilized for your above-average athletes. Day in, day out, these tend to be your outliers that outperform the masses on a consistent basis by leaps and bounds. For them, something I see missing, is the CONSTANT CHALLENGE from workout to workout. It is easy to present a challenge for these folks, because they more than likely are up for anything. Scaling up goes much further than simply adding to the prescribed load or increasing the volume for a given WOD. For example, if you have ring dips in a WOD, you can increase difficulty by challenging them to muscle up into their ring dips (assuming they’ve demonstrated proficiency). Now you’ve also introduced further skill development where there would have been none otherwise.

Keep in mind that upscaling should be used under the premise that the desired intent of a workout is still able to be achieved. It doesn’t do you any good to do work out like “Fran”, which should take no longer than 8-10 minutes on the long end for the average Joe, with 225 pounds on the bar if it takes you 20 minutes to complete it. But if you’re athlete smokes “Fran” prescribed in 3-4 minutes, you can increase the difficulty by simply introducing chest to bar pull-ups, as opposed to simply getting their chin over with a butterfly technique. That LITTLE BIT OF EXTRA, will be a game changer for most.

At the end of the day, use your discretion and assess the bell curve of WOD performance in its entirety. For those lacking in TECHNIQUE, SKILL, or EXPERIENCE, scale them appropriately so that they achieve the desired effects of a particular workout, but also enabling them to progress without risking a ton of setbacks along the way. For the “elite”, and that term is subjective from box to box, challenge them with upscaling. THIS WILL KEEP THEIR EGOS IN CHECK, WHILE MAXIMIZING GAINS.

Scaling is AWESOME! When done correctly, and appropriately, your athletes will CONTINUALLY SEE PROGRESS, and EVERYONE will have the same SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT when they leave your box at the end of the day. Most importantly, you have now proved the naysayers wrong, because you are taking a PROACTIVE APPROACH WITH YOUR ATHLETES’ SAFETY and BEST INTEREST AT HEART.

Raise Your Standard!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Response to Erin Simmons, “Why I Don’t CrossFit”

This post is in response to a blog post that’s gone viral written by Erin Simmons, an ex-track athlete from Florida State who is currently an aspiring fitness model. If you want to read her blog follow this link:

I will just hit the “wave tops” of the inconsistencies and fallacies in her post.

First of all, from what I can tell, the ONLY credentials (and if I’m wrong, please correct me) that she has is that she ran track at a high level for Florida State University. Her blog is not backed by any formal education in fitness, no degree, no certifications: just a few shitty experiences at a bad box with inattentive coaches and a buddy who didn’t know anything about training properly.

I would like start off by saying, before you present an argument, it’s probably a good idea to acknowledge the other side. Which I will do right here. You have some very valid points. It is true, the problem with the fitness industry as a whole, is that you can become a “credentialed professional” in a weekend. That is not exclusive to CrossFit. Yes, there are some fitness enthusiasts and people who have been working out for a long time but have no idea, or lack any formal training in how to adequately program or properly coach certain movements or workouts. To that point, outside of CrossFit, how many times have you walked into GloboGym and bared witness to abundance of idiots counting reps while texting, putting middle-aged or ill-equipped clients on stability balls and attempting to squat, or even risking excessive muscle damage through the improper use of eccentric exercise.

If you want to look at research, and the health hazards of fitness, you’ll notice that ill-trained marathon runners are at much GREATER RISK of rhabdomyolisis, an oh so popular scapegoat for people with negative opinions of CrossFit, which is more often than not a result of high-volume eccentric muscular contractions. Yet, I don’t see the Boston Marathon being cancelled any time soon. More importantly, your blog seems to be based on a couple terrible experiences, while the articles you cite don’t acknowledge proper implementation of periodization and variability in programming. Instead of going after practitioners individually and holding them accountable for their programming, according to your sources, we’re all fly by night “weekend certs” that operate under the mantra, “Harder is better than smarter.”

You say in your article that you never did deadlifts as a track and field athlete. That makes perfect sense, as the rate of force production in a heavy deadlift is too slow, which could indeed impede your ability to rapidly accelerate out of the blocks and down the track. But that’s a matter of opinion that could be argued either way from one coach to the next.

This brings me to my next point, you don’t seem to understand the PRINCIPLE OF SPECIFICITY. The reason that professional athletes (Olympians, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, etc…) do not subscribe to CrossFit, and why strength and conditioning professionals don’t necessarily prescribe its methodology to their athletes, aside from the negative stigma of CrossFit in the NSCA or other professional fitness organizations (ACSM, NASM, etc..),  is that it is not specific enough to stimulate the appropriate adaptations to improved performance in a given sport. An NFL defensive back does not need muscle ups in their training. Nor would I prescribe heavy deadlifts to an Olympic swimmer. Not because they are dangerous, but simply because, they do not NEED these movements to improve in their given domain. Still, plenty of professional athletes, Knowshon Moreno and Dana Stubblefield, to name a couple, use CrossFit to AUGMENT THEIR TRAINING PROGRAMS, as one of CrossFit’s cornerstones is its lack of specificity, “preparing one for the unknown”.

Next, you propose that CrossFit does not translate to body control. How do explain the gymnastics component (pull ups, muscle ups, toes to bar, handstand push ups, handstand walks, etc..), and the development of proprioception through the manipulation of external objects (barbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, etc…)? To include the movement of one’s body itself, all of these things require the development of body awareness and the improvement of motor control to become proficient in the execution of these movements.

For someone who has performed at such a high level and trained under so many prominent strength and conditioning professionals, it truly surprises me that you even allowed yourself to fall subject to such questionable training practices as you’ve so eloquently alluded to in your narrative.

When looking for a CrossFit Box to train at, as I told a friend in Florida today who is interested in trying CrossFit, there are a few things people should look for. Did you ask yourself the following questions?

– Is it run by credentialed, and more so, experienced coaches and trainers. Furthermore, are they able to explain the rationale for the programming in place?

–  Invest in your experience, and look at the programming history (if posted), then go in and simply observe a class. Are the coaches attentive? Are the classes too big for a single coach? Are the workouts properly scaled for members’ respective fitness levels and experience?

So while I can appreciate your argument, I won’t jump on your bandwagon. As someone who competed at a high level for a long time, and continues to compete presently, there are acceptable risks associated with whatever flavor of fitness or sport you choose to become a part of. The golden rule being, IF IT HURTS, DON’T DO IT! Your ill-fated experiences, in my opinion, are more a consequence of lack of attention to detail, sub par programming, and terrible coaching than they are a byproduct of CrossFit itself.

For those who don’t claim to be such well established athletes or lack any real athletic experience past little league baseball, professionals like myself and my staff are on a mission to provide the best quality training out there. Do us all a favor and don’t condemn an entire community just because of a couple bad personal experiences.

Lastly, I am not trying to reel you back into CrossFit. That’s not the purpose of this message. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you and that’s perfectly fine. I just want to increase your awareness. There are a lot of us that own or train at CrossFit gyms, who are credentialed, who have dedicated our lives through formal education, internships, mentorship programs, and the exploration of other genres of fitness to accumulate a wealth of knowledge and experience that makes us the most effective trainers, coaches and programmers available. I’ve got a Bachelors and a Masters in Exercise and Wellness, as well as becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA. I taught group fitness, personally trained, developed and implemented strength and condition protocol for athletic programs, and built effective training systems for bodybuilders, figure and bikini competitors. Not to mention I’ve programmed for MMA fighters and Regional CrossFit competitors alike, but most importantly, the members of my box day in and day out. The vast majority of which have achieved overwhelmingly positive results.

I appreciate your time and consideration and wish you nothing but the best in your pursuit of fitness modeling.


Mycal Anders, MS, CSCS


Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

All Gave Some – Some Gave All

Happy Memorial Day

As this holiday comes and goes I want to take a second and make sure we all understand why we get this long weekend at the end of May each year. While it is absolutely amazing, and greatly appreciated for that matter, all the gratitude displayed all over town and social media, thanking veterans currently serving, Memorial Day is for those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who never made it home. Memorial Day is dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals of America: for our freedom.

When you approach a Vet today and thank them for their service, it is no doubt appreciated, but that is what Veterans Day is all about. That holiday, which falls every November, is tribute to those currently serving or who have served in the past.

I know I’m nitpicking here, but I feel that the distinction should be made. This weekend, is for those we’ve lost on conflict on foreign soil. This holiday is in remembrance of those who gave their lives so that others could come home. Memorial Day is tribute to the heroes who took up a cause, fought for what they believed in, and stood side by side with other heroes for an ideal greater than themselves and kept them united.

We truly live in the LAND OF THE FREE because of the BRAVE. Happy Memorial Day America.

Semper Fidelis


“Heading Home” – VMU-1 – FOB Edinburgh, Sangin Province, Afghanistan 2010

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.