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.


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.

Why I Chose CrossFit – A Coach’s Perspective

1. Intensity

– CrossFit brought the INTENSITY of the collegiate weight room and granted access to those who never got that experience. There is different feeling when the perfect storm of accountability and competition come together. It has been nothing short of amazing to see the animal that comes out of people when there are 5-10 people pushing through the same struggle at the same time. For the Type A’s in the box it feeds the beast and they all want to come in first. For the introverts, it brings out a side of them they may or may not even know they have.

Image2. When the Coaching is Good, ITS REALLY GOOD

– In an industry plagued with weekend conferences that allow people to call themselves subject matter experts, coaches from box to box, through the innovations of social media and round tables have been able to critique, constructively criticize, and call out the pretenders in the industry. Not only that, for the members that habitually visit other boxes, coaching techniques and cues are brought back, shared, and taught – thus improving the quality of the product delivered to the members as a whole. Most importantly though, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a box with a truly credentialed and experienced staff, you as member have the advantage of spotting bad coaching/programming and are now equipped to make an intelligent consumer decision.


– CrossFit unlike any other fitness revolution in history, has shifted the public paradigm of what fitness is, and where women fit. Women now have an appreciation for performance AND aesthetics that didn’t exist a decade ago. Hell, The United States Marine Corps didn’t dare attempt raise the physical fitness standard of women until after CrossFit became a mainstay in the American fitness continuum. Whether that is a fact or not, I don’t know, but I feel it is more than coincidence. For a woman to do a pull up a decade ago was a fantasy for most and an ability reserved for gymnasts and elite athletes. To see women embrace their shape, their musculature, and ditch the scale and acknowledge what is really important, body composition and the improvement of performance in countless measure has been revolutionary. Women’s idea of beauty as shifted from one of skinny to one of strength, truly embracing the saying, “Strong is Sexy” thanks to CrossFit.


4. Awareness

– The sheer perception of fitness has shifted dramatically in the American landscape. It is no longer good enough to be healthy enough to wake up each morning without fear of coronary event. People now see the possibilities of human capacity. There is no substitute for the dedicated training put into becoming and professional athlete of any kind, even the tops in the world in CrossFit. However, people worldwide are awakening to the excitement of what they will accomplish at their box each and everyday. The difficulty, complexity, and technicality of each movement and WOD has been embraced. Members worldwide take on the challenges presented at their respective boxes with a smile and yearn to learn more and get better when they leave covered in sweat, all an effort to smash their last personal record or erase a slower previous time. CrossFitters are AWAKE and have been exposed to what they can accomplish and how much they can actually improve in the sport of life: all the while watching these improvements crossover into their performance of activities of daily living or recreational sports.



– Most importantly, like nothing I’ve experienced outside of football or the Marine Corps, CrossFitters know stuff and use language that only other CrossFitters know. The “Comradery Through Shared Adversity” is taken to heart, as everyone in this crazy community knows what “Fran” is. Everyone wants to get their first muscle up. Everyone has lied in disbelief as how hard a particular WOD was. Everyone talks down on “Cherrypickers” while at some point cherry picking themselves. Everyone has asked someone they barely know, “Where were you the other day?” when the normal cast of characters isn’t complete in a certain class. Each and every CrossFitter reps their box and feels their box is the best on the block. Its home, and no one is permitted to tread on their turf. Yet, at the end of the day, these families come together for the greater good and rally to support one another: Kevin Ogar.

ImageAt the end of the day, it CrossFit has created an environment where intensity is mandated, good coaching is expected and appreciated, women are empowered, awareness has been raised, and a community has been fostered to a familial standard. These and so many more aspects of this crazy love for fitness and performance are why I fell in love with CrossFit.

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