The Highlight Reel

Well, things have been going a little crazy around here off and on, both in my coaching life and non-coaching life. That gives me more stuff to write about, which then makes me want to put off writing ’til the next day, then something else big happens to add to the update pile and the snowball starts rolling. So before I go crazy trying to write a gigantic day-by-day update post to get everyone up to speed, I’m just going to try to hit some highlights for now to get something out here, then try to stick to more of a daily schedule. Otherwise, I’ll never get around to updating this thing.

Last week, I started actually teaching some movements! Well, that’s probably not quite accurate in some of the circumstances. The first movement I taught was a shoulder press, which went okay explanation-wise. I mainly needed to walk around and have people repeat the movement a few times and correct some form here and there. Also had some issues with being a little scramble-brained in the explanation. Like, demonstrating how their heads should be pushed back when pressing the weight up and suddenly realizing I hadn’t mentioned foot positioning. Then back to the arms. And did I mention the knees? Oh, and the back!

Next up was the front squat. I explained possibly everything there is to know about the front rack position, using about ten minutes’ worth of words in about two minutes. Then, after purging everything I know about front rack, followed it with “… and then you squat. GO!” As Jay told me shortly after, if you’re teaching the front squat, it’s kind of important to teach the “squat” part of the equation.

I think the biggest thing for me is figuring out how to narrow things down to key points and cues and get them straight in my head before I open my mouth. Like my friend Dave told me, “Think of it like a bartender. Somebody orders a drink, they don’t start measuring out one ounce of this, two ounces of that. It’s just tequila, rum, juice, blam! Done!” Sure, he could have used a cooking analogy too, but hey, we’re CrossFitters.

I also attended an Olympic lifting clinic held by EC Synkowski & James Hobart which was awesome from an athlete perspective and overwhelming from a coaching perspective. First off, these two are astounding in how quickly they get everyone’s names figured out. My house consists of me, my wife and our dog and I’m only certain about their names 70% of the time. The big stunning thing was going over the snatch for an hour and a half or so, then realizing that this was the same thing I’d occasionally have to teach in only a few minutes’ worth of class time. If I start to think about it too much, I need a paper bag nearby to breathe into.

On Saturday, I taught all of Fight Gone Bad for one class. I felt most comfortable there, as it was more of a “watch me while I demonstrate, ’cause you’ll be doing this in a couple of minutes” kind of class. I do well in front of crowds, but something about having twenty people staring at me with PVC pipes on their shoulders makes my brain go all jangly. Oh well, with time and practice comes confidence and less jangliness, right? RIGHT?

This afternoon’s movement to teach? The back squat. Those of you who know me can imagine the grin I have on my face. Now we get to see how well I teach from my wheelhouse.

Great. Now I just freaked myself out again. Tune in tomorrow for the results!

It’s only been one week?

Wow, I really need to come up with some sort of schedule for getting these things out. Either that or I need to take much better notes, ’cause a week’s worth of stuff is hard to remember. So here’s a recap, random-style!

Our high school team really seems to be digging our CrossFit workouts. Thursday and Friday we started them off by teaching cleans, specifically hang power cleans, power cleans and squat cleans. After the skill work was done, it was outside to the field for… TIRE FLIPPING. Dan decided that since I had attended Rob Orlando’s Strongman Seminar back in April that I should teach the kids how to flip a tire. Of course, he tells me this as we’re all gathered around the tires looking at each other.

Even though my brain was scrambled, I’m pretty sure I hit all of the important points. I showed them how to flip it once in one direction with no problems, since it was probably only a 400 pounder. Flipping back? Let’s just say that rubber tires on rubber mats handle differently than rubber tires on artificial turf. I got about a quarter of the way up and the bottom edge of the tire broke loose from the ground and slid, thereby cracking my chin on the tire when it smacked back onto the ground. “And there you see how NOT to flip a tire,” I said, while pretending that I wasn’t seeing sparklies everywhere. I may not be quick, but at least I’m quick on my feet.

And then I taught them how to use a quarterstaff.

For the workout, we had them in two lines behind the two tires, flipping them in teams of two. They’d flip 20 yards, then sprint eighty. My team destroyed Dan’s team. Though, to be fair, Dan might not have realized we were racing each other. We did the same workout on Friday with the other half of the team and my guys came from behind to win again. The best races are the ones where your opponent doesn’t know it’s a competition.

I did a lot more shadowing at Milford and Jay officially introduced me to one of the classes, so for a few people at CFM I’m no longer that creepy quiet guy who’s watching everyone work out. Jay also told me I might be leading some warm-ups and cool-downs this coming week.

Saturday was the big four oh. I’m slowly creeping up on Master territory, depending on whose age ranges you’re looking at. CrossFit’s definitely given me a reason to look forward to getting older. The older I get, the less chance there is I have to compete against the young whippersnappers. Started out the day with a Thruster Gauntlet, which gave me a 60 pound PR for my birthday. Of course, that’s primarily because I’ve never done a max effort thruster and my previous high was 115, but I’ll still take it. I skipped the metcon part of the workout because Barb let the cat out of the bag the night before and told me my big Birthday Surprise. We were going up to the Catamount Aerial Adventure Park to do some rope climbin’ and ziplinin’. I still had to do my forty birthday burpees thanks to Whitney. Oy.

Holy crap, this place is awesome. We’re already putting plans together for a larger CrossFit outing to this place in July for my fifth re-birthday (the day I got my stem cells back and was officially cancer-free). There’s a video in the upper right-ish corner of their site that gives a pretty good rundown of the place. A word of warning – don’t wear Merrell Trail Gloves when you go. They seem like a good idea when you think about it, but there are a few different obstacles that consist of walking across steel cables. And holy hell, do they hurt when you don’t have stiff soled shoes. For that matter, you’ll probably want to leave your Vibrams and Inov-8s at home too. Another tip – don’t do a max effort thruster workout before you go. Or maybe it was the wall balls a couple of days previous. Just make sure you’re prepared to squat-walk across things occasionally.

The rest of the evening went well, with dinner at Prime 16 with some CrossFit couples and a follow-up at the official CFNH watering hole, Christopher Martin’s. Mark tracked down some candy for me (more on that in a later post) and Barb, in addition to monkey time in the trees, got me a sweet poster that has pretty much been the theme of this year.

Any lines jump out at you?


And they’re off!

I’m fully underway in Intern mode now and, since one of my rabid fans has been insisting, it’s time to bring you guys up to speed.

Friday was the last day of work with very little fanfare. It occurred to me in my last couple of weeks that I had approached my last job almost like a reality show villain: “I didn’t come here to make friends.”

Plus, I was known to snatch out a bitch's weave on occasion.

Not that they were necessarily bad people, mind you. But most of them lived close to the office, meaning they lived close to me and, most importantly, they weren’t CrossFitters.

Saturday was my first official intern day, which worked out a lot like before – shadow time! We didn’t have any late seminars this time, so I was only at Milford for the first half of the day. It was an action-packed day, being our second annual First Responder Throwdown. Each class in the morning did the same set of workouts, and a LOT of work was done all through the morning. By the athletes, that is. The way Jay set up the workouts, there wasn’t a real need for setup and breakdown people, as those tasks became part of the workouts. Now that’s some genius programming.

Sunday was our first Purge Morning, trying to whittle down our possessions to better fit into our eventual apartment. Barb’s a purging machine when it comes to this stuff, but I can only do it a little bit at a time. I start off detached and ready to ditch things, but the sentimentality starts to build up after a bit and I have to stop where I’m at before I become totally useless and overwhelmed. I did good though – in addition to setting aside quite a few big boxes for Goodwill or eBay, site unseen, I also did an item-by-item search through eight other “Stuff” boxes. Those are generally composed of random things that happened to be near each other which all got thrown into a box during one clean up or another. In the end, I had narrowed the eight boxes down into one and a half keep boxes, one eBay, three Goodwill and half of a big trash bag.

Sunday night was party time – one of the owners of our box, Eric, was having a 40th birthday shindig. This makes him so much unbelievably older than me, since I don’t turn 40 until Saturday.

I still remember the day I first met Eric.

This brings to mind one of the really wonderful things about CrossFit – the Family. The next time the owner of your box is throwing some kind of shindig, mention it to someone who doesn’t know what CrossFit is. I did that one time at the dentist. “So, wait. The person who owns your gym is having a party, and you’re going to it?” What seems so perfectly normal to us is completely foreign to everyone else. Put yourself in their shoes – can you really imagine hanging out with anyone else who goes to your Planet Fitness? Can you imagine hanging out with the owner too?

Monday was a happily full day of wandering. I started with Ye Olde Six AM class to get my WOD in, then I was due at Milford by 9:00. It’s amazing what a difference a half hour and a shorter commute makes. The old job was at 8:30, and I had to race home from the box, shower fast, then hit the road to try to make it on time. Yesterday I came home, took a loooooong shower (stupid kettlebell swings) and actually sat down and ate breakfast. Hot damn!

Got to Milford and caught the tail end of Jay’s class then followed Adam around for his class. Adam’s a great coach and entertaining to watch. I’ve trained with him before, but that was back when he was still new to coaching and figuring out what’s what. Now he’s got it down and really connects with his athletes. Seeing his easy rapport and confidence keeps me going, since I knew him back when he was more like I am now.


Pictured: The Author

During the class, I received a text from Dan, another one of our trainers. He has a gig doing strength and conditioning training at an area high school and wanted to know if I wanted to tag along and help. I checked with Jay and since he didn’t need me again until the next day, it was all systems go for high school football in the afternoon.

I had a few hours to kill at that point, so I gave Carla, Eric’s wife and our box’s webmistress (that’s sure to turn up on some interesting Google searches) a holler to talk to her about our current site. It is, shall we say, less than optimal. It’s great on the front side of things, but the back end is the very model of user unfriendliness. We agreed that I’d meet up with her after her noon class so she could point out all the things that drive her crazy. Since that gave me a couple of free hours, that meant I had plenty of time to do Highly Important Work.


...or something.

Yes, it was time for lunch and a nap, then off to CFNH. I watched the last half of the noon class with both O’Briens, then sat with them to go over the current site. To say things could be better is an understatement. I can see a lot of areas we’ll be able to make it much easier for the folks posting things on the site, and hopefully I won’t have to keep my Web Developer hat on for too long to get us there.

Dan arrived after that and it was back to school. This team has fifty kids on it, all working out in a room about a quarter the size of our box. It definitely keeps you on your toes when you’ve got a lot of kids throwing around weights in there. Dan’s been working with them for a couple of weeks and takes half of them one day and the other half the next. Monday and Tuesday, we’re teaching them deadlifts and sumo deadlift high pulls.


Ummm... no, not quite.

It was rewarding to see just how quick most of these guys picked up the techniques. The only deadlifting they had done up to that point was using a trap bar:


Shorts sold separately.

It was great watching Dan work through a large number of people in a short period of time in such a confined area. I also learned one of the important lessons of being a coach: only one cue at a time. Being Dan’s Little Helper, I had to correct the form of the guys near me and the first couple were more than a little overwhelmed as I tried to correct ALL of their shortcomings at once. “Pull your knees back. Pick your hips up. Think like you’re sitting back into a chair. And pull your shoulders back. Think like you’re trying to put your shoulderblades in your back pockets. And keep your focus in front of you on the floor over there. And keep your core tight. And get a haircut. And yellow’s really not your color.”

Luckily I have a lot of experience confusing people, so I recognize the symptoms when they appear. I narrowed down my cues and kept them as simple as possible. In the end, it went pretty well. I’m going to go over there with him again today before I have to rush over to Milford for my next bout of shadowing.

When we got back to CFNH, the 4:30 folk were just starting to arrive, so yeah – I stuck around and shadowed for a couple more classes. Plus, I got to be Designated Camera Boy for awhile as well. Good Times. One more full day of following and watching in the books, which led me to my current, hectic morning.


...or something.

One Week Remaining

Not a tremendously eventful week, at least right until the end.

Around midweek, I signed up for my Level 1 cert. I’m taking it up at Reebok at the end of June, so if you need your Level 1 and you wanna hang out, sign on up and we’ll lift things.

Friday was Trivia Night for CFNH at St. Rita’s and of the many tables there, we had two full of thirsty CrossFitters. Naturally, our table (composed of celebrity couples Maylor, Marin, Carlic and Brarb) was the victor. Of the two CrossFit tables, that is. We wound up coming in third due to a surprising lack of religious trivia knowledge in the last round. But hey, we were the top CrossFit table there, so that counts for something, right?

In keeping with the “Hey, we were there at least” theme of the weekend, the CrossFit New Haven Honey Badgers attacked the Metro Dash in New Jersey on Saturday. I was racing as an individual/scout and Barb, Maylor and Dags were racing as a team. This was my first real race of sorts, at least on foot.


Yes, I said that just to post an old motocross photo.

It was definitely… interesting. Above all else, it was deceptively difficult. As we walked around the edges of the track, watching the earlier heats go through the obstacles, we were convinced that the organizers had told everyone they had to walk – no running allowed. From what we saw of the track, there was no other plausible reason for all these people taking their time everywhere. Sure, they were breathing hard, but come on.

I was the first of our group to experience the beast that is Metro Dash. The first obstacle out of the gate was a rope ladder climb.

That's me in the blue. Lets say those are badass firebreathers I'm ahead of and not two ladies who didn't know what a burpee is.

Looking at a rope ladder, it seems really easy. I’ve climbed ladders. I’ve climbed ropes. This should be a breeze, right? It wasn’t necessarily hard in a physical sense, but exceedingly difficult in a “where in the hell are my FEET” sense. Right off the bat, all I can think of is how I have no idea where my body actually is in relation to everything else. Clever setup here – I think they have some kind of evil psychologist working on the order of these things.

Next up, you pick up a medicine ball, race it back and forth, climb a wall and run through some tires, football training montage style.


Finally! I'm POSE running!!

Then you climb another wall, slide through a tunnel and hit the killer – the big ass cargo net.


Exhibit A: Shit getting real.

Aside from it being way the hell off the ground and held up by a lighting rig from one of Def Leppard’s tours, it was a gigantic mental and physical energy suck. The physical part’s pretty obvious – you’ve got a big ass cargo net to climb up and another one to climb down. The mental part, though – the rope ladders have already proved to me that I don’t know where my feet go when I put them places. Now suddenly I have a LOT of places to be putting my feet. I’m concentrating on my feet so much that I’m not thinking about breathing. Or relaxing. Or pacing. Or any of that other stuff you’re supposed to be doing when you’ve got over twenty more obstacles to get over.

Guess who started walking right about now.

At the end of it all (15:50 after I started) I was as impressed with the Metro Dash as I was disappointed in my endurance. Regardless of the Navy Seal stamp on their site, you can tell CrossFitters had a hand in this thing. This was so much like one of those oh-so-deceptive WODs where you look at it the night before and think “Oh, it’s just power cleans, wall balls and a run. Easy!” Then you show up the next day and get your ass handed to you.

Team Honey Badger made it through later as well. We have no idea where they finished team-wise, as the results are really screwy for teams and there’s not much of a way to figure out where the team placed if you’re not in the top three.

Like everything this past year, it’s one more learning experience on the board. We’re already making plans for the Boston Metro Dash (once they actually decide where & when it will be) and we’ll make sure to have a full complement of Honey Badgers at this one. There has been talk of a bus. Hell yeah.


CFNH Honey Badgers after smacking the shit out of it.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Okay, so this one time I have a good excuse for going undercover. There was a coach’s meeting on Friday and Jay (my boss/mentor/leader/trainer) wanted to surprise everyone with the announcement of me being the latest victim newbie entering the intern program. So I’ve been keeping low out here and being vague about what’s happening in person. An awesome plan, if enough of the coaches had been in town for us to have the meeting. D’OH!

Since I had already saved up the time off for Friday, I went in to do some 1RM back squats (15# PR, thank you very much) and follow Carla around the floor. She even made me the demo boy for the last WOD to ease my transition into the whipping boy interning world.

My shirt says "CrossFit" because Barb got tired of pinning notes to me.

So Saturday was my first day with my new identity: The Shadow. I spent all day hanging out at CrossFit Milford, watching coaches, lurking in the background and occasionally shouting out seemingly random numbers. It was a Fight Gone Bad day, so I got to be the “THREE, TWO, ONE, CHANGE!” guy a lot. Yelling is fun.

In all, I got to follow around three different coaches during WODs (Jay, Andrea & Adam) and then stalked Colin during a powerlifting seminar. Aside from each coach being different, each class was as well. Jay’s class was large and varied, with most everyone having some kind of CrossFit experience, if not Fight Gone Bad. Andrea’s was smaller and mainly experienced athletes. Adam had both a regular class and the “free intro to CrossFit” folks. I think what impressed me the most about all three was their innate sense of the time elapsing while still paying attention to the athletes and correcting form where need be. If I’m not focusing on the clock, I still get lost in whoever I’m watching/helping at the time.

Toughest part of the day: listening to Adam describe the proper wall ball technique. “…and when you catch it, I wanna see balls in your face…” One of these days, he’s going to catch on to what he’s saying. Until then, I’m going to hurt myself trying to keep a straight face.

For all that is holy, don't do an image search for "balls in the face."

While the first three classes showed me what I have to learn about class management, Colin’s seminar let me see how far I have to go on picking out issues with form. He covered deadlifts, back squats and bench presses and with each one I found I knew about 75% of what to look for. My “something’s wrong here” radar is pretty acute, it’s just a matter of figuring out what’s setting it off. For instance, in the deadlifts, I always think of shoulders and lower back/butt position, then knees/shins. Quite a few folks set off the radar with those set up correctly though. Turns out, it was often a feet-in-the-wrong-place thing.

One last great thing – we had an odd number of people in the last FGB workout, so I got to count for someone. While I counted, I also tried to give her some cues to help out with a couple of the more obvious things that were making my CrossFit Sense tingle. In addition to (honey)badgering her in the last round to beat her middle round reps, Adam told me afterward that he noticed a huge change in her push press form for the better by the end of the workout.


I’m not sure what it is about my brain that makes me think that a new adventure requires a new blog, but there you have it. I suppose this new adventure is worth the new blog though, since it all begins tomorrow when I hand in my resignation at work.

I’ve been a web developer for a few years now. Like many of my other careers, it was something that I just sort of blundered into. I had bills to pay, I had a rudimentary knowledge of programming and I had an opportunity. Turns out, that’s not the way to build a career you love. So now, after banging my head against the wall, hoping that I’d start to at least like the career track I had set out on, I’m finally ready to throw in the towel. Like any wrong turn, I’ve gained deeper knowledge about myself – my desires, my weaknesses, my motivations.

I’m not great at creating brand new things where there once were none – I get myself too caught up in the details and overwhelm myself. On the other hand, I’m really good at both working within structures and taking pre-existing things and tweaking them to my needs. I’ve also found I have a strong need to help people. Looking back on my careers, the only times I approached anything resembling happiness was when I was helping someone. I haven’t been doing that for six years or so.

Now, I suppose if you squint your eyes, you could find a way to say I’ve been helping someone in my last few jobs, but at best, that’s helping Company X get more money/clients/customers and that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m happiest when I’m affecting someone’s life, making some sort of difference/improvement in their lives, no matter how small. Even if it’s being the only person at the hospital who smiled at them, the only phone support person who wished them a nice day.

Enter CrossFit. Last week marked the first bumpy year I’ve spent doing CrossFit. Check that. Last week marked a year since I started a new exercise program. It took me a couple of months to truly understand what we have here and get bitten by the bug. It’s still been a little bumpy at times, with some injuries and illnesses, but even at its bumpiest, there hasn’t been a place I’ve been happier to be than in our box, throwing weights around.

I love CrossFit. It not only makes me happy, it’s changed me mind, body and soul. And I love to help people. Could there possibly be some way to combine those two things into one? If you can’t think of a way, take a look at the URL again. I actually have an opportunity here to not only become a coach and help people with something I love, but to learn at the hands of one of the best coaches/teachers around. How could I pass that up?

This new blog shares a similar background with one of my previous blogs, Cancer is My Bitch. Namely, some form of proof that an Average Joe can do something that others think is difficult/impossible. And right now in the CrossFit world, you’re not going to get much more Average Joe than me right now.

Yesterday, I finished WOD 11.6 of the CrossFit Open. Not only did I finish last out of all the men at my box, I’m currently ranked 771st in my region. Out of 777. Ouch. I have a big bucket of reasons why I wound up in this position, but they’re not important right now. And for those of you who read “reasons” as “excuses,” you’re wrong, because I have an even bigger bucket of those. I just keep it stashed away for emergencies.

So now you might have a sense of what you’ll be getting when you read here.

  1. The story of one schmo learning to become a kickass coach
  2. An awful lot of words to read, since said schmo really likes to type.
  3. Occasional humor (I was funny up there somewhere, wasn’t I? I don’t recall and there’s no way I’m going back to see – that’s a lot of crap to read).
  4. A handy coaching tip every once in awhile as I learn them and, perhaps most importantly,
  5. TINFOIL CROSSFITTERS! Yes, now they’ll have a non-Facebook home so everyone can share in the joy of small aluminum people doing work.

One other thing, knowing myself as well as I do, I’d highly recommend you either subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed or become a fan of the From Couch to Coach page on Facebook. Sometimes I get a little distracted and the blogging can be a little… inconsistent. Subscribing to one of those things means you’ll get to find out when I’ve gotten off my ass and posted something without having to remember to come here to see. Omigod, I’m helping people ALREADY!

Also, you might notice some changes/inconsistencies as you return to the site. Since I’m still quite burned out on the whole “web development” thing, I’m kinda half-assing the site design/functionality right now. Eventually it’ll be all pretty and organized and functioning. In the meantime, deal.

Update: I’m Awesome

Whaddaya know – it IS like CrossFit! I was worried about nothing. Two puzzles down (I scaled down to the easy ones), the first in 14 minutes, then the second a new 10 minute PR. I am SO gonna tackle double-unders tomorrow morning.

You know… that thing with gills.

We’ll lead into this one with a small health update. Even though we’ve been hitting single digit temps and lower, my Raynaud’s is staying quiet. Granted, I’ve been as cautious as usual with the gloves and such, but I’ve noticed my fingers actually being quite cold at times without having the Raynaud’s kick in. I imagine some of the positive progression it is time, but I’ve also read here and there about how lifting weights, specifically squatting, works wonders on the central nervous system. And as my family at CFNH can tell you, squatting is one of the few things I don’t suck at 🙂

One side effect that still persists is my lingering brain issues. Specifically word recall. That’s actually what got me to fire up the blog and write this post. I got home and was looking in the fridge when I saw what appeared to be a package of salmon. My first thought was “Oh – salmon.” Then I realized that this assumption could be wrong, since it appeared to have some sort of rub or something on it. Being ever correct and proper, I thought “It might not be salmon, so I should say it’s the generic word for salmon to be safe.” And that was all I could come up with. The package either contained “salmon” or it contained “generic word for salmon.” After standing there for a minute or so, I thought to look at the package. It identified the contents as “tuna” and immediately the word “fish” finally popped into my head.

This is my life. This is why this blog is called “Lethological.”

The other day, I decided I was going to apply CrossFit philosophy to the problem. All this time, I’ve been doing a lot of sudoku puzzles. Sudoku puzzles are like squatting for my brain – I can just tear through those suckers. Then it finally occurred to me that one the chief tenets of CrossFit totally applied to this situation: if you want to get better, you have to do things that are uncomfortable. Sudoku puzzles are logic and my logic kicks some serious ass. What I need are some brain double-unders. What I need are crossword puzzles.

While I’ve done crosswords in the past (pre-cancer), I’ve never been a crossword fanatic. Of course, once my brain started misfiring, I made sure to avoid crosswords like they were hyperbole (which I avoid like the plague). So it was time to suck it up and start filling in little boxes with little letters. And for the first time, I understand the feeling a lot of beginning CrossFitters feel when they look at a WOD (workout of the day). I’ve never really feared any of the workouts we’ve done, though I’ve certainly dreaded my fair share. The distinction there is, I may dread having to go out in the snow to take out the trash, but I don’t fear it, since I’m relatively certain I won’t get eaten by a polar bear.

But now that I have my little book of crossword puzzles, I have yet to open it up. Why? Fear. Fear of what I’ll find. Fear of failure. Fear of discovering just how much is missing. Fear of what my brain’s become. I made sure to get a book that has a lot of easy puzzles to get me going, but in a way that makes it worse. What if I can’t even do an easy puzzle?

Hell with it. Grip it and rip it, right? 3, 2, 1, go.

The Power of Negative Thinking

I was putting together a big long post on the mental game in Crossfit and it really started rambling there after a bit. And if I think it was rambling, it would probably be incomprehensible to you guys. So instead, let’s focus right now on negative affirmations.

The important thing to remember at all times is the power your brain has over your body. I’d imagine it varies from person to person, but I know my brain can really mess me up physically. And not just by all of those “A Five Guys burger would be soooooo good right now” thoughts it keeps repeating. For instance, several times in the past when I’ve decided I really need to play hooky from work, I’d get myself sick. When you call your boss, you have to be sure you sound good and sick. I’d get so deep in the act, before I’d realize it I’d be really sick. And as we all know, nothing’s worse than being sick on a sick day.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.
– Emo Phillips

Knowing this power my brain has beforehand has already proved astoundingly useful in my life. I’ve never been that good at all of that positive affirmation Stuart Smalley stuff. The closest I can get is by limiting my negative affirmations, which can be quite a task in itself. I even have a good concrete example right here of how this all works for me.

NOTE: If you’re one of my cancer homies, you can zone out ’cause I’m going to tell that story again.

So yeah, Crossfitters – I’m a cancer survivor. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage IVB – about as advanced as that cancer can get at diagnosis time. Once I was diagnosed, I had one primary rule that I stuck to: I didn’t want to know any side effects of anything that was being given to me. Luckily, I had my wife Barb right there (wave to the crowd, honey), so she became the Holder of the Side Effects. You see, as much as you might want to, you can’t completely ignore your symptoms when you’re in chemo. You may think that your fever’s no big deal, but that might just be a precursor to something really bad happening from drug X.

So the way it worked was like this. We go in to see the doctor and he goes into what I’m going to get and what’s going to happen. The second half is where I tune out (let’s hear it for ADD!). He hands me the sheet with all of the side effects (“The ones in this column are normal. The ones in this column you call me about. The ones in this column, you race to the ER.”) and I hand it right to Barb. She kept them all in her notebook and when I felt something weird, I’d ask her about it.

“Honey? I feel kinda queasy and I can’t see the color orange anymore.” Barb would pull out her notebook, run through the lists. “Nope, those are normal.” “Okay, hand me that baseball.” “Those are oranges, honey.”

Not only did I have very few side effects and hardly any of the “bad” ones, I started playing roller hockey in the middle of the first chemo regimen while I was still working full time. That’s not to say that that first hockey game wasn’t worse than any WOD I’ve done so far, but it got easier. I only quit once they started talking stem cell transplant.

Granted, later on, even not knowing the side effects was enough to keep things from happening. Some of those chemo regimens can be quite draconian. But still, I didn’t seem to have as many problems as the rest of my cancer buddies did.

So what you can glean from that rambling is this. Did I ever say anything about thinking positively? About telling yourself you can do it? About how having hope in your head and a song in a heart will get you through anything. No, I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did. Who can remember? The key to this is, you don’t have to think positive. Just don’t think negative.

“Ugh. Fran is today.”

“I’m still sore from the last one.”

“Has it been twenty minutes yet?”

“Wait, we’re supposed to do how many reps?”

They don’t seem that negative on the surface, but this kind of thinking just eats away at your brain. As soon as you feel one of these thoughts bubble up, do whatever it takes to stuff it back down. Find something sparkly to look at. Ask yourself what you really expected to happen when you showed up at the box that morning. Or, if you’re really feeling like a mental badass, take a tip from the second fittest woman in the world, Annie Thorisdottir. She looked like a mental case about half the time, because here she is, pushing a wheelbarrow overflowing with sandbags, and she’s frickin’ smiling.

Kettlebells? Smiling. Double unders? Smiling. Handstand push ups? Frowning. Oh wait – she’s upside down. Smiling.

Why the hell is she smiling? Did she not read her Icelandic to American Pain Dictionary to understand that you’re not supposed to do that sort of thing. Maybe. According to her, it’s kind of like how you’re supposed to smile when you talk on the phone if you’re in customer service. Try it right now. Smile. Aside from feeling stupid, smiling at your computer for no reason (and looking a little goofy, I might add), did you feel how smiling changes your whole posture? It may be subtle – try it again. This time, with a flower pot on your head.

Sorry – after getting everyone to smile the first time I was a little overcome with my power. But can you feel what I mean? It’s just that little extra bit of oomph that could mean the difference between a clean box jump and a no rep. Or horribly scraped shins, a busted nose and a thrown out back if you exceedingly clumsy.

So that’s your assignment for tomorrow’s WOD. Do whatever it takes to quell the negative thoughts and try to smile during the WOD. Or, you can kill two birds with one stone – smile during the WOD and think about what the people around you are thinking when they see you smiling, you psycho.

The First Rule of Crossfit: Don’t Compare It to Fight Club

Many people who get involved with Crossfit equate it on some level with Fight Club. It’s hard to blame them when you see the places they overlap. You’ve got a group of people meeting in out-of-the-way places, punishing their bodies over and over, rebuilding their bodies, their minds and their entire outlook on life. Not to mention the fact that the first few workouts, you’re going to feel like you were on the losing end of a lopsided fight.
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