If you're new to CrossFit, returning to working out after some time away, trying to get in shape or trying to optimize your nutrition, you may discover your behaviors outside the gym and your beliefs about yourself are intimately tied to this journey. You may not feel confident about your body, your current state of health, your strength, or your eating behaviors. That's ok. You don't need confidence to start doing something well right now. Confidence will come over time, as a result of consistently making good choices. Right now, you can celebrate each day you show up to the gym or make a healthy food choice, and confidence will grow. 


 

Do you want to re-fit into an old article of clothing, get back to "that time when I was fitter and happier", get back to the person you were before you gained weight, or lift the amount of weight you were doing 10 years ago? Ask yourself why. You're no longer that old version of yourself anymore. If you're comparing your current self to a past "better" version of yourself, you're never going to like what you see, because you're trying to get back to someone who no longer exists. Fitness can be a priority or it can take a backseat when other endeavors in your life are more important. Maybe the focus of your effort has been on studying, building a business, managing a family, advancing your career, giving to others - or maybe you're struggling with stress, depression and anxiety. If you're making a change, let yourself truly start fresh. Holding yourself to a standard that is no longer relevant will make it harder to gain any confidence in what you're doing today. Consider asking yourself why you're holding on to the past, and if you're ready to set new goals that are appropriate for the person you are today. As recently as yesterday is already the past, and you can let that person go. You really can.  


 

Do you want six-pack abs, a thigh gap, a glute-hamstring tie-in, quad separation, a certain shoulder to waist ratio, a bootie, or some other aesthetic goal? Do you have a vision of yourself on the beach with your family, friends and rivals admiring the cuts, ripples and muscle gains of your physique? These are common aspirations. But these visual hallmarks don't come with just training a lot. They require being below a certain body fat percentage, and the process of getting to that amount of leanness requires consistent precision in your nutrition.  Before you set yourself a purely aesthetic goal, ask yourself if you understand and fully accept what is required to get there, and whether you're truly willing to do it. Is it that important? A fitness or skills related goal (run a 10K, do a muscle-up), strength goal (squat 300 lbs, participate in the Open at RX), a nutrition goal (abstain from alcohol and added sugar), a health goal (lower blood pressure or HbA1c) or a mental wellness goal (feel consistently amazing in my skin, love myself) may be better options. 
 


 

CrossFit will address your fitness without too much mental effort on your part. As long as you show up to class consistently and do your best each time, sleep and recover, you will get stronger, faster and more metabolically efficient. However, changes in body composition and appearance, which is what most of us are truly after, require addressing your nutrition. "No matter how hard you train, you can't out-train a bad diet." Changing your eating behaviors is a far more daunting task than training hard because eating is something you have to do several times a day, every day, and for many people, eating is a coping mechanism for some other stress or unhappiness in life, and we are really hard on ourselves about it. We choose to put things in our mouths, and we take that responsibility to heart whether we admit it openly to ourselves or not.


 

Most people at one point or another had a difficult relationship with food or are currently struggling. Our food intake dictates how our bodies function, which results in our energy levels, which results in what we're able to do in life, which results in our sense of our accomplishments, and ultimately our self-esteem. We all want to feel accomplished in our lives. But we don't think nutrition is directly related to accomplishment. Instead we think of food and how our bodies look and move, and we have complex thoughts and emotions about our bodies. CrossFit can help you have better thoughts and emotions about your body. You can prove it to yourself by seeing how the food you eat results in your performance. That's why nutrition is the base of the pyramid.


 

CrossFit fitness-pyramid.jpg


 

 Whether it's an addiction to sugar, alcohol, or fatty foods, a habit of restriction or a habit of bingeing, know that many people have negative behavioral patterns related to food, and they are hard-wired with years of reinforcement. This is why it's easier to take on a new, crazy intense exercise program like CrossFit and commit to 3x/week than it is to say no to cookies and cream - why we are able to suffer through thrusters and burpees at 5:30 am but we can't stop ourselves from eating an entire pizza. If you've found CrossFit, you know how to eat for health and longevity, and you have the resources to do so. It's all out there. We know what good nutrition is already. Why is it so hard to consistently do something we know is good for us? Why can't eating just be "fueling for optimal performance", in which case it would be easy? Because we are not machines. Eating is a complex behavior involving feelings of satiation, reward, having control, not having control, coping, comfort, community, alienation, and a whole lot more. It can directly speak to our sense of self-worth, integrity and confidence in who we are, and who people think we are. And it can be a deeply private and potentially shameful part of life that can be difficult to share, especially with those who are closest to us.


 

If your identity has become wrapped around a negative behavior pattern related to eating or drinking (I can't control myself and I hate this about myself), know this: past negative behavioral patterns don't define you. Know that you can change by applying small new healthy habits that will accumulate with dedicated effort. Accept that this may take longer than you think. Saying no to a binge craving or flare of anger and yes to a cup of hot tea and 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation with your phone app (try Calm or HeadSpace) is a new action that requires consistent effort, and it takes time. You won't be successful every time, but sometimes you will be. You can forgive yourself the setback and celebrate the victories. And the victories will slowly outnumber the setbacks. Forming a new nutrition habit is like working towards your first unassisted pull-up. It's a new muscle pattern that has to be trained. Both mental and physical strength are built over time, with progression. The more you train the habit, the stronger it becomes. 


 

Celebrate the small steps every day. Be compassionate towards yourself when you're not able to do your best and keep looking forward. Making changes is to put yourself in a vulnerable state. Protect this new vulnerability by adopting a positive mindset.


 

Here's a quote to think about from Ben Bergeron (coach for Katrin Davidsdottir, Mat Fraser, other CrossFit champions): You are what you repeatedly do. 


 

What you did in the past is done. What you do today is a choice, and every moment of every day, you have a choice. 
 


 

You may think: "I don't know if I can do this" or "I don't think this is working for me".  If you're trying to make big changes, give yourself a chance to sit within this vulnerability. Just going for it is something to be proud of. You do not need confidence in order to start making progress, and don't expect progress to be linear. You can be successful in the little things, which will build into larger, durable habits and behaviors. Then confidence will come.  


 

If you'd like to discuss your goals, habits, fears, thoughts on your training, ideas, or if you have questions of any kind, please reach out to your coaches.

Take it to the next level

Getting enough sleep. Are you going to bed leaving yourself enough time to get 7-8 hours sleep before your alarm clock goes off? If not, what can you do to ensure that this will happen.? Your muscles and central nervous system need enough time to recover so that you can be at your best for your next workout.  Can you watch less TV, set better boundaries at work so that you are not staying up way past your optimal bedtime? Try it for a week and see how you feel.

 

Hydration. How much water are you drinking throughout the day?  A better question is, “what does your pee look like?” Different bodies, in different climates, doing different activities need different amounts of water. Is your urine clear, or is it a darker color? If it is the latter, you need to be drinking more water, drinking less other beverages, or a combination of both. Keep a water bottle by your nightstand, by your desk, in your car. Our cells need to be hydrated for hypertrophy (muscle growth), thermogenesis (burning fat) and for brain function.  Get to an appropriate amount of water intake and see how much better you feel.

 

Meal Habits. Are you in the habit of consistently eating healthy, or trying to eat well and not having the will power to make it through the day or week? Make it easier to set yourself up for success by planning your meals in advance and having them available. Consistency is key. Meal prepping, or meal service is a great way to have healthy food available. Grabbing what is available without planning, often tends to result in suboptimal choices. Territory delivers your food right here to the gym, Trifecta will deliver food right to your house. Take this leap and watch your fitness results proliferate.

Mindset

What do you think about before you come into the gym to train? Do you have a totally positive mindset, or are you thinking, “Ughh, I have to work out?”

I am guilty more than anyone of having negative thought patterns. Lately I’ve been reading lots of books on positive psychology and the effects have been great. Trying to look for all the positive things in my life, and not focus on the bad things have had a tremendous effect on all aspects of my life. Rewiring my brain to seek out the good things in my day has been really helpful for me to be in a better mood, having better energy and being more disciplined with good habits.

Do you think one bad thought, and then before you know it realize you’ve been thinking nothing but negativity for several minutes, or hours? As soon as you catch yourself thinking something negative, try redirecting those thoughts and thinking about something good in your life. Instead of thinking about how tired you are before you come in to train, think about how lucky you are to have the opportunity to come in and work out. Instead of thinking about how busy you are, think about how much opportunity there is here in the Silicon Valley, or how you go to one of the best schools in the country.

Our perception can make today the best day of our life, or our perception can make it be a shitty day. If you try to recognize all the good points of your day, you’re going to have more good days than bad ones, even though what actually has happened might be exactly the same.

We can’t always change our feelings, but we can control how long we feel about something. For example we can’t help but be frustrated if we get cut off when we’re driving. However, we can control how long were mad about that incident, and how we choose to react to it. We can let it ruin the rest of our drive, or we can forget about it and think about something that we’re excited about coming up in the near future. Something as simple as this can have a profound affect on our mood. You can’t change how you feel, but you can control how long you have that feeling. And why would anybody choose to not feel anything but good?

I know what you’re thinking, “This is all commonsense stuff, Aaron”. I understand that and when I first started reading these books, that’s exactly how I felt. Then I heard the phrase, “Commonsense does not mean common practice,” and realized the changes I need to start making.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt a new lifestyle of positive thinking 24/7, make your best effort every time you come in to the gym.

Feeling good feels so good. Start looking for the positive and good things that happen in your day.

 

Here are two really good books (both also available on Audible for those who prefer to listen) for positive mindset and creating better habits:

 

"The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor

 

The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg

Tall Snatch

Let’s start by talking about what the tall snatch is. The tall snatch, in it’s true form, is performed with the athlete standing up tall, and then without any momentum from the legs, aggressively pulling themselves down, using the arms, to the bottom of the overhead squat position.

 

There are a different number of uses, not limited to teaching the athlete where they should be BEFORE they start to use their arms, and since there is no momentum on the bar moving upward, as there would be if performed from the hang or ground, the athlete can only use the arms to pull themselves down in to the bottom of the overhead squat position.

 

Two extremely common errors in the snatch are not extending the legs and hips all the way, aka not getting tall, and the athlete not pulling themself under the bar fast enough, or at all.

 

By starting in the tall position, the athlete can feel where they are supposed to get to when the snatch is performed in it’s entirety. Too often will you see athletes not capitalizing off of the power that can be generated by driving the legs against the ground, simply because they stop doing so too soon. Practicing from the tall position will help build the movement into the muscle memory so that the arms will not be bent prematurely.

 

In the snatch, the legs are being used to accelerate the bar up, and once the bar has reached peak speed, the arms are used to pull the body underneath the bar. Of course accelerating the bar up is of crucial importance, but to maximize the weight which can be lifted overhead, the arms need to be used to pull the body under the bar as fast as possible.

 

This needs to happen quickly, and it needs to happen at the right time. The snatch is one of the most technical movements that you will ever learn, as we are lifting the bar from the ground to overhead, passing through a squat, in less than a second. There is a lot going on, and a lot to think about. Breaking the movement up into segments and working on components of the lift is a good way to develop solid technique.

 

The tall snatch can be performed as a warm up before other snatch training (hang or from the floor) and can also be used as a training exercise on a day where load is supposed to be lighter.

 

Athletes that have a hard time pulling under the bar will benefit highly form doing the tall snatch, assuming it is done correctly. I like my athletes to do tall snatches as part of their warm up for any snatch, or hang snatch work.

 

The tall snatch should be performed starting with the feet in the pulling stance width (usually hip width apart, or where you feel like you can get the highest vertical jump). You can start with your feet flat, or up on the balls of your feet, as would be during triple extension.

 

From here, the athlete will use the weight of the bar to pull themself under it as hard, and as fast as they can. Since the pull of the tall snatch starts from a dead stop, the pull under can not be performed slow. The elbows will come up and out to move the body straight down, underneath the barbell.

 

As soon as the pull is initiated, the feet will have to begin to move out into the squat stance (usually about shoulder width apart, with the toes pointed out 15 – 30 degrees). Not moving the feet will hinder how fast the movement can be performed, as the squat stance is needed to move smoothly into the bottom position.

 

Athletes that tend to cut the pull short, aka not get tall will benefit from the tall snatch, as it reinforces the position before you are supposed to start moving under, while making the movement less to think about. Athletes often explode around the knee, or mid thigh, instead of opening the hips and extending the legs all the way first. As previously stated, this inhibits the amount of force being produced to move the bar upward.

 

Performing the tall snatch will teach patience, allowing the athlete to get tall when performing the hang or floor variation and maximizing the power from the legs.

 

By practicing from the tall position, the athlete will reinforce this location of where the bar should be as they explode.

 

Athletes that are just learning the snatch are often overwhelmed with the amount of information given to them on this extremely technical movement. Practicing the snatch in sections will allow progress to be made as you can focus on one thing at a time.

 

Try adding in some tall snatches to your warm ups and training program and see the difference.

Two Great Resources For Learning How To Lift

When you first start CrossFit your coaches are sage-like possessors of wisdom unfathomable. They guide you, teaching you how to control your body so that your heels stay on the ground when you squat, developing your body’s ability to hinge at the hip and keep the spine secure with the infamous “core” muscles, and inundating you with arbitrarily named exercises that are supposed to help you get more fit. 

After a while, you decide that these strangely named exercises are fun and challenging. You want to get better at your snatch and clean and jerk. Unfortunately, your coaches seem to be bothered when you call them at 1130 at night demanding they explain to you intricacies of these movements, so that you can be better prepared for tomorrow’s workout.

No need to panic. Your coaches need sleep, and if you’re up at 1130 the night before working out, so do you. There are some great resources available to you where you can see quality demos of Olympic Weightlifting movements and the accessory work that is commonly paired with this type of training.

The number one resource for all things Olympic weightlifting is Catalyst Athletics. From having the most extensive exercise library I am aware of, to free training programs, to articles that are both informative and engaging, this site simply can not be beat.  All of the information here can be trusted to be accurate and the exercise demos are performed correctly as well.

Another great resource for some really great technique in action is the @hookgrip instagram account. He travels to weightlifting events around the world capturing the absolute best lifters in the world. His videos contain a bit of commentary as well, so you can become familiar with the elite athletes in the sport and become a bit of a fan in the process.

These two should be more than sufficient for anyone new to the sport. Where you want to stay away from is YouTube. Many people have developed the ability to speak clearly and confidently and present poor information in a way that sounds great. With more experience you will learn to discern the difference between those who know what they are talking about, and those who do not. 

Getting started and learning is a fun process. And you only get to be a true beginner once. Make sure to start that process on the right foot by getting quality coaching in your home gym and accessing the best sources available in your free time. Learning the right way initially will keep the progress rolling and eliminate the need for correcting pesky bad habits years down the road.