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Archive for July, 2011

Games Final Post

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

The games final day was quite an event. The day started out with an individual competition.30 Double unders, overhead squats, handstand push ups and sled push. Next came the masters finals. Row, bike, burpee box jump, famers walk. Then came the team finals which was a “girls” relay. All 6 team members. Each member responsible for completing a workout… The workouts and order were Elizabeth, Fran, Isabel, Grace, Dianne and Karen. The individual times for these were incredible. CrossFit New England won the event with ridiculous efforts in all six.

The individuals finals was a gruling chipper that they had to perform multiple times. 20 calorie row, 30 wall ball, 20 toes to bar, 30 box jumps, 20 KB sumo . deadlift high pulls, 30 burpees, 20 shoulder to overhead, then pull a sled across the stadium. The first go allowed 3 minutes to get as far as possible through the workout, then a 1 minute rest, then 6 minutes to go as far as possible, then a 2 minute rest, then complete the full chipper. Each round scored independently. All athletes were exhausted completing this workout. There were some stellar efforts, and clearly some strategy involved in how to approach each to manage fatigue. Watch the feeds.

I will see you all in the gym tomorrow. It has been a whirlwind weekend. Looking forward to getting back in the gym and training.

Masters Chipper Results

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Going into event 4, we knew that this would be the event that Bill struggled with the most. This was the case, but not for the reason we anticipated. Bill hit a wall on the HSPU. The requirement was that he have his heels on the wall when he reached full extension. This threw him a bit and he had a lot of no-rep efforts. Additionally he went out a little ambitious attempting 5 reps on his first set. The thrusters earlier in the day caught up to him. The HSPU took a long time, once he moved on from the HSPU things really moved. He accidentally moved to the toes to bar second, and his judge did not catch the error. So he completed 20 reps, then 20 reps of wall ball and back to the toes to bar. Bill moved to the cleans with limited time and completed 26 reps.

Final result was 17th in that workout, leaving him in 18th overall. His rankings for all the workouts:

1) 14

2) 11

3) 12

4) 17

Bill came into the event in 20th and finished very well in all events. We are all very proud of him. Way to go Bill.

Pull Up, Thruster Results

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Masters event 3 is done. Bill did great. Hammering out the first set of pull ups and thrusters. The second round started to give him some trouble on the pull ups. Unfortunately the bar was a bit too low and he couldn’t swing his kip as well as he normally does. The pull ups were definitely the toughest part with Bill breaking down to sets of one near the end. Even so the breaks were short and he kept up a good pace.  His final thruster was epic with Bill effectively shoulder pressing the last rep. He was not about to give up. Bill finished 12th in this event putting him 15th overall. One more event to go today. We’ll need a big performance to move Bill into the top 8 to qualify for tomorrow.

Games Update Event 2

Friday, July 29th, 2011
Bill PR 185lb C&J

Bill PR 185lb C&J

Event 2 for the masters is done. Bill B. hit 185 for a PR in the jerk phase. Final results to come. This should put him in the upper half for the second event, which will keep him in striking range of the finals. Going to get some good food and rest.

Team event 2 is a ton of fun with max rep rope climbs in 2 minutes, then 2 minutes to establish max clean.

Triple Threat Weekend at CrossFit Marin

Friday, July 29th, 2011

As many of you know the CrossFit Games are currently in full effect down in LA.  Bill Berry is competing in the Master’s Category, currently in 13th place.  Our friends/rivals from TJ’s gym are doing very well coming  in 9th place for the affiliate cup.  Russ and myself just set up the TV in the main gym so we can watch the internet stream during the evening classes.  Bill should be up again soon, maybe at 3:20pm.  If you want to come watch swing on over to the gym.  If you miss it live, we can always replay the archived heats.

Ninja Training Camp Group photo

Ninja Training Camp Group photo

Mira & Andres showing their Ninja Muscles at David Campbell's Sasuke Camp in Santa Cruz

Mira & Andres showing their Ninja Muscles at David Campbell's Sasuke Camp in Santa Cruz

This Sunday at 6pm is the premier of American Ninja Warrior 3 on G4 TV.  As you may recall, we had six people associated with the gym compete at Venice beach back in May.  We’ll be having a viewing party at the Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur from 5:45-8pm.  Families with kids welcome.  Please post to comments if you are planning to attend.  Here’s the map link:,+sausalito,+ca&hl=en&sll=37.09024,-87.539062&sspn=68.470698,133.330078&z=16


Shoomaker Beach in Sausalito

Shoomaker Beach in Sausalito

Lastly, on Sunday some of us will be going to Shoomaker beach in Sausalito at noon. We’ll be playing, swimming, and working out for a couple of hours.  I’ll bring soe of the kid’s gymnastics equimpent and I’ll also organize a spectacularly fun team workout if we have at least 6 people show up.  Please post to comments if you are planning on making it over.  Here’s a map link to the beach:

First Events Done, Events All Over The Place

Friday, July 29th, 2011

First events are complete. We’ve seen some brutal workouts already. Bill is now ranked 13th, so he’s moved up 7 spots after entering at 20th. The next couple of works are good. We’ll keep you posted on the updates. Bill performed well clearly being superior on the overhead squats. He struggled a bit on the push ups and was called out on quite a few reps for his feet leaving the ground at the bottom of the push up. Even with this he finished in 6:37 to put him in 13th place.

Team competition is looking great. Our friends over at Diablo CrossFit are currently in second. Talking to Jeremy it sounds like they will do well in event 2 as well. They are a team to watch with a strong overall team. No superstarts, but every one of their athletes is solid.

Here At The CF Games

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Bill and his stuff

Bill and his stuff

We are here in LA getting prepped for the competition tomorrow. Bill has his athlete’s gear from Reebok. This photo isn’t all of it. They’re doing well by the athletes so far.

Bill’s first heat is at 11:20am. You can view the action live online at:

We don’t have his exact time for Event 2, but it will be sometime around 3:00pm. Be sure to tune in.

Building Your CrossFit Skills

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Fitness in 100 Words

World Class Fitness in 100 words, according to Greg Glassman:

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

This short paragraph is the earliest CrossFit prescription. Before we heard about modal domains, unknown and unkowable, and work capacity, Greg Glassman came up with these 100 words. While many would say he didn’t really come up with anything new, it takes a stroke of brilliance to describe something as complete as overall fitness in such a simple package. Along with this prescription, Glassman also would say something along the lines of, “show me someone with great proficiency in olympic lifting, medium distance track events, and basic gymnastics and you have yourself a hell of an athlete.” In this statement and the paragraph above, the point is made clearly that the program is designed to have people learn and practice new skills. Greg Glassman was able to identify some very powerful and basic physical skills that, when learned, could create a strong, coordinated, agile, and well balanced individual. Not to mention the fact that all of these things are incredibly enjoyable to do once you put in the groundwork and take the developmental steps needed to learn them.

Despite this original emphasis on skill, it seems that a lot of CrossFit gyms these days focus very heavily on the part that says, “Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow.” Their programming involves trying to think up the craziest mix of reps, sets, and exercises possible in order to destroy people as much as possible. This is not good coaching, especially for people who are relative novices to CrossFit and still need to go through the steps of really learning the skills involved. That is why Roger makes a significant effort to program a wide variety of skill work into our training, also including many max effort days that will allow you to practice exercises and ingrain the movement patterns.

Ingraining Neuromuscular Patterns

In reading The Talent Code, there is a very interesting section talking about how world class coaches develop skills in their proteges. There are certain sports or skills that involve what I would call open chain demands. These types of skills require quick reactivity and on the fly changes. Sports like football, soccer, basketball, and tennis or skills like creative writing and stand up comedy fall into this category. During competitions or performances, the neuromuscular system will never execute a command in the exact same way during these skills and sports. Comedians read an audience on a second by second basis in order to change jokes or tone. In sports with defenders, your body, their body, and the ball will always be in a slighly different position from situation to situation. These things require instinctual reactions that happen on the level of a microsecond and do not follow an orderly path. The book describes that great coaches in these open chain sports are quite passive when it comes to technique corrections. They allow their athletes to learn organically by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Their biggest improvement comes from competing over and over again in order to build a wide net of neural connections that teaches them to react to many situations on the field.

Conversely, there are sports and skills that have closed chain demands that typically involve well rehearsed routines. Whether you’re talking about golf, playing the violin, singing, ballet, or diving, the individual knows exactly what they are going to do before their performance. There is very little, if any, reaction and spontaneous adjustment required. They simply execute exactly what they’ve learned and practiced thousands of times. In skills that require closed chain demands, master coaches do nearly the opposite of what master coaches do in open chain endeavors. They work closely with their students to build a strong foundation of the specific skills required for the routine, always highlighting errors when they crop up and stopping to fix them before moving on. They will break down the full movement into small chunks and ensure they’re being done correctly before continuing. With these activities, there is usually a stepwise progression that begins building a basic foundation at slower speeds. Over time, the teacher ratchets up both the complexity and speed, but only if the student can maintain accuracy and precision with their movements.

It makes sense when you think about it. The closed chain teachers are trying to deeply ingrain the habits of that very specific and precise neuromuscular skill that will be repeated over and over again during practice and performance for years. With open chain skills, there is no single specific neuromuscular pathway that’s created. It’s more like a jumbled connection with all of the wires connected to each other in order to react to any situation as quickly as possible. Because of the crucial need for a hands on approach to closed chain learners at the early stages, it’s rare to find a superstar in a closed chain field that was self made. Most violinists, singers, and golfers who reach the apex of their profession had extensive personal coaching as children. On the other hand, you find quite a few soccer players, basketball players, stand up comedians, and creative writers who reached an international level of fame without having world class instruction as children. They simply started competing and performing early and had an uncommon ability to develop their skill through trial and error over time against better and better competition.

Knowing all that, think about all of the things we do in CrossFit. What types of skills are they? They are ALL closed chain skills. Gymnastics, weightlifting, kettlebell swings, box jumps, running, rowing, and jump rope are all specific movements that should be executed the same way each time. They involve neuromuscular pathways that need to be grooved in a straight line. Learning how to clean and jerk or do a muscle up is no different than learning how to hit a golf ball or play a piece on the violin. The difficulty with CrossFit met cons is that it’s the equivalent of driving a golf ball down the middle of the fairway then immediately grabbing a violin and playing a flawless concerto.

This makes it all the more important to ingrain the individual skills we practice in the right way. During skill work, really feel the movements from the ground up. Watch other people who move well and focus on different aspects of their form. Even talk to them about the differences between your technique and theirs and how to best bridge the gap. Figure out which coaching cues work for you. Ask the trainers about something you think you’re doing wrong and get a roadmap for how to improve it. Think about building those skill pathways for each movement and all of your workouts will start to improve in a big way.

Paleo Breakfast Cereal

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

squashAcorn squash’s peak months are October through December, but it’s available year round, and for me, this recipe is too good to wait until Winter!

Pick squash that is heavy for its size with smooth, dull skin that’s green with some orange (too much orange indicates overripe squash which is dry and stringy).

“Cereal” Ingredients

1 cup cooked* puréed acorn squash

1/4 to 1/3 cup toasted almonds, ground to coarse-fine in food processor

1 Tbsp currants (or dried fruit of choice, or 1/4 cup finely chopped apple)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 to 2 Tbsps light canned coconut milk

Place about one cup of mashed or puréed cooked squash in a serving bowl, stir in ground almonds, currants and cinnamon. Microwave to desired temperature (start with 30 seconds). Drizzle with canned coconut milk and enjoy a very healthy and satisfying alternative to oatmeal!

*To cook the acorn squash, cut it in half length-wise, scoop out seeds (save for later, see below), and roast face-down in a 375° oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The longer the squash cooks, the sweeter it gets, but basically it’s done when a fork goes easily through. When done to your liking, let cool, scoop out flesh, purée or mash well with the back of a spoon and store in fridge for up to a week. And don’t throw away the seeds! No need to rinse them, just separate and place them in a shallow roasting pan. If you have an olive oil mister or spray, spray lightly, sprinkle with salt and bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until they just start to brown. Alternately, shake in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container with a small amount of oil and salt, then bake. They’re really great!


Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Remember, CrossFit is (1) constantly varied (2)functional movements (3) performed at high intensity.  If you take out any of those three things, it doesn’t work very well.

You should look like this when you're done.

You should look like this when you're done.

If you’re coming to class and doing the workouts, you don’t really have control over the first two.  The workout is already written, so you don’t have to worry about the variation or the movement.  What you do have control over is the intensity with which you attack the workout.  In CrossFit terms, intensity is your power output, that is, how much work you do divided by how much time it took you to do it.  Running 400m in 1 minute is twice as much power as running 400m in 2 minutes.  Doing a deadlift at 50kg is half as much power as doing a deadlift at 100kg (assuming you move the bar the same speed).  In both of these examples, the 1 minute 400m and the 100kg deadlift are harder– more intense– because the power output is higher.  We want you to maximize your power output in every workout.

Why is intensity important?  Human beings are remarkable machines in that they repair themselves and they adapt to stresses.  When the body is stressed by a workout, it adapts by building muscle, increasing neural connections, strengthening tendons, increasing bone density, etc.  But as it makes those adaptations, it takes more and more of that type of stress to cause those adaptations.  We maximize this effect by utilizing functional movements (multi-joint, full range of motion) and by constantly changing the movements so it takes longer to adapt, but the intensity factor is all up to you.  How much you stress you put on your body in each workout is crucial to positive adaptation.

Of course, form and recovery are also important factors that limit your intensity.  If you know you aren’t sleeping or eating right or you know you need work on the movements, let your trainer know and back off a bit.  However, if you always work on your form and pace yourself and never push past minimal discomfort, you aren’t taking advantage of all the program has to offer and you won’t see the same results.  Make the workouts as hard as you can.  Make them suck.  Nothing worth doing is easy.