Get Like Carla, Part 2

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A few weeks back, I posted about the passion to succeed that I’ve witnessed in Carla. After that post, Carla pulled me aside one night and mentioned to me that she is very serious about making real progress on the overhead squats that I focused on in my blog. In my years of working with athletes, I know there is a difference between someone talking about wanting to do something, and someone telling me that they are going to. Carla was doing the latter.

When I followed up with her to schedule a time to meet, she not only illustrated a specific goal but she also went as far as to put together a public declaration explaining it. Here’s what she had to say:

Last year on my birthday I set a fitness goal for the upcoming year. I didn’t tell anyone because it was embarrassingly basic: to do lunges holding weight over my head. For a variety of reasons (surgeries, life’s ongoing wear and tear), I wasn’t able to propel forward from my left toes. But, I plugged away at lunges with no weights, then lunges holding weights first at my sides and then on my shoulders, then some adhesion broke free in my foot and I was able to do overhead lunges. Then, I realized that if I could do lunges, I could probably do burpees, which I’d never been able to do. Yup. Two achievements out of one goal.

So now I have another birthday coming up and it’s a big birthday so I need a big, public fitness goal. In a past blog post, Peter shared my struggle with overhead squats. I do them wrong in so many ways! If I could do overhead squats properly, I’m sure there will be all kinds of side benefits. Here’s my new slightly less embarrassingly basic fitness goal: By November 23 2015, I will be able to do an overhead squat with perfect form holding a 35lb bar.

There are many lessons that any of us could take away from Carla’s motivation. The most important might be that, no matter what you want to accomplish, if you’re not dedicated to taking actionable steps in getting there, it is not going to happen.

I can’t wait to see the progress that I know Carla is going to make over the coming year, and I hope that watching her chase her goals helps to light a fire under other people’s butts too!

Abdullahi Abdi has stick-to-itiveness

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Stick-to-itiveness: the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult or unpleasant.

This is the word that comes to mind when I think of Abdullahi Abdi, who has been with us for almost three months now. Since day one, he has brought a good coachable attitude to the gym.

When he first came in it showed incredible courage, because I know that CrossFit, and everything we do, was something Abdi had never encountered before. I remember the first time that he did air squats in class. He came nowhere near parallel, all his weight was balancing in his toes and he looked like he was going to injure himself.

Squats were very difficult in the beginning, but kettlebell swings presented an even bigger obstacle. I could tell it was extremely frustrating for him to learn. We had him using the smallest kettlebell and it felt like the timing wasn’t going to ever click. His spine position was all over the place, he couldn’t send his hips back, lat engagement was nowhere to be found, and the list goes on.

Even though I let doubt slip into my mind, I know that Abdi didn’t. He has bought into the foundations programming. He shows up with his hard hat on ready to work each and every time he comes to the gym.

The strides that Abdi has made are downright incredible. His squats are well below parallel while staying in his heels now. His kettlebell swings have improved to a point I thought would take him two years to get to. His determination to get better at everything he does is an inspiration to all.

Stick-to-ititveness. Do you have it?

 

Before the Bell

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One month ago, coach Keela wrote a post in which she asked members of TwinTown Fitness what kind of self-talk they experienced before the bell rang to start a workout. Here’s what Keela found:

So, what’s going on in TwinTowners’ minds before the bell?

Think about this, the next time you are in a class with eight other fellow athletes, here’s the self-talk flooding everyones’ heads at, “Starting in ten!”

  • 31% Instructional: these are the people who stick in their “rational” brains and talk form, count reps, sending simple affirming statements to themselves like, “Ok, just 3 easy rounds.  Get down on your squats every time.”
  • 19% Motivational: these were the adrenaline-charged, enthusiastic “Bring it on! I’m going to kill this!” type people who may or may not also be motivating themselves with the idea of rewarding with food (ice cream and tacos were favorites to earn!)
  • 17% Questioners: these are the people whose talk was full of self-doubt or a variety of statements/questions that started with, “I can’t…” “I don’t want to…” or “Why do I…”
  • 10% “I have to pee”-ers: these people think about and/or feel like the have to pee (for the 8th time), puke, or, um, otherwise…
  • 8% Nothing-ers: these people report that they say nothing to themselves before or during. Nada.
  • 6% Competitive and/or Comparative: these people either use their self talk to compete with others in class and/or make comparisons of their performance to others. “Alright, stay on pace with him/her!”
  • 4 % Suckers: these people have statements involving various forms of the word ‘suck.’ They are either talking about the WOD itself or referencing the feeling the WOD is eliciting in them.  Use your imagination…
  • 2 % Comedians: these people crack internal jokes to distract from the inevitable.
  • 2% Skippers: these people think about and contemplate skipping reps or cheating. “If I just skip a few reps, no one will notice.  No, I should do them all!  Well, maybe- I don’t want to be last… again…”

So, there you have it.  TwinTowners before the bell. Which category do you fall into? More than one?

Next time, I’ll get into where our heads are at in the dark place of the WOD. I’ll also explore the results around TwinTowners’ self-assessment of whether we believe our current self-talk helps or hinders performance as well as tips and advice on how to reframe negative or hindering self-talk.

Stay tuned…

Get Like Carla

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Carla has been a staple in TwinTown classes for a long time. If you’re predominantly an evening-goer as she is, it would be impossible for you to not have taken class with her at some point.

Never one to skip class, shy away from a tough workout, or avoid a new challenge, Carla has not only improved a great deal since starting with us, but is continually looking for ways to further her progress.

One specific instance perfectly illustrates the drive that I see in Carla.

A few weeks back we were working on overhead squats, a movement that is a significant challenge for even long-time CrossFitters, and I had offered up a substitution for anyone that wasn’t ready or able to take on this technical lift.

As I was walking around checking on the athletes’ progress, I noticed that Carla was struggling a bit and told her that I thought it would be best to either use the substitution, or continue to work on her form with a training bar or PVC pipe. I’ll never forget her reaction. She looked me dead in the eyes and told me that she was “NOT interested in a substitution!”

Carla spent the rest of class taking on the lift with no more than 15 pounds. She could have taken the momentary satisfaction of working with a much heavier weight on a lift that she could handle more easily, but she instead took a more humbling path and spent time working at something that she has been wanting to improve at for some time.

No, she didn’t master the overhead squat by the end of class. She did however get better at it. This very much sums up the work ethic that I see in Carla when I have the pleasure of coaching her in class. Carla continually works her butt off, takes on new challenges, and is willing to put pride aside in the name of progress when she needs to.

Carla, you’re an inspiration to us all and I can’t wait to see your skills continue to improve even more (especially in those overhead squats!).

Cori Van Brunt Has Grit

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The on-boarding platform for new clients at TwinTown Fitness is our Foundations program. 

Half of Foundations is learning to move your body safely, solidifying your technique, before applying heavier weights to the equation.

This is the easy half.

The other half cannot be taught.

It is a combination of a strong mental attitude, an open mind, and taking coaching cues while pushing outside your comfort zone.

This takes grit.

Four months ago this week, Cori Van Brunt joined our TwinTown Fitness team. Cori exemplifies what it takes to be a successful Foundations athlete.

When Cori first joined, she was nowhere near getting to parallel, let alone below parallel, on her squat. 

Kettlebell swings caused her to severely round her back, and she could not engage her lats on the downswing.

Core stability seemed more like a distant dream than a reachable reality.

Wow! What a difference a few months makes.

Cori’s squat depth is awesome, and she is able to keep her chest vertical throughout.

Her kettlebell swings are a thing of beauty and should be posted on YouTube as a “how to swing a kettlebell properly” tutorial.

And if I were given the choice to have a plank off  with Cori, or walk away, I would sprint in the other direction.

As coaches, athletes like Cori make our job simple. She makes everyone around her better. There might be a touch of competitiveness involved, as well!

From all of the coaches at TwinTown Fitness, thank you for all your hard work, Cori. It is a true pleasure to have you as part of our community.

Keep working hard!

The Success Of Tracy

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Well, after a picture like this, there isn’t really much I need to say about Tracy’s success. Tracy is always down to work hard and her progress is evidence of that, to say the least. If you’ve been in class with her, you also know the ever-upbeat presence that accompanies such determination. Here are some words on Tracy’s story; I hope it’s the inspiration for you that it is for me…

Being bigger than everyone else has been such a big part of my life that I often forget that I have a “story”. I do know that I have come a long way though so when Coach Peter asked me to share my story I was happy to say yes.

My story starts when I was REALLY young, but we won’t go through all of that. Let’s start at college graduation. When I was 255 lbs.

Like many with weight issues, you just think one day it will go away or you’ll start losing weight. That didn’t work out so well for me, so in 2008 I finally took the first step. I joined Weight Watchers. By the end of that year, I had lost almost 60 lbs. I eventually stopped WW in 2013 because it just didn’t fit my lifestyle anymore.

My next milestone came in 2012 when I joined Gold’s Gym. Starting with simple stuff, I eventually decided to take on a Warrior Dash to see if I could finish it and I did in September 2012. It surprised the heck out of me that I made it through, so I signed up for an 8K and crossed that finish line in 52 minutes in March 2013.

Enter the “Tracy, you do know you’re insane right?” stage.

In 2013 I set a goal to finish 10 races. I met that way too soon, so I upped the ante to 20 races. I finished many distances up to a half marathon, completing a total of 16 races, that last on Thanksgiving morning. The training for all of these races started to take a toll on my body and I didn’t like how I felt, so I called it a win and stopped running races.

Around the start of races, I also joined CrossFit in January 2013 after being told by a friend that I would love it (sure nailed it there). From day one of my fundamentals class, the goals started rolling through my dreams of what I could lift and do with time. Never ever did I dream of or think I could or would compete. Well, that was a lie. February 2014 brought Freeze Fest Team Challenge, May 2014 is Twin Ports Raw Powerlifting Open, June 2014 is The Dakota Games, August 2014 is the Twin Cities Weighlifting Open and September 2014 is The Granite Games.

Forgive me for sounding cliché, but out of all of it, CrossFit has been the life changer. I gained a huge support system through joining and am constantly challenged and learning more. It honestly has made me a completely different person for the better both physically and mentally.

It took me thirty years but finally I have endurance and stamina. I ENJOY getting tired and sweating. I don’t watch the numbers on the scale anymore, count calories or points. I weigh much more still than people think. Why? Because I have muscles. Actual muscles. I have lost 19 lbs of fat mass and gained 8.6 lbs of fat free mass (this is anything not fat on your body, including muscles) and my body fat has gone down 8.6%.

I am healthy for the first time in my life.

Beginning: 255 lbs, Size 22/24
Today: 179 lbs, Size 8

“A Trip Impossible Without CrossFit”

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There is nothing more fulfilling in this line of work than hearing about the real-world changes that people’s improved fitness are making on their lives. That said, you can imagine how pumped I was to get this email from Matt a couple weeks back, detailing a recent hiking trip he had embarked on with his son. Matt’s strides since starting at TTCF, his attention to detail in class, and his pure determination to succeed make him a model athlete. If you know Matt, you probably already know this about him. If you’ve never met, please read his story to see what he’s all about:

 

A few weeks ago I went to Hawaii with my 10-year-old son Owen.  One of the highlights of the trip for us was getting a remote backcountry wilderness cabin in the crater of Haleakala National Park.  To reach this cabin we had to start at approximately 10K-feet of elevation and hike about 6 miles down the Sliding Sands Trail.  The cabin itself is located at about 7500 feet altitude.  We spent two nights there, and had to pack in all food and supplies.  My pack weighed about 50 pounds and Owen’s weighed about 20 pounds.

 

The hike down was relatively uneventful, with nice weather, gentle winds, etc.  The hike back out, however was totally different.  Once we left the crater floor, we hiked directly into a cloud.  Visibility was cut down to a few feet, we had driving rain the whole time, and a 40mph headwind.  Temperature was also down to 45 degrees.
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This hike out was one of the most strenuous experiences of my life, both physically and mentally.  I had to carry Owen’s pack on my front in addition to my own for much of the climb.  The trail itself consisted primarily of wet sand and rocks.  And of course, the higher we climbed, the thinner the air became.  So that describes the physical hardships.  But I also had to be mentally strong for Owen.  He was really struggling, and I had to keep his spirits up.  Inside I was ready to break, but outside I had to keep it together.
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I’m telling you all this because I am convinced that I would not have been able to do this hike out had I not been doing CrossFit with you guys for the past year.  Just knowing how to use my legs properly allowed me to climb that trail in a way that kept my legs from dying.  The increased endurance I’ve built up allowed me to keep going when the air got thin.  My increased core strength allowed me to do this while carrying 70-plus pounds worth of pack.  Mentally, the WODs I’ve been through have rewired my brain into realizing that something that sounds flat-out impossible really isn’t, especially if you break it down into small steps.  I would look up the trail into the mist and just tell myself, “get to that next ledge, get to that next turn.”  And I would say those to Owen as well, helping him break down this impossible climb into possible segments.

This experience has been a transformative one for my son and for our relationship.  He doesn’t realize it, but he’s changed.  He used to whine about carrying his gear when he would have to go to ski practice or races.  Now, he volunteers to carry his own gear and his sister’s.  He gladly helps his mom with groceries or laundry, without thinking about it.  Is he physically stronger than before?  Maybe slightly.  Is he mentally stronger than before? Exponentially, and it’s all due to how my time at TwinTown CrossFit has changed me.

A Drive to Succeed

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If you are one to watch our daily leader board, you have surely noticed Keela’s name on it. With a work ethic that is to be admired, she is an exceptionally talented athlete who exemplifies our “Be Humble, Have Hustle” motto.

A longstanding goal that Keela has had is to get a sub-5-minute Baseline score – a goal that she recently kicked in it’s little behind. Last Monday, she came in to retest her score and whipped up an impressive finishing time of 4:56 (down a whole minute since July!) Goal completed! But then, because that just wasn’t good enough, she beat her score AGAIN in class on Friday. This time bringing her score down to 4:43!

Here’s a couple questions that Keela was gracious enough to answer for me about her training at TTCF and what has helped her to get to her goal:

How long have you been doing CrossFit for, and what made you want to get started?

I’ve been doing CrossFit for just shy of 2 years. Before CrossFit, I always enjoyed seeking athletic experiences & challenges that were most difficult for me and conquering them. I found CrossFit when a friend of mine posted pictures of a winter challenge TTCF did and I was instantly intrigued. I get to use a lot of skills that I have experience in from my own athletic background as well as new ones to conquer. I have definitely met my match :)

Pull-ups are one of the most common goals for people that walk through our doors. What has been the biggest help in getting them down?

Pull-ups and, in general, movements on the bar have been hard for me from the start. I think what has helped was first being patient enough to work on the strength behind the movement and then holding myself accountable to working on and improving technique as I started getting better at them.

There have definitely been numerous MetCons with pull-ups throughout the year where it felt I finished hours behind everyone else. As hard as those workouts were in the moment, that push out of my comfort zone coupled by the ending feeling of, “I never want that to happen again!” kept me motivated to get them down.

Now that you are kicking the Baseline workout’s butt, what other goals do you have in your sights?

I still have so much to work on. Right now,  I’m working on getting my butterflies down, chaining more chest to bars together, then I want to move towards bar muscle-ups. Off the bar, I have Isabel Rx in my sights.

You’re an inspiration to us all, Keela. Keep up the hard work!

Progress

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Katie H. just put up a great post on her blog about her experience and success since starting at TTCF. Head on over to her site to check it out! Katie is a full time photographer who is regularly putting out wonderful new work on her Flickr site. I’d highly recommend taking a look.

Keep on kickin’ ass, Katie!