Bullying Is Good: The Violent Reality of Evolution

Opening my Facebook feed every day is always an experience. What will the sheep be bleating about today? What celebrity or politician lost their job because they allegedly touched someone inappropriately 48 fucking years ago? What kind of a potato chip is my friend Rick, according to a Buzzfeed quiz? Today – the internet “cause du jour” was a kid who was bullied and made a video “fighting back” one headline read.

This is the world we live in. Fighting back is so loosely defined, violence so widely repudiated, that the term “fighting back” has been used to define a viral video on Facebook. What's next? We all start referring to your mother as a combat veteran because she "waged a war on hunger" by cooking you dinner? You see, when I was kid, yes, all the way back when we rode horses to school and were just learning about things like radios and electricity, fighting back meant something different. Fighting back meant punching that piece of shit who was tormenting you right in his fat fucking face.

 With my sons. I've taught them from an early age that nobody will fight your battles for you and sometimes violence is the only answer.

With my sons. I've taught them from an early age that nobody will fight your battles for you and sometimes violence is the only answer.

That’s not the world we live in anymore. Now, traits that once were celebrated as being inherently “male” are condemned. Your son is sent home from school with recommendations of what doctor to see to address his “aggressive” behavior – and yes, fighting back is done through social media videos and hashtags.

Bullying has existed for as long as humans have walked this earth – actually, for as long as animals have walked this earth. The strong take from the weak. That’s how the world works. Our children are not served by being taught otherwise.

I was bullied – mercilessly tormented for years. I had bad teeth, braces, glasses, even spent some time rocking some killer Forrest Gump leg braces designed to make my legs straight as an arrow. You can imagine how other kids reacted. I was a target – and for a long time, I was an easy target. I was scared to fight back. My dad had to drag me out of the car crying when he dropped me off at school. One day when I was 12 years old, that changed.

My younger brother (just one year behind me) and I were playing basketball at the park with our older brother. A pickup game of football was going on with some kids from the neighborhood and my brother and I asked to join in. Teams were picked and we got going. Despite my braces, glasses etc. I was a pretty decent athlete growing up, as was my younger brother. It wasn’t long before we were running all over these guys, despite the fact many of them were a few years older. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that regardless of the bullying I received growing up – I always talked a lot of shit. This day was no different and as the score started getting out of control, I made sure the other team knew about it. Then one of the older kids took exception and started in on me, talking about my braces, my glasses, and calling me a lot of names. Like I normally did, I just sort of backed down. The kid was way bigger than me and quite a few years older. For those that know my brothers and me, the next part will also come as no surprise.

My younger brother Matthias, about 11 years old at the time, has always been one of those guys who never saw the value in missing out on a fight. He immediately started in on the kid and told him if he didn’t shut up he was gonna have problems. Again, he was 11 and this kid was easily 15 or older. Eventually the two squared off and my brother smoked him, dropped him right there on the football field and got on top of him and was laying waste to this kid when his friends jumped in and pulled him off – it appeared it was over but apparently the kids just wanted to restart, since things weren’t going well for their buddy. Restarting turned the tide and the older kid began kicking my brother in the face repeatedly – finally leaving him there, beaten – and me watching, ashamed of myself. Your younger brother is not supposed to fight your battles for you. I was such a pussy that I watched my younger brother take a beating, because of me.

 With my brothers: On the left, photo taken around the time of the incident in the park. On the right: All grown up, from an age perspective at least.

With my brothers: On the left, photo taken around the time of the incident in the park. On the right: All grown up, from an age perspective at least.

That day changed me. I can still see that kid’s foot meeting my brother’s face. I can tell you exactly what he was wearing and exactly how it felt to watch it. It stuck with me – and is still right there in the front of my mind even today. Three months later an older kid was picking on my baby brother at the YMCA, calling him names, telling him where he could and couldn’t swim in the pool. He came to me, almost in tears and told me what was happening. He was an undersized kid and was about 8 years old. This fat-ass punk that was picking on him was my age.  I followed him into the locker room, my hands sweating, barely able to breathe because of how nervous I was. I told him that was my younger brother he was picking on, and I was gonna teach him a lesson. He laughed and then I beat the absolute shit out of him.

Every time I slammed the door of a locker on his face while he yelled for help, I saw my brother’s face being kicked in by the kid on the football field. I had never felt so alive in my short life. I’ve never backed down from a fight since that day in the park – that day was a pivotal moment in my life – where I learned that nobody should fight your battles for you and that nobody should be allowed to hurt someone you love. For me, it was my brother fighting back that changed who I was. I may not throw my hands nearly as much as I once did – but the attitude of never letting anyone push you around – is still deeply-rooted in who I am as a person. Many years later, Matthias would tell me, "I remember being in high school and we ran around with different people, and I would hear about guys you had fought or a guy you had beat up and I would think, man, that guy was huge - I'd be scared of him - and I would just think, man, Seth changed a lot."
I've never really shared until today how much he had to do with that change.

 My baby brother Paul on the left, Matthias on the right. I doubt Matt knew that day in the park what an impact him fighting that kid would have on my life - knowing him, he just wanted to fight.

My baby brother Paul on the left, Matthias on the right. I doubt Matt knew that day in the park what an impact him fighting that kid would have on my life - knowing him, he just wanted to fight.

When my youngest son was about the same age as I was in the park that day, he endured terrible bullying at his school – to the point where I was talking to school district officials trying to get something done. In the end, my son adopted a similar attitude to mine – and today, he doesn’t deal with any bullying. He is a great wrestler for his school and the last time we had any behavioral issues with him, it was the school notifying me that he had gotten in a fight. Once I learned the particulars (he had slammed a kid to the ground and choked him after the kid had bullied a special needs student and broken his glasses) I bought him ice cream.

Bullying is shitty behavior, and according to most studies, a result of a number of issues that particular kid is dealing with, either at home or in school. Our overly sensitive culture can no longer see the value in simply punching this kid in the face, and instead wants a softer approach. That’s fine for that kid I suppose – he doesn’t have to get smacked around in the schoolyard and humiliated by one of his victims who one day has had enough – but what about the victim? How are the victims of his torment benefitting from this soy-milk approach to the problem? They are not. Standing up to bullies is what serves them – standing up and fighting back, in the real, physical sense of the word, matures a young man or boy. It teaches them valuable life lessons that cannot be learned elsewhere. It readies them for the real world, where participation trophies and coddling do not exist.

I understand how serious a problem bullying is, and the devastating impact it can have on a child and his or her family. I’ve stared into the tear-stained eyes of a friend’s mother who found her son hanging from his bedroom rafters – seeing suicide as the only way to escape his tormentors. I’ve also dealt with a host of adults – who were raised in this coddled environment where violence is never the answer – who cannot deal with their problems because they were always dealt with for them. They are medicated with anti-depressants and walk through life in a drug-induced haze, completely impotent when it comes to addressing any real issue in their life.

Both of those circumstances sadden me - but bullying is never going to go away. It will never stop – no matter how many celebrities use a certain hashtag, no matter how many politicians pledge to “end bullying” – it will never stop being a thing. Strong people will prey on weak people or those who are perceived to be weak. You have to fight back. Not with a video, not with a hashtag, with your fists. This is part of growing up. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Start parenting your children in a way that will help them not make them pussies. Sign them for boxing, wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. More often than not, the cool, collected aura of a person who knows how to defend themselves, is enough to make an attacker wary. Bullies prey on the weak, so become strong. Stop celebrating the fact you are a victim. Stop being proud of the fact you found a non-violent way to “fight back” – embrace violence. Use it when necessary and pass along your knowledge of it to your children so they can do the same.

"The Moose" Dominates, Schauer Pulls Off Comeback, Wins Turkey Challenge

There are more people in the city of Denver than in the entire state of Wyoming. So when you say “the fittest man in Wyoming” – it has a way of eliciting eye rolls and a general sense of “who cares?”

This weekend at the annual MBS Turkey Challenge – a field of some of Colorado’s best athletes - got put on notice. There is a neighbor to your north who is pretty fit.

 Bennett (13 points) finishes off a wire-to-wire performance. Trailed by Brian Harris (right) and Jared Enderton (left)

Bennett (13 points) finishes off a wire-to-wire performance. Trailed by Brian Harris (right) and Jared Enderton (left)

Five-time consecutive Wyoming Open champ Malachi Bennett stepped on to the scenic runway outside MBS’s famous airplane hangar, and in the shadow of the majestic Rocky Mountains, took first place on event one. For the rest of the weekend, it was a standing on the leaderboard he would never relinquish, en route to a dominating wire to wire first place finish.

Bennett followed up event one, by tying his PR on the max snatch event with 275 pounds, second only to CrossFit Invictus weightlifting coach and fittest man in Colorado, Jared Enderton’s 300 pounder.

Bennett elected to complete his floater on Day 2, so he headed home after Day 1 in first place. Day 2 would be more of the same. Malachi took a second place in 15.4 – again, second to Enderton, who appeared poised to make a run for the lead following a 9th place finish on event 1. The writing was already on the wall however – Bennett had just 5 points after 3 events – Enderton had 11, eventual second-place finisher Brian Harris was at 15 points.

 Enderton gave the crowd what they wanted on event 2, snatching 300 for a first place finish. Bennett would take second, tying his PR of 275.

Enderton gave the crowd what they wanted on event 2, snatching 300 for a first place finish. Bennett would take second, tying his PR of 275.

After a seventh place finish on the floater, Bennett had pretty much sewn up the competition – and needed to simply avoid disaster on the final event to walk home the winner. Instead of avoiding disaster, Bennett dominated the final, going unbroken on every set of thrusters and muscle-ups. Only two other athletes in the field were even close. Dark Horse Performance owner and CrossFit Barkada coach Justin Biays showed off a perfectly paced effort – starting slow and gradually moving up every round – joining Brian Harris as the only two athletes in the field to challenge Bennett.

Malachi would finish in 7:22, with Harris and Biays the only other athletes under 8:00. Save those three competitors, no other athlete in the field would finish under 9:00. The final points tally showed what was already clear before the final – Bennett’s nearest competition, CrossFit Decimate’s Brian Harris, had twice as many points (26) as the Wyoming athlete. Enderton finished in third for the second straight year.

Next up for Bennett is Wodapalooza where he stood on the podium last year as an individual. He has elected to go as a member of a team, with Turkey Challenge 4th place finisher Westy Guill.

Women's Pro

Unlike the men's division, the women's pro had a lot of drama headed into the final event. CrossFit Sanitas athlete and last year’s second place finisher Elisa Schauer, needed a big performance in the final event if she wanted to knock off leader Marie Van Dyne of CrossFit DNR.

 Schauer completes a three-year run at the Turkey Challenge. Finishing first in 2017, second in 2016 and third in 2015.

Schauer completes a three-year run at the Turkey Challenge. Finishing first in 2017, second in 2016 and third in 2015.

Schauer’s muscle-ups proved to be the difference – like Bennett on the men’s side, she took first place in the final – one of only two women to complete the workout under the time cap. Alpine CrossFit’s Megan Markee also finished under the cap. Van Dyne would end up getting time-capped on the event and finished 10th, giving Schauer a 6 point final margin on the leaderboard.

Schauer’s win completes an impressive three year run at the Turkey Challenge – finishing third in 2015, second in 2016 and first in 2017.

Rounding out the women’s leaderboard was Van Dyne, Florida resident Dani Speegle, who wowed the crowd on Saturday with a 195 snatch, and then a three-way tie for  fourth with CrossFit Omnia’s Kelly Stone, Backcountry Crossfit’s Kelly Bruehl and CrossFit Barkada’s Tori Alemany – who stood on top of the podium this year at the Wyoming Open.

 

Enderton the Favorite; Will Be Tested by Loaded Field at Turkey Challenge

The 2017 MBS CrossFit Turkey Challenge takes place this weekend in Denver, Colorado. The annual event has quickly become Colorado’s premier proving ground for CrossFit athletes across the region – and the list of athletes competing this year shows that 2017 will be no different.

We start our preview with a look at the loaded men’s pro division. Last year’s winner, Backcountry CrossFit’s Dalton Spanbauer is one of the names absent from this year’s field, along with The 2016 CrossFit Open’s “fittest in Colorado” - Colorado Springs product Justin Jindra.

Those are about the only two names missing however – as the remaining list is a who’s who of Colorado and Wyoming CrossFit. Wyoming’s top two athletes in the 2017 Open, Caliber Fitness teammates Malachi Bennett and Westy Guill are both making their first appearances at the Turkey Challenge. Bennett is fresh off his podium finish in the pro division of the Granite Games, being bested only by two of the Panchik brothers. Two of Guill’s most recent events were both team/partner with Bennett – where they dominated the South Dakota Open, as well as a competition in Northern California last month.

 Looking for a favorite? Look no further. Enderton should provide a show during the 1rm snatch event at this year's MBS Turkey Challenge.

Looking for a favorite? Look no further. Enderton should provide a show during the 1rm snatch event at this year's MBS Turkey Challenge.

Looking for a favorite in this field, one need look no further than last year’s podium. Weightlifter turned CrossFitter Jared Enderton, who took over as fittest in Colorado in 2017 – returns as our pick to win this year. He was number one in the state in the Open, and made his first trip to Regionals this year. The highlight of the weekend should be the 1rm snatch event. Enderton has routinely been snatching 300+ at his seminars this year.

Chasing him down will be this list of athletes, in no particular order, who we are picking as the contenders for the podium in 2017:

 Biays (left) after besting Bennett (far right) at the Alpine Legends competition.

Biays (left) after besting Bennett (far right) at the Alpine Legends competition.

Justin Biays: Owner of Dark Horse Performance and Director of Training at CrossFit Barkada in Aurora, Biays missed the open this year with a back injury, but he is healthy and ready to compete this weekend. Biays broke the wild/STRONG Liftoff Snatch record earlier this fall – hitting a PR at 290#. This should allow him to place high in the 1rm snatch event – while, barring some sort of disaster, Enderton should win that event. Biays was in the top 35 in the state in the 2016 Open – and he remains one of the last individual athletes along the front range who has stood above Malachi Bennett on a podium in the last few years, beating him at the Alpine Legends competition a couple years ago. He also recently engaged is a heated social media feud with Westy Guill, which should provide some mild drama as the two compete in the same heat.

 Upshaw's background as a college triathlete and rower should serve him well in the row-double under - run event at the Turkey Challenge.

Upshaw's background as a college triathlete and rower should serve him well in the row-double under - run event at the Turkey Challenge.

Dwight Upshaw: CrossFit Sanitas’ Upshaw actually topped Enderton last year, finishing second. The row, double-unders – run event should be an opportunity for him to make a statement. He rowed for the national powerhouse UC-Berkeley crew team for one year, before competing as a triathlete for the rest of his college career. He has run a marathon in just over two and a half hours. Yes, he is a CrossFit athlete with a 500+ deadlift AND can hold a 6 minute mile pace for 26 miles. He is our clear pick to dominate that event.

Kane Share: The CrossFit Harmonic coach went to Regionals in 2015, placing 30th in the South West. He fell off last year with a 62nd place finish in the region – but was 9th in Colorado. Share is the second highest finisher in Colorado in the field this year – behind Enderton. He will be a threat to take a coveted podium spot this weekend.

 Bennett comes in to the TC looking to add to the impressive list of regional and Games athletes he has defeated.

Bennett comes in to the TC looking to add to the impressive list of regional and Games athletes he has defeated.

Malachi Bennett: The 5-time winner of the Wyoming Open Pro division is having his best year as a CrossFit competitor. As mentioned before, he took a podium finish at the Granite Games Pro division this year. Before you scoff at the Wyoming Open wins, during that time he has defeated multiple regional athletes and in 2015 dominated Games athlete Christian Lucero. If Colorado athletes are wondering if this guy is for real – he stomped the South West Region Open winner, Las Vegas’ Niklas Hecht, at the Granite Games this year. Malachi has never made it to Regionals, but time and time again has risen to the level of his competition.

 Guill comes in to the Turkey Challenge fresh off a dominating victory at the SD Open and a team event in Northern California. Must be the shirt.

Guill comes in to the Turkey Challenge fresh off a dominating victory at the SD Open and a team event in Northern California. Must be the shirt.

Westy Guill: Bennett’s teammate at Caliber Fitness in Casper, Guill feeds off training alongside his long-time friend and teammate. The two came up together at cross-town rival CrossFit 307, and have now placed Caliber Fitness as the destination for competitive CrossFitters in Wyoming. The 307 castaways are now joined by the top Master’s athlete in Wyoming, former 307 coach Jonathan Varela – creating a formidable training environment and competition team that is unmatched in the Cowboy State. Guill whipped up on South Dakota’s best athletes at the SD Open with Bennett and seems to have almost fully recovered from a knee injury that plagued him last year.

Jeff Schuette: A member of CrossFit Omnia’s Games Team, Schuette is a household name in Colorado Crossfit circles. If you need proof that Schuette, who finished 17th in Colorado in the Open, is a threat to Enderton, look no further than the Battle for Mile High, which took place this summer. Enderton finished third, behind Schuette who took second. The winner of that competition?....

 Sommer (middle) and Schuette (left) have already proven this year that they have what it takes to defeat Enderton (right)

Sommer (middle) and Schuette (left) have already proven this year that they have what it takes to defeat Enderton (right)

Caleb Sommer: The Project Rise athlete has bounced around in the Denver Crossfit scene – but the one thing that remains consistent? His ability to win. He was a member of Front Range CrossFit’s Games team in 2012. He went to regionals the following year with Front Range in 2013. He then went to the Games again in 2015 as a member of Backcountry’s team. Sommer is a clear threat to Enderton this year.

The 2017 MBS CrossFit Turkey Challenge takes place November 18-19th at MBS CrossFit in Denver, Colorado.

Coming up later this week, we will preview the women’s pro division, where a list of heavy hitters looks to take the podium.

The Way it Was

We all remember the first time we walked into a CrossFit gym. The story is different for all of us – but similar in so many ways. Your first CrossFit gym is like a drug addict’s first high. Something you will never feel again – but you’ll keep chasing no matter what.

 I received this postcard in the mail in January, 2013. I still have it today - because it marks one of the biggest turning points in my life.

I received this postcard in the mail in January, 2013. I still have it today - because it marks one of the biggest turning points in my life.

My first gym was like that – a complete high – and after years of training at other gyms – one I know I will never experience again. CrossFit Sua Sponte in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2013 was a bro paradise (and I don’t use that term exclusively to describe males). Training was about one thing – getting heavy and going hard. The owner, John Dill, a former Army Ranger who came up through CrossFit with Rudy Neilsen of Outlaw Barbell – is one of the most intense people I have ever met in my life. He was building something special at Sua Sponte – and when I joined he had been open for about 6 months. He had already assembled a group of athletes who were pushing towards the goal of making to Regionals as a team. He had a teenager named Nathan Trevillian training there who would go on to qualify as an individual every year after the team achieved their goal in 2013.

 John Dill: The most intense coach I have ever had. He has built something special in Raleigh, NC - and I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to CrossFit by him.

John Dill: The most intense coach I have ever had. He has built something special in Raleigh, NC - and I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to CrossFit by him.

I was part of the 9:30am crew – I worked at night so this class time was perfect for me. It also meant I was in the gym with a lot of younger guys who were either going to school at NC State – or guys my age who were very successful businessmen who made their own schedules. For that 90 minutes or so every morning – it didn’t matter who you were – all that mattered was how hard you were willing to go.

Every Saturday morning we either maxed our snatch or our clean and jerk. Those mornings were nothing short of epic. Music blaring, Dill screaming in your face as you prepared for a PR attempt – it never mattered what the weight was, if it was a PR – Dill and the whole gym made you feel like it was a fucking world record. Chalk was flying everywhere – the atmosphere was absolute insanity. The first time I snatched 200 pounds was on one of those mornings - and despite the fact that I look back at the video and wonder how in the hell I was able to hit that weight with such terrible technique - I love the video because it takes me back to those days.

We had a group within the 9:30 squad that would rather die than lose a workout to one another. I still remember to this day performing 14.5 in the CrossFit Open – and realizing about three-quarters of the way through that I wasn’t going to beat one of my 9:30 rivals. I almost quit in the middle of the workout out of pure frustration. When people failed to win a workout, missed a PR attempt – you’d see shit getting thrown, people storming out of the gym in pure rage. It was nothing short of amazing. I rage quit a session after missing a squat PR - nobody walked after me when I left the gym. Nobody told me it was gonna be ok. I failed - in that moment, everyone knew the kind of anger and frustration I was feeling. They had all been there - and they all knew kind words weren't gonna cut it.

One of my 9:30 teammates was as terrible a runner as I am. I still remember him almost passing out from heat stroke on a final 800m run - he pushed himself so hard - all because one of the crew had already posted a lower time and there was no way he was gonna let himself lose.

That was just how we did it. It wasn't that any of us were particularly awesome athletes - but we all gave everything we had. If you didn't give 100% of what you had on that given day - you might as well walk the fuck out of the gym. It didn't matter if your Fran time was 2 minutes or 10 minutes. If you didn't give that workout everything - just don't bother even showing up. You would have shit talked to you so bad you would never half-ass a workout again. It wasn't about your "feelings" - in fact, it could be a brutal place if you were thin-skinned enough to let someone's shit-talking get to you.

 Realizing I wouldn't beat one of my 9:30 rivals during 14.5 had me ready to quit the entire workout in frustration. Still the hardest workout I have ever done.

Realizing I wouldn't beat one of my 9:30 rivals during 14.5 had me ready to quit the entire workout in frustration. Still the hardest workout I have ever done.

2013 doesn’t seem like that long ago – but this was still in the “CrossFit is sort of punk rock/rebellious” phase. This was before CrossFit was about appeasing everyone, not eating sugar, giving credit to God for your fitness abilities on Instagram – it was about going so hard you puked, not giving a fuck what anyone else thought and throwing around as much weight as you could. CrossFit was proud of the fact that people outside the “cult” hated us – we were brash, cocky, arrogant – however you want to define it, that’s what we were.

People outside of Sua Sponte also had their own thoughts about this crew. When we all went to comps – we wore the signature black gym shirts. This prompted some of the other gyms to refer to our athletes and cheering squad at events as “The Vampire Crew.” No matter the level of athlete you were – you were part of the Sua Sponte crew – and that meant something. We reveled in being seen as the Outlaws of the CrossFit scene in Raleigh. If someone left the gym to train elsewhere, they were dead to us. Why in God’s name would you leave?

John had everyone in the gym adhere to the same program. It was his way, or the highway. You wanted to "do your own thing?" Find another fucking gym. You were in class or you were part of the comp team. Comp team workouts were by invite only. I asked John one day how to get an invite - he looked at me and responded, "You want to workout with that crew, go start taking podiums." 

 I still fly the Sua Sponte flag at competitions - and I still own more CFSS shirts than any other.

I still fly the Sua Sponte flag at competitions - and I still own more CFSS shirts than any other.

John refers to any heavy lift as “Cake Weight” – a moniker that now adorns a number of t-shirts from the gym. I still wear my Cake Weight shirt on most days that I test my max. You would hear people yelling that term across the gym any time a lifter stepped up to a heavy barbell. I still yell it to any of my teammates testing a heavy lift.

To this day – even living halfway across the country from Raleigh – I tune in to Regional live streams every year – searching for the recognizable lightning bolts and double “S’s” on the Sua Sponte shirt. I cheer on the athletes from the gym – even though some of them joined after I moved away. I still feel a connection to them in some small way.

When I hear someone tell a negative story about Sua Sponte – or explain to me why they left to train elsewhere – there is still some of that feeling like when your friend talks shit about your family member and you immediately want to smash them in the face for their disrespect.

 My first competition ever. With John Taylor, one in from left, before his tragic car accident that summer.

My first competition ever. With John Taylor, one in from left, before his tragic car accident that summer.

I remember my first competition – it was a scaled division event that I teamed up with another member on. It was the first competition for both of us. He was 18, I was 32 – but it didn’t matter. We were Sua Sponte guys – and we were there to win. After posting a score in the clean and jerk complex that would have placed us 4th in the RX division, we were sitting pretty on the leaderboard. Ill never forget John Dill leaning over my rower as I pulled the chain – screaming at me that it was “time to fade to black” – or the disappointment I felt when my partner and I got no-repped a bunch of times on hand-stand pushups in the final – and moved us to 4th and off the podium. It was an AMRAP and I wanted to win so badly that even after the no-reps, when it was clear we had worked our way out of the top 3 – with 20 seconds left I sprinted to the 315# deadlifts and pulled 10 touch and go reps right before the buzzer. It wasn’t enough. I felt such a sense of failure – like I had let my dad down or something. It made me even hungrier to compete again. My partner and I promised each other we would come back and do the same event next year in the RX division.

Sua13.jpg

We would never get that chance – John Taylor died a few months later in a tragic car accident. Walking into the gym the next morning – I took one look at the regular 9:30 coach – and we both started crying. There were a lot of tears that week – I stepped up that first morning and squatted my one rep max for 5 reps – for John. We hung a “To The Lost…” memorial day event shirt over the barbell and left the weight on it for the entire week – so everyone who walked in the gym remembered what we had lost. It was a lot more than just someone you knew who had died – it was losing a family member.

I took a job back in Wyoming – and the hardest thing about leaving Raleigh – was leaving Sua Sponte. I arrived in Wyoming and immediately sought out a new gym – I was naïve and didn’t realize how special CFSS was. I thought I would roll into town and pick right up where I left off. It took a couple months to realize that would never be the case. After my first Saturday morning one-rep max session – which I did by myself at CrossFit Cheyenne – I was able to recruit a few of the guys into a group that would max out on Saturdays. It almost felt like being back in Raleigh on some of those mornings – until I was taken aside by one of the owners and basically “lunk alarmed.” I was told that my attitude would need to be “toned down” some because I was “intimidating some of the other members.” We were also not allowed to play music with profanity in it – because there were kids around. I realized pretty quickly this was not the old stomping grounds.

Since I moved away and started my own company – the wild/STRONG Liftoff series was designed to replicate that Saturday morning atmosphere at Sua Sponte. We invite as many people from the community as we can get – and we simply throw down, one rep max snatch and clean and jerk. The music is loud, chalk is everywhere and we haven’t held an event where there not multiple PR’s being hit.

 Sua Sponte in 2013. Training there was about lifting heavy weight and going as hard as you possibly could no matter what.

Sua Sponte in 2013. Training there was about lifting heavy weight and going as hard as you possibly could no matter what.

I even traveled all the way back to Raleigh to compete in the Sua Sponte Games – an annual partner workout hosted by my old gym. It gave me a small taste of what I remembered from that time.

When you push at the level we all did back in those days – it forged bonds that are more than simple friendships. John Dill was creating something bigger than just a gym – and we all were happy to be a part of it. I still own more Sua Sponte gym shirts than any other gym – the reason? When I put that shirt on I remember what it stands for – and I remember what I had and the experiences I got to share. I remember all the people from that 9:30am group – many of us who moved to other states, train in new gyms, got deployed, etc. I stay in touch with many of them to this day – a conversation with one of them this morning prompted me to write this article.

I remember that first high like it was yesterday – and I know I will never feel it again.

 

RX+ is Making You Worse at CrossFit

“What did you get today?”

“7:34….that was a burner”

“Oh, yeah I was 11 minutes but I did RX plus - it really wasn't that bad.”

The RX plus option comes up from time to time in my training and I never take it. There are a myriad of reasons why I don’t – and I get asked why every time. One of the only reasons I haven’t addressed this issue much in my writing is because Adrian Conway of Brute Strength did such a great job with a video on this topic – that I didn’t really think I could add to that.

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Because this question has been posed to me a lot recently – I decided I would build off what Conway said (the video I reference is included in this post).

There are a number of reasons one might take the RX plus option – but the majority of them surround ego and ability. Going heavier on a workout allows you to go slower – it removes the pressure to perform at a higher intensity. It also ensures that you can put your score above all those RX peasants on the whiteboard. Conway calls it "an easy way out" in his video. Above all that – it is also pointless. You are not going to get substantially stronger by performing 155 pound power cleans instead of 135 pounds. You get stronger by performing strength work – cycles designed to improve your strength. Doing 45 cleans at 155 one time a week instead of 135 is not going to improve your power clean 1rm or your ability to cycle weight faster. Adding weight to your maxes is a process that takes time and requires intelligent programming.

Most of the athletes I see taking the RX plus option have not and will never do anything of note in the world of CrossFit. Do regional competitors and Games athletes perform workouts with higher weights and rep schemes? Sure – but that is the elite .01 percent – that isn’t you. I am talking about the regular class athletes, guys like me who can take a few podiums at local competitions – but for the most part do CrossFit to be a better version of themselves, improve their scores in the Open and compete as a way to test their abilities.

CrossFit is about intensity, and for most athletes, scaling up lowers intensity while doing nothing for you as an athlete. If you can’t perform the RX version of the workout completely unbroken, then why in the fuck are you adding weight? Coaches who program intelligently, write workouts with a purpose – and within that purpose is a desired time domain.

Last night’s workout at my gym was 21-15-9, cleans 135#, wall balls 20# and ring-dips. I have done “Elizabeth” (same workout minus the wall balls) enough to know how bad those final cleans and dips are – and I knew that adding in wall balls would do nothing to make that easier. I also know that within that workout I can’t go touch and go all the way through with the cleans. The RX plus option was 30# wall balls and 155# cleans. Since I can’t perform the workout unbroken, it would make zero sense to add weight. When I saw the times on the whiteboard – which included a number of athletes who went RX plus and got timed out (the cap was 15:00) I almost spit out my coffee. This should be a sub 9:00 workout on the high end – but athletes were adding weight and getting time capped? There is no other way to describe this than to say it is completely ridiculous.

If you are choosing to scale up – and then struggling to perform the movements as single reps while trying to stay under a time-cap, you have altered the entire workout in exchange for, well, nothing.

 If you are trying to get stronger - work on your strength OUTSIDE of your conditioning. Adding a few pounds to your barbell in the metcon is not going to add significant weight to your maxes or your ability to cycle heavier weights.

If you are trying to get stronger - work on your strength OUTSIDE of your conditioning. Adding a few pounds to your barbell in the metcon is not going to add significant weight to your maxes or your ability to cycle heavier weights.

If you are like most athletes, the closest thing you will ever have to national or international competition, is the Open. The Open is about intensity – and if improving your Open score is the goal – then the last thing you should be doing is lowering the intensity of your training. If getting stronger is your goal, then add strength work, take advantage of the strength program if your gym offers one. Focus on your squats and Olympic lifts.

Sure, your RX plus score sits higher on the leaderboard – and if the “competition” of training is the closest you’ll get to actually competing, then I get it. Your name sitting on top of the whiteboard is so important that you are willing to derail your training – in this scenario, it makes sense to me.

For the athletes who are looking to improve, looking to become a better version of themselves – keep it RX – or even better, take Conway’s advice and try scaling down. Can’t do Fran unbroken? Try it out with 45# thrusters and see if you can do it unbroken that way – raise the intensity of your training and see what it does for you as an athlete.

The best line from Adrian Conway's “Scaling Up” video: “You don't need harder workouts, you need to go harder in your workouts.”

If you are reading this and wondering “Should I stop scaling up?” – I could almost be certain the answer should be a resounding “yes” – but in case you are still confused, take a look at this list – if the ANY of these apply to you, then yes, you should stop immediately.

1.      I have never gone to Regionals

2.      I perform RX+ workouts but my time is full minutes slower than the fastest RX athletes

3.      I want to perform better in the Open

4.      I want to be a better athlete

5.      I want to be stronger

6.      I perform RX+ workouts and get time capped (I had to throw this in because I still can’t get over that this is even a thing)

 Can't do "Karen" unbroken? Try using a lighter wall ball and working on your intensity - not using a heavier wall ball and adding more rest time to your training.

Can't do "Karen" unbroken? Try using a lighter wall ball and working on your intensity - not using a heavier wall ball and adding more rest time to your training.

That list could on and on – but you get the picture. If you aren’t a regional level athlete or better, stop it. You aren’t improving as an athlete – you are just slowing down your workout for no real reason or benefit. CrossFit produces results - but something it also produces in spades, are athletes who are completely and utterly delusional about their own abilities. For 99.9% of you reading this -  on a national level, you suck at CrossFit. I'm not trying to kill your dreams - but you aren't going to Regionals, you aren't that good of an athlete and you have zero reason to be tacking on weight or reps to your workouts. Do it RX and do it with intensity. If you think I am an idiot for saying this - go prove me wrong and smash your next workout - it's better to go unbroken with all-out intensity, then to add weight and spend more time resting. Also, nobody cares where your name is on the leaderboard except you - and most people see your slower time above them and wonder, "why exactly did they go heavier and slower?"