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Behind the Champion with Erica

See the interview here.


Entries in coach glassman (34)

CrossFit Cures Chronic Disease

"We sit collectively (CrossFit trainers) in unique possession of an elegant solution to the world's most vexing problem. And it may be so elegant that it's optimal" That is Coach Glassman's intro at a Level 1 seminar in California. What is this problem, you ask? That would be chronic disease.

CrossFit may turn out to give people a pass on cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and just about every other chronic disease we know of.

This is a bold statement; I am proudly in the worship-Glassman group, and I was still skeptical when I first heard this somewhere around a year ago. But man, the stuff coming out is pretty convincing. Of course, I would expect the same knee-jerk reaction I had: there's no way that's a legit claim. And I'm not asking you to watch one video I post and be convinced.

But watch this video. [note, it's Coach Glassman. Course language, obviously]

"All of it is preventable. Much of it is reversable."

Quote of the Week vol. 207

"I don't know of an adaptation to nutrition that is unique to nutrition. I don't know of a positive adaptation to exercise that isn't also a feature of eating right. I can get you to eat right and make all this good stuff happen; you can eat wrong and I can introduce exercise into your life and make all this good stuff still happen. Together it's a tremendous force."

- Coach Glassman

Couch + CrossFit - Nutrition = CarterMy hope is to be steadily emphasizing the health/lifestyle improvements that come through the CrossFit program more than in the past. We have a lot of good athletes here who are good in spite of their lifestyle. Let's see if we can slowly bridge the gap.

Case Study: The Z-axis

I, Chris Sinagoga, can deadlift and squat more weight than Jacob at this time. And if I overheard correctly, Carter the Blob can deadlift more than Jack Trastevere. If that isn't an attention-getter, then I don't know what is.


In the days before Summer 2012 was going to begin, Ryan Richard and I went out to Hyperfit USA (the Playboy Mansion of Michigan CrossFit gyms) to buy some equipment - the silver bars, the white rope, black box, and the black mats, to name a few. One of the coaches asked Ryan about some of his workouts and seemed genuinely impressed with the numbers. But he did say one thing in specific that I still remember:

"The thing you need to focus on now is not necessarily hitting a pr every time, but keeping everything within a certain range."

This also falls in line with Matt Fecht's former Quote of the Week about what would happen if people pr'd every time. And it also is parallel with the Pass it On post from December. And probably a ton of other things that has been up here on the site. But on a bigger scale, this was formalized on February 1, 2009 in the CrossFit Journal. Up until this point, Coach Glassman made waves in the exercise community by putting a scientific definition of fitness out for the world to test. But he realized that this formula - work capacity measured across broad time and modal domains - was limited. So he added a Z-axis to his graph that would account for longevity.

Graph of fitnessGraph of health

If fitness was defined as "work capacity across broad time and modal domains" then health could be defined as "fitness through the years."

In other words, your health and fitness is not determined so much by peaks and valleys as it is by consistency as you age. Whenever I get the chance to talk to other CrossFitters and coaches, this is the one thing I try to emphasize most because I think this is our specialty at the Champions Club. If your attendance is consistent, you can bet you will be in a steady-climbing constant ready-state for the next 10 years, and theoretically beyond that. That is a bold statement and avoiding pitfalls takes efficient coaching on my part, tons of patience on your part, and great communication from both sides.


Elizabeth Banet had a Summer 2015 for the record books that resulted in a banner. She beat out a group of 5 athletes at their peak during the best Summer the Champions Club has ever witnessed. She was not a human being, plain and simple. And with all that being said, I am even more impressed with what she has done this Summer.

Biff made one good decision on Monday, April 24 to come in to the 6:30 session after a few months of hit-and-miss attendance; she stayed within the restrictions of what her fitness was at that time. Then made another good decision the next day. And then one more the next day. And she kept making good, daily decisions; all of a sudden I looked up in July thinking, "dang...this might be the fittest Elizabeth has ever been!" The same story can be said for her sister, Jacqueline. During the early winter, Jackie caught a bout of Mono; not only was she out of it for a few weeks, but she never could quite get that consistency back even when she was healthy. That is, until she did. And now she beats Elizabeth in most workouts.

Similarly, Summer 2016 Nicole Murley is probably the best female "CrossFiter" to ever call the Champions Club their home. I'm sure there is some level of bias, obviously, but when I think about the all-around demands of CrossFit workouts, you really can't say she's outside of the top 7 in anything, scaled or unscaled. She was not as fast as Shannon, not as strong as Shakes, not as flexible as Elizabeth, but her all-around ability was Mario with a Star in Mario Super Sluggers for the Nintendo Wii. In fact, Murley was on pace to challenge Shakes for the banner when she got a phone call about a Chemistry teaching vacancy at Riverview Gabriel Richard. Despite it being a year earlier than anticipated, she had to take it. As a result, her CrossFit ability decreased. But how much exactly? Here's her Filthy Fifty times over the years:

January 15, 2012 - 26:50 as rx'd pr

August 4, 2012 - 24:08 as rx'd pr

January 13, 2013 - 23:37 as rx'd (minus box jumps - 20 in. box) pr

August 13, 2013 - 18:55 (16k/14#/45)

August 16, 2014 - 18:53 guys rx'd

Last Friday - 18:38 guys rx'd (minus 14 med ball/20 box)

Judging by just her times, I would definitely look at Friday as anywhere from a win to a major win. Assuming she would have done a 2016 Filthy Fifty in around 18:00 with guys rx'd, this is not too far off. For her to be in the 17-minute range at this exact time, she would need to not be a teacher, have another year of Cross Country eligibility, and be generally interested in doing CrossFit on a regular basis. None of those conditions were realistic on August 18, 2017, so with that being said, she was at-worse 2 minutes slower than her peak self. Again, I would take that as a win. And if you look at it from another perspective:

Filthy Fifty times for other teachers: DNF/TL;DR


I actually don't know for sure that I can deadlift more than Jacob at this exact moment in time; my max is probably in the high(ish) 300's, so if he can do that with a herniated disk then so be it. But either way, I am going to let MS Paint illustrate how I see it:

In this theoretical world with Jacob and I starting CrossFit at exactly the same point in fitness and time, he has a couple options: 1. deadlift as much as possible as soon as possible and live with the results or 2. accept his limitations (mobility, midline strength, coordination, arm length), and take a slower approach to his lift - which should turn out much better in the long run. In other words: prioritize the Z-axis, or don't.

I did a post about framing while running a while ago - essentially the more compact you keep the frame, the better your running will be. Same can be said for your fitness. In my opinion, the Pretend Jacob model would be better than the Jacob model despite taking much longer to hit the mutual maximum weight because there is less down time. Now, if he was competing in a weightlifting meet, or just wanted to be as strong as possible right now, I cannot argue against that. My opinion would just be that it is smarter to go the long-term route. Ideally you want to be in a position where you can, at any point in time, say, "I can come pretty close to my best right now", and there is too much time "under the curve" for my liking. In the grand scheme of things, the weight difference on the plus side only matters if you value your deadlift number over everything else. Again, I can only speak on what I think is best to value, but to each their own. I just know I would be embarassed if, for example, one of my track kids asked me to sprint a 400 with them and I had to decline because I wore out my knees overtraining for a marathon.

The longevity expression of CrossFit is an area that I rarely compromise on; sometimes Matt Fecht has to be ready for a race in a month, or Big Kris needs to be able to run 5 miles before going off to Air Force, etc. But this realization of the Z-axis in our fitness, coupled with the idea of having a "constant ready-state" are both integral in our training. And this is precisely why I am so impressed with Murley's Filthy Fifty time, and Elizabeth/Jacqueline's overall Summer. Whatever their training was leading up to these events provided a solid base that made it really, really difficult to fall completely off the cliff. They each made small, smart decisions on a daily basis to help their long-term health and now they could reasonably say they have a chance to pr for anything that comes up (with the exception of Murley's Cross Country race, obviously). Going forward they might get greedy and see if they can eclipse their prime, or they might get greedy in a different way: prioritize other things in their life and see how little they can manage to deviate away. And it might be a different answer depending on what time of year it is. Whichever they choose, you can bet they will be somewhere in the ballpark of fitter than most of the girls they will ever meet, whenever they meet them, in 20 minutes or 20 years from now.

And if they are really lucky, they'll be Mrs. Carey, who is coming up on 8 years into CrossFit and still on the steady climb up.

Programming Philosophy with Ben Bergeron + Today's Session Times

Session times for today (Wednesday) are:

9 am

11 am


It is a mobility day, but you will most likely also be able to make up a workout you missed if you want. This will probably not be the permanent Wednesday times, just a heads up.

Cap'n Jack linked a really good video to Crystal's Athlete of the Spring post that is one of the most elegant summaries of how I view CrossFit programming.

Ben Bergeron is a longtime CrossFitter and owner of CrossFit New England. His gym may be the most well-regarded in the CrossFit community, and he covered his thought process for designing workouts for his regular CrossFit crowd.


  • Strength-biased programming (max effort lift before a regular workout in a session) started with an article by our own mentor, Jeff Martin, from Brand X Kids.
  • Goals of this, as stated in the article, was to help athletes gain the necessary strength to complete main site workouts as rx'd.
  • This has worked in the past, and was something he did for 4 years.
  • CrossFit Games numbers have encouraged this bias - especially starting in 2008.
  • "The problem with that is that our goal is not to have athletes do workouts as rx'd."
  • Over the course of time, he has seen the double-session (heavy lift coupled with met-con) burn people out. And he wasn't able to coach people as well as he wanted.
  • Understanding the difference between doing CrossFit competitively and doing CrossFit as a general strength and conditioning program is crucial. He wants his general athletes to be good 8 years from now. He wants his games athletes to be good by August 1. That short time-frame alters the program.
  • First, second, and third wave adaptations explanations. This relates to our Avoiding Dead End posts.
  • If he had to choose either strength or conditioning, he would choose conditioning. He still loves strength though.
  • Now he does a double-session once every ten days or so instead of almost every day.

Athlete of the Spring 2017: Crystal

In 2009, Coach Glassman made a rather profound revelation in regards to his model for fitness. I will probably go into details in another post, but the gist of the original fitness model is a graph: the x-axis would represent Time and the y-axis would represent Power output. You can plot various things on that graph, and this would be a measurable, observable, repeatable representation of an individual's fitness.

This was a big deal.

As I mentioned, Coach made an addition to this in 2009: a third, Z axis, protruding out towards the reader. This, three-dimensional addition provided an incredibly important addition to the measure of fitness: longevity.

Your fitness would not only be determined by this snapshot, but by what that snapshot will look like 5, 10, and 50 years from now. If you cannot maintain your work capacity across broad time and modal domains, that is a blemish on your overall fitness.

Keeping this in mind helped me realize that Crystal Reed rightfully deserves to be awarded the Champions Club Athlete of the Spring for 2017.

Murley and I have a running joke going about the moms, mainly about how easy it is to choose their weights for workouts. They have been with us for so freaking long, movement patterns are so well engrained, that nothing really changes. For example: Mrs. Pip and Mrs. Carey will do identical weight for every workout - 45 lbs. for any clean/snatch variation, 45 lbs. for any overhead pressing variation, 115 lbs. for any deadlift variation, and whatever the heck they feel like doing on that particular day for pull-ups.

Crystal is the epitome of this consistency: 5 rep max deadlift: 75 lbs. The weight she used in a 21-15-9 deadlift workout: 75 lbs. Both movements looking exactly the same, equally as challenging, and ever insisting that she can't go up any more weight. It doesn't make any sense, yet it makes perfect sense at the same time.

Crystal was not quite in the very first Mom's Club; she was in the second Mom's Club. Crystal's first appearance in our records came on November 8, 2010, along the likes of Mrs. Carey, Mama V, and Mrs. Pip. The only thing I really remember about her during those days is always telling her to get all the way up on her sit-ups: chest to the thighs; seven years later, I still have to tell her the same thing. But the important point of that sentence is the "seven years later" part.

Yes, we still have the recordsFast forward to spring 2017 and Crystal is at her best as far as I can remember. Numbers don't always tell the complete story, and in Crystal's case they rarely do. This spring I wanted to emphasize a few things for her: lower range of motion on squats, feet together "in the tunnel" when jumping, and slow, controlled movement on just about everything else. With those, I can tell you she has seen a very noticable improvement. Overall, her ability to control her body as she moves seems to be getting better. The numbers that really matter for her, though, come outside the weight room.

In October, Crystal ran the Marine Corps marathon and it didnot go the way she wanted; her body kind of shut down, from the sound of it, and she experienced some lingering hamstring and calf issues afterwards. She ended up taking the month of February off from training to see if they would heal, but when she came back in March she said the hamstring was still bothering her. So we avoided running for a bit and worked on the technique for the things I mentioned above.

At the recent Oak Apple run, Crystal ran what she considered a really good race for her 10k, and finished 1st in her age group for the third year in a row - a perfect representation of Coach Glassman's updated, three-dimensional fitness model. Crystal said she felt stronger when she was running and she was also able to recover quickly. This is what generally happens when an athlete shows the consistency that Crystal has this spring.

Seven years from now, Crystal will probably still be using 75-lbs. for deadlifts, claiming 12k kettlebell swings are too heavy, and arguing that there is some secret to running faster that has nothing to do with getting over her fear of falling, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I think the abundance of fitness videos can skew our opinion of what is heavy lifting and fast workout times. How many 50+ year old runners can lift 75-lbs. off the ground? How many of them  can do it consistently over the course of almost 10 years? Can your mom do that? Your auntie? Crystal is not going to run in the Master's Olympic Marathon Trials, and she will not be lifting cars off the ground. But she will be fit and healthy and able to do the things she wants to do. The longer we can help her maintain this level of fitness, the better. And the longer she keeps calling the Champions Club her home, the more thankful we will be.

Great job Crystal! Carry this into the Summer!

Rx'd FYI pt. 1

"The CrossFit prescription is designed to, over time, exceed the demands of the fittest human beings on earth."

- Coach Glassman

Read that statement again, because there are four pain points that sould be highlighted.

1. Fittest human beings on earth

The CrossFit program philosophy was designed with the top-notch athletes in mind. With the recent inclusion of the CrossFit Games and software like Beyond the Whiteboard, there is measurable data available for the public to determine who exactly is considered the fittest human beings on earth. Although we've had a lot of really good CrossFitters come through our program (and are still involved), it is safe to say that nobody reading this blog is included in the conversation of "fittest on earth" in the same way it is safe to say that nobody reading this blog plays in the NBA, NFL, or MLB - even though most of us have played basketball, football, or baseball.

2. Exceed demands

Note this is not saying "meet" the demands of the fittest, or "challenge" the fittest. It is going to go beyond what will ever be required from someone who can reasonably consider themselves among the fittest human beings living on the planet. This means that even the best of the best will come up against something they can't do.

3. Over time

This phrase builds on the last two. Today's crazy hero workout that came up might be doable for the fittest human beings on earth. And the workout tomorrow might also be doable. And same can be said about the next day, the next week, and the next month. But, as Mel mentioned in his debut guest post, the effects of a high-intensity workout do not stop once the timer beeps and your reps are done. You might be sore, tired, or mentally fatigued for a few days afterwards. So yes, you may be able to complete the workouts thrown at you, but what's that going to mean for the next day's workout? Eventually, over time, the effects will build up and your capacity will be exceeded.

4. Prescription

This is the fun part. Based on the first three phrases, CrossFit gives a prescription; a dose, if you will, of fitness like a doctor would give for medicine. Again, the dose is based on the three points listed above: fittest people, exceed demands, over time. It looks like the this:

The following things are prescribed:

  • distance on the run (range of motion)
  • weight held on the run (load)
  • reps of toes to bar (volume)
  • distance moving on toes to bar (range of motion)
  • reps of front squat (volume)
  • distance moving on front squat (range of motion)
  • weight on front squats (load)
  • height climbed on rope (range of motion)
  • reps of rope climb (volume)
  • bodyweight climbed on rope (load)

Based on what the data considers the fittest human beings on earth, the previous 10 standards were set for the workout in order to help exceed their demands over time. If you met those standards, you get to say the workout was done "as rx'd," or as prescribed. If you are not ready to meet those standards, then any one or combination of the standards can be modified to fit your purpose.

What if you are not among the fittest human beings on the planet? Can you still do this workout as rx'd? Absolutely! That's part of what makes CrossFit so fun. You get to test yourself in a way the top people do. Just know that it might have a rougher effect on you than it would someone like Chris Spealler or Rich Froning.

It's also important to know that the standards listed above for this workout don't exist anywhere else in the world other than this thing called "Liam." Keep that in mind for pt. 2 coming soon...

CrossFit Injury Rate Study + Mini Rant

I got a mass email last night from a student at USC who is looking for participants in an online survey regarding a very common topic: injuries and CrossFit. It's really quick and if anyone wants to participate, the link is below.

Severe Injury Rate in CrossFit

How bout this throwback from the vault! Summer 2012Coach Glassman had a great quote that was something along the lines of, "I could make an exercise program that is 100% safe, and doing so would also make it 100% ineffective. You'd just be sitting on your butt the whole time."

Obviously we never want to get athletes injured during training; this is not our main goal, but it is very high on our priority list. Some of the things we do in life and sport requires potentially risky physical activity, so it is best to train those things in the gym in a little bit safer fashion. We jump on boxes, climb on ropes, tumble and go upside-down, and we put relatively heavy things over our heads. Sometimes Mr. Carey just misses the box. For the most part, I can live with those kind of injuries.

The ones I obviously have a hard time dealing with are the ones I think came from training with bad form. Bubs's shoulder thing in 2012 (or early 2013, I forget) comes to mind as the only one that I can think of that was probably solely due to a workout and required surgery. In fact, it's something I still think about - which is why I am so picky about head position on all lifts. The other ones that have hit me hard are when our kids get injured in their sport. Thankfully they have been few and far between, but Jay's knee was tough for me to deal with, as was Cam's and Amy's knees. I always think there was more I needed to do in here to help them prevent that stuff.

At the end of the day, it's difficult to balance that line with playing things conservative and progressing an athlete further. The longer I'm at this, the better I'll get, and the longer you're at this, the more feedback you'll be able to give regarding which days are good and which days aren't. Just remember that there has to be some element of risk in an exercise program in order for anything productive to get accomplished.