People need mountains to climb. They need to do something which is going to change their lives, and the lives of those around them. People need inspiration and they need to be inspired. Mountains intrinsically make you look deep into yourself and either curl up and go home or make you say “Bring it on”. So do goals. They are about overcoming, but even more importantly it is about striving, the journey. This is one of the appeals of my goals. They are my mountain. They are difficult and fun and crazy and hard and at times insurmountable. They are exactly what I are looking for, what I need. These are my challengse in a world that is getting progressively more and more devoid of great challenges. As the actual mountains of the world are getting more and more climbed, the great rivers more and more rafted, and the great wildernesses explored, the future challenges are challenges within. Those challenges everyone can do.
G.R.A.S. – Generally Regarded As Safe. I heard this acronym recently, and I think it does a great job of summing up one of my key programming philosophies as a coach. There are a ton of cool exercises performed in CrossFit, in particular at competitions like the CrossFit Games. However, many of these movements are complex in nature and require a high degree of skill and ability. Therefore, throwing some of these movements into the average CrossFit workout at the gym is not a great idea considering the varying levels of skill in a typical class. Additionally, one must consider the difference between performing CrossFit as a fitness routine, and CrossFit as a sport. Learning how to do a muscle up may be cool, but does it magically improve your fitness in any appreciable way that pull ups and dips do not?
Generally speaking, the younger the athlete, the more aggressive you can be in your training methods. Young athletes tend to be much more teachable, adaptable to stress, better movers, and overall are more capable of learning a broad spectrum of exercises quickly. It is important for us as coaches to look at both the training age (experience level) and biological age of our athletes when writing programs and workouts. Just because you want to learn the kipping pull up and overhead kettlebell swing because you saw it online the CrossFit mainpage is not reason enough for me to teach it to you. Will learning those skills really help you in the direction of your goals?
Put simply, there are well accepted guidelines when it comes to training and physiological principles that exist for good reason- to help us as coaches make informed decisions about how to train our athletes. There’s no reason to break the mold simply for the sake of being different and ignoring convention. Instead, I’d rather learn from great coaches and implement concepts that fit my vision of training and athletic population.
The first point to make is that there is no “standard” standard. The second point is that it depends on whom you want to compare yourselves to. Do you want to know how good you are compared to all lifters, from beginner to elite? Or do you want to know how good you are compared to others in the gym?
I looked at a bunch of strength standards from different people or organisations. Some go from ‘untrained’ through to ‘elite’, covering every possible stage. Others go for the simpler ‘decent, good, great’ classification, comparing regular gym goers. My sources were:
These standards should be relevant for adult women who are strength training on a regular basis so I chose three levels of Good, Very Good andExcellent. It’s important to say that Good is good compared to other gym goers, not compared to untrained people. So Good is certainly a level to be proud of. Good is a level of strength that it is possible to gain after six months of regular training but is likely to be a couple of years or more for many trainees.
Very Good can take another couple of years on top of that and requires commitment and consistency. Reaching this level would put you above the majority of gym goers, even those who do regular strength training.
Excellent is a very advanced level, where you are probably starting to compete at national or international level. At this point you want to be comparing yourself to the other athletes in your federation and weight class rather than your fellow gym goers. Here are the standards, expressed as percentage of bodyweight:
Table of strength standards for women
You can see from these figures that Good is pretty impressive compared to the average gym goer but it is a level I believe anyone can aim for if they are serious about their strength training.
There are no mirrors at Flow because we don’t care what you look like. In fact, we don’t care how old you are, or whether you’re male or female. We don’t care what color your skin is either. Or if you’re overweight or loaded with muscle. Or if you’re tall or short. Or blonde. Or brunette. We treat everyone like an athlete, and there’s no profiling here.
Traditional fitness facilities are loaded with mirrors. They’re everywhere. If you stand right in most facilities, you can see your rear delts and your pecs at the same time, or you can line yourself up with precision to surreptitiously check out the cutie around the corner. Very clever use of light and glass.
But the mirrors don’t lift the weight, and they don’t help you fix your form. Appearance doesn’t matter. Effort does.
Try this: go stand in front of a mirror and go into the bottom of a deep squat. Look yourself in the eye. Then realize your neck is arched into a bad position. Then come to our gym and squat in front of a blank wall while we cheer you on.
We all want to look good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you look around the Internet, or our gym, you’ll find a lot of fit, athletic-looking athletes. Fitness and a great diet indeed have fringe benefits, and we’d be ignorant to ignore them.
But Flow isn’t about appearance. We’re about fitness, and if you improve your fitness, you’ll look better. Guaranteed.
But perhaps it’s best not to focus on that. Ultimately, appearance is a subjective measure that says nothing about your fitness. Some of the most beautiful people in the world are very unhealthy, and many of them will tell you that being judged on appearance isn’t very fun or good for mental health.
So we judge you on performance. Are you improving? Are you getting stronger? Are you getting faster? We write down what we lift and how fast we lifted it because that gives us a solid number that doesn’t lie. Three hundred pounds went up five times. Fran was under 4 minutes. You ran the 400m loop under 2 minutes. You beat a personal record. You got stronger. Or faster. Or both.
You improved. No mirror will tell you that.
We have a mirror in the bathroom, but it's not there for you to evaluate your appearance. It's there so you can look yourself in the eye and ask one important question: Did you give your very best effort in the workout?
I heard this line on the Joe Rogan Podcast recently, and it’s brilliant in its simplicity. When you stay in a hotel or drive a rental car, odds are you are probably not too concerned about keeping things pristine. You can throw the towels all over the floor, leave trash in the cup holders, and you probably aren’t too concerned about the door getting nicked in the parking lot because you bought the rental insurance.
Now contrast that with how you treat that brand new BMW SUV you just bought. I guarantee, at least early on, that you aren’t parking remotely close to another vehicle, weekly car washes will be a given, and nobody is riding around with you wearing muddy sneakers.
What’s the point of this drawn out analogy? From my experience, most people treat their bodies like total crap. They fuel themselves with cheeseburgers and snack food, live in a constant state of sleep deprivation, don’t exercise or move nearly enough, and generally act as if the body they are inhabiting can be traded in at some point for the 2015 model once they’ve abused it enough.
Here’s the thing: you’re only issued one set of functioning joints, muscles, organs, soft tissue, etc. Our bodies are designed to be incredibly resilient and put up with a lot of nonsense on our behalf, but its incumbent on you to make those gifts last as long as possible. We have yet to reach a point medically where we can replace our original hardware with after market parts that function anywhere near as well or as dynamically.
I’m not suggesting you treat your body like a temple or a Ferrari; rather, I’m in the camp of surfing legend Laird Hamilton, who equates his body to an old Chevy pick up truck. It’s meant to take a beating and keep on running, even if you sometimes throw some questionable fuel in the tank. Think about this concept next time you are tempted to eat a couple of Krispy Kremes.
Training is a never ending process, a journey as opposed to a destination. Your short and long term goals are simply road markers that indicate progress along the way. Use your goals as a filter for what you should and should not spend your time doing in and out of the gym. With that being said, it is important to enjoy and embrace the physical process of training, learning, and getting better on a day by day basis. Use every set and rep in the gym as an opportunity to refine, to listen to how your body is feeling during a particular training session, and to improve your ability to grind and push yourself.
Top performers in every sport seem to all possess excellent mind-body awareness which allows them to make the subtle tweaks in the gym that will result in forward progress. This is only made possible by keeping detailed records and allowing yourself to be fully immersed in the daily process of working towards your goals.
“Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.”
Balance. No not the physical acted of maintaining your balance eyes closed on a bosu ball. Balance in your training and balance in life. I think Lao-Tzu’s quote sums it up perfectly. When we walk into the gym, the formula is very straightforward: Spend a few minutes on the foam roller emphasizing soft tissue regeneration. Move on the some dedicated mobility work, emphasizing stiff areas of the body, t-spine and hips anyone? Jump rope for a few minutes, work on a new skill or a complex movement that can be tweaked or improved. Then focus on strength through quality reps and compound movements.
News flash: strong isn’t the new skinny, the new sexy, or any other nonsense; strong has and always will be awesome and revered. Heavy ass kettletbell swings, loaded carries, squats, and get ups are always going to be awesome. Why? Because they work.
Lastly, the SWEAT. Ah, The SWEAY. Why most of us got into FLOW. Metabolic Conditioning is a great tool; in doses. That’s why we don’t walk into the gym and bust out a 30 minute chipper everyday doing a bunch of superfluous, asinine exercises. Keep it short, intense, hot and heavy like a college make out session. That way you will maintain the hard earned strength you bust ass to cultivate and have a decent enough motor to escape when the zombie apocalypse happens.
To review, training should be involve ample amounts of mobility and stability work, emphasize strength acquisition, and give you enough conditioning to save your hide from flesh eating zombies.