Archive for August, 2010

Back Off Week

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 31 2010

Stress: the consequence of the failure of an organism – human or animal – to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined.

You’ve been hitting Crossfit hard for a few months/years.

You’ve made progress, you’re happy with it.

But…you’ve plateaued.

Your data backs it up: same squat numbers, same deadlift, same press, same benchmarks time (or even back sliding a little). You talk to your coach, and we eliminate variables: sleep, diet, work, relationships. Everything checks out.

So what’s the deal?

You are permanently living in the area of the curve between Resistance and Exhaustion. No matter how much rest you take, you’re going to push into that gray area again and again.

So if your data is showing plateaus and you’ve been training consistently for at least six months, do yourself a favor and take the “Do I Need a Back Off Week?” Quiz:

Answer Yes/No to the following Questions:

1) I get nervous or queasy thinking about going to the gym.
2) I’m scared to look at the Workout of the Day.
3) I never look forward to the next workout.

If you answered “Yes” to at least two of these, then there’s a good chance that you are hanging around in that netherworld between Resistance and Exhaustion, and it’s time to start taking Back Off Weeks.

So What Is a Back Off Week?

Come in your normal schedule but all you do is:

1) Lift 50% of your 1RM for the barbell movements (or your Wendler prescription)
2) Do 50% of the METCON at 70% speed (or just skip it).
3) Do a TON of mobility/prehab/rehab.

By the end of the week, if you’re not salivating at the thought of the next heavy day or METCON, then you’re still not recovered enough. Continue to stay in “Back Off Mode” until you are ready to get back to 100%.

As always, talking to a coach is key. Also, doing Wendler 531 will help you greatly.

What are your questions?

How To Coach

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 26 2010

“Happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim” –Ethics

Whoa! Breaking out the Aristotle. That’s the blogging equivalent wearing an ascot (loud, brash, pretentious, probably an asshole), but it’s where we have to start.

Coaching gives happiness. The most potent form of this is Class #4 of Group Foundations.

I LOVE coming to Class #4. This is heavy Squat/Deadlift day.

Step 1: Pick out the smallest girls in the class.

Step 2: Make them put entirely too much weight on the bar.

Step 3: Make them lift it.

Step 4: Watch as they forget their shitty day job, the fact that they “don’t like their body”, that they spent 10 minutes before the lift telling themselves “I can’t lift that”.

That’s happiness for a coach. That’s happiness for an athlete. Everybody wins there.

The sky’s the limit after that.

“So what does that tell me about how to coach?”

It doesn’t.

It tells you why you should want to coach.

  • Serve your clients: Give them what they need, not what they want.
  • They are the center of attention, not you.
  • Teach them something: why, how, what for.

New and Improved Wendler Spreadsheet

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 25 2010

Made a few changes to the Potomac Crossfit Wendler 531 Spreadsheet.


  • Rounds work sets to closest 2.5 lbs
  • Automatically calculates weights for 24 weeks
  • Graphs Theoretical 1RM based on last sets

For more info, check out the video:

To download a copy of the Potomac Crossfit Wendler 531 Spreadsheet, click here.

Post questions or suggestions to comments.

“What Have You Got Against Christmas Cards?”

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 15 2010

We want to be in a situation under maximum pressure, maximum intensity, and maximum danger. When it’s shared with others, it provides a bond which is stronger than any tie that can exist.

Chances are, you and I have suffered together. Most days that I can get away from the business of business, I do the WODs with a class at PCF. I do this mainly because it’s in the best interest of my fitness. Aaron Moburg-Jones does PCF’s programming, and the guy is a programming genius. If he writes it, I’m going to do it because it’ll make me fitter.

Also, I like training with people that leave it all on the training floor. No cherry picking WODs, no “1..2..21..Time” miscounters, nobody that gets an ouchie and calls it a day.

By the way, I also want to beat you. I want to lift more, I want to go faster. I know this isn’t going to happen most days. But some days I get to beat you and that’s fun.

I’m in the unique position to really enjoy getting beat by you as well. Especially the folks that I introduced to Crossfit and train regularly. It’s a great feeling to see somebody come in that can’t do a pullup beat you in Fran one year later.

Which leads me to Christmas Cards.

There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion. -Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

There is something about that shared turmoil, that shared stress that brings people together. At a Crossfit Affiliate, it’s almost more pronounced than in a combat unit because here, you can just stop showing up. There’s no deploying to Iraq for three months and then going “Nah, I’m not going to come back in and I’ll just email billing to let them know.”

So self-selection is in some ways an even more interesting phenomenon than the All-Volunteer Force.

So what happens is a group of people come together, voluntarily. They commit to a certain ideal. They suffer together.

What happens next? They probably get a little trashed together, sometimes quite frequently.

Why is this? In the interest of trying to keep this post like a seminar vice a lecture, I’ll ask:

Is there any other place in modern day life that brings about the same level of stress as the Workout of the Day? And is that level of stress enough to get a look at a person’s real character?

If it is enough, then maybe you just got in one twenty minute AMRAP what it takes most people four or five years to figure out: that the guy/gal next to you is worth sharing a drink with or that they are a douchebag.

For me it’s pretty easy to see that when I’m coaching or when I’m training alongside of an athlete.

And that’s the a priori cause of drinking and carousing. It’s the training first. It’s the suffering. Everything else springs from this.

And you can’t create it, it has to be organic. No dinners, drinks, Facebook sharing, etc, causes exquisitely painful and worthwhile training. It’s got to be the training first. Always. No exceptions.

And even though I love these Christmas Cards, you’re still not getting one.

The wonderful love of a beautiful maid,
The love of a staunch true man,
The love of a baby, unafraid,
Have existed since time began.

But the greatest of loves, The quintessence of loves.
even greater than that of a mother,
Is the tender, passionate, infinite love,
of one drunken Marine for another.

“Semper Fidelis”

General Louis H. Wilson
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Toast given at 203rd Marine Corps Birthday Ball
Camp Lejueune, N.C. 1978

Paleo Challenge Phase II: The Rest of Your Life

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 15 2010

The PCF Summer Paleo Challenge reinforced a couple of big lessons:

  • Everything’s easier when you do it as a team.
  • People want to change their diet, but diet is habit, and habits are hard to break
  • Some people are going to stay 99% Paleo for the rest of their lives…some people aren’t.
  • _

    Here are the main things you need to keep in mind once you’ve gotten past your first 30 Day Challenge:

  • Everything affects everything. Food, Stress, Sleep, Stress, Exercise, and Stress, all affect each other. If one spirals out of control, chances are it’s going to pull something else out of whack. Control what you can control. Fix what you can fix. Don’t beat the shit out of yourself if you have some chocolate after your cat dies.
  • Have a buddy or a community that you can vent to and who can pick you up when you’re down, give you some advice, or just say “yeah, that happened to me too.”
  • Look to excel, not to survive. Those that get excited about the Paleo lifestyle stick with it. Those that look at it as a prison sentence are going to spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out ways to break out.
  • _

    “Enough bullshit self-helpy stuff Brian, tell me what I can eat.”

    Here’s a list, in descending order of harm, of foods that you can probably reintroduce. I’ll warn you now: look at inputs and outputs. If you eat chocolate, and your head explodes, make a note of that data point:

    Speaking of chocolate….

    #1 Dark Chocolate, at least 85%
    #2 That’s it, there is no number 2.

    Grains, dairy and legumes will mess you up, period. Sugar will mess you up, period.

    Remember: Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash, Fruit, and Nuts are all technically Paleo to start with. I’ll just tell you the same thing now as I said at the beginning of the Paleo Challenge: if you want to lose weight limit them.

    Now if you are still feeling tired after 30 days, you need to look at two things:

  • Increase overall caloric intake
  • Increase post-workout carbs in the form of sweet potato or winter squash
  • _

    If you need to “cheat” though and want to dose yourself with carbs, hit a GOOD Tex-Mex restaurant. Some corn chips and salsa (thoroughly tested after the recommendation from Robb Wolf), a corn tortilla burrito with no beans, and a NorCal Margarita (or 5) makes for a good night with minimal GI issues the next day.

    Speaking of margaritas….

    “OK Brian, I am a believer and hence lean, strong, and super sexy. I need the proper venue to display said sexiness and not have people think I’m an alcoholic or pregnant.”

    First off, enjoy it. You can deadlift your bodyweight multiple times, and you’ve come close to meeting pukie multiple times. However, if you want to be this guy, just don’t do it in one of my t-shirts.

    Booze is actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. As mentioned previously, the NorCal Margarita is good to go. However, generally low-carb booze has little affect when drank in “social” quantities.

    Mark’s Daily Apple sums it up nicely here, I’ll just add the addendum that if you are going to drink beer, I’d highly recommend either gluten-free beer or low-gluten beer.

    That’s it! Enjoy your new, totally livable, totally fun, Paleo lifestyle!

    1.5 Mile PRT Run Plan

    Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
    Aug 10 2010

    Dan C. of the 0530 crew is gearing up for a PRT in October, which will end with a 1.5 mile timed run.

    Ideally, Dan would sucker somebody else into running with him because he likes running about as much as I do – and the only way you get me to run is if I do it with somebody else. In the words of Pat Sherwood, “Running Breeds Cowardice.”

    Ignoring that fact for a moment, here’s a pretty simple six week training plan for Dan. Only two WODs per week, to be done along with three Crossfit WODs per week:

    Week 1
    8x200m, rest two minutes between intervals
    3x800m, rest 3x run time

    Week 2
    8x200m, rest two minutes between intervals
    5x400m, rest 2x run time

    Week 3
    8x200m, rest two minutes between intervals
    1 mile @ 85% perceived exertion

    Week 4
    5x400m, rest 2x run time
    Every 30 seconds sprint 50m until you’ve covered 1 mile

    Week 5
    8x200m, rest two minutes between intervals
    3x800m, rest 3x run time

    Week 6 (taper)
    3×800 @ 85% perceived exertion
    5x200m @ 80% perceived exertion

    Week 7

    As always, my price is compliance. So will be looking for Dan to post his times each week to the comments of this post.

    Good luck Dan!

    I Don’t Send Christmas Cards

    Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
    Aug 08 2010

    I don’t read this shit.

    I don’t comment on your Facebook status.

    I don’t invite you over for dinner because you train with me.

    I don’t send you Christmas Cards.

    My “product” (Training) and “me” are two separate entities, I don’t want you to confuse the two. You are not paying for my company, you are paying me for results.

    How often I retweet you, poke you, “friend” you or “like” something you wrote on your wall has zero bearing on those results.

    Now will we build a relationship from training with me? Absolutely. As Coach Glassman has said in the past, this is a relationship business. And as anyone who has gone through stressful situations (Crossfit WOD, Boot Camp, Combat, Divorce, etc), who you really are ONLY comes out when you’re under a lot of stress.

    But I want that relationship to be based on an understanding that you pay me to make you a better athlete. Not to buy you drinks, not to buy you dinner, not to send you Christmas Cards, not to tell you you are a unique and beautiful snowflake.

    I am here to remind you what you already know: “All great things in every province, in every domain, come to those willing to suffer and endure and sacrifice and commit. It’s blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids that make things happen.” – Gregg Glassman

    “Men like to work hard. The harder you work, the more you have to rely on others, and they have to rely on you, and this builds unity. Slack people are bad, they ruin morale.” – SgtMaj Ray Gregg, USMC (Ret).

    “Don’t be afraid of working the Marines hard. They’ll grumble, but when they’re done, they’ll brag about it. That’s what you want, you want them to feel tough and hard and good.” – James Alban

    I’m not going to be your buddy to get you to train with me. Once we’ve trained together for a while, we might find we like to hang out. Doesn’t matter to me, I’ll train you as long as you work hard.

    Remember that you had the guts to try something different and you stuck to it, everyday. It was hard, it hurt, you were tired. But you kept working.

    If this shit was easy, everybody would do it. If you had already achieved your goals, you would stop training.

    You haven’t, neither have I. Let’s get to work.

    Es war spätabends, als K. ankam

    Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
    Aug 03 2010

    “It was late evening when K. arrived.” -Franz Kafka, The Castle

    “For a long while now the revolt of the Risach breaking with his civil-service life has no longer been possible. Bureaucracy has become omnipresent, and nowhere can it be escaped; nowhere would one find a “Rose House” and live there intimate connection with “things as they are in themselves.” We have moved irrevocably from Stifter’s world to Kafka’s.” – Milan Kundera, The Curtain

    Some Thoughts Courtesy of Charlie Black

    Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
    Aug 02 2010

    Charlie Black was a U.S. Marine who served in World War II and Korea. He later became a journalist for the Columbus Ledger Inquirer and spent most of 1965-66 in Vietnam with the 1st Cav, the same unit written about in “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” .

    A great book that was passed to me during The Basic School, “From the Horses Mouth“, has an article by Charlie called, “Fourteen Proverbs Gleaned from a Damp Foxhole”. You’re going to want to read them all, but be sure to check out #14.

    1. All military doctrine is intended for level, paved roads on pleasant June days. Other situations demand field expedients.

    2. No other military equipment has the perfection of the C-ration can opener.

    3. Men can go anywhere despite anything, except opposition by better men willing to go anywhere despite anything.

    4. Night belongs to he who claims it. It is a friend to weak armies because strong armies are usually lazy.

    5. Given a 15-Minute break, an Eskimo army will build air-conditioned igloos, Indian soldiers a Taj Mahal, American field model pentagons.

    6. Infantryman can live through many battles with only average luck if they have a keen curiosity about what the enemy does and why he does it.

    7. Scouts have an implied warranty that quick and effective use will be made of information.

    8. A small unit in violent contact gives a commander with helicopters two choices, both immediate and with no excuse for delaying decision: 1) He can pile onto the fight, or 2) Accept possible sacrifice of the platoon

    9. Complicated plans become simple later from necessity. Start them that way.

    10. Every 30 minutes, remember this from Major General-designee Hal Moore, “Ask yourself what you aren’t doing that you should, and what you are doing that you shouldn’t.”

    11. The best trick is to help the enemy believe he sees what he wants to see.

    12. Adversities are simply a new, normal situation. See them in this light and find an advantage.

    13. Plans which work exactly right must be relentlessly investigated.

    And most importantly….

    14. There are only four kinds of officers:

    (1) The clever and energetic who make admirable staff officers.

    (2) The clever and lazy who make magnificent generals.

    (3) The stupid and lazy who can be used to grand effect by staff officers and generals.

    (4) The stupid and energetic who must be executed at the first possible moment in order to check their breed.

    More Wendler Planning

    Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
    Aug 02 2010

    Nicole's last WOD before her trip to Spring Break Bagram!

    So I’ve been doing Wendler 531 since April and have had great results, here’s a snap shot:

    12/9/2008: 335
    6/28/2010: 355

    Power Clean*
    9/27/2009: 225
    7/1/2010: 235
    *The Power Clean isn’t “traditional” Wendler, but I did it anyway according to the same principles as the other lifts.

    12/9/2008: 160
    7/2/2010: 167.5

    I plan to carry on using Wendler 531 as the basis of my training going forward along with PCF Fast Runners Club and PCF WODs.

    I’m going to go to Deadlifts instead of Power Cleans, but try to get in some reps using Prilepin’s table of the Olympic Lifts on Squat or Deadlift days.

    I’m also going to work harder on my Assistance Exercises during this phase. I pretty much bailed on those as often as humanely possible after about the first eight weeks. Much of this was due to time constraints, but they are all movements I need to work on. My Assistance Exercises will be:

    Squat Day
    Weighted Ring Dips 5x5x50
    Reverse Hyper 3×15

    Deadlift Day
    Handstand Pushups 3×5
    Weighted Pullups 5x5x50

    Press Day
    Assisted Muscle Up 3×3
    Tuck Front Lever 8 x 5-10 seconds
    Tuck Back Lever 8 x 5-10 seconds

    This will all fit pretty neatly on top of the normal PCF Programming. I’ll just rotate out Assistance Exercises on some days and do the PCF METCON, and skip the PCF METCON on some days and just do assistance exercises.

    I was fortunate enough to have Wendy W. from 0530 loan me Coach Chris Sommer’s Building the Gymnastic Body. I’d seen his videos on YouTube and heard Robb Wolf talk about his training, but I never took a hard look at it.

    I read the whole thing in about an hour and a half and feel like I’ve got a much better plan in my head for both how to improve my own gymnastic ability as well as PCF Athletes. Great progressions in there, give it a look if you get the chance.