Archive for November, 2011

Collected Blurbs, 11/22-11/28

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 28 2011

Tuesday 111122

Are you ready for the Crossfit Games Open? The Open starts 23 February and runs for five weeks, ending March 25.

Again and again we see the folks that compete make huge gains in their fitness. It’s almost like cheating, because you’re going to get better faster than the folks that are putting the same amount of effort in the gym.

We have several options for competitions coming up, to get notified about upcoming events and compete as part of the PCF Team, email -Brian PCF

Wednesday 111123

“The single biggest thing you can do to improve your fitness is attack your weaknesses head on.” -Greg Glassman

If your weakness is you don’t write down your loads/times/rounds, then freaking do it. -Brian PCF

Thursday 111124

We harp on range of motion because it is both the simplest detector of mobility issues as well as the simplest fix. Can’t get to the bottom of the squat? Squat more. Can’t extend your arms during pullups, do more pullups with more extension.

We can and do get sexy with it by employing the wall stretch, bench stretch, pray for pain, lawyer stretch, etc. But we want you to be able to move a load (bodyweight or external) through an “effective” range of motion. That’s how you’re going to demonstrate and improve power output, and it’s also how you’re going to get more mobile.

This gets trickier with folks that have practiced with less than full ROM for extended periods of time, but it’s also pretty easy to fix in 95% of athletes. If you have an issue, just talk to a coach or post to comments. -Brian PCF

Collected Blurbs, 11/14-11/21

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 22 2011

111114 (with some interesting discussion in the comments section)

I enjoyed the discussion by Dr. John Berardi on the Crossfit Journal the other week. I don’t agree with his “calories in/calories out” model of nutrition, nor do I buy the original theory of somatypes that he uses as his model to explain diet and training, but I thought in a broad-brush stroke he explained carb/fat intake and body type pretty well.

It certainly gave me a better prospective on looking at athletes who lean towards endurance or weightlifting more predominantly and how his model would, in a very linear way, describe the same kind of trends we see with athletes at PCF.

Everyone wants to be “good” at something. So it’s pretty natural for a relatively skinny person to want to run and a relative (ahem) “unskinny” person to want to weightlift. Now Crossfit came along and everyone could (more or less) be “good” at it because nobody else was doing it. Crossfit was a great way to short circuit the predominant model of either being able to run for a really long time or (look like you could) lift heavy weights.

But unfortunately for me, really good athletes are joining Crossfit faster and faster. So while I will still lord my 36th place finish in the 2009 Crossfit Regionals over Chris Karas (39th at the 2010 Regionals), I still want to be “good” at something, which is why I tend to mainly lift weights and 2-3x/week do some running or METCONs.

But I still do Crossfit, as I truly believe that a therapeutic dose of high-intensity functional movement makes you a better athlete no matter what your specialty.

What do you think? Should we play to our strengths, our weaknesses or just do straight up Crossfit? -Brian PCF


Things to worry about after you have a 1000 pound Crossfit Total, a Sub 3:00 minute Fran, and a sub 35:00 min Murph:

  • Should I wear Skins?
  • Should I take the Progenex Whey Protein or L-Glutamine?
  • Should I visualize my WODs before I do them?
  • Should I limit my exposure to potentially estrogenizing plastics?

Things to worry about before then:

  • Did I eat Paleo today?
  • Did I sleep 8+ hours?
  • Did I work hard without being stupid at the WOD today?
  • Did I try to eliminate the things in my life that cause me stress?

What did I miss? -Brian PCF

There was some good discussion about this in the comments section as well, and had one question from an athlete about his attitude being the thing that holds him back the most. My response is from a blog draft that I’ve had sitting around for a while and not sure what direction to go with it:

@Lou – this is probably the hardest question to answer as a coach, bar none. I tried to discuss it on my “Life Coach or Just a Coach” post here:

I think this varies a ton between each athlete. I feel like there are two spectrums here, on one end you have the “Power of Positive Thinking” people:

Greg Amundson – “Your thoughts will become your words. Your words will become your actions. Your actions will become your habits. Your habits will become your character. Your character will define your destiny.”

Eckhart Tolle – “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

Tony Robbins – “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”

On the other end you have (and I don’t know how to classify these in one group, but they share characteristics):

David Chang, Owner, Momofuku Restaurant – “I run off hate and anger, it’s fueled me for the longest fucking time.”

Captain Kirk – “I want my pain, I need my pain.”

Achilles – “Sing, O Muse, of the Rage of Achilles.”

So like I said, I think it’s going to vary a lot with athletes.

Anybody want to chime in on what keeps them moving forward?

I think there’s a ton to unwrap here. I’m certainly not a “power of positive thinking” type of person, but I don’t think I’m totally self-destructive either. It appears to me that a lot of folks can be “good” at what they do (sport, business, military success, etc.) by very linear thinking, setting and achieving goals, etc.

The most successful folks that I’ve met are nothing like that. They are almost all tragically flawed (literally “hamartia” in greek, used to describe Achilles throughout the Iliad).

And without fail while I was in the Marine Corps I found the Frederick the Great adage of four types of officers to be true again and again:

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.

I’d love to dig in to this some more, especially with respect to art imitating life: Holmes and Cocaine, Maturin and everything, Thompson and everything.


I was talking to one of the top male athletes at PCF last week about how to move from consistently top five to consistently number one on the leaderboard.

This athlete is doing all the right things, but has only been training for about two years.

I told him that at the high ends of performance, it’s not necessarily two-a-days or scaling up, it’s certainly not supplementation or Skins. It’s simply doing the little things better than your competition. Whether it’s sports or combat or CrossFit, if you are paying attention and executing the fundamentals consistently better than your opponent, you will win more games/battles/WODs than you lose. -Brian PCF


Collected Blurbs, 11/07-11/14

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 14 2011

From PCF 111110:

I had a good question the other day from an athlete: When should I go into the pain cave?

My answer is always “never do something today that will keep you from training tomorrow.” I feel that keeps people from flipping on their “stupid switch” and risking injury to get an Rxd next to their name.

Also realize, this was a dude. Dudes tend to want to push weights a little heavier than they should, and many women tend to go to light. Make a note when you make your scaling selections and as always, ask a coach.

Just want to expand on this by referencing one of my old posts on the difference between a “therapeutic dose of functional movement”, training for the elite athlete, and what I colloquially call “fucking elite” training.

If you are generally moving your bodyweight and external objects through basic functional movements with some level of intensity, you’re getting fitter.

If you are doing this safely, consistently, and improving the intensity (both in terms of load and time) by both training and proper rest, then you are closing in on “elite” levels of training.

If you eat like shit, don’t sleep, have a ton of stress in your life, booze it up on a Friday and come in for your once a week WOD on Saturday and slap the Rxd weights on the bar – you’re probably going to fuck yourself up pretty bad.


For my other moderately useful stuff and Aaron and Erika’s actually useful stuff, check out our daily dose at Potomac and Patriot.

For competent advice only (rather than the mostly drunken ramblings above) you can also follow PCF coaches blogs here: Aaron, Erika, Liz, and Jon.

A Brief Review of Love’s Executioner, by Irving Yalom

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 11 2011

Love's Executioner and Other Tales of PsychotherapyLove’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some interesting insights that I think I can apply to my own job as a Coach. I didn’t like the author’s presentation at times, but with a muddy subject like transcendental psychology, I understand this is a very subjective view.

I appreciated the author’s desire to get across the point that nobody’s ever “sure” about diagnosis or treatment.

Some valuable points:

“One of the axioms of psychotherapy is that the important feelings one has for another always get communicated through one channel or another – if not verbally than non-verbally. For as long as I can remember, I have taught my students that if something big in a relationship is not being talked about (by either patient or therapist), then nothing else of importance will be discussed either.”

“We are all stuck with some anxiousness about death. It’s the price of admission to self-awareness.”

“The first step in all therapeutic change is responsibility assumption.”

“It’s the relationship that heals, the relationship that heals, the relationship that heals – my professional rosary. I say that often to students.”

View all my reviews

A Brief Review of Encounter, by Milan Kundera

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 11 2011

EncounterEncounter by Milan Kundera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful followup to “The Curtain”. Rich in it’s examination of the novel, but also moves into painting, music, and poetry.

Mainly a defense of writing as art, especially with the examination of Malaparte and contrasting his work to Sartre’s quote: “Prose is in essence utilitarian…the writer is a speaker: he designates, demonstrates, orders, rejects, questions, entreats, insults, persuades, insinuates.”

Both in Malaparte’s excerpts and Kundera’s explanations, we find that writing can move far beyond utilitarian, in his last paragraph:

The war’s closing moments bring out a truth that is both fundamental and banal, both eternal and disregarded: compared to the living, the dead have an overwhelming numerical superiority, not just the dead of this war’s end but all the dead of all times, the dead of the past, the dead of the future; confident in their superiority, they mock us, they mock this little island of time we line in, this tiny time of the new Europe, they force us to grasp all its insignificance, all it’s transience…

View all my reviews

Collected Blurbs

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 09 2011

From the Potomac Crossfit blog last two weeks:

Wednesday 111026

I generally don’t like the “Harden the Fuck Up” attitude. When I see people do this (without a lot of thought involved beforehand) I see injury and general stupidity. However, I also think that you are least likely to adopt the most helpful attitude towards your own training. So if you naturally want to slam your head against the wall prior to your training so you can get in the zone, and then absolutely have to put 5 more pounds on the bar on squat days or sprint the last round of Helen until you throw up, then maybe you should chill out a little and stretch more often. But if you are a “finesse player” who tries to find creative ways to get fitter without working harder, you probably need to watch less Kelly Starrett videos and #HTFU. -Brian PCF

Thursday 111027

I don’t like to hound on the “Post to Comments” blurb that we put at the bottom of each day’s WOD. I think it’s critically important if we want to better our training, and I think it’s a great return on investment for the athlete and the box, but I don’t like the idea of beating people over the head to do it. I don’t think there’s a better way out there to get easy to track feedback on how you’re doing as an athlete and how we (and by we, I mean Erika and Aaron, I’m terrible at programming) are doing as a box. So consider this your passive aggressive reminder that it’s good for you and it’s good for us. -Brian PCF

Friday 111028

There’s nothing like having a dedicated training partner (or partners) to keep you on track. We swap around within the coaching staff all the time with this in mind. Right now I’ve got a $40 Paleo pool with Liz and Alison for the next month, and I run with Wilkins every Friday.

Self-organization is key, just find somebody who is shooting for the same general goals (eating clean, faster run times, better squat, etc), put some money on the line, write a contract, and do it.

Heavy trash talking and partner sabotage or actual human empathy are also completely up to you. -Brian PCF

Saturday 111029

Erika, Aaron and I have resolved to each write something on the blog every day. For many of our long time clients, hopefully these will reinforce things that you’ve learned in the past. For new clients, it will hopefully fill in some gaps in your knowledge of Crossfit and help you progress faster.

Todays Lesson: Long METCONs suck. That is all. -Brian PCF

Tuesday 111101

Inevitably, you will fuck yourself up to some degree while Crossfitting. Anecdotally I can say that 80% of this comes from activities outside of Crossfit: Soccer, Basketball, Rugby, Golf (yes, Golf).

There are a few things you need to do when you get injured:
1) Heal. This means rest, proper nutrition, and a “therapeutic dose of functional movement.”
2) Mobility. Ensure that you can move through the proper range of motion pain-free.
3) Get Strong as a Motherfucker. I have yet to see a persistent or random injury not get better by dedicated strength work. Consistent shoulder problems? What’s your 1RM Press? Consistent knee problems? What’s your 1RM Squat? -Brian PCF

Wednesday 111102

Let’s consider a thought experiment:

Athlete A joined Potomac Crossfit on 1 January 2011. Since then she has lost 15 pounds of body fat, she has gone from zero to three strict pullups, she couldn’t perform an air squat to full range of motion on her first day of Foundations, now she can squat 1.5xBW and deadlift 2xBW. She can do Helen and Fran Rxd, but the pullups take her a while.

The experiment: Is Athlete A happy with her progress?

Now this is where it gets tricky. Is Athlete A “half empty” or “half full” type of gal? Does she have a training partner that she can compete against? Is she even writing down her workouts so she knows how far she’s progressed? Is she comparing herself against the top girls in the gym or people at her ability level?

What I want you to consider is how much data versus attitude affects the quality and consistency of your training. -Brian PCF

A Specific Generalized Template

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 02 2011

What many coaches will tell you (and I will too) is:

1) Practice the basic lifts.
2) Keep it simple.
3) And one Marine saying: “In the static defensive position, if you try to be strong everywhere, you’ll be weak everywhere.”

What I’ve tried to do with this template is lay out a basic combination of Olympic and Power lifts with the end goal of being an generally stronger and more powerful athlete, but one that has my inherent strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve cobbled together several programs (Crossfit Football, Bob Takano, Jim Wendler, Prilepin’s Table, and especially Gant Grimes) based on my experience lifting with each of those programs separately and managing athletes on these programs.

To view the template click here.

Template Guidelines:
1) Add 5 lbs to each Oly lift Theoretical 1 RM (T1RM) each 4 week cycle.
2) Add 10 lbs to each lower body Wendler Deadlift T1RM each 4 week cycle.
3) Add 5 lbs to each upper body Wendler Press T1RM each 4 week cycle.
4) Add 5 lbs to each Power lift (linear progression) each 4 week cycle.

You’ll obviously need to copy the spreadsheet and then enter your weights into the yellow blocks, but the spreadsheet will do the work after that.

You’ll need to stick with this for at least 16 weeks to see good progress. Feel free to switch your Power lifts to Wendler once you get a serious sticking point.

I think this would be a great template for anybody that has a decent level of strength and good technique with the lifts. I think this would be a great fit for athletes at PCF who are doing the barbell club (contact for more info).

PS. I get the fact that “Specialized Generalized” are contradictory terms. Also, feel free to go all kinds of honey badger on this if you’ve got some beef.