Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

False Heuristics

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jul 18 2014


“It takes a lot of intellect and confidence to accept that what makes sense doesn’t really make sense.” -“The Bed of Procrustes”, Taleb

I wrote last week about some of the false heuristics (rules of thumb) that “make sense” to people but cause major health issues: saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease; calories in versus calories out; and the fact that CrossFit “looks dangerous.”

It seems that all of us have some innate desire to obey authority (Milgram and Zimbardobeing the most famous academic examples) and to conform to tribal norms (Milgram and Zimbardo again, and everybody since Aristotle). One hopes that we can reason our way out of false heuristics by observing the negative effects of our actions and then make adjustments, but it seems like even both folks that are very sick and folks that aren’t make bad decisions that they know is bad for their health.

I don’t really have a solution to this and I’m not super interested in bringing enlightenment to the world. I guess I’m just wondering if anybody wants to contribute an answer to the question: why do you (or somebody you know) continue to make bad decisions once they’ve been presented with significant data that what they are doing is bad for them?


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140114]

The Idea of Fitness

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 27 2014


The third thing on my list of things that boggles my mind is the fitness industry (see one and two). I usually illustrate this point by simply asking someone: “Where do people usually spend their money on fitness?” The answers I get usually include:

-Globo gym membership
-Yoga/Spin/Pilates classes
-”Fitness” DVDs
-Personal trainer
-Whey protein/supplements
-Home gym equipment (usually Bowflex, “The Perfect Pushup,” etc).

Then I ask, “Do you know anyone that’s gotten fit using these?” The answer 90% of the time is no, and the remaining 10% have dubious definition of fitness.

I call all of these “The Idea of Fitness.” People like the idea of being fit, they are presented with these avenues and told they will become fit. They sign up, they do what they are told to do, but they don’t see results. They are told to just stick with it, or to take this or that supplement stack (i.e., pay more money), and they’ll start seeing results.

In a way this is very frustrating for me. Here I am, providing an observable, measurable, repeatable and open-source fitness methodology and the non-CrossFit sector of the fitness market is at least 1000x larger.

But the flip side of that coin is that people can only get hustled for so long, and we see that with the continued growth of CrossFit. You can only get told that you need to pay more money and not see results so many times for you to think there might be a better way to get fit, but you might have to do some digging.

Were you hustled by the fitness industry? Who hustled you? What was your breaking point?

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 131001]

Good Attitude and Hard Work

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 03 2014

I know growing up and watching and playing sports, commentators and coaches talked a lot the “intangibles” that athletes brought to their game. I played baseball up to the Division 1 level (which makes me a baseball player, not an athlete) and thought I had a good handle on the intangibles of being a winning athlete: good attitude and hard work.

I think the same things will get you a measure of success in CrossFit, but I don’t know how much those factors have to do versus consistent training, nutrition, sleep, managing stress, and if you did a good job picking your parents.

I’m pretty sure you need a good attitude and you need to work hard to be the best CrossFit athlete you can be, but I think there’s more “tangible” than “intangible.” What do you think?

[Originally published Potomac CrossFit 130701]


Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
May 28 2014

Our brains tend to look for patterns. Taleb has talked about this a lot and his first book, Fooled by Randomness, is a long treatise on this phenomenon.

Aaron PCF had a great comment the other week about the fact that running doesn’t make you skinny, but skinny people tend to run. Most folks look for “runners” who are skinny and conclude that to get skinny, they need to run. This is about as thorough an empirical examination as saying: “Volleyball players are tall. I want to be tall, so I’ll play volleyball.”

A lot of people play to their strengths. If you come to CrossFit with more of a strength background, you tend to get drawn to weightlifting. Same goes for gymnastics. The principle I’m trying to draw out is empiricism. Don’t believe any of what I just wrote, try whatever you want to try. But don’t argue with the results.

[Originally published Potomac CrossFit 130514]

Falling, Stress, and Anaerobic Training

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Oct 04 2010

During Part V of a recent Radio Lab episode, Garrett Soden was recounting the first trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Garrett wrote a book on this strange human phenomenon of seeking out ways to fall, called “Defying Gravity“. Here’s a short description from Editorial Review:

Defying Gravity tells the astonishing story of how gravity pioneers transformed an ancient terror—the sensation of falling—into the modern thrill that powers extreme sports, monstrous amusement rides, and a youth culture obsessed with “getting air.”

This got me to thinking about something I read in Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution about short duration stressors versus long duration stressors and how our bodies react:

We are genetically wired for dealing with acute (brief/infrequent) stress. This stress answered with some kind of physical activity (fight or flight) that made use of that glucose and fat released from the liver. Then things returned to a relatively ‘mellow’ norm.

Now I would take this a step farther in the context of evolutionary biology and say that we are not only “genetically wired for dealing with acute (brief/infrequent) stress”, but wired to seek it out.

Granted this is a completely non-empirical conclusion, and also one of those statements that gets eaten up by clinical observation versus general observation, but I’ll just lay it out as a thought experiment:

Those hunter-gatherers that took the biggest risks and survived, where the ones that got the biggest reward – genetically speaking.

My thoughts on this are as follows:

1) Our forebears that could successfully innovate and hunt/compete with the alpha predators during the Pleistocene era were most likely to survive.

2) Same goes for those that could successfully migrate faster than the alpha predators.

So those individuals and tribes that not only survived, but sought out that fight/flight reaction (in these rather grand and singular instances), and survive where most likely to pass on their genes during a time when species where dying out at a phenomenal pace (and possibly a desire for immigration of any type is built into our species as well).

Un le pas si Grande Cloture…

That desire for the hormonal simulation of fight/flight that is built into our being is most closely replicated by three things:

1) Falling
2) Fighting
3) Competitive Anaerobic Training aka Crossfit

Coming soon….
Part II: What We’re Not Built For – Lengthy, Persistent Stressors.

“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

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.

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.

Tell Your Kids It Is OK To Fight – by Jeff Martin

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Jul 20 2010

Reprinted from Crossfit Kids:

We have been told for years that fighting is morally and ethically wrong. That it is never the answer. This belief has threatened our country’s security and now we see the effects it can have on our children. Fighting is not wrong in the cause of self defense. It is not wrong for our nation to proactively protect itself nor is it wrong on a personal level to respond with physical force when threatened.

When I was young and in school a little boy hit me in front of the teacher. He was reprimanded and sent to detention. On the way out of school he told me he was going to do it again the next day. When I told my parents about the incident, they told me if he tried to hit me again, I was to hit him. Actually, they said hit him hard enough that he will never want to hit you again. I did and he didn’t.

A couple of years ago my wife went to pick up one of our boys at preschool. She found him hiding under a desk. When she asked him why he was hiding he said he was hiding from one of the other boys who had choked him several times that day. When my wife approached the teacher she was told that the boy “was having trouble at home and just acting out.” While I sympathize with the child who was having trouble at home, this was somehow supposed to excuse him attacking my son. That night we taught our son a simple Krav Maga self defense technique. He in turn shared his new knowledge with his teacher. His teacher made it very clear to him that under no circumstances was he to defend himself. He was to get her attention instead ( with a child’s hands wrapped around his throat) and she would take care of the problem. We of course relieved him of that notion.

Think of the different lessons these two stories teach. In the first, my parents taught me not only that I had a right to defend myself but that the responsibility for my safety rested with me. In the second, the opposite lesson was taught. My son was told his safety was someone else’s responsibility and under no circumstances was he to defend himself. If you have been taught the first lesson, you react instantly to someone threatening your safety. If you have learned the second, you look for an authority figure to help you when threatened. If there is no authority figure to stop the attack you waste valuable time deciding what to do and how to react. We are complicit in the victimization of children by predators if we are teaching children to look for an elusive authority figure for help.

A few months ago, we watched in shock, the video of poor Carly Bruscha simply allowing someone she doesn’t know to walk up, grab her arm and pull her away. She looks confused and frightened on the video. It takes only an instant for her abductor to move her out of the cameras eye. What a different video we might be seeing if at the instant she was touched by the man she launched into him biting, kicking and using everything she had to keep him away from her. I heard a retired FBI agent say, that they knew of no case where a child who was fighting back was killed in the course of an abduction. The reverse is not true. If abducted the outcome is almost universally bad.

But to demand that children discard their moral right to protect themselves is a lesson that should not be taught in any school or in our society. Children need to know it is morally and ethically right to fight and defend themselves the instant they are physically threatened. On a news program this morning, they ended the story by saying there is
“evidence the little girl fought her attacker to the end.” The problem is she didn’t fight in the beginning.

Building good character goes hand in hand with a belief in the right to self defense. Your children must know when and where to apply the defensive skills you teach them. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders and on theirs. If you build good character, then self defense will be exactly that – defense. It will be a reaction to an act
of violation, and every child has the right to defend himself if violated. Our children need to be given permission to
fight. Yes, they ALSO need to be taught good judgment so they know when fighting might be wrong.

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
May 03 2010

Get to know yourself sometime. Doing some basic check ups will allow you to make much better progress as an athlete than just coming in and doing what’s on the whiteboard.

You are going to become a pretty sizeable badass doing that, but what if you could put in just a little more mental effort and get a bigger return.

This really comes down to “Goats”: What are you bad at and how are you going to fix it?

Not only will this improve your fitness generally, but it’s where I believe the true competitive nature of Crossfit is open to anyone.

For instance, I’m never going to be able to compete with Mike at running and I’m never going to be able to compete with Jon at lifting. But what if I set a goal that in the next year, I’m going to improve my mile time and my snatch more than Mike and Jon will.

That should be pretty easy right? They are both really good at this stuff, so I should, as a percentage, be able to beat them.

So it’s pretty “simple” goal, but it’s going to require that I actually work at it.

So find somebody that you want to compete against, and just say “I’m going to improve my Fran time more than they are this year” and get to work.