How cats, sleeping, mutton and chocolate will all help you hit the CrossFit Open better.

Be a cat. Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.

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Curiosity is the most powerful training tool I have ever held. I didn’t realise this until I lost it.

The only reason I set written goals – was because the coaches insisted on it. I didn’t take them seriously or drive towards them with anything resembling unrelenting vigour. It was an exercise in going through the motions to please someone else.

What led me to achieve those goals, may be slightly attributed to having written them down. I seriously don’t think it was though. I was taking the piss when I wrote down “Go to Regionals.” (Regionals was also much easier to fluke your way into back then.) The one thing that consistently got me not just at the gym, but engaged in what I was doing there, was curiosity.

Interestingly, one of the indicators to predict successful academic outcomes, and also employability is plain old curiosity. “Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration” What it boils down to is when we find something we are curious about, we are more inclined to ‘do the homework’ required to learn more about it. Curiosity, I believe is the driver for intrinsic motivation. That also adds weight to the old wives tale “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” meaning, some people (and animals) have zero curiosity about the same things their coaches and teachers feel they should invest time and effort into learning. Don’t take it personally. Engagement in any deep learning requires the learners curiosity to be piqued. Find ways to make that happen and the horse will likely drink your water.

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With regard to CrossFit; My curiosity grew insatiable (before it disappeared completely for about two years). I used to wonder daily about what was possible. Back when pulling my chin over a bar seemed an insurmountable task – having a sense of wonder helped me to make consistent progress.

Like many interests we pursue in life, as we open one doorway, we generally find another five to explore. My curiosity with training and CrossFit was hinged on uncovering all the secrets along the way.  I evolved alongside my experiences and progress.. “How fast can I go?”… “How much can I lift?” …  “How many rounds can I squeeze into that time frame?”…. evolved into “Is it possible to..” questions. We would hang around the gym after the class jamming, playing, exploring for far too long in the early days.

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The moral of the story here is that the fun got lost when I found myself setting expectations of what I ‘should’ be on myself; Expectations are a curiosity killer. Which in turn took me further from caring about doing epic things.

The kicker, is I see this in other people often. People who are definitely capable of achieving that goal they have their heart set on. It’s just that they have given the goal too much of the wrong kind of power. If you lack curiosity and your not engaged in training or executing in competition you have to ask why the hell you’re even doing it. My best, I ever have been – I felt excited to get up early in the morning and leave work to train before and during nearly every training session. When I’m competing, curiosity and engagement looks like not adding in tactical breaks to pull up my knee sleeves, chalk my hands, or adjust my grips. I’m in a total state of flow – completely engrossed in the task. Beyond what we had programmed on the board, I’d be just as excited to see who would be there to play with. ‘The unknown’ wasn’t something to be feared – unknown didn’t equal falling short, or being incompetent of reaching my own impossible standards. This ‘unknown’ was more like not knowing what you’re getting for Christmas, but you wanted a bike and it’s shaped like a bike, sounds like a bike and is probably a bike… every day.

Sleep more, pay attention to what you’re dreaming.

This is a short one. There’s not much you can do to control what you dream about.

As a general rule of thumb, I only dream about things I care about.

When I’m really into something or curious about if its possible to do something, the decision has already been made to pursue it. From here my brain will build the path to make it happen, I feel that’s why I dream about those things. Example; I really badly wanted to get a muscle up. So much so, that I dreamt of myself flying up through the rings with effortless grace and weightlessness. I had ‘the muscle up dream’ every.damn.night for a month before I got my first one. During the day, I would be diligent about getting the progression homework completed. During the night, my sub-conscious mind would put it all together and consolidate the learning to help me along. The dreams made me crazy – in my dreams I already had them. In my dreams being the operative words there. Now I know better, as to why that happens. A study out of the Harvard Medical School, found that test subjects who dream about a challenging task performed it better than those who didn’t have such dreams.

Boom, dream more folks.

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Maybe she’s born with it, or maybe it’s Maybelline

Well informed people with much more experience than me, who have read and written screeds on the topic of achieving excellence have shared some common themed thoughts.  Factors influencing performance in the 1% include: Grit, resilience, drive, grinding, work and accepting pain. These are common essential ingredients from which champions are forged.

I believe that some people are raised that way, knowing how to work hard. “The Mutton Factor”. Doing something less than their all out at the time – is just not an option.  Other people have to read books about it, learn ways to try and transfer from other dimensions of their experience or develop those tendencies from scratch to overcome the self-limiting default setting they showed up in life with. “The Maybelline Factor”.

Maybelline athletes hurt my soul. A good training session is not looking broken-assed and dragging your way backward and blindfolded until its complete. Don’t train like that. I literally leave the gym when I feel that around me. It seeps into my own training wairua and sucks all the enjoyment from my session.

If you’re not seriously curious and excited to find out things like; how deep your tank is, or how far you can push. If common behaviour is to complain or sandbag your training, but, you also believe that doing tonnes of personalized programming will get you to the top; You’re dreaming (not the good dreaming). It doesn’t have to be like that. You may have your purpose outlined and made the decision, but your path is going to feel like walking on broken glass if you can’t find that curiosity to push the limit of what is possible.

It’s unrealistic to say that every training session is going to be sunshine and rainbows. But I do think that some people love to explore near every crevasse of what’s possible on good and not so good days. This intrinsic motivator helps them to reach those dark places where the wild things live, and thrive there.

How to combat being a Maybelline athlete; Give your training some purpose. Figure out a couple of things that you find super interesting and find all the ways and means to approach it until you’ve turned the puzzle over enough times for the door to unlock and you find yourself in a whole new dimension of training that you never knew existed. On a daily basis – in your training sessions – find ways to make everything a game in your head. I find games are fun, very distracting from pain, and they motivate me.

Tell Steve to take a break, have a Kit Kat.

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Finally, let’s talk about self-limiters. Everyone has them. That’s the voice in our head or more like our gut that tugs on our sense of reason and lets us know if something is way off. We need self-limiters. They assess the threat. Their like the nerdy, slightly overweight, button down shirt and a pair of khaki’s wearing, clipboard carrying – health and safety officer of your life. I call mine Steve. Steve’s job is making sure I’m scared when I need to be.  Steve’s sole purpose is to raise alarms when required and significantly influence whether I choose one of three things: 1. Pull my sleeves up and get stuck into it. 2. Run away. Or 3. Choke.

I went through a crazy training patch where I really learned what pain was. Steve showed up most days screaming at me. But eventually he went quiet, after he realised that once we are in the depth of pain, it really doesn’t get any worse. It just stays like that. Until you stop anyway. The contrast from moments after the work ends isn’t dissimilar to the immediate temperature contrast felt when you walk into the Super Liquor Chiller. Except this is a chiller full of pain and you grabbed the most expensive box of 24 types of cramp with lactic acid build-up and unrelenting discomfort which no measure of writhing and wriggling will ease.

Curiosity to play the game out is the key that keeps the health and safety Steve distracted for me. If you know how to work, and work hard – then wondering what is possible helps quell the 2nd and 3rd options from eventuating. These options are a seriously bad times, especially when you’re competing or trying to do something special. We can’t let Health and Safety Steve hold us back from expressing true potential. But he does need to be bribed well in order to turn a blind eye.

Especially during the Open Season.


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6 Signs You’ll Make a S*** Coach

You sat bolt upright this morning, having experienced a deep epiphany. Your job sucks and you love CrossFit, so why not quit and become a CrossFit coach at your gym? Maybe one day you’ll even be able to open your own CrossFit gym next door… Not until after you have passed your Level One CrossFit Trainer Cert of course. You are no fool.

What evidence do you have to support your hunch that quitting is the right thing to do? Well, for starters the coaches at your gym look like they have the best job in the world. How hard can it be to hang out with your buddies all day training whenever you like? Those coaches are finally free from the constraints of management, KPI’s and deadlines.  The constant monotony of working life does not appear to loom over their heads. They don’t look sick to death of accounting for every one of those 40 hour weeks they rack up – like tally scratches on a prison wall. In fact, they look like they absolutely love their job.

Let me fill you in on a secret. There is a good reason they look like that. It’s their job to. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to fall prey to ideals of living the ‘easy life’ of coaching.

Before you go ahead and push send on that resignation letter – freeing yourself from the 9-5 chains – let’s get the low down on whether you’re cut out for this. Then, you can proceed to skip home – and proudly update your status on Facebook to “between jobs”.

1. If you don’t like talking to people, or the sound of your own voice – you won’t make a good coach.

This one is pretty obvious.

Imagine – you are 13, back at high school – you’re standing in front of your year 9 English class about to deliver your atrocious speech about the life cycles of cats.

How did that experience shape your current feelings towards public speaking?

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As a coach, you’ll be addressing groups of glazed over expressions daily. Not only will you need to get the integral info across to them in as least amount of words and time as possible; you will be expected to somehow inspire, teach and motivate these beings with mere words. Every one of the members names will be your job to know, how else will you be able to hold a conversation with them for what may feel like an awkward length of time. This is all before you’ve even thought about how to advise members on how to access the best version of the workout for their stage and ability level.

If your coaches are the kind that stand and read what the whiteboard says, turn the clock on and shout out encouragement during the work phases, this is not coaching. Leave your gym. Today.

Once you walk onto those black mats as a coach, giving maximum energy and enthusiasm to the members is crucial.

If you struggle to crack a smile when you’re having a bad day, or you have a short fuse – members deserve a better coach, who appears to actually enjoy their company. Stick to your office cubicle – please.

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2. If you love and prioritize your own fitness more than other people’s experience of fitness – you won’t make a good coach.

So you want to make it to the CrossFit Games. Nice. You see the logical step is to become a part time coach so you can train all day and not work. As a future games athlete on this path you’ll need to have a Sugar muma/daddy putting food on the table to sustain such a life, or an extremely understanding partner.

Let’s say you don’t have a mortgage, dependants or any significant debt – this is a good start. Interestingly, are you also happy to live in a shed out the back of your Uncle’s place for $50/week to keep living costs down? Will you do what it takes while you pursue your dream of success on the games podium? Remember, Matt Fraser lives in a basement apartment at his parents place, has no ‘job’, other than to train and do competitions for money. Which is his main source of income. Because he wins them. When will your first pay cheque come in?

Fitness is as much about rest and recovery as it is training. However, to train with quality and quantity, you need an uninterrupted training environment. It’s very hard to attain that environment as a coach. Training in a gym full of members who want your help, advice and attention on everything from their diet and current injuries to questions on why they are not seeing progress in their snatch  – while you are also trying to max out your snatch – is the reality many face.

Conversely, when you switch to coach mode – 100% focus turns to the members; answering all those questions and providing them with an excellent training environment.

Working and training in the same gym makes the lines blurry between when to help members and when to switch off and just train. If you want to be an athlete, be an athlete. If you want to be a coach/athlete – get your time management, money and energy expenditure aligned pronto. Be very carefully to ensure one isn’t sapping from the other while ensuring you apply yourself 100% in both areas when needed.

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3. If you think people’s natural abilities and their limitations are ‘just the way that person is’ –  you won’t make a good coach.

If you’re the type to hedge your bets, cut reps while you think no one is looking, put all your energy into the quick wins or cherry pick workouts depending on what you perceive your natural strengths are; You will make a terrible coach and role model for members.

Training so you can apply the principles of learning and practising those methods across a variety of movements – the good, the bad and especially the ugly – has the deepest impact on performance. Alternatively, sticking to the stuff you are good at, and ignoring the stuff that you find hard to learn or even worse vocalizing your ‘reasons’ why your body can’t do that sends a message to members that they will not be able to improve on things they are no good at either.

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Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

To be any good to anyone interested in improving their performance, practice what you preach. Understand that improvement in literally anything is a matter of applying the process of learning – regardless of where you start on the scale of talent – across all movements. Without this frame of mind, you will have trouble keeping your members motivated to continue working towards improvement in anything other than their training intensity and the volume they train. The quick wins. Invariably, they will end up hitting the ceiling on their lifts,  injured physically in someway – probably their knees or shoulders, then leave the gym and tell their friends that CrossFit broke them. That outcome, is entirely your fault.

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Can CrossFit Kill You?

4. If you believe what people do inside the gym is more important than what they do outside the gym – you won’t make a good coach.

Believe it or not, the reason you like going to your gym is because it’s a community of people who you probably have a few things in common with. Let’s even go so far as to call them ‘friends’. You will likely stay for the community even if the coaching degrades, to a point.

Coaches are like ‘friendship facilitators’ not just ‘movement specialists’.

Seeing members as a bag of body bits needing ‘movement fixed’ will limit the effectiveness of your coaching in the thing you prioritize most – how they move.

Step back, get a wider view of them as a total person and you’ll get a lot further. The last thing I want as a class member in my 1 hour away from the madness that is life is to be told right off the bat “Get your heels down”.

If you’re a movement junkie, remember;  people don’t come in pieces.

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5. If the concept of getting up at 4am and walking in the door at 9pm doesn’t appeal to you, you’re probably just human – but learn to grin and bear it if you want the coaches life.

Yes, you will get to train during the day. Maybe with your buddies. Depending on if you have any who are not at work between 10am-3pm.

More than likely, you’ll train alone – in the middle of the day – when you have time between cleaning the gym and running PT’s to supplement your coaching income.

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When your old training buddies come in to do a class, after a long day at work – you won’t get to play because you’ll be coaching them. You’ll finish up and hang around far too long afterwards; trying to usher them out the door so you can finally go home before 9pm.

You need to eat, and get to bed early. You’re on again at 6am, every morning this week. Yipee.


6. If you think coaching looks easy and you’d like to be a weekend warrior community contributor – you won’t make a good coach.

Awesome that you want to contribute to the community. Yes, it is a fantastic group of individuals and a real family vibe. If you’re not keen on the idea of being a life-long learner, and investing in your practice continually, constantly reflecting on your own practice and actively seeking out Professional Development to make yourself a better coach then you would be better off offering to help the current coaches with events coming up at the gym. These events don’t run themselves and coaches sure as hell appreciate all the help they can get when they give up their weekends to put them on for the community.

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Having said all that…

That doesn’t mean you can’t become an amazing coach.

A custom built development programme for existing coaches and new interns designed to bring the best out in your coaches while retaining the integrity and culture which personifies the gym and it’s community will be available soon.

Interested? Hit me in the DM below