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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘coach’

First Impressions: How You Say What You Say

Thinking about that charter school for inner city boys where the study of Latin is mandatory…

In my day job I work with folks of various backgrounds, both in terms of education and upbringing. In all walks of my public life I come in contact with an even broader swath of humanity in all regards. I routinely travel up and down the social, economic and educational ladders at work and at play. For the most part, with everyone I meet the language we all speak is English. I live in Cleveland, Ohio, USA after all. Our English, however, is hardly the same.

While we cannot truly escape our origins, as we cannot truly escape our genome, we can choose how we interact in the daily mechanics of society regardless of origin. For better or for worse this begins with how we speak. That old saw, you only get one chance to make a first impression, is especially true when you speak, and especially important because for the most part you can choose not only what you say but also how you say it.

There’s nothing new or striking about this concept, either. You can think of it as verbal situational awareness. You would (hopefully) speak differently to a priest than you would the surfer dude sitting next to you beyond the break. On the phone with the cable company should sound very different I think than on the phone with your BFF. All speech is by definition qualitatively different than a text or an email because speaking implies hearing; speaking and hearing involve the inclusion of inflection, tone, and tempo. Really basic stuff.

Why, then, is it so brutally common to hear such poor English? Poor grammar, improper word usage, a situational tone-deafness? This doesn’t even begin to touch on the concept of working vocabulary (BTW, the person with the largest working vocabulary I’ve ever met is responsible for my  little CrossFit thing). Once upon a time one heard much about “Proper English” or “The Queen’s English.” What happened?

In English we do not have the French equivalent of “Tu” vs. “Vous”. No lazy man’s way to “polite-up” our speech. A certain unearned familiarity is too often presumed. We take way too many liberties with grammar, and frankly we too infrequently make the effort at “polished” English when it’s time to do so. That first impression thing is incredibly affected when you open your mouth to speak, on the up and the down sides. It is equally jarring to hear the word “ineluctable” from a guy in faded jeans and a baseball cap turned backwards (up) as it is to hear “me and Joey are gonna go…” from a guy in a suit and starched collar (down).

The stark reality is that there are no barriers to the “up” version of English. There is no genetic, social, or economic barrier blocking the acquisition of the ability to speak well, and by extension to acquire the situational awareness to know when it is vital to do so. All that is required is the effort to learn that version of English that we know as “proper”, and the effort to learn when. Those young men learning Latin at that charter school are off to a great start. It’s not necessary to speak like this all the time. You can choose to “let your hair down” so to speak–my love for the versatility of the “F-bomb” is well known in certain circles–but a lack of virtuosity in the English domain is a choice.

There are many aspects of a “first impression” over which we may have little control. Don’t choose to let your English be one of them.

CrossFit Programming and the CrossFit Open

CrossFit Open workout 17.2 will be announced tonight. This is a good time to reflect on the different aspects of CrossFit. There is a tension that exists between CrossFit, the strength and conditioning program and CrossFit, the Sport of Fitness.This tension is usually expressed in the guise of criticism of various versions of CrossFit programming. What’s very interesting is the lack of tension on this topic among the truly elite CrossFit athletes. If you look at their programming it looks like they are training to become…wait for it…really good at CrossFit.

Weird, huh?

What does that mean, anyway? Good at CrossFit? This is a perfect time for you to both re-read the seminal article “What is Fitness” in CFJ #2 and to recommend it to anyone who is either curious or unsure as to what constitutes CrossFit, and for the sake of this musings, CrossFit programming.

CrossFit is the pursuit of a broad, inclusive general fitness where fitness is defined as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. In the vernacular, CrossFit trains and tests us to move larger loads further over a longer period of time. In order to do this Coach has identified 10 Essential characteristics of Fitness as so defined, each of which needs to be equally expressed. Cardiovascular/Respiratory endurance; stamina; strength; flexibility; power; speed; coordination; agility; balance; accuracy.

Fitness as defined by CrossFit and Coach Glassman includes a precisely balanced degree of each of these 10 elements, with no one element being more of less important than any other. The CrossFit Games, and the athletes who take part, are simply an expression of the farthest right side reaches of the fitness Bell Curve. Look carefully and you will see that the events ask for equal competence in all 10 Elements; the athletes are simply better than the rest of us across the board. They get there because they do more work on all of the 10 Essential Elements.

While we here, and most folks in Affiliate gyms, can assume agreement on the benefits of seeking Fitness as defined by CrossFit, this is not to say that either our definition of fitness or our particular way of seeking it (expressed through our CrossFit programming) is appropriate for every individual. Some people just like to run really long distances, while others are happiest when they lift really heavy stuff. Still others are interested only in the appearance of their body, and their entire fitness program is geared toward achieving a particular vision or visual. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these desires, nor anything inherently wrong with the programming necessary to achieve these outcomes.

It just may not be CrossFit.

Because of this, the issue of programming is always on the table. Is there an optimal version of CrossFit programming? People take turns at supporting and denigrating the programming on the Main Page and in Affiliate gyms. For example, I think there are legitimate criticisms that can be leveled against gyms that do not emphasize proper movement. Countless efforts are made to “improve” on the model you see here on .com. Some of these alternatives make sense, while others IMO are not really alternative CrossFit programming but alternatives to CrossFit itself. Most of these, indeed most of the conversations in general, have to do with strength and strength training. Are you (is anyone) strong enough? Will CrossFit.com or another version of CrossFit make you strong enough?

The 10 Essential Elements found in CFJ #2, “What is Fitness”, are also posted on 030530 ( ironically on a day when heavy Deadlifts were prescribed). Pretty much all of the conversations noted about programming revolve around the premise that strength is somehow more important than other elements of fitness. Reasonable people can disagree on this point, but as a premise in discussing CrossFit the notion that strength is a, or the, primary element of fitness has no standing. There are 10 elements of Fitness, each no more and no less important than any other if we are seeking a broad, inclusive general physical preparedness that we call “fitness”. Full stop.

Whoa, wait a minute there Mr. bingo, aren’t you the guy who co-wrote an article called “Strong Medicine” introducing a programming alternative called “CrossFit Strength Bias”? Didn’t your home gym programming have supplemental strength training per CFSB principals since the time it opened? Isn’t that statement there just a bit, oh, duplicitous? Forked-typing?

Nope. Not at all. You see, if you read the original article you will see that CFSB is one way to address a DEFICIT in strength relative to the other 9 Essential Elements, not a program meant to gain strength at the EXPENSE of the other 9. As such it, like some others, is a program for the masses, for a CrossFitter who perceives a hole in his/her fitness that needs to be addressed, not at all unlike a CrossFitter who does supplemental work on balance or flexibility. Additional Element-specific work, be it strength or agility or whatnot, that drives continued balance and improvement in all 10 Elements is very much CrossFit. All versions of CFSB (I am now using the  newest protocol, v3.2) are designed to be one way to address this imbalance. There are others that you may enjoy more (Wendler, Westside, etc.), and just like having personal goals, there is nothing inherently wrong with another supplemental strength program as long as it works without the need to sacrifice other competencies.

Whether you are looking at members of a CrossFit Box or competitors at the CrossFit Games, CrossFit is outcome based. The outcome desired is a broad-based fitness comprised of equal quantities of each of the 10 Essential Elements. What goes into the left side of the hypothetical Black Box should produce Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains if the Black Box is a CrossFit athlete of any type. An increase in your Deadlift brought about by concentrating on strength training at the expense of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance will be accompanied by a decrease in your 5K run time and vice versa. This may be precisely in line with your goals, but it is not CrossFit as defined by Coach Glassman and expressed at its limits by CrossFit Games athletes.

Programming for CrossFit should be aimed first and foremost at CrossFit outcomes. What you find on CrossFit.com, and what you should probably expect to find as the primary goal in an Affiliate gym, is programming that seeks to balance all 10 of the Essential Elements of Fitness, increasing all of them in an effort to produce increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

A demonstration of CrossFit programming will be available online tonight. It can be used as a workout or a test.


Sunday musings (The Purge)…

Sunday musings…

1) Anniversary. It literally just occurred to me that Clan bingo moved to Cleveland 25 years ago this month.

2) Birthday. The Man Cub turned 1 yesterday. Massive party complete with the latest trend, the “smash cake.”

Still pulling icing out of his nose, and his ears, and…

3) Pro health. Outside mag has an interesting article on the pursuit of ultimate physical performance. Aside from the obligatory dig at CrossFit (“injury factory”), the author’s visit to the Exos group at the StubHub Center (of all places) was illuminating. My reading of the article is that upwards of 90% of what is happening at places like this is precisely what has been going on in the CF competition world for some 3+ years now. Dynamic W/U, an emphasis on mobility, programmed recovery, tightly managed nutrition. There is much more use of supplements as a primary element than traditional CF; I’m not sure if that is necessary for the masses, those of us who don’t compete. The author saw a real, measureable improvement in not only fitness but also applied fitness.

The mic drop, however obvious, came at the end of the article when the author described his slow, inevitable slide back to average. Why? Easy. While he was “in residence” at Ethos the entirety of each day was filled with nothing other than being a better athlete. Back home it was easy to revert to old habits. A missed workout here; too rushed to work on flexibility there. And beer. Beer is a problem.

Being at your peak physical capacity is a full time endeavor for the pro athlete. That, as much as anything, is what separates you and me from them.

4) Purge. In a couple of days we will be one step closer to completing “The Purge”. No, no…not THAT purge. I’m talking about completing the purge of all of the stuff that filled up our larger home with all of its modern storage spaces. Our new home, a tiny 1947 two-bedroom cottage, is 50% to the inch the size of our old home, but it has only 1/3 as much storage. Our purge has partially furnished at least 3 other homes, and the upcoming delivery to “Lovely Daughter” adds another home to the list.

Clothes, art, tchokes…you name it. We’ve been liberated from our stuff.

Have you ever seen George Carlin’s classic riff on “Stuff”? Truly funny stuff (Huh? Huh?), and easily available on YouTube. An entire cottage industry has grown up around the purging of stuff. That’s kinda funny, actually. The concept that you need someone to come in and tell you how to get rid of your stuff. In addition to a few minutes of belly laughs, Carlin gives you the place to look for low-hanging fruit: other people’s stuff! Set a timer, and if them others don’t pick up their stuff, off it goes.

The harder part, if it’s really all that hard at all, is when you are down to the stuff you think you might need someday. You know, like that really interesting, sure to be useful gadget you just had to buy at Sur La Table 10 years ago that’s still in its original packaging. Or those holiday dishes you’ve forgotten to use every Christmas since you got married 25 years ago. Stuff like that. When you literally don’t have a place to put ‘em, this category becomes not at all different from other people’s stuff: if you never used it, it was never really yours, right?

Before I get too self-congratulatory and get injured by patting myself on the back, I should point out that we DO have an attic, and also a tiny little vestigial cellar. Both are filled with unpacked, lovingly examined, and re-packed memories. Sure, I could digitize the photos and upload them to the Cloud. The 55 year old “Teddy Monkey” that hasn’t been cuddled for 2 decades would certainly fit better in an album than a box. It’s here where the line is drawn in our home, that place where “stuff” intersects with memories. Maybe I’m too old school, or perhaps just plain old, but the memories and the things that trigger the memories are safe from the Purge.

The whole exercise has been a helpful and useful one in my never-ending journey on the “want vs. need” highway. Stuff? Firmly on the “want” side of that equation. Every day in our cottage, more joy from less. Letting go of the stuff has also brought me closer to cherished memories, which in turn is bringing me closer to cherished people. Funny, eh? The less room I have for stuff, the more room I come to have for the people who helped me make the memories I’ve been saving. I’m off at the moment to round up a couple of those people, hopefully to create a few more of those memories.

After all, the size of your heart and soul need not be bounded by the kinds of walls that surround your stuff. There can always be room for your memories and the people who made them with you.

I’ll see you next week…


Sunday musings 4/17/16: Thoughts on CrossFit.com Rest Day

Sunday musings…

1) Falernum. An exotic ingredient in mixed drinks. Often appended with “velvet”.

Your coolness factor jumps by 10 with each sip.

2) Aviary. 60 and sunny in CLE. The aviary at Casa Blanco is open once again. All manner of birds have returned as our annual migration rhythms heat up with the sun.

Welcome back.

3)Art. While discussing art and whether food and cooking could be considered an art form, QuestLove expressed his skepticism: “[Food] leaves no evidence.”

I simply leave that here for you to digest.

4) Digital. While I am surrounded by things digital, both at home and at work, it is clear to me that I am not in any way truly conversant with any of them. Not, that is, in a way that bespeaks any kind of understanding about how they work on a “cellular” or “nuclear” way. It’s as if I learned a very basic skill once upon a time, and then just evolved along with all of the instruments I use as they “grew”. My wiring has really never changed it seems, whether or not the basic underlying wiring of the my digital world has changed despite what appears to be a smoothly evolved user experience built on a smoothly changed architecture.

It makes me wonder if I’m missing something in my knowledge base, even though my skill set has continued to grow. Is it necessary to understand the inside of the digital black box in order to excel at its use? If so, how does one go about doing that?

5) Offensitive. It’s Rest Day here on CrossFit.com. In our online 3 on/1 off workout regimen, our day of rest is no different than it has been since Coach evaluated his athletes at the mythical original CrossFit Santa Cruz and determined that the greatest fitness gains were occurring in those who followed this schedule. Mind you, these were regular folks, just like you and me, even those who would one day go on to mythical status themselves. As such today is just another day of recovery for the 99%ers among us, doing CrossFit for the sole purpose of increasing our fitness, our health, our general ability to surmount the unknowns coming at us tomorrow.

Rest Day on CrossFit.com is not the same, though. Not even a little bit. T’was a time when Rest Day was an opportunity to exercise your brain muscle around a bit of mental mischief in the form of a quote, link, or other prompt. The comments section was a veritable sea of ideas and ideology then, roiled by Coach’s choices of topic, and stoked by his taste for intellectual conflict. “Coach likes it a bit rough” was how it was explained to me by my friend “Mitymous”, one of the moderators.

Almost everything about Rest Day back then was fun. Even the “Groundhog [Rest]Day” exercise of explaining to newcomers that yes, this was done on purpose, and no, it’s not going to change because it makes you (pick one): uncomfortable, anxious, marginalized or angry and offended. We all either engaged in the rough and tumble debate of the day, or just skipped the Main Page every fourth day and waited for the next WOD. Those who stayed for the intellectual intercourse had the opportunity to sharpen their debate skills against foes left, right, and center, while, at least in my case, fine-tuning how they really did feel about any number of complex and timely issues (global climate change, wealth redistribution, the politics of nutrition, etc.).

What makes me think about this today? We have a perfectly lovely story about a 90+ year old fellow living well because he has looked decrepitude in the eye and said “not me”. Not very controversial. Not too very likely to generate much give and take. As is my wont I was reading this morning before sitting down to muse and I came across this gem from Leon Wieseltier, a critic: “A democratic society is designed for the giving and taking of offense, and if you have the privilege of living in one, you should thicken your skin.” How wonderful is that? Make just a couple of tiny little changes–substitute “Rest Day” for “democratic society” for example–and I would have been thrilled to have written that in response to any one of the many who were offended by the mere posting of Coach’s articles.

Make no mistake, I understand where Rest Day has gone and why. We were once insiders here, the early adopters, enjoying a bit of the privilege of being among the first on a newly discovered planet if you will. We shared that rebel’s spirit, a bit of the “us against the [fitness] world crusade. Pushing back against other orthodoxies on Rest Day was just another way to join Coach in thumbing our noses against any number of issues that were seemingly “solved” by a consensus built upon opinions rather than data. We honed our games on Rest Day topics so that we were on our games discussing CVFMPRHI and WCABTMD.

Think about it. Our American form of governance was once like that, like CrossFit the program in the early days. America itself was like CrossFit the company. A tiny little rebellion forging its own way in the face of a worldwide consensus just waiting for them to fail. Neither is so small any longer. Neither is new or tiny. Both have proven that each is at least some sort of correct or right, perhaps even better. “Living” in both is a bit of a privilege, whether we pay taxes (pay membership dues) or not (use CrossFit.com programming in a garage). Both are still boiling pots filled with controversy, ripe with offense for the taking if you are so inclined. Me? I’m an old Rest Day guy; I’m inclined to agree with Wieseltier. It’s a privilege to be able to be offended by issues that in all probability have no relevance to your day-to-day, minute-to-minute life. Debate issues not personalities or people. Strive for better. In so doing we should collectively thicken our skin.

Perhaps Coach will resurrect the Rest Day of yore to help us train.

I’ll see you next week…


Comet CrossFit/CrossFit Bingo: End of an Era

Everything changes. Sometimes change means that something comes to an end. So it is with the White family’s CrossFit Affiliate. It’s a CrossFit story for sure, but it’s really more of a family story, actually. While it is surely sad–I’m certainly sad–it’s actually quite a nice story, and the ending is really very OK.

Randy gave college a try in the fall and winter of 2010 at the same school where Megan was a junior. After 2 trimesters it became very clear to him that he wasn’t really ready for a traditional college path, and that his journey would start another way. Randy and I hit up a CrossFit L1 at Rogue (my 4th, Randy’s 2nd), and then Beth and I packed him off to Brand X for a 3 month internship with the Martin Family and theCrossFit Kids team. He and I had done our original CFK cert in January 2010 as part of my 50th birthday gift from Beth: a Dad/Son Kids’ cert and surfing camp! That summer he spent his weekdays in Ramona coaching both kids and adults and his weekends traveling from London to Australia spreading the word about CrossFit and CrossFit Kids. He came home ready to begin his career as a CrossFit gym owner. When the application for Comet CrossFit was accepted by HQ he became the youngest Affiliate owner in North America.

While this was going on Dan was in his senior year in college, coming into his own big-time as student after a couple years of, oh, let’s call it intellectual wanderlust, making the Dean’s list to close out his days at DU. Home he came as a sorta/kinda pre-med grad, albeit one who managed to make it through college without taking physics, Continuing on the pre-med course would mean 2 years of classes and applications BEFORE starting the 8-12 years of medical training. Pretty daunting. He asked if maybe his brother could use some help in launching and running Comet, and thus was formed the Affiliate ownership team universally known in greater Cleveland as “The Boys”.

Those were heady times in the CrossFit Affiliate world. When Coach Glassman met the boys he was thrilled about their plans, telling them “it’s fun, and it’s easy!” Comet would be the 3rd CrossFit gym to announce its opening on the west side of Cleveland. In what can only be considered quaint now, The Boys insisted that their gym be located far enough away from CrossFit Cleveland and Coca CrossFit that there would be no way that anyone would consider them in competition with the first 2 gyms; athletes would choose their gym based on geography. This quite righteous and honorable decision made their row all the harder to sow because they chose a location far outside the reaches of their parents’ considerable contact list, but it also ensured that their successes would be built solely by their own efforts.

Comet CrossFit opened for business on Monday, October 11, 2011, with programming based on CrossFit.com and the original CrossFit Strength Bias article in the CFJ. The first WOD started out with 5 sets of Front Squats aiming for a 3-rep max, followed by 4 Rounds for Time of Run 400M/15 HSPU/15PU. Since that time Comet (and CF Bingo) have followed the classic training patterns outlined in “What is Fitness?” and on the pages of CrossFit.com, a traditional General Physical Preparedness gym with a modest strength bias. Literally hundreds of athletes have come through, coached by The Boys and eventually by their parents as well.

In time it became clear that Dan was destined for something else. He came home one day armed with a rather impressive score on an LSAT prep test asking for parental support to apply to law school. Off he went to THE Ohio State University, along with the bride he met at Comet CrossFit ( Brittany herself an accomplished CrossFitter and coach in her own right!). After 2 years of running an Affiliate now named CrossFit Bingo on his own, Randy has also come to the conclusion that he, too, is destined for something else. Randy will join his fiancé Katelyn as a full-time student, he to become a physical therapist.

And so it is time to wind down our CrossFit gym. Comet/Bingo has been an amazing experience for our whole family. We have among us more than a dozen certifications (Randy, Beth, and I are all L2, for example). Megan became a CrossFitter when she and her husband moved to South Carolina, like everyone else we/you know, finding a group of best friends in her new Box. The White family gym afforded both of our boys the time to grow that each needed in order to discover the next path they needed to take, while at the same time giving them the priceless experience of making people better. Indeed, no fewer than 3 neighboring gyms were spawned from Comet/Bingo. For Beth and I, well, we not only got the precious gift of being able to give our boys this opportunity, but we were also able to spend countless hours with them–right there WITH them–enjoying the adventure.

We leave behind our beloved gym, and we say “see you later” to our many member friends. We are not leaving CrossFit by any stretch of imagination. Both Randy and I will have little garage gyms at our homes, a literal and figurative return to an even more classic CrossFit (al la CFJ #10) than our gym. The White family is eternally grateful to CrossFit, CrossFit Kids, the Martin Family and the CrossFit community both in greater Cleveland and abroad for the love and kindness extended to us over the years. Randy, Dan, Beth and I are especially thankful for the support and friendship extended to us by Coach and the Glassman family over not only the 5 year life of Comet CrossFit and CrossFit Bingo, but also the entirety of the CrossFit experience that began with that fateful November day in 2005 when I picked up a Men’s Journal and read about this crazy new fitness thing out of Santa Cruz created by Coach.

Everything changes, and sometimes change means loss. I am so very, very proud of my boys and what they created and accomplished. I loved being with them, and my darling Beth, in their gym, and I will miss seeing my little guy, no longer little, almost every day for 5 years. Doing CrossFit in a CrossFit gym is a very special thing, all the more special when you have a hand in running that gym. We will all, each of us, miss the experience of helping our fellow CrossFitters become better. Beth and I are so very proud of what our boys did and how they did it. We are excited to see what they will do on these new journeys, journeys made possible because they owned a CrossFit gym.

I will miss our CrossFit gym, my CrossFit gym, immensely, but I continue to be comforted by the fact that I will see you all on CrossFit.com next week…


Measuring Health Part 1: Rationale, Definitions and Background

In 2010 I had a bit of an epiphany. At the time I was a bit over 4 years into my CrossFit journey. It became painfully obvious that the genius that Greg Glassman had applied to physical fitness–a definition of fitness that invited measurement, and in turn the critical evaluation of the efficacy of different fitness programs–was nowhere to be seen in the fields of health and medicine. Indeed, an informal survey carried out in person by my friend Dr. Kathy Weesner and I made it clear that the majority of physicians couldn’t come up with an actionable definition for health despite the fact that we are charged as professionals with helping our patients become “healthy”.

At around this time Coach Glassman published a theory that health was precisely defined as “fitness over time”. In CrossFit Fitness is work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Fitness over years could be depicted as a 3-dimensional graph with axes time, work, and years. As I thought about his thesis, that a backward looking view of an individual’s fitness as defined by CrossFit was a proxy for health, I found myself with the feeling that the definition was intriguing but incomplete. In response I took it upon myself to develop a broader definition of health, one in which fitness was a primary, but not the sole marker or metric. That April I submitted a draft of my definition of health along with a new, broader base of proposed tests that would generate the data that could be used to measure an individual’s health. Over the years it has become clear that Greg and I are more in agreement than not, but a key CrossFit employee at the time had a fundamental disagreement with my thesis, and consequently the article was rejected by the CrossFit Journal. I published my draft here on Random Thoughts later that year.

For almost 6 years I have been mulling this over, threatening to return to the problem of defining and then measuring health in much the same way that Coach Glassman defined and then measured fitness. The quest was derailed by all of the usual time sinks of mid-life. In a humorous irony, the majority of my real, true free time was consumed by the task of helping my sons run their CrossFit Affiliate gym. It is time, now, for me to finish what I started in 2010 if for no other reason than to establish the provenance of the theory.

In order to effectively address any issue whatsoever it is first necessary to have a clear understanding of the definition of terms that may be important to the discussion. I made a similar statement in one of my earliest posts on the importance of understanding the difference between health, healthcare delivery (medicine), and healthcare finance. Here again I fall back on the genius of Greg Glassman: just as one cannot evaluate either fitness or fitness programs without first defining what it is that you are discussing when you say “fitness”, one must first have a definition of “health” before one can begin to measure it. What exactly is “health”? What does it mean to be healthy?

Let’s return for a moment to the physician survey that Dr. Weesner and I did in early 2010. During face-to-face meetings we asked groups of physician colleagues to give us their definition of “health” or “healthy”. The majority of the answers couldn’t have been less inspiring or more disappointing. Indeed, the most common answer was “I don’t know”! Not very comforting, that. The second most common answer was as anticipated: health is the absence of disease. In our American medical system of “disease care” this is an understandable response, of course, but as the basis for the development of a true measurement of “health” it is obvious on its face that this definition has never translated into any actionable metric. Why? Well for one it fails entirely to take into account the very real importance of “fitness”, the expression of health. More specifically, like fitness as a proxy for health, “absence of disease” also fails to address a key requirement for any measurement of health: there is no forward-looking predictive value to simply stating that you have no disease today.

A measurable, actionable definition of health is one that takes into account the degree that disease is present or absent at any given time. It must address physical fitness; to be without a named disease but to be unable to walk up a flight of stairs should not ever be construed as “healthy”. Of equal importance to these factors, any definition of “health” that will generate a meaningful metric must have a predictive value. Your Health Value should provide some measurement of your future likelihood of being disease free and fit. Our little survey of our physician peers did produce just such definitions. Given these requirements I propose that the following are actionable definitions that can be used in healthcare to create measurements in precisely the same way that Greg Glassman’s definition of fitness is used in that realm:

HEALTH: The state in which no infirmity of any kind suppresses, or has the possibility of suppressing the ability to express the full extant of an individual’s potential capacities.

HEALTHY: Able to perform in all ways at the farthest limits of one’s potential capabilities.

With these definitions we can move on to developing a “health metric”, one that can not only assess our present degree of health, but can also predict to some degree our ability to remain healthy. I believe this metric has three component parts: physical fitness as defined by CrossFit, well-being or emotional health, and a factor that addresses traditional or standard medical factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, genetics and the like. Furthermore, I predict that these three variables are as evident and as logical for “health” as Coach Glassman’s definition is for fitness.

One can have an otherworldly degree of fitness as defined by CrossFit, but what good is it to have a 500 pound deadlift and the ability to run a 4:00 mile if your physical achievement is driven by self-loathing? By the same token, in addition to having a normal result in every conceivable medical test your countenance is as sunny as an 8 year old on vacation, your disposition so Zen-like that the Dali Lama himself wishes he were as happy and serene, but you can’t walk a mile. This surely cannot equal healthy. You are a world-champion long-distance runner, and yet you drop dead from a heart attack, unaware that you have a cholesterol of 800. Fit for sure, but hardly healthy. Fitness, well being, and modern health metrics all have a role in an actionable Health Measurement. Vigorous debate will be necessary to parse the relative weight given to each of these factors, but as I first proposed and wrote in April 2010,all three are clearly necessary components.

In short order I will offer follow-up posts that delve more deeply into each of these three components. I will include suggestions for what and how to measure them. I will conclude with a re-statement of my proposal for a single measurement of health with my suggestion as to the relative weight of the three variables, hopefully inciting the above-mentioned vigorous debate. By doing so I wish to document the originality and timeline of my proposal, acknowledge the intellectual debt owed to Greg Glassman for inspiring me, and reassert my contention that healthcare cannot reach its fullest potential without first agreeing on both a definition of health and how to measure it.




So Over “So”

In my mind how I imagine pundits and talking heads of all ages speaking the famous Sound of Music lyrics: “So, a needle pulling thread…”

Lake Superior State has published its 41st annual list of forbidden words. Words that have been abused, misused, or simply overused to a breaking point. Number 1 on this year’s list? “So”.

Yup. “So” is the new “um”, “uh”, or “like”, as annoyingly overused as any of these, but all the more obnoxious because it is especially favored by the young talking heads of the consultative and pundit class. Seriously, whether I agree of disagree with an “expert’s” opinion I can hardly listen to NPR, CNN, FOX, or even the NFL Today. Every sentence begins with “so”. It’s as if there’s a clause in each speaker’s  contract mandating that you do so.

See what I did there? That’s part of what makes it all so frustrating (see, I did it again). “So” is a perfectly good word, one that has so many legitimate uses it’s nothing short of criminal that it has been captured and held hostage by an undisciplined intelligentsia and their associated wannabes. Just as you don’t hear truly gifted speakers pepper their spoken thoughts with “uhh” and “um”(I never found this particular POTUS to be all that impressive as a speaker because of this), so, too, should we be spared an assault by this more pretentious verbal tic.

Here’s a resolution (see what I DIDN’T do there): I am giving an instant downgrade to the value of whatever is begin spoken by whoever whenever and wherever if he or she insists on beginning the majority of sentences or new thought threads with “so”. Even more so (Huh? Huh?), I’m thinking that it’s perfectly appropriate to simply tune out or turn off anything and anyone who does that. They all tend to be uber-plugged in to screens and tech and such, and if I did I’d probably have a ton more time to do stuff like read a book, pet Abby the wonder dog, or get on the floor and build a wooden block castle with little Landon, my grandson.

Do, ray, me, fa…la, tee, dah. So there.

Doc or Trainer: Owning Your Own Job

We are starting to see some turnover among the OG CrossFit Affiliate owners. Some, like Skip, were in literally on the ground floor, and a successful Box rode them into the sunset (enjoy your retirement!). Others, like Steve and Kelly, have nearly 10 years into ownership as they approach both mid-career and mid-life. They turn over a highly successful business and take on the role of “Founder” (can’t wait to see what’s next for you!). Some owners have left the CrossFit fold and changed the name and structure of their gyms. There have certainly been some closings, typically folks who either didn’t really know what it was they were getting in to, or found that being the owner of a job is more than they bargained for.

As such, the successful CrossFit Affiliate is much like every other small business where the owner is also operator. My day job is like that: if I don’t show up for work no revenue is generated. A huge percentage of small businesses run just like this. What you own is not so much a business as it is owning your own job.

With all of the talk of exercise as medicine lately, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the megatrends at work in the fitness industry and medicine when it comes to practitioners. In medicine we are in the midst of what is nothing short of a diaspora with physicians leaving the private practice of medicine for employment in ever-larger organizations. It should be noted that this phenomenon is in direct response to government action. Men and women who once owned their job, with all of the responsibilities (payroll, rent, etc.) and freedoms (hours of operation, client experience, etc) now work is settings where process and protocol is dictated to them, and fidelity to the organization has primacy.

Thanks to CrossFit and the CrossFit Affiliate model, the megatrend in fitness is exactly the opposite. Trainers have been unleashed from the corporate environment where salesmanship is the most highly regarded skill, and put in charge of a job where outcomes drive the business. Affiliate owners are the new private practitioners of fitness, in charge of everything from programming to toilet paper.

A certain tension has always existed between large medical organizations and smaller private practices. It should come as no surprise that similar tensions exist between CrossFit and its Affiliates and large fitness businesses and their partners. Large organizations crave control and abhor independent competition. Indeed, for those behemoths the only thing worse than independent competitors is being shown up by them. You know, like getting better surgical outcomes or having clients who look like the crowd at the Games. Large organizations often turn to government to suppress this type of competition and make the megatrends flow their way.

There are several important points to be made from this comparison. First, of course, is that every Affiliate owner and every member at every Box should fight alongside HQ is this battle. Trainers get better with more experience, not with more certificates.
Trainers who own their jobs also own not only their outcomes but everything about the experience of their clients. Just like a private physician. I’m biased, of course, but this is well worth fighting for.

For those fortunate enough to train people for a living the reality is that you don’t, and likely never will, own a business. There are very few large CrossFit businesses. For every CrossFit NYC or CrossFit Eado there are 3 or 4 hundred boxes run primarily by the owner. What you own is your own job. You’ll need initiative, passion, and resilience. A thick skin is helpful, too, because you’ll get plenty of feedback on that job. With a little luck you, too, may one day leave behind something significant enough that there is someone there to carry on when you leave.

There’s some turnover in Affiliates. At the moment nothing like a trend exists. Owning your own job is not for the faint of heart, and some will find it not their cup of tea. Others, like the OG’s above, will leave for that next thing on the horizon. What mattered is that they had the opportunity to own a job and took it, creating something that will live after they have gone.

The best boss is the client (or patient) who chooses you. The chance to work for them is worth fighting for.

I’ll see you next week…

Minimum Effective Dose: CrossFit Version

CrossFit HQ just published the CrossFit Games ticket information. Pretty exciting. Now that Games Open 2015 is complete, we , and trust me, everyone in every Box is gonna start thinking about how they will prepare for next year’s Open experience. Really. There are some very high quality CrossFit sites with a proven track record of producing CrossFit Games competitors who are publishing supplemental training programming for 2016 Open Athletes. Heck, I’m “borrowing” some stuff from Ben Bergeron (thanks Ben!) for my son Randy’s Box. Innumerable FB threads and blog posts host spirited discourse on “Competition Training”. Too much/too little. Goldilocks is lost in the forest of Open training.

Fear not. I am here to guide you.

Why do you do CrossFit? This is a proxy for “What are your goals?” It’s really that simple. Really. That’s not to say it’s not hard, though. You must sit yourself down and have that little chat. Why am I doing this? What is the outcome I seek? It goes back to Coach Glassman’s Black Box theory of research: define the right-side output you want and keep changing the left-side inputs into the Black Box (YOU!) until you churn out the desired result. Fuel. Volume. Technical emphasis. But it all starts with knowing what you seek to achieve.

I’d like to introduce a concept from my day job (with attribution to Mark Sisson for reminding me) that applies here, especially when it comes to the siren song of CrossFit and other fitness competitions: Minimum Effective Dose. That amount of left side input that is the lowest amount of whatever–lowest dose–that will produce a desired outcome. How much food and what type. How much training. How much time. Unlike above where we do not know what talents we may or may not possess until we have completed the Crossfit Open, we know exactly how much time we have in every day, and we have a pretty clear idea about what else must be accomplished in our lives outside of CrossFit. You know, stuff like your day job, napping, nookie and such.

Whether you are a Games aspirant, a Regionals shoo-in, someone who routinely competes at a local level, or the rest of us just trying to ensure that we will be able to get up off the loo when we are 80, this is a concept that you should embrace. Start on the right side of the Black Box that is you and define a set of goals, outcomes. Seek to find the MED of the CrossFit Prescription (WOD, skill work, nutrition, recovery, etc) that maximizes the likelihood of achieving those outcomes while minimizing negative results (injury, lack of balance, life losses due to inattention to other priorities, etc.). Relentlessly re-evaluate your own MED in light of both your desired outcome and other essential priorities, putting equal emphasis on both the “Effective” part and the “Minimal”. While not particularly easy, it really is that simple.

I have long held that the most important competition in CrossFit is actually the one you wage with only yourself, the battle to be a better version of you tomorrow than you were yesterday through your efforts today. The Minimum Effective Dose is as personal as any other part of you vs. you.


Facebook: Rehearsal or Showtime?

Facebook has been accused of many things, but of late I’ve been hearing more and more about how unhappy reading other people’s timelines makes some folks. Apparently their own lives, or at least how they view their lives, seems to pale in comparison to what is being posted on someone else’s FB page. I actually used this to poke fun at a professional friend. I accused him of purposefully trying to make my life seem lame by posting pictures of himself at the NCAA Final Four and the Masters.

We can use CrossFit as a useful analogy with which to understand this phenomenon. Real life in many ways is more like the CrossFit Games than it is like CrossFit training. In the Games we have winners and non-winners; in the Box we have you vs. you. We are trained it seems from early in life to not only compare ourselves with others, but to allow ourselves to be compared BY others. In this we somehow allow the creation of a zero-sum game of our own sense of self, and we allow the scores to be kept by others as well as ourselves.

Kinda like all those singing contests now on TV; the judges are supposed to be judging only the contestant singing at the moment, the contestant to be focused only on herself and the judges. Invariably though, both judges and judged compare the contestant with others, for this is an openly zero-sum game. Someone will only win because everyone else lost. There is a subset of Facebook users for whom posting and viewing is a win-lose thing.

I’m more than OK with this for the CrossFit Games, and I’m quite fine with this for all of those silly contests (which I admit are a guilty pleasure in the White house). There is a real problem, however, if we allow this kind of process, this kind of judging, to be a metric for how we view ourselves. We have an unavoidable frame of reference bias that threatens even the healthiest among us when we use external controls like Facebook to judge our internal view of our own outcomes.

Why? Well, we tend to compare our “behind the scenes” moments, our rehearsals and our trial runs, with everyone else’s “highlight reels.” We are not usually privy to someone else’s dry runs, the failed efforts that eventually culminate in the masterpiece before us. We cannot forget our own struggles, the efforts we ourselves have made out of the limelight, and we all too often use these memories as the “compare to” when we evaluate ourselves against others.

I’m reminded of a story that my Mom  tells often and well. I am one of 4. We were pretty successful youngsters, at least in the eyes of the community and  by the standards then in place by which we (and by extension my Mom and Dad) were measured. My Mom would listen as fellow parents bemoaned this or that child-rearing difficulty, often followed by “oh Anne Lee, you wouldn’t know anything about this; your kids are all [whatever].” Mom would politely nod and smile, all the while thinking “oh boy…if you only knew!”

You see, my Mother remembered all of the hard work, the heartaches when her kids disappointed and the battles fought so that they, the kids, might succeed. The other parents were comparing their “behind the scenes” experiences with my Mom’s “highlight reel”, but she knew better. She couldn’t help but remember her own “work in the gym” so to speak.

What’s the ultimate lesson here? We all compare, and we are all compared. It would be simply lovely if life were a non-zero sum game but alas, ’tis not. The lesson is as simple as making sure that you are always comparing things that are alike. Your rehearsals with someone else’s rehearsal. Their highlight reel, perhaps shared on Facebook, with yours.

When you are comparing apples to apples you must be sure that you are either looking at the fruit itself, or recalling the labor required to fill the basket.