Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Last June, we posted a photograph of this sign here. We value candor and outspokenness, and while the above notice effectively provides both, spoiler alert: we also agree with the core message (even though it lacks mention of the importance of each other).

Athletes at all stages of training and development—from beginners’ inquiries into our program, to those wishing to compete in the CrossFit Games or other athletic endeavors—often inquire about the nature of our program, the demands required for success within it and additional work that can be completed to expedite or enhance results.

What do you think the purpose and requirements of success within our program are? What can you do that you may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible? What have you learned from each other already, and what do you see within yourself or from other (seasoned) CrossFit-ters that not only breed accomplishment here, but may hinder it as well?

Consider these questions as you rest today and experience your week. Once you have shared your thoughts, we will parcel out ours in another post. Here, we can make each other, athletes and coaches, better.

–Melody and John


  1. tbferg | June 14, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Okay, I’ll start…

    To me, “success” in the box means that today, I was a little better than I was yesterday, whether “better” is measured in pounds or speed or correctness of form. I don’t think perfection is possible, but constant improvement is. I am successful more often than not these days, and I attribute that to two things.

    First, I have finally started to really show up. I increased the number of WODs I do each week, and I come into the box ready to work. It took a long time to get to this point, and John and I had many “discussions” about my attendance and attitude. Don’t tell him I said this, but he was right. I think dedication is a requirement, if a person wants to see any real “success” in the box. Fortunately, results happen quickly when you really make the effort, so the showing up regularly becomes its own motivation.

    Second, our coaches make it easy to trust them. This may not be true for everyone, but I rely on them to figure out what I’m capable of. I have no idea what my body can do, and I frequently think “I can’t”, “it’s too heavy”, etc. I’ve never really pushed myself physically before, so the last two years represent the first time I’ve really paid attention to my body. During one of my first workouts with John, he told me to jump up on that big blue box at Globo. I must have looked at him like he had three heads, because he actually offered to hold my hand to make me more comfortable. After some prodding, I grabbed on to his hand and jumped. I will never forget how it felt to suddenly be standing on top of that box. We did 30 more box jumps that day, and I was amazed. That was the day I started to realize that I might be able to do more than I thought, and I never would have tried it on my own. Since that day, John and Melody and Rebekka have continued to set the bar higher than I think I can reach. I trust their knowledge about what they do and about me, and so have slowly learned not to second-guess when Melody tells me to do Turkish get ups with 35 pounds. That trust is key to any success I have in the box.

    What hinders me? I still struggle with giving in to the shortness of breath or muscle fatigue; I quit too soon or take too many breaks. I envy those of our athletes who seem to push themselves far past any comfort zone regularly. It’s purely mental, and I just haven’t been able to push through. Yet.

  2. voidwhichbinds | June 14, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    What do you think the purpose and requirements of success within our program are?

    I wanted to say that success is complex, varies between people, depends on where you start – but I reconsidered. Some days, success is a faster time, a heavier PR. Some days, success is getting back to where you were – recovering from an injury. Some days, success is mastering a skill you’ve focused on. But there’s a theme to all of these things. Ya gotta be there – no – you have to be present. Success as MPH, for me, is being present.

    I don’t mean showing up – that’s part of it – but it is more. Being present, to paraphrase Siddhartha, is to be awake, aware and in the moment – because when you let everything else fall away, when you concentrate on doing that one thing really well, there really are no limits to your performance. When I hear John say “COMMIT!” or Mel tell me to “GET THERE!” or BK urge me to “focus on this one rep” and I do it, when i step onto the foundation of professionalism, trust and care – that, for me, is success.

    What can you do that you may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible?

    I need to WOD more, and work crazy hours less. Peut etre comme Les Francais – the French – live to work, not work to live.

    What have you learned from each other already, and what do you see within yourself or from other (seasoned) CrossFit-ters that not only breed accomplishment here, but may hinder it as well?

    My recovery from recent events was greatly facilitated by my crossfit family – old friends like Ted and Dave O, MIke S and Neil – and new and inspirational friends like Steve D and Christy, Stulu, Koji, Steener, Andrew and Thomas, and the list goes on… It is gratifying to try and give back to all of you.

    I’m hindered by to conflicting forces – doubt and impatience – sometimes I obsess about the WOD, only to find not only was it not awful, it was fun and I did well. Other times, I’m so intent on getting through something that i get sloppy – which is a quick trip to a lower weight or a big fat x on the board.

  3. ellebee2 | June 15, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I’m sad to say that when I joined the gym in January of this past year my goals were those associated with the typical New Years Resolution gym membership. “This year I’m going to get in shape, lose twenty pounds, look like [skinny stunning celebrity of choice here]…” But from the very first day, I realized that this was not going to be the typical New Years Resolution gym membership. It was challenging, intriguing and a rude awakening as to the atrophied state of my physical fitness despite hundreds of hours spent on an elliptical machine.

    As I began training with Crossfit MPH, I slowly came to realize that I was no longer coming to MPH for the purpose of achieving a magazine cover figure. Rather, I was coming because I wanted to be able to do twenty-five pushups unbroken or because I wanted to jerk 10 more pounds overhead, etc. I had smaller more concrete goals – goals that were helping me become a better version of me. Every day was a new personal challenge, a new barrier to break through.

    Last week I lost sight of those goals. I found myself at the end of “hold-on” doing anything but holding on. I was gasping for air and I watched helplessly as I was lapped by the only other athlete still running. Watching my peers speed past me and knowing how far behind I was, I succumbed to self pity and frustration. Instead of driving forward to the finish line I slowed to a walk. I returned to the box feeling humiliated and beaten down. My inner monologue on the way home was not much better, as I ruminated on my long list of failings: my continued inability to do a pull-up, my paralyzing fear of box jumps, my inability to keep my chest up during squats and on and on it went… I let negativity get the best of me.

    But then I reached out to Mel, BK and John, and they reminded me that it’s not necessarily about keeping up with everyone else. It’s about moving forward and achieving my own personal records. I think one of the things that makes MPH so special is that even when I finish last – everyone stays to provide encouragement and give a welcome pat on the back at the of a WOD which reminds me that while I didn’t finish first and I certainly didn’t lift the most weight – I still worked hard and pushed my own personal limits.

    Anyways, I guess this is just a long and convoluted way of saying, that while I know Crossfit requires dedication, motivation, and drive –I’ve discovered over the last few months that it also requires patience. I must accept that this is a gradual process, that six months really isn’t that long, and that there is no magic pill, no secret solution, no fast fix – I must put in the work and the time to achieve my goals.

    But that is not to say I should accept mediocrity. Rather each day I need to remain positive, I need to keep showing up every day, to bring the best I have to offer, to accept responsibility, push myself to improve my form, conquer my fears and strive to beat my personal records. For me, Crossfit is not just about gaining physical strength, but also building mental fortitude – step by step pushing past the “I can’t” to the “I will.”

    I think John Gilson of Again Faster said it better than I ever could:

    “You have to push back the threshold day after day, until last year’s traumas feel like an hour-long rubdown at the Canyon Ranch. One day, you find a threshold that takes the whole thing just a little too far, and you get scared to go back.

    The men and women that decimate your times are not superhuman. They’re not particularly genetically gifted… What differentiates these individuals is not a gift, but an unreasonable desire to push self-imposed suck beyond its logical limits. What comes out the other side becomes legendary.”

    Thanks Mel, BK, John and fellow CrossFit-ters for helping me push back the threshold each and every day.

  4. tubameat | June 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    This post has been on the back burner of my brain for about a week now.
    Here are a couple short thoughts:

    What can I do that I may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible?
    – drink more water. eat less salt. get WAY more sleep. drink less coffee (hmmm, are those two possibly connected?). go to Spa World more :^D
    – really embrace the wods and movements that i dread the most and understand that THEY are the ones that will bring the most benefit.
    – learn to choose who to listen to at the appropriate times- my gut, my ego, my joints, my doctor, my brain, my heart.

    more later probably…

    keep squattin’
    steve d

  5. cjsiegel | June 20, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I think the requirements of success Mel stated perfectly in the Right foot only lax ball drill. Sorry if I totally butcher your words, Mel, but the message I got was 3 part: WOD attendance, nutrition, and stretching. As the drill pointed out, the smallest changes can make the biggest physical changes, therefore–do your stretches! For most of us that have tried to WOD on our own, we know the value of attendance. Finally, for the nutrition segment, I still remember the words of Steve D at the 2010 kickoff: The best thing you can do for yourself on rest days is to eat properly.

    The purpose of success is much more complex, I believe. Or maybe not–I guess across the board, my purpose is always to be “healthy.” But health has a very static definition at different stages of life. I joined MPH because I really respected the cross-fit foundation of functional movements and intensity as a means to achieving health. Plus, I just felt like a bad ass doing it–“super-healthy” if you will.
    Recently, my definition of health has changed due to my condition. The intensity is no longer all about me and my mental v. physical limits. I have to set limits so as not to hurt the little guy trying to grow inside me. This has helped me gain a new respect for all of you who have worked through injuries–i agree that it’s hard going in knowing that it’s a 30inch box jump day, but it’s also hard going in knowing that you will not even attempt those jumps. Which is an excellent transition to the 3rd question…
    The group at MPH is amazing. It is that group support that makes me feel OK yelling TIME when I only did 1/2 the work. It’s inspirational to watch us function as a team; it really does help when you’re one of the last ones working to hear those encouraging yells of “get one more.” Besides the team aspect, it is also empowering watching each person pushing themselves individually. I leave every workout thinking of one person in class that day that really kicked ass. Sometimes, it’s a WOD that just seemed never-ending for the poor athlete, but they just stick with it. That’s how we build strength–physical and mental. Other times, we’re just lucky enough to be having a great day and be blessed by a WOD that compliments our skills. Those days are great, well deserved awards. The training “carrot,” if you will.
    I look forward to seeing others’ responses, and John’s and Mel’s as well. You guys are fantastic teachers and role models. If I may put you on the spot BK–I hope to see your response as well. You’ve grown exponentially as an athlete and a coach in the last 6 months. I’d love to know your thoughts and motivations.

    • b-kay | June 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      Thank you, Steener.

      For me, success = intensity. Intensity in CrossFit, intensity in nutrition, intensity in recovery.

      I find that in the absence of intensity, it is easy to forget.

      It is easy to forget what it feels like to push to that “dark place.” Intensity becomes ominous; a vague memory. For me, success is about pushing to that “dark place” so frequently, that the “pain,” shortness of breath, racing heart rate and fatigue are no longer disconcerting but rather familiar and dare I say, comforting. As OPT advises, welcome the pain and then, promptly tell it to “Fuck Off!” Simple, but effective.

      It is easy to forget the ease of mind I feel when I am dialed-in Paleo. I am human, so I occasionally fall off the Paleo wagon and when I do, I am overcome with guilt about feeding my body with foods that I know are BAD. The joy I get from a Paleo-fueled, kick ass workout is worth every “sacrifice.”

      It is easy to forget that I have a considerable amount of control over how my body feels pre and post wod and how quickly I get stronger. My back doesn’t have to be tight after high-rep deadlifts, if I foam roll afterwards. I don’t have to feel like shit pre-wod, if I do my best to get a good night of rest, and so on…

      When motivation is low and I have lost sight of my intensity, I watch CrossFit, either at the box or online. I look for moments where an athlete navigates through a workout in a way that I admire and then test out those examples in my next wod.

      I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses, lots to think about, keep ‘em coming.


  6. Mrs. F | June 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I have come back to these questions throughout the week, and each time, I have different thoughts. Here is what I have as of 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 20.

    What do you think the purpose and requirements of success within our program are? This is an unique question. It assumes success. That is what makes MPH different than any other organization, gym or otherwise. The purpose of success is to empower people. John, Mel, and Rebekka (and us by extension) have created a culture of empowerment at MPH. No athlete finishes alone. Firsts are celebrated. PR’s are celebrated. And, in each workout, there is some measure that a person can celebrate of their own success. I have learned not to diminish my successes and also not to become consumed by shortcomings. The requirements for success are to keep goals and standards high and to be continually open to suggestions and learning. We also do this all the time. Ever discount your own reps? Ever have coach tell you after a PR, “good, add 5 pounds”? Ever graduate from a blue band to a red band? Yeah. Practicing patience is also something I’ve been learning, but just as interestingly, I find myself more frequently tapping into a competitive spirit to get me through a workout.

    What can you do that you may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible? Again, to be open to coaching and suggestions externally- from Mel, John, and BK, as well as my peers- goes a long way toward helping me meet my goals. Internal motivation to help others is another expression of that openness, and that is what makes me love coming to MPH and being part of the blog and participating in the Paleo blog, too.* From a practical perspective I’ve found that giving just a few extra moments before or after class with a skill can be helpful. I want, and feel motivated, to do more of this type of skill work.

    What have you learned from each other already, and what do you see within yourself or from other (seasoned) CrossFit-ters that not only breed accomplishment here, but may hinder it as well? The number one most amazing thing about MPH is the supportive community. It is reason alone to be a member here. I think the things we do that breed accomplishment are: cheer and congratulate one another on victories small and great, sticking by each others so that no athlete ever finishes alone, staying on our feet after a workout, coaches’ encouraging us to learn and help motivate/critique each other, a culture of honesty, and again, the highest of standards. If there were one thing that may hinder this is that, as we grow, it is harder to get to know all of the great members! So, I try as best I can to always introduce yourself to people in class that I don’t know or haven’t talked to much.

    *Paleo blog, you say? Yes, several MPHers share our daily food journals with one another through a password protected blog called “Paleo Eaters Anonymous.” If you would like to post your daily food journal to the blog, send me an email to so I can send you an invitation. The PEA blog is NOT the forum under the nutrition tab above. It is separate, and is not public, so your personal dietary details are kept private. We welcome anyone at any stage of their nutrition journey, but we do want you to post. Participation is a great way to gain support and give it, too.

    Ivy F.

  7. joshm08 | June 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Q: What do you think the purpose and requirements of success within our program are?

    –To echo BK, intensity. Each workout seems to build on the other. I’ve learned that the most efficient way to make gains is to push one’s self beyond any perceived limitations each and every time. If I hold back once, that’s simply going to introduce an unnecessary delay of growth that will have a domino effect for future WODs.

    –Mind over matter. I’ve found that often, what holds me back are pscyhological limitations as much as physical. Sometimes, telling myself to “just do it” — in a clean, for example — and having the confidence that you WILL get that bar up on you — overcoming those inner voices of doubt — is as much a key to completing a WOD as physical endurance.

    (One particularly grueling WOD comes to mind: It involved heavy squat cleans and KB swings a few weeks ago. Toward the end of the workout, I found myself unable to do a clean past my thighs, despite several attempts. I was about to look at John and say, “I need to go down in weight.” But before I could say anything, John said firmly, “You’re thinking about it too much. Just clean the bar.” After a moment of rest, I surprised myself and did it, and was able to complete the WOD.)

    Q: What can you do that you may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible?

    –This is a great question, and for me, the answer is very simple: Recovery is essential. This is the one area I feel I’ve neglected. I know that some have mentioned that one obstacle for them is to simply bring themselves to the gym. I think my problem is the opposite — I am wont to go the gym six times a week and overwork myself, out of some fear that if I miss a day, I’m automatically going to get weaker and do my body a disservice. As John, Mel and BK have repeatedly said, recovery is key — growth takes place OUTSIDE of the gym –and I need to keep drilling this in my head. Christy said in that video that quality is better than quantity. So I took that to mean that it’s better to take a day of rest to ensure the maximum amount of intensity for the next day’s WOD rather than having two days of below-max-intensity WODs. One of my goals is to listen more to my body and know when to rest rather than will myself to go the gym every single day.

    –Details count. Recovery, I’ve learned, is not just about getting sufficient rest. It’s also about taking care of small details that might seem minor but are relevant — whether it be shaving down one’s hand calluses or getting proper weight-lifting shoes. A main goal of mine going forward is to use the lacrosse ball and foam roller more to iron out tension in my back/legs/etc. Indeed, I’ve found that often I’m held back in WODs because of muscle tightness. So taking care of this tightness is one concrete way to increase gains.

    So those are my initial thoughts. Thanks all for everyone else’s thoughts.
    — Josh Mitchell

  8. sonowhat | June 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I’m a bit intrigued about the first part of the first question: What is the ‘purpose’ of success in our program? I’ve had this conversation…if not with you guys, certainly with myself.** I walked into MPH not knowing a thing about Crossfit, not having ever participated in any sustained athletic endeavor and generally skeptical about my chance for progressing. The purpose of success for me has been to prove myself wrong – not just about my capacity for athletic endeavor, but about self-imposed limits in general; to turn that no-voice into a yes-man. If I succeed in what I believe to be my greatest weakness – athleticism – then I only amplify the successes borne of my strengths.

    As to what I need to do to foster that success, that answer is simple: embrace the pain.

    In others, I see mentors. I see Ivy’s commitment to form and I learn by watching. I see – and have received – Sean’s coaching from the side, and I admire his dedication to the team. I see the focus Rob and Mike bring to each class and I seek to emulate it. And I see the encouragement that so many provide to a struggling athlete and I am grateful for it. I see in several team members the athlete I want to become.

    So I keep trying. Athleticism may be my weakness, but persistence is my strength.


    **Note: I don’t, as a matter of habit, have conversations with myself.

  9. Jen M. | June 22, 2010 at 9:25 am

    In terms of success, I think that it will be defined a bit differently for each athlete at MPH. For me, I define my own success in terms of getting better, faster, stronger, leaner, but also in terms of being healthier and happier. The coaching at MPH provides the tools for everyone to achieve their own version of success – but not without putting in the work. I think that in order to achieve success within the MPH program, motivation has to come at several levels – motivation to show up regularly, motivation to give 100% during workouts, motivation to spend time on recovery, motivation surrounding nutrition. I list them in this order on purpose – because for me at least, they come at increasing degrees of difficulty. (As John can attest,) I’ve fallen at pretty much every place on that scale at some point over the past 5 years, but I’ve found my greatest success (both in body composition and performance goals) once I was able to find my motivation in all of those areas at the same time. That’s not to say that showing up regularly isn’t important, but just showing up isn’t enough. In terms of finding success, I think it’s the 23 hours a day that we’re NOT at MPH that are the most important. It took me a LONG time to admit this to myself. I used the opening of MPH as an opportunity to make a renewed commitment to myself that I would work really hard to find my motivation in all of the areas I mentioned above. And you know what, I’ve really seen a difference – especially since adding in the recovery and nutrition aspects. Since August, I’ve gotten my first pull-ups, broken a 7 minute mile, and seen a significant improvement in body composition. I also just feel generally happier and healthier than I have in a while.

    Another thing that really helps breed success is the awesome community at MPH. We’re truly lucky to have this environment in which to train and learn. There are just so many great things about MPH: the fact that our coaches are so well-informed AND they truly care about us; the fact that even the last athlete to finish (which, is me more often that I’d like to admit) gets so much encouragement from everyone else; the fact that people really care about the successes of others, be it a first pull-up, a PR on a lift, or finishing a workout as RX’d for the first time. Finding your own personal motivation seems so much easier when you’ve got other people supporting you along the way – be it with ideas, encouragement, coaching.

    I know John likes to say “greatness isn’t for everyone” but I do think that it IS out there for the taking for all of us at MPH, if we want it 🙂

  10. train2live | June 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I have contemplated these questions for some time. As I read through all the responses I am not sure I have much to add, but here is my two cents worth.

    What do you think the purpose and requirements of success within our program are?

    – The “purpose” of success can be defined as favorable completion of attempts. That is in part what we are after, to complete each lift, WOD favorably.
    – The “requirements” of success at MPH to me is to 1. Show up – not just physically, but mentally as well. 2. Be coachable – that is listen to and follow the directions of the coaches without questioning. 3. Don’t cheat yourself out of improvement (greatness or how ever you want to define – see “purpose” above), by just “getting through it”. 4. Push beyond what you think you are capable of. The days that I really do this are my best days in the gym.

    What can you do that you may or may not be doing already to acclimatize to this training environment and foster positive results in the shortest time possible?
    – 1. Eat a paleo diet and the will power to maintain it (this has been one of the biggest game changers for me particularly in terms of greater energy), 2. Rest (for me this means in bed by 9:00 every night – unless I have a gig), 3. I am pretty flexible for someone my height, but I still need to stretch and foam roll – because I am flexible I don’t do this as much as I should. 4. Watch others who perform at the highest levels of intensity and form and learn from them.

    What have you learned from each other already, and what do you see within yourself or from other (seasoned) CrossFit-ters that not only breed accomplishment here, but may hinder it as well?
    – I learn and draw energy from my fellow crossfit-ters everyday. Much has already been said about the incredible community that we are all blessed to be part of and I echo all of the remarks made. I will only add that the time I spend in the gym with my fellow crossfit-ters is the absolute best part of my day!! On a special note, I can’t tell you how great it was to see so many from our community out supporting the MPH athletes at the Sectionals. Thank you all once again.

    Dave O

  11. ChuderFace | July 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    The purpose of MPH is to inspire athletes to develop a lifelong love affair with the F-word: fitness. The word “program” does not fully encompass the MPH experience since it leaves out the MPH community and implies a beginning and end. Fitness, after all, is a lifestyle – not a goal.

    MPH helps you achieve and maintain fitness, assuming you accept and acclimate to the MPH training environment. By cultivating friendships with other athletes, MPH training methods are reinforced and validated, while simultaneously providing motivation in a healthy competitive environment.

    Accomplishment occurs when you’ve given a work out 100% and hear a coach say “good job”- a phrase not uttered frivolously. After completing 150 MPH WODs since September, I can honestly say I am the only hindrance to accomplishment; breathing truth to the cliché: I am my own worst enemy. However, with the support of the MPH coaches and community, I am starting to replace self-doubt and frustration with optimism and patience.

    For me, maintaining a positive attitude is the most challenging part of MPH. I’ve torn my hands countless times and experienced soreness in places I can’t even pronounce, and yet I keep going back because I know I am getting mentally and physically stronger. These gains are cumulative, and after another 150 WODs I’ll be even stronger and wiser despite incessant challenges.

    In lieu of continuing ad nauseam about my personal challenges, I’ll finish my answers to the three questions with some long overdue flattery. The MPH coaches and the community they’ve created are truly remarkable and embody the Crossfit manifesto. Without the MPH experience, I’d still be chasing fitness goals and existing in perfect ignorance of my own mediocrity. Needless to say, I have no regrets walking into 1469 Church Street on that fine fall day in September, 2009. MPH, coaches and athletes, thank you for showing me the light. Now, who else wants some Kool-Aid?

  12. Jessica | July 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Although I haven’t settled on my own answers to all these great questions, I’ll add a few words. I think at least one of the key requirements of success at MPH, as in many endeavors, is “focus” – a concept that shares some similarities with “commitment” and “intensity.” To me, focus means giving myself completely to the task at hand. This, in turn, demands a couple of things.

    First, focus requires caring about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. In our environment, that translates to performing movements with repeated accuracy and, when required, with speed. Second (and this is something I struggle with), focus requires minimizing wasted, extraneous energy – both during workouts and away from the gym. During workouts, it means not getting frustrated, angry, or impatient. It means not becoming distracted with the past (a missed repetition) or waiting for the future (the end of an AMRAP). After workouts, it means not letting perceived setbacks be real setbacks. It can be easy to let my dissatisfaction with a particular effort rob myself of productive motivation. At least to me, focusing means the ability to recognize when physical or mental energy is being wasted and, then, to recommit my thoughts and actions accordingly.

    That said, I know I can (aLways) Do a better job of focusing my time, thoughts, and energy on the things that really matter to me.


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