Category Archives: CrossFit

Safe Margin?

Safe Margin?

Charlie Sims

A few years ago, some friends and I loaded up into a rented RV and headed west on an adventure to see the country. We were on the road for 9 days and experienced so much that our beautiful land has to offer.

Traveling across Kansas, we woke up at 4:00am to see a full fledged lightning storm no more than 5 miles away, running parallel to our road. We were under a fully clear sky.

We found Route 66 and hung out in the town they made the movie Cars about. We hiked through the Sequoia’s amazed at how enormous those trees are. We swam in natural hot springs, climbed up the side of a Yosemite falls, did pushups in the middle of the road in front of Monument Valley, and found a $6 steak in Las Vegas.

We did a lot in just over a week.

One experience stands apart as unique in my mind from this trip. It was about two in the afternoon, and we pulled over our RV at the rim of the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, it’s too much to put into words, even for me..

We ran through the entrance and right to the viewing area and began taking it all in.

Then a couple of the guys walked past the little rock fence and right up to the edge of the beautiful abyss. They were inches from certain death. They took the experience in with massive gulps.

Where was I? I was being the good, safe, rule-following citizen standing behind the fence. I was missing the real view because I was trying to be “responsible”…


My margin was about 15 feet at the Grand Canyon. That was the distance between “safe” and “dangerous”. That margin prevented the fullness of my experience that day, and I’ve been kicking myself since then.

Sometimes that “safe margin” is real wisdom, and going past the fence will result in catastrophe. But sometimes it’s better to push it just a little bit. Risk isn’t always right, but sometimes it is. And the rewards can be gratifying.

If you’ve been doing CrossFit for less than 6 months to a year, it’s probably best to keep things under control. Stay behind the fence and remember our principle of Mechanics, Consistency, and Intensity.

But, if you’ve been doing it for more than a year, you should probably spend time on the edge of the abyss on some kind of recurring basis. Push yourself hard enough that the wheels threaten to fall off, or actually do. This is where you become transformed. You either realize that you have more to offer than you thought, or you discover you actual limits. These are the experiences you remember. The ones you talk about for years.

They’re the embarrassing failures, and the huge PR’s! But they’re definitely not just another workout.

I don’t want to get to the end of my day, my year, my life and regret standing on the wrong side of the fence.

Have You Had Your Heart Attack Yet?

Have You Had Your Heart Attack Yet?

Charlie Sims

I was away from my toothbrush one morning during a camp out with a few of my buddies. My mouth tasted like sleep, and I was kicking myself for being in such a hurry trying to leave the day before. But we had breakfast, drank some coffee, and started piddling with the fire so I soon forgot about the fact that I hadn’t brushed my teeth. In fact, I didn’t think about it again until I got home later that evening.

Surprisingly, contrary to what my dentist and mother always told me; forgetting to brush my teeth didn’t result in a cavity. Maybe I dodged a bullet, or maybe it was something else.

Are you familiar with the idea of a lagging indicator?

Some things have immediate consequences and tend to render immediate behavior changes. If I touch a hot stove, my body will reflexively respond even before it registers with my mind. Whoa!!! Bad idea. Don’t do it.

The immediacy of many of these consequences are motivating enough for us to permanently alter our behavior. The association of negative or positive feedback is so linked to the experience that Pavlov’s Dog comes to mind.

This is where things get complicated. Often times, we do something with a negative and catastrophic consequence, but get zero immediate feedback. Or worse, we’ll get an immediate positive response with behavior that will result in an ultimately negative consequence. This is called a Lagging Indicator.

I don’t get the cavity immediately after forgetting to brush my teeth.
I don’t get lung cancer after my first cigarette.
My car didn’t break down immediately after the “Check Engine” light came on.
I don’t get fat after sitting on the couch for a day.
I don’t have a heart attack after my first doughnut.

But if I keep it up, I will.

Maybe you’re a special case, maybe you just dodged the bullet, or maybe it just hasn’t hit yet.

Sometimes the consequences are immediate, other times they don’t show up for months or years after the fact. By then, it may be too late. We’ve seen enough data to conclude a clear association between certain behaviors and their consequences.

What if the immediate feedback is unpleasant, but the ultimate consequence (read: payoff) is a jackpot?

I don’t get a six pack immediately after eating my first veggie and doing a sit-up.
I don’t get strong immediately after doing one squat.
I don’t get fit after one workout

But if I keep it up, I will.

Are You Tracking?

Are you Tracking?

Charlie Sims

I was having a conversation with one of our athletes a number of months ago. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was long enough ago that I’ve since noticed a significant difference in this athletes approach to his training.

This person showed up a couple times every week. He came in a couple minutes late to class, did a little of this and that, got real sweaty, and walked out. It went on like this for a while, and I noticed that his performance was completely stagnant, he wasn’t getting any better, just sweaty. I guess he was ok with that, but I flagged him down after class one day and asked him how much weight he had used for his front squats that day, and if he felt good about his progress. He looked at me like I was speaking Swahili.

I asked him if he’d be up for a little experiment. And he eagerly agreed to play.

I challenged him to write down the details of his workouts for 2 months. His weights, his times, his, even how he felt during and after the workout.

The two months went by, and I followed along, and amazingly the guy squatting #225 every week for a year, all of the sudden added #40 pounds to his squat. When I asked him about it, he said that he just did what we were telling him to do. Try and add #5 pounds every week.

What’s the point?

Ha! That would have been an impossible task for someone who has no idea how much weight they’re actually using in a given workout. With this athlete, the workout was about the workout until he had numbers to work with. Then it became about the progress. His goals all of the sudden became measurable.

Can you relate to this athlete?

I have 95% of all the workouts I’ve ever done since we opened CrossFit Regeneration. I keep them in notebooks. I love the texture of paper and pen. There’s dried sweat on the pages, and smeared ink. But, occasionally, I get discouraged about my lack of immediate progress. When that happens, I can look back 4 years and see just how far I’ve actually come, and that encourages me to keep it up.

Tracking is huge with what we do. With so many simultaneous goals being juggled at once, it is imperative that we have a handle on our current reality with each (thing) in order to optimize our performance. If I don’t know what my Fran time is; first of all, I can’t carry a real conversation with another CrossFitter, but additionally, I don’t have a target to shoot at on my next Fran attempt. The target defines the progress.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have visual proof of improvement!

Currently, we use Wodify for the majority of our tracking, but I don’t think anything can ever truly replace paper and pen.