This post has been a long time coming. It’s not easy to write. I’m not sure anyone wants to read it. But here you go—I’m going to tell you a story.
A few years back, I received an email inquiry. I WISH that I still had a copy of it, but unfortunately it’s been lost in the sands of time (and email upgrades). To paraphrase, though, it went something like this:
"Hey! This is Ben, I’m in North Dakota right now but I’m moving to Phoenix. It’s all cold here and sh*t, so I can’t wait to get out to the heat. I’m a Marine, and lost my leg in Iraq, but I just started doing CrossFit and want to keep up with it when I move. So I wanted to say what’s up, and come in when I get out there. Later!"
The original was much better, but that was the general flavor. So, I sent back a “We’d be happy to have you come by, let me know when you get out here and we’ll get you set up” kind of reply and pretty much forgot about it.
[So this is where I take a personal detour. I don’t typically offer up too much of my personal life—to anyone, in any situation, let alone on this blog. I hope you’ll indulge me.] At that point in time, I was pretty much in the worst shape of my life. After a lifetime of athletics, constantly striving to get to the next competitive level, trying to outwork and outwill my opponents—I had retired from competition (I thought). I was still coming to terms with that a few years later, not having something to work towards. Lots of stress, general business ineptitude in a bad economy, family conflict, lack of goals, etc. were all coming together to create a mindset where I ate like crap, drank too much, and randomly wandered through my (irregular) workouts. Not a pretty picture.
So a few weeks after the email, this skinny kid with a prosthetic comes walking up to our door. I’d mostly forgotten about his email, but it was pretty obvious that this was Ben.
That was the beginning.
When we started talking, it came out that Ben had only been CrossFitting for a few months before moving down. Initially, I was a little worried about how he would hold up to the workouts, and what we’d have to scale or modify—basically if he could actually do this stuff, or whether we’d be attempting to build him from the ground up.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Ben tore into everything with (sometimes reckless) abandon. There wasn’t a workout he wouldn’t tackle head on, not a movement that he wouldn’t attempt. Sometimes we’d have to put our heads together and play around with his positioning a little bit, but generally we just treated him like everyone else and watched him work. Out of respect (or uncertainty with how he would react?), I never really asked Ben about the circumstances of his injury. If it impacted an exercise or movement, we’d deal with the physical aspect, but otherwise we didn’t talk about it.
And Ben just kept attacking the workouts.
The atmosphere around the gym started to change a little bit. It was a little harder to quit during a workout. It became difficult to not workout because you were “tired” or “sore”. Everyone was a little more positive, more motivated—including me. At first, it was just that I felt like such a wuss letting this guy outwork me. After a while, I just wanted to kind of be a part of it, ride the wave of his enthusiasm. I think it made everyone work harder.
A couple of months later, the CrossFit Games qualifying started. This was only 2 years ago, but the Games were not the behemoth that they have become. So the process was basically Sectionals, then Regionals, then the Finals. We were sending a group to San Diego to compete in Sectionals, and Ben announced that he was going to do it. Keep in mind, this is with maybe 6 months of CrossFit, coming off of extensive rehabilitation. I was a little concerned, mostly because of Ben’s relative inexperience—there were things we hadn’t worked on enough, things he hadn’t mastered yet. But, as always, Ben was committed 100% and he was going to compete.
I won’t rehash everything that went down, but a couple of facts tell a lot of the story: Ben finished 80th out of 103 competitors. More importantly, he finished every workout, when several of the competitors did not. This included learning how to do double-unders during one of the workouts.
It’s hard to explain what that performance meant, and continues to mean. Ben did an amazing video interview*, which literally brings tears to my eyes every time I see it (and sometimes just trying to describe it). The CrossFit community at large got to meet and be inspired by this guy who had been driving us. And those of us here got to know Ben on a deeper level, and understand his motivation a little better, and be motivated to try a little harder as well.
[*On the CrossFit Journal site—this short preview is free, but you’ll need to be a subscriber to see the whole thing. It’s absolutely worth watching—I’ll be happy to play it for you if you’re interested.]
I learned for the first time about the IED that had caused his injuries. About his friends who had been killed, and the choices that Ben had made to be able to move forward. And how amazing it was that this guy had come through all that he had with the attitude and the will and the drive that he has.
That was 2 years ago.
Since that time, Ben has moved to Boston (and back), travelled to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with the Wounded Warrior Project, been to the ESPYs, completed the Tough Mudder, earned a few different training certifications, and come on board as a regular staff member of CFSW. He still inspires me to try harder, and push further, and to keep going when I really don’t want to. I absolutely credit him with reigniting my own training, and I am thankful for that inspiration.
I’ve never told Ben any of this, or brought it up publicly. Partially this is just an overdue ‘Thank You’—I’ve been meaning to put something like this together for a long time.
Why now? Yesterday was the 6th Anniversary of Ben’s injury, the death of Marine Lance Cpl Adam Vanalstine, and the injuries that would prove to be fatal for Marine Cpl Adam Zanutto.
It’s easy to get caught up in the grind and to let everyday stresses get you down. It’s even easier to talk yourself into skipping that workout, or eating that oreo (or a sleeve of oreos), or just half-assing your way through life. The key is to find what motivates you, and hold onto that. It might be your family, or the shirt you just bought, or the girl of your dreams—or it might be a skinny white kid who kicks life in the ass with a prosthetic leg.
Thanks Ben. Happy Anniversary.
So, you may have noticed that the blog’s been pretty quiet for the last week or so. This isn’t because there’s nothing going on—in fact, quite the opposite!
On top of preparing for a (family) move next, the Urakawa household has been dealing with flu-like symptoms, field trips, and assorted activities. And things at the gym have been, if possible, even busier!
So, a quick rundown of CFSW-related news, to bring you up to speed:
-We bid farewell to Justin this week, who is leaving to teach in South Korea. Best of luck as you embark of this new adventure! And remember: they have Facebook in South Korea, too—keep us updated!
-The 2012 edition of the CrossFit Games Open qualification process is upon us. We have a couple of people that are competing this year, and their first workout was this week: 7 min of burpees! The requirements were to touch your chest on the ground at the bottom of the rep, and touch an object at least 6” above your standing reach on the jump. Tyler E. put up 95 reps, while Reuben just, well, was Reuben, and scored 110 reps. Great job to both of you guys!
(As an aside, don’t be surprised if all of the classes do some version of the Open workout each week…)
-Last night (Saturday 2/25), a group of us went down to watch CFSW athlete Jesse Barrett fight for the 170# title in the Coalition of Combat mixed martial arts event. The evening was a good time all the way around, and Jesse dominated his opponent to take the belt, winning via rear naked choke in the 2nd round. Congratulations Jesse! (And thanks for the shout out—which was my first)
-This week, we finished up our 6 week Strength cycle, and I know there were several PRs on different lifts. Congratulations to everyone! This next week is going to be a little bit of a recovery/transition week (so not a lot of real heavy lifting)—expect mobility, technical work, and conditioning, not necessarily in that order.
And that should about get you caught up on the news! Hoping to get back to more normal programming after the big move, but I can’t make any promises. And remember to check us out on Facebook also (facebook.com/crossfitsouthwest) —some things get posted there first.
For those interested in either learning about or getting way too in-depth with the Paleo idea, this looks like a pretty amazing opportunity. It’s called the Paleo Summit: 8 days of free online lectures and presentations (23 of them!), from a variety of researchers and paleo celebs. And if free. Starts Feb 26, runs through March 4. You can see the lineup and schedule at the link above, but trust me—it looks like good stuff.
It’s not all just ‘Rah Rah Paleo Diet’ talks, either. There appear to be a few dissenting voices, as well as some information about health and performance. I’ve signed up and I’m going to catch what I can of it, but wanted to let you guys know if you’re interested.
One of the guys that I train is going to be fighting (MMA) this coming Saturday at the Phoenix Convention Center. Details can be seen here.
A few of us are planning to attend, but I know that I mentioned it to a few other people who expressed an interest. Fights start at 6 pm, we can carpool, meet up down there, whatever. Please contact me ASAP if you’d like to go, trying to get tickets purchased pretty quick here. You can leave a note in the comments, or my number is at the top of the website.
So, now that the Clean Living Challenge is finished, how about some closure? If you are inclined to do so, share your thoughts in the comments. The good, the bad, the ugly… What were your results? What have you learned? What would you do differently?
Thank you and Congratulations to everyone who participated!
So, after nearly pulling the plug due to lack of RSVPs, we’ve had enough late notices to go ahead and move forward with our picnic potluck outing!
We’re going to meet at Kiwanis Park around Noon (we’ll head over after the 1030 class). If you come in from the Baseline (North) side on Mill, you’ll get to a 4-way stop sign. If you turn right you’ll enter Kiwanis Park. Go straight, and there will be a parking lot on your right. Park here, walk up the hill and you’ll find a sandy play area and picnic tables, etc. That’s where we’ll be!
This map should provide directions from the gym, or try this link. Hope to see you there!
It’s been documented (and here) that injuries are more likely to occur in athletes undergoing significant life stresses, especially those with low social support and coping skills. This might be one contributing mechanism. High stress leads to increased inflammation, which interferes with recovery from ‘ordinary’ physical stresses, and over time paves the way for a more serious injury to occur?
Just goes to reinforce that it’s not just about the diet, but overall lifestyle. Chronic stress is bad, whether it’s lack of sleep, a rocky relationship, or over training.
Final Week of the Clean Living Challenge! Come celebrate with some food, fun, and games!
One more week to go! The Clean Living Challenge is coming to and end, but let’s go out in style.
Anyone (participating or not, CFSW member or not) up for a Paleo-style picnic at Kiwanis Park on Saturday? Kickball? Maybe some Hoover ball? General revelry? Everyone can show off their food skillz, and get to know some of the folks outside of the gym.
We’ll plan on meeting around noon.
Please RSVP in the comments so I can get a head count.
Just wanted to give a quick ‘Good Luck’ shout-out to Ryan (Scoop), who is in Portugal for the European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships, and Matt D., who is competing in the Grand Canyon State Games Weightlifting competition. I’m proud to claim both of these guys, and wish them success this weekend!
If you’re a computer jockey that just needs to be reminded once in a while to step away from the keyboard, consider downloading this nifty little program. It’s free, simple, and is just an easy reminder to get your buns up out of your chair once in a while!
You will find: grass-fed beef, local veggies, local honey, eggs (chicken, duck, quail, emu, ostrich—although the chicken and duck might be sold out by the time we get there), wild caught salmon, cheese, and lots more.
Just a reminder that our next Ramp Up class begins on Tuesday, January 24th, at 6pm. We will be meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 pm, with an optional Saturday workout at 0930 am. The course runs 4 weeks, and costs $200.
I’ve noticed a few folks mention ‘Retail Therapy’ as a means of dealing with their sugar withdrawals. It got me to thinking: is this an actual phenomenon? Is there something going on, at a physiological or psychological level?
The effects of shopping (even window shopping) on mood is well-established, and researchers have also noted increases in activity in the left prefrontal cortex—the so-called pleasure center of the brain. As well, shopping increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps control the brain’s pleasure and reward centers*.
Sugar intake also triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. And frequent sugar binges can produce changes in the brain similar to what occurs to someone using cocaine or heroin! So, that old chestnut about ‘sugar addiction’ does have a basis in reality. And there are some interesting implications for other addictions—sugar addicted mice that were denied sugar turned to alcohol.
So, I guess it comes down to choosing how you’re going to go after your buzz: sugar or shopping.
There is hope, however! Exercise has been well established to be associated with improved mood, increased feelings of well-being, decreased anxiety and depression, and increased energy. Among other suggested pathways, this is accomplished through regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. So the next time you want that chocolate, think about going for a walk instead.
We’re slowly figuring things out with the Forums. Just figured out that I didn’t hit the correct button to enable creating topics within subforums. So, with that being fixed, you are welcome to create your own topics/threads at any point, and in any section.
Just a reminder that we’ll be having a workshop devoted to posture and flexibility on Saturday, 1/21, at 11:30. The workshop will be led by Tina and Nate, and will provide ideas to help improve your posture, body positioning, and performance.
This is in support of the CFSW Clean Living Challenge, but is completely voluntary. I hope that you will choose to take advantage, however. Anyone is welcome to attend, but there will be a $10 fee for non-CFSW members who are not participating with a member in the CLC.
"To sleep, perchance to dream--ay, there's the rub." (updated with new article link)
No, not talking about the metaphorical sleep of death, but actual, real-life, honest-to-goodness, oh-my-lord-that-was-the-most-refreshing-night-ever sleep.
Several people have mentioned that one of their ‘Recovery’ goals for the CLC2012 is to get more/better sleep. Personally, I’m a huge fan of sleep, but we don’t seem to be talking much lately. I’m hoping to make up soon, and maybe establish a relationship again. To support that goal, here are a few selected resources, blogs, and cool stuff for you to check out.
One of the most talked about books when it comes to the sleep and fitness is ‘Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival' by T.S. Wiley. (eBook, Amazon) Robb Wolf brought this to my attention several years ago, and it’s still talked about regularly on the interwebz. The basic premise goes along with the Evolutionary Fitness idea: Primitive Man didn’t have artificial light so his body was adapted to sleep according to the rhythms of the day. There are some cool ideas in this book, like creating a perfectly black sleeping area, turning off electronics and artificial light earlier, etc. The last part of the book takes a dive down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory, but the rest of the information seems pretty solid. Might be worth checking out.
This is a pretty cool article I came across along the same lines. Again looking at Primitive Man being attuned to the cycles of night and day. In Winter, there is a shortage of food available (primarily protein and fat), but also fewer hours of daylight. This caused Man to spend more time sleeping, thus conserving energy. There are many more hours of daylight during the summer, as well as abundant sources of carbohydrates (fruits, etc.). This led Man to be more active, as well as gorging on these sweet treats. The resultant insulin spike would create fat stores to help live through the Winter. The problem with Modern Man is that we have created a perpetual summer (lots of light and readily available carbohydrates), which leads to excess body fat.
For all you techno folks out there that can’t bear to unplug and instead spend evenings in front of a monitor, think about downloading F.lux (it’s free!). This is a software program that integrates with your computer’s clock, and changes the color of the monitor to match the time of day (bright and more blue during the day, dimmer and rosier at night). This mimics more closely the biorhythms discussed in the sources above.
And, as a nice general summary of tricks to sleep better, try this article out.
Late addition: This post from Conditioning Research shows the link between sleep disruption and obesity. Still want to stay up late working on the computer?
You asked for it (and asked, and asked, and asked…), so here you go: beginning Monday, January 23, we’ll be offering a 7 pm workout Monday - Thursday. If there is enough genuine interest and attendance, we may extend it to Friday. If no one shows up, we’ll cancel it again.
Our next group Ramp Up introductory class begins on Tuesday, January 24th. It will run for 4 weeks, meeting at 6 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an optional workout on Saturdays at 930.
Due to space and coaching constraints, these classes are limited to 10 participants—please prepay and/or preregister to reserve your spot.
If you would prefer not to use the link below, please contact us for other options.
Wow! We had a great turnout at the Kickoff Meeting last night for the Clean Living Challenge! Around 50 folks were in attendance—we went over the Challenge, had some great nutrition information from Andy D., and hopefully everyone got some food for thought. The Challenge begins NOW, and will run for 4 weeks, ending on Monday, February 13th.
Just wanted to provide an overview for everyone that was unable to make the meeting last night:
First and foremost: We have established a new Community Forum, which will be the primary source of information and point-of-contact for the CLC. The forum is accessible to your right under the ‘Resources’ tab, labelled “CrossFit SouthWest Community”. There is also a link at the bottom of the page. It will be a growing and evolving entity for a little while, so if there’s something that you would like to see, please feel free to let me know.
For those of you interested in the Challenge, here are the high points:
In order to participate, you must check in DAILY in the Forum (in the ‘Community’ section, under ‘Clean Living Challenge’ heading).
CFSW Clean Living Challenge 2012 kicks off tonight at 6 pm!
Hope everyone can come by for the kickoff meeting for the Clean Living Challenge! We’ll be going over the requirements, providing helpful instruction, and generally having a good time. Please contact us with any questions!
We had several people run the P.F. Chang’s Half- or Full-. A bunch of folks completed the Tough Mudder. A few ladies had a soccer tournament. And just about everybody else lived it up in preparation for the Clean Living Challenge!
Due to my inability to plan ahead, and complete lack of attention to the calendar, we’ll be having a normal schedule tomorrow in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
All classes will be as usual, with the exception of the 6 pm class, which will be our Kickoff meeting for the CLC. Hope to see you there!
Savor this last, dirty weekend. The CrossFit SouthWest Clean Living Challenge begins on Monday!! What’s going to be your last indulgence? Oreos? Dunkin Donuts? Coors Light?? Maybe you could get with the folks at Epic Meal Time, and order some of this stuff:
Regardless of how you choose to spend your weekend, please feel free to join us Monday night at 6 pm for our kickoff meeting. We’ll be having a brief explanation of the Challenge, outline the rules, and have a Paleo/Primal Nutrition presentation from a Mystery Celebrity Guest!
Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Hope to see you!
And on a ‘Dirty’ note, Best of Luck to all the CFSW Tough Mudder’s this weekend! Have a great time!
Our next Ramp Up class is scheduled to begin the week of January 23. The specific days/times have not been set in stone yet, but we have the option of another evening time slot, or a midday time. If you are interested in attending, and have a particular preference, please let me know if the comments below.
We are excited to formally announce the CFSW Clean Living Challenge! The initial Challenge will run for 4 weeks, from 1/16/12 - 2/13/12.
Specific details will be announced at the Kickoff Meeting, which will be held at 6 pm on Monday, 1/16. Listed below are some general FAQs.
Q: Why “Clean Living”? Why not a Paleo/Weight Loss/New Year’s/Quick Fix Challenge?
A: We’re going to be focusing on more than just ‘Orthodox’ Paleo eating. Personally, I think it would be great if you wanted to do something like the Whole30 concurrently with this Challenge. The focus of of the ‘CLC2012’ will be on overall Lifestyle changes: nutrition, physical activity, recovery and wellness. And, frankly, “The CFSW Nutrition, Physical Activity, Recovery and Wellness Lifestyle Modification Challenge” is just too much.
Q: Do I have to be a member of CFSW to participate?
A: This is a qualified ‘No’. If you are a spouse, friend, sibling, domestic partner, roommate, housemate, teammate or soulmate of a CFSW member, and you’re participating to provide social support and generally become a more kick ass person, you are welcome to participate. If you are a former member of CFSW, we’d love to have you. If you are just generally interested in checking things out, but don’t really know anyone here, give me a call and we’ll set you up.
Q: What does it cost?
A:There will be a $20 buy-in (which you will get back). Beyond that, this challenge will require the most expensive payment of all: your commitment. Your time, energy, and emotional investment. This will require you to do some of the hardest things you’re ever going to do: order the club soda and lime at Happy Hour, give up an hour or two on a weekend to prepare food for the week, drag your butt off of the couch to go for a run when you just want to watch ‘The Bachelor’. Next to that, $20 is nothing.
Q: Will I have to take pictures with my shirt off?
A: No, but you are absolutely encouraged to do so, for your own reference. This is not a ‘weight loss’ challenge. If it were, I can think of several ways to lose a lot of weight lost in a short period of time, none of them long-term solutions. You will be asked to take some simple measurements, but are under no obligation to make the results public unless you wish to do so.
Please ask if you have any other general questions, but I’m going to save the specifics for the 16th. Maybe put your questions in the comments section below, so that everyone else can see them and the answer.
Thank you to all of our CFSW Family and Friends!
After almost 7 years, the community of people that we have developed still amazes me. Thank you for your continued support and friendship.
This time of year, the mind turns to the classics. May I offer up the immortal words of that great Philosopher, Krusty the Clown,
“ So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from my god: our sponsor”
Or, perhaps this is more your style
Regardless of what you celebrate, may you enjoy the Season!
~ Ken, Meghan & Ben
Looking for that perfect last minute gift? How about something to tell that ‘Special Someone’ that they need to get into shape?? Our next group Ramp Up class will begin on Monday, January 9th, at 6:00 pm. (Seriously, though—don’t buy this as a gift for your S.O. unless they ask you specifically to do so!)
The class runs for 4 weeks. We will be meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 pm, with an optional third day on Saturday mornings at 0930. Saturdays will be a combination make up day and opportunity to practice the skills and exercises that we cover during the week. And a chance to get in another workout, of course.
If you are interested, please contact us for more details, or you can preregister with the link below. Now go out and finish your shopping!