Average Joe’s Programming


I’ve seen posts and photos more and more frequently on social media with clickbait about programming and what the average person needs.  Some say, “Why (Fill in the blank movement) shouldn’t be in a workout program,” “You shouldn’t call your clients athletes,” or whatever other negative title will get someone to click on the link.  I get it. They are all trying to sell something, but the constant barrage of do’s and don’ts creates confusion in an already confusing fitness world.  

So let’s break down exercise, training, and what the average person needs.  When I say average, I understand it is hard to define. After all, we are so different.  Or are we?  We all are human. We move through the day similarly, some just more than others.  We squat, hip hinge, push, pull, and display rotational and cross-crawl patterns. We can observe some facts about putting an exercise program together.  Look online, and these pieces are a part of all exercise programs.  It should include flexibility training, cardiorespiratory exercise, and weight-bearing/strength training.  This can all be considered general physical preparedness training, AKA what the average person needs.  This training will help the average person get through their day-to-day easily. 

When we start looking at movements, rep sets, and durations, we are getting into the specifics of the programming.  So what makes a successful program?

Most importantly, it’s one that someone will stick with and maybe even look forward to.  To say that a client, aka average joe, shouldn’t train using the same type of workout as a professional athlete would imply that there is physically an inherent difference between a pro athlete and an average joe.  This just isn’t true.  After all, humans all move the same way.  To go one step further, I would say the main difference between pro athletes and average joe athletes is that the average joe doesn’t have the same team behind them keeping them gameday ready and has not laid their life out in a way that allows them to recover enough to handle the loads and volumes of the pro.  However, any average joe has it in them if they so choose.  

I prefer to call my clients athletes instead of clients.  I made this decision when I looked up the definition in the dictionary; it simply stated, “one who trains” Trains, for what, you might ask? I say my athletes train for the sport of life.  Their own individual sport, and I’m just here to help guide them along the way.   So, if you have a program that you follow, then follow it to a T.  If you don’t understand it or the movements that go into it, then ask.  But if it is helping you in the sport of life, ignore the clickbait and enjoy the ride.

What is Healthy?

Healthy; I often hear people say their goal when working with me is to be healthy. However, when I ask them to define what that means, many struggle to provide a clear answer. 

Defining “healthy” can be subjective, as it can mean different things to different people. As a seasoned fitness professional, I believe it’s crucial to understand what this term means to each individual when working towards fitness and nutrition goals.

To me, “healthy” is a medical term that pertains to internal biomarkers rather than external appearances.  In my experience, it’s important to separate aesthetic goals from the concept of “healthy.” While people may have different external appearances, their bodies can still be healthy. 

Measuring internal biomarkers, such as resting heart rate, blood pressure, body fat percentage, and fasting blood glucose levels, is critical for good health. Studies have shown that individuals who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. A high resting heart rate is often linked to poor cardiovascular health, which can increase the likelihood of experiencing a cardiovascular event.

Moreover, even individuals with normal body fat levels may have high levels of visceral fat, which accumulates around the internal organs and has been linked to several health problems, including insulin resistance, inflammation, and an increased risk of heart disease.

Good nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining both external and internal health. Poor nutrition can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of several health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Additionally, poor nutrition can lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients that are essential for healthy body function.


It’s important to note that relying solely on external appearance or weight on the scale can lead to unrealistic expectations, causing some individuals to pursue overly aggressive changes. This approach can be harmful and counterproductive, leading to adverse health outcomes rather than positive ones.


Therefore, taking a holistic approach to health by focusing on both internal and external health is essential when pursuing fitness and nutrition goals. By paying attention to internal biomarkers like blood pressure, resting heart rate, and FBG, we can better understand the relationship between external appearance and internal health. Good nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits can help promote good health, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and improve overall well-being.


Establishing clear goals and working towards them with a balanced approach can help individuals achieve sustainable, long-term health outcomes. It’s crucial to recognize that aesthetic goals should be considered separately from the concept of “healthy” as it is a medical term focusing on internal biomarkers rather than external appearance. 

The Whiteboard


CrossFit is a fitness regimen that is known for its intensity and community spirit. One of the most recognizable features of CrossFit is the whiteboard, whether physical or virtual, where athletes post their results. Some people love it, while others hate it. But regardless of personal feelings, tracking and sharing our results is an essential part of CrossFit, as it allows us to test and retest our training, motivate others, and take pride in our efforts.


Tracking our results is crucial for measuring progress and setting goals. The scientific method involves making hypotheses, testing them, and analyzing the results. In CrossFit, tracking our results is the equivalent of analyzing our experiments. It allows us to see how far we’ve come and what we need to do to improve. By recording our scores and keeping track of our progress, we can set new goals, challenge ourselves, and see the fruits of our labor.


Moreover, posting our scores on the whiteboard is not just a personal endeavor. It’s also an opportunity to motivate others. The community aspect of CrossFit is one of its strongest features. We work out together, sweat together, and push each other to be our best selves. When we post our scores, we not only hold ourselves accountable, but we also inspire others to push harder. It’s common to hear athletes from later classes comment on the results of earlier classes. Seeing someone else’s score can be the spark that ignites the fire within us. It’s not about competition; it’s about camaraderie and mutual support.


Finally, posting our scores is a way of saying, “I showed up.” In a world where chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are on the rise, exercise is a potent medicine that few people use. By showing up to CrossFit, we’re taking an active role in our health and wellness. We’re saying no to a sedentary lifestyle and yes to a healthier, more active way of living. Even if our scores aren’t as high as we’d like them to be, we should be proud of the fact that we showed up and did our best.


In conclusion, recording our scores and posting them on the whiteboard is an essential part of CrossFit. It allows us to measure progress, motivate others, and take pride in our efforts. It’s not just about personal achievement; it’s about being part of a community that supports each other and strives for excellence. So the next time you finish a workout, don’t hesitate to grab a marker and write your score on the whiteboard. You might be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.

Training, Testing & Competing


Competing, testing, and training are distinct approaches to fitness, each with their own mindset and focus. It’s important to understand the differences between them in order to maximize your progress and avoid burnout.


Competing is not something we can do every day, not even with ourselves. When we compete, we are striving for perfection or trying to beat our personal best, but this level of performance is difficult to achieve on a daily basis. Most people lack the level of planning required to perform at their competition level every day, which can lead to skipping workouts and feeling discouraged when they don’t perform as well as they’d like. It’s important to recognize that competition is not the main focus of our training and that it’s okay to have off days. Instead, we should use competition as a way to validate our training and assess our progress.


Testing is a way to challenge ourselves and track our progress over time. This might involve attempting a max effort lift or completing a benchmark workout. Testing is about being better than we were before, not necessarily beating others. By setting benchmarks and tracking our progress, we can see how far we’ve come and identify areas where we need to focus our training.


Training is where we spend the bulk of our time and energy. This is where we can modify or scale our workouts to target our individual weaknesses and work towards our goals. By tailoring our workouts to produce the adaptations we need, we can make steady progress without risking injury or burnout. Training is not always glamorous or exciting, but it’s where the real progress happens. By consistently showing up and putting in the work, we can prepare ourselves for future tests and competitions.


It’s important to recognize that each of these approaches has its place in our fitness journey. While competing and testing can be motivating and fun, they should not be the primary focus of our training. By prioritizing training and taking a long-term approach to our fitness, we can make sustainable progress and avoid the pitfalls of burnout and injury. 

You are Training for Life

So you did it! You’re a CrossFitter!

You are setting PRs, and you finally know the difference between a power snatch and a power position power snatch (well, maybe you still don’t know that one, but you know the difference between a snatch, a clean, and a thruster!).

You look forward to the one hour of your day where nothing else can preoccupy your mind. No work. No financial worries. No family concerns. Just new friends, loud music, high fives and fist bumps, and lots of sweat! Perhaps your sixty minutes at CrossFit has even become the best hour of your day.

But then it happens…. Another area of your life creeps in and takes away that hour (and sometimes even a week or more). Maybe you have to work late or go on an extended trip. Maybe a family member is ill and needs your help. Maybe your kid’s practice runs over. Maybe it’s just a traffic jam.

You’re upset. Perhaps you’re even angry because you lost the best hour of your day (and before CrossFit, you didn’t have a best hour of your day!).

You might find yourself fretting that now that you missed that hour or that week, you won’t make the progress you would have made if this thing in your life hadn’t interfered.

It’s time to take a deep breath. It doesn’t matter if you miss that hour or that week. You are training for life, and that includes life’s unpredictability. You are training to be better every day. If you miss time at the gym so you can help someone or complete necessary work, then you are succeeding!

Remember, CrossFit’s purpose is to make life outside the box better. When the day gets turned upside down, think of it like a workout that isn’t going the way you planned. Pause, breathe, refocus, stay present, and carry on. The box will be there tomorrow, next week, and next month.

What might surprise you is that tomorrow may bring unexpected gains, ones that a forced time off may actually have made possible.

So if you miss a day, a week, or even a month, remember, it’s all part of training for life.


Nick Birdsall is the founder of CrossFit Acadia, CF-L2, an EMT and Firefighter, and a former Marine.

Discomfort is a Key to Growth and Empathy

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a Karate Dojo at the urging of a friend. I was in my late 20s, in good shape, and had some experience with martial arts. I had no reason to be anxious, but I was. I was afraid because I was walking into the unknown.

After a few classes, I started to look forward to going to the dojo, because I knew who I’d see and what to expect. But then, just as I’d gotten comfortable there, I had to switch to one in another town, and I was just as nervous the first time I went to that dojo! 

Not long after, I decided to pursue a CrossFit Level 1 training and credential at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. 

Once again, I was scared. I had zero experience. The course was only open to active military, veterans, and first responders, and I imagined myself walking into a big facility filled with huge special ops guys. I thought for sure I’d make a fool of myself. I almost backed out the night before, but I’d invested $1,000, and, thankfully, I wasn’t willing to rationalize my way out of the commitment I’d made.

When I arrived, I was surprised to discover that I belonged there as much as the other (perfectly normal-looking) people. By the end of the weekend, I couldn’t wait to start working as a CrossFit coach.

I started inviting people to my garage to learn CrossFit, keeping in mind that this new fitness regime, in this new place, might be scary for them, just as walking into the karate dojo and CrossFit Level 1 training had been for me.  

When we outgrew my garage, I purchased a dilapidated, foreclosed towing garage and turned it into a CrossFit box. As people started showing up, I welcomed them warmly, again imagining how uncomfortable they might feel walking through those doors for the first time. (As we have grown, built additions, and turned our gym into a state of the art CrossFit box, I joke with our oldest members about how much trust they must have had to come to a foreclosed towing garage for fitness!)  

I’ve learned two important lessons that I believe are worth sharing:

  1. The things that make you uncomfortable will also make you grow, often in powerful ways. These things might include eating a healthier diet, applying for a new job,walking into a new gym, or writing a blog. (It took me many years to start writing this one, and I’m glad I’ve finally overcome my fear of sharing my thoughts in writing). 
  2. Remember what scares you probably scares others, so bring your empathy to those new people who may come into your space – whatever space that is. Welcome them and help them feel at ease. It’s been so gratifying to see how visitors and newcomers are welcomed by members at CrossFit Acadia. I hope that our welcoming culture is a reflection of what I learned and tried to model after facing my own discomfort.

Nick Birdsall is the founder of CrossFit Acadia, CF-L2, an EMT and Firefighter, and a former Marine.

Just, Only, Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

I was talking with an athlete the other day after they had set a new personal record (PR). She was so excited… for a moment.  


But then it happened.


Before she had even revealed in her achievement, she said, “if only I had locked out my elbow on my last attempt I coulda had a bigger PR.”


My heart sank. This athlete had just accomplished something significant, yet within moments she was diminishing that achievement.


Unfortunately, this person’s experience is ubiquitous. Whether brand new members or seasoned competitors, I hear the words “just,” “only,” “coulda,” “woulda,” “shoulda” so often that if our box were paid a dollar for every time one of those words were uttered, we could build an addition! (Well, we may build that addition anyway….)


“I only lifted 50% of my one rep max in that workout.” (But you lifted it 50 times!)


“It was just x pounds.” (But those pounds were heavy for you!)


“I only did one _______ [fill in the blank: push up, jumping pull up, toes to bar, double under, ring dip]. (But remember when you couldn’t do one at all?!)


“I shoulda lifted more weight because last month I lifted x.” (But you’re going through a stressful time, and you’re pretty depleted right now. How great that you’re even here!)

“I coulda gotten that snatch if only I’d jumped under the bar faster.” (Yes, maybe you could have, so remember that for next time, and you’ll keep improving. But well done today!)


It makes me sad when our athletes fail to celebrate their efforts, successes, and commitment to their fitness, and instead consider a lower weight or fewer repetitions the actual failure. The actual failure, if we want to use that word, is in devaluing our achievements and losing perspective on the results we are seeing month to month and year to year.


It’s also disheartening when I see members compare themselves unfavorably to others. While it can be a useful practice to identify people whose abilities are just beyond yours and use them as role models; it is unproductive and unhealthy to rate yourself in comparison to others.


Have you ever noticed how often your fellow CrossFitters respond with joy and enthusiasm when they see you achieve something? While your friend is cheering beside you, you may have already decided it wasn’t a big deal because so-and-so does it all the time. Take a cue from your friend. Celebrate your successes with the same enthusiasm as they do, and the same enthusiasm you offer others.


Then CrossFit will not only be a place to grow fitter and healthier, but also a place to experience joy and self-worth.


Nick Birdsall is the founder of CrossFit Acadia, CF-L2, an EMT and Firefighter, and a former Marine.

Finding Balance in CrossFit and Life

CrossFit is well named. Its goal is overall fitness across many physical skills, among them endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, and coordination. CrossFit training is meant to be balanced and inclusive. If we push too hard in any one modality, we may lose fitness across other modalities.


This concept of balance pertains to life in general.


Most of us know professionals and business owners who have dedicated their lives almost exclusively to advancing their careers and businesses. They are financially well-off and highly respected. In the process, however, some have given up too much. They may have left little room for family, friends, and physical health. They may have money but not happiness; status but not health.


As a fitness professional, I have worked with many 50-60-year-olds who have let their profession be their focus for too long, and who desperately want to find health and happiness. Unfortunately, I have known some who never got the chance because of a sudden illness brought about by their imbalanced lifestyles.


As a CrossFit affiliate owner and coach, you may be surprised to hear me say this, but I see CrossFitters become imbalanced, too. It is not uncommon for CrossFitters to overtrain, or become obsessed with hitting personal records (PRs) or endlessly count their macros.


If you are so sore from overtraining that you miss out on playing with your family or friends, you’re out of balance.


If you avoid social gatherings for fear of eating foods that don’t comport with your dietary plan, you’re out of balance.


It’s great to dedicate extra time and energy to train for a competition, but if that extra time and energy become the norm, you’re out of balance.


It’s good to have a goal to train five days a week, but some mornings it’s worth skipping class to catch an amazing sunrise or spend time with your family if they need you.


It’s ideal to eat a healthy, whole foods diet every day, but that doesn’t mean you should never enjoy eating out at a restaurant.


It is important to set goals, but it’s also important to make sure that achieving a healthy balance in life is the primary goal.


After all, without balance, what are our goals really good for? Isn’t the ultimate goal to lead a joyful, healthy, generous, and meaningful life during our brief time on this planet?


Nick Birdsall is the founder of CrossFit Acadia, CF-L2, an EMT and Firefighter, and a former Marine.

Fitness For Life

I was recently talking with a member about my experiences thus far as an EMT and the benefits of fitness as we age and she felt it would be helpful if I shared this:


In my job as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I was recently dispatched to help an elderly person who had fallen down while trying to stand up from the toilet. She’d dislocated her hip and was stuck in a split position with her head pinned to her knee. It was heartbreaking. This woman was sharp as a tack, but her body was too weak to safely stand from a seated position.


She was mentally fit, but she lacked physical fitness.


I understand the temptation to think of physical fitness as chiseled muscles and a six-pack; a new one rep max on a deadlift; or the ability to bust out dozens of push-ups in a row. Sure, these achievements help to display fitness, but not by themselves.


Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, describes a continuum from sickness to wellness to fitness, with functional fitness as the goal. Fitness isn’t always flashy. Especially as people age, fitness can be as simple as being able to get through daily tasks.


Isn’t the capacity to shovel snow from your walkway in winter; crouch to weed your garden in summer; run with your dog; carry your groceries; and any number of daily tasks worthy goals for your entire life?


In the language of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), if there is no injury, but someone is stuck on the floor, we call what we do a “lift assist.” That’s the term for having to go to someone’s house just to help them stand up. Having spent more than ten years teaching CrossFit prior to becoming an EMT, I now understand the profound importance and multifaceted nature of fitness.


When we practice squats we are ensuring that we can always sit down and stand up. When we practice burpees we are ensuring that we are always able to get up off the ground. When we practice box steps, we are ensuring we can always ascend and descend stairs with ease.


For younger people, fitness may seem synonymous with rock hard abs. For older people, fitness may seem out of reach because they think they should have the same goals as a twenty-year-old. Both perspectives are limited and limiting.


Fitness is for life.


Nick Birdsall is the founder of CrossFit Acadia, CF-L2, an EMT and Firefighter, and a former Marine.