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.