July 25, 2016

No Intensity, No Results

By Andréa Maria Cecil

To move all significant health markers in the right direction, do more work faster, trainers say.

The only way to know intensity is to experience it.

It is not a mythical creature born of grunting loudest, sweating most or cheering excitedly. It is also not a matter of opinion. It’s physics. Scientifically speaking, intensity is defined as power: force multiplied by distance, then divided by time. Simply put: Intensity is doing more work faster.

“You have to teach people how to do it,” said Chris Spealler, a member of CrossFit Inc.’s Seminar Staff and a seven-time CrossFit Games athlete who owns CrossFit Park City in Utah.

Fran, for example, is a workout most of the general population should be able to finish in roughly 7 minutes or less, he explained. The workout calls for 21-15-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups. For an athlete who is trying to break into that time domain, Spealler provides the road map: Do the 21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups in no more than 2 sets each, and the break can be no longer than 5 seconds. At the end of that round, the clock should read “2:00” or “3:00.”

“Giving people targets is hugely helpful, and I think that’s where a lot of affiliate owners miss it in the application,” Spealler said.

He continued: “Really, intensity is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

That discomfort—doing 5 more reps when all you want to do is stop—is how you become fitter.

“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise,” CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman wrote in April 2007’s “Understanding CrossFit.”

CFJ_Intensity_Cecil_3.jpgChris Spealler explained that just like proper mechanics in the air squat, for example, coaches must teach intensity.

Favorable adaptation includes improved body composition and improved health markers such as fasting glucose and triglycerides. It takes people from sick to well to fit.

“Be impressed by intensity, not volume,” Glassman is quoted as saying as early as 2002.

Crudely translated, it means this: Do more work in less time—not more work in more time.

Explained via a CrossFit scenario, if you took 10 minutes to do Fran and then did another workout because “10 minutes wasn’t enough,” you did not perform Fran with intensity. If you had, you’d still be on your back. Likewise, you will not reap intensity’s benefits.

The scenario is becoming increasingly common at affiliates worldwide.

“There’s a pervasive thought process going on in kind of the competitors’ circle that more volume equals better, and I see that leak into our regular classes where everybody wants extra work to do,” said Ben Benson, owner of CrossFit Terminus in Atlanta and coach to Games athletes Emily Bridgers, Stacie Tovar and Becca Voigt.

CFJ_Intensity_Cecil_4.jpgBen Benson, coach to Stacie Tovar, said he sees many people opt for volume over intensity with poor results.

When he started CrossFit, he remembered, the mentality was to give 100 percent effort on every workout.

“Now I’m seeing people approach them with a gaming-type attitude,” Benson explained. “It’s a very insidious problem that I’m trying to address.”

Games athletes are able to do more because they can maintain intensity throughout all the additional workouts, he noted.

“They’ve earned that volume, and they have the measurables and the resiliency to do that.”

One way Benson addresses the problem is through scaling.

“On a day-to-day basis … we do a lot of scaling to try to get classes to be on the same page, especially with finishing times. We do a lot of time capping also,” he said. “It’s a culture thing we worked on: not letting people make short workouts huge aerobic-capacity endurance tests.”

For a workout like Kelly—5 rounds of a 400-meter run, 30 box jumps and 30 wall-ball shots—he typically institutes a 30-minute cap. For Grace—30 clean and jerks for time—it’s a 5-minute cap.

“I might do an 8-minute cap (for Grace),” Benson said, adding that he tries to balance such goals with ensuring all athletes feel included. “I don’t want to make the cap so damn hard that nobody ever finishes anything.”

Most members have the ability to complete workouts in a timely fashion and also get a dose of intensity relative to their fitness, he noted.

“That’s one of the arts of coaching a group class: You have to accommodate for what is relative intensity.”

In other words: scaling.

“It’s so important when we get to driving intensity in a class,” Benson stressed.

CFJ_Intensity_Cecil_2.jpgChris Spealler, a longtime member of CrossFit’s Seminar Staff, explained intensity is about doing more work faster.

Spealler cautioned that intensity is not simply telling an athlete to “go as fast as you can” on Helen, for example: 3 rounds for time of a 400-meter run, 21 1.5-pood kettlebell swings and 12 pull-ups. If the athlete PRs his 400-meter run but falls on his back, unable to complete the remainder of the workout in the intended time domain, the coach has missed the point, he said.

“Isn’t that intensity? Well, no. In that workout the goal is to have a good time.”

Same goes for a workout such as Filthy 50, which calls for 500 total reps across 10 movements. Spealler has seen athletes go “just berserk and explode” on the workout upon the advice of a trainer.

“I honestly think that coaches think that’s what intensity is. That’s kind of a real bad idea, actually,” he said, laughing.

But those who pick up the barbell when they don’t want to and push the limits of their discomfort are doing it right, Benson said.

“The people that are approaching it in that manner, they’re getting the most bang for their buck out of their training, not necessarily with volume but with intensity,” he said. “That’s going to be, really, what gives you adaptation. And it doesn’t matter what it is. … Going to your end point—that’s really what drives physical and hormonal change. But I see a lot of half-assing it. And not necessarily seeing things get better.”

About the Author: Andréa Maria Cecil is assistant managing editor and head writer of the CrossFit Journal.

Photo credits (in order): Anne Talhelm, Dustin Tovar, Anne Talhelm

July 22, 2016

An Open Letter to Cheaters

By Mike Warkentin

Admit it: You’ve shaved a rep.

Maybe you’ve even shaved entire rounds off workouts. You might have even lied about loads or times.

Guess what: Your coach noticed. And so did the other people in the class.

Thankfully, cheaters are relatively rare in CrossFit, perhaps because “so much of repugnant behavior is about trying to get something for nothing, and the CrossFitters inherently don’t believe that it’s possible,” as CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman said in 2009.

But physical suffering can erode loosely rooted morality, and we all know cheaters exist. By bending or breaking the rules, you can reduce or end the pain and perhaps take a whiteboard win, which can be very tempting when a grueling workout demands everything you have and some things you don’t. All athletes have come face to face with the moral dilemma of the 145th wall-ball shot that didn’t quite hit the line during Karen. A choice must be made at that point, and it’s sometimes hard to make the right one. But everyone in the community expects you to man and woman up by replacing the short shot with a good rep.

Coaches most definitely understand that sometimes you forget which round you’re in. It happens. We know that sometimes you accidentally write the wrong load or time on the whiteboard because your brain isn’t functioning correctly after a screaming match with Fran. We’re aware that you can’t always tell if you squatted below parallel exactly 300 times during Cindy. These are honest mistakes made by honest people.

But some athletes cheat. On purpose. Regularly.

And when you cheat, it is most assuredly noticed.

Only you know if your chest touched the floor.

Maybe your dishonesty wasn’t noticed right away, and maybe you didn’t hear the discussion after you put your score on the board and left. But eventually your peers and your trainers figured you out. It doesn’t take too many “weren’t you ahead of him?” conversations to solve the mystery without the crime lab.

Here’s some info: Facebook hosts a group for CrossFit affiliate owners, and it’s almost 10,000 strong. In that group, trainers discuss all sorts of things, from cleaning gym mats to teaching muscle-ups. Despite the overwhelmingly large number of honest people in any gym, you usually don’t have to scroll very far to see a post like this: “An athlete at my gym is cheating, and members and coaches are starting to complain. It’s ruining the atmosphere. What do I do?”

Let it be said again: If you cheat, your coach noticed. You have fooled no one.

CFJ_Cheating_Warkentin3.jpgAdrian “Boz” Bozman didn’t see your shallow squat, but he knows about it, and he’s disappointed.

How did your coach catch you? Coaches know approximately how long it takes to complete certain workouts. Coaches also know your current abilities and level of fitness. When an athlete posts a score outside the expected range, a coach notices. That score might mean an athlete suddenly had a breakthrough—like Awkward Dude’s legendary set of 50 unbroken double-unders that came from nowhere and cut a full 10 minutes off his Filthy Fifty time. But in general, athlete progression follows a pattern any coach can see, and anomalies stand out. Big time.

Coaches also know how long it takes to do 21 thrusters, for example. It’s just an ability we’ve acquired after watching 2 million reps. Beyond that, we know every movement has a maximum cycle time. Even Ben Smith can only go so fast. When you’re working through 30 wall-ball shots to 10 ft. and you roll on to the next movement after 35 seconds, alarm bells go off in our heads because physics won’t allow that time. We’ve also coached three classes in a row, so we know that your rest break couldn’t possibly allow you to beat the guy who went unbroken two hours ago.

We sense disturbances in The Force, young Jedi.

Further, competitive athletes always count each other’s reps, either by absentminded habit, as a spot check or as part of an attempt to game your time and beat your ass. If you’re training at the end of the 5-p.m. class, it’s guaranteed your reps are being counted by a rival who arrived for the session at 6. Believe it, and rest assured that someone noticed your set of 17 kettlebell swings in the final round of Helen.

Some coaches attack the problem head on and simply tell athletes their scores aren’t correct. This, of course, addresses the issue but often leads to emphatic denials, arguments and bad feelings. Other coaches soft-sell it by questioning the athlete to see if the correct score was written on the board, which often leads to resentment and bad feelings. Some coaches ignore the issue because the athlete is ultimately cheating only him- or herself, but this, too, leads to bad feelings in members who note injustice on the leaderboard. Some coaches stand beside suspicious athletes and count their reps out loud, which usually leads to bad feelings and a lack of attention paid to other clients in the class.

The obvious point is that cheating causes bad feelings. You’re breaking the contract that binds all members of the community: We put a number on the board, you do that many reps, then you tell us how long it took. Accept a high five and have a protein shake. Same time tomorrow.

CFJ_Cheating_Warkentin2.jpgYes, the final inch matters a great deal.

But some people cheat. They cheat because they’re lazy, they cheat because they want to win, they cheat because they lack moral character and don’t see the problem, they cheat because they’re embarrassed about their current fitness level, and so on. The reasons are endless—and they’re all bullshit.

So let it be said once more: We all notice when you cheat. And we want you to stop.

About the Author: Mike Warkentin is the managing editor of the CrossFit Journal and the founder of CrossFit 204.

Photo credits (in order): Justin Jindra, Alicia Anthony/CrossFit Journal, Dave Re/CrossFit Journal

July 19, 2016


The CrossFit Games are the world’s premier test to find the Fittest on Earth™. They are world-renowned as a grueling test for the world’s toughest athletes and a thrilling experience for spectators. Since its inception in 2007, the CrossFit Games have become “one of the fastest growing sports in America,” according to Forbes.

There is no other true test of fitness.

The Games were created to fill a void—no other true test of fitness existed. From Ironman triathlons to the NFL, all other athletic events neglected to accurately test fitness. Even decathlons, while testing a relatively wide range of abilities, missed vital components of physical fitness.

The CrossFit Games events are made up of a broad range of functional movements. Functional movements move large loads, long distances, quickly. These movements also form the basis of our exercise program. Make no mistake—the CrossFit Games are designed to test, not train, fitness. The goal is to find the fittest athletes, not to produce an easily replicable workout program.

The Games are a three-stage journey.

The Games season is broken up into three stages. The first stage is the Open. This five-week, five-workout competition is held in the winter in CrossFit affiliates and garage gyms around the world. Workouts are released online each Thursday, and athletes have until the following Monday to submit their scores. Anyone who’s at least 14 years old can sign up, and join in the first stage of the CrossFit Games season. This year’s Open kicks off February 25, 2016.

The top athletes from each of the 17 regions qualify for the second stage of the competition—regionals. The regionals are live, three-day competitions that are held over three weekends in May (May 13 – 29, 2016). The top athletes from two or three regions combine, and compete for the five qualifying spots for the CrossFit Games .

The season culminates in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on July 19 – 24, 2016. At this point in the season, the field has been whittled down from hundreds of thousands of athletes in the Open to the world’s fittest 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams, 40 teenagers, and 200 masters. The CrossFit Games rank the world’s fittest, and determine who is the Fittest on Earth.

A key element to a fair test of fitness is the unknown and unknowable. Athletes cannot train for what they do not know. At each CrossFit Games, the athletes engage in a series of challenges unknown to them until right before the competition. The combination of highly trained athletes and unknown events makes for an explosive mix.

May only the best win.

The Games are a playing field where the fittest athletes are given a chance to distinguish themselves through consistently exceptional performances. In a single weekend, the CrossFit Games test athletes’ capabilities across broad time and modal domains. A wide variety of different events are intentionally included. In the past, these have ranged from dusty hill sprints to sandbag carries to ocean swims and endurance events. Future events will include even more surprises.

In order to be satisfied that the CrossFit Games winners are truly the Fittest on Earth, we need to be confident the champions would also win other good tests of fitness.


The Games use a relative scoring system. That is, athletes are rewarded according to their placing in each event relative to their peers—not according to their absolute performance on that event. To the degree which we’ve done our job, the Games athletes are the 40 fittest men and 40 fittest women on Earth. All of them have qualified through multiple steps to get there. It’s up to the Games to determine who among them is the fittest.

A growing sport.

Interest in this sport continues to increase, along with the size of the CrossFit community. Last year at this time, there were just more than 11,000 affiliates. Today, we have surpassed 13,000. 2016 promises to be a landmark year for the CrossFit Games.

By Brittney Saline

Thomas Seyfried, Dr. Eugene Fine explain how cancer is affected by sugar, insulin and inflammation.

Accounts of deadly tumors date as far back as 3,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt.

Yet despite centuries of study, cancer is—after cardiovascular disease—the world’s second-leading cause of death, claiming more than 8 million lives in 2012 alone, a number that’s expected to nearly double over the next 20 years.

Prevailing theories on the origin of cancer held by most researchers and oncologists today dictate that cancer is thought of predominantly as a genetic disease, whereby damage to a cell’s nuclear DNA turns the healthy cell into a cancerous one.

But what if we’ve only been studying a piece of the puzzle for all these years? What if cancer is just as much about what we put into our bodies as the genes we were born with?

Thomas Seyfried, a Boston College biology professor with a doctorate in genetics and biochemistry, disagrees with the idea that cancer is primarily a genetic disease.

“That’s all misinformation,” said the author of the 2012 book “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.”

July 18, 2016


July 13, 2016

My 5 Key Habits


Here are 5 simple and incredibly powerful things that will improve your all around way of life. If you work at them daily they can change your life. Like anything, it just takes some practice, and some belief.

1. Set big goals, then break them down

I never aim low. If you want to achieve big things in this life, I believe you have to set major long-term goals that push your limits and really stretch your abilities. Running a 5k might be your big goal right now, or maybe it’s to add 50 pounds to your squat. It doesn’t matter. Set the bar high, then break it down into small, attainable goals that you can work on every day.

Build belief by taking small daily steps, just one training session at a time. Don’t focus on the end result. Great long runs begin with mastery of single foot strikes. If you want to squat big it starts by adding just a few pounds. Relentlessly take small steps and your goal will be within reach before you know it.

2. Always try new things

You might know the quote, it’s been said many times before. “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” It makes perfect sense, so why do so many people keep expecting their life or body to change when they are so resistant to new experiences and experiments?

Make a habit out of saying yes more often, even if you do feel that resistance at first. You will discover that sometimes the things you didn’t believe you would enjoy become some of your new favorite past times. You won’t know unless you try.

3. Do good without expectation

It’s easy to see when someone is acting with the wrong type of motive. Never pay it forward expecting great things to come your way in return. That’s not the way the world works. You have to learn to do good just for the sake of doing good.

It’s smile stuff. Open the door for someone, smile as they pass by (for no reason other than to pass on a smile), tell a Sales Associate’s Manager how nice they were and how they helped you. When you start a project or a venture don’t think about the money you could make off of it. Instead, focus on maximizing the value you can provide to others people. That’s how any real business is built anyway.

Selfless acts are highly rewarding. The feeling of helping somebody is a lot better than the feeling of getting something for yourself. So, give more often. The more you do it the more you’ll focus on what matters most, the effort, the daily work, and the additional opportunities for good that it all creates. You’ll see, the big goals will start falling more often the more good that you do. It’s simple and super rewarding.

Try it.

4. Learn to put yourself first sometimes

You have to give, but there has to be limits.

So much of our lives revolves around doing things for others, which is great. No matter what you get out of this world, I believe you can only be your happiest self once you find a way to give something unique and valuable back. But all that giving can be hard. It can drain you, and that’s not good for anyone in your life, especially you.

Know your worth. Be selfish with some of your time. Your family, your kids, whoever, they’ll understand. In fact, they’ll be glad you did it soon enough.

You don’t have to go missing in action, just make sure to schedule personal hours on your calendar to read, or maybe enjoy one of those brand new past-times you’ve discovered lately. In any case, it’s OK to be selfish sometimes. Place more focus on rejuvenation and you’ll be happier and more effective during the day.

Attitude is everything

5. Purge the negativity from your life

You have to surround yourself with positivity if you want to accomplish big things, there’s no way around that. Realize that there can be no room in your life for negativity. Purge it!

Stop being mean to yourself. Don’t talk shit about others, negativity only breeds more negativity. This is a vicious cycle that will pollute your life and derail your progress. So, give yourself some slack and allow others a break or two as well. If you’re enjoying the day, others around you will be too.

There’s nothing in your way, apart from yourself. Build great habits and create the life you want. It’s your decision.


Today we’re honored to have another guest post from my friend and author Amanda Kolman.  Some of you may not relate to this, but I know SOOOO many people who will…Enjoy!

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It’s time I confessed what I have known in my heart forever and ever. I don’t like to work out.  I really don’t.  Not even a little. Oh, how I wish I was one of those people who loved to run! How I wish I was one of you lovely things who couldn’t wait to jump out of bed and head to the gym in the morning. Instead, this is me:

In Winter: It is WAY too cold to get out and go to the gym.

In Summer: It is WAY too hot to get out and go to the gym.

In Spring and Fall: It is WAY too beautiful to be spending time inside the gym.

And so, I often go cart wheeling off the wagon for the most minor reasons.  Actually, I don’t cartwheel.  I never learned that particular skill because well…there was never a convenient time. But, I hop off the wagon and start to have conversations with myself about why I don’t need to go anymore.

Reason #1.  The shape of my body hasn’t really changed much in the last few years.  I think what I’ve got is what it’s gonna be.  So, am I going in order to change it somehow? Because that is probably futile.

Reason #2. I have more important things to do. Like…a lot of other things that could use attention.

Reason #3. I don’t want to. I am tired of hurting all the time. I deserve a good, long break.

Honestly, all of these reasons that I use to convince myself I don’t need to go are actually true.  And there are plenty more where those came from. This is my reality, folks.  There is nothing here to commend me to the fitness hall of fame but this is the cold, hard truth. Most of the time, I just plain don’t want to do it and I am skilled at finding some way to get out of it.

Eventually though, I am always compelled to go back (usually sooner rather than later because that “first day back after too long of doing nothing” kind of sore muscles is a highly motivating kind of pain.) There is something that almost always snaps me out of my funk and moves me forward, back into the gym. It is simply this: There is more I want to do in this life.  More I’d like to experience.  More I’d like to contribute. More I’d like to see and learn. And I want a body, inasmuch as it is up to me, that can get me where I need to go. I don’t want to be held back from living life by a body that is limited because I stayed still and it decided it didn’t need to function anymore.

I’m grateful that I start to feel a loss when I don’t exercise. I think it’s my heart’s way of saying, “We’ve got stuff planned that you’re gonna need some cardio skills for. Let’s go!”

I will probably never be that girl who loves to exercise.  What I am doing now in CrossFit is the closest I have ever come to enjoying exercise and, let’s face it, that is probably because it’s social. But, I can preach to myself what I say to my kids all the time. We don’t always love everything we do. But we do it because it’s necessary or right or important.

Because of that, on most days, this is me:

8:45 am: Come on, girl…there ‘s a barbell with your name on it at the gym. *big sigh* Alright. Let’s go

July 5, 2016

WODing Through Vacation

By Coach Cassie Hsu

Well just like that the Summer is here and school’s out this week, so that means summer vacations, BBQs, pools, beach and so much more.

Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family, it may not always fit into your schedule to pop into a local CrossFit gym. If that’s the case, have no fear! Here is a list of WODs you can do in your hotel room. I’ve also included a couple you can do in the hotel gym so that the globo gym people on the ellipticals can give you crazy looks.

Also, its very easy to download a number of free (or $0.99) CrossFit timer apps on your smartphone or tablet so that you can even time yourself. You can even download tabata timers too!

If you blow through all of these, feel free to text me anytime and I’d be happy to send you a WOD! 🙂

1. 10 RFT: 10 push-ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats

2. Invisible Fran: 21-15-9 of air squats and push-ups

3. 8 RFT: Handstand (hold) 30 seconds, 10 squats

4. 100 burpees for time (if you’re with someone else trade off every other)

5. 10 RFT: 10 walking lunges, 10 push-ups

6. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 burpees and sit ups

7. Brenton: 5 RFT: Bear crawl 100 feet, standing broad-jump 100 feet (do 3 burpees after every 5 broad-jumps)

8. 21-15-9: Thrusters with 45lb/30lb dumbbells (should be in hotel gym, unless you travel with your dumbbells), burpees Outcasts 6 Issue #7 June 2016

9. 100 DB Push Press with 45lb/30lb Dumbbells (if that’s too easy, at the start of every minute perform 3 Burpees or 3 squats until you finish)

10. 10 min. EMOM: 10 thrusters with 40lb/20lb DB’s, 20 Double Unders

11. Run 1 mile on treadmill as fast as you can

12. 4 RFT: 10 Tuck Jumps, 10 Pushups, 10 Situps

13. 250 jumping jacks for time

14. 15 min. AMRAP: 5 Handstand push-ups, 10 Pistols

15. ³Annie´ 50-40-30-20-10 Rep Rounds for Time: Double-Unders, Sit-ups

16. 21-15-9: Handstand Push-ups, Dips (use chair or bench), Push-Ups

17. For Time: 21 Pushups, 42 Squats, 15 Pushups, 30 Squats, 9 Pushups, 18 Squats

18. Beach WOD For Time: Run 400 metersish (run in the sand about 1:30), 50 Squats, Run 400 meters, 50 Push-ups, Run 400 meters, 50 Squats, Run 400 meters, 50 Push-Ups (I would recommend doing the first half of the workout away from your hotel and then head back to your hotel on the 2nd half)

19. With your full medium size suitcase for practice: Run down 2 flights of stairs with luggage, Push it overhead 5 times (you can use shoulder press, push press, or push jerk)/on the 5th rep, keep it in a overhead position and walk up every other stair)

20. 25 Burpees, 75 Squats, 75 Sit ups, 25 Burpees

21. Tabata: Push-Ups, Sit Ups, Squats Then 3 Rounds Max Handstand Holds (you should be able to do them on your hotel room door)

22. 2 min. Hollow Rock hold then 12 min. AMRAP: 12 lunges, 12 squats, 12 burpees. Immediately following end of AMRAP do 2 more min. of Hollow Rock hold

23. 250 air squats for time (try to do sets of 50)

24. 15 min. AMRAP: 7 dumbbell cleans (go heavy), 7 dumbbell thrusters, 7 burpees

25. 18-15-12-9-6-3: DB Power Cleans (55lb/35lb), step ups on a bench (or do jump overs the bench)


Hope you enjoy and happy summer!

June 17, 2016

21 + 15 + 9 = Better Teachers 

By Julie Potts


A few months ago, I walked into a CrossFit box hoping to learn new ways to get in shape. What I did not expect was the insight CrossFit would give me into my career as a kindergarten teacher.

Watching a CrossFit class is like witnessing the most perfectly differentiated and inclusive classroom. Every athlete is completing the same workout, but all work at very different levels. Some do pull-ups while others do ring rows, and some squat with 75 lb. while others lift 200 lb. or more.

The structure allows me, a beginner, to attend the same class as a competitive CrossFit athlete. I don’t feel threatened or unsuccessful, and he or she doesn’t feel bored or unchallenged. This structure is what I strive to achieve every day in my classroom.

I was always a fairly successful student, and I don’t think I’ve been able to truly empathize with my struggling learners until my CrossFit experience.

Imagine if I had walked in on my first day of CrossFit and the coaches told me to do as many pull-ups as I could. I am hardly strong enough to hang from the bar, much less attempt pull-ups. What if they did not give me an alternative or became frustrated with me for not trying? No matter how angry they might get, I just can’t do a pull-up.

I think of my students and how some activities are simply not appropriate for certain learners. No matter how badly I want them to read or write at a certain level, they might not be ready, and forcing them to attempt tasks that are inappropriate is only going to lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure. Just as I would have walked right out the door if coaches insisted I do pull-ups, children will give up if we give them tasks that are out of their reach.

My definition of having high expectations for my students has changed since starting CrossFit. I used to think “high expectations” meant a goal for all students to read at a certain level or achieve a certain score on a writing or math test. What I’ve realized is that I can have high expectations for all students, but those expectations do not need to be the same for every child.

Just as I can have a great workout that will not come close to the level of the competitive athlete at the rack next to me, a struggling learner can complete an incredible piece of writing that might not contain many letters or words. I am still working the same muscle groups and becoming stronger every day, just as my students are becoming better readers and writers every day, even if some aren’t yet reaching the milestones the department of education would like.

I needed introductory training sessions to teach me the basics, and I still need the coaches to check in with me more frequently during class workouts. I am not ready for some exercises, and for each I have an alternative to strengthen the same muscle group. It’s not embarrassing to do something slightly different, as everyone knows we all work at different levels.


I have already made changes to my classroom activities and expectations, and I look forward to continuing to develop a learning environment similar to the one I experience when I attend CrossFit classes.

Psychologist Lev Vygotsky taught us to keep tasks within a child’s zone of proximal development (ZPD), providing her with experiences that challenge her just enough to move forward but not so much that she becomes frustrated. Success is unlikely if a child is constantly pushed past her ZPD and into frustration and failure, just as it would be impossible for me to succeed if pushed past my physical limits or given a task my body simply cannot perform.

Will I be able to do a pull-up eventually? Yes! When my body is ready for it, just as all my students will read and write when their minds are ready.

About the Contributor: Julie Potts is a kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts. She started CrossFit in January 2016 at The Fort CrossFit in Hampstead, New Hampshire.


May 17, 2016

Spicy Tuna Cakes

By NomNom Paleo


1 large garnet yam/sweet potato (12-14 oz)

3 Scallions, finely chopped

2 Tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

2 Tablespoon Ghee, plus 1 additional tablespoon for greasing muffin tins

10 oz. canned albacore tuna, drained

Kosher Salt

Freshly-ground black pepper

Zest from ½ medium lemon (about ½ teaspoon)

½ medium jalapeno pepper, finely diced (about 1 tablespoon)

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes


1. Prick the entire surface of the yam with a knife. Cook in the microwave oven on high for 5 minutes, or until the yam is soft to the touch.

2. Preheat oven to 350˚ and finely chop the scallions and cilantro.

3. Melt 1 tablespoon Ghee , 20-30 seconds and grease a 12-cup regular sized muffin tin.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, scallions and cilantro.

5. Once the yam is cool enough to handle, peel it, and mash the flesh and measure out 1 1/3 cup.

6. Add the mashed yam to the tuna mixture, and gently stir to combine. Don’t overwork the ingredients – keep the chunks of fish intact as much as possible.

7. Throw in the lemon zest, jalapeno, and two tablespoons of melted Ghee.

8. Lastly, add the eggs and the red pepper flakes.

9. Scoop a quarter cup of the mixture into each greased muffin tin cup and flatten with a spoon or your fingers.

10. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Once they’ve set check to see if an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly. If so, they’re ready.

11. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool. The easiest way I’ve found to get them out is to put the wire rack on top of the muffin tin, flip everything upside-down and tap it on the kitchen counter.

12. They can be eaten right out of the oven or pan-fried in some Ghee or cold right out of the fridge.