#177 Twenty-Seventeen

2017. A year of massive forced growth.

In summary…

A painful public conflict, Bergeron, a team restructure, a mission redefined, an uneasy reintroduction to formal education, an event of events, a meltdown for the ages, and finally a break.

And the right people.

If ever a concept was hammered home this year, it was this one. The support, the expertise, the hard work, the love and friendship of those around me this year have made all the difference.

I have never experienced a worse start to a year. Nobody likes conflict, but when it’s public, it’s a different animal. Let’s just say there were plenty of growth opportunities in January. It’s funny, you come through these things stronger, relationships fortified and you find out who you are. But at the time…

The whole episode taught me two things. Firstly, good work eventually gets recognised. I always hate seeing lazy, cynical work being rewarded. This year, my faith in the power of good work was restored. Secondly, self-delusion is a very dangerous thing indeed.

From there followed a year so jam-packed, it’s hard to believe it all occurred in the same 12 months. Bergeron changed the game for me. Simple, simple solutions, so obvious to the point of embarrassment, but brilliant in equal measure. I have to think it was a timing thing. It was the right information, delivered in the right way, just at the right time. I will be forever grateful.

From this flowed everything. The new team are brilliant. I say this not with any throw-away use of the word brilliant. I mean each of them, in their own way, are actually brilliant at what they do. I am bursting with pride for our coaching team. I love being part of it. Again, the right people.

We also defined who we are as a gym, and where we are headed. This has been a powerful engine driving everything forward. My favourite aspect of having a clear mission is my new-found ease with saying no. It is instantly obvious what to me what is a yes and what is a no. So many bright and shiny “opportunities” pop up and where previously I always said yes, this year was very often a hard no. I have not one single regret.

Then, I went back to college. This was a big step, and one I never saw coming. And so far, so good. The material is hugely interesting and I am learning an awful lot. I have lived with this stuff my whole working life, so there is a certain comfort with it. The structure in which they want it regurgitated on the other hand is not so straightforward. The academic world is not immune to it’s own set of politics and bullshit, which is taking some getting used to. I suppose it’s all part of the learning process, but I do wonder about the value in some of it. If this time next year I am writing about having a MSc, It will all be worth it. If nothing else, I am appreciating the struggle.

In the middle of all this was the small matter of the Filthy 150. Without a shadow of doubt, the best one yet. Like every year, you hope the programming works out the way you imagined. I was quite satisfied with it, although there were still lessons in there. I loved working with the judging team this year, what a great bunch of people. And the volunteers again were so supportive…not least, the wife. Watching her bring her skills of persuasion to the world of CrossFit was something to behold. Games athletes, company CEOs, and big sponsors were all standing on the floor of the National Show Centre saying, “I am in Dublin and I am not sure why..but here I am”. Once wifey decides something is happening, it tends to happen. In the end, it was quite a show.

Which brings me to my meltdown. My exams this Christmas were an eye-opener. I went full tail-spin, questioning my existence. Didn’t see it coming either. All of a sudden I found myself in the middle of something that I couldn’t control and it was utterly disorientating. I considered skipping exams, quitting college and just walking away. It was all on the table. At the end of the day, I had to coach myself through it. “Where’s your growth mindset?…control what you can control…take on the challenge, grow from the experience”. It got me through it…well to show up and write stuff down at least. As for the results, I will find them out soon but going through the experience was something I have learned from and hopefully will make me a better coach.

And thats the whole point. Here I am on a break, reflecting on another huge year. No work, just a holiday. Yet all I can think about is the gym and what the next 12 months can bring. I am truly in some sort of dream where everything I could possibly want is right here in front of me. The people I want to train, the coaches I want to work with, in the facility I always wanted to build. Nothing left to do but to take a breath, be grateful and kick in the door to 2018.

#177 Twenty-Seventeen

#176 Filthy Programmed

So it’s done. Workouts are written and ready for release.

Overall i’m satisfied. Simple, challenging, interesting tests. Well, I find them interesting. Here’s a few thoughts.

5 is now 4
I planned for 5, programmed 5, then 4 made sense. 4 workouts and a final for those who make it through. The volume works better at 4, not a beat-down, but enough to ensure the best teams can leave the rest behind. A floor-plan and athlete-flow re-design later and we’re all set.

Obstacle Course
This one was always going to be difficult, and thanks to Mairead from the Beast Challenge, we have ourselves a real race. Lets face it, obstacle courses are meant to be fun and thats what we’re aiming for. However, in a fitness competition with four tests, it also has to hurt. With outdoor events, the weather is always a factor. A nice crisp autumn day would be nice, but honestly, I’m hoping for the wettest, windiest, dirtiest day of the year.

Scaled? Intermediate? RX?
I hate these terms. Everyone has their own definition to the point of meaninglessness. But that’s what we have to work with. Most teams don’t sit purely in any one of those categories. Its usually a mix, so thats what we programmed around. Mainly Intermediate challenges with RX or scaled elements to test/accommodate the athletes at both ends of the spectrum.

This is not a combine. We are not simply gathering performance data on a range of exercises and seeing who’s numbers are best. We have 4 events with heavy elements, gymnastic components, odd objects, all mixed together. We will run, row, bike, ski. Are we testing the ten physical skills equally? No, but thats the idea. Simply put, its CrossFit.

In summary
We have a teamwork-burner, a technical test with strategy, some fast grunt work and an obstacle course. I tried to make them easy to judge, easy to follow and easy to attack…but not easy. What matters most is that teams have a great weekend with each other, and then the best team wins. I hope everyone is enjoying their training and bring their best on the 21/22nd.

The first workout announcement will take place on October 6th.

#176 Filthy Programmed

#175 Simple, Not Grand

One of the best programmed events I have been to in Ireland was the Blanchardstown Throwdown this year.

Hats off to Andy Ewington.

He managed to come up with very simple workouts that were at the same time, very interesting.

Thats the sweet spot.

Its in the making them interesting that things can get very complicated very quickly.

You start off with a simple couplet and before you know it, you have a part a and b, multiple partner transitions, rules for those transitions, separate scoring for both parts…layer upon layer upon layer

Shit show.

The other extreme is just as bad.

Power cleans and burpees will do. Eh, maybe thrusters and pull ups next. Then, assault bike. Lots of assault bike.

Done. Grand. Sure it’s all grand.

So here I am again, programming Filthy, trying to keep it simple, but not grand.

The team element is the crux. Challenging 4 athlete’s fitness in 20 minute workouts that are interesting yet not complicated.

I see Niall mentioned syncro in the lead up to Capital this year(which looks like its going to be even bigger and better this year).

He was right, too much syncro last year all-round.

For us, it was the only way we could get through over 1000 athletes over 2 days. We had to over-use it.

This year, we have reduced the number of teams, changed the format and increased the variety of equipment, all with a view to making the events more fun and challenging for everyone.

Every year it’s scary. Every year it seems more difficult.

Lets hope I don’t fuck it up.

#175 Simple, Not Grand

Munich – Day 3

Shortened, compressed, lengthened.

Occlused, perfused, oxygen saturated.

Scraped, distracted, smashed.


Two days of finding the extremities of my mechanics.

So, do I possess complete mechanics?

I most certainly don’t.

Basic capacities I was born with have slowly drifted away.

Or have been sacrificed to the combat-sports-gods.

But here’s the thing.

There are world champion athletes with incomplete mechanics.

The very best on the planet, yet athletically incomplete.

And I recaptured some of mine this weekend.

Whatever I am missing is simply potential for growth.

I can’t wait to get into this stuff with I get back to my athletes.

In all of these drills, tests, protocols, all I see are my athletes, and all that athletic potential.

Munich – Day 3

Munich – Day 2

As seminars go, this one is dense.

10 hours deep and I was ready to go home.

Phenomenal information, delivered by a master.

Going through the process in person with Kelly was a different experience altogether.

I finally got to ask the little questions I have had in my head for over 5 years.

Little pieces of nuance that weren’t quite landing for me.

Now I know.

All day, my athletes were popping into my head.

Ah, this one’s for Sharon. Donal needs that. The whole team starts that Monday!

All day, my athletes.

The biggest game-changer were the breathing drills.

We spent three hours on breath alone, and they hit me like a train.

Dizziness, pins and needles down both arms, loss of hearing.

Close to loss of consciousness.

Black magic.

If there wasn’t a second day tomorrow, I would leave now happy that the trip was worthwhile.

Roll on Day-2.

Munich – Day 2

Munich – Day 1

Cool place.

Unspectacular, understated, undeniably cool.

I have come here to train with a mentor of mine for the past 7 years, and tomorrow I get to meet him for the first time…

I owe Kelly Starrett a lot.

When I first started following his educational material, I was utterly bewildered.

He was speaking English, but yet talking this whole other language.

Here I was, a CrossFit coach, and there he was, a CrossFit coach. Yet, we were not the same thing at all.

He understood movement and communicated on a level I had never encountered.

Honestly, I couldn’t help but hate the dude. Genuinely, my comparative lack of knowledge drove me crazy.

So…I went down the rabbit hole.

I immersed myself in positional archetypes, joint rotation, torque, capsule distraction…..

Eating up knowledge wherever I could find it, deepening my understanding.

I had witnessed a master, a coaching archetype to aim for.

Ever since then, Kelly’s framework for analysing and improving movement has helped me further my career, build a business.

As I said, I owe him a lot. In a many ways, the guy educated me for free.

And tomorrow, I get to chat with the 2017 version.

Needless to say, I pretty excited.

Munich – Day 1

#174 File Converted

Ok, those who know me will tell you how annoyingly upbeat I have been recently.

Darina tells anyone who’ll listen

“He’s in top-form, you just want to punch him”

It’s true. I have never felt more energised and ready for the next chapter.

A large part of that is down to finding a bit of clarity. Clarity about what’s important, and what’s not.

Figuring this out has frankly changed everything. Its like I have had this file on my computer named ”Dreams” and someone came along and converted it to “Plans”.

Decisions about where to invest energy and where to say NO have become obvious and easy.

Finding this clarity has been a process of answering hard questions over the past 2 months. This process is detailed in the book “Traction” recommended to me by Ben Bergeron. Its largely a process of target-setting and below is a very broad outline of that process and a few observations along the way.

Obviously, I recommend you go read the book.

10 Year Target

Your big hairy audacious goal. If I work my butt off for 10 years, would I be satisfied if this was the outcome? Thats the question. It has to feel worth it, so aim high.

3 Year Target

Where I need to be in 3 years to set me up for that 10 year goal. I was very surprised how close this looked to my 10 year target. My gut says its right though. We even tried to keep it relatively conservative and it still looked about 70% done in 3 years. Which means I will have 7 years of being very patient thereafter. Happily patient mind you.

1 Year Target

Approx a third of my way to my 3 year target. This is where it gets both very exciting and a little anxious. You can start to see your big hairy audacious goal beginning to take shape and it starts to feel very real. Then, the pressure hits you. Shit, I have work to do and can’t miss anything. Never have I felt something that sharpens the focus more.

Next 90 Days

What are the big things things that need to happen now to keep me tracking with my 1 year goal. My “rocks”, the nitty gritty, day-to-day stuff that moves me a step closer. Rower maintenance and cleaning toilets are all-of-a-sudden directly related to bringing an athlete to the CrossFit Games. Very cool.

This week

Track my rocks from last week, reset them for the coming week. This is a weekly meeting dedicated to that 10, 3, 1 year and 90 day targets. We’re on a schedule now, and can’t fall behind. The buck stops here.

And repeat, the buck stops here.

#174 File Converted