#173 Who We Are

Who are we? As a gym, as a community, as an organisation.

What defines us?

This was an exercise I set out to complete a few weeks ago.

To establish a set of core values that we believe in and constantly strive to become.

In reality, we are many things. Too many in fact.

I had written down nine core values which seemed to sum us up nice and succinctly.

Then I was challenged was to boil it down to three. Not so easy.

Then I spent two days at CrossFit New England and the answer soon became clear..

This is who we are


1. Humble
“freedom from pride or arrogance”, “holding a modest opinion of one’s importance or rank”

Humble people tend to put others first. Its a nice thing, but lets not confuse that with some sort of submissive acquiescence. Its not a lack of strength. Its more a recognition that no matter how good we are are, we all have things we can improve on. Its also a recognition that the more we build others up around us, the better we become.
Lets not forget that our goals are lofty and we’re not there yet. We don’t shout about how good we are but instead get our heads down and work our arses off for it.
Can we be confident and humble at the same time? Absolutely. Can we be humble and arrogant at the same time? Absolutely not. The net effect is a huge openness to feedback and nicer environment to grow in.

2. Hungry
This is trait that is probably most associated with CrossFitters. That get after it mentality. The very fact you were interested joining a CrossFit gym in the first place probably marks you out as somebody who’s not afraid of hard work. Hungry people seek out challenge and appreciate the value in going through discomfort. Once we recognise this in ourselves, we start approaching our challenges with energy and enthusiasm. “Let me at it.” “Bring it on.” This is what we see every day at the whiteboard, on the pull up bar and under the barbell…and i couldn’t love it more.

3. Happy
If we are not aiming for happiness, what exactly are doing? its kinda the whole point. The most common mistake is attaching happiness to future goals. “I’ll be happy when…”. Even CrossFit Games champions will tell you that after fleeting moment of happiness, they just move the goal post and start thinking about next year and retaining their title. This may be a useful device in keeping us moving forward, but what about right now?
My father always taught me to value relationships above everything else. Its all we have at the end of the day. My wife always reminds me(annoyingly) to be grateful for what i have right now. When i’m in the worst mood she’ll say, “go on, list 3 things”. After i tell her to piss off a few times, I’ll roll my eyes and do my list. “i’m grateful for…” Annoyingly, it always works.
Gratitude and relationships are where real happiness lie, and yet i need to be reminded of this daily. So, here i am reminding myself once more. I have a gym full of happy, hungry and humble people and i couldn’t ask for anything more.

#173 Who We Are

Boston – Day 3

Where do i start?

Thats all I can think. I have just spent two days looking under the hood of one of the most successful gyms in the world.

New systems, approaches, policies coming out of my ears.

They have solutions to problems I have not even encountered yet.

Easy to be overwhelmed after two days of intense learning, introspection and planning.

Doing my best to process some of the major takeaways as I sit in the airport. Heres a short list to start with

  1. Know where you are going, then make the map.
  2. Being good at the sport of CrossFit is very low down on the priority list.
  3. The pursuit of excellence is exactly that. A pursuit.
  4. Start 5 minutes late, finish 5 minutes early
  5. Steal ideas, and don’t be afraid to tell everyone you did.
  6. Living by your core values is everything.
  7. Actually doing that takes massive commitment and discipline.
  8. Tell everyone exactly who you are. Then remind them.

So, back to…Where do I start?

So many cool things to implement, I cant wait to get to work.

And thankfully, I don’t need to tip over the boat.

We are definitely on the right track and our planned direction does not change.

What Ben and Harry showed me was I need to double down on that direction and take it even further, and do it even quicker.

Scary but brilliant to hear.

I now know where this journey can lead and I have seen what the possibilities are .

I have never been more excited.

Boston – Day 3

Boston – Day 2

Since I arrived in Boston, all everyone has talked about is the looming snow storm.

They were expecting everything to shut down for a day or two. Businesses, schools, public transport.

Its due to hit this morning, and as I climb into my rental car all I am thinking is

“please don’t close the damn highway”

I have a 40 minute journey to navigate to CrossFit New England.

Ben had already been in touch to say they are going to be at the gym for the day regardless and plans were not changing.

All I needed to do was get there.

And boy am I glad I did.

Ben Bergeron is a special individual, and its not because his coaching.

What I encountered is a guy who ruthlessly and relentlessly brings everything back to his core values.

He has boiled them down to three central tenets and they show up in everything he does.

In teaching his class, all three featured.

The weekly coaches meeting is structured around them as a part 1, 2 & 3. Its that explicit.

Its there in the daily class schedule, the maintenance plan, the approach to marketing, the decor of the gym.

Every conversation is guided by them and at the same time, they get reinforced.

As he says himself, most “core values” end up on a coffee mug and never go any further.

For Ben, and for CrossFit New England as an organisation, they are the operating system.

After one full day, I leave feeling utterly impressed, equally optimistic and full of questions.

Roll on tomorrow.

Boston – Day 2

Boston – Day 1

Pound-for-pound king.

Top of the heap.

World’s best.

Ben Bergeron is someone I have wanted to meet for quite a while now.

Originally I heard about him through his CrossFit business courses. For affiliate owners, it was the one to seek out.

In a world where everyone is a guru, his course was the one everyone recommended. Gym owners did his course and sang about it from the rooftops.

Then, I realise he also ran the East Coast Championships, the competition with the most Games athletes outside of the Games themselves. A massive event that traditionally kicked off the competitive season.

Impressive resume.

And oh yeah, did i mention that he coaches Matt and Katrin? Both current male and female CrossFit Games champions. There’s that too.

So yeah, the worlds best… and here i am, in Boston.

Over the next two days I am going to work with him. And when i say work, i mean literally going to work with him.

I will go to his coaches meetings, train in his class, discuss the programming, look at managing the business side of things, analyse classes and yes, sit in on Competition team training.

As work days go, Carlsberg would struggle  to match this one. 

Boston – Day 1


The 2-year spot is tough one.

You are no longer a beginner, but still have a bit to go.

You have heard all the lessons a million times.

“Yeah yeah, get under the bar quicker. I get it. Fuck off”

It can sometimes feel the lessons are no longer aimed at you, but at the newbies who need everything explained in detail.

Staying motivated can be difficult.

What is happening is that you’re entering a period of transition.

You are becoming a new thing.

You are no longer someone who needs their hand held. You are becoming an independent athlete with ownership of your fitness.

Over to you.

This requires some adjustments.

You now need to look at your coach as someone who is in the process with you, rather than someone you blindly follow wherever it is they are taking you.

The time has come for you to step back and look at yourself as an athlete and figure out what you need.

It’s not an easy thing, but it’s a brilliant thing. You have matured and now control your own destiny.

And please don’t misconstrue this as “you are now on your own”. Its almost the opposite. You now can start a real coach-athlete-relationship which is far more advantageous.

This is where the good stuff starts, so embrace it and forge ahead.


Here’s a few actions you can take to help manage that transition

1. Make a list. Movements you want to master, numbers you want to hit. Then, prioritise that list in terms of importance to you and focus on the top three.

2.Make a plan. Those three things won’t happen on their own. The best way to make a plan is sitting with your coach. They have the information.

3.Go to your coach prepared. “Here’s my list, here’s how I plan to approach it, here is my timeline. What do you think?”. Not “how do I become brilliant?”

4.Tailor each session. When the lesson involves pull ups, ask coach can you practice chest to bars. When the Wod looks a little light, ask coach if you should go heavier. If you are better than the crowd, don’t be afraid to own that.

5.The basics may be boring, but its where real mastery lies. Don’t forget them.

6.As you move toward bona-fide-ninja status, don’t forget the newbies. They need your help and support. You are now a leadership figure at your gym and your community needs you.

7.Take the next step. Mentally, we can often fix ourselves at a certain point and it can become difficult to see ourselves as anything different. Don’t do it to yourself. Be disciplined with your thoughts. Think bigger, think better. Time to step forward.


NYC – Day 3

Friday 9am
Site of the World Trade Centre is mind-bending. Almost impossible to believe the two giant towers stood where is now a hole in the ground. Beautiful Memorial.

Friday 11am
The mile-long walk over Brooklyn Bridge is spectacular. Lady Liberty appears to the south as you reach halfway, and seeing that network of steel support cables up-close is very cool. On the other side awaited the whole reason for going. Grimaldi’s Pizza was the cheapest meal we have eaten to-date and wins hands-down. Plastic cups and cutlery, paper plates, cash only and nothing but pizzas on the menu. Its all about the pizza. Ten out of ten.

Friday 1pm
Ferry trip up the East River from Brooklyn back up to Midtown, Manhattan. All the way up the river, the contrast between the two sides could not have been more stark. To the left, skyscrapers, restaurants and swanky hotels. To the right, scrapyards, power stations and blocks of flats. As I head back into Manhattan, can’t help feeling I’m missing out on a big part of this place. Loved this boat trip all the same.

Friday 6pm
Madison Square Garden is bang in the middle of Manhattan. Was not expecting that. I was also not expecting it to feel like a mix between a GAA match and Oxygen Music festival. All I hear are Irish accents from every part of the country. And they are not buzzy drunk, but that “drunk for the past three days” type of drunk. Very funny, totally bizarre, not what I imagined for my first ever trip to MSG. The venue is as cool as you would think, but the actual arena itself is far cooler. Blew my mind, well deserving of its reputation.

One other thing i noticed is that I have never followed a single sportsperson before. Its quite different than supporting a team. More personal, but also conflicted. The whole pimp and money worship thing i don’t get. His confidence and ability to lead his followers are very impressive. His skills though are why I am here. To watch an artist at work. It should make for a great night tomorrow.

NYC – Day 3

New York – Day 2

Thursday 5:30am(New York time)
Open the curtains and skyscrapers all round. Time to explore.

Thursday 6:00am
I imagine America is a good place to have a hangover. Their breakfast is an amazing mix of salt and sugar. So tasty, but jesus, how is everyone not dead?

Thursday 7:30am
Trump Tower is like Fort Knox. A line of 20 dump trucks form a heavy-duty barricade along it’s front end, cops everywhere. International media set up across the street like a firing squad. “He’s in there” one cop tells us. No shit.

Thursday 8am
A morning run through Central Park in the cold sunshine. Autumn is good to this place, leafs everywhere, amazing colours. Lots of cool dogs too. Stopped into the Loeb Boathouse for a coffee by the lake(thanks Donal) then over to the American Natural History Museum to see some dinosaurs. A perfect morning.

Thursday 3pm
Squats in the open air on the rooftop gym at the hotel. Could not be more badass. Non-stop sirens and car horns sounding off in the traffic below. Time Square lit up like, well Time Square. Looking down at the rooftops of other tall buildings, while being dwarfed by other much taller structures. A real urban jungle.

Thursday 7pm
Show on Broadway. This one was for the wife. If there is one thing that I don’t get in this world, its musicals. Why do they have to sing everything? Can they not just say it? Anyway, got a recommendation for The Book of Mormom(thanks Tony & Ali) and it was actually brilliant. The Boys from South Park wrote it, so it was appropriately vulgar and hilarious.  Another box ticked. Weigh-ins tomorrow, where the real show begins.

New York – Day 2