September 17, 2017

Quit complaining and get to work

I need to issue an apology to a few people. Kyle, Lindsey, and Gordon are my former coaches at CrossFit Distinction. Each one of them are amazing coaches and invested a lot of time in me over the years. At some point or another they all tried to give me structured warmup and WOD advice and I complained and moaned like the little b*tch I can be. I should have just taken their lead and ran with it. If it is any consolation guys I have learned my lesson. (mostly)

The truth is that if I have figured out anything in the last month and a half it is that there is peace (and value) in just showing up and doing as you are told. When I made the switch to Mentality I told myself that I would be quiet and do the work without complaint. I can honestly admit that I have done that to the best of my ability. What I didn’t count on was what quick progress I would see and how much easier it would make everything. I swear at this point they could tell me to do just about anything and I would barely question it.

Scott: “Ok class. Today we are gonna do chicken clucks for time. What I want you to do is stand on one leg, move your head back and forth while flapping your arms and making clucking sounds. Any questions?”

Me: “Ummmmm yeah. I have one. Right leg or left leg?”

Scott: “Great question! Right leg.”

Me: (standing on right leg) “Bwaaaaakkk!”

Ok. I might be embellishing a bit. Scott would make us do Chicken Clucking Rope Climbs but you get the point. I really don’t question or complain about the warmups or WODs anymore and here is why...

1. Less Stress - I don’t like to think. My life as a whole is obviously proof of that but when it comes to programming I figure that I’m gonna let the peeps that do this full time worry about it. I’ll waste my brainpower on more important things like trying to discretely watch the girls do deadlifts and where the closest garbage can is in case the WOD makes me puke...

2. Less injury - This is a pretty big deal. Virtually every time I have been injured it was because I didn’t prepare for the workout properly. If doing jumping jacks and shoving a lacrosse ball up my ass keeps me injury free then so be it.

3. Progress - Warmup is a great time to work on form and technique. Rowing, SkiErg, Bike, and Double-unders are particularly important. If you want to make progress in WODs you need to be able to do all four of these. I hear people say all the time “I suck at the bike” or "I hate double unders”. Yeah well they both hate you too. Just do them and get over it. No one ever gets better at the Assault Bike. They just lose so many brain cells riding it that they are no longer scared of it.

4. Community - One of the best parts of CrossFit is forming relationships with the other members. The joint suffering that comes from the WOD builds camaraderie. This is exactly why you should only b*tch about a workout AFTER it is over. Let the coaches design the pain and then you can make friends after. Granted the friend may be a nurse in the emergency room but a friend is a friend...

At the end of the day I know it can be stressful going into a WOD that has movements you are not comfortable with. Talk to the coaches about it. Don’t complain. They will gladly help you find a scale that works for you. You can complain some after the WOD if you like and console yourself in the realization that a well programmed WOD is a lot like a marriage. Everyone is unhappy. Besides, if things get really bad during the WOD you can treat it like a marriage and tell the coach you are going out for milk and just never come back....

September 14, 2017

CrossFit saved me

People use CrossFit for a lot of different purposes. Some want to get stronger and put on muscle, others want to compete in competitions, and some people just want to feel good about themselves. I use it to fight depression. 

Prior to now I’ve only shared that with one or two other people in my life. A week or so ago I had a reader email to tell me I inspired him to make changes in his life and it caught me off guard that I had the ability to inspire anyone. I decided then that if I can help others understand and address this issue then it was worth a little vulnerability and embarrassment.

Depression has a lot of misconceptions. It isn’t something that has you moping around 24/7. As a matter of fact, I am happy and laughing more than I am not. When it hits me however it can be like living in a dark hole but that hole is filled with the sounds of regret and pain. It’s debilitating and takes you to a very dark place. I’ve joked to friends over the years that “Everyone gets sick of me and leaves eventually” but the reality is this feeling of darkness and dread has made me push people away. Some I pushed fast and some slowly but ultimately it was always me that pushed because I was too afraid to confront my fears. When you get this feeling inside you all you want to do is be alone but being alone is the worst thing for you. It’s a vicious cycle really. 

Back in April when I tweaked my shoulder, I was in one of my dark places and wasn’t able to workout like I was accustomed to. I started running and practicing yoga with some rehab lifting in my basement to stay in shape. This is where I identified how CrossFit is one piece of the puzzle that can truly help me. The running made everything clearer and by that I mean it cleared then fog in my mind. It didn’t help resolve any issues but it cleared away the fog of where the root causes were.

You see, in order to run long distance you can’t really drink the night before. Running 10 miles after a few Titos and Soda is miserable so I pretty much gave up drinking altogether. Without that “numbness” of the alcohol my focus was clearer,  particularly as I was going to bed and it really affected my sleep. Not sleeping is bad but the running was even worse because I would have long periods of time where all I could do was think. There is nothing uglier than a crying runner wearing nipple tape, trust me on this.

I was also practicing Yoga several times a week because I had heard it had the ability to generate focus and “free your mind” but I had the same problem there as I did with running. My mind was still moving a thousand miles an hour but now I was inverted and had sweat running up my nose. Not exactly the therapy I was looking for.

As my shoulder and arm started to heal, I decided to start doing CrossFit inspired workouts in my basement. For those of you that don’t know, I have an amazing gym in my basement and with the exception of box jumps and wall balls, I can do just about anything down there. I’m pretty good at programming for myself and designed a WOD that would test my endurance since I was training for a long race. I added in some barbell movements to force myself to lift with a moderately high heart rate cause that sh*t hurts. It was 30 mins of pure pain and focus but for once my mind was clear. Not only was it clear but it stayed clear for most of the day. Thats when I realized that I need this. I needed the sense of accomplishment that comes from working through a difficult workout. I needed the clarity that comes from only worrying about how hard it is going to be to pick the bar up again. I needed the feeling of control that comes from being able to do something that others dare not try.

The last piece that fell into place was realizing that I needed accountability and couldn’t do this on my own so I left the basement. I needed a metaphorical family to push me hard and hold me accountable but support me when I inevitably failed. That's where Mentality came into play. The irony of needing a metaphorical family and finding a gym run by an actual family isn’t lost on me. It also isn’t lightly taken. When it occurred to me that the very thing I needed at that moment had been given to me I was in awe of the universe and was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” - Richard Bach

My point to all of this is that CrossFit can be bigger than getting in shape and posting shirtless ab selfies on Instagram. It can challenge you to be better and grow. It can allow you to focus your life in a positive and meaningful way. It can help you find others who will help you be the person you want to be while supporting you in good and bad experiences. I’m certainly still working on parts of my life and would be lying if I said every day is a great day. I am however grateful that I have found my family and the difference it has made in my life has been immeasurable. That is my encouragement to anyone that feels they struggle with this. Talk to others. Find your family and the respect and joy that comes with that. It won’t make you perfect but you also won’t be alone...

If I can ever be of support or encouragement to you please do mot hesitate to reach out here, on my Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter.


September 12, 2017

Have you seen this coach?

So the other day I rolled into the gym for a Saturday partner WOD. I knew it was gonna be weird because virtually all of the coaches were off at competitions of their own as well as most of the members. When I got there I found out that Dave Panchik (Scott’s dad) was coaching. Now prior to this I had met Dave a couple of times and we had done a few workouts together. He’s a super nice guy and I thought to myself “Ok. This will be a nice casual day at the gym for me.” I would have been totally right if by casual I meant “A warmup created by Satan”. This dude had me huffing and puffing doing football sprint drills, med ball cleans, and flutter kicks as well as a dozen other things. I’m a little surprised he didn’t ask me to dodge a wrench as he threw them at me. It was a little intense....

I will say his coaching was spot on and exactly what I have come to love about Mentality. He made several corrections in my form/technique but was incredibly positive the entire time. It’s obvious where his influence in that regard has carried from the family to the other coaches. While I am on the topic of family, it seems that  every time I talk to Dave I find out about another Panchik son that I didn’t know existed. This week he mentioned a son that lives in Pennsylvania that I had never heard about. I swear this dude has so many kids he is going to have to live in a shoe. Fortunately the shoe will be made by Reebok and will come with protection for rope climbs. I’m just gonna start telling people that don’t know me that I’m the other Panchik son they haven’t met yet. “Hi. I’m Shaquille Panchik. Nice to meet you.” Who am I kidding? I’m not even fit enough to be a fake Panchik...

Sorry. I got off topic. Let’s get back to the topic of coaching here. This can be a hot issue for a lot of CrossFitters and let’s be honest, not all coaches are created equal. Coaches are like snowflakes. No two are exactly alike. Finding a coach that fits what you are trying to accomplish is very important if you want to grow and thrive. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the consistency of the coaching at Mentality. They are all very attentive, specific, and roll their eyes at me on a regular basis. They also push me to get better every day. I can say this because I have seen a LOT of coaches over 6 years and multiple CrossFit gyms. There are several different types of coaches you could possibly will run into at these gyms and I have given them all nicknames.

“Old Yeller” - This coach doesn’t really help you. They just yell at you. I used to have a coach who would yell things like “What are you looking up for?!? God can’t save you now!” and “No wonder you're single. Your burpees look like you’re humping the floor!” She was a peach...

The “But Sandwich” - A “But Sandwich” sounds like something you would find in a questionable movie. In reality it is a coach who loves to tell you how much you suck but will sandwich it between two compliments. “Those squats looked better BUT your feet are in the wrong place BUT good effort.” 

“Captain Obvious” - This is a coach who simply repeats to you what you should already know. “Today we will be working on overhead squats. I want you to grab a bar, take it overhead, and squat it. Any questions?”

"The Creeper” - This coach is way too preoccupied to coach you because they are busy helping some of the more attractive members with their “form”. This has literally never happened to me but Saxon has been real nice lately....

“Mr. Stat Drop” - This coach loves to compare and humble brag. “That squat looked almost looked as good as my 400# back squat this morning. I’ll be right back. I have to go get a protein shake to help me recover from my Fran PR...”

The “But Sandwich with Cheese” - This is like the normal “But Sandwich” however the second compliment is backhanded. “That squat looked better BUT your feet were in the wrong place BUT it was a good effort in spite of your age.”

That is really just a handful of the type of coaches I have seen over the years. I’m sure I missed a few so feel free to add funny coaches you have seen over the years into the comments...

Without sucking up I will say thanks to all of the coaches I am currently training under. You guys have no idea how much your guidance and feedback means to me and if I had to guess, the entire Mentality family. As individuals and a team, you are the best... #bettertogether #teammentality