With the New Year around the bend, I have decided to start the conversation around habits by providing some excerpts from the critically acclaimed book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. 

What is a habit? A habit is a choice that we deliberately make at some point and then stop thinking about but continue doing often. 

What are the ingredients of a habit loop? 
  1. Trigger (cue)
  2. Routine (actual behavioral habit)
  3. Reward (satisfaction from the routine, which drives the behavior)

How to break a “bad” habit?
1. Identify routine (behavior you want to change) 

2. Experiment with rewards. Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. Therefore, you need to figure out what you are craving that the routine is helping to satisfy. For instance, imagine you want to break the habit of having a cookie everyday around 1:30pm. The first thing to do is to consider what craving is driving the eating cookie routine: Are you actually craving a cookie or are you just hungry? Are you hungry or do you just want a boost in energy? Are you not hungry nor in need of a sugar high but, instead, just want a break in your day whereby getting a cookie allows you to leave your office and socialize with others? 

3. Isolate the cue, i.e., figure out the cue that is triggering the routine. Questions to help isolate the cue: Where are you? What time is it? What’s your emotional state? Who else is around? What action preceded your urge to behave a certain way?

 

When you are aware of the cue, you can more easily plan for a contingency plan and avoid the temptation. Moreover, you can deliberately respond to the cue with a new behavior that helps to also satisfy the higher context of the reward you seek. 

 


Tuesday
Competition
“Who You Calling Dumb”
AMRAP 18
6 DB Thrusters (40/30)
8 DB Burpess
10 DB Step Ups (24/20)
*inspired by Jay Higgins (Keith’s Brother)

Wednesday
Mental Toughness
FQT :
400m Run
200m DB suitcase carry
—–
8 Rounds
5 Pull ups
10 Push ups
15 Squats
20 Russian twist (single count)
—–
200m DB Suitcase Carry
400m Run

I am using today’s blog post to address and facilitate further ideation on the topic of injury/pain management. 

Personally, I have had a long history with chronic pain/illness that manifests both physically and psychologically. In my experience, that which is chronic can become so debilitating primarily because what is causing the symptoms is multi-factorial/elusive and, consequently, a foreseeable end to the suffering does not exist. Lately, my left shoulder has been particularly problematic. 

It is because of these factors that it is all too easy to start identifying with the injury/pain. In spite of wanting to be free from it, we get further and further away from conceptualizing ourselves and our experiences in lieu of it. The unfortunate truth: what we resist, persists. Exercising becomes less of being a release or joyous experience and more of an obstacle and/or reminder of the pain/injury.

SO…. WHAT DO WE DO? How do we rise above? 

1. Lean on our coaches and our community to help us to be creative about how we can still move and “get after it” in pain free ways. 

2. Remind ourselves about what we still can do and practice being grateful of that reality. 

3. Educate/re-educate ourselves on pain science. Science has proven that pain can actually be reduced when we have a better understanding of what role pain plays and how the brain process and modulates painful sensations. 

4. Reframe how we think about the role that exercise is playing in our lives. For the time being, exercise may not be able to serve us the way it has previously but that does not mean it cannot take on a new purpose–one that is more fitting with what your mind/body can tolerate. 

5. Practice feeling without judging, without labeling, and without attaching a story. It is the stories of what is and what will always be that keeps us in a state of suffering. Go from “I am ____” to “I feel _____” to “I am aware of feeling _____” 


Tuesday
Competition
A) Movement Capacity: Lunge + HSPU
B) Movement + Work Capacity
      For Time: (25 Minute Cap)
       2K Row
       40 DB Lunges (50/35)
       20 HSPU
       1K Row
       20 DB Lunges
       10 HSPU
       500m Row
      10 DB Lunges
      5 HSPU

Wednesday
Practice
A) Movement Capacity
   6 Rounds for Quality(as a superset):
       6-10 Ring Push-ups, 6-8 Cossack Squats (per leg)
B) Work/Movement Capacity
      FQT: 30-20-10 reps of:
         Curtsey Box Step-ups (12/8)
         Russian Trombone Russian
         KB Swings (12-minute cap)

As the title suggests, this post is a continuation of a blog post I wrote two weeks ago. If you have yet to read that post or need a refresher, start here

In part 1, I discussed how each day of context (situation) at Oak Park has a particular outcome (result) that the context serves. 

Situation Behavior Result
Practice Pace: Slow/systematic; Priority: Task, process, goal oriented LEARN
Competition Pace: Fast/spontaneous; Priority: Outcome, ego oriented TEST
Mental Toughness Pace: Depends on student
Priority: Goal oriented specific to the challenge
CHALLENGE

Our three types of context (practice, competition, mental toughness) are external contexts, meaning they are programmed independent of you and your internal experience. However, you need to also consider your unique, internal context. 

Consider your internal context in terms of past, present, future.

Past: What has your life been like over the past 48 hours? (sleep? mood? food? hydration? social? work?)

Present: What has your life been like over the past 12 hours? (mood? food? hydration? work? social?)

Future: What will your life entail over the next week? (projects? travel? gatherings? deadlines?)

At Oak Park, we WANT you to have autonomy. We WANT your training to support your life outside the gym and NOT hinder it. Therefore, it is imperative that you take into account your internal context in conjunction with the external context of the day, particularly if it is a mental toughness or a competition day. 

The easiest example of this is showing up to class on a competition day after having been out sick for a week. Most people in this situation know it serves them best to forego the external context of competition in support of their internal context of easing back into training by behaving more in line with what would be more appropriate on a practice day. While this concept is easy in theory, it can be VERY HARD in practice. Why? Because of the social psychology. If 95% of the class is getting after the workout in a competition manner, you, too, in spite of your internal context, are tempted to do the same. We are all guilty of this, myself included. That is why this mental skills work of S x B=R is so important: It helps us to protect against falling prey to what has short term appeal and, potentially, long term consequences. Moreover, this type of behavior is the antithesis of Oak Park’s highest context: INTENTIONAL, SUSTAINABLE GROWTH. 

When in doubt of how to approach a workout, ask yourself: what decision/behavior will be most in service of my sustainable growth as a human being? 


Tuesday
Mental Toughness
For time:
800m DB Farmer’s Carry (1/2 bodyweight)
400m DB Front Rack Carry
200m DB OH Carry

Wednesday
Competition
“Thanksgiving Potluck”
FT:
1 x Main Course
2 x Sides
2 x Desserts
(35-minute cap)

Main Course
1 Mile run (1600m total)

Choose 2 Sides from this list:
60 Jumping lunges
60 Split Squat Pivot on 2×4
60 Air squats
60 Mountain climbers (2-ct)
60 Pretty Gonzalez
60 Crab Cakes
(Can be completed in any order, while completing main course)

Choose 2 Desserts from this list:
40 Pullups
40 HSPU/Push Ups
40 Med Ball Up & Over
40 KBS
40 Wall Balls
40 Hungarian Trombones
40 Magic carpets
(Can be completed in any order, once main course and sides are finished)

SxB=R is a very practical formula I refer to as a way to help myself and others align behaviors with desired outcome (s) (result). Moreover, this formula takes into account how a desired outcome is influenced by context (situation). 

Let’s consider this formula as it pertains to our programming (practice, competition, and mental toughness days) at Oak Park. 

Situation Behavior Result
Practice Pace: Slow/systematic; Priority: Task, process, goal oriented LEARN
Competition Pace: Fast/spontaneous; Priority: Outcome, ego oriented TEST
Mental Toughness Pace: Depends on student
Priority: Goal oriented specific to the challenge
CHALLENGE

Notice that the primary desired outcome for each of the contexts is different. This does NOT imply that practice days can’t be challenging nor does it imply that you cannot learn something valuable on a competition day. The point is that in order for you to get the most out of the context, you have to understand the main purpose of the context, i.e., the WHY.

Why do we practice? We practice, so that we can learn. The learning is often specific to the contents of that day and specific to the growth needs of the student.

Why do we compete? We compete, so that we can test our abilities and capacities against others and/or against a previous version of ourselves. While the gray area of process is important, so is the black/white of measuring one’s ability very specifically with hard numerics, e.g., how much weight did you lift versus how did the technique of that lift look (more valuable question on a practice day).

It can be more difficult for people to understand the difference between a mental toughness day and a competition day. Therefore, I find this definition helpful: Mental toughness is about purposefully digging yourself into a hole to see how well you can get out of it. Pragmatically, on a competition day, it would not make any sense to dig yourself into a hole because you are trying to “win”. This nuance is important because it helps to understand why we program mental toughness days the way we do, AND how you can get more out of mental toughness days by being more deliberate about how you choose to behave in the workout that is most aligned with challenging yourself.

The context of a workout refers to WHAT, the associative, desired outcome refers to WHY, and the behaviors are HOW you go about achieving that desired outcome.

There are an infinite number of behaviors that can be considered, especially when taking into account the infinite ways a workout can be designed. What I have done in the chart above is give you two main filters of behavior (priority and pace). Again, just like how practice days aren’t only intended for you to learn something, the priority and pace listed for practice, competition, and mental toughness days are NOT ALWAYS appropriate given the workout but, for the most part, they are the behaviors best in service of honoring the primary desired outcome–learn, test, or challenge.

When the desired outcome is learning, it is most fitting to prioritize the task and process specific to the goal of that practice day, and, often, the best way to do that is for your pace of movement to be slower and more systematic. 

Whereas, when it comes time to testing yourself, get out of your head, and just move, i.e., allow yourself to behave more fast and spontaneously. 

I wrote “depends” for the pace on mental toughness days. The reason being is that what is challenging for you may not be challenging for someone else. For instance, some of you struggle with “putting the pedal to the metal”; therefore, it will be more appropriately challenging for those of you on a mental toughness day to move fast. Whereas, others struggle moving slower or even holding positions for a longer period of time; therefore, going fast would be the path of least resistance and not nearly as challenging. 

My hope is that this formula S x B=R and thinking about each day of training in terms of What, Why, and How helps you to 1) see each day of programming as being much more intentional than just exercises to be checked off, and 2) gives you a more strategic and tactical sense of how to approach workouts given the context of the day. In part 2 of this post, I will dive into considering the intersection between the external context of the day (practice, competition, mental toughness) and your internal, personally relevant context. 


Tuesday
Practice
A) 5 RFQ :40:20
  Sumo Deadlifts @ 50-65%
  Jump Rope (Gear 2)
B) 5 RFQT:
  12 DB Front Squats (50/35) (G4/G5)
  Run 300m (G3)
C) Reflect

Wednesday
Practice
A) QAMRAP 10:
  3 Strict Pullups, 6 Kipping Pullup
  3 Tempo Pushups (3-2-1), 6 Plyo/Reg Pushups
 250m Row (Around 22 SR), 250m (Above 25 SR)
B) 3×3 Floating Snatch Pull
C) 3×3 Low Hang Snatch High Pull
D) 4x 1 Hang Snatch, 1 Snatch, 2 OHS

This comes from renowned coach and author Max Shank. It doesn’t get more simple than this. Check yourself on the daily: Are you healthier than…?


Tuesday
Competition
Franklin Hill Fitness Score
   A) “Franklin Light Hunt” AMLAP 8:
         Across Down Back Up Back Across -then- Max Light Posts Score
   (Rest 10 minutes)
   B) 2 Intervals on the 6:00:
       Franklin Hill Sprint 220m
“Fitness Score” is the total of your two intervals times on part “B”…divided by your Light Post Score on part “A”

Wednesday
Mental Toughness
PARTNERS (teams of two) 
12 Min Sled Push AMRAP (one partner working; other holding Ironman)
(1 min Transition)
12 Min Max Meters Weighted Carry (two different weights–front rack/farmers; one carrying at a time)

This past weekend I spent 8 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday at Nerd Strong in North Hollywood attending the Onnit Kettlebell Specialty Certification. This was an interesting educational experience for a few reasons:

  1. I am already fairly competent with the kettlebell both in my personal practice and in teaching others. I attribute a lot of this competency to the 3 day RKC certification I did back in 2013 whereby one of the tests to pass the certification was completing 100 KB snatches with the 24kg bell in under 5 minutes. In spite of this level of competency, I had yet to receive continuing education from Onnit, and one of the elements of Onnit that I really admire and am always interesting in learning more about is how to incorporate rotational movement while under load.
  2. I am a big believer that the only form of learning is RE LEARNING. Therefore, while I was a little bored at times because a lot of the material wasn’t new to mine, it is always invaluable to go back to the beginning and revisit the nuances of the fundamentals, particularly being exposed to different methods for teaching the fundamentals and being reminded of methods I had forgotten to incorporate.
  3. At this stage in my coaching life, I am more interested in coaching philosophy, i.e., the art and approach of coaching, particularly the coaching of others coaches. Therefore, I enjoyed observing and analyzing how the instructors structured the learning environment/experience and how they spoke about what they were teaching. After many hours of continuing education, one thing that I have grown extremely allergic to is any type of coaching that is overly dogmatic and uncompromising in the description of integrating the material amongst the rest of a preexisting coaching repertoire. Fortunately, I can say that the instructors of this cert did a phenomenal job of NOT being dogmatic and instead supporting every coach’s process of making sense of the material, so he or she could leave the cert with more autonomy over the material versus being overly dependent on the exactitude of any technique.

Take Aways:

  1. Progressions and regressions of movements are NOT linear; they are cyclical. Therefore, as coaches and students we need to constantly be going back to the fundamentals and refining those details, as opposed to thinking that once we’ve achieved a certain skill level, those foundational movement patterns and/or drills are no longer needed.
  2. If you want to get better, the key mindset is HIGH INTENTION/LOW ATTACHMENT.
  3. Flow has to be trained. Predetermined sets and reps is important but so is the practice of creating movement in the moment with little certainty of what is to come. Consider the following workout: 8 minutes of KB deadlifts and OH presses. The goal is how many different types of deadlifts and presses can you do in the allotted time while making the transitions between movements as fluid as possible. You aren’t concerned with the number of reps completed or the speed. You are focused on expressing the patterns of picking an object up and pressing it overhead in the infinite number of ways that exist, especially when you consider how novel and unique your transitions can be between movements.

Sunday’s 8am, 9am, and 10am workout on October 28: Kettlebell Flow. See you there!


Tuesday
Mental Toughness
“Arnie”
For Time:
21 Right arm Turkish Get-ups
50 RKB Swings (24/32)
21 Left arm Overhead Squats
50 RKB Swings
21 Right arm Overhead Squats
50 RKB Swings
21 Left arm Turkish Get-ups

Wednesday
Practice
A) Mobility (Pec focus)
B) Dry Land Swimming 2-4 Rounds:
  9 Banded OHS (red or blue)
  7 KB Swings (32/24) @ G4-G5 5
  Double KB DLs (32/24) @ G3-G4 Max Distance Farmer’s Carry on Exhaled Breath
  (24-minute cap)
C) Bench Press
     PEAK: 6 x 5 @ 75%
     BASE: 5 x 10 (by feel) 

It is a common order of operations mistake when people attempt to do more in order to be more. This approach is short sighted and lacks personal context/sense of meaning. 

How would your personal well-being change if you were thoroughly accepting and acknowledging of your BEING before you began your doing?

When I accept myself just as i am, then I can change” -Carl Rogers

Stop trying to change so you can then accept yourself, aka, stop doing more to be more.

Invest in the being and let the doing flow from there:

  1. Decide what it means TO YOU to be more.
  2. Practice being content with what that looks and feels like.
  3. Then, behave in accordance with those values for your intended growth trajectory. 

Tuesday
Practice
A) AMMAP 4 Row – G3
B) 4RFQ :30:30
    Plate Good Mornings (45/25)
    Push Up
    Alt DB Snatch (55/35)
    Pull Ups
C) AMMAP 4 Row – G4

Wednesday
Competition
A) Full-Body Mobility/Dynamic Warm Up
B) CNS Prep
C) “Fittest of the Sierras 2013 WOD 3”
For total reps in 6 minutes:
30 Back Squats (155/105)
then, in time remaining: Max reps of G2OH (155/105)

Dr. Martin Seligman, credited as the father of Positive Psychology, describes and measures human flourishing and well-being based on five elements, i.e., PERMA. 

P–Pleasurable emotions (happiness, contentment, rapture, elation)

E–Engagement, aka Flow (being totally immersed in what you are pursuing in the moment)

R–Relationships (family, friends, worthwhile/enjoyable social connection)

M–Meaning (a sense of belonging, purpose, and service to something bigger than yourself)

A–Achievement (accomplishing new levels of skill acquisition, i.e., competence) 

What I like most about this mnemonic is how it can be a useful mental model for more deliberately reflecting on life events. For example, you can filter your training sessions through PERMA: 

  1. What positive emotions did you experience?
  2. How engaged and present were you?
  3. How connected were you to your fellow classmates/coach?
  4. In what ways did/does the training session connect to other parts of your life outside the gym? 
  5. What did you accomplish today and/or was there an opportunity to work on becoming more competent at certain skills? 

I encourage you to use this mental model to debrief your future training sessions. 

At the very least, you’ll become more aware of your experience and how it is contributing to your daily and overall well-being and ability to flourish. You now have another way of keeping tabs on your own intentional, sustainable growth. 

P.S. This is what I consider an example of a tangible and tactical mental skillset, i.e., when I deliver mental skills coaching, mental models like PERMA are used to help individuals improve their ability to become more self-aware to then accurately self-regulate and self-evaluate given the circumstances and their desired outcomes. 


 

 

 

Tuesday
Mental Toughness
For time:
3-9-11-8-25-6-13 reps of:
Thrusters (95/65)
Bar-facing Burpees
-then-
Run 1 mile (Nasal Breathing)

Wednesday
Competition
Franklin Hill Fitness Score
A) “Franklin Light Hunt”
AMLAP 8: Across Down Back Up Back Across -then- Max Light Posts Score
(Rest 10 minutes)
B) 2 Intervals on the 6:00:
Franklin Hill Sprint 220m
“Fitness Score” is the total of your two intervals times on part “B”…divided by your Light Post Score on part “A”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does “practicing” pull-ups, pushups, and air squats look differently than “competing” in pull-ups, pushups, and air squats? I’m so glad you asked… 

As you know, Cycle 18 will feature a good number of practicing these movements because Chelsea (30 min EMOM–5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, 15 squats) was one of our test workouts. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to bring more visual clarity to the difference in behavior when “practicing” versus “competing”. 

Similar to coach Matt, before coaching at Oak Park, I had been using Kenny’s context informed coaching methodology with clients of mine. A couple of years ago, I was working with a client remotely, and I had programmed for him to do CINDY (20 min AMRAP–5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, 15 squat) within a practice context. However, the video footage I reviewed of him doing the workouts did not look like practice to me. Consequently, I made this video to help him better understand what I was looking for from him behaviorally in order to achieve the desired outcome, i.e., better movement quality, associated within a practice context. 

(Go to 2:42 mark if you wish to skip passed my coaching banter/introduction)


Tuesday
Practice

A) FQ Push, Pull, Run
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 (15 min cap):
-Training push ups
-Strict pull
-200m Run 
B) EMOM 10
1 Hang Power snatch
1 OH Squat
1 Snatch
C) 3 x 10 Seated Arnold Press on Coregous ball

Wednesday
Practice
A) Bench Press
BASE: 5×8 (by feel)
PEAK: 5×5 @ 70%
B) AMRAP 20mins
800m Row (Nasal Priority)
then…2 rounds of:
12 AKBS (24/16) + 12 OHS (6 per arm) w/ AB Mat

 

Yes, the deliberate act of reflecting on your performance/experience is a practice, i.e., it is another skill that can be cultivated and infinitely improved upon just like your air squat. 

When you take the time to reflect, you are supporting the brain in processing what just occurred. In lieu of reflecting, your brain may likely miss out on making the kind of connections that help you to build on what just occurred. I believe true intelligence, put simply, is the ability to take an experience from last Tuesday and apply it to an unexpected, unrelated event that occurs next Thursday. This kind of performance adaptability is contingent upon a reflective practice that helps you to connect the dots between what occurred and what may occur. 

Similar to test week/re-test week from cycle 17, we are using the same reflection template for cycle 18–Good, Better, How. We will also begin doing these types of reflections once a week during all 12 working weeks of the cycle. 

GOOD: You know the phenemenon of learning something new and then beginning to hear or see that new thing everywhere in almost supernatural ways? Mechanistically, this is actually the same brain firing as being able to pick out the sound of your name in a crowded room. This is the functioning of your brain’s Reticular Activating System–a bundle of nerves at our brainstem that filters out what it deems unnecessary so the “important” stuff gets through. Therefore, “we do not see with our eyes, WE SEE WITH OUR BRAINS” (John Medina, Brain Rules). This is why it is SO important to make a habit out of reflecting on what went well. There is always something. Train your brain to find it, and it will begin to find it and focus on it more often. 

BETTER: Notice how this section is not called “bad”. This is deliberate. Do not focus on what didn’t go well. Focus on what could be better. Just like there is always something good you can highlight, there is always something that could be better. Train your brain to get more specific at identifying what that may be. 

HOW: Think in active terms. What behaviors are you going to deploy to actually improve upon what you said could be better. Moreover, think about what are active ways in which your coaches can help you get better. HELP US HELP YOU. 

___________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday

A) Bench Press
    -Find 3 Rep Max (20 min)

B) Sumo Deadlift

    -Find 1 Rep Max (20 min)

Wednesday

For Time: 

Run 1 mile
50 DB Alt. Box Step Ups
Run 1 Mile