Praus House Blog

DSC08604What can we learn from the CrossFit Games Open of 2015?

First and foremost, if you did the Open for the first time, or are a seasoned Open competitor we want to say, “Congratulations!  You did an incredible job!”  We can’t express how proud we are of the Praus community for pushing each other, cheering for each other, and overcoming what people thought was impossible. We witnessed first muscle ups, first toes to bar, and first handstand push-ups to name a few. We also had multiple PR’s on the clean and jerk. Not to mention, one of our very own finishing in the top 200 Master’s division, qualifying him for the next round of workouts!

For those of you who did not compete, but gave your all doing the WODs on Friday’s in class, you put in the work, but didn’t get the full reward.  There is something distinct about the pressure of “competition” and being ranked among your peers. Being a part of something that’s both huge (worldwide leaderboard) and right in your backyard (incredible sense of community going through the Open with other Praus athletes) at the same time is extremely unique and rewarding.  Next year, we hope you do the Open, whether it is scaled, Rx’d or a mix. The CrossFit Games Open is still for everyone; we know several of you think you can just do the WODs and look at the leaderboard to compare your time/scores, you need to know it is not the same.  We can’t encourage you enough to join in next year!

On to lessons learned this year: The Open has changed, everyone is getting better, and to continue at a competitive level, we need to work even harder at combining training hard and training smart.  All of which are good things. CrossFit is still just as much for everyone as it ever has been. However The Open is truly becoming the beginning qualifier for The CrossFit Games. Which for those athletes interested in pursuing the Sport of Fitness at a competitive level, changes things to a degree.

The 2015 Open was different in many ways from years past. The scaled division was introduced. Muscle ups were at the beginning of a WOD. Handstand push-ups were given a new standard. A one rep max lift was used as a score. These are just the big additions/changes. What did remain the same is the leader board. The same top athletes, and some emerging athletes, were at the top. The best are still the best.

But how does that change my perspective of the Open? It doesn’t much, but it does demonstrate just how good/fit they are. Take 15.1 and 15.1a for example. A traditional Open style WOD… gymnastics with some light barbell movements. The twist came in the aftermath. Normally an athlete would collapse on the floor after that kind of WOD as if they just got away from a chasing bear. Not this year. Immediately after going all out for nine minutes the athlete then had to lift a max weight clean and jerk. For the top athletes, they shined. Not only did they record a great number of repetitions in the WOD, many lifted weights at or above their personal best.  (I’m not going to address the scoring of the teams. We’ll leave that debacle for another day.)

It is easy is to see a score for 15.1 and say “wow, he’s fast.” With max effort lift immediately following shows the athletes are not just fast, they’re strong. Translation…this year’s Open showed the athletes “moving large loads (WOD and max weight) over broad time (nine and six minutes respectfully) and modal domains (many reps or one rep in a given time).”  This is the first time we can score ourselves against the top athletes in this manner. How cool is it that we all did the same work in the WOD and then immediately did the same one rep max lift, measuring our work capacity to the top athletes work capacity? This is just one example of the new open. What was once something we watched at the Regional competitions or The Games, we now take part in and have the same standard to compare to the top athletes.

It is remarkable how good the competition is in CrossFit. As the sport grows, it will attract more athletes from different backgrounds. Those athletes will grow and become well rounded competitors. The CrossFit Games Update Show gave statistics on how many more people performed muscle-ups this year versus years past. Some of the rise is simply in the number of people competing (this is the largest Open thus far). However the percentages have risen as well. To show how good the competition is, think back to Josh Bridges performing 15.4 for the first time and then his final posted score. The new standard of getting feet over the line appeared to greatly fluster Bridges. However, he is a good enough athlete that he changed his approach, re-tested the WOD and scored among the best in the world. The new standard for HSPU doesn’t allow for a shorter athlete to go wider in hand placement than a longer limbed athlete inside an outlined box on the floor. The new standard leveled the playing field. And we still saw some outstanding scores from the top athletes on the WOD. Perspective…it used to be easy to dismiss an athlete’s score who has less range of motion. Now the athletes follow the same standard and we get to more accurately measure ourselves against the top athletes.

The final piece. This may change the way we train. An athlete who has no inclination of competing in any regard may not change much, but the individual seeing CrossFit as a competitive outlet whether within the box, at local competitions, and/or next year’s Open may need to change some programming. At the end of last year’s Open season, Amanda and I took a look at our affiliate ranking within the CrossFit community. We looked at what kind of WODs we do well and what WODs we struggle with. We had some glaring holes. It was apparent that we do well at traditional CrossFit style workouts. Most anything with a 21-15-9 rep scheme or an AMRAP we will hold our own. When a WOD gets heavy, or a one rep max event shows up, we fall in the standings. The same is true this year.

Our programming changed accordingly, as you may have noticed. WOD weights went up compared to previous programming. We pushed the envelope a little with more skilled movements. We didn’t shy away from programming harder Hero WODs, or WODs that may test mental toughness a little more. This brought us to a point where we needed to address scaling awhile back. If you haven’t read that blog (scroll down a few entries) please do so. Now is where you may be thinking, “Good, now that The Open is over, programming will get easier.” Not so much! We always have room to grow. If the programming doesn’t challenge you, you’ll get bored and not better. We all want to get better; whether that’s at a tough competition or playing on the floor with grandkids.

If you plan to do a beginner competition like Festivus, a partner competition with a friend, or even next year’s Open; here are some things to consider. First, get better at the basics. If your air squat isn’t below parallel, your OHS is probably worse. Take mobility and range of motion seriously. No repping on a wall ball because you don’t go below parallel sucks because once that ball leaves your hands you can’t get it back to redo the movement. Make the reps count by making sure your range of motion is there. The “buy-ins” and “cash-outs” are not programmed at random, they are your chance to work on strength within the basic movements. During a squat program, use the weight training to your advantage. A half squat with lots of weight will do nothing to help you improve, but a moderate weight with full range of motion will build stability and strength to lift more weight later. Build back muscle with ring rows so one day you can get pull-ups regularly. Complete a full range of motion push-up with your arms nice and tight during tabata so Murph isn’t so hard when Memorial Day comes around. It is your time, we can give you the tools, but you need to build the machine.

Secondly, nothing is going to get better without hard work. If you want to compete, you will need to put in the time. You don’t have chest to bar pull-ups?…you need to build more lat muscle. Can’t clean and jerk?…you need to front squat, press and build technique. Couldn’t get your feet over the line for HSPU?…you need to do strict HSPU. The top athletes may spend hours in the gym per day, but an extra half hour could benefit anyone greatly. Daily programming will help get you there if you use your time wisely and push yourself. No one knows how an exercise feels for you. Was 95 too light for that WOD? Could you move off bands for pull-ups if you wanted to? Ask yourself questions that will make you better. We as coaches assume you are working as hard as you can, but if you put that little blue band on the rig just to make the WOD a little easier even though you could move just as fast without it…you are only cheating yourself. When muscle ups show up next year in the Open, and you haven’t worked on them at all, the chances of getting one diminish drastically. Know what your weakness are, but know that nothing we do in the gym is impossible. Muscle ups seem elusive, but with some intentional hard work through strength and progressions even the most skilled movements are possible! If you never try something, nor continue to work on it, you can rest assured it will not happen. Set attainable goals, work toward them, conquer them and then set new ones.

Third, listen to your body. When we program for the gym, we have goal in mind; build strength, build skills, and move fast to name a few. There is a season for each. However what we cannot control are your outside influences. Is work stressful right now and you just need to move? That’s fine, go a little lighter in the WOD so you don’t let your stress level keep you from thinking about your movement being good. Were you sick recently? Sorry but your body may need an extra day of recovery or at least not a full hour of intense movement. Come in and do the buy in but not WOD or just do the WOD. We get it. Life is out there. That’s what we are training for right? If it overruns you and you get injured because of poor movement when you shouldn’t have been moving at all, that will slow your training down more than just waiting an extra day. Just be smart.

The last “challenge” of CrossFit, and life in general, I want to address is mental attitude. As family, we want to see you succeed. Ask questions. If something is not clear, we are happy to explain it. We are happy to take some extra time and go through movements, critique them, and help you grow. If you have set a goal, we want to help you achieve it! If that goal is to do all of the 2016 Open WODs Rx’d, great! However we need to get rid of the mindset that scaled is somehow second class. Yes scoring one Rx rep scores above a thousand scaled. The reason is simple, it’s harder. But if scaled is where you are, knock it out of the park, regroup and come back the next week and try again. One of the great things about the Open is we have no idea what the WODs will be. A combination could come up that any one person can score for the Praus team. That person can be you!

Yes the CrossFit Games Open has changed. We will continue to push and encourage our athletes to reach and supersede goals everyday toward competition with others and self accordingly. I do not see the Open becoming any easier next year, so we must prepare for it. Some athletes may progress faster, but the Open continues to be fair gauge of fitness for everyone no matter of skill level. So recover from this year, set sights on next year and get ready…Its going to be a fun ride!

One last note: We love our community! We love how you all step up to a challenge inside and outside the gym; like raising money for Riley or Veterans services. When we presented an organization called ‘Let them Laugh Out Loud’ that raises money for clean drinking water, Praus House stepped up. But most recently when our own need as a family came up, you all took it upon yourselves to step up and help us. We were blown away by your generosity and desire to help us get through this crazy adventure.  We are so grateful for our Praus Family and can’t thank you enough for allowing us to live out our dream!

“Some play the game, others change it.”


Paleo Beginnings

How many people have you known who have resolved to start working out again, or to lose weight, but then keep eating the same thing they’ve always eaten.  The problem with this concept of calorie in–calorie out is that not every calorie is created equal.  Some calories carry more value than others, and some do more damage than others.  Simply put, burning 400 calories on the treadmill does not mean a 2 brownie chaser isn’t going to set you back.

The day our household began to think of food as fuel was the day we took a major step in the right direction.  The fact is you can never outwork your diet.  No matter how many hours you may put in at the gym…you’ll never be able to work past a poor diet.  Honestly, that’s just in general…if you have a specific goal like developing lean muscle mass or building better looking abs, your diet becomes even more critical.  There are lots of great diets on the market…however, we would recommend a way of eating vs a diet.  There’s just something about the word “diet” that makes you want to give up before you’ve started.  Rather than going on a diet, consider changing your style of eating all together…

Ridding our house of sugar, grains, and most dairy has made a huge difference for our family.  Sure we still cheat from time to time, but to be honest once your body is done with processed junk, cheating is a lot less appealing!  Don’t believe me, try it…in fact we’ll be “trying” it together from time to time for anyone who is interested.  To get started check out the Paleo tab for a few suggestions!

Remember…what you do in the gym is irrelevant if you aren’t doing the right things in the kitchen.

We don’t claim to be nutritionists or experts by any stretch of the imagination…what we do claim is to have tried various approaches to healthy eating, and believe we have landed on one that fits our lifestyle.  Though it is called the Paleo diet, we prefer to think of it as a lifestyle or way of eating.  Diets require counting and measuring and lots and lots of rules.  Paleo, on the other hand, does involve some rules, but once you know what you should and should not eat the rest is just, well…life.

Paleo, or primal, gets its name from the Paleolithic people who were essentially hunters and gatherers…to which my first response was “I’m great at gathering food into my cart at the grocery store!”  Then we tried it.  The first 2 weeks were rough as our bodies adjusted to the lack of sugar and glucose spikes, but after that period past we started to see undeniable benefits.  I used to be that mom who couldn’t possibly make it through the day without taking a nap with my kids, and/or crashing on the floor at night while they jumped all over me.

Once I started Paleo I had more energy and honestly didn’t know how bad I felt in general until I realized how good I could feel.  What’s more, as you might have seen on my bio, Paleo has been incredible in terms of my heart condition, and the affect it’s had on my body.  Do I understand the science behind Paleo?  Yes.  Can I explain it to you?  Yes.  But I’d rather tell you how much better my quality of life has been since I started eating meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.  That also means no diary or grains (which if you cut out starch and sugar these two categories are typically gone as well!)

As I said before, we cheat.  But we don’t cheat often, and when we do we pay for it by way of sluggishness, upset stomach and fatigue.  Because our bodies naturally reject “the cheat” it makes it much less appealing…creating a natural desire to stay on course, rather than being constantly tempted to jump off the wagon as with “dieting”. So…yes, we recommend Paleo, but we would recommend that to nearly everyone with or without the addition of CrossFit.  Paleo + CrossFit results in a body that is able to recover faster from intense workouts, as well as a body that functions at maximum capacity during those same workouts.

If you have questions let us know!  We will periodically have Paleo Seminars and Challenges, but in the meantime we’re happy to answer any questions you might have…if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find it!

Metabolic Pathways…and what they mean for CrossFitters: whether beginner or elite

Metabolic Pathways

Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder, describes three metabolic pathways in which the human body expends energy during activity in his CrossFit Journal article “Metabolic Conditioning.” Coach Glassman states “There are three distinct biochemical means by which energy is provided for all human action. these “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. The first, the phosphagen pathway, provides the bulk of energy used in highest-powered activities, those that last less than ten seconds.The second, the glycolytic pathway, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes. The third, the oxidative pathway provides energy for low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes.”

We briefly touch on Metabolic Conditioning, the cardiovascular aspect of CrossFit, and these various pathways during our Foundations classes, but unfortunately it is not often discussed outside of those classes. Contrarily we do consider these metabolic pathways when programming WODs for CrossFit Praus. Within these three pathways, we also believe there are muscular strength and muscular endurance components. The following is a guideline for attacking our workouts as they were intended, by relating them to a pathway and strength and endurance component.  Although it’s a quick way to explain “CrossFit” to someone who’s unfamiliar with what we do, it’s not always as simple as,“How do you get strong…we lift weights; how do you do cardio…we lift weights faster.” What follows should be a tool to help you know when to scale, modify or go prescribed for a given WOD, we have also provided a CrossFit benchmark WOD to help you visualize each.

The Phosphagen Pathway is described as a high power output in a very short time, under ten seconds. The obvious power exerted in this pathway would suggest an athlete is exhibiting muscular strength. This is true. Within this pathway an athlete will find one rep maxes, work to heavy loads, work to heavy loads in an EMOM, or run a short sprint. These are explosive, powerful movements done under ten seconds. A good example WOD for muscular strength in the phosphagen pathway is CrossFit Total, find a one rep max of deadlift, back squat, and strict press.  Muscular endurance can also be tested in the phosphagen pathway by using a three rep EMOM at a sub 1RM percentage or sets and reps (eg. 5 x 3).

In contrast to the phosphagen pathway, WODs in the oxidative pathway are long, 20 plus minutes. It’s obvious we are working muscular endurance during these WODs. WODs like “Cindy” (20 minute AMRAP of 5 Pull-ups 10 Push-ups and 15 Air Squats) is light and fast, trying to maintain the same pace the entire time. If it takes an athlete one minute to complete their first round, it should take about a minute to complete a round in the 19th minute. The goal is to keep the same pace the entire WOD. Working muscular strength for a 20 plus minute WOD can get tricky. Wods that have many rounds with one lift at a relatively heavy weight (Hollyman=30 RFT, 5 Wallballs, 3 HSPU, 1 Clean 225/155) or multiple rounds of moderately heavy weight (Sevens) could be considered here. Let’s look at Murph (1 mile run, 100 Pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run, all with a weight vest) This workout is hard with just body weight. Adding the weight vest forces the athlete to expend more energy for every repetition over the course of the entire WOD, working the strength of the muscles over a long period of time.

The above described pathways are fairly easy to recognize. However the vast majority of CrossFit WODs fall in the Glycolytic pathway and it can be difficult to know if the focus is muscular strength (heavy and paced) or muscular endurance (light and fast). There is some grey area here which can spark discussion. The point though is for the program to speak for itself and if the focus is to move fast, stay light. “Randy” for example is a pretty light snatch at 75/55 prescribed for 75 repetitions. An average time for this WOD may be anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes for men and 5 to 8 for women. If it is takes 10 minutes or longer we’ve missed the “light and fast” focus of the WOD.  This is an example of glycolytic muscular endurance.  “Diane” is a moderate deadlift at 225/155 and a body weight movement of handstand push-ups for 45 total repetitions each. Focus here would shift to heavy and short, as an example of glycolytic muscular strength. The deadlift is not light, but not too heavy to move efficiently, and the handstand push-ups are a press at body weight (proportionately heavy to strict press). This WOD too should be short, under 10 minutes. Over that and more scaling should be done. If the prescribed deadlift is heavy go lighter, 50% of your max would be a good start. Modifying the handstand push-ups to holds, a tri-pod stance, or back to regular push-ups if need be. So much could be written about this phase, but it comes down to strength, ability and the knowledge to know when to scale or go prescribed. Listen to your body and know your limits.

There will always be exceptions to these guidelines, and you may disagree with how a WOD is programmed at times. However we would encourage you to trust the programming and know prescribed weights and movements for a WOD are for the top athletes. What is prescribed for them is not prescribed for everyone. If an athlete feels we did not hit their full potential at a prescribed weight or movement and chooses to go Rx+, they better beat the median score/time of the day/class or there will be a burpee penalty. Just kidding. Not really.

We hope this helps explain how programming a WOD/week/month is not just random and individual. To help guide you as an athlete, record your max lifts, know what you have done for other workouts and if it was easy or difficult. Not knowing your limits is a disservice to your potential. If you ask a coach what weight to use, their first response will be, “what is your max?” If you don’t know we will always error on the light side, but you may not reach your full potential, which is ok as you learn how to safely make decisions on a daily basis.

To help everyone wrap their heads around this, we will begin to let you know what the focus of each WOD is. We will label workouts with initials; P=phosphagen, G=glycolytic, and O=oxidative. Within those pathways we will label ME=Muscular Endurance and MS=Muscular Strength. Yes, we understand there is potential for a WOD to be labeled PMS. Just run far away from that WOD. That time…kidding. Utilizing these labels you can better scale for yourself and we can better serve and help you reach your potential as an athlete. Do your best, do what is best for you, and most importantly remember you are always DOIN WORK!

Authors: Shane and Amanda Burge


Scaling workouts to reach the best of your potential on any given day

DSC05607Sometimes scaling or modifying a movement is easy. I can’t do a pull-up, I need to use a band or maybe ring rows. But what about the WOD that has a weight that is under my max. I can do it right? In the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend.” Scaling a WOD to your ability level is crucial to maintain an appropriate activity level and avoiding injury. Too often I see people struggling through something, but if they would just grab a band to assist pull-ups or take 15 pounds off their bar, they could move with better range of motion. Sometimes WODs are too tempting, but its important to stay focused on your goals not fixating on an Rx by your name. One beautiful thing about CrossFit is there is no ceiling to your potential. Just because you cannot do a movement now, does not rule it out for future WODs down the road. The following are some guidelines to better equip you to choose weights and modifications to help you reach those goals, and do so safely.


WODs with low repetitions like “Cindy” require five pull-ups each round. If you can do pull-ups, maybe five isn’t a daunting number. “Angie” however requires 100 pull-ups in a row. Even if pull-ups are a strength, 100 of them is no joke. Here are my thoughts on scaling. Even though “Cindy” is a 20 minute workout, if you can do pull-ups do them, but only if you can complete multiple rounds unbroken. Doing one at a time from the beginning will slow you down enough that you miss the point of a 20 minute bodyweight WOD. “Cindy” should be fast constant movement and not waiting to jump back on the bar amidst five reps. “Angie” however presents a different challenge though should still be quick and constant. Due to the high rep count, I would scale from the beginning. Even if you can do multiple pull-ups. If you cannot keep doing pull-ups in sets for the whole 100, you will tire yourself enough that you will have to scale with a stronger band than you really need. Thus not really giving yourself the best workout you could have gotten by doing a moderate modification for the entire rep scheme.

The best modifications are the ones that mimic the prescribed movement in keeping the number of repetitions in mind. Using the two WOD examples above; a good modification may be to add a band for pull-ups during “Cindy” because adding a small band can help you achieve five reps for the entire 20 minutes. That same small band may not be enough help for 100 pull-ups in a row. Here I would say using ring rows would be a great substitution. Too much band help will not build as much strength in the back, shoulders and arms as doing ring rows. The movement may not be as sexy as a pull-up, but it sure is useful.

Modifying movements when you cannot complete one rep of the Rx’d movement can be tricky at times as well. Pistols are often an elusive movement for people. Many people fall on one side, but are able struggle through standing back up with the strength, balance, and coordination on the other leg. Again, doing a similar movement is going to provide the most benefit. If balance and coordination are not a problem, doing candlesticks with just one leg may give you the momentum needed to stand. Given the entire movement doesn’t make you too sick to complete the WOD. Squatting to a small box or stacked plates may work if you have the strength and balance, but lack the coordination at the bottom of the squat. Holding bands on the rig, may be a good option if you just struggle with the balance, as long as you aren’t using the band to pull yourself back up. Then holding onto a fixed object would benefit you if you lack the strength to squat with one leg. All of these are acceptable modifications for one prescribed movement, but what may be a good modification for 10 repetitions may not best for 50 repetitions.


Knowing when to scale weight can be easy at times. If the prescribed weight is above, at or close to your max at that lift, scale. Lifting weights for higher repetitions as we do in CrossFit can cause confusion on when to go heavy and when to go “not-so-heavy”. There is no set rule on when you need to scale back. Some people are able to work at a higher percentage of their one rep max weight than others. For example, athlete A has a back squat max of 350lbs and Athlete B has a max of 275lbs. This does not necessarily mean that Athlete A can move 135lbs more reps at a faster pace than athlete B. This is what CrossFit calls work capacity, moving large loads for long distance over broad time and modal domains.

First and foremost the need to scale weight is based on your ability to perform the movement safely and correctly. Just because I may be able to deadlift 400lbs does not mean that I should try to deadlift 350lbs in a WOD for multiple repetitions. That may seem like an exaggeration, but I see many people cleaning weight that is not too far off from that percentage. There is a time and a place for these percentages, but most likely not in a WOD. More on that later. If a weight makes you lean back for a press, round your back on a deadlift, collapse your knees in a squat or anything that takes you out of regular form…scale. I realize that we are moving fast and not every rep looks picture perfect with form, but if you can’t correct it after a coach says something, your weight is too heavy for that particular WOD.

A good rule of thumb when a prescribed weight listed is to ask yourself if you can perform a set of five? (for lower total rep scheme, ex. 15 or less) a set of 10? (for higher total rep scheme, ex. more than 15) in the final rounds of the WOD.  If the answer is yes, likely your form is going to be ok under this particular load and maybe you can do the prescribed weight. If the answer is no to either of these questions, you should probably scale. If you do need to scale, you should scale down to a weight that you can perform five or maybe 10 reps at a good pace with good form. This will keep you moving at a good speed in the workout that may have 20, 30 or more reps. There can be some exceptions on when to go a little heavier. If a WOD has five or less repetitions of a lift, it is likely the point is to be heavy. This example may be okay for a person to do one rep at a time or go a little closer percentage to their one rep max.

Bottom Line

Scaling workouts is meant to even the playing field. Not everyone has the same experience entering CrossFit, or the same strength/cardio. Some people are better at gymnastic movements. Others can lift small cars with their pinky toe. And some can run all day. There is a phrase, “Program for the best, scale for the rest.” I didn’t come up with the phrase and I do not know where it originated, but the philosophy does a few things for the gym as a whole. 1) It challenges the top athletes. If workouts were such that the everyday crossfitter could do them prescribed, the top athletes would never be challenged or see improvements, and the everyday crossfitter wouldn’t know if he/she is improving. 2) Sets a measuring stick for others to compare. When the fastest time gets posted, the following people should try to get under the time or close to the time. (e.g. Athlete A posts the fastest prescribed time on the board at 9:23. Athlete B goes prescribed and the posted time is 17:57. Athlete B should have scaled. Athlete C scaled and posted a time of 10:42. Athlete D scaled and  posted a time of 9:12. These are appropriate. If athletes scale appropriately the times on the board should all be relatively close.  3) Creates goals for the entire gym. This is particularly helpful with benchmark WODs. When the fastest time gets set in a gym, that time can be used as the goal for another athlete to beat. (e.g. Athlete A does “Isabel” prescribed (135/95) in 3:05. Athlete B sets a goal of beating that 3:05 time scaled to (115/75). Once that goal is accomplished, next time they might consider doing Isabel prescribed).

The point is we all have strengths and weaknesses. The beautiful thing about CrossFit is there is no ceiling to your potential. But you can never see your potential if you are hurt. Scale and modify correctly and you will see your potential sooner. A couple final thoughts. Never sacrifice form to move more load. You will get hurt. Listen to your coach. If you cannot correct the form, as in cleaning up sloppy movement, scale the weight back. Lastly do not use your WOD as a time to work on movements. You can practice movements and work heavier weight before and after WODs. Trying to go fast in a workout is not the time to try a heavier weight. Use the Buy-In to work on strength and skills. Come in during open gyms and do extra work, but the WOD is not necessarily a time where you will build strength. The WOD is a time for conditioning and over time the heavier weights will be easier to lift faster.

To help our athletes better understand the intent of what we program, we are going to be using a system so you can gauge your scaling/modifications.  For example, do we want you to keep the weight light and be able to move faster, or do we want you to incorporate more strength by going heavier for a lower number of reps?  Perhaps we’ll use heavy weight on a bar in conjunction with body weight movements so you are challenged to move heavier weight while your cardio capacity tests the stamina of your muscles.  Or we’ll use lighter weight for higher reps to push your muscular endurance.  We often have people ask, “What weight should I use?”  Which is an excellent question, especially while you are still learning the ropes and figuring out what your capacity is.  But after a while we would like for you to be able to listen to your body, gauge your ability THAT day and choose the appropriate scaling based on what we are trying to target.  Coaches will also be there to help you work through these decisions, but we’d like to better equip you to make them yourself.  Keep moving and Do Work!

Author: Shane Burge

Fitness and Fruit

Fitness and Fruit… If you think I’m going to talk about exercise and diet, you’re wrong. Exercise yes, diet no.Maybe I should restart.I love CrossFit. And if you know me at all, you know I love CrossFit. I love how I’m getting stronger, gaining skills, and being part of a community. More importantly, I love how CrossFit is forcing me to take a second look at who I am as a Christian and how to better live a Christian life.One of the questions that plagues me on a regular basis is “What does it mean to be a good Christian?” I think about the time I spend doing CrossFit, reading about CrossFit, talking about CrossFit and wonder what would happen if I put this kind of dedication into growing more like Christ. As I thought about this, God brought a verse to mind:

“But the fruit of the Spirit isLove, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness,Self-Control…” Galatians 5:22-23.

Right before all of this, Paul (the author of Galatians) talks about walking in the Spirit–aka, leading a ‘good Christian life’. He lists some things that should not be characteristics of Christians, and then–like any good teacher–lists the characteristics that should be said about Christians. Count them. There are nine characteristics. Nine things to work on, practice, and improve.

How does this relate to CrossFit? There are ten fitness domains that CrossFit seeks to improve:

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance (which is NOT my forte), Stamina, Strength, Agility, Power, Speed, Balance, Coordination,Flexibility, and Accuracy.

(Would have matched so much nicer had there only been nine…)

Every time we WOD we are working on some of these different aspects. Today was an endurance, coordination, flexibility, accuracy, stamina kind of day (wall balls and Kettle Bell Swings). Some of these I’m good at, others not. Wall balls are definitely an area I need to work on as far as stamina and explosiveness out of the squat (if these terms are unfamiliar, go look it up on youtube). How do I get better at wall balls? I just have to do them…

There are definitely characteristics in the Fruit of the Spirit that I need to work on. Anyone who has ridden in the car with me knows that my patience/frustration tolerance is very low. So how do I fix that? By doing it–everytime I get in the car, if I find myself yelling at other drivers I need to stop myself and fix it.

One of the things about CrossFit is you can always improve something–you should never plateau. You can get stronger, faster, more agile. Same goes for living out the Fruit of the Spirit. You can always be more loving, more joyful, more kind.

So anyways. Those are my thoughts. Take them or leave them.

Author: Cristin O’Brien


I love what I do…and not everyone has to

Recently I have been asked by several CrossFitters how to respond to a person “bashing” on CrossFit. While I know there will always be people that disagree, and that is okay, it is difficult to stand by and let someone attempt to tear down a program I…we…CrossFitters hold dear. First I would like to see their statistics on the high rates of injury. Was it a study and where did it come from? What were the problems? Did the participants have any pre-existing ailments? The bashing needs to be based on facts, not ones opinions from the outside. I stand behind CrossFit and its methodologies.

The recent “bashing” focuses on injuries, and a possibility of Rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdo, as it is often called, is a condition where the muscles break down too quickly and the chemicals in the body become too toxic for the kidneys to handle. The condition is not as common as it is let on to be, but everyone seems to know a guy who had a cousin that goes to a CrossFit gym and one of their members had Rhabdo. Catch the drift? As rare as it is, it is difficult to address, but I will say, it boils down to personal responsibility. The learning curve in CrossFit goes as follows; teach safety, learn proper mechanics, develop consistent proper mechanics, then add intensity. If a newbie adds intensity too early it is a recipe for disaster. Even a conditioned athlete could be at risk. However a good coach will help a person ease into the CrossFit regimen greatly reducing this risk.

Injuries are often found in the same manner. Much like not knowing how to tackle in football, pivot in basketball, or kick a soccer ball: performing movements with weight, or under load, without following proper technique will lead to injury as well. All too often I see people wanting to lift heavier weight, go faster, and do the workout prescribed prior to developing consistent proper mechanics. Again we come to personal responsibility. While I am all for pushing yourself in the gym and trying to achieve goals, doing a WOD prescribed too heavy according to your abilities will often lead to injury because the mechanic/form suffer under too much tension.

Where is this going? My point is once you decide to participate in an activity, you set your self up for a risk of injury. Like many other people, I’ve sprained ankles playing basketball, cracked ribs playing football, pulled hamstrings running, suffered head trauma playing play ground soccer, and broken a wrist roller blading. However parents still allow their young children to participate in many of these sports without hesitation. Using machines and/or isolated movements to train cannot effectively train a person to perform functional movements outside the gym. If a person continually isolates muscle groups, how does he teach his body to perform a basic basketball jump efficiently without the training. However explosive movements like the clean and jerk, and snatch can teach the body to work multiple muscle groups in succession allowing a person to jump higher.

If you are reading this, you likely agree that “doing nothing” is not the answer. You need to decide what you see as fit, Do you think running will get you fit? What about swimming, cycling, weight training, weightlifting, power lifting, gymnastics, basketball, soccer? Is CrossFit for everyone? I think yes, anyone can participate by modifying and/or scaling workouts. However it may not suit everyone. CrossFit is for the person who likes to be pushed by progress over many activities in preparation for a specific activity. Are the methods previously listed acceptable ways to increase your fitness level? Absolutely. Is CrossFit just as effective? Ask someone who has put in the time to learn proper mechanics and then added intensity and weight. The results speak for themselves. As for dealing with the bashing…I come back to if a person needs to bash one method to raise their own, why is he/she so defensive? Put the program to the test. It would be extremely notable if you do not see the desired results.



HO! LY! CRAP! CrossFit: Day 1 By Rick Allison

Today was a big day for me.  I had been tossing around the idea of trying out CrossFit as a way to lose weight and get into shape.  I have friends that swear by it and others that tell me that I needed to lose weight first to avoid a cardiac episode.  After mulling it over for the past year, and researching the local CrossFit gyms, I decided to jump into the deep end at Crossfit Praus here in Ft. Wayne this morning for their free guest day.  I’ve been in contact with the owners/trainers for the past week or so, and with their added encouragement and reassurance that I wouldn’t keel over, I committed myself to be there.  Luckily, I didn’t have to go alone.  Maria, my girlfriend, was more than happy to go check it out with me and go through the day’s workout.

We got there at about 8:45am to a nearly empty parking lot in front of an industrial style metal building.  Within 5 minutes, there were a dozen other cars joining us.  We stepped inside to the lobby and met Shane and Amanda Burge, the owners and our trainers for the day.  I was pretty intimidated right off the bat.  As I looked around, I saw a lot of very fit men and women who have obviously been doing this for a while.  I was, by far, the heaviest person in the gym (aka. box).  I had butterflies before I got there and now there were getting worse.  I signed my injury/death waiver and headed into the gym.  It was a wide open room, lined with boxes, pull up bars, rings hanging from the ceiling, barbells, and bumper plates.  I was so far out of my element.  I had no clue what I was going to be put through and I was getting really nervous.  As everyone filed into the gym, the trainers headed to the center and everyone circled around.  There were probably about 25 people in there, and after the introductions, I found out that a lot of these people were here for their first time as well.  The nerves began to calm.

We started with some stretches and a 400m run outside.  Afterwards, we learned a few of the fundamental motions and exercises that we would be doing today.  Air squats, burpees, push ups, and dead lifts.  We all practiced these moves for a few minutes before the WOD (workout of the day) was introduced to us and explained.  We were working with partners on this one, so I obviously paired up with Maria.  We were about to do 3 rounds of some serious intensity as partners.

3 Rounds (21/15/9 reps respectively) For Time – 20:00 Limit

  • Burpees
  • Squats
  • Push ups
  • Dead lifts 
  • 200m run

As soon as I began the run at the end of the first round, my legs were gelatinous.  I ran about half the distance and had to walk a lot of the way back.  I kept marching on though.  Round 2 seemed a little bit easier, due to the fact that it was fewer reps. We managed to finish it and get through the run.  When we got back into the gym for round 3, I noticed that a majority of the other people were already putting away their equipment.  There were only 5 minutes left to go and I was drained.  I walked over to the area I was using for our workout and slowly started round 3.  Maria was struggling right along with me, but had to stop to take care of her son, who was with us in the childcare area.  I sludged through it on my own.  I now realized that we were the only ones still going.  As a fat guy with low self esteem, I have issues with people staring at me.  This was about to become one of my worst fears.  Everyone else had started watching me and Maria, as she returned, try and finish the WOD.  I started to try blocking out the staring eyes, but that wasn’t going to happen.  They weren’t going to let that happen.  One of the biggest draws of CrossFit is the sense of community and camaraderie each gym, trainer, and member are known for oozing out.  These people weren’t staring at me at all.  They had all gathered around to encourage us and root us on.  I had to drop that wall I had built as a defense mechanism.  I felt like I was a part of this “family” and I had only been there for less than an hour.  I pushed as hard as I though was possible for me.  I dropped that last dead lift to the mat and mad a dash to the back door for my final 200m run.  Maria had to stop again to help out her son, so I was completely alone.  It was a very emotional moment for me as I made the final turn back into the parking lot.  I looked to the finish, about 50m away.  Nearly the entire gym had ventured out to watch me try to finish.  Everyone was shouting and cheering me on, but my legs were liquid.  I heard someone yell out, “15 seconds!”  There was no way I could make it to the finish in 15 seconds.  I knew I had failed in front of all these people, despite their very vocal encouragement, but I sprinted the last few meters as hard as I could into a crowd of high fives and pats on the back.  I looked up at the timer…  20:00…

I couldn’t decide whether to puke, collapse, or cry.  Thankfully, I did none of these things.  I walked over to a box and leaned over for a minute to try to catch my breath.  We weren’t done, apparently.  We still had to do 50 v-ups (similar to an ab crunch) as fast as possible.  We were struggling pretty bad on this one.  Less than a minute into it, I heard someone shout out, “Time!”, signaling that he had already finished.  Shortly after, Maria was finished, too.  Nearly 3 minutes later, I was done.  That sucked… a lot!  But Maria and I had finished the meat and potatoes of the workout and finished the cool down stretches without incident.

Was this the most intense workout I’ve ever done?  Without a doubt.  Did it suck?  Yup!  Did I enjoy it?  Absolutely.  I will be back next weekend and soon enough, I’ll join as a full fledged member.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the CrossFit kool-aid.  It’s almost cult-like, but in a very positive way.  Pass me a big glass, I’m thirsty for more…


DSC02721Reflections on CF Open 2013

I know as a business owner you’re supposed to have it all together and as a CrossFit coach you should be the perfect mix of tough, compassionate and motivating…but as I reflect on the Open I find myself a crumpled mess of “what in the world was that all about?” with a side of “so now what?”

To provide a little bit of background…

I started CrossFitting in February of 2011 testing the limits of a 12 year old heart condition, because of which most people thought I was crazy to attempt the Sport of Fitness.  In June of that year we joined a great box which helped safely push me to my limits, though that meant passing out on occasion due to my condition (caused by miscommunication between my heart and brain).  Later that year as the 2012 Open Season buzz started, I was instead prepping for a shot in the dark surgery attempting to improve my condition.  I knew I would have to sit out the 2012 Open, but was more than happy judging my fellow athletes with the thoughts of “I’ve always got 2013” constantly running through my head.

My first week back at the box post-surgery was the first week of the Open…and it was a blast!!  I couldn’t wait to get released from the surgeon and start my 11 month training plan to get ready, because “I’ve always got 2013.”

Exactly 8 weeks later, just 2 weeks after my release, I coached a class at 6am and at 8:30am was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery due to the fact that my intestines were falling out of my body (an extremely unforeseen complication from the first surgery).

Are you kidding me?!?  Who’s intestines fall out of their body!!!

“Frustrated” doesn’t begin to describe it, but I was assured recovery wouldn’t be as long as the first time around.  A month later I was back at the box with restrictions, but excited to once again start training…because “I’ve always got 2013.”  Kid you not, 4 weeks later: 7 seconds from the end of a 15 minute thruster/burpee WOD I passed out with 75lbs overhead and suffered a severe concussion…cushioning my fall with the back of my head.  I suffered noticeable temporary brain damage due to swelling, to the point of pulling myself out of conversations due to an inability to formulate common words.

At this point I was 6 months into my training plan and have only been in the gym for 6 weeks…all of which were restricted.  But 6 months is a long time…”I’ve still got 2013.”

A month prior to my concussion the joking conversation between my husband and I about how fun it would be to open our own box someday, took a serious turn.  With our marriage centered with Christ at the helm we were beginning to feel a little less comfortable with the comfy little life we had built.  We felt as if we were being pushed to do something a little more risky, but with the potential to impact a lot more lives.  It was apparent that our desire to have a real impact on others, combined with our passion for CrossFit, was about to flip our lives upside down.

October of 2012 we outfitted our garage with a 5-man equipment package from Rogue and started working out.  Friends would come join us and before we knew it we had 12 regular athletes a week and were having a blast!  Having a box in your garage allowed me to fast forward my training quite extensively because it is extremely easy to pop out and do skill work…then later grab a strength session…and wind down the day with a WOD.  I was getting stronger and faster, and my heart was cooperating…FINALLY!

The first week of November I noticed a weird golf ball sized bump just above my belly button, turns out I had a hernia from one of my hysterectomy incisions (that surgery I had back in February to address the heart condition) which had to be repaired.  Surgery #3 in 10 months…really?!?  After another 6 week recovery period, Christmas Eve was my first WOD back in action…but “I’ve still got 2013.”

We moved from the garage to a 4500 sq ft industrial property and officially opened CrossFit Praus January 7th 2013.  I was healthy, eating clean, recovered and ready to roll.  We grew extremely fast, which we attribute solely to God giving us the nod that we were chasing His plan for us.  Just the same I still found time to train and was ramping up for the Open…cause “I’ve still got 2013!”

Here I sit on the eve of week 5 of the 2013 Open.  I have passed out 3 of the past 4 weeks and am petrified of 13.5 (flashback to the thrusters that caused my severe concussion just 9 months ago).  What am I going to do?  1 rep…a single 65 pound thruster…and stop.  Why?  Not because I am any less competitive than I’ve ever been.  Not because I’m giving up.  Definitely not because I’m giving in.  But I’m doing it because I need to let myself off the hook (enter tears as I type).

My shoulders didn’t give out in 13.1 even though I had only ever done 1 snatch at 75 pounds.  My legs didn’t give out during 13.3, I even got into DU’s.  I can kill toes 2 bar, and even though 95 pound C&J’s are just 10 pounds under my 1RM, I was still getting the bar up during 13.4.

My muscles didn’t give out on me…my heart did.

I have pushed, I’ve pushed hard…most would say harder than I should have.  But I’m competitive and I’m determined…and quite possibly a little more stubborn than I’d like to admit.  I’m happy that my muscles didn’t fail me.  But if there is one thing I have learned from the 2013 Open is that I don’t get to spend the next 11 months replaying, “I’ve always got 2014.”

There will be no 2014 Open for me, and as crushing as that is for me to say as an athlete…it is a great place for me to be as a coach.  I have found my limits, I’ve tested them…and pushed them.  They say you fail at your margins, but for me I just have to realign my margins.  What that means for me is that I still get to CrossFit, I still get to have a blast doing what I love; but when it comes to competition I get to enjoy the rush of helping push our incredible athletes to become the best versions of themselves.  I get to impact lives physically, mentally and maybe even spiritually, while still making sure our now 3 & 4 year old boys have a mommy long into the future.

So although I don’t get a 2014…CrossFit Praus does, and I can’t wait to invest my competitive edge into help others push past their margins and exceed their expectations.  THAT IS CROSSFIT…and that’s why we love what we do.

Above all else I get to chase after the plan God has for my life, and enjoy His incredible blessings.  Because honestly, our God is bigger.


“You don’t have to be better than anyone…except yesterday’s version of you”

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