by trent | May 17, 2023 | News
We excitedly shed coats and gloves as spring advances. Yet fields are still muddy with spring rains, and the farmers are nervously idling equipment, ready to catch the first waves of warmth to jumpstart the growing season. We will ride by these fields each week now, watching the progression of tilling, seeding, and the explosion of ordered shoots. Adolescent whiskers of earthly growth in corn, soybeans, and mustard.
Bikes are unloaded in the post-dawn shades of orange and yellow, shadows being washed out with waves of light. We run through mental checklists. Such a simple machine once you get going, but you hate to forget snacks, water, the computer, and all the little bits you might need. More than once, I’ve ridden away to then remember the car is unlocked. A short ride of shame, then off we go.
I am always a bit tense early in a ride. How do my legs feel? Did I fuel properly, get enough rest, and of course, will I be able to keep up? We settle into a “modest” warm-up pace, and you start to pay attention to the details around you that are missed from the comfort inside a vehicle. Grit on the road, dampness, bumps and imperfections of the shoulder. And then it hits you; the smell of earth. Fecund, pungent, dirty brown/yellow soil. The smell creeps high into your nostrils; the fragrance penetrates your brain. Damp Earth waiting to share its nourishment with the crops to come. Not much to look at just yet, even if the field has been seeded. But gone is that inert smell of cold; the ground has awakened as we spin by. You feel alive; it’s an uplifting transition to the work ahead. All sensations are assaulted early before your rhythm settles you down. Smells, sights, and sounds surround you as your mind narrows from the stimulus around you to what your body is doing. How do my feet feel on the pedals? Where is the tilt in my back? How do my hands feel on the grips? We become intimately aware of all the points of contact with the bike and how that will translate into power moving forward. We do it so much we barely notice the transition from excited anticipation to the efficient spin of pedals and hum of tires on the road.
We are immersed in the world around us. The immensity of the sky and the proportions of the surrounding landscape accentuate our smallness and fragility. A ride at pace lets you feel the smell and texture of the air you are passing through. In spring, the low dark parts of the road put up a wall of frigid air that slaps you as you ride through, causing a temporary shiver. You ride on through a climb to a higher exposed road, the heat from the sun offering a quick blanket of warmth. You reach for water as your inner heat from the effort challenges your choice of layers. We are less willing early in the year to begin cold, not yet the summer heat, to demand minimal layers, desperate to shed the heat we hold onto in May’s crisp mornings.
Our causal attitude is shredded on the first hill that bumps heart rates; the first challenge to pace, downshifting to meet the climb and hold as much speed as possible. There will be many more climbs on this ride. This is the first taste of adversity and spreads the group out. We regroup quickly, still warming up, still sorting out the group pace. Before our ambition becomes the discipline of effort, we smile and giggle, the world is wonderful, and the land around us shares its intimate texture of detail hidden by the comfort of a car. We see we smell, and we hear each meter. We are so lucky to feel alive in this way. The effort is the reward, and our surroundings cheer us on.
by Sean Blinch | Jun 12, 2022 | News
I tossed and turned all night in anticipation of the day. When I woke up I was foggy and my brain felt slow. Coffee didn’t improve clarity, it made things feel worse, and my heart raced with nerves. I got on the road at 4:30 am with a feeling of deep dread. I was going to be late or worse, get to the race and find out somehow had forgotten my bike or some critical piece that would devastate the day. When driving on the highway I missed my exit to take me north and had to double back, losing some time which ratcheted up my already white-knuckle race day stress. I finally got off the highway to turn back around only to find the ramp was closed for “line painting”. WTF I thought. So I took city streets until I guessed at a possible ramp back onto the highway. It worked. But I lost about 40 minutes of drive time and I meant I had to drive fast to make it to registration and to set up my transition spot. But…I made it with time to spare. I worried and got really worked up for nothing.
1.5K Swim (1.5K Swim (38:28 | 2:33/100m)
I volunteered ahead of time to be in the “expected to finish last” wave. We were the red caps. And this group was jolly, cheering, and chanting and they made me feel calm and not take myself too seriously. I was so grateful for that. When the steamship whistle blew they loaded us onto the top deck of the Winonah II and we puttered to the “drop zone”. Nervously we sat baking in the sun watching wave after wave of athletes jump in Lake Muskoka and wade in the water until “3-2-1 GO”. I was sweating and overheating when the redcaps were called up, we were next. The race official on the boat would yell “one athlete LEFT, one athlete RIGHT, hold onto your goggles, jump and get out of the way!”. My heart rate was soaring, it felt like I was a paratrooper on a mission or something, I really didn’t expect that feeling. Reminding myself to breathe I stepped up to the ledge and lept off. I plunged into the 19°C water. It was so refreshing that it drove my confidence up. Even though later on the swim I would have two, foot cramps. I felt ready and prepared. It was “go time”. Like the waves before us, our time came and off I went. I felt slow, steady and positive in my mind. Everything my coach Andrew Flynn had taught me had bubbled up to the top of my mind and I focused on my training. After making the first turn around the “green buoy” I felt a surge of focus. I didn’t pick up my speed but did feel my body relax, and I allowed a rhythm to take over, the beat of my heart, the counting of my strokes and the dependability of sweet oxygen were all keeping me happy. I was so present, but also “gone”. My favourite place to be, I feel lucky to be in the “here & gone” state, but sometimes I don’t know I’m there till it passes. I would cycle through calming thoughts of my family, and return back to my training cues from Andrew, all the while learning lessons on “sighting” as a few times I was angling way off course in my beloved little flow state. I passed a few swimmers from waves that started ahead of me and let that have no effect. I wasn’t about to start thinking all high of myself in the first 30 minutes of a 3-hour event. I was making many rookie mistakes, I didn’t want another one. Next thing I knew I was climbing up the ladder and trotting to my bike, slowly unzipping my wetsuit and trying to right my equilibrium from the horizontal of swimming to the vertical of walking. I got to my bike to find one of the guys I was racing with was 10 minutes ahead of me on the swim. He was a very welcomed sight because he waited for me so we could do the bike together. He didn’t have to do that but I was so grateful he did. Off we went, passed the cheers of onlookers, some we knew, most we didn’t. I loved every one of them and their cheers really meant something to me.
40K Bike (1:15 mins | 32 KM/Hr)
I settled into a good pace of 28km/hour on the bike and let my legs spin. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or I was already warmed up but I felt strong with tons of depth. Coach Andrew told me not to eat too early on the bike so I waited until about 5K in and started to slowly drink three bottles of my race mix which consisted of EAAs, Carbs, and Electrolytes. Each refreshing gulp just hit the blood like rocket fuel. Considering how much of lake Muskoka I drank on the swim with wakes to the face, I was quite thirsty. My race partner and I rounded the halfway point and picked up our pace. Our legs were burning from the hills but the feeling of being “halfway” is incredibly motivating. We passed about 50 riders and again, I reminded myself, not to let that mean anything at all. Who am I kidding? This is my first triathlon, perhaps it means I’ve lit too many matches on the bike. (Lighting matches is a term in endurance sports that means you only have so many matches to light, when they’re gone, they’re gone- use them wisely.) When we returned to the transition area to run I was surprised at how ready I was for the run. Scared, my heart rate was soaring, it was getting later in the day so it was hot but I wanted to hurt more. I was hungry for it. I stuffed two gels into my jersey not knowing if I’ll need them but better to be safe than sorry. I drank too much water which I paid for later.
Run (52:24 | 5:14km)
“LFG” I thought as we took off. About 400m into the run I noticed I was holding a 4:40km pace, way too fast, way too fast, so I settled it back to a 5:45km pace, which felt like walking compared to our speeds on the bike. The first KM felt like a marathon. My legs were bricks and my hips didn’t like this at all but slowly, very slowly I settled into a pocket where things felt “okay”. First came the bees, then the horse flies, then hills. Then all three of those elements stayed for nearly all 10KM. I drank so much water before the run that my stomach was bloated and hurting. What I was thinking, consuming all that water? That was a thought I kept trying to forget. Beating myself up for something over and over was not helping so I just ignored it, other things hurt more so I focused on those. A few water stations popped up here and there which I ran through, grabbed the half-filled cups of water and immediately poured them over my head. Runners were passing me which I made sure to block out of my mind. I’m easily baited into competing in that scenario of “the chase”. Ignore them, it’s you vs you today. You’ll have your day sometime I thought. At the 6km mark, I threw another half-filled water cup over my head and pissed off a bee that was sitting on my back. I soon felt a sharp sting on my right shoulder blade. I was so caught off guard that I swung my left hand over my shoulder and killed it with the wrath of Thor’s Hammer. I felt it crumble in my fingertips for a brief moment before it fell away. You’ve got to be kidding me I thought. I probably had the equivalent adrenaline dose of an epinephrine pen surging through my body already, so if I had a secret bee allergy, I wasn’t going to learn about it today. It didn’t hurt then and it doesn’t hurt now as I write this. Maybe it was just a fly bite- a bee sting makes for a better story. I passed the 7km sign and thought “okay man you can hurt more, you’ve had harder training sessions than this, LFG”. I passed a few runners and regained some ground, I was competing now, and absolutely crushed kilometre 7. With my heart rate at 177 and my lungs wheezing a little I closed out this segment only to be at the foot of the 8km sign and a big fucking hill. I thought okay man, you said it was “go time” so prove it. I leaned into this hill and as I crested over the top I blocked every single pain feedback loop I could and drove out the demons in my mind that encircled my ever-shrinking flame of positive self-talk. Slowly and surely, I worked through the final distance faster and faster. I was running on the thought of my family and relief I was almost out of this bee hive. The black tarmac of the Muskoka back road was hot and reflected the sun. I was overheating, but I passed more and more runners and locked in on two more people ahead of me and played a mental game of beating them and passing the finish line. So I did. I passed them and made it.
I ran across the finish line hard into a crowd of cheering people and felt like a Triathlete. I felt I earned something. Not like an elite athletic achievement though. It was more like I felt I earned self-respect …from my future self. It was a quieting feeling. I felt like I earned the right to KEEP GOING.
by Michelle Dukowski | Mar 5, 2021 | News
Let me start by saying that I am not competing in the Open because I have any hope of winning or doing particularly well by any external measure. I will certainly not place in the top 10 or even close to the top 100. I might adapt movements or skip them all together because I am still working through injuries.
But I am competing anyway. And I can’t wait!
The CrossFit Open is so much more than a three-week competition (although it’s definitely that as well). It is the entire process. It’s watching the announcement and trying to guess the workouts, followed by equal levels of excitement and anxiety because I know how hard it will feel. It is showing up with my community and doing it together.
The Open shows us we are so much stronger than we think, that we are capable of so much more.
I love the Open because it pushes me to challenge myself beyond my normal range. Doing the workout that everyone around the world is doing—even if I end up doing it at home, in my second bedroom, alone at 5am—brings a level of give-a-f*ck that I normally don’t tap into. Because I know that my score matters, really matters!
But it’s even bigger than that. I love watching seasoned athletes workout alongside those tackling it for the first time, and then they cheer on the new athletes who are giving it their best shot.
It’s about seeing people who thought they couldn’t do it come out and try their hardest. Then they become cheerleaders for friends who also thought they might fail. We become more than we were when we began the workout. And we leave as better people because of it.
For me, the Open is much more than a weekly test of fitness. The Open is a chance to give to our community more than we take for ourselves, to cheer on our friends, and show up for each other when we need it the most. I am proud to be part of a community that has not let this tough year dictate how they show up.
The Open shows us what we are capable of—that it’s okay to push outside our comfort zone, knowing that this is where growth happens, and that through everything that has happened we are a community striving for a better tomorrow.
Seizing the Day
The Open is a chance for something more, and that is why we do it. Because it is our opportunity to push our limits, to walk out of the gym (or living room) stronger than when we walked in. We know that we saw the challenge and faced it head on.
We show up, do something uncomfortable, and because of that we know that we can embrace the rest of our day with courage. How you show up to your workout, just like how you show up to your day, is your choice—and the Open is our chance to make the choice to push for something more.
This year has been anything but normal, and every day that you enter the ring you make a choice to be better. You are choosing to take control of the things you have control over, to let go of the things you don’t, and to leave it all on the table knowing that you gave it your best.
And that is why I do the Open. Because how I show up to this challenge is how I show up to it all. Ready to be uncomfortable, ready for the possibility that I will lose, ready to put everything into something where the outcome is uncertain. Because at the end of the day I know I did my best. And for me, that will always be enough.
by Michelle Dukowski | Dec 19, 2020 | News
A Strategy for Long Term Success
The secret to seeing real and sustainable long-term changes in your body is this: strive to be consistently imperfect!
We, your coaches, are asking you to ditch the idea that you need to be perfect in order to see results. Hear us when we say that being consistently imperfect over time is infinitely better than being absolutely perfect for the next thirty days.
We are asking you to be consistent most of the time, for a long time. Be consistent in your habits and understand that changes in body composition doesn’t happen after a seven-day juice cleanse or a 30-day detox. The changes you want won’t happen by cutting out alcohol, caffeine, or carbs for a week. They happen slowly, over months and years from small but steady changes in certain habits.
Where the Magic Happens
Creating good habits could include having a drink a few times a month rather than a few each night. Or try eating healthy, real food six and a half out of seven days a week, and working out for 20-30 minutes most days.
And you can’t beat prioritizing your sleep even when things are crazy, hectic and stressful, instead of staying up late to binge watch Netflix or cram in extra work.
When we have established habits to fall back on, the ones we do day in and day out, you will really see changes. That’s where the magic is.
So when you think of the abs you want, or the muscles you know are there but aren’t quite visible to the world yet, understand that it is time to forget the idea of being perfect, of being “all in.” Understand that what you do for seven, 15, or 30 days isn’t going to move the needle over the course of your life.
It’s what you do day in and day out over the next few years that will set you up for the you that you are working so hard to see.
And KEEP GOING
So when I say I want you to be consistently imperfect, think of it as a weight being lifted, as a welcomed reality check that you don’t need to be perfect every day. You just need to keep at it. Focus on making minor changes that you can hold on to for one, two, maybe even three years before you really see the difference.
Let go of the idea that results should come right away and find value and comfort in the process. Overnight results are fleeting, and the ones that take time are the ones we hold on to. Let’s adjust our timeline, refocus our intentions, and find joy in the journey.
Forget about being perfect! Strive to be consistent—to be imperfectly moving in the right direction, and to find success along the way.
by Michelle Dukowski | Dec 17, 2020 | News
It’s been a long and challenging eight months, hasn’t it? The pandemic has been unpredictable, frustrating, and discouraging. And on top of everything going on in your world, sometimes it’s been too much.
And then the gym opened! You were feeling ready to get back in until you realized that all of a sudden it’s been eight months since you:
* Consistently used a barbell or practiced your pull ups.
* Ditto for being motivated to eat well and prioritize your sleep.
And you have long since realized that additional stress has crept its way into your daily vibe and you no longer feel quite like yourself.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, it does for me too.
And here we find ourselves in a tough position. The thing that helped you manage your stress, motivated you to eat well, and prioritize yourself more—the elements that brought you closer to feeling your best—now feels like it is receding, or is just too far away. It’s like you are starting all over again.
But here’s a secret: all that work you did way back when has, believe it or not, made you very well equipped to handle these challenges.
You know what it feels like to walk into the gym for the first time, not knowing if you are ready.
You know exactly what it feels like to have the people around you seem so much stronger and fitter than you are. And you know what it feels like to look in the mirror and believe you are far away from the person you want to be.
But you didn’t give into those fears. And that means you also know what it feels like to be welcomed by complete strangers who want nothing more than to share space with you and help you succeed.
It means that you also know what it’s like to discover you are already infinitely stronger and fitter than you ever thought possible! And you know the joy of finding out that the changes you committed to are finally starting to add up. You realize you are getting in the best shape of your life.
So I want to remind you that you have been here before. You’ve done this, and I promise you can do it again. And if it feels too big or that too much time has passed, just remember what brought you through the door the first time.
To those who think they can’t: you can. You’ve already proven it. Just Keep Going.
by Sean Blinch | Dec 17, 2020 | News
Athletes, CrossFitters and bodybuilders have long turned to Essential Amino Acids supplements, known as EAAs, to aid their workouts. They also turn to Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, for the same reason.