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This coming labor day we will be hosting our fifth annual Stephen Smolinksi memorial WOD. Stephen was more than just an athlete at our gym. He was a caring husband to Joy Smolinski of CrossFit Beyond, a loving father to Stacey Smolinski and a dear friend to many in our community. The beautiful thing about the CrossFit community is how its members stand by one another through not only tough workouts, but life’s tragedies as well. Help us support Joy and Stacey as we remember Stephen.
10 Rounds of:
30 Air Squats
* Scaling will be provided by the Albany CrossFit Staff.
Back home, far away from the roar of 25,000 fans and the California sun it’s just us and our local community. Showing up, beating back the buckle and doing the work to get the weight off the floor. The weights may vary but the struggle is the same. If you’re a CrossFitter, you’ve been there – whether in Albany, or Carson or in your garage. As CrossFitters, that is the tie that binds us.
Rich Froning or Julie Foucher are pretty to watch but back here on planet earth that’s not my main reason as to why I continue to choose CrossFit. Yes, they are spectacular athletes on an ever-expanding stage whom collectively we watch in awe and admiration. But ultimately, what motivates is the people right here in our own community. You may not have formally met that athlete next to you in the triple but you see them each morning and as they work on their pull-ups and refuse to quit during the most brutal of WODs and you feel happy when they go to add extra weight to their back squat. Maybe that person is a newer athlete whose form needs a lot of work (whose doesn’t?) but they keep trying, just like you and me. That’s really all that matters. Isn’t it? Each of us chipping away at what’s inside and out, our goals, our battles, our personal challenges, our dreams. WODs are symbolic of life. CrossFit not only gives the physical but the mental tools to navigate and keep going. The Games are spectacular but personally I’ll take a 3pm on a Thursday at ACF with athletes like Dona, or TJ, or Woody as my own personal form of what truly motivates. How about you?
Every year I look forward to watching the CrossFit Games. I probably look forward to the Games more than NCAA Nationals for gymnastics, which now seems strange to me. Both are only on once per year. Both are sports that I love. Gymnastics was my only love for 16 years, and only being able to watch it on tv once a year was like torture for me as a kid! I looked up to the girls competing immensely, and I always wished I could be just like them one day. Now that I’m 27 years old (ancient in gymnastics years), I see gymnastics differently. I watch it to appreciate the sport, and see how it is evolving. CrossFit, however, I see in a completely different light. They are competing in the same sport that we do at ACF every day. I watch the Games athletes, and I am able to compare myself to them. Sure, their Fran times are twice as fast as mine, but I know that I can do that same workout that they’re doing, whether it’s scaled or as prescribed. Because of this, I am inspired and motivated by everyone on tv at the Games.
Another reason why I love watching CrossFit is seeing the camaraderie between athletes who are competing against each other. You hear it all the time from the commentators- “it’s always the athlete that finishes last who gets the loudest cheers.” I love that aspect of our sport. You would never see that happen in gymnastics, or probably any other sport. Rich Froning, 4-time Fittest Man in the World, cheers for every single athlete he can, even though all of them are trying to take his title from him. What?! Cheer on the people trying to beat you? I love this about CrossFit! You’ll see the top athletes giving pointers to their competition before an event has started, and encouraging each other. I think this is what makes our sport the best, and it is something that we can all take away from watching the Games every year.
Let’s all try to be more like Games athletes, not only in work ethic, but in the way that they support each other. Cheer loud for your friends in the gym who are still trying to finish a WOD, even though you are completely dead from having just finished it yourself. Help someone who may be struggling with a certain movement, even if it means they’ll end up with a better score than you. With our fast-growing box, I think we sometimes lose sight of the community that we have at ACF. So, let’s all use each other to be better athletes, and more importantly- be better people.
For anyone who knows me or goes to the early morning WODs, you know that at times I fall off the wagon hard with my eating paleo and attendance at WODs. It’s not something I actively plan for, in fact every time I do it, I tell myself “never again”. Despite me telling myself “never again, it still happens every now and again. I have a few busy days at work and can’t make it in, I do a little too much volume and have to take a few extra rest days to ease and overused body part, or maybe it’s just a nice summer day and I want to eat a burger and relax with an adult beverage of choice. That’s how it starts, then one bad decision leads to another, then another and so on…Before I know it, my belt is fitting tighter, I’m moving slower, and those wall balls I used to breeze through now feel like I’m hurling a ball of concrete.
Enter in the memories and current viewings of the Crossfit games. Hello motivation and inspiration overload. Just watching the top tier athletes compete at the level they do makes me want to stop what I’m doing and start doing burpees. That’s not a joke, it just makes me want to workout. When I see them doing a skill that I generally suck at and they are doing it so easily, it reminds me that at one point they had to work hard to obtain that skill and work exponentially harder to master it at their current level. In fact, that is how I got unbroken double unders. In the summer of 2012 I was on vacation with my family and we were watching re-runs of previous games workouts. One of the WOD’s had double unders and I remember how effortlessly the athletes were just jumping up and down doing insane amounts of unbroken doubles, their faces looked like they were getting rest time in while doing this. Well, some of them anyway. At that time I was just getting back into shape from some time off recovering from shoulder surgery. I said that when I get back home I am going to get unbroken doubles. When I got home, I worked every day on my doubles and before I knew it, I was stringing unbroken doubles together. I kept working on them and now doubles are often times my strongest skill in a WOD.
Also along the lines of motivation is how strict the games athletes must be throughout the rest of the year. We all probably know that Rich Froning was once again the male games champ. Looking at the other names on the leader board and the podiums, a very high percentage of them are all repeat games athletes. One can only imagine the kind of strict eating, training, and planning it must take to achieve and maintain that level of fitness. For many of them, certain slip ups on clean eating and/or workout regimens may very well mean the difference between watching the games at home or watching the games from the eyes of an athlete on the rig. When I feel myself falling into a slump of eating crap food or taking the easy way out, I think of this and force myself to eat a paleo meal or get into a class and as one bad decision often leads to another, one good decision more often leads to another. This helps me stay on track and feeling fitter and better.
During the month of July there was a special kind of excitement in the air at ACF. The games were upon us! The Super Bowl of our sport was about to begin! Most of our athletes were buzzing with the excitement and anticipation of the crowning of the next fittest man and woman on earth.
In the days leading up to the crossfit games I paid very close attention to what was happening at our box. Most classes started with a mention of the games during our briefings at the white board. Most athletes appeared inspired by a discussion of the games and the athletes that were competing in them. You could see that enthusiasm in their faces when the coaches speculated about what the WODs might be and who would perform the best.
But I also saw many athletes with blank faces, athletes who didn’t seem at all interested in the Games or a discussion of them.
These are People who I made a point of speaking to later. “Will you be watching the games?” I asked several of our members. To my surprise, several people said no. At first I was shocked!
“You’re not going to spend four days glued to your computer and a wi-fi network to watch
people do what you do everyday?”
I was confused, it made no sense. It was like playing softball your entire life and not watching the world series………
Except that I’ve played softball my whole life and I hate watching major league baseball. And to be honest, I don’t much like watching the games either. It was kind of liberating to know that I am not the only person who doesn’t like to watch the games. I used to think that there was something wrong with me, that I was less of a crossfitter because I could care less if Rich Froning won for the fourth straight year.
So I thought about it. What does this disinterest in the Games mean? Does it mean that the athletes who choose not to watch don’t care about our ACF community? Does it mean that they are not dedicated to their personal crossfit journey?
Of course it doesn’t.
There are many members at ACF that come to our box day in and day out, that leave their heart and soul in the image of a perfect sweat angel on the floor. These are people that are dedicated and irreplaceable members of our community. Yet, they have no idea who Rich Froning or Annie T are. And frankly, like me, they don’t care. And that is ok.
That’s the beauty of our community. It is diverse. All of us have different goals and different priorities- for some that includes being a spectator and an athlete. For others, we are just happy being athletes who get to be a part of an amazing community that supports each other both inside and outside of the box. What is important, what matters, and what connects us all so deeply is that for the hour that we are working, side by side, we are all engaged in the same undertaking- to finish the workout and then to help our fellow athletes finish it as well.
This year I didn’t watch the games, but in honor of them and in honor of the sport of crossfit, something that has become such an important part of my life, I spent the time that I would have used to watch the games to hit double workouts and to take a long run. I also tried a new sport, and I got my sister, who has never crossfitted before, to hit a wod with me.
As the dust settles on the 2014 CrossFit Games Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Rich Froning are the fittest athletes in the world. After watching Rich’s four 1st place finishes Sunday with Matt Fraser nipping at his heals and Camille finally reaching the pinnacle of the sport of fitness I can’t help but feel inspired. If you have been following “Squat Therapy with Jason Ackerman” you no doubt heard the interviews with games athletes Greg Martino, James Hobart and Austin Malleolo. One thing that was constant with all of these athletes was their work ethic. Games athletes are laser focused when it comes to nutrition and fitness and seeing that many likeminded people gathered in one place can make anyone a believer. The evolution of CrossFit has made the games larger than life, a true spectacle. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to get a pump in after watching Rich go unbroken on the OH Lunges during Midline March. Aside from wanting to increase our fitness, the games also remind us of other reasons we show up to the box every day. When Chris Spealler struggled with the 275# squat clean the community showed up. The roar of the crowd was deafening and willed him to a good lift. Whether you’re Rich Froning finishing up double grace at a blistering pace or Joe Shmoe doing your first set of burpees you are now a member of the tribe and you have the unwavering support of the greatest community in the world. The games inspires gains, in both fitness and in social interactions with others.
What a mix of emotions watching them. It started with masters men….holy moly. Any and all age ranges was exciting to watch. When I watched the women,I got motivated, excited, loud and had tears when watching any one particular athlete finish right under the time cap or come from behind because steady wins the race. Then bring on the “regular” games….what an exciting weekend. From Jenny and Annie coming back to wondering if Rich would three-peat and knowing it would be great to see whether he won or not. One of my favorite highlights was when Camille went unbroken from pull-ups to muscle-ups. That was so bad ass, not one other athlete did that. When there was OH lunges, I knew Rich would kill it, it’s what he does. It was great seeing a rookie in the top spot for a couple days, if I were to guess, he learned what he needs to do to be(tter) again, steady wins the race. I found myself jumping up screaming at the tv when Josh bridges was no-repped 3 times while OH squatting almost 100# more than his body weight. These athletes did amazing things that not just any one can say they can do. Can we talk about the teams? Having 6 people work as one was awe inspiring rip watch. My favorite was big Bob but mostly the worm clean and jerk. I’m motivated….I know I have the ability to get to the games and need the commitment to put the time in and get the skills. Nothing can stop me but me!
It’s Sunday at the Puorto house, dishes are clanging in the kitchen, the smell of olive oil on the stove is prominent, wine bottles are scattered throughout the living room and continue to the back porch, conversations overlap like a bad editing video… if you were to walk in during one of these Sunday’s in its prime you wouldn’t believe you’d find only 9 or 10 people.
Normally over the steady buzz of conversation the faint call of Michael Kay during the Yankee game sets in as background noise, but not on this particular Sunday. Yes, the Yankees are still on in the main living room- muted. On this Sunday, the overwhelming sounds of weights clanging and crowds cheering consume the room- Lindsey and I are streaming the final day of the 2014 CrossFit games.
Probably not uncommon for most of you reading this- I’m sure the majority of us at some point last week logged on games.crossfit.com, clicked the ‘Live Stream’ link, went through the tedious process of finding your Time Warner username and password and proceeded to watch some bad ass athletes destroy WOD’s. But, did any of you watch with others? Not other CrossFitter’s, but others. I did.
My whole family at one point or another spent 15 minutes or so in front of the computer watching- and watching intently. My mother is why I am into the fitness scene. I remember her teaching aerobics classes at the YMCA when I was a boy. She, not to my surprise, loved it. “Can you do all this?” “No, mom, but some of it.” “Oh, wow, he’s handsome…” “He’s the champ, ma”
My father and brother are big guys- the type that would want to grab a burger and a beer after work rather than bust out some squats. Wings for time over burpees for time for sure…
My brother said, “is this why you’re always practicing handstands? I get it now, that’s kinda cool” I was floored. He hates my love of CrossFit, or did. My pops, “Look at that crowd, it’s like a real sporting event” “Yeah dad, pretty cool, right? I don’t think it’s going to get less popular.”
My point is this- This sport isn’t really understood or liked by all. That’s ok, neither is football, baseball, basketball, or hockey. But it is compelling, interesting, and here to stay. Show someone you know who doesn’t CrossFit some coverage from the games, check their reaction. I bet you’ll be surprised.