James can be reached at TwinFreaks CrossFit, where he is an owner and trainer. James coaches barbell lifting classes and CrossFit classes. Contact him by email at james@twinfreakscrossfit.com or by phone at 720-204-2631.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Miyamoto Musashi said, "There is no Way that can be approached and petitioned for immediate gratification. The Universe does not work that way. How could it and at the same time expect any perfection to develop?"

Which explains why, when the guy pulled next to me at 287 and 45th in Loveland and said, "dude, I dream of that mustache," I replied, "no problem, it just takes a year." True I have an innate talent for not shaving, but even so a year is not bad. Sometimes I wish everything were that easy, but then I couldn't rightfully expect any awesomeness to develop, and I'd have to trade my Musashi for coca-cola and reality TV.

And sometimes too I read my Herman Melville. Specifically the part about it being a cold rainy November of the soul and needing to go whaling.

And while I'd like to go whaling, or at least go back to sea for a year or two, that's impractical, so I try to figure things out.

Just about when E.W. linked the CrossFit Lisbeth blog about training alone on my Facebook page, I knew it was time to ditch my partners and squat again. Over time you learn that Dave Tate is right: there are only three ways a lift can go wrong; physiological, technical, or mental. I kept putting weight on the bar until I was sure my problem is entirely mental.

I'm going to continue my solitary dialog with my demons. Sorry, the public is not invited.

I could live with most of the demons, but that motherfucker who asks why I get out of bed and even try doing anything is killing me.

And that's why I had to go surfing. I don't surf, although I'm sure I will when my two years at sea end with me in Rio de Janeiro, but the jiu-jitsu guys in Rio surf, so with my perhaps perverted logic I'm sure I can get the same restorative benefits by playing some jiu-jitsu.

I learned I can still beat white belts, and that I'm still not a dick because after using my arm-drag fan sweep at will a few times, I taught my partner how to do it and had him try it on me.

But more importantly, I learned that 280 pound purple-belt Big Richie can still beat me just as effortlessly. Probably sometime I'll compete in another tournament, but regardless I still train as if I'm getting ready for a competition which means while I don't do anything completely idiotic, I don't immediately tap out when I'm caught in a submission. So even after Big Richie beat my attempt to posture out of his triangle choke, I tried to hang on. If you've been here as many times as I have, you can be completely calm while you're being strangled. I felt the familiar dizziness come back and watched my peripheral vision blacken in ever tightening circles as I stared down the tunnel.

And there you remember you don't have problems. You only have a problem. While it's not today, you're going to die.

You can take the demons out for a 64 ounce dumb-fucker gulp and listen to their soothing lies about how being spherical is entirely normal, or you can meet them on your own ground where you might, possibly, be a hero just for one day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I Hate, Two Rules and an Afterthought

Yes, there are things I hate:
lifting at 6:30 am,
the creatine-coffee cocktail,
the cattle prod to the hips sensation,
the cattle prod to the low back sensation; that one is just scary,
the sensation of pvc on IT band, although in a masochistic way I like this one,
the feeling that my right wrist is going to break,
being in knee wraps one second too long,
drinking enough water,
going to bed on time,
eating enough when it gets hot, which to me is now already,
eating one pound of Greek yogurt after lifting,
eating the quarter pound of Greek yogurt from my mustache; that's 11 grams of protein,
eating half a doughnut when I want two and know that even though this is a rare abuse, I should stop at a quarter doughnut,
walking up a flight of stairs and feeling like a normal person does halfway through 100 overhead squats at 75 pounds,
eating two cans of Spam because I blew my cooking and I still need protein,
getting advice from the guy who took his squat from 100 to 150 pounds; that's great man, I stopped being able to drive up my squat by walking to the mailbox a few years ago. Could you maybe experience the intermediate grind for a year or more and then maybe actually do a pull-up before you help me out?
people who don't understand lifts are performed on a platform in front of three judges,
and so on.

What I hate more than anything is never having turned around and seen three white lights on a 2.5 x body weight squat.


And so here I am.

Rule #1: if you're not training with me, don't talk to me.

Exception to rule #1: look at the barbell. If you're comfortable with that much weight being dropped on your face, I'm comfortable with your chatter.

Rule #2: I touch the barbell, I lift the barbell. That's my job. It's the barbell's job to prove me wrong if it can. That is the real difference between me and most other people. They tell tell the barbell why they can't lift it, and I demand the barbell tell me why I can't lift it.

Afterthought: don't take me as arrogant. Part of the job of the intermediate is to know who the experts are. I know. Those guys cost a lot, more than I do, and when I can find a way, I'll be off to see them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I've been thinking it was time for a blog, and I've had plenty on my mind lately. Unfortunately it's mostly been angry stuff dealing mainly with people who can't differentiate between running their mouths incessantly and actually doing something. I have to admit though, that as yet I have nothing constructive to say, so perhaps I can be an example of shutting up and trying something, indeed anything.

I used to think that loyalty was my only character flaw; if I like you, that's it, we're down for life. I realize now that I'm also too honest. When someone completely fails to perform a clean, for example, and asks me if I'm laughing at them, I have to admit I am.

Here's the thing: you're a beginner, I see the universal beginner in you, and believe me, I remember when I was a beginner. And sometimes when I'm lucky I get to be a beginner still.

I've been learning to scull which in theory should be almost the same as rowing an erg, but in practice at times feels hopeless to me. It's the same legs, back, arms three part movement as erging but with a few minor tweaks that are more than enough to render me incompetent. If coach wants me to do something with my hands, I forget I have a back and legs. If she wants me to do something with my back, I forget I have arms and legs, and of course if she wants me to do something with my legs I forget I have back and arms.

Almost exactly the same way you can do all the parts of a clean progression and still fail miserably to clean.

But this should be fun, guys. You'll never make faster progress than when you first start, and as long as you're not injuring yourself, you're doing your body good. Consider if you will, and you must because this is after all my blog, the squat. I've put a good part of my body, mind, and soul into learning the squat for close to two years now. I am good, but I'm far from perfect and still working on my technique. If I work with you one hour, I'll probably laugh at you, but you will already have 85% of my technique and be able to squat safely and effectively. If you want to work with me a second hour, you'll have 95% of what I know and probably add an instant 20-50 pounds to your squat. There's really no point in doing a third hour. You might as well sign up for two years.

You will have enjoyed your two hours as a beginner.

I'll love you.

I'm loyal.