Thursday 150326

5 Rounds for time:
5 Strict pull-ups
10 Single arm dumbell squat clean, alternating, 40#(25#)
10 Burpees

Post times to comments and BTWB

Sometimes you just gotta do some curls for the girls. . . isn't that right Stan?

Sometimes you just gotta do some curls for the girls. . . isn’t that right Stan?


You can wish in one hand and s#@t in the other, see which one fills first
By Courtney “yeah, I just said that” Shepherd, with the assistance of Patrick McCarty and Breaking Muscle

If you have never heard that saying before then I apologize for startling you with such brash words so early in the morning (or late at night if you preview the blog before bedtime). I remember the first time I heard that statement, I laughed so hard because it really is such a bold and cruel way to say that wishing for something to happen will not make something happen. Plus whenever I hear that phrase, doesn’t matter who says it, in my head it’s coming from the mouth of a crusty, 80 year old man who’s seen it all, full of wisdom, wrinkles, and a giant dip in his mouth. This grey haired, leather for skin, old man who’s spent his life working hard, rising with the sun, getting home when it’s dark, is looking at you, and with the crudest of analogies, is telling you that the only way to get what you want in life is to work for it, not wish for it.

It’s such simple concept, work hard, reap the benefits. If it’s at school, we walk away with an A+ on a test. If it’s at work, we walk away with more money or a promotion. If it’s in a CrossFit gym, we walk away with a heavier back squat and a faster time. The reverse would be true, don’t study, fail in school. Don’t do your job, get fired from your job. Don’t work your weaknesses in the gym. . . . don’t worry about it, I’ll just avoid them and never know the consequences of my inaction. Wait. What? This happens. Every day this happens. We see a workout with wall balls in it, “Ugg, I am so bad at wall balls. I’ll just do something else today.” Whereas not doing your job results in a loss of a job, not working a weakness may never have a negative result in the CrossFit gym. . . at least not an immediate or obvious one. Beyond not improving at that one thing we constantly avoid, because CrossFit prides itself on transference between movements, avoiding wall balls could equal to not seeing improvement in our box jumps or thrusters or even kipping pull-ups (each of those movements requires explosive opening of the hips).

So what? So I’ve avoided the thing that will hurt a little more, make me feel a little more uncomfortable, something that shows others I’m not the best. So I avoided the thing that prevents me from putting an RX by my name on the board. By not show casing my weaknesses and crushing the things I am good at, I feel better about myself. That is until something comes along, some pivotal moment, some big event, that smacks us right in the face with the very thing we’ve been avoiding. Something like, oh I don’t know, the CrossFit Games Open. Even more specifically Open workout 15.3, you know, the one that opened with muscle-ups. That workout sent a fury of haters to the inter webs shouting about the unfairness of the CrossFit Games. Could this be the same group of people, who don’t have muscle-ups but all year long told themselves they have nothing to worry about come Open time, because any workout in the Open that has muscle-ups, doesn’t have them until the end of a workout?  Muscle-ups are a coveted movement in the CrossFit world, EVERY BODY is working on their muscle-ups. Are they? If by working on them we mean hopping up on the high rings, getting the biggest kipping swing, trying for a muscle-up, and failing, rinse and repeat for approx 10-15 more minutes, then yeah, I guess we are working on them. Just to be clear, that’s not working on them. 

No joke, true story here. There was a local competition several people I knew were competing in. There was a 4 person team division and one of the workouts had muscle-ups in it. 2 of the team members did not have muscle-ups. Several days before the competition 1 of the non muscle-uppers was in the gym working on muscle-up transitions on the low rings followed by muscle-up attempts on the high rings. I asked the other non muscle-upper if they were also going to put in some practice?  This was their response to me, “No. If I try now and don’t get one I’ll just be upset about it. I’m not even going to try until the workout and then I’m hoping the adrenaline from the whole thing will help me get one.” Ah, yes. Insert old man with giant dip saying “well you can hope in one hand and s#@t in the other. . . “. I’ll save you from the suspense, adrenaline did not get this person a muscle-up. My point is this, be it wishing it won’t show up or wishing I will be randomly successful if it does are both no ways to train. To highlight this point even more is an article written by Patrick McCarty for Breaking Muscle titled “The CrossFit Open: Stop Whining About Muscle-ups”. (click here for full article) Now 15.3 has come and gone, I’m not trying to fire up more debate as to whether or not starting an Open workout with muscle-ups is a good thing or a bad thing. In his article Patrick gives a real world example of the difference between wishing for a result and working for a result:

“When I competed in the CrossFit Games 50-54 masters division in 2014, I knew almost beyond a doubt that handstand walks would be tested. I didn’t want them to be, but they were the flavor of the year, coming up in at the regional level and knocking a lot of folks out of the running, so I was pretty sure they were going to show up. Even for the old guys. And despite my coach prescribing the requisite amount of training for handstand walks, I won’t lie – I traded the hard work for hope. Hope that there was a smidgen of light that would cause Dave Castro to bypass this particular movement for the masters. So I did my work, but I basically phoned it in. I would sort of hope that I got upside down, but I never did. It was easier just to roll back off the floor and say to myself “Whelp, that should do it for today.” Contrast that with Heather McCauley, another athlete at my box, Cincinnati Strength and Conditioning. Heather is a strong female who excels in heavy barbell movements – but one year ago, she did not have muscle ups. So, Heather began a serious effort to achieve them. Almost daily, I would see her working on some variation of the progression. Not just jumping up on the rings and flailing and hoping it happened, but working on progressions from the floor, working the turnover, working the chest to bar, working the grip. Day after day, week after week, she worked on her muscle ups. It was almost as if she was possessed. 

As for me, I got to the CrossFit Games in July, and sure enough, handstand walks came up. Each athlete had to go a minimum of five feet to get a single point. I made it four. Zero points for me. Some of my competitors walked over 200 feet on their hands. I basically did a legless bear-crawl for four feet. It was, to say the least, sad. I chose to sidestep the hard work, and I paid the price. Meanwhile back at the gym, Heather was still working on her muscle ups. Finally in late 2014, she nailed one. Success! However, as is somewhat common with muscle ups when first achieved, they come and go. Heather experienced that ebb and flow where after the initial joy of getting on top of the rings, the muscle ups went away again for a while. Undeterred, she kept at it. Day after day, week after week, just hammering those muscle ups.

She put in the work – relentless, driven work – in order to master this movement and was ready for a testing piece that started with muscle ups. Heather did 15.3 and scored 161 reps – one full round and four muscle ups.

The difference between my handstand walks at the CrossFit Games and her muscle ups in 15.3? Where I traded the work for hope, Heather simply did the work.”

Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has a goat. Avoiding them will not make them less so. Fearing them will not make them less so, fear only adds a mental component to a physical limitation. We cannot be afraid to fail and we cannot be afraid for others to see us fail. Avoiding these two situations is what leads us to be angry when something like 15.3 is announced. We say we are angry because starting an Open workout with muscle-ups defeats the spirit of the Open, blah, blah, blah. But we know we are angry because we didn’t put the work in and now it’s too late. Attack weaknesses with as much spirit and confidence as you do your favorites. Leave nothing to regret or useless anger. 


  1. Stan :

    Yes. Yes you do.

  2. Kacey :

    Courtney, this is freaking awesome! Thanks for telling it like it is…


  3. Dan :

    That quote is from a movie w Deniro and a young Leonardo dicaprio. I think it was called this boys life.

  4. Charles :

    Courtney – just wanted to give you a general shout-out for the excellence of some of your recent blog posts, this one included. Motivational and informational, thats a good combo. 🙂

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