Training Principles – Volume & Intensity

Hey Folks!

I didn't necessarily intend for this to become a "theme", but there are just a lot of things that work well as "principles" to approach training that, as I've learned over the years, make sense once you know them, but weren't so obvious until you did (at least for me).  ​So with that said, today's post shouldn't be as long a read, but it's something important to keep in mind when approaching your training. 

This was originally going to be "volume VS. Intensity", as that's what we'll more or less be delineating, but sometimes they can be difficult to tell apart from each other.  We're going to unpack when it's a good idea to increase your volume, when it's a bad idea to do so, and how intensity plays in as well.  You can think of it as a Mendels table

Sudbury, Fitness, Training, Coach, Personal Trainer

Let's dive in a little deeper on each of these sections...

High Volume & Low Intensity:

This is where a lot of your endurance work, monostructural work, and flexibility and mobility work should live.  You can't force flexibility.  You can ignore it and suffer the consequences (which doesn't help), or you can encourage it along.  But ultimately, flexibility and mobility are things that need to be slowly chipped away at.  For clarification, we're calling flexibility the pliability of muscle and tendon (skin and fascia would be in there too), and mobility the function of the joints.  Trying to force these tissues to give is a recipe for injury.  Some sports massage, self massage, foam rolling, etc. can help for sure - other times you might need a more subtle approach, where less is more (a la MELT, Yoga/Neuro Tune-up, Yin yoga, etc.).

Before endurance athletes get upset about being in this quadrant, (though the very experienced ones probably aren't upset at all), we'll keep in mind that the boundaries are not set in stone, but that you are likely not a unique snowflake that somehow fits WAY outside those boundaries.  Pushing the intensity on a marathon is a great way to bonk (AKA "hit the wall", or "run out of gas").  I've heard someone mention on a practice marathon that they made it through the first 30km in 3 hours, and then took another 3 hours to finish the last 12.2km.  That's a situation where a little less intensity during those first 3 hours, would have helped a lot in the last ​half of that run.  Too much intensity means you bump out of using the oxidative pathway, and you use too much of the anaerobic, lactic pathway - which causes an environment in the muscles that does not promote the ability to continue contracting efficiently.  Elite endurance athletes, through extensive training, are able to bump that threshold up more and more, but not by constantly exceeding it.  Dial back the intensity on your endurance work and you might just get better all around (you'll likely find you recover better too!). 

Low Volume & High Intensity:

This is where a LOT of our work comes in.  This also exists on a HUGE gradient.  A single weightlifting movement is VERY high intensity, and VERY low volume.  Fran is high intensity low volume.  These exist in areas where we work HARD, and then less hard, or (if we're lucky) we get full on rest between efforts.  This is our strength training (ex. barbell work), stamina work (tabata work, intervals, most WODs), and Power and speed (sprints, weightlifting).  A 1RM deadlift will smoke your central nervous system (you'll feel tired afterwards), but your muscles won't actually be THAT sore (versus, say a 10 or 20 rep max).  Being sore isn't the goal, though it happens sometimes.  It isn't the enemy, it should just be treated as information for us to respond to.  We can dive into neurological strength versus muscular strength another time.

Low Volume & Low intensity:

Talkin' 'bout practice!  Cartwheels, single skips, turkish get-ups, Kettlebell arm bars, ladder drills, Jumping and landing drills/mechanics work, bosu ball work.  All that fun stuff is something you use to practice.  They're usually things we aren't very good at, or that using a heavy load defeats the purpose of.  This is important for acquiring new skills, cleaning up technique, or just plain, old, deliberate practice.  Many new clients will live in this area for months before they truly access higher intensity areas (which is a good thing!)

You can fit these things in between sets of your strength work, while you're warming up or cooling down, etc. These things can make a big difference, and are very easy to overlook. ​​

High Volume & High Intensity:

This is game day.  This is competition day.  This is NOT. EVERY. DAY.  Ideally these days should be planned out well in advance, and training adjusted to accommodate them.  It isn't about these days never happening.  We need these days every so often (depending on the person and their goals).  But trying to train in this area every day is too much and WILL result in injury, or poor movement patterns (which will eventually lead to injury).  Be safe, be smart, and plan your exposures to these kinds of days/situations with the help of a qualified coach (for your strength & conditioning as well as for your specific sport, ideally).  

This is where smashing more volume, and feeling like you always need to be doing MORE isn't necessarily the answer.  Sometimes the answer is to put your energy into your flexbility, your stability, or maybe even just sleeping more or eating better.  Sometimes it's using the extra time to work on skills, and some low intensity cardiovascular endurance work.  Smashing your face into a wall multiple times a day isn't going to make you any prettier, that's for sure.  So let's smash it delicately, deliberately and with the help of an expert 😉  Well... maybe not smash, but... condition, haha.

Stay Healthy, Friends!
Dr. Adam Ball​

Training Principles – The Pursuit of Mastery

Hey Folks!

So today I want to speak about Mastery, as it relates to training (though this concept is VERY applicable to life in general). This topic is ALSO something you may have had the pleasure of speaking with me about, if you did your fundamentals with me.

As we're growing as a gym and community, it seems more and more important to touch on these training principles every so often, as they're crucial when it comes to understanding where we are, where we're going and why we choose the route we're on to get there.  I learned about Mastery through some other great coaches who suggested I read George Leonard's book on the subject (titled: Mastery), which really helped with reframing things for me.  Leonards book isn't a new one - and this idea has been around for a LONG time - It's likely just slightly unpopular, which means it isn't as "mainstream" as it should be.

I want to start with a little "anecdote" I read about Pablo Picasso (Yes, I know the Sistine Chapel wasn't Picasso... but it came to mind when I thought of Mastery).  I've heard this story told a few different ways, so who knows how true it is, but the moral behind the story is too good to pass up (and a great way to illustrate and introduce the subject of mastery).

​Picasso is sitting in the park, sketching.  A woman walks by, recognizes him, runs up to him and pleads with him to draw her portrait.  He’s in a good mood, so he agrees and starts sketching. A few minutes later, he hands her the portrait.

The lady is ecstatic, she gushes about how wonderfully it captures the very essence of her character, what beautiful, beautiful work it is, and asks how much she owes him.

“$5,000, madam,” says Picasso.

The lady is taken aback, outraged, and asks how that’s even possible given it only took him 5 minutes. Picasso looks up and, without missing a beat, says:

“No, madam, it took me my whole life.”

Cool - so we get it, right?  Mastery, just by the sounds of it, takes some time.  Onto some more illustrations and explanations 

Scenario #1:  Quitters
Training, Fitness, Coaching, Sudbury

​These are situations where we "try" things, and maybe give in to new "fads" from time to time.  We stick it out to learn a little bit, but flounder when the plateau comes along, often thinking, "This is HARD!  This isn't worth the work/effort it's taking".  This happens when folks try a new sport every year, pick up a new instrument, or study a new subject fairly frequently.  It isn't always a bad thing, as it's good to learn new things and try new things, (otherwise how would you find the things you truly love?), but when it comes as a result of abandoning something because it's difficult, and you want it to come easy... well you're just quitting (and missing out on a potentially amazing payoff had you stuck it out!) 

The problem here, is that the deeper levels of skill and understanding are always difficult.  They always take hard work, and they always test your resolve.  I'm only 33, but I'm still on the lookout for that amazing new thing that will just be easy.... which is the perfect segue into our next scenario...

Scenario #2 - Hackers
Mastery, Sudbury, Fitness, Coaching

In your first 6-18 months, you PR a lot.  This happens for a lot of reasons - your nervous system adapts to the stimulus you provide it (you can stop thinking about WHAT you're doing and just put your energy into DOING it), your nervous system makes you stronger (the nerve to muscle fibre ratio goes up - resulting in more coordinated, more forceful muscular contractions), and then your muscles actually get bigger and stronger.  You'll also likely shed some unnecessary fat mass.  It's the best time, and I love coaching people through these times, because everything is awesome all the time.  Then a day comes when that person somehow doesn't PR the lift they were doing.  WHAT?  Something must be wrong!  

This is often when the person (in this scenario) starts to research all the "hacks", "secrets", and special programs they can do so that they can accelerate their gains even more.  They go on the weightlifting, gymnastics, strongman, and endurance program mash up they've created.  Or they want to follow whatever seems to be the program of the latest "winners", until the following year (if they last that long), that is.  They might be successful at first, too.  That is, until the added volume, and lack of a focus on recovery and quality movement, leads them down the path of overtraining and injury.  There really is no faster way to do it then to just respect the process.  Left on this road (think of it as rush hour on the highway), they'll get frustrated, then exhausted, and think one of two things.  "Maybe this isn't for me", or, "Maybe I'm not meant for this" (they sound the same, but one blames the activity, and one blames themselves).  Neither thought is healthy, or accurate.

Always focusing on getting to the "front" of the rush hour traffic is a good way to burn yourself out. ​ And driving on the shoulder isn't a good idea.  Relax.  Put on some tunes.  Feel the sun on your face.  Smile.  You won't be stuck in traffic forever.  You're moving forward, still.  This sentiment brings us to our next scenario...

Scenario #3 - Real Life​
Mastery, Sudbury, Fitness, Coaching

Welcome to real life.  I believe this is a "logarithmic" curve.  Though, mathematicians, feel free to correct me.  The line eventually reaches almost completely horizontal (as you can see in my diagram).  If we followed it to the right another 4 or 5 ticks, THAT is where the difference between a gold medal and not being on the podium is, at the olympics (and at this point the CrossFit games, too).  One tiny blip means the difference between being called a "legend", and no one remembering your name (aside from, you know, the people who actually matter [family and friends]).  

This isn't meant to be a downer, either.  When you finish a day of training, you should be able to smile, pat yourself on the back (i.e. be proud of yourself) and know that you've just improved the health and fitness of future you.  Future you would be proud too.  If you spend the hour smashing weights, gritting your teeth and screaming at yourself and friends - Well... It'll have been fun getting to know you... because those of us in this journey for the long haul know that unless you can reframe things for yourself (and speak with your coach about it!), you won't be around too much longer.  You can only force yourself to do something you aren't enjoying for SO long.  

Speak to a coach about how best to progress this curve.  Where you might be on it, and where you'd like to go.  Asked "who the best coach is" for something, a great coach (of course I don't remember who) said, "the one in the room with you".  Being able to actally see you, get to know you, and interact with you is important in building a relationship.  We watch our clients every day, and given the opportunity, can tell you what to focus on most to improve your health, fitness and work toward your goals.   ​

Enjoy the process.  "pay the man".  "hard work pays off".  or whatever else you want to hashtag it as - the journey is the whole thing.  Climbing a mountain isn't easy to do, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you stop every so often to take in the view and appreciate the work you've put in so far.  

Stay healthy & Have FUN, Friends!

Dr. Adam Ball​

Training Principles – Pursuing the Flow State

Hi Folks!

This won't be an overly long post - but it's something I wanted to cover sooner than later.  If you are someone who completed your Fundamentals with me, then you and I probably already spoke about it, but if not, well I'm sorry it look this long to write it out for you!  

The concept of "flow" or being "in the zone" isn't particularly new, and was most popularized by ​mihaly csikszentmihalyi (good luck saying that name, I think it's "Me-hai chick-set-me-hai").  It's that feeling where you've been reading, hiking, playing a sport, or even training with us, and the rest of the world seems to disappear.  You don't notice the sounds around you as much, and you're completely focused on the task at hand, which may or may not be easy, but it feels like you are perfectly suited for whatever it is you're doing at that moment.  

I used to experience it when I studied (not as frequent as I would like, but frequently enough) for school, and I'd be reading on a subject and hours would fly by without noticing.  Or playing a sport where time seems to slow down (for me it was playing baseball, football and lacrosse) or an activity like surfing and you feel like you're truly a part of what you're doing.  

Aside from being very cool, these are moments of huge amounts of growth, neurologically.  New pathways in the brain and body are being laid down right then, meaning you're more likely to find them again.  Brain derived neurotrophic factor is being released, causing the growth of those new neurons, and very often, numerous endorphins are released, encouraging you to repeat that action.  

​Well then, why are we always messing it up (in the gym) by going too heavy, taking on too much, or expecting unrealistic outputs from ourselves?  

We really end up shooting ourselves in the foot during a lot of our training by chasing an "RX'd" workout, or feeling like we need more (or sometimes less) weight on the bar, kettlebell or dumbbell, so that we fit in with our friends.  This sadly pushes us out of the flow state, and into one of two areas... Let's check out the picture below:

Sudbury Fitness, Flow State, Coaching

So if the level of challenge is too high, and our skill level isn't there to meet it, we experience anxiety.  This can manifest as feeling like you "suck" at the workout, or in the darker moments, it can manifest as people shaving reps, shortening their range of motion, and not asking for help (or removing weight from the bar for fear of looking weak/foolish/whatever other untrue emotion is taking over at the moment).  Anxiety sucks - you shouldn't be experiencing it at our facility.  If you feel like you've maybe reached a little too far - ask a coach how you can adjust the workout to best suit your needs.  Hop back on the flow train!

On the other side of things is boredom.  If I ask you to do something that for you is extremely easy, you aren't going to be challenged, and your ability to do your best is inhibited.  This happens far less often, though occasionally in new people who haven't established max lifts yet, they can sometimes err on the side of too light a weight for some workouts.  Once again, asking your coach for help is crucial here, as we've amassed a LOT of time watching people move.  I know I (personally) still have lots of room to grow, but at this point, I can usually glance at a single rep and know, "oh that's not heavy enough/too heavy".  Or knowing when a few technical adjustments will make the weight perfectly doable for the athlete.  

The point is, you want to be training in a flow state as often as possible.  And, we want to help you get there.  Having a coach with experience helping people achieve flow on a daily basis is ridiculously valuable.  Speak with your coach.  Tell us your plans and goals (whether they be long term, or just a goal for a particular set of a particular training session).  We're here to help, and we've been doing it a long time.  

Stay Healthy, Friends!
Dr. Adam Ball

The Simplicity & Complexity of Programming

Hi Folks!

Seems like a good time to talk about programming.  It's so hot right now.  It's also one of those things that everyone has an opinion on, and everyone is right, of course.  Which also means that everyone else is an idiot and is doing it wrong.  Or at least not as good as "me" (insert hypothetical person here).  Before we move on, there are some truths we need to acknowledge...

1. Programming for an individual is always more effective than for a group

We all arrive in the gym with our various strengths, weaknesses, and old injuries (mine is a previously broken clavicle, a dislocated shoulder, and a tendency for jumpers knee bilaterally).  This means that Smolov Jr, while a good squat program, isn't necessarily going to provide the same results for everyone.  It's also completely unnecessary for someone who can already squat 400/300 pounds (men/women, respectively).  It means some need more mobility and a longer warm up, some need more unilateral strength work, and others still need some activation exercises, or "corrective" exercises.  We introduce our gym to people in a 1 on 1 environment (occasionally a 2 on 1 environment), where we program specifically to improve the fitness of our clients, and after a certain amount of time, offset the financial investment of private training with group training...

2. Except for when that individual is influenced/motivated by a group

​We're influenced by each other.  Our gym is especially affected (as we tend to nurture the community aspect of our facility).  We try harder, and feel additional accountability to show up (and not let our friends down) to train.  Greg Glassman said, "Men will die for points", or that the easiest way to get someone to row faster (especially those with a little competitive drive) is to have someone sit down on the rower beside them.  We take advantage of this group aspect to training and apply it to our group classes... but it does mean the programming/prescription needs to be a bit more generalized...

3. Most people need to get stronger & more technically proficient

This is almost universally true.  We've only had it be untrue a handful of times.  And in those cases we've often made some modifications to fit those who are already very strong.  Near every competitor and coach on the planet will tell you some variation of the adage, " your base strength is the 'cup' into which all other physical traits of fitness fit into" - therefore, more strength = bigger cup.  At some point, more strength is not helpful (if it is taking away from speed, endurance, flexibility or any of the other 10 characteristics of fitness), but getting to that point takes a WHILE.  Technique acquisition is a lifelong endeavour, and more practice never hurt anybody.  This is why we typically train a combination of the slow and dynamic lifts in addition to our dedicated conditioning.  ​"But how will I ever get better conditioned if I don't feel like I'm dying???"

4. Conditioning for longer than ~10 minutes is good to make you sweat, but not much else.

People love to suffer and sweat and feel exhausted after a workout.  That is until they are tired of suffering, sweating and feeling exhausted all the time (without much to show for it).  Suffering will help most with your mental strength, and not much else.  Training in an environment where you're mentally taxed, breathing heavy and asked to move weight (or your bodyweight) in a technically proficient way is a great way to practice being bad at things.  This is why we spend more time working on our strength, technique, and skill work.  Deliberate practice.  Practice doesn't make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect.  And don't worry, I've read the studies, learned from the experts, and experimented with it myself - Working hard for ~10 minutes is enough stimulus to improve your conditioning​ while not taking time away from your other priorities (strength, flexibility, etc.)  We still include a longer effort about once a week, specifically for the mental toughness and fun factor, but it is a mistake to make the habit of only doing long, painful workouts. 

5. The program is the "seed", the rest of your life is the "soil" (analogy borrowed from Gray Cook)

Your work in the gym is a tiny fraction of your life.  if you come every day, it's still only 1 hour out of the 24 hours of your day.  If that day doesn't include 7-10 hours of restful sleep, some time building/developing relationships​, some time preparing and eating high quality food, and some time unwinding (both literally, and figuratively), then you are trying to plant a seed on deficient soil.  I recently listened to a podcast with Dr. Bob Rakowski (ridiculously smart guy) who mentioned the fact that the most anabolic thing most of us can do, is sleep.  If you're combing the internet, searching for that advantage you can get over your competitors, or the best way to increase your productivity (in the gym, at work or at home), but you aren't getting more than 7 hours of sleep, then you're wasting your time.  Go to sleep.  Boom - gains.  Next up is don't be in chronically stressful environments (abusive partner, working more than 12 hours a day, smoking) and then not taking fish oil.  Those are some easy changes to make.  Point being, you don't need to DO more, and you don't need a harder workout, you need to cultivate the seed that is your training by improving the rest of your life (the soil).  

6. Finally... You need to know what you're training for.​

​What brings you in?  What drives you?  Why are you coming to our gym?  Why?  Seriously though, it's important to dig deep into why you're coming.  Is it because you want abs (why are abs important to you?)?  Is it because you like challenging yourself to accomplish things you thought you couldn't (Why is that important to you?)?  Is it because you want to make the Olympics/CrossFit Games?  It's important to know.  If you aren't snatching 275 lbs. yet, but your goal is to be better at tennis, I don't think you need to worry about it.  How much can Federer snatch?  If your goal is to make regionals or the CrossFit Games, then yes, you need to put some work in there.  If you want to be able to keep up with your kids, and to feel good on a daily basis, then doing 3 WODs a day, or 20-40 minute metcons is not helping you achieve that goal - it's just making you sore.  Know your goal, and tell your coach.  We'll help you achieve it - it's what we do. 

So how do we program?  Who are we programming for?​

We program to increase your general physical preparedness across broad time and modal domains.  That means we want to make you better at everything.  We try to achieve that while still respecting peoples time, and lifestyles.  The 99% of us that aren't trying to make it to the games, but still like to see improvements in our fitness.  If your goal is to live a better life, become more athletic, have fun and give and receive more high fives, we're the right place.  

If your goal IS to make the CrossFit Games, or to go to the olympics - let your coach know!  We will work with you to develop a personalized plan to develop you as an athlete.  Don't bother trying to fit into cookie cutter programming elsewhere because you believe it's for competitors.  You know what competitors have?  A Coach.  Someone designing their training to address their needs.  ​Matt, Katrin, Ben, Tia, Pat and Sara aren't following a cookie cutter approach - they're working with coaches.  Likely multiple different coaches (endurance/running, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, CrossFit).  So speak with one of our coaches about what you'd like to achieve.  Then we can develop an understanding of your point A as well as your Point B and the straightest path to get you there.  

Let me know your thoughts, and as always, stay healthy!

Dr. Adam Ball​

Warm up – Why & How?

We’ve all provided reasons for our lack of a warm up:

“I don’t need to warm up.”

“I’m already warm.”

“Caffeine is all I need – it warms me up AND amps me up!”

“It doesn’t simulate real life. If someone needs help moving a couch, you don’t ask to warm-up with the lighter couch…”

“I only have 45 minutes…”


So warming up isn’t particularly sexy. It isn’t cool like swinging around on the rings, or dropping into the bottom of a snatch or clean. I think this reason alone is a popular one for a lack of a proper warm up.

The other piece is that folks just don’t seem to value it. And I get it. It can be tedious and boring, and time consuming, too. And it’s definitely not as glamorous as throwing big plates on the bar or kicking upside down into a handstand.

But properly warming up will help immensely with some things you are likely VERY interested in:

1. Staying injury-free

2. Moving more efficiently

3. Performing better

4. Recovering better


Injuries happen when you’re consistently starting, finishing, or moving through crappy/inefficient positions. Ever feel like doing some snatches or pistols was WAY easier AFTER a WOD? Or that the reps towards the end of your EMOM are easier than the beginning? You got warm. Tissues from your muscles to tendons, ligaments, and even the cartilage in your joints need some time and movement to warm up. That means starting, ending and traveling through sexy, injury free positions while you work out. That means less work, and less injurious reps to recover from. It isn’t the first axe strike that takes down a tree, it’s the last. Don’t add more chops to your tree.



Efficiency is when you catch a jerk fully locked out and standing it up is “easy”. It’s when you don’t get pulled out of position during a back squat and standing it back up feels balanced and even. Or when your hands are down and your double under flow effortlessly. Try overhead squatting with an empty bar when you first enter the gym. Then try it again after a good warm up. The difference in effort and how good you feel is efficiency.


A 2010 article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning ( looked at the effect of warm-up on performance. The result: Warm-up improves performance 79% of the time!

I have discovered this is especially true during shorter, more intense workouts. Personally, I find the first time I get my heart rate up in a training session is always the most difficult. Sometimes it’s tempting to avoid working too hard in the warm-up because you’re scared of “burning out” before you get to the workout, but the truth is the workout will feel WAY better and easier if you jack your heart rate up ahead of time on the rower, airdyne or with some running and/or skipping. This doesn’t mean an all out sprint, but you should be glad you’re finished when you stop whatever it is you’re doing.

The better your warm-up, the more efficient—AND EASIER—the movements will feel! And the better your performance will be.


Tired of being sore? Guess what being more efficient and moving through better positions means? Less stress on the body, and therefore less soreness. If you did 17.1, your back was probably at least a little sore. That soreness comes from inefficiency, not from your muscles working. Don’t get me wrong, they’re working. In fact, they’re working harder than they need to since they aren’t moving down a “well travelled road”, and all that extra work means more soreness.



Warm-up before the warm-up!

Even though we always warm you up before you train (either with us 1 on 1, or in a group setting), the truth is we all have our own specific needs (due to injury, age, and previous training experience). Someone who was previously sedentary would want to spend more time stretching and moving through greater and greater range of motion versus tiring themselves out on the rower. Someone who has had a knee or shoulder surgery likely wants to warm up their joint snf all the tissue around it to ensure it’s moving more symmetrically to the other side. Those specific things should be covered with you by your coach for life. And if ALL that sounds a little confusing, see below.

1. 5-10 minutes of dynamic warm-up: Open and close all your joints. Think arm circles, leg swings, lunges, squats, lazy push ups and down dog.

2. 5-10 minutes of constant movement at a low intensity (row, bike, skip, run…)

3. 2-4 sprints (After your 5-minutes at a low intensity, increase the intensity for 3 to 4 short 30-second bursts at a higher intensity. Increase the intensity with each sprint. The idea is to bump up the heart rate a few times).

4. Individual warm-up: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Does your mobility or stability need more attention? Do you have a lingering injury? Tackle any specific limitations you have.

5. Workout-specific warm-up: What is the workout/training plan for the day? If you’re squatting, take the time to warm-up your squat: Hips, ankles, glutes, hamstrings… Is there a lot of pulling? If so, warm-up your lats, elbows, scapula. Cater this part of your warm-up to whatever you’re going to be doing that day.

If you’re ready to start taking your warm-ups more seriously—for the sake of your performance, health and recovery—don’t hesitate to reach out to your coach. He/she can give you some useful warm-up ideas that will take into consideration your strengths and limitations. Because caffeinating and dominating just doesn’t cut it.

Training days versus Test days

The early CrossFit days looked a bit different than today. Back then the goal was, ‘How much can we mess you up today?’

Not anymore. Yes, sometimes you will feel like you overdosed when you push yourself to the limit, but that feeling shouldn’t be the norm; it should be a once-in-a-blue moon occurrence—often when you accidentally misjudged a workout.

Think about this question for a minute: When you come to workout, are you conscious of whether it's a training day, a test day, or a play day?

You should be!


Training should make up close to 80 percent of your time at the gym. Training includes your long warm-up, your mobility work, your strength and skill work. Usually you’re working below your physical capacity here, and it’s where the gains are made!

Warm-up is there the gains are made?

Hells yeah! The often-boring, tedious tinkering to improve your ankle or shoulder flexibility, or the repetitive three-days-a-week squat program that has you asking, “Back squats again?” are absolutely where the biggest gains are made.

What about the conditioning—the reason 50% of you show up?

It’s important, but it’s not where the gains are made, per se. Think of conditioning as a chance to put your newfound strength and skill work to use.

What do you mean? Isn’t conditioning the place I should ruin myself and end up in a heap of sweat and tears?

Not if you’re doing it right. If you’re conditioning in a way that’s helping you improve your overall fitness, then it should feel controlled and well-paced, just like your strength and skill work. If you feel like you might pass out, chances are you went out too hard, and will likely end up slower in the end.

One of the most well-respected coaches around, James FitzGerald, the owner of OPEX Fitness in Arizona, explained that every workout should have an intended stimulus. This means, when you hear “3, 2, 1 Go,” it shouldn’t be a giant free-for-all chaotic experience, where people devastate their bodies and can’t recover for three hours. In fact, most of the time you shouldn’t even be going at a 100 percent effort.

What? I shouldn’t try my hardest?

Think about this quote for a minute:

“CrossFit has been marketed as a sport where everyone’s so intense all the time, but the best CrossFit athletes in the world are never going that hard,” - James FitzGerald.

The point is simply staying below your threshold on any given multi-modal workout will usually make you faster in the end. The concept is simple to understand when we’re talking about a single modality, such as running, rowing or swimming. Nobody is going to sprint the first 30 seconds of a 5-km run. But time and time again during multi-modal workouts we’ve never done before, people do the equivalent of the latter, making you slower in the end.

For those of you who like the pain: Don’t worry, you will still feel pain during conditioning workouts, but try to save it for the final quarter of the conditioning workout—the big sprint finish! If you’re in pain in the first half of the workout you’re in trouble.

Going back to FitzGerald’s point: His overarching argument is that sticking with an 80 percent effort in both training and competition will likely lead to the best overall performances. This doesn’t mean you’re not working at improving your fitness; after all, if your 80 percent effort keeps getting better and better, then so does your 100 percent effort.


Testing should make up about 10 to 15 percent of your time in the gym.

It’s essentially the sport aspect of what we do—the game day. Everyday can’t be a test day, but remembering to test yourself here and there can go a long way in keeping you motivated as an athlete, as well as giving you moments of both fear and satisfaction. Test day is the time it’s acceptable to flirt with the line of going out too hard and overdosing yourself a bit, as doing this is a great way to learn about where your fitness level is at.

THAT BEING SAID, even when you put yourself out there—either in the gym or at a competition—as FitzGerald pointed out, this still doesn’t mean you’re overdosing yourself to a place that takes its toll on your performance recovery. It’s still best off knowing your fitness level, having a plan of attack, and avoiding going out too hard and fading by the third round of a five round workout.

Test days are important, but smart testing, as opposed to blindly jumping in without a plan, is always best.


We don't talk about playing too much, but we think it’s important to give yourself the license to play from time-to-time. Maybe 5 percent of the time.

Playing might involve working on some gymnastics skills on the monkey bars at the park, or maybe it involves flipping tires or throwing heavy stones around. Maybe it means picking up a new sport, or going hiking or surfing. Playing can be dangerous if you're fooling around with movements you're not ready to do, but if you've been putting in the training work everyday, and testing yourself periodically, you generally will develop a pretty good body awareness, and overall sense of what you're capable of.

Check out the Sudbury School of Fitness Prescription for a great life here. It talks about the importance of remembering to play new sports, go on adventures. The importance of remembering to play.

Celebrate the Quiet Personal Bests

“I want to get a pull-up.”

“My goal is to be able to do a muscle-up.”

When it comes to gymnastics, there’s no question getting your first pull-up and your first muscle-up are incredibly rewarding moments.

But sometimes by putting so much emphasis on such tangible milestones, we forget to celebrate the smaller personal bests—and the equally as important milestones—along the way.

Think about your pulling strength—your eventual road to a pull-up and muscle-up— as being on a 100-step staircase. In this way, pull-ups and a muscle-up are simply just two other steps on the staircase, no less, or no more important, than the step before or the step after.

Using this analogy, let’s say a ring row with a perfectly horizontal body is step 25 on the staircase, while a pull-up is step 50, and a muscle-up is step 75.

The pulling strength you gain going from step 49 to step 50 is equivalent to the strength gained moving from step 50 to 51 (where step 51 might mean you can do 2 consecutive pull-ups), yet we’re more likely to celebrate reaching step 50 than 51. I ask why. Why is getting a pull-up somehow more important than being able to do two consecutive pull-ups?

It comes down to ego and our perception of what is important.

But if you change the way you think about your pulling gains—and your fitness in general—to being a staircase where no one step is more important than any other, you will have way more to celebrate along the way. You also won’t get as frustrated and impatient waiting to reach step 50 because you’ll also get enjoyment reaching step 46, 47, 48, and 49, too.

My challenge to you:

Set 5 small goals along the way to your ultimate goal, and remember to pat yourself on the back when you reach them.

Because, gains are gains!

The Prescription for a Great Life

When we opened the Sudbury School of Fitness (Real Life Health & CrossFit Sudbury), our purpose wasn’t to produce elite athletes to compete at the CrossFit Games.

And it still isn’t.

Yes, we want you improving your fitness and hitting PRs regularly, but our mission is so much bigger than that.

Our intention has, and always will be, to help others achieve lifelong fitness. To help the 40-year-old feel confident and fit enough to join a basketball league. Or to help the overweight person in their 50s get to a point that carrying four bags of groceries up three flights of stairs is no big deal.  And to help the 65-year-old improve their fitness so they can hike Kivi park with their grandchildren, or move a couch with their spouse.

Fitness was never supposed to be about how much you could clean and jerk, per se; it’s about helping regular folks gain fitness, eat well, and become healthier.

Not that a 225 lb. snatch isnt pretty cool

This means our hope for all of you is that fitness doesn’t take over your life. We hope it has become an important part of your life, but that you also take the time to appreciate your newfound fitness IN LIFE.

The Prescription for a Great Life

1. Follow the Code for Fitness 2 to 3 times a week:

Show up to the gym 2 or 3 (or maybe even 4 or 5 times a week if it works for your life). Train with your coach or attend group classes to improve your flexibility, strength, speed, power, cardiovascular endurance, stamina, accuracy, balance, coordination and agility.

Keep track of your numbers, know your strengths and weaknesses, socialize with those around you, have fun and celebrate your gains.

Lifting weights is just part of the puzzle for a great life

2. Clean Eating (90% of the time):

Although diets will differ from person to person depending on your wants, needs, and other activities, we believe for optimal health, your diet should consist mostly of whole, unprocessed foods—90% of the time. The other 10% simply means it’s OK—emotionally healthy even—to have a beer or a piece of cake from time to time (so long as you aren't celiac, or overly sensitive to gluten).  

Food is meant to provide pleasure sometimes.  NOT all the time.  Family get togethers, date night meals, celebrations like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries are GREAT times to derive pleasure from the food you're about to eat.  National not-wearing-pants day is not worthy of an ice cream cake.  Sorry-Not sorry.  

The rest of the time we should be viewing food as fuel.  You wouldn't pump contaminated gasoline into your car, and your car only sticks with you for max 15-20 years.  You're stuck with your body for your whole life.  Feed it good fuel.  Next thing you know your body will shed unnecessary weight, put on muscle where it's needed to address your demands of it, and the way you look, feel and perform will improve dramatically.  

3. Play Sports

Join a hockey or basketball league in the winter, or a beach volleyball team in the summer: The important thing is to put your fitness to use. You work hard in the gym; playing sports is your chance to enjoy your newfound fitness.

So try kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, or chase the elusive 0 handicap in your golf game.  The point is that you're getting fit to enjoy your life.  Being good at training is very enjoyable, but it's a good idea to try new sports or activities, especially as you get further into your fitness journey.  It gives you more chances to say, "whoa!  I didn't know I could do that!"

4. Get out in Nature at Least Once a Week

Breathing fresh air in nature is known to be therapeutic to the soul. Rock climbing, hiking, camping, skiing or surfing are all great options.  Sudbury is home to a lot of lakes, trails and other awesome outdoor activities.  Or if you've seen what Sudbury has to offer already, get out and check out the surrounding areas.  You don't need to travel far to experience natures beauty up here.  Why do you think I moved to Sudbury???

5. Embark on an Adventure at Least Once a Year

Does adventure to you mean doing something relaxing and fun, or something scary and challenging?  It doesn't matter what it is, make an effort to build the habit of trying new things and escaping routine - you'll discover new loves, and reignite old ones.  You'll learn about yourself and build great friendships and relationships.  

Choose your own adventure, but definitely choose adventure!

What us being part of the Madlab Group means for you – Our Members!

If you have been coming here for a while, you’ve probably heard that we’re part of the MadLab Group.

But what exactly is the MadLab Group? And how does it affect you?

The MadLab Group is a worldwide network of gyms, who have worked together to figure out best practices. In other words, to figure out how to run a gym that best maximizes success for the clients, the coaches and the business.

5 MadLab Group Features that Pertain to YOU

5. Fundamentals/Personal Training

When you started training with us, you most likely went through a one-on-one introductory session with a coach, and then 10-20 personal training sessions with this same coach, where he/she worked with you on your strengths and weaknesses and got you prepared for classes at a speed that was comfortable for you. And before you were graduated to group classes, you had to reach a certain fitness level before qualifying.

If we’re doing it right, then you probably developed a relationship with this coach and feel like you have someone in your corner helping you reach your health and fitness goals.

Can you imagine what your gym life would look like without having gone through personal training? If you had been thrown right into the fire of group classes on day 1? If you would have been asked to snatch on day 2? It probably wouldn’t have gone all that well for you, right?

Many gyms do just that: They throw you directly into the fire of group classes, or they put you through a 12-person group fundamentals program and you never learn the movements properly because you don’t receive enough one-on-one attention. Best case scenario, you get by because you happen to move well and be athletic. Worst case scenario, you get injured or overwhelmed and quit. Through it all, you never get the chance to really get to know your coach. In fact, you probably are never even given the option to have a personal coach.

A one-on-one intro day, followed by 10-20 personal training sessions, is part of the MadLab prescription. It’s what we have discovered is best for performance, for health and safety, and for longevity at the gym.

4. Coach for Life

We’re not interested in New Year’s revolutionist clients. We’re interested in clients who are looking for a coach and fitness program to keep them healthy and fit for life.

The same way most of us have a family doctor our entire lives, and likely an accountant and maybe even a lawyer, our hope is that your MadLab coach becomes your fitness, health and wellness, and nutrition coach for life—someone you turn to to help you when you’re 20, when you’re 40 and when you’re 85 years old.

Believe it or not, this is RARE in the fitness industry today. What is more common are personal trainers or CrossFit coaches who stick around for just a couple years. The reason they leave the industry is because they can’t make a living coaching. For the client this means the gym you’re at is often marred by a constant revolving door of coaches.

MadLab’s biggest goal is to professionalize the industry so its coaches can earn professional wages and become career coaches—meaning they stick around for years, even decades.

For YOU, this means you won’t have a constant revolving door of coaches; you’ll have someone in your corner for life.

3. MadLab-trained Coaches

Let’s be honest: The fitness industry is somewhat F-ed up. Anyone can call himself a personal trainer, whether he took a weekend course or did a four-year educational program.

MadLab coaches have all been through a two-year apprentice coach diploma program (the MadLab PCDP—professional coach diploma program) (More on the details of PCDP in an upcoming post).

In short, your coach knows what he’s talking about—how to keep you working toward you goals, and how to keep you injury-free.

2. Hybrid Memberships

Maybe you have taken advantage of our hybrid membership options, and maybe you have not.

But one of the features of a MadLab Group gym is you always have the option to do extra one-on-one personal training on top of your group classes—even if you’re a five-year veteran—with your coach to work on any specific weaknesses or skills you want to improve upon. Another option is to talk to your coach about getting an individual program.

1. Worldwide Network of Gyms

If you travel—for work or pleasure—there are MadLab gym’s all around the world. (Stay tuned for a map of all 180-plus MadLab facilities coming soon).

When you show up at a MadLab gym in another city and tell them where you’re from, not only will you have the piece of mind that you’re in good hands, you’ll get the royal treatment from the MadLab family.

Rock Tape – Fascial Movement Taping Certification – September 12, 2015

Hey Athletes!

Rock Tape is coming out to our facility to put on their Fascial Movement Taping Certification.  Rock Tape were one of the first onto the Functional movement scene with their tape, and they’ve been making changes as they see the evolution of their products and services.  Kristin and I have been using their products in practice for a number of years, and we’re excited to attend the seminar to learn even more about it.

We look forward to hosting Folks from outside our facility and think it’ll make a great educational day as well as a great way to communicate and network with like-minded health and fitness professionals.

Here is some info directly from the site regarding our day with them:

Rocktape, the pioneer of PowerTaping, is now offering classes specifically designed for Medical Professionals/Trainers/Coaches.

Fascial Movement Taping is a unique blend of movement assessment and analysis, postural control and performance enhancement techniques that are based on clinically proven methods.

The course is suitable for those with no or little exposure to taping, addressing theories and applications for rehabilitation, posture, edema and sports performance.

The course builds towards advanced concepts with an emphasis on myofascial pathways, movement therapy and performance enhancement.


Sat 12 Sep 2015 from 9am till 5pm


$299  (on or before 21 Aug 2015)

$349 (on or after 22 Aug 2015)

E-book  included in the cost.

*email us about a student discount*

CEUs for CATA members, CPTN, CanFit, ACE, NASM and eligible for all self-reporting medical professionals

Here is the link to sign up!