101 Lessons Learned From 12 Years Of Fitness Training (So Far …)

It has been over 12 years since I did my first WOD (Workout of the Day) …


Would you believe that it was a workout they call “Cindy”?

I remember a few guys in ROTC asked me to join them for a workout.

I had observed them for a while doing these silly workouts, and was skeptical …

But, they were my peers and I had to play along – it’s an Army thing.

So, for appearances sake, I joined them in the gym and they explained this workout to me, called it “Cindy” (workouts have names?!!).

In hindsight I can’t remember “how I did”, because I don’t remember even knowing that keeping track of rounds was a thing.

I do know that the very next day I was so sore I did not go to classes!

• • •

So that was in 2007, Lincoln, NE at University of Nebraska’s ROTC program.

Fast forward to 2020 and a lot has changed in the world of fitness …

The rules, the standards, the workouts and the level of competition.

But through those changes I’ve come up with 101 things I’ve learned that I think you’ve either learned already, or most definitely will learn someday if you stick around long enough …

The List: 101 Things Learned From 12 Years of Training …

  1. Cadenced breathing is important. It will change your fitness if you practice it methodically.
  2. If you’re “red lining” and struggling to catch your breath, lay down on the floor for 10-15 seconds and cadence breathe … it will slow your heart rate quicker.
  3. Train accessory (“functional bodybuilding”) movements (a lot).
  4. Injuries are actually opportunities … always.
  5. Master your air squat
  6. Don’t give in to peer pressure
  7. Don’t worry about the competition
  8. Sleep is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to be a better athlete (literally overnight)
  9. Nutrition is dynamic and personal, you’ll probably end up trying many different styles until you find what works.
  10. Going “Red Line” means giving your all until it’s over. Plan ahead. Know how long your “red line” is … 60 seconds? 30 seconds? This is the proverbial “pedal to the floor”!
  11. Leave your ego out of it
  12. I repeat … leave your ego out of it
  13. Trust the process
  14. Integrity is everything
  15. Be humble
  16. Don’t use sexually explicit team names for your crossfit competition team
  17. If you avoid your weaknesses you are just pretending
  18. You have to log your workouts, anything else and you are just pretending
  19. You have to strive for excellence in efficient, functional movement
  20. Your body is a machine. Keep it well oiled – get regular (PREVENTATIVE) chiro/PT/rehab
  21. Postural restoration (Google: PRI) is the coolest rehab/mobility tool you haven’t heard of yet …
  22. More people are cheating than you’d like to think
  23. More people have used PEDs than you’d like to think
  24. As much as critics hate on Crossfit, it’s more than likely here to stay. The concepts are logical, foundational and based in scientific fact.
  25. Remember, it’s just fitness.
  26. You will probably never make it to the Crossfit games, so make sure you are doing this for intrinsic reasons.
  27. Talk is cheap … get out there and do work.
  28. “Iron sharpens Iron”
  29. Read more books on mindfulness
  30. Don’t try new pre-workout before a competition
  31. Don’t be afraid to question your coach … but be respectful.
  32. If you and your coach do not have a good relationship, or there is no trust, and you want to be competitive, you need to find a new coach
  33. Very few know what actually “going all in” for a goal means. Read “Chasing Excellence” by Ben Bergeron if you want to understand what it really means to commit to something.
  34. This is bigger than yourself
  35. Don’t be a sore loser
  36. You nutrition for competition will be different than your regular training weeks. Plan ahead!
  37. Never rely on food vendors at events. Always bring your own food.
  38. Always have a spare jump rope … if you can, have two of the exact same rope, sized exactly the same. You never know when your rope will break mid event!
  39. Know the event rules and standards before “go time”. Knowledge errors during events are unacceptable and can ultimately be the difference between first and second place.
  40. Find your tribe – gyms all have different cultures and demographics. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” to find the best fit.
  41. It’s you vs. you
  42. Plan and rehearse what you can control, don’t worry about what you can’t.
  43. You’ll surprise yourself!
  44. … you’ll disappoint yourself.
  45. Don’t Crossfit while drunk. Trust.
  46. You’ll probably see a girl pee when she hits a heavy squat clean or double unders … don’t stare. Just get her some towels.
  47. Sometimes the smarter athlete wins … by playing you own “game” and strategizing events to your strengths and weaknesses, you can maximize your efficiency for the best possible result.
  48. Enter as many competitions as possible, compete against lots of different athletes.
  49. Take care of your calluses weekly.
  50. Transition hold/cold showers are the bomb.com
  51. Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
  52. Your cool down routine is JUST AS IMPORTANT as your warm-up.
  53. Everything is everything
  54. The 10 general physical skills are still the holy grail of elite fitness. Master them.
  55. You are the company you keep
  56. Be excited about max days – hitting failure on a lift is a hard metric you can use immediately to improve performance for upcoming strength cycles.
  57. You’ll have a really tough training day, week or even year. Stay the course. GRIT.
  58. Sometimes you don’t know what’s best for your training … listen to those around you.
  59. You can’t (and won’t) win them all.
  60. Know the difference between pain and injury
  61. If you have an injury, stop freakin’ doing what you shouldn’t be doing.
  62. There is no glory for grinding through a workout with a significant injury or inefficiency.
  63. Your recovery will slow as you get older – making it even more critical to optimize your recovery protocols
  64. Reflect after competitions: what went well? Wrong? Improvements for next time? This is a 1% trick that will give you massive advantages over your competition.
  65. I have never known a more obnoxious movement that the Turkish Get-Up
  66. Don’t worry so much about PRs. Strive for consistency and efficiency at near-maximal loads … over and over and over.
  67. Instagram is just rainbows and glitter. Perceive it wisely.
  68. Experience different training conditions: cold, hot, wet, snow … be creative!
  69. You don’t have to win every event.
  70. You won’t win every event … not even Mat Fraser can do that!
  71. If you get injured, don’t take the first doctor’s word for it. Get another opinion if you don’t feel comfortable with an answer or “solution”.
  72. Squatting is NOT bad for your knees.
  74. This is dumb and shouldn’t even be seriously considered.
  75. It’s not the gear you’ve got, it’s how you use it.
  76. There is no such thing as “too many shoes”.
  77. There is always someone out there better than you.
  78. You better know how to swim.
  79. It’s crazy, but there are actually people out there who don’t Crossfit. Or so I’ve heard!
  80. Whole foods are important …
  81. But supplements are necessary if you want to squeeze every last drop out of your workouts you can.
  82. NEVER underestimate your competition
  83. Research your competition if you can via social media, IG, or the games website profiles (I’m serious … you can really strategize strengths and weaknesses and you game plan!)
  84. You probably have piss poor rotator cuff mobility and strength. WORK ON IT.
  85. If you get a “no rep”, move on. Ask for clarification if needed, to prevent it again, but MOVE ON.
  86. Savor your successes
  87. Don’t repeat your mistakes (in training OR competition)
  88. Be grateful for your abilities
  89. It is impossible to find jeans that fit
  90. If you haven’t bailed on a box jump … you will.
  91. It is more important to have functional clothing than revealing clothing.
  92. You don’t always have to take your shirt off
  93. It’s the little things … That turn into big things if you don’t address them ASAP
  94. If you are using the traditional metal spring collars (old school), turn them backwards and placed on the bar. It will prevent the weights from moving around on the bar as you start to drop it during a high intensity WOD.
  95. The best emergency food is your favorite trail mix. Make you own, experiment with different combinations and make this your lifeline. A good trail mix is 101 for optimal nutrition and “always being fed”.
  96. To really be a great athlete, you need to have knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Study these as they relate to your sport!
  97. Your strengths and weaknesses will probably change (a lot) over time
  98. Learning how to do Graston on your soft tissues will be a game changer
  99. You never know who’s watching you – so always be a role model and give your best, even when things might not be going as you’d planned.
  100. Don’t run on treadmills, run on the earth.
  101. Always congratulate and shake hands with the other competitors, good sportsmanship is a non-negotiable.

BONUS 102: Don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER quit.


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