The Truth From a Previous Non-Believer: I Would Do CrossFit but I Do Not Want to Lose Strength…

But I do not want to lose strength:

I want to address something which I hear on a frequent basis and it is even more relevant to me as I am guilty of this thinking myself, years ago.  I hear people say they would do CrossFit but they do not want to lose strength and they hate cardio.  The funny part of all of this was years ago this was me to a T.


The first time I was introduced to CrossFit was while I was deployed around 2009.  My brother and I were in the gym following our bible, at the time, “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Body Building” and this guy was in the gym writing things on white boards and throwing his body around like an idiot.  He would stand there and tell us how we would change our lives by adopting this workout style he was doing. I was intrigued but not sold. So I went to the website and it lacked my favorite aspect of lifting, strength.

This is where I shrugged off CrossFit and kept on with my standard of lifting.  Fast forward a few years and I was deployed again and saw the same concepts being performed in Afghanistan.  This time I was a bit more open and accepting but still not sold.  I would watch the area with all of the CrossFit equipment and wonder if it would be worth it.  Again, I found myself torn between the seemingly random programming and the fact that periodization is the one true and tested way to gain strength.  I was watching these people do fast paced workouts and not seeing any sort of actual strength being trained.  I was still wearing blinders and only thinking, “bigger is better, bigger is healthier, and bigger is stronger.”

The turn:

I remember, vividly, my first actual experience with CrossFit.  One of my friends decided I should try “Fran”, 21-15-9 of Thrusters (a front squat into a press) and pullups.  I asked him what a good time in Fran was and it was agreed that sub 3 should be the goal.  I vibrantly remember thinking I was going to prove why CrossFit was bogus and straight up lifting with some high intensity cardio (running or elliptical) would be the best prescription for fitness gains.  Nine minutes and thirty seconds later I was laying on the ground gasping for air, barely finishing in the 10 minute cap we put on the workout.  That second I knew I was wrong, that second I changed my life, and that second turned me into what I used to hate…that guy who talked about CrossFit….all the time.

Not only did I gain strength and lose unwanted fat from CF, I grew an amazing beard!
Not only did I gain strength and drop unwanted fat from CF, I grew an amazing beard!

The Truth:

I learned CrossFit does not just mean doing the high intensity (WOD) portion, but that it can incorporate a significant strength routine too.  When I first joined a CrossFit gym, I kept my Gold’s membership thinking I would get extra work in after the hour long class.  I quickly found out it wasn’t needed and canceled after a week. Which is a whole other nightmare story we don’t have time for right now.  Years later, I find myself coaching CrossFit. At 35, I find myself stronger and more fit than I was in my 20’s and I am 30 lbs lighter.  I can randomly run a half marathon (it is still not fun) and destroy all of the 19 to 25 year olds in the Army PT test which I never “train” for.

The greatest part I feel Greg Glassman did for CrossFit, was make it an affiliation and not a franchise.  This gives every gym an opportunity to operate as they choose, with little to no interference.  This is a double edged sword, as it can lead to some poor experiences for people who may choose the wrong gym for their first immersion.  It can also lead to wonderfully independent adaptations to different periodization programs and strength training.

At CrossFit Oshkosh, we will get you strong and we will get you fit.  If you find yourself in the same mindset I found myself years ago, email me: and we can set up a time for you to come in and try out CrossFit.  I will pull up our management system and show you data on clients making huge gains in strength and in cardio…yes we have the data to back up every crazy program we throw at you.

If I “had you at hello”, we have another On Ramp starting on Jan 6th. It is hard for me to not get excited about CrossFit, because it completely changed my life, and I have seen it change the lives of others over the last few years.  You can sit back and think I am full of it or you can come in and make up your own mind. That is up to you.  Don’t make the mistake I did and wait too long to try it. I can only imagine where I would be now if I would have started when I was younger but as they say, “better late than never!”



Dealing with injury: Your Coach is an Idiot…Maybe

The inevitability of sport is dealing with injury, pain, and weakness.  In my almost 35 years (not quite there yet) I have had my fair share of injury due to pure happenstance and stupidity.  If you’re an active person, injury can not only cause a loss in fitness but a loss in your mental state as well so a quick recovery is vital.  Bouncing back from injury starts with decoding whether you are hurt or injured, a second opinion, and scaling for results.

Whenever I try to decide if I am hurt or injured, I think back to the movie “The Program” from the 1990’s and remember Lattimire putting the screws to Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps).  There was an exchange between Jefferson and Coach Winters (James Caan):

Winters:  You injured, Jefferson, or just hurt?

Jefferson:  What do you mean?

Winters:  If you’re hurt, you can still play.  If you’re injured you can’t.  Are you hurt or are you injured?

Jefferson:  I think I’m just hurt.

not Omnip picture
Author: Austin Phillips, Coach and Co-owner at CrossFit Oshkosh.  Definitely not omnipotent.

Winters:  O.k. get up then

Learning to differentiate between these two differences can save a person a lot of time and heartache.  Sometimes a person just needs to get up and knock the sand out of his or her [insert expletive]…other times it is absolutely legitimate.  The line between toughness and dull-wittedness is thin and indistinct, occasionally one needs to take a step back and talk to someone.  In comes a coach for better and possibly worse. A coach is there to guide your personal goals and protect you from yourself, if need be.  If you have a coach which considers injury to only be a bone sticking out of the skin, you need a new coach. On the other hand, if your coach only deals with you wearing “kid gloves,” you may also need a new coach.  Omnipotence (all-powerfulness) is reserved for only a few, if you do CrossFit it may be God and/or Greg Glassman. If you’re into power lifting, maybe it is Louie Simmons. However, if you’re in a CF Box- it is not that coach!   Open your eyes!  Your coach is not all knowing.  I have learned a few tricks in my youth and the military:

1.      If you act like you know what you are doing people will think you know what you are doing.

2.       A clipboard gives you authority (that may be a personal post in the future).

Point one is great until you are messing with health and wellness, so it is ill advised for coaches.  If you are a coach who imagines to be all-knowing I am calling you an idiot. Go ahead and email me to tell me I am wrong, Point Two, just try it (the clipboard) I promise, it works.

A good coach will understand when he or she is out of his or her depth and give you a proper course of action.  A good gym will have a network of professionals to rely on, just like a respectable chiropractor will know a worthy orthopedic.  For a coach, it is not always what they know but who they know and his or her ability to guide an athlete in the right direction to start dealing with the injury to expedite healing.     Once a diagnosis is made and a course for healing is set, an athlete needs to sit down with his or her coach and discuss options.

I have found, with guidelines, scaling a workout for skill is easy and so is scaling for injury.  I will kick the horse one more time; if a coach does not have the ability to think creatively, find a new coach.  It is advisable to speak with a subject matter expert, most likely the professional you sought due to the injury, to make sure the coach is not off base on his or her scales.  Why?  See point one a few paragraphs up. They may not have the slightest clue on what they are doing.

Injuries happen.  During any sport or at random moments in life, like putting your clothes away (Justin W.). What will set you apart is how you react to them. What will set your gym and your coach apart is how they react to these injuries.  The first order of business is to decide if you are hurt or injured.  If you are hurt, pick yourself up and stop being a [insert word], if it is an injury, find the help needed to speed up recovery and realize, sometimes, that help is not always your coach.

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Client Stories

Scott Olson: Ironman Triathlons to CrossFit

Left to right(Chip, Scott, Jason)
Left to right(Chip, Scott, Jason)

Brief personal history and journey toward your CrossFit excursion.
I always enjoyed being competitive in any sport I played.  When I was in high school at Neenah in 1973,  I was encouraged to try out for football and baseball. Our school had a rule that your hair couldn’t be over your ears, at that time of my life (early 70s) that was a deal breaker. I would have been willing to cut it if I made the team, but you couldn’t even try out.
As I moved into my adult years I got married, had 2 boys and played some softball, bowling and golf but nothing very physical until I was 37 years old. At that point my oldest son Jason decided to go out for Cross Country in 7th grade. I had not run a mile since my gym class in 7th grade. We started by running around the block and gradually built up to a mile.
That was the start of pushing myself athletically, I did my first marathon about 3-4 years later, raced in the WORS mountain bike series for 5 years, and did many small triathlons around the state. In 2001 at 44yrs old, I completed my first of 14 Ironman Triathlons in British Columbia, Canada in 12 hours 15 min. The last couple Ironmans I did, it was obvious my body was starting to feel beat up. During this span of races I never lifted a weight or did any core training. All that my training consisted of, was riding my bike, swimming and running. Injuries were becoming a common occurrence.
In 2013 & 14, I did very little training and was starting to feel old and really soft.  I knew there wasn’t much I could do about old but maybe I could solve the soft part.

What brought you to CrossFit Oshkosh?
In the fall of 2014 Jason(my son) and I started talking about getting back in to shape. We knew that just running was not going to be enough. Jason researched some different types of classes we could take. He called me one day and asked what I thought about CF. I was not very familiar with it other than the crazy games I saw on TV. After a few e-mails with Austin and Ben, Jason called me and said, do you want to start Monday?

Your first impression of CrossFit Oshkosh?
When I first walked in, I was a little scared to see there were no weight machines, but weights, bars, large wooden boxes, kettle bells, jump ropes, pull up bars, rowing machines, ab mats, medicine balls and climbing ropes. I had only used a few of these things a couple of times before.

What has been your biggest hurdle since starting?
There were so many hurdles I’m not sure where to start, but I think mobility was tops. After that, the technical aspects of all the Olympic lifts has slowly come along with lots of instruction from Ben and Austin. When you finally do get it right, you know instantly.

What is your favorite aspect of CrossFit?
It may sound strange but, ab workouts, because I now know that your core is where it all starts. Also, I enjoy the variety of WODs we do, constantly testing different parts of your body. I have never felt out of place because of the great group we have, always encouraging and helping each other. It makes some of the tough lifts and WODs a little easier.

What are your current goals in CrossFit?
Keep improving my lifting technique, be able to RX more WODs, do a handstand push up, and finally master double-unders. Basically, I want to get as physically fit as possible.

What is something we don’t know about you?
I’ve been married 36 years to my wife Becky, I was also in the same kindergarten class with her. I have two sons, Jason and Chip (both members at CFO) a daughter in law, and a wonderful 3 year old grandson.
I have bowled 12-300 games in league bowling and once averaged 241 per game for a full season.
In the last year I have dropped in at two boxes, one was CF Breckenridge (Elevation 9,600ft). Next month I plan to drop in to CF Zero in Key West.
Missed the playoffs in both my fantasy football leagues this year.
I Played in the Midwest Cornhole Championships the past 2 summers in Oshkosh.