Coach Becky & Coach Kate Offer The Inspiration Many of You Knee’d.

This is another in a series of personal reflections contributed by Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. We turn the blog over to Coach Kate, who reflects on the one-year anniversary of Coach Becky’s devastating knee injury, her gutsy return to competition, and how her journey can serve as a lesson to us all. Thanks to Coach Kate and Coach Becky for sharing this story. 

Why do you come to Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights? To improve or maintain your health and fitness? To change body composition? To socialize and enjoy the community? For therapy? To get away? To blow off steam? To challenge yourself? For the competition? To be a part of something pretty awesome? All of the above … and more?

I come to EAD | CFAH because I like to feel empowered. “If I can squat 300 pounds, then what obstacle is ever going to stand in my way?” Not a single one. The grit and guts you need to face a workout should leave you feeling strong and capable. But lately, that’s not what I’ve overhead, and I’m getting frustrated.

BeckyDropQuote“I’m just not built to be strong (or fast).”
“I don’t really bend that way.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“I’m too old.”
“I’m not good with a barbell.
“I’m too big (or too small).”
“I don’t want (insert body part) to get too big (or too small).”
“I’ve just never been good at (insert just about anything.).”

Blah, blah, blah. It’s time to tell your little, self-deprecating conscience to shut the F*** up.

BubblesDon’t get me wrong; I get it. I’ve been there, and sometimes need to push through negative emotions. The fear of failure or the anxiety over trying something new can be paralyzing. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to bust out of your comfort zone. Breaking even one small element of your routine can create major change because it forces you to think about how and why you do what you do, rather than going through life like some mindless robot. I hate to break it to you, but life sucks sometimes. Forrest Gump was right: SHIT HAPPENS. Life can get really hard and uncomfortable, and when it does, what will the negative little bubbles that you allow to float around your head do for you?

To fear change equals an inability to grow. And don’t tell me you don’t need to adapt and grow; I don’t buy it. The time is now. No more excuses. No more negative attitudes. No more “I can’t.” You are fully capable of changing how you think, and how your body moves. I guarantee that if you really challenge yourself with a positive attitude, and commit and dedicate to improving yourself, you will find success far past a MetCon or the Barbell. How do I know that works? Coach Becky.


Coach Becky is always up for a challenge, including posing for one of Coach Jim’s recent photo shoots.

One year ago, Becky — going full-force and fearless, as usual — jumped an 8-foot wall, only to land awkwardly and tear her ACL (Editor’s Note: The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main knee joint ligaments that connect the shinbone thighbone). Most would succumb to their perceived reality that there would be no future fun and exciting adventures, or athletic endeavors. But not Becky. After two days of denial and facing the reality of her MRI, Becky got angry and decided to change her focus. She was determined not to let this injury get the best of her.

The radiologist who read the MRI said surgery was the best option. Several people assured Becky that surgery was the sensible decision. But Becky knew better, and instead listened to her gut. Becky believed that her athletic ability and experience creating effective rehab plans would help her get the results she wanted. Her after assessing her fitness level and leg strength, the doctor agreed; there would be no surgery for Becky.

Becky built an action plans. She wrote weekly and monthly goals pertaining to Activities of Daily Living, range of motion, and strength. She had to change her approach in the gym as well, initially focusing on upper body strength like Pull Ups and Dips. With only small episodes of frustration (obstacle, obstacle, obstacle), she stayed motivated because she decided that success was her only option. There was no giving up. There were no excuses. She gained momentum and support as she tracked her progress  via Instagram. With every milestone – bending her knee, running, box jumps, pistols, Oly lifting – she received encouragement from members of the EAD | CFAH community. Seriously, she crushed every single barrier in her way.

And, where is she now? Brand-spanking-100-percent-pain-free-good-as-new. That’s right, there isn’t a movement inside or outside the gym she hesitates to do. No fear. She knew what she needed to do to make this happen: goals, a plan, committing to it, doing to work, and being at EAD | CFAH, where the Community had her back.

So, there it is, the evidence you all seek. The recipe for success. Becky’s walking around, calling you out in the gym daily. She does it because she cares and she’s been there — through hard times and hard workouts. Just getting the chance to WOD next to her inspires me. This girl is strong and capable and it’s how she tackles LIFE. She doesn’t make excuses and she doesn’t surrender herself to that overwhelming negative chatter in her head.

So, look, maybe you are currently comfy and happy with your bubbles, and that’s fine. But you didn’t come to EAD | CFAH and you don’t stay here just to workout — you could have done that at any Globo Gym. You came to EAD | CFAH for more — just like I did, just like Becky did. So let us help you. Try something new, different, challenging. Commit. Work hard. Stay positive. Use your community. Get rid of your excuses and trust the process.

Strength Training Yields Speed, Confidence and Success for Seasoned Endurance Athlete.

This is another in a series of personal reflections contributed by Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. Plagued by recurring injuries and unimpressed with the plan of action outlined by a running “expert,” endurance athlete Wendy R turned to EAD | CFAH for help. You can learn more about Wendy on her Blog | Taking the Long Way Home, Facebook, or Instagram. This is Wendy’s story.


Plagued by recurring injuries and unimpressed with the plan of action outlined by a running “expert,” endurance athlete Wendy R turned to EAD | CFAH for help.

I have been a runner for almost 25 years. Initially, I started running to help manage anxiety and stress, but found a love for an activity that I hated as a youngster. I continued to run through the years while raising my boys and working as a nurse practitioner. About five years ago, I started running half marathons. I finally got the courage to sign up for the Chicago marathon in 2011.

I chose to train for the 2011 marathon using a traditional plan, which incorporated a lot of miles—and not much else. I did well with this plan, and my 20 mile long run went off without a hitch. I thought I was ready. But the morning of the race, the temperature was 75 degrees and sunny. Having struggled with running in the heat all summer, I was extremely nervous, and my lack of confidence did me in. I finished in 5:26, a full hour longer than I had anticipated. Several months after the race, I developed a stress fracture in my foot and battled plantar fasciitis, injuries which sidelined me from running for several months.

WendyDropQuoteAfter I recovered from my injuries, I got up the courage to run a few more half marathons. While I did well at this distance, I continued to have all kinds of nagging injuries. I did some research on running after age 50, and almost everything that I read emphasized the need to add strength training. It seems that we older folks lose muscle mass at a faster rate than younger runners and athletes.

Initially, I consulted a running coach for advice. A fast talker, she told me to prepare to take some time off of running as she would rework my regimen. “Lots of drills,” she told me. Take time off from running? Drills? I’m in my 50s…the thought of taking time off and rebuilding was not attractive to me. When I asked the running coach about her background, she told me she had been a star collegiate runner. But she had no formal training as a coach. It just didn’t feel right to me.


Wendy credits her sessions with Coach Becky with helping her achieve things she never imagined she could do.

So I called Coach Karen for advice. She recommended that I come in to meet with Coach Becky (Editor’s Note: Becky is an certified and licensed Athletic Trainer / Corrective Exercise Specialist / Performance Enhancement Specialist) for an evaluation. I was a little intimidated. After all, I’m a runner, not a weight lifter. But immediately after I met Becky, I felt that I was in good hands. Becky told me right away that she didn’t know much about running. But that she’d let me keep on running while she worked with me. I liked the idea that I’d still be in control of my running while she “rebuilt” me. She evaluated my strength and focused on areas of weakness—my hips, my glutes, my “posterior chain.” At my weekly sessions with Becky, she had me doing things I never imagined I could do—lifting heavy weights, doing intervals, flipping tires—you name it. Over time, not only did I get stronger, but my running pace, time, and form improved dramatically, culminating in a huge finish at a half marathon last fall—my fastest time in several years and my strongest race to date.

This summer, while Becky and I were completing a six week session of heavy lifting, I learned that I won a free entry to the Chicago Marathon. I looked at this as an opportunity to redeem myself from that disastrous marathon three years ago. I asked Becky if she would train me and she developed a personalized training plan. We increased our sessions to twice weekly. Initially, I questioned her wisdom as the plan was fairly low in mileage compared to anything I had done in the past. In fact, she had substituted long bike rides in for some of the long runs! She told me to “trust the plan.” I took this advice to heart, using it as a mantra, and adopted several other mantras along the way, such as: “I can and I will”, “Running is fun” and “Control what you can control.”

Some of the workouts were impossibly difficult. Becky had me doing intervals—rowing alternating with Burpees, Slam Balls, Sumo Deadlifts, Kettlebell swings…you name it. Weight days were heavy lifting with progressive Deadlifts, Back Squats, pulling the sled, pushing the Prowler…sometimes I felt like I was going to vomit after those workouts! I never stopped though, and felt amazing when I recovered. I saw the results of these workouts in faster, stronger running sessions. Becky also added weekly speed work sessions—something I had never done as a runner but found to be something that I loved as I got faster and more confident.

When several accomplished marathoners learned that I was training for another marathon, I shared with them what I was doing. “Really?” I heard from one. “I’ll be REAL CURIOUS to hear how this goes for you,” said another.

During the training, I voiced self-doubt about my ability to successfully complete this marathon. Becky came up with a great strategy to help me shut that down. She told me for every word of self-doubt that came out of my mouth I would have to do 10 Burpees. I hate Burpees. She never actually made me do the Burpees, but the whole idea of doing them made me push past those negative thoughts.

The day I knew I was ready for the marathon was about three weeks before the marathon when I ran my speedwork session faster than I had run since my 30s. Those mile repeats were sub-8 mins/mile. Who’s old? I couldn’t stop smiling!

The day before the marathon, Becky gave me a card all about accomplishment, and a rock, on which she had written “believe” on one side and “26.2” on the other. She told me that she never doubted that I could do this. With those words in my head and that rock in my pocket, I lined up for my second Chicago Marathon.

I finished the marathon in 4:17:55. My legs were strong and I never hit the wall. At mile 23, my hamstrings were starting really hurt, but I pictured myself getting down in the middle of Michigan Avenue doing 10 Burpees and busted out laughing. I was going to finish this thing! I was proud and excited to crush my previous finish time by 1 hour 10 minutes.

Two days after the marathon, I went for an easy four mile run. That’s how good I felt. I continue to run strong throughout my recovery. This is almost as good as my marathon performance!

Here’s what I have to say about my training. It’s one thing to be a runner, to be fast to put in the miles. But what made me stronger was all those intervals, all that weight lifting. And what made me mentally tougher was pushing through those hard workouts. Endurance is endurance. No matter how you get it. Sure, you have to put in the miles. But there’s a lot of ways to get to the finish line. This was fun. And would I do it again? Definitely yes!

Follow Wendy’s journey on her Blog | Taking the Long Way Home, Facebook, or Instagram

2013 TandemThrowdown Champs Crowned.

CrossFit Arlington Heights 2013 Tandem Throwdown champs Michael Bodi & Vanessa Stack, CrossFit North Wall; 2nd place finishers Jason Kalinowski & Leah Perri, CrossFit Kenosha, and 3rd place finishers Scott Carlson, CrossFit AMRAP & Mary Kate Olsen, CrossFit Arlington Heights.

CrossFit Arlington Heights 2013 Tandem Throwdown champs Michael Bodi & Vanessa Stack, CrossFit North Wall; 2nd place finishers Jason Kalinowski & Leah Perri, CrossFit Kenosha, and 3rd place finishers Scott Carlson, CrossFit AMRAP & Mary Kate Olsen, CrossFit Arlington Heights.

Check out more photos from the 2013 Tandem Throwdown on the EAD / CFAH Facebook Page.

Just sixty pounds denied Michael Bodi & Vanessa Stack, CrossFit NorthWall, a perfect Leader Board run at the CrossFit Arlington Heights 2013 Tandem Throwdown.  Event champions Bodi and Stack – competing as “NorthWallers” – dominated the Leader Board with first place finishes in Workout #1 l “Shackles”, Workout #3 l “Run – Row “and Workout #4 l “Chip You.” But a seemingly effortless ascent through Workout #2 l “Ground-to-Overhead Ladder” by Jessica Layman, competing with Taylor Layman as “A$$Clowns”, Dog House CrossFit, slowed the Bodi / Stack steamroll, handing them their lone second place finish of the competition. Layman was the only woman to complete the Ground-to-Overhead Ladder, and even made a valiant effort for a second lift at 205 pounds. Every additional lift completed by an athlete at the last rung of the ladder (205 pounds for women, 315 pounds for men) added weight to the Tandem’s finish total. Taylor Layman cleared 275 pounds, giving the “A$$Clowns” a combined weight of 480 pounds for a first-place finish in the workout.

Joining Bodi & Stack on the 2013 Tandem Throwdown podium were Jason Kalinowski & Leah Perri, “Team JaLeah”,  CrossFit Kenosha, in second place; and Scott Carlson & Mary Kate Olsen, “Scott & Mary Kate”, CrossFit AMRAP and CrossFit Arlington Heights in third place.

2013TandemThrowdownWOD1The Bodi / Stack championship run was not without challenge. Kalinowski / Perri came within three Partner Burpees of Bodi / Stack in Workout #1 l “Shackles”, completing 88 Burpees to the 91 logged by the “NorthWallers.” A single Partner Burpee separated the third place team, JR Phillips & Amanda Phillips, “Team Phillips”, CrossFit Caliber, from Kalinowski / Perri. The top eight Tandems in “Shackles” completed an amazing 621 Partner Burpees within the 17 minute cap.

2013TandemThrowdownWOD2Workout #2 l “Ground-to-Overhead Ladder” congested the Leader Board with three Tandems joining Bodi & Stack at 420 pounds combined: Katye Kettler & Josh Burrell, “Ebony & Ivory”, CrossFit Amplify; Eric Gustafson & Jyllianne Czanstkowski, “YPFS”, CrossFit Huntley;  and Josh Refenes & Heather Refenes, “Gruesome Twosome”, CrossFit EPC. Several Tandem athletes reported PRs during Workout #2, a particularly impressive feat considering the workout structure – 20 seconds to complete the lift and 10 seconds to rotate to the next station – and the levy weighed on the athletes by Workout #1 l “Shackles.”

2013TandemThrowdownWOD3Tandems across the Leader Board leveraged Workout #3 l “Run-Row” to their advantage. Jessica Rush & Jason Garrett, “The Replacements”, CrossFit Arlington Heights and CrossFit Paradox, finished the workout in second place, seven seconds behind Bodi / Stack, to catapult from a disappointing 29th place finish in Workout #2; the performance earned them a spot in the Elite 8 and an eventual  7th place finish in the 2013 Tandem Throwdown. The Rush / Garrett Tandem – the two met for the first time the morning of the competition – formed out of necessity when each lost a partner earlier in the week, and turned out to be one of the great stories of the competition. “Run-Row” handed three of the ultimate Elite 8 –“Team Phillips,” “Freak Status” and “Jerk It” — their lowest placing finishes of the day.

2013TandemThrowdownFinalWorkoutConsistency across workouts which demanded teamwork, communication, strategy, strength and muscular endurance was paramount to the top finishing Tandems. Heading in to the final workout, “Chip You”, it was mathematically impossible to dislodge Bodi / Stack, yet the champs set a blazing pace for the event, finishing in 9:15. The battle for the final two podium spots was fierce with five points or fewer separating seven teams. Carlson, a CrossFit competition veteran, and Olsen, in her first CrossFit competition, perfectly executed their Workout #4 strategy and placed second in the workout, their highest placing of the day, locking third place. And Kalinowski / Perri landed in second place after finishing events in second, eleventh, third and third.

The Tandem Throwdown will return to CrossFit Arlington Heights Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.

Find the complete event standings and other event information on the 2013 Tandem Throwdown web page.

Five Answers You Want to Hear: The Microgym.

Re-posted from Fit For Arlington Heights, a health & fitness blog from the nationally-certified professionals at EAD / CFAH. Have a topic you’d like us to research? Email

Contributed by Coach Karen

The microgym — small, independently owned places which specialize in one-on-one and small group activities  — have muscled into Arlington Heights and the surrounding area, pumping up the options for the fitness-minded consumer.  According to the Sports Industry & Fitness Association, 6 of the top 10 growing sports and fitness activities are class-based, the primary charter of most microgyms. But how do you know which microgym deserves your fitness dollars? Here are Five Answers You Want to Hear when you ask the owners of a microgym: “Why are you right for me?”

We train -- not exercise -- at EAD / CFAH.

What we do at EAD / CFAH is train — not exercise.

1. We Specialize in Training (not exercising). Anyone can lead a group of people in an activity to burn calories, reduce tension, socialize or keep active – that’s exercise, and it doesn’t even require professional certification. Exercise is better than sitting slouched on the sofa, clacking through the channels. But it isn’t, nor will it ever be, the equivalent of training. Training is the systematic, periodized, progressive process to achieve a defined set of performance goals. A good exercise session leaves you sweaty; a good training plan delivers measurable results in ten key areas — Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy. Ask the microgym owner to describe the process used to establish, track and maintain goals, and show any tools used to support the process. Ask the owner how staff supports member goal setting and recognizes goal attainment, detail his or her personal goals, and share member success stories. If the microgym isn’t structured to help you get leaner, stronger, faster, more agile, better at your chosen sport, or improve key health indicators, look elsewhere … you deserve better.

2. We’re Established. There is something to be said about longevity. According to Crain’s Chicago, microgyms are quickly “approaching the ubiquitous presence that bank branches enjoyed during the real estate boom.” But not every microgym will succeed; University of Tennessee research cites that more than one-third won’t survive two years in business. A microgym in business for five or more years has winning formula – and plenty of satisfied customers. Take time to thoroughly check out the microgym’s website and read up on the business history, philosophy and mission. Then talk with the owner and ask about business growth, how long people typically stick around, and the top three reasons members give when they leave. Signal the alarm if the owner can’t readily answer those questions.

There are fewer than 50 Certified Strength and Conditioning Coaches listed on the NSCA website. Three EAD / CFAH Senior Perofrmance Coaches -- Jim, Karen & Josh -- have earned this prestigious certification. The fourth Senior Performance Coach, Becky, is a Certified Athletic Trainer.

There are fewer than 50 Certified Strength and Conditioning Coaches listed on the NSCA website. Three EAD / CFAH Senior Perofrmance Coaches — Jim, Karen & Josh — have earned this prestigious certification. The fourth Senior Performance Coach, Becky, is a Certified Athletic Trainer.

3. We’re Qualified. The National Commission on Certifying Agencies accreditation serves as a benchmark on how organizations should conduct professional certification. The NCCA has accredited only 13 of the thousands of health and fitness programs offered across the country.  Among the most prestigious NCCA accredited certifications is the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, the credential required to work with collegiate and professional sports teams.  Ask the microgym owner to detail the credentials held by staff, then verify that staff credentials are current and in good standing. If the microgym has one or more CSCS on staff, odds are that you’ll be in good hands. Don’t settle for a place where staff carries only boutique or non-NCCA certifications.

4. We’re Experienced. Experience matters when it comes to selecting a microgym. Ask the owner how many people currently belong, roughly how many people pass through the microgym each month, and  how many hours each person on staff has working with members. Search the internet for reviews and testimonials, and social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for photos of microgym staff and members. Few or no pictures of microgym members and staff indicate lack of activity, and could be a warning sign. Ask the gym owner to describe staff experience with members of all ages and fitness levels. Ask about their programming philosophy – do they purchase programming from somewhere else, or develop it based on the needs of members? – and how they adapt programming to meet the specific needs of a variety of members.

5. We Have High Retention. People who get results stick around. Ask the owner about member retention. It’s a warning sign if a microgym turns over greater than 35 percent of members within 12 months.  Similarly, it’s not a good sign if staff members come and go. Ask about staff tenure, then talk to staff about why they stay, and why (or why not) that they refer people to the microgym. It’s a problem if staff members don’t speak about the microgym with pride and a sense of ownership. Ask the microgym owner to share member satisfaction survey results. It should tell you something if the owner hasn’t conducted a membership survey, and isn’t proud to show you the results. Drop in to a regularly scheduled class and talk with people before or after class – ask them what keeps them coming back.

A Farewell to (T. Rex) Arms

This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection was originally posted by leaving-too-soon EAD / CFAH athlete Amy H on her blog as A Farewell to (T. Rex) Arms. Amy, your PR whiteboard has only just begun, and we will watch from afar as you achieve goal after goal.

Our Honey Badger in residence, Amy H, departs for her new digs in Georgia far too soon.

I’ve been training at Elite Athletic Development for just over three months (this has been sitting as a draft for a while, so let’s make that almost 4 months). It is absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life. I’m relocating to Atlanta next month (eep! make that less than 2 weeks!) after the wedding and aside from missing friends and family and whatnot, one of the most difficult parts of the move will be leaving my EAD family behind. To say these people are amazing is an understatement. The support and encouragement is non-stop. And it’s contagious. I can finish a horrific WOD (workout of the day) that leaves me all floppy armed and dripping with sweat, but as I walk over to get my water bottle, I can’t help but put away a mat or jump rope for someone else. Because a ton of people have done it for me. We all know that everyone is giving everything they have every time out. I will never ever forget the time I got near the end of what was a particularly brutal workout for me and just had a few laps of crab walking to finish. I was toast. And a fellow athlete who had already completed his entire workout did those last crab walk laps a second time, with me.

Before I found EAD, I had never touched a barbell in my life. I hated running. I considered myself the furthest thing possible from an athlete. I biked because it was the least horrifying way for me to exercise, but I certainly didn’t enjoy those 40 minutes of mind-numbing cardio blasting on my little stationary bike at my traditional gym, in the row with all the other stationary bikes ridden by people putting in their time and hoping to get out without speaking to anyone else. I exercised because I knew I was out of shape, I was tired and it helped keep my stress levels in check. A little.

Just a third of a year later (training 2-3 days a week at EAD), I have completed FOUR 5K races, I love lifting heavy stuff and for the first time in my entire life, I feel sort of athletic. Because I love lifting so much, I’m even looking at some training facilities in Atlanta with a goal of possibly competing in a powerlifting meet some day. Me. Competing. Athletically. Does not compute! But that’s what these guys have done for me. They’ve given me the confidence to believe I’m capable of pretty awesome things. And the desire to become even more awesome. I’m going to be leaving EAD just before we do another round of one rep max testing, so I don’t have a lot of impressive improvement numbers to throw down, but I have little victories all the time. And I know a 200 pound deadlift pull is so close, I can taste it! I really believe EAD has been what has kept my bridezillaness mostly under control and has allowed me to pretty much plan an entire wedding by myself. I might be sweaty and out of breath and my muscles might be shaking, but while I’m at EAD, I can guarantee you I’m too focused on performing to even allow a passing thought of who will sit next to who and what sort of vegetable I should pick and where we’ll take pictures and everything else I worry about the other 23 hours of the day. That has been a gift that I’m only now truly appreciating. Plus, while I’m still built like a T Rex and shoulder presses strike terror in my heart, I do catch myself admiring my arm muscles in the mirror in the morning as I blow dry my hair.

And finally, I leave you with this. I battled with myself over whether I should leave a progress photo. Because I didn’t start on this journey to lose weight. I started on this journey because I was tired of being tired. I was tired of feeling weak. I was tired of spending hours slaving away on a stationary bike and never getting any faster or further. But there have been huge changes, and I think it’s worth acknowledging that.

Amy H February 28, 2012 and October 27, 2012.

The girl on the left is me on February 28, 2012. She didn’t sleep well. She felt like she had been hit by a truck the day after photographing a wedding. She was certain her knees would never allow her to run. Ever. And she felt like her only option was to select a piece of cardio equipment and suffer through 45-60 minutes a day.

On the right is me on October 27, 2012, after completing the Halloween Hustle 5K. My costume was “binders of women.” I know. I’m pretty awesome. She had just completed her 2nd 5K in two weeks. And cut 5 minutes off her time. And enjoyed it. She actually doesn’t weigh that much less than the girl on the left. But that’s because she has muscles. She’s getting stronger. She deadlifts 185 pounds. And that’s not enough for her. She squats looooooooow and likes it. She swings kettlebells and struggles through band assisted pull ups and does push ups at home to practice. She still hates burpees, but who doesn’t? My EAD family, especially my early morning Strength and Power peeps, I will miss you all so much! Thank you for inspiring me to always push it a little further and for welcoming me into your space. I’m still going to have a few classes left when I leave, so I guess I’ll have no choice but to stop by whenever I’m in town and visit. As long as burpees are not in the WOD. 😀

Maggie Finally Embraces Her “Inner Athlete”.

This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection* was submitted by Maggie R who joined our Community in May 2011. After her first Fitness Boot Camp, it was clear to the performance coaches that Maggie had incredible — yet unrecognized by her — athletic potential. We knew that as soon as she acknowledged that ability, she would be unstoppable! Maggie attacks her training program, has dialed in her performance fueling to support her goals, and continually seeks new challenges. She currently holds the fastest 2k women’s row in the gym, and recently PR’d several lifts … a continuation in a series of “bests”. Keep up the great work, Maggie … you are an inspiration to us all!

Maggie R has worked hard and has the results to prove it!

“This morning I was thinking about how grateful I am for everything the EAD / CFAH Performance Coaches do, so I decided to write out some of my thoughts and share them with you.

“I was never an ‘athlete’ in the true sense of the word. I played kiddie soccer for a season until I had to quit because my allergies were too severe in the fall. I played park district basketball, but only because I felt pressured by my extremely athletic family. Being one of the tallest girls for my age helped, but my ball handling skills lacked, and I was slow … oh so slow. Ultimately, the coach placed me under the basket and told me to just put my arms up.

“Being on a sports team at my small middle school was a way to be ‘cool,’ so I  played basketball and joined the track team for a season. I ran the 800m and became pretty familiar with finishing last. I also came in last in the 200m when I had to fill in at the last minute for a teammate. The nerves that came with that race came close to creating one of those middle school memories you fear:  I almost peed my pants! I also signed on to be manager for the volleyball team so I could still hang — and sometimes practice with — the athletes.

“I moved on to cheerleading in 8th grade, which I continued for a year at high school, before joining the track team. Since the track events didn’t go so well in middle school, I thought I’d give the field events a try and I picked up the shot put. I enjoyed using the weight room and learning how to Clean, but when track interfered with my passion for the music program, I quit.

“I started running 2-3 miles a day and doing Tae-Bo quite fervently after quitting the track team; this was my training program throughout the remainder of high school and college. Since I was no longer on any team sports, describing myself as an athlete never, ever crossed my mind — even after completing three half-marathons, working as a personal trainer for a year, and competing in an amateur kickboxing fight.

“But after 1.5 years of training at Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights, I now proudly say that I represent the name of the place where I train: I am an athlete, I train like an elite athlete, and I have new friends — an entire community of people — who train with me and share my goals.

“I am so grateful for the complete transformation that’s occurred inside of me. I haven’t lost an enormous amount of weight or dropped five dress sizes. But I am faster, stronger, more powerful, and more confident — so much more confident. And I have a belief in myself that I never had before, which is something that you can’t buy with any old gym membership.”

* Excerpted with permission from an email Maggie R sent to the EAD / CFAH / CFAX Performance Coaches.

John O’ Shares His Progress, Appreciation.

This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection* was submitted by John O’ as he nears his one-year anniversary with our Community. John joined us for a Free Class Saturday and was immediately hooked; he officially started the following Tuesday. John is an incredibly coach-able, willing and hardworking athlete who brings a great energy to his training sessions and fellow athletes. And that energy has served John well as he’s racked up a series of firsts & PRs over the past 11 months. Keep up the great work, John …you are an inspiration to us all!

“Dear Jim & Karen,

“I just thought I would write you a short note thanking you for welcoming me in to your gym, supporting my efforts, and being generous with your time when I have had questions about various things.  I’ve been part of the EAD community for 11 months now and I thought I would pass along my progress to give you some insight into how your gym, classes, performance coaches, and support have affected me.

“My second workout after completing Movement Essentials** was the pre-Thanksgiving Earn Your Second Helping WOD.  I have never felt like crying during or after a workout before that one!  I felt totally out of my element and overwhelmed, to say the least.  But there were people encouraging me to fight out as many Burpees I could do as my last exercise that day.  I didn’t finish the workout as prescribed, but I went to the end of the 35 minute time limit. And I couldn’t have done it without Coach Becky yelling in my ear and (fellow EAD / CFAH / CFAX athlete) Elizabeth L urging me on.

“It’s interesting, but at any other gym I would have just quit and said to myself ‘I can’t do this work.  I just can’t get through it without killing myself.’  But I set up three rules for myself when I started training at EAD / CFAH / CFAX: 1) Do what you can do – modify the workout to be challenging but doable, 2) Finish – always fight through to the end no matter how miserable, and 3) Keep coming back – Coach Rory told me this during my first Movement Essentials class.  I have to say that these rules have helped me stay the course and continue to progress and get better.

“BUT, a bigger part of the equation is the awesome community you two have built around fitness and health.  When I first heard Coach Karen say we are a community, I scoffed at that notion.  However, having been a part of your group and seeing the energy and support you two put into the business, I think you guys are amazing at what you do.  All of the trainers are amazing, as well — very supportive and communicative.

“I think the spirit and support of you and your trainers directly rubs off on the participants.  There is no way in hell I could have gotten out of bed at 4:30am during the bleak winter months without Steve G, Lisa S, Mike, O’ Colleen E, Elizabeth L, Jeff G, Ron F, Natalie B, Kim G, and the host of others that have always had my back.  There is no way in hell I could set recent PR’s in the Deadlift and Front Squat without the support and encouragement of Mike O’and Brian.  It is amazingly awesome to be a part of the community and I thought I would just let you know how grateful I am to be a part of EAD / CFAH / CFAX.

John O’ is always all-smiles before and after the WOD, but look out during — he is pure focused intensity.

“Just a snapshot of my progress in 11 short months:

  • 500m row – 2:09 to 1:37
  • Mile run – 10:15 to 8:44
  • Deadlift – 180# to 415#
  • Shoulder press – 70# to 135#
  • Back Squat – 50# (maybe!!) to 260#
  • Front Squat – 50# to 175# (… and on my way 260#!)
  • 50 Burpees – >10 min to 6:31
  • Snatch – ? t0 135#

“I still have a lot of work to do but I wanted to share with you my progress and heartfelt thanks for an amazing 11 months.  Looking forward to getting better and better.”

* Excerpted with permission from an email John O’ sent to EAD / CFAH / CFAX owners Jim Inman & Karen Stoychoff Inman.

** Movement Essentials has since been revamped & renamed Training Essentials.

New Training Essentials Class Starts Tuesday.

The next Training Essentials classes begin Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6:30 p.m. (Tuesday & Thursday, 6:30 p.m. + Saturday, 9 a.m.) or Monday, Oct. 8, 5:30 a.m. (Monday – Wednesday – Friday). Training Essentials is the starting point for all athletes new to the Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights community.

If you have a friend, family member or co-worker who wants to move from watching the CrossFit Games on ESPN to actually training like a CrossFit athlete, send them our way! We will credit your account with three classes for every athlete who you refer and who completes the Training Essentials program.

Register for Training Essentials today!


A Honey Badger Meets CFAH Training Essentials.

This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection was originally posted by new EAD / CFAH athlete Amy H on her blog as Honey Badgers Hate Burpees. Keep up the great work, Amy — we look forward to your continued success!

Have a story you’d like to share? Email your reflection to … we look forward to hearing from you!

Less than 24 hours after I wrote this post about how gym class was and is the worst thing ever in the history of things, I signed up for gym class.

Wait, what?

New EAD / CFAH athlete Amy H writes about her Training Essentials 1 experience in her blog at Learn more about our new Training Essentials program at

Yeah. Back story: round about January or so, I was feeling like crap. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired all the time, I felt out of shape, full of stress and generally blah. Plus my pants were getting too tight and I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy new bigger pants. Thanks to the amazing moderate temperatures and lack of snow of the Best Winter Ever™, I started walking on my lunch breaks. Then I added a morning walk, too. And by April or so, the walks weren’t quite enough anymore. I was feeling better, but I still wanted to get into better shape. I knew I wasn’t the healthiest me I could be. I joined (well, rejoined – I was a member there a few years ago) a gym and added my least hated cardio, the stationary bike, into my routine a few days a week. That was pretty awesome for a month or so and then I hit a wall. Not literally. It’s a stationary bike. Although if anyone could manage to hit a wall on a stationary bike, it would probably be uncoordinated, out of shape me. Anyway, I’d slave away for 40 minutes on the bike almost every day (in addition to my daily walks) and I wasn’t seeing any results. Not in the mirror, not on the scale, not in my pants (That’s What She Said) and not in the way I felt. So I decided to add some strength training. I started adding in some dumbbell work and putzed around on a few of the weight machines. This helped a little, although I struggled a lot with selecting how much weight I should be using. But still, that stupid wall would not budge. I tried adding in more variety to confuse my muscles or something like that. Enter yoga and ballet. Next, I turned to interval training. Even though every fiber of my being screamed NOOOOOOOOO DON’T DO IT!!!!!!, I slashed my cardio workout in half. Instead of 40 sweaty boring, butt numbing minutes on the bike riding between levels 2-5 or so, I turned to HIIT. I started a routine of 30-45 seconds of biking at the highest intensity I could muster without dying (usually around level 12) and then 15-20 seconds of rest (rest for me was biking at level 2-3). Lather, rinse and repeat for 15-20 minutes. This was very difficult for me, because everything I had always been taught and believe was that cardio was all about calorie blasting, and the only way to accomplish that was to spend at least 30-40 minutes per session. Incredibly, I saw huge results quickly. I felt better, I slept better and when I did go back for my old skool 40 minute ride, I found myself hanging out at higher intensities. I was hovering between levels 5 and 7 instead of 2 to 5. This made me stop and wonder what else I knew for sure was right was actually maybe misguided. Or even wrong.

Enter CrossFit. I first learned about CrossFit from my current workout hero, Jamie. She’s a rock star. For realz. Jamie did cardio forever, and while she really enjoyed running, I think she was hitting that wall that I would eventually find. But CrossFit didn’t just open a door in that wall, it obliterated it. At first I was totally in denial. “That might have worked for her, but there’s no way I could do that.” “I’m too out of shape to start CrossFit. Jamie was a long distance runner. I’m a sloth.” “I’m sure cardio will eventually work for me.”

Sidebar: I do not believe cardio is bad. I still walk almost every single day. Mostly for stress relief, but it keeps me moving. And I still occasionally make a trip to the gym to blast some miles on the bike. There’s something satisfying about seeing those miles add up on the bike and having proof I accomplished something during my workout. And if I hadn’t started walking and then moved to the bike and tried yoga and ballet, I would have never attempted CrossFit. And even if I did attempt it, I would have ran to my car during the warm up never to return again. There is a little bit of snobbery in the CrossFit world, and they tend to look down on the person I was. When I go back to my traditional gym, I don’t judge (or try my best not to judge) what anyone else is doing. Unless you’ve stationary biked 100 miles in someone’s gym shoes, you don’t know who they are, where they have come from or what their goals are. Worry about your own workout and leave your judgy pants in the locker room.

OK, back on track. I watched Jamie’s journey through CrossFit and was in complete awe. Not that she wasn’t fantastic before CrossFit, but now she’s even more confident, stronger and all around amazing. I started to do some research on CrossFit. Mostly Googling things like, “can fat people do CrossFit?” or “will CrossFit kill me?” and trying to convince myself that CrossFit wasn’t exactly like gym class, even though I knew it totally was. Or worse. I discovered an official CrossFit box (that’s what they call their gyms. boxes. heheheheh. they said boxes) less than half a mile from home. Dammit. And they have a sort of “intro to CrossFit” training course. Dammit. And it started the next week. DAMMIT. I signed up. I tried not to throw up. I walked away. And then I ran back to my computer to send a panicked email to the owner about my concerns that I just did the stupidest thing ever. I explained a little bit about my journey, my fitness level, my goals and my concern that I might be in over my head or hold back the training class. I got a lovely response back reassuring me that everything would be fine, and that motivation is the #1 thing they look for in new athletes. And then I teared up a little bit because no one in my entire life ever had referred to me as an athlete. I felt a billion times better and started dreading looking forward to the first class.

Back story over. Now on to what this post was supposed to be:

What I Have Learned After My First Two Weeks of CrossFit

  • I am weaker than I thought. I used to tell people, “I’m really pushing it at the gym. I’m dripping with sweat when I get off the bike.” “Level TWELVE.” But these workouts kick my ass. HARD. And then they wait for me to get up and they kick it again.
  • But I am also soooo much stronger than I thought. These workouts don’t kill me. I kill them. And I come back for more.
  • I would like to find whoever invented burpees and punch them in the genitals
  • I can run. My biggest fear going into CrossFit was the running. I have always had knee pain when I attempt to run, and I was going to walk in and let them know I couldn’t run. But before I knew it, we were off on our first warm-up, running around the building. And my knees didn’t blow up. I didn’t die. I was a little sore, but I didn’t get hurt and now I’m even running a few laps as a warm up when I go back to my traditional gym. Who’d a thunk it?
  • I can jump.
  • I have the upper body strength of a T Rex.
  • But I have legs of steel.
  • It really, truly, absolutely is OK and in fact, perhaps 100% necessary to throw out your scale. And to eat enough to fuel hard workouts. I’m a few days away from feeling confident enough to obliterate all traces of calorie counting, weight tracking, faux-health apps from my iPhone.
  • I’m maybe sort of kinda an athlete.

I love my box (seriously, though, do I have to call it that? CrossFit gym. I love my CrossFit gym*). They are perfect. There are amazing people doing amazing things that inspire me and give me hope that one day I can look at the workout they are doing without feeling nauseous. They push me to push myself and accomplish more in a workout than I ever thought would be possible. But they also keep me safe and modify/scale things down for me when necessary. And don’t make me feel like a loser for having a scaled workout. And while I was addicted to logging miles on the bike, there are so many other ways to view accomplishments and track progress and growth. These workouts usually take just about everything I have, so at the end, I’m not always left with that satisfaction of a job well done. Although the high fives and encouragement from the coaches, classmates and others at the box help a lot. But while I might not be able to bike to Atlanta (one of the ways I used to motivate myself to bike was to track miles and plot my way along a course to Atlanta, where my fiancé resides), progress is just as evident through CrossFit. On our very first day, we did a workout for time. It kicked my ass. I couldn’t even complete the whole thing. It involved a 250m run followed by 20 reps of: squats, sit ups, push ups, jumping pull ups and wall balls followed by another 250m run. You can see how this might terrify my non-running, T Rex armed self. By the time I got to the jumping pull ups and wall balls, I was clearly looking close enough to death that our coach told me I only needed to do 10 reps of them. I was too relieved to even feel a tiny bit guilty or inferior for not doing the whole thing. We met three times a week for two weeks. On the sixth class, we repeated that day 1 workout. Not only did I knock 38 seconds off my time, but I also did all the reps of all the exercises. Suck on THAT, bike to Atlanta.

*I am in absolutely no way paid or otherwise compensated for mentioning Elite Athletic Development. In fact, I’m a little worried they might read this and make me do extra burpees. Ha!

New Strength & Power Cycle Lifts Off July 2.

Coach Josh & Coach Ashley demo Clean Progressions.

The new Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis Strength & Power Cycle begins Monday, July 2 and concludes Saturday, July 28, the first day of the 2012 London Olympic Weightlifting event.

The four-week Strength & Power Cycle will focus on the Olympic Lifts — the Clean & Jerk and Snatch. No previous Olympic Lifting experience is necessary — the nationally-certified Elite Athletic Development Performance Coaches will provide expert instruction, and class structure will provide ample practice. Every athlete will benefit from training the Olympic Lifts, and based on previous Strength & Power Cycles, athletes will improve form and mechanics, build confidence and achieve a variety of performance goals.

Athletes ready to commit to the July Strength & Power Cycle should schedule their training as follows:

Mary Kate is just one of the doznes of athletes who committed to the May / June Strength & Power Cycle and hit PR after PR the week of June 25 -- on her lifts and across MetCons.

  • Monday l Train Strength & Power
  • Tuesday l Rest Day. If you didn’t train Monday, programming will repeat today
  • Wednesday l Train Strength & Power
  • Thursday l Train Strength & Power
  • Friday l Rest Day. If you missed Wednesday or Thursday, programming will repeat today
  • Saturday l Train 8 a.m., Advanced MetCon Class
  • Sunday l Rest Day.If you missed Saturday, programming will repeat today

July Strength & Power classes will include movements and lifts which support the Clean & Jerk and Snatch, along with a few other surprises, making for a robust training session. Resist the siren song of the MetCon for the next four weeks, and if you’re a runner, closely monitor your mileage … even consider taking a few weeks off. Remember: over-training is as detrimental to achieving your performance goals as under-training.

Finally, athletes are encouraged to actively recover after training sessions. Take advantage of our Sport Yoga and Mobility & Recovery classes, be sure to foam roll regularly, and if you’re game, even hop in an ice bath.

If you have any questions about the July Strength & Power Cycle, be sure to check in with Coach Josh, Jim, Karen or Becky.

Weigh In: What are your  performance goals for the July Strength & Power Cycle?

Note: Due to the July 4th holiday, week 1 programming will be different than weeks 2 -4.  Check the WOD posting each day for more information.