“The present time has one advantage over every other - it is our own.”- Charles Caleb Colton
Justin Bergh: The Interview
Growing up in central Florida, Justin Bergh’s first taste of how life works came in the form of two sports: baseball and horse racing. His father was a world renowned horse trainer, regularly traveling overseas for work. The high school he went to, Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida had elite level coaches who were the best of the best, major league scouts and sons of former players.
Whether he was at home, on the field, or in the classroom, Bergh said from day one, life seemed to boil down to one word: performance.
“We would go to Poland and buy horses and bring them back and train them,” said the 40-year-old about some of his earliest memories. “So I didn’t grow up in a household where my parents had traditional 9 to 5 jobs, they worked for themselves.”
He was surrounded by teachers, mentors, professionals and was able to draw up a blueprint and roadmap for success: train to perform, and train to be your best.
“I never had a view of work as a kid other than it was performance oriented, and so it was only later, after high school and college when I got into CrossFit that I realized my whole world paradigm was based around that idea.”
Bergh’s road to his eventual title of General Manager of Sport for CrossFit is one birthed out of his acumen on the baseball diamond, and his proficiency within the professional sporting realm. A right handed pitcher, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2004 in the 47th round, however injuries marred part of his development phase, but he has little qualms that he never got to stand atop a mound in a big league stadium.
“The last 7 months have challenged me in ways I didn’t know possible, both physically and mentally. I’ve done my best to embrace them all, and WORK through it. My progress has not been linear, and it absolutely has not been easy. But it will 100% be worth it. The only person that can stop you, is you.”
In case you missed it, Lauren Kalil, the host of The Bottom Line, spoke to PFAA member Brent Fikowski and his manager Daniel Robbins about the lack of increase of money for Semifinals winners. 💰
Mat Fraser continues to crush life after competing as HWPO Training will be the official programming partner for the 2022 FITLAND Fitness Festival.
Can Anyone Beat Mayhem Freedom and Four Other Takeaways from Team Quarterfinals
Heading into the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Team Quarterfinals the question on everyone’s mind was if a serious contender would step up to challenge CrossFit Mayhem Freedom for the Affiliate Cup Championship. With a year under the new season format and a much better Quarterfinal test implemented this season, what teams separated themselves from the pack of Affiliates and topple what could be the greatest Mayhem team ever assembled?
Here are five takeaways at first glance at the unofficial leaderboard.
1. Waking up and choosing Mayhem
No surprise here, atop the leaderboard (North America and Worldwide) is CrossFit Mayhem Freedom. The team of Rich Froning, Samuel Cournoyer, Andrea Nisler and Taylor Williamson is the only team in the world to have top-5 finishes in every workout.
Dating back to last year when the Quarterfinals stage made its first appearance, the Mayhem Freedom team has finished in the top-10 in the world in all 10 workouts including six wins with an average placing of 2.4 over the two year span. In fact, Mayhem’s worst finish in the Quarterfinal stage was last year’s sixth place finish in Workout 1.
However, as impressive as Mayhem Freedom’s performance was, it wasn’t quite the dominating one that we have gotten used to seeing from the team. The new Mayhem Independence team has aspirations of preventing Froning from his 10th Games title. The team of Alexis Johnson, Sasha Nieves, Luke Parker and Angelo DiCicco made things interesting in Cookeville this weekend, recording five top-10 finishes including a second place behind Freedom in Workout 2 by just three seconds. They finished third in North America, just one point behind CrossFit Invictus.
The newly assembled Mayhem Justice team could also play spoiler and gives the training camp three potential podium contenders as they finished tied for seventh in North America and ninth worldwide. The most impressive performance of this newly assembled team consisting of Ben Davidson, Seth Stovall, Anniston Sudhof and Jessica Kalagian was in Workout 1 where they recorded the world’s second best time, finishing the grueling burpee, shuttle run workout in 8:40, besting the flagship team by three places after they received a thirty second penalty.
Collectively, Mayhem’s three teams all finished in the top-10 in the world.
Athena Perez Builds Course Aimed at Educating Coaches about Working with Larger Bodied Athletes
When Athena Perez created the We Belong CrossFit Instagram page, her goal was to provide a platform to raise awareness about obesity and inclusivity within the CrossFit community, as well as to offer support to larger bodied CrossFit athletes.
Two years later, the We Belong community has done so much more.
The stories Perez has learned from her followers has led her to build a course for CrossFit trainers aimed at educating coaches how to work with larger bodied athletes.
“A lot of information we learned from the We Belong page, it just more or less confirmed what all the members that are plus sized in our community have experienced. We have experienced similar things, with clothing, with coaches not having the knowledge on how to do progressions and scale appropriately. A lot of times they just freeze and they’re not sure what to do,” Perez said about what ultimately led her to create the course.
Remind me: This isn’t Perez’s first time advocating for and supporting larger bodied CrossFit athletes.
Perez’ own CrossFit journey began by losing 225 pounds before going on to publish her book, Lifting The Wait, in the summer of 2020.
That same year, during the height of the global pandemic, Perez, a member of CrossFit’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council, opened Scaled Nation CrossFit, an affiliate aimed at attracting those who might be intimidated by CrossFit, as a way to “bridge the gap to help people who are overweight take the first step,” she said. Today, Perez’ trains her Scaled Nation clients at her small home affiliate.
Most recently, Perez has been working with apparel company Born Primitive on creating fitness clothing for larger bodied CrossFit athletes. Perez has been “instrumental” in the process, explained Born Primitive co-owner Mallory Riley, adding that the first products in the new clothing line will be available in the upcoming weeks.
The course details: The course, designed by Perez along with five other CrossFit trainers, including Abigail Brankin, Kim Labora, Lisa Heatherington, Jennifer Pendleton, and Al Sagapolutele, is called “Working with Larger Bodies”and its main goal is to educate and empower coaches to understand how to work with larger athletes.
The course is currently in its beta stage, with beta seminars scheduled to be hosted at a handful of affiliates in the United States in June and July. After that, the course will open to the public late this summer.
Right now, the course is a one-day, eight hour, in-person, seminar involving lectures, breakout groups and activities that cover not only how to physically train and progress athletes through common CrossFit movements, but also how to ensure your gym is welcoming and compatible with the challenges many larger bodied folks deal with on a daily basis. Course attendees can expect to increase their knowledge and understanding of obesity, improve their understanding of larger bodies by addressing common concerns these clients experience, and ultimately increase the opportunity for business growth, Perez explained.
Once the in-person course is fully “ironed out,” the course will also become available in a self-paced, online course, Perez explained, hopefully this fall.
One big thing: As important as the technical side of working with obese athletes is, Perez said the bigger hole just might be learning how to understand and connect with larger bodied clients.
“The best coaches know you coach the athlete, not the movement,” Perez said. “They need to know how to cultivate trust and build relationships with athletes who are accustomed to stares and judgment.”
She added: “This is less about it being a physical thing, as much as obesity is more of a mental thing. There are a lot of things that people experience…It’s not that, for instance, somebody doesn’t want to get on a bike. What they’re afraid of is that they might break the pedal or the seat. There are other things that are going on in that brain that would be helpful for the coach to understand.”
In light of this, the course takes common CrossFit movements “and we literally break it down to the bare bones, and then we show them, ‘Here’s the pain points. Here’s why someone isn’t going to want to jump, for instance,’” Perez explained.
“It’s not about feeling sorry for that person. It’s not about letting that person be a victim. It’s literally bridging that gap and understanding how we can connect, so that that coach understands what they’re asking that person to do.”
The big picture: Perez is adamant that CrossFit is for everyone. That being said, there’s still a ton of room for improvement when it comes to working with larger bodied, obese clients, both when it comes to understanding how to scale movements physically, and more importantly when it comes to understanding, building trust, and empathizing with this demographic, which is exactly what “Working with Larger Bodies”seeks to do.
Perez explained: “I think that CrossFit can be a life saving tool for anybody, but I think that we as a community need to get a little better understanding that with that comes people feeling like they belong here. If the coaching gets better, we can reach more people.”
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You don't have to be a horse to be a great jockey, but does that hold true for CrossFit coaching? Listen to Chris Hinshaw's thoughts on how much competitive experience coaches should have prior to taking on athletes as clients.
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Struggle with elbow, wrist, or hand strength? Building your forearms can solve these problems but is so often ignored. Try these exercises for a few weeks and see huge improvement in your grip, strength, and stability in lifts.
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