Author: Mike Warkentin

A female during the second pull of a barbell snatch at CrossFit 204.

It would be easier to win the lottery if you knew the winning numbers in advance.

Same deal with weightlifting. 

It’s easier to lift the bar if you know exactly where it’s going to be.

The other day, I was lifting with Crystal and she asked if she should try a missed clean again. It would have been a PR lift, but I suggested we move on instead of trying to get lucky.

Crystal had the strength and power to make the lift. There was no question about that. But in the sets leading up to the PR attempt, she was swinging the bar away from her.

At lighter weights, the error doesn’t create misses. The bar swings out a bit and loops back to the athlete, who is strong enough to receive it in a less-than-ideal position before grinding through a squat that’s more difficult than it has to be. At heavier loads, the error ensures miss after miss. 

A male performs a barbell snatch during the 2015 CrossFit Games Open.
With practice, you’ll know exactly where the bar is going and increase your confidence significantly.

Crystal pulled the PR attempt and almost made the lift. I’m certain she would have if the bar had been in the right spot—about an inch closer to her torso—but neither of us knew for certain that it would go there on a subsequent attempt. 

We decided to pack it in a make a note to work on positioning to fix this error. That way we could make the lift with confidence rather than luck the next time we attempted it.

Lucky lifting is very common, but it’s a shortcut. The best example is when a bar owns an athlete and pulls him or her forward. All the athlete’s weight goes into the toes, the bar swings away from the body, and the athlete jumps forward, pulled by the bar. In some cases, the athlete happens to jump to exactly the spot where the bar was flung, and if the weight is relatively light and the athlete is strong, a lucky lift is made. 

But it’s not a good lift.

The tempting mistake is to consider the lift an unmitigated success, adjust goals upward and then continue flinging bars and getting lucky about 5 percent of the time. Many, many people do this. 

The smarter play is stowing the ego, backing the weight down and then drilling positioning and mechanics. Fix the errors at very light loads, then work back up. If the error is truly gone, the PR bar will be in the right spot and the lift will be made. And more PRs will follow quickly. At that point, when mechanics and positioning are sound, it’s time to focus on becoming brutally strong—which is easier than becoming precise.

Ever notice how world records usually look “easy”? I once read that it’s because they have to look easy. The loads are so heavy that tiny errors make the lifts impossible. If the bar is in the perfect spot, the athlete doesn’t have to struggle with a tremendous load he or she simply can’t lift if it’s not in the correct spot.

My advice: Enjoy the lucky PRs but recognize them for what they are. And listen to your coach when he or she says “leave it there for today.” That’s your cue to fix some errors so you can hit a PR that feels easy.

When lifting, it’s always better to be good than lucky.

An egg-white frittata as part of a healthy diet.

You’ve had a body-composition scan—so now what?

A recent Winnipeg Free Press article talked in detail about body-composition scans. In the Free Press article, writer Doug Speirs published the results of his scan, which revealed his body fat was too high: 42.2 percent. The healthy range for males is about 18-24, and athletes are in the range of 6-13. On the positive side, Speirs had good bone density and carried a solid amount of muscle. That’s fantastic.

Perhaps you’ve already been scanned somewhere with a Dexa or Fit3D machine. If you haven’t, we have an InBody machine that can tell you your weight, your body-fat percentage, your muscle mass and resting metabolic rate in about 20 seconds.

But here’s the real question:

How do you improve the numbers on the printout?

It’s one thing to know what you’re made of, but it’s another to change it. That’s where we come in.

We’re experts at interpreting the results of body-composition scans and providing an exercise and diet prescription that will help you make positive changes.

For example, if Speirs brought his scan to us, here’s what we’d suggest:

Step 1: If Doug is not active in any way, we’d recommend some activity. Something is better than nothing, and going to a gym with a specific plan is even better.

Step 2: If Doug is currently working out, we’d have him prioritize weight training to ensure he maintains muscle mass while we reduce body fat. Lean muscle mass has incredible metabolic effects, and we don’t want him to lose much muscle. Doug’s boss trains with us, so he has a ride to our gym. 

Step 3: From there, we’d look at Doug’s diet. We’d reference his resting metabolic rate and his activity levels, and we’d prioritize protein in his diet to help retain or build muscle mass. Then we’d adjust caloric intake to target fat loss, likely by changing the sources of carbs and fat in his diet. For example, we might recommend extra lean ground beef on a bed of spinach instead of a greasy burger and french fries. We’d prioritize reasonable amounts of whole foods, and we would absolutely get rid of any forms of liquid sugar.

Step 4: We’d have Doug log his food intake, and we’d make adjustments as needed. We’d meet with him regularly and scan him to make sure things are moving in the right direction—and we’re positive that they would be if he combined exercise and sound nutrition.

If you read the Free Press article and are interested in determining your body composition and making changes to it, contact us. We can help! Come to us with your scan results or book a scan with us, followed by a consultation.

For more information about body-composition scanning, click here.

For more info about 204 Lifestyle nutrition and food services, click here.

Trainer Crystal Kirby coaches an athlete to improve the rack position for a push press.
Coaching and smiles—the heart of our program.

You might have seen an announcement about a few changes to the CrossFit Games.

If you didn’t, the announcement is here: Morning Chalkup.

I’ll tell you what it means for us at CrossFit 204: Absolutely nothing.

We made a number of changes years ago that put our focus squarely on health, and we’re right in line with CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman’s vision. That’s why we have a Legends program, it’s why Rise Up Physiotherapy is in our building, and it’s why we invested so heavily in starting 204 Lifestyle to help people improve their health by eating better.

We have for years known that diet and fitness with friends are far more important than any competition.

That doesn’t mean we don’t think you should compete or that we don’t support you when you do. We’re happy that people choose to apply their fitness in competitions, and we’re proud of everything they accomplish. We just don’t place any extra emphasis on competition, and we haven’t for years.

Those of you who have been around for about five years have no doubt noticed the change. The best example is how we treat the Open. Back in the day, it was a stressful time with so many competitors vying for spots in Regionals. Now, we treat the Open as a five-week celebration of our 204 community. The scores don’t matter, but the smiles do. All we care about is fit people having fun and being healthy, and we’ll leave the leaderboard to you if you’re interested. You’re all No. 1 to us.

The time we once spent organizing or training for competitions is now spent making our nutrition program better, meeting with seniors about our Legends program and finding ways to make our CrossFit program even more fun and inclusive.

The CrossFit Games will always be there, and they’ll always be interesting—just like the Olympics. But I’ve been to the Games for 10 years, and if I had to choose between watching the Games and watching our Legends push sleds around the gym at 10 a.m., on a Thursday morning, I’d be on Berry Street with a cup of coffee and a smile.

The squat racks with a loaded barbell at CrossFit 204 in Winnipeg.
Under construction on Berry Street in July 2011.

We’re heading into Year 9 as an official CrossFit affiliate, though we’ve been coaching CrossFit for almost a decade.

With that in mind I’ll share nine lessons I’ve learned over the years—with thanks to all the coaches, gym owners, colleagues and clients who helped me learn them.

1. No single workout matters, and it isn’t worth being frustrated on any day. Weeks and months and years of training matter. One day does not. 

2. Look at the whiteboard after your workout, not before. Stow your ego, do your very best, then see if you beat your rivals. Whether you did or didn’t, congratulate them.

3. Reduce intensity when you need to. Recognize that life happens, and your best effort doesn’t look the same every. Sometimes you need to reduce the load, slow down and just move. That’s OK. You’re best is good enough, and you’ll still get fitter.

4. Listen to your coach. Your coach isn’t holding you back or showing a lack of faith. He or she is watching out for you at all times—but especially when you’re being greedy.

5. Don’t be greedy. Take what’s there and be grateful. If you hit a PR, smile, unload the bar and cheer for everyone who’s still working.

6. Be patient. You’re building something great. It took 632 years to build the Cologne Cathedral, and it will take more than a week for great things to happen to you. Set your sights on the horizon and enjoy every milestone .

7. Focus on what you can do or what you did. It doesn’t matter what you can’t do or what anyone else did. It only matters that you showed up and did something. Your coaches think you’re a super hero just because you walk in the door.

8. Food matters—more than you think. You will never, ever outwork a bad diet. Not ever. But if you make healthy diet changes—even small ones—everything will get better. I won’t describe the things we’ve seen people do when they eat better because I’ll sound like I’m on an infomercial. But trust me: If you work out and eat better, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

9. Keep going forever. We’ve seen people lose their canes and then need them again after taking time off. We’ve seen people make amazing positive changes and then make equally dramatic negative changes. Momentum is key. To stay healthy, you can’t stop working out—not on vacation, not because you’re busy, not because you’re tired. You have to keep going. You’re a person who works out now, so do it regularly no matter what. If you do, you’ll be richly rewarded.

Hi guys! Now that we’ve completed the 204 Lifestyle website, we’re making some adjustments to the 204 site.
We’ve realized a lot of people look at our workouts and say “I could never do that” before we have a chance to explain how we modify all of our workouts. To remedy that so we’re going to put the workouts in a members-only area and feature some other content on the front page.
Starting today, members will have to create a free account to log in to see our workouts. It’s totally free. You can do so via the link below, or you’ll see a prompt on the WOD post to login.
More good changes to come!