Join PCF on Slack!


Today we’re launching a brand new way to connect our members and Coaches together in one place. 

We’ve created our very own Slack workspace!

What is Slack?
Slack is an app that functions as PCF’s own chat forum, simplifying and streamlining communication. You can direct message any member or Coach at PCF or participate in a channel which functions similar to a chat room. We’ll be pushing out announcements, daily WODs and other cool content on this workspace going forward. This is exclusively for current PCF members.

To get started: 

Step 1: Visit

Step 2: Watch this video

Step 2: Download the Slack apps for iOS or Android.

Step 3: Add yourself to Slack channels by clicking the + sign next to the channels.

Step 4: Start slacking!

If you have any questions, email me at LJ @ PCF.FIT.






P.S. To get 50% off our new shipment of t-shirts (coming soon) show a Coach you’re chatting on Slack when purchasing. 

“Balance your Buckets”

“Balance your Buckets”
By Colin Farrell

In front of you are three buckets. It is your task to carry these buckets for the rest of your life. Surely, it will be arduous; but there is no way around it, these buckets are coming with you everywhere you go. You have a specified amount of liquid, and you may fill the buckets as you wish. The buckets are to be carried on a yoke across your back, you may also shift the buckets from left to right across the yolk to redistribute the weight as needed. From time to time, you may pour liquid out of one bucket and into another. There will be days in which one bucket will be empty and all of your liquid will be in just two; there will be days in which the liquid will be evenly distributed across all three. For better or for worse, there will come a time when there is not a drop of liquid in two out of your three buckets, and the last bucket is completely full and, maybe, even overflowing.

Your buckets are labeled as follows:

  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Fitness

The liquid you have to fill each of these buckets is your fixed amount of time and energy. With that quantity being fixed, it is up to you to decide which buckets to fill and how much to fill each of them. As mentioned before, there are days where you can fill one or two pretty high, and the third remains somewhat empty. The goal is balance. Depending upon what’s going on in your day-to-day life, at work, and at home, make the necessary adjustments, but always aim for long-term balance.

If you have very young children, especially for new parents, you will not have a lot of time or energy or even the ability to ensure that you have low stress, are getting lots of sleep, and hitting all the aspects of your morning routine. Your lifestyle bucket will be a little bit empty. With that in mind, it is important that you pour a little extra time and energy into your nutrition and fitness buckets.

If you are on the road all the time for work, and rarely have the opportunity to eat at home, it will be hard to maintain strong and healthy nutritional habits, or at least harder than for someone who is at home seven days a week. If that is the case, it becomes more important to ensure you get to the gym, do some more mobility work, get lots of sleep, and ensure proper hydration levels in addition to well-structured morning and night time routines, etc.

If you are injured, and getting into the gym is not something your doctor is on board with yet, it becomes exponentially more important that you invest more time, energy, and effort into ensuring your nutrition is on point, you should be getting lots of sleep, mobilizing as much as your body will allow, and reducing stress levels where possible.

Balance is key. Your life does not revolve around ensuring these three buckets are equally filled 365 days a year; that is simply not realistic. It is up to us to constantly pour from one bucket into another, and shift their positions across the yolk.

Method behind the Madness, Parts I-III

The Method Behind the Madness, Part I: Programming at Potomac CrossFit

By: Colin Farrell

“Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” This was, and is, the revolutionary definition of fitness proposed by Coach Greg Glassman over 15 years ago.  To put it simply, be able to do more work, and be able to do it quickly. Be able to go long, short, mid-distance, heavy or light, with equal ability; be as proficient at the deadlift as you are at running and climbing ropes.

We achieve this increased capacity by performing “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.” We regularly engage in metabolic conditioning (“cardio”), gymnastics and bodyweight movements, in addition to weightlifting and throwing. We mix these as often as we can, in as many variations as we can, and with as many different objects and environments as we can.

The above definitions of fitness and how to achieve greater levels of it are almost universally accepted among CrossFit trainers and coaches. The devil, naturally, is in the details. Do we bias strength (“No one ever said, ‘I wish I wasn’t so strong’”)? Do we bias longer, lighter workouts that keep us moving constantly for 20+ minutes (“The average athlete needs to ‘work’ for more than 18 minutes every time they come in the gym”)? Do we do only strength or only a metcon, or do we do both each day?

If you travel much or spend time dropping in at other boxes, you will notice a massive range of answers to these questions, and many more. Many of the answers to these questions end up falling into the “six of one, a half-dozen of the other” category. In the end, if you’re doing some version of CrossFit, you’re going to get fitter.

Our philosophy is rooted in the fact that you, our athletes, deserve to have a great deal of CrossFit built into the one-hour you are able to spend with us each day. You are here to be coached and to learn movements, but we learn best by doing. Coaches can provide better instruction when they are able to see more repetitions so as to provide the most appropriate feedback. With that in mind, each day you attend a CrossFit Class at Potomac CrossFit, you will have 7 to 10 minutes of warming-up, 15 to 25 minutes of strength or skill work, anywhere between 6 and 20 minutes of a dedicated workout, as well as 5 minutes +/- of mobility work. We want to keep you moving as best as we can, ensuring we also provide the best feedback we can as coaches between repetitions, sets, and/or rounds and repetitions.

Before the conclusion of this blog post, let it be clear: we are always seeking to improve.  Mike Giardina, a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar “Flower Master” once remarked that if it became scientific fact that shake weights and hoola-hoops brought about long term health and fitness, we would program it. At PCF we are constantly trying to find the program that will bring about a broad and inclusive fitness. This is not to be confused with implementing the latest fad or gimmick. Too many affiliates get sucked into programming for the CrossFit Games (Assault Bikes and Peg Boards, anybody?) or some such other fleeting and ephemeral trend in fitness. Potomac is coming up on its 10th anniversary–rarefied territory in the realm of CrossFit–and we are planning for 20 and 30 more years of providing the best gym experience in Arlington. That can only be achieved by implementing a fitness program that stands the test of time, as our community has, and altering it, adding to it, and building upon it responsibly.   

Between Sunday and Saturday, Potomac athletes are exposed to four “strength” sets and two “skill” sets prior to the workout, with Saturdays typically being dedicated to a longer workout, such as a Hero workout or classic CrossFit benchmark, such as Fight Gone Bad. In Part II of “Method Behind the Madness”, we will take a specific look behind the strength portion of each days’ programming.


The Method Behind the Madness, Part II: Strength Programming at Potomac CrossFit

By: Colin Farrell

In Part I, we took a look at the overarching philosophy of the programming here at PCF. The main principle–of course–is to create a broad and inclusive level of fitness by way of packing a great deal of CrossFit, and therefore more opportunities to be coached, into your hour here at Potomac. In Part II, we will have a look at the nuances of our strength work that occurs prior to the workout or metcon.

To dissect our strength program, we will start with the broad brush basics, then dive in deeper and deeper. Our strength work has a fairly regular schedule, but with a layers of variance.



  • (Thursday: Gymnastics Skill Work)


There are, of course, some variations in this schedule in order to keep you guys on your toes and to accommodate other programming considerations, but this is largely the set-up from Monday through Friday.

Now for the real meat and potatoes: the undulating percentages. We reverse engineer from max out dates (theoretical or actual), slowly building back from a 1-, 2-, 3-, or 5-repetition maximal effort for each lift.  We will use the back squat max out as an example, scheduled for Week 6.

Week 1: 5×5 @ 75%
Week 2: 5×4 @ 80%
Week 3: 4×3 @ 85%
Week 4: 3×2 @ 90%
Week 5: 7×3 @ 60%
Week 6: Find a new 3 repetition maximum

Notice that from weeks 1 through 4, the volume (number of repetitions) decreases as the percentage (weight on the bar) increases. In week five we dramatically increase the total repetitions while simultaneously decreasing the percentage by 30 points:

Build strength across multiple weeks, then drop the percentage so as to hammer on mechanics the week prior to attempting a maximal effort lift.  

This methodology is used by CrossFitters, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, strongman athletes, even endurance athletes. By no means is it the only strength program (Google Wendler, Conjugate or West Side, for some commonly used strength-building protocols), but this program offers the flexibility to fit our Monday-through-Friday lifting schedule and varying athlete rest days.

The exact repetitions and percentages above change slightly from lift to lift and week to week, but charted across multiple weeks they follow the aforementioned pattern. In the interest of variance and the fact that hundreds of human bodies that roll through the gym don’t always adhere to the machinations of the above program each day, instead of “Back Squat 4x3x85%” the strength work will occasionally be written as “Back Squat 5-4-3-3-3-3” or as “E2MO2M for 14 Minutes Back Squat, 3 Reps.” The goal of all three versions is similar, but the latter two offer athletes an ability to scale up or scale down based on personal goals, fatigue (or lack thereof), as well as a variety of other personal factors.

Many gyms rotate their strength days so as to be “random” (surely there is a rhyme and reason to the rotation, but that is not to be expounded upon here) as far as which days of the week/month they perform specific lifts. There are, to be sure, benefits to switching up which days of the week and month we perform and practice the major lifts.  As mentioned in Part I of “The Method Behind the Madness”, at Potomac we implement what we know works and what has stood the test of time: when it comes to building strength, a more strict schedule, or periodization, works extremely well.

In the coming year we will begin to implement additional accessory and auxiliary lifts to give you a more well-rounded strength and help athletes break through any plateaus you may have found yourself stuck on. This also adds additional layers of variance. The more you are exposed to, the better off you will be as athletes.

We will continue to research, study, test, and retest various methodologies and movements in the world of strength-training so as to deliver to you the best possible programming to increase your work capacity across broad time, and modal domains. Of course, we want to have fun and be safe along the way, and that is something we will never lose sight of.

In Part III of “The Method Behind the Madness” we will take a gander at the methodology behind the metabolic conditioning workout (“MetCon”) programming for each day of the week.


The Method Behind the Madness, Part III: MetCon Programming at Potomac CrossFit

By: Colin Farrell

In Part II of “The Method Behind the Madness” we took a dive into the world of Potomac CrossFit’s strength development program. We have chosen and implemented a system that fits well into our gym’s community while considering a variety of factors, chief among them safety and effectiveness.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of strength programs CrossFit affiliates around the world follow. Even more numerous, however, are the methodologies surrounding the programming of the metabolic conditioning workouts.

Many are extremely similar, many are immensely effective, and some are not as effective.  As with our strength program, we will continue to research, test, re-test, and implement (when appropriate) improvements to our program.

When looking at our MetCon programming, it is important not to use “random” and “varied” as synonyms for what is going each day of the week.  There are a dozen or so factors to consider when putting together the workout of the day, here are just a few:

  • Anterior chain- vs. posterior chain-dominant lifts
  • Cycling through pulling, pushing, “cardio”, and conditioning movements
  • Number of days we squat in a row, number of days we press overhead in a row
  • Class attendance as it corresponds with day of the week
  • Average athlete work:rest ratio
  • Number of modalities/movements (couplet vs. triplet vs. chipper)
  • Workout length
  • Strength programming for the week
  • Weather/time of the year
  • Et al.

All of the above factors are listed in no particular order, and that is not a complete list. Data shows that most athletes who work out 3 or more days per work most often come every other day, so many workouts are programmed with that in mind.  Secondly, we balance anterior chain movements (things like lunges, squats, wall-ball shots or thrusters) with posterior chain movements (kettlebell swings, deadlifts, power snatch) so as to ensure we don’t hit one or the other too many days in a row.  Additionally, we layer on pushing movements (ring dips, push press, etc.), and/or pulling movements (rope climbs, toe-to-bar, etc.), and/or conditioning (burpees, box jumps, etc.), and/or “cardio” (running, rowing, double-unders). These movement categories are kept in a constant rotation to ensure balance and calculated variance.

How many, and which, movements we choose are based on day of the week, in large part. Mondays and Tuesdays we usually have a higher volume of members in the gym. For that reason, we don’t often do chippers, workouts with 4 or more movements (i.e. potentially lots of equipment), as there is often not quite enough room. Because we squat every Monday and Friday, when possible, we try to avoid high volume or heavy squats more than one day in the middle of the week.

Saturdays are typically Hero workouts. These are benchmark workouts that we prefer not to tweak or change too often. Silly as it may seem, those workouts were written with a person in mind, and we don’t like to make too many adjustments to them. When choosing a Hero workout each week, we simply look to see which movements we have not used recently, which will fit within the confines of a one-hour class, what workout can safely be done given space, equipment, and athlete capability.

The factors are many, but in the end we aim for safety, effectiveness, and balance when choosing what movements to perform, how many repetitions, the loading, the length of workout, etc. We want to constantly shrink the margins of our experience so as to broaden our base of fitness. We will implement new strategies, movements, and methodologies when appropriate and when we can.

The MetCon-only Day

After looking at the results of our benchmarking back in January and early February, it became apparent that we had a large number of athletes that were quite strong and proficient when it came to barbell lifts. However, those same athletes (in general and across the board, not any one or set of individuals in particular) were not as proportionately capable during benchmark workouts like Fight Gone Bad, or Fran.  For example, we had a number of men in the gym that had 400+ deadlifts, 300+ back squats, but very few could go sub-4 minutes on Fran.

With that in mind, one day each week we will substitute our lift + a workout, for merely one, long workout.  This will allow more time to develop gymnastics skills, and expose us to longer workouts more often, hopefully building up our cardiovascular engines a bit more. Which day of the week this is will be determined by where we are in our lifting cycles.  

As ever, we are aiming to be as well-rounded as possible. You should be just as comfortable deadlifting heavy as you are running a 10-km or completing Isabel

The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission
By Colin Farrell

Dave Castro, the Director of the CrossFit Games and Co-Director of Training at CrossFit HQ, once remarked that when he puts together the workouts for the Open, he already has in mind what the workouts will be at Regionals and the Games. His objective is to create a massive, well-rounded, multi-stage test; a test that will weed out anything but the most fit and tell an incredible story. Love him or hate him, Castro does an excellent job at achieving the objective.

Like all great literature, the story of the CrossFit Games — from the Open, through Regionals, and on to Madison — puts on display a few common themes that can be seen throughout each stage.  One theme, in particular, stuck out if you knew to look for it: what is the price of admission? How much does it cost to play?

Open Workout 17.3 was a couplet of chest-to-bar pull-ups and increasingly heavier snatches. The opening barbell weighed in at 95-lbs for the men, and 65-lbs for the women. For most “Rx” athletes, this was a very manageable weight. The final barbell was a whopping 265-lbs for the men, and 185-lbs for the women.

In 2016, Event 1 of Regionals was a snatch ladder with ascending weights and descending reps. The final barbell needed to be snatch for a double at 265-lbs for male athletes and 175-lbs for female athletes.

In 2017, the 5th event at the CrossFit Games, held on Friday of that week in Madison, Wisconsin, was a 1-repetition max snatch. The male winner of that event, Garret Fisher, pulled 305-lbs. Mat Fraser took 5th in that event with a 291-lb snatch. On the women’s side, Kara Saunders successfully lifted 203-lbs for an event win. Tim-Claire Toomey, the overall champion in 2017, locked out a 202-lb lift.

If we do some diving into the leaderboard, we can find some trends of athletes that did well overall, as compared to their performance in the three aforementioned snatch events, and we can come up with some pretty hard and fast assumptions about how much it costs to play:

  • If you want to do well in the Open, and make it to Regionals, the price of admission is a 245-lb snatch for men, and a 175-lb snatch for women.
  • If you want to do well in Regionals and make it to the Games, the price of admission is a 265-lb snatch for men, and a 175-lb snatch double for women.
  • If you want to do well at the Games and make it onto the podium, the price of admission is a 285-lb snatch for men, and a 195-lb snatch for women.

That is how much it costs to play.

Unless you are training to make it to Regionals or the Games, the above information is little more than an academic conversation and/or a fun look at some pretty cool statistics.  The overwhelming, vast majority of us are playing an entirely different game, so the price of admission is going to be different.

The game the rest of us are playing is the one in which we simply hope to live the healthiest, strongest, and most productive life we can for a really, really long time. While it would be nice to be as fit as Mat Fraser or Tia Toomey, most of us need to aim to be more like Jacinto Bonilla.

Depending upon who you are as an athlete, your body type, your goals, your lifestyle, and a few other factors, the price may change a little bit, so an element of self-assessment is most certainly involved.

In order for me to be healthy, and live a long and productive life, I need to be able to …

  • Snatch or Clean-and-Jerk X-amount of pounds
  • Complete “Fran” in X-amount of time
  • Complete X-amount of pull-ups/ring dips unbroken
  • Complete X-number of rounds in “Cindy”
  • Et al.

These should not be confused with your weekly, monthly, or yearly goals. For purposes of continuity, we shall continue to use the snatch as an example.

One of Sarah’s goals in 2018 is to increase her 1-rep max snatch from 95-lbs to 105-lbs. Sarah weighs in at 135-lbs, is 5’5”, and has been CrossFitting for two years. She played volleyball for a good portion of her life, including at the club level in college. She’s athletic.

Sarah’s goal for 2018 is the 105-lb lift. However, the price of admission, what she needs to be able to pull from ground to overhead to ensure a long and healthy life, is probably a lot less. If Sarah never snatches a single pound over 95, can she still live have an amazing life? Absolutely! This is not to say that the pursuit of a 105-lb PR is a waste of time, it’s not at all. And, the stronger she is in her youth the more likely she will be able to continuing paying the price of admission well into her years as a sextigenarian, septuagenarian, and beyond.

Calculating the price of admission can help us set our priorities when it comes to doing things like setting goals, scaling workouts, or coming early/staying late to put in some extra work.

Sarah, though quite strong, struggles with gymnastics movements and longer, more endurance-based metcons. While she can afford the price of admission in terms of strength, she comes up short in the gymnastics department. So, when she stays late or comes early, she should be working on gymnastics. Maybe between heavy strength sets she’ll sneak in a few pull-ups or ring dips. She’s not just working harder, she’s working smarter.

This should not and, more than likely will not, detract from her short-term goal of lifting more weight. In this case, working on gymnastics skills does two important things for Sarah (and for all athletes):

  1. Favorably affects an athlete’s strength-to-bodyweight ratio
  2. Strengthens and stabilizes the shoulder girdle

Both items 1 and 2 will serve the purpose of helping the athlete build up to a bigger snatch.

We know what the price of admission is to make it to the Regionals and the Games, but what is the price of admission to live a long, healthy, strong, and productive life? Here are some mildly unscientific benchmarks for a couple of movements for athletes in their mid-20s to mid-30s:


  • Male athletes: 125-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 15-lbs
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to snatch 65-lbs
  • Female athletes: 80-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 10-lbs
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to snatch 35-lbs


  • Male athletes: 275-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 35-lbs
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to deadlift 135-lbs
  • Female athletes: 185-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 25-lbs
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to deadlift 85-lbs


  • Male athletes: 15 unbroken reps
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 2 reps
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to complete 7 unbroken reps
  • Female athletes: 11 unbroken reps
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 2 reps
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to complete 3 unbroken reps

400m Run

  • Male athletes: 1:15
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, add ~:20
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to complete a 400 in ~2:35
  • Female athletes: 1:30
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, add ~:23
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to complete a 400 in ~3:00

The numbers above for snatch, deadlift, pull-ups, and 400m run are great goals for yourself to set if they are still out of your reach; this is especially true of new CrossFitters who may not be sure where to even set the initial benchmarks.  If all of the above can be completed with ease, continue improving upon them and establish the price of admission for some other factors.

The goal when athletes enter the gym on a daily basis is to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The goal for athletes across a lifetime is to increase work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains.

Make sure you can afford the price of admission.

Reference: “Chasing Excellence” Podcast, Ben Bergeron

What Is The Spirit of the Open?

“What Is The Spirit of the Open?”
By Coach LJ

The last five weeks have gone by in a blur, haven’t they? Well, not really a blur, but more like a nightmare where you’re stuck in clown car full of burpees, thrusters, deadlifts and drinking. All the drinking. This never-ending nightmare of your feet not reaching the standard on the handstand push-ups and maybe never getting to that muscle-up are finally over.

But after you’ve gotten a few massages, resumed your “Paleo” diet and swore off drinking for a week, you’re going to have a mountain of data to pour through. The great thing about the Open is that you get to have a couple of “A-HA” moments. For everyone, and I mean everyone (the best of the best AND all of us mere mortals), there was a workout that happened in the last five weeks that exposed one or two weaknesses. That is a good thing.

You have two options moving forward. The first one, tied to your ego, is complaining about all the reasons why the workout sucked, Dave Castro is awful and those standards and judges were just UNFAIR. In my humble opinion, that’s a terrible option.

But, then there’s the second option that is tied to the desire to be the best version of yourself. You’re going to want to look at where you ended up and learn from it. You now have nearly 365 opportunities to mitigate your weaknesses until the moment you hear Dave Castro’s annoying voice say, “19 point 1…is….”

If you found yourself struggling to reach the standard on the HSPU, now is the time to spend working on your shoulder mobility and stability. If your low-back got fried on the deadlifts, perhaps you were not getting your hamstrings fired up and your form needs a few tweaks. If muscle-ups proved to be a challenge, if you didn’t feel like your row was efficient, or maybe you have a tough time cycling thrusters, etc: these are all good opportunities.

Again we can use this time to reinforce our confirmation bias: that other people simply being more fit than us is out of our control. Or, we can create our own destiny. That’s your choice.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference between the sport of CrossFit and CrossFit as a fitness methodology. Most of us don’t have any higher aspirations than being in shape, looking good naked and being able to function properly in case of a zombie apocalypse and/or war with North Korea. Most of us did well in the first two workouts, but when it came time for the higher skill workouts in the final three, it weeded out those who are generally fit and those who are CrossFit-fit. There’s nothing wrong with that and the open is designed ultimately to find the Fittest on Earth.

However, Colin, Gretchen and I are amazed at the level of seriousness and intensity many of you have chosen to use in approaching these workouts and all the time you spent re-doing or trying to hack them. Yet, oftentimes, out of sight can be out of mind. So, on behalf of us coaches, we just wanted to let you know, we are here for you. Book some time with us, we’ll help get you that muscle-up, double under or hack that shoulder mobility. Simply come talk to us, share with us what you learned and what you want to work on and we can help you create a plan.

It’s not about becoming a Games Athlete for most of us, it’s about finding reasons to continue to improve. That’s why we do our jobs, to help you be the best you can be. We’re proud of all the effort you put in to make this Open season one of the best at PCF as it has been a season filled with memories, margaritas and mobility. Let’s keep the spirit of the Open going all year round.

18.5 Strategy + Tips

18.5 Strategy + Tips
By Colin Farrell

The workout…

AMRAP in 7 Minutes
Thruster (100/65)
C2B Pull-up

We almost escaped the 2018 Open without having to do a single thruster. Almost.

Open Workout 18.5 is a repeat from both 2011 (11.6) and 2012 (12.5) and is, in fact, a pretty fun workout. Most athletes not going to the Games or Regionals will hover in the rounds of 12 to 18, which means you’re never on one set for very long. We have a total-body-but-lower-half-dominated barbell movement, the thruster, coupled with a upper-body-dominated pulling movement, the pull-up. And, as we have seen in CrossFit time and again, this combination is highly potent. This workout is crazy short, so time to leave it all on the line.

Things to keep in mind…

Any workout with an ascending rep scheme like this, even workouts as short as 7 minutes, there is a trap. Do not go HAM in the rounds of 3, 6, or 9. These two movements, as mentioned above, are highly potent when coupled together. Whether you’re doing all of these sets unbroken, or maybe breaking them up as I did in the round of 9, please do a little mental check with yourself as you approach the barbell for 9 thruster repetitions. Your heart rate should still be relatively low and you should be able to breath easily with your mouth closed. If your heart is racing and your sucking wind, slow down. Things start to get serious in the round of 12, so you need to keep things in check through the round of 9.

If you are not proficient at C2B pull-ups (yet), trying widening your grip a little bit and mixing it–one palm facing in, the other palm facing out. That will make it easier to both get the necessary height as well as close the gap between chest and bar.  If you are butterflying your pull-ups, make sure you are hanging on to chunks of 3+. If you are down to 3 or less, it may be better to switch to a classic gymnastics kip.

As for your thruster, play around while warming up with a wider stance and a wider grip. Make sure it is still comfortable, but widening up will reduce the range a motion a bit. To keep your pace in check, rest for a half second at the top of your thruster. Once locked out overhead, your airways are open and it’s not horrendous to hang out up there. If you try to catch your breath when the bar is in the front rack, your chest cavity will be collapsed do to shoulder position and a 100-lb/65-lb sitting directly over your lungs.  

If you never tried it before, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any “game-day experiments” but using a suicide grip on your thruster will help quite a bit. This means having your thumb behind the barbell with the other four digits. This should make it easier to keep your elbows up through the squat and should make the transition to the overhead press smoother.

What I would have done differently…

Stayed mentally tougher. It’s only 7 minutes, I came off the pull-up bar one too many times in my final round of pull-ups and rested when I shouldn’t have on my last set of thrusters.

Ever since having kids I’ve gone soft. I can’t even watch “Scarface” anymore.

Good luck everyone!


18.4 Strategy + Tips



18.4 Strategy + Tips
By Colin Farrell

The workout…

For Time:
Deadlift (225/155)
Handstand Push-up; then
Deadlift (315/205)
50’ Handstand Walk after each set of Deadlift

Things to keep in mind…

Before we talk strategies we must first ask ourselves the question, “Can I do a handstand push-up?”

If the answer is “no”, and for many of us that is the answer, it is a race to see who can complete 21 deadlifts as fast as possible. There is a tie break time at the end of every set of deadlifts. For thousands of people their score will be 21 reps; and who comes in first and who comes in last of those many thousands will be decided by their tie-break time.

So, if you cannot complete a handstand push-up, your goal is to rip through the deadlifts as fast as humanly possible. This should be done regardless of fatigue or the red line that we usually try to stay away from early on in a workout.

If you have handstand push-ups, the next question to answer is, “Am I capable of deadlifting that second barbell?” If the answer to that is “no” you will again find yourself in the same boat as many thousands of people around the world. You are now in the position of racing to finish first set of nine deadlifts as fast as you can as that will be the tie break time for anyone that gets stuck at 45 total reps, which . . . again . . . will be many thousands of people.

If you can deadlift 315-/205-lbs, and if you have handstand push-ups, some more strategy will come into play. If you’re hoping to do well you must go unbroken on the set of nine and the set of 15 on the deadlifts, and–at most–most break up the set of 21 barbell lifts into two sets but (preferably) keep that set unbroken as well. The real challenge comes in managing fatigue on the handstand push-ups. Long before your shoulders burn out it is imperative that you come down off the wall and give them a quick rest. It is far better to do smaller chunks of five and seven and maybe even 10 reps at a time with quick rest periods in between. You want to be in control of when the rest periods are happening, as opposed to resting because you failed a rep. Like muscle ups, failed handstand push-up reps are extremely taxing in terms of energy and time. It is far better to break up the handstand push-ups into sets of 7 or sets of 5 than it is to chew through biggers chunks early on but end up knocking out singles by the last round.

When completing handstand push-ups, as soon as your head clears the floor, punch it through the window. At Potomac, I suggest people keep their eye on the wallball targets on the rig adjacent to them. This flattens out your back, pulls your hips off the wall, and makes it easier to achieve lockout and show control at the top of the rep (as opposed to falling off the wall once locked out, which is a no-rep).

For most athletes, finishing Diane and under the 9 minutes is a serious accomplishment. And if you can finish that with some time to get after that second [heavier] barbell, sets of one and two at a time are going to be the likely name of the game when pulling 315/205 off the floor. The pros during the Open announcement were doing sets of 3 and 4 with quick rest periods in between sets. For us mere mortals sets of one and two are a little bit more realistic. If you can squeeze out sets of 3 and 4, by all means do it.

The last question athletes have to ask themselves at this point is, “Can I walk on my hands?” If the answer is “no”, the race is now to finish your set of 21 deadlifts at that heavier barbell. If the answer is yes, if your shoulders allow, try to do all 25-foot increments unbroken as best as possible. Focus on keeping your butt squeezed and remembering to breathe while you are inverted. If you keep your butt squeezed nice and tight your feet will stay just forward of your shoulders and hips, keeping you moving in the right direction but still allowing you to catch a few breaths.

As far as equipment goes, lifters will not help you in this workout, do not wear them. If the choice is between lifters and a pair of spongy, high-heeled running shoes, sure strap on the weightlifting shoe. But if you have a pair of Nanos, Metcons, Chuck Taylors, or NOBULLs, wear them. If you have lifting belt I would highly recommend it for the deadlifts.

What I would have done differently…

I would have not done a workout with 50 strict ring dips 2 days before 18.4.

Good luck everyone!


18.2 and 18.2a Strategy + Tips


18.2 and 18.2a Strategy + Tips
By Colin Farrell

The workout…
12 Minutes to Complete
Dumbbell Front Squat (50/35)
Bar-Facing Burpee
Then, with Remaining Time
Establish 1RM Clean
This was, believe it or not, a really fun workout. Regardless of the type of athlete you are, there is something in this workout to look forward to and be positive above. If you’re a lighter weight gymnast, the burpees should be a breeze. If you are a strong engine kind of guy or gal, the first portion of this workout should be squarely in your wheelhouse. If you love slinging heavy barbells, you should make quick work of those dumbbells and enjoy 18.2a
Things to keep in mind…
How you pace 18.2 will entirely depend upon what type of athlete you are, however, some universal rules that will help:
  • Athletes in workouts like this (ascending rep schemes) are often very tempted to race through the rounds of 1 through 5 with very quick transitions between. Rather than race through those and slow down precipitously towards rounds 7 and 8, be methodical from the get-go. I would suggest a nice, even pacing early on and start hitting the gas pedal closer to round 8.
  • If you have them wear lifters; this is especially true if you have the lifters from Reebok or Inov8 that have a flexible forefoot, making the burpees a little more comfortable. This will help you keep your chest up and heels down… thus taking a little bit of stress off the quads and shifting it to the backside/posterior chain, as well as making it easier to breath and keep your elbows up.
  • Breath and focus. Don’t forget, for Rx athletes, you must have both feet go back and return simultaneously. It’s easy to go to sleep inside during burpees and not think. That can lead to silly mistakes and no-reps, costing you time and energy. While doing your front squats, concentrate on your breathing, ignore the burn in the quads and just stay moving.
  • Go unbroken on all the sets of front squats.
  • Your pace on the burpees should be just on the wrong side of the comfort|discomfort line, but you should not be dying either.
Warm up your clean ahead of time to your opening weight for 18.2a. This first lift you should be very confident you can hit. Do a little self assessment and answer the following questions for yourself, “What if shit goes south and it takes me 11:15 to finish the squats and burpees? Knowing how fatigued I probably will be, what weight do I know can I hit in less than 45 seconds?” That number is your opening lift. If you plan to power clean, warm it up as a power clean. If you plan to squat clean, warm it up as a squat clean. Do smaller jumps, more frequently. So, instead of hitting 185-lbs and rest for well over a minute then jumping to 225-lbs; it is better in this scenario to hit a new lift every 30 seconds or so and only make 5- or 10-lb jumps.
What I would have done differently…
I finished 18.2 in 9:28 (I think) and hit a 215-lb clean on 18.2a. Overall, I am actually pretty happy with this, as unimpressive as that may be. I took it a little easy on the burpees and squats so I could save some energy for the barbell. A few weeks back I had a really disappointing showing with my clean-and-jerk at a lifting meet, so I used this workout as redemption. I could have pushed a little harder on squats and burpees.
Before you do the workout, do some front squats and burpees ahead of time. Do a set of 15 of each at a decent, but methodical pace. See how long it takes you. There are 55 reps of each in this workout. Based on how fast you completed 15, start reverse-engineering a game plan. For example: If you do 15 of each in about 2:00, you should be at the round of 3 by X:XX, the round of 6 by Y:YY, and you should 9 by Z:ZZ. Write this game plan out on a whiteboard and stick to it, even if it hurts a little bit.
Good luck everyone!

Scoring the 2018 PCF Intramural Open


The PCF Intramural Open is comprised of 8 separate events: the five Open workouts + three non-fitness events.  Here is how each is scored and how overall winners will be determined.

The five Open workouts (18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 18.4, and 18.5) will all be scored as follows:

At the conclusion of each week of The Open, the top two male scores and top two female scores from each team will be pulled, recorded, and compared. With 6 teams that means we will have a spread of 12 men and 12 women.  The top male score will get 1 point, the lowest male score will get 12 points. The same goes for women. Your team’s score on any given workout is the combined total of two male athletes and two female athletes place standing. For example:

On 18.1, Team Potomac Liberty’s top 4 athletes (best 2 men and best 2 women) place among those top athletes as follows:

Female Athlete 1: 7th place (7 points)
Female Athlete 2: 1st Place (1 point)
Male athlete 1: 3rd place (3 points)
Male Athlete 2: 10th place (10 points)
Total points: 21 points

Each of the 6 teams will have a point value, lowest number of points wins (like golf!)

Event 6 is quite a bit simpler:

Whichever team got the most new athletes to sign up for the Open between the night of the Draft and 8PM on February 26th, won.  First place team got 1 point, last place team got 6 points.  As mentioned above, lowest score wins.

Event 7, Spirit of the Open Award:

After Week 3 of the Open, each captain will submit a name of an athlete from their team who think most embodies the Spirit of the Open.  Between the end of Week 3 and the start of Week 4, all participating athletes from Potomac and Patriot will vote (yay Democracy!) for the athlete they think best characterizes a positive attitude, a hard work ethic, is outgoing, encouraging, friendly, leaves their ego at the door, and has the most integrity. The person with the most votes from Potomac and the person with the most votes from Patriot will each win the Spirit of the Open Award. Their teams will tie for first in that event, earning 1 point for their team. All other teams will take 6 points.

Event 8, Community Engagement:

Like event 6, it’s rather straight forward. The team with the most points racked up by the end of week 5 will take first place, earning 1 point for their team. The team with the least points accumulated will take home 6 points.

The Final Standing

Each team will have a point/score for each of the 8 Events (1 being the best, 6 being the worst). We will total up those 8 numbers to come up with a final score, the team with the best (lowest) score will win the 2018 Intramural Open.


Prizes will be awarded to the following athletes:

Patriot First Place Male and Female, as determined by their performance in the 5 Open Workouts
Potomac First Place Male and Female, as determined by their performance in the 5 Open Workouts
Spirit of the Open Award (Event 7) Winner from Patriot
Spirit of the Open Award (Event 7) Winner from Patriot
Weekly Spirit of the Open Award

Note: All coaches, save Colin, Gretchen, and LJ, are eligible for each of the aforementioned prizes. Captains and athletes, do not hesitate to nominate your favorite PCF coach for a Spirit of the Open Awards!

Click here to see the standings. This Spreadsheet will be updated weekly.

You’re Probably a Human Specimen

By Colin Farrell

I was recently listening to the CrossFit Podcast episode with Chris Spealler, and something really struck a chord with me, especially as we continue our way through the 2018 CrossFit Games Open.

As many of you will surely not forget anytime soon, workout 18.1 was a beautiful triplet of toe-to-bar, dumbbell hang clean-and-jerk, and rowing for calories. I did okay with it. Or, well, I thought I did alright. Then I started to see some of the other scores roll in. Guys I thought I was as fit as or fitter than were absolutely crushing me. And then some athletes redid the workout, and it seemed to only get worse for me.

Despite my commitment to “one and done,” I sincerely contemplated doing it again, and for all the wrong reasons.

It is really, really easy to get caught up in the competition, stress out, monitor the leaderboard, and lose sight of why you started CrossFit in the first place. Until last Open season, I had become really burned out on The Open for that exact reason. As I was validating scores, I became more and more convinced that my fitness was in a really, really bad place. I had to snap out of it.

I did not re-do 18.1.

When listening to the aforementioned podcast, and I fail to remember in what context it was mentioned, Spealler said to one of the hosts as he was lamenting what he thought was a lack of fitness, “You know, comparatively speaking, you’re probably a human specimen.”

I do not want athletes at PCF to get into the habit of gauging their success or failure in terms of their accomplishments relative to others, but let’s at least put things in perspective.

It is really easy for me to think of myself as a slouch if I try to compare myself to Coach Gretchen, or her husband, or — really — a bunch of athletes and coaches at Patriot and Potomac CrossFit. If I start looking at other perennial Regionals and Games athletes, all of a sudden I look like a washed up, balding bum. But I know very few people who started CrossFit, or stick with CrossFit, based on their performance during The Open. That isn’t why we do this, that’s not why this is so much fun. Most of us are still engaged in constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement because it makes us healthier than we were and we enjoy the people around us at the gym.

Compared to the average person, especially compared to the average American, you are all probably human specimens. If you eat relatively well — meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar — and do CrossFit two-to-four times each week for a year you will probably be among the fittest human beings on earth. I don’t mean the fittest 0.001% (the Regionals and Games athletes), but I’d wager you’d be in the top 5-10% fittest and healthiest people on the planet. Again, I don’t want us to get into the habit of comparing ourselves to others in order to decide on whether or not we are fit, healthy, or successful. But, if you have to do it, compare yourself to the world at large.

You have all made a commitment to your health, a serious investment, and that needs to be celebrated. I’ve been really hung up on, in a good way, the following quotation from Coach Glassman:

    “We have a really elegant solution to the world’s most vexing problem, and we’ve disguised it as sport.”

Nutrition and exercise, the more we learn, seem to be the cure for (or a way to mitigate the effects of) a massive number of the world’s health problems, including everything from Type II Diabetes to Alzheimer’s. You have all committed yourself to a lifetime of really good and healthy living. You could come in dead last in every Open workout, and many of us will not do a single one of them as Rx’d. This is not a fact to get stressed out about or upset about. Do not let what you would consider a disappointing score on one event of the Open to ruin your experience in the coming weeks.

Focus on the positive, know that when you walk into the grocery store, walk into your office, or head over to the playground with your kids, that — compared to everyone around — you’re a goddamn human specimen.