The 2018 Intramural Open

By Colin Farrell

The Open is the most egalitarian sporting event in human history. In 2017, over 300,000 athletes registered. In just five weeks, that field is narrowed down to the few hundred fittest athletes on the planet.

The PCF Intramural Open, however, is designed to ensure that the Open is not just a test of our fitness, but–more importantly–a tool by which we grow as a community.  For 99.9% of the athletes that participate in the Open, our official CrossFit Games season ends after those 5 weeks in February and March. After those 5 weeks, everyone who participated should enter the off-season excited about their accomplishments, the friends they made, and confident in knowing what they must do to improve their fitness and, therefore, their health, over the coming year.

Patriot and Potomac CrossFit will be divided into 6 teams.  Each team will compete with one another across The CrossFit Games Open.  However, teams will not only compete with another on the floor of the gym…

The CrossFit Games Open has 5 workouts–5 scored events. The PCF Intramural Open will have 8 scored events.  The three additional events will be community-based.  Only the top-performing athletes during workouts 18.1 through 18.5 affect the overall team score on the leaderboard. During the Intramural Open, here at PCF, athletes of all capabilities will have an opportunity to affect the score in events 6, 7, and 8.

Event 1: 18.1
Event 2: 18.2
Event 3: 18.3
Event 4: 18.4
Event 5: 18.5
Event 6: A mystery, for now…
Event 7: Community Engagement
Event 8: The Spirit of the Open

Event 6 shall remain a mystery until the night of The Draft (more on that later). The Community Engagement event, Event 7, will be scored based on your team’s, well, community engagement. Teams will earn points by completing non-CrossFit Open related activities or tasks. For example, if X-number of athletes from your team goes out for a happy hour together, you will earn a set number of points. If x-number of athletes from your team do a non-CrossFit-related fitness activity together (say, go climbing at Earth Treks on a Sunday afternoon), your team will earn points. If your members of your team come on a Thursday night during an Open workout announcement to cheer on other competitors, that team will earn points. The team with the most Community Involvement points at the end of 5 weeks will win Event 7.

Event 8 is a special event.  After Week 3 of the Open, the captains of each team will submit the name of one member of their team for consideration to win the “Spirit of the Open” award. All participating athletes, between Weeks 3 and 4, will vote on who most embodies the Spirit of the Open and, thus, has earned the award.  Teams will not be permitted to vote for the member of their own team. The Spirit of the Open award has nought to do with increased work capacity and fitness. It is earned with a great attitude, hard work, and a caring for others that goes well beyond average kindness and courtesy.

Teams will be picked on the night of The Draft, February 1, 2018. Prior to the draft, PCF coaching staff will have hand-selected one captain to lead each team. Every athlete that has already registered for the Open on the CrossFit Games website will be eligible for the draft. PCF Coaches are eligible for the draft, but must be chosen after all members have been selected by team captains.

Thursday Night Throwdown. Each week during The Open, athletes from specified teams will square off on Thursday night, right after the workout is announced (around 8:15pm):

Week 1: A vs. B
Week 2: B vs. C
Week 3: C vs. A
Week 4: Potomac vs. Patriot
Week 5: A vs. B vs. C

In Weeks 1, 2, 3 athletes from each specified team will go head-to-head on Thursday night. In Week 4, two athletes from each team will go to the opposite gym to complete the workout (Patriot athletes will go to Potomac, Potomac athletes will go to Patriot). In Week 5, a few athletes from every team will compete on Thursday night. Athletes that do not compete on Thursday night will have the opportunity to throw down on Friday at Patriot or Saturday at Potomac.

Friday Night Lights. Athletes that do not complete the workout on Thursday night will have the opportunity to complete The Open workout at any regularly-scheduled class at Patriot.

Saturday Showdown. Athletes that do not complete the workout on Thursday or Friday will have the opportunity to complete The Open workout at any regularly-scheduled class at Potomac.

Whether you started CrossFit 10 days ago or 10 years ago, the Open and the Intramural Open here at PCF have something to offer. You, regardless of your experience, have something to contribute to the community around you in so many ways.  It is an exhausting and exciting five weeks, and I hope you will consider joining us.

Are you in?

About that Nutrition Thing…

By Laura Pilchuk

So, you’ve been here, at this gym for a year or two now. Maybe even 3-5 years but you haven’t seen many changes in the last year or so. Your performance has hit a plateau and you just chalk it up to the fact that you’re getting older and you’ve been busy so you haven’t really been able to focus on it. What if this could be fixed with something as simple as what you’re eating?

Usually, if I ask someone how many calories they eat a day or how many protein, fats and carbs they consume, they have no clue. Would you attempt to lift a barbell without knowing how much it weighs? Of course not, you need to warm up and lead up to that weight. You’d typically add 25’s or 45’s to the bar, hit that a few times, make your usual jumps in weights whether it’s 50-lb jumps or 20-lb jumps; only then would you pick it up. The same applies for food.

Knowing what you’re eating and when you’re eating it plays an important role in your workout performance. Protein, fats, carbohydrates, and water all have an impact on how you feel during and after your workout. Depending on your body, you use either carbs or fats as fuel. I’ll stick with carbs as fuel for this example. It’s just like gas in a car. If you’re on empty in your car, you won’t go anywhere. At least maybe a couple miles until you’re completely out. That’s how carbs affect your workout. 3, 2, 1 GO! Just a couple minutes in, you’ll realize that you’re exhausted and you might even get dizzy. You’re running on empty.

Eating fats too close to a workout can make you feel sluggish and heavy. If you eat fats (and they’re not your primary fuel source), it can also make you feel lethargic and gross while you’re getting your heart rate up. Keeping them on the opposite end of your work out keeps you full while you’re doing every day, normal work stuff.

Protein is good to spread out evenly throughout the day. If you decide to eat a chunk of it right before your workout, it’ll have the same effect as fat. Water is one of the most important (maybe most important) to consume throughout the day. It keeps you hydrated, keeps your body moving, and it helps you recover faster. It transports nutrients and oxygen that are important for cell growth and repair. It can prevent cramping and it flushes filtering organs like the liver and kidneys that removes toxins from the body.

Are you starting to realize what you’re missing in your diet? Great, that’s step one. Step two is to sign up for the January Nutrition Challenge so that I can help you perfect your diet so you can get the results you deserve.

All Hail the Toe-To-Bar

All Hail the Toe-to-Bar
By Colin Farrell

Weightlifters will often make reference to the back squat as “the king of lifts.” Why? It’s not as fast or cool as the snatch, it’s not as powerful as the clean-and-jerk, it’s not as exotic or instagram-worthy as the overhead squat.

The squat is the king of lifts because it is not cool, or fast, or exotic, yet still it makes you better at just about everything else you do in life. Get stronger at the back squat, and your push press will go up. Get stronger at the back squat, and your snatch will go up. Get stronger at the back squat, and you will probably get a pay raise at work

The same should be said of the toe-to-bar in the realm of gymnastics. The toe-to-bar lacks the fluidity of smooth and multi-rep sets of muscle-ups, it is not the social media gold of handstand walking, it does not really offer the same sense of accomplishment as climbing the rope.

However, to become more proficient at all of those things, athletes need to master the toe-to-bar. Often times athletes will scale muscle-ups to pull-ups and ring dips (or push-ups), or to work on pulling and grip strength for rope climbs they will perform more pull-ups or ring rows. While no one will get less fit doing pull-ups, dips, and ring rows, it is not the most efficient avenue to the higher skill gymnastics movements.

The toe-to-bar goes something like this:

    1. After a forward swing, athlete drives/presses the bar away from them and down, using the shoulder and lat to do the work
    2. There is no pulling or flexing at the elbow.
    3. As the athlete presses down on the bar, the shoulder closes and the athlete’s hips rise higher and higher, shortening the distance between toes and bar.
    4. Athletes with strong shoulders will be able to press down on the bar hard enough that the forehead may even be in line with the anchor point of the hands.
    5. Athlete closes hips as kicks toes to the bar, making contact, and finishing the movement.

The lats stay strong and doing the bulk of the work. The elbows don’t bend. The hips have to close hard and fast at the right time in order to maintain rhythm and successfully complete the movement.

The muscle-up (bar and/or ring) and the rope climb require much the same thing. During the muscle-up athletes must press the bar/rings away from them using the lat as they raise the hips as high as possible. Once the hips have driven to their apex, the hip has to close hard and fast. Anyone who has ever tried a kipping muscle-up by pulling with the arms and flexing at the elbow has ended up doing an awkward chest-to-bar or chest-to-rings pull-up that coupled well with an, “Aw, shit” face.

During the rope climb, the elbows should flex very little. The lats do the work and the hips close hard as the athlete leans back (just like a toe-to-bar).

This same concept carries over to weightlifting as well: hard hip- and shoulder-driven movements, followed up by a rapid closing of the hip, and characterized by the elbows bending only at the last possible moment and only as much as is necessary. If you’ve ever seen old YouTube videos of Coach Cody’s dad, Coach B, you’ve probably heard him bark the words, “When the elbows end, the power ends.” This is true with all of the aforementioned movements.

Want to get that first muscle up, or get better at them? Do more toe-to-bar.

Want to climb ropes faster? Do more toe-to-bar.

Want to get better at first impressions on dates? Do more toe-to-bar.

Kippin Toes to Bar Progression

2017 Holiday Throwdown Events

Events 1 & 2

AMRAP in 4 Minutes

Max Cal Row

Max Wallball

-Rest 2 Minutes-

For Time

15 Ring Muscle-up

      (4:00 Cap)

Rx Wallball: 20@10/14@9

Sc Wallball: 14@9/8@8
Rx Barbell: 135/85
Sc Barbell: 95/65

Scaled Ring Muscle-up: Burpee Pull-up

On a ten minute running clock, athletes will begin with Event 1, a 4 minute AMRAP of max calorie row and max wallball. Two athletes per team may be working at one time, with one resting. Athletes/Teams may switch positions as often as they like. Score is total calories plus total wallball shots. From 4:00 to 6:00, teams will rest. At 6:00, Event 2 will begin. Teams must complete 15 snatches (any style snatch is allowed, save those from the hang position) before moving on to the clean-and-jerks (any style clean-and-jerk is allowed, save those from the hang position), teams will finish by completing 15 ring muscle-ups. There is no minimum work requirement (i.e. you may have one athlete complete all snatches, one athlete complete all clean-and-jerks, and one athlete complete all the muscle-ups). Time cap for Event 2 is 4:00 (the 10:00 mark on the running clock).

Event 3

AMRAP in 10 Minutes

8 Synchro One-Arm DB Snatch
40 Double-under

      Resting partners must hold a plate overhead during double-unders

Rx Dumbbell: 50/35

Sc Dumbbell: 40/25
Rx Plate 45/25

Sc Plate: 25/15

At the call of “3, 2, 1…go!” all three athletes will begin 8 reps of synchronized one-arm dumbbell snatch. Athletes must all be at the top of the rep, dumbbell locked out and overhead, simultaneously. Athletes do not need to be synchronized at any other point in the movement. Once 8 repetitions are complete, the team will complete 40 total double-unders. There is no minimum work requirement, teams may have one athlete complete all double-unders if they wish. While one athlete completes double-unders, the two other athletes must hold a plate overhead. The center of the plate must be held over the center of the body, but elbows do not need to be locked out. Double-under reps will not count until both athletes have positioned the plate overhead. Score is total number of double-under and dumbbell snatch repetitions.

Rest Day Protocol

By Colin Farrell

If you can’t remember the last time you took a rest day, that should be a strong indicator that you are past due.

In a previous series of articles (Sleep Hygiene), it was mentioned that it is the unfortunate case that our lives . . . work, school, family, etc. . . . do not revolve around us eating well, working out, and recovering. It is unlikely your boss is so cool that you can text her or him after an intense workout at the gym saying, “Hey Chief, not going to be in on time today. It was squat day today and I’m going to need to spend some time in my Normatec Boots before making it to the office. See you a little bit before lunch,” and have them be alright with that. So, as ever, do the best you can given the circumstances; control what you can control, buffer against things that are beyond your control.

The CrossFit prescription for work/rest ratio is 3 days on, 1 day off, repeat in perpetuity. If athletes are truly hitting workouts hard with a good solid warm-up and cool down, a lift or skill session, and a properly scaled metabolic conditioning workout, after three days it will become necessary to take a day off. If athletes were to continue to four, or five, or six days in a row, intensity levels would surely drop (intensity is the aspect of CrossFit mostly closely associated with positive adaptation), or movements would become sloppy and, therefore, dangerous.

There are a great many variables to consider when figuring when is an appropriate time to come in to the gym, and when is it an appropriate time to stay home. But here are some parameters to follow, if you can:

By all means, if you can follow the 3-on/1-off schedule, try it for a month or two, and adjust based on how you feel, your increase (or decrease) in fitness, and how productive your workouts are. Most individuals’ work and personal lives do not always allow for that, so alternative work/rest plans may become necessary.

I advise against athletes simply coming every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, especially those of you that come to Potomac. If athletes never come on Tuesdays or Thursdays, they will rarely be exposed to heavy pressing (most every Tuesday) or gymnastics and accessory work (most every Thursday). Athletes should attempt to switch up which days of the week they attend: Monday/Wednesday/Friday this week; Sunday/Tues/Thurs/Saturday the following week.

Try rest days in between work days, try two or four days in a row, then rest. Mix it up as much as you like and are able to, but do your best to come on different days each week, in different intervals, and ensure rest days are popping up on your calendar at least every 3rd day.

Many athletes go a bit stir crazy if they do not get to the gym at least 5 or 6 days each week. If that is the case, if it is so deeply ingrained in your routine, then let’s be as intelligent about it as we can. If you are an L2 athlete who needs to be in the gym 5 days a week, have a structured plan in place:

  • Days 1 through 3: I will go as hard as I can, I will aim to do everything at L2 if possible, and maybe dabble in Rx movements when I can
  • Day 4: I will take everything one level down from what I am capable of and decrease intensity
  • Day 5: I will skip the lift or accessory work, instead opting for some light recovery rowing, and I will do the metcon one level down from what I am capable of and decrease intensity
    Our lives, for most of us, are largely sedentary and, to be sure, your coaches love that you want to be in the gym eight days a week. However, you are supposed to leave the gym in a better place than when you came arrived. CrossFit is some really potent stuff, it’s hard, and it can be hard on the body. Get some sleep, take a day off, get out of the gym and use or fitness or work on some active recovery.

    You Can’t Out-Burpee a Shit Diet


    By Colin Farrell

    Nutrition is a really, really tough subject, and the reasons for that are rather innumerable. For many people, what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat are often a result of necessity. From that vantage point, it is often hard to hear that I need to be doing “X”, “Y”, or “Z” differently in terms of my nutrition because it sounds as though that someone (often, a relative stranger) is telling me I need to shift around major aspects of my life.  It is because of this that nutrition often becomes a really personal matter, and thus a pretty charged subject.

    With all of that being said, I once heard a quote from Coach Greg Glassman, vulgar and succinct as it may be, that very much put the issue in perspective for me (and I am paraphrasing a bit here):

          If you had a Ferrari, would you piss in the gas tank?

    I would ask the follow up question: if you had Ferrari, would you put anything less than highest grade fuel into the tank?

    High octane fuel is expensive. Sometimes, you have to go out of your way to get just the right stuff. The vehicle is going to maybe require some more attention than a Honda Accord. All of this amounts to more time, money, and effort being put into the car.

    But it’s a Ferrari. It deserves it.

    We are all in possession of this incredible machine, one that should probably last 110 years if we treat it well.  This machine is capable of far more than the nicest vehicle you can imagine. I did not start taking nutrition seriously, at all, until I had children. I quickly realized (as it became harder to get to the gym or get much rest) that if I eat well I sleep better, I feel better, what  workouts I can squeeze in are more productive, and I look better. I know, I know, CrossFit is not supposed to be about aesthetics, but a large portion of why I work my ass off in the gym and try to eat well is so I can look good for my beautiful wife. Feel free to judge me.

    Make the Ferrari a priority. It will pay you back 10-fold.

    Been hammering away at the gym but your squat hasn’t gone up in 16 months? Fix your nutrition. Still can’t do a pull-up after 2 years of doing CrossFit? Fix your nutrition. Fran time has been stagnant for nearly a half-decade? Fix your nutrition.

    Nutrition is as close to a cure-all as we are like to get. Will it fix everything or make all aspects of your fitness increase? Probably not, but it is 100% the place to start.

    We are kicking off a month-long Nutrition Challenge at Potomac at 10:30am this coming Sunday (10/8) with Laura Pilchuk, of Noble Nutrition. For General Macronutrient Guidance, it costs $75. That’s less than $3/day for a nutritionist to help guide you for nearly a month on how to sort out what to eat, and how much of it to eat.  For less than $5/day, she’ll supply you with Custom Macronutrient Guidance to really help you reach your goals.  

    We all know that working out is far more fun, productive, and easier when we have a bunch of our friends suffering alongside us. Eating well is hard enough as it is, don’t do it alone if you don’t have to. Please join us for the month leading up to the Holiday season, dial in your nutrition, and set yourself up for incredible success.

    Please click here to sign up for the 2017 Fall Nutrition Challenge at Potomac.

    Control What You Can, Buffer What You Cannot

    Control What You Can, Buffer What You Cannot

    By Colin Farrell

    There are three major areas that often need to be addressed when looking at how to maximize one’s health:

    • Fitness Regime
    • Nutrition
    • Lifestyle

    Fitness regime and nutrition are immensely important, and–arguably–the two biggest pieces of the puzzle. However, one’s fitness regime occupies, maybe, 3-5 hours of each week for the average CrossFitter. The importance of eating real food and avoiding sugar cannot possibly be understated, but there are vast amounts of time spent outside of the gym, and not eating, that need to be considered as well.

    How much of your day are you sitting? What is your quality of sleep like? Are you setting and tracking goals for yourself? Are you having a cup of coffee at 2pm to make it through the last hours of your work day? Are you doing any sort of stretching or mobility work at the end of the day?

    Do an evaluation of your day, break it down into progressively smaller portions. Once broken down, ask yourself, “Is this the most optimal way I can be doing this?” Notice, the question is not, “Is this the most optimal way to do it?” Some things are simply not realistic, so we have to control what is possible to control, and do the best we can to buffer against the things that our beyond our control. As an example, if you have young children, getting sound sleep for 8+ hours is often a near impossibility. However, you can control the temperature in the room and do some light foam rolling to increase the quality of the sleep you can actually get.

    What is your morning routine like? Your commute? Your day at the office? Do you come early or stay late at the gym; what do you do with that time? What are your goals for this month, this year… personally, professionally, and health-wise? Do you do meal prep or grocery shopping on the weekends? Break each piece down, and figure out the best way for you to be able to do it, and make it a habit. Make it a routine.

    Building routine into your week/day can buy you a good amount of time back, and with just little bit of extra time each day, a lot can be accomplished. For example, doing meal prep or laying out your outfits for work for the week on Sunday can buy you back anywhere between 15 minutes to upwards of an hour each day. Let’s average that to 30 minutes of saved time each day. That’s thirty extra minutes to do some ROMWOD, come to the gym a little early to work on getting that first pull-up, or spend a little extra time with the kids, your roommate, or a good book.

    If you spent an extra 30 minutes a day working on pull-up progressions, listening to a Great Course on Audible, hanging out with your family, or knocking out some movement and mobility work, your health and fitness are surely to increase.

    Get a standing desk at work. Dial in your sleep hygiene. Set up a system of “eat this, not that” for yourself if you must eat out while on the road or at work. Set goals for yourself, and actually track your progress. Keep track of how much sleep you are getting, and the increase it if you can.

    If you’re coming to the gym 3-5 times a week, eating real food and avoiding sugar, you have some of the difficult parts of staying healthy nailed down. While you continue to work on that, start dialing in these other little bits and pieces of your life outside the gym and outside of the kitchen. You’d be surprised at what that can do for you physical and mental well-being.


    A Letter from Coach Andrea

    As many of you already know, I have decided to take a job that will take me away from being your coach. I know you will miss my random question of the day and my sassy energy before the sun has even risen (insert my usual sarcasm).

    And let us not forget the repetitive introductions ….where everyone rolls their eyes at me. I have said that I memorize names because I want to be able to scream it across the gym to get your attention if your form is off. But in all reality, I think it is important to remember people’s first names, as well as little facts about their personal life – not just their personal records (don’t worry, I remember your PR’s too). I enjoy greeting each and every one of you by name with a smile, song, smirk, dance or laugh on a daily basis. Your name is one of the most personal thing you are given in life.

    Let us also not forget that I stand watch over the white board after your workout to collect “scores” or smiley faces. I don’t do this for the sake of the leaderboard or the post on Facebook every night, I do it because I want to hold you accountable for choosing a healthy lifestyle. I feel that if I can motivate you to take your health seriously, maybe one day you can inspire someone else as well. I have always felt that people just need one person to believe in them and their dreams are endless.

    Walking into a gym, let alone a CrossFit gym, can be intimidating to some people. With the coaches/community we have at Potomac, I feel that fear can be lessened.

    I am so grateful that you have allowed me to be a part of your life – sharing your job woes, family vacations or dating disasters. I know it may be small to some, but I take the job of starting our day very seriously. On the way to work every day, I ask God to allow me to be the light in someone’s day that day. You never know who will be the lucky winner of that energy (or hostility according to John P or Simon if I have not consumed coffee ).

    We all have “stuff” to deal with in this lifetime and for one brief hour, I hope I have helped you laugh and not take life too seriously.

    I may not be the best at expressing “gushy” emotions, but each and every one of you have had an impact on my life that I will take with me. And I will miss all of you!


    How’s Your Non-Exercise Fitness (Also, “Game of Thrones” Spoiler)

    Let’s make one thing clear: walking is not exercise. It is locomotion.

    However… walking is better than not walking. Standing is better than sitting.

    What the remainder of this post is not going to be is a plea for you to take the stairs rather than the elevator. To be frank, I already assume you do that. If you don’t, here’s my plea: take the stairs.

    Think about what we do in the gym each day: we warm-up, we talk about the mechanics of a lift or set of gymnastics skills, we talk workout strategy, then we go H.A.M. for a little while, then cool down and maybe do a little mobility work. Each and every thing we do has a purpose and an end. How utilitarian of us! Take that same outline and apply it to your day.

    How are you warming up for your morning? Are you taking the time to generate some heat in your hips, shoulders, and ankles; are you strategizing the workout as you do a warm-up 400m run; are you priming your major engines for healthy movement? Are you taking a hot shower and clearing your head, having a decent breakfast, and drinking some stout bulletproof coffee? Or, are you waking up at the last minute, leaving partially prepared and with an un-toasted bagel between your teeth as you jam yourself onto the Metro?

    Are you paying attention to the finer points of movement mechanics throughout your day? Before you lift, are you bracing the spine and setting your shoulders? As you sit in your office chair are you flexing at the hip, keeping your weight evenly distributed throughout the foot, and ensuring your knees track over your toes? As you stand at the urinal, are your toes turned out like a duck? I hope not. You have knees and a hip. Use them as they were intended.

    You should be taking the stairs, you should be taking your dog for long walks, you should be using a sit/stand workstation, when you walk from your office to the car you should be booking it (as quickly as is socially acceptable). But those are the easy things, really dive in deep.

    At the end of the day, how are you cooling down? Are you couch stretching as you re-watch last season of Game of Thrones? (Spoiler alert: R+L=J, if you didn’t see that coming as of Book 2/Season 2 … shame on you.) Are you doing some light foam rolling for 10-15 minutes before bed to fire up that parasympathetic nervous system? Good, you’ll sleep better.

    You are only at the gym for an hour a day. We can’t do 23 hours of damage to our body, only to get back to neutral with 1 hour of working out and doing some mobility work. View your day-to-day tasks, your non-fitness activities, as opportunities to reinforce good movement habits and to prime yourself for success in the gym, and for tomorrow. Those 23 hours are a great time to sneak in some extra credit, some accessory work, to help you round out your health. Have fun.

    I Don’t Want to Hear it Anymore

    Let’s keep this short and sweet. Preferably forever, but absolutely during The Open, no one from PCF is allowed to say the following:

    “Yeah, but I scaled.”

    Understand? No more. If I or anyone tells you “I’m impressed!” or “Excellent work!” or “That was incredible!” you are not allowed to mention anything about how you scaled or that you scaled. CrossFit is really, really hard… for everyone. Just because you did the workout at 35# and that guy did it at 50# doesn’t mean you worked any less hard or he worked any harder.

    Regardless of the weight, the complexity of the movement, the height of the box… I’m quite certain you left your blood, and guts, and sweat, and chalky handprints behind you.

    So, knock it off. I don’t care if you scaled to thrusters with a PVC. You worked your ass off, and that should be celebrated.