Written by Ryan Brown
CrossFit got me into the fitness/strength & conditioning world. I was introduced to it in the Marine Corps and loved it. Upon my EAS from the Marines, I began training at Derby City CrossFit in Louisville, KY. I entered a few CrossFit competitions, there weren’t nearly as many back then. I competed at the sectional (which turned into the open), and then at the regional in the middle of nowhere, Ohio back in 2011. At that point, my technical skill was lacking. I had only been with a coach for a few months, and my lack of concern with doing things correctly and over-concern for doing things quickly, made my progress with technique slow. At that time I possessed what we called good mobility. As I look back on the situation, I see that what I actually possessed was a lack of stability in certain areas that allowed masked the things that weren’t moving that should. I thought it was great how I could drop into a squat, and paid no attention to how sick of a low back pump I would get. At the first Garage Games down in Georgia, we had to do an AMRAP with wall balls and KB swings (it was also snowing and we were outside… I couldn’t feel the KB in my hands at the end. Georgia sucks) and I had to go lay in the car for like an hour afterwards because my back was so tight. Rather than recognize that as a problem, and not “normal”, I laid down, relaxed a little, then went out to the next workout. Going into the regional that year I thought that one of my strength was strength. I felt like I was one of the stronger competitors. Little did I know, at the max deadlift (3rd event of Day 1) my #470 , which was a PR, was good enough for like 30th place… Out of 50 competitors. As it turned out, my strength was my biggest weakness and my worst finish in a workout for the weekend.
After that competition, I decided that what I needed to do was get stronger. At first, I dabbled with CrossFit Football before later taking the leap into powerlifting. I loved doing powerlifting and that was how Darkside Strength and Conditioning was born. My powerlifting “career” was short lived. After my first meet, I had planned to do a Warrior Dash with my buddies on my birthday. Thing about it was that, I hadn’t ran at all for more than a few months, and I had already noticed some tightness in my hip. At this point in my career, things like that didn’t concern me. I still had my very Marine attitude that “pain was weakness leaving my body”. Hell, I even had tshirts that said it. So you know it has to be true.
The Warrior Dash Probably wasn’t a good idea, or, at least not the way that we did it. Karsten and I went out the night before and did a minor amount of partying, then he slept on my couch and we woke up at 630am, because the Warrior Dash was like 4 hours away, and started drinking cold beer. Waylon’s wife drove us up there. We pretty much drank beer the entire way, stumbled our ways to the start line and did the Warrior Dash 100% T totally wasted. Driving 4 hours, dehydrating myself, running a 5k, then driving back 4 hours, while further dehydrating myself, proved to be a bad idea. My hip was killing me after the race, but I decided to go back in and squat the next Monday. It was hurting but I just kept trying to stretch it out and kept working up heavier. Then on the way out of the bottom of a squat I had a really serious pain and dumped the weight off of my back. For the next, week or so I could barely walk up and down the stairs.
The best part of this injury was that it is what set me on the path to focus on learning about movement and mobility, which has proven to be an incredibly valuable set of tools. I couldn’t squat hardly at all for several months. This also coincided with the time that I took over the gym and was coaching 10 or 11 classes a day. For the most part those few months I didn’t train at all.
This had lead me back into olympic lifting. The first thing that I could do was power clean, then gradually I could work my way into a squat. I spent the next year focusing on olympic weightlifting and furthering my knowledge of the body.
When Chad first contacted me about working with Juggernaut Training systems, it was for CrossFit. I hadn’t been doing it for a while, but I felt like I could come back, and secretly knew that I had more to offer than just CrossFit anyhow. I made a lame attempt at a comeback, but I was trying to program for myself and found that the fact that I really just wasn’t interested in competing in CrossFit was a major set back with programming for CrossFit for myself. Honestly, just programming for myself in general. Over the next few months, I meandered my way back into just weightlifting training.
Fast forward to 5 weeks ago. I had started to gain some interest in getting back in the CrossFit game. I felt like all of the sudden some of the people from area gyms had decided that I knew about lifting and knew about mobility, but that I didn’t know CrossFit, or that they were just clearly way better.
It seemed that I had the perfect personal motivation right at the same time that I was able to make two incredibly valuable additions to the coaching staff at my gym. Now, instead of trying to write my own program and force myself to do stuff that I don’t want to do, I have a coach with 13 years experience at the Div 1 level, 9 of which at the University of Louisville (Go Cards) and the current snatch national champion and 2013 Pan Am Team member to take care of my program.
I guess the important thing is to understand the lessons that I learned spending some time away from CrossFit and then coming back to it.
A.) I am way stronger.
Despite the fact that since the hip injury my back squat has only improved about 20lbs, my front squat has improved about 80 lbs. The strength has been paying huge dividends when getting back into WODS. It seems so obvious, but taking time to get stronger, even if you do basically zero conditioning for two years, directly translates into your ability to perform reps at lighter weights. I am pretty sure that is even in a science book somewhere. You would think it would be easy to talk people into doing that.
B.) When your hips and shoulders move the way that they are supposed to… everything is easier.
This sounds like some real deep shit, but I feel like it is a pretty basic concept. Rather than constantly fighting yourself and struggling to produce movement, your body is free to move effortlessly. Freely moving through space, forced only to struggle against the outside load, rather than its own self. My running is still shitty, just cause I am not quite back in shape, but I was able to tell immediately that my breathing and improved hip stability makes it a much less taxing endeavor. I never really feel my back or legs (quads) getting tired. It is just that I think my poor little baby heart may explode.
C.) Olympic Lifting… find someone who can teach you to do it right.
Bang. Three huge points. I have been back at it now for 5 weeks. Just doing whatever Eric and Colin tell me to do. I already feel pretty good. The first few workouts I just kept getting a wicked ass pump before I even had a chance to get very “cardio” tired. Randomly, before I actually committed to doing Eric and Colin’s program (check it out, it leading up to the open next year and started last week) I decided to try “Karen” just to check it out. It took me 6:15, after doing zero conditioning workouts for about 2-2.5 years. I had the hugest quad pump ever. I could tell what Arnold was talking about. Yesterday we did Helen I had a real shit time of 9:15, but I think that our 400m at the gym is a little long, cause even Patrick, who finished 17 this year at regionals, didn’t have that great of a time. Regardless, I didn’t break any of the sets. Running just blows balls.
I am excited to see how long it takes me to get back in shape. I always am telling people, especially the beginners, that none of the WODS matter at all. Just learn to move correctly and efficiently and focus on getting stronger, and that conditioning comes fast.
I am signed up for the “Kentuckiana’s Fittest” competition on September the 28th. I know that I will at least be head to head with Patrick, who is a top competitor is what is pretty clearly the toughest region in CrossFit. I am excited to see if I will be able to compete with these guys after only a few months back into the game.Ryan Brown is the head physical preparation coach and owner of Derby City CrossFit / DarkSide Strength in Louisville,Ky. Ryan’s focus is on correcting and perfecting movement/motor patterns to get the most out of his athletes. He has competed in CrossFit, Powerlifting, strongman, and currently Olympic lifting. His clients include; elite level power lifters, national level Olympic lifters, pro MMA fighters, college football players, HS athletes, CrossFitters, old broke people, and pretty much anyone else who wants to do something better. Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter