Rookie Mind.

I kept thinking about the Kaizen methodology last night.

While sitting around the gym watching the facial expressions of our athletes, each coach was dispersing some sort of back squatting tutorial: bracing, breathing, timing, mindset, compensatory acceleration, cueing strategies, hand placements, vision, spotting, tempo, etc. And the ideas from each coach, for each class, could not have been more different. However, what was the same across the board was the concept of education–and bringing a little more complexity to the back squat in order to advance it, regardless of training age, knowledge or skill level.

“Kaizen,” taken from the Japanese word for improvement, change for the better, or continuous improvement, has evolved since the 1950s into a business strategy of making small, but continuous changes for the better in company operations.*Applicably, it was impressive to notice the way athletes paused for a moment to absorb the sinking-in of new information: to re-evaluate what they knew (or didn’t know) and how they might advance. The learning environment was rich with content, and it was noticeably surrounded by enthusiasm.

We’ve all been in a circumstance where someone “thought they knew everything,” or where they were closed off to a new idea due to their ego. In contrast, the environment at Defined fosters development: a Kaizen approach, perhaps. And moreover, while it starts here, it transfers far beyond the box.

Coach David

*Direct quote from

Do you want a pat on the back? Or do you want feedback?

Do you want a pat on the back? Or do you want feedback?

Deliberate work in your craft is necessary. Pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone is advantageous. Living humbly and receiving feedback is favorable. With regards to improvement, being told you’re doing a good job is not essential. But it seems like that’s something we routinely look for. Let me give you an example from the Defined gymnasium coaching floor during a recent weightlifting session…

“Joe Power Clean” was working on some barbell movements. Rep after rep, I gave him subtle, simple, repeated feedback that all generally reiterated the same concept of what he was doing wrong. I could tell after about 10 seconds that he was not enjoying the process of being told he could be doing better. But here’s the thing: walking by and telling him he was doing a “good job” was the easy way out. For both of us.

A “Good job,” would have likely boosted his moral. However, telling him that likely wasn’t going to help improve his game. A “good job” does nothing for pushing or improving performance, i.e. anything you want to excel at.

So, I challenge you to look for feedback. Ask your peers how you can do better. Seek out uncomfortable corners and handle your business. Getting a pat on the back is great. Occasionally, there’s a time and a place for it. But maybe ask yourself: does it make you better?

Coach David

Substitute Teachers & New Kids in Class

Monday, July 2nd, was an enjoyable night to be an observer at the gym. Within the past 8 years, I can’t remember a time when I’d heard quite as much chatter. Every single squat rack was filled by two (or more) athletes, along with a multitude of lifting buddies and the usual foam-rolling-Instagram-scrolling-recovery crew.

I tried to consider a time when something like this had happened before, and then it dawned on me: grammar school. Remember when your teacher was out and you felt excited by the unknown routines of your substitute? Or maybe when there was a new, cute boy or girl in class? Back in the day, either of these two events would be sure to create additional noise. The two of them combined resembles a concert.

Last night, both scenarios seemed to play out. Coach Cara taught the 4p (new class) and 5p classes at Lakeview, and we had about 8 new athletes join us – either from Lincoln Square or out of town. And it was funny to notice how the same situations that put people on notice at age 13 can easily do the same at 33.

Have a great day everyone.

Coach David

Board Meetings & Hype Sauce

Board Meetings & Hype Sauce

Just the other day, in-class teammates (aka training partners) were encouraging each other to an extraordinary level. I can’t recall the precise movement focus, but the amount of hype around what was going on was undeniably noticeable.

I know: this doesn’t seem like anything particularly significant. Especially since we’ve gotten used to this kind of culture having deliberatley working to develop it over the last eight years. In fact, it’s come to be standard behavior here at CFD. But if we look a bit deeper, what’s actually going on is remarkably kick-ass.

The class was loaded with doctors, researchers, VPs, students, parents, lawyers, scientists, engineers and various tradespeople. During the training session, the project was to build up to a weight that was challenging for the day. As the intensity progressed, so did the spirit of the class. These “professionals” were screaming at one another with the utmost excitement. The collective enjoyment of everyone doing their best was enough to tear the building in half.

I sat there and wondered: When was the last time this happened in their lives? Does a level of hype exist at work, in the boardroom during a quarterly sales meeting or while ordering a cup of coffee? Does it occur during a walk in the morning with the dog, or while getting the car washed; during lunch, maybe? Perhaps, for most of us, the only place this level of unfiltered excitement occurs is here, at Defined.

So, your assignment is this: Arrive each day and let us cheer for you. Allow two, three or four people to support you with reckless, unsolicited enthusiasm. And then return the favor; do the same for someone else. Be a part of something.

Coach David

Movement Culture. More than a gym.

Failure Provides Opportunity

When working with a group of Depaul students (the Women’s Rugby Team, to be specific), I noticed a pretty incredible reaction to failure.

Their team Coach, Scuba Luke, brought them in to Defined for some team training, conditioning, squat work and mindset maintenance. At the start of the session, I intentionally set them up to fail. We played a game with a PVC pipe that almost guaranteed a fault in team communication, but their reaction was particularly astonishing…because it was 100% positive. They actually enjoyed it.

The first time they failed, they responded with curiosity.
The second time they failed, they replied with a few smirks.
The third time they failed, they fully responded to the challenge.
The fourth time they failed, they collectively rose to the occasion and stepped up.

They reminded me that: “Failure is an event, not a person.” – Zig Ziglar

But not everyone operates this way. In most cases, failure is purposely avoided as if it were a bad thing. However, failing offers a chance at confronting new challenges and the taking on of new opportunities. We need to openly relish this. Don’t chase comfort. Chase an opportunity at failure.

Consider that last time you failed: How did you react? Was it positive? Did you enjoy it? Did you quit? Additionally, what you have consistently avoided due to the potential for failure? Remember: we can learn from failing. We can’t learn from staying in a comfort zone.

Coach David

Picking Teammates

I asked a few people the other day how they choose training partners. All of their answers were a bit different, but equally excellent. Here’s what they said:

Response #1 – “Class time determines who I pick. At 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, I usually find someone at a similar skill level to share a barbell. Keeping the coaches in mind, I do this to be efficient with equipment. Outside of those times, I’ll work with anyone because I remember what it was like to be the new person.”

Response #2 – “I never come in with a pre-picked partner. But when selecting a teammate for the hour, I like to find the best person in the room. Why not work with someone that I can emulate? I can learn a lot by just watching someone with better technique than me.”

Response #3 – “I pick my friends. Oddly enough, I knew none of them when I joined the gym six months ago. We all met at Defined. Now we hang out inside and outside of the gym. Which is pretty cool because I am new to Chicago. The gym has introduced me to some truly wonderful people.”

So, how do you pick teammates? Do you look for similar skill levels? Do you shy away from some of the “big hitters” out of nervousness? Or do you seek out the new athlete to welcome him/her to our home? Do you engage with new people on the training floor? Most importantly, do you actively bring good vibes to the gymnasium?

If you always do the same thing, I challenge you to shake it up a bit. Introduce yourself to the most recent On-Ramp graduate and be a role-model. It will elevate your game. I promise.

Coach David

Conjugate Defined // Semi-Private Training Group

Coach Ben and Coach David have developed Conjugate Defined: a new semi-private strength-based program designed for eight interested athletes who want to challenge their current strength, address movement imbalances, and increase performance across a broad spectrum.

Conjugate Defined has dramatically shifted the way we approach our own training, and now we want to share it with those who enjoy individualized attention, personalized rep schemes and complementary movement progressions. This small-group training team is intended to feel unique with a hyper-focus on feedback. Being able to receive rep-by-rep feedback will dramatically increase each athlete’s ability to advance. This is an opportunity to make training changes and tailor the program on an individual basis.

Performace markers for each athlete will be showcased in a variety of ways. For some it will be about lifting heavier weights, for others, it will be about being able to do multiple bodyweight push-ups or pull-ups for the first time, and for a few, it might be about improving quality of life or getting closer to Rx weights in a CrossFit class. Regardless of your goals, strength matters, and we will deliver on that.

Conjugate Defined programming emphasizes the following:

  • Conjugate Strength Methods
  • Addressing unilateral upper and lower body weaknesses
  • Speed training to enhance the ability to exert maximal force
  • Targeted rep-schemes to engage weak underused muscle groups
  • Conditioning work intended to improve muscular work capacity
  • A decrease in body-fat
  • Implement band work and accessory chains to increase resistance
  • Goal-setting with a performance mindset

There are absolutely no training pre-requisites necessary, prior to participation. Truthfully, we’d love to work with athletes new to strength training. If you’re dedicated, focused and exert a positive attitude, this is the right team for you. The program is all about strength. But goal setting concepts, mindset components, and relentless feedback are what you’re going to get. I don’t care what you can squat, press, pull, push or do right now, I care that in 6 weeks you’ve made some performance improvements (mentally and physically).

Here are the details to get you going:

    • We are running two sessions this time.
    • The AM Session will meet on Tuesday & Thursday from 12p to 1p (June 5th through June 28th)
    • The PM Session will meet on Tue, Thur & Fri from 6p to 7p (June 5th through June 29th)
    • The cost of the program is $205 for the PM session and $185. Please register here.

Please email with any questions.

Final thoughts. The goals of the Conjugate Defined 102 Small Group Program are simple (to get stronger and become anti-fragile); you are going to receive hyper-focused coaching, immediate feedback and on the fly adjustments while surrounding yourself with like-minded high performing individuals and capitalizing on the team atmosphere.