Knee Surgery & Reflection 

Knee Surgery & Movement Reflection 

On Tuesday, August 7th, I went to Northwestern Hospital for a scheduled left knee arthroscopy to remove a cluster of intra-articular bodies in the anterior recess. Or, as the doc put it: “to clean up my knee”– as if he were taking a Swiffer Wet Jet in there or something.

Nothing major happened. There was no vicious trauma, a fall, or an accident. This was just a product of an active lifestyle; I’d been putting this off for about six months. In fact, just a few days before surgery, I hit a PR front squat at 300+, worked on some deadlift block pulls at 500+, and a 5lb strict press PR that I’d been eyeing for two years.

Today will be the one-week anniversary since my knee got “swiffered,” and I can’t begin tell you how bad I’m itching to get back to moving freely–to be able to travel around the gym, walk fast, walk slow, or hop in and out of my truck with ease. I’m eager to take the dogs for a long stroll at night, move a barbell with proficiency, carry a laundry basket up and down stairs, or simply get a cup of coffee with a friend. I’ve come to realize: It’s the day-to-day stuff that we often and accidentally take for granted, myself included. So when its actually taken away, it promotes reflection. And motivates.

I can’t imagine what it might feel like to completely abandon any kind of physical practice for a month. A year. Two years. But perhaps that’s due to the fact that I’ve adjusted my lifestyle to include it. However, for so many of our friends and family, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Go brother!

Years ago, one of my brothers was gaining weight, looking a bit rough and generally just felt bad. So I purchased him a 3-month gym membership to CrossFit Alpha Dog, without realizing how this temporary exposure would transform into an on-going commitment to health and fitness. Now, his wife and kids are also avid CrossFitters. My brother has traveled to the CrossFit Games in CA and WI., his wife is obsessed with Sara Sigmundsdóttir, his son has air squat positioning that’s out of this world, and he often sends me videos of his daughter doing burpees. As for his friends? They’ve turned into CrossFitters too. One of those friends also has a wife that changed her career path to be in the health & fitness industry.

So what can you do? Years back, I took a small step to help someone in my life, and it’s been paid forward many times over. Whatever the gesture, dare to make it. Bring someone to the gym. Take your parents, neighbors or friends for a walk. Instead of downplaying your pledge to training, your recent personal record or weekly gym attendance with your co-workers; share these stories, and challenge them to inspire change, too–or better yet, ask them to join you. An invitation is a chosen opportunity. And an opportunity can promote change. To have access to refined movement training makes us particularly lucky, but it’s what we do with this knowledge and experience that defines meaningful change.

The point is: You never know when a small gesture could reach far beyond it’s intended target. And if we never attempt them, we miss out on some of the most important benefits of what we, as athletes, do.

Coach David

Competing in workingOUT with my brother Scott.

Gym Guide to Success (& Safety)

The other day in class an athlete walked about six inches in front of a lifter right before she was about to attempt a massive clean & jerk. A few minutes later I saw an athlete sitting on some bumper plates during a much-needed rest break. And then a poor little Apple iPhone Watch was put on the floor in the middle of a lifting zone.

It immediately dawned on me that this sort of gym etiquette is new to a lot of people. For many, Defined represents the first gym experience of any kind. Here is a go-to list for all athletes (new and experienced) to make sure you start off on the right track.

Coach David

1 – Show up on time for class. This is a huge one. Maybe the most important because it sets the tone. Enough said.
2 – Chalk stays in the chalk bucket. Do not write on the gym floor with it either.
3 – Please wipe down all equipment when you are done (even the whiteboards).
4 – When a lifter is getting set up for a big lift, don’t walk in front of them. It distracts their eyesight & focus.
5 – Always put your equipment away.
6 – iPhones and all refreshments don’t belong on the training floor. We have seen our fair share of squished telephones.
7 – Dropping 15#, 10# or 5# plates or an empty barbell is a bad idea.
8 – Sitting on bumper plates or the barbell is bad luck.
9 – If you change your shoes (or need to grab additional equipment), make sure you wait until the coach is done talking or explaining the workout.
10 – Ask questions. It is the greatest way to learn. And the coaches love this stuff.
11 – Meet new people. Share equipment with new people. Say “hello” to new people. You get the point.
12 – If you destroy the mirrors in the bathroom with water & soap. Wipe them down for the next user.
13 – Don’t be nervous to introduce yourself to a coach or gym training partner. Sounds like #11.
14 – Track your training progress. Especially strength numbers (example: back squat) and benchmark / named workouts (example: Fran).
15 – Stinky shorts & shoes make for a long hour for everyone. Check it.

This is a short list, but everyone will benefit from adhering to these simple rules. Happy training.

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