This Sunday!

Remember: This Sunday is UB's second Community Day of the year! 

We all have that friend.... the one that asks a lot of questions about CrossFit and is o-so-curious, but when it comes down to actually giving it a shot, they have a sudden list of excuses.  Tell that friend - Sunday is game on.  Community Day is for those who want to give CrossFit a shot, try it on for a class without worrying about olympic lifting form or what a handstand pushup is.  Register here for this Sunday's class.

Can't join them on that day?  No worries!  Just send them along and we'll take care of them for you.  Friends/family/coworkers/bosses/employees... anyone you think would enjoy a little more CrossFit in their life.  11:30 or bust!

The Weekly Dose of Awesome

Andrew, Tristan, and Megan showing off their ub tees

Many of our Dose of Awesomes are highly visible in the community, working out in our CrossFit classes in the front room, socializing with just about everybody. But sometimes, we have someone who flies a little under the radar. Someone who takes the road less travelled, dedicating all time and effort in pursuit of one goal: getting strong as hell.

Tristan G. has been working out at UB for literally ever (well, since 2011) and was once one of the perky CrossFitters attacking the WOD. But something happened halfway through 2014. Something that made him seek out the grittier atmosphere of the back room. Perhaps that signed poster of Arnold on the wall spoke to him. I kinda picture him becoming Batman at this point, and SWOD is now his batcave, where he keeps his gainz.

Tristan has become stronger, a better mover, and obviously, Batman. Over 400 hours of dedicated practice means he is one of the most consistent athletes around. He still throws in the odd CrossFit class, so if you're not part of the SWOD crew and you see him in class, know that this awesome man is about to throw down with a strength borne of determination, consistency, and dedication.

Tristan - you're awesome - stay Batman!

Olivia Graff

Olivia's athletic origins lie in gymnastics and circus arts. After finding CrossFit in 2007, she became obsessed, and three years later left her IT career and opened United Barbell. Olivia is particularly passionate about helping people new to fitness to find joy in their growing athletic abilities. Since the birth of her daughter, Isis, in 2013, Olivia can add helping little ones find their athletic path to her list of passions.

Food for Thought: How to Know When You’re Ready for the Gym

As you speak to your friends about coming with you to test this magical thing called "CrossFit," remember there are a few people Sunday's community class is ideal for.  This might be the person who simply has no idea what CrossFit is, or it might be the person who just wants to experience what all the fuss is about.  Often times, community day attendees are athletes are are a little worrisome about being "good enough" to take on CrossFit classes.  If this applies to your Sunday buddy, here is an article to pass them I saw on Jen Sinkler's fitness blog (originally adapted from that may have them enter UB's doors a little less doey-eyed. 

If your Sunday buddy is tentative about all things weights, have them pre-read this related article instead from Jen Sinkler (found on

Gyms should be a place where everyone feels comfortable, a sanctuary of sorts built for self-improvement from within. So when I hear the phrase, “I need to get in shape before I go” it knots my stomach.

I’d like to tell you a story about a friend of mine. I’ll call him Derek.

Derek was an avid athlete and frequented the gym throughout college. His smarts and hard work paid off and he landed a great job in the big city directly out of university. Fast-forward five years and Derek’s salary exceeded $500,000 a year.

The grueling schedule and perpetual stress took its toll on Derek and he became overweight, along with battling constant illness, smoking addiction, and depression bouts. In short, Derek became miserable.

We had a heart-to-heart a few years back and I recommended he work with one of the best trainers in the city, who happened to be a friend of mine. Derek knew that getting into shape would likely be enough to turn his life around (in addition it would probably be enough to get him off of prescription meds for his depression).

This trainer was no longer accepting clients but would accept my friend as a personal favor. When I told Derek about the opportunity he was stoked but said, “I’m not ready for the gym yet. I need to work my way up to it.”

I sat paralyzed. “What?” I thought. “You were ready four years ago.”

Derek went on to explain that he didn’t feel comfortable in the gym yet. He was afraid that he didn’t belong if he wasn’t already fit. He said that he wanted to be in good shape before hiring a personal trainer.

I was reminded of my favorite scene from the movie Pumping Iron. In it, Arnold and the gang are training in Gold’s Gym absolutely shredded. In the background is an out of shape guy in a white tank top doing triceps pushdowns. Even in the original bodybuilding Mecca, all were welcome, but there’s an illusion that you need to be in shape before they go to the gym. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Allow me to explain why.

1) Everyone is trying to get better – just like you.

Sure, some trainees’ lives revolve around their training programs. They eat a steady diet of chicken and broccoli and are in bed by 9 p.m. sharp every night. They’re shredded. They’re also the outliers.

Yet we tend to ignore the mean and compare ourselves to these outliers when we walk into the gym. There could be 100 people working out and it’s difficult not to focus on the ones who look like they’re in incredible shape. Take a look around, though; most people don’t look like that, and that’s A-OK. It’s simply the way our biology works.

The human body always strives to be in homeostasis (a state of balance). It takes a sufficient amount of continual effort to move the body to a new homeostatic point. Once you reach that point, it’s relatively easy to maintain, as long as the point isn’t at an extreme. This explains, in part, why it takes a lot of effort to lose a substantial amount of body fat while your friend seems to be able to stay the same size even though it appears she eats whatever she wants.

No matter what your starting point is or how out of shape you think you are, you’re ready. The gym is a place for self-improvement — the process times time and never ends. The way that we’ve been made to believe that fitness goals have a finite end point – that is, lose pounds or put two inches on your arms and you’ll have arrived — doesn’t paint the full picture of why you’re there. You’re looking to become the best you, to live with vitality, to thrive.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice, and an ongoing project. It’s habitual. And to form the habits you’ve got to take the first step and set small goals for yourself (ones that don’t involve comparing yourself to others). As small as spending 5 minutes walking on day one is great. Once you’re successful with your first small goal, create another and another and another that all work toward your ultimate goal, which is continual self-improvement.

2) The best program is the one that you will do.

In a study done with jam, two booths were set up. One had 24 options for free samples, while the other had six. After sampling the jam, people were taken to the stand where they could buy a bottle, if they so chose. More people were drawn to the bigger sample size but fewer of them ended up buying the jam.

This is analysis paralysis in (in)action. Over-information gathers an audience, but the act of making a decision between too many choices is daunting and often leads to inaction. There are an endless array of workout programs for you to choose from. The result of trying to make sense of every one of them is indecision and lack of action.

Some workouts are better than others – this is true, but the best workout in the world doesn’t matter if you’re not going to do it. Don’t overthink it. Pick a workout that you think is good for you and give it 100 percent of your focus and energy.

Anybody can claim they have found the secret, and many do, so don’t let the fancy display of 24 bottles of jam suck you in. Walk over, choose one of the six and give it your all.

3) Remember that everyone was new once. 

Years back, my friends and I went curling for my birthday. For those who aren’t Canadian, curling is a game where you put on slippery shoes and push rocks along ice guiding them by sweeping a broom. I’d never been curling before and the minute I stepped onto the ice I fell on my butt, bruising both my hip and my ego.

I tell you this because you need to remember that everybody struggles with new activities. Never forget that every person in the gym was new to the iron at some point in his or her life. All the reasons that you think you’re not ready for the gym are your reasons, but they are not real. Don’t let the nagging voice in your head take over any longer. You’re ready, and we can’t wait to see you there.

Community Day this Sunday!

You love CrossFit.  You love talking about it.  But your friends can't stand you because they don't know who Fran is, why your FB feed is cluttered with handstand selfies, or why you keep complaining about your legs even though you squatted days ago.  Well it's time to share the love. 

On Sunday, April 26th at 11:30AM we will be having our first community day of the year!  Have someone interested in trying CrossFit?  Bring them in to try a newbie-friendly class!  Can't join them on that day?  No worries!  Just send them along and we'll take care of them for you.  Friends/family/coworkers/bosses/employees... anyone you think would enjoy a little more CrossFit in their life.  Tell them to mark their calendars today, fill out a waiver, and register today!

A Salute

One thing I love about San Francisco is that it draws people from all over the world.  But with that comes the reality that San Francisco is a very transient city.  Just as you start to get know someone, they announce they are moving on. 

With that said, I am very sad to announce UB will be losing not 1, but 3 of our leading community members. 

Up first, tomorrow will be Jake C.'s last day.  This man has been a part of our community for a year.  He came in here quite the athlete, but worked humbly and diligently to become one of the best in the gym (just check the UB leader board).  He is a bro above the rest, quickly welcoming every person who walks through UB's doors established, new, potential UB member alike.  As quickly as he came, he has worked his way into being a pillar of our community, and we are sad to see him go.

Next, our man Shaun K. will be heading north mid May.  Shaun has been a dedicated part of the UB family since his first WOD.  He has brought care and consideration to United Barbell, working meticulously on form, while working the midnight hour on the UB cleaning crew.  His passion has lead him to great athletic learning and success... in fact, he is rocking our internship program before he leaves so he can follow his dream to becoming a CrossFit coach in Seattle. 

Last, but certainly not least, UB Ambassador of Awesome, Charles C, will be making a new start in Hawaii in mid June.  I have had the pleasure of working with Charles before UB even opened its doors.  He is the kind of guy who wears his big ole heart on his sleeve.  He is the first man to shake your hand, cheer you on, or help you up.  Since his time here, he has made great strides as an athlete and worked his way into being one of the hearts of the community.  We are both incredibly excited for him, and incredibly sad to see him go. 

Make sure when you are here and see any of these three you let them know they'll be missed.  High fives and chest bumps to 3 amazing dudes that will be raising the awesome of the communities they will be joining.

The Weekly Dose of Awesome

This Dose of Awesome is a long time coming. Lauren M. has been a member for a few years now and has proven herself a force to be reckoned with. This badass is always smiling regardless of the ridiculously early morning hour! While you've been sleeping, she's been quietly making steady gains in regular class as well as SWOD. Lauren brings her trademark contagious sunny disposition and positive attitude to any challenge she tackles --- traits that make her a United Barbell favorite.

No matter how brutal the workout, Lauren is the always one of first to pick up/congratulate her teammates and thank the coaches. For that, and many other reasons, she's our Awesome this week. Keep it up, Lauren!

Bite Sized Bits O' CrossFit: 10 Phyiscal Skills

CrossFit is about raising your general physical preparedness (GPP).  How?  By improving 10 general physical skills. They are:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance: The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina: The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility: the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint
  5. Power: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed: The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination: The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility: The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance: The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy: The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

According to CrossFit, you are only as fit as you are capable each of the 10. 

Just looking at this list, on a scale of 1-10, where are you with each?  Where are your deficiencies? 

Over the next 10 weeks, we'll look at some ways to work on each through practice and training.  Bring up the deficiencies and the rest of the skills will rise with them.   

Food for Thought: Self-Control - The Ultimate Exercise of Freedom

Is your self control in check?  I saw this article from Mark's Daily Apple and thought it was a topic worth considering.  How much self control do you exercise?  How can your self control influence those around you?

I’ll admit I’ve come to significantly edit my environment over the years. I work largely from home and have my favorite haunts and destinations as well as a close circle of like-minded family and friends. The nature of my work automatically puts me in touch mostly with those who have similar goals and lifestyles. Even my media is customized (easy to do these days with the way we’re tracked by bots). I never watch television or listen to radio that has commercials. Without thinking too much about it, my environment is for the most part very Primally oriented.

When I’m out and about, however, it can feel a little like culture shock. A few weeks ago I went to a movie and made the mistake (actually accident) of getting there early. I was one of the few without tubs, packages and cups in hand, and I watched as ads for soda and candy flashed again and again. In my boredom, I noticed a curious pattern. Every time there was a shot of cola flowing, everyone with a soda drank. Every time there was an image of a person eating, everyone with food ate. The themes of joy, celebration and indulgence were all the same, and one soda ad actually stated, “Choose happiness.” It’s speculation, of course, but I wonder how many of this people felt emotional affirmation around their “choice” to buy all the junk food they did.

In a culture that worships (and markets to) impulse, self-control has all the appeal of soggy blanket. We see discipline as an imposition and chafe against the curtailment of our will. Cultural messaging and social belonging often hinge on following blind custom or our most unhealthy momentary inclinations. We exercise our autonomy or “choice” through (often market influenced) poor decisions. Freedom is conflated with whim. Any attempt to rein in stupidity is more than just the voice of a killjoy but an act of aggression. We’ve become such a precious, entitled bunch that the mere suggestion we temper our instinctive response feels like an insult. Where does that leave our health? Look around….

If we think thumbing our noses at self-discipline makes us happier in the long-term – OR short-term – we’re wrong. The higher study subjects rated their self-control, the more satisfied they were with their lives. They were even happier when facing temptation. Likewise, other studies show those with strong self-control enjoy happier close relationships as well as more secure attachments within relationships, better school performance, lower rates of addiction, higher self-esteem and healthier emotional responses. But aren’t those with self-control beset with constant struggle against draws of temptation? The research shows those with ample self-control tend to minimize situations that conflict with their goals (a smart tactic that, researchers suggest, helps even the short-term score for happiness).

Nonetheless, we can’t always live in a Primal bubble – my movie theater experience being case in point. In those instances, however, I think we can acknowledge an unhealthy desire/craving/bout of laziness, even respect it within a thoughtful context – as we reflect on its innate purpose within primal history (e.g. sugar used to equal limited availability, nutrient dense fruit for our ancestors). We can understand it within physiological and neurological explanations. And yet we also see it for what it is – an urge that doesn’t serve our interests – and treat it as such.

It’s not about emotionally bludgeoning ourselves for feeling drawn to the dessert cart at a restaurant or appreciating the warm comfort of our beds when it’s time for our morning workouts. It’s about giving all inner “contributors” their due without identifying with the ones we don’t want running the show. Controlling the self (self-control) isn’t ultimately about controlling a singular self in relation to the outside environment but about managing the inner voices that respond to it.

We can achieve this with some proper detachment: recognizing that something “in me” wants that donut rather than “I” want that donut. Instead of ignoring that vexing part of yourself, you can ask what else might take care of it in the moment. Some of us might require more “care” in that regard, and there’s no judgment on that. It’s all useful input – self-knowledge.

Think of a long car ride with young children. (Those of you who’ve had the distinct pleasure probably already know what I’m talking about here….) You pace the drive with their needs in mind – plenty of stops, well-timed meals and snacks, a longer midday break, the promise of pool time at the hotel, etc.. You provide whatever games, conversation, and other activities you can to keep the young ones busy and relatively happy in the meantime. You respect their needs as passengers with certain limitations, shall we say, but you don’t give up the trip, ask them to navigate or let them drive the car.

Likewise, we can attend to our inclinations and perhaps the genuine needs behind them without giving them dominion over our lives and well-being. You’re tired at 3:00 p.m.? Step away from the vending machine and go walk outside for ten minutes in the bright sunlight. If you work from home, take a power nap.

Again, it’s all about learning to identify who we want leading the charge – our thoughts or the bigger awareness of our thoughts. Call it whatever you want, but we all have it. Maturity – and self-control – can be described as the gradual development of a thoughtful, effective filing system for inputs and impulses that organizes itself around healthy priorities. We first have to know that someone/something in us can actually do that filing…. A lot of people never quite get to that point, choosing to (in many areas at least) fly by the next urge that arises, flinging it eventually into a massive pile that never lends order or priority to how they run their days – or lives.

Likewise, self-control isn’t just about what we give up, what we say no to, what we stay away from – in short, what we avoid. Not to be overly simplistic (I’ll admit I usually hate it when people indulge in these word games), but “avoid” breaks down into “a void.” It’s what we say yes to, what fills the space. If we focus our days on what we can’t have, we’re still giving it power over us. We’re still mentally obsessing about the donut even if we never eat it. At any given moment, we can get perspective by asking what we’re psychologically orbiting around.

What’s much easier is focusing on what we want to see happen – what we wish to prioritize. We can either live in response to our environments or live with direction toward our greater visions. I’ve said before, true discipline isn’t about self-restraint but self-possession.

In this way, self-control opens the door to intentional living. Our goals are next to impossible without self-control. The fact is, self-control allows the fruition of our intent by giving it space (that “void”), which would otherwise be subsumed by momentary whim and distraction.

At it’s best, self-control doesn’t revolve around deprivation, denial or chastising but clarity, intention, and attunement. We don’t disown elements of ourselves but get clear about what role we want them to have in our decision-making. We don’t punish ourselves or take pride in how little we can force ourselves to live with. We create an over-arching vision for our lives and make choices that take care of our needs in ways that also serve that plan.

In that regard, self-control is the ultimate exercise of freedom – a freedom that comes from self-determination of one’s life unbound from both cultural norms and lesser impulses. What we call control is, in fact, the alignment and actualizing of our higher will.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Share your thoughts!

Workshop this Saturday!

Arm Balance and Handstand Workshop This Saturday!

Join your coaches in a workshop to teach you how to be an upside-down badass. Want to HSPU with style? Is your goal to walk the length of the gym on your hands? Balance, stability, and strength are the prerequisites to being awesome upside-down. This workshop is for you!

WHEN:  This Saturday, April 18th, from 10:30 - 12:30

COST:   $40

WHAT:   Inversions getting you down? Join your coaches and spend 2 hours with Sandra Arechaederra, National Olympic Weightlifting Masters record holder and yoga teacher extraordinaire learning how to play with arm balances and get upside down with inversions.  Sandra teaches inversions like handstands with the goal of strength, balance, and control. Whether it's your first time or you are a seasoned arm balancer, all levels are welcome. Beginners will learn how to enter poses safely and seasoned practitioners will learn new entries and possibilities in this 2 hour workshop.  In fact, the only person who won't benefit from these 2 hours is a person who is afraid of being upside down in a handstand (If that's you, see your coach after class).