Behind the Curtain - SPS Championship Recap

As you might have seen on Facebook, Brigitte, Austin, and I competed in the SPS Championship OLY tournament this past weekend at SPS Gym in Oakland. All our lifts could literally fit into 5 minutes of video, so it's hard to get a sense of what it's really like to compete in an olympic weightlifting meet.  So we're going to walk you through our day and hopefully you’ll try it yourself!


The day begins on the scale, usually 2 hours before a session starts. Brigitte weighed in at 9 (the women's session started at 11:30). Austin and I weighed in at 11. Depending on how close you are to going above your weight class, you're hungry and a bit dehydrated. I knew I was safe so I wasn’t hangry at all. I needed to be below 68.9kg and I was 66.3kg fully dressed.

How a Session Works

Once a session starts, weight is loaded on the bar and it never goes down. That's why it's important to pick an opener you can make because you can't drop plates. When the weight gets to what you want to lift it's your turn. Fortunately, we don't do this ourselves. At our meets we have Jenny and Shaheen “counting cards” for us. (We literally have cards see picture from a previous meet). This means they are monitoring the weight on the bar and our competitors and telling us roughly how long we have to lift. It's really awesome when both Jenny and Shaheen are there because one coach counts cards while the other is watching our warm up progressions.

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Warm-Up Area/Training Hall

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All the action takes place behind the curtain in the warm up area. At some meets it's a dank corner of the gym. Because SPS is a world class facility, there are 12 legit training platforms with Eleiko bars and plates for warm up.  

Warm ups are carefully coordinated. No CrossFit volume allowed. You actually should give your warm up progression to Jenny and Shaheen the day before. During the women's session, Shaheen and I went through Brigitte’s clean warm up. (I changed plates for her to save energy. Bring some true bros to be your loaders). My other job was making sure she SAT DOWN. Most of the meet is just sitting between pulls to conserve energy.  

Austin and I actually warmed up faster than normal. Because this was an invitational championship and every lifter had to qualify by making podium at another meet. There were some legit well known big dogs at the meet.  We knew way ahead of time that we’d be lifting first and early. To open my C&J at 86, I hit 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and then waited for the session to start. That's it!

The Men’s Session

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Once it's go time you get to the pre lift area behind the clock. Everybody does different things to focus. I like to sit and look at the ground. (I personally think watching failed lifts is contagious). I hit my opening snatch and sat back down. Normally there's a lot of gamesmanship where you change your weights to one up someone else. One time I decided to go from 65 to 71 instead of to 70 and I had to wait 25 minutes between my second and third lifts. At SPS, this wasn't a problem. Austin and I were following ourselves and each other. After each lift, we’d sit back down and Shaheen helped us figure out what our second and third attempts were.

The Platform

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The thing that's hardest to get used to is the competition platform. It is weird to walk out to a room full of people doing nothing but watching you lift. SPS is even worse in terms of pressure because it's setup with the same platform as world championships and has an auditorium style stage. The first time I lifted at SPS last November, I bombed my opener because I was freaked out by the crowd. Nowadays I look past the crowd completely so I can't see the people. (Although I can hear Chris Comma yelling “all day!”). You get 1 minute to go and lift, 2 minutes (excluding load time) if you’re following yourself. You lift, wait for the judges, then go back. It goes by so fast it's like a blink.  

Highlight of The Day

We all set at least one or multiple PRs and that's all you can really ask for, to keep getting better.

The best thing ever was on Austin’s third he said “**** it lets just go for broke”. They put 86kg on the bar and he pulled the best snatch we’ve ever seen him do. You can see the reaction on our faces in the back.

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Afterward, he told us he just focused on his wife before the lift.


Including warm ups you only really do 15 to 20 pulls all day and a lot of sitting down. But the result is usually being exhausted and wrecked. Your adrenaline is up all day and you're going max effort. It usually takes a couple of days to recover, but boy is it worth it. I hope this glimpse into an OLY meet makes some of you want to try it. Maybe you’ll forget about CrossFit altogether.

The Weekly Dose of Awesome

When I went to see if this week's awesome had a prior mention, I was totally shocked to find she hadn't.  This post is seriously overdue.

I had the pleasure of working with Leah when she first started at UB.  She was eager to learn, but showed some skepticism.  Her doubts visibly faded as she got into her groove.  Leah had consistent A-Ha moments and PRs and the joy of it all was written all over her face.  Leah has been a consistent, hardworking member of the UB tribe who's dedication and big heart are apparent to anyone in class.  Simply put, this woman has bad-assery and awesome running through her veins.  Thanks for trusting your mom and giving UB a shot, Leah!  We're all the better for it!


Name: Leah B.

Nickname / Alter Ego: Favorite nickname is LB and my alter ego moonlights as a karaoke queen

Hometown: Woodland, CA

Occupation: Partnerships Recruiter at Pinterest

When did you first start CrossFitting?: I took my first class in December of 2013

When did you first start CrossFitting at UB?: April 2014

Favorite WOD: Anything with handstand push ups, rope climbs, pull ups and power cleans

Least favorite WOD: The 800 block … wall balls and overhead squats

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? I was visiting my Mom over the holidays when I noticed she was in better shape than I was at the time. I asked her what she had been doing and she mentioned this little thing called CrossFit. Like some people do, I overreacted and assumed CrossFit was this super intense program that a 59 year old woman shouldn’t be involved in. She convinced me to take a class with her at CrossFit EPOC in Woodland where I bonded with her CrossFit buds and completed what felt like the most challenging workout of my life. That’s when I decided to do some research in SF, and after careful consideration, I enrolled at UB!

What is an unexpected way CrossFit has affected your life? Growing up I wasn’t super athletic - meaning I tried everything from baseball, basketball, soccer, tee ball, but it seemed like the only thing I could do was dance (which I did for 15 years). I even worked at an athletic club in college where I occasionally took a yoga class, but mostly played frisbee on the beach for my workouts. After college I tried a number of things to stay active and in shape. I’m a cyclist, but hate spin class (yes, even SoulCycle). I tried Bar Method, Barry’s, you name it. Finding my groove with CrossFit has kept me committed for over three years now and I’m so happy to call UB my home. Speaking of home, thanks to my mom my entire family started doing CrossFit, so now over the holidays we bond over Thanksgiving WODs and earning our calories.

What’s your secret talent? I have a crazy visual/photographic memory. If you lost your keys, I saw them in the the couch cushion an hour ago. When traveling or exploring new places I can remember turns and directions from point A , B, C and back again just after one pass through.

What is your biggest phobia? It’s a close call between getting eaten by a shark or caught in some type of natural disaster (earthquake/tsunami/combo of both)

What inspires you? My Mom is the strongest woman I know and I get a lot of my inspiration from her as one of my best friends. I’m also inspired through travel and exploring new places. It’s super important for me to disconnect from reality and lose myself from time to time, so I take a lot of long weekends and plan at least one big trip every year.

What’s the last thing you searched for on Pinterest? I was wondering if there was such a thing as lemon creme brulee (two of my favorite things in one!). Sure enough, it’s a real thing!


Food for Thought: Bar None - Deal With It

For those of you who like the spectator sport of CrossFit, here is an article from the CrossFit Journal on the subject of no bars at regionals....

Has “Rocky IV” taught us nothing at all about fitness?

You remember perhaps the most famous training montages in the history of film, right? The ones where an unbreakable Rocky Balboa saws logs and lifts rocks on a rugged Russian farm while his opponent cranks steroids and bends bars in a high-performance facility that looks like the transporter room on the USS Enterprise?

If you haven’t watched the montages lately and feel twisted by the lack of barbells in the recently announced CrossFit Games Regionals events, you need to click this link and uncoil yourself.

Rocky lifted not one barbell before he beat the evil Ivan Drago and ended the Cold War at the same time. Life, happiness and fitness exist beyond the bar, I assure you.

We all love barbells, and we all know they’re great training devices. Plus, they allow us to lift a lot of weight very efficiently. No one is going to clean and jerk a 570-lb. dumbbell, and no one will deadlift an 1,100-lb. stone. You need knurled barbells, about 1.1 inches in diameter, to lift truly glorious weight.

Affiliate owners use bars all the time because they’re convenient, very safe and easily adjustable. We generally tell our clients we train with barbells so we’re prepared for the stuff we’ll encounter outside the gym. Interestingly enough, most of us use barbells a lot and odd objects rarely, likely because 10 barbells and a stack of plates can accommodate near-infinite loads and movements, whereas it’s a bad investment for a gym to pour 10 sets of 20 Atlas stones in 10-lb. increments.

But when you get right down to it, lifting is lifting—whatever the object—and aspiring CrossFit Games competitors will indeed be lifting shortly.

Don't worry. The bars will still be there after Regionals. (Mike Warkentin/CrossFit Journal)

So why are so many people ripped off about a lack of barbells at Regionals? All the equipment is being provided, and I don’t think anyone can make the case that dumbbells, sandbags and kettlebells can’t be used to test fitness.

Do World’s Strongest Man competitors get pissed when they have to pull a plane instead of a bus? Doubtful.

Coaches and athletes, here's your wake-up call: Don't get stuck in a rut. Here's another wake-up call: Read the archives of the CrossFit Journal. If you do, you'll find peg boards and dumbbells mentioned back in 2002, and you won't be shocked by CrossFit programming so regularly.

Regionals athletes, no one cares if you don’t have a large, heavy sandbag at your gym or can’t find 150-lb. kettlebells to deadlift. That might even be the point of using these somewhat rarer implements in events. We want to see you adapt. You're going to have to adapt if you make it to the Games, so don't sweat a sandbag at Regionals.

If you’re prepping for Regionals, or if you or your athletes want to try the Regionals events, get creative. In fact, I’ll help you if you’re lost without a barbell and can’t figure out how to scale a workout.

Rocky’s Regional Training Modification List

  • Weight vest—Tape/tie something heavy to chest, wear jacket with pennies in pockets.

  • Treadmill—Run.

  • 80-lb. dumbbell—Use 2-pood kettlebell or heaviest dumbbell available.

  • 150-lb. kettlebell—Use barbells or tape/tie stuff to heavy kettlebell.

  • AirBike—Ride real bike while waving arms and complaining about “the burn.”

  • 150-lb. sandbag—Fill big bag with sand or lift heavy rock.

What Is Fitness?

Back in 2007, a bunch of creative people on the CrossFit Message Board discussed the best way to craft homemade gymnastics rings by baking PVC pipe in the oven. I am not making this up. You can read the thread here.

Similarly, the CrossFit Journal also published a host of do-it-yourself articles covering implements such as dip barsplyo boxesparalletteslifting platforms and so on. I once spent an entire Minnesota Vikings game funneling pea gravel and grocery bags through a small slit in a rubber basketball to make a medicine ball of undetermined weight and questionable balance.

CrossFit was born in the garage. Grunt work and adapting to the unknown are in our DNA even if cool equipment is easier to come by now. Still, we swing cinder blocks in Holiday Inn parking lots, do pull-ups on palm trees and generally annoy people with our quest for fitness everywhere we go. We make do, and we find ways to train. We take pride in lifting weird objects in the backyard just because we can, we love challenges, and we train our clients to thrive outside the gym.

So please, let’s stop worrying about the lack of barbells at Regionals or in any workout.

In “What Is Fitness?” CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman refers to “weightlifting and throwing” as “external object control,” not barbell control or even dumbbell control.

If you’re training for life or Regionals, use a barbell once in a while. It’s fun. But use other stuff, too. Control a bunch of external objects—the more, the better. Get outside the gym and keep it simple: Find something that’s sort of heavy and lift it quickly many times. Or find something really heavy and lift it a few times. Do that regularly and you’ll be a fitter human.

It worked for Rocky, and it will definitely work for you.

Mike Warkentin is the Managing Editor of the CrossFit Journal and the founder of CrossFit 204.

Cover image: Dave Re/CrossFit Journal

Memorial Day Weekend Schedule and Events


This coming weekend is the 2017 California CrossFit Regional!  Coach Shannon will be competing as an individual, and Coach Colleen will be taking on teams alongside her NorCal team.  Here's what our the individual athletes will be up against this weekend:

Stay tuned for how to follow her progress live this weekend!


Monday we will be hosting Memorial Day Murph at 9:00AM.  All other classes and open gym will be canceled.  Grab your weight vest and join us!  Check out more info on the Murph Challenge fundraiser on our earlier post here.

The Weekly Dose of Awesome

I got to sit down and laugh and cry with an amazing woman. This female athlete caught my attention this year after I began seeing more of her not only at the gym, but also supporting and cheering our athletes on at competitions.  Am I biased because she was a fellow 2Fit2Quit House Cup Member who didn't flinch when I suggested Brave Heart blue face paint?  Perhaps, but it really comes down to how she shows up to me: committed, fun and caring. She's a regular in my 6pm Monday class who recently shared when I asked about the best thing that happened over the weekend that she got married which no one could top and you'll learn played a major role in advancing her CrossFit journey. I'm honored to present, the one… the only… Maria Olivon (formerly Gonzalez).

Name: Maria Andreina O.

Hometown: Judibana, Venezuela

Occupation: I am the Director of the Graduate Advising Center at Golden Gate University supporting students on just about everything including immigration, academics, life.  I lead a team of seven full time direct reports along with two part time team members.

When did you first start CrossFitting?  I began (at and with UB) back in October 2015 going once a week, maybe twice and then in April 2016 I ramped it up to three or more times after I got engaged!  I told my now husband that if he had proposed earlier I would have ramped up sooner to get ready for the wedding.

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit?  I saw the incredible change within Gabi Torres who inspired me to want to change my life and feel better about myself.  I was having a hard time sticking with something that motivated me.  It took Gabi several months to finally get me in and the breakthrough occurred for me after she shared one of her before and after transformation photos.  I thought: “She’s totally normal and if she could do something like that, I could totally do it too.”  I knew it was time to do something different because I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked and felt.

Favorite WOD: Workouts that have cardio and rotating to different stations.

Least Favorite WOD: Anything involving lifting my own weight such as pull-ups, push ups, etc.  Gymnastics are a weakness for me.

What question do you wish you were asked more often and what is the answer?  “Is that your real hair?” - Yes!

What is an unexpected way CrossFit has affected your life? CrossFit has made me stronger both physically and mentally.  I now have the mindset that I can do anything including things I never thought I could do.  I’ve gotten a better grasp on self-discipline and having a powerful mindset.  The community has also played an incredible role in helping me recognize my own strength.

What are you most grateful for in your life recently?  Living in a safe place where I have a future and opportunities to grow.  My home country (Venezuela) is going through such hard times... and I’m very sensitive to the situation right now.  I was heartbroken to learn that the brother of a friend was killed in protests this month.  It really puts into perspective the seemingly big issues that we deal with here in the US.

What are you most excited about having turn out later this year?  The next chapter of my life following my wedding!  I’m looking forward to having a celebration with close family and friends for which I’ll be away for two weeks for.

What’s your definition of greatness?  Feeling fulfilled, accomplishing dreams, and having made an impact on one’s own life, with friends, with family, in love, work… all areas in life.

What’s something incredible that became possible for you?  Leaving my country to come study abroad with a lot of uncertainty, I had no idea what was going to happen after I finished my studies.  I graduated with a Masters degree and got a job successfully navigating the typically very challenging visa process here in the US.  Starting my life over as an adult in a new country ten years ago was the greatest possibility I created.

It’s your last day on earth and everything you’ve ever created and done has been erased from the planet and history books.  You... have one final opportunity to share three things you know to be true about life… what would those be?

  1. Be a good person no matter what.

  2. All the sacrifices will be worth it.

  3. Be optimistic and trust that good things will come.

Congrats Courtney And Joe!

I am excited to relay a happy announcement:

On Friday May 12, 2017 at 11:48 am, UBites Courtney and Joe welcomed William Skay into their family. He came out at an impressive 8 lbs, 6.2 oz.


Courtney worked out in classes throughout the duration of her pregnancy and she, along with Joe, is excited to join our clan of UB parents!  Congrats Courtney, Joe and family!  Welcome to Earth little William!

The Goal Board is Back!

Calling out your goals has power.  It keeps you accountable.  Writing them down on the whiteboard makes you face them every time you are in the gym.  It keeps them in the forefront of your mind.  It lets everyone else know what you are after so they can help you achieve them.  Let's fill the whiteboard by Monday!

Not sure what to throw on the whiteboard?  Let's talk effective goal setting...

Be Specific

"I want to lose weight."  "I want to get strong."  These type of goals are worthless because they are shots in the dark.  How much weight do you want to lose?  What does strong mean to you?  A 2x body weight dead lift?  Make attainable goals by being as specific as possible.

"Ok, fine.  It's one the white board.... now what?"

Make a Plan

If your plan is the same plan you've had every year, and every other year you have failed, you are insane.  That's right, I said it.  (Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)  If you have gone after these goals before - consult with someone on finding the best plan of attack.  Give yourself a timeline and mini goal markers to hit to keep you on track.

Be Flexible

Falling off track for one meal, one workout, or one whatever does not mean you should throw in the towel for the day - nor does it mean you need to quit.  If you have given yourself a specific timeline to follow and you get busy - adjust the schedule.  Don't let a day turn to a week, a month... etc..  Remember - life happens.  Even if your goals change, allow yourself some wiggle room.

Be Accountable

Make sure you're not in a cave of your own goals with nobody there to keep you honest. Don't just write it on the white board. Tell your friends, your family, your dog. If you don't tell anybody, you can weasel yourself out of your goals. Other people are much less forgiving. Put yourself out there.

Track Your Progress

The second part of accountability is tracking your progress. If you're not going to track in public on a forum, make sure you are accountable to someone for regular updates. Be as detailed as you can - you'll want that information when you set your next batch of goals!

The Weekly Dose of Awesome

This week's Awesome has been with us for a bit - since 2015, in fact. And while she's been kickin' ass and makin' gainz for a long time, it's how she's showing up recently that caught my notice.  Did you see her rock the Open wods? Actually, probably not - because she was there for the first heat each Friday night, before most of you arrived! But there she was, giving it her best, without the atmosphere that really pumps everyone up. And since the Open, she's been working on her weaknesses - most recently determined to cycle together her kipping pull-ups.  Michelle is always a joy to have in class, working hard and wanting to learn, with some sassy humor thrown in to keep up the fun. Learn a few things about her below. Congrats, Michelle!

Michelle Lovejoy
Nickname / Alter Ego: 
Ms. Lovejoy or Ms. LJ (I'm a teacher!)
San Jose, CA
Middle School Teacher
When did you first start CrossFitting?: 
2009ish (but, I took a bunch of time off from 2011 to 2014 to train for a 1/2 Ironman!)
When did you first start CrossFitting at UB?
Favorite WOD: 
Anything with pistols or gymnastic type work
Least favorite WOD: 
Anything with muscle ups (since I can't do one... yet)
How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? 
My ex-boyfriend was a CF coach. He got me into it. My current boyfriend (Marshall Hawks) is also into CF.  :)
What is an unexpected way CrossFit has affected your life? 
I like being able to lift heavy items. I'm short and small but don't need help moving large items around the house or help carrying groceries to my car. Non-Crossfit people are often surprised and/or concerned by this.
What are your favorite non-CrossFit activities? 
Skiing, climbing, playing soccer, drinking wine
What's your favorite food/drink you consider to be healthy? 
What's your favorite food/drink you consider to be not-so healthy? 
Wine and/or Boba Tea (not together)
If you could be any super hero, who would you be? 
Storm from X-Men. I wish I could control the weather.