Mirror Mirror

A phrase commonly adopted by CrossFit boxes is "no mirrors, no machines, no mercy."  Most people understand why "no machines."  But a lot of people don't get why most CrossFit boxes don't have mirrors.  The short answer often given is CrossFit trains for real life, and there are no mirrors in real life.  But UB not having mirrors is a conscious choice with considered reasoning behind it.

Body Mechanics

Your body mechanics are important in any exercise.  We especially talk a lot about your spine's position during movements.  And when we say "spine," we mean your entire spine - from skull to tailbone.  If you are looking to a mirror to check your form, there is a good chance your craning your neck to see it. This probably means your not in an ideal position for the lift, defeating the purpose for looking.

Be Present

How many times have you, while lifting, had at least 3 cues in your head.  Now, imagine there is a mirror in front of you.  This adds another list of elements to your lifting experience, all of which are considered distractions.  For example, in the Olympic lifts, it is important to focus on a single point ahead of you to establish equilibrium.  Finding one spot to focus on is already difficult to do while people are walking in front of your field of vision.  Now place a mirror in front of you.  There are a thousand more distractions, and holding one focus point will be more difficult because of as you move, the objects' reflections change as your angle of vision changes.

The Mirror Lies

Now imagine again focusing on those cues while the mirror is there.  You will naturally default to correcting based on what you see instead of what you feel.  Instead of attempting to feel complete hip extension, you might change mid-lift based on how it looks instead.  This is wrong for a couple reasons.  First, if you watch a lift from the front view, you are often missing a lot of the intricacies of the movement's mechanics.  This is why the coaches usually watch a lifter from a 3/4 angle or side view.  Second, you could be fixing something that looks visually wrong, but is not the source of the problem.  Usually a list of faults in a movement originate from one essential fault.   You need to learn how a movement feels and develop a strong sense body awareness in order to replicate it.  This will not happen if you rely on your reflection.

Learn from Film

If you really need to see what is going on with a movement whether you are learning or experienced, ask a fellow athlete or a coach to film it.  This gives you the opportunity to focus on the feel, and then check to see if what felt right or wrong was in fact right or wrong, and from the correct angles to view the movement from.  Nobody around?  Put your phone on a stand like this one, or this magnetic one, and do it yourself.  Have other filming recommendations?  Post to comments!


Nothing feels better than going to bed after a productive day and a hard WOD.  And you are starting to get good at this CrossFit stuff, so you are coming in more and more often to get your workout in.  But after going hard for a while, you find yourself not able to fall asleep.  And even when you do sleep, you still feel tired.  You start getting headaches throughout the day, and despite your attention to your nutrition, you feel consistently drained and your performance suddenly drops.  What is happening?  Chances are, you are overreaching.

Overreaching (referred to as "overtraining" in more significant doses) is inevitable for athletes who don't take time to recover properly between workouts.  How will you know if you are overtraining or overreaching?  You can feel the effects of both of these conditions physically, psychologically and in your workout performance.


  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Decreased muscular strength
  • Chronic muscle soreness
  • Increased injury rate
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent minor infections/colds


  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Loss of motivation/enthusiasm


  • Decreased time for onset of fatigue
  • Decreased work capacity
  • Inability to complete workouts
  • Delayed recovery

So how do you reverse the effects?  Take time to recover!  Recovery between workouts is important, but when you are overtrained, more time is necessary to allow your body to recuperate.  With mild overtraining, a short period of rest and recovery – two weeks or less should be sufficient.  During your recovery time, make sure to pay close attention to keep yourself properly hydrated and well nourished.  You should also treat yourself to a sports massage if your budget allows.

The bottom line is recovery is an essential part of any workout regimen - professional, elite, or novice.  Make sure you are getting yours too.

CrossFit Quiz: Which Person are You?

Happy hump day!  For a light-hearted CrossFit read, check out this magazine article from WOD Magazine.

Whilst CrossFit gyms are different to normal gyms, there is one similarity. The gym-goer…

Without a doubt, the gym is a place where you can learn a lot about people. See them at their best or their worst. Regardless you always see people give it their all.

However there are some stereotypes that make you scratch your head, that keep you wondering if maybe you are the odd one out.

Here are our 10 types of people you will find in a CrossFit gym.



Captain Oblivious is that one guy or girl who never really knows what’s going on, and they’re cool with that. This guy always asks “what are we doing” even after the coach has explained it. He usually strikes about 15 minutes into the session with “have we started yet?”

The great thing about Captain Oblivious is his cruisy attitude and friendly sense of humour. Need a spot? That’s cool, this guy will help.



Going for a run? Better chalk up. We aren’t sure who the chalk monster is, because they are usually covered in chalk. Whether it’s running, burpees or skipping, expect a cloud of dust to follow the monster everywhere.

If you are ever too far away from the chalk bucket and need to chalk-up, give them a high five and not only do you look like you are encouraging them, but you’re also getting enough chalk to last you the whole workout.



You’re in the middle of a set of 20 Kettlebell Swings then BAM! It hits our of nowhere. Is this it? Is this where it ends? Is that protein shake and broccoli you can smell?

The Crop Duster is an elusive type who is long gone by the time anyone catches on, and by that time it’s too late. Standing downwind from the fan may keep you cool during your workout, but it could send the ‘crop duster special’ your way.



Sporting all the new gear, from the newest shoes, knee sleeves, a bright belt and flashy clothing. Gucci is the one covered in all the CrossFit brands like every session is a photo shoot.

Gucci may not be the fittest, but they have passion and they live and breathe CrossFit. Need some new shoes? Gucci has a pair you can try on.



The rep-cheater somehow started their box jumps after you but finished ahead of you. Boasting some superhuman fast times in their workouts, the rep-cheater is always on top of the whiteboard.

Usually a capable CrossFitter, the competitive side comes out and 1, 2, 3 becomes 5, 10, 15 reps. If you are looking for someone to chase then the rep-cheater has you covered.



You’re off with the fairies just thinking about what’s for dinner when like a banshee, the screamer let’s one rip! After you pick your heart up from the floor, you look around and see the screamer with a heavy barbell overhead. It’s ok though, she set a new personal best.

Need a pump up in class, the screamer will amp you up and help you smash through a workout.



Snapchat or Instagram? It doesn’t matter, the selfie-queen is on both and has already bombarded their friends with their duck pouting, peace sign pictures. Warm up? What’s that? Cool Down and Stretch? Nah… The phone comes out and bam you just got caught picking your wedgie in the background.

If you need someone to film your lifts, the selfie queen probably has her tripod and knows enough about lighting to catch your best angle.



It’s the end of the workout and high fives all-round. When you give the sweater some love you feel like Jessie from ‘Free Willy’ when the Whale jumps over the rocks at the end. Doing a partner workout with the sweater can be testing, especially when there is wall balls and you share the same ball.

The sweater is awesome when… um… I’ll get back to you.



The tin man doesn’t lack a heart, they have that. However, years of no stretching has caught up and you can hear them moving from the other end of the gym. Bring a can of WD-40 because you may need it for the old tin man.

Need some inspiration from someone who just gives it their all despite their limited mobility and bubble wrap joints? The tin man works around their limits and shows you that anyone can do CrossFit.



The coach calls 3..2..1..GO! Next minute the shirt goes flying. Wait! Did they even come in with a shirt?

Mr Too Sexy is the king of aerodynamics and can probably give you advice on the best waxing tips with no ingrowns.

Originally published by CrossFit Border – republished with permission.




Free First Friday classes tomorrow!


Are you curious about CrossFit? Have your friends, family, and co-workers been observing the first rule of CrossFit (Always talk about CrossFit)? Wondering what this crazy thing is all about?

United Barbell - CrossFit SOMA has been serving SF since 2010. We are committed to inclusive, positive coaching for humans of every athletic level from novice to competitor.

On the first Friday of each month, we program a beginner-friendly workout so that anyone can come and try it out for FREE!

UB athletes - feel free to bring in your pals to any class. Just make sure they sign the waiver!

On Fridays we have classes at 6:30am, 7:30am, 12pm, 5pm, and 6pm. Come on by!


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.

Meet Your Coach: Chris!

If you've met him, you love him... and if you haven't met him, you will. He's been known as the Governor of UB for many years, and through his time here has been an enthusiastic learner, competitor, community leader, mentor, and now, a bonafide Coach! Chris is still in the process of completing his internship here at UB, but this weekend he will be coaching his first classes on Sunday at 9:30am and 10:30am. 

How long have you been training? 

I have been training for many years which included  Muay Thai, playing baseball, running and CrossFit.

   If you could share just one piece of knowledge to someone just starting out in their fitness journey what would it be?      Get a coach and be consistent and disciplined in the movement. Learn the mechanics behind the movement. Just because you learned it off of YouTube doesn’t mean that you are doing the movement correctly. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who want to help and are more than capable of doing so.     

If you could share just one piece of knowledge to someone just starting out in their fitness journey what would it be?

Get a coach and be consistent and disciplined in the movement. Learn the mechanics behind the movement. Just because you learned it off of YouTube doesn’t mean that you are doing the movement correctly. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who want to help and are more than capable of doing so.


What is your workout program?

I train five days a week and my program consist of a training program developed by Josh Akiona of CrossFit 808 in Honolulu and by Shannon dePeralta of CrossFit 604 (Coach Shannon).

Do you play sports?

I swim for recovery on Sundays at the Y on the Embarcadero.

Do you eat a particular diet or follow a specific diet philosophy?

Yep. I weigh and measure my food and follow my macro plan developed by Ashley Smith, of Working Against Gravity and connect with Nikki Staley to make any tweaks ever now and then.

How often do you train?

Five days a week and occasionally six.

How often in training do you hit a new PR or acquire a new skill?

Hm. Over the past couple of years, I have really been focussed on learning to move better and move more efficiently. This really means getting after gymnastics and being focused on shapes (yes Shannon, I’m listening), and developing strength in positions via pause drills developed by Shaheen Hashemian aka ‘Shah The Monster.’

What do you find contributes to your fitness the most?

Having a plan prepared and knowing in advance what I am training.  Having an extensive warm up. Having a disciplined meal plan. Seeking out various coaches to make slight adjustments or to have eyes on you (shout out to CrossFit Dave, Sam Smith aka Drake, and Jon Hanna) and having a supportive community and friends (shout out to Kim, Cam, Quinn, Doc, Hayley, Steve, Sean ‘The Canadian’ Falconer, Sunli ‘The Situation’ Guo, Zoe, Jon, Max, Chelsea, Alfredo ‘I’m 1/4 Black’ Ramirez, Royal, Whitt, Lisa and Jeremy Reither, Jo and Britt, Terry ’Ter Bear’ Kezer, Mike ‘The Bicep Program’ Coutermarsh, Chad Kindred, Patrick ‘P-Dawg’ Bedwell, Marek, Skyler, Adrian, Loryn, Brigitte and Sach) and having some phenomenal coaches/friends along the way: Jenny, Jon Schoenherr, Nikki Staley, Steve Wong, James Kusama, Shann, Josh and of course, the one and only Coach Trent ‘T- Pain’ Simmons.


What is your next strength /fitness/skill goal to be achieved?

Developing the resilience in muscular stamina to withstand slight injuries.  And legless role climbs and, consistent handstand push ups (to the [new] standard), handstand walks, better cycling in Thrusters and more strength in positions for my overhead squat.

What is your pie-in-the-sky health/fitness/skill goal? Also known as a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

Hm...Training for Competition again? 

Have you ever been injured? How did you move past them?

In January 18, I sprained some ligaments in my ankle. During the initial x-ray, j learned that I had a broken bone in my ankle for close to 20 years (because of a former running accident).  To get past it and still train and compete in the Open, I have followed the protocols developed by Dr. Jon Ide-Don at SFCF and other rehab movements developed by MVMT_LAB in Vancouver, Canada. I was referred to both by Coach, Shannon, and as a result I have adopted a more lengthy warm up and mobilization protocol. Also, Coach Josh adds in various movement drills from different sources including Kate Galliett, John Wellbourn’s Power Athlete and Louie Simmons’ Westside Barbell methods.

Bite Sized CrossFit Concepts - Virtuosity

In one of the oldest CrossFit Journal articles, Coach Greg Glassman defines virtuosity as “performing the common uncommonly well.” 

In CrossFit, and most often in life, people get bored with "simple" pretty quickly.  We as humans are after the complex.  Complex movements, complex theories... complexity is advancement.  But slowing down a moment to appreciate the simple will add richness to your CrossFit experience (not to mention your life).

Have you ever really sat back and watched an elite CrossFitter move?  Watching top athletes do pushups or air squats can be a thing of beauty.  Think I'm full of it?  Watch these athletes do more complex movements like thrusters at amazing speeds (*ahem Colleen*) and you will see unmatched efficiency, position, coordination and grace.   What are you seeing?  The athlete's virtuosity with the air squat and press.

 Because this has to happen......

Because this has to happen......

 ..... before this can...

..... before this can...

If it's the fundamental movements that we are focusing on, why doesn't every athlete have this in the bag?  "Virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. [...] There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques." (Read Glassman's article)  After all, you're squat is good enough, and your mobility is sufficient right?  Who really needs perfection?  All I want is more weight!

... Get the picture?

So while there are so many movements in CrossFit, make sure you are taking time and focusing on the simple ones.  It is up to you as an athlete to chase perfection and virtuosity.  If you don't hold yourself to a higher standard, you're results will be what lose out. Yes, there is always something else you can do to get better, but before you move on to the fancy... how about that air squat?

Body Spec - June 26th

New Body Spec Date


Body Spec will be here on Tuesday, June 26th! Book your spot here to get your body fat scan.  These scans are comprehensive and individualized snapshots of your body that give you the information you need to:

  • Pinpoint the exact impact of a new training or diet plan
  • Track progress over time, down to exact muscle and fat changes in different areas of the body
  • Optimize your training to suit your body’s specific needs
  • Compare your bone density to others like you
  • Identify long-term health risks