For many CrossFitters, the very word yoga causes the skin to crawl on the back of the neck as the vision of sweaty, half naked, tie-dye hot-panted men dance before the eyes.  But yoga isn't all soybeans and nag champa, and a lot of the ancient practice can be incorporated into CrossFit to great effect.

One of the most valuable and translatable parts of yoga is focusing in on your intention before you start moving. Intention can mean simply restating your goals to yourself - to qualify for the CrossFit games, to focus on your form even if it means sacrificing time, to RX the WOD. Maybe your goals are more short-term: to pause for a maximum of 5 breaths during the WOD, or to work on your coachability under pressure - whatever your goals may be, taking a minute to focus your mind on what you want to achieve means you're not auto-piloting through your workout.

Just checking in with why you brought yourself here today focuses your mind and gives you an appreciation for the time you are about to spend on yourself. Maybe this is the only time in the day that you are able to spend time on yourself -  so make it count. Take a cue from yoginis everywhere: set your intention before you WOD, and see how it heightens your experience.

Set your intention before the bar is even in your hands

Set your intention before the bar is even in your hands

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.

Winter Event Schedule

Holiday Party

And just like that Thanksgiving is over, December is here, and the holidays are in full swing!  What better way to spend a Friday night than with your UB family.  Next Friday, December 9th, UB will be hosting our 6th annual holiday party!

When: Friday, December 9th from 730pm to 1030PM

Where: UB, baby!

Who: You plus your significant other

What: Please bring your favorite snack and a drink

Body Comp Testing

It's that time again - our awesome friends over at Body Spec have scheduled our next body composition test visit.  They will be at UB on Jan 6th.  This is a great opportunity to measure your progress, whether setting a baseline or checking in with your progress after the holidays. See how much muscle, bone, and fat you're working with!


Post Thanksgiving Gratitude

I love Thanksgiving.  It's a time to appreciate the good in our lives.  It's an easy thing to do when you've gotten a raise or a PR and things are going your way.  But it's also easy to lose sight of it in face of the daily grind, or larger concerns like poor health or job security.  Thanksgiving can help bring the good back into focus.  One week later, (you may just think it's the tryptophan talking) I'm still on the turkey day high, and have been doing a lot of reflection. I was looking through some sentiments Olivia and I shared when we first opened our doors, and I wanted to share them as they still ring true today.  

I meet new people every day. That in itself is something to be thankful for, but I'm even luckier than that - I get to hear about their goals, their dreams, the perceived or real obstacles in their lives, and the general state of their bodies and minds. That's a lot of information to give a stranger, yet people trust that I'm here to help. And that's my job - to help you get what you want. After the first meeting, I get to see people challenge themselves in very real ways. I see people at the end of their physical and mental rope - and I see them smile afterwards.  I see muscles growing, posture straightening, attitudes readjusting, lives changing. What an honour it is to be witness to those changes - It's something that I'm thankful for every day. ~ Olivia

CrossFit showed me how to at my best and continue to expect more from myself.  Coaching CrossFit showed me I could turn my passion for helping people empower themselves into a daily practice.  Olivia helped me create a place where not only do we get to do this every day, but we get to do it with a wacky, supportive, ever-growing family of misfits who impress me everyday with their dedication and strength (both inside and out).  I am thankful, everyday, to be a parent of such an family.  United Barbell has changed my life, filled my heart, and given me my vision for what's possible.  Thank you! ~ Jenny

How to Breathe

You want to lift big weights.  We want you to lift big weights too.  That's why you have probably heard one of us barking at recently you to take in a half breath and hold it during the lift.  This is because we want you to maintain a stable and neutral spine so you can both recruit the most force as well as protect yourself.  Holding your breath makes your torso more rigid, applying pressure on your diaphragm and creating a stable, functional, lifting machine. 

If you are having a hard time understanding this, imagine for a moment that your trunk is like a can of Dr. Pepper (why Dr. Pepper you ask?  Because if you are going to drink a soda, Dr. Pepper is the best).  When you are maintaining your half breath, you are like a full closed can.  You can't bend it, and if you try to smash it, it will more likely break your ankle.  This is your trunk pressurized and stabilized by your held breath.  When you breathe out, your diaphragm no longer applies pressure to your trunk, and you lose stabilization, much like the empty opened Dr. Pepper can.  That empty can is both bendable and smash-able.  Under a heavy bar - which would you rather be?

Dr. Pepper misses a lift - try a full can next time!

Dr. Pepper misses a lift - try a full can next time!

Breathing is always an important part of technique, no matter the exercise.  By holding your breath during those heavy deadlifts, squats, cleans, etc. you will have a more stable torso and spine throughout the lift.  A word of caution though, this technique should be applied to lifts individually, so you don't make yourself pass out.

Food for Thought: Don't Pursue Goals; Let Them Ensue

I really enjoy the blog from Deuce Gym.  I thought this post from their head coach, Logan, was worth sharing.

Having goals is a natural phenomenon. Some would argue that specifically setting aside time to make them and a plan to attack them is a critical key to success. I’ve got some goals myself. Accomplishing them is a finicky practice, though.

Another practical joke on humanity, in fact, is that (like happiness) we can’t achieve our goals by pursuing the goals themselves. In past articles, we’ve talked about pursuing the desire to laugh, never leads to real laughter. That’s not how comedy works. It, of course, comes as a result of some other (hilarious) stimuli. When you have a goal or a desired result in mind, great! Write it down, even. Making it happen, however, requires a shift in focus away from the goal and to the process it takes to accomplish it.

There’s nothing about wanting to be a famous movie actor, for example, that in and of itself is useful in getting a role in a major motion picture. People that want this outcome must shift gears to new desires like wanting to practice acting and wanting to learn to be resilient in rejection in order to achieve it. They displace their desire for he outcome and learn to desire the process it takes to achieve it.

Arguably one of the most prolific thinkers on the human life is Viktor Frankl. After surviving seven Nazi death camps, he just so happens to be a real life survivor at the highest level. His text, Man’s Search for Meaning, is one of the world’s most read contemporary works. He reminds us of this lesson I’m giving you when he said, “Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a source greater than oneself.”

Let your goals ensue. 

A Balanced Body is a Happy Body

Most athletes have a dominant and weaker side of their body.  This can happen naturally or over time compensating for an injury.  Imbalances might not be apparent in your everyday activities, but CrossFit can bring out pretty quickly.  You could have left to right or front to back dominances without realizing.  Left unaddressed, stronger muscles will become stronger, and weaker muscles will become tighter... and chances for injury increase as imbalances grow from unchecked movement patterns.

Think back to the last time you watched a group of people work out. Did you ever see a person finish a pull-up with their head closer to one hand or another?  Maybe you saw a person do an overhead movement and one arm finished extension before the other? You can even see it with a squat (as they stand back up, there is a slight sway in one direction). These are just a couple places you might see imbalances.

The important thing is awareness.  CrossFit will show you your weaknesses, but it will also give you the opportunity to balance yourself back out.

Here are some things that you can do to address some common weaknesses:

  • Try some dumbbell side/front/overhead lunges.  This will work on your balance as well as pointing out muscular imbalances.
  • For your upper body, try different push/pull exercises with dumbbells or kettlebells to expose weaknesses. Do an extra set of the exercise with the weaker side.
  • For the lower body try adding pistols, step ups, and different lunge variations into your warm-up.
  • Mobility!  This is especially important if your imbalance is rooted from old injuries.

So when a fellow athlete points out to you that you pull up or squat "weirdly," or your coach points out an imbalance, make sure you stay aware and take time to address it.  Don't write it off as an exercise quirk.

Food for Thought: Team WAG's Holiday Survival Guide

Many UBites (myself included) have joined WAG (Working Against Gravity) to get their nutrition on point.  But many hear "Thanksgiving" and "eggnog" and all their work comes to a crashing halt.  WAG released a Holiday Survival Guide to help prep you for Turkey Day later this week, and I thought it was worth sharing.  I posted an excerpt below, but you can find the rest here.

As the weather starts changing and pumpkin spiced everything arrives, the giddy kid in each of us knows that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The season is wonderful for spending time with those you love and catching up with friends.

If you’re someone who is working hard to be mindful of nutrition, the idea of spending every weekend attending a holiday party, or perhaps having several Thanksgiving dinners, might conjure up a bit of anxiety...

  • How will I resist all the yummy treats?
  • Will I be able to host a holiday dinner for my family while still balancing my goals?
  • Will I be able to be in control of my food if I’m not preparing it?
  • What if my family doesn’t understand?

Anticipating these concerns, we’ve developed this Team WAG Holiday Survival Guide. With a little bit of planning and a little bit of flexibility, we know after reading this you will have the skills you need to make this a happy, healthy and tasty holiday season.


Handling Pressure

With larger family gatherings, it’s safe to assume there will be a few questions, curiosities or maybe even some not so nice comments about being mindful of what’s going on your plate.

Some of this comes from a genuine place of wondering what you’re doing to look so svelte in your holiday sweater but how do you respond to pressure and criticism?

The most important thing here is to realize that all of your efforts to take control of your nutrition and wellness are for you. There is absolutely no reason for you to feel as if what you are doing is silly, an inconvenience or “taking it too far.” You deserve to feel safe and secure knowing that you are focused on taking care of yourself!

Here are some easy tips to handle your responses, as well as some of the emotion that may come along with family dinners and holiday get togethers:

Go in with a positive mindset

It’s easy to let anxiety overshadow the positive possibilities of seeing all your loved ones. If you have already decided that it’s going to be a stressful time and that everyone is going to be critical of you — that’s exhausting! Try to be patient and allow room for curiosity. Being open to sharing a bit about what you’re working on could be an opportunity for valuable conversations.

Have a separate support system

Reach out to supportive friends to help remind you of how amazing you’re doing and that you have the skills to make it through any event. It can feel isolating when you’re feeling like the odd one out at family gatherings, so getting in touch with someone who is facing the same challenges, or just a good friend who has your back, can be truly affirming.

Work on some non-confrontational comebacks

We realize that, unfortunately, there will be some relatives that just want to push your buttons. You can’t be responsible for their reactions to your lifestyle, but you can choose how you respond. Something quick and polite like, “Right now I have specific goals I’m working towards and this is one tool that I’m using to achieve them” or “I appreciate your concern but I’m actually really happy with the way I’m eating.” By flipping the tone into something positive, rather than responding defensively, shows them that they can’t drag you down! I bet they will be impressed. 

Go in with a plan

Whether you decided to pack your scale or eat mindfully, developing a plan beforehand allows you to stay focused, despite peer pressure. Remember that this is a choice you’re making to invest in your goals and to your health and nobody can take that away from you.

At the end of the day, it comes down to owning your truth and giving yourself permission to focus on your priorities. The holidays give you a chance to spend time with your loved ones, but, remember, that includes giving yourself attention and care too!

Once you have created your plan stick to it! If you decided you would have only a taste of dessert, treat that like an unbreakable promise to yourself that can’t be changed last minute (regardless of how delicious the pecan pie smells).

Read the rest of WAG's Holiday Survival Guide here.

Rite of Passage - Recap

For those of you who missed out this weekend, Saturday was a great day for UB!  Six athletes (Anita, Man, Dave H., Max, Brigitte, and Austin S.) all went over to Speed Power Strength in Oakland to compete in their first sanctioned olympic weightlifting meet.... and they killed it!

 What makes an oly meet so different from a CrossFit competition?  I'm glad you asked.  At an oly meet, athletes lift one at a time on a staged platform.  They lift alone with three judges and a seated audience... while donning the notorious and o-so-sexy oly singlet.  For those who have yet to compete or attend such an event, the experience can be a little nerve-racking to say the least.

Here's how team UB did:


  • Anita: snatch - 47K (103#) / clean & jerk - 62K (137#)/ total - 109K (240#)
  • Man: snatch - 45K (99#) / clean & jerk - 60K (132#)/ total - 105K (231#)
  • Dave: snatch - 65K (143#)/ clean & jerk - 85K (187#)/ total - 150K (331#)
  • Max: snatch - 83K (183#) / clean & jerk - 102K (225#)/ total - 185K (408#)
  • Brigitte: snatch - 40K (88#) / clean & jerk - 60K (132#)/ total - 100K (220#)
  • Austin: snatch - 80K (176#) / clean & jerk - 115K (254#)/ total - 195K (430#) (Austin's was unofficially deemed "best singlet" by SPS staff)


Have you ever thought of giving an oly meet a shot?  Talk to one of the six who put it all on the platform... I bet they'll tell you to go for it!