CrossFit From the Coaches Point of View

Let’s talk a little about this thing called CrossFit. Ask ten different CrossFit individuals, “What is CrossFit?” and more than likely, you will get ten completely different answers. However one thing is consistent, CrossFit makes people better. Even if the meaning of CrossFit varies from person to person, they still go to the box, put themselves through some grueling workouts, and what for? It’s the drive to get better in some way.

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To me, CrossFit is so much more than just a workout. Getting stronger and looking good are just side effects of what CrossFit is really doing. CrossFit gives me the confidence to go through life knowing that I am not weak and helpless. Often times I see people surprise themselves when they complete a workout or achieve something they never thought they could ever do, realizing they are stronger than they thought. It’s that confidence that people get after a couple months of diligent crossfitting that makes this program truly amazing.
Then you have the CrossFit community aspect of it. Suffering through tough WODs at the box creates bonds and friendships based on the mere fact that you just endured through a brutal workout with others along side of you. The saying is true, “In CrossFit the last person gets the most cheers.” As a coach, it doesn’t matter how much weight you did, or if you did the workout Rx’d or scaled. What impresses me the most is seeing people put in the work and giving it their best effort no matter what the whiteboard says.
The last thing I want to share is my love for CrossFit’s pursuit for excellence in everything. CrossFit does not claim to have invented anything new, however, what they have done is taken the best athletes in all realms of fitness (running, weightlifting, kettlebells, gymnastics, mobility, etc.) and passed their training methods on to us as trainers to then teach you and others. CrossFit is constantly evolving and will only do what has been proven to make people fit. CrossFit trainers are fitness freaks if it is proven to make you fitter then we do it. The key word here is PROVEN.  In CrossFit, we do movements that produce power. To produce the most power you need to move large loads over long distances in a short amount of time. I guess what I’m trying to say is we are doing what works to create a very fit generally physically prepared person. CROSSFIT DOES NOT SPECIALIZE. If your goal is to be the fastest marathon runner then CrossFit will not get you there, but CrossFit will make you good at running. CrossFit will not prepare you for a strongman/woman competition, but CrossFit will make you strong.  For example, there is nothing wrong with being the fastest person to run 26 miles, but it comes at a cost.  A running athlete more than likely will be unable to back squat their body weight. As for the strong man/woman competitor, there is nothing  wrong with wanting to back squat 1000lbs, but make that athlete run 1 mile non-stop, it’s probably not going to be attainable for them. With that being said, CrossFit takes a combination of the sports, creating a well-rounded athlete, someone that can run a decent mile and still be able to back squat their body weight. In conclusion, CrossFit is empowering, giving you the ability to achieve and do things in your everyday life.
ryne_0803There are so many reasons why I believe CrossFit is the greatest fitness program to date.  It is easy to focus on all of the great physical benefits of CrossFit but to me, the best part is the mental skills you develop.  CrossFit puts you in situations that are mentally demanding on a daily basis.  You can dig deep inside you and find a way through it or you can walk away and quit.  It’s entirely up to you.  I believe that this helps prepare you for events in your life outside of the gym.  When you are in the middle of a horrible WOD and you feel like you are losing control of what is going on, the only thing you can control is your response.  By responding and finding a way deep inside you to push through those dark spots, you develop confidence in situations where you feel like your back is up against the wall.  Everyone can relate to the sense of pride they felt in themselves after they finished a grueling workout and came out alive.  That feeling translates into other parts of your life.  You can take comfort knowing that you have been in a tough situation and you were able to find your way out of it and ready for what’s next.
CrossFit is also a great teacher of self-discipline.  When it is 4:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning and you are mentally exhausted from a tough week of work, it is a challenge to get up and get into the gym.  Everything in your body is telling you to hit snooze, roll over and go back to sleep.  With self- discipline you learn to ignore those voices in your head and get up and get your butt to the gym.  Nobody is going to pick you up, get you dressed and drive you to the gym.  If you want to make the positive changes in your life, then you need to get up and be accountable to yourself.  Again this self-discipline translates into all other facets of your life.
The last part that really draws me to CrossFit is the confidence that it creates in people.  As a coach, there is no better feeling on earth than seeing the look on someone’s face when they get their first toes-to-bar or when they hit a 10 pound PR on their back squat.  You see this joy and shock on their face that they couldn’t believe that they could do that.  It is so much fun to watch people grow and progress though the beginning stages of CrossFit when they begin to see all the cool stuff they can do that they didn’t think they would ever be able to do.  You see this confidence grow within themselves and they want to try new things and push the limits of what they can do.  Again I believe that the confidence you gain while you are at the gym translates to the rest of your life.  What amazing thing in life do I want to try that I never thought I could do before?  And that’s what I love about CrossFit.
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CrossFit to me is a lifestyle.  The word CrossFit has evolved and changed for me as the years have gone on. In the beginning of this journey, I found myself questioning everything, from my physical abilities to my mental thought process. I remember I kept asking myself, “How could I exceed at this?” I began to dig into what CrossFit was and began to apply the new knowledge I learned into my everyday life. The new discoveries I made were so mind blowing that I craved to learn more, and began to push myself to new limits. The results have been so rewarding, that I wanted to teach not only myself but also share this with others. A personal goal is to compete at an elite level in this sport, a dream that I am determined to make a reality come true in the near future. So what is CrossFit to me now? It’s a way of living, eating, carrying yourself in and out of the gym. It is not only a fitness program but for some, it’s something personal to call your own.

Working Your Weaknesses

Often times in CrossFit, athletes who are seeking to take their fitness to the next level will attempt to add more volume to their personal training. They think that doing longer METCONS or brutal lifting sessions will leave them more prepared for the next time they are presented with a difficult workout. While it will help at first, over time this could lead to fatigue or result in injury. A much simpler way to improve your overall fitness and CrossFit abilities would be to spend some time working on your weaknesses. The CrossFit Main Site defines weaknesses as, “a certain skill that is lacking relative to an athlete’s proficiency in other areas.” (CrossFit.com) With that said, by spending time working on those certain skills that are lacking to you as an individual athlete, you will notice improvements in your overall fitness and health.

So what is the best way to address these weaknesses? 

Through normal programming, you will be presented with many opportunities to work on weaknesses and skills that you have identified in yourself. It is vital that when you see what you perceive as your weaknesses in the next day’s WOD, you embrace it and use it as a way to work on it. Allow your weaknesses to tell you what you need to do, it is in those moments where the most improvement is to be made.  The days you think, “this is going to be a struggle,” are the days where you need to be in the gym the most. The best way I can describe a weakness is, like wrinkles in your CrossFit armor, taking the time to iron out those wrinkles over time will result in becoming a better athlete, and will also make you that much more confident when attacking workouts. A lot of thought is put into our programming which covers everything needed to build a well-rounded athlete, and at the same time, you might benefit from working on a specific set of skills on your own. For instance, if you struggle with double-unders, spend ten minutes before or after class practicing double-unders, and before you know it your weakness is now a strength. No one starts out doing CrossFit perfect, the reality is you will always be learning and evolving, that is the beauty of Crossfit and why I love it so much, there will always be something that you can improve on.

One last thing I want to share before I conclude, if you spend the time working on these areas it will also improve other movements and skills you already can do. For example, if you are working on  handstands and/or handstand pushups; you will notice any movement that requires the overhead position is going to feel a lot stronger. That’s because there is a direct correlation to other movements as you start adding to your arsenal of skills that you can successfully do. Keep working on those things that initially you want to avoid, and over time you will no longer be hesitant to attack any WOD that is placed in front of you.

Intensity

MECHANICS, CONSISTENCY, and INTENSITY. For the best results in any workout program, these three things need to be in place, AND in that order. We have already discussed in the past how important mechanics and consistency are in movements. Now, let’s discuss intensity, the third factor, that pushes us to that place where we start to adapt not only physically, but also mentally.

What is intensity? What does intensity look like? Is it how high your heart rate is? What about how loud you’re screaming? Intensity is defined as, “The measurable amount of a property, such as force or power.” To us, this means how much power is being generated in a certain amount of time.

For example, let’s say the WOD is “FRAN.” Most of us have recently gone through this and felt some sort of intensity if it was done properly. Let say I decided to do FRAN and took my time, I went through all the movements with the proper range of motion and consistent movement and finished it in about 15 minutes, resulting in breathing hard, but for the most part, I am ready for another workout. Now take the same workout, but let’s say I go in and hit it as hard as I can, while maintaining proper range of motion and am consistent in my movements, but I finish “FRAN” in 2:30. My result from experience, there is nothing more I will be doing, except laying on the ground waiting for my arms to feel normal again and I won’t be thinking about doing anything else for another 45min at least. Therefore evaluating the two different ways I approached the same WOD, will they produce the same result?

The answer is no, and here is why.  The second approach to the workout produced more power because I was able to get the same amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. This trains the body to push those limits and in turn forces adaptation. The more power one can produce the fitter that person will get and see better improvements.

So what does this mean to you? It means that you should approach each workout with the mindset of producing the most power that you can produce while keeping mechanics and consistency in place. For some, this may mean scaling certain movements to allow them to produce the best result and most power for that day. An example would be something like pull-ups or toes-to-bar. If there are 50 in the workout and you have recently been able to get one full toes-to-bar. The best way approach this workout would be to scale the toes-to-bar to get them done quicker or scale the number to 15.  Over time the body will continue to get stronger and eventually you will be able to get 50 in one set because you have learned to push.

One last thought before I conclude, something that stuck out to me about what every athlete said about their training while watching the CrossFit games. They all mentioned the intensity of their training was the same as if they were competing. They were used to that level of intensity in their training and therefore were prepared for what they were going to experience at the Games. There are a lot of people that have the same physical capability as these games athletes, but they are a rare bread in their mental ability to withstand discomfort which has been incorporated in their daily training. With that being said, the amount of time you spend in the gym does not equal results. It is the about of power you produce in that time spent at the gym that will keep you progressing.

A Time for Rest

Article by: Ryne Milner

For many people here at the gym, CrossFit has become more than just a way to stay in shape and lose some weight. To some CrossFit has become a hobby or a lifestyle. I have had countless members tell me that the hour they spend in class is the best part of their day. You start to make friends and look forward to hanging out and having fun with them in class. This is what makes CrossFit great and it makes our day as a coach when we see someone who thoroughly enjoys the time they spend at the gym. But is there such a thing as to much CrossFit? While I would love to tell you that the answer is no, the truth is that there are major benefits in taking a day or two off from the gym during the week.

The main ingredient to the success of CrossFit is intensity. We strive to push our bodies to the limit and create responses to our body through high intensity workouts. As I am sure many of you would agree, after a few days of intense workouts our bodies feel run down and beat up. Unless you are Rich Froning or an alien, it is very hard to keep that intensity for more than a few days in a row. When you push beyond what your body can handle we can begin to see our performance drop in a major way. Often times you will drag through the work and just try and survive and get through it. You will not reach the intensity that the workout was intended to draw out in you and therefore will not receive the benefits of that workout. By taking a day to rest and recover you will be able to get back at it the next day and bring back that intensity and get the response that the workout was designed to elicit. I have heard from many people at our gym that they do not want to miss a day because they are excited about their progress and don’t want to slow it down. While we love to hear it, pushing to far will slow your progress and could cause injury. You will get far better results when you take the day to recover and refuel the body. One day of rest and recovery will not cause you to lose any of the hard work you put in that week. On the contrary it will actually help as your body will use that day to restore your muscles and adapt to the work. Listen to your body, it will tell you when it is time to rest! As you gain more experience in the gym you will start to understand when your body needs the day off to rest and recover. When your body begins to drag and you feel tired mentally, it is time to take a day off and charge back up.

What does a rest day look like? There are many different ways that you can spend your rest day. Personally, I like to take a full day off from all activities and shut off the brain and body completely. For others a rest day is a great chance to work out the soreness with some mobility work or some restorative yoga. Some like to get some light movement in whether that means going for a long walk or hike, or some other activity that is light paced and enjoyable. The point is, there is no right answer for how to spend your rest day. Find what works for you!! Experiment with different methods and decide what makes you feel better. A properly used rest day can be the most important day of the week if you use it properly.

So while we love to see everyone’s face at the gym each and every day, it is ok to miss a day to rest and recover your body. Like many things in CrossFit, rest days are something that you can experiment with and figure out what works best for you individually. There is no exact science involved in picking your rest day so play around with it and find what works for you! You can always talk to one of our coaches and ask questions about our experiences because we have all been through it and have found different methods that have worked and not worked for our bodies.

What does the optimal person look like, and what can that person do?

Introduction by Paul C. Tijerina in collaboration with Colby Phillips

For more information visit: http://www.paulctijerina.com/

Too often so many people are fixated on a certain “look.” We often hear it all the time, all day every day!

Understand, from an evolutionary perspective, good looks equated to good health. A good physique typically meant good movement mechanics, strength, conditioning, agility, and mobility COMBINED WITH proper eating, sleep, sun exposure, low stress, and social interaction.

Genetics do play a small role in body composition – everyone has a predisposition to a certain body type. You can take 2 men or 2 women, same height, same diet, same habits, and same movement capacity and strength, and they can look very different. I am SPOT ON with my nutrition, sleep, sun exposure, stress levels, social interaction, and I’m pretty damn good at my movements. Colby is awesome at all these things as well, maybe not as spot on with the nutrition and lifestyle factors as me (but really close), stronger in most movements (but not all :). So we both are very similar sizes, similar movement abilities, similar strengths, and similar habits, and yet with our shirts off he looks like Captain America and I look like a gorilla. FYI I’m very happy with that.

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So one big takeaway is, our idea of what we want to look like, VS what our body will make us look like when we do everything properly. Be flexible, in my opinion, the best attitude would be this: 

“I’m going to train hard with a focus on proper movements, and I’m going to eat healthy and focus on all the things that contribute to vibrant, optimal health, and let my body do what it’s going to do, which may or may not be exactly what I have pictured in my head.”

Overwhelmingly, however, what determines an optimal body is three-fold:
• proper movement abilities (which includes mechanics, consistency, and intensity).
• proper nutrition.
• proper lifestyle factors that are crucial for health

 Benchmark Movements for The Optimal Person (Colby)

These are things that everyone that is complaining about losing weight or wanting a certain look should strive for. Try to imagine or visualize the person that can do all the things listed below. What does that person look like?

Stop for a moment and look at what you can do, how well you can do it, and how well you can maintain your form while adding intensity. Are you focusing on technique, form and consistency? Because if you can do these things properly, you will have a certain physique.

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Now, in order to be able to do those movements, your body requires YOU to be a certain way. YOU must focus on TECHNIQUE and FORM first. Most of the top athletes in the gym, including, but not limited to, Myself (Colby), Johnny, Ryne, Paul, and many others, care more about technique and consistency then we do about the numbers. Therefore, one of your movement goals should be to be able to do all these movements as listed above.

Also, understand, you don’t need any special programming, you don’t need a special plan to get there! What you need to do is show up to each and every class with the mindset and attitude that you are going to work on TECHNIQUE and FORM first, and also spend some time on your own, working on your weaknesses.

Now in order to do these movements, YOU must also address other things crucial for optimalhealth in order to give your body the ability to move like you want it to, and therefore look a certain way. If your eating habits are crappy, you don’t allow yourself enough time for a healthy sleep schedule, your stress is extremely high, etc.  You are not allowing your body to become what it needs to become in order to be able to do these movements.

Learn to be the SHT (Paul)

For optimal, vibrant health, for optimal body composition, and to look and feel your best, movement is an extremely important part.  Movement is what shapes your muscles, joints, connective tissue, and to a degree bones underneath your subcutaneous fat stores. Heck, many of us are ADDICTS when it comes working out!  But NOT because we think it’s “burning calories.”  We are working on skills, and strength, and mobility, and consistency.  Which just so happens to shape our musculature and give us a desired look.  Because again remember, in my opinion, learning what foods to eat, how to eat those foods, and learning to address crucial lifestyle factors that are synergistic with everything else that we do, is as important or more important than your fitness routine.  In fact I would say that nutrition and lifestyle factors account for 80% of this total picture!

So what are the benchmark nutrition and lifestyle factors for the optimal person?

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You can learn about all of these crucial concepts when working with me in my private practice or when going through our SuperHuman Transformation.

We have such an amazing synergy of health at 2402 N. Tenaya Way. we have the single best gym I’ve ever experienced anywhere in my life, including the best coaching and the best fitness community ever. We also have access to restorative and flexibility based programs through people like Nichol McIntosh and others. And we have access to my food and lifestyle factors. Where else can you find this powerful combination?

 

Winning The Mental Game

Article by: Ryne Milner

Every day we come to the gym to train our bodies so we become stronger, faster and more physically fit.  We pour sweat, rip hands and sometimes even give up our lunch in order to continue to pursue a healthy life.  Most days we leave the gym sore and drenched in sweat feeling great about what we just did.  However, there are other days where things just don’t click and we don’t achieve everything that we wanted to.  When we go to the gym we are not just working our bodies but also our minds.  The mental side of fitness is often neglected and ignored but can be a powerful tool in our belt or a giant brick wall that is standing between you and your goals.  Our attitudes and the way we talk to ourselves play a vital role in our performance while at the box.

For many athletes, self-talk is a make or break factor on the field or in the gym.  Self-talk is simply the conversation that is going on inside your head.  There is an old cliché in sports that goes, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”  While it is an old, used cliché, the lesson remains spot on.  The way we perceive our own abilities inside of our head goes a long way towards the way we perform.  Now I am not saying that I am going to walk in to the gym tomorrow and hit a 600-pound bench press just because I think I can.  But when you are attempting a ten-pound PR on your back squat, negative self-talk can be absolutely crippling.  Have a strong conviction inside yourself and believe that you will get the job done!

So how do we fix it?  We can practice and train the way we think just like we train our bodies.  Be conscious of the thoughts that are bouncing around in your head while you are at the gym.  Don’t allow yourself to use words like hope to or want to.  Replace those words with absolutes.  ‘I am going to pick that weight up and put it over my head.’  ‘I am going to pull my chin over that bar.’  If we begin to think about what is going to happen when you fail, you will fail more times than not.  If you catch yourself using negative self-talk, take a step back, a deep breath and change the story in your head.  Replace it with positive thoughts and vibes.  This doesn’t only apply to when you are at the gym.  This can be practiced in your everyday life.  If you struggle with negative self-talk when you are at the gym, there is a strong chance that it carries over into other parts of your life.  Begin replacing those negative thoughts with positive statements!!!

A great tool to help you battle negative self-talk and negative thoughts is through visualization.  When I was in college I was a baseball pitcher.  When you are a starting pitcher in baseball you only get to pitch once per week.  Visualization became a huge tool for me to continue to hone my craft.  In between starts I would visualize what it was going to be like during my next start down to the very last detail.  I played out different situations in my head and see myself executing exactly how I wanted to.  By the time that the game came around it felt like I had already played that game 100 times.  Similarly, we cannot train at the gym all day long.  For most of us, we only get an hour a day to spend working on all of our lifts and skills.  If you want to improve on those lifts and skills, visualize yourself performing those movements perfectly.  This can be done in the first person or the third person.  Picture everything down to the last detail.  See the gym and the rig.  Hear your friends talking in the background.  See yourself walk up to that bar and perform that lift with perfect form and confidence.  By the time you get to the bar to perform that new PR weight, in your mind you will have hit that lift countless times.  This will give you a great wave of confidence as you go and grab the bar.  I can do this, I have done it many times before.

For as much fun as we have at the gym, mastering the skills needed to be a high level Crossfitter is very challenging.  Getting strong and learning new skills is hard enough on their own, let alone when you are battling with yourself in your head.  Strengthen your belief in yourself and all of your goals in the gym will be within your reach.  See it happen in your head and then go and do it!

The Crossfit Open

Article by: Ryne Milner

Once again it is time for the competitive season of CrossFit to kick off. Every February, the CrossFit games kick off with an international event called the Crossfit Open. This year the open kicks off on February 25 and runs all the way through March 28. The CrossFit Open is the first qualifying stage in the CrossFit games. Every man or women who has claimed the title of ‘fittest on earth,’ first had to battle their way through the Open and earn their spot at regionals. Each week, CrossFit will have a live announcement show in which they will lay out the format for that week’s workout. They then pit accomplished Crossfitters against each other in a head to head matchup to demonstrate the workout in front of a live crowd going nuts. From there the rest of the CrossFit world has until Monday morning to post their scores online.

“But I’m not going to the games, why should I do the Open?” The open is not just for Rich Froning. You do not need to be a regional qualifier to take part in the Open. There are many different reasons for which the open is worth your time and effort. The most important part of the open is very simple: Fun! The Open is a terrific community bonding experience. The whole gym goes into the workout together, supporting one another and pushing each other past what we think are our limits. It’s a time to attack a grueling workout with your friends, have a great time and hopefully post an awesome score. The workouts will be challenging and test both your body and mind, but you will leave with that euphoric feeling of accomplishment and pride.

The Open is very beneficial to a Crossfitter of any level because it will provide you with a snapshot of your fitness at this moment in time. The Open will give you direct data on exactly where you are at with your fitness. For veterans of the Open, this will provide a chance to compare with the previous year and find where you improved. This competition is a great motivation supplier when you are grinding through a tough workout or if you are struggling with your nutrition. Knowing that the Open is on the horizon can provide a great spark to your training. If you find that your scores did not improve or weren’t where you hoped they would be, the Open can be a great reality check. Have you been lacking intensity in your workout or discipline in your diet? The Open can be a great reminder or a kick in the butt when you need it.

The open is also for those of you who are brand new to CrossFit. The scores will provide you with a great baseline of your fitness and show you where your strengths and weaknesses are. We often see a large amount of PR’s or first gymnastic movements achieved due to the competitive environment that the Open brings. There will be both an RX workout and a scaled down version so there should be no fear of not being able to perform what is asked. Hopefully the Open continues to spark your passion for your health and fitness and provides you with motivation for the journey ahead.

Whether you are Rich Froning or in your first year of CrossFit, the Open is for you! So have fun with it and we will see you at the Combine for this year’s Open!

RX

Article by: Ryne Milner

When the next day’s workout is published on Wodify, you will commonly see the letters Rx. This simply indicates which weight or movement standard is prescribed by the programmer. Most commonly, programs are written with the elite athlete in mind. From there the workout can be scaled down to meet the fitness level of each individual athlete. The goal for most athletes is to be able to complete each workout Rx and push that magical blue button. However, it is the duty of the coaching staff to ensure that you only Rx a workout if you prove that you are capable of completing it safely. So when should I Rx? When should I scale?

The number one factor in determining whether or not to Rx a workout is safety. Many athletes will try to perform a workout Rx even though the load is too heavy for their current ability level. This can lead to major injuries that will set us back in our training. Just because you have hit a certain lift at the prescribed weight once or twice does not mean that you are ready to use that weight within a workout. As fatigue sets in, our bodies begin to look for any way possible to get that weight up. The athlete will put themselves in unsafe positions such as rounding their back or jerking the weight around to try and get the bar up. This is very dangerous and can lead to injuries. It is the coaches’ responsibility to decide where the athlete is at and if it is in the athlete’s best interest to Rx the workout. It is the athlete’s responsibility to take that advice and make a safe decision. Pushing the blue button is not worth an injury.

The same applies for gymnastics. If you do not have the proper form and technique to perform a certain movement, then you again are putting yourself at risk. If you do not have the requisite strength and form to perform a movement properly, we need to spend more time practicing our progressions and skills. It is vital that we go back and perfect the basics before moving on to more advanced movements or heavier loads on the bar. We do not want to form bad habits. It is so important to look at your fitness with the long term view. If we first master the basics, the rest will follow. It may take a little longer then you hoped but your movements will be stronger, safer and technically more efficient.

Another factor to consider is the type of response we are hoping to illicit with the workout. We can look to a classic CrossFit workout to explain this. Let’s look at Grace, which calls for 30 clean and jerks for time. Even though we are performing one of the Olympic lifts, we are not just looking to build strength. The goal of Grace is to illicit an aerobic response while we are performing the lifts. So if we are doing one rep and then resting for a full minute before trying another, we will not be hitting the metabolic pathway that we are intending to. Instead we should lower the weight and move quicker through the workout in order to get the type of physical response that we are looking for. You may be frustrated on that day but it will be much more beneficial for you in the long run.

While we certainly encourage our athletes to work towards being able to Rx all of the workouts, we want to first make sure that we can accomplish that goal in a safe manner. Keep working those progressions, getting stronger and trust the process one day at a time!