Get What You Came For

Get What You Came For.

It’s something I say often. Or position as a question. In theory, it’s simple; however, once unpacked, it urges honesty and evokes insight.

When you schedule a function—a meeting, date, lunch appointment, or a doctor visit—you typically have a set of goals, or an outcome, in mind. Training at our gym should be no different. But here’s the thing: You have to understand that you can, and should, come in here with a different set of goals from time to time.

Training at a CrossFit affiliate can have you feeling like you’re supposed to “go hard” each time you come in. Some even think that to make “progress” you need to push yourself to the absolute edge of exhaustion. Others have the harebrained notion that if you’re not laying on the ground gasping for air, then you haven’t done something worth doing.

That being said, all of these ideas could not be more inaccurate. Listen, there is nothing wrong with throwing on your crazy pants and pushing the limits on what you can handle, but it’s not the end all be all. It’s also impossible to sustain.

“Get what you came for” can be understood in some cases as a checkmark for what you need to accomplish. Some days your only goal is to make it to the gym—and that in itself marks the day as a huge success. Other days, your goal might be to partner with a new athlete in the class. Or to get to the front on the room, instead of your usual back. Maybe you have a performance goal. Or a new class goal: to come to Life Lifting, Mobility, Weightlifting, or any other class that you have been too nervous to try. There are a lot of ways to gauge performance and progress, just like there are a lot of ways to approach a day at the gym. To get what you came for, maybe start by unpacking what you need.

As you head to the gym today, think simply about your goals. Because as we know, excess doesn’t always result in success. More often than not, your goals are achievable and aligned with your inherent needs; how we approach them is what puts change in motion.

Coach David


We’ve all experienced “goosebumps.” The subtle response is stimulated by strong emotions, fear, euphoria, inspiring music, nails on a chalkboard and sometimes temperature changes which cause the hair follicles on your skin to contract and stand up.

Have you ever stopped to reflect on what exactly initiates those “goosebump” moments and how to deliberately (and repeatedly) re-create that feeling? Is it possible to obtain that type of elevated emotion consistently?

Unexpectedly, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of “goosebumps” on a daily basis—for the past 20 years. And it’s primarily from coaching. I’ve been acutely aware of it the entire time, but have never shared or expressed this. It happens in observation: watching people grab a nugget of information about a lift and seeing it click, or noticing an athlete who doubts their performance and then suddenly exceeds all expectations. Sometimes, it’s the “ah-ha” moment during a team meeting, or simply walking down the gym hallway and watching two joyful teammates reunite to train together during a 7p class. And the goosebumps don’t stop there. These are just the ones that happened yesterday.

I consider myself to be incredibly blessed in this regard. Everyday, I get to experience this. And it’s not always about the lifts, the big weights, the workout times or a monster-sized squat. Instead, it’s the more subtle occurrences that prove most remarkable.

To elaborate, writer, Dan Heath, argues that we can understand these goosebump-like feelings as defining moments: moments of elevation (inspiring emotions), moments of insight (epiphanies), moments of pride (achievement) and moments of connection (relationships). Coincidently, these four points are the exact things that create remarkable moments for both the athletes and myself.

So, I ask you to reflect: take a moment to, first, consider what gives you goosebumps. Then, dream-up the ways you might begin re-creating those moments: one at a time, until they repeat themselves enough to become habit.

Coach David

Knee Surgery & Reflection 

Knee Surgery & Movement Reflection 

On Tuesday, August 7th, I went to Northwestern Hospital for a scheduled left knee arthroscopy to remove a cluster of intra-articular bodies in the anterior recess. Or, as the doc put it: “to clean up my knee”– as if he were taking a Swiffer Wet Jet in there or something.

Nothing major happened. There was no vicious trauma, a fall, or an accident. This was just a product of an active lifestyle; I’d been putting this off for about six months. In fact, just a few days before surgery, I hit a PR front squat at 300+, worked on some deadlift block pulls at 500+, and a 5lb strict press PR that I’d been eyeing for two years.

Today will be the one-week anniversary since my knee got “swiffered,” and I can’t begin tell you how bad I’m itching to get back to moving freely–to be able to travel around the gym, walk fast, walk slow, or hop in and out of my truck with ease. I’m eager to take the dogs for a long stroll at night, move a barbell with proficiency, carry a laundry basket up and down stairs, or simply get a cup of coffee with a friend. I’ve come to realize: It’s the day-to-day stuff that we often and accidentally take for granted, myself included. So when its actually taken away, it promotes reflection. And motivates.

I can’t imagine what it might feel like to completely abandon any kind of physical practice for a month. A year. Two years. But perhaps that’s due to the fact that I’ve adjusted my lifestyle to include it. However, for so many of our friends and family, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Go brother!

Years ago, one of my brothers was gaining weight, looking a bit rough and generally just felt bad. So I purchased him a 3-month gym membership to CrossFit Alpha Dog, without realizing how this temporary exposure would transform into an on-going commitment to health and fitness. Now, his wife and kids are also avid CrossFitters. My brother has traveled to the CrossFit Games in CA and WI., his wife is obsessed with Sara Sigmundsdóttir, his son has air squat positioning that’s out of this world, and he often sends me videos of his daughter doing burpees. As for his friends? They’ve turned into CrossFitters too. One of those friends also has a wife that changed her career path to be in the health & fitness industry.

So what can you do? Years back, I took a small step to help someone in my life, and it’s been paid forward many times over. Whatever the gesture, dare to make it. Bring someone to the gym. Take your parents, neighbors or friends for a walk. Instead of downplaying your pledge to training, your recent personal record or weekly gym attendance with your co-workers; share these stories, and challenge them to inspire change, too–or better yet, ask them to join you. An invitation is a chosen opportunity. And an opportunity can promote change. To have access to refined movement training makes us particularly lucky, but it’s what we do with this knowledge and experience that defines meaningful change.

The point is: You never know when a small gesture could reach far beyond it’s intended target. And if we never attempt them, we miss out on some of the most important benefits of what we, as athletes, do.

Coach David

Competing in workingOUT with my brother Scott.

Gym Guide to Success (& Safety)

The other day in class an athlete walked about six inches in front of a lifter right before she was about to attempt a massive clean & jerk. A few minutes later I saw an athlete sitting on some bumper plates during a much-needed rest break. And then a poor little Apple iPhone Watch was put on the floor in the middle of a lifting zone.

It immediately dawned on me that this sort of gym etiquette is new to a lot of people. For many, Defined represents the first gym experience of any kind. Here is a go-to list for all athletes (new and experienced) to make sure you start off on the right track.

Coach David

1 – Show up on time for class. This is a huge one. Maybe the most important because it sets the tone. Enough said.
2 – Chalk stays in the chalk bucket. Do not write on the gym floor with it either.
3 – Please wipe down all equipment when you are done (even the whiteboards).
4 – When a lifter is getting set up for a big lift, don’t walk in front of them. It distracts their eyesight & focus.
5 – Always put your equipment away.
6 – iPhones and all refreshments don’t belong on the training floor. We have seen our fair share of squished telephones.
7 – Dropping 15#, 10# or 5# plates or an empty barbell is a bad idea.
8 – Sitting on bumper plates or the barbell is bad luck.
9 – If you change your shoes (or need to grab additional equipment), make sure you wait until the coach is done talking or explaining the workout.
10 – Ask questions. It is the greatest way to learn. And the coaches love this stuff.
11 – Meet new people. Share equipment with new people. Say “hello” to new people. You get the point.
12 – If you destroy the mirrors in the bathroom with water & soap. Wipe them down for the next user.
13 – Don’t be nervous to introduce yourself to a coach or gym training partner. Sounds like #11.
14 – Track your training progress. Especially strength numbers (example: back squat) and benchmark / named workouts (example: Fran).
15 – Stinky shorts & shoes make for a long hour for everyone. Check it.

This is a short list, but everyone will benefit from adhering to these simple rules. Happy training.

Rookie Mind.

I kept thinking about the Kaizen methodology last night.

While sitting around the gym watching the facial expressions of our athletes, each coach was dispersing some sort of back squatting tutorial: bracing, breathing, timing, mindset, compensatory acceleration, cueing strategies, hand placements, vision, spotting, tempo, etc. And the ideas from each coach, for each class, could not have been more different. However, what was the same across the board was the concept of education–and bringing a little more complexity to the back squat in order to advance it, regardless of training age, knowledge or skill level.

“Kaizen,” taken from the Japanese word for improvement, change for the better, or continuous improvement, has evolved since the 1950s into a business strategy of making small, but continuous changes for the better in company operations.*Applicably, it was impressive to notice the way athletes paused for a moment to absorb the sinking-in of new information: to re-evaluate what they knew (or didn’t know) and how they might advance. The learning environment was rich with content, and it was noticeably surrounded by enthusiasm.

We’ve all been in a circumstance where someone “thought they knew everything,” or where they were closed off to a new idea due to their ego. In contrast, the environment at Defined fosters development: a Kaizen approach, perhaps. And moreover, while it starts here, it transfers far beyond the box.

Coach David

*Direct quote from

Do you want a pat on the back? Or do you want feedback?

Do you want a pat on the back? Or do you want feedback?

Deliberate work in your craft is necessary. Pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone is advantageous. Living humbly and receiving feedback is favorable. With regards to improvement, being told you’re doing a good job is not essential. But it seems like that’s something we routinely look for. Let me give you an example from the Defined gymnasium coaching floor during a recent weightlifting session…

“Joe Power Clean” was working on some barbell movements. Rep after rep, I gave him subtle, simple, repeated feedback that all generally reiterated the same concept of what he was doing wrong. I could tell after about 10 seconds that he was not enjoying the process of being told he could be doing better. But here’s the thing: walking by and telling him he was doing a “good job” was the easy way out. For both of us.

A “Good job,” would have likely boosted his moral. However, telling him that likely wasn’t going to help improve his game. A “good job” does nothing for pushing or improving performance, i.e. anything you want to excel at.

So, I challenge you to look for feedback. Ask your peers how you can do better. Seek out uncomfortable corners and handle your business. Getting a pat on the back is great. Occasionally, there’s a time and a place for it. But maybe ask yourself: does it make you better?

Coach David

Substitute Teachers & New Kids in Class

Monday, July 2nd, was an enjoyable night to be an observer at the gym. Within the past 8 years, I can’t remember a time when I’d heard quite as much chatter. Every single squat rack was filled by two (or more) athletes, along with a multitude of lifting buddies and the usual foam-rolling-Instagram-scrolling-recovery crew.

I tried to consider a time when something like this had happened before, and then it dawned on me: grammar school. Remember when your teacher was out and you felt excited by the unknown routines of your substitute? Or maybe when there was a new, cute boy or girl in class? Back in the day, either of these two events would be sure to create additional noise. The two of them combined resembles a concert.

Last night, both scenarios seemed to play out. Coach Cara taught the 4p (new class) and 5p classes at Lakeview, and we had about 8 new athletes join us – either from Lincoln Square or out of town. And it was funny to notice how the same situations that put people on notice at age 13 can easily do the same at 33.

Have a great day everyone.

Coach David