Fortunately for your fitness, I’m not entirely interested in pleasing you.

19-06-2015 Nolan Mooney

Jochem came to me not too long ago and asked if I would write a post about programming.

Seeing as I am responsible for a significant amount of the muscle soreness that the “FSFers" and “UnScared Athletes” experience, I felt it was appropriate that I try and provide a glimpse into the what some would describe as “twisted” mind which thinks up the Workout of the day for CrossFit FSF and UnScared CrossFit. I think it makes most sense to introduce myself and explain where I’m coming from and at least shed a little light on the “why” I choose to program the way I do.

The start

I started doing CrossFit in 2006 after I had spent four years in the Army and was beginning my career as a firefighter in the United States.  Being the typical 23 year old male, I thought I was unstoppable and more or less awesome.  I trained hard at my work, in the gym and I lived an active lifestyle which included mountain biking, indoor/outdoor rock climbing, MMA, and snowboarding in the winter.  My CrossFit story sounds like so many others’, I was in the gym when someone came to me and said, “dude, you train a lot, you should check out this website…”  I went back to the fire house, went to www.crossfit.com, watched the iconic video “nasty girls” and did my first WOD “Dianne.”  I was blown away by the capacity of those women and literally destroyed from the WOD; needless to say, I was sold.  I was accustomed to hard work and the previous six years I had spent in the military had exposed me to many different stimuli and situations that were taxing both physically and mentally, but I had never found a training methodology that was so effective; it was exactly what I was looking for and I didn’t even know I was looking for it!

The core of good programming

Fast forward to the present day and a lot has happened.  I started an affiliate with one of my best friends back in 2009, competed a little bit in 2011, became a L1 Staff member in 2010 and a L1 “flowmaster” for CrossFit Inc. in 2014.  I guess you could say I’ve kept myself busy with CrossFit for a while now and programming is one of the topics which I find equally challenging, intriguing, and plain cool.  I believe that at the core of all good programming a question should be asked, why am I doing this?  I don’t mean it in the existential sense of why am I here, I mean literally, why am I doing this particular movement, with this load, for this many reps after the workout from yesterday?  I feel that all programmers should have this question in mind when designing all workouts.  In a more global sense, the answer is simple: I don’t want to suck at life! (I totally stole that from the back of a shirt I bought at my L1 at CF One World in CA)  

The magic is in the movement, the art is in the programming, the science is in the explanation, and the fun is in the community. - Greg Glassman founder and CEO of CrossFit

Almost every weekend I deliver the “What is CF?” lecture at the L1 trainers course and that’s where the answer lies.  If you are interested in the details, check out the CF-L1 Training Guide, but long story short, the purpose of doing CrossFit is to prepare you for the known and unknowable, likely and unlikely, to best prepare you for any and all contingencies imaginable.  You can probably see why this “fit” so well for me when I was a firefighter but it’s not just for the fighting elite and first responders.  I want you to be able to carry your groceries, backpack, kid and stroller up three flights of stairs after working all day.  I want you to be able to walk 5k to the next gas station after your car breaks down on a deserted highway.  I want you to be able to live a long and independent life until you drop dead during your celebratory lap, after kicking the winning goal at the annual “100+ Old Timers” football championships.(seriously, I totally want to go like that)  I don’t want you to suck at life.  CrossFit is the prescription to a fitter and healthier life which is expressed through the daily WOD.

Crossfit as a meal

Sometimes, I like to think of CrossFit as a meal, mostly because I like to eat, and everyone has their favourite meal.  Furthermore, everyone has their favourite way to prepare said meal.  Everyone knows that mom makes the best “X” but if everyone’s mom makes the best “X” who’s is really the best?  Well the funny thing about taste is that for everyone, it’s different.  How do I determine what tastes the best?  I observe the reactions of those enjoying the meal.  I hope the comparison is clear here, it’s the same thing.  I don’t believe that there is one magic solution to anything, including programming.  The best anyone can do is give it a shot and then observe the results.  I can tell you from personal experience it takes a lot, I mean A LOT, of poorly programmed workouts, delayed onset muscle soreness, and frustration to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  I can remember a time in the box when we first decided to program instead of follow www.crossfit.com.  Everyone in the box saw results, except me.  It was like someone kicked me right in my fitness!  After a month, I knew something wasn’t right because everyone should have been seeing results, not just everyone else.

You see, regardless of an individuals level of fitness, a well programmed workout should be equally challenging and yet universally scalable.  As Glassman once said, “The needs of Olympic level athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.”  Basically, we all need the capacity to perform daily tasks like standing and sitting or picking something up.  Some of us have to do it with more intensity than others, but we all need to be able to get the work done.  After programming and performing around a thousand WODs you start to get a feeling for it, much like a cook knows how much of a certain spice to add without weighing and measuring.  Sometimes we get it just right and sometimes we miss the mark completely.  That is exactly the challenge I was talking about earlier which intrigues me so much: how can I get it right most of the time?  It’s a process that will never end and I’m constantly refining things in order to deliver the best result for the most people.

Having your best interest at heart

Ultimately, you can’t please everyone all the time but fortunately for your fitness, I’m not entirely interested in pleasing you; I want to make you fitter.  I will continue to program WODs that include movements you like, movements you don’t like, movements you’ve never done before and don’t know if you like or dislike.  I’ll keep asking you to push yourself harder than you may want to with a cut-off that seems impossible, until you crush it!  And I’ll keep celebrating the PR’s and pondering the occasional defeat when things don’t go right.  Don’t worry, I really do have your best interest at heart, even if it feels otherwise when you wake up in the morning ;-)  If you guys ever have any interest in hearing it from the horses mouth, feel free to send me a message or stop by FSF in Driebergen.  If you ever have complaints feel free to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At the end of most L1 seminars I like to write this quote and I feel that it really captures what we’re trying to achieve:

 pat sherwood

The goal is to get fit, make it the best hour of your day, stay safe, turn up the music, high five some people and blow off some steam.  So remember that. Relax. Have fun. Work out. Pat Sherwood

Nolan Mooney

About Nolan Mooney

Nolan Mooney has been doing CrossFit for 9 years which doesn’t mean he's any good at it, it just means he is thoroughly aware of what he’s not good at.  He's Head Coach and co-founder of CrossFit FSF in Driebergen and and spends his weekends as a Flowmaster for the L1 and L2 CrossFit Seminars throughout Europe and the rest of the world.  He also has a risky addiction to ice cream and tank tops.

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