Archive for December, 2011

“I’m going Right and Your going Left…”

Posted in Articles on December 11, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

Last week for our Second year now we celebrated the fact that Strong is Beautiful on Old Country.

Last week we also started up the Maelstrom once again as we kicked off the 9th Edition Training Cycle. Our week 1 CC video recap highlights a number of our writers last week.

And Here We Go…

Posted by: Z

“The Flower that Blooms in Adversity is the most Rare and Beautiful of all…”

Posted in Articles on December 8, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

One year ago 5 writers decided to speak out.

Their goal wasn’t any radical message. It wasn’t spiteful or full of venom. It wasn’t a fight they were looking to pick. It was simple a statement, “No more, This is our line in the sand.”
They weren’t going to hide anymore. They weren’t going to pretend anymore. They weren’t going to be told what they needed to be or how they needed to look. This was their line, and against what society thought they weren’t going to move.

Last year Roo came to me with a question, “Can I write an article for Old Country…”

That article was the line. And she stood on it. I decided to stand on that line with her. One by one our friends stood on that line with us. We were gonna let everyone know it was ok to be strong. It was ok to not fit some mold we were all told from childhood we needed to fit in.

We wanted everyone to know what we all so deeply believed in, that Strong was Beautiful.

We keep referencing these 5 writers from last year. Marissa, Joey, Carrie and John…
Thats right, we had one former Division 1 college wrestler speak out about his battle with body imagine. Yes we are Strong but even the Strongest are effected by this.

When I started to choose the writers for this years series I knew I wanted to have another male writer. And honestly one named popped into my head. A Club supporter who I actually became close with through this series last year. We live on opposite sides of the border but through this message I found a life long friend in Chris Schaalo.

Chris is a Coach for Crossfit Games Power House Crossfit Taranis and his article today is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. Z

When Z asked me to guest post for the annual “Strong is Beautiful” week on OCS I was a little stunned, I’m not exactly a talkative or outspoken person, what makes him think I have great things to say?  However the minute I agreed to take part I knew exactly what I was going to do for the post.  I have a story to share, and I’m probably going to tear up more than a few times writing about it as it is very close to my heart; however, it is one that gives me strength everyday inside and outside the gym.  You see, I have witnessed the quest to be strong save a life and I believe it can save many more.

Now this wasn’t in a physical feat of superhuman strength type way.  There was no mom lifting a car off her child, or boy pulling his younger brother up from a cliff after a slip.  This was far more miraculous.  I was approaching a 23rd birthday, and enjoying the final days of an amazing first Christmas holidays I was able to share with my girlfriend of about 6 months.  Everything was better than I could have expected, I was falling head over heels, spending day after day laughing and learning with her until we had coffee one Saturday night.  She blindsided me, things weren’t working – it was her not me… the usual break up story you hear about.  4 days later I’m pulled aside by a mutual friend at the gym, Alicia is in the hospital – don’t worry she is ok “but she has a long road ahead of her” he says.  He won’t tell me what happened.  Nobody will answer the house phone.  After what was by far the longest 5 hours of my life, most of it spent wondering and worrying on her doorstep, a family friend of hers arrives at the house to collect some things and informs me that Alicia had attempted suicide.  Excuse me?  Suicide?  How in the world does a gorgeous, ambitious, passionate and loving person like this be driven to such an aggressive last resort?

Alicia at 105# (20# heavier than her worst)

It turns out I didn’t know a lot about this girl.  A 5 year period of body image issues, severely disordered eating including bouts of anorexia and bulimia, battles with anxiety, and waves of depression had slowly and brutally beat her down mentally and physically.  Hiding behind an addiction to exercise and an uncanny dedication to seemingly “healthy eating” had enabled her to mask her problems from those who didn’t know her well enough to see through it.  99% of young girls are never able to break free from this demonic struggle – but Alicia has something that most people don’t.  She has the barbell.

The beautiful thing about the barbell is that it doesn’t care.  It doesn’t care whether you’ve had a good day, or whether you’ve eaten the right things.  It doesn’t care whether you’re fighting with your girlfriend, or whether you’re sore from those squats the other day.  The barbell cares about one thing, and one thing only: performance.  The only thing that matters is whether you are stronger than the bar or not, whether you are willing to claw tooth and nail to move it – and if you don’t, are you committed to improving and addressing that load again?  These are traits that can be applied to all areas of life, especially in this case.

For the last 4 years Alicia has dedicated herself to the barbell, she has made a commitment to performance and put her trust in the idea that improving her performance would help her pull herself out of that deep, dark hole.  She has leaned on the barbell during tough times, she has laughed and had fun with the barbell during the lighter times – and each and every day she’s made herself stronger.  Yes, she squats more, presses more, and snatches more than she did 4 years ago; however, her real strength gains have come in mind.  The barbell has taught Alicia a lot about herself, she has learned to be confident, to be proud of herself, and most importantly the barbell has taught her that failing is nothing to be ashamed about, that quitting is not an option, and that success is a product of determination.  Though the demons are still persistent in her mind today, they are much quieter now – more of whisper originating over her shoulder than the every second of every day consuming inner voice of control she used to fight.  Her ability to take the lessons she has learned under the barbell and apply them to herself in her life is truly amazing.

Every moment I catch myself ashamed, disappointed, or down about life – Alicia wanders into my mind. The girl she was before reminds me that I am a lucky person, that things could be much much worse, and that there is always hope.  The young woman she is now show’s me her tattoos, the daily reminders to herself that the fight is worth it, that one day she will break free from it all. The tattoo on her left forearm says “Above All Love Yourself” and the tattoo on her front right trap reads “Beauty in Strength.”  She reminds me that, in the barbell, I have a weapon that most people don’t have.  She tells me to use it, to lean on it when I need to, and to have a little fun with it from time to time.

These past 4 years really have been a long road, along the way Alicia has done nothing but get stronger each and every day, and in doing so (though she probably doesn’t realize it) she has made those of us close to her stronger.  That my friends is truly beautiful.

Article by: Chris Schaalo

I want to thank Chris and Alicia for standing on the line this week. We have celebrated the triumphs and power that come from what we do. But please don’t let it end with this week. There will always be someone who needs some one on that line with them. Please don’t turn off the beacon. Everyone who had read one on these articles. Everyone who has identified with one of these writers please continue to stand on that line. Be that Strength for those who haven’t found it yet. We all can find the strength in each other to stand on this line, our line, and let every close minded person know the truth.

That Strong is truly Beautiful…

Posted by: Z


Posted in Articles on December 7, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
If it’s anything like what I see, we’ve got some work to do.

…And we’ll do it together.
You’re stuck with me, so don’t try and push me away.

Ya know, you and me, we’re never satisfied.
We’re our own worst enemy.
You feel neither strong nor beautiful,
Because we’re always looking forward, always wanting more from ourselves.
And you’ll never let what you give be good enough.

You know those demons…
They’re whispering all the time. I know you can hear them.
They sit on your chest when you’re trying to metcon.
They gnaw at your wrists when you’re trying to rack.
They say all the right things to break your spirit.
They know all your secrets.

But I’ll be there with my hand on your back.
I’ll push you even when you don’t know which way is up.

Because you and me, we just need to keep moving.
Brick by brick, we’ll build this.
We’ll work, even when there’s no one but me to see you.

Don’t be afraid.
Because there is strength even in failure
and beauty in the struggle.

And one day you’ll start seeing yourself the way I see you.
The flame, not the moth.

You’re not alone.

If your shadow could talk, would you listen?

Strong is Beautiful

Article by: GogO
Posted by: Z

“Well I don’t go around Smiling all day if that’s what you mean… “

Posted in Articles on December 6, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

There really is little I can say about this next writer. There are few people  that can brighten my day and gives me headaches all at the same time whenever they walks into the room… 

But when I was considering the writers for this years “Strong is Beautiful Edition” I knew I couldn’t forget this individual. She’s funny, she asks the most off the wall questions, and she is one of the strongest people I know. The scary thing is she doesn’t even know how strong she is, I dont think I could truly tell you either. And I’m just talking with a barbell right now.

What I could tell you is that she carries a really beautiful inner strength. One that shines through in this article. She may give me headaches but she honestly brightens my day every time she walks in with that smile of hers.  And you know what? When I read this article it made me think of that smile, and like always it brightened my day. Z

I joined Crossfit for all of the wrong reasons. I didn’t have any goals other than to get thinner, maybe tone up a bit. Half my family elders originally came from another country. Their ideals of beauty or even acceptable appearance or behavior is pretty narrow. From a young age I was a tom-boy kind of girl, which was frowned upon. My brother was allowed to play basket ball after school when he was in junior high, and when I asked while in 7th grade I was told, “No, your legs will get too big.”

I didn’t look like the rest of my family, my height was acceptable, but my “shape” wasn’t. As years went on, some of the elder family members started to loosen up on their ideals of body image. My mother did not. She paid someone to Photoshop my wedding photos.

It might seem extreme, but really my mother’s act was just a straightforward manifestation of how society puts pressure on people to look a certain way, especially women, and more specifically young women. I am sure I don’t need to get into what these messages by media, family, friends and whoever will do to the self confidence of our society, our youth and us as individual.

I had spent several years working out frantically at the YMCA and Hot Yoga before that. I had suffered nearly two years of Weight Watchers meetings hearing stories of people avoiding birthday cake at office parties, counting calories and points.

Then cut to me walking into the gym on the Monday after the Superbowl in January 2010. I was rebellious obese, out of shape and nervous. Who are all these intense people? Like most girls, while joining a gym I literally said to the owner, “I don’t want to bulk up.” Honestly, I just wanted to be “skinny.” I didn’t care about athletics, skills, techniques or friendships.

Little did I know that my life was going to change, rather than my just body. I never did sports. I was uncoordinated. I didn’t know left from right. I couldn’t remember instructions to all these new and seemingly complicated movements. I couldn’t finish workouts in the cut off times.

As time went on, I learned I could actually move some significant weight. I joined the Caliber Cycle in January 2011. I learned to trust that I could do these movements without injuring myself. My coach called me an athlete and I nearly fell over. He would tell me I was capable of doing something, I trusted him, so I would try and accomplish it to my astonishment. I started learning to trust myself.

Yeah, I lost some weight, but I never got “thin”. More importantly I lost a lot of emotional baggage along the way. I didn’t know as I strengthen my body, I was strengthening my self-confidence and my soul. I learned that I could rise to all sorts of challenges that I never thought possible. I even completed a marathon five months after coming in with only one single day of “marathon” training.

My spirit grew more adventurous and now I do all sorts of activities I couldn’t have imagine trying before. I am so lucky to be around the great group of people, who support and encourage each other without a mean competitive undertone.

Life isn’t a made for TV movie. There was no heartfelt apology or sudden approval from my mother. In fact, I don’t think I have reached her level of “acceptable body shape.” But, it turns out that my life is better than a movie.

I lifted weights, my body grew strong and my self-confidence grew stronger. Lifting weights changed my life in a way that years of step aerobics never did. I am strong, not just in body but mind, body and soul.

Strong is Beautiful 

Article by: Michelle B.
Posted by: Z

“Saying goodbye in their own way. Playing Outlawed tunes on Outlawed pipes…”

Posted in Articles on December 5, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

Sometimes in life special people have a way of finding their way into yours when you least expect it. When this happens sometimes even the circumstances are special. But those special people are the ones that really leave an impact on you. Today’s article was from one such person.

I don’t know where to start in this intro. But really the start of this intro is the start to my own story. I’ve been training for a while now. I stated out working only with firefighters and that lead me into a career of professional training. Back then I wasn’t Zach the Coach. I was just a trainer, I was just a young trainer.

I thought I had it all figured out I thought I knew about strength, until this very special person came into my life.

She was of few words but she was Direct and Stubborn. Everything we did when we trained wasn’t questions but I could tell she was thinking when I was talking. She would be the first to throw the bullshit flag on someone or call them out, but she trusted me. And over time this Direct mother and I became very close. I still remember when she talked to me about what she will talk with all of you about today. It was in her classic style, matter of factly and to the point. She never ever had a pity party with me, she’s a pretty amazing women.

Laura was a  fighter then and she is now. She was the first person to truly make me realize the effect my job could have on someone. Without someone like Laura walking into my life I’d have never become the Coach I am today, I truly believe that.

Laura will always stand up speak her mind and fight. That’s who she is. For those of you who know me I’m a fiercely loyal person. So when the time came for me to leave that gym I wanted to bow out making no waves and not cause my Boss who had taken such good care me any trouble. I told all the people I worked with their goodbyes the same way…
“I’m really sorry to say that next week is my last week, I won’t be training here anymore and No I’m not really telling anyone where I’m going.”

It may seems weird to some people reading this but that’s how I chose to handle it. Most people tried to get it out of me, some respected my wishes that I didn’t want to talk about it. Most probably thought I was just being a dick.

Then came my time to say goodbye to Laura.

I was dreading it the whole time we were training. Then I just went to rip the band aid off. Laura looked at me with defiant Laura eyes and asked where I was going…
I wont get into much into details, but I’m pretty sure she told me something along the lines that if we weren’t going to train together then she just wasn’t going to train anymore.

Got me, I had taught myself to say NO to Laura in our Training. There’s my way and that’s how it’s going to be done, I learned to fight stubborn with stubborn. But it wasn’t going to work with this, no not with this

Laura was the first person I broke my rule for, there wasn’t going to be a goodbye. I told Laura where and exactly when I was leaving and she followed me. I feel like Laura would have followed me anywhere. Laura was the first person that came to me as a complete stranger that believed in me. She still believes in me and that worth more than most anything I can describe.

Laura is my friend. Laura believes in me. I hope you all believe in the defiant inner strength Laura has after her story, Laura is a fighter. Z

When Zach asked me to write an article for the “Strong is Beautiful” set of posts, I was flattered. Then, I was scared because I haven’t written anything except scientific articles for years. Then, I was concerned that I didn’t have anything to contribute to this topic.

After all, I am not the strongest woman in the program. Nor am I the fastest. I’m not a very good rower (lousy actually), nor am I a former Division I athlete with athletic DNA. After much thought, I realized that I do have something to contribute. At 45, I’m older than most, if not all, of the women in the program, and I am stronger now than I have ever been. I can offer confidence that as you age, you can be strong. You need not get weaker and out of shape.

Out of shape… been there. Three fateful years ago. Before that, I had been active all my life. I ran, played ice hockey, squash, tennis, and soccer. I was also a serious Shred Betty (that means “girl snowboarder”, for the uninitiated).

So, three years ago was when everything changed for me. I went in for my routine mammogram and got a clean bill of health. About a week later, I received “the call.” Upon further review of my films, they concluded that I did indeed have breast cancer in the very early stages. Oh Crap! (Those were not my exact words, I can assure you.)

Ironically, I wrote my dissertation on breast cancer, so I knew the risk factors. I knew my risk was pretty low, and yet… here I was. (On soap box: Unlucky things can happen to healthy people. Get your cancer screenings! Off soap box.) Luckily, I only needed a lumpectomy and radiation, no chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, radiation left me weak and exhausted. I could barely pick up my 5 year old daughter. I was even winded going up one flight of stairs. I felt awful.

One month to the day after completing radiation treatment, I walked into Zach’s old gym. Pathetic would be an adequate description of my first workout with him. I was completely discouraged by how weak and out of shape I felt, but Zach (the best coach in the world) encouraged me and helped me get stronger.

When Zach started this program, I watched with envy as the men and women got stronger and faster. I didn’t think I had a chance of keeping up. I finally got the courage to ask Zach if I could join the program, and I am so glad I did. (Thank you for saying yes, Z.) I will never be as strong or as fast as most of you other younger, stronger, beautiful women, but I will be as strong and as fast as I can be…

Strong Is Beautiful

Article by: Laura
Posted by: Z

“Why do you need Japanese steel?”

Posted in Articles on December 4, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

A little over a year ago something really special happened on Old Country, four writers decided to send out a message.

This Message was directly linked with the value we were preaching here on OC and with Iron Club. The Message was one that needed to broadcasted. The Message was important to every little girl or 50 year old mother that had been told differently at some point in their life.

Last year when Marissa came to me and asked if we could hold this special edition I gladly accepted the task of helping put this very special Message out for as many to people to see as possible.

The Message was very simple:
“Strong is Beautiful…”

Those Five writers last year carried the flag for that Message. Those five writers last year were fearless in their honesty. Because of those five writers, the message became more than just words. It became a rally.

One year’s time has come and gone since that inaugural Edition, and Five more writers have decided to take on the mantle this year. It all has to start somewhere, and I believe that this story of true strength discovered from within is our sendoff.

Strong is Beautiful has a voice again as a mother finds she’s as strong as any Samurai….   Z

I am everybody else. I am nothing special. I am proud of that. Why?

Because I don’t have an athletic background. I wasn’t a varsity athlete in high school; I wasn’t an athlete in college or anywhere else. I mean, like every kid in Seattle I played a little soccer, and I was on my swim team for one year in 9th grade, but after that, I spent a lot of time drinking, doing drugs and smoking. Through most of my twenties, my only exercise was dancing in the mosh pit at punk clubs in L.A. or San Francisco. Like a lot of people, I ate not horribly, but without much thought.

I walked into this gym unable to do a push-up or a pull-up. Not only that, like so many women out there – we have to be honest about this – I did not think I ever would. Those are things that you do – you who are athletes, you who are physically “gifted,” you for whom this stuff seems easy. Men do pull-ups; only very special women do them…right?

I am everybody else. I am nothing special. I am proud of that. Why?

Because when I was pregnant with my twins, I was on bed rest. I had pre-diabetes and high blood-pressure. After my babies were born, the muscles and tendons in my feet and legs had shortened and atrophied so much that it hurt to walk. And several months after my twins were born, my not-quite 5’5” frame was holding 220 lbs. I did not hate myself then – it wasn’t like that – but I was uncomfortable in my own skin. The person in the mirror, she didn’t look like me. And to be honest, I felt old, closer to death than I should be.

I walked into this gym, never having touched a barbell and never having seen a kettlebell. Women don’t do that. Olympic lifters, maybe, but come on, the rest of us? I’ve spent enough time in the average, everyday gym to know that where the bars are is like the ladies’ no-fly zone. I’d probably never used a dumbbell bigger than 20 lbs, because I wasn’t trying to “bulk up,” now was I?

I am everybody else. I am nothing special. I am proud of that. Why?

Because I walked into this gym, and I stayed. I had migraines after almost every workout for two weeks, but I told myself to come back. I finished last every day, but I kept trying. My balance was so poor that I couldn’t squat the bar on my first Wednesday, but I never, never skipped a “heavy day.” I wrote everything down. My competition was against my last performance; my foe was the old me. Did I beat her? Good.

I am everybody else. I am nothing special. I am proud of that. Why?

Because one day, I worked up the nerve to ask to join the Caliber Cycle, and it changed me. I was scared and I asked a lot of questions at first. Sometimes, Zach would just look at me and say, “Do whatever you need to do to get stronger.”

I did everything Coach said. I pushed. The Cycles tore me down. Some days, I was so exhausted, I fell asleep sitting up. Oh, and I never tried to lose weight; I learned to eat what powered me; I only tried to get stronger. I put the bar on my back over and over, and the next thing I knew, that box of clothes in my attic – the one marked “Can’t Wear Because Pregnant,” the one I was afraid to open for a long, long time – it was useless, because everything in it was too big. I wasted forty minutes shopping recently, because everything I took into the dressing room was a size too large. It’s disorienting, sometimes. Who am I now? I have wrapped my chalked fingers around the gnarl of the barbell so many times that I have become a different person than I thought I was.

Am I everybody else? Am I nothing special?

I am a woman who does push-ups and pull-ups – legit ones. I have invaded the no-fly zone of the weight room at other gyms, and no, I don’t need help, but I’ll use those big plates, thanks. I run, I jump, I climb, I throw, I swing, I lift.

I no longer know what I can and can’t do, because I have done so many things I never thought I would. The kettlebell that I could not clean into a rack position just over a year ago, it’s too light now. The deadlift weight that I didn’t think I could do touch-and-go, Coach said try it and I did three sets of ten unbroken. My one rep max squat from before I started training Iron Club style, it’s decimated.

I am strong. I really am. And I truly do not know my limits. How beautiful is that?

Article by: Destiny
Posted by: Z

“Healing through Strength…”

Posted in Articles on December 1, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

There were a lot of reasons why Old Country Strong was created.

I could sit back and sift through Old Country’s history today but that’s not the point. It’s simple. It started with the Club. From the Club it grew. We took on our own identity, style and swagger. We pride ourselves in being different. We pride ourselves on being gritty, tough and hard nosed. But those things don’t mean anything without eachother.

The I/C is more than a “Brother or Sisterhood,” it’s a family. And families look out for each other.

Some losses are beyond measure, and when they happen no one knows what to do.
I found myself in that position two years ago. On November 1st, 2009 I got a call I will never, ever forget. The night before three very special people to me had just lost someone very special to them. When I received the news, I didn’t know what to do.

Timothy Brenton had been lost in the line of duty
Tim Brenton was a Seattle Police Officer
Tim was a Brother and a Father
“Lumpy” was loved by everyone who knew him

Betsy, Derek and Matty came to me with a simple request: create a Tribute Workout for Tim. Doing this was one of the greatest honors of my life. I contacted about Tim and asked if they would create a officially recognized workout in his memory as well. They answered my request and created the Hero Workout “Brenton” that appears on the Crossfit homepage for people all over the world to take part in and remember Tim.

But “Brenton” isn’t the workout the Club has comes together to do every year. We remember Tim in our own private way. We celebrated Tim’s memory this year as we have every year since his passing: with “Lumpy”

We are all stronger together than we are apart. That’s what makes Old Country so great, the positive effects we can all have on each other’s lives… and we can do it with something as simple as lifting.

But it’s not all that simple is it? We all take so much from our time on the platform or under the bar and our time with each other. To say it’s simple is a understatement, it’s the Healing Power of Strength.

Next week is a big week for Old Country. It’s the mark of our second annual “Strong is Beautiful” week. You will hear from 5 guest writers on how strength physically and mentally has effected there lives in ways you couldn’t imagine.

I truly believe when we need each other we can TRULY count each other, no matter what. That what makes OC different. I think together is where the Club and those that support it can find the the Power to Heal Through Strength.


Posted by: Z