Master of His Fate – Part 1
Last month Coach Rob flew to Texas – for a work out.
Read on, to find out why (and how his little adventure is going to improve your front squat).
What are you thinking getting on that plane?
1) You find it impossible to sit still.
2) Even the 10 minute journey to Huntsman is something of an ordeal for you (since it’s not easy to get in a workout whilst driving).
3) You don’t even stop moving when it is your rest day; you like to bounce upside down in the middle of a rig in a spider’s web of rubber bands
You are – of course — Wreck It Ralph himself, erstwhile England Counties’ prop forward, CrossFit coach and competitive athlete Signor Roberto Schillaci.
Well, ok, you’re not Rob Schillaci (you just want to have his Crossfit Total and his engine). I know that you’re not Rob Schillaci, because Rob is 30,000 feet over the Atlantic doing air squats in the aisle of a 747. Sit down Rob. Now you’re standing on one leg. You’re making people nervous Rob. You’re a big guy and you’re doing single-leg RDLS in turbulence. That dude over there by the bulkhead works for Homeland Security and you’re making him real nervous. You don’t like travelling, you won’t eat aeroplane food, you’ve left Ivana all on her own: you must have a bloody good reason to make a 10000 mile round trip to spend three days at Behemoth CrossFit in Houston, Texas. If you fancy a change of scenery, what’s wrong with the boxes closer to home? Please fasten your seatbelt, eat your chicken, prosciutto and avocado salad and watch a movie. Look, Mad Max is playing.
It turns out that Rob had nine very good reasons to put himself through the ordeal of the journey: Aja Barto, Lauren Fisher, Nichole DeHart, Julien Pineau, Heidi Fearon, Sam Dancer, Maddy Curley, Rasmus Andersen and C J Martin.
Whilst Rob was speeding through the air between London and Houston, all nine of these CrossFit gods and goddesses were making their way across the USA towards Behemoth. They were going to be Rob’s coaches on the three-day CrossFit Invictus Athletes’ Camp.
“These guys have been to the games or they’ve coached games athletes; there’s so much competition experience there,” explains Rob. “I love knowledge, I always want to find out new things and I know nothing compared to them. They’re what attracted me to the camp.”
Take just Invictus’ C. .J Martin: he has coached over two dozen Games athletes as well as coaching the Invictus team to the Games for seven years on the trot with four top five finishes and an overall victory in 2014. “Look at how many athletes C. J. Martin has put on the podium,” says Rob. “That’s not pot luck!” And so Rob was making the journey to learn everything he could about programming from the likes of C.J., about movement, strength and conditioning, not to mention the mental skills he would need to take his competitive career to the next level.
It’s a good job he had a good reason, since his journey did not exactly get off to a good start. The traffic was so bad on the M25 that he missed his flight and had a nervous wait to see if he could get a on a later one. It didn’t really have a good finish either. When he eventually checked into his hotel room Rob wasn’t happy to find he had been given a smoking room when he’d asked for a non-smoking one. So he called down to reception, at which point they realised that he was in the wrong hotel! Maybe Rob has a good reason to hate travelling.
At breakfast, in the right hotel, Rob had to resist the mountains of pancakes and cinnamon buns and settle instead for crispy bacon and eggs with a bowl of fruit. Fuelled up, he spent his first day in the shopping mall: buying presents for Ivana? No buying more fuel, stocking up on BCAAs, whey powder, Vitargo and Quest Bars. Then he drove out to Behemoth to make sure he knew exactly where it was – he didn’t want to be late for the first day of the camp on Friday.
Behemoth CrossFit is housed in a large industrial unit in Cypress, Houston. Its name is picked out in its trademark Red and Black colours. Bang in the middle of the box is a giant gong which members get to hit when they hit a PB. Rob didn’t take much of this in on Friday morning when he walked in…15 minutes late. He was mortified. Despite his dry run the day before, the traffic had got the better of him and now he had to walk into a roomful of strangers, including some of his CrossFit heroes, and apologise for being adrift. “Heh, you’re the guy form the UK!” Someone shouted with a big smile, putting him at his ease. The athletes soon split into two groups and started to prepare their bodies for what was to come. They mobilised their ankles with Nichole DeHart and Lauren Fisher, prepped their front rack position with Aja Barto, the owner of Behemoth. Sam Dancer, the powerlifting specialist, was in charge of glute stretching. They worked on their thoracic spine set up, and techniques for staying tight in the mid-line.
“All the coaches were walking around, chatting, helping us, giving us pointers” recalls Rob. If Rob was there to learn, he wasn’t disappointed. “We were building up to a heavy front squat and already I was picking up little gems. How often do we say keep your elbows up, elbows up? But instead these guys said, don’t say that, say push your palms into the bar. It’s a much better cue.” Little cues and tips like that were worth the journey alone for Rob. “I’m always telling people to be quick, to be fast under the bar, but they had me slow down my descent, just a little.” He was going so fast he was losing his tightness. “I was there not just to become a better athlete but to become a better coach.”
The advice and cues were important but so was the camaraderie. The athletes got into teams of 3 and 4 to tackle a WOD some Huntsman members might recall from the week after Rob returned from Texas: a 16 min AMRAP of 30 double-unders, 10 back squats at 80kg and 10 synchronised burpees. Whilst one team member took their turn doing the DUs, the others had to keep the bar off the ground. “It was a proper team building WOD,” says Rob. “The coaches were walking around, shouting at us, praising us. The atmosphere was incredible.” That WOD, that Friday, with those athletes, would have told you everything you need to know about CrossFit. Rob had travelled all those thousands of miles, the others were from all over North America, one was from Puerto Rico, most had been strangers a few hours earlier, but to anyone watching their synchronised burpees, they looked like they were old friends who trained together every day.”
I’d say that feeling alone was worth a few hours of fidgeting on a plane.
Inspired? Grab a friend and go front squat. Push those palms into the bar.
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