Reflections On A New CrossFit Home

Here is a letter from our dear friend and former Zoner, Sean “Spidey” Falconer:

Deanna was looking for blog ideas for the Zone so I suggested that perhaps I could share some information about my new gym CrossFit Palo Alto.

Before I moved to California I had scoped out all the available gyms in the local area where I knew I would be living. I live in Menlo Park, which is a small city about 40 minutes south of San Francisco and 30 minutes north of San Jose. I am sandwiched between two larger Silicon Valley cities, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

There is no CrossFit affiliates in Menlo Park, however, there are three in Palo Alto and one in Redwood City. My original intention was to try out several gyms and go with the one that felt right. What actually ended up happening was that I went to CrossFit Palo Alto three to four days after we arrived and was hooked right away. I went every day that week, dragging Theresa along once, which consisted of 4 kilometers of walking followed by a 30 minute bus ride.

A big part of what sold me on the gym was some of the similarities to the Zone. It’s a new affiliate, there’s currently only about 25 members. Like my experience at the Zone, I would be getting in on the ground floor. I liked that the owner and coach knew everyone’s name and like the great coaches from the Zone, seemed to really care about his members.

The owner and coach of CrossFit Palo Alto is Tim Dymmel. Like Cam, he has a rugby background. In fact, he’s had contracts to play in New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland as well as the United Stats. He has also been working as a strength and conditioning coach for a long time. He competed in the 2008 CrossFit Games and last years affiliate cup, pulling off a very impressive three rep max OHS of 245 during the North Pad workout.

Tim embodies the “No excuses” mantra associated with CrossFit. He has a family, two young daughters, and a son on the way, so often the only time he has to train is at 5am by himself before anyone gets to the gym. It’s difficult to complain about being tired, sore, or not having enough time to workout when you know your coach was up at 4:30am completing the same workout. Despite the ridiculous hours he keeps, he always has energy to fire up the evening classes and cheer his members onto completion of the workout.

As we all know, CrossFit has it’s own lingo: metcon, WOD, AMRAP, Fran, K2E, and so on. These are all terms any serious CrossFitter is familiar with. At CrossFit Palo Alto, Tim has trained his members to recognize and digest his own extended set of lingo.  At any CrossFit Palo Alto workout you will most likely hear phrases like “Tight butt, tight gut”, “Smooth is fast”, “It’s all about CHEES” (Chest Hips Heels Elbows Strenf) or perhaps some “Strenf” references.

Members have adopted these phrases and incorporated them into their own lingo. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a reference to Strenf in a Facebook post. What Strenf has come to mean in the gym is difficult to explain. It’s kind of the “essence” of the gym and what we do.  When you have a feeling that you can’t describe after a WOD, it’s Strenf that you are feeling.

Besides Strenf, the phrases are reminders about technique. For example, “Tight butt, tight gut” is a reminder about what you should feel when you complete a lift with weight above your waste in say a clean, jerk, or kettlebell swing. Your abs need to be engaged and your glutes should be tight.

Tim takes a different approach to the workout designs than at the Zone. Each workout consists of a 15 minute warm-up, usually completed individually. This in a sense would be equivalent to the Zone’s buy-in. Following this, we complete a 15 to 20 minute strength focused workout. Finally, we complete the workout with a metcon, usually something that takes less than 10 to 15 minutes.

The strength elements usually consist of three different exercises, that members complete throughout the week. For example, Monday could be clean, Wednesday front squat, and Friday push jerk. The same elements are practiced and logged for a three week cycle. After three weeks, we start another set of three different exercises. Tuesday and Thursday classes are often used for skill development. Instead of a strength element, we may practice handstands, l-sits, or learn a new kettlebell technique.

Although this system is different than the Zone, I think it is quite effective. I’ve noticed significant gains in strength and technique with these very focused and progressive three week cycles. Also, given how new most of the members at CrossFit Palo Alto are to CrossFit, it seems to be quite a useful approach for introducing people to the core movements. With a three week cycle of a particular exercise, it’s easier for Tim to teach the fundamentals so that he can eventually incorporate the movements into metcons. Unlike the Zone, there’s not multiple coaches, so there’s fewer trained people available to remind you about technique or yell at you about full range of motion.

I was really worried about finding a new affiliate after my move. I didn’t think anything could live up to my experience at the Zone. There’s of course differences with my new gym, but I think in many ways that’s really been a good thing. It’s been great to get a different perspective on training, learn new techniques, push myself in different ways, and build new relationships. I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to new exercises and train with different tools, like sandbags and a large variety of kettlebells.

I strongly encourage everyone at the Zone to give other affiliates a try when you travel and go in with an open mind. CrossFit trains you for the “Unknown and Unknowable”, there’s no better way to experience that than throwing yourself into a foreign gym, with different coaches, different philosophies, and completely new people. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Some of my favorite CrossFit Palo Alto workouts so far.

Uphill Fran
Front squat/push-up Nicole
Death by 10 meters
A Sandy Metcon
50 tire flips for time (sorry, no link, but you get the idea)

P.S. If you are ever in Northern California, look me up.

– Spidey

Today’s Workout:

Buy-in: short dynamic movement warm up followed by 200m row technique

WOD:  “Mutiny”

Elite:  4 rounds for time of:

  • 500m row
  • 15 pullups
  • 15 burpees
  • 15 wallball (14/20)

Zone 4:  400m row, 10 each of: pullups, burpees, wallball

Zone 3:  400m row, 8 each of: pullups, burpees, wallball (10/14)

Zone 2:  400m row, 8 each of:  assisted pullups, burpees, wallball

Zone 1:  scale as needed

Zone TC 10K:  2-3 rounds of 500m row, 10-15 pullups (assisted or kipping), 10 burpees

Cash-out: Rehydrate and relax!!


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