Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: June 2016 : Craig Grant

June 1, 2016
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FullSizeRenderCraig is the quintessential model student. He is very consistent, is always working hard to get better, and is very coachable. He always comes to class with a great attitude, never complains, and trusts the process. It’s been awesome seeing him make slow and steady gains in the short time he’s been with us. Looking forward to seeing what the next few months will have in store for him.

Please join me in recognizing and honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s June 2016 Athlete of the Month: Craig Grant

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: May 2016 : Kalei Kuratko

May 1, 2016
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Kalei - May 2016As a coach, one of my favorite things is watching an athlete really begin to hit their stride in an area where things just weren’t clicking. Lately especially, I can’t help but smile when I see Kalei move a barbell.

Kalei joined our Stronghold family with a pretty solid athletic background. But when I asked her to lift a barbell from the floor and replace her body under the bar with her arms locked out and sitting in the bottom of a squat in one fell swoop…she struggled at first with the concept of it all and with confidence in having the bar over her head. Both are common challenges for people new to these exercises. I remember the scene of one class session quite vividly in my head. “Don’t pull the bar up with your arms. Pull your body down and around the bar,” I would tell her. “You’re working harder than you need to. You can do it.” She nodded and went back to work.

Kalei continued to struggle with the concept for a while but she never complained. She just kept practicing, smiling the whole time, never getting overly frustrated. She just kept plugging away with a good attitude.

I can’t remember exactly when it really started to click, but as I mentioned earlier, I recently started to notice how proficiently and confidently she’s been managing herself around the bar. She’s getting more comfortable with the snatch and her elbows are fast in the clean.

Along the way, we’ve discovered she has a few strength imbalances side to side. While some athletes struggle with ego wanting to keep pushing through, she happily takes my recommendations to back off a little and focus on improving on her weaknesses.

If only all athletes could be this easy to work with. She really is a joy and its been super fun watching her progress so quickly. Really grateful to have her and her husband Dan as part of the family.

Please join me in recognizing and honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s May 2016 Athlete of the Month: Kaleianuenue Kuratko

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: April 2016 : Taylor Sedensky

April 1, 2016
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Taylor Sedensky

That one time when Taylor broke her nose. 🙂

Choosing who to recognize this month was a total no brainer. As of late, Taylor has been our resident poster child for adaptability and perseverance.

A while ago, she mentioned pain in her shin. Thinking it was a soft tissue problem, we went at it as we normally would. The pain nagged for a while though and she finally got it checked out. Turns it she had a slight fracture on her fibula! Doc told her no CrossFit for at least 6 weeks.

Total bummer, but we took it as an opportunity to focus on weaknesses. For Taylor, it’s historically been upper body strength and stability. We were super limited on things she could do as we needed to limit load on her leg. This led to the adoption of a rather tedious and monotonous workout routine focusing on core stability as well as upper body pressing and pulling of the bro sesh variety.

Taylor doesn’t complain though, not outwardly at least. She comes in faithfully and works on her stuff on her own. Persistence despite the monotony has yielded slow and steady results that will take her far when she’s given the green light to jump (literally) back into the regular routine.

It’s been really awesome seeing Taylor’s dedication and consistency during this time. She’s getting stronger and as always, it’s just fun to have her around.

Please join me in recognizing and honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s April 2016 Athlete of the Month: Taylor Sedensky



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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: March 2016 : Colin Olsen

March 1, 2016
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colinI talk a lot about coach-ability. That is huge in my book. Two other qualities I very much value are self awareness and work ethic. Lots of people use their limitations as excuses. Others recognize their challenges and have the humility to face them head on and put in the extra work required to overcome them.

Colin is one of those guys who exemplifies the latter. From the start, Colin struggled with some mobility challenges. Shortly after beginning his training with us, he injured his ankle playing soccer. That set him back even more. Regardless, Colin has come back and has been working harder than ever.

One of the great things about Colin is he has no ego to deal with. Some guys get offended and lack patience when you take weight away from them because their mobility inhibits them from moving a weight with good position. I have had Colin in tough positions with an empty barbell fighting for mere millimeters to improve his mechanics, without any complaint. I love that he’s not looking for the shortcut approach. Longevity is everything.

Colin is also one of the few people who stays behind after class to work on extra things to accelerate his progress. It’s that work ethic that is going to take him far.

Please join me in recognizing and honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s March 2016 Athlete of the Month: Colin Olsen.

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: February 2016 : Mark Stevens

February 1, 2016
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Mark StevensMark StevensMark StevensMark Stevens, is without a doubt, a prime example of how consistency, determination, tenacity, and a great attitude lead to results.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, Mark took that old cliche and proved it dead wrong. By the way, I don’t feel bad calling Mark “old”, he reminds us of that fact all the time and with a smile on his face. If I’m half as active and strong as he is when I’m his age, I’ll be stoked.

When Mark first started, he struggled quite a bit at relearning what we consider to be fundamental movement patterns. Years of bad habits had left much of his musculature dormant and unused. We had to force his body to rewire itself and re-establish those long lost neuromuscular pathways. There were days when we did little else than practice sitting down to a box and standing back up with sound mechanics. Then we started adding in complex, multi-joint movements with a barbell, and all manner of chaos ensued.

All joking aside, I wish I had taken more video of when Mark started to compare to how he moves today. He’s a totally different person. He still forgets the names of exercises sometimes, but once you get him going, he digs deep and works hard. It’s truly been awesome and an honor to see Mark progress. His dedication and humility are an example for us all.

Also, noteworthy, Mark has signed up to compete in the 2016 CrossFit Games Open Competition as a Masters Competitor. Really looking forward to seeing him surprise himself as to how strong and capable he can be!

Please join me in recognizing and honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s February 2016 Athlete of the Month: Mark Stevens.

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: January 2016 : Maggie Miller

January 1, 2016
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MaggieThis bit of recognition is long overdue. Since Day One, Maggie has shown great promise and determination. Not only that, she’s just super fun to have around. She doesn’t get to train as often as she would like, but despite that, she consistently makes steady gains in skill and strength. It’s been a very cool thing to watch. I often dish out playful digs on her being a “sandbagger” but only because it’s clear to me (and many others) that there is a big difference between her perceived capabilities and her actual potential. I’m looking forward to seeing what this new year will have in store for her. Please join me in honoring 2016’s first Athlete of the Month: Maggie Miller.

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: October 2015 : Yelena and Kevin Chaulk

October 1, 2015
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Yelena and Kevin ChualkWhen Coach Kaitlyn and I were discussing the nominees for this month’s Athlete of the Month, both Yelena and Kevin were at the top of the list. But rather than try and choose between them, I decided why not honor them together? This amazing power couple joined our family 6 months ago and it’s been an absolute pleasure having them.

Yelena and Kevin came to us with a good amount of CrossFit experience already under their belts. They were looking for a community closer to home but I don’t know that they were expecting to also find one of the most picky coaches on the planet. 🙂 Despite their long experience with CrossFit, they both came in with a few fundamental faults in their movements that had never been cued or corrected. For a while Yelena felt like she was starting over from scratch.

While many experienced athletes might get frustrated and leave, both Yelena and Kevin responded instead by digging in, working harder, and all the while getting better and better. As soon as they walk in the door they go straight to work on their drills and mobility prep. They approach each workout responsibly, understand that longevity is the goal, and they consistently give their best. Post workout, they are diligent about prioritizing and optimizing their recovery and continue working on improving their quality of movement.

Not only are Yelena and Kevin model students, they’re just all around cool people. I’m very thankful that they call our community home. Please join me in honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s October Athletes of the Month: Yelena and Kevin Chaulk.

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: September 2015 : Aaron Myers

August 31, 2015
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Aaron MyersThe race for this month’s Athlete of the Month was a close one. But I’m a sucker for humility… and Aaron is a prime example of that rare and totally underrated virtue.

The first time we met Aaron was back in February during the 2015 Open. He came in to do one of the workouts with Troy, Coach Kyle’s brother. At the time, Aaron was training at another local gym, a very reputable one at that. The trouble at even reputable gyms is that sometimes the coach to athlete ratio during class can get a little out of control and athletes don’t always get the attention they need. It’s hard enough for one coach to keep eyes on 8-10 athletes. When you get upwards of 20-30 athletes it gets REALLY rough. At Aaron’s gym, latter environment situation was very common. Two things were very apparent to me when I watched Aaron warm up that day:

  1. He had a lot of heart and was willing to work hard
  2. Many of his movement patterns were inefficient and some were just plain unsafe; not a good combination.

As I do with everyone that comes into our gym, I did my best to help clean up some of his movement, but there’s only so much you can do in 15 minutes to undo 7 months of habits. Once you sound off “3-2-1 Go!” the habitual movement patterns take over. I really felt bad because I saw a great deal of potential, but unfortunately, I recognized that Aaron wasn’t getting the coaching he needed to reach that potential. He still had several months left on his membership contract at the other gym. Otherwise I would have swooped in and grabbed him on the spot.

Fast forward 5 months. Aaron’s contract was finally up and he made the move to join our community. He knew coming in that he had some work to do. But I’m not entirely sure he was expecting me to be as blunt and relentless as I am about making people move well. I am not shy at all when it comes to stepping people backwards in progressions to help them iron out mechanical flaws. For a guy like Aaron with a year of CrossFit experience under his belt, it would not come as a surprise if he ended up getting frustrated or even bitter with being told he had to start all the way from scratch.

On one occasion, Aaron was the only person to show up to a 5:30pm class. We ended up doing a full hour of drills with nothing but a PVC pipe. There were a few times that day when he got a little frustrated, but he pushed through anyway. On more than one occasion, I’ve taken weight away from Aaron when he wanted to do a workout with heavier loads. I could tell he was disappointed, but  he graciously humored me. I was more concerned with ensuring he moved well throughout the entire workout. I think at the end of the day, he realized I just had his best interest in mind.

Through it all, Aaron has not only been a great sport putting up with my obnoxious, seemingly unattainable standards, but he’s also made huge strides in improving his movement. He has proven himself to be very coachable and it has been paying off. I don’t think he realizes how far he’s come in such a short amount of time. Aaron always has a great attitude coming into the gym and we are looking forward to seeing him continue to get even better and better.

Please join me in honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s September 2015 Athlete of the Month: Aaron Myers.

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: August 2015 : Michelle Elliott

August 1, 2015
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michelleIt is seriously about time that we recognize this special lady. She has been a member of the Stronghold family for a very long time and is by far one of the most faithful, motivated, and hardworking individuals to grace us with her presence. She is notorious for bargaining for less work… or TRYING to bargain, rather. She rarely gets her way, but even if she did she’d opt for doing more work anyway. She’s interesting like that.

Michelle is always game for some sort of community challenge or competition and she is often the last one standing when others quit. I can think of several challenges: 30 day squat challenge, paleo challenge, misc nutrition challenge, etc. etc. that she saw through to the end when everyone else fell off.

Michelle’s determination and dedication are inspiring. When she first came in, she couldn’t squat without falling over. This went on for weeks, but she kept at it. When we finally got that sorted, we realized she couldn’t even set up for a deadlift without falling over. Again, she kept at it. She will disagree with me but she is one of the best movers in the gym. She still gets a little frustrated because there are a few goals that continue to elude her, but what sets her apart is that no matter what, she keeps pushing, and working, and trying… and with a smile on her face.

She will probably hate me for “being outted” as she’ll probably describe this, but she’s stayed back behind the scenes and “unnoticed” for long enough. We wouldn’t be the same without her and this small bit of recognition is long over due.

Please join me in honoring CrossFit Stronghold’s August 2015 Athlete of the Month: Michelle Elliott.

– Coach Ray

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Stronghold Pride – Athlete of the Month: July 2015 : Niko Garcia

July 2, 2015
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NikoThis kid’s got potential… and lots of it.

Hands down the smallest of our competitive athletes, Niko makes up for it in heart. And if you haven’t noticed by now, a recurring theme among the athletes that are recognized each month is the ever important quality of being coachable. Niko is that and then some. He is always looking for ways to get better and to improve himself. He takes feedback with humility and he is constantly pushing to be the best he can.

In case you weren’t there to witness it, here’s some amazing footage of Niko during a tie breaker event against a guy at least 50-60lbs heavier than him. To label that as “impressive” would be a gross understatement.

David vs Goliath @nikogarcia4

A video posted by CrossFit Stronghold San Diego (@crossfitstrongholdsd) on

Please join me in honoring Niko Garcia, CrossFit Stronghold’s July 2015 Athlete of the Month

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