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While there is definitely something to be said for having the best equipment for a task, there's also value in being able to improvise. In my case, as an outdoor guide and traveling teacher, every two weeks sends me to a new city where I often have to approximate exercises or even whole workouts. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have access to a gym, but usually I have to make do in a hotel room, a city park, or on the side of a mountain somewhere. But that's part of CrossFit, isn't it? That's kind of the point: you make do.

That said, there is one piece of equipment I absolutely need. That's my workout "uniform": old red shorts, green throwaway t-shirt, and smelly running shoes. They never let me down. Last month I wore the outfit for a whole three-week backpacking trip through New Mexico, gutting through a WOD every day with rocks, logs, whatever.

And when I came back I cut my "Fran" time by seven minutes! That's a bold claim, I know, so let me explain. In the field, my secret weapon is thrusters with odd objects, such as my backpack or heavy rocks. I often end up doing a lot of thrusters. I did enough rock thrusters in New Mexico that when Coach prescribed "Fran" last week and I was in Corvallis, Oregon, teaching at OSU and had access to the campus fitness center, I was psyched. I knew I could crush my previous best time of 9:15. Of course, I still feared and respected the awesome suck of three rounds of 95-pound thrusters and pull-ups, but my last "Fran" was so ugly, I knew I could crush that time now. I just knew it.

My experiences with athletics, academics, physical training, and military service have exposed me to many types of leaders, students, and trainees. There is a lot of discussion about what makes good leaders, teachers, and coaches, but less about the qualities required on the other side of that relationship--about what it takes to be a world-class trainee. In my exposure to training and teaching interactions across diverse fields, I have observed several consistent characteristics that distinguish world-class trainees and students from the pack. These characteristics are frequently observed in the gymnasium or on the field, but they are relevant to numerous occupational fields and general life scenarios as well. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, the following:


World-class trainees have an insatiable desire to improve. They are self-motivated and take action in the absence of specific direction. Their burning desire enables them to bear the "full dose" of the training.

Willingness to listen.

Great trainees understand the necessity of listening. They are teachable, open, and willing to accept guidance and correction. Engaged listening fosters effective communication between student and teacher. Intelligent discussions pertinent to the situation not only instruct the trainee but also strengthen the bonds of trust and confidence.

Dedication to fundamentals.

Exceptional trainees embrace fundamentals. They build on a solid foundation, performing common movements uncommonly well (as Coach Glassman puts it). Great trainees improve with regular, deliberate practice. Pre-workout time is maximized and used as an opportunity to sharpen basic skills.

"CrossFit women rock!" This sentiment resonates with both men and women. CrossFit women are redrawing the boundaries of performance and having a blast doing it. In fact, their awe-inspiring performances have been instrumental in conveying CrossFit's efficacy to the free world's military. It wasn't the male fire-breathers that did it. It was the women. As one Naval Special Warfare operator said, "It's easy to write off to genetics the performances of a CrossFit male, but it's a whole different ball game when a five-foot-nothing, high school pottery teacher at the local hippie high school cleans your clock." That statement continues to resound across the military and fitness world.

In this feature and interview, we learn a little more about Jolie Gentry, the winner of the inaugural CrossFit games. We already know she can run, lift, row, pull-up, and jerk with the best of them. Now see some other sides of her.

Jolie Interview:

1. Explain your introduction to CrossFit.
Two Santa Cruz County Deputies I met at Basic SWAT school in September 2006 talked about this guy on their team who was "a machine" and just ran circles around everyone else on their SWAT team. They said that his name was Greg Amundson, and he does this stuff called CrossFit. They knew I was interested in fitness and said that I would probably like it. After I returned from school, my teammate Darryl told me that he had just started training at One World Gym in Union City where there was a cop who ran CrossFit classes. The first day I walked in the door, I realized that the cop he was talking about was Freddy Camacho. I've known Freddy for years. In fact, he had been a student of mine in a group cardio class that I used to teach at a martial arts school.


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