CrossFit Bangor Member Spotlight – Brian H. Cotlar
When did you start at CrossFit Bangor:
It was just before Niki and Matt Brazier left for Providence, RI, so I believe it was 2013. Wow, so about six years ago! I remember hearing about CrossFit and joining as a “New Year’s resolution”. I believe Tony Sutton and Niki did my on-ramp training. When I joined Crossfit I was about 40lbs heavier and I smoked a pack and a half of camel cigarettes a day. I quit cold-turkey after on ramp day #2.
Proudest CrossFit accomplishment:
That’s a tough question! There have been so many milestones for me. I remember getting my first pullup, my first rope climb, the first time I completed a workout BEFORE the time cap (That may have just been the other day 🙂 I was very proud to compete in my first competition and to win the men’s scaled with Michael Lockhard at Hulks & Ninjas a while back. I was also proud and honored to compete with Randi Mosley at Reindeer Games. Competitions are fun and it’s not even about winning necessarily. I really enjoy how the shared adversity of a workout can bring people closer together and build camaraderie. I guess my proudest accomplishment is that I’m still coming in and still working to get better. I’m proud to be committed to this type of fitness and grateful that I can come often.
Favorite lift, metcon, or both:
My favorite lift is power cleans (from the hang)…and shoulder-to-overhead is my jam too. I also love rope climbs in workouts (they make me feel ready for the zombie apocalypse 🙂
A movement or workout you’re hoping to improve this year:
I’m working on my gymnastic movements. I’m hoping to get better at Bar Muscle ups and Handstand Walks this year. I’d also like to be able to string together Chest-to-Bar pullups using that groovy butterfly motion I’ve seen others do.
Biggest surprise since starting at CrossFit Bangor:
My biggest surprise has been how much I actually enjoy exercise now. It’s fun now, and again I also love the camaraderie and culture of supporting one another on our individual fitness journeys.
Advice for new members or friends who have yet to try CrossFit:
For new members, JUST KEEP SHOWING UP. Don’t beat yourself up about scaling movements or compare yourself to other athletes. Listen to our trainers and to your body. Rome wasn’t built in a day. All you have to do is get there and the programming will do the rest.
For my friends, IT’s THE BEST INVESTMENT I’VE EVER MADE IN MYSELF. Why aren’t you here yet? 🙂
Favorite Maine place to recommend to other members or visitors:
There’s a part of the Appalachian Trail out near Brownville, ME. It’s about a 4 mile hike to a big tent site on a lake and it’s one of the most beautiful spots and one of my favorite places. After you get there, there is a side-hike up a ridge and the view is breathtaking. Ask me and I’ll tell you how to get there. 😉 Also, spend time in Acadia National Park. It’s a truly magnificent place with much natural beauty.
Non CrossFit interest(s):
Gee whiz…I hadn’t realized it but I have a lot of interests! I like old-school Nintendo games and video games in general, I love to hike and camp, I love NFL Football and I’m a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles Fan. I also enjoy snowboarding though I haven’t been in a long time. Most of all I love to spend time with my daughter Ella who is just about to turn 4. I’m pretty sure she was doing box handstand pushups off the coffee table the other day!
Additional thoughts you’d like to share!
I want to say THANK YOU to Melinda Metten, Karl, Tiffany, Derek, Connor, Tony, Kevin, Michele, Karen, Courtney, Zach, Emily, Dajia, James, Alex, and every other trainer and member at CrossFit Bangor for being supportive of me. CrossFit has done more for me than just make me physically better. It’s significantly improved my self esteem and given me the confidence to try new things and work toward career goals which I never thought I’d be able to achieve. It’s helped me to manage my anxieties and realize my own self-worth. I can safely say that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take the job at the Chamber of Commerce or to initiate a run for Bangor City Council without CrossFit Bangor and my CFB family, so again THANK YOU! Plus, I can see my toes again which is great! 🙂 <3
I’ve been working with Michele and the Healthy Steps Nutrition program for three months. Prior to that, I have been someone who struggled with her weight since I was introduced to solid food. I have been on every diet and fad program out there, some with more success than others but inevitably, I would at some point get defeated and regain anything I had lost.
This program, the science behind it, and the common sense approach, have made such a difference for me. I am eating real, wholesome foods daily. I am not excluding anything, nothing is off limits so there are no cravings or daydreaming about the sugar or carbs I wish I was eating. I just have to be mindful and plan to fit in the things I will be choosing to eat/drink. When I’ve stuck to doing this, I haven’t experienced side effects of indulgence that I used to have (bloat, retention, further cravings) so I am motivated in a way I haven’t been before to keep doing what is so clearly working. I don’t feel defeated or that I’ve messed up so I might as well give up. I feel in control of myself, my health and empowered in ways I wasn’t anticipating going in to this program. It’s not even about losing the weight for me at this point, it’s about how strong I feel in all areas of my life and how excited I am to see where I can go when I believe consistently in myself.
As of last week, I have officially finished out my time as CrossFit Bangor’s intern. The summer feels like it when by in just a blink of an eye and I wanted to wrap up my experience with a final reflection so here it is.
Doing my internship at CrossFit Bangor has been an amazing learning opportunity. I’m grateful for the guidance and patience of all the coaches for letting me shadow them, teaching me the ways of the Coach, and helping me work out hang-ups I had while I was learning. I especially thank Tiffany for taking the helm on this journey.
I started my internship with the notion that learning to be a CrossFit coach wasn’t going to too terribly difficult due to primarily having 3 years of CrossFit as an athlete under my belt. In addition, I had experience teaching emergency medicine and CPR classes and spent five summers as a camp counselor corralling 5 to 17 year olds through daily activities as well as the woods and ponds on backpacking and canoe trips. Before starting my internship, I attended and passed the Level 1 CrossFit Seminar where they taught a broad spectrum of what CrossFIt is, what it is about as well as an in depth demonstration and instruction of the movement standards of all the fundamental CrossFit movements. Therefore, I knew the overall dynamics of being a coach and assumed my biggest struggle was going to be cueing because I did not have any experience with that.
I came to find out that the amazing coaches that we are lucky to have at CrossFit Bangor definitely make conducting a class look a lot smoother than in actuality. I found out that there are so many parts to a class from preparing strategies and warm-ups before class to orchestrating the warm-up, transitions, WOD(s), and cool down so it all fits nicely into an hours time.
This struggle with time management stemmed from my fear of messing up. For me personally as I have gone through the stresses of school and working multiple jobs, CrossFit is commonly the best hour of my day. In that hour, I know that no matter what I have going on outside the gym I get to put it on the back burner and focus on the WOD which both prepares me for the requirements of my job as well as betters myself mentally. With CrossFit, I have been able to learn skills and meet strength/endurance I never would have guessed I’d be able to accomplish. Knowing that like myself others find CrossFit as their stress relief and happy hour, any mistake I made may it be stumbling over my description during the brief, not transitioning smoothly, or not communicating the warm-up or WOD efficiently, felt like I was negatively affecting the athletes in my class. Questions and worries always swirled in my head of if my coaching was good enough so all athletes have the best chance of success in the WOD.
Aside from that, my favorite portion of coaching was getting to see athletes succeed. May it be a new 10# PR on a lift, jumping to a higher box than previous, or finally getting their first of a certain movement, the confident smile afterwards is something priceless to experience. I also loved being able to describe something in just the right way so the look of confusion would suddenly lessen from someone’s face as the information clicked in their mind.
Overall, I still have much to learn before I can be a successful CrossFit coach. Primarily, I need more hands-on experience in order to gain confidence in all the mentioned portions of a class. In doing this, I need to come to the point where I can direct a class smoothly by adapting as I go without getting frustrated. I equate this need for experience similarly to what had to occur before I could run an EMS call smoothly by myself. When I first started in emergency medicine, calls were choppy, questions/interventions were done in a jumbled pattern, and I had to lean on my partner to keep the call running correctly. At this point I have gained some experience where I can adapt and improvise on call better because my methods of scene size-up, patient assessment, and call reporting has become more routine. Therefore, when something unexpected occurs or a pt is more critical, the primary routine is already in place so it is easier to amplify upon it. Eventually, coaching will be hopefully similar where briefing class, transition between portions, cueing, and overall coaching dynamics will be smoother so any adaptations will be able to be made off an already solid level of experience
See you around the gym and thanks for a memorable summer,
90% Coach Installed, Please Wait
(One of the best advice I have received in life is there is always something to learn. No matter what. I was told if I ever walk into my job or any situation thinking I know everything, I should do a quick 180 and walk away. I personally want to be a lifelong learner and never get to this point.)
Sorry for this very late post. This weekend, I moved into an apartment which was more time-consuming than expected. So many boxes and organizing! I definitely think I PRed my stair climbing with heavy boxes! Moving into my first apartment by myself, I found out that you don’t know you don’t have something until you go to find it and its not there. Did you know things like cooking oil spray and salt don’t just magically appear in the cabinet…it seemingly always did that when I was a kid. I expect these next couple months are going to be interesting learning the ins and outs of apartment living with many more relivations like this.
Likewise when someone first starts CrossFit, one can feel like they are inundated with new things. When I first started CrossFit, I didn’t know anything about Olympic Lifting so just the words snatch, clean, and jerk were new nonetheless the complex movement that went along with them. As one continues to come to CrossFit by finding their own little niche in a certain class time or determining a movements or workouts they enjoy over others, this overwhelming feeling starts to dissipate. Due to the spectrum of CrossFit being so large, different types of athletes excel at certain types of workouts over another: weightlifting over gymnastics or short-duration cardio vs long-duration endurance. For me, I love a good heavy squat cleans because I love the feeling of pulling the bar over, dropping into a low squat, and then determinantly getting up out of the bottom of it. I would take a chipper workout over anything because of the grind mentality of it. There is a goal and it is to plug on even when tired and get it done. Period.
To see this variety, I asked some CrossFit Bangor veterans to answer a couple questions:
What is your favorite CrossFit movement and why?
What is your least favorite CrossFit movement and why?
What kind of workout do you like the best? (Chipper, Rounds/Reps, For Time, Long Duration, Short Duration, etc)
What movement during your CrossFit experience have you struggled to learn the most?
Do you still struggle with certain movements?
Any advice for a fellow CrossFiter?
Favorite Movement: “Love cleans and deads. I like getting heavy and slamming sh** around.”
Least Favorite Movement: “HSPU. They be hard yo! seriously…i’ve worked on them half as*ed for years and only get half as*ed results so it’s my own fault.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “I do love a long slug it chipper with a good mix of barbell and bodyweight gymnasty. just keep swimming nemo.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “Struggled the most with snatch. So many pieces to it and when it clicks it feels so good…well it feels like a snatch. I still struggle with things. pushups for volume. hspu. muscle ups. snatch. dubs. running. pistols. but that’s why i keep coming back. crossfit isn’t supposed to just be easy for the common person. it’s supposed to make you struggle and work at it and reward yourself by throwing barbells around. love this sh**.”
Advice: “Compete with a judge. The atmosphere is electric even at the local friendly comps and being judged makes you humble and you start to realize your movements can always be more complete and not of the bro style.”
Favorite Movement: “My favorites are the Olympic lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk. I like how they develop and demonstrate power, speed, and control.”
Least Favorite Movement: “The deadlift is my least favorite movement. I have a history of back issues and surgery so the deadlift proposes mainly a psychological barrier. I still practice it as a strength movement but exclude it as a movement in metcons.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “I like long duration workouts. As the time domain increases I do better. As far as style of workout, I like the chipper because I can keep starting a new movement with a new set of muscles and motor pattern.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with?: “I still struggle with the back squat and the deadlift. At 45, I’m working against a lifetime of sitting to regain a basic motor pattern.”
Advice: “Remember that CrossFit is a training system for most of us in the general population to improve our overall health. It’s probably most important to learn and dial in good nutrition, proper sleep, and stress management. The good news is CrossFit’s greatest strength is the community, where you can tap into a wealth of information on these things.”
Favorite Movement: “Overhead squat. It’s challenging and you need to link muscular strength with coordination and mobility. If you’re lacking in any of those domains you will not be successful.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “I love chippers, set work and just go. Gives a wide variety of exercises and I love the race.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “Struggled with the DU for awhile. Still struggle with the highly technical gymnastics movements, MU, HSPU etc. “
Advice: “Enjoy the process. Just getting in and moving puts you ahead. Be proud of where you are in the process and don’t get discouraged because you aren’t at someone’s level. Think that is a major reason people stop coming. We were all new at some point, we all have different abilities and goal and that is the beat part of CrossFit. We tailor the workouts to our personal abilities and goals.”
Favorite Movement: “The snatch, such a wonderfully smooth lift once you get the hang of it.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “All kinds, that’s why I do CrossFit!!!”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “I have struggled the most with the deadlift and MU.”
Advice: “Work on yourself, focus on health, never settle because there is always more, have fun, be happy.”
Favorite Movement: “Probably the clean… power of course. It’s something I have always been decent at and it can always be better. It’s a movement that gives me confidence and makes me feel strong. “
Favorite Type of Workout: I LOVE chippers! You have a task to do and once you complete it you get to move on to the next movement/task, it’s motivating to get thru each movement.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “I have struggled with gymnastics movements. Always. I have accepted that it’s something I will never be great at and just try to do what I can and not get too hung up on it. I struggled for a long time to learn to listen to my body and that scaling is NEVER wrong. Training with Tiffany has really taught me a lot and helped me get out of my own head and just workout to have fun and that some days you just need to move and do what you can and not always worry about what the “rx” option says.”
Advice: “Enjoy it. Don’t make yourself crazy because someone else can do something and you can’t, they probably look at you the same way about another movement. The workouts are for you, just do you the best you can.
Favorite Movement: “The deadlift and I also like box jumps”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “I still struggle with anything involving overhead, ie snatches and overhead squats. I feel so strong until I tackle one of these lifts and can barely put up 100 pounds! The snatch is very humbling to me because there are so many pieces to put together to make it smooth.
Advice: “Be coach-able. No matter how long we’ve been doing this, we can still work on technique. Coaches are trained to see our mistakes and they want to help us improve. Be open to that!”
Favorite Movement: “I get excited about doing pull-ups and rope climbs because I worked hard to get strong enough to do them and because prior to starting Crossfit I never would have dreamed I would be capable of doing them.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “Partner workouts of any kind! I work harder as part of a team, I have more fun, and who doesn’t like built in rest?”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “Double unders took me the longest to get the hang of so far, and even still I have ups and downs with them. Box jumps are my biggest hurdle…I am perfectly capable of jumping 20” but, as many have observed, I have terrible anxiety about them and am currently working to get back on the box again. I have days where everything feels like a struggle! The snatch is a consistent challenge, wallballs can suck the life force right out of me, I think push-ups will always be challenging…and there are lots of movements I haven’t, and may never, learn, like muscle ups or strict handstand push-ups.
Advice: “To any fellow crossfitter, new or old (including myself) is to just keep coming back, give yourself permission to be a work in progress, be kind to yourself when you’re having a rough day and accept that your best is going to vary, take the time to get to know the people around you, scale when you need, or even want, to, take pride in the hard things we do, and, most importantly, have fun!”
Favorite Movement/Least Favorite Movement: “My least and most favorite movements vary depending on the day and my energy/fatigue level, but pretty much any time there are burpees i dread them. I don’t look up the workouts ahead of time except on rare occasions so I don’t have the option of thinking ‘i don’t feel like doing movement x today’ and skip attending.”
Favorite Type of Workout: I like workouts that are a bit longer and are aimed at slightly lower intensity but sustained, but i don’t hate the quick ones either. i’ve just learned to pace myself and take it easy since i have the rest of my day to get through too.
Advice: As a person who is really not an athlete, but more someone who does athletic things from time to time, I’d encourage people who feel more like that to just keep showing up, follow instructions, and scale as heavily as you need to to feel successful with each individual workout. You will have fun, feel better physically, and meet really fun people, even without being super hardcore. You might even find yourself eventually leaning into the ‘athlete’ category, just a little
Favorite Movement: “I’d have to say back squats, because back squatting people is a great party trick.”
Least Favorite Movement: “Wall balls, hands down. There is nothing good about a wall ball.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “I really like chippers because once your done with a movement, you’re done and can move on.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: Snatch and double unders. Which I still don’t have consistently! My brain just doesn’t compute these movements. I also never practice dubs…so that probably doesn’t help…
Advice: Don’t be afraid or ashamed to scale a wod! Do the work out that’s best for you…you’ll be much happier (and less sore) that way!
Favorite Movement:“Anything shoulder to overhead, I have shorter arms proportionate to my body so the range is smaller and honestly I just like picking up heavy weight!”
Least Favorite Movement:“Box jumps, again, disproportionately short legs so I have farther to go and I’m not the lightest guy so its a bunch of weight to move around.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “I love sprint style workouts; I can go ham and cut loose. Sprint style let me turn off my brain and just go all out. When workouts get too long or have a lot of components to them I tend to overthink my strategy during the workout which takes time and energy from doing the movements.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “Honestly snatches. Not having lifted weights much before crossfit this was a movement that I have to constantly work on in regards to technique. It is one of the few movements where no matter how strong you are, poor technique limits your weights drastically. I still struggle with snatches and oddly enough split jerks. I love shoulder to overhead but always default to push jerks when the weight gets heavy.”
Advice: ”Set goals for yourself and be patient attaining them. It takes time to build strength and technique so don’t don’t cut corners, that is how you get hurt. Talk to a coach, make a plan, and stick with it. If it was easy, everyone would do it!”
Favorite Movement: “Pull ups. I think that is because that was the first move when I started that I could not do. I did extra work after class because I wanted to get it.”
Favorite Type of Workout:I like longer duration workouts. I think because I am not very good at “sprinting” in short workouts. I would say rounds/reps. If it’s a chipper and there is a movement I don’t like it can be a bit discouraging knowing I have to get through so many reps.
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: I have struggled to learn the muscle up. I am not as coordinated as I would like and a lot of it is about timing. I still struggle with lots of things but the two that stand out the most are squat snatches and overhead squats because it is really hard for me to get into position.
Advice: “Enjoy the process. It is amazing to look back at where I was when I first started until now. We make small progress all the time. Don’t get frustrated even when it’s hard to see it.”
Favorite Movement: “The snatch is my favorite movement since it encompasses all the lifts into one. It’s a difficult lift so I feel like a badas* when I hit heavier weights but feel good about it.”
Favorite Type of Workout: “Long chippers heavy chippers are my favorite. I love grinding through a brutal workout but taking my time doing it.”
Movement(s) Struggled with/Still Struggle with: “Pull ups and push ups are honestly still such a struggle for me since I don’t do them enough. I don’t think I’ve struggled learning any movement. But I’ve also been doing this so long I’m used to the variety.”
Advice: “You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable/drastically out of your comfort zone. Embrace that, embrace the suck and just grind because that will fade and you will end up getting better. A month or a year will go by anyways, might as well keep going and improve”
As you can see, every athlete is different and has their own sets of strengths and struggles with one person’s favorite movement being the movement another finds difficult. As stated within the advice portions, being out of one’s comfort zone is okay even after you have been doing CrossFIt for a while, enjoy the process, give yourself time to be a work in progress, with most of all have fun and enjoy the amazing community of people that you gain when you join.
First off, shout out to the consistent 5am peeps! Due to starting a new job this week, I couldn’t come to my normal 6am class and instead went to the 5am classes to fit a WOD in before work. This has brought me to the conclusion that 5am-ers are a whole different species than 6am-ers because I gotta tell you, that extra hour of sleep for me feels important. O.o
Aside from that, we have been busy doing a variety of different exercises this week: from front squats, burpees, and running on Monday to max efforts power snatches and bike calories on Wednesday to heavy deadlifts and handstand push-ups on Friday. CrossFit programming strives to be this constantly varied. This is done by switching up the loads used, movements programmed, amount of reps overall, and time given to complete. Each day, one doesn’t know what will be asked of them to do in daily life situations so the variation prepares for the unknowns.
As mentioned, this variation targets movement patterns. It wouldn’t be as beneficial to do an AMRAP of thrusters and wall balls because they are both targeting the same movement pattern of a squat to a press. Therefore, it would be better to do something like an AMRAP of thrusters and rowing because then you get a squat and press coupled with a pull. However, at the same time, a workout can contain the same movement if they have different targets. A long distance row followed by heavy snatches has two movements both involving pulling but the row is about endurance and speed whereas the heavy snatch is about strength and balance.
In addition, having a mixture of aerobic WODs and anaerobic WODs is important…even though there was definitely audible groaning on Thursday with that 1 mile run… Aerobic means the body uses oxygen and stored glucose at a controlled pace and breathing and heart rate increases over a long period of time. This form of exercise allows muscles to contract repetitive with fatigue being slower. This would include long distance rowing or running. Whereas, anaerobic means the body doesn’t have enough oxygen to contract muscles efficiently so uses other internal processes. Anaerobic exercise produced waste products like lactic acid and thus muscle fatigue quicker. Anaerobic exercises are usually short bursts of high intensity.
The variance within CrossFit is what keeps things interesting. If you are one of the strong-willed people who don’t peek at the workout before going to class, you never know what you’ll have. If you are like me, you look at the workout and try not to psych yourself out and push yourself not to play hookie when the WOD includes least favorite movements (I’m looking at you double unders). Cherry picking WODs undermines the goal of variance.
I’ll be going to the 5am classes again this week so may or may not see y’all around. Already looking forward to the workouts this week and the blog post for next week.
This weekend sure has been rough and hopefully multiple bottles of water have been drank (#hydrateordiedrate) and many pools/lakes have been swam in. Even though there has been much complaint about this humidity, I would 100% take this over feeling my nostrils are freezing shut walking between my car and a building. However, I also wouldn’t mind if the beautiful mild season of Fall came quicker.
For Mainers, cooped up in apartments/houses for multiple months of winter, summer is a season commonly of enjoying the outdoors. There is so much to do in the summer including hiking (I will always suggest Mt.Katahdin…but I’m a bit bias), going to the beach or exploring the ports, sprucing up the yard, traipsing through the woods in search of the perfect bear, deer, or moose, or (for the crazy folk who actually enjoy running) heading out for a trail or road run. With all these activities available isn’t it amazing to be able to enjoy them due to being stronger, healthier, and overall more capable because of CrossFit.
Being “gym fit” and being able to perform an endless amount of pull-ups and crunches working up to deadlifting 500lbs, or being an avid user of the lat pulldown, abductor/adductor, and leg press machines takes commitment and an accomplishment in its own sense. However, can the muscles isolated in these movements actually be used to accomplish life tasks. This is why CrossFit is defined as functional fitness: the exercises done in workouts involve training the body for daily life. These exercises teach all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently due to rarely daily life situations calling for muscles to be used in isolation. An example would be shoveling snow from a driveway or dirt into a wheelbarrow: biceps and triceps are being used to hold and lift, quads are pushing the shovel and helping lift, lats and upper back are also recruited for lifting, and abs are used to brace the core when moving the loaded shovel to its destination. More examples would be carrying a heavy box at work, moving a couch, lifting a toddler out of a car seat, or trying to lug ALL the groceries from the car in one trip (One trip or bust!).
Working in emergency medicine, I encounter many individuals who do not maintain their fitness or overall health who can’t enjoy the outdoor adventures mentioned above, with even walking from the bedroom to the bathroom involving multiple breaks to catch their breath. Many calls are for assisting someone who has fallen, who is uninjured but don’t have the capacity to get up on their own. Even though there are many a groan and moan when a WOD involves burpees, what is burpee when broken down? Burpees are being able to get oneself up off the ground from a lying position. Even though it seems like a simple movement, squats are one of the most functional exercises that can be done. How often do you squat to get into a car? To get on and off the toilet? To sit down and stand up from a chair? Lunges are being able to transfer weight to a single leg and push off it…doesn’t that sound similar to climbing stairs?
Why is it important for you to personally to stay fit? What activities do you enjoy doing outside of CrossFit? When you see me around the gym, let me know how you have been using your fitness! Like the quote on the new CrossFit Bangor shirts says, CrossFit Bangor is “building better humans for the battlefield of life”. You’ve armored up and now it is time to charge life head on.