Mequon CrossFit Mortalis

3 Books That Inspired My Fitness Career (So Far)

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Written by Coach Anthony

Enter the Kettlebell, Pavel Tsatsouline

In 2013, I was forced to leave the Marine Corps against my wishes. I had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found myself getting very out of shape. I was used to being surrounded by some of the fittest men in the world, Recon Marines. Now that I wasn’t in their company anymore, I had no one to compete with on a daily basis and my MS symptoms started to increase. As I described in my article How Kettlebells Saved My Athletic Career it became very difficult for me to see and walk around without falling, and exercise of any kind was impossible. After about 6 months of this, I met up with my old Recon team at a wedding in New York. One of my teammates, Mike, told me something I will never forget: “Moro, Stop being a p***y”! He was right – I had to do something to get back in shape and be seen as an asset again instead of a liability to everyone around me.

I began an 8-week rowing program to increase my aerobic capacity. It worked great! For me though, it wasn’t enough. My goal was to play football in college again. My grip strength wasn’t strong enough for Olympic weightlifting and that was a big component of being a college-level football player. I scoured the internet and found a guy named Pavel. He’s the Soviet special forces guy who brought kettlebells to America in the late 90’s. His book Enter The Kettlebell dives into the history of kettlebell training in the Soviet Union, in particular their military, which is one of the reasons I became drawn to learning everything I could about this kind of training. He compares and contrasts Russian and American lifestyles and training techniques. This book will tell you everything you need to begin training with this old school Soviet secret weapon and explain the most basic exercises needed to prepare a well-rounded fitness program and its benefits.

I began his workout in the back of the book he that refers to as the “Rite of Passage”. For the next 12 weeks, I trained only with kettlebells and saw some awesome results. I even signed up for the Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification based on the content of the book. This was a 4-day seminar in Minneapolis, packed full of thousands of reps in each exercise to achieve perfection with unmatched coaching from their very professional staff! I left that certification as an RKC level-1 coach and with a new approach to coaching and programming. The Recon Man inside me was finally back!

Anthony RKC

Convict Conditioning, Paul “Coach” Wade

When my football career finally came to an end, I realized I was very strong with a bar on my back or in my hands, but there were some fitness benchmarks I was nowhere near accomplishing. Pistol squats, single arm pull-ups, and free-standing handstand pushups were all very appealing to me, although I couldn’t complete them. The author of Convict Conditioning, Paul Wade, would soon help me figure out why. Nobody really knows for sure who Coach Wade is, but in his book, he talks about spending a majority of his adult life in prison. In fact, he spent time in some of America’s toughest prisons. One of the only ways to keep in shape and pass the time was to master bodyweight exercises. “Coach”, as he was known to the other inmates, gives the history of being strong and how we have lost touch with the basics, mastering our own bodyweight.

This is the best example of progressing and regressing exercises I have been exposed to. He compares your body to a lever and describes ways to lengthen, or if needed, shorten to accomplish various skills. This lined up precisely with college biomechanics courses I have taken. He made it very easy to understand and put into application. Towards the end of the book, Coach uses a chapter for each of his 6 “master exercises” paired with a 10-step program to achieve these with practice.

Similar to the kettlebell seminar, I enrolled in the Progressive Calisthenics Certification, which was based off the content of Paul Wade’s book. Again I passed the course and now had another trick up my sleeve to become a better, more well-rounded coach. The principles taught in this book, and then perfected in the PCC seminar carry over to most other forms of training and help to make the distinction between a starting point and mastering a new skill.

PCC

The Westside Barbell Book of Methods, Louie Simmons

Here is an example of a book that can be considered “The Bible” in the powerlifting world, maybe even the entire strength and conditioning community! Known for being the “strongest gym in the world”, Westside Barbell is invite-only and owned by a guy named Louie Simmons. While in the Army in 1966, Louie began his powerlifting career and has spent every minute since then reading, experimenting, and perfecting the sport of powerlifting. Louie draws his inspiration from the original Westside Barbell in Culver City, California and the old Soviet Dynamo Sports Club.

The Westside Barbell Book of Methods challenges most of what is taught in college these days and is a compilation of over 50 years of proven techniques. Westside Barbell is the birth place of the “conjugate method” of training, derived mainly from Soviet techniques with some Bulgarian and Chinese influence. The conjugate system used at Westside Barbell is unique from those though, taking only the most proven pieces from each and expanding on them.

This is a book I can’t seem to ever truly finish reading. I constantly find myself flipping back through the pages as a resource in my constant quest for perfection. Every time I re-read a section, my understanding of Lou’s methods is more clear. For me, The Westside Book of Methods is my “phone book” I know the number I need is in there, I just have to flip through and find it!

Headstands 101

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Written by Coach Danni

Skills in gymnastics are all about body awareness and control. This is why it is important to use progressions when you are learning new skills – it takes time to develop the strength and ability to be able to properly perform advanced gymnastics movements.

The headstand is one of those important progressions that teaches you body control, balance, and how to shift your weight while upside down.

Check out this video for instructions and tips to achieve a perfect headstand:

Mastering the headstand leads to many more gymnastics skills used in CrossFit, like handstands, handstand push-ups, and handstand walking.

We want to see you get upside down! Share a picture of you working on your headstand in or out of the gym and tag @moroperformance on instagram or facebook!

How to Make Salads Not Suck: Part 1

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Written by Coach Lisa

When you’re trying to eat healthier, what is the first thing you might add to your meal to incorporate more nutrients and vegetables? The most common answer: salad.

Salads are great! They can be quick and easy to throw together. The options for types of salads and combinations of vegetables are unlimited. They can be the main course of a meal or a side dish. You can make them kid-friendly, or they can be part of an elegant adult gathering.

What is the fastest way to ruin a salad? Dressing.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a salad should absolutely be dressed. However! Most store bought salad dressings are awful for you and destroy the healthy effort you’re trying to make by eating a salad in the first place.

Exhibit A: Three different ingredient lists from store-bought dressings.

The first dressing is from a large national brand, the second is an organic brand that uses phrases like “Natural Flavors,” “No Preservatives” to claim health, and the third is a top shelf brand that claims quality ingredients.

While all three are different brands, their ingredient lists aren’t all that different. The fewest ingredients listed is 11 and the most is 18. I had trouble finding a dressing with fewer than 10 ingredients, and no problem with more, but these are a pretty common representation of what you might pick up at your local grocery store.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in topping off my plate of salad with vegetable oil (canola or soybean), sugars, concentrates, preservatives and other ingredients I have trouble pronouncing.

My solution? I make my own salad dressing!

I think people are often intimidated by making their own sauces, dressings, dips, etcetera because they don’t know how, don’t think it will taste good, or it is too time consuming. Well guess what! My recipe is healthy, has only 7 ingredients and takes about 5 minutes to make enough to last you a week or more (depending how much you use per salad and how often you eat salad). Most importantly: IT’S GOOD!

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Most of these ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, and if you don’t they are not expensive to purchase. I do recommend finding a quality balsamic vinegar that doesn’t contain any additives and use extra virgin olive oil – a reputable brand with ‘cold press’ on the label is a good choice. Many store brands do not meet the criteria to be labeled extra virgin, so do your research!

Lisa’s Homemade Salad Dressing

Ingredients

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 heaping spoonfuls minced garlic
2 teaspoons oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 packets stevia for sweetness (1g each)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender to thoroughly combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

Notes

Salad dressing should be stored in an airtight container or salad dressing bottle (like this one) in your fridge.

Depending on your taste preference, you can add more or less garlic. Anthony and I love garlic, so sometimes I make this with 2 extra spoonfuls! If you’re in a pinch, granulated garlic from your spice cabinet will do the trick.

We like to use stevia for added sweetness to our food because it’s plant-based and minimally processed, but you could also use pure maple syrup or raw honey. Make sure you choose an option that is healthy!

Dressing will separate a bit when stored in the fridge. Just shake up it before serving.

Look out for How to Make Salads Not Suck: Part 2 next week!

5 Reasons Swimmers Should CrossFit

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Written by Coach Anthony

Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to work along side some of the best aquatics coaches in the country teaching Navy SEAL candidates to swim – preparing them for BUD/S training in Coronado, California. Prior to that I volunteered at the prestigious Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center coaching and learning from some of the best club coaches in Wisconsin. My professional aquatic training began in 2006 when I was an Amphibious Reconnaissance Marine for the following 8 years. Similar to Navy BUD/S, Recon Marines spend a great portion of their career in and around the water, specifically in the surf zone with full combat equipment. You have to be a very strong swimmer to accomplish your mission while being slammed by waves and not be exhausted by the time you got to the beach. Here is a list I put together about why you should pick up CrossFit to become a better and stronger swimmer.

1. Longevity

Similar to astronauts, a swimmer spends a great deal of their time training in a “weightless” environment. Although the pull of gravity and your body weight are the exact same in the water as they are on land, the downward acceleration of your body mass is greatly reduced while in the pool. Over time this can have adverse effects on your skeleton and may even lead to decreased bone density or an early onset of conditions such as osteoporosis. At Moro Performance, our CrossFit classes focus on one Olympic lift and one strength lift three times per week to ensure our members are durable enough to tackle all other obstacles life throws at them. For a swimmer, loading the skeleton with weight during exercises such as front and back squats, overhead presses, and dead lifts will help to reduce the potential for lost bone density over time and keep you healthy enough to keep swimming for years to come!

2. Performance

What swimmer wouldn’t like to shave a few tenths of a second off of his or her 100 free, or get a PR in a 400 IM? Coming to CrossFit classes at Moro Performance can help you accomplish that. As mentioned above, strength lifts, especially when conducted on deliberate timing intervals, can increase a swimmer’s rate of force production, meaning faster starts and more powerful flip turns! In our conditioning “WODs” we regularly program gymnastics exercises such as pull-ups and muscle-ups which will aid in the pull phase of your stroke and underwater pull-outs. Often, we program workouts specifically for the core muscles and use exercise like toes-to-bar, planks, and GHD sit-ups. A strong core will give swimmers the ability to maintain a great streamlined position longer, especially for the distance guys and gals!

3. Competitive Advantage

Common physical adaptions that have been reported when regularly attending CrossFit classes at Moro Performance include decreases in body fat and an increase of lean body mass. A common response I get to that is: “I’m a swimmer; I don’t have any body fat to lose.” That may be true, but what about adding some lean mass to your skeleton then? With increased surface areas in the upper chest, back, and shoulders, swimmers have the ability to “grab” more water, pulling them faster to the next wall or finish line. Exercises that will help with that are any of the Olympic lifts (snatches and cleans for those unfamiliar with lifting), overhead presses and jerks, rowing, and as stated above – pull-ups and muscle ups.

4. Injury Prevention

It’s going to be a lot harder to win the gold medal you’ve been training years for when you’re hurt. Regular CrossFit training at Moro Performance will make you stronger. Stronger bodies are less susceptible to injury, especially when weak areas are targeted for a specific sport or event. CrossFit won’t just make your muscles stronger, but even more importantly, it will strengthen your connective tissue. Stronger tendons and ligaments obtained from regular full range of motion exercise will help to cut down on overuse injuries and those minor aches and pains you used to think were something serious. Members at Moro Performance have also noted that they have become mentally stronger. Gutting through a grueling WOD a few times a week will make that set of repeats in the pool seem a lot more manageable!

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5. Social Aspects

When you walk into Moro Performance, everyone will know your name, and if it’s your first class, I’d bet that you’ll be asked before you even set your bag down in one of the cubbies. One of the great things about our CrossFit community is that EVERYONE has a great time and gets along. Members frequently hang out together outside of class and strangers have become friends while working out here! Grab your buddies that you usually share a lane with at the pool and come to class together! After training with those people for a while, you know each other’s training habits and will be able to push yourself harder in a WOD with them there to hold you accountable. Bring the guy you’re always trying to catch in the pool, or the girl who is just a little bit faster than you. CrossFit is another great avenue to get that competitive spirit out and accomplish some things you never thought possible, in the pool and on land!

The Handstand: Drills for Scaling and Stability

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Written by Coach Danni

Have you been struggling with the fear of kicking up into a handstand? Are you unsure about being able to actually support yourself upside down on your hands? Or are you just struggling with stability in the handstand?

One of the things that I see most often as a coach is fear of kicking up into handstand and trusting yourself to not come crashing down on your head. If you have no previous experience with handstands this can definitely be scary when you are first learning, but there are many progressions we can take to get comfortable with being upside down and work towards the skill of a handstand.

Kicking from a box/plates

This first drill or scaling option is great for those who are nervous about kicking up into handstand, or if their shoulders are going to support them.

As shown in Drill #1, place a box just in front of a wall. Your starting position is in a pike position with your feet on the box. This position already allows you to put more weight through your shoulders and creates a handstand position with your torso. By lifting one leg all the way up to vertical you will automatically pull that second leg up off the box. Now you will start to feel more weight of the handstand. If you feel comfortable, you can bring the second leg up to meet the first one in a full handstand.

This is also a great drill if you already have a handstand but need to work stability and balance for your freestanding handstand and handstand walks.

As seen in Drill #2 of the video, move the box away from the wall and use your legs as a “teeter totter.” Start by lifting your dominant leg off the box into the handstand, then initiate movement by leaning into your fingertips and pushing up tall in your shoulders (active shoulders) to pull your other foot slightly off the box. This drill is going to help you to develop two important parts of a handstand:

  1. Body control and awareness
  2. Muscular endurance in your shoulders and back

The next progression is to alternate which leg you are lifting from the box first.

Stomach facing wall, feet on wall

A common scale for a handstand is to do a headstand instead, while this is still challenging it will not engage all the muscles in the proper way that you will be using in an actual handstand.

If you see a handstand hold in a warm-up or a WOD the best thing you can do is a “wall walk.” With your stomach facing the wall, you will walk your feet up as high as you can on the wall and walk your hands in closer to the wall if needed. Eventually you should be able to get into a full handstand this way with your stomach on the wall. Scaling your handstand this way is going to strengthen your core, shoulders and arms better for a full handstand.

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Give these drills a try next time you are in the gym. The more time you spend upside down on your hands the better and stronger you will get at them!

Moro Performance: Version 2.0

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Written by Coach Lisa

When Anthony and I originally opened the gym in June of 2015, we knew at some point we would want to (and need to) expand our space from the original 3,850 square feet that it was. For the first two years we poured blood, sweat, and tears into both the space itself and the business operations. After a good amount of trial and error – a LOT of trial and error, we created a gym we are extremely proud of and are fortunate with a kickass community of members!

For the first 20 months of business we had consistent, steady growth that allowed us to jump on the opportunity in March to expand. While we were not planning on it at exactly that moment in time, we could not resist taking over the space next door.

In 2015, our original demo and build out took approximately 4 months from start to finish. This time around, we knew exactly what we did and didn’t want. Demo started the second week of April and the expansion was finalized – equipment and all, the second week of June. In 8 weeks flat we doubled the size of the gym to over 7,500 square feet and went from 2 separate spaces to one seamless space.

The new gym has a ton of cool new features including a 40-foot regionals-style rig, new platforms, more endurance equipment, showers and a lot of open floor space. We also now have the ability to run multiple classes at the same time, have more open gym time, and a bunch of specialty classes and seminars planned for the upcoming months including a teen class, a boot camp challenge class, a new barbell club, and more!

We’d love to have you stop in and check out our new and improved facility – and talk with us to figure out which of our programs will best fit your specific goals! We’ve changed a lot of lives so far, and we will help change yours, too. Contact us to schedule a free No Sweat Intro!

8 Reasons to Quit the Gym During Summer… And 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

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Written by Danni Krumins

June is here, which means summer is right around the corner! When the weather warms up many people actively choose to come to the gym less often. However, before you decide to skip out on workouts, read my arguments to common excuses below:

The weather is nice, so I will spend more time outside, maybe go for a run or a bike ride.

Sure, maybe you’ll go for a walk or a bike ride once or twice a week, but is that the same as your hour-long high intensity CrossFit class that you’ve been going to 3-5 times a week? By all means, go out on that bike or jump in the pool for a swim, but you also need to continue to come into the gym so you can not only enjoy all those fun summer activities, but crush them.

It’s too late to get my summer body ready now.

It’s never too late. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be yet, but are you going to get there if you stop? Nope! When you go to put on your bathing suit or a tank top and shorts you are going to feel a little bit more confident every time because you know you’ve been continuing to put in the work in the gym. And maybe you don’t notice the positive changes in yourself right away, but trust me other people definitely will.

I have barbecues to attend and adult beverages to drink, I don’t want to worry about eating healthy.

When people workout they tend to want to continue to eat healthier as well. It’s okay to indulge once in awhile, but continuing to come into the gym will help to keep you on track, and if you’re still coming into the gym regularly you don’t have to feel guilty for those extra summer treats.

With the kids home from school I won’t have time to make it into the gym.

Having the kids home from school is the perfect opportunity to set an example and show them how you are living a healthy and active lifestyle. You can bring your kids with you to the gym, they will be able to sit in Moro Performances’ new lounge area where we have couches and a television. Moro Performance also offers a Little Ropers program for children ages 6-11 so they will get a chance to do a kid-centered fitness class, too!

I’m going on vacation so I won’t be here as much.

Are you really going to be gone on vacation for the entire summer? Most likely not. Coming into the gym on the days that you are home is always better than taking the entire summer off. If you will be staying in a hotel plan to hit the fitness center a couple times or do a bodyweight beach workout. We would be happy to give you some “no equipment required” vacation WODs to do while traveling. And who wouldn’t want to be in the best shape of their lives for all of their vacation photos!

I’m just going to take the summer off, I will be back in the fall.

Do you remember how sore you were after your first couple of workouts? How hard it was to get a routine going? Taking the summer off sets you back. The endurance and strength you have built up will decrease – “If I quit now I will soon be back to where I started.  And when I started, I was desperately wishing to be where I am now.”

It will be harder to start again in September than it will be to just keep going through the summer, trust me.

It’s too hot to workout, I just want to lay out by the pool.

It’s supposed to be hot in the summer! Don’t let the heat stop you from getting in a great workout. Moro Performance has two large garage doors and a large fan to keep the air moving… and AC if it gets bad enough. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink lots of water, your workout will make getting in the pool feel that much more refreshing.

All winter you waited for summer, so enjoy the warm weather with us!

I’ve already reached my goals

Are you honestly 100% happy with where your health is right now? What about where it will be in 10 years? If you have reached your goals that you started out with, that just means that it’s time to set new ones. Set some specific goals that you want to accomplish by the end of the summer and we can help you get there! 

Overall, a LOT can be accomplished in three months. When summer is over, are you going to look back and be proud of how far you have come, or disappointed that you took so much time off?