The Open at 353


You might have heard some whispers around the gym about “The Open”. Coaches huddled in dark corners talking about it, telling people that this is what our programming revolves around. Fellow members reminiscing on old Open stories about how horrible the workouts are. But what is the Open exactly?


The annually held CrossFit Games represents the finals for the world’s top (professional) CrossFit athletes to compete for the title of fittest man and woman on earth. This is the same as Bolt sprinting the 100m or Katey Taylor bating a load of young ‘wans’ in Rio. So how does that relate to you and I? Well in order to qualify for the games you first need to qualify for regionals. Regionals take the top athletes from Europe, Africa, Asia etc and pit them against each other. In order to qualify for regionals every CrossFit athlete has to qualify out of the Open. This is the equivalent of Bolt turning up in Santry to run the 100m qualifiers beside Royce & Gaz as the first step on the road to Olympic Gold!!


In practice the Open is one workout a week for 5 weeks, starting Feb 24th. What this means for is that for 353 we will use Friday/Saturday as our focus for the week. Monday-Wednesday will be light to moderate WODs with a lot of skill work. Thursdays will be a really light day used to flush the body out. Then Friday is game time.  Last year 300,000 CrossFitters from around the world signed up and took part. It’s a super way to test your fitness, taste as much (or as little) of a competitive environment as you like and throwdown with your pals and coaches alike! Oh and you can also see how you compare to every other athlete in the world.


Last year we split the gym into 6 teams, with each coach getting a team. We use the 5 weeks as an in house team competition with each member’s weekly effort contributing to the team’s score.

We find each year people push themselves in the open unlike other workouts they do. The energy in the gym is electric and often we see people hitting their first toe to bar, first pull up, double under or complete a movement that previously alluded them.


The workouts are simple. Normally two or three elements that can leave you on your back asking why do I even CrossFit (ask coach Kev 😉 ). There is of course the option to scale everything if you’re not yet ready for some pieces. For example if muscle ups come up and we don’t have them, we can choose the scaled option that week which might be jumping pull ups.

We run the Open WoDs as our class WoD every Friday. You’ll come in, warm up and then get the chance to throwdown. You will also get a judge, either a fellow member or a coach. The purpose of this is to help count your reps and to make sure the movement standards are good. For example to make sure you hit your target on a WallBall, or get your elbows high on a clean. We will also be holding an open gym from 1030-1230 on Saturday for people to attempt the Open if they can’t do it on Friday. These will be the only two days that we will run the Open.

The Open represents a great barometer for individual progress. You will learn exactly where you are with certain movements and return to class excited to improve. Last years Open changed me. I had a paradigm shift on coaching, programming and working out. I realised that it’s not about being just being crazy strong. It’s about moving well and being fit. Can I move well 12mins  into a 20min workout? Can I link my gymnastics when tired and breathing heavy? It didn’t matter that I had a 145kg clean. I didn’t get the opportunity to use it. I wasn’t fit enough! The open gave me focus and a clear path on what I wanted to achieve as a coach and athlete. I realised that programming for the open is the same for programming for life:

  • Keeping healthy and injury free
  • Moving well under fatigue
  • Building your engine
  • Improving your gymnastic capacity

We used to program and train with a strength priority. We would do strength first and then hit a WOD. Why?? The more I trained with strength bias the heavier I got, the creakier my joints felt and the less conditioned I became (but whocares – I was gettin’ dem gains right)? We now program to a conditioning bias ⅘ days a week. We come in, get warm then get after the workout. Depending what the workout is we do an after bash of some gymnastics or movement practice. I follow the class programming at CrossFit 353 6 days a week and have never been fitter, leaner or better prepared for the open (just saying).


I am really excited for this years Open. After Team Rides (whose team was that?) won last year we will look to do it again. It’s alway a fun time and if you have any questions/are unsure about any of it please get in touch with me or any of the coaches – e|

Coach Gaz x

Why do we CrossFit?

CrossFit in its purest form is a workout done either on your own or as a group of people. CrossFit as a company release workouts on their website every day. It’s beautiful, simple programming designed to bring intensity. It’s all we need. We don’t need anything more than what’s on the class board. If you are going to the games it’s a different kettle of fish. But, for 99% of us all we need is a bit of bloody CrossFit every day. Why a CrossFit gym then? Well that’s where the beauty lies. Like minded, fun, ridey(new word we made up) people all throwing down every day. It’s always easier to suffer together, the people are what makes 353 so special. The best tribe in the world.


CrossFit is an amazing conditioning platform. A methodology that combines everyday movements (squatting, deadlifting, pressing) with gymnastics and cardio elements to produce heartbreaking but rewarding workouts. It gets us ready for life and what life throws at us. It makes everyday life easier. I remember a time that I would be out of breath walking up to my bedroom, only a couple of stairs up. 

My goals as a CrossFit athlete(which by the way, I consider every single member that walks through our doors every day an athlete) have changed. My goal from making it to the games is long gone. I want to stay out of a nursing home. I want to be able to look after myself when i’m 98, on my 5th wife, riding my Vespa (with sidecar) around Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 14.51.56

We CrossFit to improve our quality life. We CrossFit to live pain free. We CrossFit so that when our grandkids want to kick a football around with us, we’re good to go.

We have incredible members at 353. One of those members is Paul Foxton. A true gentleman and someone that I chase in WOD’s every lunchtime. I can’t even keep up with the weight he has lost. He has transformed his body. Recently he’s gone back and played a GAA match with his old club Kilmacud. Something he thought at 38 years young was impossible. To me that’s why we CrossFit. As paul put it “I feel better now at 38, than I did at 28”.


CrossFit teaches us life lessons. It gives us an insight into the real world. When things get tough what do we do? We don’t give up, drop the head and shy away. We tackle obstacles head on and see them through. We achieve something everyday. We think a 20min AMRAP with 15 unbroken wallballs in it is impossible. Only to find out it’s not, we completed it.

CrossFit also teaches us that intensity is good for us. We shouldn’t avoid it, but embrace it. CrossFit shows use the difference between being in pain and being uncomfortable. We realise our world is not going to end, we just relax, stay calm, breathe and it will pass. CrossFit puts things into perspective too. Your boss is giving you a hard time? Try some assault bikes intervals and then you’ll realise what a hard time is. We realise that when we workout we are not in pain. We have not stepped on a nail and that nail has not gone through our foot. We are not in pain doing 9mins of burpees. We are just experiencing some discomfort. Our bodies are built to withstand high levels of discomfort. We tell ourselves “i’m okay, i’m uncomfortable but i’ll get through this. Everyone else is feeling the same thing, it’ll be ok”.Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 11.14.10There is a level of support in a CrossFit gym that is unique. Not dissimilar to playing a team sport. Former strangers who you have come to admire are cheering you on your last few reps. Applauding you for your effort. High fiving you and giving you that warm gentle smile that says “ I know how you feel, that was horrible, but we did it, we got through it” How often in your day do you get that? That someone says “do you know what Gaz, well bloody done”.

We as coaches have come to realise that when we coach, we are vulnerable. We are giving the people in the class a window into our souls. Showing you deep down who we are. Showing what we value and how we feel about ourselves. We show this from how we communicate to the group to how we represent ourselves. Hopefully we showing that we genuinely care about you. That for a coach to succeed, you as a member must succeed. We gain our gratification through your achievements and successes. I guess it’s somewhat of a quirky, unique context: our success is based on the successes of others.Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 11.15.09When we workout it keeps us in touch with who we are. We are getting ready for war. Will we run? Or will we attack these thrusters head on. Will we let out a war cry and absorb the adrenaline? Will we hit the 15 unbroken wallballs or will we sneak in 11… 16mins deep into a 20min AMRAP…. will we stop? 


Will we power through and reap the rewards? You think the WOD cannot be completed, but you complete it. You tell yourself that a pull up is impossible, but now you have pull ups. We think to ourselves in elements that a double under is a dark art of the samurai, but now we can link them in a workout. You stick with these impossible tasks. You keep your head down. Work hard. Stay humble. And you achieve, week in week out, tasks you thought could not be done. You persevered. CrossFit builds character, makes us stronger in body and more importantly in mind.

Whoa – got pretty deep and riled up there…soz!! 


Back to normal:

Sometimes CrossFit can be about showing up and having an hour to yourself. Switching off from the worries of the world and getting into your state of zen. That’s why we encourage people to get down to 353 whenever they can, we don’t have to flog ourselves and peel ourselves from the floor every day. Showing up, high fiving, moving and having a laugh is all it takes to help some of life’s little problems. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. Well done on investing in yourself!

We are so lucky we get to move our bodies everyday. We don’t have to train. We get to train. Try to be present every day. Use positive self talk “I’m ok here” and try embrace the fatigue. Feel the blood rush through every inch of your body. Feel alive. We are getting our bodies ready for the long cold years ahead (morbid alert). We are surrounded by some amazing people that too share the lust to be better. That refuse to accept back pain as a part of life. That refuse to sit dormant in a wheelchair, just because at 90 that’s what society has deemed acceptable.

Why do we CrossFit? Because we recognise growth and learning is lifelong. We can only grow if we challenge ourselves and encourage challenge from others. We want to move well and move pain free. We realise intensity and discomfort are good for the soul. We realise that we are beautiful and amazing people in so many different ways we never knew. Some people judge beauty as skin deep. CrossFitters have redefined what beauty is. Inside a CrossFit gym beauty can be many things: a perfect air squat, a sweaty face, that post WOD hair, rough hands, a perfect deadlift, a warm smile, a refusal to quit, shared suffering, a joyful hello, an enthusiastic well done, perseverance, an arm around the shoulder, a bum tap, human beings, pride, impeccable posture, confident movement. Not being afraid to be different is how we define beauty.

So whether on your own or with a group try move every day, get your heart rate up and be nice to one another. Simple and effective – like CrossFit.

I remember my first CrossFit class at 353. I popped down for a trial session one Saturday last November. At that point I was already an elite athlete, having spent countless hours in the gym “sculpting guns” and maxing out deadlifts once a week… Saturday was “one rep max deadlift day”.

After a quick warm-up and a stretching session, which pointed out some key mobility flaws, Coach Gaz asked: “Does anyone know what a double under is?” I grabbed a funny looking skipping rope and what followed was by far the most frustrating 15 minutes of my life! After a million attempts and a handful of very ugly double unders (handful being 3 at best) I was sweating profusely. But it was a massive laugh so I signed up the following week!

The first few moths I could see some improvements. Mobility was getting better, I was gaining strength, evidenced by squats, deadlifts and the 7 kg I gained in a relatively short period of time. However, I was still struggling with the WODs, especially skills based ones.

The 2016 Open was a real eye opener and made me re-evaluate the way I approach training. I was pretty happy with how it went but after most WODs I couldn’t help it think… if only my double unders were better, toe to bars more efficient, what about those 4 no-reps on the chest to bars or the calc you missed on the rower. You could have made life a lot easier for yourself!

“2 minutes into 16.5 I was like “F#@k”, I wish I spent more time doing thrusters and burpees. My 116 kg snatch is of no help to me now”.  

– Gary Featherstone

That pretty much sums it up. If you have a few minute (29 to be exact), check out this video Crossfit: Test of Fitness Its makes a valid point about CrossFit being a “True test of Fitness”. The message is loud and clear. Eliminate your weaknesses!

Progress to me is no longer a one rep max deadlift. It’s more like… completing a 20 minute AMRAP of double unders, box jumps and burpees and still being able to hit a squat clean with perfect form. Hitting every cal on the rower, making sure every rep counts and being able to pace a WOD so you still have enough gas to bang out a few last reps before that buzzer goes.


I’m not a professional athlete and don’t have any coaching qualifications, never the less, I would like to finish up with some advice. These following basic principles really helped my development over the past few months.

  1. Trust the coaches! If Coach Gaz (using for example purposes only) tells you to “warm up those shoulders” before you attempt handstand walks, it’s not because he hates you… it’s because good shoulder mobility helps stabilise a handstand and reduces the risk of injury!
  2. Trust the programming! I have seen how much planning goes into every session the coaches put together for us week in and week out. A wide variety of warm-ups, skills work, strengths sessions and lifting drills helps us work on our weaknesses and improve on our strengths.

Internal monologues: “Tall Cleans? Hhhmmm… Thought we were lifting today… Can I have some plates please? What is this?”

Few weeks later: “Hey, I just PR’d my clean… that’s twice this month… that was easy! Thanks Tall Cleans!”

  1. Be patient! This is by far the most difficult one and is something I struggle with on a regular basis. What helps here is thinking of the bigger picture and focusing on long term goals. Taking a couple days off a week or doing some extra mobility instead of heavy squats is a small price to pay. Check out Coach Kev’s article if you haven’t done so already: Life is like an iPhone by Kevin Croke Gave me some good perspective!
  2. Enjoy it! This one is made easy by the awesome members and coaches we have at CrossFit353. And of course, the little bundle of fluffy joy that is… RBF (bet you thought I was gonna say Kilo)! But also Kilo!

Thanks to all at Crossfit353! You are all excellent humans!

Taking Care of Your Hands by Coach Gaz

 We all love our gymnastics and barbell cycling. After doing crossfit for a few months, our volume increases and our hands take the brunt of it.

Hands tearing are never fun and often limit us for a few days as to what we can do in the gym.

Why it is great to develop tough hands, they can be a nuisance if not taken care of right. Some people see tearing your hands as a CrossFit ritual but anything that keeps you away from the best hour of your day is not good. I have torn my hands twice in the last 6 months. Once in competition and once because I forgot my gymnastic straps for a WOD with high volume c2b. Both times, even though not meaning too, has resulted in limited crossfit activity.

Here is what I recommend to do to help your hands from ripping but to also keep them protected

1- Moisturise

Moisturise your bloody hands. Don’t be that guy(or girl) that thinks they are too cool for a bit of moisturiser. If your hands get dry they will crack easier. Treat yourself to a nice smelling fruity moisturizer and your hands will thank you. Even a sneaky manicure now and again wont hurt anyone(yes that is me)

2- Shave your calluses

It may sound sick and disgusting but it’s the only way to stop your hands from tearing while keeping the skin hard. I get my shaver from boots(about 6 Euro) and it works wonders. Best to do it after your shower as your hands are a little softer. Be careful to go too deep though, just a few light scrapes will be enough to keep your hands ticking over.

3- Wear hand protectors

Gymnastic straps are a great way to stop your hands from tearing. The last thing you want is to have to stop a workout because it was your hands that gave way. Even if you don’t use them too often its better to have them and not need them then need them and not have them. I always use them on pull ups, c2b, t2b and bar muscle ups.

I buy mine of but you can get them online from ebay or amazon pretty cheap.

Why I love coaching – Peter Burke

Coaching helps me build new relationships and challenges me to learn and improve everyday. This piece is a sort of proxy self-reflection log on the why and the how of coaching. What motivates me and why do I get so much out of it?

In no particular order I look at building relationships, being open to challenge for improvement and the importance of finding mentors for continuous development. I hope this offers some value and insight as to what is a big part of my life. All feedback welcome.

I’m reading a book on the All Blacks at the moment called “Legacy”. The mantra within: “Good people make good All Blacks”. It got me thinking. Good people make good business people. Good people make good players and good athletes. Actually, good people make good parents, good friends and good coaches, but why?

Zig Ziglar (the father of modern marketing) suggests: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”, for me, I guess that’s what coaching is about – helping others get what they want (this could be physical, mental, social, emotional etc). Ziglar attests that the key to all happiness lies in relationships. If you can build and maintain strong relationships you will be a happier person.

For me the coach – athlete relationship revolves around three primary pillars:

  • Trust
  • Transparency
  • Challenge

Trust can’t be assumed – it has to be earned. Legacy counts for nothing in sport (or life). Just because you were a top athlete or player doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a great coach. In coaching trust is earned through investing time and effort in people and being clear on what your motivations are. As Tim O’Connell says “You must enjoy helping people”. Another of our athlete’s here in CrossFit 353 recently reminded me “Love is giving people what they need, not necessarily what they want”. The goal is to develop relationships over time where athletes/players trust that you have their best interest at heart.

Transparency is crucial in building trust. I’m rarely (never) the best coach in the room at CrossFit 353. When I see Claire or Gary stand in front of the class and demonstrate a picture perfect overhead squat my inner fat kid opens a mars bar and takes a bite. Some say “those who can’t coach” – and yes sometimes that’s true but very often players/athletes respect openness and honesty beyond the coach’s proficiency at performing a skill. Regularly in class I’ll grab Barra or Caroline and use them for a demonstration. On pitch when coaching a team I feel transparency is equally important. The role of the coach is to facilitate learning. As Julian Pineau teaches – Give principles not methods. In CrossFit the principal might be to squat. Simple. It may not be a perfect overhead squat of 100kg but if we can set the principal the methods will follow. In rugby terms, this is presenting a group of players with a problem and letting them solve it – if you can prod and poke towards the correct principles they will find the right methods. It’s the old teach a man to fish adage.

As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”                                                                                                                                                          – Ralph Emerson

If you have shared trust and are transparent with the group or individual you are coaching then the most valuable learning tool for both sides is challenge. This year I coached in St. Mary’s College RFC. This is the highest-level team I have worked with and undoubtedly the highest caliber of player. The playing group is relatively young and the environment is one of sharing opinions and experiences with the purpose of challenging one another. The overarching goal: whatever makes the team better. Former Munster Rugby professional Ivan Dineen joined the club this year and immediately we all sponged knowledge from him and his lengthy exposure at the top-level. Similarly David Fanagan, Conor Gilsenan and Ryan O’Loughlin were superb at challenging the why behind certain suggestions – this lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation to the how. I believe we all stand to develop most from challenge, feedback and constructive criticism. #JustSaying

Moving on – Kevin Croke is a man-crush of mine. He has a mind full of incredible information on everything from amateur psychology to bovine physiology. Early in 2016 I duped Kevin in to having coffee with me once a week (my goal: sponge as much wisdom from this man encyclopedia of human performance as possible). Kevin tries to read one book a month. Invariably I skip the reading and try to extract the ‘ jist’ from ‘Big Kev’ during these sessions. {See some of Kevin’s reading list here}. Kevin is reading a book at the moment called “The Happiness Project”. He came out last week with a gem: “Pete, you cannot be too nice to somebody”. Think about it? If we revert to Ziglars notion of giving others what they want to ultimately get what you want AND the key to happiness being relationships…I must say – I agree. Unfortunately I don’t always practice the latter but this is the type of golden nugget you would randomly get from Kevin to get the old noggin’ thinking!

I digress…. back to our coffee sessions:

Now and again we would touch on coaching and how an individual approaches certain scenarios and deals with situations in the hope of challenging each other to improve. We have started pulling together some content around coaching to try to challenge each other, reflect more and learn. An example of this would be the 353 Coaching Ethos that Kevin, Gary and I developed earlier this year. This is a reflection on our coaching principles and is proudly displayed on the walls of the gym. It is something we try to refer to daily.

Only this morning Kevin and I were discussing the concept of coaching as a social science. There’s huge value in remembering there’s always a person behind the player/athlete. Only by investing time in developing relationships can we begin to understand when to give someone a push or when they might just need a hug. I’m a firm believer that you become the average of the 5 people you spend most time with. I’m very lucky to have Kevin Croke and Gary Featherstone as two of my five.

Read Kevin’s recent article on recovery here

Read Gary’s recent article on training volume here

The final reason for my grá for the coaching is selfish of course. I’m kind of a words and language ‘wannabe’ nerd. For some reason I’m into syntax and the art of communication. Unfortunately Andy Keane won’t let me forget that he beat me in English in the Leaving Certificate (but that’s another story). I kept a notebook of quotes I liked for a while which I lost of course. Either way there is nothing like coaching to learn how effective (or ineffective) you are at connecting with people. Communication is multi faceted and often feedback is non-verbal and instant i.e. if you’re waffling too much you better read this from the audience and wrap it up quick. You can’t bluff people. If you’re honest, transparent (succinct) and open to challenge people will respect you. That respect however – like trust – is earned not assumed. The role of the coach or teacher in my opinion is to be seen and heard least.

{I had a Math’s teacher in 6th year named Gary Coakley. Not once in my six years in St.Michael’s did I hear Gary raise his voice or lose his cool. There was an unspoken respect for how he conducted himself and also because we felt like he genuinely cared}.

The role of the coach is to empower those around you through expectation. Facilitate learning through pointed questioning and prod and poke to help individuals understand the why. Very often they will arrive at the how themselves. Of course encouragement and positive reinforcement where appropriate play a big role too – but that is for another day.

(Nearly there now)… I have a constant desire to improve and better myself…I guess everybody does? In other words I am always hungry to learn new things. You won’t find me reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, if I’m reading – it’s someone’s biography that I better get something out of (narcissistic I know). {Two great autobiographies: “Open” – By Andre Agassi and “Scar Tissue” – By Anthony Kedis}. Alternatively I’d just ask ‘Big Kev’ what he’s reading.

With self-improvement in mind in relation to coaching (or life in general) I feel it’s really important to expose yourself to individuals and experiences that stretch you. Some might call these mentors. I like the concept (can’t remember who said it) of lead – follow. The premise is everyone starts at the bottom. In order to progress you have to learn (follow). Once you’ve learned you have a responsibility to teach, to help those around you progress (lead). If you spend too much time in either bracket you may stagnate. I’ve been fairly ruthless in seeking these people out in my life. Brian Hemeryck is certainly someone I’ve followed and learned from, as is Mark Byrne and James Norton – but to name a few. Notable mention to Greg McWilliams who also had a big impact on my early playing & coaching days. Coaching is an instant learning tool for self-development. I’m lucky to work in a team of 6 coaches here in CrossFit 353. We meet every week and one of the topics of discussion is coaching. We encourage challenging each other in the pursuit of improvement.

One of the coaches with the All Blacks has in his contract that he can travel the world to learn from other organisations. He has been to sumo camps in Japan to NBA franchises in America to ARL teams in Australia. One mantra that the All Blacks unashamedly borrowed from the Sydney Swans ARL team is “No Dickheads”.

Good people must make good Aussie rules players too!



e| peter{at}

p| +353 86 8688057

instagram| @crossfit353




CrossFit 353 interview with the Irish Independent

Peter Burke on coaching Norway Rugby

Over training


“Life is like an iPhone”

Life used to be like a box of chocolates, now it’s like a computer chip…or more specifically like an iPhone.

While you’re debating this analogy let’s answer a question: how do you reset your iPhone? For example, when it’s running slowly or not working to its full potential. Turn it off for a while and then on again? Charge it up fully? Upgrade the software? Close all those open apps? Buy a new phone? [RBF: iPhone??…Charged!..Sweet!!]


Now that you’ve fixed your phone, let’s think about you. Why might you slow down, underperform and generally not whirr along at your potential? Well, whatever the reason for a performance dip, it turns out that you and your iPhone are not that dissimilar.


We think regular training is a massive positive – if you don’t you’re wrong; we are made to move. Being physically active can have a massive positive impact on our wellbeing and in 353 it does. It should hold a position of high priority in your daily / weekly routine.

Training does not come without some reasonably considered risk. This risk can be minimized through thoughtful programming, good coaching, appropriate scaling and sensible work volumes. Like most things the poison is in the dose or too much of a good thing might not be the best thing.


If one is good and two is better five is not always best.


As an athlete you can’t really control programming and coaching, however a good return on the trust and faith invested in your coaches is the results you should achieve. Progress not perfection. The volume of a session is controlled by the coach but all variables can be scaled to best suit the athlete in question.


We all train to gain a positive impact on our lives, what is critical is that we make sure that the dose of training does not become a negative impact on your life. This aim of this article is to help you to understand the nature of training, recovery and overtraining (how to prevent it, how to know it is happening and what to do if it is).

Training is stressful. And it bloody should be. Without stress there is no nudge to adapt, to change or to progress. Your body is extremely adaptive – responding to any stimulus that is continually applied to it.


The “magic” of training happens afterwards. Adaptation, depends on 1) the appropriateness of the training stress (intensity & volume) and 2) your ability to recover and regenerate after training. There is a threshold for training stress both acutely and chronically that will be dictated by your individual training resilience. Therefore, the key to managing overtraining is the ability to keep our workload intense enough to bring us outside our comfort zone and give a push to progress but to also not acutely or chronically go beyond our ability to recover.

Simply put:

Training + Recovery = Progress

If we do go beyond our recovery ability consistently we will at some point pay a price for not allowing our bodies to adapt.



To shed some more light on acute stress, use this simple example: If my strength (stress tolerance) will allow me to lift 100 kg for 8 reps and I attempt to lift 140 kg for 8 reps it is very clear that I am above my stress tolerance level. If I persist and attempt the lift, I will either a) fail the lift b) find a poor movement strategy [AH: “Eh….that’s a mashed potato squat kid!”] to “make” the lift or c) I’ll get injured in the attempt (either during the lift or following training I’ll notice a niggle). All of these are not good from a training/progression [CMG: “Gaaaaaainz”] perspective and will leave you feeling mentally and/or physically sore.

To understand chronic stress, think about the overall volume of training you do [days x intensity].

Some more info on training volume here.


Excessive training volume can easily catch up with you, particularly in the early stages of training, if you do too much, too hard (or both) you can push beyond your ability to effectively recover and adapt to training [CMG: “No Gainz??!” L].

The key part here is to know when you’ve done enough. But, how do you know? There are some simple signs and symptoms of being over trained/under recovered; here and some early warning signs on overtraining are here. This will give you a heads up on when you might need to pull back a little.


The [hopefully] obvious answer on what to do if you are in the overtraining zone is to up the amount of focused regen you are doing [#UpYourRegen]. Regeneration work is done with the sole focus of coming back better/stronger/more resilient. Think of it as morphing into a more awesome you…add theme music if you like!

How to up your regen game is here.


A key aspect of Crossfit is variety and this should be reflected in the intensity of your training – few people vary their training intensity, fewer still do it with purpose. By adjusting your workouts; hard v easy, you can manage your overall load better – the more consecutive days you train hard the higher your risk of injury. Break your hard training blocks with lower days and/or rest/regen days [yoga anyone??].

If this is not getting you recovered look at cutting the overall volume with a regular rest and recovery day: You get better after training not during it! The only * to this is that you only need to recover, when you’ve something to recover from. Coach Gaz covered this well in his thoughts on intensity of training.

All of this being said it’s still important that you continue to train regularly with good intensity. “Persistence conquers all things”. What will keep us on track is our ability to match training with recovery. The Brisbane Broncos (Australian Rugby League) use a really simple system to filter training questions/complaints into training or recovery issues.

So while you might feel the signs and symptoms of over doing it, you can never over recover. Let’s repeat that together: YOU CAN NEVER OVER RECOVER.

[PB: It’s true – you can’t… cannot! over recover]


In case you don’t believe Pete: this article shows how you really cannot over recover.



So, lets summarize all of the above:


  1. Training is awesome.
  2. You need intensity to drive change.
  3. Recovery dictates adaptation [CMG: “Gaaaaaaains”]
  4. Training stress is both acute and chronic.
  5. Acute training stress is easier to see/be aware of.
  6. Chronic training stress (overall volume of stress) will bite you if you don’t look after it.


Recovery cheat sheet

iPhone iHuman
Switch off and on Get some better sleep
Update software Improve movement standards in training
Give a full charge Take a rest day (or two) regularly
Close open apps Mentally unwind/escape from training



“It’s not about how much work you put in, but the intensity of that work every time”

As a CrossFit coach and athlete, one of the toughest learning’s I’ve had is the battle between volume and intensity. Every day I see athletes at the gym, doing extras, wanting more. I myself trained twice a day for the last few months to get ready for the CrossFit Open. 
 I’ve had a lot of time to reflect after the CrossFit Open, both for our gym and myself. Not feeling happy with my own performance over the 5 weeks, I was left asking myself why?

As with some of our athletes more volume didn’t equate to better performance. I was effectively getting away from what CrossFit is all about. I felt like that even though I was doing a lot, I was only giving half my effort. Spreading myself too thin.

One of our athletes at 353, Tim O’Connell hit the point home when he came up to me recently. We got chatting and it came up that a few people were surprised with his open performance. Without a blink of an eye he said, “I love intensity, I hate volume” and walked away with that cheeky grin on his face, the one everyone at 353 is well too familiar with.

He linked me an article that he read on the CrossFit journal by James Hobart-“A deft dose of volume”. Throughout this article, Hobart mentioned how over the years CrossFit has changed from a 60min session that consists of a warm up, workout and cool down, to a session filled with skill work, strength blocks, gymnastics, accessories and metcons. The penny dropped.



Leading up to this years open, I trained twice a day, hitting everything from intervals on the rower, to accessory pieces with movements I couldn’t even pronounce to double WODs. In my mind I was getting fitter, I mean how could I not be? I was training 3 hours a day. But looking back, where was the intensity? How many “oh fuck moments” were in my training, the moment we try to deliver to our athletes everyday, the moment that gives us that beautiful love/hate relationship with CrossFit, the moment your lying on your back, staring up at the ceiling asking yourself what the hell just happened? 
About 4 mins into 16.5 I got that “oh fuck moment”, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt intensity like it. All those 3-hour sessions, long metcons, intervals on the rower, accessories, couldn’t have prepared me for it. But incorporating intensity more often into my workouts could have.

I went against CrossFit 101. I mistook volume for intensity. 
For us common folk, us mere mortals, that just want to improve their life, get a bit fitter and have no intentions of going to the games, training an hour a day with intensity and purpose, instead of 3 hours of volume is the only way. It’s simple, if you want to increase your fitness, then one workout a day is the answer. As James said “don’t mistake volume for intensity and end up training 90mins at 60 percent when a 60 min session at 90 percent would have been more valuable”.

Our priority as coaches is to elicit a response from our athletes through smart training. Not running our athletes into the ground by overloading them with crazy amounts of volume. We have a lifetime to get good at this CrossFit thing. Purpose, intensity and simplicity is all we need in our training. If we have the skill level then a 5mins amrap of bar muscle ups and snatch will bring intensity, but if we spend that 5 mins looking at the bar then the intensity is gone. We try to teach our athletes to scale appropriately. Use skill sessions to work on skills, but WODs to get the heart rate going and blood pumping



One of my coaches on my CrossFit Level 2, “Davs” preached the whole weekend about “earning the right to train twice a day”. Had I earned the right to train twice a day? The answer smacked me in the face 4mins into 16.5…. I lost sight of what makes CrossFit so special, the intensity you don’t get out of other workouts, the intensity that for years was missing from my training while I was doing my leg days, chest days, arm days (well I might still sneak an arm day in). I thought I was above CrossFit, in my mind I had earned the right to train twice a day, in my mind I was going to the bloody CrossFit Games.

Another coach on my level 2, Matt Evans, talked about the fact that if your athletes in your gym are able to do extras and hit consecutive workouts, they haven’t applied themselves enough in their session. Our job as a coach is to get the desired amount of effort out of the class. He used the example of a 5-5-5-5-5 deadlift workout. Saying that if you apply yourself to this(moving perfectly of course), approach with a good mindset and give it all your effort, then you are home straight after, into bed, eating ice cream. You don’t need anything else after. You have done a great days work. Achieved what you set out to achieve for the day.

Or think about Fran: 21-15-9 thruster pull up. If you hit Fran all out, close the eyes, muster up some intensity, there isn’t much you’ll be doing for the rest of your day. Its 100% enough, applied with the right amount of intensity we don’t need anything else that day. Our intensity goal for the day was hit. There is no need to sandbag some front squats or some intervals on the rower after(unless you have Dottir in your second name;))

There are two sides to this. With new athletes our priority is movement. Only when we have the movement, do we worry about intensity. Our coaching ethos is always movement over load. Mechanics-Consistency-Intensity.

The other side is the 1% of our sport heading to regionals and the games. Volume is needed. But volume for them is simulating the needs of competing at such a high level. They’ve earned the right to train multiple times a day, building a solid foundation through good mechanics and consistency. They are able to hit each of their sessions with intensity every day, being consistent with their numbers and times all while holding good mechanics throughout. They don’t run themselves into the ground every day. They train smart. They are train multiple training systems every week. Getting themselves ready for the battle field, that is The CrossFit Games.

For most people, one workout a day done with right intensity and effort, is enough to increase our fitness. Maybe we are feeling a little bit sore and tired but want that hour to ourselves in the gym. We don’t want to train 100% hard. Thats ok, we encourage athletes to listen to their bodies. We can’t go hard everyday but we can hit our sessions with intensity every day. To some intensity only means crawling off the gym floor. To us it has a few different meanings. Maybe you come in and practice handstand walks for 30mins. But you practice with an intensity and a goal of getting better. Maybe its a 5k run to loosing out the body, clear the head. But we do that run and then call it there. We don’t need to feel beat up every day. We don’t need loads of volume to feel like we got a good day of work in. We can achieve intensity and effort in many different ways. We CrossFit, to increase our wellness and health through fitness. CrossFit is beautiful because it shows us many different styles of intensity through hundred and thousands of different workouts

For me, it’s back to basics. Doing CrossFit- one workout a day, simple movements, more intensity and purpose. Building my engine, working my gymnastics and muscle endurance. Training with intensity so I know what it feels like and so i’m comfortable with it. Falling back in love with CrossFit. Getting comfortable with intensity is something that can transfer over to everyday life. As Julien Pineau said in a recent podcast, we must train the body to recognize pain from intensity. If we get comfortable with intensity, learn to train the mind and body with intensity; we will realize intensity is not pain. We need to train under stress and intensity regularly in a way that wont damage the body. Eliciting a positive response from the body every day.


When I can say that I’m hitting every session with purpose and the right type of intensity, getting more of that oh fuck moment back, then I’ll know I’m getting fitter. For our athletes at 353, the exact same. Simple CrossFit. Simple workouts. Less volume. More exposure to intensity. We as coaches guide our athletes everyday. Show them the way. Make sure they train with a purpose and are able to elicit a positive response. This is what separates us from globo gyms. Intensity gives us our unique value. 3 questions I ask myself when programming for class now. Is it simple? Is it challenging? Is it fun? If it’s yes, yes and yes…then in it goes
. At 353 we want our athletes training as often as they can. We love seeing them in class regularly. Our goal is to keep them injury free. Get them ready for life. We use different methods and training styles to elicit different types of intensities every day. Some days its Fran type WODs(3-8mins), other days Cindy style WODs(20mins). Some days just showing up, having a laugh, doing some foam rollin is all the intensity we need. We realise that we have a lifetime to achieve fitness. We don’t need to rush it.

I’ve hit about 10 main site workouts since the Open finished up; I’ve had to scale 4 of them. Either movements I couldn’t do (which was very humbling) or weight too heavy that intensity would have been down (also humbling).

We as coaches have to realize that our athletes are human beings. We must ask ourselves what we can do to better our athletes every day. We must teach them not to fear pain, that intensity is good. Its good to let the blood flow around the body. Its good to let the heart beat fast. Its good to get out of breathe. We must teach them to control their intensity. Push their intensity when it needs to be pushed and hold it back when we need to lay off, but less is always more.

I’m going to finish this with a quote from Tommy Hackenbruck– ” You don’t need harder workouts, you just need to go harder in your workouts”

Coach Gaz x

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My Week at CrossFit 353.

My week at CrossFit 353 has most definitely been a highlight of my year so far. The week gave me an excellent opportunity to broaden my knowledge on CrossFit and conditioning as a whole. It gave me an insight into what it takes to run a gym and run classes. I was asked to do many tasks which ranged from spectating classes to eventually leading a warm up. It was an eventful week, one in which I learned a lot from. I was constantly active through out the week and was never left bored, I was always completing a task which Peter or Gary assigned to me.

I feel that this unique experience really taught me a huge amount about the commitment and dedication involved in running a gym. And how much work goes on in the background. Coming in early in the morning and leaving late at night, working very hard, the staff still managed to be optimistic and positive through out the day. I was amazed by this in particular. I learned through 5 early mornings that this commitment  is not easy to obtain, and I greatly admire the staff for that.

The week also thought me that running a gym isn’t as glamorous as many people think. Quite a bit of hard work goes into keeping the gym running and making sure customers are pleased. I learned a lot about the CrossFit community and how pleasant everyone is. Everyone was always very kind towards me and to others and there was never a negative word spoken. I was allowed to participate in the classes and all the coaches were very helpful by correcting my mistakes and showing me how to improve in a very positive way.

Over all, my week in CrossFit 353 was a fantastic week and one that I will always remember as probably the most enjoyable and educational week of my life so far. I am very grateful for the unique experience that I got and I would like to thank Peter, Gary and all the staff for taking great care of me over the past week and showing me all the details behind running a CrossFit gym. I cannot begin to describe how impressed I was by CrossFit 353 and how great an time I had over the course of my week with them.

By – Padraic Mulligan

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Posted by Nathan Van Der Laan on Sep 25, 2015 6:41:01 PM

Stiffness and soreness of the back are common occurrences for those of us who work in an office. The lack of movement and often times poor posture that we adopt can be attributed to your back and other types of pains. There is a good chance that mobility plays a factor, too. Or the lack thereof, to be exact.



What Is Mobility?

Mobility can be described as the range of motion of a joint under specific circumstances. It has to do with how well you can move. Can you move freely and free of pain? Can you drop to the bottom of a squat position and hang out there, pain-free? Training mobility should really be the first port of call for anyone who is serious about sports, or just general health and well-being.


So Why Is My Back Stiff After Sitting In The Office All Day?

Humans were not meant to sit in an office all day. We weren’t designed to do that. Instead, we have evolved to move, to hunt, to forage. The past 200’000 years has seen our bodies adapt for precisely these purposes. 9-5 office jobs are a relatively new thing, and they could well be the reason you are experiencing back pain. Being in a seated position all day really hurts your mobility. Your hip flexors, for one, are being shortened. Furthermore, you have no real control over your body when you are in that position, as we are always supported by a chair or a couch – this can lead to weakness and stiffness.


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Fellow Foodies – we salute you:


Continuing in the health & nutrition theme, this week we’re looking at some of our favourite online, healthy eating resources.

  1. The Wonky Spatula (

If you’re just starting out on Paleo and looking for the do’s and don’ts, this is the place for you. The Wonky Spatula have a Paleo List, outlining very clearly what’s in and what’s out on Paleo. Delving deeper into the site, for the seasoned paleo homemaker, you will find hundreds of quirky and tasty recipes. The wonky spatula is 100% our favourite paleo blog out there and we’re incredibly proud of the author, Nicola who happens to be one of our own @crossfit353. Nicola is always pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box on her inventive recipes…she’s always bringing us post WOD treats – try her Sticky Pecan Cupcakes! (Tip – You’ll see that for a lot of her recipes Nicola uses a spiraliser that we found on Amazon!)


  1. Paleo Leap (

Coach Gary (follow @garyfeatherstone on instagram) first came across this site. Their two-week paleo meal plan is a great tool to help anyone who is starting out with paleo and gives you a good starting point to guide you through those tricky first few weeks when you are still getting comfortable with cooking and baking clean. We found the recipes on paleo leap so good and easy to follow that we @crossfit353 purchased their ebook, give their chilli burgers a go (tip – Dunnes of Donnybrook butcher have really good chorizo sausage for this recipe).

  1. PaleOMG (

For quick and easy to follow recipes, paleomg is a great page to follow. The page is very user-friendly and we love that you can filter by food type. Try out the crispy chicken strips recipe, we like to make these with a mixed salad and homemade sweet potato fries at the weekends as a quick and easy treat (tip – you can make these in bulk as they will last in your fridge for a couple of days and are very tasty cold as well as heated up).


  1. The Little Green Spoon(

This page was discovered by our Crossfit 353 baking queen and vegetarian, Aisling McGann (follow @aismcgannn on Instagram), who is always ahead of the curve on the best places to find healthy recipes. We love that this page is by another fellow Irish paleo lover. Their recipe for paleo bounty bars is a must try (tip we buy our agave and other healthy sweetners in The Punnet) .


  1. Natural Born Feeder (

At Crossfit353 we recognise that following paleo, 100%, all of the time is not for the faint hearted…in fact we don’t know anyone who does that. For us, it’s about finding a healthy way of cooking and enjoying food that works for you, that’s why we love this Irish food blog by Roz Purcell. When we’re taking a break / treat day from paleo at the weekends, @naturalbornfeeder has some great ideas and recipes. ‘Cheat day’ doesn’t have to be filled with pizzas and Galaxy bars, with a little preparation you can have tasty treats that are filled with goodness. Try out the protein porridge recipe, great on a windy Sunday morning (Tip – if you normally sprinkle sugar on top of your protein, try ½ teaspoon of Stevia as an alternative, we get ours in Nourish, Donnybrook).

  1. I Quit Sugar (

We fell upon this page through an article in the Guardian Online. The article was a real eye –opener to what sugar is doing to our bodies. We follow them on Instagram now (@iquitsugar) and love the constant posts of sugar free snacks & meals. Thanks to I quit sugar we have finally found a paleo breakfast without eggs, Chai Seed Pudding. We got the recipe from the I Quit Sugar book so here it is for you:

75g Chai Seeds

375ml almond milk

¼ cup frozen berries

½ teaspoon vanilla powder

(Tip – we use coconut milk from Tesco instead of the Almond milk, as its less fattening)

If you have any other healthy receipe sources we’d love to hear. Let us know: J

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