News & Events

Big Weekend of Competition For SFCFers

This was a huge weekend of competition for SFCF athletes.   Check out what SFCF athletes were up to this weekend:

Pon™ – Headlands 50 Miler

This Saturday, Pon™ raced in the Headlands 50 miler which is a grueling course with tons of elevation change.   Last year, Pon™ posted a time of 13 hours and 45 minutes and this year he absolutely crushed his time by more than three hours, finishing the race in 10 hours and 40 minutes.   Not only is that time awesome in and of itself but the time also qualifies Pon™ for a lottery spot for the Western States 100 miler.   The Western States is so popular that there is a lottery to enter and to even be considered for the lottery, athletes must post a time of under 11 hours in a qualifying event.   At well under 11 hours, Pon’s time last weekend qualifies him to enter the lottery, and hopefully a spot in the 2013 Western States.   Go Pon™!






Team SFCF v. TJ’s Gym – Throwdown

On Sunday, six SFCF athletes Brian Thompson, Joe Herrle, Lucas Robinson, Katy Verry, Lisa Warren, and Danielle Rabkin participated in three grueling workouts – pretty much back-to-back – versus TJ’s Gym in Mill Valley.   Team SFCF won all three workouts handily and kept the Pimp Cup in San Francisco!   Super extra congratulations to Katy Verry for participating in her first ever Crossfit competition and to Joe Herrle who showed up and crushed after taking second place with Beth Helton the day before in the adventure race (details below).   Thanks so much to TJ’s for hosting, to our resident photographer Tory Kornblum for taking some awesome photos – you can view the whole gallery on our SFCF facebook page, and to all the spectators/supports who showed up to cheer on our team.   Go Team SFCF!






Joe Herrle & Beth Helton – Crossfit Anywhere Adventure Race

Congratulations to Beth Helton and Joe Herrle for taking 2nd Place overall in the Crossfit Anywhere Adventure Race on Saturday.   This race was a cool combination of Crossfit and adventure racing that included kayaking (obviously), running, partner squats, and more.   During the partner squats, Joe squatted Beth 85 times!   Awesome job Joe and Beth!







Devan Green – NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship

SFCFer and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor Devan Green competed on Saturday in the NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship at Kezar Stadium.  Devan played in 3 divisions and finished with two bronze medals and a final silver medal.  Congratulations Devan!


Upcoming Events This Weekend!

Congratulations again to Coach Tuller (who you may not recognize with this new beard) for completing the Wasatch 100 miler last weekend for the 12th time.   This was a grueling event that required Coach Tuller to be on the trail for  more than 35 hours.   If you see him limping around the gym this week, you’ll now understand why.    Awesome job Coach!

We also have quite a few other SFCF athletes competing in various events this weekend so come on out to support them!   Here’s what’s happening:

Saturday, September 15th:  SFCFer and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor Devan Green will be competing in the NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship at Kezar Stadium.    Devan will be competing in two divisions at approximately 2 and 4 pm.   Tickets are $15 dollars and can be bought at the door or online HERE.

Sunday, September 16th:  Team SFCF Joe Herrle, Danielle Rabkin, Katy Verry, Lisa Warren, Lucas Robinson, and Brian Thompson will be defending the PIMP CUP at TJ’s Gym Mill Valley starting at 9:30 a.m.   215 Shoreline Avenue in Mill Valley.

Labor Day Schedule, Schedule Updates, & Signing In

Greetings SFCF Members!  We have a lot of schedule updates and a new sign-in procedure starting next week so please read on:

Labor Day Schedule

9 – 11 a.m. – Open Gym – Coach James will be posting a couple of optional epic Hero WODs on the whiteboard so come on by to do one of those, work on skills, or do some strength work.

Schedule Updates

* Level 2 Classes Start Next Tuesday:

  • Monday – 6 p.m. – Brian MacKenzie (no class on Labor Day)
  • Tuesday – 6 a.m. – Kelly Starrett
  • Wednesday 6 p.m. – Diane Fu
  • Thursday 6 a.m. – Carl Paoli
These classes are designed to develop our veteran Crossfit athletes and are limited to 8 athletes/class. The prerequisites for this class include: completion of at least 1-year of Crossfit classes, proficiency in the the basic Crossfit skills, and the ability to complete some workouts at the prescribed weight/intensity. The goal of these classes is to develop and master the more complex Crossfit skills (like hand-stand push ups/muscle-ups, Olympic lifts, etc.) and the programming is more complex with higher skill demand and increased work load. If you are interested in and ready to join our Level 2 classes, please talk to one of our coaches or email us.

* Strength & Skills Classes are cancelled for now

* 3:30 p.m. classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday are starting next Wednesday.

NEW Sign-In Procedure

Starting on Tuesday, September 4th, we are switching to advance sign ups for classes.   You can sign up for classes as early as 2 weeks in advance and as late as 15 minutes before the class start time.   Just go to the Group Class Schedule on our website, find the class you want to attend, and click on the “Sign-Up Now” button, and sign up.   Please bear with us during this transition as we will probably continue with the paper sign-up on site until all of our members transition to this new system.




Inside The Box, How Crossfit Shredded the Rules, Stripped Down the Gym, and Rebuilt My Body, by TJ Murphy

I have a new book out, “Inside the Box: How CrossFit Shredded the Rules, Stripped Down the Gym and Rebuilt My Broken Down Body.” Juliet asked if I could write a quick blog describing what the book is about. It started off, as a matter of fact, the first time I limped into the parking lot behind the Sports Basement that you all know so well.

Two years ago I was working on a story for Triathlete Magazine (I was editorial director at the time) on Brian MacKenzie’s program, CrossFit Endurance. Pick up most copies of newsstand fitness magazines and you generally will see stories on “how to train” that are all fairly similar.The same can certainly be said for triathlon magazines. CrossFit Endurance was by all measures radical. Traditional endurance training plans have long emphasized periods of base building and have spent little time on subjects like nutrition, stretching and strength training. CFE did away with periodization and instead relied on a matrix of high-intensity sport-specific work, drills for proper technique, nutrition, CrossFit and mobility.

Ironically enough, at the time I was reporting on the story my 25 years as a competitive distance runner/triathlete were grinding to a painful halt. In the early 1990s, living in San Francisco, I was a founding member of the Golden Gate Tri Club and a fairly decent marathoner, running Cal International in 2:38. That was 1991. And if I look back at the record now the following 20 years slowly turned into a downward spiral of spending more time being injured and less time running. I recorded some good races through 1995 but since then I can’t recall the traditional style of training that I kept trying to put in motion, over and over, did me much good. I was able to cross the finish line once in a while but increasingly injuries derailed my race goals long before the gun went off.

So it was in November of 2010 when I first met MacKenzie. I spoke to enough people who told me about the value of CrossFit in not only preventing injury but in helping them break plateaus and record personal records that it would be ridiculous to not try it. From November 2009 to November 2010 I had spent a lot of money on a popular online running program that had left me with a severe limp and unable to run a quarter mile.

After talking about it all some, Brian told me the first thing I needed to do was see Kelly Starrett. The next month I limped into San Francisco CrossFit (I was living in San Diego at the time). I had paid many visits to many different physical therapists in my time and this was the first time the PT didn’t just hook me up to an ultrasound machine and send me on my way. Rather, a lot of the session focused on what happened when I tried to do an air squat (knees caving in, etc).

Kelly took a look at my severe restrictions in range of motion, the back pain and knee pain I had begun to assume were my due for so many years of being a distance runner. After I ticked off the various ailments and weaknesses and the fact that I couldn’t run a lap around the track, he gave me a sharp look.

“Are you OK with that?” he asked.

I considered the undertone to his question. You mean I have a choice here? “Well–since you put it that way—uh…No! I’m not ok with that.”

The implication was obvious—I had been OK with the injuries because I thought it was just the way it was when the running odometer reached certain levels. Kelly was suggesting that there were alternatives.

That was the beginning of my journey into CrossFit and some of the surprises that are in store for all of us. It was definitely a “Matrix”-like Morpheus/red-pill adventure. At the time I started the idea of hopping onto a 12-inch box was barely within my comprehension. Let along kipping pull-ups, Olympic lifts and hand stands. At first of course it was just about the couch stretch and such but within the next year I would establish a degree of athletic capacity that I had not had since high school. If ever.

By last October I had written several stories about CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance and the MWOD when I was asked to write a book for VeloPress. Like so many others at CrossFit gyms I’ve talked to, CrossFit had changed their lives to the better in one way or another. Or several ways. The book traces my at first reluctant journey into CrossFit and then some of my discoveries about the culture and history within.

Last March I moved to San Francisco and joined SFCF. One of the inspiring folks for me at SFCF has been Pon Sohmnhot, who seems to be alternating 50ks and 50-milers every two weeks. He’s one of the reasons I believe the rules are being re-written in terms of how one can train for a running race.

Now that CrossFit has allowed me to overhaul the physical infrastructure that seemed to be teetering on collapse 20 months ago—and having been inspired by the likes of Pon–I’m planning on spending the next few months getting into race form again, purely through this route of CrossFit Endurance-style training.

The book was an honor to write. I hope it gets in the hands of others out there the way I was, adrift in a diminishing state of health that may have some rather surprising alternatives at hand.

Please also join us for a Taco Social & Book Launch Party for Inside the Box at SFCF on Friday, October 5th


Devan Green – Brazilian Ju-Jitsu Athlete & Crossfitter

We love to highlight SFCF athletes who are out there competing in sports.   SFCFer Devan Green competes in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (“BJJ”), which is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.  BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

Last weekend, Devan participated in a tournament in Daly City where he competed in two divisions and took first in both, defeating all of his opponents by submission with the exception of the first match where his opponent quit.    Devan will be competing again at Kezar Stadium on September 15th and we will send details as the event gets closer but save the date to come out and watch Devan do his thing!   Congratulations Devan!

Check out this cool video of the finals of one of Devan’s matches:


Crossfit Kids Fall Session Starts September 4th

San Francisco CrossFit’s Kids program is a multifaceted, challenging, socially interactive strength and conditioning program for kids from ages 6 to 13 taught by Coach Tonya.   The fall program goes for 15 weeks from September 4 – December 11th on Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. (6-9 year olds) and 5-6 p.m. (10-13 year olds).

What is Crossfit Kids?

CrossFit Kids is not simply a scaled down version of CrossFit, it is entirely and absolutely CrossFit geared toward kids and their specific developmental needs.

CrossFit Kids is the principal strength and conditioning program for many young athletes and the primary P.E. program for many home schools, charter schools. It is used by athletic teams, martial arts schools and many parents that want their kids to grow up healthy, strong and have a life long love of working out thus avoiding the common problems associated with childhood inactivity and obesity. Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Healthy living requires that our kids push, pull, run, throw, climb, lift, jump, effectively and safely regardless of whether or not they play athletics. Athletics is a specialized pursuit. Our goal is to support the specialist, but reward the generalist.

The CrossFit Kids program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for 4 year olds and elite high school athletes. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs. The needs of our second graders and our high school wrestler differ by degree not kind.

– Jeff & Mikki Martin – Founders, CrossFit Kids


Ernest Lew Summits Mt. Elbrus!

It is easy to forget that the development of fitness is not an end in and of itself – it is the application of fitness that should always be our downstream goal.   In recent months, we have seen some really cool examples of San Francisco Crossfit athletes out there applying their fitness to sport – Pon and Josiah PRing in running events, Nate, Brian, and Erin winning a team triathlon, and Erin Cafaro winning a gold medal at the Olympics in rowing.

Another very cool and recent member if this group is long-time SFCFer, Ernest Lew.   Ernest has been training with Coach Diane at San Francsico Crossfit for the last 2.5 years.   You may recognize him as the athlete who shows up almost an hour early for his appointments with Diane to mobilize and get prepared for his workouts.

On July 28, 2012, Ernest summit Mt. Elbrus in Russia.  Mt. Elbrus is one of the famed 7 Summits and is the highest point in Europe at 18,510 feet.   At this time last year, Ernest summited one of the other 7 Summits – Mount Aconcagua on the Chilean/Argentinian border.  Aconcagua is not only the highest peak of the Andes and South America, but in fact the highest point outside of Asia at 22,841 feet.   Ernest credits his training with Coach Diane for getting him in shape to be able to bag these two huuuugggee  summits.

Congratulations Ernest!



Three Principles For Decoding Crossfit, by Nate Helming

And how a lack of motor control or mobility is at the root of athletic inefficiency and injury

As a CrossFit Coach, I spend several hours per week leading athletes of all abilities through our “basics” class, teaching our core curriculum of movements (squat, pushup, deadlift, press, etc., etc., etc.) so they can safely and successfully enter our group classes.

We have a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it in. To make matters worse, the movements we cover can be quite technical, i.e. gymnastics skills and Olympic lifting. Athletes spend their entire careers specializing in just one of these skill-based sports and yet we ask our athletes to be “fluent” across all of them—in 3 or 6 sessions no less. Thus it’s easy and understandable when athletes get their head stuck in the weeds and overwhelmed trying to learn all that CrossFit requires.

And athletes who start to over think move worse, remember less, and get frustrated. As a coach, it’s easy to get frustrated too with athletes who don’t “get it” especially when we rush them through a program the athlete barely understands.

To battle these potential frustrations, it’s best to first review three simple movements: the body weight squat, the pushup, and the gymnastic hollow rock, and more importantly to introduce the principles of midline stability, load/tension, and torque. By taking more time to introduce these principals upfront, athletes learn the more complex, skill based movements faster later. Athletes also begin to understand that we are interested in making better athletes (not necessarily just CrossFitters), and that these principals apply to their sport as well.

This approach is helpful for these below reasons:

From the get go, we can introduce the three athletic principles that apply to all CrossFit movements: how to create trunk stability, how to load and tension, and how to create torque through external rotation in most cases and internal rotation in others (i.e. shoving the knees out in a squat, or “breaking the bar” in a shoulder press).

We progress from simple to complex movements. Athletes who fail to understand the push press or push jerk, for example, have been progressed too quickly by their coach. Period. Chances are this athlete does not yet know how to keep their trunk stable in a pushup, they don’t know how to initiate the pushup with the shoulder (versus the elbow), and they don’t know how to “screw” the hands into the ground to create additional torque to further stabilize the shoulder. A pushup is a simple enough exercise most people can do. Fortunately, it’s also technical enough that we can apply the principles of midline stability, load/tension, and torque making it a very powerful skill transfer exercise for all other upper body and overhead exercises seen in CrossFit. And ultimately, this skill transfer is the entire point to making us better athletes!

Finally, with these principals in mind, we further help the athlete by breaking down their movement into more digestible chunks: mobility and motor control. Mobility captures range of motion in a joint in addition to the muscular flexibility surrounding that joint. For example, in the shoulder, we want to know that the shoulder can “slide and glide” in the socket, but we also want to look at muscle flexibility in the surrounding musculature that equally affects the range of motion. Motor control involves our ability to coordinate movement and muscular engagement in the right sequence consistently and repetitively. It does not require massive amount of strength. For example, how strong do you have to be stand tall and squeeze your butt?

By looking at these two components, we provide more specific feedback to help the athlete understand their limiters and how to overcome those limiters. Let us look at the shoulder in general and the pushup to demonstrate how we can decode pain, inefficient movement, and create a template for better shoulder positioning and strength.

Trunk stability: in a pushup position, the athlete’s legs have to be squeezed together with belly and butt squeezed tight. This trunk stability is a prerequisite to a stable pushup because it provides a firm foundation for the shoulder to stabilize. An unstable trunk equals an unstable shoulder that tends to pop out into an internally rotated position. Clearly, trunk stability falls on the motor control side of the athletic equation, and without it shoulder stability will not happen.

Load/tension: we teach athletes to initiate a squat from the hips (not the knees). This keeps their weight on the heels and effectively loads the posterior chain for a deeper, more powerful squat that also removes pressure off the knees, a good thing all around. In a similar vein, we teach athletes to initiate the pushup from the shoulder (not the elbows). Here athletes often struggle. In order to load the shoulder effectively, athletes require sufficient internal range of motion in the shoulder joint. (See Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWod post for more information:

Without this range of motion, the elbows tend to creep outwards and strain tends to increase in the front of the shoulder as well as in the neck. Attempting to perform a proper shoulder-loaded pushup makes this mobility problem plain to see and quite simple to solve with a lacrosse ball and some bands (again see MobilityWod here for videos). While it requires some motor control to initiate from the shoulder, proper load/tension equally falls on the mobility side of the equation.

Creating torque: in flexion (think deep in a squat), we teach athletes to generate torque (for greater trunk, knee, and ankle stability) by shoving the knees aggressively outwards and by pushing the floor “apart” on the way back up. Applied to the pushup, we queue athletes to screw their hands into the ground and flick their elbow pits forward on the way back up. Done effectively, this keeps the shoulders stabilized together by adding external rotation torque. Creating torque falls equally on the mobility and motor control sides of the equation. As a new concept, athletes require time to practice this queue and develop this skill. Furthermore, athletes who lack internal rotation at the shoulder will equally struggle to generate torque because they cannot find a strong position to push from.

And athletes who struggle with this mobility in the pushup will struggle even more when performing a parallel bar or ring dip, handstand pushup, or an overhead press. Furthermore, swimmers who lack internal range of motion fail to develop a strong connected catch and pull. And runners cannot drive their elbows straight back for an effective arm swing.

By breaking dysfunctional movement down into mobility and motor control, we can better see the root of an athlete’s injuries and inefficiencies. We can better explain this to the athlete so they understand, and we can better empower the athlete to make the corrections themselves. Additionally, by introducing and applying the concepts of midline stability, load/tension, and torque we make the more complicated Olympic lifts and gymnastics skills easier to comprehend. And we make the movements seen in CrossFit more relevant to athletes’ specific sports.

Train Well