Photo Credit: Power Monkey Fitness
Day 4 (Wednesday)
A little deviation from the normal schedule today. The morning is devoted to a trip to CrossFit Mayhem (which is about 35 minutes away). After breakfast we loaded into buses, trucks, and cars and made the drive; not entirely sure what would happen upon arrival. What I had heard, from several staff and even a few campers, is that the trip to Mayhem has evolved over the years.
There were probably about 60 of us who made the trip to participate in the “workouts”. We were divided into three groups to rotate through three 35-40 minute stations with about a five minute transition from station to station.
Mayhem Station 1
Chris and Darnell, the endurance coaches, took us through an exercise on rowers and bike ergs with the intent of training at high intensity for :30, then low intensity for :30, for a number of intervals on both machines.
Mayhem Station 2
Mike Cerbus and Margaux Alvarez took us through what might be described as a “zone two” for the quads involving light backwards walking sled pulls, tempo squats with a plate, and recovery paces on a bike. That was half of this station.
Vanessa took us through a couplet of pause power cleans and pause box jumps with a similar :30 work, :30 rest pattern that we had in Station 1.
Mayhem Station 3
Kaci and Shane (who you will learn more about in part three when I take the Bar Station) took us through two couplets:
- Jumping bar muscle ups with handstand holds
- Kippping pull ups with arms only biking
This was a big group, in a big space, that has a lot of history. For those who haven’t been to Mayhem before this is absolutely a must as part of PMC, and a great bonus experience they offer.
From a programming standpoint, there was a little redundancy in terms of seeing the bike incorporated at all three stations (thought with different) purpose. But it also gave the coaches a chance to introduce either elements of fitness which you won’t find at all in any of the stations (i.e. barbell cycling) or nuances of stations in combination with each other that are designed to elicit a specific stimulus (can you recover in a handstand hold when the heart rate is up and the triceps are slightly fatigued?)
After everyone had a chance to make purchase from the Mayhem Store or Buffalo Brew, and eat very impressive box lunches from Rosie Jo, we made our way back to camp for two afternoon sessions.
Station 7: Kettlebells
Jeff Martone , Zach Filer (unfortunately had to leave before we got to this station), Adrianna (A.J.) Kara, and Jade were the coaches for this one. As a group, I knew less about them than any other station, and as a discipline I’ve had less exposure to proper kettlebell instruction than any other element of fitness being taught at Power Monkey Camp. As always, I attempted to come in with a blank slate and eager to learn.
Watching Jeff and A.J. move the kettlebells was great. At one point in the lecture Jeff was talking about the difference between powerful effort and effortless power; I don’t think I’ve seen anyone display effortless power when it comes to the manipulation of a kettlebell the way these two did.
As with a majority of the stations, fundamentals of positions and the correct application of force were the drivers for the majority of the two hours. We did have plenty of opportunity to move the kettlebells as well, and the movements were broken down into much finer detail than I have ever experienced before. In particular a few elements stood out for me:
- First, I have a hard time keeping my shoulders down and back.
- Second, it’s hard for me to generate the optimal hip drive with a light kettlebell.
- Third, I’ve never really thought about the eccentric part of a kettlebell clean the way they taught it (which is absolutely a more efficient way to do them)
- Fourth, the overhead position in kettlebell is not what I thought it was.
- Fifth, kettlebell is an endurance sport.
Station 8: Snatch
The one I’d been waiting for. Mike Cerbus was the primary coach for this, and much to our fortune, Elijah “EZ” Muhammad was his second. Pretty nice to have not one but two coaches who have overhead squatted 400 lbs or more in one station.
I love to snatch. And from a weight perspective, relative to any other barbell lift, I think it’s my best lift. But I am not near my potential because a few key elements of my technique are not good. Seeing as I’ve never really had an Olympic Weightlifting coach who knows what they’re doing for any significant period of time, I shouldn’t be that surprised.
Considering how technical of a lift this, and that we only have two hours, I really enjoyed Mike’s approach to it. He was intentional about telling us that he would cover the things he thought were most critical, and that there were at least four times as many things we wouldn’t get to. Overall, I think he selected very good teaching points to get us to where he wanted us by the end of the two hours. And we never added any weight to the bar.
The “scoop” under from top of the knee to the high hang position was the biggest growth point for me today. The other two things he was on me about are things I am well aware of, but his ability to identify them instantly is what stood out. (Keeping the big toes down and shrugging the shoulders at the right time are the two things).
Day 5 (Thursday)
Thursday’s schedule is somewhat similar to Wednesday. There’s a large group activity in the morning, in this case it was comprised of a Scholarship Lecture from two of the organizations Power Monkey supports followed by a community workout led by Jayson Leydon.
The first scholarship lecture came from two of the kettlebell instructors who work with children in the Seattle area offering free opportunities for anyone between 5 and 19 who walks through their doors in a variety of different disciplines.
Perhaps more well known in the CrossFit space, Project Onyx was started in 2020 by Elijah Muhammad to create opportunities for black Americans in the health and fitness world.
Both organizations have been a part of the Power Monkey family for years now offering scholarship opportunities for young men and women to come to Camp and integrate with the positive and uplifting community here.
At many of the Camps over the years, Jayson Leydon has delivered one of the more robust speaking lectures, this year it was condensed down to about 20 minutes following a workout which consisted of 4 heats of teams of 3 who each did a 7:00 AMRAP of situps, running, and light thrusters in a cyclical rotating fashion.
First of all, it was awesome to see coaches, athletes, campers, staff, and guests all integrate into some really fun teams, work hard for seven minutes, and then cheer on the other heats when it wasn’t their turn.
A lot of Power Monkey Camp happens in your individual groups, but towards the end of the week having a few full camp activities like this has a palpable power to it that helps begin to bring the experience full circle.
VO2 Max Testing
This is one of the things I had really been excited to do and had actually heard more about then most anything else here. Isiah Robinson hooked me up and put me through the protocols, just like Hinshaw did at the endurance station he made a comment about my breathing being difficult or unusual, which I’m still not sure I entirely understand. Nevertheless, he figured it out and we did the test.
I really enjoyed this. It was challenging to keep the paces accurate and required a good deal of mental focus and body control in that regard. I am curious to see the results (should have them about a day after I write this), but I’m also curious if I had more practice on the air runner if it would change the test at all. He mentioned that I may have sandbagged him in the pre test conversation and assessment, which could also influence the results? I’m not sure.
What I do know is I seemed to rise to the occasion (certainly didn’t hurt that Dave Durante came over to watch), and felt really good during it. Afterwards, I could definitely feel that I’d exerted myself though, which I’m happy about. One of those that when you’re in in you might not realize how much it’s taking out of you. Great experience overall. After learning what I can from this one, it would be a good study to do it again at some point in the future.
Station 9: Jump Rope
Dave Newman of Rx Smart Gear is one of the select people who have been at every single Power Monkey Camp. Nevertheless I tried to keep my intentional demeanor absent expectation and walk into the ‘Tin Can’ with an open mind.
Similarly to kettlebells, I would consider myself fairly competent at them within the CrossFit space, but completely lacking high level coaching from elite level instructors. Knowing that, I’m not surprised that despite being able to do large sets, I lack efficiency when put under the microscope of the best in the business.
As far as jump roping goes, I feel like I’m not as far off as I am with the kettlebells. I really need to shift my shoulders down and back just a little- a cue I believe I’ve received at least 8 out of 10 stations this week.
Dave Newman is a fantastic instructor, and although I may not try to undo 10 years of developing minor bad habits personally, I feel much more well equipped for taking someone from zero to where they want to be with the jump rope, and wish I’d had exposure to him many years ago.
Station 10: Bar Work
Shane De Freitas and Kaci Clark took the lead for the 10th and final station for our Group. Early in the week I had heard someone mention that having bar towards the end would be tough because the hands will have already taken a beating…but after going through camp in this order, I actually really liked having it last.
Of all the stations I would say this one had the most ‘play’ in it. I don’t know if that’s because it was last, or because that’s how they run it every time, but I liked it. We got to the ‘fun’ stuff in this one earlier in the two hours, which really gave the coaches a great opportunity to spend some time with small groups or individuals meeting them each where they were at.
For me, upper body pulling is much more of a strength than upper body pressing. I was once again exposed of always having tense shoulders. And once again the coaches tried to get me to a relax a little through certain parts of the movements. On the bar muscle up, the main cue I am now trying to incorporate is to maintain tension in from the hands into the bar through the transition point.
Driven Mind Training Lecture
Dawn Fletcher delivered the Thursday night lecture (with a small, and appropriate, cameo from Jayson Leydon). She said herself in the lecture what I have mentioned in these writings already- condensing 20 years of knowledg to a couple hours or less of delivery is tough. Her goal was to simplify down to a few key points based on the audience before her, which she identified as ‘high achievers’.
There was a bit of interaction throughout the lecture as she asked us each to identify three things based around the concept that we all encounter adversity:
- How to I respond to Adversity?
- What strategies can I lean into when handling Adversity?
- What are my go to strategies when Adversity strikes during training or competition?
I made an effort to simplify my personal responses as much as possible:
- My first instinct is usually to blame someone else. Once I convince myself of that, I avoid the problem by getting caught up again in something that will distract me.
- I try to handle most things on my own, and even at times when I’ll admit there’s a problem to someone, I still refuse help when they offer. I can definitely stand to get better at asking for help.
- The broadest way I can describe this is to regain control of my breath; without that, it’s hard to do very much else.
She concluded with a question that I feel is too good not to leave with you: Is what I’m telling myself helping me get where I want to go? Check out her stuff if mental training is of interest to you, the list of people she’s work with could not be what it is if she wasn’t a master of her discipline.
Handstand Walk Racing
I don’t know when the first handstand walk racing Thursday night happened at Power Monkey Camp, but it is clearly one of the very fun community elements which culminate towards the end of the week. Anyone who wants to can participate, teams are selected, and the race is on. There are some insanely fast handstand walkers here. Of course people are competitive, but more than anything, this was fun. Maybe next time I’ll participate…
Day 6 (Friday)
I left early this day, but it’s really the final day of camp. I have heard a lot about how great it is, but had to make a compromise personally this year, miss the last day here and the first day at Masters Fitness Championships… the next, and final, stop on the tour before I head back to Charlotte (briefly).