See You Tonight!

What:   UB's Holiday Party

Where: United Barbell, of course!

When: Tonight at 7:30! 

Who: You plus your significant other

Start your weekend right and join us at UB at 730pm for a Holiday potluck! Put on your shiny civvies, grab your favorite drink and appetizer and celebrate the holiday madness with your UB family.  Share in the fun and join us for some holiday cheer.  See you there!

An Early Dose of Awesome

We interrupt our normal Tuesday morning broadcast for a special dose of awesome/farewell post.  Today is Kim's last day at UB!  Kim joined the UB crew during her fellowship pursuit at UCSF and made fast friends with many in our community. Now she has graduated (we couldn't be prouder!) and it ready for her next chapter.

I think Coach Colleen put it best -

United Barbell is so much more than a CrossFit gym, it is a family and it’s never easy to see a piece of that family move away. Kim has become apart of that family and a dear friend to us all. Her ability to listen, laugh, and jump in on a workout with you when you need some great company will be only some of the many things we will miss about Kim. Kim we will miss you more than you know. You will always have your UB family here for you no matter where you go!

Kim, you will be missed!  We hope you will visit us, and think of us when you play with barbells.


For many CrossFitters, the very word yoga causes the skin to crawl on the back of the neck as the vision of sweaty, half naked, tie-dye hot-panted men dance before the eyes.  But yoga isn't all soybeans and nag champa, and a lot of the ancient practice can be incorporated into CrossFit to great effect.

One of the most valuable and translatable parts of yoga is focusing in on your intention before you start moving. Intention can mean simply restating your goals to yourself - to qualify for the CrossFit games, to focus on your form even if it means sacrificing time, to RX the WOD. Maybe your goals are more short-term: to pause for a maximum of 5 breaths during the WOD, or to work on your coachability under pressure - whatever your goals may be, taking a minute to focus your mind on what you want to achieve means you're not auto-piloting through your workout.

Just checking in with why you brought yourself here today focuses your mind and gives you an appreciation for the time you are about to spend on yourself. Maybe this is the only time in the day that you are able to spend time on yourself -  so make it count. Take a cue from yoginis everywhere: set your intention before you WOD, and see how it heightens your experience.

Set your intention before the bar is even in your hands

Set your intention before the bar is even in your hands

Olivia Graff

Olivia's athletic origins lie in gymnastics and circus arts. After finding CrossFit in 2007, she became obsessed, and three years later left her IT career and opened United Barbell. Olivia is particularly passionate about helping people new to fitness to find joy in their growing athletic abilities. Since the birth of her daughter, Isis, in 2013, Olivia can add helping little ones find their athletic path to her list of passions.

Winter Event Schedule

Holiday Party

And just like that Thanksgiving is over, December is here, and the holidays are in full swing!  What better way to spend a Friday night than with your UB family.  Next Friday, December 9th, UB will be hosting our 6th annual holiday party!

When: Friday, December 9th from 730pm to 1030PM

Where: UB, baby!

Who: You plus your significant other

What: Please bring your favorite snack and a drink

Body Comp Testing

It's that time again - our awesome friends over at Body Spec have scheduled our next body composition test visit.  They will be at UB on Jan 6th.  This is a great opportunity to measure your progress, whether setting a baseline or checking in with your progress after the holidays. See how much muscle, bone, and fat you're working with!


Post Thanksgiving Gratitude

I love Thanksgiving.  It's a time to appreciate the good in our lives.  It's an easy thing to do when you've gotten a raise or a PR and things are going your way.  But it's also easy to lose sight of it in face of the daily grind, or larger concerns like poor health or job security.  Thanksgiving can help bring the good back into focus.  One week later, (you may just think it's the tryptophan talking) I'm still on the turkey day high, and have been doing a lot of reflection. I was looking through some sentiments Olivia and I shared when we first opened our doors, and I wanted to share them as they still ring true today.  

I meet new people every day. That in itself is something to be thankful for, but I'm even luckier than that - I get to hear about their goals, their dreams, the perceived or real obstacles in their lives, and the general state of their bodies and minds. That's a lot of information to give a stranger, yet people trust that I'm here to help. And that's my job - to help you get what you want. After the first meeting, I get to see people challenge themselves in very real ways. I see people at the end of their physical and mental rope - and I see them smile afterwards.  I see muscles growing, posture straightening, attitudes readjusting, lives changing. What an honour it is to be witness to those changes - It's something that I'm thankful for every day. ~ Olivia

CrossFit showed me how to at my best and continue to expect more from myself.  Coaching CrossFit showed me I could turn my passion for helping people empower themselves into a daily practice.  Olivia helped me create a place where not only do we get to do this every day, but we get to do it with a wacky, supportive, ever-growing family of misfits who impress me everyday with their dedication and strength (both inside and out).  I am thankful, everyday, to be a parent of such an family.  United Barbell has changed my life, filled my heart, and given me my vision for what's possible.  Thank you! ~ Jenny

How to Breathe

You want to lift big weights.  We want you to lift big weights too.  That's why you have probably heard one of us barking at recently you to take in a half breath and hold it during the lift.  This is because we want you to maintain a stable and neutral spine so you can both recruit the most force as well as protect yourself.  Holding your breath makes your torso more rigid, applying pressure on your diaphragm and creating a stable, functional, lifting machine. 

If you are having a hard time understanding this, imagine for a moment that your trunk is like a can of Dr. Pepper (why Dr. Pepper you ask?  Because if you are going to drink a soda, Dr. Pepper is the best).  When you are maintaining your half breath, you are like a full closed can.  You can't bend it, and if you try to smash it, it will more likely break your ankle.  This is your trunk pressurized and stabilized by your held breath.  When you breathe out, your diaphragm no longer applies pressure to your trunk, and you lose stabilization, much like the empty opened Dr. Pepper can.  That empty can is both bendable and smash-able.  Under a heavy bar - which would you rather be?

Dr. Pepper misses a lift - try a full can next time!

Dr. Pepper misses a lift - try a full can next time!

Breathing is always an important part of technique, no matter the exercise.  By holding your breath during those heavy deadlifts, squats, cleans, etc. you will have a more stable torso and spine throughout the lift.  A word of caution though, this technique should be applied to lifts individually, so you don't make yourself pass out.

Food for Thought: Don't Pursue Goals; Let Them Ensue

I really enjoy the blog from Deuce Gym.  I thought this post from their head coach, Logan, was worth sharing.

Having goals is a natural phenomenon. Some would argue that specifically setting aside time to make them and a plan to attack them is a critical key to success. I’ve got some goals myself. Accomplishing them is a finicky practice, though.

Another practical joke on humanity, in fact, is that (like happiness) we can’t achieve our goals by pursuing the goals themselves. In past articles, we’ve talked about pursuing the desire to laugh, never leads to real laughter. That’s not how comedy works. It, of course, comes as a result of some other (hilarious) stimuli. When you have a goal or a desired result in mind, great! Write it down, even. Making it happen, however, requires a shift in focus away from the goal and to the process it takes to accomplish it.

There’s nothing about wanting to be a famous movie actor, for example, that in and of itself is useful in getting a role in a major motion picture. People that want this outcome must shift gears to new desires like wanting to practice acting and wanting to learn to be resilient in rejection in order to achieve it. They displace their desire for he outcome and learn to desire the process it takes to achieve it.

Arguably one of the most prolific thinkers on the human life is Viktor Frankl. After surviving seven Nazi death camps, he just so happens to be a real life survivor at the highest level. His text, Man’s Search for Meaning, is one of the world’s most read contemporary works. He reminds us of this lesson I’m giving you when he said, “Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a source greater than oneself.”

Let your goals ensue. 

A Balanced Body is a Happy Body

Most athletes have a dominant and weaker side of their body.  This can happen naturally or over time compensating for an injury.  Imbalances might not be apparent in your everyday activities, but CrossFit can bring out pretty quickly.  You could have left to right or front to back dominances without realizing.  Left unaddressed, stronger muscles will become stronger, and weaker muscles will become tighter... and chances for injury increase as imbalances grow from unchecked movement patterns.

Think back to the last time you watched a group of people work out. Did you ever see a person finish a pull-up with their head closer to one hand or another?  Maybe you saw a person do an overhead movement and one arm finished extension before the other? You can even see it with a squat (as they stand back up, there is a slight sway in one direction). These are just a couple places you might see imbalances.

The important thing is awareness.  CrossFit will show you your weaknesses, but it will also give you the opportunity to balance yourself back out.

Here are some things that you can do to address some common weaknesses:

  • Try some dumbbell side/front/overhead lunges.  This will work on your balance as well as pointing out muscular imbalances.
  • For your upper body, try different push/pull exercises with dumbbells or kettlebells to expose weaknesses. Do an extra set of the exercise with the weaker side.
  • For the lower body try adding pistols, step ups, and different lunge variations into your warm-up.
  • Mobility!  This is especially important if your imbalance is rooted from old injuries.

So when a fellow athlete points out to you that you pull up or squat "weirdly," or your coach points out an imbalance, make sure you stay aware and take time to address it.  Don't write it off as an exercise quirk.