Podcast: CrossFit’s Past, Present, and Future with Pat Barber

Back when CrossFit® was a still budding grassroots community — and when the CrossFit Games took place on a dusty country ranch — Pat Barber made a name for himself as one of its early stars. He taught courses, created some of CrossFit HQ’s earliest videos, and competed at the sport’s highest levels in a time well before giant endorsement deals. (And live streaming? Forget about it.) Originally from California, Pat was one of the first big name CrossFit personalities to go international, where he played a massive role in growing the methodology and sport in New Zealand and Australia.

These days, the 6-time CrossFit Games athlete and Level 4 CrossFit Trainer is still heavily active in the CrossFit community. (By his own estimate, Pat has put roughly 15,000 people through their CrossFit L1 certifications.) In addition to coaching seminars, Pat and his wife Taz run Warmup & Workout, a programming and coaching development platform for gyms around the globe.

Pat’s in a unique position to give thoughts on the past, present, and future of CrossFit both as a training methodology and sport. Though our conversation covered Pat’s optimism for fitness moving forward, we also touch upon some important snags CrossFit — and other fitness methodologies — will continue to face as communities become enmeshed with their online counterparts.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Pat Barber and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • The origins of Pat’s famous nickname, “The Manimal” (1:50)
  • Pat’s introduction to CrossFit all the way back in 2004 (4:55)
  • His involvement with New Zealand’s first CrossFit affiliate, and taking the methodology abroad (9:50)
  • Pat breaks down the levels of CrossFit certification — and why Level 4 is so rare and difficult (13:30)
  • The attributes Pat looks for most in great coaching, and why he doesn’t focus heavily on elite sport performance (18:50)
  • The early days of CrossFit’s relationship with other strength sports like weightlifting and powerlifting (22:38)
  • The “new age” of fitness and CrossFit haters (25:00)
  • The importance of word-of-mouth marketing in the CrossFit community, even today and especially since CrossFit has taken down some of their social media accounts (27:30)
  • Pat’s thoughts on the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games: new format, new cuts, new presentation, and new streaming outlets (28:51)
  • The reasons Pat thinks some people in the CrossFit community dislike the competition side of things (32:30)
  • Why Pat and his wife Taz started Warmup & Workout (38:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast, where we talk to top athletes, coaches, influencers, and minds from around the world of strength sports. Presented by barbend.com.

Today on the BarBend podcast, I’m talking to Pat Barber, a level four CrossFit coach and six-time CrossFit Games athlete, dating all the way back to the second ever CrossFit Games in 2008. Pat was first introduced to CrossFit in 2004, when he was still in high school. He’s been heavily involved with the company and community for well over a decade.

From filming and editing video for CrossFit HQ, to coaching seminars and of course, competing. His fitness journey has taken him across the country and abroad. He’s among the most experienced and accomplished CrossFit trainers in the world.

These days, Pat is still heavily active in coaching CrossFit seminars and classes. He and his wife, Taz, also run Warm Up and Workout, a resource that creates in-depth programming and content for gym owners around the globe.

Just a quick reminder, if you’re enjoying the BarBend podcast, make sure to leave a rating and review in your podcast app of choice. This helps us stay on track in bringing you the best content possible week after week.

If there’s someone you’d absolutely love to hear on a future BarBend podcast episode, let us know in your podcast review. I personally read each and every review so your suggestions will most definitely be seen.

Today, on the BarBend podcast, I am joined by a very special guest, a name that a lot of fans of CrossFit and CrossFitters will recognize from the past decade. That is, Pat Barber. Pat, thanks so much for joining us today.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Thanks for having me. Proud to be here.

David TaoDavid Tao

Pat, I wasn’t sure whether I should introduce you by your name or your nickname. I’m not sure if you still go by “Manimal”. Is that something that people still call you?

Pat BarberPat Barber

 [laughs] These days, no. Other than the fact that I’ve got a pretty hefty beard right now, I’m not getting called “The Manimal” too often. There was actually a company that came in and started using that as their actual name. They made grips, shirts, and stuff. They overtook the actual ownership over Manimal.

I was OK letting them have it. At one point in time, that was my name.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get into your background and your history in athletics in just a second, but I am curious, how did the nickname Manimal come about? Maybe I’m old school here, but when I was first following the crosser games in 2008, 2010, early video content about it, you were always introduced as Pat, in quotations “The Manimal”, barber and I was like, “This guy is so cool!”

[laughter]

Pat BarberPat Barber

I’m glad that you thought that. That was actually given to me by Sevan Matossian, Sevan or Sevan, you know the guy who was in and around HQ constantly these days.

He was, he came on in 2009 to do the…no 2008 to do the documentary, the very first games documentary which was “Every second counts”.

Then in that year he was just, he just coined the term “Manimal”. I think, I think he liked it because at the time I was slowly getting more and more facial hair and then in addition to that, I think I had a certain sense of recklessness with how I did things.

I know there was a lot of people who had some self-preservation in a lot of their workouts and I didn’t show the same sense of self-preservation, so he always just called me “The Manimal”. I was a younger kid at the time and I wasn’t as cautious with what I did as “Old man Barber” is now, so yeah that’s how I ended up with that name.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let me say I’ve certainly heard worst nicknames in and around strength sports.

[laughter]

We had someone on that I was interviewing, a world record holding power lifter recently and one of his trainers. His nickname was “Fridgey”, so “Manimal” is a little bit more exciting so…

Pat BarberPat Barber

Hey I will take it over “Fridgey”. I’m sure Fridgey’s a great dude but yeah, I’ll take “Manimal”.

David TaoDavid Tao

Fridgey is a super heavyweight powerlifter and he can be nothing else with that nickname.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Right, so he’s a unit is what you’re saying.

David TaoDavid Tao

Exactly. Pat, that’s a good segue. Speaking of that first ever CrossFit documentary, “Every second counts”, chronicling the 2008 CrossFit games, way back on the ranch, you were a competitor there. You were a six-time CrossFit games competitor overall.

How did you get introduced to the sport and give us a brief background on your history with CrossFit if you don’t mind?

Pat BarberPat Barber

Sure. I got introduced to the sport in 2004, when it wasn’t a sport yet. It was just a way of training, a training methodology. My old high school teachers happened to be Nicole Carole and Tony Budding. Tony Budding was the original director for media for CrossFit.

Nicole Carole’s the director of training for CrossFit currently. She was my Pottery teacher, he was my English teacher. They brought it up to my school in order to train the volleyball team to be more explosive and I played volleyball.

The way I saw CrossFit is it was just like a competition every day because in essence any workout can be done like that. I never really enjoyed working out or training or the act of doing things that weren’t to gain. I really enjoyed games. To me, CrossFit was a game where the side effect was you ended up getting more fit. [laughs]

I feel like for a lot of people when they first [inaudible 5:48] if they have any sort of competitive streak or that they have any sort of a gaming streak and they just enjoy that, it’s one of the things that draws you to it.

I got in then. I was a really young kid and eventually over time I started working for the company, filming and editing video for the company. Then 2008 was the first year that I could be in the games. They had that Every Second Counts documentary and I ended up being the cover of that movie.

I wasn’t really in the movie very much but for some reason they chose me struggling to do a pull-up as the [laughs] poster and cover for that movie. That year I got 4th, and then 2009 I got 35th or something like that. 2010 I went teen. 2011 I ended up getting eighth at the games.

That was really fun. That was down in Carson at the Step Up Center. I think at the time it was called the Home Depot Center. Then 2012 my appendix burst right before regionals. 2013 I missed qualifying by one clean. I lost to Marcus Filly, that sandbagger.

No, Marcus Filly is a fantastic dude. I couldn’t have lost to a better guy. Then 2014 went teen. 2015 went teen. Then 2016 till now I have taken off. That was my intro into the sport. I’ve kind of done everything with regards to the company from now till then. From training, to [inaudible 7:26] , to running gyms, to selling equipment, to everything in between.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Now, being involved in CrossFit back in 2004, you were still a high school student, right? As far as the training methodology of CrossFit starting to take off and really blowing up, when did you realize that you might be a part of something or involved with something that was really going to catch on and become this phenomenon? When did you start feeling that when it came to the CrossFit games?

Pat BarberPat Barber

Yeah. Wow, I’ve been interviewed many times but I’ve never been asked that question like that before. Interesting. When did I feel like personally, I knew something that was taking off? I think it would probably have to be right around 2006, 2007 when they started hosting seminars where I’d show up and there’d be 75 people or 65 people all looking to learn for the weekend. They would tell me how much they were paying and I was like, “Pardon.”

 “Paying how much?” At the time as a 19-year-old, 20-year-old kid or whatever it is, 1,000 bucks per weekend you’re like, “What?” That to me was the first notion. Then I’d say “How many of these are going on?” They’d be like, “Oh there’s four every weekend.” I was like, “Excuse me? Around what?” That was when I started to see that the ball was really rolling in that direction.

As far as the sport blowing up, I think the 2009 games with the level of qualifiers from around the world. I think the really thing that set it apart when we moved from the Ranch in Aromas to the 2010 games. It was in the Stockholm Center.

We went from, “My goodness. This is this tiny little space full of people” to next year being people from around the country, around the world and just in a legitimate center. That was really the thing that kind of the lightbulb went off like, “This is popular.”

Then seeing how that grew every year even from the first year to the second year, how just loaded the place was, that was really what pulled me.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

You also are known for and this is something that you mention in your bio and your site, something that I know was documented a lot on CrossFit HQ at the time of various media and videos they were putting out, you moved to New Zealand. At a certain point, you opened the first CrossFit affiliate in New Zealand if I have that correct.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Kind of. I had relations with the woman who did open the first joint who is now my wife and has three kids with me.

David TaoDavid Tao

Just casual relations.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Casual relations. I didn’t open it, but she opened it, and I worked there.

David TaoDavid Tao

Gotcha. Taking CrossFit abroad, what years were you in New Zealand doing that? Did that change your perspective on the fitness or CrossFit community globally?

Pat BarberPat Barber

The years that I was out there was 2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, late 2009 all the way through to 2012. It showed me how big this thing was like we were just talking about. I went out there, and I saw how packed the seminars were every weekend in Australia. I was in New Zealand, but I’d fly to Australia almost every weekend to teach seminars.

It was interesting because I got to be on the ground floor of CrossFit in the US when it was blowing up. Then, it got to a certain point, and it was a tipping point in the 2008, ’09, ’10 where it was well known, and there was thousands of people trying to become a part of it. I went out to New Zealand/Australia where it was definitely in that infancy stage again.

It was slowly growing. I got to see multiple surges of popularity throughout the different places. It was a cool perspective to have and to know where it was going because I’d already seen where it was going in the States. I was like, “This is going to be huge out here.” It is, and it’s massive. It’s one of the faster-growing markets. It’s cool.

David TaoDavid Tao

Something I definitely want to ask you about. I do want to get back more into the competition side of things and your experience on that in a second. You’re a Level 4 CrossFit trainer. A lot of people out there, they know about Level 1s. The weekend seminar thing you’re just referencing, as a kid, you’re paying how much?

That’s probably the best-known CrossFit certification there is. Becoming a Level 4 CrossFit trainer, it doesn’t happen overnight. You’re someone who is intimately involved with the training methodology, the proliferation of it, the teaching of it, explain some of those levels — Level 2, 3, 4

I met a lot of Level 1 trainers in my life. I got my Level 1 certification. I met a lot of Level 2 trainers, but you’re not meeting a Level 3 and 4 CrossFit trainer every day. What are some differentiations there?

Pat BarberPat Barber

On a basic level, it’s just an intimacy with the knowledge. Anything that you do to any degree, you’re going to have a certain level of understanding. The more time you spend in it, as long as your eyes are open, you’re going to get a deeper and deeper level of understanding of the knowledge.

In reality, to be an effective trainer, you need very little overall information. You don’t need too much other than you need to know this is what hurts people. This is what doesn’t hurt people. Then, some basic communication skills, and you can be incredibly effective as a personal trainer, as well as a group coach.

To really be next level, you have to continue to build that knowledge base and get that experience. That, for me, was forced on me slowly, through osmosis, I was around it so often that it’d be like someone would ask me a deeper question. I’d have an answer to it rather than being like, “Oh. I actually do know what I’m talking about here.”

Level 1, it’s the base. It’s the kernel of knowledge that is all of the CrossFit methodology, as well as the deeper reasons why people do what they do in the CrossFit space. That being said, it is a stepping stone to other things. Even if you take a Level 1 20 times, there’s still new information you pick up every single time you’re taking.

I teach nearly every weekend. Out here, a new coach will say something slightly different, and I’ll be like, “Oh.” It’ll change perspective on that one component. It is the initial kernel that allows you to then plant that and then grow more information and knowledge from there. That’s pretty broad.

Then, Level 2 is more a commentary on how someone’s coaching ability currently is. The Level 2 is more hands-on. You’ve got a much smaller group of people. You sit down, and you have them coach back and forth amongst each other. You evaluate their coaching ability.

Yes, it’s using the CrossFit methodology, and yes, it’s using CrossFit principals and standards, but it’s also how effective are you at your current level as a coach. It’s one of my favorite offerings that CrossFit has is the Level 2 because it’s become far less subjective and more objective over the years.

There’s a certain level of subjectivity to effectiveness. At the same time, when you watch somebody coach somebody else, you can see whether or not they get it or not. There’s general things that tend to work really well amongst huge numbers of people, and that’s what’s taught at Level 2. It’s a fantastic course.

Then, the Level 3 is simply at test. That’s an expansion of CrossFit knowledge. It’s three and a half-hour, four-hour test that you just go to a place. You sit down, and you take a test. It’s depth of knowledge, just overly detailed tricky ways of asking questions. It’s just do you really know it?

Generally, the way I tell people to study for that is study all the material and then try to explain it to a four-year-old. If you can explain the material that you’ve studied to a four-year-old, that means you’ve internalized it.

If you’ve just got the surface level, like just the words that are being said and you don’t know what that means and how to put it into context, a Level 3 is a difficult test for you.

In the Level 4 is just being launched. The current Level 4 is going to be basically, I do believe, an evaluation of your coaching ability similar to a Level 2, but without a course attached to it. Where you just show up, you teach a class, and they have these checkmarks that they can make sure you’re an effective coach.

They get multiple coaches to evaluate you in a real-time setting.

The Level 4 that I have is grandfathered in from the old Level 2. The old Level 2 was initially an evaluated thing where you just showed up, and you got really aggressive feedback throughout the course of two days. On the second day, all they did was evaluate you all day. You had multiple coaches do it. They would all go sit in a room.

They would discuss your scores. Then, one by one, they would draw participants in. If the participant failed, they would tell them they failed and why. If the participant passed, they would them they passed and why. All the rest of the group was just sitting out in the main room. They would send people in and out, one by one.

They’d either come out with their head down or their head up. [laughs] It was brutal. It had something ridiculous like a 70 percent fail rate. Everyone failed that. They were failing so often that they were like, “We’ve got to pull this offline and make it more of a how to get better, which is the current Level 2, versus something that’s as brutal as it was.

I passed the old Level 2. Then, I got my Level 3, which then gave me my Level 4. I’ve also done all the beta tests for the new Level 4 coming out. I’ve been close to the community for a long time, but those are the different steps within CrossFit. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 I would’ve love to be a fly on the wall for one of those old Level 2s. It sounds like a scene out of a CrossFit version of American Idol or something. Everyone just like, “You’re going to Hollywood.”

Pat BarberPat Barber

Oh dude, it was pretty much that and it was brutal because it would be like, “It’d be Nicole, Carol and Eva, Claire and…” Then you got Adrian Bosman and Charles because were all sitting in a room with their little clipboards looking at you and saying, “OK, you didn’t do well. It didn’t do well here. You did OK here. You know, you didn’t…” It was brutal. People would walk out of that room crying.

David TaoDavid Tao

 In well over a decade, decade and a half of involvement in the training space, it was CrossFit in particular…well, decade and a half. I didn’t mean to just date you there.

You talk about learning a lot by osmosis, learning a lot, on the flip side, in a more structure environment. What are some particular topics right now that you are excited to or are actively increasing your knowledge in when it comes to training?

Pat BarberPat Barber

It’s interesting, because with regards to training, I think it’s pretty straightforward how to effectively elicit physiological adaptations. In order to have changes by a musculature and cardio [inaudible 19:02] endurance and all this other stuff, it’s pretty well-known.

There’s arguments as to the level of effectiveness with regards to very small percentages of people who are looking to specialize. It’s weird that people even argue about that, because that’s such a minutia in the larger world of fitness. Whereas the thing that really matters is getting normal people off the couch and training.

For me, the thing that really matters. Elite sport performance is not something that I care much about. The thing that gets me up in the morning and the thing I spend a lot of time studying at this point in time is how to A, effectively deliver the material.

What are the nuances of human communication to where I can get somebody else, another coach, good at delivering anything? Can I get them to get a member to buy in in a heartbeat? That’s something that I look a lot to.

In addition to that, I’m looking at things like community and culture creation, because part of what CrossFit did — I don’t think this was intentional, necessarily — but the communities that were created at CrossFit helped CrossFit thrive.

It had a fantastic training methodology, yes. It was delivered in such a way that it was receivable by a lot of people. Then as the ball kept rolling, you started getting more and more people who have never done fitness before all of a sudden trying this program that is arguably one of the more aggressive, gnarlier programs globally. For some reason, you had housewives, IT guys, people who had never got off the couch before, doing it.

I’m trying to continue to look into the depths of why that was the case. How can you make that happen sooner? How can you make that happen at affiliates and places that aren’t currently thriving? What is the thing that makes one gym thrive, and one gym not do so well? That’s where I put my studies these days.

David TaoDavid Tao

At BarBend, we have readers from a wide variety of strength communities. People maybe casually interested in strength training, as well as the most hardcore of the most hardcore, whether it be CrossFitters, weightlifters, powerlifters, strong man competitors.

When I was first learning about CrossFit, I was into weightlifting. That’s what I was training in. The reactions whenever you would say the word “CrossFit” in a weightlifting gym — this is back in 2009 — you’d get guffaws, and people laughing at you, like, “Don’t talk about that in here.”

I was a college student at the time. I didn’t have an informed perspective on anything. At BarBend, we do a ton of work with USA Weightlifting. We’re their official media partner. You see these sports, and the people within these communities either, A, coming from CrossFit. That’s how they found out about these sports, about these different strength methodologies, the more specific ones.

Or if it’s not how they found out about it, they’re oftentimes or more oftentimes recognizing that CrossFit is what’s popularized, their barbell sport or their strength sport. Some of those early interactions with people in these other fitness or strength communities, how were those early interactions? How did those start to evolve as people realized, “Hey, CrossFit’s not going anywhere, and in fact, it could be the best thing to happen to our sport in decades and decades.”?

Pat BarberPat Barber

 I don’t think any of the lifters realized that’s what was going to happen. There are now currently people, not many, but there are people making a living, good wages as lifters. That was unheard of. They were all background sports because nobody cared.

Very, very small niche communities cared about those things. It’s been fantastic to see people thrive in those spaces simply because normal people started to care about it because they could all of a sudden relate to something that’s unrelatable if you’ve never lifted a bar. You don’t watch a clean and jerk snatch and go, “Wow, that’s rad,” you’ve never done it before.

If you’ve gone in and even done any barbell work. You do fran which has thrusters you’re like, “Wow, I moved that barbell like that! It kind of looks like a clean and jerk, and I watch it on TV. That guy’s moving how much you say? Oh, my goodness. 500 pounds? Holy…look at that guy. Look how fast he is.”

It’s allowed so many businesses to [inaudible 23:35] from that and people to thrive from that. I never would have guessed that it would have done that. I don’t think anyone would have guessed.

To answer your question, people’s initial responses in those days…It’s been weird. CrossFit had to fight from day one for their beliefs and methodology. Initially, we were fighting saying, “No, no, no. It will make you strong. You will get strong. You might not get strong like an Olympian, or you can’t back squat a thousand pounds, but it’s possible to get strong.” Everyone was saying, “No. It’s not possible using this training methodology.”

Now we’re on the flip side of things they’re being like, “You’re all on steroids.” No, you don’t understand how we’ve been training for the last 15 years.” You get these athletes who have just had slow constant gains across all areas of fitness for 15 years. Someone looks at that who’s just jumping in like they’re all on steroids.

It’s been this funny little flip flop of all the athletes will never get strong doing CrossFit, and now it’s all the athletes are doing steroids. I’m like, “Ah. OK man.” I hate to have to defend both sides of that about the same program over the course of 10 years, but it’s now continuing to go back to like, “OK. Let’s talk about what the prime methodology is. Let’s talk about why we do what we do. Let’s read…”

Talk to people. There’s less anger towards CrossFit these days because it’s more globally understood. I do think that now we’re finding this new age of haters that’s really a strange new age of haters that’s combined with people who think everyone is on steroids. Then the opposite side of that is people who’ve done too much in the CrossFit space.

They trained seven times a day and then they’re like, “Oh, CrossFit burned me out.” No, you burned you out. You trained seven times a day. You can do anything seven times a day and burn yourself out on it. Even on the most wanker program. I’m finding a lot of people who have a hard time taking responsibility for themselves, but it is what it is.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

What are some communities that you think CrossFit maybe hasn’t made big end roads in but has the most potential to?

Pat BarberPat Barber

I would say schools. Middle schools and high schools. There’s been some in roads in those kinds of places where you get a gym opening up a little CrossFit program. It’s mainly stuff that doesn’t involve much loading or anything along those lines.

They have tremendous amounts of success with kids who maybe don’t find a normal sport that they enjoy and find their way to CrossFit because it’s like, “Oh, this is fun.” It’s a bunch of people who have this now as an outlet and that certain sense of physicality. I think schools is a huge one. I don’t really know other than that.

David TaoDavid Tao

A big move obviously crossfit.com has gone through several redesigns over the past few years after not going redesigns for a while. The big thing people noticed in the most recent iteration was, “Oh, the workout of the day it’s not James Hobart necessarily, it’s not Pat Barber, it’s not Julie Foucher as the model.”

It’s someone, maybe a senior citizen, working out in their den using instruments they might have around their house. Do you see CrossFit currently having an impact in different age demographics than it might have had previously?

Pat BarberPat Barber

If you look at any gym that’s been around for a little while that’s succeeding, you’ll see that age demographic is very spread across that gym. Part of the success is the way they treat everyone that walks through the door and make them walking billboards.

That was part of Craig’s original model. If you treat everyone who walks in the door, and you’re able to scale well, and you treat all of them with the amount of respect they really deserve, and you give them what they need and meet them where they’re at, they’ll become your best salesman.

You don’t need to do marketing. You don’t need to go out and put your stuff out there. These people will be that. If you do that well over the course of years, you’ll have a really wide age demographic. What CrossFit is doing now is they’re trying to push that out there more that this can be used for those people.

Again, we’re in a strange space where they don’t really have an avenue to do so. Close down all of their social media so they don’t really have the ability to voice that opinion loud enough to really be heard other than crosser.com, but people who are on crosser.com or who are coming to it are generally not those people.

They would have been shown that through a social media post or a Facebook post that their friend who started doing it would have done. I don’t know. It’s a weird space at the moment. I don’t know how much that’s going to actually get to those demographics through the current channel that it’s in.

It’s still down to the affiliate doing its best to create a space where those people feel welcome and getting those walking billboards walking around, putting themselves out there.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners are going to be curious about this. It’s been awhile since you competed at the CrossFit games. I’ve got to ask, did tune in this year?

You talk about changes, you talk about CrossFit being off of social media, Facebook and Instagram in particular, more changes than we’ve ever seen between iterations of the games. Did you watch this year? Did you tune in? What did you think of the format? What is your reaction as that former high-level competitor with what you saw?

Pat BarberPat Barber

There were tons of changes this year. We’re just seeing crazy amounts of change on all sides of the company. Honestly, I had no idea how the games will pan out. I personally think it was fantastic.

I tuned in as much as I could because I was teaching a Level 1 in New York at the time. I would tune in between sessions and look at stuff, and see how everything was clicking through. I thought they pulled it off fantastically.

They cut a ton of people all the time. They started with a huge swath of people, and then cut down. It’s similar to the Olympics. You’ve come out, you’ve got the swimmer who doesn’t have an official pool to swim in but they qualified from some random country.

You’ve got people out there who are competing in the CrossFit games who don’t have a [inaudible 30:08] , but the cream of the crop still won. Max still won. TS still won. The podium was still pretty much the same podium. I know people were pissed about the cuts and stuff but that’s just the way the cookie crumbled.

It was a fantastic layout. The broadcast, the Rogues broadcast, holy crap, that was amazing. That was one of the best broadcasts I’ve ever seen. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the coverage was amazing.

I am speaking from somebody who’s within the company, but I know for a fact that HQ really had no hand in that, and it went off without a hitch. I was blown away how well it happened.

David TaoDavid Tao

We broadcast the games as well and full disclosure, our stream didn’t get the viewership. Rogue’s did it. It was our first time really working with HQ in an official capacity.

It was really on the individual broadcasters, which is why I think you saw that variance. We were working with the information we had available, and it was certainly a learning experience.

Talking with some of the other people who broadcast the games on different platforms, it was an experience in something where we all got better as the event went on because you hit the ground running Thursday. You’re trying to put all these fires in might come out on your end, and tech issues that might come up.

It was certainly something where viewers, no matter where they’re watching the stream, I know Rogue’s certainly had the biggest one, I think their experience did get better over the weekend.

It’s really what you leave people with. What do people remember last? What do they remember in the finals, which is when most people are tuning in? Let’s be honest. It’s that experience that matters.

Pat BarberPat Barber

I think it’ll continue to get better. This was year one and like you said, by the end of it, there is a certain sense of, “OK, this is how we do this.” For a year one, that was crazy. It went off so well for a year one.

I was really worried that there wouldn’t be a game. I was worried that as it was broadcast, there was going to be three events, they were going to cut two times. I was worried because I think that as much as people dislike…

It’s interesting, there’s people who dislike the CrossFit competition side of it because they feel like it gives a skewed perspective of what CrossFit is. It’s a huge rallying point for communities worldwide. It’s really fun to see the pinnacle of what you have to offer. You just have to put it into context. You’ve got a Tour de France and cycling. Nobody confuses, “I bought a bike,” or, “Oh, you’re in the Tour de France?” People don’t do that shit.

I think continuing to make that separation of the message of the CrossFit games, CrossFit [inaudible 32:59] . As time goes on, that separation will be clearer with more people broadcasting in different ways.

That’s just on the individual coaches to put it on their shoulders to really continue to put that out there. It’s like, “This is what we are, this is what that is.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Personally, what got me interested in CrossFit was watching coverage leading up to end of the 2009 CrossFit games. I love watching basketball. I think we’re in a golden age of the NBA. There’s so many superstars in the level so high.

I don’t watch Lebron James dunking on someone and go like, “I wanna do that,” or “I wanna know what that feels like,” because I know I won’t. I just can’t, and it’s cool. I don’t go out, and then seek participation.

With CrossFit, it was the opposite. I got interested by watching the cream-of-the-crop, the elite, literally, like yourself. I can remember as a college student and shortly thereafter like, “This guy, Pat Barber, he’d doing these things. Cool.”

Then it got me interested in it. Years later, I found an affiliate, and I start paying them money. Then I got Level 1-certified, and it just all cycled into that.

The contextualization there is really important. When people talk about the separation of the two, I do like how you say, “Well maybe there isn’t a separation, maybe it’s a contextualization.”

Pat BarberPat Barber

That’s really what it is. It’s just building a context around what those two are, and likening it to things that they know, like the NBA and cycling. It’s important to continue to make those correlations because this is the pinnacle of our sport.

I don’t think it needs to be beat to death because anyone can really see that. You’d be silly to think that you’re going to go out there and do that. At the same time, you can do the same movements, and you can scale it back.

We have this stuff within our level one where the needs of the elite athlete and the needs of the individual, they differ by degree not kind. One is looking for function dominance, one is looking for functional competence. It’s like they’re the same thing, it’s giving you the same movements. It’s just to a different degree.

As long as we can articulate that well, and it’s now down to the affiliates because there’s no media and down to the people who are in the CrossFit games to articulate the difference, I think it’s going to continue to make both [inaudible 35:26] for each other.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s interesting, on the last day of the games, my girlfriend, who got into strength training and working out, after exposure to CrossFit you, she was watching that last event, the standard.

They were on the Isabel Porsche, and they were on the 30-power snatches for time. There was a moment where — this is rare — you saw look of pain on Tia-Clair Toomey’s face. She was clearly in the tank for just a second. She normally looks completely invincible. My girlfriend goes like, “Oh, I know that hurts.”

Pat BarberPat Barber

 Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s so interesting because this is like, I love my girlfriend. She’s never going to compete at the CrossFit games or at least not in the Open division. The time has passed. We know what that feels like.

We know what the fittest on earth…We know exactly that feeling when they look at the barbell. It’s like they don’t want to be anywhere near that thing but they have to go back.

Pat BarberPat Barber

[laughs] Yeah. That’s beautiful. It’s what breeds that level of intimacy with the competitors. The fervor, the cultish side of it. These people know what it’s like to embrace that suffering and chase it head long.

For too long we’ve gone away from pursuing that weakness or pursuing that pain. I don’t think you always need to feel that, but I think that needs to be part of what is delivered now at the affiliate, turn down the thumb screws a little and embracing that, letting the barriers down both physically and emotionally and say, “It’s terrible, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

I had this epiphany that coaches, their main role is to create an environment that makes it so people want to go that hard but keep coming back. Because nobody likes that moment. Even a few people can thrive in that moment, but most people say, “That hurts, I don’t want to be there.”

That means everything else has to be so good that you keep coming back. That’s the role of a coach, is to make it that everything is awesome, where that five minutes where you’re dying is a drop in the pond compared to the ocean of awesomeness that’s everything else.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you’re laid out on the floor after a workout, you too can look exactly like the CrossFit Games athlete of your choice. Same positioning, just emulate them perfectly, it’s great.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Exactly, unless you’re Meeko, “Never lie down, animals do.”

David TaoDavid Tao

I remember hearing that in a relatively early video, it was probably 2010, they were following him around with that and I remember thinking to myself, “Well, I hope I never meet this man because I’ve already let him down.”

[laughter]

Pat BarberPat Barber

Oh, yeah. I laughed it out. I told him. The next time I saw him, I lay down in front of him and I was like, “I submit bro. I submit.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Mental game. Mental-game strong.

Pat, we’re coming up toward the end of this recording. I do want to ask a little bit about Warm Up and Workout, the site that you’re running. I want to give you the chance to talk a little bit about that, the impetus behind it, and the goals for that.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Yeah, for sure man. Warm Up and Workout is our company. Basically, my wife and I got together and started this in 2015. We were running many, many gyms at the time. Part of keeping the consistency across running many gyms, was to make sure the coaches were delivering almost the same material.

Oftentimes, it would be just the workouts, is what you would get an affiliate. You’d be a coach and affiliate. You get to work out. You have to create the session. As you know, CrossFit gets five minutes to maybe 15 minutes on average. Occasionally, they’ll hit that 20-minute, 30-minute time but it’s very rare. You had to fill the rest of that time.

I was the type of guy who was really good at delivering material but thinking of what to deliver, was not my strong suit. My clients ended up getting very similar stuff all the time other than the workout because somebody would be giving me the workout as well.

My wife, however, has a fantastic brain that structures that really far ahead of time. She wrote these things called lesson plans which were just basically, coaching notes for, “Here’s what you’re going to do for the first part of class. Here’s the warm up. Here’s the skill work. Here’s the coaching focuses. Here’s what to do.” Then, my brain was like, “OK, let me think about how I can do that the best.”

It was the best of both worlds. I found my ability level as a coach shot through the roof when I had her. We then started running multiple gyms. In the Bay Area alone, we had 75 coaches. We needed to keep consistency across that and keep it high.

We started writing really detailed lesson plans to make it so when I walked into a class, any one of our affiliates would be like, “Awesome, this is being delivered at least somewhat, similar across it all.” Then, each coach put their own little flair on how they actually had their personality and delivered it. We were really good at it.

We made all the mistakes and done all the stuff. We were like, “You know what, more people worldwide need this at affiliates.” There’s a lot of capable coaches but I don’t think everybody has the brain to do what my wife does, let alone the time to sit down and write.

One month of programming is a couple pages on an Excel doc but it’s 75 pages of writing. It’s a ton of writing. It’s unique every month because each session is different.

We basically launched that in 2015. We have one program, and we’re open with that. We license it out to affiliates around the world who want to use it, and they basically get full access to as many coaches they have at their affiliate to…Sorry, my dog’s going crazy.

David TaoDavid Tao

They love what they’re hearing. They’re so passionate about Warm Up and Workout.

Pat BarberPat Barber

[laughs] They basically get full access to deliver that to all their coaches, and their coaches have as much support from people who’ve been in the game for a long time as possible. That’s what we do. We’ve got videos every day.

We’ve got a bunch of movement videos, as well as I do a brief where I talk about how I would teach a workout to a class, as well as some coaching notes. You know Sean- you know Active Life?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah. Sean’s actually been on. He was one of our first four podcast guests. Sean Pastuch.

Pat BarberPat Barber

Nice. Sean is an opinionated, funny, awesome dude. I love that guy. He comes on once a week. From a PT’s perspective and chiropractor’s perspective, he talks about one of the days and says, “Here are some tests you should run on this day to see if people should even be doing these movements. Here’s how to run these tests.”

He partners with us. We’ve got competitor programs and a lifting program written by Chad Vaughn who’s a semi-decent lifter.

David TaoDavid Tao

Also, one of the first BarBend podcast guests and an old friend of mine. I work with Chad and Cheryl. We run commentary for USA Weightlifting events together. Small world.

Pat BarberPat Barber

They’re fantastic humans which is why I associate myself with them. I’ve slowly tried to get away from people who suck.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s the great end lesson here for this podcast folks. Pat Barber’s got the life.

Pat BarberPat Barber

If you actually want a lesson, it’s actually more about looking at people who detract from what you do. It’s not about adding happiness to your life. It’s about removing things that make you unhappy.

That’s the minimalist ideal. You don’t want to add more stuff to try to make yourself happy. You want to remove the things that are currently making you unhappy, and that’s how you have a better life. I’ve found out with people, it’s a very important thing. I start to remove ones that make me unhappy, and my life’s become pretty damn good.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s awesome. Pat, where can people follow along with Warm Up and Workout? Where can they find the site? Where can they find it on social? Where can they follow along with the work that you’re doing as well?

Pat BarberPat Barber

You can follow my stuff at warmupandworkout.com. That’s just warm up and workout. A-N-D, not an ampersand. You can also find me on social media @patbarbercf. That’s on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.

We also have the Tribe Life, which is my wife and I. We do a podcast talking to parents about what it means to be a parent and whether you’re doing what’s working. What’s not working? It’s one of those things that we have no idea what we’re doing, so we figured we’d ask as many parents as possible. Figure out what they’re doing. See what’s going on. We have three kids, and it’s a blast.

You can also find us…We have a company called Outside the Box which is home gym programming for people to do in their garage. It’s 30 minutes a day.

[background music]

We wrote it because we’re parents. We have like thirty minutes a day to get stuff done. It’s not as good as being an affiliate, because I think being an affiliate is the best thing you can possibly do. But I do think it’s the next best thing is getting something in your garage, staying fit, and loving life. You can find me there at outsidethebox.org.

 

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