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Rest Day

Coach Nick Coaching Collette K. at the CRASH-Bs

Underneath the Hoodie - Nick Peterson
By Margie Lempert

DOB: 2/23/73
Height: 6'3”
Weight: 205
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, NY
Place of Higher Learning: Harvard
Years in New York: almost 12
Years at SBK: 2.5

Nick was tired of being told to put on his shoes. That was the thing that finally sent him to the Lyceum. That and David’s advances. And pregnant Charlotte’s transition to SBK. And the fact that we weren’t assholes. He had been happily rebelling against his years of rowing regimen with capoeira; finally life was not so... sagittal. Why go back into the pit of discipline?

It started when we met at the co-op: Nick was doing a make-up on my shift and somehow or another we got to talking about CrossFit and rowing. Turned out his wife Charlotte had been doing CF on her own at the Slope Fitness, so he knew about it, but was not personally compelled. It seemed too pushy. Too much like the years and years he’d spent competing as a rower, including a trip to the 2000 Olympics in Australia. He was over the machismo, the drive to go harder than everyone else; he’d watched so many people beat their chests only to fail. Since his final year as a competitive athlete, he’d been fascinated by training efficiently. Good technique, coupled with laziness seemed to be key. The best rowers were lazy. They did just what they needed to in training, never more. But when game day came, they could turn on the fierce competitive focus and win.

Nick had the mental toughness for competition, but he was not a natural athlete - at least according to him. He didn’t feel that he was good at moving, couldn’t really mimic movements, but rather had to rely on descriptive coaching in order to learn technique. Perhaps that’s where Nick the athlete and Nick the intellect collide.

Talking to Nick is not linear; he’s a holistic thinker, able to thread thoughts through various topics, and circle back to previous points fluidly. Maybe it’s in his blood: grandma was a major player in the women’s rights movement (Ralph Nader’s mentor, no less), and Dad’s profession as an architect took the family to Beirut when Nick was 5, where he studied at an international french school. They loved it there. The people were warm and it reminded Nick’s parents of Brooklyn. But several years later, after coming back from an intermission in Rome, the family decided it was time to leave: being caught in a bombing of the theater your Dad redesigned will do that.

The Peterson’s settled in DC and Nick reintegrated by attending another international french school. When he started public school in the 6th grade, he was thoroughly accustomed to co-mingling with kids of all nationalities, so it was a shock to be thrown into the mix of US racial politics. He knew right away that things were different; the racial divide in terms of academic tracking was obvious, and he had several social situations that reinforced his observations. All of this spawned his interest in understanding race relations, which prompted him to major in African-American studies at Harvard.

The other major life interest that Nick discovered at that school was rowing, and really sport in general. Perhaps because he didn’t feel like a natural athlete, Nick’s attitude is different from what you might expect from an Olympian. He’s very equal opportunity when it comes to learning sport. He says that anyone can be taught to be an athlete because everyone has capacity. Yes, hard work is involved and the ability to make connections between different movements, but the reality is that there is no functional limit to what one can do. One can always push harder or refine technique more; the compelling and repulsive truth to competition as well.

Technique is paramount for Nick, which is why he finally got drawn into CFSBK. That and the fact that we didn’t care if he worked out barefoot. He was extremely impressed by David and Shane’s eye for detail. He felt that the quality of instruction was higher than what he’d experienced at the various olympic centers he’d trained at. In contrast to his overall impression of CrossFit as a practice, our gym emphasized good movement and smart training. And it was fun!

Parting thoughts:
If not a rower, then an artist.
Secret ability to identify the decade a building was constructed.
Loves watches, coffee, ties and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Knows a lot about movies he hasn’t seen.
His relationship with Charlotte is the definition of “meant to be”, but we’ll save that story for another time...

Favorite way to eat eggs:
Scrambled, wet


What is your greatest strength as an athlete?  Where have you seen the most improvement since training at SBK? 
John Welbourn answers Rob I.'s Question Talk to Me Johnnie
How I Overcame BiPolar II (And Saved My Own Life) Forbes.com (Via Hunter-Gatherer)

References (2)

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    Debt Consolidation Assistance
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    NFL is actually one of the most significant sports in America. It has a key following.

Reader Comments (30)

Great write-up on Nick. I liked the writing style, Margie.

Hey all- Some of you have asked me about different kinds of RSS links to which I often respond with a blank stare and then tell you "little orange button on right side of page"

Anyway- I was digging around the administrative end and found the following URLs, please let me know if any of these are useful for anyone.

The URL for your atom XML feed is:

The URL for your atom XML feed is:

The URL for your rss XML feed is:

The URL for your rss XML feed is:

The URL for your rdf XML feed is:

The URL for your rdf XML feed is:

July 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Yea I was just about to ask 'who wrote that?'. Good stuff Margie. Strength as an "athlete"? Tough question, I'll let you know when I find one, lol. As far as my weakness goes, everything has improved drastically since coming to Cfsbk. I have completed 2 months out of foundations and have been crossfitting a total of 4 months. I have been reviewing my original entries on the mainsite comment board along with my performance and I can Really see some progression in a short period of time. Thanks guys.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarc "the goose" mess

Awesome write-up!! Now I'm dying to hear the Charlotte and Nick story. :)

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

Incredibly artistic and well put together write up of an artistic and well put together guy, glad to read it. I'd like the Charlotte and Nick story told in the same voice, please.

David, I have no idea what any of that means, but my head hurts now.

Strengths as an athlete are gameplanning and running workouts, weaknesses are posterior chain based stuff (so, everything) due to a vertebral disc that seems to live in my left shoe.

In case anyone wants a laugh, I give you:

Crossfit Zoolander

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

Yea Noah i browsed through that Reebok section yesterday and almost vomited. The lest crossfit could have done was sell out by aligning with a better sponsor. Reebok is such a loser company. I will never own a reebok product, it's like buying an American car. New Balance would have been a much better fit.


July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichele


OMG Crossfit Zoolander, awesome.
I love the writing, Margie! Nice job.

Strengths as an athlete: stubbornness and high pain tolerance.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

it's so cute how you keep calling me an athlete.

my greatest strength is probably flexibility/mobility -- i am frequently limited by strength and nerve, but rarely by mobility.

also oh my god what is this: http://shopcrossfitreebok.com/mens-1/men-s-snapback-cap-bright-blue.html

July 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterNick Angiolillo

I want to hear the Charlotte-and-Nick story, too! Thanks Margie for a great writeup of a thoughtful and encouraging coach.

I guess my greatest strength would have to be long, slow endurance. I came to CrossFit because I thought it was silly that I can run 26.2 miles but not do a single pullup. Still not there with the pullups, but I have definitely seen an improvement in my upper body strength. Real pushups! I can do them!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Greatest strength as an athlete? does that include working it out on the dance floor? If not, I'd have to say my jab. I have a pretty good jab. Don't sleep on my left either! Or at least used to. Best improvement in crossfit? This one I am actually pretty proud of. Since I started strength work, my squat has gone up 100 pounds, from 285 to 385!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJR

my only question (besides wanting to hear the n&c story) is - buffy? really nick?? :) great article on an equally great guy, coach, athlete.

i think my mental toughness has gotten better. i've been competing in sports basically all my life, but something about crossfit workouts have really pushed not only my physical endurance and strength, but also my mental capacity to get through the wod, or pick up/move a heavy object.

my weaknesses, right now, seem to be everything - starting with my lower back and continuing down my right hamstring. i'm pretty stubborn and usually try to work through the pain, but i'm taking the advice of many people and really backing off until i'm better.

July 22, 2011 | Registered Commentersteph paddock

@Nick A, you think that was bad, check this:

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Where to begin?

First, awesome write-up Margie. Great to learn more about Nick. I had a similar cultural shock when I started 7th grade public school in Florida coming from an international Bahamian environment...

2) Reebok t-shirts are $55. Really? And that is the ugliest hat I've ever seen. Ever.

3) The weird thing about the Welbourn post is that I had literally only emailed him two hours earlier. I hadn't even intended to ask a question, I was just emailing him cause he hadn't posted and was curious if he was OK. I guess he's got a lot business ventures going, huh?

4) My strengths as an athlete are my obsessive nature and consistency.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob Is

1) That writeup was really awesome Margie.
2) I'm really hoping a coach is now inspired to create a workout named Magnum or Blue Steel.
3) My biggest strength is apparently my squat, and for that I think the big ass that was genetically granted to me and lots of time under a bar. Since joining SBK my training habits have improved the most, including real warm ups and mobility work. I'm still incredibly immobile but it's getting better.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoel W

anything athletic i accomplish is a miracle

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichele

Not sure what mystifies me the most about the Crossfit Reebok gear:

-Is it the ridiculous pricing?
-The fact the Reebok is kind of wack
-The giant prominent branding a la Abercrombie?
-The fact that regular gym clothes work just fine for Crossfit?
-All of the pictures where Dave Lipson looks like he needs to poop?

What I really think brings me back to when MMA got popular. I had done brazilian jitz for years, (in an unheated warehouse in Wisconsin, natch) enduring strange stares and blank looks when I told people that my hobby was "submission wrestling." Then all of a sudden every blowtorch haired meathead had a Tapout or Affliction shirt on, despite the fact that they hadn't spent one hour on the mat in their life. I'm worried that's where this is all going. Maybe I should be happy, as this means we're hitting the big time, but man...

I guess this could also be called "I knew about the band before they were cool" syndrome. Guilty.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

first of all, I heart coach nick. and I heart coach margie's article about coach nick.

biggest strength as an athlete: the ability to pull off a baby blue and yellow reebok crossfit hat, which I will now wear everyday for the rest of my life.

biggest weakness: inability to resist advertising.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryosh

I love reading about people at the gym. It satisfies my stalker tendencies.
Great write up on Nick.

Should we bring our bodybags to strength cycle tonight?

Jeremy please keep the metcon to under 2 minutes.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShawnS

Noah, I am nominating you to be the SBK ombudsman to Reebok. Keep telling it like it is. I could not agree more. This all reminds me of the movie Wayne's World when Noah Vanderhoff buys the show.

Strength: I actually think I am strong, so I love the rush before a heavy lift.
Weakness: I love feeling sorry for myself in the middle of metcons, keeling over, breathing heavy and exploring self doubt.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob N

Made it out for a brutally hot (104 degree) noon class. Fun warm up by Shane, then proceeded to finish out cycle 2, exposure 2 of Wendler back squatting with a rep out set of 280x11.

Great to learn a little more about Nick, well done Margie! Mr. Peterson, are you a Joss Whedon fan (Firefly, Dollhouse, Doctor Horrible, etc) as well or is the loving just for Buffy?

Noah, nice call on the Reebok store. Anyone else curious what would possess them to call their fabric "Play Dry" moisture management system?

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Rx'd

I may be alone here, but I don't have anything against the Reebok/CrossFit apparel. Design wise, it reminds me a lot of lululemon. The direction they seemed to have been going before this with the "forged" apparel seemed similar to the "tap out/Affliction" shirts which were personally not my cup of tea. I think these styles are a lot more mature and sleek looking. There are even a few things I could see myself wearing. I would however love to see some simple throwback hoodies and t-shirts like they used to have. Basically black cotton tops that just said "CrossFit: Forging Elite Fitness" on them. I regret not buying more of those back when they had them. Anyway, I think the new stuff looks good but I'd like to see some more variety in style if possible, maybe some lower priced stuff too. (again, the prices seem very similar to lululemon apparel"

July 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

nick: wet eggs? makes me think of undercooked poached eggs where you cut into them and its an explosion of watery egg whites.. egh..

CROSSFIT ALMOST LULULEMON. Judging by those models, none of those pants will ever cover my entire ass. Concerning.

Note: they, however, outdid Lululemon because their pants cost 100$ (which is actually more than Lulu - insert more concern here).

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterasta

ps: all you boys needs to get on up with those mens knee socks they're selling. ;)

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterasta

Strength Cycle, Week 2, Day 3


WU: 45x5, 95x5, 135x3, 165x3, 175x2
Work: 190x5x3


WU: 45x5, 95x5, 115x3
Work: 135x5x3


WU: 45x5, 95x3,
Work: 115x3x3

So far, so good. Getting better at pulling at the right point in the clean. Could it be, that two years after I started Crossfit, I might be getting the hang of this lift? Could it?

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

my hip feels fine.

that is amazing.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichele

Fun to learn more about Mr. Peterson, especially since his bare feet at a mutual family wedding was how Will and I ended up at CFSBK in the first place.

Tough night in the strength cycle tonight.

BSQ: 215x5x3
OMG, you guys. This is heavy. I know I've got more in me, but it took everything I had to complete these, and it felt like I'd done 1000 situps by the end of my third set-- I was pushing with my innards. TMI? Maybe. But true. Heavy. Felt good to be done.

Bench - 97.5x5x2, then 97.5x3
Failed on 4th rep of my last set. this was heavy, but I think I could've completed my last set with more rest In between sets 2 and 3.

Saving cleans for tomorrow morning, as my quads were fried after the heavy squats.

As for strengths as an athlete: dunno. I think I've got a good amount of fight in me and can often manage to push beyond my own perceived limits. Which segues nicely into my weaknesses: I don't often test my limits (until lifting at CFSBK, that is). That's changing though, which is fun. Also, two of my favorite leisure time hobbies are food & wine, the pursuit of which does not always leave one in a position to test one's athleticism.

C'est la vie!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

What David says is true. Although I love many things about CF, mainsite's aesthetic (to say nothing of it's culture or politic) are very different from mine. Like Charlotte said yesterday, we are blessed here at CFSB in so many ways and I am very glad to call it home.

Greatest strength: strength to body weight ratio I guess.

Biggest improvement has been learning to persevere through discomfort..

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Harvard... that explains a couple of things. I am intrigued and not at all satisfied by Margie’s appetizer of a write up. Very well done and leaving me wanting more of the story. “It satisfies my stalker tendencies”... not quite.

My greatest strength as an athlete is my unquenchable desire to please Shane. It provides all the motivation needed to turn Clark Kent to Superman.
Biggest weakness - my unquenchable desire to please Shane. Oh, and mobility.

Noah, I’m with you on the “I knew the band before they were cool syndrome”. I can feel some eye rolling coming on already.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mak

Strength Cycle, Week 2, Day 3


WU: 45x5, 95x5, 135x3, 165x3, 175x2
Work: 190x5x3


WU: 45x5, 95x5, 115x3, 125x3
Work: 135x5x3


WU: 45x5, 95x3,
Work: 115x3x3

The Heat was the worst part today. Like Samir said the bar is still moving. Im really feeling like Im learning the clean and can move up a lot there. Additionally, I think right now my technique is worst on the bench press. I feel I can get my old 1Rm up there if I can really focus on technique.

July 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShawnS

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