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Rest Day

Maggie warming up her cleans

  • Happy Birthday, JB!

Memorial Day Musings 

For the second installment of the notes we’re running from some CFSBKers related to Memorial Day and leading up to “Murph,” we’re featuring an essay by Dr. Mike Cutaia, a past Athlete of the Month and faithful member of the gym for two years, along with his wife, Judy. Dr. Mike (also known as "that old stubborn horse that David and Noah try to whip into shape") has done the majority of his work as a physician in the VA system. For the last nine years, he’s worked at the VA hospital in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn as Chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care/Sleep Section in the Department of Medicine. He would like to begin his piece with a couple epigraphs:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
—Mahatma Ghandi 

Typically, our culture has a bad habit of commercializing and trivializing holidays to the point where we can easily forget the underlying reasons why they were established in the first place. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day come to mind. It’s a diversion to have to deal with all the nonsense in our culture surrounding these days. We can be lured so easily to forget the deeper message, the deeper meaning that is there. This meaning needs to be rediscovered and restored. Memorial Day is another important example.

Parades, flags, bands playing, hot dogs and barbecues, and a lot of hot air from politicians about patriotism and love of country is not enough. It has been said, “Old men declare war, but it is the youth that must fight and die.” One of my first experiences as a physician caring for veterans was to separate two veteran patients who were beating the crap out of one another with their crutches in a hospital ward over the politics of war. Welcome to this complex, confusing, and often complicated life. The task is to put the politics aside, and look just at the people. That’s where the gold can be found. Civil War general William Sherman reputedly said, “War is hell.”  And it is. In so many ways. Both when you go and when you come back to civilian life. 

That is why we need to remember the people who go to war no matter what the political issues may be. This is the deeper message and meaning of Memorial Day. It’s more about lives than flags. More about people. Those who are no longer with us and those who are alive and struggling to put their past in a healthy perspective. The latter group deserves our special attention. These are the people who are struggling to regain meaning and purpose after their wartime experience. It is important that we who have never served struggle to relate to that in some way. Can we sit in another man or women’s shoes for a brief moment and catch a small glimpse of the pain and agony of war? Often, one can’t truly comprehend what one has never been through oneself. So, some people say why even go through the pain of trying? 

Here is the reason. The men and women who went to war gave us their hearts, their blood, and often their lives. We should not forget that. If we do, we run the risk of becoming dangerously disconnected from the pain of many among us. No matter what we think about war itself.  No matter what we think about the motives for going. Some go willingly. Others have little or no choice. Just a way out of a bad set of circumstances at home. They all deserve our recognition. Especially when they face such huge problems on returning to civilian life like unemployment, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injury, chronic physical disability, substance abuse, and a high risk of suicide, which is three times higher than the general population. It is easy to forget that we are the community they are trying to rejoin. Our openness and receptiveness greatly influences their struggle in many ways. 

We must remember—because it is human to remember. Ultimately, life is short. We ourselves want to be remembered. It is human to want this simple thing. No one wants to be forgotten. I have five childhood friends who never returned from Vietnam whose names are on the wall in Washington. This is one of the big lessons my work with veterans has taught me. Not to forget. 

The links below are Dr. Mike's suggested further reading about veterans.

The Problems Facing America’s Veterans care2
Female Veterans More Likely To Commit Suicide care2
Suicide Among Young Veterans Rising At Alarming Rate The Huffington Post
John Walsh: Preventing Veteran Suicide Is 'The Cost Of War' The Huffington Post
Special Memorial Day Programs Tell the Stories of U.S. Armed Forces War Veterans YAHOO 

Reader Comments (20)

Saturday's Programming:

Clean and Jerk

Fitness: Clean Halting Deadlift + Clean + Jerk
If you have a hard time organizing the pull off the floor, perform the clean from the mid-hang, after the clean halting deadlift.

Performance: Clean and Jerk 1-1-1, then Power Clean + Hang Clean + Jerk 75% x (1+1+1) x 2
Work up to a heavy clean and jerk in three attempts, then perform two singles of the complex at 75% of today's best lift.


Front Squat

Fitness: 3 x 5 Linear Progression

Performance: 85% x 4 x 4, then 87.5% x 4 x 4
Rest two minutes between sets. You're already pretty warmed up from the cleans, so get to work weight within 2-3 warm ups so you can get all your work sets in.

May 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Such well put sentiments by Dr. Mike. I've really appreciated all the careful thought and emotion put into considering this year's holiday, however different it may be for different people.

Also, Im happy how many people I can remember from yesterday's picture. I spy..

Alec Helner
Christine Guerra
Laurel Madar
Debbie Parsons
Rebecca Behan
Ari Jort
David Mackowski
Shannon Sodano
Jenna McCauley
Ashley Fothergil
John Gabrus
Charlotte Kaiser

I remember the guy with the green shirts face.. but I can't think of his name dammit!

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Thanks to Dr. Mike and to Keith for their words, thoughts, feelings and actions and to David for posting the Memorial Day Musings. Being a veteran, I very much appreciate the recognition given to those who have served. I will be missing our Murph this year, the second time missing it since I started here at CFSBK. It is my favorite workout of the year and the first time I missed it I managed to do it with you all, just separated by a few hundred miles. This year I won't have the opportunity to share my blood, sweat and tears with the spirit of my brothers and sisters (those with us and those gone, those who served and those at CFSBK) until I return. But share them I will. Enjoy the BBQ and the booze and the laughter of your friends, those we are remembering sure as hell would want you to. But while you are in the middle of the workout, when you still have 8 rounds and a mile to go and your mind clicks off and you are in that space of "do, don't think", send a little nod of thanks or at least appreciation to those that had to do it for real.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDMak

Wonderful essay, Dr. Mike - powerful food for thought. Thank you.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScott

I echo others' sentiments about Dr. Mike's thoughts above and will try to keep them up front amidst other celebrating this weekend.


Couple of catch-up posts.

Had the pleasure of working with Dave Fung all night at Wednesday's 8:30 class. Hit a PR snatch at 170lbs that felt really excellent. I have a great open gym session with DO to thank for that.

HBBS at 270x4x4 and 275x4x4 were a grind from set two on. Proud to have made it in for every HBBS exposure this cycle.


Hit the 6:30pm yesterday after an emotional roller coaster of a day, and the WOD followed suit. Matt and I finished the performance version in 30:23, largely due to my struggles keeping my false grip in during the MU portion.

There was a lot of support coming from the fellow 6:30ers last evening that I didn't properly acknowledge. I spent most of the last 15 minutes in my hyper-focused/very intense bubble doing a lot of pacing, making crazy-eyes, and harrumphing. Not only did it not help my false grip at all, afterwards I felt a bit like an ass. I think I knew going in that a share of 25 muscle-ups would be very tough for me, especially after the burpees and HSPUs, but I also knew that attempting them is the only way to get better. Trying to keep a bit more perspective and good cheer about really difficult tasks is an ongoing goal of mine -- so I figured this post might bring a bit of accountability on that front.

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterRyan

MGMT - Am I correct in assuming that the big, thick, black line towards the bottom of the Murph sign up sheet means "please do not sign up below this line"? I've just managed to figure out a way that I can come and participate, but only for the 9 or 9:45 heat… Is there any way that might happen?

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Cohen

DMak! Word!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris A.

Beautiful, powerful essays from both Dr. Mike and Keith.

6am. Clean & Jerk (kilos): 60, 85, 95, 105, 112, 118F, 118C,F, 80, 80. Shoulders were a bit tight today from yesterday's HSPUs and MUs. Had trouble getting my head through on the jerks. 118 (260#) was a 4# PR on my clean! I missed the first attempt by being too soft in the catch and the weight just crushed me. With a cue from McD to focus on being solid on the catch, I got under the next one and then spent an hour standing it up. After that battle I was understandably a bit fatigued and never really had a chance at the jerk. I did pop the bar up to about eye level, but completely forgot about pushing underneath. Front squats (kilos): 97x4x4, 100x4x4. I miscalculated and this was below the prescribed percentages. Still brutal. Did 2/3 of the cash-out with a 20# vest.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Thanks for writing and posting these essays. I appreciate the thoughtfulness they represent as much as the thoughts themselves - which isn't to discount the content at all, but just to note that I'm impressed (again) that the community at CFSBK is reflective about what we do and when, how, and why we do it.

6am today. Saturday's work with McDowell. Got up to 115# on the C&J, which I hadn't done in a while. Some very helpful coaching by McDowell got my split jerk feeling much better by the end. 140# on the front squats, which felt good. I carried a sandbag on the cashout, which kicked my ass. I'm not gonna lie, I walked a little, but a bit of heckling from some people in a parked car on Douglass kept that to a minimum.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Dr. Mike, great post.

I never thought I'd look forward to crush week, but it can't be worse than 64 squats per week can it?

Came in to clean and jerk this morning at 8 with Noah/McD. Worked up to 90. I was just fried today. Did the 32 HBBS on Wednesday night at 8:30, so this was 36 hours later and my body told me I was an ahole. However, hit the best jerk of my life under 90 after Noah told me to think about getting my front foot forward. I had been working on not dipping too much after an open gym video review with David last week. As it turned out, thinking about throwing my front foot forward much more really helped me dip less. I got down under the bar smoother than I have in the past and will focus on the front foot.

FSQ: 115x4x4, 117.5x4x2. I had to go to work, 24 reps was a lot, and having not eaten really I might have failed one of those last two sets. Man what a cycle of squats. I did these belted, but I am undoubtedly stronger through the core for having done so much unbelted this cycle.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

@Joel: 115? Typo surely?

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

Thank you, Dr. Mike. I was very moved by your piece, and I found it helpful to make some sense of my own musings.

I second Shawn's sentiment. I appreciate this discussion and this unique forum we have to offer up the more cerebral component of what we pour out physically at the gym. Quite a place we have here.

I also agree with Joel -- no. more. squats. Bring on the burpees

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I don't typically post, but I had to follow up Shawn: the, er, ladies on Douglass had some interesting words of encouragement on offer.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan C

Samir: My money's on kilograms

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Moving words from Dr. Mike.

Today I hit a PR with a solid 155clean and jerk. The 160 was really ugly and I failed the 165.
145 was my previous PR and I have had a goal to be able to body weight my clean and my snatch. The snatch I've dropped a lot of weight from previous cycles but I hope to make gains in the future.

The front squats I finished the first 4x4 at 175 and then got through the second 2 sets when I just started to fail. I bagged it there. Not going to risk hurting my back so close to murph.

Looking forward to the community coming together for this.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W.

Came in to do the 10AM class after suffering through a brutal night thanks to Ayana wailing from 11PM to 2AM. (Noor had it worse.)

Chris and I did a modified version of the performance WOD:
100 Squats, 100 Burpees, 50 Piked HSPUs, and then, 30 ring-rows for him, 10 muscle-ups for me. I failed muscle-up #6, so I switched over and did 15 strict chin-ups.

Many thanks to Noah for accommodating my various sub'/scale requests.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

Great piece from Mike, strongly underscoring that at an elemental level Monday is an acknowledgement of suffering, loss, and perseverance. Can't wait for Monday (although I'm not looking forward to a long plane ride soon after the workout is over!)

Yesterday came in to make up my Snatch and HBBSQ. Have been a little sniffly sick for the past few days, didn't eat enough at all during the day, and paid for it.

Snatch: 80kg, 85M, 85M. Some GREAT cueing and just general philosophizing with McD about my 1st and 2nd pulls, which are getting much smoother- even the 85s moved quickly, just didn't finish them off. 200# is within sight, just need the stars to align.

HBBSQ: Disaster. 280x4x4 felt crushing, even though I was hitting 275x10x2 at the end of last cycle. 290x3x2 after that- 1st set I walked it back in after 3, sure that I looked like hell, which Rickke, Jess, and McD denied. 2nd set I just failed. Low energy, low confidence. Really touched and grateful that they all stayed to watch and cajole me into pushing through it, on my own I might have left after the 1st set. Thanks friends.

Today did Thursday's WOD with Big Shot Bob Semmens, Perf RX. We moved quickly through Squats and Burpees, then slowed a bit during HSPU's, mostly 5s and 3s. Hopped on the rings for MUs and knocked out 5 on the first go and 3s pretty consistently throughout. I have had some major MU backsliding, so it was nice to be able to get back to a level of some competence, although there is plenty to work on.

Really stretched the definition of Not For Time on the cashout.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNoah


Stella was correct. 115KGs(253 pounds), and then added kilos on each side for the next two.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

10AM class

Was super stoked to have Carlos the Great as my partner for this!! We did the Performance version. I scaled with 1 abmat for HSPU and used the "ring thing" for a muscle up assist. We finished in 17:20.

Squats in sets of 20 (and then 10 at the end). Burpees in sets of 10. Good pace.
HSPU were where we slowed: I definitely did less reps than Carlos, since I failed a bit in the middle. Probably more like 21/29 than an even split. Good tip from Noah to let my knees go wide into a tripod shape as opposed to knees together -- helped stay on the wall. These are feeling relatively put together, all things considered.
MU - I think I did about 15 total on the ring thing, sets of 4 and 3. SO FUN! Hopefully this helps me further progress on the path towards my goal of a MU by the end of the year!

I just gave my shower and bathroom a deep cleaning. It felt harder than this workout.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H



RDL@275 4x5

Bent over rows@ 185 3x8

Fat Bar Curls

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

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