Fitness: EMOM 10 Minutes Clean and Jerk
Use 90% of last weeks triple.
Performance: Clean Pull + Hang Clean + 2 Jerks
Work up to a heavy load on the complex.
Post loads to comments.
5 Rounds For Time:
12 Box Jump-Overs 20″
12 Ring Rows
3 Rounds For Time:
50 Double Unders
20 Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups
Post time and Rx to comments.
- Active Recovery is CANCELED this weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday due to the Starting Strength Seminar. All other classes will run as normal, more details coming tomorrow!
All the Planches: How Gymnastics Can Make You a Better CrossFitter, and Getting to Know Ken H.
By Kate Reece
If you’ve taken one gymnastics or rings class with Ken H., chances are you’ve taken two. He’s that good, and his class participants often become loyal devotees of the rings. Ken is a gifted athlete, and was a nationally competitive gymnast in Newton, MA and at the University of Michigan. After graduating, he coached for eight years in Northern Virginia. His students have gone on to be NCAA champions and members of Cirque du Soliel.
Ken found CFSBK in August of 2010, the year David opened 597 Degraw (Mare, Noor, and Radika were in his Foundations class), as part of his search for an activity to replace gymnastics. That search had already led him to rock climbing and yoga, and if you can’t find him at CFSBK, he’s probably down the block at Brooklyn Boulders. He now regularly teaches weekend gymnastics strength classes, and he’s enabled many of us to become far more comfortable hovering in space, whether swinging on the rings or balancing on our hands. Planches, back levers, and skinning cats are just a few of the moves Ken has helped many of us add to our bucket of ninja tricks.
Ken is a constant but quieter presence at CFSBK, and we had a sneaky feeling that he had a lot of fascinating stuff to share about his time competing and coaching. We love when we’re right. Read on, and learn more about our resident gymnastics coach!
CFSBK: Tell us about your athletic background, and time as a nationally competitive gymnast.
KH: One of the earliest pictures of me is on skis, at age 5, I think. So, I started young. We would spend winter vacation up in Vermont skiing. During the summers, the family rented houses on lakes in New Hampshire, and Maine. We swam, canoed, and hiked. Pretty awesome life. Eventually I spent my summers at gymnastics camp training all day.
At some point, I followed my stepbrother into hockey, and when I was about 10, my mom enrolled me at a small after-school gymnastics program, and from there I ended up at a real gymnastics gym, eventually training three to four days a week starting in junior high. My first coach was Steve Nuno. He ended up coaching girls, and taking Shannon Miller to the Olympics. My other coaches weren’t quite as successful. Neither was I.
I competed a few times at the Junior Olympic Nationals, but didn’t fare well. I’m not a very good competitor, actually. I got hurt my senior year in high school. It was a defining moment for me. I could have quit and walked away but I decided to get back on the horse. Because of the injury, I was not heavily recruited, so I opted to go to the best academic school I could get into, which was Michigan. I didn’t know what I was getting into—the legacy and tradition of Michigan Athletics. My team didn’t live up to our past or the future of Michigan Gymnastics. I call it the Dark Ages of Michigan Gymnastics. But I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything—except maybe a better education. Being on teams really helped me get through school, both high school and college. Without it, I would have been lost.
When I look back on it, I really like practicing and learning new tricks. I prefer to train than compete.
CFSBK: Can you tell us more about your injury in high school?
KH: I was training a double flip dismount off the high bar. I had been doing it in practice without any problems. I was dying to put it at the end of a routine but I had not practiced it that way yet. I was training at a private gymnastics club and competing for my high school. I got to the end of my routine at a high school meet, and did the dismount anyway. I was tired and didn’t fully commit. I went up, rotated most of the way around but not enough, and landed on the back of my shoulders/neck with my feet over my head. I was okay, I didn’t feel hurt or injured, but I ended up at the hospital and was told that I fractured C6, one of the lower vertebrae in my neck. I was in a neck brace for a few months.
Eventually, I went to a Sports Med Orthopedist who reviewed my x-rays and said it looked like any wrestler’s neck with worn-down bones from rolling around on the neck. So, I’m not actually convinced I was really injured. But it did put a scare in me. There is also some context to being scared. Around the same time, a teammate of mine landed on his head while training. He has been a quadriplegic ever since. So with that in my mind, I lost a bit of naiveté, and my sense of immortality. It took a while to get over all of this and certainly affected my abilities in the future.
CFSBK: Say more about not considering yourself a good competitor—what about competing didn’t appeal to you?
KH: I always got nervous when I competed. I practiced and trained hard. I could hit routines and tricks in the gym but when it came time to performing in front of judges, I choked most of the time. I would mess up here and there. Miss landings. Looking back, maybe it was because of my high school accident? But I also remember having a hard time at meets before that. I just got nervous. I was never relaxed or confident. I got through my routines but it was hit or miss. I really admired the Russian gymnasts at the time. They were so well-trained. Hit everything all the time no matter what. I really wanted to be like that. In some ways I’m a perfectionist who always falls short.
CFSBK: How did being on the gymnastics team help you get through college—what do you mean by that?
KH: As most of us can attest, being a teenager sucks. High school sucks, other teenagers suck. I was not the best student, and didn’t really belong to any group, but I had a few friends I hung out with. Doing gymnastics gave me a reason to study, a reason not to drink, not to get into drugs, and kept me busy on weekends. It gave me a sense of purpose. I knew that if I continued doing gymnastics, I could probably get a scholarship at a university. My coaches had been gymnasts at UMass. I went up there with them a few times and thought it was so cool. I wanted to be a collegiate gymnast.
In college, I would have been lost again. If I wasn’t doing gymnastics, I probably would have taken a year off, as I would have had no reason to go to college. Gymnastics gave me that reason. At a big school like University of Michigan, it is real easy to get lost. It’s very important to figure out how to make such a big place smaller. The gymnastics team gave me that. My world was going to class in the mornings, get to the gym by 3pm, train until 6 or 7. Do homework. Rinse and Repeat.
Competition season was from January to April. Every weekend we had a meet. We drove ourselves. That was a riot. We had vans. We drove in snowstorms all over the Midwest. When the season was over, we were all told to take a break. After about a week of not going to the gym, we all were bored and ended up back in the gym training.
CFSBK: What was coaching gymnastics like?
KH: After college, with nothing pressing to do and needing to make some money, I ended up coaching kids in Northern Virginia. It was lots of fun. But hard. And long. The kids were great. They did really well. I had some pretty bad coaching when I was young, so I learned how not to coach and really worked at being better than the coaches I had. The best part was when I stopped coaching and lived in San Francisco for a few years. Once a year or so, there would be a college meet in the area and I would go, and watch the kids I used to coach. It was really cool, they were pretty good.
CFSBK: What brought you to New York?
KH: School, in August 2001. I came up to NYC to attend NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Basically, I studied interactive media. Learned how to code a bit, learned some video editing. I was exposed to a lot of technology long before it became mainstream.
CFSBK: How did you find CrossFit? And CFSBK?
KH: When Brooklyn Boulders opened up, I was looking for a place to augment my climbing. Bouldering is very hard on the body. Your fingers, shoulders, and arms get trashed. There is only so much climbing on plastic I can do. I needed a place to keep fit and get stronger. Fortunately, CFSBK opened up soon after right next door. I didn’t have to go far to find what I needed. I found that and more at CFSBK. I had tried CrossFit while I lived in San Francisco, but I didn’t really like the guy running the program. So, I was not very motivated. But CFSBK is a special place with great coaches and a wonderful community. I’ve learned so much here.
CFSBK: Can gymnastics training make someone better at CrossFit?
KH: That’s an interesting question. It certainly can help. Learning and doing basic gymnastics skills can help you throughout your life as well. Learning how to roll, being comfortable upside down, being strong enough to push and pull your own weight around will get you out of any situation you might find yourself in. But specifically for CrossFit—many bodyweight gymnastics skills are considered advanced CrossFit movements. So, if you want to be competitive or be able to do the WODs to their fullest, you really need to work on bodyweight movements regularly. Strength-to-weight ratio is the key to bodyweight movements. These are skills with dynamic movements, and lots of need for body awareness. They take time to learn. You have to practice them all the time. Start small, and make incremental advances.
CFSBK: Tell us a bit about the classes you teach here.
KH: The rings class. It would be fun to have a few other gymnastics equipment around to use and play on, but if you’re going to have one, rings are the best for general all-purpose use. With limited space, they are great to have around. The concept for the class came to me when I remembered that in college, we would do little strength routines on the low rings. A partner would spot and the other would go through various movements, and strength holds going from below the ring to above, pressing to handstand, holding crosses, levers, and planches. It was a great way to get strong. But for the gym, we have to start real basic. Learning how to get upside down, getting the strength to hold an L seat. Learning when a back lever is level.
The class is broken up into four main parts. After a movement based warm-up, we get into developing skill and strength on the low rings, front and back levers, muscle-ups and supports. Sometimes we even get inverted, doing shoulder stands. Then we move to the high rings, where we work a very basic routine. Over time the routine can get more advanced. We then do a strength workout and usually end with a bit of mobility and flexibility. The part that holds most adults back is not the getting strong part—it’s being mobile and flexible enough to do harder movements.
CFSBK: What are you up to when you’re not somewhere on Degraw Street?
KH: Ha. I live on Degraw Street. No, really—figuratively and literally. Well, where I am they call it Lincoln. But seriously. When I’m not at CFSBK, I’m at Brooklyn Boulders or at home. I work in Union Square, at an ad agency. The more I sit in front of a computer, the more I have to move around when I’m not at work. I usually do yoga at least once a week, climb two to three times and CrossFit at least one. That doesn’t leave much time for other things. Though for the past year, I have been working on a web site to track and record indoor climbing data for climbers and gyms, klimbz.com. Every once in a while, I get to MoMA or take advantage of things NYC has to offer. And BAM is down the street.
Ken’s rings strength class is in the middle of its latest cycle, and will wrap up on May 3. Stay tuned for the next one!
The Right Dose of Exercise For a Longer Life The New York Times
Women Exercising in the 1940s
What Cirque du Soliel-ers Would Look Like If They Were on the Floor