Megan Benzik on Testing Positive

Earlier this year, Megan Benzik was selected for a drug test at the South Regional. Weeks later – if not months – CrossFit HQ released a statement that she had tested positive for several banned substances.

I immediately started getting texts since I had coached Megan for 2016 and 2017 season (so I can’t imagine how many messages she was getting).

Megan made an Instagram post explaining that she was taking both Vyvanse (a prescription ADD medication) as well as Anavar (a steroid) – and that the Anavar was likely contaminated with the other banned substances that she tested positive for.

Since Megan and I have kept in touch since she moved to Arizona last year, I figured it would be a good conversation to have her on the podcast to discuss the situation.

I also feel the need to offer some sort of disclaimer, since I’ve found that the capacity of humans to misunderstand and take information out of context to be boundless:

I certainly don’t support the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport – and neither does Megan. While we do spend some time talking about reasons and justifications for drug usage, this is not meant to be an attempt to make excuses. Rather, we are trying to dig into the compartmentalization and other psychological gymnastics that an athlete can get into as they go further down the path of performance-enhancing drug usage.

Check out this conversation with Megan to hear:

  • What it felt like being selected for a drug test (when she knew she would test positive) and what it felt like to compete the rest of the weekend at Regionals
  • Why she decided to own her actions rather than make excuses – and how the positive test “snapped her out of” a bunch of justifications
  • Using inspirational quotes to try to improve your mindset – but still feeling like an impostor and a fraud

Listen Here

Check out more from Megan here:

Show Notes

  • [01:50] Moving into and living in a van (down by the river)
  • [09:01] Breaking up with CrossFit – and the feeling of being selected for a drug test
  • [17:26] How did you carry on with the competition knowing that you had likely just failed a drug test
  • [22:18] The difficulty in expaining to people why you weren’t yourself on the competition floor
  • [25:27] Owning your mistakes rather than creating excuses
  • [31:47] How do you justify doing something consistently that you know is ethically wrong?
  • [39:30] Working on mindset” and being able to say the right things – but not actually believing them”
  • [44:39] What do you think your path would have been if you hadn’t been selected for a drug test?
  • [50:45] How did you get started taking performance enhancing drugs?
  • [55:36] Feeling like your performances are a fluke and that you don’t belong
  • [01:04:31] What are your goals post-CrossFit?
  • [01:13:24] Documenting disconnecting and moving into a van…on social media

Links and Resources Mentioned

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Shawn Knight (Child Bite//Berserker Fest)

Some people seem to have an insatiable, irrepressible, uncontainable urge and desire to create.

My friend Shawn fits into that category.

We spend some time discussing where that urge comes from, but the reality is that neither of us really knows.

But something is certainly driving Shawn, since he’s on tour all the time with Child Bite, puts on an annual festival in Detroit, organizes Samhain tribute compilations, designs tour posters and album artwork, and works a graphic design job in corporate America.

Check out this conversation with Shawn to hear:

  • What it was like being Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit’s first recording project
  • What it was like to get a cease and desist letter from one of your musical heroes
  • The trials and tribulations of organizing a multi-year music festival – and why he keeps deciding to do it again

NOTE: We recorded this podcast in the green room at The Empty Bottle, and part of the recording features Unsane sound-checking. I did some editing to make this less distracting, but apologies for the background noise.

Listen Here

Check out more from Shawn, Child Bite & Berserker Fest

And, check out WE ALL WANT OUR TIME IN HELL – the Samhain tribute comp Shawn put together. All the records are sold out, but bands do still have copies. If you want one, reach out to me directly since Like Rats has copies left.

We All Want Our Time In Hell Limited Edition Samhain Tribute Featuring Ghoul, Brain Tentacles, Midnight, Child Bite, And More To See Release Via Corpse Flower Records; Teaser Video Posted + Preorders Available

Show Notes

  • [01:04] Does Child Bite sound like The Jesus Lizard on purpose? –And being the “odd band out” on most shows.
  • [05:57] The beginnings of Child Bite as part of a collective of Detroit weirdos
  • [14:53] Where do the creative impulse and the impulse to share come from?
  • [18:33] Experiments with living in a tiny house.
  • [26:44] What is the creative vision for Child Bite and how does the writing process work?
  • [34:45] Recording with Wes Borland from Limp Bizkit
  • [40:55] What’s going on with Berserker Fest?
  • [57:48] The creation of We All Want Our Time in Hell” – a Samhain tribute compilation – and receiving a cease and desist letter from Danzig”
  • [01:08:27] Where to find out more about Child Bite and Berserker Fest

Links and Resources Mentioned

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Brady Cable & Brandon Senn (Kabuki Strength)

The folks at Kabuki Strength spend a lot of time getting people to roll around on the ground like babies.

And I like that.

It turns out that, especially in a sport like powerlifting, little details matter. So, spending a significant amount of time developing proper movement strategies is well worth the investment.

I recently attended the Kabuki Movement Systems course, and I found it to be quite valuable – and I also really enjoy going to courses outside of my comfort zone (I am definitely not a powerlifter).

I’ve done a lot of similar continuing education as the Kabuki folks in the physical therapy realm, so seeing how they apply their takeaways to their sport as illuminating.

And, we of course got to discuss and joke about the consistent “point missing” that most folks have with regards to movement practice.

Check out this conversation with Brady and Brandon to hear:

  • What is the value of breathing and bracing in performance athletes – and what are the most common pitfalls, misconceptions and misapplications about how to “stay tight” while lifting
  • Why the exact percentage that you lift or the exact program that you follow is not what makes you stronger
  • How to correct movement patterning issues in a remote coaching setting – and what it looks like to actually develop solid technique on your lifts

Listen Here

Check out more from Brady, Brandon and Kabuki Strength

Show Notes

  • [01:26] The archetypes of people who misunderstand and misapply the principles taught in seminars – and a discussion on technique trolls
  • [11:30] Less secure coaches tend to be more combative – so how do you get buy-in from people without arguing with them?
  • [18:33] Some cues are passed down like a bad family heirloom
  • [23:47] What do we actually mean when we talk about breathing and bracing?
  • [34:49] How to correct movement patterns in a remote coaching setting
  • [45:38] Finding the appropriate stress level to create adaptation in training for an individual.
  • [54:14] Finding the balance between dense, theoretical content – and just posting big lifts that get likes
  • [01:10:31] Where to find out more about Kabuki Strength

Links and Resources Mentioned

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Ron Petzke (Bongripper)

My friend Ron has a long history of being in bands with ridiculous names that become popular.

We’ve got Weekend Nachos. We’ve got Bongripper.

There’s something to be said for the idea of making yourself laugh in your creative work – and sometimes that strikes a nerve with other people as well. In fact, when I was standing outside of the Metro for Bongripper’s recent show, there was a Jimmy Buffett concert at Wrigley Field just down the street.

A cadre of Hawaiian-shirt clad Parrotheads hurried past me – only to stop in front of the Metro and loudly exclaim in excitement upon seeing the name “Bongripper” in giant letters across the marquee. Hopefully they checked it out.

But Bongripper isn’t just a band with a clever name. They’ve pulled together an incredibly loyal following of people who like slow and heavy riffs and long songs.

Check out this conversation with Ron to hear:

  • How Bongripper creates songs – and how they think about the relationship between structure, riffs, and the overall texture of the song. And – the frustrations of practicing 20 minute songs while everyone is counting each part differently.
  • How Ron listens to music and records, and how he processes different styles of music as an analytical musician
  • Ron’s top pop music recommendations, including Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Tove Styrke

Oh, and definitely check out Bongripper’s new album “Terminal” as well.

Listen Here

Check out more from Ron and Bongripper

Show Notes

  • [0:38] “Sir, I can’t transfer you to eBay.”
  • [07:34] Sitting quietly and listening to records – and being a hyper analytical musician
  • [18:34] Doing a lot of counting at Bongripper practice
  • [25:45] Roadburn is the best festival – and learning to appreciate tone
  • [36:35] Playing with tension and release to write Bongripper songs
  • [54:03] Subverting fans’ expectations and making yourself laugh during the creative process
  • [59:57] Vomit, back spasms, and torn wrist ligaments

Links and Resources Mentioned

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Michele Fumagalli (2018 CrossFit Games Individual Athlete)

Michele Fumagalli just missed the CrossFit Games in 2015, and decided that she would be back in 2016.

But, life got in the way, and she discovered she was pregnant leading into the 2016 Open.

When she didn’t qualify for Regionals in 2017 after getting back into training, she thought that her CrossFit dream was over.

However, she locked down a 4th place finish in one of the more competitive regionals out there securing her spot to the 2018 CrossFit Games as an individual athlete.

How was Michele able to qualify for the Games after having nearly given up on her dream – and having the additional responsibility of a family and a career as a registered dietitian?

Well, don’t look to me for answers, but you can check out this conversation to hear:

  • How to experience repeated set backs and remain resilient – and how to not give up on your own personal dreams when you become a mother
  • The emotional play by play of being on the cusp of qualifying for the CrossFit Games in a highly competitive Central Regiona
  • How to develop a positive relationship with food – and avoid toxic all or nothing thinking

Listen Here

Check out more from Michele and Fit Plate Nutrition

Michele doing a knee push-up in 2011

Michele showing off her flip throw skills as a professional soccer player.

Show Notes

  • [01:22] Getting your desk decorated like a high school teen’s locker
  • [03:40] Just missing qualifying for the CrossFit Games, having a child, and coming back
  • [10:54] How do you balance the aspirational self that thinks you can do anything with the more realistic, rational self that recognizes limitations and obstacles
  • [14:33] Giving up on the competitive fitness dream – and doubting yourself coming back into training
  • [21:54] When did you realize you had an actual chance at making the Games?
  • [28:03] Which Games athlete has the fewest Instagram followers? And your dreams aren’t over when you have kids.
  • [31:04] The drama of Event 6 – and being held in a “jail cell” for drug testing.
  • [41:03] Fueling and nutrition during Regionals
  • [47:30] Getting a nutrition coach as a registered dietitian and nutrition coach.
  • [52:14] Helping people understand their relationship with food
  • [55:47] Working with cancer patients on their nutrition
  • [01:04:16] Where to find out more about Michele

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Lindsey Love Jenks (Macrostax)

Lindsey Love Jenks used to coach over 100 individuals on their nutrition. But, she realized there was a much larger market for something in between the individualized nutrition coaching she was offering and impersonal, unadaptable templates.

Lindsey spent a summer training at South Loop Strength & Conditioning in 2016 and – since then – has built and grown Macrostax in an impressive fashion.

Macrostax offers customized macronutrient prescriptions, as well as a meal generator feature. But, I was mostly interested in learning how Lindsey handles the psychological foibles of the individuals who are using the app – and how she’s built and grown her company.

Check out this conversation to hear:

  • The common and damaging psychological traps that CrossFit athletes fall into with their nutrition
  • How to lead and manage a technical team as a non-technical founder
  • How to take user feedback and figure out what people really want – rather than what they say they want

Listen Here

Check out more from Lindsey and Macrostax

Show Notes

  • [01:22] Moving from a high touch, one-on-one coaching environment to a more scalable coaching solution
  • [06:24] Transitioning away from a more high touch coaching environment and maintaining consistency over time.
  • [14:36] Seeing a hole in the market – and trying to fill it with Macrostax
  • [18:54] Building an app and leading developers as a non-technical founder
  • [27:32] Collecting direct feedback from clients – and understanding how to prioritize it.
  • [32:33] Finding the appropriate trade-offs between specifics and flexibility in nutrition coaching.
  • [35:48] Starting in the CrossFit space – then expanding outside of it. What are the differences in marketing and positioning?
  • [47:58] What will the role of the coach be as machine learning improves?
  • [55:04] What are the main priorities and next steps for Macrostax?

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Debra Giunta (Design Dance)

I went to a party at Debra’s dance studio to celebrate that it was full of toxic mold and that it was shutting down.

That could have been the end of Design Dance, but – after getting fired from a call center that “a dog could work at” – Debra decided to start calling schools to see if they needed an after school dance instructor.

10 years later, Design Dance isn’t the studio she originally envisioned. Instead, they run after school programs teaching dance all throughout the Chicagoland area. And Debra runs a non-profit called Prismatic focused on teaching students entrepreneurship in the arts – because not all companies have to be started to create some sort of app.

Check out this conversation to hear:

  • How a mold-infested dance studio morphed into a company focused on dance education
  • How to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders in a business: school administration, students, contracted teachers, and parents
  • How to handle being talked down to and minimized as a female business owner

Listen Here

Check out more from Debra and Design Dance

Oh, and also here’s Debra’s TEDx talk, which is highly recommended as well:

Show Notes

  • [01:39] A physical studio with some problems
  • [07:37] Getting fired from a call center: “A dog could work here”
  • [13:13] The dream doesn’t have to be owning a dance studio…
  • [21:19] Developing enough technical proficiency in an art form to be creative.
  • [32:09] Transitioning into hiring people – and managing remote employees
  • [38:49] Running a business with three stakeholders: parents, students and schools – and protecting your culture
  • [49:07] Challenges of being a female business owner – “Go tell your boss…”
  • [01:02:15] Operating both a for-profit business and a non-profit – Why create two separate organizations?

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Mike Lee (OPEX)

Mike Lee is the Director of Coaching at OPEX – and he’s worked with some pretty big names in the competitive CrossFit community like Tennil Reed, Marcus Filly and Amanda Goodman.

I met Mike at one of the OPEX CCP Level 2 courses a few years back, and – since then – he’s gone on to take over the coaching of most of the competitive athletes in OPEX’s system.

This year, OPEX has also brought several sponsored athletes onsite to train at their HQ in Scottsdale, Arizona (which we discussed in this previous podcast with Megan Benzik and Austin O’Neal).

Mike and I get into the nitty gritty of:

  • How to manage egos, emotions and social dominance in groups of highly competitive athletes (Hint: it’s not all the hugs and high fives that you see on Instagram)
  • The difference between real coaching (allowing athletes to take responsibility for their own results) and play-acting as a coach (lots of emotion and screaming and overly detailed instructions)
  • The process and best practices for training the elite of the elite

Listen Here

Check out more from Mike and OPEX

Show Notes

  • [01:55] The emergence of dominance heirarchies in groups of competitive athletes
  • [07:55] How do you prevent competitive athletes from going too hard in training when they’re training together?
  • [14:22] Qualification in CrossFit is a zero-sum game – how do you communicate with your athletes surrounding that?
  • [21:57] People who are good in the sport of CrossFit are probably going to be good no matter what they do.
  • [24:49] How do you balance minimum effective dose with maximum tolerable dose in training for CrossFit Games competitors?
  • [21:57] How do you prevent being beaten regularly in training from becoming psychologically damaging for individuals?
  • [36:33] How coaches are actually supportive – and weird fake coaching” behavior”
  • [43:33] Being forcefully reprimanded by Charles Poliquin
  • [48:50] How do you continue to learn and evolve your prescriptions in a sport like CrossFit that is relatively young?
  • [54:33] How much sport specific training is necessary for success in the sport of CrossFit?
  • [01:02:47] What is the role of innate genetic potential in the development of a CrossFit athlete?
  • [01:12:55] How to find out more about OPEX.

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The Micro-Skills of Coaching

Any complicated, multi-layered skill is made up of potentially dozens of other “micro-skills” – and coaching is no different.

It’s not enough to have book knowledge of energy systems progressions.

It’s not enough to have an eagle eye for movement flaws and an over-flowing toolbox of ways to correct them.

Nor is it enough to be charismatic and engaging with clients.

The intersection of these skills – as well as plenty of others – are what defines a great coach.

In this solo effort, I break down some of the major elements of coaching, as well as the “table stakes” quality of each skill and some higher order manifestations as well.

Check out this soliloquy to learn:

  • How great coaches compare movement to an idealized version of a pattern in their head to figure out flaws
  • How coaches use higher order pattern recognition to help them in correcting movement flaws – and how the best coaches are able to quickly iterate their cuing to get what they want from an athlete
  • How to zoom in and zoom out when working with an athlete so you can find the lead domino that makes all the next steps easier
  • How to build trust so that your cues are taken seriously by a client – rather than getting eye rolls, argument, or non-compliance

Listen Here

Show Notes

  • [0:53] The many different skills required for great coaching
  • [3:53] Coaches must have the ability to see movement and recognize flaws
  • [11:45] Once a coach sees a problem, are they able to correct it?
  • [16:46] Seeing and correcting are table stakes – then we need to be able to prioritize
  • [29:26] How do you create the emotional buy-in and trust with clients to get them to invest in the process of improvement with you?
  • [40:12] Asking questions rather than being directive is one of the best tools for a coach’s communication toolbox

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Daniel Shea Interview

“Actually choosing to try to be an artist as a terrible idea. Nobody should do it.

It’s really fucking stupid. It’s like one of the stupidest things you could do with your life.

And it’s really hard. And you’re an idiot if you think it’s a good idea, or that it’s going to be easy.”

Well, I guess it’s kind of sad that my friend Daniel decided to ruin his life through art.

You’ve probably seen Daniel’s photographs, although you may not realize it. He’s done plenty of high profile journalistic and commercial work – most notably photographing Barack Obama for Fast Company.

And – although many people would kill to have the types of job offers that Daniel regularly gets, he turns most of them down to focus on his artistic practice.

Why does he choose to turn down lucrative photo shoots that will be seen by millions of people? To make a photography book that will only have 1000 copies printed, of course.

Check out this conversation to learn:

  • How to face the embarrassment and fear that comes when you create something – and how to put it out into the world anyway.
  • How Daniel chooses to balance commercial photography with his artistic practice – and what skills and frameworks are universal across the different modalities
  • How to justify “selling out” to your younger, punker self
  • How to balance the tension between having free, unstructured “creative time” with the demands to meet deadlines, respond to emails, and have a schedule

Listen Here

Check out more from Daniel and get a copy of 43-15 10th Street

Show Notes

  • [2:34] Embarrassment over being confronted with “the early work” and relics from the past due to having to clean out old stuff from your parents’ house
  • [8:55] Feeling awkward and hating your work – and putting it out into the world anyway
  • [16:39] So, what was the most embarrassing art from your past?
  • [20:17] What is the tension between having an artistic, a journalistic, and a commercial photography practice?
  • [26:03] How would you justify selling out” and “commercialism” to your younger self?
  • [43:34] Do you have any practices relative to improving your skill as an artist?
  • [49:07] How do you collect and curate images for a cohesive work – specifically relative to 43-35 10th street?
  • [01:02:06] The ineffectiveness of art as a medium for communicating a specific message
  • [01:11:54] The influence of punk and DIY principles on later entrepreneurship and creative behavior – and disastrous early touring experiences
  • [01:17:42] The tension between being creative – and actually having to follow-up with people, meet deadlines, and have to-do lists

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