Megan Benzik Opens Up about PEDs

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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The Perils of Infinite Scrolling

This was originally sent to my newsletter list. Most of my writing never makes it to the blog – so subscribe at the bottom if you want more of this type of thing.

As someone who has been a chronic disparager of social media and its impact on our lives – it’s tough for me to admit that I’ve been thinking a lot more recently about how to utilize Instagram and Facebook appropriately for my fitness businesses.

For South Loop Strength & Conditioning – as a brick and mortar gym – our website and the customer experience of our members are far more important than our social media presence. And – in the past when we’ve experimented with attempting to drive more leads and business through our social presence and through advertising – we’ve found the long-term retention of those members to be severely lacking.

For Legion, however – as an online coaching company – Instagram seems to be a legitimately viable driver of consistent business. This is a difficult pill for me to swallow, since I find the way that most people in the CrossFit community relate to social media to be toxic and counter-productive.

This seems to be a pretty solid case of “If you can’t beat them, join them,” though.

The challenge is that the posts that generate the most engagement are often not the posts that are what I consider to be the most “valuable.” Our most engaged with post to date is of our strong young man Mark Stenberg squatting a personal record of 550.

When you’re @mark_stenberg85 squatting 550lbs doesn’t look too tough. Re racking the bar is a different story – Mark just completed a testing week as he joins The Legion in search of becoming a better athlete 🏋️‍♂️🏊‍♂️🤸‍♂️🏃‍♂️ – In 2012 Mark was one victory away from representing USA wrestling 🤼‍♂️ at the Olympics. In the last year he’s turned his attention to @crossfit and competed in his first @crossfitgames open this year which saw him finish top 10 in the world on 18.2a, cleaning 386lbs – Now he’s set his sights to improving the rest of the skills needed to get to the top level of CrossFit – Interested in learning more about individualized programs? Click on the link in our bio and send us a message to learn more! #CrossFit #legionsc #legionathlete #squat

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Sure, this post is cool – but i don’t think it really teaches anyone anything. And, it honestly just probably makes a lot of people feel bad and stress about their squat numbers relative to Mark.

We do have plenty of other posts about movement, motor control and program design, though that I think are legitimately helpful. Problem is – those posts struggle to flip the algorithm switches that drive engagement.

So, figure I’d share one of those here since I think it will actually help a bunch of folks reading this who struggle with catching ring muscle-ups.


Now this is a post that I actually think makes the world a better place.

There’s a bunch of people wasting their time doing silly ring muscle-up drills and doing progressions to improve their upper body pulling strength to get better at ring muscle-ups – but they don’t have the control over shoulder extension (the ability to bring the arm behind the body) that they’d need to actually perform the movement effectively.

This pisses me off – since there’s a lot of people working really, really hard, but they’re wasting their time focusing on the wrong thing.

Check out this quick assessment of shoulder extension to see what might be limiting your ability to get through that transition point on top of the rings.

When athletes struggle with the catch position in the ring muscle-up, it can often be related to limitations in shoulder extension (which actually refers to the ability to reach your arm behind you – not overhead) – In this video, @lperson5 shows us what it looks like to struggle with shoulder extension – There can be all kinds of reasons for this limitation. In Lauren's case, she has a painful shoulder and pain can create motor control issues. Best option here is to find a qualified therapist for treatment – For other folks who struggle on the catch in ring muscle-ups – check out this test to see if you have adequate range in shoulder extension. If not, you may get much better results from focusing on improving the mobilty or stability of the shoulder joint in extension than you will from attempting to increase your upper body pushing and pulling strength – #CrossFit #legionsc #legionathlete #muscleups #shoulders

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Speaking of social media…

In Borges’s 1976 short story “The Book of Sand,” a series of unfortunate individuals are tormented by a demonic, infinite book – in which – no matter how you open it or flip through it – you never see the same page twice.

This is deeply and darkly relevant in 2018, when we all have our own infinite books riding along in our back pockets.

Here’s an audio version of the story from The New Yorker’s monthly fiction podcast.

Independent of the privacy and data-mining concerns that Facebook has run afoul of recently, I think the bigger issue is the way that these social networks prey on our attention and upregulate the most negative status anxiety pathways in our primate brains.

But, I also think it’s important to recognize the human beings that make these social networks are often good-intentioned humans responding to incentives and trying to figure things out in a messy world.

This recent interview with Mark Zuckerberg from Freakonomics shows the level of thought and concern that companies like Facebook have for how their product is impacting the world – and hopefully we can see some changes in the coming years (if not months) with how these social networks interface with our data and with our more base human instincts.

Bruce Dickinson – Tattooed Millionaire

Sometimes it’s a good idea to dig into the questionable material from some of your favorite artists. Most bands that have been around for decades have all kinds of material outside of their classic or canonical work – and some of it can be surprisingly great. But that’s not always the case…

Bruce Dickinson’s first solo album was released while he was still in Iron Maiden. The reality is that most of this material is not very good – and many of the songs are obviously derivative of other hard rock styles. “Ok, let’s write a song that sounds like Aerosmith.” “Ok, let’s write a song that sounds like John Mellencamp.”

And – of course – “Hey, let’s write a song that sounds like Def Leppard.”

The title track off of Tattooed Millionaire is a pretty blatant copy of “Photograph” in both riffing and structure – and this is a good thing.

I know, I know. I probably haven’t done much to sell this song – but please check it out.

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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