76. Keith Wittenstein | Work F*cking Harder

76. Keith Wittenstein | Work F*cking Harder

In this episode, Jason Ackerman sits down with long-time friend Keith Wittenstein put your probably know him better as “Coach Panda! And if you’ve ever wondered why he’s called that? Look no farther they get into that.  

Keith is a real OG, it feels like he’s been in the sport since the beginning of time. But before the CrossFit, Keith taught vinyasa yoga for many years throughout New York City. Keith has a way of infusing humour into his detailed and intelligent teaching of anatomy and mobility techniques. Keith have pretty much every base of fitness cover from a Yoga Tune Up® teacher committed to having people move better and live pain-free lives; to He is a CrossFit® Level 4 Coach and a being veteran member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff. He leads CrossFit Specialty Seminars on Kettlebells, Gymnastics and Olympic Weightlifting.

Jason and Keith drive deep into some really interesting issue with the Crossfit space.

He opened not only opened and part-owned Crossfit NYC but also Crossfit Virtuosity both in New York State.

Time Stamp:

  • The nickname (6:47)
  • Have you burnt out from caring too much? (8:40)
  • Old School level 1 (11:45)
  • What make you a good coach? (24:34)
  • The biggest mistake coach are making? (36:02)
  • Achievable step for coaching to take moving forward (39:51)
  • Advice for box owner (44:18)


Recommend book:

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

Social media:

Instagram @coachpanada

Website:

http://www.forcedistancetime.com/

We value your feedback. After listening, please hit me up with any questions, comments, or thoughts on how we can make this show even better, and if you enjoyed it, please share it!

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Check out our website – besthouroftheirday.com – to learn more about our private coaches development group.

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Jason Ackerman:
All right. Best hour of their day is back with another fantastic interview, my friend, your friend, Keith Panda Wittenstein. We're going to talk all about where that nickname Panda came from. Keith is an O.G., an absolute legend when it comes to Crossfit,. He's been involved in the coaching of Crossfit, since way back when. I mean, some say he was coach Glassman second in command. Just kidding. He wasn't that O.G., but he's been around a very long time. Opening one of the very first boxes, if not the first box in New York City, the Black Box before moving out to the suburbs, if you will, and opening Crossfit, Virtuosity like me. He has been a part of multiple affiliates and sold multiple affiliates. And for those of you that don't know Keith, we're going to talk all about his past lives.

Jason Ackerman:
We have the same alma mater university at Albany. But Keith became an attorney. He's been in rock bands. He's been involved in yoga. He's been involved in just about every specialty seminar at Crossfit, offers and so much more. It's no wonder that Keith is highly regarded as one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to Crossfit,. And I'm proud to call him one of my closest friends. I love this dude. And it's always a pleasure chatting with him. So we hope you enjoyed this episode of Best Hour of Their Day. If you're enjoying best hour of the day, I'm begging you. I'm literally on my knees as I'm recording this. We need three more reviews on Itunes to hit One hundred and. Look, you have an opportunity to make a little man. That's me. Happy. All you got to do is open up your app. It's probably open because you're listening to this episode and click on review. Click on that five star button. Write something nice about us and make this a little man happy. That's all we're asking. If we had over one hundred by the end of this week and I'm going to be so stoked and I owe it to all of you, our fans. So please do that. Also, if you're still thinking about WOD on the Waves? Check them out. You can still book your room and use the code. "Best hour". That's all caps. One word, best hour. And get some really cool stuff from Fern and myself when we're on the boat. We've already had quite a few people use the code and we're really excited to spend time with them. The list of names coming on that boat is incredible. Couple of weeks ago we had an episode with Austin Malleolo,. We talked all about it. So if you want to work out with some amazing athletes, the Rich Froning the Patrick Vellner, the Austin's Connor's Spencer's Hobart's. Look no further than WOD ON THE WAVES if you want to hang out with just some cool people enjoying an adult beverage while hitting a 10K row.

Jason Ackerman:
This is the boat for you. It's got some great stops. We're gonna help coaches develop while around the bowl. There's gonna be nutrition lectures from us and my wife, Roz and Own Your Eating and some other great stuff. I highly, highly recommend it. You can check out all of our archives and Itunes our new website. Best hour of their day.com is just about done. And we're so excited to show you guys that we're gonna have some great content on there regularly. Not just the podcasts, but articles about coaching. We've got some videos coming out, including full one hour classes of us coaching Crossfit, and so much more. We appreciate your patience as we've been growing. This is a passion project for both Fern and myself and it's escalated quickly, as Ron Burgundy would say. So we appreciate your patience. We appreciate all the feedback and the kind words and we appreciate the criticism. So anything you got for us? Feel free to hit us up on Instagram at best hour of their day and you can only shoot us an email. Best hour of their day@Gmail.com. All right. I've rambled enough.

Jason Ackerman:
It's Friday and you got shit to do. But listen to my man, my friend Keith. Coach Panda Wittenstein right here. I'm best hour of their day.

Jason Ackerman:
Panda is here with us. Keith Wittenstein, welcome.

Keith Wittenstein:
Thanks.

Jason Ackerman:
So Keith goes back and forth. You either have very long hair or no hair.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right. And an all or nothing.

Jason Ackerman:
All or nothing. Right now you're dealing with nothing.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right.

Jason Ackerman:
Which does your wife prefer?

Keith Wittenstein:
I think she mostly likes the short haired version better.

Jason Ackerman:
Really?

Keith Wittenstein:
Interestingly, mostly, I mean, she definitely likes to be clean shaven as opposed to scruffy.

Jason Ackerman:
You rarely get scruffy, though.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, a little bit, but too bad. It's like it's it's like it's like seasonal. Like usually in the cold weather, I put on like 20 pounds and a lot of hair. Then in the summer, I shave everything and lose like 20 pounds.

Jason Ackerman:
Ya I would agree that. You know, I think it gets overlooked in value. Is your age. Yeah, you are you 50 now?

Keith Wittenstein:
No. Forty eight. Almost forty nine.

Jason Ackerman:
You mean you're again up there?

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. Yeah.

Jason Ackerman:
Well I was just talking with Becky Ha as she's forty five and the three of I on staff and and really I think the age of seminar staff has gone up a little bit. It's a more mature staff.

Keith Wittenstein:
I think so. I think so. There's a lot of veterans and the new people, there's some new, fresh young blood on staff right now. But I think some of the people they're bringing on staff too, are still like in their mid to late thirties. I think to that a couple of more seasoned people, they're bringing on staff.

Jason Ackerman:
Well. Well, if you think about it, though, you have to be a really good coach to be on staff. It's not gonna happen at 21 or 22 years old.

Keith Wittenstein:
There's a few exceptions to that. There's a couple of young bucks on staff or surprisingly, surprisingly good at a young age.

Jason Ackerman:
But like who, for example, the specifics.

Keith Wittenstein:
Well, I mean, Joey Dill in his prime was a classic example.

Jason Ackerman:
Joey, Joey Dill in his prime. He is young,.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. He's almost no longer on Staff. He's barely on staff right now.

Jason Ackerman:
He just doesn't work as much. He's busy, but he's also probably he's almost 30.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, okay. But yeah, you know, when he was out. Yeah.

Jason Ackerman:
So. So with that being said, let's let's talk about your career. First of all, people refer to you as panda. A lot of people don't know the origins of that. What is the origin of Coach Panda?

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. So surprisingly, the origin of Coach Panda is that that's something I'm proud to share on the podcast about being a great coach, because it mostly comes from my occasional fits of rage at the gym when I would just get frustrated and like throw like a plate or a barbell or something across the room and they would refer to it as panda rage. And then they post these videos of various pandas smashing stuff on my Facebook. And after after an incident, I'd say.

Jason Ackerman:
Your nickname has more to do with your how shall we say, raging as a coach versus virtuosity as a coach.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Jason Ackerman:
Well, let's talk about that for a second. You've been involved in the Crossfit, space since, man, you took the old school level one. That was three days back in Santa Cruz, California. A lot of people don't know about you. You also you don't know what the term is now because you were an attorney. I suppose you're still an attorney, right?

Keith Wittenstein:
Right, I'm no longer no longer barred, but I'm still an attorney. I guess.

Jason Ackerman:
You weren't disbarred? Based on these panda rages. Where are you?

Keith Wittenstein:
No, no, definitely not.

Jason Ackerman:
You just haven't kept your accreditation up to date, I suppose.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, exactly. I just haven't yet paid my dues or done my ccu's or any of that stuff. So I just let that lapse.

Jason Ackerman:
Own your eating certificate course is good for Crossfit ccu but not as good for attorney seems.

Keith Wittenstein:
That's too bad. But I wish there was cross over,.

Jason Ackerman:
But I mean, you've been doing this for a long time and we know you're joking about your raging, but can you remember a period of time where you were burned out as a coach?

Keith Wittenstein:
Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, you you open a gym and you get there first thing in the morning. You teach classes all day, you know. You know, you spend like it just seems like like how many times I have to tell people to arch their backs and stay on their heels and and squat lower and do all that stuff. And suddenly you're just like overwhelmed with like day in and day out of the same old, same old. And it gets a little gets a little frustrating.

Jason Ackerman:
Fern And I recently discussed it. Well, what were some of the things you were able to do to snap out of that?

Keith Wittenstein:
Besides throwing fits?

Jason Ackerman:
And besides throwing equipment at your members,.

Keith Wittenstein:
Besides drinking heavily? beside that? HAHA.

Jason Ackerman:
Maybe that was the key. Maybe we missed that.

Keith Wittenstein:
I mean, I think I mean, I think that's actually a part of it. I mean, we had a very tense gym environment and it comes out of a place where I really care and I really want the best for my members. And sometimes, you know, my ability to show that was lacking. My my emotional ability to miss lack or lack lagged behind. My coaching ability was like, I know what I want and I don't know how to express that and I can't get you there. And it frustrates me and it frustrates my athletes and then culminates in me throwing a hissy fit. And then then it's like we hug it out. We all go out and drink and have a good time and, you know, you know, put that behind us and we start over again and try to figure out how we can get everyone better and happier.

Jason Ackerman:
I've been there as a box owner. I mean, I remember one time yelling at my members to leave and go join a different gym. And number one thing you said that I don't think really Ferm and I touched upon is it does come from that caring. In other words, you wouldn't burn out if you didn't care. You care so much that it's more you get frustrated,.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right Yeah.

Keith Wittenstein:
My frustration with, you know. Yeah. It just comes out of the the fact that I I really care. I really want the best for you and I want to be the best. And there's obviously a gap between where I am and what I'm able to do and where you are and where I'm able to get you to. And if I didn't want to bridge that gap so badly and so instantly, like right now, like, I want to take you to the next level, like and my shortcomings, coupled with your shortcomings, are just creating a huge tension. I think it comes from that. I think that's where the frustration and everything comes from. If I didn't give a crap like it would be easy,.

Jason Ackerman:
Be easy to come in and go through the motions.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, it is. Tell you how awesome you are. Everybody is great.

Jason Ackerman:
Ya be that cheerleader.

Keith Wittenstein:
A cheerleader.

Jason Ackerman:
I don't think we've had a you know, I'm sure we have had people on that have been to that original level one. We talked to Kelly Starrett and recently Coach Burgener. They were all part of that original one, but I'm not really asked them about it. Tell the listeners what the old school level one was like back in 2004, 2005.

Keith Wittenstein:
Actually, I took one of the last three day ones and it was 2006. But I mean, it was it was Coach Glassman. You know, you show up at the Santa Cruz box on day one. It's a Friday now instead of a Saturday. And there's a who's who of like sort of Internet celebrities from back in the day, like back before. Now, it's weird because, I mean, the social media is much more hyped and so much more connected and close to all these like Crossfitters via social media. And when you see somebody like James Hobart at a Level 1 now it's you feel like you know them a little bit better. But back then, it was only like little snippets of like workouts that you'd see Greg Almenst and do little pictures of some of these people on the on the Crossfit, Journal. And just like you'd see handfuls of. Like just very limited access to these people, and I would like chat with some of them on the message boards. So when I got to Santa Cruz, I remember there was a old school trainer at Crossfit,, Santa Cruz named Lonnie Lonnie Lough. And she was a demo girl back in the original days of like Andy and Nicole. And Lonnie was one of the demo girls back then. And we had like connected on the message boards. And I think she'd been out to New York, wants to train with us in Central Park. So when I went out to California, she was like, oh, she met me Friday morning. She took me to the Silver Spur Diner, which is where everybody [ate].

Jason Ackerman:
That place is the Best.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. She took me there before. Before the seminar to like grab some breakfast and coffee. And she's like, oh, that's Mike Rutherford. He's the dumbbell guy over there. Coach Burgener, sit down over there. And that table was like Mark Ripit. It's all like all the trainers. I'd gotten in there early to, like, get breakfast. And so she was just popping around, you know, introduce me from table to table. And it was it was wild, you know, and then grab some coffee and breakfast and went over to the Santa Cruz, the original box. And it was like I'd seen all these videos and pictures of that place. And it's the first time I'd ever been in a room with that many other Crossfitters back in the day it was me and like maybe ten people that we would all work out in Central Park together. And it was 10 people all at the same time. It was like one weekend you'd get like five people and another week and you get five different people. But there was about 10 of us doing Crossfit, in New York City at that time. So no real, really wild.

Jason Ackerman:
How did you even get involved in it back in 2006? And what was the catalyst to get you in actually and purchase a plane ticket, spend a thousand dollars and go take it because it wasn't like it is today. Where is Crossfit On every corner. I mean, you went on, open Crossfit, virtuosity, which was one of the first boxes in the five boroughs.

Keith Wittenstein:
Well, Crossfit, NYC was the first one we opened.

Jason Ackerman:
That's right, yeah.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. So Crossfit,. So here's the deal. I was a Jiu-jitsu guy since 1997. right after law school. I basically went right into jujitsu and then I'm ..

Jason Ackerman:
gonna keep on learning.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, exactly. Well I'd like. I was there is that here's the progression in law school getting way out of shape because all you do is study and drink. So was working out a little bit at the gym. My buddies were like, you know it's taking me to the school gym and teaching me about like, you know, back in my chest and tris and eating protein. I'm like, all right. So this is how you workout.

Jason Ackerman:
So that was really your first exposure to working out. You didn't do any of that. Is as a kid ?

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. Not really. Not really. I barely did any gym time as a kid.

Jason Ackerman:
That's pretty.

Keith Wittenstein:
Not even high school … college. Even I didn't. I don't think I was a good musician in college. I never made it into a gym.

Jason Ackerman:
And people don't know that about you, that you work, you know, pretty good local musician in the upstate New York area. That's interesting to know that someone doesn't start training, doesn't start exercising seriously. I would say to, you know, 22, 23 and law school.

Keith Wittenstein:
I wish I was older than that. I was I was like, yeah. Twenty five. Twenty six. Towards the end to law school graduate. When I was twenty seven point six or twenty seven.

Jason Ackerman:
But To then become one of the best coaches in the world. That's pretty cool.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. So from there I was I was working out in the gym and I was getting bored and I was thinking maybe I should do some like martial arts or something, that would be kind of cool. Then my buddy took me into a store video back when that video stores. Right. Like blockbuster stuff. He pulled out a video of like UFC. He's like, you got to check this guy out. And so I watch like the first or second UFC with Willy grace. And then I was like, oh, shit. So like, I rented it all like the first like three or four UFC with Grace and I watched the alls like, you know, this guy's crazy. And I found a video of Hendel. Gracie, his cousin. I was like, this guy's insane. And then I was like, I'm going to do this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu shit. And then like, there was one place in Boston when I was in Boston. But it was like far away. And I was towards the end of law school. And I was all I was thinking about was like studying and finals. And I wasn't thinking about like starting that right then. But I looked on like a black belt magazine. There was an ad for Hendel. Gracie Academy in New York and I was like, when I go back to the city, I'm going gonna go right there. And that's exactly what I did. And so so as I move back to New York, took the bar exam, and then after the bar exam was like, all right, I'm going to start doing this jujitsu thing. And I went right down, made a beeline to Hendel. Academy. I started training there and then was into that and just was getting my butt wipe like on the mats, like constantly. And I was like realizing like I probably need to get in better shape. And that's what this guy, B.J. Penn, came out and got his black belt in like four years went one UFC 1. The world's at like black belt like. And then when the UFC, they held up like a Crossfit, shirt at one point after winning one of his fights. And I was like, what is that? And so I went down the rabbit hole and this is like two thousand, three, four somewhere around there. I would just like went down deep into the rabbit hole of like Crossfit, and I was reading the website, had no idea what any of these exercises was. I didn't know what a kettlebell was. I didn't know what a clean, a jerk a snatch was, any of this stuff like this. But I was reading Coach Glassman words. I was like downloading these journal articles and PDf.

Keith Wittenstein:
I was like, this guy is talking about fitness like nothing I've ever read. And Muslim Fitness magazine. I was like, this guy's really smart. I was like, whatever he say. And I was like, I want to do that. And then, of course, I would go and try to work out like this is fucking hard.

Jason Ackerman:
Do you remember you first workout?

Keith Wittenstein:
No, but I remember like I remember being a crunch one day trying to do Angie, hundred pull ups, hundred push ups, sit ups, squats, and like they only had like the one neural bar between the cable crossover machine. And I'm on that thing trying to kip light through one hundred pull ups and it's taking me forever. And I like turning my hands. I like throwing a towel over the bar and like and periodically a trainer would come by. You like that? that not how you do a pull up. And then like, you know that I would do like the pushups and sit ups and I'm doing squats. And then periodically a trainer would come over to me and say, you know, you should squat that low. It's gonna hurt your knees. So I would just. There are some memories getting like a lot of grief from a lot of trainers at various sports clubs in New York during various workouts.

Keith Wittenstein:
That's that's more of what I remember than like which was my first one, you know,.

Jason Ackerman:
So, you go to Santa Cruz. You take this three day course. You're surrounded by these web celebrities.

Keith Wittenstein:
Well, before that, like where I'm like doing Crossfit, more or less like partially on my own, finding other people in New York who want to do it. I end up getting a little group of people together. And then one of those people is Josh Newman. And Josh is like. You know, I'm like, this is back in the day when I could actually get coach Glassman like on the phone and get him my email and would reach out to him periodically and be like, hey, where are you guys ever coming to New York? And it's like you don't understand. You guys are creating the New York scene right now. You guys are gonna start the general. We're like, what? No. Just started. I don't want to open a gym. I just want to do Crossfit, workouts. Come here and open a gym and train. And he's like, no you don't understand? And so you finally, like Josh, like affiliated as you put up a blog and is like I affiliated. So I just paid the 500 bucks. And we're an affiliate now like we are. I'm like, what's a blog? I'm like, he's like, here, here's the password. Just write up the workout that we did in the park. I'm like, OK. So I simply started blogging and putting up workouts and putting up pictures of us working out in the park. And then and then lo and behold, it was like just sort of getting thrown out of different gyms that we were working out. And and finally it dawned on us like, you know, we should like offer like a regular [class]. We will find a place that would actually let us work out regularly, like a couple of days a week. Like on the weekends. And so I was like, well, now that we're here every weekend and they're not throwing us out, let's start a class and see if we can get people to like buy us and come in regularly because it was just sort of like, you know, show up if you want. But now at least we can make a plan. And so we sort of started. You sold like a six week package or something like a Crossfit,. And all these people showed up, I guess, like we have a gym now. It's like, well, I guess I should go do my level one and we should start looking for a space.

Jason Ackerman:
Meanwhile, you are still like, I'm going to be an attorney.

Keith Wittenstein:
I was doing some legal work at the time during the week, and I was done. I think I've done I've done my yoga teacher training at that point. I think I had done my yoga teacher training at that point was teaching yoga a little bit, too.

Jason Ackerman:
Speaking of that, you, in my opinion, are probably the most diverse coach I know. I mean, you're kind of an expert in all fields. You are very, very good at jiu-jitsu. You teach that regularly. You have your yoga. You were at one point a part of that kettlebell staff part of gymnastic staff. You and I go back to Coach Rip and the Barbell staff. So what was it about you that allowed you to just learn so much and a desire to learn so much?

Keith Wittenstein:
I don't know where the desire came from, but…

Jason Ackerman:
Because you're not a very motivated person, in general.

Keith Wittenstein:
That not very nice, But I think there's a cliché that like, you know, the best athletes make the worst coaches and vice versa. You know, there's some saying to that effect that I was never an athlete, but I was always like, curious when I when I started one of these, you know, went down these roads, I I've learned as much as I can about it. I think that's generally sort of my my my M.O. is that, you know, you know, yeah, I'm not very motivated person until I find something. And then I'm kind of really deep into it, just like, you know, law school. I was never grew up thinking about being a lawyer. And then I went to law school and I was just like, I'm all in. And I was just like nerdy law guy for a few years. And then, you know, then started getting into yoga. And then I was like, yeah, you'll just kind of fun. And then all of a sudden I was like, I'm going to do a teacher training. And then I became the nerdy is like yoga guy that you could find. And then it was kind of same with, you know, what I found Crossfit,. I was like, yeah, this stuff was kind of fun and I kind of got really into it. And then I just would like, you know, read every journal article and read every thing I can. This is also back in the day when there wasn't access to a lot of stuff like there is now. So you really had to figure it out. Like I can do. But I what?

I was going To say you are. I mean, I was joking earlier. I mean, you do a lot of things in your life to the extreme. Well, I mean, you know, you went to law school. That's an achievement in and of itself. You're a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, probably not far off from attaining your black value are part of the seminar crew. You're a very good husband and father to you. And, you know, you two kids, you you know, you were in a band. You've done. Point is, Keith Wittenstein's a pretty smart dude.

Keith Wittenstein:
Thanks.

Jason Ackerman:
Now, you know, is was that part of what made you said you ultimately such a good coach? Just do you think it was a desire to learn more? Do you think it was your ability to connect with people? You think it was the fact because I agree with you Rip use to say this and i say it about myself. The worst athletes make the best coaches was the struggle? What about it?

Keith Wittenstein:
I think like I partially have not only a passion to learn, but like as soon as I figure something out, I'm like, Oh, this is cool. Let me show it to you. Right. Like anything I've ever learned, I've always wanted to turn around and teach it to somebody else. This is this is sort of a weird thing that's, you know, followed me at least through like the last half of my life, the last twenty five years, almost. It's like, you know, I went to law school and I'd figure out something and then I'd sit around and like to study group and like, guys, check out, you know what I'd explain this whole legal theory to people and to be like, oh, you know, and I, you know, figure out some crazy yoga stuff. And I'd start teaching my classes and figure out like, you know, this entry into, you know, leg, locks. I got to show everybody this thing. I just figured this out and lets you know how it kind of operated. So I just had this passion for, like, you know, sharing whatever I figure out, because I think that was cool. Somebody else would probably think this was cool to just go from there.

Jason Ackerman:
But that's a unique thing because not everyone I'm in agreement with you. I think part of that is we enjoy helping other people. But some people learn something new and not that they're being selfish, but they don't have that immediate desire to go and teach someone else, since it's a really big in the jiu-jitsu world. Right. I have learned a new entry, you know, the honey hole. I can't wait to show my crew.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, exactly.

Jason Ackerman:
So tell us. Some people don't remember Mark Rip.

Jason Ackerman:
Some might think it was a crazy Texan, someone that you and I would call our friend. He was the barbell guy till about two thousand nine ish in the Crossfit, world. And whatever happened, he's no longer involved. But do you have a favorite rip story? You and I traveled quite a bit with him for about a year.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, I was yeah, I was with rip for about a year, year and a half, traveling, doing the seminars. He is one of the most Awesome, smart, funny people, but also the most opinionated and stubborn person. And if his agreement is counter to your his opinion is counter to your opinion, you're in for a rough ride. And that's where I think him and Crossfit, parted ways, is that he was unwilling to budge on a lot of his opinions. But man, when you know you know, you wrote a great book on the basic lifts and he's a great coach for teaching the basic lifts. But he's also a diehard Texan and he's constantly griping about not being able to get his knives through the TSA. And, you know, every seminar was an undertaking in like, you know, great coaching, you know, getting people to lift heavy and also drinking a lot of bourbon and having a good time. So it was it was a fun experience working with him for that year and a half.

Jason Ackerman:
Yeah, that was the year I learned all about steak and bourbon. Yeah, exactly. You would go a weekend with rip and it was the most unhealthy weekend you could have. You mean.

Keith Wittenstein:
Naaa not the most unhealthy ,.

Jason Ackerman:
Lack of sleep; there wasn't enough sleep happening because he would keep us up late and get up.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right .

Jason Ackerman:
So early

Keith Wittenstein:
, part of that part of your gear for the weekend had to include a small flask with some sort of brown liquor. And it was a it was a heart, a firm requirement of working with Rick Patel.

Jason Ackerman:
Speaking of guys who were working in DC one time, and I think we were all coming home on Monday and we had a later flight. And he wants to go to one of the museums like one of the Smithsonian. So we go there. Metal detector beeping like crazy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Unloaded like knives 8 out of his pockets. And they were like, you can't come in with these. He was like, well, I'm not. Leave him. And I was like, I'll take him back to the hotel and just head to the airport. And it was one of those situations. Now, with all of your expertise in different realms of fitness, where would you say you're your superpower is what's here? What's your best? Coaching. Well, what do you coach the best?

Keith Wittenstein:
I feel like I'm. You know, I feel like I'm really good at teaching the squat. And I'm really good at sort of fixing really crappy squats. Right. And, you know, I think that's I think I have, you know. A gift for that. Maybe.

Jason Ackerman:
When you say that like the air squat at a level one, what are you talking them? You know, a member is back squatting and you can help them improve their low bar back squat.

Keith Wittenstein:
I would say all of the above, like, you know, the squat is something I've just spent loads and loads and loads of time working on myself and other people. And I feel like I mean, the hardest part of that maybe is that some people are unwilling to change the way they squat.

Jason Ackerman:
Yeah, but there's more of that happening.

Keith Wittenstein:
But like in terms of like, you know, it's one of those things where a lot of people are into right now, it's really popular, like all these assessments and stuff like that with like various people doing various assessments and like pt stuff and and then being able to diagnose whether or not people can or should squat.

Keith Wittenstein:
And I think that's. You know, there's a place for that, but, you know, I find like the squat in itself and people I think even you had Sean on here a couple of weeks ago, I was talking about how the squat is not an assessment. And I just violently disagree with that. It's like, you know, how to watch a squat. Right. And watch what the person does and what they were they compensate. You can see it's tone of stuff in there.

Jason Ackerman:
That was kind of what he said, where the fms screening for coach Glassman. And it's like those things are useless. Watch someone squat. And I agree with you. I think od course you and I both pretty biased towards Crossfit,. Right. And I agree with Coach Glassman is saying and I can I can assess you based on how you move through these nine foundational movements and you can't do these. I don't really need to see much more. Let's get things better.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. I mean, there's there's certainly a place for other assessments and stuff and there's certainly stuff that's less visible or maybe even invisible when you're you're squatting and especially when you're good at compensating for various things. But ultimately, ya know one is a correlate of the other. A lot of these assessment tools are just correlates of good movement and not actually good movement. And, you know, I think we as level one seminar trainers spend a lot of time not working with correlates, but actually working with the real movements and trying to get those better. And I think that's where the majority of sort of the average trainers time should be spent is working on just getting people to do those movements better and not diving deeper into other assessments that kind of lead them further away from good movement, potentially.

Jason Ackerman:
What do you think about your ….?

Keith Wittenstein:
I'm just going tell you a story I'm telling.

Jason Ackerman:
Oh no go on And tell it go ahead.

Keith Wittenstein:
Because I know I was sitting there and I was watching a little workshop of, you know, a fairly good PTs go though a seminar to a bunch of trainers at a gym. And it was good stuff. It's like, well, here's how to screen, like, you know, ankle dorsal fletcher, you do a little, you know, knee bend test, you know, when you sort of see how far they can get the knee, pass the toes, you know, you can do it to a post on the thing. And here's how you do this screen here for this, you know, range of motion and that range of motion. And I was like. That's all good. But like I work through these same trainers and I'm like most of them can't see, you know, if someone squatting below parallel in their knees are tracking their toes, and their heels are down. And I was like, which one is the more important thing on their day to day thing to get people's heels down These tracking the toes and a full range of motion or now doing another assessment for dorsal flexion and something else. I'm sure they can't see any difference in the two and the two tests like the before and after right. Like if they can't see a heels down in a squat that they look at, you know, a thousand squats a day, they're not going to be able to do this test of yours. And with any greater clarity or specificity, why are we, you know, are we wasting our time?

Jason Ackerman:
That's a really good point. And I think in the time, especially since you got involved since I got involved a year later as well, all of a sudden it went from like, hey, let's work hard to. All this mobility talk for a short period of time. And do you think it just got carried away? I mean, at most level ones and twos, ultimately you and I will pull somebody into the center. We'll be fixing. One of the participants will raise their hand and say, look, you know, shouldn't they just mobilize?

Keith Wittenstein:
Yes.

Jason Ackerman:
So to talk to the listeners about that, as someone who is very well versed in this, how do you address that? How do you address the members that think that? And how do you address the coaches that put that emphasis on that versus just like, hey, let's get you moving Better.

Keith Wittenstein:
Right. Yeah, it's it's I think it's like we wanted in an effort to sort of. You know. I mean, be more thorough. And there's ya know there's certainly a place for all the mobility and stuff and I love that stuff. But in an effort to be sort of more thorough and try to clean up a bunch of stuff. Ultimately, what we what most people dropped the ball and doing is putting it back. Into, you know, we would take all the pieces out and want to look at all the pieces, but we never put them back together and rebuild the thing. It's what we want. Right. So now we dissected like the shoulder external rotation and now, you know, dissected, you know, the hip, you know, flexion and external rotation. But we haven't put it back together into the movement where we wanted it in the first place. So most people don't have the time or the wherewithal to do all that extra stuff. They should spend what time they have just making, you know, working in that squat and working into these positions, working on that front rack. And then, you know, if there's any room for improvement that can't be done with, you know, elbow grease and the time under tension. Yeah, we could take it out and look at it in terms of some other mobility stuff. But more often than not, people sort of get pulled out into mobility land and don't go back into fixing movement.

Jason Ackerman:
Yeah. I mean, I tell, you know, the front racks a great example every week into level one in front racks conflict, pvc and people what drill should I do. Here's the drill you should do. Get in his front rack more often. Yeah, get better at this movement pattern, and that's how you get better when having coached dozens, if not hundreds of level two seminars. What would you say is the biggest mistake you see from Crossfit, coaches? I say level two is because typically those are coaches that are coming back in six months to five years after taking that level one. We watch them coach. We give them feedback. What do you see as the biggest flaws?

Keith Wittenstein:
I think most of it is sort of. maybe I don't know if I've heard anybody say this on this podcast yet, but it's I think it's a. Not really caring enough. About getting people to move better. I don't know, we want people to move better, but there's a breakdown between how we get there and also there's also a tendency for people to settle for like Meh. Right. I always say we're not forging Meh. we're for forging elite. But we're not. And you've got to have your standards a lot higher. Right. When you go into teaching situation, I look at how you start moving and then after you spent five, 10 minutes with me, and you have to be moving better. My job is to make sure you're moving better. It's not based on my egos. But this is what you're paying me for. This is what you intrinsically want is to get better coaching. So you move better. And most people sort of just feel it's their duty. Well, I just have to explain deadlifts to you for five minutes and that maybe should help. And that absolutely has no bearing on people's movement. All right. We have to get in there and actually get them to do reps. And each rep, we have to chisel away like like we're carving a statue and make it better and better and better. Rep after rep after rep until, you know, 20, 30 reps later. I've chiseled away all the crap that was in your deadlift form and now you have a really tight good deadlift form.

Jason Ackerman:
Yeah, I think Coach Glassman put it nicely. Don't let your eyes get used to shitty moving.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, absolutely. And I know there's that there's a inherent sort of unwillingness to put yourself out there. There's an unwillingness to sort of ask people to do more. We don't want to be perceived as being too pushy, you know. And there's also just sort of an uneasiness like of like maybe sort of an insecurity. And like, I don't really know. It all kind of looks the same. And I think it all sort of stems from just sort of not really. I don't if it's a lack of passion or lack of understanding, a lack of just knowing what the inherent job is that we're trying to get, people did, too.

Keith Wittenstein:
As coaches, it's like but it's like you've got to be able to look at what whoever steps you know into your your class. And then, you know, an hour later they got to be a better person. If not, you know, emotionally, hopefully, at least physically, we get them a little bit moving a little better by getting their backs straight or getting their heels down, getting their bar pass better, clean it up, whatever, you know, crappy movement they came in with.

Jason Ackerman:
So. So let's assume you have a coach that does care. They're passionate about this. They're watching you. I mean, we've both seen it many times in a level two, hey, coach, the air squad thing going through their little two minutes of talking, watch two reps. And I think he's good.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yes.

Jason Ackerman:
Now, what is some actionable feedback? What is in teaching points we can help fund if someone's listening that does want to be a better coach. What are some things you recommend to do?

Keith Wittenstein:
Tunnel vision. Tunnel vision. Tunnel vision. You know, it's funny because like most of the people you encounter, you know, the high level coaches and Crossfit,, you know, tend to want to drift towards something like Olympic weightlifting because it's viewed as sexy and it's very complex. And you have this high falutin status as somebody who teaches a very complex skill. But ultimately, like all movement, it is complex, like, you know, which is. Right now, it's like I mean, we I used to use this analogy like it's really hard to like dissect walking thing, just like normal human walking. There's so much stuff that goes on there. But now you see these Boston dynamics, robots that are like walking and jumping and moving around. And so they've definitely got the algorithms like almost wired. But. Like, if you just like, dissect someone's like foot position, like whether their weight is shifting on their foot or coming into their toes, then weight shifting in, you know, they're spinning their feet out when they squat. There's so much stuff right in there about their moving pattern, about their mobility, about their balance and their coordination, and then take it to the next level, to the knees, to the hips. Right. There's there's so much like kinesthetic, so much physiology going on. Right. And just watching their lower body and something as simple as a squat like you should never be bored. Like you should take the time to look at that and say, what the hell is going on? And once you figure it out on one person, look at someone else and you'll be left with a whole bunch of new issues that you've never even thought of with the first person. And you do this with 10 athletes, a class, 10 classes a day, you know, over like 10 years. And you will be. Like a super coach, you'll develop a super eye. You have to like look at every foot and knee and hip and vertebra and shoulder that comes into your box with fresh eyes and look at that as an opportunity to fix human movement. That's a perfect human move.

Jason Ackerman:
Yeah. And I think part of the problem is coaches just aren't doing that right in and of itself. That's not that hard watch movement. You know, in this day and age and Crossfit,, whether it's multiple things happening in a class, too many people in a class, too many movements in any given workout, it's hard to just take that time. Hey, watch him. There needs tracking their towns.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah, yeah. It's a shame. Went it. Hopefully that like at least allows a space for people like dinosaurs like me and you to still have jobs because you care about stuff like that.

Jason Ackerman:
You know, we do. And, you know, I think it's partly also just . That was the culture when we started. You know, it's it's hard if you get involved in Crossfit, in 2017, 18, 19, maybe you joined a box and put no emphasis on coaching. Now, this time, you want to be a better coach, but you don't have any experience getting coach or someone that can mentor you to seek that out. When you know what I mean, it also comes.

Keith Wittenstein:
It also comes from like my own personal like chip on my shoulder or is like I was doing yoga and I would hang out with some like pretty high level yoga people who are all about like the alignment, the alignment, the alignment. And I would always like to poo,poo you know, the other styles of yoga that weren't into alignment. And they would certainly poo poo to anything that resembled like heart exercise as something that was like maybe like not as, you know, refined and upper crust is like this beautifully aligned, like yoga practice. And I was like, you know, the beauty of human movement is everywhere. And it's not just in yoga. And, you know, good alignment is good alignment everywhere. So I took that sort of like maybe sort of snobby, you know, attitude towards alignment and just like brought it into sort of my way. I looked at like movement in other parts of, you know, life in terms of like Crossfit,, in terms of jujitsu. It's like there's good movement and there's bad movement everywhere. I definitely want to side in the camp of good movement if I can.

Jason Ackerman:
You've you've been a part of multiple affiliates. What? What is something this day and age and affiliate owners could be doing better?

Keith Wittenstein:
Oh, gosh, I don't know, I've been out of the affiliate game for a while.

Keith Wittenstein:
I mean, some people know you own part in New York City, NYC. You were owner virtuosity. You've coached in numerous boxes, you know, in New York, New Jersey area. What are some of the better things you saw then? You know, what are better boxes doing that? The boxes that aren't doing well are not doing.

Keith Wittenstein:
I think the best boxes, one obviously are really keyed into their community and creating a really good space for members to have a good time. I think. You know, it's I think the. I mean, I know there's I mean, it depends how you like what you consider a good affiliate, too. I mean, there's certain affiliates that seem to show up at the Games all the time and there are competitively excellent, which for some people they place a premium on that.

Jason Ackerman:
I think I'm making money having a good, good membership base of over 100 members.

Keith Wittenstein:
Yeah. I mean, I just you know, I've known David Osorio since before he started Crossfit, South Brooklyn. And just like the longer I know of, the more impressed I am with how he's like, maintain this, like just steady, like even keeled sort of a community inbox box or just grown and grown and grown and just gotten better and better and better. And I just like, you know, he's just one of those standout individuals and one with one of those stand out affiliates such as like like constantly moving in the right direction. Maybe it's maybe slowly, but like over time, it's it's proven to be really good. I think he's maybe a good example of the tortoise. I think with NYC and virtuosity, I was probably trying to be more of the hare and really try to push the envelope and go do more stuff more quickly. And maybe that's kind of why I burned out on affiliate ownership at the moment. But also eager to get back in right now because I want to have a box with like Crossfit, and jujitsu in it now.

Jason Ackerman:
Are you considering that? Is that something that's in the future for you?

Keith Wittenstein:
It's something I'm considering. I don't know if it's a realistic thing, but it's something I still like, you know, drive around, look at a space and like, oh, yeah, that might be a nice place to, you know. And then I also kind of dream like, how would we have both things running at once? Because I know some places do it so welland some places are having a struggle trying to run both things at once.

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