Setting Records in Puerto Rico

I’m going to be brutally honest here, I’ve had a blinking cursor on this computer screen for nearly three dang weeks, writing and deleting hundreds and hundreds of words because I really didn’t know what direction I wanted to take this post. Heck, I still don’t. So, sit down and strap in, its gonna be a fun ride!
For those that aren’t aware, I not only coach on a daily basis at CrossFit For Glory, I also coach a handful of athletes remotely. One of them lives in the UK, another just moved to New Zealand (!), and another lives in Tennessee (you’ve all heard of Froning, right?). But the one I’m writing in detail about today recently moved from Tampa up to the DC area. And while some of you have met, and even worked out with her, I have a feeling that most of you have read about her at one time or another.
A few weeks ago, I traveled down to Puerto Rico with Shannon Whiteman for the 2016 Masters Pan American Championships. There were lots of firsts for me on this trip: first time out of the country (unless you count one jaunt down to the Bahamas after high school?), first time coaching a Pan American qualifier, first time chatting with one of the fathers of the American Weightlifting community (Howard Cohen, see below), first time realizing there is a stage of hungry well beyond the “hangry” stage…
I started to coach Shannon personally back in January of 2015. At that time, she hadn’t been CrossFitting for too long, but was already a very accomplished athlete in her own regard. Stay tuned for a podcast (woohoo!) that gives a bit more insight into her background.

Getting tips from the man, Howard Cohen!

Back then, here were some of her highlights:

Clean and Jerk – 145

Snatch – 105

Front Squat – 170

Back Squat – 200

Fran – 4:20 (ah…the good ol days when I could beat her…)

Nancy – 14:10

1 Mile Time Trial – 6:32

Max Pull-Ups – 22

Fight Gone Bad – 257

Unbroken Double Unders – 100

Working remotely with athletes presents a very unique set of challenges on top of the already tough task of taking a high level athlete and trying to make them even better. I’ve written at length about this type of stuff before, so I won’t bore you too much. But I will say this – there is no amount of data that is “too much.” The daily AARs (after action reports for you civilians…like me, lol) that I receive from her are more in-depth than you can imagine. Not simply “done” or “time” or “weight.” And yes, she went beyond simply saying “I hate you.” She would, with great detail, pinpoint at which rep the hate crept into her soul and was sure to tell me precisely how much she loathed many of the days.
Without fail, I review all of these AARs. And there might be a few days of radio silence from me, but make no mistake – I took in and processed each and every piece of information that I was given.
So, when the time came for us to travel down to Puerto Rico, with a possible podium spot and even a Pan American Record on the line, I was 100% confident that we’d come up with some nice hardware…and a new record.
Why? How could I be so sure?
Because she put the work in. Every day. No matter how lonely the training got, no matter what dark place she had to go into to do the work, it got done.
And so we traveled down to Puerto Rico with declared opening weights of 48kg (105.6lb) in the snatch and 72kg (158.4lb) in the clean and jerk. I’ll give you a minute to scroll back up and see how those openers compare to her 1RMs from just 18 months ago.
Weightlifting, or rather achieving successful totals in weightlifting, is all about one thing – making lifts. With her openers made, then it was time to strategize a bit to secure a podium spot. We knew that while 1st place was out of reach, we’d be close for 2nd/3rd place, assuming nothing terrible happened.
Oddly enough, and it took me until after she hit her opening snatch to realize this, the other woman who shared our warm-up platform would turn out to be Shannon’s direct competition for the 2nd place spot.
Game on.
After nailing 48, we went up 3kg to 51. Nailed it.
So did the other girl.
We had a plan to go for 54kg, a HUGE meet PR. Nailed it.
So after the snatch session was completed, we found ourselves in a tie for 2nd place overall.
Thankfully, Shannon can clean and jerk a house and was opening 2kg above the other lady. After Shannon hit her opener, we watched as the other lady hit her 2nd and 3rd lifts, finishing at 75kg.
Here’s the fun part of being a coach – to lock up 2nd place, all she’d have needed to go for in her 2nd lift was 76kg, something she could hit in her sleep, especially given how easy her opener was.
But we wanted an attempt at the Pan American Record, which stood at 80kg. The preference in almost all cases by weightlifters is to make your 2nd jump bigger than your final jump. If we had gone to only 76 for her second attempt (a 4kg jump), she’d have needed a 5kg jump to get the record. I wanted it to be the other way around.
Bit of a gamble, but it paid off – she smoked 77kg, a 5kg jump from her opener. This meant she’d only have to go up 4kg for the record.
I think this picture says it all:

81kg – a meet PR for her and a NEW PAN AMERICAN RECORD!

Total of 135kg, a PR of 9kg from her Nationals meet…back in April. Read that again – she progressed 9kg (19.8lb) in about 3 months.
Not too shabby.
But thats not all. While reviewing all the success she had in Puerto Rico, I also looked back at the other figures from above to see how far she’d come. So, here’s a before and after in the 18 months since I took over coaching Shannon:

Clean and Jerk – 145  |  180

Snatch – 105  |  120

Front Squat – 170  |  235

Back Squat – 200  |  255

Fran – 4:20  |  2:50

Nancy – 14:10  |  11:36

1 Mile Time Trial – 6:32  |  5:54

Max Pull-Ups – 22  |  48

Fight Gone Bad – 257  |  326

Unbroken Double Unders – 100  |  209

Every single time I look this list over, not only does my face beam with pride, my jaw drops down to the floor. Its impossible to pick just one of these statistical improvements as the most impressive, but I’m going to do just that. And the one I’m going to pick will SHOCK all of you if you know me well enough: the one mile time trial!

Her mile time went from 6:32 to 5:54. She wrote me a note with that saying she hadn’t run a sub-6 mile since 2006. TEN YEARS!!

Because Shannon and I are both super nerds, let’s look at this one more way, namely a % improvement:

Clean and Jerk – 24%

Snatch – 14%

Front Squat – 38%

Back Squat – 28%

Fran – 35%

Nancy – 18%

1 Mile Time Trial – 10%

Max Pull-Ups – 118%

Fight Gone Bad – 27%

Unbroken Double Unders – 209%

I’ve been blessed to be a strength and conditioning coach for over 13 years now. My career has afforded me some awesome opportunities to work with a wide range of athletes from all sports and ability levels, from the professional ranks with the New York Yankees to the young kids you see at CrossFit For Glory. But this past year, along with the remainder of 2016, has been on a whole other level. I’ve been, and will be going, to places my career had never taken me before – Minnesota for the Alpha Showdown National Championship, Savannah for the National Masters Weightlifting competition, Puerto Rico for the Pan American Championships, and then the CrossFit Games in California.

In October, we’ll be heading out for the Masters World Championships – in Germany!


After all, there are more firsts to be had.

More podiums to ascend.

More records to be broken.

Shannon, thank you for bringing me along for the ride. Its been an absolute pleasure to be your coach. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you!


people working out in a group fitness class


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