Jason Wong – Setting the Standard

jasonwong_kingofqueensLeadership.  It’s part of a natural progression in Crossfit…one that evolves as we progress in our training.  As our capacity improves, so does the intensity of our tests.  Fitness evolves into competition.  Competition gives us the confidence and experience to impart our knowledge to others.  Suddenly we’re leading instead of following, and starting others on their own path to make themselves better every day.

At Crossfit NYC there are countless examples of athletes who have fine-tuned their fitness…who have evolved to a competitive level that is both innovative and inspiring.  There’s no better example of this accomplishment than that of our competition team captain Jason Wong.

Coach Avery explains: “Jason was chosen for team captain this past winter because of his extraordinary ability to connect with others regardless of their skill level and set an example of great standards in CF for all of those around him.  (He was also named “Best Mover” with his uncanny ability to make any movement like push ups or butterfly pull ups look smooth and effortless).

He is always trying to improve his mechanics, push himself a little further and work on his weaknesses, but knows when to back off or is having a bad day and things are going his way, which shows a lot of maturity on his part as an athlete.  Jason provides a great deal of mentoring to all of those around him whether it be a beginner he sees struggling with a basic movement like a squat or push up or a team mate or coach that needs some advice on mobility on more advanced skill.  Also, Jason has the best dog ever, Starbuck, which he brings to class every morning which is the other reason we all like him :).”

When Starbuck isn’t stealing his thunder, Jason can be found leading the team in training every day during the week.  We were lucky enough to pick Jason’s brain recently on his progress…strengths, weaknesses, and general experience as he’s entering the 4th year of his journey with Crossfit.

You’ve been at Crossfit NYC for years. Was the gym your first exposure to Crossfit?

Actually it wasn’t. I had been doing Crossfit workouts at the nearby NYSC for abojasonWsitups2-767x1024ut a year before I joined CFNYC. Starting Crossfit on my own was a really interesting experience because I had to find some way of learning this stuff. I ended up doing a lot of research online reading tons of articles and watching hours and hours of video. I also spent a significant amount of extra time in the gym to acquire just a baseline competence in certain movements. I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to kip, do a muscle up, snatch, clean, or jerk. Heck even the art of back squatting was something I had learn on my own.  If I had to do it again, I can’t say I’d take the same approach, but what I learned from my first year was how knowledge rich and supportive the Crossfit community can be.

What was your first WOD, and how did you do?

My first WOD was with my brother and a friend of his, back in December of 2009. I believe it was four rounds for time of a 400m run and 15 thrusters at 135#. I had to scale it down to 65# and I still came in last.

How has training with the team changed your Crossfit experience?

Oh boy. First, I spend a lot more time in the gym now. Practice is 1.5 to 2 hours a day, five days a week which is a huge time commitment. Not only that, but I wake up at 5:30am to get to the gym prepared and on-time, so, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend, my entire waking life has been shifted two hours earlier. Even so, I only get about five and a half hours of sleep a night which is a huge roadblock for my progress.

Other than scheduling, I think the biggest change is that every day is no longer a testing day. For most of my Crossfit life, I’ve followed a mainsite-type mentality where the pressure to perform on any given day is really high. With competition programming, you have to realize that you’re no longer optimizing to be at your best every day. Instead, you’re optimizing to be at your best for the month of March and, if you’re really good, April, May, June and July. The thing about being able to take this long view, is it allows you to take bigger risks and deeper dives. You can spend three months immediately after the open focusing on strength and if your WOD times get worse, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, your real world functional fitness may get worse before it gets better, and that’s OK.

A couple of years ago I talked to you during a time when you were battling the effects of over-training. Are you able to stay ahead of that curve better now? What, if anything, did you change after that experience?

Ha. Funny you should ask. We just got through two or three weeks of super high volume which left me completely beat up. That being said, usually when I feel over-trained, I don’t even want to step foot in the gym. I haven’t had that issue this year. Part of that is getting to work with a group of very highly motivated athletes all of whom could whoop my ass depending on the workout. Another part is understanding that I’m now representing something greater than myself. How we do as a team reflects on CFNYC and that little bit of extra weight is a good motivator.

Situational issues aside, another thing that helped was moving to four day weeks for the first half of the year. At 1.5 hours per workout, I was still getting an hour more of gym time than when I was training five days a week with black box programming. I think if I had jumped straight into the five day weeks we’re doing now, I would have cried mercy.

What kind of skill work do you do outside of team programming? Do you have enough time to focus on weaknesses?
jwong_machu_picchuWe actually do tons of skill work during practice. Our workouts usually have a warmup and skill component, strength component and a metcon component. There are still skills that we don’t get to, but unfortunately, I just don’t have any more time in my day to work on them.

In terms of weaknesses, strength has been a big hole for me and we’ve definitely done a lot in that area. Not only have my 1RMs gone up, but I can operate longer at a higher percent of my 1RM than before.

How did you do in the Open last year? What are your goals going into the 2013 Games season?

I wasn’t really pleased with my open performance last year. I never felt like I really ever performed up to my ability on any of the workouts. Part of that was just a lot of battling injuries. For 2013, I don’t really have any goals in mind other than wanting to feel good about my performance, and I think as long as I feel like I didn’t leave any reps on the table, I’ll be happy.

Are there any specific Games athletes you draw inspiration from? If so, why?

The name that obviously comes to mind is Chris Spealler. I have a soft spot for smaller athletes because I’ve spent most of my life as the smaller athlete.

You were partly responsible for the “High Noon Hero WODs” that happened last year. Have you been able to make time for more of those type of workouts now that you’re training with the team? Are there any plans to bring them back?

Coach Williamson was back in town at the end of December and we got together and did a hero WOD. Wittman, I think. I really haven’t done that many since we stopped our High Noon classes. The way the HNHW came about was that there were a group of us (Williamson, Jamie Freedman, Jason Lapadula, and myself) that all started out in the 8am WOD class with Sara, and over time, for one reason or another, we could no longer continue to attend the same class during the weekdays. So, we thought it would be a good idea to get together on Saturdays and do something really freakin’ hard. jwong_hoboken_challenge_2012

There were some good things that came out of our hero wod session, but there were a lot of bad things as well. Mainly, we found ourselves laid up with back and shoulder injuries. I wouldn’t say that the programming itself led to those injuries, but when you get in a situation where there’s no one to tell you to stop and quitting is never an option, well, things happen.

I don’t know if there are any plans to bring the HNHW back. When Williamson left for grad school, we pretty much lost the instructor for the class.

How meticulous are you about your nutrition?

I have been pretty meticulous in the past. I’m less so now. I know there are things that I need to eat in a given day, but beyond that, I don’t prioritize getting the perfect calories over just plain getting in calories. A lot of this is due changes at work where I just don’t have time to eat anymore. If I go strict paleo, I eat something like six meals a day. Since I only have time for three, I have to make sure I get enough calories down my throat during those meals. I still eat mostly paleo, but I’ve let in carbs to help me bridge the caloric gap. I’ve never measured my food, but in general, I have the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. Dinner varies depending on whether I have time to cook. I will say that on the nights I cook I feel a ton better the next day.

For anyone else who has to wing it when it comes to nutrition, my basic recipe is: take your plate, divide it in half, fill one side with protein and the other with vegetables.

I should also mention that I’m one of those rare-but-not-rare-enough cases of having high LDL cholesterol on the Paleo diet. While I’ve tinkered with some of the recommendations from jaminet on this, I haven’t had a chance to get another blood screen in to know if anything has worked.

Finally, if anyone is wondering, I do supplement daily with a post workout shake (SFH), 7 grams of fish oil, vitamin D3, and ZMA.  I’ve also just started playing with BCAAs to try to stave off hunger over the last 30 min of my workouts.

You’ve switched gears from Crossfit as a daily fitness regimen to Crossfit as a competitive sport. What advice would you give to aspiring crossfitters who want to work towards a spot on the team?

Consistency: Show up.

jwong_hawaii…and Mechanics: The biggest hurdle to being good at this stuff is movement virtuosity. Everybody loves building a huge engine. Everybody loves to put up big numbers. What usually gets lost in the WOD shuffle is good mechanics and technique. Having good mechanics is something that you’ll always be able to fall back on no matter how tired or beat-up you feel. It’s really easy to be just good enough at a particular movement to get through a WOD, but your longevity in this sport is going to depend a lot on how well you move. So take the time to learn proper mechanics. Develop that neutral spine and neutral chin. Figure out what good shoulder positioning is. Work on toes forward, hips back, and knees out. Once you have these things, you’re going to find out that all of a sudden you can do five more pull-ups or ten more push-ups. Your double-unders won’t suck so much, your handstand push-ups won’t be nearly as hard, and your oly lifts are going to look more like, well, oly lifts.

Jason Wong can be found at Crossfit NYC most weekdays at 28th St. during Competition Team training.  You can reach him on Twitter at @attackgecko