The Road Map

The Road Map

Everyone in this gym, coaches included, has stood where you are standing right now and had the thoughts and fears you are having. This is intended to be a guide map to help give you some basic tools and guidelines to help you push through roadblocks that might threaten to end your training experience before it really even starts.

Part 1 -Just Show Up


Quick reminder- you are trying to improve yourself with 3-4 hours of work a week. You did 5 times this work to graduate college and it still took most of you 5 years. This is going to be much more difficult than college.

Like school, the more you put into it the more you get out of it. The single biggest part of this is showing up every day. If you just show up every day you’ve already won the hardest fight.

Just show up.

Your very first goal as a new athlete is to just show up 3x a week for 4 weeks- 12 total sessions. It doesn’t matter how tired, or sore, or confused you are, you need to show up. For a beginner the only way to prove that you can do it, is by doing it.

You don’t have to perform like an all american every time you come through the door, you just need to come through the door with a good attitude and be willing to work.

Part 2 – What Hurts?


We are forcing an evolution.

We are making you improve mentally and physically. The majority of this time is spent trying to improve the way you move and think, which in time will improve the way you feel.

Starting out you are going to feel bad, and there are going to be some aches and pains.

Every athlete feels Growing Pains when they start training consistently.

Growing pains are pains that we all feel when we start out. This pain is indicative that you are making your body do something that it has never done before. Or in some cases this is your body telling you how weak it actually is.

This pain is new for most which makes it seem more serious than it really is. Growing pains diminish and when they do they are your first indicator of improvement. Typically the more you do a movement correctly, the less it hurts. Growing pains can’t be avoided, but they can be dealt with. The single most important thing about growing pains is understanding that they are manageable and they will fade as the your improve.

Injury is the other kind of pain, the one that we want to avoid. Injury is the indicator that you have made your body do too much too soon. Injuries happen, but they can be limited and stopped all together.

Growing pains are inevitable and injuries are avoidable. Most new athletes struggle how to identify between the two. Because they don’t have the skill set to differentiate between the two they are scared that growing pains are actually injuries. This inability to differentiate can limit a new athletes growth as well as their enjoyment of the session.

The best way we’ve discovered to help differentiate between these two kinds of pain is to identify the pain, and what causes the pain. And communicate that you are in pain. The list below are simple questions you need to ask yourself when you feel pain.

Due to the nature of this training and the fact that we work with a number of athletes means that we have pretty good idea of what pain you will be feeling when you start out. If you are uncomfortable doing an exercise or session – inform your coach. They will ask you the following questions that you should have already asked yourself and have the answers to.

What hurts?

  • Wrists
  • Knees
  • Back
  • Elbows

When does it hurt?

  • Rack position
  • Overhead position
  • Olympic lifts
  • Running

How long does it hurt?

Does it stop when the movement stops, does it ache the next day? The next 3 days?

Most pain for the new athlete stems from lack of familiarity with movement and exercise. As the athlete gets more familiar with the exercise and mobility and confidence improve, their ability to perform the exercise improve.

Coaches have a menu of alternative exercises and corrective exercises that will hopefully improve your comfort and confidence. Again understand that there are no quick fixes, and while the coach can give you an alternate exercise this is just a bandaid not a cure. The majority of our exercises have carryover or set our athletes up for something else. So the more comfortable you get with these exercises the faster you can start working on improving your fitness.

As a new athlete, it’s important that you understand that almost everyone has had these same pains and same fears. They are the first sign that you are on the right road to actual improvement.

Part 3 – This Sucks, I Suck


Realistic expectations are more painful for most new athletes than any training session. You’ve made the first step in 10,000 in starting on your training journey. And it’s actually going to get harder before it gets easier.

It’s important to manage your expectations. You can’t compare yourself of what you used to lift in high school or college or even the athletes around you when you are starting out. All you can do is to compare yourself to who you were yesterday and do your best to improve on that.

Your initial goal isn’t to be fastest or the strongest but to do the best you can do. If you are always trying to race or be stronger than another athlete you are most likely short changing your training and are on a short path to burning out.

Look at the other athletes you are training with. Really look. What athletes are strong or fast? What athletes do you want to lift like? Run like? Talk to these athletes and ask them how long they’ve been training- Olympic lifting, running, doing Crossfit etc.. Most of the better athletes in the gym have been training between 3-7 years, if not their whole lives.

Fitness is a lifetime pursuit, if you think you can do in a few weeks or months what has taken these athletes years, you are sorely mistaken. Take your licks, just like everyone that came before you. Understand that you are going to suck a lot in the coming months and years. These moments can be fractional for you. They can cause you pain and anguish or they can show you where you are weak and where you can improve.


Stay on it 100%, keep moving, learn the ways of the elders. – D

Manage your expectations. Do not measure yourself against the other athletes. Pace yourself in terms of soreness and recovery and concentrate on getting proper technique in all movements. – P

That was probably your worst month, so it likely gets easier on a relative basis from here. The habit of making it to the gym each day has been developed, and you’re probably feeling better, at least mentally if nothing else, about yourself. So why not continue another month or perhaps two? – J

Your body is probably beat up, sore, and ready to give up. Don’t. It will take the whole first month for your body to get adjusted to an Atomic work out. During this month, your body will constantly tell your mind to quit and not go back. Don’t listen. You have to learn to train your mind to tell your body what to do, and it will. The best part is, you’re not the only one. – K

Pace yourself.  Do as much as you can, go light if you need to but don’t give up. This is new to your body.  You know when to push it and when to hold back; listen to it.  – R

Everyone has been where you are. Don’t think too hard. Do ask questions. – A

If you haven’t dealt with anything like this be prepared to suck and suck a lot. But you’ll slowly start noticing changes in your physical prowess and your mental attitude when it comes to workouts and life situations. At that point you’ll realize things are taking a turn for the better. – A

Don’t be overwhelmed. You’ve most likely never worked this hard and you may be wondering if you can do it. you can – your mind and body will adapt. Also, keep your focus on you fitness level. By that I mean if a new athlete reps out 40 SBGU in 10 min and then sees someone else do 100+, they need not question if they should be there or not. Their only question should be “can I get 41 next time?”  – J

Welcome! This is NOT a daycare CrossFit class. You’re not going to last unless you accept that there is an element of personal responsibility you have to assume as a member of Atomic.

– Leave the ego at the door. You will be humbled.

– Get to the gym early.

– LISTEN to your coaches. If they tell you to slow down/speed up/drop weight – do it.

– When coach is speaking, shut up and listen.

– Pick up after yourself. Put your weights away.

– Hydrate PRIOR to coming to the gym. Atomic is a fucking sweatlodge. You’re going to look like you took a dip in Barton Springs when you leave in the summer. So drink a lot of water. – D


Consistency matters so much in everything you do. Know what you can do consistently. If you can only do two times a week then do two times a week consistently (absolutely no skipping or flaking). It doesn’t make sense to train 3 days one week, 0 the next, 4 the next, and then 1 time for the next 3 weeks. You’ll be way stronger if you just did a consistent twice a week. This has a parallel of don’t do too much. I knew when I first started that I couldn’t physically do 3 times a week at Atomic and still climb 2-3 times per week. That doesn’t make me weak, it shows that I understand my body. Overtime I got stronger and realized that I could do Atomic 3 times a week and climb 2 times a week, but that took awhile. -A

I actually talked to a newer athlete recently and gave him my 2 cents on Atomic. I have gotten every lecture from Dan (Long time Athlete) in the book about Atomic and I definitely have begun passing on my insights to others too. I was working out with an athlete that has been training for about 3-4 weeks now…. he started on the 8 minute SBGU day (woof). He also had to be chained to me for 5 laps and 250 burpees… (torture). He said to me “yeah im kind of at the point where i’m just not sure if this place is for me.” Lets be real, Atomic is definitely not for everyone! It took me 10 months to figure out why I really needed to be there.. I told this athlete to consider a different perspective. At Atomic it’s really not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ and it’s not about ‘being the best in the group.’ All it is about is showing up and doing the best you can. That might mean you walk the 3 laps because you just can’t get your legs to run… but you walk it and you finish. You don’t turn around. I told him that people at Atomic have an unspoken respect for each other because of that reason, everyone is going to show up and they’re going to do their best. period. You won’t always be “the new athlete” there are going to be others after you. You also won’t always be “last” in a work out. There is going to be the day that you finally figure out how to correctly do a sandbag get up (and not drop it on your damn head) and you might not even recognize how far you have come. If you can consider the lessons that can be taken away from any typical hour long Atomic session…. there are more than enough reasons to stay. Consider the well known saying… “if it scares you, it’s probably worth a try.” Atomic scares the shit out of me because of the potential it brings… to me its not about the physical work out but the potential I see to get myself to a place of such mental strength, I can endure anything. That could just be me, maybe you’re just there to be able to do 50 push ups in a minute. Great, well Atomic can get you there, too. Whatever your reasons are for showing up in the first place, be patient and be open to the opportunity of getting better.

Patience is key in the beginning. – R

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