photoWe’ve recently celebrated 1 year as a CrossFit Gym, and its time to start representing in the local throw downs. I am pleased to announce Julie Ackerman is taking on the role of our Competition Coordinator. She will be helping me select which events we want to send our athletes to. Expect 4-8 competitions throughout the year to get our endorsement.

Who:                        Athletes who can perform the movements described below.

What:                        The Galt Games (Individual and Team Competition)

Where:             Atlas Performance
  1030 N Larrabee St, Chicago, IL 60610

When:             Saturday August 16th at 7:30 am – Sunday August 17th @ 6pm

Why:                         For fun and put all your progress and hard work on display

Individual competition:

  • Men’s Rx, Men’s scaled, Men’s Masters (+40)
  • Women’s RX, Women’s scaled, Women’s Masters (+40)
  • $95 +$6.22 processing fee if registered before August 8th

*Team competition

  • 4 athletes comprised of 2 men & 2 women
  • Rx and scaled divisions
  • $350 + 20.24 processing fee if registered before August 8th

More Info:

1. Contact Kevin or Julie Ackermann ( if interested or for more information

2. Website for competition:

3. Masters & Scaled categories are at the same weight, see below for specifics: 

Competition standards:


  • Thrusters (Rx 115/85) (Sc/Mas 95/65)
  • Rx=Chest-to-bar pull ups, Sc/Mas Push Ups
Wall Balls (Rx 20/14 Sc/Mas=14/10
  • Box Jumps (Rx=24, Sc/Mas=20)
  • OHS (Rx=95/65, Sc/Mas=75/55)

Finalists should be able to do the following:

  • Snatch Rx=155/95, S=115/75
  • Handstand walk, Sc/Mas
  • OH Walking Lunge (45/35)
Weighted Pistols (Rx=55/35, Sc=Back Squat 115/75)


Wall Balls (Rx=20/14, Sc=14/10)
  • Rx=Chest-To-Bar Pull Ups (Sc=Push Ups)
  • Rx=Toes-To-Bar (Sc=Sit Ups)
  • Rx=Pistols Sc=air squats
  • Box jumps (Rx=24 Sc=20)

Team finalists should be able to do:

  • Handstand walk (Sc=OH Walking Lunge (45/35)
  • HSPU (Sc=push up)
  • Snatch (155/95) (115/75)
Hang Cleans (155/95) (115/75)
Front Squat (155/95) (115/75)


CrossFit Open 14.2 Recap

Two short weeks into the 2014 Open, and the picture is coming into focus. Each athlete is already forming the list of movement they must work on more before next year’s event. I am so proud of all the Autonomists who PR’d their OHS and Chest to Bar pull-ups this week! The “Autobots” are in 241st place in the North Central Region, which will surely be our lowest place ever…as next year we will be making a run for Top 30. Lets get into the separate divisions:

Masters Men

14.2 Required 2 specific capacities, shoulder mobility and shoulder strength. This division was lacking in one…I’ll let you figure out which. The star of the week goes to Joe, putting up the high score, and pulling into a tie for2nd Place in the gym. This group will be significant better at this workout in 90 days…no doubt.

Current Standing (Week 2 Score)

  1. Matt Shaffer (31)
  2. Joe Arnstein (56)
  3. Rick Cozza (10)
  4. Ben Block (0)
  5. Jeff Nathan (0)

Masters Women

Where this group has the mobility, they are still developing the strength. Another group that will be much improved in the future. The highlight of this group is the sheer tenacity and their ability to just look good working hard. Jen Shaffer, along with husband Matt tops the Masters Division…but we still aren’t even halfway thru the Open so a lot can change still.

Current Standing (Week 2 Score)

  1. Jen Shaffer (10)
  2. Kitty Hawk (0)
  3. Suzy Schecter (0)
  4. Michelle Cozza (10)
  5. Katherine Mann (0)
  6. Anne Dahl (0)

Open Men

The theme in this division was all about wreckage. The workout takes on a component of Stamina for those who have the capacity to hit both movements. Most of the men underestimated the volume of the workout, but with all the CFA athletes only making one attempt this week, we all left with our hands intact! This week’s star is Rupert who hit it during a 3 hour layover for an International Flight, taxiing to the nearest box, skipping the warmup…and putting up a top 3 score. Also would like to give accolades to Ben for his persistence with mobility to gain access to his first ever Overhead Squats.

Current Standings (Week 2 Score)

  1. Nick Plodzien (132)
  2. Rupert Schneider (83)
  3. Kevin Houston (130)
  4. Ryan Clark (81)
  5. Ben Winkler (21)
  6. Shooter Kestler (10)
  7. David Hawk
  8. Warrick Bell (10)
  9. Trevor Wetzel (10)
  10. Stiles Anderson (0)

Open Women

Strong core, body awareness, strength and just pure determination led these women during 14.2. The Chest to Bar Pullups proved tough for all but Cari and Mallory, who both crushed the workout getting into the second and third rounds respectfully. Hang on tight as this division will heat up over the next 3 weeks.

Current Standings (Week 2 Score)

  1. Mallory Zimet (138)
  2. Cari Winkler (68)
  3. April Payne
  4. Kat Liberman (0)
  5. Sarah Arends (8)
  6. Margot Lederer (0)
  7. Sara Lederer (0)

Week 3 is coming, my prediction;

WallBalls, Box Jumps, Deadlift

CrossFit Open 14.1 Recap

Congratulations to 28 members of CrossFit Autonomy for competing in Week 1 of the Open! So many great moments, and almost everyone hit doubles…many for the first time!!

Lets start with the Team. The AutoBots are currently sitting in 230th place in the North Central Region with a score of 1644. Congrats to the Top Three Men and Women who contributed to our total. Nice Job Mallory, April, Kat, Rupert, Nick and Kevin!!

Next up, are the beautiful and strong Master’s Women: These ladies all crushed doubles for the first time recently and attacked the barbell with the nonchalant, “That’s not heavy anymore.” As a reward, I promised this group no doubles in the programming for at least a week. Huge shout out to Jen for overcoming a tough reality in her first attempt to end up in 2nd place with her 3rd attempt!

  1. Kitty Hawk-81
  2. Jen Shaffer-76
  3. Suzy Schecter-63
  4. Katherine Mann-62
  5. Anne Dahl-61
  6. Michelle Cozza-0

Now on to the salty dogs…the Master’s Men: This group is headlined by our oldest and longest tenured member-Jeff Nathan. He has been with CFA since the first month, and is certainly the athlete I am most proud of this week. His 18 reps on 14.1 is a testament to his hard work over the last 7 months. The rest of the men hit is hard as well, this group is as competitive as any other…and the winner will have to be great more than just one week.

  1. Matt Shaffer-195
  2. Rick Cozza-100
  3. Ben Block-93
  4. Joe Arnstein-44
  5. Jeff Nathan-19

Now the ladies of the Open Division: The young ladies who are proving that by chasing performance…aesthetics will follow! The big surprise here is April and Kat. Both relative rookies to the CrossFit game, but landed on the official scoreboard by being top 3 in the gym. The future is bright for this this entire division, but Week One belonged to them.

  1. Mal Zimet-308
  2. April Payne-218
  3. Kat Liberman-135
  4. Cari Winkler-126
  5. Sarah Arends-85
  6. Sara Lederer-49
  7. Margot Lederer-29

Wrapping up our recap with the Open Men: This group will be one to watch closely all month. Egos and lack of Range of Motion rule this division. The big shout out in this division  is “The Brit”, Rupert Schneider. Coming into the Open as a relative unknown, this CrossFit vet is out to an early lead by earning the High Score in the entire gym on 14.1. This is the most experience group of CrossFitters, and this will be a tight and fun race as well.

  1. Rupert Schneider-345
  2. Nick Plodzien-326
  3. Kevin Houston-312
  4. David Hawk-209
  5. Ryan Clark-208
  6. Ben Winkler-178
  7. Shooter Kestler-139
  8. Warrick Bell-130
  9. Stiles Anderson-80
  10. Trevor Wetzel-64



The Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ryan Clark

By now, most CrossFit Autonomy members have met our new coach, Ryan Clark. By how much do you REALLY know about Ryan? We assigned a crack investigative journalist — who insists on anonymity for his own safety — to reveal the inside story on “The Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ryan Clark.”

CrossFit Highland Park

Ryan Clark Displays Picture Perfect Form. (Photo Credit: Mary Radosh)

#5 – Ryan Once Traded WODs for Mopping The Floor

The Ryan Clark story begins with Ryan discovering CrossFit online while still a high school student. Ryan did his best to coach himself, using videos as a guide. But there is only so far you can get working out on your own on public playgrounds. Ryan realized he needed to join an affiliate. But there was a problem: no money. After a lot of calling around, Ryan was finally able to find an affiliate owner willing to waive fees in return for him mopping the floor and helping out. Ryan will be forever grateful.

#4 – Ryan Has Worked With College Athletes

While earning his Finance degree at the University of North Dakota,  Ryan spent two years as an intern at the university’s strength and conditioning department, working with volleyball, soccer, and basketball teams. Ryan also became CrossFit Level 1 certified and got serious about becoming a competitive Olympic weightlifter.

#3 – Ryan is Following His Dream

At age 22, and with a stellar academic and business record, Ryan passed up the opportunity of pursuing a a lucrative career in corporate finance. Instead, he is following his real passions: Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit coaching. Now an accomplished Oly lifter, Ryan hopes to one day represent the United States in international competition.

CrossFit Highland Park

Coach Ryan Clark is here to help.

#2 – Ryan Thinks CrossFit Autonomy is Special

Ryan has already served as a head coach at another CrossFit affiliate. And he interviewed at many other affiliates before accepting a position at CrossFit Autonomy. Ryan thinks the outstanding quality of coaching for members of all ability levels sets CrossFit Autonomy apart.

#1 – Ryan Is a Lot Like You

Ryan recalls “making every mistake in the book” as a beginning CrossFitter, including rounding his back on deadlifts. So he understands being a bit overwhelmed at the start. And he can help get you to the next level — by providing the coaching he lacked when he began his CrossFit journey. “This is where I got to be the most happy and help the most people,” says Ryan.

30 Day Challenge Winner is…

Trevor Wetzel is the winner of our very first 30 Day Challenge!

Before I go any further, let me give a huge shout out to Jen Shaffer and Mallory Zimet. They both gave a great effort all month with both nutrition and dedication to fitness. They are both great examples of what it means to be an Autonomist!

photo1Trevor works out at 7am most days. He joined CFA just before the challenge began, and showed up with a medical file the size of the Chicago Yellow Pages! (Kids, ask your parents what that means). After playing football like a boss for Stevenson, Trevor left for college at Mich St like an old war horse. Surgeries on most major joints already in his past…and seemingly his best athletic years as well.

Trevor graduated last year, and like most college students today…had heard of CrossFit while at school. After being bugged for months, he walked in with the perfect attitude. “I’m gonna be at this for awhile. I have a long way to go, and its gonna hurt…but I’m excited!”

Over the past 30 days, Trevor has lost weight and improved performance…but so did a lot of people. What set him apart is a few things. He not only ate perfectly clean the entire month, but he cooked nearly all of his own meals. In a house where he is the “kid”, he helped his whole family learn about nutrition and eat cleaner. Amongst his peers, all in their early 20’s…he took the strange looks and ridicule and stayed the path. No alcohol, wings or pizza on the weekends for Trev!

Photo1The payoff for Trevor is he know has significantly better range of motion and less pain in all of his joints. His recovery is faster, and his ceiling is higher. And yes…Trevor earned a Free Month at CrossFit Autonomy! In case you’re wondering, did Trevor enjoy his first weekend off the wagon? Yes, so much so…he was “sick” on Monday and missed class! That’s what gluten will do for ya. Congrats to Trevor and all the other athletes who walk around more fit today due to the 30 Day Challenge.

If you are interested in doing your very own 30 Day Challenge, please contact me directly to get all the guidance and accountability you need!

Top Ten Things That Will Happen When You Begin CrossFit

Here at CrossFit Autonomy, we see lives transformed every day. It’s very gratifying. After all, that’s why we here: to help people lead better, happier lives. So we’re always interested in first-person stories. Which is why a recent Huffington Post story caught our eye.

Josuha M. Brown, an investment advisor and author of Backstage Wall Street who blogs at The Reformed Broker wrote:

CrossFot Highland Park

Joshua M. Brown

“What led to me beginning CrossFit was a realization that, if left to my own devices, I would never push myself hard enough to truly make the changes I needed to in order to get in shape…. And so on July 21st, at 258 pounds and sick of seeing my giant moon-face on TV every day, I walked into the CrossFit Lighthouse in Wantagh, Long Island and submitted to a long-overdue comeuppance. I marched my Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-frame into a firefight I wasn’t truly prepared for. It’s 90 days later and I still have a long way to go to get back to the old me. But I’m happy to report that for the first time in years I feel like I’m back in control and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day I get closer.”

Brown goes on to list the top ten things that will happen when you begin CrossFit. Among them:

You’ll begin to respect endurance and stamina. When you’re a kid, your idea of strength revolves around how much one can lift, what someone’s arms and chest look like, etc. If you haven’t yet grown out of this idea, you will upon beginning CrossFit. You will begin to be much more amazed at things like quad strength and lower back strength. You’ll be blown away by the ability of others to do hundreds of airsquats or hold various static positions (holding one’s body in a plank six inches above the ground or half-squatting with one’s back against the wall, with thighs perpendicular to the ground and a 20-pound medicine ball pressed to one’s chest. When you can barely get through 30 seconds in these positions but you see someone hold them for 4 to 6 minutes, all of your ideas about what being strong means will be out the window.

Crossfit highland Park, ILYour friends and family will start Googling the term CrossFit and giving you warnings. “Oh, you’re doing that Cross thing, I think I just read something about that…” They will come across a rare disorder wherein people push themselves past the exhaustion point until their muscle fibers begin to break down and slip through the bloodstream into their kidneys. They will also come across stories about injuries and the like associated with CrossFit search terms. The reality is that these types of injuries can and do occur with any kind of training if taken too far and under the wrong type of supervision. You are equally likely to be injured while ice skating, lifting weights alone, horseback riding, surfing or doing any other type of strenuous activity if you are engaging recklessly and not taking the proper precautions. I would also note that there is an ongoing fear-mongering campaign being waged by the traditional fitness clubs and gyms. They see the proliferation of the CrossFit movement across the country as a massive threat to their membership rolls. There is no possible way that a guy doing his usual leisurely circuit around the same 12 or 15 machines in a gym is ever going to get the intensity of a workout at a CrossFit box

You’ll notice an uptick in energy, even when you’re dead sore from CrossFitting. This new-found energy bounce comes from the fact that you’re dragging less fat around with you all day and you’re breathing easier. You’re putting less wear and tear on your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and the dividend is you can keep up with your kids and accomplish more each day. The confidence and happiness that comes along with this is self-explanatory. Wait til you see the little and unexpected ways in which these peripheral benefits creep into your daily routine at home and at work!

You will learn a lot about your mental toughness. You will find that you barely knew yourself at all before beginning this adventure. That you didn’t have a clue about what really made you tick, your own elemental motivations and desires. In the heat of battle, when your head is soaked in sweat and there is nothing but the clanging of metal and the grunting of others around you, you will reach inside of yourself and go to that next level. When you realize that you are 80 percent of the way through a particularly punishing workout, you will dig deep and find what you need to get through to the other side. It’s there, and maybe you haven’t had to access it in years — decades — but when you finally do…my god.

Read the whole article here.

Deload what!?

It is easy to forget our doors have only been opened for 4 months. Many of you have fully caught the CrossFit Bug and come in almost every day. For many of us, CrossFit is the first time in a while we have been training our bodiesand not simply exercising. When we shift our mindset to training over exercise, we simply have a longer view in mind than “How many calories did I burn today?”. We instead start to ask, “How can I take a step towards being more healthy for the rest of my life?”

imagesWith this thought in mind, it is my duty to introduce to you the idea of a Deload Week. The Deload takes on many different varieties depending on factors like your training style, nutrition, age, volume of workouts…etc. For the average CrossFitter, who works out 4-7 hours a week, and eats fairly clean; I recommend a Deload Week every 2-3 months. The benefits are clear…You’ll come out of it stronger, energized, more flexible and with those nagging injuries in a much better place.

Deload Week-For 7-10 Days, instead of focusing on maximizing Power Output and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in that direction, do the following:

  1. Get as much sleep as you can. Nap, sleep in, retire early. Simply enough more rest will result in higher performance.
  2. Mobilize 30 minutes a day. A lighter workout week is a perfect time to make significant gains in your range of motion. Take a yoga class, or just come in to CFA for some extra instruction on how to stretch your ankle flexion to improve your olympic lifts…yeah…it makes a huge difference.
  3. Move Less Weight, Slower. You will still want to take classes, after all, who could stay away?! But, while in class…focus on great technique with lighter load instead of keeping up with that rockstar next to you. Always remember…Technique, Consistency, Intensity…in the order.
  4. Learn. Take the extra time and energy you have and learn as much as you can about a single topic. Maybe gluten, or the split jerk. Dive into the energy pathways rabbit hole or what as many video as possible off the CrossFit Journal on squatting. Do something.

Take this message to heart. Deloads are very important to health and longevity, especially to athletes (yes, you are all athletes) who work hard in the gym. Look at the calendar and find a week that makes sense to Deload on. Also, listen to your body…feeling tired, achy, or plateauing in performance? The solution is often as simple as a Deload.




Less Running, Better Results: Another CrossFit Success Story

What can a lifelong athlete who teaches PE at an elementary school learn from CrossFit?

Quite a lot, in the case of 28-year-old David Hawk.

David is one of CrossFit Autonomy’s most enthusiastic members. An endurance athlete, David has improved his 50k race time more than 25 minutes to five hours and twenty minutes.

David Hawk, displaying his finisher's medal after PRing in a 50k race.

David Hawk, displaying his finisher’s medal after PRing in a 50k race.

It’s all happened in just five months. And here’s the kicker: David now barely runs at all, outside his CrossFit classes.

“I’ve made huge strides in strength, flexibility and competitiveness,” says David.

He has high praise for CrossFit Autonomy owner and head coach Kevin Houston.

“Kevin always takes the time to explain the ‘why’ on  such things as foot positioning in weightlifting. As a teacher myself, I appreciate that. People are motivated to learn when they understand why they are being asked to do something.”

David finds the CrossFit short duration/high intensity approach “the complete opposite of what we’ve all been told all our lives about fitness.” He’s even started using some CrossFit-influenced ideas with his own students. One example is using Tabata air squats with a soccer team he coaches.

As a coach himself, David naturally sees the value in coaching. He likes the small class sizes of no more than eight at CrossFit Autonomy. There is plenty of one-on-one attention and accountability.

David also like the unique atmosphere: at once welcoming to all, but also competitive.

So David now finds “just running is boring.” He has made great strides in weightlifting and mastered some gymnastics movements, though his double unders still need work.

CrossFit Highland Park, IL

Less running, better results!

David’s CrossFit journey began with him trying to do the workouts as prescribed on the main website.

He now laughs of his naivete because “we all need professional guidance.”

And professional guidance is exactly what Kevin Houston and CrossFit Autonomy offer, regardless of your current fitness level.

So what are you waiting for?

Call Kevin today to begin your fitness journey.


30 Day Challenge Starts Next Week!!


It is time to dial in our nutrition. I would like you to participate in our Inaugural 30 Day Challenge. We will spend Sept 15th-Oct 14th eating “clean” or Paleo. A full e-book guide will be given to those who are fully participating. The person who excels with performance and aesthetics the most will receive a Free Month at CFA, but there will certainly be no losers in this challenge. I will 100% guarantee you will gain strength and endurance while getting leaner and most importantly…you will look better naked.

To participate fully, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Donate $30 for our official charity. (War Dogs-Making it Home)
  • Submit “Before” Pictures. This will not be made public, without your specific permission. (Men in shorts, no shirt/ Women in sports bra and shorts) Front and Side shots required.
  • Log your nutrition including hydration throughout the 30 days

30-day-challengeOnce you submit pictures and pay the $30, you will be forwarded the E-book which will include meal plans, recipes, an explanation of what exactly the Paleo Diet is and why/how it works. I will also be available to answer your questions and give you guidance throughout the month.

We will finish the Challenge with a Night Out as a gym to celebrate and enjoy a drink together in real clothes…not that always seeing each other in gym clothes and sweaty is a bad thing!

If you have family and friends who would like to compete, please encourage it. They must meet the same requirements as above.

An exerpt on the Paleo Diet by Robb Wolf-

a077d052426208066c261e986431b40d_20110808“The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Oph- thalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility . Our Paleo- lithic ancestors were largely free of these diseases, and you can be too! When we eat according to our genetic heritage, weight loss, improved energy, and optimal health are fun and easy to accomplish”.

Hand Care Made Simple

By Autonomist Sarah Houston:

Sure, pull-ups could mean perfectly sculpted shoulders and arms, but they could come with an ugly side effect: Calluses. Pull-ups, along with many other functional movements experienced during workouts, will lead to a beating on your hands.

Photo1I had been CrossFitting for a little over a year when I suddenly became very apprehensive to shake hands with anyone. My boss even commented on my rough palms after a heavy Pull-up day at the gym. Not only was I insecure, but I was also experiencing pain in my grip that I didn’t think was necessary. I feared rips, which could lead to non-essential rest days. Suddenly, my callused hands didn’t seem like such a badge of honor.

Just because you CrossFit, doesn’t mean you have to deal with calluses. You need to take care of your palms, just as you would any other overused part of your body. It’s very simple, and you’ll realize just how essential it is once you start tending to your hands.

First, go easy on the chalk. Chalk is in the gym to help you hold on to the bar when you start to slip. It’s a drying agent, which is why you should only use it if your palms are sweating and your grip is failing. Always wash your hands to replenish moisture after a chalk-filled workout.

Second, mind your grip. See your coach about how to hold the bar without pinching the top of your palms where calluses form.

picstitchLast, and most importantly, shave your calluses. It doesn’t hurt, and doesn’t cut you. I purchased my callus shaver in a drug store in the beauty/manicure aisle. Guys, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest. It’s not a feminine beauty product, it’s an essential palm saver. I use mine about every other week after I get out of the shower. It takes about 30 seconds per hand, and the result is callus free, smooth hands you won’t be embarrassed to shake with. You could also rub a pumice stone on your palm to rid of dead skin.

Taking care of your palms is essential as a CrossFit athlete. You need your grip to be at its best. Don’t ignore them!