Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

Please let me start out this post with a shout out to Carol Dweck, Ph.D. Her research into the incredible power of mindset, and her ground-breaking book, Mindset, have had a profound impact on my coaching, parenting, relationships and life in general.  In a nutshell, Dr. Dweck’s years of research, experimentation and analysis have led her to the conclusion that humans primarily operate in either a “fixed” OR a “growth” mindset.

A “Fixed Mindset” is a limiting way of looking at the world.  A person with a fixed mindset thinks of themselves and others as having innate traits, talents and liabilities that can’t be changed.  I.E. “He is a smart person.  I am a procrastinator. My spouse is a klutz.  My son is an artistic genius.”  Counterintuitively, even positive traits had be limiters when one’s mindset is fixed.  When we paint ourselves or others into a box, growth is limited.  If my identity is that “I am smart and school is always easy for me,” I will avoid challenges that may prove otherwise.  

The “Growth Mindset,” on the other hand, is the idea that abilities can be developed and improved.  While a test may show us how we stack up at the moment in terms of a skill, it does NOT determine our aptitude in the long term.  A person with a growth mindset relishes challenges as chances to grow and get better.  Effort, tenacity and willingness to keep working at a difficult endeavor are valued over “talent.” The key is in believing that we can master intellectual, physical and artistic skills if we are willing to use every experience as an opportunity to grow.

It’s easy to recognize why the Growth mindset is preferable to the Fixed.  So what to do?  Changing the way we praise others and talk to ourselves are key for pushing out the Fixed Mindset and reinforcing the Growth Mindset.  Instead of Fixed Mindset praise: “You are so smart, you are a natural!, you are so talented”- Use Growth Mindset praise: “Great effort, Way to hang in there, Awesome Improvement, Hard work will make you better”.  If there is success without effort,  “That was too easy for you, we’ll ramp up the challenge next time” or good effort with little improvement,  “You worked hard and kept your concentration- keep it up, it will pay off.”

This of course applies to our training in the gym and fitness in general.  Every day is a chance to get better.  Every challenge is an opportunity to grow.  Not trying something because we fear of failure or think that we are “just bad at that” is stereotypical Fixed Mindset and something we at CrossFit Discovery are dedicated to leaving in the past.  Ask your coaches for tips on making the shift to Growth.

Change your mindset, change your life.  At every age, the die is NOT yet cast unless we let it be so.  We can improve, evolve and grow if we continue to take on challenges with relish and grit.  Do something hard today.  And tomorrow. And the next day. And so on.  See you at the gym.


Health Span v. Life Span

(from the Daniel Island News, 8/22/2017)

It’s been my good fortune to know several people who have lived with rare vitality and gusto well into their 90s. What was their secret? Good genes? Mineral water? Luck?

In individual cases we may never know the exact answer. However, there are through-lines in those achieving this if we look closely. While it’s certain that our time on this earth is finite, we are more in control over our “health span” (long-term quality of life) than you may think. And prioritizing health span (quality) over life span (quantity) is central to aging well, in my opinion.

A whopping 70 percent of the causes of premature death can be prevented or reversed with a well-rounded fitness program and good nutrition. So if you are past the halfway mark in life (or just want to plan ahead), I encourage you to take stock of your current state, take ownership of your “health span” and fearlessly pursue an active, joyful aging process of your own. A willingness to challenge yourself, consistency, and a few hours of focused effort each week are all that is required.

As the old saying goes: “The best time to start an exercise program is 20 years ago. The second best time to start is today.” If you want to be in great condition when you’re 80, it’s super helpful to have already been in shape when you were 79. Maintaining fitness is much easier than gaining it. That said, fitness gains ARE possible even into the ninth decade of life. So while it’s never too late to start, like planning for retirement savings, the earlier the better.

A well-conceived, balanced fitness program doesn’t have to become a full time job. Always keep in mind that the reason to pursue fitness is to enhance your life. Training in a gym should make your daily tasks and leisure activities easier and more enjoyable. Look for a program that includes these components: fun, social, safe and sustainable.


1) Get off the couch. Sitting on the couch all day will literally kill you. If you don’t want to lose it, you need to use it. Choose to walk or bike when at all possible. Take the stairs. Get up from your chair and take a lap around the house or office hourly.

2) Eat Well. Commit to eating colorful vegetables, high quality proteins and healthy fats at every meal. Avoid sugary drinks and processed foods. Occasional “treats” that aren’t great for you are ok. Just make sure it’s something you truly enjoy.

3) Work harder AND smarter. A mix of weight training and interval training will help you maintain bone mass, muscle mass, a healthy metabolism and relieve stress. Functional training like CrossFit will also help you improve flexibility, coordination and balance. Getting the right amount is very important. More is often NOT better. A professional trainer can help you know the right load (weight) and volume (repetitions). Every workout should be tailored to your current level of fitness.

4) Recover. Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of fitness and the one that is especially important past age 40 is recovery. Two to three sessions of focused hard work per week are plenty. More will wear most people down and have a net negative result. Make getting sleep a priority, do low intensity activities you enjoy, add mobility work like yoga or a stretch class into your routine and don’t hesitate to tell your coach/trainer if you feel at all run down.

Look for a program that has a long track record of positive results. If there aren’t any participants in your age range, it’s important you ask why. At CrossFit Discovery, we take a long-term approach to building exceptional fitness. We have found that seeking steady incremental improvements over time leads to a much better quality of life. We advise looking for the same principles regardless of whether you decide to train with us, at a commercial gym or on your own.


1) Is moving well the priority? Mechanics should come first. Learning how to move properly, safely and efficiently are the foundations of your fitness. Going for “high intensity” too soon is high risk, low reward.

2) Is consistency valued? Consistent incremental improvements yield amazing results when compounded over time (yes, just like interest). Work hard, yes. But working so hard that you are wrecked and can’t function for a period of days? Totally counterproductive.

3) Is intensity relative? Your coach and/or program should be committed to lowest effective dose. To get the most positive response to training stimulus, working at a level appropriate for you and closely monitoring the amount of work is extremely important.

4) Is it a winning investment in your well-being? Given today’s health care costs, improving your fitness and overall health may be the most impactful way to lower your cost of living in later years. The value of living independently, feeling good and having improved energy levels is not to be denied. But fitness training isn’t cheap. Experienced coaches offer a professional service at corresponding rates. Group class programs can offer great value for the price. Commercial gyms can be inexpensive, but you’ll be on your own in figuring out what to do each day. Finding the right fit for yourself is the key.

At CrossFit Discovery we offer a free consultation for people who are interested in the programs we have to offer. If you are interested in these programs or consultations, please call us at (843) 813-6343 or email with questions or to schedule an appointment.

Robert VanNewkirk is owner of CrossFit Discovery in downtown Charleston and on Daniel Island.


Basic Nutrition Can Take you Far

Eating well does not have to be so darn complicated.  If we can start following a few simple rules, we can enjoy enormous benefits over what was experienced with the SAD (Standard American Diet). Once we establish the basic habits outlined here,  we can fine tune your eating plan (timing, quantity, supplements, etc.) further.   NOTE: If you are experiencing autoimmune issues, hormonal imbalance or elevated levels of inflammation, I recommend you START with a more stringent approach.  (Let me know if this is the case.) Here is the CrossFit Discovery Mealtime Mantra:

1. Eat High Quality Protein at every meal. 

  • Protein stimulates mobilization of energy and maintains lean muscle
  • Eat Eggs, Fish, Beef, Wild Game, Pork, Poultry or anything that had either a mother or a face
  • Grass Fed, Pastured, Free Range, Local and Wild Caught are all preferable to their factory raised counterparts
  • Aim for a palm sized portion.
  • Avoid Soy

2. Get your Carbs from Vegetables.

  • Vegetables are nutrient dense and won’t jack up blood sugar and insulin levels like simpler carbs.
  • Beets, Kale, Chard, Collards, Carrots, Broccoli, Winter squash, Sweet potatoes, Bell peppers, and so on.  The more colorful the better.
  • Don’t just buy vegetables- EAT them!  Fill any empty space on your plate with the green stuff.
  • This does not mean that fruits are bad for you.  It’s just much better to prioritize the veggies.  Eat less fruit when trying to lean out.
  • Avoid sugar and grains. Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea and coffee with pumps and drizzles are the absolute worst.

3. Eat Healthy Fat, Do Not avoid it.

  • Fat is a great hormonally neutral fuel source that signals our body to be satisfied.
  • Get plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil
  • Eat the fat that comes with well-raised animal protein (egg whites alone aren’t what they are cracked up to be)
  • Use Olive oil (cold, as on salads) and Coconut oil (to cook with) and Grass Fed Butter
  • Avoid soybean and corn oil.

4. Drink Smart!

  • Drinking a glass of water at wakeup will jump start circulation, metabolism and digestive function.
  • Sugary/Sweet Drinks are THE WORST thing you can swallow. Avoid Soda, Fruit Juice, Soda, Sweet Tea, Sweet Coffee Drinks and And Sweet Alcohol Drinks.
  • Drink Coffee with MCT Oil or Heavy Cream, unsweetened Soda water (la Croix), or Unsweet Tea.
  • Sipping water all day long is better than chugging all at once.
  • Your performance drops dramatically if you are dehydrated.  But thirst is the most accurate signal of dehydration.  Drink when thirsty.

5. Make Treats Count

  • You will begin to recognize right away if a food is a net positive or net negative to your health
  • If you decide (after all, you are a grownup) to eat something unhealthy……..
  • ENJOY IT!  Eating unhealthy crap that you don’t even enjoy is just lame.
  • Of course, if your goals include performance, health and aesthetics, you won’t eat crap often.
  • Remember….sometimes the best way to “Treat Yo Self” is to NOT “Treat Yo Self”.

Need more info?  Some of our favorite books/blogs on fueling up properly:

It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

Eat Fat Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf


The Why


your well-being is my obsession


It can be easy to assume that the folks most important to you know your thoughts. But we all know what they say about assuming.

We have lots of news and upcoming events about which to inform you.  This email started out as a laundry list of such. While working down that list, it became clear that this might instead be great opportunity to pull back the curtain and share the “whys” and “hows” of CrossFit Discovery with you.  It will, I hope, create context for the upcoming changes we are making to improve your experience.

CrossFit gyms are not franchises and are certainly not all the same. We are a loose affiliation of coaches with a shared knowledge of CrossFit principals. For example, that “Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity” is both the definition of CrossFit itself and the best way to train for general fitness. And of course, we have been exposed to lots and lots more theory and practical methodology.

But as far as operating a CrossFit affiliate, anything goes. Equipment, staff, facilities, programming, pricing and scheduling are all completely up to the owner.  So whether it is by design or happenstance, everything about Discovery is my responsibility, whether good, bad and indifferent.

Since your experience training with is largely dependent on the aggregate effect of all the decisions I have made as a gym owner, it seems only fair that you know about how those choices were made, if only you decide to read further.

We are here to help our valued members:

  • to feel great most of the time (not necessarily during a wod)
  • to enjoy your fitness IN and OUT of the gym
  • to decrease your stress level
  • to look your best
  • to increase your mental toughness
  • to avoid chronic disease
  • to be youthful at any age
We are here to create opportunities for our wonderful staff:
  • to be valued leaders of our community
  • to do rewarding work every day
  • to have a path to a meaningful career
  • to make a professional wage
We are here as the owners:
  • to make a sustainable living
  • to spread happiness, health and fitness
  • to make Charleston, SC and the USA better by making people better
  • to keep doing this as long as there is a need

So how to best accomplish ALL of these aims at the same time? Below find my own obstinate, Stoic, Nebraskan-Californian opinion on what works best. And the cool thing is, if you disagree, it’s easy to find another gym where they do things differently.

Smaller is Better.

You may have noticed that though we’ve grown steadily over the years, there are rarely a big percentage of “brand new people” in our classes.

As a gym owner I get bombarded with “Gain 30 members this month” emails and social media ads- daily.  But there’s a reason we don’t want to grow that way.

If we have 5 “new folks” in a class who just bought a Groupon or want to “try a free CrossFit Class”  what are the chances your coach will pay ANY attention to you, a longtime member?

Four things we are doing to “Stay Small and Personal”:

  • Effective May 1, 2017, we’ll begin capping classes (except for Saturday team WODs) at 12 on Daniel Island and 10 Downtown.  Pre-registration will be required to secure your spot in a class.
  • We are adding classes to our schedule (also effective May 1st) so everyone can find a class time that works for them.  A detailed survey to help us determine new times will follow this week.
  • We are developing a CrossFit Discovery App to make signing in for classes or personal training and managing your account easy-peasy.
  • We have refined our KickStart program to prepare new members even more thoroughly for Group Class.  They will all have a minimum of 10 personal training sessions under their belt and even more knowledge of how to succeed at Discovery before starting regular WODs.

Will we continue to grow?  Yes.  But as we grow we will continue to protect your experience.  We aren’t a retail focused business. We don’t try to sell you a bunch of “supplements” or other crap in which we don’t believe. We offer a general fitness program that will put you in the 95th percentile of All Americans if you eat well and consistently show up. And you can get there while being happy and enjoying your life.

We aren’t cheap.  I would rather train 10-12 people well than 20 poorly.  This is not a volume business.  Lots of gyms are. We want to know every one of you by name, your dog’s name, your occupation, where you are from and more.  Because? Because you are the most interesting, motivated, creative and funny people in Charleston. And we can coach you better the more we know.

We also know that it’s impossible to perfectly please everyone. Some of you would like to do Olympic weightlifting every day. Some would prefer to never do Olympic weightlifting ever again. I get it.  My compass is pointed at all times at helping the whole CrossFit Discovery community be as generally fit and prepared as possible.  We don’t do squats or pullups to be good at squats or pullups.  We do them to be functional humans. But if you want to specialize in one thing or another, WE CAN HELP. Personalized training is available with one of our expert coaches. Talk to one of them or call Kimberly at 843.813.6343 to arrange an appointment.