Kaj Larsen, Owner of CrossFit Santa Monica describes their gym as a conditioning focused gym that borrows the best workouts and techniques from their background as Navy SEALs, CrossFitters, college athletes, and lifelong fitness lovers to create incredible and challenging workouts in a fun atmosphere.
The CrossFit Santa Monica family.
A couple of things separates them from the rest. First and foremost, their people and community. Kaj stated, “In the special operations community we have a tenet that says focus on Humans, not hardware. This is true at our gym as well. We have great people. In fact, I did a workout just yesterday at the gym without a single piece of equipment. Just 20 people using bodyweight alone to get a great workout (and I’m feeling it today!). Yes, we have all the latest and greatest equipment, but we are a people first gym. Our members are everything from CEOs to Uber drivers, and our coaches have lived and worked around the world from the Middle East to our little backyard at the beach here in Santa Monica. That gives us a unique sense of community. It is fun to come in and workout. We have had members meet and get married at the gym, people quit their corporate jobs to become coaches, and people make the best friends of their life. I'm super proud of those deeply personal relationships.”
CrossFit Santa Monica members in action!
The second thing is that they focus on conditioning at CrossFit Santa Monica. They are building athletes that are lighter, leaner, stronger, faster. Kaj added, “Some CrossFit paradigm has switched to a heavy focus on Olympic lifting, and the raw truth is that most people in their lives don’t need to know how to snatch 185 lbs overhead, but they do need to run faster, jump higher, have better endurance, and look and feel better overall. So we de-emphasize some of the more high-risk technical maneuvers in favor of good old fashioned functional fitness. We, of course, incorporate some of this kind of work, but by focusing on conditioning, we are building better athletes that can train and workout for longer periods of time with more efficacy and less risk of injury. Interestingly enough, one of the positive externalities of this kind of programming is that it gives a great boost in longevity. I’ve been able to practice CrossFit injury free for over a decade and we model that for our athletes. In short, we train for life, not CrossFit. CrossFit is a means for being better at every other end in your life.”
When asked about the biggest mistake he sees other people commit when exercising, Kaj responded, “This sounds simple, but in the SEAL teams, Carter (my co-founder) and I learned that working out is 90% mental and 10% physical. You see a lot of emphasis on the physical and less on the mental in the physical fitness world. We think that mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and a positive mental attitude are key ingredients for lifelong health and fitness. So we actively practice these things. Also, the most essential element is fun. If you are not having fun, you definitely are doing it wrong!”
The biggest mistake he sees other gyms commit is when they become too singular or homogenous in their approach. Kaj said, “There is no one modality or regiment that is a perfect panacea. In fact, the best gyms do what we do, borrow the best ideas from multiple domains, so that your athletes continue to grow mentally and physically. We borrow the best practices from gymnastics, from water polo, from military training, to stay on the leading edge of fitness. It's also important to embrace the paradoxes of life and fitness. We want people to be both strong and flexible, use both high intensity and low-intensity movements to train. We are constantly innovating. Many gyms become static, we believe you move or you die. I also think that a lot of boutique fitness now is focused on what I call subjective fitness, how do you feel, are you tired, are you out of breath, did you get a good workout? You see this in Yoga, spinning, pilates, etc… How you feel is one measure but it's not the only one. The best and most effective gyms also incorporate objective fitness. How fast did you go, how much did you lift, how much work did you accomplish. These objective measures are important. It is how we measure progress. I think this objective verse subjective debate is one of the most important discussions within fitness that is often overlooked. We know our people are getting better because we have a record of all their progress. You get what you measure, and I love to watch our community improve individually and as a whole.”
A couple of other things that are really unique about CrossFit Santa Monica, they love to incorporate mobility as a component of every workout from a programming perspective. All their classes have a killer 50 min workout followed by a dedicated 10-15 min of guided mobility. This is critical to longevity and good health that’s why it is mandatory for them, where all too often, it's an afterthought. They also love to take advantage of geography, they love to take it outside the box since they have the privilege of living in beautiful 72 and sunny LA by the beach. They do killer beach workouts every Saturday in the soft sand called BeachFit. This is great for their members and friends dropping in from out of town. “It’s awesome to work on your body and your tan all at the same time in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.”, Kaj added.