Ryan Chipka has a hard time standing still, both physically and geographically.
Over the past handful of years, Ryan has moved from Rochester, Michigan to Toledo, Ohio; to Virginia to be with his wife, back to Toledo to coach baseball, then back to Michigan where he is currently the director of program development for the University of Michigan’s baseball team.
Oh, and the dude tries to fit in two workouts a day when he can.
What have you done lately?
After Ryan discovered the sport of CrossFit living in Rochester, MI, he knew that wherever he ended up with his wife, he would immediately seek out a CrossFit box that he could call home. At Grand Trunk CrossFit, he’s found just that, even going so far as to become a coach in his spare time.
“These are my people,” says Chipka.
An analytical mind, Chipka brings a different approach to his classes. He wants to help improve athlete performance by giving them a different point-of-view to focus on as they work through a WOD.
“CrossFit is always going to humble you but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better,” he says. “Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a short video of an athlete’s form and texting it to them so they can see, visually, what they need to work on.”
Ryan is always looking for ways to make others better, which extends to his work with the Michigan baseball team.
Without going into too much detail and giving away too many secrets, we can say that Ryan works hard with the players to give them every opportunity to succeed on the diamond.
Whether that involves coming up with innovative ways to take advantage of video, or encouraging them to make Murph a part of their offseason training regiment, Chipka doesn’t allow himself to get static when he’s doing his work, so neither should the athletes he leads.
“The ‘All Blacks’ New Zealand rugby team has a motto: ‘When you get to the top, change your game.’ I find that pretty fascinating and it’s something I try to instill in everyone I coach,” he says. “You can only get so far resting on your laurels, which is why I was drawn to CrossFit right away.”
Chipka’s embrace of CrossFit came about because it was a way to see his weaknesses exposed, giving him something to focus on during his workouts. But he has never been averse to physical fitness, which makes him a, well, a chip off the Chipka block.
His wife Audrey; brother, Jordan, and his sister-in-law, Miya, are all members at Grand Trunk.
His older brother, Dan, coaches high school football in their hometown of Toledo and his youngest brother, Jake, runs marathons out west in Washington.
Coaching and staying active runs in the family. But, when you get down to it, it’s the service aspect of coaching that has the most appeal.
“So many people can find themselves in a rut – whether it’s fitness or whatever – that just listening to them actively can make all the difference,” says Ryan. This is something that has really excited me from a coaching standpoint.”
And it’s the change he sees in people that keeps him invested in the coaching.
“Every day I see members show up from all different walks of life and compete against who they were yesterday,” he adds. “They’re learning something new, challenging themselves, setting goals, achieving them and coming back for more, even when soreness sets in. I love it; it energizes me.”
One thing that caught him a bit by surprise has been the openness of the athletes when it comes to bending his ear.
“People are very open to advice from others, which makes the process of coaching so satisfying when you can break through and help them get better.”
The ability to listen well is not something that’s taught, and it’s why Ryan has become so fond of Grand Trunk.
“Brooklyn (GTCF co-owner) is so unbelievably good about listening to you when you have an idea for the box that you want to bounce off of him,” says Ryan. “I’m not sure you would find an owner anywhere who is as open and hungry to create a better box environment for all members.”
Ultimately, what drives Ryan to be his best at Grand Trunk when he’s coaching, and at Michigan when he’s working on different programs, is the desire to become the best version of himself so that he can help others become the best versions of themselves.
“People want to get better at whatever it is they are working on, whether it’s fitness or learning how to play the guitar,” he says. “By actively listening, you’re giving them a piece of you that they might need at that very moment, which is an incredibly powerful thing.”
Depending on your sport, the importance of speed could be a defining characteristic of your success. Naturally track and cross country athletes want to run fast, but speed can help in almost all team and individual sports where strength and conditioning comes into play. Whether you’re a running back who needs to hit the gap just a split second before the linebacker can wrap you up, or a basketball player who needs to explode past the defender for a layup, speed can be your best friend on the field or court.
Given all else, a faster athlete tends to be a better one and luckily many of the defining characteristics of speed are skill-based. That means they can be trained and improved upon. It is important to work with a coach who can teach you the skills and mechanics you need to learn. When improving speed is the focus you need to make progress in at least one and possibly all three areas of strength, mobility, and mechanics.
An athlete can become faster by improving their absolute strength and relative strength to their body weight. This can be achieved through a combination of resistance training and plyometric exercises. Heavy squats and deadlifts will help develop the the motor unit recruitment and force production ability of the leg muscles.
Plyometric exercises like box jumps will strengthen connective tissue and improve the stretch shortening cycle in the muscle. Athletes will grow stronger and more powerful and this will directly correlate with increases in speed. Working with a coach who is well-versed in speed development will help you get results quickly as well as stay injury free.
Improving mobility — the ability of your joints to move freely and easily — can directly improve your speed. This is primarily due to the increase in stride length when the hips, knees, and ankles have full range of motion. This allows for greater muscular contraction due to the body having a higher threshold for motor recruitment. Your coach should explain the proper way to dynamically stretch, warmup, cool down, and mobilize as a part of your program. It is important to discuss any past injuries with your coach so they can help you to the best of their ability.
The foundational movement pattern of running is a skill just like any other. Learning how to generate power through the proper mechanics can be a game changer for many athletes and may make you feel like you are running for the first time all over again.
The timing, stride length, ability to change directions, and use both the arms and legs for explosive movement are all essential skills to improve speed. Your coach will be able to address your unique needs and provide the proper guidance to dial in your mechanics.
If you are serious about improving speed to crush it in your sport, seek out one of our coaches to develop a training plan to reach your goals.
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