Get To Know Z

Last summer, Dave and I decided to expand our little company, and we were very fortunate that Craig Zielinski, a.k.a., Z, agreed to join us in our (mis)adventures. Z has been helping us behind the scenes, but I’m about to devote myself to two new projects (hint: cookbooks), and Z is going to be a lot more visible on Pinterest and Facebook on my behalf. This should be good news for you because instead of my half-assed action on social media, Z will make sure there’s new, good stuff every week. YAY!

I asked Z some questions so you guys could get to know him a little bit, but before you get to his responses, here’s some stuff I know about Z: He’s one of of the good guys — intelligent and driven, with a mithril-strong core of integrity. He’s also got a sense of humor that makes it easier to roll with the bullshit of every day life. Bonus, he has good taste in people: He’s married to Stephanie Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo, who is also of the good guys girls women.

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Meet Z

Can you tell us a little bit about your current workouts? What’s your background in physical badassery?
I started CrossFit in 2007 and flew to the U.S. to get my Level 1, CrossFit Endurance, and CrossFit Barbell (now defunct) certification. I continued to acquire all the knowledge I could on these subjects and quickly realized there was no chance I would make it to the CrossFit Games. At that point, I became a coach and worked locally training a handful of people and friends under the CrossFit Glasgow banner, which I affiliated in 2009.

As the years passed, I pursued further certifications with the British Weight Lifting Association and other CrossFit specialist courses. I offered my affiliate name to Iain and Gav in 2011, who were opening the first actual decent CrossFit gym in Glasgow, and we quickly built a massive CrossFit community. The first bricks and mortar CrossFit Glasgow was born. I was invited by John Welbourn of CrossFit Football/Power Athlete HQ to assist on their European seminars which afforded me excellent coaching and learning experience. I also made some good friends along the way.

Having a full-time tech job meant my time was limited, but when I could, I would coach and train at CFG. This resulted in my developing a training style I call Basic Barbell, which is the pursuit of maximum results for a minimum of training. Over the years, I’ve developed a keen interest in what a “normal” person is capable of with that style of training. The answer is: pretty much anything. Last April (before I moved to the U.S), I squatted 10, 3-rep sets of 400 pounds at a bodyweight of 185 pounds. That was my final Basic Barbell experiment. When I moved out here, I shifted focus to weightlifting, because that’s what my wife Steph does at CrossFit Fortius. Next up: USA Weightlifting (USAW) certifications.


Do you use music when you’re training?
Depends. When I lived in Glasgow, CrossFit Glasgow was my gym. I had control over the music there, which meant people would be treated to my truly horrifying (for them) tastes. When I moved out here to California, turns out I would have to don headphones as a matter of courtesy to other members. I usually reserve music for squatting only. During warmups it can be some neo-classical composer like Max Richter or Jóhann Jóhannsson, maybe the Skyrim or Interstellar soundtracks, but on the first set [of squats] that all changes. For me, the most inescapably motivating music is that of Swedish experimental/technical/math/extrem/djent metal band Meshuggah. I haven’t failed a single rep listening to those guys.

Talk about your relationship with paleo (and tell us about that histamine thing).
I learned about Paleo in roughly 2007 through my interest in the work of Joe Friel, who co- wrote the The Paleo Diet for Athletes with Dr. Cordain. I implemented that version of Paleo (big P) pretty much immediately and continued in that vein until I discovered the blog of Robb Wolf. He was teetering on the precipice of throwing in the towel because his site wasn’t performing as he wished. Being from a technical background, I offered my aid, and we quickly became good friends — although to this day we have never met in person!

Paleo was an easy choice for me for two reasons. The first, I was using it a a diagnostic tool to establish the root of skin rashes that have bothered me off and on since I was a wee guy. The second was to enhance my body’s efficiency in any athletic goals I chose to follow and to minimize the inflammation caused by training.

The skin thing took me years to solve. YEARS. ACTUAL YEARS. I ran into so many false positives, it got to the stage where I was convinced it was an allergy to bovine serum albumin, and my friends were treating me like a hypochondriac, saying “What are you allergic to now?” Doctors called it eczema and told me “It just happens.” Even my wife suggested it may simply be psychosomatic.


Histamine intolerance. Tough to diagnose. Easy to manage once you’ve figured it out. (For details on histamine intolerance, read this and this.)

I can honestly say eating any other way seems so alien to me now, if people offer me something I don’t normally eat, my knee-jerk response is to react as though they were asking me to eat rocks — quite unintentionally (unless they know better). I am at the stage where anything that isn’t paleo looks like poison and a great many things that are paleo (small p) have to be avoided because they pretty much are, to my intolerant bad self.

What’s your favorite thing to eat when it’s just you and you don’t have to negotiate with a dining partner?
I love a giant steak. I like to sear both sides and finish them in the oven. My cooking isn’t quite that of my goodly wife, so I occasionally can be found staring, crestfallen, at a medium-well chunk of cow. I’m getting better, though. Most times I nail it.


Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about working out but need a kick-in-the-pants to start?
Aye. Plenty. Usually in a loud and unforgiving manner. I have found that people aren’t actually ever scared of anything, they just think they are. Once a good coach (that would be me) explains the reason behind something, a lot of the initial fear goes away. When you reduce a movement to physics and biology and ask someone to perform it within their capabilities, they accidentally get hella strong hella fast. Practice makes permanent, and subtly changing points of performance can result in people getting “much stronger” (read as: efficient) in one session. This usually causes people to become desperate to come back and train more. It’s not as hard as people think and infinitely more rewarding to both mind and body. Find a strength coach. The rest is patience and persistence.

What do you like to do that doesn’t require working up a sweat?
I am a bit of a fantasy nerd. I love watching Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Steph and I watch those and Game of Thrones pretty much on loop. Before I moved to the U.S.,  I had poured 310 hours into Skyrim, an amazing video game with unmatched lore, landscapes, and music. Unmatched. Aside from fantasy stuff I rant, coach, invent websites and work in tech.


You’re hosting a dinner party with 7 other people around the table. You can invite anyone, living or dead, real or fictional. Who’s on the guest list and what are you serving? And just to up the ante: you can’t pick anyone that Steph already named.
I already dropped a clue with the steak. I reckon I’d go for salt-and-pepper-seasoned, medium-rare cap steaks and Kerrygold mashed tatties (potatoes). The guests would have to be headed up by my wife, as she is not only an excellent companion at any dinner, she is equally excellent at subtly indicating when my rants are shutting down the conversation; Old Jan Zielinski, my grandfather (no longer of this Earth); Paarthurnax (it would have to be a pretty large table); Sir Isaac Newton; Richard Taylor of Weta Workshops; J.R.R Tolkien; and Christopher Hitchens.


And finally, Z… what’s it all about?
It’s all about the pursuit of strength. Strength of character, strength of mind, and strength of body.

dotted line*With gratitude to Gordy Macdonald for the photos of Z.




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