Miranda Alcaraz retired from CrossFit competition in 2015 but her love for writing programs didn’t go away. She and Julian Alcaraz are not only first time parents of a newborn but they have also birthed a vibrant community of fitness junkies who are passionate about training wherever life finds them at the moment. #streetparking has 19, 347 Instagram posts. Their private Facebook group has 540 members and the private Instagram feed has 3,447 followers. Add another 50 subscribers on YouTube. Even with overlap that’s a lot of people for something that just began in January of 2017! Check out how they’re bringing scalable functional fitness to the masses with Street Parking!
The Birth of Street Parking
Miranda first of all congratulations on the baby!
Oh thank you!
You love training but honestly having a full time job plus being mom to a newborn is enough for most people! Tell me what it was about this opportunity that made you say it’s worth putting the time into it at this stage of my life?
I was talking about it with a friend and we actually launched Street Parking the day before we found out I was pregnant! Like you said, both of us come from a competitive CrossFit background. My very first CrossFit Games was in 2008 before it was even a thing to do. You just signed up and did it there were no qualifiers or anything like that! I was a personal trainer before I did CrossFit; working as a trainer in bigger gyms, Julian grew up wrestling in high school and then moved to L.A. and he was running boot camps in his backyard before he knew CrossFit. So it was something we were both passionate about before we became competitive athletes you could say. Nowadays, if you’re trying to compete, it’s a full time job. Those guys train like an NFL player would— it’s all day! Which is fun and great I got injured in 2015 so I was feeling— I was 32 at the time— I can’t continue training like an athlete forever because at some point you need to have a real, adult plan.
Well, everyone retires from their sport eventually—
Yeah, but when I started working full time and he started growing his business, he has a small company— They do paleo meals here in the Southern California area, we found that we ended up working out at his house a lot. Or we were traveling for my job. And what we noticed is on our personal Instagram pages, when we would post a workout with just a set of dumbbells in a random hotel gym or something that was in his garage that was just very little equipment that the response that we got from that was way bigger than anything that we could post from being a competitor. So we were like this is what people want to see! So we started posting more stuff like that on our personal pages. I used to own CrossFit 801, it was the first CrossFit gym in Salt Lake City and I had been programming through CrossFit Linchpin for other affiliates, I would write their monthly programming and what I started to see is there are so many programs for people who want to compete in CrossFit or functional fitness but all of it requires that you have a gym full of equipment and a bunch of time on your hands. And that really turns people off because they’re like, “I don’t have enough time”. We wanted to provide that for people so we were like we should start a program where people can actually track it and instead of just random workouts here and there; we’ll actually program a workout of the day. What we wanted to provide is a really affordable option for people which at $19 a month this is.
The Unlimited Plan Option is $19.99 per month unless you’re a service member in which case it’s $15.00. Does that discount cover first responders like police, fire and paramedics?
Yeah it’s police, fire, military. We didn’t realize that it was going to be as big as it is. Our goal was to have 100 members in the first month. It was more like this is a hole that we see; we’re posting workouts anyway so we might as well make it a little bit more official. And we built that community where people are talking to each other and asking each other’s advice and sharing those sorts of things because that’s what makes it fun. Because it can be lonely as you know yourself know.
CrossFit has embraced the garage gym and brought it more mainstream in a way that grip sport, powerlifting and strongman never did. Is that why you chose the name Street Parking?
Yeah, we picked the name Street Parking because if you have a garage full of equipment then where do you park?
Is Street Parking Right for You?
One thing I love about the athletes I see following your programming is the diversity in ages and workout situations. You’ve got people working out in garages, parks, living rooms and of course the street but is there such a thing as a typical Street Parking member?
It’s people who have a passion for fitness; they want to maintain a high level of fitness but they’re just busy. Whether busy means they work out at home or they travel a lot or maybe they— we do have members who still go to a regular gym but maybe they have an hour and they don’t have time to always hit a specific class time or whatever.
I saw that you had Street Parking members compete in the Open. Granted the Open is an option for anyone who does CrossFit but could an athlete realistically go from intermediate to competitive in the Open with your programming or would you advise them to find a box somewhere to get in person coaching and feedback?
It’s definitely not for someone who’s trying to compete at a high level in anything necessarily. If I had somebody sign up for Street Parking and they were planning on using that solely to compete in CrossFit, I would advise them that they needed to add some other stuff. You’re going to get really fit and you might be able to do well in the Open, that’s a one workout a day thing but at some point you’re going to have to do more than that!
The previous question was more about goals; this one is more about athletic background. Your site says, “Street Parking is great for the busy athlete, the garage gym athlete, for a conventional gym, or to be used as a supplement to a higher volume training regimen!”
We have a lot of followers that have never stepped foot inside of a CrossFit gym and have never had any desire to do a CrossFit style workout. They just in their brain think it’s a good workout; I’m in a hurry and I’ve got to do something so we try not to pigeonhole it too much into that. It’s more of general fitness that you can do at your house.
How It Works
Our message is do the daily workouts if you’re just looking to stay generally fit and look good and have a good time.
This person may not even have a garage. This person is in their apartment or is stuck in a hotel room a lot of times. The only equipment that’s required to do 90% of the workouts is one to two sets of dumbbells and a jump rope. There are workouts that don’t require dumbbells and the jump rope, bodyweight stuff. Every once in a while there will be a medicine ball and we’ll still program box jumps for those people. If they don’t have something they can jump on, we tell them to jump over something to get a similar stimulus.
This person has a barbell and plates; they might have a plyo box and something to do pullups on. They also have a kettlebell and a jump rope but they don’t have a rack, they don’t have a bike or a rower. That’s usually the version of the workout that I create first and then I’ll build the Program A version scaled down from that.
This person has a rack and rings. They have a bike or a rower or maybe both. They have a bar, plates, kettlebells, they have everything like the beautiful pictures that you post on Instagram of these amazing garage gyms. We want to cater to that person too; we don’t want to just program only for the dumbbells because there are people like Julian— he’s training to compete in a month at Regionals and he does 90% of his training at our house but he has to be on the rower sometimes, he has to be on the rings.
We program the following once a week on a Sunday. They’re not meant to all be done on Sunday and they’re not something that we make people feel they need to do at all.
Street Parking Oly
If you want more work on the Olympic lifts.
Street Parking Power
This is always going to be some version of deadlift, press, bench press, back squat. You know powerlifting types of lifts. It’s not super fancy like what I’m sure powerlifters do. We’ll put some accessory work in there sometimes.
Butts and Guts
This is there because people always want their abs and their butts looking good. And this is probably the workout that people do the most; they love it and they think that this is what’s going to change their bodies. I know and you know that they might be better off doing the Power workout but it’s fun so we have it there for people to do it.
There’s a version of this for running, rowing or bike.
Can you unpack how that works on a weekly basis?
Let me give you an example. Todays’ workout, the Program B version has running, lunges and weighted situps. The Program C version isn’t more advanced it’s just if you would prefer to use your rower or your bike instead of running that’s the way you’re going to do it and here’s the distances for that. Or if you can’t run, you’re on the third story of your apartment building in New York and to go downstairs and run 200 meters is pointless, then here’s a way you can do the workout without having to run. So one isn’t more advanced than the other it’s just different.
Taking equipment out of the picture do you have options for beginners, intermediates and advanced athletes?
That’s kind of how the daily demo videos come in. Every day we put the variations and stuff, like this is generally how long this workout should take you. If you do something that’s five rounds and it’s supposed to take you fifteen minutes and your first round takes you four minutes then cut the reps or lower your weight. Or these are the ways to do it properly for where your level is. We try to show pull ups for example, I mean especially when you look at women, most women in the general public aren’t doing pullups with no assistance in a workout. So we show this is how you can scale to a jumping pullup or this is how you would use a band. The thing that’s helped us with that is both of us have trained in a gym with beginners for so long that we know a lot of tricks and things to help people feel more comfortable. We do try to give as much information as we can like when you’re choosing your weights, this is how many you should be able to do in a row before you have to break. We prescribe a weight to give people an idea but we give them a guideline always. We say, that might mean that you’re doing this with an empty bar and that’s totally fine.
Say I’ve been doing Program C plus Power once a week so my elbows are starting to hurt and I need to back off and get some active rest. How do you program that in?
What I’ve found with CrossFit specifically compared to a powerlifting program is that it is so different all of the time that you’re not pressing heavy three times a week where you would need to deload as often. With that said we do also do newsletters, Facebook and Instagram Live sessions where we talk to people about when they need to rest and how they will know that and what they should do. What I’ve found from owning a gym and from seeing regular people, not competitors in any one sport; is that most people deload on their own by getting lazy for a week or going on vacation so you almost don’t have to prescribe it.
That’s actually similar to something that Bill Starr wrote. He was a college strength and conditioning coach and he said in an Ironman Magazine article that he just used the regular vacations in the school calendar as his deloads.
And that’s most people. If I was writing programs for CrossFit competitors it would be completely different. They go on cycles where they’re not doing as much conditioning and then they’ll really ramp up the conditioning and not do as much strength and they have their deloads set but for regular people it gets built in because their life builds it in for them. But we do give advice. We program seven days a week but have been talking in our newsletters and in our Live posts that they should be resting at least one to two days a week. And on those rest days it can be complete rest or active rest.
One flaw that I find with online programming for the masses like Daily Burn or BeachBody is some of the very people who gravitate towards it lack a developed athletic IQ. Meaning, they haven’t built the muscle memory to know when they’re doing something wrong but they’re trying to follow a program alone or in the company of other inexperienced athletes. How do you all address that with Street Parking?
Honestly we have close to 900 members now and we’ve had maybe 100 people cancel and I would say the main reason that people cancel is somebody says, “Hey, actually I’m going to get some coaching for a little bit because I know that some of these movements are new for me and then I’m going to come back and that actually doesn’t hurt our feelings at all”.
That’s actually integrity for someone to say I realize that I’m not doing this correctly! I mean, you could screw up a push up! And you can actually hurt yourself doing a pushup!
Obviously with the descriptions and demos we try to do as much coaching as possible without being able to see them which is difficult. You can’t correct anybody; you can give them as much information but we can’t watch every single person do every workout. That would get super expensive and only a few people could afford it. If they post their videos on Facebook and Instagram we absolutely will watch them and we give tips back to them all of the time.
As a solution have you all thought about letting members know when seminars are coming up at various locations so they can get hands on coaching so they don’t have to leave your program?
We haven’t done that but it’s not something that we would be against if we had information about stuff like that.
You said on your blog that for you the steps to creating a workout can be broken down as:
- Create a template
- I try it. Or ask someone else to try it and tell me how it went. I take the info about how it went and I learn. I repeat this process until I can instinctively know how a workout is going to go.
Did you adopt this approach because you’ve got newer as well as more experienced athletes or do you just think that this is a best practice, sort of a lead from the front approach to training?
I think it’s more a lead from the front type of approach. We are the audience that we’re trying to capture. Me maybe even more than Julian, because he does have to do extra stuff so he can compete but he does even competing, all of the Street Parking workouts and then he adds stuff on top of it. And it’s funny because realistically, my times and the weight that I’m able to do right now even being pregnant are probably going to be closer to a normal person than his are. So me testing it might be more like a realistic, hey this is how this workout is going to go. We do have the app where people can post their scores and look at everybody else’s. We post our times at least three or four times a week so people can see what we’re doing.
In designing programs you wrote, “Know the goal of your program as a whole and constantly check yourself.” How does this play out in your programming?
We do retest the workouts so they can see if they’re getting fitter by seeing if they were able to do more weight or go faster. We do try to post something about nutrition once a week and we have sent out a nutrition newsletter and we send it to new members when they sign up, giving strategies for eating and how to figure out how much you need based on your lifestyle and body size. Having measurements outside of just the workouts and retesting them are definitely something that we’ll be incorporating eventually but we haven’t gotten there yet.
Street Parking in addition to the public group, has a private Facebook and a private Instagram profile. I assume that people only get access if they pay to join the group. That may seem exclusionary and it is but there’s an advantage to a pay site because it allows moderators to weed out negative voices. How do you all handle negativity in Street Parking on Facebook or Instagram?
Actually hasn’t happened yet and I think that’s because everyone in our private page are all following members. If we had someone that wasn’t happy or was negative; I don’t need their $19 a month, so I would try to just answer their questions and figure out why they’re being that way and then if they were unhappy with the program and if they were affecting the vibe or whatever we would just probably ask them not to be a member to be honest.
In addition to your Instagram and Facebook groups, you’ve also got a YouTube channel with unlisted videos that only street parking members can view. Is this primarily an option for longer exercise demos that wouldn’t work on Instagram?
Honestly we haven’t done a ton on YouTube. We do have the videos that you’ve probably seen that explain Program A, B and C and how to use the Wodify app. We put those in the welcome email when people sign up so they know what’s going on. We would love to do more with YouTube but with the full time jobs we just haven’t had time to film high quality videos. The demos we film on our cellphones with iMovie.
I can actually see it as an option for when you give birth and YouTube might be a good option to preload some videos so people can still see demos when you’re no longer able to film them.
We actually have a plan for that. Already there are things that I can’t demo, little things like the situps and we have one of our good friends, her name is Anna, who is a firefighter, you’ll start to see her in the demo videos because I feel that there needs to be a male and a female presence in the demos. So she’ll start being in the videos with Julian and then there’s stuff that I can do you’ll see me in their doing it as well because I think people like seeing that as well.
What’s the number one thing that your members say about your program that makes you the proudest?
Oh man! Probably that it’s made them excited about working out again! A lot of our members are like I used to be a member of a CrossFit gym and then I had kids or my life got too busy and I miss it! I’ve tried to work out at my house and I could do it but I was still missing the feeling of community like other people were doing the workouts with me and what you guys have created is not just the workouts but also like a community and family feel that I’ve been missing.