Monday, 28 December 2009
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Fear not! We at EYF are veteran Globo Gym CrossFitters. Indeed, before opening CrossFit Monterey we infiltrated Globo Gyms from California to Washington D.C. to London, England, and managed to avoid getting kicked out (though we may have been warned a time or five...) We're here to help! Follow these five simple tips to make your travel training experience as painless as possible...apart from the WOD, that is.
1) Don't hog equipment. Okay, so in your affiliate, you can do the "Filthy Fifty" while someone else is doing the "Twisted Twelve" and three other people are doing the "Hungry Hundred" (alright, I made that one up.) But most Globo Gyms will have a couple of barbells and squat racks, a few benches, dumbbells, maybe a couple rowers, and if you're really lucky, a decent pullup bar. That's about all that you'll find of use to you. And believe it or not, you're not the only person who wants to use that equipment! Maybe the guy who wants the squat rack is going to do quarter squats, but the fact is, he paid just as much money to be there as you did. He can do all the quarter squats he wants. I'm not saying don't use the squat rack for as long as necessary: I'm saying don't take 10 minutes between sets just because you can. And I'm definitely saying don't use more than one piece of equipment at once. Globo Gyms are not the kind of place where you can take the squat rack, the bench, and the pullup bar all at once. If you don't think you can get a nasty workout with one piece of equipment, you probably haven't been CrossFitting very long.
2) Have your workout planned before you arrive. I own a gym, and this means I can show up whenever I want and play around with all the toys until I decide what I want to do. But my athletes show up and know what they're supposed to do. It shouldn't be any different in a Globo gym. You should at least have an idea of what you want to do, and modify it as their equipment allows. Don't waste time dicking around with equipment other people may want to use.
3) Play by their rules. If they say no chalk, don't bring chalk (okay, so the pot is calling the kettle black here, but it was Russ' idea!) Don't try to lift barefoot – trust me, they won't like it. If they say no Olympic lifts, don't Olympic lift. You will be okay if you don't snatch for a couple of weeks, I promise.
4) Be respectful of non-CrossFitters. Here's what I want you to do when you get frustrated with the guy doing bicep curls and half range-of-motion bench press: Look at him...really look at him...take a deep breath...and then say to yourself "I used to be that guy." Because you did. You know you did. And you sure as hell wouldn't have wanted some douchebag telling you that what you're doing is totally useless and non-functional. Play nice. And if people ask you "what the hell are you doing?" try not to come across like you're terribly superior. I've had CrossFitters do that to me, another CrossFitter...I can't imagine what those assholes would have said to someone who had been doing leg presses.
5) You can do plenty of your training outside of the gym. Ideally, you should use the Globo Gym for your heavy lifting and maybe some monostructural metcon (rowing and swimming come to mind, if you're lucky enough to find a Globo gym that has a rower and a pool.) If you bring a jump rope, a pair of rings, and an empty sandbag with you on your trip, you'll have plenty to get you through a couple of weeks worth of workouts. Or even invest in a cheap pair of dumbbells once you're there...it probably won't cost much more than going to the Globo Gym every day. I recommend 30-45lbs for guys and 20-30lbs for gals, depending on your fitness level.
Happy Holidays from Evolve Your Fitness! Don't forget to set at least one PR on New Years Eve!
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
My friends, I am guilty of a great sin.
When I am training on the main site WOD, all my 5k runs are done on the same, flat course. If a workout with thrusters, push presses, or jerks doesn't specify that the bar must be taken from the floor, I always use the rack. I never substitute dumbbells for barbells, or rope climbs for pullups, or do my handstand pushups on parallettes.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not afraid of making things more challenging. In fact, when I'm doing my own programming, I prefer to run in the hills, I love dumbbells, and rope climbs are just plain fun. Fear isn't what's stopping me. It's standards.
You see, when faced with the prospect of participating in the same workout as thousands of other people, I've just got to give myself every advantage I can. What can I say? I get competitive.
Competition is good. In fact, competition is, in my opinion, the primary factor that's driven CrossFit to the success it's had. But a problem arises when we look at every single day of the WOD as a competition unto itself: in the effort to get the best possible time on the prescribed WOD, we lose the ability to be creative and challenge ourselves.
After the 2008 CrossFit Games, Tony Budding wrote an article for the CrossFit Journal about standards. After chest-to-bar pullups were used in the Games, a lot of people took that to mean that chest-to-bar pullups were the "official" CrossFit standard pullup. Budding's point was that standards are arbitrary: that is, the standards applied to our movements – chin-over-bar or chest-to-bar pullups, top of hip below the kneecap on squats, even running a flat 5k rather than a hilly one – are, in reality, just ways of evening the playing field in competition. It may be that abiding by these standards produces greater fitness. However, they are arbitrary on game day, because the only thing that matters in competition is...well, competition. How you trained for it doesn't matter, all that matters is how well you perform.
If you're still pretty new to CrossFit, this won't be much of a problem. Just getting to the point where you can do the main site WOD as prescribed is a challenge for most people. It sure was for me. But as you become a better athlete, the need to add variety and challenge to your training becomes crucial, both for the mental ability to deal with new and unusual tasks, and for the physical capacity to complete them. If all you want is to do as well as possible on the prescribed main site WOD every day, that's fine. That is a perfectly reasonable goal, and you'll still get damn fit. If, however, it is your goal to compete in the CrossFit Games, I urge you to remind yourself that your day-to-day training is a means to an end. So forget about doing things the "standard" way once in a while. Don't be afraid to pick up some dumbbells, climb a rope, squat ass-to-grass, or put on a weight vest.
And for fucks sake, run some hills. You're going to need it.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
CrossFitters tend to have extreme personalities. If we are going to work out, then we will push until we collapse on the ground exhausted. If we're going to deadlift, then we better lift 25 lbs. more than we did the last time. If we're going to eat better, then it'll eat 12 almonds, not 11 or 13. I love this attitude. In many ways I exemplify it.
I've nearly completed seven years of CrossFit. Recently, some unwelcome free time has allowed me to think about my experiences with training. Pretty much every extreme thing you can think of, I did it. Thinking about these experiences has lead me to ponder my training more deeply. As Adam Hesch has asked, Why am I here? Why do I fight so hard, every day, to achieve an ideal that I will never reach?
A lot of athletes will tell you that the mind can conquer anything. They will tell you that if we work hard enough there are no limits to what we can do. This perspective has validity. It is often the right advice. But I think that we do have limits. We might not know what they are, but they are there. And I don't think that the answer is always to just keep grinding.
I once ate so much food in the Georgetown University cafeteria that I vomited all over the table. That got some looks. I was trying to gain weight at the time without eating any processed foods. It turns out your stomach can only handle so much broccoli and chicken breast. If I were still trying to gain weight, I would temporarily relax my dietary restrictions. But you don't need to be that big to be a great CrossFitter.
Strength bias? You bet. I made barbell training the focus of my programming for years. I obsessed over 1 rep improvements or adding 5 lbs. to a lift each week for weeks on end. In the long run I found that I could make faster strength gains with less focus on barbells by improving my technique. But did I get fitter and stronger during the period of barbell focus? Absolutely.
Multiple WODs per day? For several months this year I was training 3-4 WODs per day. Often one would consist of a distance run at a 6:50 mile pace in a 20 lb. weight vest, a heavy olympic or power lift (I worked up to a 265 lb. power clean, 440 lb. deadlift and 245 lb. overhead squat at under 180 lbs. bwt during this time), several thousand yards of swimming, and a daily bodyweight circuit consisting of one leg squats, L-holds, deadhang pullups, and ring dips in a weight vest. Training was my life at this point. I had very little energy for anything else. I can't remember much from this period other than the constant shuffle between gyms and meals. My friends have reminded me that I was somewhat grouchy during the rare moments that I talked to another human being.
When the goal that I was training for didn't work the way I had planned, I quickly found this level of volume no longer manageable. I had made steady progress on the high-volume program up until that point, but I no longer felt capable of keeping up with training. I took two weeks off from serious training. It was the longest break I had taken since I started training 9 years ago at age 13. Did my body break down or did I just lose my mental focus? I'm not sure, but I think it was both.
What about the Zone diet? I spent a couple years weighing and measuring all of my meals. I learned a lot about portions and discipline with food during this time, but I no longer weigh and measure my food. I'll be honest with you. I still think that weighing and measuring my food would help my performance, but I don't do it any more. My guilty conscience tells me that I just don't want fitness bad enough. The other side of my brain tells me that many of the fittest guys in the world don't weigh and measure (or eat strictly paleo foods) either.
By the standards of most of my peers I am an exercise nut. But I don't feel that way. I've gone through some crazy WODs, exercised an abnormal degree of discipline in my nutrition, and completely transformed myself in the process. But I know that whatever I do, there are guys out there living their lives with more discipline. And I want to be more like them. But I know that I will always be making compromises. Should I accept these compromises, or should I insist on perfection? Will surrendering at one point lead to a cascade of failures?
I don't know all the answers to these questions. I will be fighting between the relentless pursuit of the future and the enjoyment of the present for the rest of my life. But this point does not just apply to me. It has very important repercussions for coaches. We have to work within our athlete's psychological and physical limitations while actively seeking to push those boundaries outward.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Jerry started CrossFit this summer weighing 370 lbs. At this point, he suffered from an enlarged heart, was pre-diabetic, and had very high blood pressure. Jerry wanted to live to see his two young boys grow up to be men. Unfortunately, his health made it seem unlikely that he would be healthy long enough to do so.
Had Jerry entered most gyms as his pre-CrossFit self, scarcely able to walk, most trainers would not have known what to do. But Jerry showed up at Kenny Castro’s gym, CrossFit Ranch. CrossFit Ranch is at the forefront of the CrossFit community in terms of training substantially overweight clients. On Jerry’s first day, Kenny had to take him by the hand to get him to walk 250m to warm up.
What a difference 5 months of dedicated effort can make. Last Saturday, Jerry rowed 1000 meters. Jerry then carried a 35 lb. kettlebell and 45 lb. bar up the near-vertical Aromas hill for 300 meters. Jerry lifted the barbell upright and placed it into two weight plates. With his hands free of the barbell, he performed 30 kettlebell swings. Then, Jerry carried both these implements back down the hill.
Jerry fought through this torturous order of events for three rounds. He finished this workout, known as the Mount Suribachi Challenge, in one hour and 59 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Jerry’s achievements are not confined to one day of effort. He has lost 75 lbs. while gaining a substantial amount of muscle. Performance-wise, Jerry has raised his deadlift from 220 lbs. to 360 and increased his press from 65 lbs. to 160 lbs. Whereas he once could only run 25 yards at a time, he can now run over half a mile without stopping. You can read more about his experience with CrossFit at his blog, A View from the Plus Size.
Does anybody think that Jerry is not right for CrossFit? If a 43 year old, 370 lb. man can become an exemplary CrossFitter, then we cannot rule any person out based on age, weight, or any other elitist criteria we may think of. CrossFit is hard, but for most people, life is harder. Millions of people will choose to work hard in the gym if we show them that CrossFit is a good investment of their time.
Let me repeat this point for emphasis: We cannot rule out anyone as a potential CrossFitter, regardless of the individual’s current appearance or fitness level. The objection that people make to CrossFit’s expansion is often borne of elitist insecurity: “CrossFit’s not for people like that.” But now that you know about Jerry, you know that’s not true.
Reaching the masses is the right thing to do for our gyms, our country, and our conscience. We will have much more success as CrossFit trainers if we follow Kenny’s example and open our doors to the majority of Americans that are overweight. It should sicken us as Americans that so many of our fellow citizens are poisoning themselves to early graves. It is wrong to keep to ourselves when we have knowledge that can save our neighbors lives.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
According to John Robb, the best way to defeat an open-source insurgency is to divide it.
Could any point be more relevant to the CrossFit open-source fitness insurgency?
I am not in a position to judge the personal aspects of the dispute first portrayed on RobbWolf.com. I do not have enough background information to analyze these actions, nor, most likely, do you.
On the other hand, I am very aware of the immediate negative impact that this event has had on the CrossFit community.
Robb Wolf came into this conflict with an impressive grass roots following. He has helped thousands of people, in person and online, many of them for free. Even a brief glance at the comments section of his blog reveals fan after fan thanking him for an email he sent or a seminar he gave. Robb’s online community centers around the Performance Menu journal and website and the aforementioned blog Robbwolf.com. Robb also runs a successful affiliate, CrossFit Norcal, and until this week he ran the CrossFit Nutrition Certs as well.
CrossFit HQ has similarly served the CrossFit community since its inception. It leads a loosely-controlled though heavily-intertwined network of affiliates, trainers, and athletes. HQ is responsible for the certification seminars, CrossFit.com, the CrossFit Journal, the CrossFit Games, the affiliate network, the legal defense of CrossFit and more. This community would not exist without CrossFit HQ.
What we have is two social networks that at once overlap and compete for support. Though many CrossFitters use both sources of information, most that I know have a preference.
This dispute, therefore, is much larger than the several men involved. Robb Wolf and the Performance Menu have represented a significant subset of the CrossFit community for several years. They have argued for prioritizing strength development, detailed study and practice of the Olympic lifts, generally lower carbohydrate intake than the Zone recommends, and prioritizing Paleo food quality over the Zone diet’s emphasis on quantity. These disagreements over methodology are evident in every depiction of the events of the Black Box Summit that I have seen so far, from Russell Berger’s to Greg Everett’s.
The CrossFit community is the strongest and fastest-growing social network in the fitness industry. It represents a much-needed opportunity to spread effective training and nutrition to the masses. This is the big picture.
As CrossFitters we all have are changing lives, communities, and countries, yet people are getting angry about Paleo vs. Zone when MOST OF US DRAW HEAVILY FROM BOTH SOURCES OF INFORMATION.
Our next article is going to feature Jerry Summers, a man who showed up at CrossFit Ranch this summer weighing 370 lbs. and unable to run more than 25 yards or do a full squat. Jerry has since lost 75 lbs. and can now run half a mile at a time and deadlift 360. This is a bigger story than any verbal dispute.
CrossFit will do for millions what it has done for Jerry if it remains a strong and diverse social network.
Evolve Your Fitness will continue to pursue CrossFit’s definition of fitness: work capacity across broad time and modal domains. We will use whatever methods that the available data suggests to be effective. Loyalty to any particular methodology, source of information, or personality is a recipe for mediocrity. We’re too passionate about fitness to follow anything other than performance data. We hope that the rest of the CrossFit community remains focused on performance as well.
The pursuit of fitness brings us together. Let’s not allow personal disputes to tear us apart.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
What is the origin of the term metabolic conditioning in CrossFit? Let us refer to one of the original CrossFit Journal articles, Foundations. In this article, Greg Glassman refers to metabolic conditioning as training which “builds capacity in each of three metabolic pathways, beginning with aerobic, then lactic acid, and then phosphocreatine pathways.”
Coach Glassman includes the training of the phosphocreatine pathway within the category of metabolic conditioning. Also known as the ATP pathway, the phosphocreatine pathway is the shortest-lasting energy pathway with the highest potential for power output. Think of a heavy clean and jerk, 40 yard dash, or max box jump.
Here’s the problem: CrossFitters use the term metabolic conditioning as distinct from low-rep lifting, high-strength and skill moves in gymnastics, and max effort/short duration jumping and sprinting. Clearly, however, these activities fall within the purview of the phosphocreatine pathway and thus are in fact examples of metabolic conditioning.
A further problem with “metabolic conditioning” is that most Crossfit “metcon” workouts test and develop far more than merely energy pathway development. High rep squat cleans, for example, all test much more than just energy pathways. Accuracy, agility, balance, coordination, speed, and are at play to a substantial degree. Coaches who don’t understand the diverse nature of these adaptations will often fail to include higher skill exercises such as cleans and handstand pushups in their “metcon” workouts. As a result, their athletes will under-perform when exposed to workouts such as Grace or Mary.
Accuracy and precision in language are necessary for the intelligent analysis of data that CrossFit is based upon. As CrossFitters, we should insist upon using correct terminology where it exists, and creating it where it doesn’t.
We still need a term to describe workouts lasting longer than 30 seconds, however. I propose Extended Power Output. “Extended” implies that these workouts last longer than brief 1 to 30 seconds spurts of exertion. As all Crossfit Level One attendees know, “power output” encompasses neurological and biological components of fitness. Extended Power Output avoids the flaws of “metabolic conditioning” while accurately describing what most people mean when they say “metcon.”
Monday, 9 November 2009
Since the 2008 Crossfit Games many competitive CrossFitters have started training multiple metabolic conditioning workouts per day (despite the misgivings that many barbell-strength-focused theoreticians have with this methodology.) This trend has accelerated since the 2009 Games.
Some athletes respond well to increased workout frequency, while others crash and burn. How do we best adapt ourselves to a higher frequency of training? What role does nutrition play?
Today’s discussion question, therefore, is: what is the relationship between carbohydrate intake and metabolic conditioning performance in CrossFitters?
Aaron Moburg-Jones first raised this issue in the comments section of my Facebook status. He suggested that the ability to process carbohydrates may influence an athlete’s ability to train frequently.
Shane Skowron agreed with Aaron, saying that:
“Well if you do more volume, you need more carbs… Carbs fuel glycolytic system and glycolytic system is involved in almost every Crossfit workout with a few exceptions.”
The discussion continued past this point, but it’s not my intent to summarize the debate here.
Instead, I wish to involve the broader CrossFit community in a discussion of the relationship between carbohydrate intake and training frequency.
What has been your experience with the relationship between nutrition and training frequency, either as a coach or as an athlete?
Friday, 6 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
All of these things are less exciting than Fran. Boring, even. So it doesn't surprise me that you're not doing them regularly. I know that I have been guilty of working on my hip and shoulder mobility only slightly more frequently than I go to see my dentist.
This post is not going to add to the list of things you should be doing regularly. It is going to help you accomplish more of the tasks you already have on that list.
Why do you train so hard in the gym? If you’re like most CrossFitters, you love numbers. You’re addicted to PR’s. Boiling every performance down to pounds or seconds allows you to compete every day.
Now let’s look at the stuff that you should be doing, but don’t. What does it all have in common? Sure, it’s boring. But why?
If the WOD didn’t have numbers and competition, it would just be a chore. And that’s where eating vegetables and your mobility work are right now. They are a chore.
Sure, we know that in the long run, eating vegetables and loosening up our hips is going to lead to better WOD scores. But most of the time, the long-term is too abstract to motivate sacrifices now.
Let’s WOD-ify that thing you should be doing but aren’t. All of the moralistic hand-wringing in the world isn’t going to motivate you to do your PNF work after a WOD.
How do we turn chores into things you actually WANT to do?
Here’s a simple three-step process:
- Measure performance.
- Set a goal.
Now, for a concrete example:
Remember that hip and shoulder mobility work that I neglected for so long? I work on it every day now.
I read about the hands-together/feet together overhead squat in the Crossfit Journal a few months ago. That afternoon I tried to get as close to it as possible. It was ugly.
But look at that checklist above. I found a way to measure my hip and shoulder mobility, a goal to shoot for, and I knew that other people had done this before. If they could do it, then dammit, so could I (competition.)
Since this revelation, I’ve worked on my shoulder and hip mobility almost every day. I haven’t gotten the feet-together/hands together overhead squat yet, but I’ve made a lot of progress towards that goal. This increase in hip and shoulder mobility has improved everything from my squat form to my gymnastics strength.
I did not make this progress because I became more disciplined. Instead, I turned hip and shoulder mobility from a chore into a challenge.
So what’s that one thing you’ve been neglecting? How are you going to motivate yourself to do it?