Sunday, July 8, 2012


CrossFit is referred to as a General Physical Preparedness (GPP) program.  Its intent is not to cause specialization in any one of 10 critical areas, but rather increased performance across all of them so the individual athlete is prepared for whatever life throws at them.  The “official” aim of CrossFit is:
“Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”
In plain English, as CrossFitters, we simply strive to improve a range of activities such as a weightlifting Snatch 1RM performed in a very short period of time to something like a metabolic conditioning 2000 meter row which occurs over a longer period of time.  Each of these activities, and those between and beyond, utilize differing metabolic pathways in differing ways; training across a broad range of activities optimizes these metabolic pathways and leads us in a positive direction towards health, fitness, and longevity.

Once we complete Elements and start to get comfortable with certain moves, many CrossFitters are faced with the quandary: “What weight should I use for this WOD?”  This, of course, varies with the rep scheme of the WOD as well as training status and experience of the given athlete but one should always keep the overall aim, mentioned above, in mind.  So I ask you this:  Is it possible to INCREASE the power output of a given workout by DECREASING the weight one uses?

In order to answer this we’re gonna have to geek out just a bit, so bear with me…

Work is defined as Force X Distance (F X D).  Simply put, it’s the energy required to move a weight a given distance.  If you divide the result by the time it takes to move the mass the given distance, the result is called average power (aka “work capacity”). 

Let’s consider a simple WOD consisting of 45 Thrusters, for time, at a prescribed weight of 95 pounds.  And let’s say it takes an athlete 5 minutes to complete the work.  In our example, from the bottom of the squat to the overhead position is a distance of 6 feet.  So our calculation looks a little like this:
W = F X D6 feet X 95# = 570 foot-poundsP = W/T570 ft-lb/300 sec = 1.900 Watts*
*(Coincidentally, a more commonly used unit of power output is a Horsepower, which is equal to 746 Watts, so our athlete demonstrated a work capacity of 0.0025 HP).

After finishing, our athlete feels the 95# weight really slowed him down so, after a few days of recovery, he decides to repeat the WOD with a scaled weight of 75#. By dropping the weight a little over 20% he is able to complete the WOD in 3:30.  Now let’s go back to our original question – Is it possible to INCREASE work capacity by DECREASING weight?  

You bet it is.  Let’s prove it:
6 feet X 75# = 450 ft-lb450 ft-lb/210 sec = 2.143 Watts or 0.0029 HP
In this case, decreasing the weight allowed a significantly faster time which resulted in a 16% increase in work capacity.  Kristin, check my math.

You're probably wondering how this info is useful to you?  Should you bust out an abacus and slide rule before every WOD?  Well…no, not unless that’s your thing, but it is helpful to understand the concept at least so you don’t get hung up on using the Rx’d weight for a WOD.  In fact, if you’re at the box long enough you’ll probably see some folks come and go that simply aren’t able to check their ego at the door and insist on doing Rx’d weight no matter what.  If you watch closely enough, you’ll cringe at the sloppy technique, rapidly deteriorating form, or injury.  Simply put, you may very well get a better workout, and thus better results, by scaling and making small, incremental steps towards Rx'd weights.

Speaking of prescribed weights, it’s important we remember they are intended for “Elite” athletes.  Each of us has strengths and weakness, and while we all are striving for maximum performance, the journey to get there goes from Untrained to Novice, then Intermediate, Advanced, and finally Elite.  I refer you back to our welcome post with the suggestion to truly gut-check where you are reference to some defined “standards” and set goals accordingly.

One last thought I’ll leave you with…It is damn-near inevitable that each of us has compared ourselves to others on the board at the box.  Maybe you’ve even used others’ performance as a “guide” for setting up your WOD.  This can be OK if you're using the information wisely.  The caution I offer is this can be either beneficial or detrimental to your results.  Unless the individuals you are comparing yourself to are similar in age, physical stature, training status, experience, nutrition and recovery, the comparison is likely moot; a better suggestion is to compare your results to YOUR results.  Keep an organized workout journal and get with one of the instructors to help you shore up areas that are lagging.
If you are competition-minded or absolutely, positively must compare yourself to others look into a membership* at Beyond The Whiteboard.  This tool allows you to log your personal stats and WOD performance and then stores it in a database with thousands of other results.  You can do comparative searches based on criteria such as age, height, weight, etc.  It yields results in a bell-curve format so you can see where you are relative to comparable peers.  It’s a much larger sample size and can give you a better idea of where you truly stand as a CrossFitter.

*Until recently BTWB was "open" to view others' WOD results but it looks like this may have changed.  They do offer a free 30-day trial if you'd still like to check it out.

I've seen some people beat themselves up about not being able to do Rx'd weights, or attempting to and ending up frustrated with their performance -- I've been guilty of both myself.  As the Challenge comes to a close, I hope you keep this post in your mind as you proceed with your training.  It's not an excuse to not push yourself but rather a challenge to train smartly, efficiently, and safely.  I've enjoyed writing these posts and working with all of y'all.  See ya' at the box!

3, 2, 1...GO!


Sunday, July 1, 2012


Pointers For Eating Out -- originally posted by Missy Yi at

I’m a bit of a control freak (any ex-boyfriends reading this post can stop laughing).  Okay, I’m a big control freak.  That’s why I love cooking so much.  I like to know exactly what’s going in my tummy.  It’s not always possible to eat my own cooking, though.  I’m fortunate to always have healthy meals available (little plug for Skinny Fork here), but eating out is as much a social event as it is a necessity.Birthdays, holidays, business meetings…they can all involve ordering from a menu.  So this post is dedicated to proving you don’t have to be a food-hermit to eat healthy and gluten-free.

Pointers for dining out healthy and gluten-free:
  • Order your proteins “broiled” or “grilled.”  These methods typically involve the least amount of added fat and minimal seasoning (i.e., less risk of gluten).
  • Order your vegetables and rice “steamed.”
  • Order potatoes “baked” and “dry.”
  • Say NO to "breaded" and "battered."  These are guaranteed to be laden with fat and gluten.
  • I love me some condiments.  Ask for these on the side, and use them on your proteins, vegetables and potatoes.
  1. Olive oil - It's heart healthy, a little dribble goes a long way to adding "mouth feel."  Ask for it even if you don’t order a salad.
  2. Balsamic or malt vinegar (NOT vinaigrettes, which is a dressing) - If it’s not on the table, ask the server nicely (nice goes a long way).  He/She can probably get some for you from the kitchen.  They’re great sprinkled on vegetables and rice.  Acids are flavor enhancers (like salt) when used in moderation.  Just don’t go overboard and pickle your meal, unless that’s the affect you’re going for.  Food Geek Note: As an added bonus, the acetic acid in vinegar inhibits the production of amylase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down carbs, so some of the potatoes and rice may pass through your GI tract, unused.
  3. Mustard - This is my fave.  Again, ask for it if it’s not on the table.  Grab a couple yellow packets of sweetener from the table and mix it with the mustard for a sweet and tangy dressing.  I put this on everything, even at home.
  4. Hot sauce - Ask for it if it’s not on the table.
Most importantly, TELL your server you have a serious food allergy to gluten (technically Celiac Disease is an intolerance, but I like to keep stuff simple).  Typically, this gets their attention better than "I don't eat stuff with x,y,z."  This tactic is also very useful if you've chosen to eat healthy and someone's persistantly pushing a bowl of ice cream in your direction.  Tell them you're allergic.  I know I'm allergic to ice cream.  It makes me break out in cellulite.
Now that you’re armed with information, go out, enjoy the company of loved ones, and eat healthy and gluten-free.


Monday, June 25, 2012


“Constantly varied…”

I swear I’ve heard that somewhere, or at least seen it on a t-shirt.

Often times, the programming at the box may seem very random (aka varied).  You may have heard someone say even there is a “method to the madness” but have you ever stopped to wonder what that is exactly? 

There is, in fact, a theoretical template for CrossFit programming designed to incorporate varying exercise modalities and varied range of times, while maximizing both intensity and recovery.  The “theory” being that, properly programmed, athletes will maximize improvements in performance and minimize downtime due to fatigue, overtraining or injury.

This is a good time to define a few terms you should be familiar with; those being Frequency, Intensity, and Volume.

Frequency is simply how often something occurs.  Normally, it refers to training in general (i.e. how many days per week one trains) but can also be used to describe how often a particular exercise or modality of exercise occurs.

Intensity refers to the effort expended during a training session.  Two simple ways to change intensity are to change the weight one uses or change the time one performs the exercise(s) for.

Volume refers to the total instances something is performed in a training session.   A 1RM attempt usually follows a low-volume scheme of warm-up and work sets.  A WOD like “Karen” has a high volume with 150 Wall Ball Shots (my butt cramped just typing that).

Below you’ll see the template for CrossFit training programmed on a 3-on-1-off schedule as well as a 5-on-2-off schedule.  It was first published in CrossFit Journal Issue 6 – if you haven't checked out the CFJ, I highly recommend it.

The 3-on-1-off template is believed to maximize results by allowing for more recovery and the ability for the individual athlete to maintain maximum relative intensity.  The 5-on-2-off template, while considered less-than-optimal in its absence of the reasons mentioned above is a viable “convenience” alternative to better match the common American work schedule.

As indicated, the M, G, and W above refer to the exercise modalities of Metabolic Conditioning, Gymnastics, and Weightlifting respectively.  Simply stated, Metabolic Conditioning exercises are those that increase respiration rate (e.g. rowing, running, etc.), Gymnastics exercises are those using your own body weight as resistance (e.g. air squat, pull-up, etc.), and Weightlifting exercises are those where you move an external load (e.g. Barbell Press, Kettlebell Swing, etc.).  Additionally, the appearance of the M, G, or W indicates a single occurrence of that exercise modality in the WOD.  Days with only one modality are referred to as “single-effort” days, those with two exercises as “couplets,” and those with three as “triplets.”

Examples of a weightlifting (W) single-effort day would be 5x5 Back Squats @ 80% 1RM or Grace with her 30 Clean-&-Jerks for time.  “Nancy” is a good (MW) example of a couplet with five rounds of running coupled with Overhead Squats; Fran” is also a great one also (GW).  Finally, “Jackie” is a prime example of a (MGW) triplet with rowing, thrusters, and pull-ups all in one great WOD.

You may notice a few things when looking at the template:
  1. Rest days are programmed in to each, emphasizing the importance of scheduled recovery.
  2. Single-effort days, more likely to be higher intensity, normally follow rest days.
  3. Exercise modality constantly changes, as does frequency, intensity, and volume.

Now you’re probably saying “Wait a minute!  We just did ‘The Filthy Fifty’ and I don’t see any such beast mentioned in this template!”  That’s right.  You don’t.  Outside of the benchmark WODs many named WODs are conglomerations of exercises that were popular with its creator – some may follow the template while others may not. 

It’s also important to remember what you see above is a “theoretical” template and as such the programming at the box may fit this paradigm at times and at times it may seem to go in a different direction.  The ultimate thing you should take away from it is there is some logic to the randomness and good programming and regular rest are essential to improving performance.  Additionally, you should understand a schedule similar to 5-on-2-off requires some “self-discipline” on the individual athlete’s part because, with sub-optimal rest frequency, s(he) may need to self-scale by dialing back intensity or volume in later parts of the week.  This is a good example of why it’s important to check the ego at the door all the time.

So here’s to the beautiful chaos of it all.  Hopefully, this expanded your understanding of why CrossFit can be so effective when you combine good programming and smart training.

3, 2, 1…GO!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


You've probably heard this:

"Meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar."

That's a very good simplification to establish the framework for a Paleo diet.  It is remiss however to not point out what isn't included on that list so, keeping it simple, avoid grains, dairy, legumes, as well as "foods" with added sugar or that are chemically-processed or preserved.  The basic premise is that, after weening from our mother's breast milk, we are genetically preconditioned for foods hunted or gathered from local surroundings and eaten as close to their natural form as possible -- raw, sliced, mashed, skinned, grilled over fire, etc.

If you'd like to delve deeper in to the Paleo diet and it's background Dr. Loren Cordain's Paleo Diet and Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution are probably the quintessential sources of information on the topic.

Now, the Paleo diet is not a religion, nor is it meant to be a historical reenactment of caveman times (unless you're into that sort of thing), but we should strive to eat as well as possible within the framework above.  Do you need to run out and buy only wild-caught fish, free-range meats, and organic fruits and vegetables?  No.  Are those choices better than feed-lot beef, farm-raised fish, and fruits and vegetables treated with chemicals?  Definitely.  The reality is if you still follow the framework, regardless of the source of the food you are most-likely better off than someone following the Standard American Diet (ever wonder why the acronym is SAD?).  Just aim to eat the highest quality foods you can afford and that fit within the framework.

Sometimes people ask me "how" I eat and after I get the stupefied look when I rattle off the sentence at the beginning of this post, I almost always have to expand a bit..  The best explanation I've heard comes from the folks at Whole 9 or what they call their "elevator pitch:"
I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit.  I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition.  And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible.
It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight.  In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine.  Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way.
Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body.  It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym.  It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
After all that, you're probably wondering why the title of this post is "Paleo" vs. Paleo so we'll get to that now.  Often times, people start to think of foods as either Paleo "approved" or "prohibited" and then fall in to the trap that they can eat the "approved" foods with reckless abandon.  The overuse of almond flour is a common example, as is the mass consumption of "nitrate-free" bacon or sweet potato "fries."

Are these options better than their Neolithic counterparts?  You betcha.  The problem lies in the fact that many of these alternatives are calorie-dense, have flour or sugar added (look at the ingredients on those sweet potato fries next time you're in the grocery store; and the ones at the restaurant ain't hand cut!), or have higher amounts of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids.  All of these things may likely work against you if you are attempting to lose weight or improve performance so the key is to still moderate consumption of these types of foods, using them only on special occasions or as a "cheat."  There is also a time and place for certain foods which will be the topic of a future post.

So the caution is to avoid getting too lax with the term "Paleo" while striving to eat as best you can.  In the meantime, reference the Paleo shopping list attached to the District 7 Facebook page to help stock your home with clean, nutritious foods.  I also highly recommend The Food Lover's Kitchen  and Everyday Paleo for some good recipes.

Happy eating!

3, 2, 1...GO!

Monday, June 11, 2012


If you've been watching the main FB page for the Challenge you've probably noticed a bit of a theme popping up...people are sore, tired and taking one or more days off.  In some cases, these breaks were "pre-planned" and in worse cases they resulted from being a little overzealous or not training smartly.  You may remember a mention of training smartly in a previous post.  Today's post piggybacks on that and will discuss the ever-important, but oft-neglected need to rest and recover.

So let's jump right in...

Rest comes in many forms but the most important is the restorative period where we all jump in our PJs (or out -- Oh, BEHAVE!!!) and hit the hay.  The National Sleep Foundation says adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep per day  Like most things, sleep needs vary by individual but these times are a good guideline to aim for.  Those that tend to sleep less than recommended times are said to have sleep "debt."  Chronic sleep debt can cause hormonal imbalance leading to weight gain, illness (diabetes, heart disease, mental, etc.), and a sleep-reducing spiral of stress.  And unfortunately, sleep debt cannot be made up by sleeping 5 hours one night and then 11 the next -- average rest requirements are for a given 24-hour period.

When it comes to quality sleep here are some tips:
  1. Maintain a regular "bed" time -- Get in bed to be able to fall asleep and provide a minimum of 7-9 hours rest before your planned wake time.  Keep this consistent if possible (same time every night), weekends included.
  2. Get your bedroom comfortably cool -- 65-70°F tends to be a good range for most.
  3. Get your room as dark as possible -- Use black-out curtains, a dimmable alarm clock (ditch the clock if at all possible), cover LEDs on TVs and other electronics with black tape. 
  4. Remove or minimize distractions before bed -- TV, computer/iPad, etc.
  5. Exercise, heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol too close to bed can all affect sleep quality negatively as well.
Recent research also indicates that "poly-phasic" sleep, meaning that which doesn't occur all at once, can aid in reducing the effects of sleep debt but the best solution is to try and get the best sleep you can and only use naps as necessary. Of course the problem is that many of us rarely have the opportunity to nap and thus may be operating with a chronic sleep debt -- a sure-fire prescription for eventual breakdown.

If you want to read more about the need for sleep, check out this post at Mark's Daily Apple.

Recovery starts as soon as the WOD ends and there are two primary components -- cool-down and post-workout (PWO) nutrition.

Let's talk about food first...

Like always, the building block of PWO nutrition should be protein.  Amino acids are the building blocks for repair and synthesis of muscle tissue; no other macro-nutrient can perform this task so protein is absolutely essential.  Whole foods, like chicken breast or boiled egg whites are always the best idea but a protein powder supplement is good too. 

The other recommended PWO nutrient is a dense source of carbohydrate.  The purpose of carbohydrate consumption is to rapidly replace muscle-glycogen that was likely depleted during the WOD.  Excellent foods are sweet potatoes, yams, and winter squash because of their nutrient content.  Bananas and apple sauce are good too. 

There is also a synergistic effect of consuming these two macro-nutrients together -- the carbohydrate creates a spike in insulin which we'd normally want to minimize, but in this case take advantage of by providing our bodies with additional recuperative nutrition (protein) to be rapidly shuttled where it is needed.  Ideally, your PWO food should be consumed ASAP (within 30-45 minutes) of completing the WOD.

Fat consumption immediatly PWO tends to blunt insulin response and slow digestion so, in terms of performance recovery, is not usually part of the "prescription." One can get pretty technical however and make tweaks, some including fat intake, based on individual goals.  Amounts of protein to carbohydrate will also vary depending on the individual and type and intensity of the WOD so we'll just leave it that it's important to consume a little of each PWO for optimal performance (e.g. 1/2 a chicken breast and 1/2 a sweet potato).

So, enough about food; let's talk about cool-down...

Much like a good warm-up, a thorough cool-down is essential.  Your muscles and connective tissue are at their most elastic after they've been thoroughly warmed up by exercise so you'll have increased range-of-motion and flexibility -- you can take advantage of this by a completing a good stretching session.  Stretching also helps enhance circulation to muscle tissue which aids in repair and recovery.  Another good reason for adequate cool-down is the release of muscular tension built up during the WOD as well as a marked decrease in delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) in subsequent days, and if you're less sore you are able to work out at a higher intensity in upcoming WODs. 

It's also a wise idea to dedicate some time to the areas that are your sticking points.  Unfortunately, these are the bits and pieces that tend to be a little more uncomfortable to work on.  I'll be the first to admit I need to get "religious" about stretching certain areas, especially my hips, lower back and hamstrings.  If you've got certain areas that are particularly tight a simple method is to double the amount of time you stretch those areas.  Additionally, you can expand your repertoire of stretches or other mobility exercises.  Two good resources are the stretches under each exercise category at ExRx or you can search MobilityWOD for all sorts of fantastic torture techniques.

Now that I think about it, recovery is an on-going process -- it takes place before and after the WOD.

If you're not familiar with a foam roller you need to be.  These little pieces of magic can work wonders for helping you work knots out, stimulate circulation, and correct or re-establish normal soft-tissue function.  Essentially, they are a self-contained sports massage unit.  When you first start rolling it may be quite uncomfortable, bordering on unbearable.  Just make sure you are rolling soft-tissue only and stick with it!  It gets much better with regular practice.

There is a good poster at the box or you can find short videos hereA good regimen for foam rolling is 20-30 passes over an area both prior to and after workouts.  If you find any areas that are particularly tender, simply stop on that area and "camp out" for 30-60 seconds.  Another good device is a lacrosse ball for those extra-tender areas.

You're probably saying "What is this 'active' recovery you speak of?" Simply put, active recovery is light work done on your "days off" from regular WODs. And yes, I've taken this long to get to it but, as much as we all love it, we've got to take some time off from the box. Some people do well with a 3 on, 1 off schedule. Others recover better on a 1 on, 1 off schedule and yet others still may be able to do "2-a-days." This will all be individual and once size does not fit all; you have to find what works for you.

The goal of active recovery is to be relatively low-intensity and low-impact while keeping joints and muscles in motion but not over worked. Excellent options for active recovery are things like light hiking, yoga, a walk with a weighted vest or simply any of the stretching and mobility exercises like mentioned above.

So that wraps it up.  Hopefully you're starting to get a grasp on the importance of rest and recovery and how best to incorporate them into your training.  Be on the look out for a future post on CrossFit methodology that incorporates many of the stuff mentioned above.  See you at the box!

3, 2, 1...GO!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012


My bank manager leaned across his desk and lowered his voice. He looked as though he was confessing to smoking pot in the bank vault. No, he was just telling me about his daily Oreo habit. He wanted some suggestions on how to drop a few pounds for an upcoming trip. That's typical of what happens when people find out about my involvement with Skinny Fork. They want to talk about what they eat and what they should eat to feel better and lose weight. I love it. When people are honest about what they eat, it's like looking into their medicine cabinet.

Here are some tips I give to my gluten-free customers at Skinny Fork who want to lose weight. It's a good place to start. These tips are applicable to most individuals, gluten-free or not.

1. Focus On Each Meal, NOT On Each Day
Whether you're dieting or maintaing your weight, eat 5-6 mini meals per day or 3 main meals and two snacks. Each meal should be approximately three hours apart. The biggest, unintentional mistake people make is they "bank" calories. They skip breakfast and lunch and then eat a huge dinner. Your body is an Awesome Machine that will totally screw with you to stay alive and viable. If you skip meals, no problem. Awesome Machine says, "Let's just slow down this metabolism and produce less energy." When you finally fuel Awesome Machine with a Tex-Mex Combo Platter, it says, "Let's store some of, better yet, let's store LOTS of this because sometimes we go for awhile without being fueled."

True story, I struggled with my weight for years. In high school (I was 20 lbs heavier than now) I couldn't eat more than 1,000 calories a day without gaining weight. It was a result of yo-yo dieting and eating once a day. Now, at 37, I maintain a healthy weight and energy level by eating the right combinations of proteins, carbs and fats; eating six mini meals per day; and taking my vitamins. At 100 lbs, I eat 1,800+ calories per day for maintenance.

By eating the right combination of foods, you'll also have a steady flow of energy. Remember, steady energy = steady blood glucose. This is a good thing.

Me, circa early 1990's.  I
'm on the left.

Me, 2/2012 - doing push ups at Metro Dash.
Ignore the knee socks.

2. Be Protein-centric (I like making up words)
Every mini meal should be built around protein. Ideally, have 15g or more of protein. A good rule of thumb for athletes is 0.8-1.0 (or more) grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. If fat loss is a goal, use your lean body mass instead of total body weight. Crossfit's level of intensity puts us all squarely in the "athlete" category when it comes to nutrition. Protein breaks down into amino acids that are essential for maintaining, repairing and building lean muscle tissue.

Then you add carbohydrates (and fiber) and healthy fats to the protein in order to:
a) slow down/speed up protein absorption
b) make you satiated (SAT vocabulary for "full").

3. Include Healthy Fats
If you're eating 20% fat hamburgers, you can ignore this pointer. If you're truly dieting healthy and eating clean (lean proteins), you should add a moderate amount of healthy fats to some of your meals. Healthy fats include olive oil, peanut and almond butters, coconut oil, avocado and flax. Healthy fats keep you satiated, moderate protein absorpotion, and is required for fat-soluble nutrients to be metabolised by your body. Seriously, don't leave this step out. If you plateau on a diet, feel hungry between meals or feel lethargic even though you're popping vitamins, try eating a tablespoon of almond butter with a couple of your meals. It may sound counter-intuitive (especially if you've plateaued on a diet) but it may be the spark plug you need to re-energize your metabolism. For Pete's sake, just don't eat the almond butter with a tube of crackers or eat a bowl of guacamole. Moderation is key.

4. Take Your Vitamins
Take a multivitamin daily, with breakfast if possible. I also recommend a non-liquid Vitamin C and an EFA (fish oil) tablet with every other meal (preferably your three largest meals of the day). I, personally, also take two green tea capsules early in the morning and two capsules half-way through the day. Yes, I'm of Korean descent, but somehow the green tea gene skipped me. I don't like drinking the stuff so I take the capsules. Green tea leaves are a powerful antioxidant, boost your metabolism, and provide energy without the jitters. Just don't take them late in the day. You'll be cursing me as you toss and turn in bed, trying to get some shut-eye.

5. For Gluten-Free Individuals
Read the nutritional information on bread, pastas and other flour-containing foods labeled "Gluten-Free." Often times, these items are made with non-gluten flours that are more calorically dense and higher on the glycemic index than their traditional wheat-based counterparts. Treat these as just that...treats. Find healthier, whole food alternatives for traditional wheat-based products. For example, this past Easter I hosted a brunch with lamb and buffalo burgers. As an alternative to traditional buns, I sliced my favorite vegetable, sweet potatoes, into length-wise discs and roasted them. I served the burgers between two slices of sweet potatoes, and they were a hit. Toss out the old kitchen paradigms and get creative.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Well we're wrapping up the first week of the Hunger Games Challenge. We've spent some time detailing general and specific individual goals and learning about each other.  This serves two purposes:

1.  Putting goals in writing not only gives you something specific to aim for but also lays it out there for your peers to see -- sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.

2.  It helps make some assessments where extra work can be focused for overall improvement.  In some cases, targeted work will end up being far more effective than a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

You've probably noticed some teams jumped right in to doing extra WODs.  Extra work should, and will, definitely be part of our strategy, but in my opinion, it's more efficient to get an overall picture of our team before starting down that road.  That said, extra work is encouraged as long as it is done smartly.  But be careful of getting caught up in a "more is better" mentality and don't be fooled that sore muscles are necessarily an indicator of a good workout -- smart training and adequate recovery are important keys to enhanced performance.

Crossfit, by nature, is a high-intensity fitness program.  Improperly programmed, the potential for over-training and injury are very real, so I urge you to approach extra work with some caution and common sense.  Furthermore, too much work at too high an intensity can be counterproductive by creating a surge of the catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormone cortisol or not allow adequate recovery to tackle the next regularly scheduled WOD at maximum intensity.  And maximum intensity is where the real magic of Crossfit comes in.   

For extra work, it's smart to consider a different modality of exercise than the WOD you just completed (or will be completing).  For instance, you may not want to follow up an intense met-con with additional work involving sprints.  Such additional work would better be used as a follow up to strength training (5x5 Back Squat followed by Tabata sprints).  It might even be a wise idea to consider extra work that focuses on mobility/flexibility or skill work versus simply doing another workout at near maximal output.

Finally, whenever possible, try to conduct high-intensity (1, 3, 5 RM) strength or power exercises or highly-technical moves (Snatch, etc.) before intense met-con workouts.  The aim here is to be fresh, with all metabolic pathways optimized, providing maximal output and precise form.  "Pre-fatiguing" yourself prior to such exercises will likely result in suboptimal performance or, worse, injury.

So I will close with some suggestions for additional work our team can utilize based on goals most of us have posted or that work towards increasing performance in the benchmark WODs  Many of these are untimed -- you simply do the work:

This progression is taught in the Crossfit Level 1 Trainer's Course.  You complete 25 unbroken reps of each exercise in a slow, controlled fashion (no leg or arm throwing).  If you can't do 25 unbroken reps, do as many sets as necessary to complete 25.  Don't move on to the next level until you can do both exercises in the pair unbroken -- this helps prevent imbalances and enhances mid-line stabilization.

Level 1: 25 AB-Mat Situps ("frog style" -- feet placed sole-to-sole, arms straight out in front parallel to the ground) + 25 GHD Hip Extensions

Level 2: 25 GHD Back Extensions + 25 GHD Situps (to parallel)

Level 3: 25 GHD Hip & Back Extensions + 25 GHD Situps (full range-of-motion)

The GHD can be a tricky piece of equipment and each of the variants above requires a good understanding of technique so if you are unfamiliar get with me, Darlene or one of the other Trainers at the gym and get some instruction.

There are several exercises that can help increase grip strength.

Plate Pinches:  Grab two bumper plates, pinch one between the thumb and fingers of each hand, and hold for as long as possible.  Start with a weight that allows you 3-5 sets of 30 seconds each.  Build up to 60 seconds and then start increasing weight.

Static KB or DB Carry:  Similar to above but with kettlebells or dumbbells.  Start with weight similar to the Farmer's Carry benchmark WOD (55/35#).

KB or DB Farmer's Carry:  Similar to the benchmark WOD but go twice the distance you completed.  Rest as necessary, setting them down as little as possible.  Once you can complete the distance without setting them down begin increasing distance until you can work 10 minutes unbroken.  As an alternative, you can increase weight to higher than used in the benchmark WOD.

Static Bar Hangs:  Jump up on a pullup bar that keeps your feet off the ground.  Simply hang, aiming for 3-5 sets of 30 seconds.  Build to 60 seconds and then start adding weight by holding a dumbbell between your feet.  Alternate grips as desired for variety.

Deadlift Hang (Rack Pull):  Set the safety bars on a power rack at knee height or slightly higher.  Place a barbell on the bars and load to bodyweight.  Grip bar and, using proper form, pull to top position of deadlift.  Hold for 30 seconds and then lower back to bars.  Complete 3-5 sets, build to 60 seconds then increase weight 5-10 pounds.

These progressions are based on 1 mile (1600 m) and require you to have an idea of a run pace you desire or simply a goal distance in mind but the concept can be utilized for any distance.

CAN'T Run 1600 m:  Grab a stopwatch and simply start out by running the maximum distance you can.  When you stop, record the distance and time.  Walk back to starting point.  Repeat 4-6 times, aiming to match time.  When you can repeat for all intervals, increase distance and repeat the process.

CAN Run 1600 m:  Determine 1600 meter goal pace.  Divide time into 800, 400, 200, and 100 meter "splits."  For example, if you want to run 1600 meters at an 8:00 pace, then your aim is:
  • 800 m in 4:00
  • 400 m in 2:00
  • 200 m in 1:00
  • 100 m in 0:30
Perform 3-4 intervals at each level, aiming to complete the distance at your desired pace.  Walk back to starting point and repeat.  You will likely find that shorter distances will be easier to repeat timing on.  You can perform this either direction -- shortest to longest or vice-versa.  The goal here is to train your body to "feel" your desired pace at varying distances and times. 

Sled Drags:  Load a sled to 10% bodyweight.  Strap it on and "sprint" 100 meters.  Repeat 4-6 times.  Follow up with an equal number of sprints with no sled.  Increase distance or weight as desired.

Hopefully, that gives you some ideas for complimentary work to build work capacity and increase performance in desired areas.  Remember to utilize common sense and match any extra work up with any WOD you have already done (or may be doing after) keeping in mind the concepts mentioned above.  Be smart, be safe, be strong!

3, 2, 1...GO!