Trust Your Coach

By: Marcos Hernandez

 
Often times as athletes we feel like we know better than our coaches in regards to our lifts, our WODS, etc. I promise it isn’t a referendum on you or your abilities if your coach decides to hold you back a bit. Coaches may see something that would prevent you from succeeding at a heavier weight or more challenging exercise. Think of a coach as an impartial, objective observer who is looking out for your best interest, even if you sometimes aren’t. Often, we as athletes need saving from ourselves.
 
In weightlifting, taking multiple attempts at lower weights can help dial in technique and increase speed. The answer is not always more weight, more difficulty, more intensity, and pushing things to the threshold of failure.
 
In CrossFit, scaling back to L1 instead of L2 can often times lead to a better workout. Maybe those L2 movements would be slow. So maybe, by doing single unders instead of double unders, the athlete could get a better conditioning effect. L1 typically features less technical movements, but is not inherently an easier workout. Remember, you always control the intensity with which you push yourself.
 
The point is, coaches see the big picture and only have the best interests of the athlete in mind. Remember, we want you to succeed as much if not more than you do. Trust us: we won’t let you down.
 

Weightlifting memes that need to die

 

“Life is a wonderful thing. You laugh, you cry, you make friendships, and hopefully you improve the journey for someone else along the way. It’s a grand, beautiful, tragic, wonderful story.
 
Treat it as such. There are a few things in life that really matter, and are worth defining yourself by. There are many more that do not rise to that level of importance.
 
Among those things in the second category: Coffee, Beards, Weightlifting Equipment, and Bacon.
 
Coffee:
I drink about a quart of coffee per day. Why? Because it’s delicious. It is potentially the most delectable beverage in existence, and without it I am quasi-homicidal by noon.
 
Also, the more evidence that comes out about coffee, the more reason there is to love it. It’s beneficial to your metabolic and mental health, both acute and chronically.
 
However, coffee is a beverage. Coffee is not a movement. Coffee is not a lifestyle.
 
Coffee is a beverage.
 
You know the kid who has a Monster energy shirt and snapback who rides motocross bikes, and his brand identification with Monster is a defining characteristic of his existence? You know how pathetic that seems to you? Well, take a look in the mirror cupcake – that’s how most people are looking at you.
 
Coffee is a beverage.
 
I think this is a reactionary position. For years we were told that coffee was the devil. Sure, it may put some pep in your step in the morning, but there was something unhealthy and insidious about it. As we learned that coffee was, in fact, quite good for you, we collectively lost our shit and the pendulum swung too far the other way.
 
Coffee makes you feel good. Unless you go way way overboard, coffee is quite good for you. But.
 
Coffee is a beverage.
 
If a beverage is your life, you have a sad sad life.
 
If ‘the best part of waking up is Folgers (or any other type of coffee) in your cup,’ then you’re probably about a dozen cups away from realizing that there’s not much in your life worth waking up for.
 
Beards:
Few things culturally denote masculinity the same way a full, glorious beard does. The last time beards were REALLY in was the 1910s. They fell out of style in the roaring ‘20s, and remained the domain of hobos, creepy uncles, and stylized fatcat tycoons for the better part of a century. Now that they’re starting to come back into style, people are overreacting because they realized how cool a nice beard could be.
 
However, don’t forget the distinction between being a man and simply having a beard. A beard may be an emblem of our culture’s definition of masculinity, but if it’s all you have to hang your hat on and say “I’m a real man – can’t you tell because I have a beard?” then the only purpose it serves is to highlight your other masculine shortcomings.
 
If you want to grow a beard, then grow one. If you don’t, then don’t.
 
However, obsessing about it too much and putting too much stock in simply having a beard undermines any attempt to demonstrate the manliness that a beard may have otherwise assisted you in.
 
Weightlifting equipment:
If the proliferation of $200+ weightlifting shoes has proven one thing, it’s that weightlifters are just as insecure and susceptible to marketing as any other athlete.
 
Now, to make sure you’re not hearing me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. If weightlifting is your main hobby, and you have a good job and plenty of disposable income, then by all means buy things you enjoy. Weightlifting gear is certainly cheaper than a new set of golf clubs, and well-to-do folks sink a ton of money into their golf game.
 
There’s nothing wrong with wanting and getting nice things if it makes you happy.
 
BUT, don’t act like it actually matters too much beyond your personal enjoyment.
 
A slumping Tiger Woods would still wreck you on the links with wooden clubs from the 1920s, and Ilya Ilin on his worst day would destroy you on the platform lifting barefoot.
 
It’s not that nice equipment doesn’t help SOME, but don’t act like it’s a make-or-break factor. It *may* be the 2kg difference between gold and bronze in an international meet for people whose bodies are well-oiled machines and for whom a very small thing could make a meaningful difference. Unless you’re reading this article as a break from writing your training plan leading up to Rio 2016, that does not apply to you.
 
The more important factor is simply getting stronger and becoming a better lifter, independent of your equipment.
 
If you think new equipment is fun and you have money to burn, by all means go for it, but don’t act like you’re a better lifter simply because you have 3 pairs of $200 kicks.
 
Bacon:
Bacon is similar to coffee. It’s something else that was a guilty pleasure for a long time. As soon as some reviews started coming out saying “saturated fat and salt don’t instantly kill you,” the pendulum swung WAY too far the other direction.
 
People who had been living deprived lives of chicken, rice, and broccoli since the ‘80s woke up and realized some foods could have a mystical, hitherto unknown quality called “flavor.” Bacon, perhaps being the most flavorful and fatty actual food on the planet (not talking about straight butter and coconut oil that some people drop in their coffee), became awkwardly fetishized.
 
Yay. Congratulations. You’ve moved into the 21st century and have realized that you can eat bacon. We’re so happy for you.
 
Newsflash: bacon isn’t a health food.
 
While saturated fat won’t instantly destroy your arteries, it’s still not something you should consume in mass quantities daily. Also, although red meat has been largely vindicated in the scientific literature, excessive consumption of processed meat (like bacon or sausage) is still implicated in a host of unpleasant health outcomes.
 
You like bacon? Sweet. You just joined a group consisting of 99% of human beings. Your love of bacon does not make you special or unique – it means you’re evolutionarily hardwired to seek salty, fatty foods just like every other person on the planet.
 
There’s nothing wrong with eating a few strips of bacon from time to time – as with anything else, although it’s not the healthiest food in the world, the dose makes the poison. It would be a sad life where you had to only eat “clean” 100% of the time. Have a few strips of bacon and a bowl of ice cream and live a little.
 
But keep in mind.
 
Bacon is a food. Bacon is not a lifestyle.
 
Bacon is a food.
If you are that obsessed with a particular food, you do not have a healthy relationship with food. You need to stop reading fitness articles immediately and seek the help of a mental health professional.
 
I promise you will not look back on your deathbed and say ‘my biggest regret was that I didn’t buy another pair of weightlifting shoes,’ or, ‘if only I’d drank more coffee.’ That is all.” – Greg Nuckols

The Rule of 5

 

“In a group of five workouts, I tend to have one great workout, the kind of workout that makes me think in just a few weeks I could be an Olympic champion, plus maybe Mr. Olympia. Then, I have one workout that’s so awful the mere fact I continue to exist as a somewhat higher form of life is a miracle. Finally, the other three workouts are the punch-the-clock workouts: I go in, work out, and walk out. Most people experience this.” – Dan John

 
The longer you train as an CrossFitter and the more you develop and improve as an athlete, the more the above quote begins to ring true. The number of people who have the privilege of being full time athletes who do not have to work full time to support their physical pursuits is small indeed. The rest of us have to find a way to balance our training with our jobs, families, and other extracurriculars. We do not have access to athletic trainers, massage therapists / PT’s, personal chefs, and other handlers that generally keep you from being burdened with the distractions the rest of us regular folks must contend with on a daily basis.
 
As we grow out of the novice stages of training and improve as lifters and CrossFit athletes, progress becomes much more incremental. We are progressing forward hopefully, but often times setbacks will occur in the form of travel, injuries, illness, vacation, etc., that cause us to at times regress. This ebb and flow is natural as only the mediocre are always at their best. The perfect program or perfect circumstances don’t exist so we must seek to do our best given our current lifestyle parameters. Learn to temper your expectations; enjoy your great workouts, but don’t write your goals based on one great day in the gym. Similarly, don’t assess your ability or self-worth as an athlete based on one bad day in the gym; everyone has them, and it will pass. Have a long term vision of where you want to be, keep track of progress indicators, and expect there to be an ebb and flow along the way.
 

Make the most of your circumstances

 

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” – Teddy Roosevelt

 
One of the most useful aspects of the CrossFit methodology is the fact that it is inherently inclusive of all practical movements, regardless of the implement being used. If you have access to sleds, ‘bells, bars, bumpers, a pull up rig, medballs, etc., then by all means use every implement at your disposal in your quest to improve fitness. If you are on the road and have a sparse hotel gym with a treadmill and some dumbbells, get creative and utilize bodyweight movements, running, and dumbbell exercises to craft a quick and effective workout. Maybe you’re out on a hike or camping trip and don’t have access to any traditional equipment- no problem. What’s more functional than climbing some stress, carrying logs, shoulder rocks, and hiking around on unpredictable terrain?
 
The main thing to always keep in mind is that the “perfect” workout/program is an illusion. We are always dealing with a host of sub-optimal and limiting factors that affect training, so rather than getting caught up in what you can’t do, focus on what you can, where you are, with what you have.
 

Training the Aging Athlete

 
By: Marcus Taylor
 
I’m not young anymore…
 
So earlier this year I realized something….. I’m not “young” any more. I mean I know that to some of you you’ll probably look at that statement and roll your eyes BUT the reality is I’m not 23 years old. I can’t drink vodka sodas til I pass out, eat McDonalds at 4am, wakeup 4 hours later and workout for 2 hours the next morning. I’m a newly married 35.5 year old man so I have all the stressors that many of you have. After a long day of work and training, the next morning it takes my body several hours to get into gear. Furthermore, I realized that I am a middle aged man (you may roll your eyes at this fun fact but its true). The life expectancy of a black male in the US is 71 years old (half of 71 is 35.5…SHIT that’s ME). Imagine my surprise when I read that! So being “middle aged” I REALLY have to make sure that I’m sleeping well and eating properly to aid in my recovery.
 
Sleeping well includes getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep with the TV/other electronic devices off. Proper sleep in this manner will help your brain commit new information to memory (aka memory consolidation). It also aids in weight management, mood, and hypertension (which is extremely prevalent in black males) and it prevents immune dysfunctions. Coupling quality sleep with good nutritional habits will help me recover better from long days and tough workouts. Quality food will give me more energy, aid in weight control, and brain function. This is nothing that you all don’t know but sometimes you have to take a look in the mirror at what you are and think “Should I have that snack…should I stay up and watch this TV show at 11pm”? NO, put that Twix down and take your ass to bed my fellow middle agers. Stay classy CFSS!!!
 

The Exercise Technique Continuum

 
First, let us establish that “perfect” technique is a unicorn; it doesn’t exist outside of the realm of myths and ideas. Get Olympic coaches in a room watching the same competition footage, and you will get 10 different observations on what the athletes did wrong or could’ve done better.
 
A more realistic standard to judge technique is “optimal”. “Optimal” execution is going to be determined by an athlete’s body type, anthropometry (relative segment lengths), injury history, ability, mobility, etc.
 
In life and in sport, there are outliers who seemingly defy the rules and perform at elite levels. Do not emulate the outliers unless your physical structure, experience, and ability matches theirs (hint: it doesn’t).
 
Think of technique as an ever-changing continuum, progressing from unsafe/bad/inefficient to acceptable/safe/semi-efficient, to optimal/safe/very efficient. There are gradations within each one of these landmarks, but the goal is to always be traveling towards better & more efficient.
 
My goal as a coach is to always prioritize safe movement, and then seek to refine and improve efficiency and execution of movement. This is why we are always offering small pointers and refinements; there is always something to be done at a higher level of technical skill. Heavier and better are not synonymous, and an over-emphasis on the latter typically leads to overuse/injury. Continue chasing optimal and the PR’s will follow.
 

The Importance of Breakfast

 

By: Marcus Taylor

 
When I worked a federal government deskjockey gig YEARS ago I was like many of you guys. I would wake up, curse the sun for shining, do the 3 S’s and head out to work. At no point did I take the time to have the most important meal of the day…breakfast. Big mistake on my part because I would lack focus and my productivity didn’t get better until I had lunch (it was gonna be bad anyway because I just hated my job). Which makes sense because that was the first time I had any food. If I had dinner at 8pm my body went about 16 hours without fuel so of course it’s going to be sluggish and unresponsive.
 
Every night I make my breakfast for the morning. It consists of 4 eggs, 4 pieces of bacon and a banana or some other fruit. I get high quality protein from the eggs with bacon and fiber from the fruit. Afterwards, I feel like I can attack the day. There are studies that show that eating a large healthy breakfast leads to weight loss, more strength/endurance during physical activities, lower cholesterol levels and weight control. One theory says that having breakfast makes you feel less hungry throughout the day; thusly, preventing you from having that starvation feeling and eating multiple McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and fries at lunch. Which is another point…eating breakfast can lead you to eating healthier throughout the day and helping you avoid the fast food temptations of the world.
 
I alluded to this earlier. I make my breakfast every night for the next morning. It doesn’t take long at all. 15 minutes while my wife is watching Teen Mom 3 is actually pretty welcoming for me to get away. It’s part of my nightly habits now but I find that it helps me set my mind for the day ahead. So guys do what your mom taught you and eat your breakfast. Stay classy CFSS!!!
 

The Art of Max Effort

 
These next two weeks of training are geared towards actualizing the strength and technical improvements from these past several months of doing Wendler 5/3/1 and setting new personal records in our big barbell lifts. Wendler teaches us how to “grind” and perform higher volume sets at very heavy weights. Our goal is typically to set new rep maxes; we deliberately are not going for new 1-rep maxes during this process due to the resultant fatigue these lifts cause and their effects on our recovery.
 
With that being said, going for a new 1-rep max requires a specific skill set that differs from performing a 5+ set during a Wendler cycle. Here are some pointers and guidelines for you all when attempting new squat, press, and deadlift PR’s.
 
1) Come to the gym ready: this means showing up well fed, well rested, hydrated, and mentally prepared to get after and lift some heavy ass weights. Don’t run a 10k the day before you have to front squat; don’t skip breakfast and have a Larabar for lunch; etc.
 
2) Visualize the lifts you want to hit prior to coming to the gym and during your warm-ups: the benefits of visualization and positive mental thinking are numerous and well documented; top performers visualize all the pertinent aspects of their performance prior to having to be “on”
 
3) Get fired up! This can be internal or external; everyone is wired differently, but make sure you are appropriately physically and mentally aroused before putting your hands on the bar. Get your focus and intensity dialed in, and come correct when it’s time to lift. Do not be passive in any way when taking the bar out of the rack or pulling it off the floor. Respect the weight and expect to have to work for it.
 
4) Expect to Grind: This goes for every “slow” barbell lift- squats, deadlifts, and presses. Max effort attempts tend to be damn hard, and most athletes will typically have a sticking point in the lift, which is the point at which the bar seems to momentarily slow down or stop, forcing the lifter to make a choice. Knowing when to keep pushing and when to bail takes experience, but most novice lifters bail on max effort attempts way too soon. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a max effort. With that being said, expect to have to earn every pound on the bar, and try to avoid giving up on a good lift prematurely.
 
5) Execution: as far as standards and range of motion are concerned, we expect your max front squat and your front squat warm ups to look identical, the only difference being the effort put forth to perform each of these lifts. Same depth, same positions, same technical emphasis, just more tension in your core and aggressiveness during the lift.
 
6) It’s ok to have an off day. We all have off days, and this is okay. Hitting a new max might not be in the cards on the day we choose to go for a 1 rep max for a number of different reasons. Depending on how you are feeling and how your warm up sets look, we may choose to just go for a few heavy (but not maximal) singles and call it a day. We can always go for that new PR another time, just be patient and don’t force something that isn’t there.
 
Hopefully these tips help you in your quest for bigger lifts and new records!
 

The next two weeks…

 

By: Coach Marcus

 
Many of you have been asking about hitting some 1 rep max lifts and some of the benchmark Crossfit workouts. Over this past few months we have had you guys on a consistent linear progression program (Wendler 5/3/1) and I think you’ll be surprised at your new numbers. For lots of you, weights that were your 1RM months ago are now sets that you hit for your 3+ which is impressive. But before we integrate a new strength training cycle into the training, it seems only appropriate that we test out your Wendler Lifts ie the Front Squat, Deadlift and Press.
 
Over the next two weeks Josh and I have programmed the WODs for you guys to test out your strength and capacity. Rest well this weekend as you guys will be lifting heavy and hopefully be setting some new personal records (pr’s). A couple of things to think about before you step into the gym. 1) Get excited because your energy has to be high to set PR’s. 2) Ask a coach about your warm-up sets, and reps. 3) Rest appropriately between sets…at least 2 minutes. 4) Have an idea of what you would like to hit as your 1RM as knowing this helps with the strategy to get to that number 5) Don’t focus your energy on the metcon afterwards…”My legs are are gonna be tired for the 8 min AMRAP”…SHUT UP AND LIFT. 6) Don’t get caught up in what someone else has lifted…loudly applaud your fellow classmate BUT stay in your lane and focus on YOUR task.
 
I’m excited to see the progress you guys have made. Lets have high intensity in the classes this week while we bang some weights. Hit some big lifts and fill up the August PR board folks. Stay Classy CFSS!!!
 

The “Dangers” of Cherry Picking

By: Marcus Taylor

 
I remember growing up and going to the rec to play basketball, you always had that one guy that thought he was good because he scored a lot. When if fact he scored most of his team’s points by “cherry picking” or not playing defense. This guy would forego the good of the team by hanging out in the half court line and waiting for an outlet pass or long rebound to score an easy layup. Thats bullshit, thats not basketball…thats not how you play the game. It’s suppose to be 5 on 5 not 4.25 on 5. Eventually, when he got called out he had to step up and play some defense and then the offense would expose a weak side of his game. The great ones always knew their strengths but worked hard and took pride in mastering their weaknesses.
 
When Josh and I program the WODs we think about the Cherry Pickers and make it so they can’t help but to show up when a weakness can be exposed…ie rope climbing, pullups, longer distance runs, cardio focused metcons, etc. It’s not because we want to see you guys fail, thats far from the truth. We just want to expose you to as much variety as possible to make you more well rounded. So the night before you come in and you feverishly keep refreshing your browser for tomorrow’s WOD post, just say to yourself “I’m coming in no matter what because whatever it is will make me better”. Just know that if a weakness of your’s comes up then that’s your time to be humbled…being humble gives you get perspective on where you are in your training and in life. Cherry Pickers don’t like being humbled so they walk around with this fake bravado to hide their insecurities. The great ones aren’t scared to be humbled. Newsflash folks, you WILL find something that baffles you mentally and physically either at work, home, CrossFit, or life. You aren’t the first nor the last that will run into this conundrum. Stay consistent, ask for help, and stay classy CFSS!