By: Marcos Hernandez
Try and be proactive with your mobility. Plan ahead and take your lifestyle into account when coming in to train. If you sit all day, don’t think that you can squat without extra mobility/warm up sets. For that matter, don’t think you can deadlift or press without extra mobility/warm up sets. Sitting wreaks havoc on your posture, affecting both your hips and shoulders, both of which we use every day.
Maybe you are at your desk working at the computer all day. Do you think it will be easy to get the bar in a strong, stable front rack position without extra warm ups? For wrists, I prefer extra mobilization before warmups. This includes wrist circles and getting the knots out of my triceps, near the elbow, using a bar on a rack. Just ask and we can show you.
Depending on the shoes you are wearing (heels, anyone?), ankles can need extra mobilization even if you are standing all day. Try pushing the ankle to end range during a goblet squat or placing the kettlebell on top of your knee to get some extra range of motion. This move can also help your front squat.
Consider the daily demands of your occupation and lifestyle, as well as your personal limiting factors from a mobility standpoint to make a more focused effort to actively attack your mobility/flexibility limitations both during the day and immediately prior to getting into the WOD.
I came across the following article on NFL players going vegan several months ago (Going Vegan in the NFL) and it got me thinking about the dangers of ordinary folks taking the advice of the genetically superior/physical outlier population.
Here’s a dose of reality- those gifted few who are meant to be in the NFL due to their sheer physical size, speed, power, and athletic gifts. This is not meant to marginalize their work ethic, effort, and years of struggle to reach the top tier of their sport. However, it is unlikely that they had to rely heavily on optimal nutrition, training, and recovery programs to get where they are. As long as they trained in the off-season, whether intelligently or not, they probably continued to get bigger, faster, fitter, and stronger.
I bring this up because most individuals do not fully understand the inherited physical prowess possessed by most Divison-1/professional athletes. Many skills and techniques can be honed through good coaching and practice, but we all have metaphorical ceilings on our athletic abilities. You cannot “train” being 6’5” and 265 lbs, with quick feet and good instincts. Some people are destined to play power forward and some people make great accountants, and there is no amount of effort that can be applied to change that.
My point is bringing this up is that athletes often succeed in spite of their diets and training routines. I cannot think of a more foolish diet for a collision sport athlete (or any human for that matter) than veganism / vegetarianism. Animal flesh provides the essential building blocks for muscle tissue repair, as well as your bones, skin, hair, arteries, veins and a host of other important bodily functions (check this must-read meat article). It is also calorically dense and satiating, which is a crucial attribute for athletes of the size and stature of football players, where body mass matters in a major way.
One does not grow to be a lean 250+ lb human on salads, beans, and quinoa. Are some athletes able to get away with incomplete, malnourishing diets? Sure. Should we emulate genetic freaks and expect similar outcomes? Absolutely not. Get your nutritional advice from the sports/performance nutrition experts, not the world champion athlete who plays by a unique set of rules.
By: Marcos Hernandez
Why are certain lifts so hard for people? A simple concept to some can be complex to others.
For example: The coach tells you to arch your back on a deadlift. It feels like you are arching it every time, but the cues keep coming. The coach tries a different one, “Chest up!” You think you get it but the next time the same cues come out again. It might feel like you as an athlete aren’t understanding what the coach is talking about.
In reality, it’s the coach who isn’t understanding. They aren’t understanding how to effectively communicate a concept to you as an athlete. Maybe your particular way of thinking is something the coach has never encountered, or a particular cue isn’t having the desired corrective effect with you that day.
If the same issues come up again and again, help out your coaches by taking sometime to understand the concepts yourself. Research outside of the gym. Read up on it, ask other lifters; take control of your own future by investing in yourself.
By: Marcos Hernandez
Intensity may be lacking if you have been training Crossfit for a while and are stagnant. Of course in the beginning it is very important to take your time and make sure all movements are performed properly. This makes sure you are staying injury free and building correct movement patterns.
After some time there should be a point where you turn off and go. The movements are clean. So when the buzzer beeps, go all out. The coach will be around to make sure your movement doesn’t become dangerous or cause injury. But let the professionals decide when that is.
Try and increase the intensity just once a week to start. Make sure the movements are something you are comfortable with or choose a lighter weight. Going faster could be just the thing your training needs.
Focus on one target, one mission, one goal at a time. Can you tackle multiple training, health, fat loss goals concurrently? Sure. Will you optimize your results/progress in any of these areas using this multi-tasking approach? Doubtful.
For example: Steve wants to put 30 lbs on his squat, train for a marathon, and get shredded for beach season all in the same 6 week timeframe.
Each one of these goals individually are perfectly acceptable pursuits. However, unless you are a CrossFit Games caliber athlete, I highly doubt all can be pursued simultaneously. All goals are constrained by the principle of scarcity; that of time, resources, recovery capacity, adaptation potential, etc., etc.
Instead of inundating your body with stressors, many of which are likely conflicting, put your effort into achieving one goal. If you want to get stronger, don’t cut into your finite energy and recovery stores going running 4x week or performing random bouts of conditioning that don’t directly relate to your training goals. If you want to lean out, keep a detailed food log, get 8 hrs of sleep nightly, lift some weights, and keep conditioning brief and intense.
Remember not to confuse activity with accomplishment. Avoid expending valuable effort on things that produce little or no positive return on effort. Allow yourself to be successful on one mission before undertaking your next endeavor.
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.
“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.
“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.
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!!!