2014 CrossFit Games – 10 Things I think I think, pt. 2

 
Part 1 here
 
6) I am in awe of the performances of every single male and female Games athlete; I envy none of them. As someone who has a pretty good understanding of the lifestyles and training routines of a Games caliber athlete, and the punishment they have in store at Regionals and the CF Games, I wouldn’t want to be them one bit. The training is essentially year round, extremely demanding, and provides no guarantee of financial sponsorship, nor a return trip to Carson, CA. Pro athletes in major team sports work just as hard, if not harder, but are typically compensated extremely well for their time.
 
7) How about a little more variety in the programming? I love clean and jerks and barbell lifting way more than most, but I also think are more innovative ways to test fitness. How about some more kettlebell and dumbbell work? Sandbag lifting, hybrid strongman style events, obstacle course events, box jumps, use of weighted vests, change of direction/lateral movement drills, balance and coordination testing, etc.? Overall, I think the fittest athletes won. Additionally, the events have to typically work within the constraints of a stadium and certain equipment parameters, however I think there was a bit of repetitiveness to the workouts that could be improved to make for a more compelling competition.
 
8) The evolution over the last 3-5 years of the caliber of competition and the workouts being performed at the Games is astounding. As a student of CrossFit, and the Games in particular, the skillset and ability of today’s Games athletes is simply incredible. They are all strong as hell, technical, efficient, with big aerobic and anaerobic engines, and possess superhuman recovery levels. These people are truly monsters athletes.
 
9) The Games seem to be equal parts ‘test of fitness’ and ‘test of attrition and survival.’ It is the athlete who can endure multiple, often times similar or repetitive workouts a day, for multiple days, and still perform at high level on Sunday that wins. Can you manage to not get injured, stay mentally sharp, physically fueled and ready, and consistently give a max effort for 10+ events in high-pressure competitive environment?
 
10) Look at the faces of the athletes after the last event on Sunday. They all seem to share the same facial expression: relief. Relief that this insane competition is finally over. They are also probably questioning whether the juice is worth the squeeze? Namely, is it worth the personal and professional sacrifices to potentially be great, given how marginal the reward is if you fall short? For every athlete, the answer is: it depends.
 
*11) As someone who has been following the Games since it was held at the “Ranch” in Aromas California pre-twitter, Reebok & ESPN partnerships, live-feeds, and constant media and real time updates, sitting at a bar on Saturday night watching the CrossFit Games live on ESPN is pretty damn sweet. I can’t imagine where this sport is going to go in the next 5 years.
 
*12) The advent of the NPFL has the potential to impact the CrossFit Games in major way. I’m interested to see how the NPFL tackles the sport of fitness/human performance in a team format, and how CrossFit responds in turn.
 
*13) Reebok and CrossFit have a long way to go towards equaling the marketing and advertising brilliance of similar companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. If you watched any of the FIFA World Cup last month, the contrast is stark. All of the CrossFit HQ and Reebok commercials were simply lame and awkward. In order to reach a broader audience, they need to do a better job of capturing the excitement of the CF Games and the edginess that defined CrossFit early on and harness that into media that resonates better with people watching at home.
 

2014 CrossFit Games – 10 Things I think I think, pt. 1

 
Whew, what a weekend! In case you live in a cave, you are probably aware that the CrossFit Games took place this past weekend in Carson, CA. Over the course of 4 days of workouts, the fittest male and female CrossFit athletes in the world were crowned. The competition was extremely grueling physically and mentally, while also providing plenty of drama and excitement for the fans. Here are my some of my thoughts, impressions, and observations after intently following this years Games competition:
 
1) Rich Froning Jr. is LeBron James; he’s 2008 Michael Phelps; he’s simply the best CrossFitter in the game, period. He’s beaten the field, the distillation of the best CrossFit athletes in the world 4 straight years. Winning once is incredible; winning 4 times is legendary, and likely never to be done again.
 
2) Qualifying for the CrossFit Games is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself. Not every CF Games athletes is created equal, and there is noticeable difference between the top 15 and the rest of the field in any given Games. However, every athlete at the Games has earned their right to be there by being the very best of their respective region; no matter where you place, you are the elite of the elite in the realm of CrossFit.
 
3) Camille put on a dominant performance. Start to finish she looked impressive and extremely well rounded. She beat the field by a strong margin, but in my opinion it was an incomplete field. The defending 2013 Games and 2014 Open Champ Sam Briggs didn’t compete. Neither did 2013 2nd place finisher Lindsey Valenzuela. Neither of them qualified via Regionals, but from my standpoint, in order to be the true champ, you need to beat the current champ (presuming they are healthy and still competing) straight up. I don’t want to downgrade her performance, and she may have still won, but I think the fans and competitors were all robbed by not including Sam in the field.
 
4) Call the winner of the CrossFit Games what they really are: the fittest CrossFit athletes on earth. Fitness may be measurable, but it is also relative to each sport. Would you take any CrossFit Games athlete to start over your favorite NFL team’s starting middle linebacker? How about your favorite NBA team’s starting point guard? Or your favorite MLB team’s best (overweight) power hitter/ace pitcher? Didn’t think so. CrossFit athletes are extremely fit by any measure of fitness, but they are only the most fit by their definition of fitness. Stop comparing them to athletes from other sports, because the comparison is irrelevant. CrossFit athletes are as unfit for the Tour de France as Tour de France cyclists are for the CrossFit Games.
 
5) I wish they would stop using the phrase “unknown and unknowable” to describe the events performed at the Games. While there is certainly an air of unpredictability to the workouts, they all still fall within the realm of predictable as far as movements are concerned. Unknown and unknowable to me would mean making athletes apply their fitness an perform other sports and physical tasks- climbing, field sports, strongman, chopping wood, etc. You know there will be lots of barbell lifting, pull-ups, muscle ups, handstand push-ups, sled pushing, one swim workout, etc. What you don’t know is the exact sequence of movements, load, reps, etc.
 

Trust me, I’m a professional.

 
colbert meme
image courtesy of What Should CrossFitters Call Me?
 
A funny thing typically happens when you take the advice of your coach: it works, and like magic, the movement or skill you are trying to perform suddenly is easier, more efficient, safer, etc., etc. Please, hold your surprise and your applause. Just as you are probably not shocked when your mechanic fixes your car, understand that teaching and correcting movement is what we do for a living.
 
Trust in a coach is built upon a foundation of competency, mutual respect, and reliability. If your coach consistently looks out for your best interest (we always are, even if you aren’t), provides sound and effective advice, and demonstrates interest in your continued improvement, the least you can do as an athlete is lean on them for guidance, and put their advice into action.
 
Lifters often discuss the notion of ‘time under the bar’ as a common saying that describes one’s experience in the realm of strength and conditioning, powerlifting, weightlifting, etc. We coaches have hard earned “time under the bar”, invaluable experience that is only earned through years of hard training. We’ve got knowledge to share gained through self-experimentation and trial and error so that you can hopefully not make the same mistakes. Let us be your lifting sherpas on this CrossFit journey.
 

Rope Climbs are Coming…

 
By: Marcus Taylor
 
The past couple weeks we have been making floorplan changes to the gym to open up the space more and provide you all with the optimal training facility. We’ve moved the O-lifting equipment, painted height numbers on the boxes, and now we hung three climbing ropes. We WILL be adding rope climbs and rope climb variations into the warm ups and WOD programming so everybody is now on notice. What that means is that you’re going to need the proper equipment for protection against rope burns, blisters and hand soreness. Here are my suggestions….
 
1) A good pair of leather/suede utility gloves:
 
gloves and calf sleeves
 
I know we normally frown upon using gloves BUT these ropes can cause some noticeable discomfort. Drop by your local ACE or Home Depot and grab a decent pair for around 15-20 bucks. Not cloth but leather or suede.
 
2) Calf sleeves (above):
 
Not only are these great for Deadlifts by protecting your shins from the bar but they are equally as functional and serve the same purpose for climbing ropes. Especially in the early stages of learning to climb these will help tremendously. Dick’s and Sports Authority would carry these so get some and keep them in your gym bag. Another solution would be to wear knee high socks. They are good in a pinch but don’t offer the same level of protection as the neoprene calf sleeves.
 

Stick to the Basics!

 
“Stick to the basics and when you feel you’ve mastered them it’s time to start all over again, begin anew – again with the basics – this time paying closer attention.”Greg Glassman
 
Attention to detail and mastery of the ‘basics’ are fundamental concepts I strongly believe in as a coach, and try to put into practice every class I coach. It is common to want to gloss over the simpler movements in favor of more explosive, technical, more glamorous exercises before the appropriate foundation is laid. This is mistake. Put another way, are you here to train and hone your craft or be entertained?
 
Increased movement speed comes from improved movement efficiency. Increased load, and therefore increased strength and power, comes from improved neuromuscular efficiency, which comes from deliberate practice (repetition). This means we must focus our energy on performing our movements more skillfully and consistently, first and foremost. When it comes to both CrossFit and strength training, you need to recalibrate your expectations and time horizons for progress and advancement. Heathy, sustainable performance improvements are the stuff of delayed gratification. Earn the privilege of performing harder exercises by demonstrating proficiency and skill in their foundational precursors.
 
There is an anecdote in a great documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi wherein the sushi apprentice first learns how to make the rice for months, if not years, before being allow to handle the fish simply in a preparatory context. It will be many years still until the apprentice sushi chef can actually prepare and make the sushi. If you cannot make the rice correctly (fundamental to great sushi), why would we possibly let you handle something as important as the fish? That privilege can only be earned, much like it should be in the gym. I challenge you all to be much more mindful and exacting in your own movement practice, seeking to refine and improve technically every time you set foot in the gym.
 

10 Facts about Coconut Oil

coconut oil
 
From our friends over at Custom Fit Meals-
 
1. It consists primarily of saturated fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs): Nearly 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated fats. Many studies have proven that the “artery-clogging” idea was a myth and that saturated fats are not likely associated with heart disease. Secondly, coconut oil’s saturated fats are “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs), which are medium-length fatty acids that go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they quickly become a source of energy.
 
2. It helps regulate blood-sugar levels and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes: Coconut oil can help improve insulin use within the body, helping to regulate blood-sugar levels. Additionally, a recent study found that coconut oil protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
 
3. It helps regulate cholesterol levels: Coconut oil is high in lauric acid (a type of MCT), which increases the so-called “good” (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Coconut oil also lowers “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is essential for the creation of hormones. So basically, it takes something bad and turns it into something that we need!
 
4. It boosts energy levels: MCTs are broken down in the liver, where they are efficiently converted to energy for the body.
 
5. It boosts metabolism and may assist in weight loss: A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Researchers found that participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day burned more calories than those who consumed less. Furthermore, a 2009 study found that women who ate two tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks had lower amounts of abdominal fat, which contributes to heart problems. In addition, they did not gain more weight than those women who did not consume the coconut oil daily.
 
6. It curbs cravings: The high quality fats in coconut oil are extremely satiating. Hunger is an indication that our bodies are not being fed correctly (either in regards to quantity or quality). Proper amounts and quality of fat and protein in our diets provide our bodies with the necessary energy to run properly, and keep our cravings in check.
 
7. It has anti-aging effects and may negate the effects of free radicals: Coconut oil has a positive antioxidant effect on the body by helping to stop the oxidative damage of free radicals. Oxidation is believed to contribute to cardiovascular problems and skin aging.
 
8. It boosts the immune system and has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties: Lauric acid makes up almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil. After coconut oil is digested, the lauric acid is broken down into monolaurin, a type of monoglyceride that kills bacteria and viruses, as well as other harmful pathogens.
 
9. It makes for a great skin moisturizer: This cooking oil also works wonders for the skin, keeping the skin’s connective tissues strong and reducing the appearance of fine lines.
 
10. It is ideal for high-temperature cooking: Consisting primarily of MCT fats, coconut oil has a higher smoke point than most polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils. This makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures.
 
11. I typically get my coconut oil at either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods if I’m in a pinch. TJ’s has the best price/quality I’ve seen on coconut oil, and I’ll typically buy a few jars at time because I use it frequently and to ensure there’s always extra in the pantry. The picture above is from Costco; I recently discovered they sell a 54 oz. jar of coconut oil for $15.99, which is a phenomenal price. If you cook with coconut oil like I do, do yourself a favor and give this stuff a try.
 

Minimum Effect (CrossFit) Dose

 
One of the most commonly asked questions I receive has to do with training frequency, basically boiling down to how often should I come to the gym? The answer: it depends. More specifically, it depends on any and all of the following things:
1) What other physically activity are you already performing?
2) What is your pre-existing fitness level, as well as your prior fitness level/athletic background?
3) What is your recovery capacity from training?
4) How dialed in are your lifestyle factors that support training?, i.e.
-sleep hygiene (how long, how is the quality?)
-diet
-stress levels and capacity to cope with said levels
5) What is your timetable for seeing results? (getting married in a month, or do we have time to make haste slowly)
6) What are your goals / what are you training for?
 
As you can see, a seemingly innocuous question like “how much should I workout?” really is much more complex and multifactorial than it seems. The reality is that things such as optimal training volume are n=1 affairs; you are all unique snowflakes in this regard, and one size fits all prescriptions aren’t typically very useful. With that being said, generally speaking I generally recommend folks start off training twice a week and eventually, over time, work their way to 3x week. Should everyone train 3x week? No. Some people can very easily train more than that, and would probably experience positive changes and improvements as a result. However, hectic work/life schedules as well as other physical pursuits (rec. sports for example) compete for our time, and often make training more than 3x week unsustainable. Striving for 3 quality weightlifting/higher intensity training sessions a week tends to be a sweet spot as far as return on investment of your time and effort is concerned. However, don’t let a good routine be the enemy of the perfect, or ideal routine. Focus on training hard, whether that’s twice a week or five days a week. Remember, consistency trumps short term intensity every time.
 

80/20

 
When it comes to lifestyle and diet adherence, the 80/20 principle seems to be the sweet spot when it comes to hassle free maintenance. I typically tackle this in terms of the workweek and the weekend. Monday through Friday or Saturday morning I try to stay very regimented as far as sleep routines, training, and diet are concerned. On the weekend, I give myself much more leeway when it comes to these same variables, i.e. living an enjoyable lifestyle, however you personally define it.
 
By doing so, you can ensure that you are at your best during the week, when you are likely busiest and need to be firing on all cylinders. On the weekend, feel free to kick your heels up a bit. Drink, eat dessert, and indulge if the opportunity arises. Try not to go out of your way to eat 3 pints of ice cream because it’s Sunday, but go ahead and deviate a bit from the norm.
 
If you are in a good place as far as body composition is concerned, and you stick to this 80/20 concept, you’ve probably got a bit of a buffer to consume some questionable chow, skip a workout on occasion, and generally not feel restricted by your diet. Remember, no nonsense during the week; stick to the game plan (Paleo) and earn your single malt’s and cannoli’s!
 

Always a Student

 
By: Marcus Taylor
 
Whenever I travel I make it a habit to visit a Crossfit gym or two. I love it because it allows me to become a student again. I introduce myself to the coach, fill out the waiver, buy a shirt, take pictures and admire the equipment. It’s like being a rookie coming into training camp. Outside of needing to get a few workouts to counterbalance my food choices (I fully indulge when on travel, by the way) I like to be coached…I like being a student. The world of strength & conditioning is vast and in order to become better you must truly humble yourself, listen to advice and be willing to accept criticism to explore every corner of it. The same goes for anything in life…you do more learning by listening than you ever will by talking. Stay classy CFSS!
 

Meat Eater

 
I recently finished reading Steven Rinella’s Meat Eater: Adventures from the life of an American Hunter, a book I found to be both entertaining and insightful on a topic I was previously rather ignorant about. Rinella is a professional outdoorsman and lifelong hunter, whose passion and occupation revolves around all things hunting and fishing.
 
The book itself is an interesting mix of personal anecdotes and hunting tales, American cultural history lessons pertaining to the important role hunting and trapping played in Western expansion, and culinary lessons on various forms of wild game. The book also highlights the vast differences in upbringing growing up in, small rural town America in a hunting family as compared to growing up in suburbia. The contrasts are incredible, and make you wonder how people who may never have seen a deer in person, let alone hunted one have such strong negative opinions on the subject.
 
The book raises many interesting points on the pivotal role of hunting in both traditional and modern society, and also debunks many of the commonly held stigmas and myths surrounding hunting. The public often portrays hunters as barbaric and uncivilized killing wild animals simply for sport or their own enjoyment. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hunters are typically the biggest advocates for environmental and wildlife conservation. They stand to lose the most when natural habitats are polluted or destroyed. The money generated through hunting licenses and animal tags goes directly into maintaining public trusts- namely, fish, wild game, and the parks they live in. It is easy for someone living in a city to say they support the environment and quite another to actually be economically vested, working to ensure continuity and the future viability of animal populations.
 
One of the biggest conflicts raised by this book is how far modern humans are removed from their food sources. Killing a deer to use as food seems bizarre and antiquated when you can simply go to Whole Foods or the farmers market and buy whatever meat / produce you want to consume, year round. With modern technology and the industrialization of our food production, we only see the end product, not the farm or the animal it came from. Whether or not you consume meat, hunting it yourself is purest, most humane means of procurement. Considering the fact that all animals (like humans) are going to die eventually regardless of the practice of hunting, which animal scenario sounds better to you?
 
• A: being raised in captivity and confinement while being fed a diet of antibiotics and processed food, then slaughtered in a processing plant, assembly line style
• B: living freely in your natural habitat, amongst a healthy population of your species, never being held captive, and then being killed by a predator (human hunter) who planned to use your body with dignity for a food source
 
The only rational choice is B, in my opinion. The author describes an ethical hunting practice, highlighted by the concept of “fair chase”, which “addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.” This style of hunting utilizes modern technology and knowledge up to a fair point, but then requires skills, patience, determination, and effort on the part of the hunter to find and kill a wild animal who is in their own natural habitat and in the business of self-preservation. Sometimes man wins, sometimes the animal wins, which is realistic.
 
This quote sums things up nicely – “to abhor hunting is to hate the place from which you came, which is akin to hating yourself in some distant abstract way. “ Hunting is in our DNA; it is both natural and vital. It is also a practice that more people should try at least once to gain a better appreciation for nature, wildlife, where food really comes from, and a sliver of insight into the challenges faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. As someone who considers himself a 1st rate carnivore but has never had much desire to hunt, this book has forced me to both reconsider my views and made me want to go hunting. What better way is there to develop an informed opinion on a subject than by actually doing it?