By: Marcos Hernandez
You can either be an athlete who needs to be pushed forward OR you can be an athlete who needs to be held back. Neither are necessarily good or bad. Just different.
The athlete who needs to always be pushed to work a little harder or lift a little more might not see the desired progress. Without attempting heavier weights coaches cannot see where the movement patterns breakdown. However, they could stay healthy longer and have more in the tank when they need it (competitions). Sometimes the athletes don’t know the difference between pain and discomfort.
The athletes who need to be held back often times sacrifice movement quality in the chase for more intensity. While it might lead to a good workout that day, the long term training suffers. Poor movement patterns can slow down progress later down the road. This type of athlete will see good results in the short term but long term results will plateau. This could lead to frustration and an atmosphere where the athlete might consider quitting.
Both types of athletes can benefit from embodying one important quality. Being the type of athlete who only needs to be coached once. What I mean by this is that after your coach gives you a cue, that issue will be worked on until it is no longer an issue. As a coach, this is great because we can find the next place where the movement breaks down. Another cue, another chance for the athlete to make changes. This can go on virtually forever. This way, the athlete is continuing to progress and is also taking full advantage of all the knowledge the coach possesses.
Be the athlete who only needs to be coached once.
I came across the above picture in a restaurant awhile back depicting some of the major vices affecting the health and well being of the American public at the time. While I think the case can still easily be made against tobacco, booze, sugar, and salt as leading factors of many negative health outcomes, I’ve come up with my own more contemporary list inspired by this timeless cartoon.
2) Sleep Deprivation
4) Grains & Sugar
Many smart individuals (me included) have been saying that sitting is the new smoking for quite some time now. While I do believe smoking is considerably worse for your health, sitting is inarguably disastrous for your long term mobility, posture, as well as cardiovascular disease. The more you sit, the less you exercise. The more you sit, the more you reinforce poor posture, tighten and shorten your hip flexors, and cultivate that ultra attractive hunchback look popularized by Quasimodo in the 19th century.
Sleep deprivation is one of my favorite things to discuss on the blog and with clients. Americans are chronically sleep deprived as a population, and the health implications are pervasively destructive. When you don’t sleep enough, your cognition and learning are negatively affected, your immunity is weakened, recovery from intense exercise is blunted, cellular repair and growth hormone release are diminished, and the list goes on. Sleep is essential to optimal function. Sleep 7+ hours minimum, non negotiable.
Stress, the real silent killer. Stress is hard to see and hard to measure. We know when we are under large amounts of stress, but we take it for granted. Evolutionarily speaking, humans are designed for bouts of extreme stress (very short duration), and extended bouts of low stress. Instead, most folks live in a realm of chronically high stress. This results in altered testosterone / estrogen production, excess body fat levels, sleep disturbance, excessive fatigue, and more. Know your stress triggers, and find productive ways to remove stressors from your life.
I’ve lumped grains and sugar together because they so commonly coexist in the same foods. I don’t care if you have a diagnosed wheat/gluten allergy or not, I have yet to meet a single individual who did not feel better, look better, perform better once they reduced/eliminated their grains consumption from their diets. Sugar and cereal grains will most definitely make you fat, sick, and die prematurely. Instead, lets focus on eating real food like high quality meat, seafood, fruits, veggies, starchy roots and tubers, nuts, and seeds instead.
These big 4 are not meant to be exclusive. There are obviously many other major contributors to the public health epidemics we currently face as a society. Are alcohol and smoking still a major problem in this country? Of course. I see this list as moving past some of the glaringly obvious issues / vices, and onto some of the factors than can easily be downplayed, but are becoming increasingly important as science and mainstream public awareness evolves and grows moving forward.
One of the primary constraints we face as coaches is scarcity of time. We have a seemingly endless list of things we want to integrate into classes: movements and skills to practice and re-learn, mobility drills to try out, strength and accessory work to perform, conditioning to do, as well as dedicated core work, carries, and the list goes on. Did I mention we need to get all this done within a 1 hour timeframe?
Simply put, there isn’t nearly enough time to get it all done. However, we try to prioritize our training sessions to get as much done as possible given our limited time parameters. Here’s where your role as an athlete comes into play.
We NEED you to be more proactive as an athlete in your preparation and planning before, during, and after the WOD. Specifically, I want to talk about our expectations during class. First- get to the gym on time, dressed, and ready to train. If you are late (these things happen), get your butt in gear. This means no foam rolling- that’s what arriving early is for. Second, PAY ATTENTION when your coach is giving you the pre-WOD briefing. Now is the time to ask questions and start determining a) L1 or L2 b) what are my gear requirements? c) how much weight should I use? d) anything pertinent information my coach needs to know prior to the WOD starting?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the main thing we want you to start doing is being more proactive once you’ve finished your strength work during class. If we are doing a kb swing / double under / rowing workout, DO get out your ‘bell, rope, and start dropping down rowers (if reasonable) without being told to do so. We can always tell you to switch weights if you were a bit overzealous, but we’ll appreciate the initiative. If you find yourself standing around at any point with nothing to do, you aren’t being proactive.
Over time, our hope for you as an athlete is growth and better self-sufficiency. We’ve got a lot of athletes needs to attend to, logistics to deal with, and a host of other concerns. Help simplify these issues by making sure you personally are squared away and ready to go when it’s time for the 3,2,1, GO! command. Today’s workout is a great test of this request- if we are proactive and take initiative, we’ll have ample time; if we aren’t, somethings probably got to give from a programming standpoint. Take charge!
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.
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.
“All I want to tell young people is that you’re not going to be anything in life unless you learn to commit to a goal. You have to reach deep within yourself to see if you are willing to make the sacrifices. Your dreams won’t always come true, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Either way, you will always discover so much of value along the way because you’ll always run into problems- or as I call them, challenges. The first great challenge of my life was when, as a kid, I made the transition from a dissipated teenager to dedicated athlete. Another was staying alive for forty-seven days after my plane crashed, then surviving prison camp. The best way to meet any challenge is to be prepared for it. All athletes want to win, but in a raft, in a war, you must win. Luckily, and wisely, I was prepared- and I did win.” – Louis Zamperini
Proper nutrition is the underlying foundation on which health, wellness, and athletic performance are built. Nutrition is also an area where people typically have the most runway to make changes and see immediate improvements to how they look and feel. As such, we typically field a lot of questions regarding what to eat and how improve dietary habits. Instead of writing about the merits of eating a Paleo/Primal diet, I thought I’d give you guys a snapshot of how I typically eat during the week. Pictured below was Monday 14 July.
Counterclockwise from the top left-
1) Breakfast – 4 Eggs with smoked gouda cheese, 3 breakfast sausage links (from Balducci’s; I freakin’ love these), bowl of mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), 2 cups of black coffee
Notes: I typically don’t eat breakfast when I wake up, I usually waiting until I finish my morning clients and some work for the gym before eating. Meat/eggs/fruit/coffee is my standard breakfast.
2) Salad from Chopt (lettuce, apples, hearts of palm, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, balsamic dressing), watermelon (small serving)
Notes: I try to eat salad for lunch most week days to get in most if not all of my veggies in one meal. Fruit is much more abundant and in-seaon in summer, so I tend to consume much more of it during the summer as a result
3) Post-worokout shake (whey protein, dextrose)
Notes: I like drinking a quick shake after working out as a matter of convenience; I also feel like it helps with my recovery between training sessions, and acts a bridge between meals if I am coaching in the evening and don’t have time for solid food
4) Grilled skirt steak, steamed green beans, roasted Japanese yams, and guacamole
Notes: This was delicious.
On workout days, 3 solid meals + a post workout shake is the norm for me; on non-training days I don’t typically have any liquid food. This is definitely representative of how I strive to eat Monday – Friday, staying regimented and eating clean. Some days I deviate a little bit from this (I eat rice probably 3-5x week depending on the week) if I haven’t don’t a good job of grocery shopping and meal prepping, but I am usually pretty consistent in my eating habits, especially during the week. As with my training and lifestyle advice, I try to practice what I preach when it comes to nutrition. Lastly, remember that there are many ways to skin the cat within the parameters of eating an unprocessed, high quality food diet, this is just how I like to eat personally. Don’t hesitate to send any questions you may have my way!
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!
“Active rest” is a term that gets thrown around quite frequently in online articles regarding training and recovery strategies for athletes. Personally, I’ve always found the notion of active rest to make about as much sense as decaf coffee, i.e. what’s the point? Either train hard or take a day off, don’t waste your energy doing a half assed workout.
This belief also stems from the fact that I try to let my body dictate my training and rest schedule. This means that I let how I’m feeling on a particular day determine whether I am going to train, and if so, the volume, modality, and intensity of the training I will perform. Of course, there are days when you have a planned workout and need to execute the plan regardless of how sore/tired/stressed out you are.
The reason why rest days are so essential in the training process is adaptation. Namely, the purpose of training is to expose the body to a stimulus that challenges us but ultimately results in a positive adaptation- improved efficiency, strength, endurance, power output, and the list goes on. Training breaks us down, the recovery from training builds us back up stronger.
Now, back to this concept of active rest- why be “active” when you can simply rest instead? When done properly, active rest accelerates the soft-tissue (muscle!) rebuilding phases, improves blood flow and circulation, removes waste products from our cells, reduces soreness, and allows us to return to training faster. Think of an active rest day as a very easy workout designed to get your body moving and elevate your heart rate, while still stopping well short of producing significant fatigue. One thing I’ve been doing lately to help recover from hard squat sessions is biking. Think 30-45 minutes at an easy pace to help loosen up the legs and get the blood moving. Swimming or rowing would also be great options here as well. Low impact, moderate paced aerobic work paired with lots of foam rolling and mobility work are just what the doctor ordered after a particular strenuous training session.
The next time you are feeling particular stiff or sore from work/training/travel/life, try out an active rest/recovery workout and see if you don’t feel significantly better afterwards. Think of these sessions as an ideal bridge between harder lifting/conditioning sessions.