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.
Sandbagging (verb) – the act of scaling a workout for comfort; deliberately taking the easy road; doing less weight than you know you should or are capable of; avoiding discomfort without a legitimate reason to do so; not giving your best effort; settling for mediocrity or defeat; cutting corners or cutting reps short; moving sloppily/though less than full or ideal ranges of motion; being chronically late to class; etc.
Sandbagger (noun) – someone who is known to habitually sandbag in any of the aforementioned ways listed above. Being labeled a sandbagger is not reputation you want to have, nor does it go away easily. We all sandbag on occasion, however regular sandbagging is a surefire way to draw the ire of your coaches and ridicule of your peers. A sandbagger is a like weed, an unwanted and intrusive species that can threaten your entire garden if left unchecked. The last thing we want is for folks to get the impression that sandbagging is an acceptable behavior.
Remember, sandbagging has nothing to do with talent. In fact, it’s often times the best athletes who sandbag the most, because they can skate by on superior ability. Sandbagging has everything to do with relative effort. The best cure for avoiding the sandbagging virus is by striving to match your effort and ability levels on a daily basis.
Comedian and satire news anchor John Oliver recently featured a segment on his show (Last Week Tonight) highlighting spurious and misleading claims by TV host and health “expert” Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz, as you are probably familiar with, hosts an extremely popular daytime television show encompassing all things health and wellness. Dr. Oz is an Ivy-league educated cardiothoracic surgeon, and uses his credibility as a doctor (one of the most trusted professions in the U.S.) as a platform to influence the beliefs and behaviors of the viewers of his show.
A TV host who uses their broad reaching platform to influence people may not seem very controversial, except Dr. Oz isn’t some news “actor” or talking head on ESPN espousing their opinions on a subject they may or may not be qualified to give. However, Dr. Oz is discussing topics falling under the broad umbrella of medicine- health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle management, etc. The inherent problem here is that you have an obligation as a professional and subject matter expert not to mislead people. Your advice could reasonably be acted upon by somebody who takes it literally, for better or worse.
Well, it turns out that Dr. Oz is actually nothing more than well-disguised snake oil salesman. He may act ethically in his medical practice, but when it comes to television, he is just like every other contractually obligated TV personality. His job is to move product for his sponsors, except he does this “cleverly” by touting the amazing/magical benefits of said fat loss supplement under the following guise “trust me, I’m a doctor.” And people do, blindly.
There are two larger issues at play here. First, skepticism is healthy. Do not blindly follow the advice of people you perceive to be experts, instead proceed with caution. Get a second opinion, do some research online, and use your own critical reasoning. If it sounds too good to be true, then probably is (or it’s illegal). Also, recognize the fact that someone who is an expert in X topic could be completely unfamiliar with a seemingly related field or subject. Do not assume their expertise is all encompassing. Example – Medical doctors aren’t typically very knowledgeable about sleep, nutrition, or exercise unless they have specialized training in that field. There’s just not enough time to become an expert at everything in a particular field, hence the need for specialization.
The other issue is the fact that the supplement industry is like the Wild West. Supplements fall under the FTC and FDA, but aren’t classified as food or medical drugs and therefore have very little regulation with regards to quality control and marketing. This means the listed ingredients or claims regarding efficacy don’t need to be validated. This scenario is great for supplement manufacturers and terrible for consumers in many cases.
Like any industry, the supplement business has plenty of ethical companies selling high quality, beneficial products with integrity. However, it is also an industry filled with countless unscrupulous individuals and business that could care less about product safety or selling goods that actually do what they claim. When it comes to dietary supplements, your best bet is healthy degree of skepticism combined with a strong dose of common sense.
The overwhelming majority of folks that I work with have the exact same goals. These goals boil down to the following:
- Feel better
- Look better naked (lose body fat, build muscle)
- Get in shape (round is a shape too) / get stronger / fitter / more athletic
With that in mind, the approaches people take to reach these goals tend to vary dramatically. Unfortunately, vigorous misguided effort and lack of effort tend to produce equally poor outcomes.
Don’t’ be that guy/gal depicted in the pyramid above. Repeat after me: I will not attempt to out train a bad diet.
We all have that friend who is just naturally built to be a runner – ideal body type, athletic make-up, etc. We see this person and naturally draw (incorrect) conclusions about the reasons they look the way they do. Sadly, if you are short, stocky, and also have wide hips, running will not magically make you tall, svelte, and graceful. Do not assign causation to your observations; i.e. Kathy has a great body and is a runner, she must look like that because she runs! Therefore, if I run, then I will look like Kathy too!
WRONG! Promise me you will start putting your effort into your nutrition and sleep habits (delayed gratification) instead of that extra spin class (instant gratification). Focus on driving up your deadlift, squat, and pull up numbers, and I guarantee your body composition and figure will also improve. Stop wasting your time chasing fatigue and start focusing on the essential underpinnings of good health.
Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment, “comprehension; understanding.”
One of the common practices in Buddhist culture for attaining an enlightened state of mental being is through daily meditation. This focused, deliberate mediation practice eventually allows the practitioner to achieve a level of mental clarity that is increasingly fleeting in our modern, constant stimulus culture.
As someone who knows nothing about the art of meditation, I’m not going to attempt to guide you to nirvana via that particular medium. However, I am a very strong proponent of the healing properties of barbell therapy. One easily overlooked benefit of CrossFit/barbell strength training is the uncluttered and undistracted state of mind that comes from hard training.
I know of few other things that can clear my head and narrow my focus than a heavy set of squats, running sprints, or doing a tough WOD. When you are under that bar or in the throes of a smoker of a workout, any superfluous thought unrelated to enduring the immediate task at hand immediately disappears from your mind. This is just another compelling reason to keep working out even during periods of high stress. Dial back the duration and intensity if you have to, but the last thing you want to abandon when feeling the strain of work/financial/life demands is your physical training routine.
Do not underestimate the value of providing yourself with a potent daily distraction and mental and physical stress release. The only self-medication you need is some quality barbell therapy to cure what ails ya!
Napping for improved performance, body composition, and libido? That’s right folks, napping isn’t just for infants and senior citizens anymore. I’m here to inform you that you’ve been mislead for years. Ask yourself when was the last time you took a nap? How did you feel afterwards? Probably energized, sharper, and ready to get after the next task on your agenda.
While napping may seem impractical with the schedules most people keep, it would be well worth it to try and pencil in a nap once or twice a week and see how you fare. Think of napping as an opportunity to correct some of ill effects we are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation (sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night). It is also a chance to recharge the batteries when we may be dragging from hours of working and constantly being on the go.
All naps are not created equal, and below is a quick list of the best options for napping based on time duration. Nap durations and their associated benefits and affects:
20 minutes: restores creativity
• Improved alertness
30-45 minutes: restores executive brain functioning
• Working memory
• Memory consolidation (learning!)
• Problem solving and critical reasoning
• Reaction time
90-120 minutes (1 full sleep cycle): restores alertness, attentiveness, creativity, & releases growth / sex hormones for cellular repair
• Includes all the previously mentioned qualities as well as growth hormone release which will help you recover, regenerate, and prepare you for strenuous physical activity
Think of a well-timed nap as a strategic tool to help improve both cognitive and physical performance. While it may seem more intuitive to keep plowing through and propping yourself up with stimulants (caffeine, anyone?), the secret to improved productivity actually lies (see what I did here?) in getting some additional shuteye.