One of the most common things I hear from people, especially women, when asking about goals during Foundations is “I want to get toned, but not bulky.” I’ve had men say similar things, which boggles my mind. But, we all have a different perception of ourselves and what we want to look like.
Nikki Fuller does not do CrossFit
We’ve said it about a million times, but it bears repeating. If you want to look like a bodybuilder, you’ve got to train, eat, sleep, supplement, and probably “supplement” like bodybuilder. If you train, eat, and sleep with the goal of being able to do things, you will build muscle and burn fat, and your appearance will follow.
This post from CrossFit FMS mostly echos my thoughts on the matter. It’s worth reading, not because it contains any information that is new to any of you who follow this blog, but because the author did a great job in selecting visuals to make his point.
Now, I understand wanting to make changes because you’re unhappy with how you look in the mirror. But consider this, no matter how you look, there will be people who think you look great and people who think you’re hideous. What matters is how you feel about yourself, and how you live your life. As a trainer, I’ve seen many people make positive changes in their lives unrelated to the gym, but in part because they had greater self esteem, confidence, and self worth. Shouldn’t training be about making yourself a better human being, rather than making yourself a better looking human being?
It’s all about productivity. If I could be more productive and get more paperwork and admin stuff done in half of the time, all of my problems would go away. Actually, that’s not true. In order to get all of my problems to go away, I would need to have the power to read people’s minds. That would be very useful, but kinda creepy. In any case, here’s an interesting write up about Productivity Myths that I found enlightening. Please comment if you feel so inclined.
During a conversation with a relatively recent Caver who has been doing CrossFit with us for a few months, I asked her if she’d be interested in taking a parkour class. I was very surprised when she told me that it seemed to her that Parkour was more of a “guy thing” or a boy’s sport than a girl’s. Now, in my opinion, there may be some good reasons why not to try parkour, but that should definitely not be one of them. Parkour isn’t a guy’s sport, especially not any more than CrossFit is a guy’s sport! I can see why some people may think that, say, boxing is more becoming for men than for women (that is not my personal opinion, women can be boxers if they so choose, but I can understand that line of thought more so than for other sports.) but women excel and love to practice most sports, and especially parkour! It is actually more beautiful to watch, in some ways, than guys doing parkour. While elite traceurs (male parkour practitioners) can be more powerful and explosive, traceuses (female parkour practitioners) are generally more graceful and have beautiful “flow” and lines. It’s hard to explain, but I really don’t have to because I have a video to prove it and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
So now we’ve settled that issue. Parkour isn’t “for boys”. How about for CrossFitters? Well, depends what kind of CrossFitter you are. It seems that these days CrossFitters are interested simply in CrossFit. Old school CrossFitters had a broader interest. Back in the day, when no one knew what the hell CrossFit was, some of us (including Roger and myself) were like CrossFit evangelists telling everyone about it, and Greg Glassman would travel around with his posse talking to people and having seminars and explaining to people “What is CrossFit”. This is a partial quote from the “What is CrossFit” page on CrossFit.com:
“Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”
Back then it wasn’t about simply decreasing your Fran time, or 1-rep maxes, it was about being exposed to a wide variety of movement stimuli. ”Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survivial, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness..” part of the prescription was to go out and try all these things, including gymnastics. As a matter of fact, my second exposure to parkour came at a CrossFit certification seminar in Sta Cruz where Glassman had guest speaker Jesse Woody from American Parkour do a little presentation on parkour as part of the cert. In my own Level-1 certification I assisted Roger in teaching the gymnastics segment (we taught handstands, back handsprings, round offs, rolling, presses, etc- not just “handstand push-ups” leaning against a wall) and we got to learn combat from John Hackleman. It was all part of the program just as much as working with a barbell was. The CrossFit that I was exposed to at first which drew my attention included all these interesting things and the piece that resembles it the most is when I see it at the highest level at the CrossFit Games. At least they got to do a triathlon, run an obstacle course and throw stuff. So my point with all of this is that it saddens me when Cavers box themselves in to just “specializing” in CrossFit. You should go out and try stuff! But you’re afraid of getting hurt!- OK, be extra conservative. Don’t do anything rash or be reckless. Swim in a pool, not in the open ocean. Try parkour in a safe gym environment with instruction, not on a wet metal rail over asphalt. Try rock climbing in a gym first before you go do it at the Red River Gorge. Recently not only Cavers but thousands of athletes went off to do the “Tough Mudder”. I heard about a lot of injuries, not just from our gym but from friends of friends. I can guarantee you that if these people trained Parkour in a gym environment first before going off and trying obstacles with a 10 mile run built in they would have been far less likely to get hurt than if they just “winged it”. Their prior experience would have left them much more confident as well. Sure it’s possible to get hurt training new sports in the gym, but it definitely makes you more robust in other activities and the real world!
Now this relates to the ”American Ninja Warrior & Parkour Seminar” that I am hosting here at our very own Cave on Nov. 4th (for adults) and Nov. 3rd (for kids). (The kid’s event is basically sold out but if the weather forecast is for no rain we will open 12 more kids slots.) This, believe it or not, is the perfect situation to step out of your comfort zone and do something new- and relatively safe. How “relatively safe”? As safe as your CrossFit class. Seriously.That safe. Maybe safer. We are very good at designing and scaling obstacles and as long as people listen to instructions and don’t go try something stupid that they’re asked not to do, the risk is minimal. Usually athletes surprise themselves and have big smiles on their faces the whole time and thank us later. What if you can’t make it or it’s not your thing? That’s fine, but try something else. Dance. Judo. Gymnastics. Try something that involves different types of coordination, agility, body control and timing. Maybe it’s picking up an old ball sport that you used to play with your friends as a kid like tennis, baseball or basketball or perhaps it’s going biking, skiing or snowboarding with some of your fellow Cavers. Maybe it’s taking your old skateboard out of the garage, albeit going to the sporting goods store to buy a helmet, wrist guards and knee pads. Live it up, use your body. It’s rewarding!
This parkour video is a jewl. It helps you look through the skewed prisms that people view parkour through and gives you a more precise and pure perspective. Check this out. I think every Caver that is interested in movement and fitness should watch this!
One of the reason I gravitate towards parkour so much as a training protocol is because I love learning stuff. I honestly believe that since what humans are good at and designed for is learning, “fitness” has to be directly tied in to learning. For this reason I think that only promoting “work capacity” in basic movements that have already been acquired is not enough to fullfill our potential for “fitness” and that’s why I promote activities such as parkour, gymnastics, martial arts, climbing, swimming as well as other sports and not just CrossFit. CrossFit should complement and enhance our lives and other activities and not be the only focus of our fitness. There is no doubt that CrossFit is valuable, it just shouldn’t stand alone.
Not everybody knows that we have some rock’in summer camps for kids and teens here at “The Cave”. There are two camps remaining for the 2012 season, one coming up on August 6th-10th, which is a Parkour Camp headed up by our Parkour Director Ryder Darcy, and another Gymnastics Camp August 13th-17th. Sign-ups for the Parkour camp may be closing on Monday July 30th, so please hurry to sign up if you are interested. The camps run from 10am-2pm Monday through Friday. The kids can be signed up for one, all five, or any combination of days for the week. Also pre-registering at least a month in advance is less expensive than the week before camp!
Earlier this month I ran what may have been the most awesome summer camp ever-ever-ever July 9th-13th. It was, of course, a “Ninja Camp” with an American Ninja Warrior Theme. We had 6 American Ninja Warrior Veterans guest coaching including David Campbell, Travis Fulanic, JB Douglass, Andrey Pfening, the illustrious Tom Hutchman, and of course, myself, Andres De la Rosa (Amadraeus). Our coaches poured an enormous amount of creativity and passion into the exercises, drills, games and obstacle courses set out for the kids as well as imparting part of the philosophy of parkour and Ninja Warrior which encircles the themes of:
1> “To be strong and to be useful.”
2> “With great power comes great responsibility.”
3> “We’re here to improve ourselves together” and last but not least
4> “Stay safe and be a good judge of your limits.”
Overall the kids were extraordinarily well behaved and had a great time. Here are a couple of pictures and a video of our awesome little group:
Summer Camp 2012 "Ninjas" with coaches JB Douglass, Travis Furlanic, Andrey Pfenning and Andres De la Rosa
Here’s a little video of one of our “Parkour Capture the Flag” game:
We also have “Survival Camps” run by our self-defense and CrossFit coach, Nick Wise. Although there won’t be another Ninja or Survival Camp until probably next year, both our parkour and gymnasics camps are great fun for the kids. After all, The Cave is the perfect place to get stronger, get skilled, have fun, and make friends! And even if your schedule doesn’t quite work out for our two remaining camps this year, there is always Kid’s Night Out as well even throughout the school year on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 5:30-10pm! Please call “The Cave’s” front desk for pricing or more information.
Parkour Fail videos are horrible, because people get hurt, often badly, and not just physically. They’re embarrassing too. But I actually like watching parkour fail videos, as much because I enjoy the process of analyzing what went wrong and mentally archiving how to avoid that “wrong”. I often cringe even before the crash. Most of the time if you have an experienced eye, you can tell what’s going to happen before it does, and especially when the “athlete” doesn’t look anywhere near well prepared you know it’s going to go horribly wrong. Nevertheless, in contrast there are “pro parkour fails”. I recently watched one of Jesse Le Flair during a commercial shoot. Sometimes even pros eat it, but more often their training kicks in to save them. Look at the difference between Jesse’s fail and the other fails in the Parkour Fail compilation. My reaction to Jesse’s fail was… “Wow..! Nice reaction. Great awareness. Grip strength came in handy.” As opposed to “you fool, you’re no where near strong / flexible / prepared / experienced enough to try that outside of a foam pit!” Many people trying or learning parkour on their own are often fool hardy and try a trick or skill well before they’re athletic base is an parkour skills are sound enough to attempt a trick of the level of difficulty that they have in mind. People who try parkour and freerunning tricks that they are nowhere near ready for aren’t only a hazard to themselves, but mar the art form and set a bad example for others as well. Here is the video of someone failing a cat-to-cat with a strong base:
In contrast, most of the fails in this next video are performed by folks who don’t even seem to know they’re not ready to try these. I love the music for this next one. It’s so appropriate. Try analyzing some of the fails and “read” what exactly went wrong with each trick. The more you understand, the safer you’ll be.
Ultimately, my philosophy for throwing dangerous skills is that it’s better to be over-prepared for a skill than to increase the risk of injury or even tragedy by throwing a skill prematurely.
By the way, I think that the kid in 3:40 may have broken his neck.
Last week I wrote a blog post titled “Mental State and Competitive Performance” which briefly discussed controlling your emotional and mental state in anticipation of competition. Jacqui asked the obvious question, “…but how do you “practice” controlling your emotions before a competition?” A couple of ideas come to mind. First and most obvious would be putting yourself in competition situations often so you get better at dealing with your emotions from the experience. This is how rookies become veterans. Of course, you may be a rookie and want to get some of that experience before your big competition. In this case you can set up smaller mock competitions with your friends and gym-mates that may have some of that “go time” feeling to them. You may also want to try visualization exercises where you see yourself in that high pressure situation and try to create the atmosphere in your mind and to bring yourself to the emotional state that you want to be in at that moment. One of the things that I would suggest as a long-term habit is regularly placing yourself in new high-pressure situations where you’re going to be nervous trying something new or even slightly dangerous but where you’re still likely to succeed. Gymnasts, traceurs and rock-climbers do this all of the time when they’re trying a new trick, parkour move or climbing route. My old gymnastics training partner used to say things to the effect of “o.k., now I know I’m doing real gymnastics” whenever he started feeling the butterflies fluttering in his stomach. Of course, “real gymnastics” in this context basically meant he was trying something far enough out of his comfort zone to be scared. One way to keep this fear from controlling you is to “look past it” or your relation to it, and focus exclusively on the movements, mechanics and body positions themselves. If you can make yourself do the moves, you’ve achieved the skill, fear or no fear. There is a level of mental control over your emotions that you have to start getting a grip over when you’re putting yourself in this type of situation. There is a point where you know what you have to do and you know you can do it and how to do it, but still, you’ve never done it before. At that point you just have to go for it and once you do you’re committed, there’s no going back and you know that the biggest obstacle is your own head and self-preservation instinct screaming at you to stop. As a matter of fact, if you do try to stop or “go back” once you’re “in”, then you’re in real trouble because you’re a lot more likely to get hurt; there’s no hitting the breaks in the air. It’s time to fly. It really is a beautiful and frightening feeling, and when you start “getting used to it”, although you never really get used to it, you realize that you’ve started to attain an ultimately desirable level of self-mastery, and you can do it again more easily and apply this self-mastery to other skills. Nevertheless, you still have to be careful not to get too cocky because you can still get hurt or die if you make a mistake. It’s always seemed to me that this emotional control applies well to competition situations, at least from self experience and observation of most other people with similar skills, nevertheless I do know at least one excellent and naturally talented gymnast and one amazing lady-rock climber who kind of freak out and aren’t all that good at high stake competition situations but perform extremely well when they’re just practicing their disciplines, so I guess it must not apply universally. Also, people can get comfortable taking new risks in their “field” but may experience more serious mental blocks in something that is similarly frightening in a different discipline. I for one am far more comfortable working through gymnastics progressions, taking that last leap for a big precision jump, or even taking that sixteen foot fall on a lead rope climbing outdoors, but when it comes to going over the edge of even a five or six-foot wave while surfing, oh my God, that really freaks me out. It feels like I’m plunging over a rolling cliff that is about to toss me into an unknown abyss. I’m just not used to it at all. So to me the guys in the following video have achieved close to the consummate level of emotional and mental control. This has got to be one of the scariest things a human being could possibly do. You have to have absolute commitment, and you know you’re going to fall and a mountain of water is going to take you for a roll and you may die, but you do it anyways. This is truly amazing.
I remember a defining character-building moment of my youth. I was about 10 years old and we were on our way to a camping and backpacking trip in Yosemite with the San Francisco Police Activities League (PAL) youth program. We stopped along the way at a pool spot along a river that our instructors were familiar with. At this spot the river widened enough for the current not to be too strong and there were a lot of folks who were bathing or lounging about at the pool spot. Some of them were diving or jumping off of a rock that may have been about twenty feet over the water. I remember telling our guide who was a great mentor to me, Walter Scott, that I was going to jump off that rock into the pool. He said that it was fine and that he would watch, but once I was at the top of the rock my legs literally froze in place and I could not move, I was so scared. I knew that it wasn’t high enough to be unsafe and that the pool was deep enough and that the people who were there to take care of me could pull me out of the water if I needed it, but changing that knowledge into self-confidence was a completely different matter. My friends counted me down at least a dozen times while I had at least that many false starts up at the top of that rock. Finally, after about twenty minutes of waiting Walter gave me “one last chance” at least three times and then waved me down. It was time to go and everyone was packing up. I was so disappointed in myself. I just wasn’t brave enough. I slowly turned around to walk back down the way I came up when I suddenly told myself ”No. I’m going to do it now.” I turned around and ran right over the edge of that rock and as I felt that I had nothing but air underneath my feet I was regretting that last step, looking over my shoulder to see how far away the ledge was but it was too late to get back. It was time to fly. My regret immediately turned to thrill as I dropped and plunged into the freezing cold water. I easily swam to the shore and saw Walter Scott’s concerned and curious look as he asked me if I was O.K. ”I’m Great!” was my strong reply. I couldn’t have possibly felt more alive and excited. During my childhood that moment always reminded me that I was brave and I could make myself do what I decided to do if I really wanted to. It helped form my self-perception for years to come and since then I’ve had a lot more practice. Special thanks to my P.A.L. instructor Walter Scott for the contribution he gave to the lives of so many children growing up, privileged or otherwise. I think that the moral of the story is to regularly put yourself in new and scary situations “outside your comfort zone” where you have to control your nerves and where you have to learn something new about a discipline, skill or maybe just about yourself. Make it a part of your life’s history, just as it is part of the history of human beings and our struggle in life and survival. Just be careful not to get yourself killed.
One of the things that is striking about competing in American Ninja Warrior and maybe even shocking to the film crews for G-4 (although they may be getting more accustomed to it after these last several years) is that everyone is very, VERY supportive of each other down there, even though it is a competition where you are strictly ranked against how well everyone else does. You’ll see “Ninjas” teaching each other, making friends and trading techniques and coaching tips. Almost every last person is actually rooting for you to be awesome and rock the course. You’ll even see people who are about to get eliminated from continuing on to the next rounds of competition cheering on their new friends who may just doing the eliminating. (To some degree, it actually reminds me of the CrossFit community when it was smaller. I think this remains the case in the CF communities on a very local scale, but the emphasis on competition and “dying for points” is so strong that it may have been choked out on a larger scope. Even back in the 2007 CF Games, when the community was still small, there was a different feel among the elite on competition day.) One of the reasons why there was so much solidarity in Venice is because of the spirit and philosophy that drives the parkour community where many of these athletes train and develop themselves. I consider us fortunate to be involved in such a supportive and magnanimous movement, and I hope that as efforts to capitalize on parkour and related activities such as “Ninja Warrior” continue, that we will have the presence of mind to not lose that Beautiful Vision of supporting each other and growing together. Here is a little video of what that Vision is all about.
Down at Venice I had the pleasure to run into Justin Sweeny and the rest of the crew from Parkour Visions. These guys are serious about promoting parkour in the local community and sharing it with everyone. They are also a collection of driven beasts. Sweeny is the first guy you see in the video. Rafe Kelly and Tyson Cseka, two of the founders of the community were unfortunately unable to attend due to work responsibilities, but their gym was very well represented and you’ll see what these amazing folks can do when the show airs in a couple of months. In the meantime, be sure to come experience some of the joys and thrills of parkour at “The Cave” and see what the fuss is all about!
We have talked several times about developing your show up muscle. The #1 factor in long term success is to keep showing up. Do what you need to do. Be where you need to be on a day to day basis. This is certainly true with training. You must show up and be there to improve.
Garret Kramer’s article Staying in The Game speaks to this. On a regular basis you may not feel like coming in to train, going to work, getting that something done. But his premise is if you truly shouldn’t show up it will be very clear. If you are simply second guessing yourself then the best option is to stay the course. Work your plan, and “stay in the game”. Garret Kramer is the author of “Stillpower“. This book is a look at the inner strength found by top level athletes when they are performing at their best. How mindset affects outcome and how when things are going wrong getting yourself back to a high state of mind is the most crucial piece.
Hébert was born in Paris. While an officer in the French Navy prior to the First World War, Hébert was stationed in the town of St. Pierre, Martinique. In 1902 the town fell victim to a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Hebert coordinated the escape and rescue of some seven hundred people from this disaster. This experience had a profound effect on him, and reinforced his belief that athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism. He eventually developed this ethos into his personal motto, “Être fort pour être utile” (”Being strong to be useful”). [Italicized and boldened- by the blog author, not as it appears in the article.]
Hébert had travelled extensively throughout the world and was impressed by the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples in Africa and elsewhere:
Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature. }
Of course, as the Wiki article also mentions, Hebert’s teachings heavily influenced the emergence of Parkour, or “The Art of Movement”.
Also, according to the article, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who influenced Hebert taught that through the observation of nature people could arrive at the true methods of physical development and that the final goal of physical education was to
“…make strong beings. In the purely physical sense, the Natural Method promotes the qualities of organic resistance, muscularity and speed, towards being able to walk, run, jump, move on all fours, to climb, to keep balance, to throw, lift, defend yourself and to swim.” The natural method to these educators was a synthesis of physical, virile and moral development, and not just any of these alone.
Please read the full article and comment on the blog. How does it relate to CrossFit? To Judo, or Self Defense? To Parkour? To specific sports? Have you ever trained on an obstacle course or “parcours”? How about a ropes course? What did you like/ dislike about it?