The Cave

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Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

Girl Parkour, Less Excuses, Ninja Warrior Seminar & More Training

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

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

“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!

Put Yourself Out There

Saturday, July 7th, 2012
Butterfly stroke

Butterfly stroke

It seems to be that I’m doing about an annual post with the philosophy behind the quote “Do one thing every day that scares you”.

So today I wasn’t in the gym during classes because I was at my daughters swim meet. She has been swimming with the TL Orcas for two years. The kids start out learning to swim freestyle, then add backstroke, breast stroke and finally butterfly. We found out this last week that Caitlyn’s coach had put her in for butterfly for this meet. Her initial reaction was “I don’t want to”. She was coming from a place where she didn’t feel she was good enough to compete in the butterfly.

Now, a little about my daughter. She has a bit of a perfectionist streak. She hates to fail, particularly in front of other people. This is a trait I have been working hard with her to get a handle on because it really is the biggest thing that will hold her back. When she encounters something she struggles with her tendency is to just quit and assume she’s incapable. So, given that, she’s seeing the butterfly as something she may not do well in the meet at, and doesn’t want to put herself out there where she may fail. Fortunately her coach had already put her in and we weren’t about to pull her out of her already assigned heat. We talked a lot this week about just getting out and giving it a go, and that she’d do as well as she could, and it was about learning and experience.

So, her heat comes up. She was assigned into the last heat because she didn’t even have an initial time to base her placement on due to the fact that she hadn’t even done butterfly at a time trials so there was no way to know where she should be. She hit her mark and dove in. She did fantastic covering the 25 yards in 28.28s. This is about middle of the road for competitive swimmers her age. Which actually means she’s relatively better with butterfly than she is with either backstroke or breast stroke. She ended up winning her heat by a significant margin. Of course I’m a proud papa, but more in that she just got out there and did what she could. It is so much about attitude an approach. Performance will come with the work.

Get out there. Try new things. Never fear that you may be terrible at something at first. Who cares? Try, have fun and try again. Getting better is just practice and training. You can’t improve if you don’t stretch. Taking yourself beyond your capacity is scary. Excellent. Scare your self regularly.


Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Swimming is a useful and, in my opinion, necessary component of general physical fitness.  We all know the basic benefits of swimming, which you hear anytime somebody talks about it: no impact, works all muscle groups, etc.  But I’m going to tell you why it’s a good addition to CrossFit.

Lalanne Fitness demonstrating an awesome WOD in the Bay.

Lalanne Fitness demonstrating an awesome WOD in the Bay.

1.  It helps improve shoulder mobility.  Every stroke, you really need to concentrate on lengthening your body and reaching with your arms.  You’ll do this a couple hundred times during a swimming workout, but without the stress of a barbell or your bodyweight.

2.  It develops midline stamina - particularly in the hollow position.  CrossFit has a large focus on the posterior chain, but I’ve seen plenty of people who are weak in the hollow position.  Having a strong hollow body position is useful for many gymnastics skills, as well as for maintaining proper muscular balance.  Swimming lets you work the hollow position for a considerable amount of time, at a lower resistance level than out of the water.

3.  It teaches you how to breathe.  Everybody knows how to breathe, obviously, but controlling your breathing during a CrossFit workout allows you keep your heart rate lower and not feel like you’re an inch from dying.  When you swim, no matter how tired you are, you simply cannot take rapid gasping breaths, you have to focus on taking regular, deep breaths.  If your training includes underwater swimming, your body will learn to make better use of oxygen.

4.  It is excellent for recovery.  Most people don’t like ice baths, despite the amazing anti-inflammatory effects.  If you’re swimming in cool water (doesn’t have to be ice cold), you can get a similar effect.

5.  CrossFit is supposed to help you develop the athletic ability to do just about anything well.  One of the main ideas of the CrossFit philosophy is to be ready for whatever life throws at you.  Well, 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, so if you want to be ready for life, there’s no excuse to not know how to swim.

So, why am I writing a post on swimming so early in the year?  Well, it just so happens that we are doing a swimming class as part of our Tough Mudder Training Course.  Even if you have no plans to do Tough Mudder, you should still come to this class because we’re teaching things that are so useful and beneficial to your overall fitness.  Also, it’s fun!

If you’re interested, sign up on the Tough Mudder Training registration form in the gym.  Or you can meet us at the YMCA pool this Saturday (03/24).  Class starts at 6:00 PM, and costs $40.00.

See you in the gym– or at the pool.