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Archive for November, 2009

A Few Implications Stemming From An Impetuous Decision and Subsequent Injury

Monday, November 30th, 2009
This is my Avatar in several parkour and other websites.  It depicts a quest. I'm ascending and while I'm carrying something on my back.

This is my Avatar in several parkour and other websites. It symbolizes a quest. I'm ascending while carrying something on my back.

So Monday was actually worse than Sunday night.  From talking to Roger I learned that Jonathan Hyslop, Russell’s chiropractor and one of our clients, does free evaluations.  He also has a digital X-ray machine, which uses a very small fraction of radiation compared to conventional X-ray machines.  Jonathan was very gracious and not only did he take some X-rays for me, but also did adjustments and has been treating me for several days now.  You can check out his web site at to find more information on his services.  Yes, the people that walk around with the little head-weights that we joke about being antenaes used to comunicate with with extraterrestrials, are his patients.

You can use the Pettibon System to "conversate" with aliens who reside near the Orion Nebula.

You can use the Pettibon System to "conversate" with aliens who reside near the Orion Nebula.

On Monday night, Rosanna, who is a nurse practitioner and comes to our gymnastics classes, provided me with some muscle relaxants to help relieve the spasms.  Carlos, who also works in the medical field did so as well.  On Wednesday night Tom Hutchman, one of our clients who also owns a personal training business in Larkspur and does some muscle and postural work, treated me to a free after hours session at his place to loosen up the muscles in my lower back.  I also went swimming at the Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, after my mother gave me a two month membership after I coerced her to give me an early Christmas present.  Swimming and moving around in the water was my own prescribed therapy.  I figured the breathing necessary for swimming would expand my lungs and thus help support my back.  I was only able to breast stroke because I could not arch for freestyle, but it was enough to make me hypoxic and actually get my blood flowing.  I also did a lot of cat walks and squats in the water.  That night I was sleeping much more comfortably and on Thursday evening, when I went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving I could almost stand up straignt.  On Friday I went swimming at the JCC once again with Brent, a visiting navy seal from San Diego.  This time I was able to freestyle and stand up even a little straighter.  By Friday I was feeling relieved that I would fully recover from the injury and there was no permanent damage.  Saturday morning was the first class I managed to coach since the injury, the pre-school kids class at 9:00am, albeit I was really stiff and walking around bent forward like a old man.  In the afternoon I went over to Rich & Karen LeFurgy’s house so they could show me the little cottage that they have next to their beautiful home in Mill Valley.  To my disbelief, they offered to let me stay there for a month while I recovered from my injury.  I started feeling a little guilty that I was already recovering so quickly.

Saturday night I dragged Carlos to the Stinson Beach Volunteer Firefighter’s Ball featuring Johnny Vegas & The High Rollers.  Amanda was wearing a beautiful red dress working the cash box at the front door when we arrived.  She immediately snapped my suspenders.  Unfortunately I got my suspenders snapped many times that night.  Fortunately, mainly by girls.   Suspenders seem to be a magnet of sorts.

All the single CFM boys are in mourning because Amanda just got back together with her boyfriend. (I know I am.)  The girl with the cute smile is Terra, who has vowed to never join the cult despite of the efforts of our Stinson Beach crew.

All the single CFM boys are in mourning because Amanda just got back together with her boyfriend. Here you can see why. The girl with the cute smile is Terra, who has vowed to never join the cult despite of the efforts of our Stinson Beach crew.

  I was worried my back might seize up on the dance floor, especially if I did anything too stupid, but somehow instead some of my swing dancing moves came back to me and I even managed to do a tiny bit of break dancing and jumped on my hands.  ( No really, I can jump on my hands.  It’s a great party trick, but more importantly, it involves my lower back and it wasn’t a problem.)  I did, however, manage to abstain from throwing any back flips, front hand-springs or twirling a girl around my waist in the middle of the dance floor, which is what I would have done had I not been injured.  Oh well, next year.  Heeyyy BABY.   (Insert very sexy but slightly creepy latino voice here.  Muuahhahaa)  My back felt great, until we went to The Sand Dollar for some drinks and every time my friends made me laugh my back would start to tighten and threaten to go into spasms.  Go figure, laughing was worse than dancing.  It had been a long and busy day.  Overall I think all the dancing helped.  (If you haven’t noticed, I have the habit of moving as much as I possibly can when I get injured.  Once I dislocated my right shoulder so I went climbing with one arm and my right was still on a sling.)  We had a great time.  I don’t think I can deadlift more than 30 kg yet, but it shouldn’t be long before I’m back to full speed.  It’s Sunday night now and it’s getting late again, so I’m going to post a few lessons and insights that I’ve gleaned from the whole experience on my next post, and please feel free to write some sound feed back.

Art of Movement part1

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Ok, so I didn’t finish writing up the blog post about my injury.  I’ll have to finish it today.  By the way, I’m doing much better, for those of you who are worried.  In the meantime I figured I’d post a favorite parkour video by SF Parkour and some of our friends.  The author, Edgar “Streetmirage” Yudkevich is the author of our “What is CrossFit Marin” video as well as the Nor Cal Qualifiers CrossFit Marin CF Games series videos.  Shane Daniels, our former PK coach before Aero, is also featured.

A Few Implications Stemming From An Impetuous Decision and Subsequent Injury

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Many of you are aware that I hurt myself pretty badly last Sunday night.  You may think that it would behoove me and the gym to down play the injury, hide any symptoms and pretend that nothing happened, so as to not scare anybody away.  After all, I’m co-founder of CrossFit Marin, and I’m supposed to know what I’m doing, instead of going about injuring myself doing our own workouts.  Although this may seem like a reasonable approach, it would negate the opportunity to draw some painful yet valuable lessons from what happened and to share them with you.  It’s not good to “dwell” on the past, but if we don’t analyze our experiences we are much more likely to repeat our mistakes, and after all, CrossFit Marin is an “open source” gym and school of movement.  This is basically a case study of an injury and many of you know how meticulously detailed I can be, so don’t bother reading this if you’re not patiently curious.  So here’s what happened with some pertinent background information:

Late Sunday afternoon, November 22nd, although I had napped for an hour or two at my parents’ house in San Francisco, I was still exhausted when I arrived at the gym to coach my 3:30pm private.  After my private, I was hanging out with Ben who was coaching Tina in the skill training for the 4:30pm CrossFit class.  Ben could tell that I was thinking about doing the workout and suggested that I jump in.  I hesitated, and told him that I was really tired and that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and that I really shouldn’t.  Ben, naturally said something about me “never getting enough sleep” and downplayed my hesitation.  I declined anyways.  A few minutes later before starting the actual WOD, Ben apologized to Tina for her having to do the workout solo and kind of glanced over at me.  At this point I was starting to feel guilty because I don’t like to let my CrossFitters suffer alone, and I really did want to do the workout anyways, so I shook my head in apprehension and told Ben I’d jump in.  The workout was:

3 Rounds for time of: [ 500M Rows + 21 75lb power snatches]

Since I skipped the warm-up and skill training and I know better, I decided that I would warm up on the first part of the workout.  This may sound silly, but I’ve done this often and it mostly works fine.  I just cruised on the first 500M row and I did the first round of snatches at an easy pace, whereas if I had been warmed up I would have done touch-and-go for all 21 reps in the first round.  A little bit into the second 500M row, I felt warmed up and my body was responding well, so I decided to crank.  I did the second round at close to full intensity doing touch-and-go for almost all the reps.  During the 3rd round, I asked Ben for a time check at least twice and at some point half way through the snatches I realized that if I didn’t put the bar down at all, I would go sub ten minutes.  Well, I caved and set the bar down, picked it up almost immediately and tried to break 10min anyways.  My time was 10:09.  I was pissed at myself.  Although I had the fastest time of the day, I knew that I had mentally set a goal and I let it slip.  Now I was amped and very warm and endorphins were kicking in.  I asked Ben, who weirdly enough, seemed impressed with my time, what he thought he could do the workout in.  He said he thought he could knock it out in 8 min.  Ben and I are very close in workouts like these, and it seemed unrealistic to me.  At this point, since I didn’t feel all that tired, I told Ben that I would do the workout again, for real,  during the 6pm class.  I went to the back to lie on the couch and bask  in the pulse of the endorphins cruising through my head.  The 6pm class was in half an hour.  There was a no-show for the 6pm class, and Ben wanted to go home, so he urged me to start right away.  I didn’t re-warm up, but I didn’t really feel like I had to, because I was still warm from the first time around.  To me it was like a big interval workout.   I like interval workouts anyways.  I told Ben that I would shoot for sub 9min on the low end and sub 10min on the high end, that is I was setting myself a “parameter goal”.  It’s kind of like giving myself a flex time.  Ben made a disapproving comment, I can’t recall exactly, but it might have been something like “…what kind of a goal is that?!”.  I conceded and told him I’d just go for sub 9min.  I cranked hard from the get go.     If my average pace for the 500M rows was about 1:45, that would  mean that I needed to complete each round of snatches in under 1:15 in order to go sub 9 min.  I rowed about a 1:40 for the first round and I did 21 consecutive touch-and-go snatches, well ahead of pace.  I might have broken up the second round into two sets for the snatches.  Going into the last round of snatches I was still on pace, but I started having trouble stringing the reps together.  My sets of four or five dropped off to two or three.  I asked Ben for a time check and I was a few seconds over 9min.  Well, I was only about 6 reps away from being done and I could easily keep it under 10min.  I picked up the bar at about rep 15 and as I started the snatch my back tightened slightly.  I reacted by dropping the bar.  I didn’t even really think about it, I just wanted to wrap it up and put away the workout, so I grabbed the bar again but this time my back really seized up on the failed snatch.  Again I dropped the bar and then glanced over at Ben.   I might have said something about “it’s not going to happen” and walked over to the gymnastics floor to lie down.  What I felt was muscle pain.  I didn’t feel a ”pop” or anything slide out of place.   At the moment I figured I just strained my back pretty badly and I was kicking myself because I could have been hanging out with the girl I met a couple of weeks ago instead of going for a 2nd workout motivated more by my own vanity and pig-headedness than anything else, and that it would take me a couple of days to recover.   After a minute or so I got up to go to the back and lie on the couch and winced under the pulse of the bad kind of endorphin feeling, the one you get when your body is trying to deal with pain and inflammation.  When I got up and tried to walk around I was rather alarmed because my hips were completely and involuntarily rolled underneath in a “hollow” position.  I had to walk around on my toes so as to be able to stand up.  My spine was also tilted forward and to the left.  I think Jonathan Hyslop called it an “anterior tilt”.  From looking in the mirror, it seemed as if I could have damaged my spine or displaced a vertebrae, but I only recalled muscle pain from the actual injury and figured I was standing funny because of seized up muscles, but I started having my doubts.  I iced and took some Advil that night.  I couldn’t turn over in bed without my lower back going into spasms.   I replayed and mulled over the whole scenario in my mind going over the details of the injury.  Injuries are an athlete’s and a gym owner’s worst nightmare, and couple that with the feeling of helplessness and uncertainty that I felt from the thought of having to be dependent on others for basic needs.  The pain of the muscle spasms was trivial compared with the the uncertainty that I might have done permanent damage to my body that would not only affect my athletic performance, but my ability to make a living as well.  I’ve never been on any kind of welfare or unemployment, and I disdain the very idea.  I started thinking about all of my talents and possible work options that would help me cover medical expenses if necessary.  We’re in the process of researching health insurance and at least half of the CFM trainers, including myself, are currently uninsured.  When I managed to fall asleep curled up in a fetal position, I found some intermittent respite from my troubles.  The next day I literally could not get up.  I asked Roger to pick me up something to eat.  I was dreading having to use the toilet. 

{It’s about 1:47am and I’m going to go to bed and finish this blog post tomorrow, so I can give my back some rest. }

The Original “Nasty Girls”

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Some of you did the workout “Nasty Girls” last Thursday.  You may be wondering where that came from and why it’s called “Nasty Girls”.   Here are the original “Nasty Girls” from old CrossFit headquarters in Santa Cruz:

That was Annie, the Asian girl, Eva, the taller one and former Olympic skier, and Nicole, the cute little one with the worried look in her eyes.  Nicole needed to be more explosive on her muscle-ups.  The static muscle-ups killed her on this workout.  This was one of the early videos and she got even stronger subsequently.  She now runs the level 2 CrossFit certifications.   Annie was just a little met-con machine.  She competed in the affiliate cup this last year for one of the Santa Cruz affiliates.  Eva was so strong.  She made a second athletic career competing in Olympic Lifting meets.  Notice how she just blows through the high hang cleans.

I love this workout, it’s a great representation of a balanced CrossFit workout including a gymnastics movement, the muscle-up, an Olympic Lifting element, the high-hang clean, and a metabolic movement, the air-squats.  I have to say that although all three of them are awesome, I think that Annie was my favorite Nasty Girl.  At the CrossFit certifications she was always so spunky and enthusiastic while coaching.  If you want to see the whole video, you can go to > Exercises & Demos > WODs > Nasty Girls.  Who is your favorite Nasty Girl and why?  What is your favorite CrossFit workout?  Why?   Are there any workouts that you would like to see two people from CrossFit Marin go head-to-head on?  If so, which one and whom?  Post thought to comments.

Thanksgiving Feasting

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving Feast

I was not aware that Nick was going to be doing a nutrition post yesterday, but it is timed extremely well for this post to be a follow up. We’re going to talk about approaching the copious volumes of available food over the next few days sensibly, and with sanity.

First and foremost. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your family and enjoy your friends. There is no reason to get completely worked up about your thanksgiving meal(s). If you have been mostly compliant in your eating habits, then having a thanksgiving cheat day isn’t going to derail your progress. This is not the time to make a statement about food. It’s not a time to challenge others about diet, though if you’re making good choices and people ask, it’s well and good to explain. Take care to keep in the a “This is what I am doing” framework and don’t come off as judgmental.

When you have the huge spread of food in front of you, making correct quality choices can go a long way in helping the downside of the quantity that we are all bound to eat. You are going to have a large variety of options in front of you, so choose well. Aim to fill your plate with meat and veggies, and limit the breads and starches. Sweet potatoes are a decent choice, much better than mashed potatoes. Limit the rolls, stuffing and the like. After dinner, if there is pie, enjoy a slice, just don’t go overboard. Just keeping a good mindset will make a huge difference in what you eat over the next few days. It will also keep you sane, and you won’t feel deprived. Eat, have fun, and have a great thanksgiving. Then come in to the gym during one of our holiday sessions to train.

One Bite At A Time

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Roger and I talk about nutrition all the time. And for good reason! What you eat directly affects what you can do, how well you recover and how well your body makes gains. It’s also the hardest part of fitness. Let me say that again, it’s the hardest part of fitness.

In CrossFit, we pride ourselves on the idea of universal scalability. Our coaches know how to scale and modify any movement to the needs of each person. If you can’t do pull-ups, we show you jumping pull-ups. If you can’t do jumping pull-ups, we show you body rows. Etc. Proper scaling helps build the strength/coordination/flexibility/whatever to eventually perform the full movement. And like any movement that we scale in the gym, there are ways to scale nutrition to help you develop the knowledge/will power/habits to reach your dietary goals.

Positive changes to your diet come one bite at a time. You don’t have to stress over it and you don’t have to rush into making huge changes all at once, just like you don’t have to stress out over movements that you don’t know or weights that you can’t yet lift. Start small. Eliminate one or two things per week that you know you shouldn’t be eating and replace them with something better. Give up soda and drink water instead. After two weeks, cut out candy or cookies and have an apple. One step at a time and don’t forget to cheat a little. If there’s something that you just can’t live without, reduce your intake of it a little and try to eliminate something else.

I’ve also heard people say that they don’t change their diet because there is so much conflicting research about nutrition. “What should I do,” they say, “Paleo or Zone? Supplements or vitamins?” This is a silly case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. You know what’s bad for you– sugar, fast food, junk food. And you know what’s good for you– lean meat, vegetables, nuts & seeds, fruit. All you have to do is eat less of what’s bad for you and more of what’s good for you. Once you get a handle on that, you can start figuring out specifics and dial in your diet to the level that is optimal for you.

Finally, don’t think you’re alone out there. If you have any specific questions or want to get a little more advanced, talk to your trainer or start a post on the forum. Just remember, one bite at a time.

Thanksgiving Workouts

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

2009-novemberOk, so I guess we were kidding about being closed Thursday-Sunday this week. We’ve had a few trainers offer to run some sessions, and many folks ask us to run sessions. So here is the schedule

Thursday 7:15am CrossFit

Thursday 9:30am CrossFit

Thursday 9:30am Kids movement class (8 and under)

Friday 10:00am CrossFit

Friday 10:00am Kids “Ninja” class with Nick

Saturday normal class schedule.

So come on in and convert some of that Holiday food into lean body mass.

Also, note that the Thursday 7:30pm  Self-defense class is moved to Tuesday this week.

The Kids Are Getting Good

Saturday, November 21st, 2009
These guys are clearly having fun with Russ

These guys are clearly having fun with Russ

We’ve had a lot of kids in the program now for a while and it’s interesting that some of our best gymnasts are also some of the younger kids in the program. Handstands, cartwheels, pull overs and other skills are being developed. We are going to be making some changes to the structure and designation of some of the classes soon. We’ll keep you up to date.

Flying Kettlebells?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

kb_flipPost caption to comments.

We have some crazy talent here…

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Think for a minute about the human resources available at CFM.  This crazy little gym really packs it in.  It’s a little gold mine of talent.  Among these star trainers we have a kid who’s barely not a teenager any more named Ben Herwitz.  Ben LOVES to train.   He does so almost every single day and he’s always doing research on different training modalities and programing on his own time, when he’s not negotiating with his mom as to what Ivy League college he should be transfering to.  When he was in high school, he would never take a rest day because he didn’t realize that he needed them.  Also, he constantly challenges me to workouts, especially when I feel like napping.  Last weekend, Ben attended an Olympic lifting meet in Sacramento and established two new PR’s.  He snatched 78kg, clean & jerked 105kg and cleaned 107kg with a failed jerk if I’m not mistaken and his potential is much, much higher.  Lately Ben has created his own blog titled   Ben intends to follow his own tailor made 12 week programing to be able to dunk a basketball, running start permitted, as well as have a 200kg Olympic lifting total (ergo, an 85kg snatch plus a 115kg clean & jerk would get him there).  His blog and programing is rather amazing.  This kid even takes showers in rounds and sets, although I’m not sure how enthusiastic I am for the “contrast showers” at least for myself, although I think I’m going to make them mandatory for the rest of the gym.  Hehe.  Here are a couple of pictures of Ben in action:

Ben coaching at FGB IV.  One of Ben's key coaching tips:  "Always hold a clip board to look really important."

Ben coaching at FGB IV. One of Ben's key coaching tips: "Always hold a clip board to look really important."


Ben busts out some sit-ups during a boxing workout.

Ben busts out some sit-ups during a boxing workout.


In short, Ben is quite the stud, and you really should check out his blog.  I even know a couple of CFM cuties that obviously have a crush on him and he’s completely clueless about it, and by the way, have you ever noticed that the kid looks like Edward Cullen from Twilight?  That’s instant game right there.  HHaaa! =D