The Cave

The Cave Blog

Archive for December, 2010

CFM December 2010 Heroes & Announcements

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Ok, so some of you already know that we’re expanding, again.  North Coast mobility and our friend Dennis have moved up to San Rafael and left warehouse 417 vacant.  We don’t have enough space for trampolines and other things we would really like to have, such as Yoga classes, so….    After negotiations and accounting and a bit of a stretch, we’re moving in and guess who are the local CFM heros ?  

Armando and Ivette are the epitomy of "High Work Capacity".  The work ethic of these two is unparrelleld. While you are sleeping, they are painting the expansion to your gym for free with their two kids, Allan & Nicole playing on the scaffold or watching movies in the truck.  Be sure to thank them if you see them!

Armando and Ivette are the epitomy of "High Work Capacity". The work ethic of these two is unparrelleld. While you are sleeping, they are painting the expansion to your gym for free with their two kids, Allan & Nicole playing on the scaffold or watching movies in the truck. Be sure to thank them if you see them!

We have a lot to be thankful to these two because they painted the large studio expansion and it would have been an even more gargantuan task if Armando hadn’t wipped out the paint job so quickly and effeciently.  Thank you so much, Armando and Ivette for helping make this thrid expansion possible.  Thankfully, we don’t have a demo to go along with it, but the paint work is even more complex because there are several rooms with differnet lighting requirements and detail work! 

Now for a few announcements:

New Classes starting next year:

CF at 5:15am on Mondays & Thursdays!  We have our friend and New Client Jeremy Newman to thank for pushing for and anchoring down this class, although he won’t be in until Thursday the 6th.  The Monday class starts on the 3rd of January, courtesy of coach Bill Berry!  Cheers for all you lunatics who are crazy enough to get up that early to torture yourselves!  I’ll be sleeping.

Pre-school Gymnastics class on Thursdays at 4:30pm.  Amanda Norton will be staffing this one.  We’ve had demand for this class for a while and with Seraphina coaching the respective class on Tuesdays at 4:30, we sometimes have people show up on Thursdays thinking that there’s one at that time.  Well now there is!  Don’t forget that you’re supposed to sign up for a monthly for kids’ classes or call ahead to see if you can do a first-time drop-in or a make-up.

Optional Skill Training on Thursdays from 8:30-10:30pm:  I will be staffing this generally and I’ll either run or set-up anyone who wants to come in and do a CrossFit workout at this time.  We’ve been making special arrangements for Jed to train regularly at this time and now it’s open to everybody.  This is also to make another day of gymnastics available for you gymnastics enthusiasts.  Gymnastics set-ups will take priority over parkour on Thursday nights and PK will take priority over gymnastics set-ups for Friday night OSTN if there are any conflicts.

Ninja Class on Sunday Nights 7-9pm w/ OSTN from 9-10pm:  This has still been going on although Bo is the only one who has been coming regularly to take advantage of it.    I’ll keep offering it and depending on attendance we may modify it.  If you are planning on coming to this, please call or text me seeing as that due to sparse attendance, if no one is scheduled to come I may not neccessarily be here.  This is a cool class where you can train for Saske and get good at just about any of the disciplines.  Don’t miss out.  If attendance remains low, we may change it to an OST night.

Toddler Care (is finally here!)  Tues/Thurs 3:30-4:30pm:  For those moms who have been wanting to train but their little ones aren’t old enough to take classes yet, you can now do CrossFit with your little one being looked after by Amanda Norton just around the corner where you can be within earshot!  Pre-sign up is neccessary.  Currently we have Connellan’s Becket (aka Bucket) and Ayda’s Raven set to attend.  Be prepared to let you kids cry a little so you can workout.  You can’t keep the little mini-grommits happy all of the time and have any semblance of a life, you know!

That’s about it, guys, except don’t forget that we only have AM classes tomorrow with a concurrent kid’s class at 9am.  Also the “Epic Golden Gate Bridge” workout is on Saturday morning from 9am-2pm with Master Nick Wise devising the evilness! 

See you guys tomorrow or Saturday! 

Happy New Year,


Lessons From the Potato Diet

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

On October 1st, Chris Voigt began a diet of ONLY potatoes that would last for 60 straight days. Voigt is the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission and undertook this diet as a way to raise awareness for potatoes. His goal was to maintain his bodyweight and test his health markers to demonstrate how healthy potatoes are. Over the course of his 60 day potato diet, Voigt prepared the russets in a variety of different ways but only allowed himself herbs and spices and no cooking oil or butter. He ate about 20 potatoes a day or until he felt full.  From the start of the diet to the end, Voigt lost 21 pounds, dropping from 197 to 176. He mentioned dropping a few waist sizes, which would indicate a good deal of the weight was fat loss. His total cholesterol dropped from 214 to 147. His triglycerides fell from 135 to 75 and his fasting blood glucose dropped from 104 to 94. These are some very impressive health metrics that you can see here.

Upon hearing about this diet, many Americans who consider themselves healthy would probably be horrified at eating only potatoes for 60 straight. Zone and even some paleo followers would turn their nose up at such an unhealthy diet. It’s true that potatoes contain no animal protein, no fat, and are devoid in a number of micronutrients. However, the large improvements Voigt made in his health markers speak loudly to the damage a standard American diet (SAD) can do. There isn’t much information about Voigt’s diet prior to the potato diet, but I can only assume it was a typical American diet based on his initial cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and body weight. Even people who eat a relatively healthy version of the SAD will still occasionally consume processed grains, processed sugar, and industrial seed oils. This deadly trifecta can spike blood sugar, wreak autoimmune havoc, cause gut irritation, exacerbate inflammation, and ultimately can lead to tremendous weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and dozens of autoimmune diseases. For people with busy lives, these three things are very difficult to avoid since one or more of them are in nearly every packaged food that you see in the supermarket these days.

Chris Voigt was able to avoid all three for 60 days straight. I believe that despite the fact that he was only able to eat one marginally nutritious type of food the entire time, his avoidance of processed sugar, grains, and seed oils contributed significantly to his improved health. By avoiding processed sugar and eating only potatoes, Voigt was taking in complex carbohydrates along with protein and fiber at every meal. This made for very slow and steady increases in blood sugar, which kept him much more insulin sensitive. Spiking blood sugar causes a rush of insulin, which is at it’s core a storage hormone that causes fat accumulation. When Voigt traded in processed sugar for potatoes, his insulin spikes following meals decreased, and is shown by his lower fasting glucose numbers and lower body fat at the end of the 60 day diet. Additionally, his avoidance of processed grains allowed his gut to function more normally, cultivating a healthy environment for processing nutrients. Voigt mentioned that he slept better on this diet and I have no doubt that a big reason for this is his avoidance of grains and sugar.

The point of the story isn’t that we should all go out and buy 5lb bags of potatoes every day. To me, it’s more instructional to look at what he DIDN’T eat rather than what he DID eat.  By staying away from processed sugar, processed grains, and seed oils, Chris Voigt drastically improved his health.  Now imagine how healthy you could be if you avoided all three of those things while also eating  a diet rich in macronutrients and micronutrients. This means getting a full spectrum of amino acids from eggs, fish, and meat. This means covering all your bases with vitamins and minerals by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat 5 colors of fruits/vegetables per day. An example would be blueberries, apples, broccoli, summer squash, and sweet potatoes. Round out the diet with healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats like coconut oil, coconut milk, lard, ghee, butter, and olive oil.

Using Chris Voigt’s experiment as an example of what NOT to eat combined with a sensible variety of natural foods is a powerful combination for an outstanding diet.

Happy training and happy New Year!!


Squat Mechanics - Repost

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

It’s come up a couple of times in class over the past couple of weeks, so I’m reposting my first blog article– Squat Mechanics.  Strengthen the lower back, stretch the hamstrings and hip adductors.  Don’t worry about “good depth” until you are squatting correctly.  Enjoy.

One of the things I’m very critical of in classes is keeping your back angle correct when performing any type of squatting move. It doesn’t just make you look good, there are actually anatomical reasons for it!

Consider the figures below. Figure 1 has a correct back angle, causing the hamstrings and hip adductors (red line) to tighten up between their origin (lower left corner of the green box) and insertion (behind the knee). This allows these muscles to fully engage in the squat, allowing more productive application of force and spreading load more evenly across the knee joint.

Figure 2 is experiencing what I call “butt wink,” the turning under of the pelvis at the bottom of the squat. This can clearly be seen by the angle of the green box around the pelvis. This position reduces the distance between the origin and insertion points of the hamstrings and adductors, taking load off of those muscles. You can see this by the difference in length between the blue line (length with improper back angle) and the red line. The result of unloading those posterior thigh muscles is that load must be shifted to the top of the legs, which reduces the number of muscles you can use to come out of the bottom of the squat and shifts more load to the front of the knee. It also keeps you from being able to use the stretch reflex of the hamstrings and adductors to be able to “bounce” out of the bottom of the squat, which will lead to faster fatigue when performing high volume squats and failed lifts when attempting heavy loads.


We stress the ability to squat below parallel, but many people will find that they do not have enough hamstring and hip adductor flexibility to get that low and still maintain a good back angle. Most of you should include that in your stretching goals. Until you get there, focus on eliminating the “butt wink,” as it will prevent you from truly increasing your squat depth, as well as keep you from using all of your thigh muscles efficiently. It may also overload connective tissue in your knee and lead to pain and injury.

Squat smart!

Aerial World Championships 2007

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Ski season has begin. Aerials is the combination of gymnastics and skiing to an insane degree. Top athletes have 60 feet of vertical from the peak of their flight to landing. This gives them a LOT of time in the air to do stuff. Quintuple twisting tripple layouts (3 flips, 5 twists) are now being done. From a gymnastics perspective this is just cool. Anyway, view and enjoy.

Matt P. Gets His Muscle Up

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

A lot of new achievements recently. The last time we did muscle ups for skill work both Matt P. and Jesse M. made their first one. We didn’t get Jesse on video, but Matt’s is here. He makes it look like he’s been doing it for quite some time. Nice and smooth. Matt P. is rapidly becoming our giant gymnast. Handstands getting solid, muscle ups. We’ll get him doing giants on high bar one of these days.

What would you like on Santa’s CFM wish list?

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

So it’s finally here, Christmas Day, the one all of the little CFM grommits have been waiting for.  But what about you guys?  If you could put a couple of items on Santa’s list for your gym, what would you like to see?  More rowers?  Stall bars?  A GHD machine?  Maybe a homemade Salmon ladder?  15lbs Oly bars for training with light weight?  Another slosh pipe?  Pick two, just to see what people come up with and we might just be able to get it for next year?  I personally think we need (well, besides the BIG items) more ankle weights.  We have that crappy pair of 10#’ers that are broken and the weights fall out.  I’ll see what we can do about that.  What’s on YOUR list?

If Santa brought us this many Oly plates, where would we keep them?

If Santa brought us this many Oly plates, where would we keep them?


Or would you skip the equipment and shwag ask for getting a skill that you don’t have instead?  Post to comments. 

Hope you all are enjoying your holidays!

Parkour Santa.. Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Wow,… so that was a great blog post by Tom W.   Now for something far more intellectually stimulating:

Which one of these Santa Clause pakrour videos  do you like best, and why?

Cyril Raffaelli - Parkour Present 2004 merry christmas (traceurs, yamakasi, david belle)

How the Grinch Robbed Santa:

Urban FeeFlow:  Santa Wanted for Bank Robbery 2009

Ok.. figure it out and let us know.  Hopefully I’ll see you all at the gym tomorrow morning, otherwise, Merry X-mas & Happy Holidays!


10,000 Hours

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

By now, most people have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 bestseller, Outliers. In it, Gladwell describes the logic behind why people become successful, deftly debunking myths that natural talent or high IQ are predictors for achievment in any one field. To get to the heart of his theme, Gladwell sought out information about high achievers across a wide range of fields, professions, and skill sets to see if there were common ties between their paths to greatness.

One of the investigations presented in the book is a 1990’s psychology study of violinists in Berlin, Germany. The experimenters asked each violinist how many hours they’d practiced over the course of their career. Since all were relatively accomplished musicians, they had all begun to play around the age of 5, practicing the same amount each day. By age 8, there was some divergence where some practiced more than others. And by age 20, there was significant divergence. The results in, it was concluded that elite performers had around 10,000 hours of total practice, while the less able performers of the group had around 4,000 hours. Even more interesting is the specific data. They found there was very little indication of ‘natural talent’, meaning there were no performers who achieved elite status despite low hours of practice. All elite violinists developed their mastery through around 10,000 hours of practice, and no less.

A similar message is described in Andre Agassi’s excellent autobiography, Open. Andre was not blessed with natural size, strength, or stamina, however he had a father who was dictatorial about making young Andre hit tennis balls. The following passage from the book describes his father’s mindset, “anyone who hits 2500 balls per day will hit a million per year and anyone who hits a million balls per year can’t help but be number 1.” Not only was Andre a world number one , but he won a gold medal at the Olympics, 8 grand slam titles, and is one of the most successful tennis players of all time. Though his father’s methods may have been cruel and unusual, it’s hard to argue with his logic.

These are extremely specific examples but instructive nonetheless. Let’s remember for a moment that everything we do in CrossFit is rooted in natural, functional movement. This means exercises with long ranges of motion and complex body control. The things we do are in stark contrast with the machine based exercises we’ve seen in commercial gyms. Skill is one of the main dividing lines between what we do in CrossFit as compared to those machine based exercises.

Let’s compare the cues for a leg press machine to a simple air squat. On a leg press, you sit down on the seat, rest your back against the pad, put your feet on the sled, and push. Simple as that. The instructions are simple enough that they can be written on a small plastic card and stick it to the machine. In other words, there’s very little skill needed to perform this exercise and there’s not much you can do over time to get better at it other than getting stronger.  Now let’s consider one of our simplest and foundational movements in CrossFit, the air squat. The cues for a correct air squat would be: feet hip width apart, toes pointed out about 30 degrees, sit back, flexing the knees and the hip at about the same time, descend to hip crease below the top of the knee, weight on the heels, chest up, track the knees out over the toes, low back in locked extension, stomach tight. Not exactly something you could write on a plastic card. And that’s one of our simplest movements. Imagine the real estate needed to describe a full snatch.

The point is that EVERY movement we do in CrossFit is a skill, similar to the finer points of learning the violin or how to handle a tennis racquet. And like any skill, we need to invest time and focused practice in order to improve.  We aren’t looking for mastery of any one skill but rather general proficiency across a wide array of exercises and movements.  Off the top of my head, I could probably name 75-100 different exercises/movements that I’ve seen used in a CrossFit workout over the past 3 years.  It may seem daunting to some to try and become proficient at 100 exercises, but in the same way, consider for a moment how daunting it would seem for a novice tennis player to be thrust into the US Open finals. Instead, a tennis player starts by focusing on hitting drills, then movement, then rallying, and finally full sets and competition.

The key here is progression. We must first develop our skills at the basics before we can move on to being preoccupied with our performance of advanced exercises. If you can’t properly execute the cues I outlined above for the air squat, there’s no reason to get frustrated with your inability to go heavy in a squat snatch. It doesn’t mean you stop squat snatching completely until your air squat is perfect, but rather to keep a healthy view of the concept of progression.

Any CrossFit workout is simply a handfull of skills performed at varying intensity and duration. The more proficient you are at the individual skills, the more efficient and faster you’ll be in the overall workouts. If you make a concerted effort in every workout to dilligently focus on your technique, there’s no doubt that over time you will become a more successful CrossFitter.

Enjoy the Holidays and I look forward to seeing you all in the gym!


Eating Healthy on the Run

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010


Mornings can be a whirlwind of insanity with little or no time to fix something healthy. Studies consistently show, however, that the benefits of breakfast include decreased body mass index, reduced fatigue, and improved cognition (e.g., The trick, though, is quality on the run. So here’s a recipe that with minimal effort on the weekend you get something great to grab each morning as you race out the door:

12 eggs (16 if you toss out the egg yolks)
2 generous cups walnuts finely ground in processor
2 large,  sweet apples (such as fuji) finely chopped in food processor
2 medium carrots finely chopped in food processor
1 tsp ground cinnamon
optional: one to two cups diced dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc.)

Break and mix eggs into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir everything well, then transfer to a well-greased 9 x 12″ pan. (Optional: before baking, sprinkle top with chopped walnuts and a drizzle of honey.) Bake at 400° for about 25 minutes or until “toothpick test” is clean. Let cool, cut into a dozen squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge. These will keep well for over a week.

Please share your favorite on-the-go recipe or snack!

Epic Golden Gate Bridge Workout 2011

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

We’re making a tradition.  Every year on January 1st, we get up early, drag our tired and sometimes hung-over selves to the Golden Gate Bridge and subject ourselves to a long, cold and generally horrible workout.  It’s the best way to start the year!

Don't we look like we had fun!

Don't we look like we had fun?

2009 was team “Murph” across the bridge.   The four of us did 400 pull-ups, 800 push-ups and 1200 squats after running across.  Then we ran back.

Bigger Group this time!

Bigger Group this time!

Seriously!  Doesn't this look like the most fun you will have in your entire life?

Seriously! Doesn't this look like the most fun you will have in your entire life?

2010 was a long and absurd chipper across the bridge.  We did muscle-ups and snatches, overhead lunges, burpee broad jumps, handstand push-ups and a medicine ball relay back across the bridge, among other things.

What will we do in 2011?  Meet us at the rest area on the Marin County side at 9:00 AM, January 1, 2011 and find out.  I can’t promise that it’ll be fun, but it will be epic.