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Archive for February, 2011

It’s All About Genetics

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Movement is built into our genes.  The physical configuration of our bodies allows us to interact with our environment in a huge variety of ways, everything from moving ourselves over, around and through to lifting, carrying and throwing things.  Moving is part of what we are and there’s certain specific movement patterns that allow us to accomplish tasks in the most bio mechanically efficient manner.

The people who made these paintings moved the same way you do.

The people who made these paintings moved the same way you do.

The Clean & Jerk is a great example of this.  The movement itself seems extremely complicated, especially if you learn it in the Olympic style.  But if you’ve ever lifted a heavy object onto your shoulders, you’ve done a clean.  If you’ve ever pushed a box onto a shelf overhead, you’ve probably done a jerk.  These aren’t some magical abilities you’re learning, they’re primal human movement patterns; they’re the most efficient way that you can move.

I was working with a client the other day and I had him doing heavy squat cleans  a long workout.  When he started, his cleans were ugly: wide feet, poor depth, elbows down, etc.  After about 12 minutes of a 20-minute AMRAP, he was getting exhausted and he started doing perfect squat cleans.  By that time, he was so fatigued that he simply couldn’t lift with inefficient technique, either he’d do it right or the bar wouldn’t even get to his shoulders.  We see that phenomenon frequently, especially in people who have a high degree of strength or who tend to over-think the movement.

The next time you’re having trouble with one of these functional movements, remember: you are built to do this.  Don’t think about it too hard, just move the way you were meant to and you’ll surprise yourself.

The Path To Success is Failure

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

This title could also be stated “The path to success is littered with failure.” However you look at it, generally the most successful people in the world have failed a LOT. People who are completely unfamiliar with failure, are also completely unfamiliar with dramatic success. What I’m referring to as success is achievement beyond what would be expected of a given individual. For some this could mean a world record, for others it could mean just walking, or riding a bike, or learning to speak. Just as so many things are in a world with nearly infinite variation, success is relative. For the sake of discussion let’s look at marked success. Those achievements that go beyond expectation.

In nearly all cases the path to success requires an awful lot of failed attempts. Thomas Edison is a well known failure. Before he settled on the carbon filament he had tested and failed with over 1,500 other materials.  This is a lot of hours spent achieving nothing. Even the original carbon filament only lasted about 40 hours. It wasn’t until a few months after the first produced light bulbs that a carbonized bamboo filament was created that could last up to 1,200 hours.

Being able to fail gracefully, learn from it and move on is an absolute necessity. If you train at our gym, you are going to fail, a lot. We are going to challenge you. We are going to ask you to perform skills that you are currently unable to do. We will ask you to try again, and again until you succeed. We are not going to let up as long as you keep showing up. Through this process we get to see small achievements every day, and often, spectacular achievements. New skills. Big loads. Faster times. All of these things follow a failed skill, a missed lift and slower times. Do not allow failure to stop you, or even get you down. Don’t brush it off either. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. Figure out why the failure occurred and fix it. Continue to do this over and over again and each failure leads to success.

Though we generally deal with things in the physical realm here, this concept applies to all things. Embrace failure. Attempt new things even when you know that failure is the most likely outcome. Give it a shot. The only thing to consider is if you can accept the consequences of the failure. There are cases where failure is not an option due to the gravity of the consequences. Leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge with no equipment or planning would be a foolish thing to do. One couldn’t learn from this failure.

It is also prudent to observe others failures. We get to do this in the gym on a regular basis as well. This is another area where we will always do better in community. If 10 people are working at something the progress towards the success of one or all of them is drastically improved. Primarily because the group gets to learn from each individuals failures. Let’s all keep failing toward success together.

Schedule adjustments for parkour and Ninja Classes starting in March

Saturday, February 26th, 2011
Bo on Rail Catwalk to the Office Loft

Bo on Rail Catwalk to the Office Loft

There have been a couple of scheduling changes regarding the parkour and ninja classes.  Ryan’s 7pm adults (old-enough-to-rent-a-car/don’t want to deal with teenagers) only that was formerly at 7pm on Fridays will now be at 7pm on Mondays.  Aero (Ryan Fulmer) and Andrey have switched coaching parkour classes on Mondays and Fridays.  Drey now coaches the 4, 5, & 6pm Friday classes and Aero coaches the 4, 5, 6, & 7pm Monday PK classes.  Andrey and myself will also be coaching the Ninja class on Friday nights at 7pm which is being moved over from Sunday nights.  Ninja classes are inclusive of all of our 4 main disciplines.  (Gymnastics, Parkour, Olympic Lifting, CrossFit) and will also have an emphasis on balance, grip strength and training for Sasuke.  They are fun, informal, often hard, but not to be taken too seriously.  Check out this training video from UnlimitedCliffer no. 02.   How about that soundtrack for the credits!?  Does anybody know what they’re saying?  Tomio?
I don’t know much about the cliffer organization in Japan except that they are big on climbing, that Yuji Urushihara, a member, and that they are Sasuke fanataics.  Yuji was only the 3rd person ever to win Ninja Warrior.  Here is a video of his complete run from Sasuke 24:
I definately encourage those of you who are curious about either the adult parkour or Ninja Class but feel hesitant because you think that it “might not be for you” or you’re very confortable with your CrossFit niche, to come check them out.  The starting points are pretty basic and they are geared to keep you safe and sound, and of course, they are a lot of fun!
If anyone has any good, practical, ideas for building or setting up equipment for Sasuke challenges at our gym, please post them to comments.

Loving the Effort!

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Hey guys, I’ve been helping out at the gym for a few months now and it impresses me every time I walk in how much effort and passion I see on a daily basis. Back when I started working out with CFM in the Fall of 2009, we had fewer people and a smaller space, but the intensity was the same. And I see that absolutely nothing has changed. It’s a wonderful culture that Roger, Drais, and everyone else has created here. The main difference I see between our gym and a conventional gym is the DESIRE to learn. The mind-body connection in fitness cannot be overlooked, and that is something that’s sorely lacking in mainstream fitness. People aren’t active participants in their own fitness program. They put themselves on autopilot counting reps or reading a magazine on the elliptical. The brain shuts off and the body isn’t far behind. At our gym however, I see people taking an active role in their fitness, eager to learn the nuances of human movement and apply it during the workouts. This creates a tremendous energy in the building that is palpable. I saw it today during Nate. There were 15 people doing a dozen different scaled versions of the three exercises, and each person was locked in, concentrating on their movement and pushing through the pain.

CrossFit by nature can be a daunting undertaking that is fraught with setbacks and frustration. Learning new movements is difficult. Pushing yourself to a new level of intensity is difficult. Swallowing your pride and scaling when necessary is difficult.  One of my most memorable quotes from childhood is from a League of Their Own. Tom Hanks’ character Jimmy asks Geena Davis’ character Dottie why she quit playing baseball. She says, “It just got too hard.” And Jimmy replies, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

The people who walk on treadmills and buy ab machines on TV are taking the easy way out, a road that offers little reward. Conversely, I see the rewards you guys reap by taking the hard road every day with CrossFit. The camraderie, the sense of accomplishment, and the physical benefits are such that the juice really is worth the squeeze.

Tom

Spice up Your Water

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

lemon_waterThe main ingredient in this week’s recipe is water, truly about as Paleo as it gets and vital to health far before that. With just a few simple and healthy ingredients, a plain glass of water almost instantly becomes a sublimely wonderful experience and a far superior alternative to soda. So here are some recipes for flavored water to keep in the fridge or pour in your water bottle to enjoy all day:

Citrus Ginger Mint Water

  • 1/2 Grapefruit sliced
  • 6 to 10 peeled ginger root slices
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • two quarts of water

Cucumber Citrus Water

  • One unpeeled medium cucumber, sliced
  • One unpeeled lemon or small orange, sliced
  • two quarts of water

Directions for each of the above: Place all ingredients in a two quart pitcher and refrigerate overnight.

Here are a few more ideas that can simply be thrown into your water bottle before you head out the door. Try any of these alone or in combination:
Herbs: mint, basil (nice with lime), parsley, rosemary
Citrus fruits: slices of lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange
Other fruits: kiwi, green apple, berries
Spices: clove, ginger root, cinnamon sticks, lemongrass

And for kids, try freezing strawberries or cubed mango and place in a glass of water instead of ice cubes.

Be creative, have fun, and stay hydrated!

Consistency and Willpower

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Emil Zatopek said, ”When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn’t matter. Am I tired? That doesn’t matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem.”

2011 Epic Bridge Workout

2011 Epic Bridge Workout

It’s true.  A big part of what we train in the gym is just willpower.  What we do causes pain, and if that weren’t enough excuse for you to avoid it, consider the environment; no fancy machines, no AC or heating, running on pavement, working out barefoot…  If you can work out at a gym like that and enjoy it, then you’ve already got a good deal of willpower.

The next thing is to use that willpower to be consistent.  Working out once does nothing.  Eating one healthy meal does nothing.  But add up 6-months or a year of doing those things, then take a look at what you can do and how you feel.  Make yourself eat healthy and work out, even when you don’t feel like it.  Soon, it will just be part of what you do and who you are.  When you have to start making excuses as to why you should go for a workout or eat right, then you know you’re on the right path.

Video Games Can Be Beneficial

Monday, February 21st, 2011
The all too common position...

The all too common position...

I’m about to get a backlash from some parents here…

Playing video games can be beneficial. There are a lot of positives about this activity. Playing video games can improve problem solving skills, general cognition, hand eye coordination, timing and other factors. Studies have show avid games to have better peripheral awareness than fighter pilots.

The catch is that video games can be completely consuming. It is far too easy to get addicted to them and spend far too much time playing. I have had friends really mess things up due to too much gaming. Staying up all night to play, then being non-functional the next day at school or work. When it gets to this point its simply destructive. This goes for just about anything screen based. Be it TV, Facebook or video games.

The key is tightly controlling your use, and choosing games that challenge traits you want to improve. If you have spacial awareness difficult pick out a good first person shooter or fast paced flight combat game. If you want to work on planning, problem solving and rapid decision skills play a real time strategy game. There is an enormous variety of games available. Just be sure to be very aware of the time you are spending playing. Keep a timer nearby and set hard limits on your use.

Personally I enjoy video games and have for a very long time. Late in high school and early college I spent too much time playing and sacrificed other beneficial activities to play more. I regret the loss of some of that time. In recent years I haven’t played at all. I don’t remember the last time I played. My priorities have shifted, though if I could justify the time I would certainly indulge some.

Here is an article on the benefits. My personal opinion is that the author touts the benefits a little too strongly, but it is worth exploring.

Video Games: An Hour A Day Is Key To Success In Life

Growth Means More Opportunity… And Patience

Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Looking up at the loft office during an earlier project

Looking up at the loft office during an earlier project

We have gone through a LOT of changes in the last couple of years. Our space has grown repeatedly, we have added new programs and classes. We just recently added the 417 space and equipped it with a trampoline and matting for classes. With change comes some requirement for patience. Each time we make a change some things will be messy for a little while during construction projects. With the facility being as busy as it is there is less time to get in and do the projects so they take a little longer than they used to. In the end it is all worth it. We will be able to provide more services, and more options for all of you.

Keep posted, there are more great things coming.

Self Myofascial Release

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

By now, most people in the gym know how effective it can be to go to a manual therapist like Sara. Whether you’re getting treated in ART, Rolf, or any other technique, quality soft tissue work is an important piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to toe the line between high work volume and adequate recovery. In CrossFit, we strive to learn a wide range of exercises and apply them in varied workouts that challenge our muscles, joints, and energy systems to a fairly high degree. While all of this effort makes us fitter and helps us to excel at CrossFit, it also creates a slim margin between improvement and overtraining. One way to widen this margin is my concentrating on soft tissue work before and after working out.

Muscle fascia is a type of soft connective tissue that surrounds the muscles in our body. Picture muscle fascia like layers of saran wrap holding a burrito together. Similar to the saran wrap, fascia is interwoven in multiple layers and is designed to move freely in concert with joints and muscles. When the fascia gets tight from overuse, inflammation, or trauma, the tightness can cause pain and restricted blood flow. Additionally, this tightness can inhibit muscles, causing other muscles to pick up the slack less efficiently which can contribute to burnout and tightness in those muscles as well.

Active Release Technique and the Rolf Technique are designed to counteract the scourge of muscle fascia tension and trigger points. While practitioners of these techniques are highly skilled at finding trigger points and identifying referred pain, there is a bit you can do on your own when you can’t make it to a therapist. If you’re feeling pain, tension, or restriction that you just can’t seem to get rid of, check out some of the resources below:

Resources

Mike Robertson’s Self Myofascial Release Manual: This is a tremendous offering because not only is this e-book free, but it’s clear, concise, and written by a guy who knows more about strength, conditioning, and body alignment than just about anyone. For most people, this will give you all the information you need to know about SMR as well as the tools you need to do it right

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: I probably pull this book off my shelf more than any other. Not only does it give guidance for every possible trigger point in the body, but it can also serve as a textbook of muscle anatomy. If you’re really into self-diagnosis, this book provides a great breadth of knowledge that will let you peek under the hood and see what’s really going on in your tight spots. It’s also written with a personal touch by Claire Davies (who had debilitating pain before becoming a massage therapist), so it’s not dry to read as most textbooks are.

Mobility WOD: If you’re more video oriented and want a wide variety of ways to mobilize yourself, this daily offering from Kelly Starrett is the ticket. The archives are a treasure trove and Kelly is smart and hilarious, so every video has something to offer.

See you in the gym (on a foam roller),

Tom

Muhammara

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

muhammaraNeed something to spread onto last week’s almond crackers? This week’s Paleo-friendly* recipe is Muhammara, an appetizer/ condiment of Syrian origin which is not only delicious as a dip but great heaped on fried eggs, broiled fish, skinless grilled chicken breasts, and asparagus tips. I make it every week, put it on just about everything and have to say that it’s one of my top ten favorite recipes. Made with walnuts and bell peppers, it’s not just yummy, but healthy as well. Per serving, red bell peppers contain more than 150% of the RDA for vitamin C, more than 80% of the RDA for beta-carotene, and they are one of the few foods containing lycopene. As for walnuts, new findings are linking these super sources of omega 3’s (around 95% RDA/serving) to improved cognitive functioning, better bone stability, and the capacity to fight heart disease, obesity, cancer, and even arthritis.

Muhammara

4 medium red bell peppers

2 cups walnuts

2 T apple cider vinegar

3 T lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1 t ground cumin

3/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, halve, seed and remove stems from peppers. Grease a large, foil-lined baking pan and lay peppers open-side down. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until outer skin gets charred. When peppers have cooled, remove skin.

In food processor, finely chop walnuts along with cumin and salt. Transfer to a large bowl. Next add to food processor the roasted peppers, vinegar, lemon juice and honey. Process until soupy. Add to walnuts. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for a few hours. Serve on almond crackers as an appetizer, over fried egg for breakfast, or over baked salmon as a great main dish.

*Note: Peppers as members of the nightshade family are not, consequently, considered strictly Paleo although I’ve found them to be included on most lists of Paleo-accepted foods.