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Archive for February, 2013

Don’t Wear Flip-Flops

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I have my own reasons for hating flip-flops, which may or may not have to do with them being “tactical.”  But in this classic Kelly Starett clip, the author of MobilityWOD explains why athletes should not wear flip flops.  The weather is getting warmer, keep your feet out of these torture devices.

CrossFit Games History

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Next week starts the CrossFit Games Open.  Are you ready?

Here’s a quick video covering the history of this amazing event.  Enjoy:

What Paleo Really Means

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Your great(1.5x10^5) grandparent.

Your great(1.5x10^5) grandparent.

I’ve had a bunch of discussions with people about the Paleo Diet, some of whom have argued that grains, dairy, nightshades, and a variety of other things should be included in the Paleo diet because “cavemen ate them.”  While there might be evidence for some “cavemen” harvesting grains or keeping goats for milking, this misses the point.  Just because some “cavemen” did it, does not mean that our species has a genetic tolerance to that type of food.

I find that a big part of this confusion has to do with a misunderstanding of the scale we’re talking about.  Sometimes it helps to get a visual, so I’ve created a timeline of major events in human prehistory, taking us back to the beginning of our species, 200,000 years ago.  Below, each bullet point represents traveling back in time 1,000 years.

· · Leif Ericson vacations in Canada

· Death of Emperor Agustus

· Rise of Greek city-states

· Domestication of the Horse

· Cuneiform developed by Sumerians

· Civilization develops in Mesopotamia/ Mastodon goes extinct

· Wheel invented

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· Cultivation of barley and wheat

· Goats domesticated/  Horses extinct in North America

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· Woolly rhinoceros extinct

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· Oldest permanent settlement of humans/ First colonization of North America

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· Neanderthals extinct

· First evidence of “cavemen” eating grains & beans (30,000 years ago)/ Dogs domesticated

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· Oldest known cave paintings

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· Modern humans spread from Africa to Near East (50,000 years ago)

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· Toba Volcano supereruption

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· 100,000 years ago.  Keep scrolling.

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· Appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa (200,000 years ago)

This takes us back 200,000 years, to the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic, marked by the first evidence of our species.  The entire Paleolithic period started with the first emergence of Homo habilis, about 2.5 million years ago.  To give you a sense of scale, if I were to continue with the bullet point illustration, this post would be 15 times longer than it currently is.  If you were to print it, it would be about 75 pages of bullet points.  And it’s that far back (or even farther) that the foundation was laid for our species dietary habits.

Keep in mind that the beginning of our species is only about 10-15 thousand generations ago.  If we were talking about the cultures that widely drank milk or ate grains, we’d only have to go back 11,000 and 30,000 years, respectively, or about 650 and 1700 generations.  So, while it’s definitely possible that more recent mutations have popped up that allow some of us to tolerate lactose or other substances that fit outside of the Paleo diet template, the majority of us are evolved to eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds.

As we continue to learn more about our own prehistory and biology, more and more evidence points toward the Paleo template as a safe and healthy lifestyle.

Endurance vs. Intensity

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Here is an interesting article from active.com, Why Too Much Running is Bad for Your Health.

Phidippides ran too much, then died.

Phidippides ran too much, then died.

According to the article, the hearts of “chronic runners,” have more coronary plaque build up than sedentary people.  Based on a 30 year study 52,000 people, they found that runners have a lower risk of death overall, but that the benefits of running decrease after a certain amount; more is not better.  The “sweet spot” seems to be five - 19 miles per week, at six to seven miles per hour, spread over three to four sessions per week.

The article goes on to explain that much of the ill effects of long distance running has to do with the way the body processes free radicals released during strenuous exercise.  It seems that the body can naturally deal with a certain amount of oxidative stress, but too much will cause problems.  The fact that the problems seen in chronic runners are similar to the problems related to obesity is not surprising since both promote systemic inflammation.  The article expands on this a little by suggesting that people don’t run for more than about an hour per session, and suggests performing shorter, higher intensity exercise like sprints.

Of course, if you asked a CrossFitter, we could have told you that short, high intensity exercise is both more healthy for you and provides better results than running for hours at a time.  It’s nice to see a similar view coming from outside the CrossFit community, though.

I know we have quite a few distance runners in The Cave.  What do you think about this article?

How To Get Your Child to Eat 2 Cups of Kale and Spinach

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Logan loves his "moothie"

Logan loves his "moothie"

We’ve had several posts recently about green smoothies and how they are a great way to quickly kick up your vegetation intake.  I use an immersion blender to make mine for the most part. Works great, and I can use any bowl to throw a bunch of stuff in and blend it up. I generally use kale, spinach and berries to make them and add almond or coconut milk to increase the liquid content.

The other day I was out of berries which still works for me, but was a bit worried that the kids weren’t going to like the result on this. First, when you use berries the smoothie comes out a cool color. Purple, or even black and that’s a treat for the kids. Without the berries it looks like blended grass. Kids green food aversion kicks in. In any case, I threw about 8 cups of spinach and kale together, 1 apple, chia seed, some water and a splash of orange juice and blended it up. Gave my 3 year old son a sample and he liked it. So I poured him a glass. Down it went.  I have found that a touch of citrus fruit really cuts any bitter in a smoothie well with very little added. The berries do a good job, but have to be in fairly significant quantity to do the job.

I have a few smoothie experiments to try over the next several weeks. I’ll report in on the results. BTW We will be running a three part workshop on family nutrition with a focus on how to help your kids eat healthy. We’re debating times so let us know if you are interested and when you could make it.

UFC 157

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Who's watching this?

Who's watching this?

I’m usually not that interested in UFC.  While it is very similar to the stuff that I’ve been training and teaching for years, I’m usually opposed to the hype and nonsense that accompanies sporting events such as UFC.  The athleticism of the fighters is pretty incredible and I find myself enjoying the technical aspects of the actual fights, but there’s rarely a reason for me to be excited in any way about a fight.

Today is one of those rare times.  This will be a first for the UFC: the first women’s championship fight.  I think it’s great that more and more women are becoming involved in sports that are traditionally considered to be men’s events.  I’d like to think that CrossFit, had a small part to play in the “Strong is Sexy” revolution that we’re currently going through, though it’s more probable that CrossFit’s popularity is due to said revolution.  I think it’s great to see strong, fit, tough women competing in a mainstream combative sport.

In addition to my interest in this event as a consequence of positive social change, I’m also very interested because it will feature a modern judo legend.  Judo has recently been overlooked in the martial arts world, with a variety of other styles becoming popular for tactical applications, and  Brazilian Jiujitsu and others dominating the MMA front.  But judo is still a very relevant and applicable sport, as demonstrated by Ronda Rousey, who has currently fought five professional MMA fights, winning them all in under one minute of the first round with the classic judo strategy of nageru to ude shime, roughly translated as throw-you-on-the-ground-and-break-your-arm.  The MMA fights are impressive, as are her other athletic accomplishments, including multiple gold and silver medals at the World Championships and Pan American Games, and a bronze in the 2008 Olympics.  She’s the first American to earn a medal in women’s judo in the Olympics.

Here’s a highlight reel of Rousey:

I hope you get a chance to watch this event this Saturday.  And, if you’re interested, please feel free to come visit the judo class at The Cave sometime and learn how to do some of these things.

“I’m a Woman and I Love Power Lifting”

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Here’s a great article featured in the Huffington Post on women and weight lifting.

Pick up heavy things.  It's good for you and it makes you look good.

Pick up heavy things. It's good for you and it makes you look good.

I found the following in the comments section of that article.  I found this nearly as insightful as the article itself:

“Brava, and good on you for trying to educate your friends and other women on the benefits of weightlifting. More women need to realize;

1) They lack sufficient testosterone to “get bulky”

2) You can’t get bulk, or hypertrophy, by accident, that is you’re not going to do squats for two weeks and develop huge quads. Bodybuilders have set routines, workout hours everyday, have specific diet plans, and take numerous supplements and “supplements”

3) Being “toned” simply means building muscle and reducing fat, two things lifting are great for. Endless rounds of cardio will only give you that emaciated marathoner look, and it seems most woman want that fitness model look (hint: most fitness models weight train).

4) Increased muscle mass = increased bone density = reduced risk of osteoporosis. Indeed, look at Gweneth Paltrow and her Tracy Anderson “no woman should lift more than 3 lb routine”…she is suffering from the precursor of osteoporosis in her late 30’s.

5) Lose fat without starving yourself. As the article points out, one benefit of gaining muscle and building strength is you need to feed your body…a lot…and you don’t gain fat. So while your friends nibble on salads and steamed veggies, eat a steak.

6) It builds confidence. Sounds silly but it’s true, and one has to try it to find out.”

Ladies, don’t be scare to pick up heavy things!  It’s just GOOD for you!

Heavy Musings

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We’ve linked this video a couple of times, but it’s still good.  I watch it every few months as I continue to improve my own lifts and as I learn more and different cues to teach these lifts.

Thoughts?

World Class Fitness in 100 Words

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

For those of you who are still somewhat new to this whole CrossFit thing, I thought I’d throw you some ideas from the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman.

We've come a long way....

We've come a long way....

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

What do you think?  Is this advice is still viable, or has the community evolved past this simple prescription?

Measuring VO2 Max

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Specified Wattage Output

Specified Wattage Output

The other day Rich L. brought Dr. Justin Mager in to establish his VO2 Max. We all know Rich likes to run tests. He likes all the gear. He likes to try new things to see if it will help him improve. He is the most thorough N=1 tester in the gym. I’m a data geek myself so this is all great. We can look at different parameters and learn all we can about these tests and processes. We’ll utilize what is helpful and toss out what is not.

VO2 max is a measurement of your body’s maximal oxygen uptake. It is the gold standard test for endurance athletes because there is a correlation between VO2 max and performance in endurance events. Higher caliber athletes have higher VO2 maxes.

There isn’t a lot of evidence to support that training specifically to increase VO2 max is a good training strategy for endurance events. Even the testing can give pretty broad numbers depending on how it is administered. Take Rich’s numbers as an example. He first tested using a controlled wattage method. He was told to row at a given wattage for short durations increasing wattage by a fixed amount. In theory at some point he would reach maximal oxygen uptake when he increases wattage, but O2 uptake does not increase. Using this test he reached a VO2 max of  38 ml/kg/min at a heart rate of 166 bpm with anaerobic threshold at of 31 ml O2/kg/min. The second test was to completed a 2K Row pacing for best time. In this test he recorded a VO2 max of 46.2 ml/kg/min at a heart rate of 169 with an anaerobic threshold of 40.7 ml O2/kg/min.  A difference of  roughly 22%.  Using the aggregate metrics of the system used for testing the first test put Rich in the “good” category of individuals his age, and the second test put him in the “superior” category (well above the top mark in the bell curve). This data is a very small sample set and we’d need to run more tests over time to get accurate markers for Rich’s true O2 uptake.

Rich had a much harder time maintaining the wattage test. It was difficult for him to maintain an arbitrary pace. He experienced muscular shutdown at a much lower output than with the 2K row. This is another problem with the VO2 max tests. To truly test the physiological limits of O2 uptake it must be done testing performing an activity you are fairly proficient at so that your lack of experience with given constraints does not negatively impact the test rather than the true limiting factor being physiological.

The question is how useful is this data? Can we use this data to improve Rich’s training protocol. It is possible this data could give us a method of determining Rich’s maximal sustainable work output. He could wear a heart rate meter and run workouts keeping it just below that threshold. In theory this is a pace he can sustain for a very long time. If he trained this way for a while he could develop a very good feel for where that line is which could help him in competitions. Most athletes that test themselves regularly develop a good intuitive feel for where this line is anyway. It is also very variant as this trait can adapt and change fairly rapidly.

Let us know if you have interest in running VO2 max tests. We can arrange to have the tools at the facility periodically and run people through the tests.

Interesting notes. Measurment of O2 in ml would be impacted by ambient pressure. This could account for differences in performance at different altitudes. Lower pressure would increase the measurement given the same quantity of O2 actually involved in reactive processes, however O2 uptake at lower pressures is slower. A measurement of O2 by mass would give an exact reactive process, but may not correlate to actual work output as well as other factors would have marked impacts on these numbers.