Over the past month or so I have had the privilege of working with, talking to, and hanging out with a pretty diverse group of people. These interactions have brought up some pretty eye-opening things that apparently are going on in the fitness world that I really have some issues with. So, let's talk about them! Yay!
I have to start with a bang here, and this is about the most insane thing I have ever heard. Like, seriously. It has come to my attention that there are fitness centers out there (it seems more schools than other places) that have record boards up at their gym. Well, that's not crazy, the crazy part is where the numbers are coming from. It seems that some of these places are posting numbers based on projections. Yep, take your jaws off the table and read that again. They are posting up gym records based on projections! WTF?! Some dude 5 rep maxes his squat, so they take that and find a percentage chart (you can find these things online) and post up that the athletes 1 rep max is, say, 500#, despite the fact that the person has NEVER LIFTED 500#!!!! This is easily in the top 5 stupidest things I have ever heard of in my entire life. It'd be like the Yankees claiming that they officially won the 2012 World Series because they added Ichiro to their lineup. Forget the whole "winning enough games to get to the playoffs, then winning the playoffs, then winning the World Series," they just, you know, win. I understand why people use projections; it's like taking crappy body fat tests so you have some form of gauge of where you might stand. But you DO NOT use projected numbers as what you can actually do. They are freaking projections!
Ok, ok, I'm getting worked up. I feel like I don't have to say much more about all this to have people with normal brains to understand how dumb it is. So, let's move on!
Maxing on day one. So this one has been one of those things I’ve talked about with tons of people. A lot of schools, gyms, athletes, and people in general choose to come in on day one of a program and max out on all their lifts so they know where they stand. I really do understand why one would want to do this, but there are a number of things completely wrong with doing this (if you actually want to get WAY stronger and better!). First and foremost is the fact that most people beginning a strength-training program do not fully understand how to squat correctly. If you can't squat to depth, if you are having any sort of joint imbalance, if you’ve never squatted before, there are a whole slew of steps that need to be taken before you throw on as much weight as humanly possible. This also leads to my second point, and that is a matter of general safety. I have seen and heard of this happening most commonly with teams, and when a group of 15-25 athletes enter a weight room, I think that maxing out right on that first day is about the most irresponsible thing the strength coach could do. You have absolutely no clue where each athlete stands, and it would be your JOB to make sure that each one of the athletes is getting the best possible program. Make sure each has a GOOD understanding of what it is they are doing, and proves they have the biomechanical ability to actually perform the movement before you tell them to throw a ton of weight on the bar.
The last point is more of a geek-out point. And to all my athletes who have heard me talking about this this summer, and to all those who have gone to their coaches and trainers to ask about this, here is a chance to get a little understanding. For me, a huge reason to not max on day one is because our bodies our not prepared to handle maximal loads. An intelligent and effective program will not only prep the muscles to be able to adapt to handling heavier and heavier weights, but it will prep the Central Nervous System (CNS) to understand how to contract the muscles properly given the load demand. The CNS takes a signal in the brain when the body is loaded, then fires a response to the muscles on how much to contract given the specific load. This process needs to be trained. If you do not train it, the brain will not have the ability to fire properly when over-loaded and you will probably fail, lift incorrectly, and put yourself at a HUGE risk of injury.
When you max on day one, you are asking not only your muscles, but also your brain to do more than it’s capable of doing. You are setting yourself up to fail, and you are setting your training program back a ton! This is why a good program involves something called progression. Yes, it can be as basic as gradually increasing loads week by week. But, a really good program will have much more detail that is directly put down to prep your CNS and your muscles. Then increase loads and volumes in a manner that most effectively allows them to adapt and grow. The second you overload the body before it is prepared to be overloaded, you limit its growth potential. So, anyone who claims CNS prep is stupid, just go lift heavy things is an idiot. I say that with complete confidence.
Low- and No-fat diets. These things are about the most ridiculous things to happen to food since Wonder bread. Think of it this way: America is more or less the only country in the world that promotes the low/no-fat diet, and America is the most overweight country in the world. Does, not, compute! This is a post in and of itself really, I mean, I have read a few books that focus almost completely on this topic, so there is a ton to say here. Let me try to keep it as simple as I can. Fat distributes nutrients to the body so that our bodies can benefit from all the good that real food provides us. We NEED fat.
When a food product has its fat taken from it, it is replaced with something else. Generally this is some sort of sugar. Sugar is WAY, way, way worse for our bodies than fat. Lean meat is not necessarily better for you. And it is definitely not better for you if you are eating it with a whole bunch of pasta, white rice, bread, soda and/or alcohol.
My point here is to say that you should not be afraid of fatty cuts of meat, uncured bacon, butter, olive oil and nuts. These things will actually work wonders for your system if you add them to your diet and take away the processed crap you add to your diets to replace the fat you are not getting.
And this leads me to my final point (although, there are about 10 more I’d like to make. Perhaps a series of these posts…?): educate yourselves! The internet can actually be used for good, and if you are reading this blog, you are already taking a small step towards getting some good information into your heads. Go to my resources page and click on some links and read! There is such good info and advice out there, all you need to do is read around (as in, read more than just a few article titles) and start to form a better and healthier understanding of how you want to live your life. Hell, if you don’t believe what I say here, go educate yourself a little and raise a discussion with me! I am always happy to talk in detail about all this stuff, just as long the as the person I’m talking to can make an educated argument. Why does your knee hurt? Why does your stomach hurt in the morning? Why do you wake up every morning stuffy? Why are your eyes sunken in, or even a bit bulgy? Why do you get constipated? Why do you feel tired all day? Why are you not making gains in the gym, with your runs, on the bike, etc.? There are reasons for all this and more people! And while it would be easiest to just push all the problems away and forget about them, that will most surely come back to bite you in the ass later on in your life. So, either find someone you trust and ask them questions, and make the effort to learn the stuff for yourself, or go freaking read! If you get fat and out of shape and just can’t seem to figure out why; my guess is you just have no clue. So open your mind up a bit, ask around and learn to take charge in getting better.
And as always, I am MORE than happy to help!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This past weekend I traveled down to VA Beach for a pretty packed competition to see where I stood in terms of CrossFit going into the off season. The workouts looked fun, more or less in my wheelhouse, it was all outdoors (love that), and there were 100 male, prescribed division competitors (including two-time Games competitor Ben Smith). Needless to say, I was pretty excited. So, here's how it all went down.
I got in late Friday night, grabbed a little to eat and hit the bed as soon as I could. Saturday morning was an early wake-up to get to Mt. Trashmore (yep, that is the name of the park) and get rolling with things. The event site was at the base of a pretty steep hill (about 80-90 meters to the top, and about a 15-20% grade I would say -- so, pretty steep) on one side, and a nice lake on the other. We all parked and then people were setting up tents around the grassy/muddy area where we would be holding most of the workouts. The first workout came up pretty quick, and looked to be a tough starter:
5 rounds for time of:
5 thrusters 135#
50 meter stone carry 115#
15 box jumps 30"
50 meter stone carry 115#
My goal was to find a rhythm and just stick to it. And I did that for the most part. I slowed just enough at the end to allow for a couple of people to pass me, and missing two box jumps didn't help all that much. I finished with a time of 10:26 and felt like besides the three box jump misses, I could not have gone any faster. Really cool workout though, I loved that one.
Workout 2 was a clean ladder, starting at 185 and going up to 325. We all had 50 seconds at each bar and needed to get 4 pistol squats before going for our clean attempt. My goal was to get at least 305, then hopefully hit 315 with adrenaline and see what happened on 325. Well, the odds were not in my favor here at all. I am never really one to make excuses (even though I had plenty of reason to all weekend... you'll see) but I really feel like everything was working against me here. The second I hit the 215 bar, the skies just opened up and it started pouring rain. I was toweling down the bar, chalking up as best I could, and gripping tighter than ever; but when I got to 275, the bar just flew right out of my hands. I attempted the power clean again and it flew out yet again! So, I cursed, then went to squat clean the thing with about 8 seconds left. Damn, now I was pretty damn tired. I opted to go right to full cleaning the 285 bar and when I caught it, I was just a hair off balance, settled into the squat and tried to stand. Well, I just didn't have the energy. Even though I tried twice, I just could not stand. WAY off a PR for me, and I knew that would really hurt me in the standings. And to make it a little more annoying, literally 1 minute after I left the barbells, the rain stopped. Damn again! But it was really cool to see two beasts, Jud and Ben, clear the whole ladder and then battle it out with pistols for the tie breaker at the end.
The skies opened up yet again and they ended up bagging the 3rd workout with the hopes that Sunday would bring better weather. There was some constructive conversation going back and forth on Facebook about what workouts to do on Sunday, and I was really hoping we would get to do all 5 workouts seeing how I would need more chances to work back from the cleans if I wanted that podium. Unfortunately, the weather was just cool enough with us and we didn't have the time to get all of them in. At the last minute, the event coordinators decided to go with workout 3 on Sunday morning, scratching a 150 double under/5k run from the entire event. Again, while I wasn't looking forward to that run, I knew that it was a great workout to allow me to move up some spots as I am always very confident in my running. But that just wasn't in the cards, so I had to bare down and get after the last two.
Workout 3 was 3 rounds for time of: 1 hill run (the 80 meter steep thing I mentioned before) and 15 overhead squats at 115#. Burner! Plan on this was get up the hill with some energy, just get down the damn thing as fast as humanly possible, and get all the OH squats unbroken. I finished with a time of 5:35, and again, that was about everything I had on that one. I thought about it for a while, but I just don't know where I could have shaved seconds off. It was another great workout.
The final workout of the day was for the top 20 athletes, and I was standing in 5th or 6th place at the time, so again, I knew I needed to step it up like crazy. They changed it around from the original plan (heavy deads, sandbag cleans, handstand walking and some more stuff) to a suicide workout that looked like this:
Burpee bar jump overs
Power snatch 115#
Watching the first heat of this one go was pretty crazy. This one was basically who had the biggest balls. There was absolutely no way around this one sucking in every single possible way. As I told my athletes back at The Garage after all this stuff: if someone asked me to write them a killer workout, I still wouldn't program this for them! And then it all went down hill for me. We had to do a couple reps of each movement for our judge, and the snatch just felt heavy. Crap, this was already getting to me. I planned out exactly how I would pace the thing, getting 18 reps of the deadlifts before taking a short break, then 8, then finish. Get through the burpees at a slow but constant pace, then do the snatches in 5's, then 3's once it got really tiring. Great plan until I got to the snatches. I hit 2 and had to put the bar down because of how heavy they felt. Then it was singles from there on out while my mind was going crazy on me as to just how I was going to look when i died during this workout. Then, at rep 27 the even coordinator ran up to me and my judge and started to take the outside plate off my bar. Turns out, they didn't put a 25 and a 10 on it, they had a 35 and a 10! I was doing 20# more than everyone else! No wonder the damn thing was so hard! I was mentally crushed. Oh, and physically crushed as well, of course. They told me to just get 15 reps of snatch on the second round, but all I could think about was how much extra work I put in to hoisting 20 extra pounds over my head 27 times! But there was still more workout left, so I kept going. I ended up somehow finishing that workout in 15:59, still good enough for 10th place. And it took me about 10 minutes to be able to see straight again.
In the end, I finished 1 or 2 points behind 5th place, and talking to the event coordinator, we established that I realistically would have beat the guy ahead of me had I had the proper weight on the bar. We agreed to give me an unofficial 5th place finish (he had enough on his plate to go back and rearrange all the standings, and I didn't podium, so I honestly didn't care all that much about what the excel sheet said).
In the end, I was both happy and pretty disappointed. I really wanted to be better, and while I could go around making all sorts of excuses, the fact is I was just not as good as I thought I was going into this one. I am happy that I was able to go in there an finish so high, and I was really happy to be able to compete side buy side with a Games athlete. It really helped to give me honest feedback as to where I stand with my CrossFit and what I need to do to get to that next level. I am also really happy with all the cool people I met. As I always say, hanging out for a couple days with a bunch of fit people tends to breed new friendships, and I love that so much. I am always thankful for getting to meet such interesting and motivated people, and expanding my network of awesome friends! I now have fresh motivation for my training, and a solid direction to move in as I plan out my off season with CrossFit events and training. I know my weaknesses, I know what it takes to be at that level, I have great people and resources around me for getting better, and I can't wait to get into the swing of all this!
So, if you haven't been to an event, get to one, they are freaking awesome! I really must applaud everyone who put this event on. With the crazy weather, and with over 200 total competitors, they did a damn good job all around. Better scoring updates (as in, posting the scores more efficiently) would have made the waiting around a little easier for people, and of course, smoothing out mistakes like wrong weights on bars and such. But, they had live music, great vendors, good MC-ing, tons of good judges and volunteers, and everything ran very smoothly despite the weather. So, thanks so much to everyone who was involved with putting the event on!
Speaking of events. I will be hosting the Courage Games IV on Saturday, August 4th. Register on the main page of this website! And head to the Courage Performance Facebook page for updates on it all!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I'm writing a quick update about 30 minutes before I head down to Virginia Beach for The Garage Games. This was a last minute registration and I am stoked to get down there and continue to put my "just freaking win" mentality to the test. The workouts were announced and I am feeling super confident in my abilities to seriously compete down there!
Aside from that, it has been a pretty good couple weeks of training. Got a new PR on the squat at 465#, and I'm feeling smoother and smoother under the bar on the Olympic lifts. The body weight stuff is getting a little more comfortable and I am seeing really good things with the coming months and my training. Now that I'm writing, I realize I have so much to talk about. Courage Bars, the CrossFit Games, new connections, The Dark Night Rises. my new programming website and a whole ton of info about where my life will be taking me in a couple months. But today, I'll just keep it basic; I'll get to all that other fun stuff over the next week or so.
With the days getting insanely hot and humid around here, it has been so impressive to watch not only my, but pretty much every single athlete in the gym's numbers just keep going up and up. I am really convinced that the personality of The Garage has led to people just coming in and working their butts off. I have no science or anything to prove this theory, but it just seems that when people come in to a small, cramped gym, where there is no air or chairs or anything, they realize there is only one thing to do: work the heck out!
Over the past few months I have had more and more interactions with both highly motivated fitness enthusiasts, and people who just have no interest in putting effort into things. While none of my clients have cancelled because of it being "too hot," I know there are literally thousands of people out there who have grown so accustomed to comfort that they will do anything to avoid the slightest bit of discomfort. I personally can't wrap my head around this attitude. I seem to have this daily desire to test my own comfort zones. I do this out of sheer curiosity, usually, but in the end I have found that the greatest gains come from pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do. Or really, beyond what you initially wanted to do. You'll never know how much you can truly lift until you fail, and fail, and fail. You'll never know how far and fast you can go until you are forced to stop out of complete exhaustion. You just have no idea what you are capable of until you give it an honest to goodness try. So many people out there claim they know exactly what they can do. But I have seen on about as regular a pattern as ever, that there is a never ending supply of surprises in store for you (and me) if you just give it a little extra push.
So as I head down to compete with 200 other athletes, and try to push myself harder at each workout than I have ever done before, let's see what you can push yourself to do this weekend. It doesn't have to be a workout or anything fitness related, just push yourself a little harder on something than you thought you could. And see what happens. If you fail, so what, at least you tried. The best example of this is from the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," when Jack Nicholson's character bets everyone he can lift the sink thing out of the ground and throw it out of the window. Of course he couldn't do that, but the fact that he chose to attempt a seemingly insurmountable task, just for the sake of trying, provides insane motivation for me.
Or just go watch the new Batman movie.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Every now and then the question comes up as to why I train so unconventionally. For those of you who have never trained with me, what this means is that we not only do your typical gym work with barbells, dumbbells, and body weight fun (push ups, pull ups, lunges, step ups, etc.), but we use ropes, tires, hammers, logs, rocks and pretty much anything else that could be used as resistance. Well, there's a pretty basic, straight forward answer to why I train this way, and a little more detailed one. So, let's go over them.
The number one reason I like to incorporate all this stuff is because it's fun. Imagine if your exercise program consisted of only running, or going to a gym with your earphones in and a magazine, hitting the elliptical and the circuit machines. Well, if you've never done anything else, I'm sure you might think that is fun, and that's cool. I would just challenge pretty much anyone to come out with a good group of peers and run around outside throwing, catching, climbing, jumping, crawling and everything else the body can do and NOT tell me it was fun. And if you think it's the worst thing in the world and want to opt for the air-conditioned machine circuit, ok, cool. But 9 out of 10 people end up having a pretty eye-opening and positive experience doing this stuff. It's my belief that it is human nature to be intensely active, using every movement and object the body and mind can find. My proof of this (aside from the many studies showing the health benefits of being in the sun, trying new things, and being active in general) lies mostly in watching children. Have you ever really known kids in general to NOT run around and find pretty much anything to play with? They are constantly finding fun, innovative ways to use objects for play and you can just see the natural athleticism the human body possesses when watching kids just do their thing. Unfortunately, however, as we all get older, we become "too grown up" do be so imaginative and to PLAY. So, instead of continuing the trend in what people think they are SUPPOSED to do to stay fit, I like to introduce FUN into their training. When training is fun, it becomes more of a lifestyle than a chore. It becomes something you look forward to and yearn for in your life rather than something that weighs you down and stresses you out.
That's one reason we use innovative methods to workout. And honestly, that would be good enough reason for me! But, I'm sure there are plenty of people who are so caught up in NOT wanting to take on a little extra challenge for whatever reason who would like to hear more. No problem.
Continued adaptation. Physical and mental growth through the adaptation of new stresses on the body and mind. And then, translating new-found abilities to life's challenges. Think of it from an educational stand-point. The best education is one that forces your mind to struggle with topics, issues, memorization, confusion, problems and so on. Without all of that, how else would you learn? Growth comes in the form of intense challenge and this can be seen in any aspect of life. School, work, relationships, and of course, health and fitness. Say you go out for a run 4 days a week. you run the same course, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes at 6 am, other times at 6:30am. Yes, this is still better than sitting around doing nothing, but ultimately your body adapts to the demand and stops growing/changing/gaining because there is no longer any actual stress to it. But if you one day decide to climb 4 trees during your run, and another day add squats, push ups and sit ups to your run; and another day make it interval running where you function at 100% for short bursts between recovery jogs, you will see dramatically different and positive gains. This is because you are constantly challenging your body in new ways. Demanding it to adapt to an ever-changing selection of stresses. This is how a healthy life is lead, am I wrong? There will always be stresses in your life, both physically and mentally. Just like anything in life, if you prepare properly, the stresses that are presented become less daunting because you have allowed your body and mind overcome even greater stresses on a regular basis. All of a sudden you are not helpless no matter what the situation calls for; whether it be a survival situation, a life-saving situation, or simply moving a heavy box or playing with your child.
As a fitness professional who has coached a pretty diverse collection of people, and who has traveled around a good bit and met all sorts of people, I have found that most injuries later on in life are because of an inability to handle an extreme stress. Examples: the back giving out trying to lift/move something, twisting/breaking an ankle, overuse of an imbalanced joint and on and on. What might surprise all of you that have had any of these issues, the excuse of "just getting older" doesn't necessarily have to apply. Exercise INTELLIGENTLY, eat well, get your sleep, and HAVE FUN, and it wouldn't surprise me if most of your "growing too old" issues start to go away. I mean, I've seen this "miracle" occur in just about every single person I have met who lives the lifestyle just described.
So, if you think its pointless to do unconventional things, or you find it intimidating, or stupid, why not take a few moments out of you "so much better life" and just give it a try. Maybe you'll find yourself smiling, laughing, sweating, feeling proud and wanting to do more. Maybe you'll remember how important it is to PLAY, no matter how old and serious you are.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I had a moment about 6 years ago that changed my life forever. I was standing on the balcony of a crappy hotel in Jackson, Mississippi after a baseball game when I played pro ball with the Pensacola Pelicans. I just pitched a great 9th inning, striking out 2 and getting the third guy to ground out on a nasty slider. I felt good about myself, happy that I was playing professional baseball and doing really well. I wasn't making lots of money, I knew it was a long shot to get to the level where I'd be on TV making millions, but I loved the game and was so proud to be where I was. But I was standing there talking to my Dad on the phone and it just hit me: I didn't want to play anymore. It wasn't a gradual thing in my mind, I just opened my eyes and saw my life completely differently all of a sudden. Interestingly enough, about 2 weeks later I was put on waivers and when I had the opportunity to sign on with another team, I decided to give up that contract and get a little more involved in personal training through the winter before deciding if baseball would be something I'd pursue for the next season. I got a contract offer from a team in the mid-West, and after mulling it over for a couple weeks, chose to move to a new passion in my life.
Looking back at that moment is so strange to me becuase I was more obsessed with baseball than anything else in the world for as long as I could remember. Since then I have honestly never met another person who loved and respected the game at the level that I did, even the ones I know who play at the highest levels. So how the hell could I just walk out of a hotel room, after a great game at that, and just not want to be doing it any more? Well, after having this same sort of thing happen to me in other realms of my life, and hearing others talk about this same sort of thing happen to them with the same amount of curiosity, I have done what I do when my brain is at work: try to figure things out.
It's never something that happens in a moment. It is always a process that occurs somewhere in your mind over a long, long time. But here's why you don't know it until it just hits you. Becuase you love the damn thing! It could be your work, your relationship, a friend, a house you're living in, a location, a food, anything. You can't just wake up one day and hate something you've loved for longer than you can remember, it just doesn't work like that. What it is is a moment, and then a sequence of moments that slowly change your mind at a subconscious level. And because you have so much positive emotional attachment to whatever this thing is, you deny the negativity. And you keep neglecting it as it builds until one day you just can't hide it anymore and you realize you don't want this thing in your life.
How do you fix this? Well, first off, I don't actually think this is a bad thing. It's a really, really good thing to be so passionate about something that you don't ever want to lose it. And while it's a negative in my opinion to neglect emotions (even if unconciously), you can make up for this expected ignorance by taking the time after the fact to break down the process. Start working backwards, start tracing your steps back, thinking of the good things and the bad things, being honest (like really freaking honest, because if you're not honest, you really won't learn all that much about yourself), and if you allow yourself this time you will eventually realize how long your negativity towards this thing has lasted. I will guarantee that it'll be a pretty eye-opening experience to realize how stubborn we all are when it comes to holding on to things we love. And I have no intention of convincing all of you to not love things with all your heart out of fear you might lose it, in fact, I think the total opposite There is nothing in the world more amazing than loving something with all your heart. All I am learning through all this is that you need to just continue to be honest with yourself at all times. If at any moment you feel doubts about the things you love, don't deny those thoughts and emotions. Take the time to try to sit with them and figure out what they mean and why they are there. And if you allow yourself to be more aware about this sort of thing, perhaps you'll be able to avoid that sudden, and usually kind of harsh realization that you just don't want it anymore. And the more honest you are with yourself on a regular basis, and the more in touch with your emotions you are, the easier it will be to love things and bring them into your life -- and know that you don't love things and keep them away from your life.
The takeaway here is that you should always take the time to learn how YOU work. Everything in your life, and I mean EVERYTHING will become better when you are more in touch with yourself. So stop pushing your mind aside because you'd be wasting an incredibly impressive machine that literally controls everything you do.
Deep stuff from me tonight, it's just one of those nights. Have some training stuff to get to next wek, so it'll be a little more light-hearted!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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