I bought myself a baseball bat the other day because the last one I had broke, and I just miss swinging a bat! Standing in my living room, talking dry cuts and imagining myself in the 9th inning of the World Series with a 3-2 count and bases loaded brought back a lot of good baseball memories for me. But it also made me think about how much fun it is to just go out and play sports. Throw a baseball or football, shoot a basketball or play some pick up, goof off with a soccer ball and so on. Playing sports is a way to be active with some form of organization. And while i love going out and just being active, I recognize that there is something unique about participating in sports as well.
If you've never enjoyed playing some form of organized sport in your life, I'm sorry to say but you've totally missed out on a huge aspect of learning though activity, and childhood. And whether or not you've competed in organized sport, the great thing is: you still can. Sports are cool, you can get a group of friends together for a fun game of anything. You can join a local league and get your fix that way. The world has recognized that sports are something that people like to do, and it's pretty easy to get out there and do this stuff if you really want.
For me there has been a bit of a void somewhere inside ever since my baseball career ended. I took up running; it was fun, I got really involved, but it wasn't the same. I took up jiu-jitsu, same thing. I took up CrossFit, got close, but not totally the same. What is it about sports that I connected to so much? Well hold on a sec, I need to be clear that I understand that running, jiu-jitsu and CrossFit can all very easily be considered a sport, I am just using the term way too loosely. Let's see if I can clear up what's going through my head and then I think my point of the importance of "sports" will be better understood.
What I miss is the ability to be a part of something organized, where I can showcase my athleticism, exert myself physically in a skilled manner with other people either on a team, or in a competition setting. Pretty much defines all sports no? Then why do we think baseball, basketball, football and soccer when someone says something about sports? Why not 5k races, or golf, or CrossFit?
Well, I've spent a few days thinking about this one and I went from one idea to another. What I've come two different conclusions: The first is that I just loved playing these classic sports that, from my understanding, all children grew up playing. Perhaps if I really wanted to dig deep I could come up with some theory about connecting with my childhood and the feelings I enjoyed when playing these sports (baseball, basketball, soccer). And that's a perfectly acceptable argument I think. But the second idea came after talking to a few people about what sport actually is. Honestly, I never really thought about this until lately and it turns out I have a very different view then I would have expected. I would agree with the idea that "sports" are organized physical, skill and athletic-based activities against a direct defense; as in, someone, or a group of people defending your advances. Running (in any form, distance, cross-country, sprinting) is a competition. CrossFit is a competition. Golf, swimming, etc, are all athletic competitions, not sports. I understand this is pretty arguable, but because so much of this stuff is pretty subjective, and I have gone over the feelings I've had towards all sorts of different athletic endeavors, this conclusion is one that makes a ton of sense to me. I miss competing against an immediate and evenly matched opponent. I miss taking my hard-trained athleticism and and skills and matching them up against someone trying to stop me from performing those things. That is why, while I loved running, and love CrossFit, I still feel unsatisfied. Jiu-jitsu was increadibly close (that is why I'm getting back into MMA, slowly but surely). This how I am wired, and I like it.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This is always a wonderfully hot topic and one that I am generally pretty happy to talk about. To my knowledge this never was really a topic until the birth of CrossFit and their use of intensity. Many argue vehemently against using intensity if it means a breakdown in form in anyway. CrossFit argues that form breakdown is inevitable, and that sacrificing intensity (the most important aspect to building fitness) is a waste of your time. I actually agree with CrossFit here. Intensity in your program is something that is very much needed almost 100% of the time, no matter what your goals. If you are exercising without intensity, you never challenge your systems (muscular, cardiovascular, neurological, etc) and you will most likely see minimal to no gains at all. And you see the proof of this is most workouts of people who mosey on into their globo gyms, hit the elliptical and then wander around the gym floor doing some work on the circuit machines. It just doesn’t work!
But there is way more to this topic than just claiming intensity is good. We all should be able to agree that good mechanics on your lifts or exercises are key to getting the greatest benefit from the movement. It also should go without saying that the better your mechanics, the less chance you have of injuring yourself. Strangely enough, there are some people out there who actually argue that it’s not form breakdown that leads to injury. They use arguments of professional athletes with bad form who seem to be getting better and better. I can think of athletes like Usain Bolt, who runs pretty sloppily in comparison to some other world-class sprinters yet is the best in the world. Or my always-used example of Cal Ripkin who had a horrendous swing yet is known as an athlete who never got injured. Well, I shouldn’t have to even explain this, but for the sake of some relative stupidity in the world I will: Using professional athletes as an example for non-professional athletes doing something makes ZERO sense. These people are the best of the best, the elite, the “better than the rest of us”. That is why they are making millions playing sports and we are not. I stick with baseball examples because it’s the sport that comes most naturally to my brain. If Tim Lincicum can throw 96 miles per hour as a 165-pound dude, than maybe we should all throw like him! I would put all my money on about 99% of the people who attempt to throw like him get some very serious shoulder damage, very quickly. There is a reason his nickname is “The Freak”. He’s a freak of nature. Seriously, LaBron James is a freak of a human, he’s 6’8”, weights 270 and has a 44” vertical and can run faster than most football players. So if I replicate him and everything he does I’ll be an incredibly successful basketball player? Nope, he’s insanely gifted and was born to be at the level he is.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that hard work can’t get you places. I am a perfect example of this. I was NOT a gifted baseball player like the pros out there now. I was pretty good sure, but I worked my ass off every single day to get to a damn low level of professional baseball. I found out the most efficient ways to move so that I could get the most out of my form, avoid injury so that I could always be at the top of my game, and perhaps I’d get somewhere with it. That worked for me. What I’m getting at here in my long-winded way is that neglecting mechanics because others have been successful while neglecting mechanics is horribly irresponsible. I know for a fact that there are way more incidences of people getting hurt (directly and indirectly) through bad form then there are of people getting lucky with their crap form.
Ok, Courage, so where’s your argument with form and intensity? Easy: choose exercises you can form intensely with less of a risk of injury when doing intense workouts. For example, perhaps doing an AMRAP of snatches, or Turkish Get Ups is not the smartest thing to do if your goal is general fitness. You can very easily get a wonderfully intense workout without having to program exercises that might rip your shoulder girdle apart or have you drop weight on your head. If you want to do something at a high intensity (in this example: get your heart rate up) and have it involve a bunch of hip extension and coordination, OK, then sprint, jump, KB swing, wall ball, ball throw, etc. Save programming super complex movements for those who are training to compete in CrossFit or who think it’s cool to rip their joints apart. It’ll happen either all of a sudden, or slowly, over a couple years. But it’ll almost surely happen.
Again, I am NOT saying you should not exercise with intensity. I am saying you should choose the right exercises to perform intensely as to decrease your risk of injury, while also making all your wonderful gains.
Crap form leads to injury. If you can’t do a workout while keeping respectable form, you should not be doing that workout (unless you don’t care about getting injured). If you have crap form and have no injuries at all, you are gifted.
OK, I think I got most of my point there. I actually have a couple really cool, detailed examples on all this, but I’ll save those for a more detailed post! It’s been increasingly difficult to write some of these posts without getting really sarcastic of insulting to the things that inspire them. If people just stopped doing really, really stupid things that would help. Or better yet, if the same group of people would stop doing some of the same stupid stuff over and over again, that would help. But I know that is always wishful thinking.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Training these days has been mostly good. While I'v e had a few rough patches, most of them have been overshadowed by some pretty cool gains, and some very successful workouts. Take last Wednesday for example: I felt like crap on my cleans off the high blocks and worked up to 4 missed attempts at 280#. This is 10# off what I got the last week with ease and I was so beyond frustrated. The bar felt like nothing off the blocks, but when I caught it, I just crumbled, had nothing to support that rack position at the bottom and couldn't handle even beginning to stand up with it. But, I was able to hit a double jerk at 300# for a 25# PR and the first time holding 300# over my head (so fired up to have gotten 2 reps for that!). It felt so easy. I'm pretty stoked to see what happens this week with that lift.
Besides PR'ing my snatch and clean (off the high blocks and ever) over the last two weeks, I have also felt surprisingly good when conditioning as well. I say surprisingly because I generally have a really good handle on how I'll do on any given workout. And these days, I am off by a good but in terms of things just being way easier than expected. My first example with this happening was with the OC Throwdown Workout #1. First off: the OC Throwdown is a massive 2-day competition happening in LA in January. They have a 3-week, 3-workout qualifying round that had some 1500 people registered and posting scores. The top 30 dudes get to join something like 12 CrossFit super studs at the event in the elite category, and 31-60 can go in the amateur category. A couple CrossFitters here told me about it, it was $10 to enter, so i said what the hell, I'll see what happens. OK, back to the workout. The first one was 10 minutes to get as many rounds of 15 power cleans at 95# and 30 double unders. I was able to watch a few people do this one a day or so before I did it and it looked like a total gasser and hand fatigue-er. I ended up taking way too much time between exercises with the expectation that I'd get more tired than I did. I ended up getting a pretty good score, but i was thrown off by how much easier it was than I expected. The second workout was 5 minutes to get as many reps of 30 clean and press at 155# and 30 burpees with jump over the bar. Again, a total gasser that I moved a tad too slowly on the burpees for. My goal was 60 reps and I finished with 57. I turned it on in the last 20 seconds so much it surprised the hell out of me! I had so much more in the tank. Side note: I'm sitting in 36th place overall going into the final workout. Should be interesting to see how much I can turn it on!
I made a cool video of a workout I wrote for myself and my training partner back east; tried to post it up here and basically decided the effort put forth was not equal to the benefit of all you seing it. If you want to see it, go to my Facebook page and cjeck it out. It was 3 rounds of 3 bar muscle ups and 10 burpess, then each round has a different exercise for 30 reps: 1st round was wall ball, 2nd round high box jump overs, 3rd round was KB swings at 70#. I did this after all the last clients had left and I was working off my last energy stores. The box jumps were brutal and took the most time for sure. I got all muscle ups, burpees and wall balls unbroken, and when I got to the KB swings I remember telling myself to at least get to 10 before putting the thing down. I ended up pushing through like crazy and got them all unbroken. Don;t know why, but this pumped me up so, so much. It was just one of those times when I truly felt myself push into another realm of training. I had no reason at all to go that extra step, nobody watching me, no music, late at night, nothing but me and the workout. It was awesome to break into that zone and just go. It felt so damn good.
So, besides weighing in at a bit over 235# I am feeling pretty damn good. Honesty, I can't totally put a finger on how I can keep getting so much better (especially with conditioning) while getting bigger and bigger. I doubt I'll be able to drop too much below 220 with the muscle I've put on, but knowing me, I probably could shave off 10-15 pounds without missing a beat in my training. All I have to do is clean up my nutrition on the weekends and add about 3-4 low-key running sessions in per week and I'll be there. Besides that, I'll be looking for a competition to see how I stack up in December. And if I don't make top-30 in the OC Throwdown, I'll not only fond a more local event, but I'll probably begin to fond some ways to get back in touch with my old training partners and CrossFit studs Blair Morrison and Neal Maddox. Training alone is cool, training with others is way better, and training with people who are better than you is extremely motivating. Oh, and you all heard it first here, my goal is to finish top-12 at Regionals in 2013. I know what it takes, I am right there, I just need to stay on course.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
It's been a while since I've last posted about CrossFit. I've avoided it because it just makes sense to focus on things that might NOT cause World War 3. But, here goes: People get so darn defensive the second you say anything even remotely negative! Proof is a really well-written article that I found on livestrong.com that really uses an objective opinion about CrossFit (as a training method, not as a sport). It talks about plenty of cons (because they exist for crying out laud people!) and also has plenty of very clear positives as well. Reading the comments, it's crazy to see how quickly people feel they need to attack the author for "bashing" CrossFit. For the life of me I can't figure out how mentioning an inevitable and realistic negative quality of a largely followed program is bashing; but I guess people just like to take things personally. Why can't people just stay objective about things in any possible way? Hell man, I played baseball almost my entire life up until a couple years ago and was probably a bit overly obsessed with the sport. It consumed every aspect of my life for as long as I could remember. But that didn't mean I had a panic attack and had to go on a rampage every time someone said that you don't need to be incredibly athletic to play baseball. You know why? Because it's the truth! I'm pretty sure most people have the somewhat intelligent understanding that you need to be pretty gifted to play any professional sport. And each sport has a pretty distinct collection of skills and abilities needed to perform at a really high level. So when someone says that CrossFit training has more potential to injure the average person than specialty training, and the social media world has a meltdown like that person just insulted their mother, what the heck?! Chill out people! It's OK to love a program that might have some negative traits. Nothing in this world is perfect, not even CrossFit. Yes, it's a cool new sport. Yes, it's an awesome community builder. Yes, it's fun as hell and is an incredibly intense workout. Yes, you will be more prone to injury when put to a clock and asked to compete with others. Yes, performing high rep Olympic and power lifts is more dangerous than performing single reps. Yes, kipping pull ups are worse for your shoulders than strict. Those are truths. If you disagree with those statements, you are either pretty uneducated in the fitness world, or you are an idiot.
You'll notice I didn't write that you shouldn't do any of these movements. And I didn't say that anyone who does a kipping pull up is stupid and should be shot. I merely made the statement that they put your shoulders at a greater risk of injury than a strict pull up. Tackle football puts you at a greater risk of concussion than touch football. Does that make tackle football stupid? Not really; just more dangerous. Running a marathon will put your joints at a crazy higher risk of injury over running a 5k. Does that mean you should never, ever run a marathon? Well, I'm sure plenty of people who read my posts will say yes, but I happen to be of the thought process that it's an awesome bucket list item and if it interests you, go for it! Just be aware that it is the TRUTH that long distance running is a higher risk of injury than short distance running.
I think CrossFit people get so defensive because it's such a new concept of fitness in the grand scheme of things. And social media allows for the public opinion to be shared so much more freely. I'm sure most beginning sports and training methodologies got their fair share of criticism at the start; and it seems pretty clear that most of them continue to get criticized still. I just think it would probably behoove the movement if everyone made the choice to lighten up a little. Perhaps enjoy the jokers in the community like Epic, Drywall, Fitness Lonnie, The Naked Cross..um, Exerciser, and Sexy As F*# rather than take it all like a personal attack. Take the high road when someone chooses to write an uneducated article, or even an educated article that might speak badly of the movement. The second you fire back at the ones who don't like you, you just make things worse. If you love your training, your community, your sport, and everything around it, just let it speak for itself! Share the good that YOU like about it. Or if you MUST say something, do it intelligently and professionally (and perhaps privately if you are really offended) rather than lashing out and fighting fire with fire.
I do admit, I get caught up in controversy on the social medias and such, like the crazy Anthos fear/smear campaign, and the "letting go" of very established and vocal fitness and health professionals, the ongoing pissing contest between P90X and CrossFit (google that if you want, it's crazy), and a few more... Hell man, I do have to admit it is rather interesting to watch all the crazy people bicker; it's like watching Bill O'reilly or something: frustratingly entertaining. But please people, take a deep breath and chill! The more you get pissed off at all the "haters", the more people are going to hate, you realize that right? And the second you start to make it personal, then it reaches a whole different level. And that level is scary because it threatens the happy, awesome, welcoming community that CrossFit has always claimed to be. Perhaps we can all tone it down a notch with the purposeful slander. And perhaps we can all learn to take a joke every now and again.
I wish I didn't have to finish this article like this, but I thought for a while about it and feel I need to do so based on everything I just said. I like CrossFit. I consider myself a CrossFit athlete, I am associated with CrossFit professionally, I have connected with and am working directly with a great CrossFit gym, I love the community and am in awe of the what some of these athletes can do. This post is NOT a CrossFit bashing post. If you read it that way, read it again. And if you still think it is, punch yourself in the face and go get therapy, stat! This is a call to the community to chill and just love the good that comes from it. Work to make the bad less, and perhaps allow yourself to joke around about the inevitable wackiness that is going to come from something so intense!
Just a rant for you all on a wonderful Thursday.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Man I have having some serious writers block! Well, not exactly writers block, more like writers complete lack of writing motivation. I have ideas up the wazoo, but every time I sit down to write,I just don;'t feel it at all. And, given the fact that I am a stream of consciousness writer, that makes it damn hard to get some regular posts up! But anyway, I am sitting at my favorite coffee spot in San Mateo, sipping an almond milk latte and ready to get these damn words down!
I am officially a couple weeks into my new phase of programming it, and things are going very well. You all saw the way I came up with my program template, and I am more or less following that this time through again. I have made some focus changes though. For example: I am focusing on Olympic weightlifting and body weight skills over raw strength now. That means no more low-bar squat, and much more high bar and front squatting. It means doing TONS of pulling the bar off different height blocks *which has been helping a great deal with a 210 snatch and 290 clean off high blocks. In fact, the 210 was EASY, and I caught 300 for the clean 4 times but am having an issue with the rack position on m y right side and I just can't stand with it). In addition to all the Olympic work, I have written in a ton of muscle up, handstand, handstand push up, handstand walk, L-sit and more work. The goal is to get myself moving more proficiently now that I have a great strength base. I expect my strength to continue to go up, but that's just not my immediate focus anymore.
So, what else is new. I have my gym almost completely set up. Platforms have been built and everything is in place, I just need to get my banners up, re-patch the walls and paint everything my colors. I am hoping that things will be at 100% in one week! Some pics have been posted up onto Facebook, but I'll post some real good ones once the place is complete.
In other news. my nutrition has been very good, eating lots of good food out here is extremely easy. The crummy little grocery store near my house serves organic produce, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs and everything else I could ask for. Farmers markets are tough to avoid as every city has at least one each weekend year-round! And having a house full of athletes has meant there is the perfect supply of supplements as well. I've been sucking down 2 protein shakes a day, back on creatine for a little bit and have been getting my fare share of ZMAs and fish oil. And early in December I'll be getting a full-blown blood test to see how my macro and micro nutrients are doing. I have decided that I must be VERY deficient ion one or many nutrients given the way my body responds to things, and this test will allow me to know exactly what I am missing. I am very excited for that. I'll share that experience with everyone when I get it.
I am starting up fighting again, and I can't express how great it feels to us my body like that. Brendon from CrossFit San Mateo has a guy who was a heavyweight UFC champ back before it became so popular and we are starting up with 2x per week training. I think after the 2013 Games run I'll refocus my training into some MMA and see where that tales me. But I'm not going to think too much about that for another few months. Whatever I've been doing has helped with the classic CrossFit workouts as I hit a 9 second PR on "Fran" (the classic CrossFit workout with thrusters and pull ups) getting 2:24 at a bodyweight of around 234! I'll take it!
All in all things are going well. Andrew Whitener is slowly growing Courage Performance East pretty damn well, and Courage Performance West is coming around very quickly. I have a regular set of training partners, workouts are going well, food is going well and I just see nothing but positive going forward with me and the business from here on out. As I always say, I'll keep working to get this blog updated on a better schedule, and I just need to to set aside time each day to get work done on it. As tough as it seems before I start writing, it really is nice to just get the words down. And it's such a good feeling posting up afterwards, not sure why, it just feels like I've accomplished something.
Anyways, that;s it for today, time to head back through the rain to the gym to get some grappling work! Then I got a client, then paint buying, then a get a special visitor for the weekend!! I am very excited.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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