CrossFit Changes Us!

_DSC8943.jpg

If you haven't heard, the month of January was all about change!  We're focusing on how CrossFit and what we do each and every day here in classes somehow creeps into other aspects of our lives, and for the better!  Whether we started classes feeling a little bit timid or unsure of ourselves and now walk in every day knowing exactly what has to get done (and then see that happen in our jobs, too!) or have worked our deadlift to new maxes with better form (and now can shovel no matter what Snowmageddon throws at us!), what we do in CrossFit transfers to everything else we do!

Here’s a few amazing things that have changed with some of our community since starting CrossFit.

Stephanie Mullane

  1. Sleep!  I am sleeping better and longer!  Doing CrossFit made me aware about how much sleep affects my overall performance, both in and out of the gym. I have started to make sleep a priority.

  2. Strength!  I can feel new muscles in my upper and lower body. :)

  3. Nerves!  I am ok with being nervous for an event or workout.

Michela Salvucci

  1. (Dis)Comfort!  I am more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Crossfit is a huge social/physical/mental hurdle that has given me more confidence to go out of my comfort zone in all other aspects of life.

  2. Nutrition!  I’ve found that I want to fuel my body in the most effective way possible, keeping in mind what my workout is later on in the day and how my nutrition will affect it. This had led me to start various short and simple nutrition challenges at my workplace to keep myself and my coworkers on track.

  3. Sports!  I play in a lot of intramural soccer leagues, and adding crossfit to my lifestyle has made me quicker, stronger and way more confident on the field.

Grace Mlady

  1. Confidence!  The biggest thing that comes to mind is an increase in confidence and a decrease in anxiety when facing something challenging. After many of our WODs, I think, "Well, if I can do *that*, I can handle this work meeting or presentation."

  2. Task Focused!  I've also learned to tackle my work day much like a WOD -- set several goals for the day and give it your best shot.

Andy Bailer

  1. Core Strength!  Better, overall core strength - I have the ability to do things because of my core strength that I couldn't do when I started 2.5 years ago (kipping pull-ups for example)

  2. Go Before I’m Ready!  The ability to push myself and have the "Go Before I am Ready Mentality" - I love that Mat instills this in us; Great coaching from all the coaches always helps!

  3. Constant Improvement!  Hitting PR's in workouts like Fran & getting to benchmarks in terms of weight for Front Squat / Back Squat / Clean (getting stronger overall).

These are just a few BIG changes that our members are seeing both in and out of CFCL.  What changes have YOU seen since starting CrossFit!?

How has CrossFit changed you? 

How to Maximize Your Fitness ROI - Part Two

_DSC8914.jpg

There are three important factors that go into maximizing the return on investment that we make into our health and fitness: efficiency of the program, number of training sessions per week, and most importantly, our nutritional plan. 

In Part One of this series, we looked at what the return on investment would be from doing 1-7 workouts per week and eating a standard nutrition plan. We also assumed that all workouts were CrossFit, the most efficient fitness program.

The end results: when eating a standard nutrition plan, even if we train really hard and work out a lot, lasting favorable results are not seen often. Initially, we may see some favorable results, but do not continue to see ongoing improvements.  In fact, regression often follows the initial improvements. More simply, improvements can be made quickly, but they don't stick around long. 

So what do we need to do to maximize improvements and earn results that stick? 

Check out the table below.

Slide2.jpg

Table 2
Assumptions and Notes for Table 2
Assumption/Note 1: Athlete has 4+ months of CrossFit Experience.
Assumption/Note 2: Each individual is different. Favorable and unfavorable results are not rules, guaranteed or promised. Some may have constant improvement with fewer training days. Many will not.

What does this mean?
Following a whole foods and/or macros nutrition plan will yield a far better short- and long-term return and will be amplified with consistent exercise. 

  1. Simply by doing CrossFit, challenging ourselves and eating well, we can have small improvements that last. This may be getting a little better at running and push-ups, lifting around the same weights and our clothes fitting just a little better. Minimal results are better than no results. But I know that's not what you're looking for. 
  2. For many people, doing 4-5 workouts per week will maximize ROI; get results and keep them for the long haul. (Keep in mind assumption #2.) This may be improved endurance, strength and flexibility (to name a few), the ability to do skills that once seemed extremely difficult or impossible are now ones that you're able to do. Clothes fit better and keep fitting better. Friends, coworkers and family start taking notice. Health and fitness has definitely improved. 
  3. For many people, doing 3 workouts/week consistently is a good place to start. There may be short term improvements and maintenance of those improvements, however it may not yield long-term consistent improvement. Moderate improvements would be breathing easier during workouts, lifting a little bit heavier and a little bit of weight loss and clothes fitting a little better. It's progress, which feels good, but it may feel like it's happening very slowly, and at some point it may not feel like it's happening anymore.

Many long time CrossFitters find that CrossFitting 3x/week will maintain their fitness level, while 4-5x/week will improve their fitness. 

Summary

To maximize Return On Investment, do three things: 

  • Eat foods that will get favorable results fastest, 
  • Perform the most efficient fitness program (CrossFit), and
  • Train consistently (3-5 days/week)

How to Maximize Your Fitness ROI - Part One

_DSC3447 copy (1).jpg

-by Coach Mat

ROI is Return On Investment. We want a high return for any investment we make. We don't put money into the stock market to watch it lose value or stay the same. We should get a return, an improvement. The same goes for our fitness. We wake up early and move things around in our schedule to get to the gym, say no thanks to happy hour and fried food and we work our butts off at every workout. We should see a positive, long-term return in our fitness.

Simply by doing CrossFit, we're already maximizing our return on time spent in the gym. CrossFit is the most efficient and effective fitness program. We’ll achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort, time or expense. That's a great start to maximizing our ROI on our time. 

But how often do we need CrossFit to see results?
What if we do other workouts and mix CrossFit in?
When we “do CrossFit” doesn't that mean we should see results?

In this article series we’ll show you how to maximize your fitness ROI by adjusting the most important factors next to what workout you're doing, workout frequency and nutrition. 
We'll look at the typical initial and long term results vs. training frequency vs. nutrition and the impact they have on our ROI. 

Let’s first define “results”.
Burn fat, build lean muscle, look better, do better in (and out of) the gym and have better biomarkers like blood pressure, resting heart rate etc. These are the results we're talking about and they are called...fitness. We're not talking just about a better looking body. We can have a good looking body but unhealthy biomarkers or poor performance. Health and fitness are intertwined, not mutually exclusive. By improving fitness, body composition will also improve. 

"Results" also include getting better at specific things like pull-ups, toes to bar and handstand push ups. Improving form and technique for cleans and snatches (which will allow us to improve rapidly!) and feeling more comfortable with the program will allow us to go faster, heavier, do new exercises and, get better results.

Below is Table 1. We’re assuming an individual has been doing CrossFit for longer than 4 months. Why? For most athletes who start CrossFit, results come more quickly based off of the training being new. Imagine waking up 2 hours earlier than you do now. It’d be a shock for a little while, but then your body would get used to it. This is the same principle; it's called accommodation. Many people find that when they start CrossFit, their body is shocked and produces results quickly. Over time their body becomes used to it and accommodates. (This phenomenon is also called "newbie gains.") It's our goal to maximize your ROI for the long haul. 

If you are just getting started, you can improve your ROR (rate of return, how fast you see results) by following the same guidance. You’ll get better results, faster!

Table 1
Assumptions and Notes for Table 1
Assumption/Note 1: Athlete has 4+ months of CrossFit Experience.
Assumption/Note 2: Each individual is different. Favorable and unfavorable results are not rules, guaranteed or promised. Some may have constant improvement with fewer training days. Many will not.

Slide1.jpg

*The Standard Western Diet is roughly 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat, 15% protein.  

**Doing ”other workouts” will improve your ability in that specific area. If you run, your running in CrossFit workouts may feel better. If you do yoga, you may feel more flexible. If you do a double-under workout every week, you’ll get better at double-unders. Specific training will lead to that specific area improvement.

***The likelihood of plateauing is much higher if there are no nutritional changes being made.

What does this mean?

  1. By simply doing CrossFit or challenging ourselves progressively during our workouts, we may see an initial positive result, but long term, it may not stick.
  2. It is a steep uphill battle to get the results we want without a nutrition plan, even if we train really hard.  
  3. For many people, doing 3 workouts/week won’t make big improvements. It will maintain their current state.
  4. For many people, 4-5 CrossFit workouts/week, without any nutrition improvements, could lead to initial improvements, but not the major improvements that would come with an improved nutrition plan. 
  5. If you feel that you train frequently and "should" see results, review your actual attendance per week and nutritional choices.
  6. There is such a thing as "too much". When we train too frequently at high intensity, our bodies may not get enough time to recover. Recovery is essential for results. Recovery includes sleep, hydration, mental restoration, stretching and soft tissue work, and proper nutrition. 

Check back for Part 2, where we'll show you what the results table looks like when nutrition comes into play and how you can maximize your ROI on all of your fitness efforts. 

The One Change That Makes the Biggest Difference

_DSC8986 (1).jpg

-By Coach Rachel

There is one change that we can make that will impact every aspect of our lives in a positive way. It will make our relationships better, it will give us clear paths towards our goals, and it will empower us to do what must be done in order to transform ourselves, our lives, and our worlds.

The one change is taking ownership, and there are only two steps to taking ownership:

  • Remove self-imposed obstacles.
  • Make and follow a plan.

Self-imposed obstacles come in two forms: complaints and excuses.

Complaining

Complaining is a national past time, one that I recognize is a source of conversational fodder and entertainment for all of us. Complaining begets drama, and drama is a distraction from what we have control over. It focuses us on the negative, drawing us further from finding solutions to the roadblocks before us.

Addressing the issues we complain about requires that we recognize what we can change.

Things we can change:

  • Our habits
  • Our priorities
  • Our focus

Things we cannot change:

  • Other people.
  • The weather.
  • The Earth’s rotational axis.
  • What Coach Mat programs for tomorrow.
  • Bird migratory patterns.

When we learn to recognize what we can and cannot change, our relationship to the problems in our lives changes. We can change our habits and priorities: for example, by making mobilizing or nutrition a higher priority, we change how our body performs. We can also change what we choose to focus on. There are certainly some problems in our lives that are upsetting. Ill family members, neighbors who take our shoveled out parking spot, world hunger, the list of things in the world that are imperfect could go on for hundreds of pages. Yet the only thing that we can control is our response to these things, both externally and internally. A problem that is out of our control is one that we must either release (a bad job or a bad relationship) or one that we will have to find a new way to relate to (parking spot thieving, medical diagnosis).

Excuses

A phrase that is all too common is, “I don’t have time.” One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was to change that phrase into, “That is not a priority.”

How does that change the relationship we have to our priorities?

“I don’t have time to work out,” becomes, “Working out is not a priority.” That may be true for very good reasons: perhaps we’re taking care of an ill family member or we have an important work deadline. Sometimes, “working out is not a priority” may be true for reasons that need more examination: perhaps we often prioritize other things over caring for ourselves, like caring for others or watching television for hours each night.

Said often enough, “that is not a priority,” empowers us to examine our priorities and to own them. There is no judgment behind “that is not a priority” if we know that our other priorities do, in fact, belong closer to the top of the list.

Making and Following a Plan

Once our self-imposed obstacles are removed, the path is open, and making the plan gives us the first steps down the path.

Sometimes, a problem feels too big to tackle on our own, or we’ve tried and we haven’t yet been successful at finding a solution. That’s when bringing the problem to a friend or expert is the next step. An outside perspective can be invaluable, shedding light on possibilities we had not considered.

When we find that following the plan is the most challenging part of solving a problem we’re having, examining why is critical for moving forward. Perhaps we become impatient when success is not forthcoming, or perhaps we take on too many priorities. Whatever the reason, it is the next roadblock to examine, whether on our own or with an expert.

Feeling stuck is a given in life, something that everyone has experienced. We must remember that we always have a choice, because contentment comes from recognizing the power we hold over our circumstances. Our mindset, positive and focused on what we can control and change, and our response, creating and implementing a plan, are the two things we can control, and they are more powerful than we realize. If you make only one change this year, take ownership of every problem before you.

Your coaches are waiting to help you reach your goals and come up with a plan for success! 

The Athlete's System - What About After?

Learning how to stick to the plan when the system ends is how we find long-term success.

Learning how to stick to the plan when the system ends is how we find long-term success.

One of the biggest problems with typical nutrition challenges is that when they end, there is no transition period from eating very well to being on our own. Our goal is to ensure that our athletes can fly on their own once the 12-week system is over. 

Each athlete set out on The Athlete's System with a different goal: cutting (losing body fat), maintaining, or gaining (adding muscle, minimizing body fat gain).  Some athletes will find that they wish to continue to lean out, some will be satisfied with their fat loss and will want to stay the same, and still others will be ready to gain muscle. 

Factors that we take into account for each individual are:

-energy levels,
-self-assessed performance in CrossFit or sport, and
-body composition changes (InBody scan, progress pictures, and weight and waist measurements).

There are many paths that athletes may choose to pursue, and the coaches are ready to assist athletes in setting new goals and continuing their progress. 

Accountability is a huge part to sticking with any plan, and accountability can come in a variety of forms based on what each individual needs. At a minimum, we will encourage athletes to continue to use one another through our Facebook group to share wins and support whenever they need it. In addition, setting up a consultation with a coach one month from the program ending, possibly including an InBody Scan, is a smart move. One month "on our own" is a great step in testing out how life factors affect our ability to stick with a plan, but with a little less guidance.  It is a learning opportunity to take all that we have learned from The Athlete's System and apply it to our lifestyles. 

Check out Part One to learn about how The Athlete's System begins. 

The Athlete's System - What We're Doing

Together is better. 

Together is better. 

What is the most challenging part of making a body composition change? Sticking with it long enough to see lasting results.

Most nutrition challenges are 6 weeks long or less. This is 1) not enough time to see the results we are ultimately looking for, 2) is not enough time to get past the initial motivation high of trying something new, and 3) is not enough time to build the habits necessary to keep on changing after the challenge is over.

We are currently 8 weeks into The Athlete's System, with 4 weeks left. Much of what the coaches are doing is troubleshooting with athletes to help them achieve consistency in reaching their macro goals. This takes many forms, because each of us have different mindsets and lifestyles that need to be taken into account. A parent of 3 with a full time job is going to have very different needs than a student on a budget. Someone who has tracked macros before and weighed and measured their food is going to need different support than someone who is tracking for the first time.

Each week we monitor every athlete's spreadsheets and adjust their plans based off of factors like weight, waist measurement, sleep, water intake, and compliance, as well as their ongoing results in relation to their goals.

There is a very important reason that we made “compliance” the way to win back their money for The Athlete’s System: consistency is the path to long term success. The athletes who meet their macro goals within 5g every day (with one 20g cheat day per month) are not only the ones who end up winning their money back--they are also the ones who have built the habits necessary for long term success. 

Coaches are also continuing to adjust the macro goals of every athlete, depending on how consistent they’ve been able to reach their current goals, how they are responding in energy levels, mood, and body composition changes, and how close they are to their ideal numbers. By ideal numbers, we mean the macro goal that will allow them to lose body fat or gain muscle long term. In continuously adjusting the numbers from where they started to where they are going to end up, we make the transition more sustainable.

In addition to coach support, athletes use our Facebook group to share their wins, offer advice, notify everyone of recipes or foods they are trying and liked, and post questions or concerns. They validate and support one another as much as the coaches do.

Check out Part One to learn about how we initiated The Athlete's System. 

Read on for Part Three to learn what happens when The Athlete's System is over. 

The Athlete's System - How We Start

When nutrition is the foundation of our work in the gym, how did we make sure that The Athlete's System was going to have long-term effects? 

When nutrition is the foundation of our work in the gym, how did we make sure that The Athlete's System was going to have long-term effects? 

People have known for a long time that restricting certain foods for a "diet" is not an effective strategy for losing weight. What happens after the diet is over? The restricted food is reintroduced and the weight is gained back. That's why The Athlete's System is based solely on macronutrient breakdowns--how many grams of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins we should eat per day to achieve our goals. Put simply, we can eat what we want, but it must "fit our macros."

However, one of the problems with this system is that if the plan isn’t correctly customized to you and your specific goals, we can spend months measuring and weighing, but never getting the results we want.

We started with a few important pieces of data.

1) The first was an InBody body composition scan (weight, body fat, muscle mass) done right at the gym.

2) The next was allowing athletes to practice tracking their macros in MyFitnessPal, a common phone app. Coaches then found the average number of grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that each athlete ate for one week. This not only gave the coaches a starting point for their athlete's macro goals, it also allowed our athletes to practice weighing and tracking so that we could do some pre-system troubleshooting. 

3) Then we sent a survey with a few questions. One of the most important questions we asked was:

What do you think your biggest hurdle is going to be and why?
-Planning
-Mindless Eating
-All or Nothing Thinking (ex: I already went over by 6g fat, so I might as well keep eating whatever I want.)
-Sustaining Discipline
-Resisting Peer Pressure (ex: family events, work gatherings, socializing with friends)

This allowed us to prepare for what we would need to coach and support each athlete with. It also gave athletes a starting point for making plans on where they knew they would have the most difficult time. After all, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Another question we asked was: do you want to lose body fat, gain muscle, or both? 

This told us whether our athletes would be cutting, gaining, or maintaining. 

Cutting vs Maintenance vs Gaining

There are 3 phases of nutrition when tracking macros: cutting, maintenance, and gaining.

_DSC3517 copy.jpg

When an athlete is cutting, their goal is to lose weight. In CrossFit and other sports, our goal is to only lose body fat, because keeping our muscle mass allows us to maintain performance. 

When an athlete is in maintenance, their goal is to maintain their current body composition; they want to keep the same amount of muscle and body fat. Maintenance is a period of adaptation, where we can end up feeding our body more and more food while still maintaining the same body composition. This is a long process that needs to be monitored carefully.

When an athlete is gaining, their goal is to put on muscle mass. An athlete who is gaining will usually gain body fat along with their muscle mass, so a gaining period is typically followed by a very short period of cutting.

After establishing whether our athletes would be cutting or gaining, we gave them their first set of numbers: how much protein, carbs, and fat to eat each day, and introduced them to our macro tracking spreadsheet that they would fill in each week. The spreadsheet serves many purposes: it allows the athlete to see their whole week in one place, which builds accountability, and it allows coaches to gather data about how the plan is working so far. 

That’s the thing about a macro plan: it may need to be tweaked more often than we think.

Check out Part Two about what is happening now in The Athlete's System and Part Three, which explains what happens after The Athlete's System is over. 

Overhead Squat Challenge! Dec 15 - Dec 21

The ultimate test in midline stability, shoulder stability, and hip, ankle, thoracic spine, and shoulder mobility: The Overhead Squat.

The ultimate test in midline stability, shoulder stability, and hip, ankle, thoracic spine, and shoulder mobility: The Overhead Squat.

-by Coach Rachel

Athletes find the overhead squat (OHS) the most challenging of the squats because of 3 key errors:

1) Internal Rotation of Shoulders

When coaches say, "armpits forward," this is the error they are correcting for. External rotation engages the latissimus dorsi ("lats" for short), the large muscles that are responsible for stabilizing weight overhead. When the shoulders internally rotate, the lats shut off and the upper trapezius muscles (aka "traps") take over. In addition, the position seen in the bottom of the improper OHS is unhealthy--neck impingements can result from this position.

2) Immature Squat

An immature squat is often caused by restrictions in hip and/or ankle mobility. Because the ankles or hips reach their end range, the athlete must drop their chest to continue descending in the squat. This often causes internal rotation of the shoulders. 


3) Initiating Knees Forward vs Hips Back

This error is most common with athletes who squat towards their toes vs their heels. By descending into the OHS without sending the hips back, it is difficult to maintain balance, achieve full depth (hip crease below the top of the knee), and the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, etc.) is used far less than we want. 

Overhead squats are a critical part of our training--mastering them leads to improved mobility in our hips, shoulders, T-spine, and ankles, and improved shoulder and midline stability. If you’re looking for ways to improve or test your core strength, look no further than the OHS.

The Challenge:

Accumulate 10 Rounds with a Partner of:

10 Squat Therapy (no weight)
10 Tempo OHS (3 seconds down, 1 second pause at the bottom, 3 seconds up)
10 Sotts Press

How to choose weight: Our goal is to practice right at the edge of our abilities rather than way beyond them or way beneath them. Choose a weight that challenges your particular restrictions, but that still allows you to perform multiple reps with proper technique. 

Have your partner watch your squats and coach you.

On the Tempo Squats, engage your core by taking a deep breath at the top and bracing your abdominals.

If you have never done the Sotts press before, test with a PVC and then an empty bar before deciding on what weight to use. Tempo Squats and Sotts press should be at the same weight, but you may rest between them.

If depth is your challenge (immature squat), go lighter. If still challenging with a PVC, squat to a box. Get creative in figuring out ways to change your movement.

If you have ankle and/or hip mobility restrictions, the challenge movements will address them, but you may need more. Here are some mobility drills to add to your regimen:

Ankles:

Banded Ankle Distraction

Hips:

Banded Spiderman Stretch - add a band to the front hip in spiderman and draw circles with your knees. 1:00/side
Banded Pigeon Stretch - add a band to the front hip in pigeon and shift your belly button from center to over your heel to over your knee. 1:00/side

There are no wrong stretches or drills to try, so feel free to rotate through other stretches and techniques that you like! 

Handstand Pushup Challenge! Dec 8 2017 - Dec 14 2017

Do you struggle with handstand push-ups? This challenge is for you! 

Do you struggle with handstand push-ups? This challenge is for you! 

-by Coach Cassi

With a Partner!

L1: Accumulate 25 HSPU from pike
L2: Accumulate 25 HSPU from box
L3: Accumulate 25 strict HSPU

***Partner coaches technique! No ab-mats!***

Time to flip things upside down, literally!  Handstand pushups are an awesome opportunity to practice inversion, gain confidence in an unfamiliar position, and build tons of strength.  While at a glance it may seem like the HSPU only focuses on shoulder strength, it also promotes stability and strength through the rest of the body - specifically the midline!  Without that strength and stability our HSPU will be less efficient and will feel less strong. 

This challenge will allow us time to practice being upside down outside of a workout.  The perfect time to slow things down, focus on our movement and gain some control before we enter our next WOD.  No matter where you are with your current HSPU, this challenge is for you!

L1.  Accumulate 25 HSPU from a Pike position.

When performing the pike HSPU we set our bodies up into a Downdog position.  Hands and feet planted on the ground, hips high in the air.  As we lower down to the ground we keep our chin tucked towards our chest so that the TOP of our head is lowering down.  By the time we reach the ground with the TOP of our head we should be in a triangle or "tripod" position relative to our hands. 

Having a tough time with the "tripod" at the bottom of your pike HSPU?  Try starting your movement with your hands on a turf line.  Now, once you start the movement your head should be reaching away from that line (in the direction of your fingertips but further out!).  This may help give you a clear visual of where your head and hands should be.  Still stuck?  Ask your partner to help by marking where your head is touching the ground so that when you stand back up you can see how much further you need to move to reach the "tripod".

L2. Accumulate 25 HSPU from a box.

When performing the box HSPU we first need to choose an appropriate height to set ourselves up.  This movement can be done on any side of the box (20, 14 or 30 inches) and gets more challenging the taller the box gets.  You can also start the movement with your knees on the box or with just your toes on the box. On your toes will make the movement a little more challenging as you will be even closer to reaching the Handstand position this way.

Once you've found your set up position (any combination of the above options where you can safely lower your head down to the ground) you are set to begin the box HSPU.  Start by tucking your chin to your chest so that the TOP of your head reaches for the ground.  As you lower down you'll be lowering your head away from the box, as you press back up you'll be pressing your nose back towards the box.  Just like with the pike HSPU we are still aiming to create a "tripod" by the time your head touches down to the ground.  When you've created the "tripod" at the bottom of your box HSPU your elbows should be held in a 45* angle, avoiding them flaring out to the sides.  Think of having them point towards the corners of the box, not beyond there.

In this movement we often see athletes reaching towards the ground with their chins leading the way.  If you've forgotten to tuck your chin down at the start of this movement this may happen to you!  Remember, at the bottom of this movement the TOP of your head should be in contact with the ground, not your nose or chin.  Unsure of what you're doing?  Have your partner take a quick video of your movement to see if it looks like the video here!  If you're nervous about being upside down on the box, gain some additional experience in the pike HSPU to practice your inversion a little bit more.  Then come back to the box when you're ready to try again.  Take your time with this one, they can get spicy quickly!

L3. Accumulate 25 Strict HSPU. 

When performing the Strict HSPU, we have already mastered the "tripod" position in each of the previous levels and are completely comfortable being upside down.  As we set up for this movement we kick up to a full handstand, arms already locked out, to start our time against the wall.  In this starting position our body should be stacked up in one solid line from toes to hands.  As we lower down to the ground our chin stays tucked in, our glutes are squeezed and bellies are braced.  At the bottom of the handstand we are in a "tripod" position and our eyes are focused straight ahead.  Once we start to press up the goal is that we continue to look forward to ensure that we keep a straight line from our toes to hands.  This ENTIRE movement is completed with only your feet against the wall.

Struggling to move in a straight line?  To avoid the feeling of struggling through a press you may be arching your back to escape the actual press of the movement.  If this is happening, there's also a good chance that as you press up you are looking down at the ground and moving the top of your head closer to the wall.  Keep the TOP of your head down at all times with your eyes looking straight ahead.

Allowing your butt and legs to touch the wall as you go?  Remember to squeeze your glutes and belly!  Keep your hips lifted away from the wall, squeeze your butt and pull your belly button in towards your spine on the way down and up through the Strict HSPU.  It's easy to ignore your midline while doing the Strict HSPU but we aren't about what's easy!

Whichever challenge is for you (there's one here, I'm sure of it!), grab a partner, take a deep breath and flip onto those hands to get started!

WallBall Challenge! Dec 1 2017 - Dec 7 2017

This week's challenge is for everyone who "hates" wallballs. Let's figure out why! 

This week's challenge is for everyone who "hates" wallballs. Let's figure out why! 

-by Coach Mat

What do you think of when you know you’re going to do Wall Balls? Many people immediately think about their legs burning, heart racing and lungs panting.

They go as far as to say they hate wall balls. It even effects their decision to workout.

That’s why we analyzed the 3 most common problems people have with wall balls and created strategies that will help you do them more easily and feel better about them.

Problem 1: Not hitting the target - Throwing Early

Have you ever had that perfect wall ball rep? The ball gets to the target, doesn’t take 100% of your energy and feels almost dare I say, easy? What about the rep that feels like you're throwing an elephant? It doesn’t get the height you needed and you gave everything you had into the throw.

You may be throwing the ball early. This blunts your throwing ability and strength. The wall ball is a leg dominant exercise and the power you create while you're coming up out of the squat needs to be transferred into the throw by keeping your core tight and delaying the throwing action until you have fully extended your hip and stood or even jumped. Then the throw immediately follows, like a wave of energy flowing from you standing up, into the throwing action; not all at once, not throwing as your standing, but once your finished, then immediately throwing and transferring that energy.

Problem 2: Not getting stronger - Squatting Incorrectly

Squatting correctly will assist in you throwing correctly. The squat happens first, throw second. If you perform the squat well, chances are higher the throw will go well too.

Many people who fail to get the ball to the target have issues happening during the squat. Knees cave in (keep them out!), lumbar curves and strong core positions get weak (breathing correctly will help this!) or depth isn’t achieved (focus on the squat, slow and steady).

One of the most frequent faults is when the body weight comes off of the heels and into the toes during the descent of the squat and even the ascent and before throwing. This blunts your power and doesn’t allow for a good transfer of strength into the throw of the ball. 

If you’re going onto your toes during the squat you may be trying to throw way too early. Wiggle your toes and squat down in control. Continue to wiggle your toes and begin to stand up in the same controlled speed. As you reach the last 1/3 of standing up, go faster and more aggressively through your heels. Once you’ve stood all the way up, throw. At this point you may be on your toes or have even jumped.

During that entire time, keep your knees out, chest up and get your depth. Performing the squat correctly on the way down will lead to a more successful throw!

Problem 3: Out of Breath – Breathing Inefficiently

Breathing correctly when doing wall balls can make or break your ability to do them.

It’s what will make you feel like you can either keep working out, or like your legs are filling up with battery acid and that you “hate” them.

Chances are high that you’re holding your breath during the wall ball or not breathing efficiently and correctly to bring oxygen in and clear CO2 out.

Your breathing strategy will depend on your height.
If you’re taller than 5’10, the “double breath” technique may work better for you. Standing tall with the ball at the “rack position”, take a breath of air in.
On the way down, breathe out. Not all the way out so that you relax in the bottom of the squat, but just enough so that you feel like you can breathe in again.

When at the bottom, breathe in.

As you're standing and throwing, breathe out.

This is a breath of air in and out on the way down, and then again in and out from the bottom up. 2 full breath cycles.

If you’re shorter than 5’10, the single breath may work better.

Breathe in, hold it and squat down.

When you're standing up continue to hold and when you’re throwing breathe out.

These are just guidelines. You may find that one strategy works better regardless of your height.

Try both.

The main thing is that you’re breathing!

The Challenge

Practice the tips that we gave while doing wall balls. The more you do correctly, the easier they will become.

During the week, accumulate 150 Wall Balls with a partner.

One person works at a time.

There’s no right or wrong number of reps to do in a set.

Tell your partner what you’re working on and while you’re going they can watch you and see if you’re doing it or not.

Then switch.

You don’t have to do 150 in a day. Spread them out over the course of the week. 20 each will only take a few minutes, easy enough to do before or after a class and then you’ve already done 40! 

The Scale Lies!

This guy is a liar! 

This guy is a liar! 

     It may surprise you to learn that your body weight is not the best measurement of your health and fitness. With the rise of the BMI (Body Mass Index) being used to identify whether we are underweight, overweight, or an ideal weight, we have been taught to focus on controlling our body weight to ensure that we are in good health. We are here to tell you that being skinny is not a good indicator of fitness. If I'm thin but can't do a pushup, can I consider myself fit? 

     A scale only measures how heavy we are, not whether our body composition is changing. Muscle weighs more than fat, so when we begin to gain muscle, the scale shows us gaining weight, even though we may be losing body fat. Many CrossFitters are considered "overweight" in BMI, even though their body fat percentage is within the healthy ranges for their height. 

The coaches at CFCL are great examples of this phenomenon.

Coach Erin proving that CrossFit is great for runners!

Coach Erin proving that CrossFit is great for runners!

In the picture on the left, Coach Erin weighs 115 pounds. In the picture on the right, she weighs 135 pounds, and even though she is 20 pounds heavier, she runs much faster races than she used to because she is more powerful. 

Coach Rachel in 2014.

Coach Rachel in 2014.

Coach Rachel in 2016.

Coach Rachel in 2016.

In the picture on the left, Coach Rachel weighs 120 pounds. In the picture on the right, she weighs 130 pounds. Despite being 10 pounds heavier, she wears a dress size smaller than she did when she was lighter, and her waist is 2 inches smaller. 

Coach Cassi in 2012

Coach Cassi in 2012

Coach Cassi in 2015

Coach Cassi in 2015

Coach Cassi in 2017

Coach Cassi in 2017

In the first picture, Coach Cassi weighs 150 pounds. In the second picture, she weighs 142 pounds. In the third picture, she weighs 148 pounds. Though she is only two pounds lighter 5 years later, she went from 26% body fat to 20% body fat, making her much more lean. 

Each of these transformations tells a story about training, but also about nutrition. Nutrition is the foundation of our fitness. If we want to be leaner, we must eat in a caloric deficit. If we want to be leaner without losing muscle mass (our ideal goal, because more muscle mass allows us to burn more calories), or if we want to gain muscle without gaining a lot of body fat, we have to eat smart--by tracking macros. All 3 coaches (as well as other coaches at CFCL) have used tracking macros to change their body composition at will.

Here are some ways to gauge whether your fitness is improving, without using the scale: 

-Improving performance in the gym. CrossFit makes use of Benchmark Workouts to demonstrate improving fitness. Having comparative data allows us to know that we are improving. Faster times in benchmark workouts, increasing strength, and improving skills are great indicators that your fitness and nutrition program is working!

-Positive body composition changes. Our body composition refers to the muscle mass and body fat that we carry. Positive body composition changes are increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat. You can find out if your body composition is changing by scheduling an InBody Scan right here at CFCL! You'll also know you're losing body fat when your clothes fit better! 

-Improving medical biomarkers. When we attend our yearly physical, we get data from our appointment that we can use to assess whether our fitness is improving. Biomarkers like resting heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are much better than BMI at painting a picture of how our nutrition and fitness plans are working. 

The important thing to remember is that our body weight is only a part of the picture of our health. Our nutrition and training protocols need to be evaluated through many more points of data than just body weight. Are our times in benchmark workouts getting faster or heavier? Are we losing body fat or gaining muscle or both?

The scale is just one tool in our toolbox. If you're unsure of how to use the rest of your tools, reach out to a coach today!

Coach Cassi's Nutrition Journey

Is there anything better than Cassi with a box of donuts?

Is there anything better than Cassi with a box of donuts?

-by Coach Cassi

To say my nutrition has changed since starting CrossFit would be a gross understatement.  My nutrition is constantly changing and my body composition is constantly shifting with it!  There have been highs and lows, different goals, different plans and different results along the entire ride.  I've learned to focus on foods that truly fuel my body, boost my immune system and support my overall energy through the Paleo Diet.  And I've learned to eat the right amounts of proteins, carbs and fats to keep those energy levels sustained long-term through tracking macros.  

October 2012 - No nutrition plan, just started CF. 

October 2012 - No nutrition plan, just started CF. 

     When I started CrossFit I didn't have an understanding of what "healthy options" could really look like or what "clean eating" really meant.  I couldn't wrap my head around a fruit or veggie being a carb or how any of this could possibly affect my life.  As it turned out, my first ever Paleo Challenge taught me the importance of food quality (yes, green veggies ARE important!) in so many ways.  By eliminating dairy, grains and sugar I instantly had less headaches, stomach aches, clearer skin AND dropped 8 pounds in about a month.  I was hooked!  For a while, I cycled through following a strict Paleo Diet (oftentimes The Whole 30) and would feel awesome for about 30 days at a time.  But after a few months of 30 days "on" a few days "off," the "off" days were starting to drop me straight into the land of ice cream, cookies and pretty much anything else I could have that wouldn't be "allowed" in the upcoming 30 days - and in complete excess. Those "off" days left me feeling awful!  Not even just physically, but mentally, too!  Standing in front of the ice-cream and having a serious debate about whether or not it would be okay to have a scoop of ice-cream for the night generally resulted in:

-tears,
-eating THE WHOLE TUB of ice cream instead of one scoop, and finally,
-a big belly ache.  

    Something had to change.  Clearly the whole Paleo thing was working but my self control was seriously lacking to sustain this while continuing to feel positive about my choices!   That's when the idea of keeping track of my intake came into play.  

"We are in complete control of our goals and our plans to reach them." 

"We are in complete control of our goals and our plans to reach them." 

     The idea of being able to weigh and measure the foods that I wanted to have and fit into my day sounded perfect!  Suddenly I wasn't going to feel like a bad person for having ice-cream!?  Sign me up!  It took some time, but with a bit of practice, I was able to actually fit that ice-cream into my day!  As an added bonus, my workouts were improving after feeling a bit stuck in the mud.  Again, I was in!  Macros have allowed me to think about my focus (whether it be body composition, performance goals or both) and fine -tune the amount of food I need to reach those goals.  They've also given me the ability to choose foods without feeling guilty, because if I've done my job well, I've fit that choice into my day!  It's not always easy, and it's not always perfect.  It is a process that I am constantly learning from and adapting to in becoming the best version of myself.

     While there certainly have been some blips along the way (maybe I've erred on the side of too much ice-cream, even with my macros!) this entire journey has shown me that we are each capable of making the changes we want to make with a focused attitude and mindset - we are in complete control of our goals and our plans to reach them every step of the way.

The Evolution of Goals

Goals are limited by what we believe we are capable of. In an ideal world, we know that we have the potential to do anything we set our mind to, but unfortunately, our parameters for success end up being narrowed and defined by our self-doubt. Self-doubt is as simple as believing things about ourselves like, "I'm bad at running" or "I'm not strong/organized/free enough to ______." Our limitations are more often self-imposed than the absolute truth.

CrossFitters know that goals evolve and change, but what many don't know is that our goals are always based around our expectations of ourselves. CrossFit has the potential to transform us, but only if we are willing to develop the skills to meet our potential. 

Pre-CrossFit

2013 - Pre-CrossFit

2013 - Pre-CrossFit

Before CrossFit, I had suffered from undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for 14 years. In overcoming it, I developed grit and a growth mindset, two things that I credit with the successes I've achieved so far.

But once I was mentally strong, the difference between my physical capabilities and my mental capabilities bothered me. There was a dissonance between how I looked and performed and how I felt. The belief that I could be strong physically became the catalyst that led me to CrossFit.

This is a picture of me from the winter of 2013. It was before starting CrossFit, before I took on any kind of exercise routine or nutrition plan. (To answer the question you’re definitely asking, I’m logrolling, an obscure, but historic sport that I practiced in my days as an Aquatics Director.)

Goal: Gain muscle, get strong, look as strong as I felt.

Starting CrossFit

2015 - 18 months CrossFitting

2015 - 18 months CrossFitting

I fell in love with CrossFit quickly and hard, relishing the idea that I would be learning and refining skills throughout my CrossFitting days, all while becoming strong and fast.

I knew that an exercise routine was going to challenge my mindset differently than overcoming PTSD. A mediocre athlete as a teenager, I found that I quickly reverted to old habits when the going got tough:

-I mentally gave up when movements that I was "bad" at came up, and
-I held back from going faster for fear of failing in front of other people.

Those old feelings of not being good enough cropped up enough to where I had to really examine why I was CrossFitting. Was it to prove how good I was, or was it to improve at something?

This was when I started to refine my mindset. I had practiced positive self-talk before, so rather than allowing my wavering self-confidence to dictate how I would perform, I was determined to simply do my best each workout and to focus on practicing vs competing. Using WODs to practice self-focus kept me CrossFitting when I may otherwise have given up. 

New Goal: Stay in my own lane, focus on my practice goals, give good effort.

January 2017 - 2.5 years CrossFitting

January 2017 - 2.5 years CrossFitting

Two and Half Years CrossFitting

A positive mindset took me far. By focusing on what I wanted and believing that I was capable of it, I made many positive changes, including tracking my macros to get stronger. The results speak for themselves: I met every strength goal I set for myself in 2016. 

But a belief I had long held, quietly, but insistently, was still holding me back. I did not believe that I was capable of the discipline required to be lean. I had become good about eating enough, but I was not putting any effort into accuracy of tracking or consistency. When I realized that I wanted to make a change, I turned to nutrition counseling to put me on the right track. 

Vulnerability and trust were going to be the ingredients to my success. I devoted myself to doing what I was told with everything I had, and reminded myself on bad days to persist and trust in the process. 

New Goal: Master discipline. Embrace vulnerability and trust the process. 

Sept 2017 - More than 3 years CrossFitting.

Sept 2017 - More than 3 years CrossFitting.

Now

The trick is this: if you want something, you must devote every fiber of your being to doing it. Dreams are not met half-assed or through short bursts of effort followed by long bouts of inactivity. Life is not a series of 1RM attempts. It is an ultra-marathon, run at a consistent speed over a long period of time. And if that sounds boring, it's because it mostly is. Change takes time. 

Through positive self-talk, trust, vulnerability, and discipline, I am the fittest I have ever been. But more than body composition changes and PRs, what has changed the most is how I speak to myself about my goals and what I am capable of. Where before it was "I want to do a muscle-up," it is now, "I will do a muscle-up, and this is my plan for getting one by the end of next year." 

Perhaps, like me, you see that you still have a long road ahead of you to become the fittest that you can. SMILE! Enjoy the process of becoming a better human being. Devote yourself to you. Remain open to how you are changing and how you must change to achieve your goals. Reach out when you're lost and are unsure of where to turn next. There is absolutely an answer for you, but you must ask the question in order to find it. Your evolution is worth it. 

A Simple Desire

Goals are simple. 

Goals are simple. 

-by Coach Mat

Goals don’t have to be complicated and if you say you don’t have one, you’re lying.

What is the thing you want from doing CrossFit? Why are you doing it?

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t need to search for the “right” answer. Be honest. What comes to mind first?

I started because I wanted to have abs and find a fun way to compete.

It didn’t take a special notebook with S.M.A.R.T. written on the page in a zen sitting room with soundscapes playing in the background to decide what I wanted. Just like wanting a drink of water when thirsty, I “wanted” in the same way.

If your desire is for something that is healthy and improves your mind, body, and spirit, it’s good! Drop the self-judgements and secrecy and be honest. If you have an aesthetic goal, define what it is!

(Then schedule an InBody scan to establish where you are right now. The InBody shows how much muscle, fat and water your body is and gives us direction on how much to eat to get the body composition you want! Schedule here!)

Whatever the goal, pick what you truly want.

Then comes the “how do I get it” part.

I wanted abs and to compete so I found the people who had abs, and had a ton of fun. I figured that if they had what I wanted, I could literally copy what they do and take their advice to get the same results.

I modeled everything: from nutritional habits to the brand of workout clothes I wore. I listened to what they said and took their advice to heart.

  • It started with simple things like telling me to lift my chest up in the deadlift.
  • They told me to jump a little higher for the double-under and I’d get big consecutive sets.
  • They ate a certain way, and told me I should, too, if I wanted what I said I did, so I ate that way.

It wasn’t a coincidence that I started to burn fat and change my body.

They had been right about everything before, so when they told me to focus more on my workout results than the way my body was looking, I listened.

My desire to get abs changed to a desire to get a muscle up, back squat 315 lbs, run a 6 minute mile, do consecutive pull ups and toes to bar, deadlift 225 lbs in all the workouts that had it in them, and clean and jerk 250 lbs. When I accomplished those goals, I looked better than I would have ever looked if I only tried to get abs.

The whole process really started with trust.

It was much easier to trust them since they practiced what they preached.

They were the type of people I wanted to be, so it was a no-brainer to learn their ways.

In copying, I was able to accomplish my goal and even more than I would have dreamed about or been able to accomplish. By chasing performance I got fit, strong, AND happy.

But it all started with a desire. Just a feeling of want, for something that I didn’t have.

That turned into the goal and lead to so much more.

If you think that setting a goal is a difficult, worthless process or just flat out don’t do it, you’re missing out on so much possibility and growth that if you had, you wouldn’t want to give up.

So, what do you want?