If you’re new to this corner of the health and fitness blogosphere:
- Start with the StarterPage.
- Check out the “About” page.
- Check out my First Six Weeks.
- For the basis of my dietary beliefs – Eat This, Not That Redux
- Directly to the right is a list of recent posts.
- Explore the links in the “blogroll” on the right sidebar.
- Cruise around and check out any of the posts you find interesting. The Manic Monday posts are popular.
Don’t forgot to follow @engrevo on twitter!
April 15, 2011
I’m now the Fitness and Health Expert for MasculON, where I’m putting together a comprehensive course teaching you how to quickly and efficiently better your physique, then maintain that and perfect your health for the rest of your life.
As a former reader of this blog, I’d like to offer you a friends and family discount ($9 vs. $37). Shoot me an email at engrevo at gmail dot com to receive this discount.
November 4, 2013
I have a new website. It’s awesome, and you’ll like it.
I have a bit built up over there – expect more soon. Add it to your RSS reader.
I will still post stuff here some times, when the topic at hand doesn’t fit neatly into the no-BS, implementation-driven vibe over there.
April 2, 2012
You may have noticed that I haven’t been around much. I got a great new job at a start-up – I love it but the loooong hours are not conducive to frequent posting. No promise of that changing any time soon. Sorry.
However, I will drop in with interesting tidbits from time to time. I’ve received a few emails recently asking me some variation of “which is worse?”, so here’s a list.
The standard, proven offenders, in order of most malicious to least. Keep in mind, I don’t recommend anyone eat any of this crap. And different people will put these in a different order – and they certainly can be in a different order if you have some sort of medical condition.
- Wheat (and other gluten containing grains)
- Processed Food (and all its consistent hyperpalatability)
- Vegetable Oil
- Table Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Natural Food Toxins (i.e. n6 and physic acid in nuts)
So, of course, this is all dose-dependent. Except Wheat, which is why it’s number one. Wheat is bad in any dose. But beyond that, a costco tub of jelly beans is gonna mess you up more than a shot of soy milk, for example.
And the kicker with Number 2 above is that Processed Foods almost always include ALL of the nasty beasts on the list. So, yea, don’t eat processed food. It makes you fat and sick.
February 16, 2012
Just a few weeks ago I wrote about my personal 10-week CrossFit experience. This post is about CrossFit on the whole (though informed by my experience, of course).
Anyone who has ever read an article (or watched a youtube video) about CrossFit likely has concerns about the health and safety of the whole operation. It’s impossible to deny that olympic lifts and compound movements can be injurious when performed incorrectly. It’s hard to deny that racing the clock to finish high-rep WODs is likely to cause dangerous breakdowns in form. It’s arguable whether a weekend of seminars and workouts (CrossFit Level 1 Cert) is enough qualification to guide all levels of people through these potentially harmful classes. This is all old news.
The way I see it, life is a series of decisions as to how much danger you’ll accept. It’s everyone’s right to accept the dangers of joining a CrossFit box, or much worse, the dangers of opening a poorly run affiliate.
The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of CrossFit boxes with great trainers, doing the workouts just as intended and keeping their clients safe. The issue I have with CrossFit is that even in this ideal situation, CrossFit isn’t what most people should be doing.
The first time I walked into my CrossFit box of choice (henceforth “The Box”), I signed a waiver and performed the WOD (scaled in a big way as the trainer’s caution won out over my hubris, thankfully). After the workout, I signed up for three months and paid upfront.
The membership form requested information about any injuries, as did the trainer prior to that first workout. I listed shoulder problems, half because it’s true and half to explain my planned avoidance of SDHPs and all things kipping.
Notably absent from the form, and not asked by the trainer or owner – my goals. No one asked “why are you here?” or “what do you want to get out of this?”. I figured they assumed that as a pretty lean and muscular young man, I was there to become a CF Badass.
I realized later that they didn’t ask my goals because it would have served no purpose; they wouldn’t have done anything differently for me to help me achieve them. They still would have had me doing the WOD 3 on, 1 off like every one else. This is how CrossFit is designed.
With a regretful mix of arrogance and apathy, Greg Glassman (CF Founder) describes that CrossFit doesn’t change for the trainee, the trainee changes for CrossFit.
“If you came to me with a set of goals that looked like ‘lose the fat, improve my musculature,’ or ‘move toward a better aesthetic,’ I wouldn’t do anything differently for you than if you came to me and said, ‘I want to improve my work capacity across broad time and modal domains.’ “
Yea, that’s stupid. And it’s also ignoring other common goals, like “carry groceries in from the car,” and “have big biceps.” These goals may seem weak or vain, but if that’s what the trainee wants, it’s what the trainer they are paying should try to give them.
Glassman continues: “I want to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Specialization is for insects. I’m looking for breadth of experience, and anyone who is at all wise realizes that being a specialist represents a compromised position.”
You know who else specializes, in addition to insects? Olympic athletes. I can guarantee you wouldn’t know the name Michael Phelps if his mission in life was to be pretty good at a bunch of crap.
The irony here is that CrossFit is very much specialized. CrossFit refuses to adapt to the goals of the trainee, refuses to be custom. By avoiding doing anything really well, they have specialized in mediocrity.
CrossFit is not the best way to lose fat. CrossFit is not the best way to get strong. CrossFit is not the best way to be better at a sport. Even athletes training for “the sport of CrossFit” don’t train with CrossFit anymore. Think about it – CrossFit isn’t even the best way to get good at CrossFit.
The good news is that elements of CrossFit are a great tool in many types of training. The foundations of CrossFit are solid and there is evidence that the early days were bright. I firmly believe that strategic applications of extreme intensity are vital to optimal health and athleticism in a large variety of pursuits. I love the (old) lean towards skill and strength over volume.
It is with volume that CrossFit has box-jumped the shark. The repetitions and AMRAP times have increased steadily since the early days, but the frequency (3 on 1 off) remains. Something has to give, and that something is intensity, health, or both. CrossFit has lost its way.
It’s easy to see how this happened. Intensity is addictive; we love a good beat-down. Also, with trainees scaling weight regularly, the only way for a programmer to hold their feet to the fire is with more reps or time. The focus on skill work and mental challenge has faded as the movement has grown.
Hidden behind the grungy appeal of warehouse workouts and puking clowns is a fact becoming increasingly hard to ignore: CrossFit is “forging elite fitness” not like a blacksmith with a hammer and anvil, but like a scared child signing their father’s name on a bad report card – CrossFit is faking it.
Luckily, there is a simple solution. When a trainee walks through the door, ask why they came in, what they want. Then program specifically for them. Fortunately, there isn’t a large variety of goals, so you can have three or four programs running and just plug them into one with a few personal tweaks. And the different programs can have a fair amount of overlap, like sharing a couple of strength days. It would take more work, but you’d have happier healthier clients, which likely means more of them, so you can have more staff.
I came down pretty hard on CrossFit here, but I really did love my time at The Box. It was great for me because it caused me to realize that I hadn’t been pushing the intensity envelope as far as I could. I’m also really glad that I established a baseline competency with olympic lifts. The trainers were great, I’m sure better than most.
Also, spending a little time in a globo-gym since my days at The Box has shown me that the majority of trainees have horrible form – even with basics like the squat and deadlift. In the last month at 24hr Fitness, I’ve seen three people squatting without lifting their heels (compared to dozens up on their toes), and two of them told me they have been to a CrossFit box before.
The fact of the matter is that on the vast spectrum from zero activity to optimal, CrossFit is much closer to the latter than the former. What bothers me is that CrossFit is so close – has so much promise – yet has missed the mark a bit.
January 20, 2012
The year is just about over, which signals the coming of an important time in the health and fitness industries – new years resolution season.
We’ve all heard one dismal stat or another as to how few people actually follow through on their resolutions. I’m here with my best advice for making sure you aren’t one of those people.
*I typically dislike “5 Steps to blah blah blah” type posts, but this seemed like the most convenient way to package the message here.
1. Set Your Goals Wisely
Most people trip up right out of the gate, and understandably so, because goal-setting is a fickle game. Luckily, a few pointers can get you off and running in the right direction.
- Be open and honest with yourself about what your goals actually are. Striving for six-pack abs may not seem virtuous or valiant, but the heart wants what it wants.
- Be specific and quantify success when possible. If you want to impress all the other lunkheads in the rack at the globo-gym, pick a weight you want to be able to squat. Bad goal: “I will squat heavy.” Good goal: “I will squat 400lbs by July 1st.” This helps you formulate a useful plan and let’s you know when you’re done (so you can celebrate!).
- Pick reasonable goals and/or be open to the fact that it may take longer than you thought to achieve what you’d like to.
- Write them down – on paper. Put them where you will see them often. Tell everyone you know what your goals are, so you’ll feel accountable to them. Hell, put your goals on Facebook so random half-friends will inquire whether you were successful next year at a party.
2. Set a Plan to Achieve Your Goals
Just about any plan will work (at least for a while for most people). “Mine is best though, of course.” -Everyone
- Be reasonable and honest with yourself about how much time/energy you will actually to commit to this. The critical error many resolvers make here is borne out of exuberance and excitement. This is where “I will lose 10lbs of fat by April” turns into “I will hit the treadmill for two hours every night!”. I realize you are raring to go, but don’t make plans you will not be able to stick with all the way through to your goal.
- Again, be specific with your plans. This will make it very clear to you whether you are following your plan. Failure will not be so easily hand-waved away when your plan is crystal clear, black and white. Plans like “I will not drink any soda” and “I will lift weights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at 5pm” are good examples. Something like “I will drink less soda” or “I will work out three times per week” are not good.
- Make a good plan. This part requires the most work, but fortunately, is probably the least important for beginners. Obviously, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about optimal diet and exercise, and have well-formed opinions on the matter. I’ll list some basic recommendations for common goals at the end of this post. I think this education and interest has helped me tremendously (I’m way fitter than I thought I could ever be a few years ago), but most beginners can make progress on any half-decent plan so long as they stick with it. So don’t get all “paralysis by analysis” at this stage.
3. Actually Do It.
This one seems obvious (and it is). So there is no excuse for #$%*ing it up at this point. None.
Common Goal Types and What I Would Do
1. Fat Loss
Diet. Eat like this and you’ll lose fat without a problem (if you have fat to lose). If you’re of the female persuasion, stop taking oral contraceptives while you’re trying to lose fat. They don’t always cause fat gain, but they really work to prevent fat loss. Exercise can help here if it is smart (think short and intense or long and easy), but it isn’t necessary for fat loss. I don’t see any reason to force it if you’re not feeling it.
2. Muscle Gain
Lift HEAVY stuff and EAT A LOT. You’ll get the best results eating real food, but you can gain muscle eating just about anything. Go high-protein (1g/day/lb of body weight) and eat most of your calories post-workout to maximize returns. Read here for more detail for building a specific plan. If you’re a beginner you can get away with just about any silly crap for a while, but more advanced lifters will need to plan smarter.
3. Improved Health
If you have any goals that don’t really fit into the above, or some valuable advice to dispense, hit the comments.
December 28, 2011