Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’
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
My latest endeavor is a 10-week CrossFit trial, which I’m about 10 weeks through. This post is about what I’ve been doing and what it has done for me. In a few weeks, I’ll have a post detailing what I think about CrossFit in general. These are my personal impressions, my next post on the subject will be about CrossFit methodologies and practices on a broader scale.
My schedule has been three workouts per week (MWF mornings), and I follow the programming designed by the head trainer of the box I attend. In preparation, I spent the spring on a dedicated strength program, then mixed in more high-intensity work over the summer.
The first lesson I learned is that I had no idea what high-intensity really means. Daunting workouts with a screaming trainer got me seeing “the white buffalo in the sky” like never before.
The first two weeks or so, the workouts were nearly impossible, and I was ravenously hungry outside of the gym. Then, almost like a switch was flipped, the workouts got easier (still hard, but they seemed more manageable), and I had no appetite at all for weeks three and four. I had to force down meals, even smoothies, and I was hot just about all the time. During this period, I went from about 10% BF to about 9%BF – pretty impressive and unexpected. Since then, my body fat has pretty much come back to where it was (which is fine with me, honestly).
I attribute these changes after the first two weeks to increased mitochondrial fat adaptation. Whether I developed greater mitochondrial density, or they just got more efficient – I don’t know, or care. I’m impressed with the change though, because I had already been eating paleo, exercising regularly, and fasting frequently for over a year. I guess there is something fairly magical about working really, really hard.
Somehow I neglected to mention the great increase I’ve seen in capacity due to my CrossFit training. I measure my capacity with sprint repeats. I run as far as I can for 10 seconds, then rest for 60. When my distance drops below 90% of my max for the session, I call it a day. Comparing a test last week with my last test before starting CrossFit, my capacity (measured in number of sprints completed) has increased about 62%. Pretty impressive.
Below is a before and after pic, though I misplaced my camera in the spring. So the before pic is from April (instead of September, I was leaner and more muscled by September), and the after pic is low res/generally crappy. So it is basically useless, but I feel like a post of this nature needs a picture.
I have also gained some skills I didn’t possess going in. My bar muscle-ups are much stronger, and my handstands have improved immensely, especially considering how little specific work I’ve put in. I had basically never done any olympic lifting, and now I feel comfortable with all the major lifts. The trainers have even helped me improve my form on lifts I thought I had down pat; they have helped me engage my lats and keep my head neutral on the deadlift, and I can get deeper in the squat without a butt wink through improved thoracic mobility (h/t to KStar as well).
I have really enjoyed the experience, but in the interest of balance, it’s not all great news.
I feel like I am in a constant state of recovery. Despite being dedicated to recovery (described in detail below), I feel like I’m only really at 100% for the hour between waking and training on Monday mornings. This brings up serious questions in my mind about the benefits of CrossFit for general physical preparedness (GPP), which I’ll discuss in my next installment.
My strength has dropped a bit (i.e. 1RM deadlift down from 400# to 330#), as I expected going in. I could probably keep it up if I dropped to two CF workouts per week plus a pure strength session.
I have some shoulder issues (separated each shoulder playing hockey), and despite my best efforts to protect and maintain my shoulder health, I fear they are a little worse for the wear. I never do sumo deadlift high pulls (my one deviation from the workout prescriptions) or kipping pullups, and I work my shoulders with mobwods and lacrosse balls constantly. Still, my shoulders now each click in two places on full rotation, and are often knotted and nasty.
It got a little better as time progressed, but I found it pretty stressful to not be doing my own programming. That combined with not knowing what the workout entailed until 30 min before it started really gave me fits. It’s a little paralyzing to not know what you can/should do today because you don’t know what tomorrow’s training will be.
These complaints are by no means a serious indictment of CrossFit – that will come in the next post.
As mentioned above, I trained MWF 8am.
As has become my custom (thanks Leangains!) I go into my workouts fasted with 10g BCAAs. Most days I trained on about 14 hrs of fasting.
Immediately after my workout, it’s time for food and cold therapy. On days where most of the work has been lower body, it’s 50lbs of ice in the tub. On more upper body days, I go up to the neck in our pool (it’s insanely cold – I’d guess under 45F). Wherever I soak, it’s for 25-30 minutes, during which I eat the first two servings of my post workout meal:
Smoothie: whey, strawberries, banana, creatine, store-brand emergenC
Entree: 1 lb of chicken cooked dry
Dessert: either 1 lb of sweet potato mixed with applesauce and whey or a few bowls of store-brand (white) rice chex with raw milk or colostrum. Not the most “Paleo” meal, but it’s gluten-free, and makes ~2000 cals in one sitting pretty palatable. The giant PWO meal is a huge help with recovery.
I hit the rumble roller hard on afternoons, typically adding in a MobWod or two for what’s tight.
Outside of the PWO meal, I typically eat two large meals a day, super clean paleo. I pretty much just eat beef, sweet potatoes, eggs, liver, bone marrow, pork, coconut oil, and cheese, totaling about 3000 cals/day.
Supplements are pretty basic: 5k iu VitD, 1 tbsp CLO, 8g creatine, and 450mg Mg-Malate with 35g Zn a half hour before bed. Min 8 hrs sleep, 9-10 most nights.
The Bottom Line
All in all, I’ve enjoyed it a lot, but I don’t think I’ll join a box again any time soon. I’ll definitely be implementing high-intensity workouts (now that I know how intense that really can be), but they’ll be less frequent, and I’ll do the programming myself. I’ll probably even throw down some classic CrossFit benchmarks (the girls) on occassion. I’ll miss the trainer’s guidance/encouragement, and the group warmups.
4 comments November 28, 2011
Courtesy of Fitday, nutrient breakdowns of about 150 cals by % of RDA for 2000 cal diet (click to enlarge):
Of course, advocates of safe starch are not recommending replacing steak with potatoes. More like as a replacement of gratuitous coconut oil, bacon grease, walnuts I guess – the possibilities are many.
For the record – I eat lots of steak and lots of sweet potatoes.
You may also like my latest thoughts on nutrition.
October 12, 2011