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Tuesday
Jul162013

Yay, push-ups!!

I suck at push-ups.  They even bested me in a competition once.  This 50-push-ups-a-day challenge is definitely good for me, so I’m trying really hard to make some actual progress... not just put in some reps.  As I tell my students, practice doesn’t make perfect.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.  If you’re doing your push-ups wrong every day, you’re only going to get better at doing them wrong.

So here are some things I’m working on:

  • Position.  Feet close together, on my toes, hands under my shoulders, elbows in, core (abs, quads, and booty) tight through the whole SET.  Not rep.  Set.

  • Depth.  I’m NOT doing hand-release push-ups for this challenge.  When I do HR push-ups, I tend to relax too soon on the way down and then worm back up.  So I’m getting my shoulders below my elbows (which for me means my chest touches the deck), but not resting at the bottom of the movement.  Try it sometime.  It's hard.  I do a full set of 10 and then rest.

This week I’m going to see how many I can do with good form without the Sling Shot.  My goal is to be able to do sets of 10 Rx (real Rx, not wormy Rx-ish) by the end of my 30-day Challenge (I started July 8th).

How are you doing on your push-ups?  What mods are you doing?  What’s your goal for this challenge?  Drop and give me 10!!

-Crystal


More info on push-up standards and mods:
http://www.clearlakecrossfit.net/clcf-blog/2012/9/23/rx-check-push-ups.html

Thursday
Mar212013

Mobility and Recovery

How much thought do you give to your pre- and post-WOD work?  I’m talking about mobility, stretching, and recovery.  A lot of injuries can be prevented by taking care of yourself outside of the gym.

Pre-workout mobility work.  Back and shoulder injuries seem to be pretty common in CrossFit and Weightlifting.  Protect yourself with some mobility work.  Remember, everything’s connected, so don’t just work on the spot that hurts.  Work on all of the surrounding and supporting soft tissue.

  • Foam Rolling.  Lots of it.   Back, glutes, hamstrings, IT bands, quadriceps.  6-8 passes on each muscle.  When you find a knot or a “sticky” spot, hang out there for a bit until you feel it release.

  • Lacrosse Ball Rolling.  Use the lacrosse ball for more “targeted” rolling.  I also find it better for working on my shoulders.

  • Resistance Band Stretching.  I take a heavy resistance band and wrap it around a pull-up bar, then pull on it to warm up the shoulders.  You can also use it for shoulder passes and “around the worlds” like we do with the PVC pipe.

Ask your coach or a more experience athlete if you need help with these.  There’s also a nifty chart in the equipment room for foam rolling technique.

Warm-up.  Don’t skimp on your warm-up, and don’t hesitate to speak up if you don’t feel prepared for the WOD.  If you’ve gotten “cold” between the group warm-up and your turn at the WOD, then take a few seconds to do some burpees or squats to get your heart rate back up.  Be sure you’ve tried out all of the movements at the workout weight before the word “Go!”

Stretching.  Be sure to stretch all the muscles you used in your workout, and all the major muscle groups in general.  It only takes a few minutes, so do this before you leave the gym.  Mobility work like stretching and foam rolling can be done anytime, anywhere.  Next time you’re settling in to watch your favorite t.v. show, sit down on the floor and go through some stretches or foam rolling.  Take a lacrosse ball in to work with you.  There really is no such thing as “too much” mobility work.

Recovery.  Do you know that you don’t get stronger by lifting heavier weights?  You get stronger by recovering from lifting heavier weights.  Aside from your stretching and foam rolling, there are some other things you can do to take care of you muscles and joints.

  • Eat Real Food.  Sticking with good nutrition will help your body repair itself, and it will control inflammation.  Don’t use your workout as an excuse to “indulge”.  In reality, the harder you train, the more you need to take care of your body with proper nutrition.

  • Epsom Salt.  Take a soak in the tub with a cup or two of epsom salt dissolved in your bath water.  Your body will absorb the magnesium, which will aid in muscle recovery.  It will also help you sleep well.  Try the epsom soak about 20 minutes before bed.

  • Ice Bath.  I generally only do this after a really tough workout, or if an old injury flares up.  You can spot ice if you feel that you over-worked a muscle, but an ice bath can also be helpful after a really strenuous workout or competition.

  • Sleep.  As much as possible.  Eight or more hours a night in a pitch-black, cool room.  Good sleep is absolutely vital to muscle recovery.

I’ve visited Dr. Unger a few times for my back injury.  After his treatment, do you know what he always prescribes?  Foam rolling, stretching, and icing.  As Kelly Starrett (mobilitywod.com) says, “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.”  Are you taking care of your body?  It’s the most important machine you have, and you only get one!

Friday
Mar152013

3... 2... 1... Rest?

Rest is something we CrossFitters aren’t good at.  In fact, we get yelled at for doing too much of it in a WOD.  When the clock is running, it’s time to go, but there is a time to rest, too.

As you ramp up your training schedule, it is imperative that you get adequate rest and nutrition.  And by rest, I don’t just mean taking a couple of days off from CrossFit every week.  I mean sleep.  Ever tried to CrossFit after a poor night’s sleep?  Doesn’t work out too well, does it?

Sleep is much more important than most people realize.  Did you know that inadequate sleep is actually linked to obesity and disease?  If you’re trying to improve your health, but not sleeping enough, then you’re ignoring a vital component to your success.

I will admit that I have a hard time consistently doing what I’m about to recommend, but I know that I feel a lot better when I do:

  • Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.  Yes, that’s right.  Get off the computer, leave the phone in the charger, turn off the television, and dim the lights in your house.  Read a book, pet the dog, talk to your spouse, or tuck in the kids.  This helps your body to unwind and prepare for rest.
  • Allow at least eight hours for sleep.  Yeah, I know, that’s a hard one for me, too.  We’re all busy, but sleep is more important than you realize.  Would you skip a meal?  A workout?  Don’t cheat your body on rest.
  • Sleep in a pitch-black, cool room.  This is how our bodies are designed to rest.  I leave my cell phone in another room and cover up my alarm clock with a towel.  Seriously.

Sometimes I still have a lot of trouble falling asleep.  My work day often feels like a WOD of life stuff – go, go, go, no time for rest.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, my mind starts racing and making “to-do” lists for the next day.  Here are a few things that help me relax at night:

  • Epsom Salt.  Soak in the tub right before bed with a cup or two of epsom salt dissolved in your bath water.  It will help with muscle recovery, and you'll fall asleep more easily.
  • Valerian Root.  I have a tea with valerian root in it.  A cup of that and a good book in a dimly-lit room and I'm out in no time.
  • Sleep Works.  This AdvoCare product works great as well.  Ask Ben or your coach about it sometime.

As you’re getting into your spring routine, try to establish some new habits of rest.  See how much good rest affects how you feel.  Then see if you can rest less during that WOD.

When it’s time to go, GO.  But don’t forget to take time for proper rest.

Tuesday
Mar052013

J.E.R.F., Part II: Just Eat Real Food

"Eat meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar." - Coach Greg Glassman

Earlier this week I wrote about inflammation.  Before your eyes glaze over and you navigate away, this is the more basic part of that post.  “Just tell me what to eat, and keep it practical!”  OK.  Are you ready?

Just. Eat. Real. Food.

Seriously.  It’s that simple.

Do your shopping on the outer sections of the grocery store.  Grab some fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, plenty of meat, and coconut oil for cooking.  Look for ingredients, not products.  In the words of Jack LaLanne, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

Real Food has certain qualities: it grew from the ground (or on a bush or a tree), or it once walked, swam, or flew.  Real Food can be hunted or gathered.  No, throwing your pizza on the floor so you can “gather” it doesn’t count...

The other thing about Real Food?  It goes bad.  Processed food-like products last an unnaturally long time.  The longer its shelf life, the shorter yours.

In case you’re wondering... here are the most inflammatory foods in the modern human diet:

1) Omega-6 fats.  More precisely, it is an imbalance of Omega-6 to Omega-3.  The biggest contributors to this imbalance are common cooking oils (vegetable, canola, etc.), and conventionally raised meat (corn-fed animals have higher levels of Omega-6 fats).  If you can’t do grass-fed meat right now, no problem.  Just look for leaner cuts and be sure to supplement with a good fish oil.

2) Grains.  Gluten-containing grains (like wheat) are the worst offenders, but all grains contain some gut-irritating anti-nutrients.

3) Sugar.  This does not include the natural sugars found in fruit.  I’m talking about the refined white stuff that’s in every processed food at your supermarket.

4) Dairy.  Let me be more specific and say conventional dairy.  Grass-fed dairy is a better option; raw is best.  Always get full-fat dairy.  Yes, FULL FAT.  It shouldn’t have any added sugar like the low-fat and fat-free stuff.

5) ???  Some people have trouble with eggs or nuts or tomatoes...  You have to figure out what foods you tolerate.

So when we talk about eating “Paleo”, we’re really talking about controlling systemic inflammation by eating whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods.  There will be a lot of individual variation within the anti-inflammatory framework, but eating properly isn’t just about looking better or running faster.  It’s about improving the overall quality of your life and preventing disease.

Here are some things to remember:

You don’t have to be perfect.  Make the best choices available, most of the time.  Don’t sweat slip-ups, and it’s okay to have a treat once in a while.

Better is always better.  You may not be ready for full-on organic, grass-fed, locally-sourced Paleo.  That’s ok.  Get a steak and sweet potato from HEB.  Still too much?  Grab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and a bag of veggies to steam in the microwave.  Top it off with some fruit for dessert.  It’s just as fast as a drive-through, I promise.

Take it one meal at a time.  What good choices can you make at your next meal?  Paleo is pretty darn easy to stick to at most restaurants.  You might have to ask (nicely!) for some substitutions, but it’s usually very doable.

If you have questions or need some help getting started, hit up Ben or one of the coaches.  We’re here for more than just the WOD!

Tuesday
Mar052013

J.E.R.F., Part I: Inflammation

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

I recently read The Great Cholesterol Myth, a book that challenges the idea that dietary fat and cholesterol are the primary causes of heart disease.  There is increasing evidence that the real culprits are oxidation, inflammation, sugar, and stress.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote about stress; today I want to talk about inflammation.

in-flam-ma-tion

noun. redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body, especially as a reaction of tissues to injurious agents.

As with stress, it’s important to distinguish between acute inflammation and chronic or systemic inflammation.  Acute inflammation is easy enough to understand: you twist your ankle, it swells.  We all know that, with an injury, you have to let the injury heal.  If you keep running on a sprained ankle, it will stay inflamed.

So what kind of inflammation is it that can lead to heart disease?  It’s the same inflammation that can leave you vulnerable to other diseases and conditions, from acne to obesity to cancer.  If you eat foods you're not designed to eat, you will live with chronic, systemic inflammation.  The kind that affects your internal organs, blood stream, hormones, joints, and digestion.  This is systemic inflammation caused by poor diet.  Yes, I’m going to tell you that -in most cases- any abnormal condition you are experiencing can be controlled with lifestyle, starting first and foremost with food.

Let’s talk about normal.  There are many things that are very common, but are not normal.  Diabetes, obesity, heart disease.  These are all frighteningly common today, and these conditions are affecting younger and younger populations.  None of these things is normal.  It is not normal to have to take insulin, to be excessively over-fat, or for your heart to have trouble pumping blood.  Our bodies are pretty darn remarkable, and when we fuel them properly, they will function properly (for the vast majority of us).

So... what is normal?

Personality quirks aside, “normal” will look something like this:

Clear skin
Stable energy and mood
Strong immune system
Deep sleep
Good digestion
Appetite (not “cravings”)
Healthy levels of body fat (I’m not going to open this can of worms right now.  Just know that there is such a thing as too much -and too little- body fat)

And, of course, any disease or condition is an indication that something is amiss.

So what are the inflammatory foods that cause poor digestion, unstable blood sugar, heart disease, etc.?  Your hint is in the title of this post.  Anyone know what "JERF" stands for?

Stay tuned for Part II - coming soon to a web page near you.