Thursday, April 2, 2015

Doughnuts and PR's

I am so PUMPED!!!

First off,  I got to start off the day with this guy:
Why hello there, beautiful. 

Yes, that right there is a strawberry cheesecake doughnut. With this in my belly, who can have an off day?

Fast forward to the workout. After coaching the beginner's class, I decided to lay out a barbell and see what happens. The result - a 275# clean and jerk, 5# PR! 280# didn't work out, so I kept cleaning. I ended up finally breaking that 300# mark with a 310# power clean!

I'm ecstatic about these improvements for two reasons. One, my right knee hasn't been very cooperative with me in my human juggernaut endeavors and pursuits, and I have only worked out once this week and twice in the last two weeks. Hitting the two PR's is assurance that my knee isn't destined to go under the knife.

Two, I'm still getting stronger despite a lifestyle that should dictate otherwise. I've got a full time job, a baby, and a fiancĂ© that eats up all my time. These things render me to very short workouts, most of them EMOMs, that rarely exceed 12 minutes. All these factors should make me weaker and less fit, and yet all the numbers are going up. Just goes to ahow you that you have to  actively make time when it doesn't simply present itself. Reminds me of a quote from Henry Rollins that has been floating around lately:

Go forth and lift!
~Coach J

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eclectic Strategies for Open 15.5

Okay, so I was half right. Last week I called thrusters and burpees as the final WOD of the 2015 CrossFit Open. Thrusters are the darling movement of CrossFit in general and to get through 5 weeks of programming without it is blasphemy. Here are my tips for survival. 

1.KNOW THY PACE. Thrusters are going to suck regardless of what else is coupled with them. I call them burpees with a barbell - they always produce shot to heck shoulders and jacked up heart rates. Throw rowing for calories on top and you've got a lactic acid inferno waiting to happen. Hit a few thrusters prior to starting so you can get an idea of how fast you can actually go. Side note: I'm normally not really down with preworkout supplements before WOD's anyway, but this is a different kind of beast. 15.5 is a short burst heart pumping massacre.  Taking one will at the very least throw your pace off, and at the most could put you in the hospital.

2. KNOW THY GRIP. This applies specifically to the thrusters. The thruster grip is generally a happy medium between the clean and jerk grips. Find your appropriate width first, then clean your bar and mark it with chalk. This takes the guesswork out of your setup and saves a few seconds.

3. KNOW THY BODY TYPE. 15.5 favors the middle of the road sized athlete - think Rich Froning, Matt Fraser, and my pick to win this workout that will be named later. The taller athlete may dominate the rower, but needs to travel a much longer distance for thrusters. The munchkin athlete that needs to move 3 inches to a CrossFit standard squat will lose out on the long levered advantage of the tall athlete. Know which of the three categories you fit best in and use your dimensions to your advantage. 

4. KNOW THYSELF. To me, this is one of the most mentally challenging WOD's I've seen in the open. It's a closed chain core to extremity pull and a closed chain core to extremity push with no rest in between. This will hurt and there's no way around it. Rowing for calories carries its own monster with it; at some point you will pull as hard as your body physically can and the number won't budge. This WOD will be a quick journey into the dark place that so many athletes mention. If you haven't been there before, I welcome you with open arms, for it is here where better people are made.

Back to my prediction of who will win 15.5. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Jason Khalipa. Average height, way above average engine and pain tolerance, and an exceptional rower for his dimensions. Best of luck!

Chalk up, throw down.
~Coach J

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Milky Chance, Doughnuts and Deadlifts

Sooooo I finally got around to copping Milky Chance's album Sadnecessary. If you haven't heard of this band yet, you've probably heard their hit single "Stolen Dance" somewhere on TV or while shopping. My first impression of this song is that it's an accurate representation of where indie/alternative music is headed. Cool smooth vocals over mellow rhythms and bass heavy beats have taken over the airwaves and it's absolute earmilk.
Sadnecessary is, in a word, simple. Unfortunately the word "simple" tends to be bedfellows with "stupid," which is far from the case with this album. The lyrics are poetic, eloquent, clever and clearly well thought out. The music itself however is extremely minimalist and dare I say repetitive; almost every song sounds the same and it seems intentional. I imagine the band going to the studio, picking 3-4 song templates and writing all night to them. The end result is a fluid album reminiscent of listening to a new band going through a gig - no changes in guitar or synth effects, no switching pickups. Just raw, wonderful music.
Random side note; Doughnuts and Deadlifts has ruined me. I've always been a proponent of IIFYM but now thanks to Krissy Mae Cagney I have a specific object of my flexible diet affections. Besides, I'm a pretty good deadlifter, 565lbs with no dedicated programming and no time to really work out. ✊ That delicious combination just sort of made sense for me.
And so here I stay, constantly perusing Instagram in search of my first shirt or hoodie that I'm soon to purchase and getting ravenous doughnut cravings at work. (Un)fortunately, I'm also 2 minute drive from Dunkin Donuts so today I picked up these bad boys!

...well, actually I ate them before I got the chance to take a pic . Anyway they were delicious, and I used them as fuel for today's WOD.

7:37 Rx'd, not bad for all the mess ups. Cheers! ✌

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Open 15.4 Tips

Oh boy! As if the muscle ups thrown in at the beginning of 15.3 weren't enough, now we've got a workout revolving around another popular goat - handstand pushups. CrossFit Games director Dave Castro is clearly trying to establish a line between the RX'd and scaled divisions, which is actually okay with me as many CrossFit boxes have evolved towards leveled programming anyway. Everyone had been releasing tips but most of them say the same thing, so here are a few not-so-obvious tips for surviving this 8 minute onslaught:

1. Get off of your shoulders. Actually impossible in this workout, but think about it; for 8 minutes you are either directly loading the shoulders via handstand pushups or you're loading them through tension and rotation through cleans. Those puppies are going to take a beating if you don't move the stress elsewhere. I personally recommend the legs and hips. Explode on the kip and ride the boost to the end of your handstand pushup. 185#/125# is a manageable weight for the experienced Crossfitter, one that doesn't require a ton of effort if you're hitting singles (more on that later). Get your hips into that clean and you won't destroy yourself.

2. Mobilize your hips.   In order to get the most out of it, the wind up on that kip should look like an inverted squat. If you're tight to begin with, you're cheating yourself out of better efficiency.

3. No bouncy bumper plates. Scott Panchik mentioned this at the showdown on Thursday night, and I think it's an excellent point. After every dropped clean, he almost had to chase the barbell down to stabilize it enough for the next rep. Save the headache, the time and effort and just use the dead weight plates.

4. NO CHALK. Yes, this is in caps for a reason. Dave Castro finally gave us a break as far as ripping our hands to shreds goes, so take advantage of it. Precious seconds in this workout will be wasted with trips to the chalk bucket. They're 185#/125# cleans, you don't need it. Stop rationalizing it in your head. You don't.

5. Singles on every clean. It doesn't matter how much barbell cycling you did on the Outlaw Way program, you need all the rest you can get. If you go touch-n-go on the cleans, you will pay for it with handstand pushups.

Welp, that's all I've got for 15.4 for ya. Best of luck this weekend!

P.S. What's missing so far in the 2015 CrossFit Open? Thrusters and burpees. Beware 15.5, I'm just saying.

~Coach J

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sucker Punched: Lessons from Life's SmackCam Victim

How much more can I take?

I don't know about you, but it's been a rough 2015 for me. Last year was incredible; the birth of my first child, finding a great job, discovering my passions and getting engaged (in that order. How's that for life sequence planning?)!

This year though- my goodness! Conflicts and car trouble and deaths and despair. Hopelessness and fear, rejection and disappointment. Things that I thought I had gotten over and gotten better from coming back and biting me while I was off guard. And I was too busy riding the high of my life at the current moment to prepare for the mental and emotional and spiritual blitzkrieg waiting for me on the other side.

The only warning I got was a series of sermons started at church. The message was about finding peace and purpose in the wilderness. I specifically remember sitting in the service thinking "Well God, life is pretty awesome. Maybe someone else in this room is going through hard times, but I guess this one isn't for me."

Everything started falling apart the next day.

And here I am, still in it with no idea when it'll be over. But as frustrated, weary and downtrodden as I've been there have been things that I've picked up on so far:

1. Find the lesson. In every conflict, misfortune, or downright rotten day, there is something to be learned. One of the greatest skills I have gained was to step outside of the misery of the moment and say "Alright, God. This sucks...what do I need to be taught in this?" To my utter surprise, instead of exposing me to ambiguous concepts such as hidden evils like the wise old sensei I'm guilty of imagining God to be, the answer was generally, "Here's how your approach to this could be better." WHAT? ME? I'M THE PROBLEM? "Well, you're making it worse, soooo yeah."

2. Come up for air. Do you remember learning to swim? Was there ever a time when you thought you were drowning? If you're reading this, you probably didn't drown, but why? Because you managed to catch your breath. There is only one instance in the history of mankind in which someone suffered every moment of every day in their wilderness- Job. As much as life may suck, it doesn't exist in one gigantic block of woe. Life ebbs and flows just like it always does, and we're given small victories throughout our hard times. It seems like common sense that we should cling to the good things that we experience, but we totally do the opposite. We allow the negative to drown out the positive simply because the negative tugs harder on our subconsciousness. By acknowledging and appreciating our victories, we take a deep breath of "it's going to be okay" before getting hit with another wave.

3. Don't expect an instant rescue. This was/is a hard one for me to swallow. It doesn't make any sense because King David spends a huge chunk of Psalms begging God for deliverance from pretty much everything. If it was good enough for someone as great as him it should be good enough for me, right? I used to think so until I came across this passage:

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Growth doesn't happen much when everything is copacetic. Growth occurs when life forces us to grow, and there's no better time than- you guessed it- the wilderness *insert aww crap emoji here*. Pay attention to the first part, " order to keep me from becoming conceited." It still doesn't say that God levied this burden on me, but it does say that He takes advantage of the opportunity to be more than enough for me. With that perspective, it's no wonder why Paul rejoiced in his misgivings and hard times. He realized that he was being strengthened and prepared for victory by an omnipotent God!

I'm now in the process of accepting this for myself, but boy is it something to be excited about! It's like being in a boxing match with Mike Tyson throwing the punches for you. The key in surviving hardship is to surrender, something we naturally would rather not do while we are already losing our grip. We're control freaks, the whole lot of us, and we panic when life spins uncontrollably. Leaning on God's immeasurable grace, giving up our burdens enables us to be strengthened in our weakest moments.

If this post helps nobody else, it serves as a reference for me in my times of wilderness. No matter how bad it gets I'm in this place for a reason; to learn to rely on the One who is greater than my circumstance and to develop myself in preparation for the next step in my life.

Friday, January 24, 2014

4 Reasons to Forget Your BMI Right Now

This whole blog summed up in a pic. Now scroll down and watch me rant.

So the entire health and fitness industry has been royally ticking me off lately, and one of the plethora of annoyances has been that people care entirely too much about the Body Mass Index, or BMI. Let me skip the pleasantries and get straight the point.

At the time of this post I am 5'11" and 210 lbs. I have visible abs. My BMI is 29.3 and I am thereby overweight and less than 1 point away from being obese. According to the BMI, for me to be considered "healthy" I should weigh between 132.66 and 178.55 lbs. Forget that.

Along with age (don't even get me started), the BMI is the most worthless and inaccurate number used in gyms today, and you probably shouldn't even bother paying attention to it. Here's why:

1. You want to look athletic. Yes, you do. Stop arguing, yes you do. If your gut response is, "No, I want to look toned," slap yourself immediately. First, toning doesn't exist. Secondly, what do you think that "toned" look is? Lean body mass and low body fat. There's a reason why those workout motivation posters have taken over all things social media; the vast majority of people don't want to look skinny.

So what does that have to do with my BMI? It is widely accepted that the Body Mass Index is an inappropriate measurement for athletes. Why? Because...

2. If you really exercise, it's absolutely useless. By exercise, I'm specifically addressing those of us who weight train with a purpose. The reason why it's worthless in the case of athletes is because it doesn't account for muscle mass. In other words, it sees you as a blob. You could be chiseled out of granite or look like a Muk Pokemon, it doesn't matter. You're a blob that is this tall and ways this much. Somehow both are in the same health classification and are at the same risk for heart attacks and diabetes? Blob please.

3.It turns the scale into the Boogeyman. C'mon, we're still not over this yet? Aren't there enough people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia already? For people who are trying to get lean, this subconsciously teaches that lower on the scale = good and higher = bad. Even if you know that the BMI is no good with muscle, you can still feel bad for doing better!

4. There are much better measuring options. If low body fat is your goal, why not measure wellIdunno FAT?? Even if you're trying to gain some muscle, you can more accurately measure how much of that extra mass is muscle vs. fat. Throw in circumference measurements with a measuring tape and you've got a pretty clear picture of body composition. Every competent personal trainer knows how to use skinfold calipers, so why the heck are we still using the BMI?

In summation, The Body Mass Index has become a very dated resource for determining someone's health. It's not the inventor's fault, he came up with it in the mid-1800's. We as health professionals have completely dropped the ball on letting this stay relevant. Life insurance companies even look at your BMI before determining the price you pay, and a higher score means a higher premium. I'm paying more for trying to be a fit beefcake? For trying to live longer? Are you kidding me?

 If at all possible, have your body fat and body cirumferences measured. That way, you can fully understand what your body is comprised of and develop strategies to achieve or maintain those optimal numbers. And if you think I'm done ranting, just wait until the next one...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 10 Squat Commandments (revised)

Trust, I'm making this exact face as I type this.

 Welcome to the Temple of Squat

I've been on a strange alpha male kick this year, and with it came a desire to toss my aesthetic pursuit to the back seat and become a 230 lb athletic juggernaut of a human being. For me, that means gobbling up all food morsels and some small animals, wrestling tigers, and attacking compound lifts on a daily basis.

 One of the most noticeable differences in my training is my approach to the squat. I've been squatting 4-5 times a week now and now there is no trepidation on my part. Where I used to spend the day in preparation, I now walk in with confidence and acquaintance with the most hated yet respected exercise.

There has been a set of Squat Commandments that has circled the internet for some time now, and while I like them, they're a bit scattered and feel somewhat incomplete. Plus, they aren't in Old English which should be a no brainer (because I can't write Aramaic and you can't read it).

In direct application to these commandments, I find that certain meatheads cannot be pursuaded to squat. However, they can be ridiculed for their puny legs and even punier squat numbers into doing something about it. Shun the non-believer! Shunnn!!
Probably the most delicious squat of all time
  1. He who doth not squat doth not train.  Plain and simple. If you are an able bodied human being (i.e. you have legs) and are capable of squatting, you better be squatting. Understanding its place as a both an essential pattern of human movement and fundamental element of strength should compel you to do it.
  2. Thou shalt not fear the squat. Eliminate all the myths about this exercise. They don't make you slower (Colts running back Trent Richardson squats 700 lbs with ease and runs a 4.3 sec 40 yard dash), your knees should go past your toes (or they wreak havoc on your hips), and squats will not hurt you if you follow the next few commandments.
  3. Thou shalt fear the squat. I know I just said not to fear it, but I mean it in terms of respect. Squats will hurt you if you approach them haphazardly or perform them outside of your abilities, which is why...
  4. Thou shalt learn to squat correctly.  One of the most common excuses for not squatting is that you hurt *insert muscle here* the last time you squatted so now you just leg press (because it's practically the same thing right? *facepalm*). Save your knees, hips, and back from the start and take the time to discover what a good squat looks like, how it feels, and practice the movement until you get it.
  5. Thou shalt squat often. That crippling soreness that tiptoes towards paralysis that you feel in the morning? Yeah, that's because you're probably not squatting enough. Increasing your frequency should alleviate some of that, provided you aren't stupid about it. Mix heavy days up with speed days to prevent overtaxing yourself.
  6. Thou shalt squat deep. The internet has made a huge deal out of squatting until the thighs are parallel in the last few years (thanks, Misc), but even that is somewhat misguided. The whole reasoning behind it is that parallel is the minimum for what counts in the sport of powerlifting. Parallel is nice, but you should really be squatting as deep as possible. CrossFit has a great standard of having the crease of the hip drop below the knee. Bottom line, get low. Friends don't let friends squat high.
  7. Thou shalt ditch thy gear. All of it, at least at first. Very few lifters will reach the point where they truly need a belt, and you're probably not one of them. Don't be lazy, learn to brace and breathe and you won't even miss that restrictive belt. As much as they help, toss your $200 Olympic weightlifting shoes to the side for the time being and work on good squatting mechanics with your dirty, mud covered pair of Chuck Taylors, or even better, your bare feet. And for the love of God, you don't need to sniff ammonia to squat 185 lbs, you wuss.
  8. Thou shalt pursue mobility with reckless abandon. Hips and ankles feeling locked up and hindering your deep squat? Fix them. Excuses like "I'm too old" or "I'm just not flexible" don't hold weight anymore. Youtube has thousands of squat-specific hip and ankle mobility videos at your disposal. Get to studying, kiddies.
    And you can't squat deep because...?

  9. Thou shalt not squat timidly. A pet peeve of mine is when I see people passively walk up to the bar and gently lift it off of the hooks. I'm not saying you have to roar and slam the weights, but show a shred of focus! Pick that bar up out of the rack as if you're standing up at the end of a speed squat. Control yourself on the way down, and explode out of the bottom as fast as you can. Be aggressive!
  10. Thou shalt squat with an open heart. A bit controversial, but what the heck. I use the squat rack to shape my character - resilience, strength, and the ability to overcome are continuously running through my mind. I've squatted myself clean out of depression before. Bad things happen, and the squat has become my therapy session, teaching me that no matter how much life may suck, I'll either die or I'll be better for it. That's something worth having.

    Hope this makes you look at your squat differently. In the words of Ido Portal, "Move. Because you can. If you won't, tomorrow you might not be able to. MOVE."