Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why do you do a different workout every day?

This is the most common question I get from my “regular gym” friends. They are in the routine, no pun intended, of going to the gym and performing the same activity for the same amount of time everytime they go to the gym. Run 30 minutes on the treadmill, swim 20 laps, do 3 round of 5 reps of 4 different lifts…ROUTINE.

I always wonder, “why DON’T you do a different workout everyday?”  One of the fundamental  aspects of Crossfit is the promotion of complete fitness. This is partially achieved by the differing WODs assigned each day.

If an athlete practices on a specific skill or ability, he may become very good, even great, at that thing. However, if he is asked to do something else, then what?  If I am fast and super-efficient at running for 5 to 7 miles, I will necessarily be poor at running less than 5 or more than 7 miles. I have conditioned my body to specialize on a particular distance…anything else will not meet the needs of my specialty.

Interestingly, Life rarely  asks us to perform ONLY the thing we are best at. CrossFit promotes universal fitness because survival, professional endeavors, high adventure, or just life REQUIRE universal fitness. So the workouts are different everyday. How does that promote universal fitness, you ask?

The human body uses three metabolic pathways of energy for any action: phosphagen, glycolic, and oxidative. If the body needs HIGH POWER for a very short period of time, it uses the phosphagen pathway.  If MEDIUM POWER is required for a longer period—up to several minutes—the body uses the glycolic pathway. Finally, when long periods of time – more than several minutes – require low-power activity, the body chooses the oxidative pathway. In an article entitled “What is Fitness?” CrossFit Journal notes that  Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others and not recognizing the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training.”

The ultimate goal of CrossFit is for its athletes to perform well at any and all possible tasks. If an athlete, a human body, is ready for whatever the gauntlet of life might throw at it, the goal is achieved.  

On any given day, we may have to burst into a run to keep the toddler out of the street, spend several minutes moving boxes and books from one location to another, then sitting for 30 minutes helping that toddler in the bath.   

OR hastily donning 40lb. of equipment and running to the truck, riding for 20 minutes to the site of the fire, then assisting another firefighter as he aims the water at the fire.  

OR hiking for an hour to the rockface, prepping ropes and carabiners for 20 minutes, then climbing hand over hand up the face of the rock.  All of these activites…and so many more…require the doer to be universally fit, to be able to access all three pathways of energy.

Today’s WOD called for running, lifting, squatting and crunching. Tomorrow I may have to pull up and push up and jump up…and each day, my body gets better at pulling energy from the best pathway to fulfill the power required so that I am ready for anything…

THAT is why I do a different workout everyday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Olympic Lifting...because TECNIQUE

At Crossfit Champions, Coach Jeremiah Lee recently completed a 6 week Olympic Weightlifting class. Since weight training is so much a part of the whole Crossfit experience, it is not surprising that athletes would be interested in more individual training in that aspect of the sport.

Olympic Weightlifting has the reputation of being the most technically challenging strength sport, and our class participants found that to be a draw. When asked why they chose to take the class, all the participants included “improving technique” as a reason. As Margarita Cisneros, a dental assistant and Crossfit athlete put it, “I realized when you know the techniques, it makes it better and I feel safer doing the movements and it gives you confidence.”

As is often the case when we study something closely, interest and understanding increase exponentially. Hayden Pritchard, another class participant, pointed out that he had developed a “greater appreciation and understanding of the complexity of Olympic lifting.”  Of course, that understanding crosses over to all of his workouts. He is more conscious of his body and back position when doing any sort of lifting, even the much lighter metcon elements.  This was one of the goals of the class, according to Jeremiah. When athletes understand the intricacy of a weightlifting motion, they are safer lifters. Each element of a lift is important and must be performed correctly to avoid injury as well as increase strength.

Of course, the element of Crossfit training that I like the most (as you’ve probably noticed in my posts) is the agelessness of it.  Athletics is often considered the realm of youth; only young bodies can do those things, right? Crossfit has proven over and again that natural, practical movements are available to athletes of all ages. Olympic lifting filled that same bill for class participant Tara Carraway.  The 46 year old Dental Hygienist noticed a change in her mental fitness after completing the class. While benefiting from the ‘constructive criticism’ (as she put it) of her coach, she ultimately reached the conclusion that “age is just a number” and while she admits to still complaining a bit, her success was multiplied since she gained strength mentally and physically.

I have not ventured into extra classes at Crossfit Champions…yet. My 3-times-a-week workouts have been enough so far. But these athletes and others like them inspire me.  We all know that hard work and attitude are what get us results. These athletes took that idea that extra step and enrolled in the Olympic Weightlifting Class coached by Jeremiah Lee. For 6 weeks, they studied and practiced the techniques to make them better weight lifters; they listened and learned from the one-on-one coaching opportunities they got; they got results.  Props, Oly Lifters! I am ready for more specialty classes coming at the end of the summer!!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Using the TOILET?!

Do you know the #1 reason seniors are moved to assisted living facilities? They can’t get up off the toilet. Think about that for a minute.  How do you insure that, if you are otherwise self-sufficient, you can stay at home as long as possible? Make sure you can get up off the toilet. 

Think about the physical movement required to sit down on, and then stand up from, the toilet.  It is nothing more than a half-squat. What does it take to put groceries away? A series of farmer carrys and push-presses. 

So at 80 years old, my mother started Crossfit this week.  She was to attend my class on Monday morning, and she told me something on Sunday evening I think would be true for any senior about to take on Crossfit—or any new exercise program, for that matter. She said, “Half of me is excited about starting this and the other half is pretty sure it is a huge mistake!”  I didn’t blame her; I felt about the same way before I started Crossfit.  And for a woman her age, the doubting side might have been a little more than half. 

I assured her, as did our coach, that her feelings were quite justified and even healthy. The excited side should be primary in keeping her motivation up and getting her to The Box. Her doubtful side could then be the voice of reason during her workout to keep her from pushing beyond her abilities. As long as she keeps moving, she’s better off than she was before! And the great thing about Crossfit is that you can start at zero. Every skill is learnable, every movement is scalable. 

I think, and she would likely admit, that she took it a bit too easy the first day. She hardly broke a sweat, and in hot, humid Houston, that is a feat! But it was still a great workout, because she showed up. Wednesday was more involved—sweaty hair and red face! And Friday kicked up another notch; she was sore on Saturday. 

As we age, our joints get stiff and that can become a vicious cycle. The less you move, the worse you get and the worse you get, the less you CAN move.  Similarly, our muscles stay elastic and strong with use. When we quit using them, they become weak.  So it is important to keep moving; use your joints in their full range of motion, engage your muscles fully. 

Mom went ahead and signed up for a membership after her ‘free week’—I’m proud of her. Parents can be great role models no matter how old we get.