Inside The Cult of CrossFit

A couple of days ago, a member from our gym posted this article from Men’s Health on our member Facebook page. It sparked quite a bit of online commentary from our members and coaches….which I love. If you haven’t read the article and you are a CrossFitter, you must read it.

I’m writing this today to express how insanely lucky I am to have been at the quality gyms. I have worked with amazing owners and trainers. I have worked out with and coached stellar athletes, both in attitude and ability. My CrossFit experience has been the best and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I hope in thirty years I’m still doing pull ups and running 5K’s because of CrossFit.

Now onto the article and a few conversation topics I want to bring up…..

The author starts by telling how he got into CrossFit.  He talks about the ideology of CrossFit and has commentary from fitness experts (the degree kind and the “actually in the gym” kind).  He brings up some valid points during the article that I cannot 100% disagree with. First, he talks about how CrossFit trainers are trained. For those who do not know, to become a certified Level 1 CrossFit trainer you must attend a weekend certification seminar. This is a combination of classroom and hands on learning. I will be the first to admit, there are probably plenty of people who are certified that have no business training anyone.

That being said, there are a lot of fantastic CrossFit trainers who know their stuff and are flat-out phenomenal. I think it is pretty easy to spot a good trainer versus a poor trainer. If I see someone telling a first timer they need to be using RX’d weight no matter how long it takes, then I immediately have reservations. If they aren’t drilling good technique into their athletes every day, then I have some reservations. If they scream in your face, well, you just have to decide if that is for you or not. We all have our own style. 🙂 I dance to encourage my classes….

A good trainer or bad trainer can make all the difference in your CrossFit experience. I do my best to try to get to know every athlete in my class. There are always new ones so I’m not going to be able to size them up in one look and say, “You should use 225# on the dead lift” if I have never seen them dead lift. I’m not psychic. However, if I watch their form as they warm up and how they handle light weight I can give them a solid, informed suggestion erring on the side of caution until I get to know them better.  I like being able to look at someone and say, “you can do more” or “let’s modify this” because I know their history and abilities. It makes them feel like you care (because you really do) and they get more out of their time in the gym. Good trainers take time to get to know everyone. Not just the fire breathers.

He goes on to talk about how CrossFit programming doesn’t make sense from a strength training program. This is coming from the opinion of a journalist who “observed” a Level 1 Certification. It doesn’t say if this journalist has been active in CrossFit to remark on his own experience rather than his opinion from two days of spectating…

“The programming doesn’t make sense from a strength-training standpoint. The reality is, a lot of guys who go to the gym want to put on some muscle. CrossFit is not the optimum way to go about doing that.”
Bryan Krahn, C.S.C.S

Well, I guess if your goal is to only be able to squat 900 pounds than CrossFit might not be for you. But if you want to get stronger? How can this program not work for you? From my own experience, I am a heck of a lot stronger than I was when I walked in the door of CrossFit Jenks 3 1/2 years ago at 125 pounds and a size 4. Now, at 135 pounds and still the same size 4, I can lift more, push more, pull more, endure more than I could pre CrossFit. I would say CrossFit helped me put on about ten pounds of muscle and gain a lot of strength. Sounds like a good muscle-building program to me. So do you want to put on muscle so you can show off muscle or do you want to put on muscle so you can do something with it?

I have yet to hear a single athlete in my classes complain that CrossFit is not helping them become stronger.

A little further in the article Greg Glassman goes on to explains how CrossFit makes you functionally fit and not a specialist and that,  “In the real world, the best physiques belong to people who have functional capacity.” In response, the author of the article talks about his experience….

“That contradicts my own observations at my local CrossFit gym. If Glassman’s brand of functional fitness produces better aesthetic results than the traditional approach does, why did the gelatinous bodies at my gym often outperform those who appeared to be in better shape?”

First, shame on this man. My guess, there are a lot of people in that gym that are in the process of changing their lives. I see those people everyday. They might not have the model body, but they work hard, they are dropping weight, gaining muscle, they push themselves and they are strong. The physical aesthetic that comes from CrossFit takes time. You don’t walk in the door and walk out one month later looking like Rich Froning. However, that would be awesome for everyone involved.

I see ripped up bodies that couldn’t hold a candle to what some of the ladies in our gym can do. I think what Glassman is saying is that a strong CrossFit body is functionally fit. It doesn’t mean every CrossFitter is going to have a six-pack, but we aren’t soft. We have muscle and some curves and those are HOT!  We aren’t skinny Victoria’s Secret models and I don’t want to be one. I will gladly be the one that is underestimated because of how I look. Give me a barbell and then I will show you something.  If this guy goes back to that gym in six months I bet his jaw would drop to the floor when he sees those “gelatinous bodies” again.

He goes on to talk about how CrossFit encourages injury with repetitive movement. This can be so true with a lot of different movements. Olympic lifting is complicated and you can do some messed up things to your body if you don’t have someone teaching it correctly. We encourage our athletes to work with trainers one on one or during open gym to further develop their olympic lifting technique so when it shows up in class they are ready to go. You can’t learn a proper snatch in twenty minutes, I agree with his thinking here, but disagree that all gyms throw you to the wolves unprepared for the movements. Doing an olympic lift won’t hurt you, but doing it incorrectly can.

Good programming solves a lot of these problems. If you see pull ups in your daily WODs three days in a row that probably isn’t a good thing. If all you ever do is heavy dead lifts, that probably isn’t a good thing. If you get a good mix of cardio, gymnastics and weight lifting in your weekly programming then you are probably good to go.

Obviously, the author of this article did not have the best experience. Whether that is because of his trainers, the environment, the program or his ego remains to be seen. More than likely, it is a combination of all the above. I have yet to go to a gym where I am encouraged to go until I puke. I have never seen a trainer congratulate someone for becoming sick as he alludes to in the article.

I know CrossFit is not everyone’s cup of tea and that is fine. I love his sentiment at the end where he recognizes how much CrossFitters love CrossFit and he hopes he finds something he loves as much. Laura, from our gym, commented best when she said “CrossFit is not for those who cannot check their ego at the door”. Given the proper coaching and environment CrossFit can transform your life if you let it. You don’t have to be a superstar, you just have to want to be better. CrossFitters are fanatical about CrossFit because it has given them so much: Confidence, family, strength, fun, accomplishment and goals to strive for.

In my 11AM class today I saw two of our women going through the WOD together. They both admittedly do not like running so during running WODs they help each other to keep moving. It was a 20 min AMRAP of 400 m run, 10 KB front squats and 15 KB swings. During the squats and swings they were encouraging each other saying things like “you’ve go this”, “keep it up”, ” we can do it”. And you know what? They kept moving and did amazing. How inspiring is that? That is what CrossFit is about and what makes it awesome.

Feel Good Inc.

I feel like a new person.

A little history on my CrossFit/Nutrition journey. After my first regional competition in 2009 I saw how uh-mazing the ladies were that qualified for the games. Carey Kepler, Crystal McReynolds, Lindsey Smith… Not only were they fantastic athletes, but I noticed how well they ate. I saw them with healthy snacks during the competition and eating chicken breasts while I ate a burger and bun. Learning more about Games athletes and how important nutrition was to them sparked an interest in me.

I thought to myself, what would happen to me if I ate better? Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t eat awful. I still ate a lot of protein, veggies and fruit, but fat (nut butters and olive oil) was almost non-existent in my diet. I still had oatmeal in the morning and black beans for dinner. I let myself have sweets on special occasions, but didn’t overload during regular life. I was healthy and trim and very content. I didn’t see a huge need to change until I realized I could change a lot.

I went strict paleo for two months the beginning August following that competition. The first two weeks were awful. I felt tired. I wanted sugar more than anything. Then, all the sudden…I felt awesome. I dropped a couple of pounds, but didn’t see a drastic change in my body like I was hoping. I chalked this up to “well, I guess this is just where my body wants me to stay”.

After those two months I tried to adapt a 85/15 lifestyle of paleo. Very clean, but a fun two or three meals a week. It worked for me. The problem is, I can talk myself into anything. When I’m really hungry I can tell myself that my body “needs” twizzlers. I know, whose body actually needs twizzlers? Well, sometimes mine does. I accepted that.

I never worry about my weight. I always swing back and forth two or three pounds depending on how much I’m running or if I’m lifting heavy. I still always feel lean. I still always have been lean. The problem is, because I don’t see big gains if I eat poorly, I’m not really motivated to eat well all the time. I’m OK with have Chik-Fil-A because I will look exactly the same tomorrow.

Here lies my big problem….I started getting hung up on how I looked because of my diet…not because of how I felt because of my diet. I was so used to how I felt that I forgot what  it felt like to feel really awesome. Now I remember.

A week a go I decided I wanted to be for real. I’m not sure what sparked it. Maybe it was that I started verbalizing to people outside my inner circle that I really wanted to go to the Games. Maybe it was that my body weight is going to be taken into account at GODAI and I didn’t want to go down there and be shocked. Whatever it was that started to motivate me….it worked.

I have been grain free and processed sugar-free since last Monday. I have already dropped three pounds. I can see more muscle on me than I have been able to in a long time. Not only do I think I look better (just a bonus for this whole thing), but I feel stronger and am running a lot better. The best part is, this isn’t hard. I’m not eating anything out of the ordinary, I’m just not eating the extra junk I would let myself have. My base diet is the same. I feel so stupid that I haven’t been more diligent before. The only time I crave anything is if I go too long without eating. Easy fix. Eat all the time.

I have a ton of energy. Yesterday, Kody was telling me how he can notice a difference just in my attitude….minus the four hours yesterday where we weren’t able to get food and I was in a total “Hangry” mood. Not pretty. Despite that, he said I seem to be really happy and perky and motivated. I’m afraid people at the gym are going to have to start slapping me because I feel so bouncy and talkative. Now that I’m writing this…I’ve probably been flat-out annoying.

Maybe all my training is just starting to really sync together, but something awesome is going on! I have this incredible amount of confidence that I can’t really explain. It is the perfect storm if a perfect storm is a good thing.  Don’t even try to tempt me and put a cherry sour in my face because I will throw it back in yours.

I. Feel. Good.

Typical Day:

Breakfast: Turkey sausage, natural applesauce with cinnamon and raw almond butter.

Snack: Advocare Spark and turkey jerky

Lunch: Salad with lots of veggies and roasted chicken, a little cheese, sunflower seeds and oil and vinegar.

Pre Workout: Larabar

Post WOD: Advocare Post Workout Recovery (Love it. So Yummy)

Dinner: Grilled meats (lean steak, turkey or seafood) and veggies like cabbage, asparagus, broccoli and carrots. Olive oil to cook with and almond or avocado for additional fat.

I’m a Yogi!

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmm…..

Today I went to my first yoga class in about six months. I say that like I used to be a regular “Yogi” (which is what they call people who do Yoga. I learned that today). I was on a kick back in March/April where I went about four times over the course of four weeks. I know, slow down!! As I talked about in my last post,  I will in some way, shape or form be tested on my flexibility during the GODAI competition. I keep chanting in my head, “No max sit and reach! No max sit and reach!”

It is time to get bendy!

Balance and flexibility are two of my weaker points. My hamstrings are just tight masses instead of strong, flexible muscle. I don’t stretch unless someone forces me. I’m a very bad student and example of how you should cool down after doing anything active. For some reason I think shaking my arms around and talking are sufficient ways to mobilize. Oops.

Today I headed to The Yoga Room OKC for my first Level 1 Yoga Flow class. After rereading the class descriptions, I’m pretty sure I ended up in the Vinyasa Flow class which is for Level 2 and 3 AND is heated to 90 degrees. I luckily found a spot right under the vent not aware of what was about to go down. Let’s just say it didn’t take me long to get warm!

Regardless of my skill level, this was an amazing class. I was able to hang with the class and I didn’t feel too far out of my element. How could I? Everyone was wearing Lulu! Right about the time I started thinking, “Please God let this be over soon”, we went into some nice stretching and breathing poses. My body needed everything they threw at me in that one hour. I felt my muscles loosen up the deeper we got into class and I felt so relaxed and revived when we were finished. I was also soaked with sweat….

Yoga is such a fabulous change of pace from my everyday training. I know my core is going to benefit tremendously as well as everything else.

Oh and did I mention they played Dave Matthews, Fleetwood Mac and other cool music during class? No Enya! Score!

What do you do for active recovery? I would love to hear insight!

Training Updates:

Yesterday was momentous for me in the squat department. My front squat max going into this cycle was 185. Yesterday I did this:

3 x 2 @ 187

3 x 1 @ 187

The goal was to go 6 x 2 @ 187, but I failed on the second rep of set 4 and then listened to my legs which did everything they could to rep out the last two singles. I’m feeling very positive about the gains I’m making! I keep telling myself that 200# is in my near future!

Another small victory for me….last night in gymnastics I did my first unspotted back handspring on a trampoline. First, don’t tell my husband because he will scold me for trying. Sorry Kody! It was SO much fun. I had been working on them into a foam pit two weeks prior. Last night was my second night to work back handsprings ever in my whole life! I did it once with a spotter and then over and over and over again by myself for about five minutes. I giggled the whole time. No, the skill itself probably won’t benefit me in CrossFit, however, they are a lot of fun and have taught me a lot of about how to move my body in awkward ways. Like I keep saying…body awareness! I’m becoming less fearful with the unknown.

I also handstand walked half way across the blue floor exercise mat last night. According to my google search, competition mats are 12 meters x 12 meters. This means I walked about 6 meters or 19.6850394 feet. It felt easy and I felt strong.

I love gymnastics.

GODAI

November 5th I am traveling to New Braunfels, Texas to compete in the GODAI Elements Competition. I’m 100% excited. I’m teaming up with fellow OKC’er Kameron Rosenau. He is a beast and I think we will do well! I always love competing no matter the result. This seems to be a good, well-rounded competition. They are testing the ten physical skills which I remember specifically since I just took my Level 1 test:

Cardiovascular Endurance, Strength, Speed, Stamina, Flexibility, Power, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy. The only one I’m very nervous about testing is my flexibility. It seems to be non-existent.

The first event is a 2 mile trail run followed by a 200 meter swim. Having a strong swimming background I’m really looking forward to this event. Typically a 2 mile run would not thrill me, but this is a trail run. I actually enjoy trail runs! I’m much better comparatively on a trail than a road. Kameron joked this morning he was going to attach a long rubber band to me and just pull me behind him. I might do the same for him once we hit the water!

Second event is a CrossFit Total, which I did last weekend and talked about in my last post. The only difference is we are doing a front squat instead of a back squat. I have become quite a fan of the front squat so I’m anxious to do this! As a team, we will have twenty minutes and one bar to find our maxes. We can rep as many times as we want within the time limit. Our total score will be based upon on weight lifted and our combined body weight.

There will be more events. It sounds like there may be some strongman elements as well as gymnastics and typical CrossFit. I’m so excited! I know Kameron will be an amazing teammate! We are hoping for a five minute max muscle up event.

Who else is joining us?

As I said yesterday, I participated in Amazing Grace with Barbells for Boobs last night. It was a really fun event. My Grace was not exactly what I had hoped it would be…I’ve been much faster my last two attempts. Regardless, it was fun to be a part of such a good cause. They granted $10,000 to the OU facility to help women in our own area. Very cool.

I’m not sure what exactly went wrong with my performance other than I was too slow and methodical with my lifts in the beginning. I didn’t just let go and go for it. Shame. I like to quote Wedding Crashers often, especially when things don’t go my way and I’m trying to make sense of it in my head. “Rule #76. No excuses. Play like a champion!”

Deep In The Heart of Texas

This weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Texas. It was my husband’s ten-year high school reunion. He grew up in the Fort Worth area and I absolutely love going back. I also have lots of CrossFit memories in Forth Worth. My first two regionals were held at GSX in the F-dub. This last year we were “rezoned” to North Central and ended up in Chicago instead. While we were down in Texas I got together with Candice Ruiz for a little lifting session.

Candice and I first competed with each other in the Oklahoma Sectional in 2010. I instantly thought she was awesome. I chased her all weekend. She ended up finishing first and I finished third. Ever since then she has been incredibly encouraging to me. She cheered me on at regionals that year even though I fell a bit short finishing three spots out of the top four to qualify for The 2010 Games. She won the event. Awesome.

I dropped in at Elite Spots Training in North Richland Hills where she trains for CrossFit Total. Ugh. I have not totaled in ages. I have maxed on my lifts recently, but not in a Total situation. I ended up matching my back squat (235), five under my shoulder press (100) and PR’ing my dead lift by five pounds (295). I failed at 245 on my back squat, but I know with fresh legs I will get it easy next time. It didn’t feel too heavy, I just had very little push out of the bottom. My legs said, “no thank you”. Even though my dead lift is still under 300 (frustrating!), I was very excited to PR after back squatting. 305 is mine next time. And then there is everyone’s favorite…the shoulder press.  My max is 105 so I went for 110, but failed miserably. Not a lot of hope for improvement there I am afraid, but I would love to get to 110 soon.

Everyone at EST was incredibly nice and welcoming. It is a fairly new box, but they have a great set up. They had tumbling mat in their larger space. A few of us played with handstands, handstand walks and other fun things after the Total. Very jealous! We were invited to stay for a social afterwards and enjoyed some delicious bison burgers. Yum. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend checking them out! The coaches, Ken and Chris, are great guys and know their stuff. I love getting new perspectives on my own technique for those who haven’t watched me over and over again. So helpful!

It was so much fun lifting with a fellow competitor. Candice is crazy strong and it was fun to watch in person. I would give anything to dead lift like she can! Plus, she gave me some really good tips on my butterfly pull ups.  I think it helped me out a lot.

Candice and I are both sponsored athletes with RokFit so we took a quick pic with the banner they have in their gym.

Sunday we headed to CrossFit Strong for the Level 1 test. When I became a certified trainer there was no test, so we had until the end of this year to get ours in. I saw a lot of familiar faces from Tulsa, OKC and Texas! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Kody and I both passed.

After a long, fun weekend I’m happy to be back home. Tonight I will be participating in the Barbell for Boobs Grace event at CrossFit 405. Hopefully she will be kind….

Training:

Friday – “Stacey” 150 squats, 2000m row, 150 squat then 1200 yard swim

Monday – Back Squats 10×3 @ 195

Franny, Fran, Fran

Last night was Fran night at the gym. It was electric. It was intense. You could cut the anticipation with a knife. There were a lot of first time Franers and a lot of first time Rx’d Franers. So cool.

Just imagine this thing covered with CrossFitters with looks of pure joy and excitement on their faces…..errr….something like that.

I personally adore Fran. I get this really nervous feeling every time I do it. I get jittery and feel like I want to puke. It is the only WOD that makes me feel that way, but I’m excited. Last night was no different. Pure terror/exhilaration.

I think my first Rx’d Fran took me about 6 minutes. Next time it was around 5 and then I bounced around in the 4’s for a while. I distinctly remember getting my first sub 4 Fran. It as about a month or two before the 2010 regional. 3:31 if I remember correctly. I didn’t do Fran again until Cupid’s Revenge this past February at CrossFit OKC and got into the 3:20 range. Ever since then I have been dying to break 3 minutes. My goal is 2:59. Last night I felt so close, yet so far away.

I was excited to try out my butterfly. I’ve been working on it hard, but knew I would probably transfer to the kip at some point during all sets. My pull ups did not go how I wanted them to go at all. They were in one word, awful. I only made it in with about five butterfly and then my timing got off big time. I used my leg to stop my swing on the bar by reaching it out to the post, then I hung there and then started back into a kip. Seriously? I’m pretty good at wasting time doing stupid things. Last night was no exception!

The funny thing is, I still PR’ed. 3:11. I was really happy with it and then really annoyed with it at the same time. I know I wasted a good twenty seconds doing nothing. I was never trying to catch my breath. I wasn’t struggling to get through the thrusters or ever near failure the pull ups. I was just flat-out being wasteful with my time. I took my time walking to my bar. I never squat cleaned into the thruster. I would look up at stare at the bar before jumping on my pull ups. I have the proof on video thanks to our videographer, Kody.  I broke my pull ups once on 15….the stupid 15. It gets me every time. 10 and 5. I have only done an unbroken Fran once. I was in the 4 minute range then. Kind of funny.

So what did I learn?

  • I need to work more on butterfly pull ups. specifically, doing more long sets so I get used to them when I am more fatigued.
  • Squat clean into the thruster. I never like to do this with a thruster or front squat at lighter weight. I always end up feeling off balance out of the squat which is so strange. I must work on that.
  • I can be a whole lot faster and that makes me giddy.
  • I still really, really, really like Fran.
  • Our gym is full of awesome rock stars like Angela who did her first female RX’ed Fran, Jo and Kristen who both PR’ed, Miranda who PR’ed AND used more weight than her last Fran (awesome!), Bob who did it twice in one day and Tyler who did his first RX’ed Fran and went a whole minute faster than when he used 20# less in July!

Way to work OKC’ers! Keep on keepin’ on!

Mr. T.

I love me some Tim Tebow. I’ve been a Gator fan since the day I was born thanks to my Florida roots. Not only do I love Tim because he is a phenomenal athlete, but he is a classy example of what hard work and dedication brings….awesomeness.

If you haven’t seen ESPN’s Year of The Quarterback Tim Tebow: Everything In Between, then you need to find it and watch it immediately. I have had it saved on my DVR since February. We bring it out every now and again for some needed inspiration. This is a clip detailing what a typical day was like for Tim prior to the draft.

He has said before one of his favorite quotes is as follows….

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

How much do you love that? If you follow football at all, one of the big stories out of the NFL yesterday was Tim Tebow’s second half near comeback for the Broncos. They ended up losing, but he brought them back  with a fighting chance. One TD run and one TD pass to teammate/past SEC rival Knowshon Moreno. Love that. He is expected to be named the official starting QB today by their head coach. Tebow has been questioned and hated on from day one. I love that despite all that garbage he kept his head together behind the scenes and now it is paying off in a big way.

Ok, realistically, none of us are going to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a page out of their play book and apply it to our own goals and ambitions whether it be in athletics, business or life in general.

This morning I woke up and just felt blah. There is no other way to describe it. I did not want to squat. I did not want to be cheery. I did not want to go to my client’s office. I just didn’t feel motivated. I finally managed to drag myself to the garage. I rowed a little and stretched out. I knew what was coming and I was not looking forward to it.

Back Squat 10 x 2 @ 220

My first set felt awkward, but I told myself, yes…I can make it through this! 210# is the heaviest I have ever gone for multiple reps of back squat. Sets two, three, four and five were great. I felt strong. Maybe today was going to be my day. Set six….epic fail. My entire core just collapsed on me at the bottom of rep one. There I am, alone in my garage with my 220# bar resting on the safety and I’m just staring at it. I did not want to unload the weight, re-rack and try again. I wanted to go inside and pout and be mad at myself for only getting half way through my sets. I wanted to quit…..so bad.

I pouted on the bench for about three minutes. I had a decision to make. I could tell myself I did the best I could and that was all I could handle and then try to convince myself that is true all day OR suck it up and try again. I unloaded the bar and re-racked the weight. I got through the rest of my sets pretty good form and a no failing.

Sometimes I have taken the other route. I tell myself it is OK if I don’t get through something that was really difficult or if it was something I had not done before. I give myself an out. Now sometimes, that is actually the case. Sometimes you have given everything you have and there just isn’t anything else there. However, it is easy to lie to myself so I feel better about what happened instead of admitting I can do more or do better.

I know getting through that was very tough for me this morning and it will help propel through this week with a good attitude. I’m not Tim Tebow, but I love his approach to hard work. I’m going to keep that with me moving forward. I have lots of power cleans, running and Fran to look forward to in the next few days!

Have a good week everyone!