Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Sport of Fitness!

CrossFit is high intensity, functional movements that are constantly varied.  Oftentimes, CrossFit is referred to as "the sport of fitness".  What do we do with "sport"?  We compete.  Yes, everyday in CrossFit, we compete against ourselves, but how do we measure up against our peers?  Megan and I had the opportunity to go to The CrossFit Games-Southeast Regionals in West palm Beach.  Watching the athletes was an awesome experience.  It was intense and exciting.  Watching, I was aware of a few things.  One, that we have the athletes to qualify a team for regionals next year, and two, that it was a great outing for CrossFitters from affiliates that didn't qualify athletes for the Games, or Regionals.  Everytime we would go out for dinner, we would see CrossFitters pulling tables together to enjoy dinner and drinks as a big group.  It made me wish we had brought a big group from the box down. 
Competing in CrossFit is not easy.  It takes times, motivation, and a lot of determination for yourself.  You guys have already taken the first step in becoming better competitors in this sport just by coming to class and doing your best.  Remember that competition is fun.  The last thing we want you guys to do is to get burned out with CrossFit and stop enjoying it.  Enjoy it, work hard, and reap the benefits...but while you're still enjoying the benefits, try putting those benefits in your strength and conditioning to the test, by competing in a CrossFit competition.  As an individual, or as a team, don't be afraid to put yourselves out there and see where you stand.  Periodically, I will be posting information about upcoming CrossFit competitions on the white board by the door.  No matter, what your skill level, sign up.  Most competitions have different divisions, scaled, mixed, and of course Rx.  We can find a place for you, if you are willing.  In addition, I hope to have an "In House" competition this Fall.  We can give you guys a taste of the competition environment in the confines of our own gym, before moving onto bigger and better events either in the area or out.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The CrossFit Open

In order to identify the fittest, we invite everyone in the world to compete in the Open. Every Wednesday, from March 6 to April 3, an Open workout is posted. Everyone then has until that Sunday to complete the workout. Athletes have the choice of competing at a participating CrossFit affiliate, or submit a videotape of their performance to the Games website. The Open will consist of five workouts over five weeks.
At the end of the five weeks, the Open’s top athletes in each region will move on to the the second stage of the competition — Regionals. Each of the 17 Regionals will be a three-day competition where individuals compete head to head with judges. At the end of the weekend, no more than three men and three women will advance to the final stage of the competition — the CrossFit Games.

You can, and should register for the Open to see where you are in the world.  Even if you aren't planning on going to Regionals or the Games.  And if you register as an individual and a team (CrossFit Iconz), your scores help the box qualify for prizes and equipment as well as a chance to have a team go to Regionals.

I think we should shoot for 100% member registration in the Open.  We will be doing the Open workouts on Saturdays once they are released.  Once a week for 5 weeks.  If not now, when?

 "There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don't allow yourself to become one of them."
"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
 "It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." - Lena Horne
 "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." -Wayne Gretzky, Professional Hockey Player

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The White Board

I have had several of the new people ask me why we use a white board.  In addition, we have had some people who have shaved reps or misrepresented their times on the white board...and recently we have had some disagreements about what the white board is for.  The following is by Chris Spealler.  He is one of my idols, I agree with the article, and I couldn't say it any better I'm posting his article here.  When I see the white board becoming a negative for people, I will say something, and sometimes I will use strong or exaggerated's fine if you don't like it or don't feel it is necessary....but understand it's also fine, that I don't care.  You may make a point differently than I do, and I respect that.  Respect that I made a point differently than you would.  Here is Chris Spealler making a point about white boards:

Why do we write our scores on the whiteboard?
By Chris Spealler

Accountability. One of Greg Glassman's, the founder of CrossFit, favorite quotes is, "Men will die for points."  The idea is everyone's score will be posted on the whiteboard at the end of the workout.  It's a public posting.  Knowing that what you do will be posted on the board for everyone to see has a strong psychological effect, and should help improve your results.
Take a moment to think about these questions:
If everything you ate for a week was going to be posted on the whiteboard for everyone to see, don't you think you'd eat better for that week?
If your back squat goal was the only one circled and written on the board for 4 weeks for everyone to see, don't you think you'd push a little harder when testing that PR?
If you saw Rich Froning’s score posted on the board, would that fire you up to try and compete with him?
The goal of the board is to elicit positive psychological responses such as motivation, positive self-criticism, and self confidence.  Unfortunately, the whiteboard can also evoke negative psychological responses, such as fear, intimidation, negative self-criticism, and self doubt.  When those things happen, the white board can be detrimental.  Take some time to think about how the white board makes you feel.  It is meant to be a tool for improvement, and that's how it should be used.
If it makes you feel negative thoughts, you should re-evaluate the point of the board and why you feel that way.
The white board is often inaccurate, and that’s okay, coaches make mistakes.  The white board is just a guide for the workout.  Precise records of our accomplishments and personal best records at benchmark wods and specific lifts should be kept in our personal workout journals.  The white board is just a guide, a motivation for that workout, and should be forgotten when you leave the box.  I’ve had members text me days later that their time was wrong on such and such day, and my reply is, “So what?”.  It will be erased in a few days, as long as it is accurate for you, in your personal record, which is what matters and elicits the goal of personal improvement.
At one time, we stopped using the white board for a week at CrossFit Park City.  People had been overly concerned with how others were doing, and making it into a competition rather than a guide.  CrossFit is about lifting each other up, not trying to beat each other.  When things settled down, we started using it again, and attitudes changed.  The white board was then being seen as a way to encourage others and improve ourselves, not “keep up with the Joneses”.  I love to see a member put a smiley face or an encouraging word next to someone else’s PR or time on the white board.  That is what we are after.  That was Greg’s intent when we instituted the use of the white board.
Think about that for a second, change your mindset, and use the board to see what can be done.  Then work on making yourself better.  Ultimately, competing for yourself, or using whiteboard times to set a goal is good, but feeling bad because you don't beat someone on the whiteboard is not good for you.  The goal is PERSONAL RECORDS.  When we do the CrossFit tour, or the Competitor’s Course, I regularly get beat on the white board.  I'm ok with that.  I use the white board to see what I could possibly do, and I understand that everyone has different athletic abilities, genetics, sleep patterns, nutrition, etc. etc.  I may have the top time, I may not, but I still write it on the board.  I never feel bad about my efforts.  I never draw a sad face next to my name.  I do the best I can.  Then I write my time proudly on the board, and in my book, and 6 months from now, I can look back in my book and see where I've come from.
It's very important you use the whiteboard.   Use the goal board to set goals and hold yourself accountable.  Use the PR board to proudly display where you are on your journey.
How do you use the boards?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Being better...

Here’s 5 simple rules to follow. Not only for CrossFit but in life…

No Quitting

No Whining

No Bragging

No Excuses

No Cheating

But, we can go deeper into things that will make you a better CrossFitter:

Quitting?   I don’t know what that is.  You come to my class, you finish the workout.  Period.  The only exception is if you get injured and are physically unable to continue, and even then, I will be the judge of that…did I mention, I’m a Sports Medicine Physician?

Don’t whine – It’s okay to cry, just make sure that we can’t see or hear you and remember to clean up your tears when you’re done. Maybe the song that comes on isn’t your favorite, in the immortal words of Josh Everett “If you need music to motivate you, go find something else to do”. Be careful of asking me to change the song, I might just put on Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA on repeat. I’m your coach, not Mix Master Mike. You have a task to accomplish, so do it. Yes I know that every workout is hard and I know that you hate running and I know that the bar hurts your delicate hands, but there comes a time when we have to put up or shut up…or both. CrossFit is constantly varied, so the odds are that you will see some workouts you hate. That’s why it’s CrossFit and not allthestuffyoulikeFit. When you come to CrossFit, be ready to work. Come prepared to face all those pains and things you hate head on. Accept the suck.

Bragging has no place in CrossFit.  If you hit a PR, or totally kick butt on a particular wod, or nail a skill for the first time, celebrate in whatever way you want, but don’t brag.  The definition of bragging is to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one's achievements, possessions, or abilities. The key word is excessively.  In those examples, you should be proud, and you should talk about it, but show some restraint.

No excuses.  I have heard all kinds of excuses as to why someone was sub-par.  If it is random, fine.  If you didn’t eat right, or are coming back from a vacation or injury…those are reasons.  Reasons are different from excuses.  Reasons are rational explanations given for thinking in a particular way or for doing a particular activity. They are basically logical justifications in accordance with some motive. While excuses are an attempt to convince oneself or others about the difficulties involved when a promise is not kept or there is lack of progress, or simply, when something is not done.  An excuse is a reason that attempts to excuse your behavior. It occurs in a very special situation -- where you believe you should have done one thing, but instead, you did something else.

No Cheating.  We have all lost count of reps and guessed as to where we were, but to blatantly shave reps is just plain stupid.  The only person you are hurting is yourself.  No one cares what your time on the whiteboard is, except you.  And believe me, if you cheat...people know, and they throw your time right out, and ignore it anyway.  If your time is a few seconds off from the CrossFit Games athletes on "Karen" or any other benchmark wod then people will know.  Never think that someone isn't sitting in the chairs counting your reps for every movement.  If they find out you cheat, everyone will know.  That respect is almost impossible to get back.  If your goal is competition, there will be someone counting your every rep.  All of a sudden you won't be the athlete, we thought you were.  That is not fair to your team, or Crossfit Iconz.  At some point, you have to take this seriously enough to have bad times, and just freaking get better.  That's what we are all doing is getting better...and it happens quicker without cheating.

Give it all – More than strength, speed, flexibility or endurance, effort is what matters most. I don’t care if you’re Joe Thruster with a sub 3 minute Fran, if you half-ass a workout, you’re being a wuss. Grandma doing jumping pull-ups and thrusters with a PVC kicked your butt because she gave everything she had just short of a stroke. Times and weights matter, but they fail in comparison to effort. Keep pushing yourself to your most extreme limits. I don’t care if you have a 500 lb or 50 lb deadlift as long as you put forth the effort and don’t sandbag.  We are asking you to leave every ounce of energy on the floor. Your puddle of sweat or that nauseous feeling you have is what we are looking for. Remember INTENSITY = RESULTS. You are the only one who knows how hard you are pushing, but if you leave the gym and feel like you didn’t exhaust yourself in the wod you didn’t go hard enough. CrossFit is about pushing yourself through uncomfortable and into the miserable every single day. You have to dig deep inside and accept the fact that it’s going to hurt but it’s going to make you better.

Listen to your coach – We are here to help you get more fit and accomplish your goals. When we say things like “you’re lifting with your back, use more hips” don’t act surprised when your lower back is sore. When we tell you that the foam roll and lacrosse ball works, we aren’t just being sadistic. We tell you to rest because you need rest, just as we tell you to get in the gym more because you need to be in the gym more. If you want to get better at something, you have to practice it, plain and simple. Yes there are some of you who are naturally good at some things, but why not get better? Why not be the best? Our goal is for you to accomplish your goals.

Fail sometimes – The unique thing about CrossFit is that the only way to achieve excellence is through failure. The strength portion of our workouts are designed to where you may fail at a set. If you don’t fail you aren’t trying hard enough. CrossFit is an environment where no one will laugh at you or put a permanent letter in your file for dumping an overhead squat. Don’t be afraid to fail, there’s always next time. Pushing yourself to fail is more of a mental thing than it is a physical thing. We have conditioned ourselves to think that failing is bad and therefore don’t push ourselves in fear of failure. Take that fear away and see what you can accomplish. I just got one of the worst Rx times in a wod, because I programmed Farmer’s carries at almost half my bodyweight.  Farmer’s carries have always been a weakness for me, and I failed …again.  And again, and again, but I finished, and damn did it feel good.

Eat good food – The short answer is eat Paleo. If you don’t want to eat Paleo, just eat meat, some fruit, vegetables, little starch, no sugar, no grains, and no dairy. If you’re low on energy, then you’re not eating enough. I remember a lot of people starting off on Paleo complain of low energy then proceed to tell me that they didn’t eat anything all day because they didn’t know what to eat. Is it that hard to eat meat and vegetables these days?

Count it – Tracking your workouts matters.  When you don’t count the reps on your workout, you lose valuable information that will keep you accountable for your progress. Make sure to record as much information as you can. Write down what you ate for the day. Everyone has those days where they ate like crap and had a crappy workout. Those are the hardest days to write down, but those will provide you with the best motivation to get better.

Be nice – CrossFitters are notorious for making fun of people who go to globo gyms. People achieve their personal fitness goals in their own ways. Some may like the pace of a spin or Pilates class and some may like the intensity of CrossFit. Instead of pointing out their propensity for douchiness on the elliptical, try introducing them to CrossFit. You’ll get a better reaction and won’t come off like a jerk. You were once that guy on the bicep curl machine or that girl on the eliptical. If someone made fun of you and then said CrossFit was the way to superior fitness, you would tell them to go F themselves.

If you can just do some of these things, you will start to progress faster as a CrossFitter. 

Thanks for reading,

Coach Tony

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is your training manure???

Fertilizer can play an important role in replenishing soil of depleted nutrients. Organic fertilizers (like chicken manure) have been known to improve soil life and the productivity of soil, even improving plants absorption of essential nutrients. Fertilizer can be very important to a plant’s overall success and growth. Similarly, our own failure can be used as fertilizer. Failure plays just as important a role in our own development as fertilizer plays a crucial role in a plant’s developement. Failure is essential to one’s growth and ultimately, success in anything they pursue. This, of course, is only true of those who take failure for what it is, an opportunity to flourish. Winners focus on the rewards, Losers focus on the penalties.  How do you view a perceived failure? Negatively, like a penalty given for playing the game of chance, or with optimism?
I started applying this mentality in my training. Not in some feel good, have a smile on your face way, but in my own mindset of how I approach my training and my coaching. The first thing I immediately changed with this new perspective was to take risks. I tend to be conservative in my workouts. I will hold back the slightest bit because I am worried about my energy reserves for the remainder of the workout. However, after deciding to take more risks, I have reaped many benefits. Instead of pacing myself in a workout, I will push myself harder than ever. Instead of approaching the workout with doubt in my abilities, I approach the training session with the view of taking away a new lesson on how to listen to my body, push myself to break through that wall and how to hold on for one more rep. Missing a lift isn’t so terrrifying now, it is just another opportunity to improve on my movement pattern. Coming off the bar during pull-ups doesn’t mean that I'm a failure, it just means that I will take more opportunities to work on cycling my pull-up rhythm. The crazy thing is, this approach has actually worked! Not only have I improved my performance, but my attitude for training has been reinvigorated!
There is a Chinese proverb that states, “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still." 
It is this mindset that distinguishes elite athletes from others; their approach to their own shortcomings. No elite athlete has arrived at their peak without taking risks and facing failure. It is what they have done with their failures that has produced their success.

 Far better is it to dare mighty things,
to win glorious triumphs,
even though chequered by failure,
than to take rank with those poor spirits
who neither enjoy much nor suffer much,
because they live in the grey twilight
that knows not victory or defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt

-Dr. Human

Monday, March 5, 2012


Intensity, as defined by Crossfit, is exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time). In other words, how much real work did you do and in what time period? The greater the average power, the greater the intensity. This makes it a measurable fact, not a debatable opinion.  In the Crossfit Level 1 Certification, we learn that "Intensity is the independant variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise."

 Where functionality defines the CrossFit path, it is intensity that most controls the rate of progress for any particular individual. Intensity is essentially the rate of work or power expressed in completing work. It correlates to heart rate and how quickly you complete any WOD where we’re looking for time to completion.  Do more work in less time (without overdoing it), and you’ll get fitter faster.

Greg Glassman, Crossfit's founder states, "Strength and conditioning gains come fastest for athletes who hold the highest average intensity over sustained periods. Consistency must be established at any general intensity level before it is appreciably turned up, or the specter of burnout looms. Countless people have after three spectacular CrossFit workouts stated a preference for a fiery death over coming back for a fourth workout. They went too hard – too intense."  He goes on to say that time is the most important variable in the equation above.  Coach Glassman recommends that we hold off on going up on the load or weight, if that increase in load or weight will cause our time to be much slower than the average time for that particular workout.  He states that if you use heavier weights and finish 5 minutes behind the nearest athlete that you might feel strong, but you have not trained with intensity.  His simple quote of "use speed as an intensifier before weight"is a lesson several of us could benefit from.

 Not being able to complete a WOD doesn’t mean that you can’t do CrossFit. Taking a WOD and reducing the load, cutting the reps, dropping a set, taking longer rests, and sitting down three times during the workout is still doing CrossFit. In making these modifications the athlete is merely turning down the intensity.

 This brings us to a few final important points about intensity. Intensity and results are directly proportional, but intensity and comfort are inversely proportional. Choosing for greater intensity is choosing for more fitness, but, also, greater personal sacrifice in the form of discomfort. Expecting elite fitness from comfortable efforts is na├»ve, while going too fast is dooming. No formula can sort these issues out for you; the intuition of athletes and coaches everywhere has smartly outperformed all formalized approaches.

Knowing the taste and feel of intensity is no less than coming face to face with the real cost of elite fitness.

Now, a quick example of intensity that was presented by Unit2 Crossfit:
Example A: Jack trains at Unit 2 Fitness 5 days per week and does CrossFit. Jack feels that the classes are getting easy for him so 2 days per week he will do two classes back to back. On the days that Jack only does 1 class he stays after class and does a few extra reps on abs. Jack is getting fitter but more slowly than he would like.
Example B: Jill trains at Unit 2 Fitness 4 days per week and does CrossFit. She ends every class in a puddle of sweat laid out on the mat feeling like death may come and get her at any moment. Jill has never considered doing 2 classes back to back. It takes her a good 10 minutes of staring at the ceiling after class just to get up the energy to just get up move off the mat. Jill is getting results faster than she ever thought possible.
Why: Jack spends 3 more hours per week at the gym than Jill does yet is getting results slower than Jill. The reason is very simple yet is counter-intuitive to many people. Jill's intensity for her 4 hours is very high whereas Jack's intensity is low enough to allow him to do extra reps or another class. Jill's higher intensity workouts are getting her faster results than Jack can ever hope to accomplish at his lower intensity level.
As trainers we see this scenario regularly. It is great that Jack is in the gym 5 days per week. However, Jack needs to raise his intensity level to a point that he cannot even think about doing two WODs per day. If you want fast results then your intensity must be as high as possible.

-Coach Tony

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hips don't lie!

“Powerful hip extension alone is necessary and nearly sufficient for elite athletic performance. That is, our experience has been that no one without the capacity for powerful hip extension enjoys great athletic prowess, and nearly everyone we’ve met with that capacity was a great athlete.”

That quote comes straight from the Crossfit Level 1 manual.  Hip extension is the center of all athletic movements and it would be a crime to not utilize it to it's full capacity.  Athletes need to train movement, not just develop muscle. By training proper movement patterns in the gym, you will see improvement in speed, quickness and jumping ability during play or life.  Hamstrings are knee flexors only in nonfunctional settings. During activity—life and sports that require running and jumping—the hamstrings also extend the hips. Some degree of hip dysfunction that creates postures and mechanics that reduce power and stability and are
generally unsound are lumped together in the term, Muted Hip Function, or MHF.  MHF is, ultimately, the postures resulting from the legs compensating for the hip’s failure – specifically, and foremost, using leg extension to compensate for weak or nonexistent hip extension.  MHF can be very evident during the push press, where instead of relying on hip movement (opening and closing) during the dip and drive, we see the knees jut forward and the pelvis roll backwards, pushing the belly forward.  Even the mildest cases of MHF will result in loss of power and instability.

So, how do we fix it?  Deliberate and focused training and practice of demanding hip extension movements is the only way to eliminate the effects of MHF.  The hamstrings are powerful hip extensors and they extend the hip in two positions:  straight-leg and bent-leg.  Thus we should practice explosive hip extension in both positions.  The squat and kettlebell swing are exercises where hip extension starts in the bent-leg position.  The GHD Hip extension, the good morning, and the Romanian Deadlift are examples of powerful hip extension with a straight leg.  In addition to deliberately training these movements, we shouldn't neglect mobility as a contributor to MHF.  In my opinion, the single best way to improve hip extension, other than training the movement, is by stretching the hip flexors.  My personal favorite is one from, called the couch stretch.  Shown below, it should be performed almost everyday.  Followed by some foam roller or Lacrosse ball work to the anterior hip and hip flexors, the couch stretch will make a world of difference in your hip mobility, stability, and power.  Give it a try!