Thursday, April 28, 2011

Questions for Chris - DOMS and muscle soreness

"I heat up, the ice cubes. It's the best of both worlds!"

Q: Hi Chris - certain wods seem to cause an unusually high amount of soreness afterwards (Nicole and arm/back issues for example). What do you think are the WODs to watch out for and what can you do (stretching, nutrition, icing etc) to minimize the pain and speed recovery. Thanks, Sam B.

A: Sam, great question! At first, folks who start CrossFit with no recent physical exertion will be sore no matter what. This makes sense. This transition period might be a few weeks or even a few months before one's body will adapt and recover quicker. But what about people who have CrossFitting for awhile? Some workouts you can walk away from a bit winded or even muscles on fire, but the next day you're fine. Other workouts, you feel that DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) 24-48 hours later and it's painful to even raise your arm to put on a shirt. The soreness is going to occur from tears in the muscle tissue from eccentric movement. Eccentric (vs. concentric) is the lengthening of the muscle fiber, usually by lowering the body in a controlled manner. Let's take Nicole for instance. In 20 minutes, run 400m and do max rep pull ups (every time you drop from the bar, run the next 400m and go for another max pull ups). Here you are working your body in an eccentric manner (pull ups) to the point of literally falling off the bar. It seems that WODs with eccentric movements plus max repetitions are the usual suspects for DOMS. (max pull ups, max back squats)

Now what can you do to remedy muscle soreness? Reduce inflammation and promote healing. 

Sam, you're spot on when you say that nutrition plays a big part in recovery. There is no surprise here: stay away from inflammatory foods aka grains and dairy for most/all folks and heavy omega-6 fats like olive oil and nuts/seeds for folks with their nutrition relatively dialed in. Depending on your goals, you may also consider a post WOD snack or meal. Foods with good omega-3 fatty acids (grass-fed beef, fish, etc) will keep inflammation down.

Immediately after the workout, cool down by stretching and massaging the affected muscles. Invest in a good, high density foam roller and/or The Stick. Once you get home get in a cold shower, bath, or if you're brave enough, ice bath. This will reduce inflammation in the most effective way.

TIP: You can also combine ice and massage by freezing water in little dixie cups. Once frozen, peel away some paper and use the ice to rub any particularly sore spots. "It's the best of both worlds!"

DO NOT rely on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. Although these reduce inflammation, taking them regularly and relying on them can contribute to making tendons and ligaments weaker. Check out this sweet link from CF San Francisco about NSAIDs. Also, things like IcyHot or Bengay may feel like you're getting that contrasting heat/cold, but they are nowhere near effective as actual contrast showers/baths.

Over the next days, be sure to:
- foam roll/massage
- stretch
- hydrate to promote blood flow
- take contrast showers/baths (the heat will promote blood flow to heal, the cold will reduce inflammation)
- sleep (this is huge as the body uses sleep as a way and time to heal)

*supplements that may help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness include fish oil, L-glutamine, protein powder, BCAA's (branch chained amino acids), etc. However, don't take them just to take them. Do your research and see if these supplements are right for you. For instance, if you are reactive to dairy like I am, taking protein powder is probably not a good idea. Here is my post on fish oil and here's a CF discussion thread on BCAA's/whey protein. At the end of the day, you can obtain the same benefits from eating real food, but supplements offer concentrated doses of the "good stuff."

Following these steps will not give you a total cure for muscle soreness, but it will definitely help. I also find that doing a light or scaled workout will help promote blood flow and recovery. A half hour walk, a light jog, some double unders, etc. After the first few minutes of "ugh, I can't move anything" most folks feel better and looser. Just remember that the adaptation your body will go through is worth being stronger and faster in the long run.

Do you have any tips for promoting healing and reducing muscle soreness?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quick Meal: Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

bringing out the Jersey Shore in everyone
"I can't cook." "I don't know what to cook." "What do I make for dinner?" 

Sound familiar? If you've ever uttered these words, here's a really quick and easy recipe to make for dinner and have leftovers for lunches. Get some Italian sausage (1-2 lbs. spicy, sweet, whatever fits your fancy) and fry it up in a pan. Once they are starting to turn brown, add cut up onions (1 large) and peppers (2 bell peppers). Done and done! This is a great format for those of you coming home late from work, the gym, etc. Fry up some meat, add some veggies and BOOM, you have dinner and lunch for the next day.
What are some super easy recipes you've used in the past?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts on CrossFit Open Sectionals WOD #11.6

In 7 minutes, complete:
3 thrusters, 100#/65#
3 chest to bar pull ups
6 thrusters
6 c2b pull ups
9 thrusters
9 c2b pull ups

This workout is an AMRAP of sorts. You basically continue up the ladder until 7 minutes is over. Or, as Tony Budding puts it in the video explanation "the workout never ends." OOF!

Some people may call this Fran, (21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups); actually it's anything but Fran. Thrusters for men are 5# heavier and chest to bar adds a completely different element to the workout. Also, the repetitions are a ladder UP, not down. In addition, it's a time priority workout (time is constant, amount of work done is up to you) vs. Fran which is a task-priority workout (amount of work is constant, time is up to you). 

Make sure your lats and overhead position (thoracic spine) are in check. Get that foam roller and work your upper back and lats. Then get a lacrosse ball or tennis ball and roll on that for a bit. Good overhead position is going to help you not get a "no rep" for locking out overhead in the thruster. Working the lats will also help with the front rack position so you're not holding that bar with only your arms. Speaking of thruster, let's focus on your squat. Open that hip capsule with the foam and ball and then get yourself up against a wall in a squat 90 degrees (lay on the floor, butt up against a wall and pretend the wall is the floor in a squat).

Barbell must start on the ground, no racks. You MAY squat clean it and you should. From the bottom you should go into a steady, but rhythmic set of thrusters. At the top of the thruster, be sure to get that bar over the heels. It is not enough to just get the head through the arms as is the case in other standards. In going fast, judges must be sure the arms are completely locked out at the top as it is easy to move quickly and not fully extend those elbows. At the bottom, hips must be below knees, aka below parallel. Try your best to hang on to these reps and not drop the bar; dropping will cost you precious seconds in this short workout. Thrusters take a lot out of people, so these will get heavy and breathing will get hard.

For those that may not know, a chest to bar pull up is where you pull violently and touch your chest to the pull up bar. Anything below the clavicle will count in this case, but it MUST touch. Judging will be tough for this, especially if the athlete is wearing a loose shirt. Judges will have to hold onto the attached pull up bar and feel the vibration from contact; as an athlete, make it easy for the judge to count, don't come close and cause them to have doubt (again, nothing worse than a missed rep even if you know it touched) By adding chest to bar, many people with butterfly pull ups will need to revert back to kipping. Those that have butterfly chest to bar will prevail over those that don't, simply by the fact that it takes less time to cycle through pull ups butterfly style. If you have butteflies, (not the nervous kind, the pull up kind) but are not confident in your butterfly c2b, stick with kipping. Better to stay in rhythm and lose a second or two rather than lose your rhythm and having to drop from the bar to reset. If you don't have chest to bar at all, get that big kip going and pull with all your might! 

7 minutes is not a lot of time. However, doing these two movements may make it feel like a long time. You want to move consistently and steadily. The trick here will be to get through the 3s, 6s, and 9s and then focus on not breaking the remaining thrusters. (this number may be less or more for you, depending on strength and lungs) If you do feel the need to drop the bar, try to instead rest in the front rack position standing up. From here, take a couple of breaths, front squat, and go into the next thruster. This is a way to rest while keeping the bar up off the ground. (High elbows help in the top position!) 
For pull ups, make every rep count. Again, a missed rep takes just about as energy as a true c2b, so try not to waste that energy. For those with weaker pull ups, come off the bar and reset yourself, then get on and get a big kip going. The more efficient you are at kipping, (tight, hollow gymnastic body instead of loose, flailing spastic one) the better you'll be in the long run.
GRIP will be a huge factor in this workout. You should know this if you've ever done regular Fran. Be prepared from some tight forearms. This might be a reason to go into that front rack position for just a beat.

The best in the world can do Fran in sub 2 minutes; c2b Fran in under 3 minutes. Knowing this, combined with the fact that the ladder for this WOD is going UP, makes me think that top athletes will get around 180+ repetitions. Athletes will score themselves as having 0 rounds and a total amount of reps. Below, I added each round after each thruster and pull up.  "3s" means the round of 3s. The first number is the total after completed thrusters, the second number is total after completed pull ups. (assuming you complete each part of that round)


If someone reaches 180 repetitions, they would have done the same amount of reps as a double Fran (which is a total of 90 reps). This will have the person doing the first 12 thrusters in the round of 24. Do I think it's possible for someone out there to get into the pull ups of that round? Yes. We've seen some really amazing performances (at least on the scoreboard) and seeing videos of some of these guys and gals doing regular Fran is scary. I haven't predicted particular people before, but my money is on Dan Bailey out of Ohio for this one. I first saw Dan last year when I was judging Regionals and he is a monster who literally will put everything on the line for a WOD. Thrusters and c2b are right up his alley (along with most other movements). For women, I think top reps will be around 150. 

The goal of HQ was to include as many people as possible in the sectionals workouts. Over 24,000 registered which I would call a success for that goal. The pros of this format was to be as inclusive as possible and allow flexibility in getting the workout in. It also was cool to compare yourself to others around the WORLD, let alone your region. As for cons, some people would say it was too long or drawn out. I know some people's training has suffered due to scheduling their week around the sectional WOD. I'm not sure what next year will bring, but I can imagine HQ sticking with the goal of inclusion and openness. The CF community is reliable for providing feedback, so I'm sure the higher ups are already thinking of how to proceed next year. With the popularity of CF and how much it has grown, I can see regions such as "Asia" or "Europe" expanding to have their own continental regionals. As for the US, who knows how they'll format it. All I know is that I need to get training for next year!

UPDATE: Josh Bridges came in first with an incredible 169 reps. Want proof? Here you go:

Any advice for WOD 11.6 you have if you've already done the WOD or foresee anything we should keep in mind?
What are your thoughts on the entire sectional format? Like? Dislike?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts on CrossFit Open Sectionals WOD #11.5

how I expect to feel after this workout
AMRAP in 20 minutes:
5 power cleans, 145#/100#
10 toes to bar
15 wallballs, 20# to 10'/14# to 9'

Another WOD, another AMRAP. Seems like HQ is staying consistent on allowing the most number of people to stay in competition. Just like the last few WODs though, the second movement is one that may present a problem for some athletes. This one is going to be a burner and like the picture says, I expect to be toast after this one. 

Five power cleans at a moderate weight. Certainly not heavy, but not light either. Technically these do NOT have to be power cleans; if this is near your max, you can squat clean it. The standard is that the bar must start on the floor and end standing completely straight up with elbows slightly in front of the bar in a rack position. Stronger athletes will be able to string two or all five cleans, but make sure not to bounce off the floor as this will result in a "no rep." Form is key here, especially in the later rounds. Pop that hip open and let the posterior chain do the work, not your arms! At the top, you can save yourself some time by not going into a full rack position with triceps parallel to the ground; instead, get elbows around enough to count and then move onto the next rep. You may drop the bar after each rep, but the bar must not be moving at the bottom.

Exactly how it sounds. Hang from the pull up bar with straight arms, start with both feet behind your body and then swing them up to touch the pull up bar either with the tops of your feet, actual toes, or soles of your feet. Both feet must be touching the bar at the same time. You may string these, but your feet have to come behind your body. Arms may bend, but only after you have straight arms at the bottom. Most proficient athletes will string these and use a kipping motion to get several or all in a row. Others who may struggle with this movement will have to do their best to get one! For those that don't know what this movement is and are also wondering what CrossFitters do for "abs," I suggest you give a set of these a try!

Standard weights and heights, there should be no surprise here. Squat must be below parallel before the start of the movement and ball must TOUCH at or above the designated height. The ball may NOT be caught off the bounce; you may either catch it and start your next wall ball OR you have to let it drop and make sure it is not bouncing before you pick it up. Since it has to touch the wall at 10ft. or 9ft., essentially this means the middle of the ball will be touching the line. (since the medicine ball is a sphere and the point closest to the wall will be perpendicular to the wall; in other words, the top of the ball will never touch the wall) What this means is that for those athletes whose normal standard is entire ball OVER the line, this is a bit easier movement, since the standard calls for only the ball to touch AT or ABOVE the line. Don't make more work for yourself if you don't have to, but also make sure you don't waste a rep by shorting it. This also means that even if you throw the ball 15ft. in the air, it will not count unless it touches the wall. Those with depth issues; you CANNOT use a box or ball to check depth, as this will aid in the push off/bounce at the bottom. Use a good judge that can give you good feedback. 

20 minutes is a LONG time for this WOD. The first few rounds could potentially go by very quickly, but why rush and burnout? Take it slow and steady, trying to string each section of the WOD. See below for why. 

Looking at it big picture, this WOD focuses on the following body movements:

pulling with posterior chain (hamstrings/glutes/erectors)
pulling with midline/abs
pushing with glutes/hamstrings

In other words, your "core" is going to take a beating. 

Assuming you got at least one rep in the 5min. AMRAP of 165#/110# squat clean to overhead WOD, you can do at least one rep here. Ideally you'll want to string the cleans and at five reps, this should be doable at least for the first few rounds. Take a deep breathe and hold it, and power through those cleans. 
Toes to bar will deteriorate the fastest, no matter what the skill level. Local muscular failure will occur anywhere from 3rd to 5th round for fairly fit athletes; sooner for others. Technique in kipping will be paramount in order to string t2b. Make sure you hit the feet every rep, as a miss will be costly. I can easily see people going to singles or doubles of these in later rounds. 
Wall balls are literally a pain in the butt and your glutes and lungs will be firing from these. Again, stringing will be ideal and breaking them up into sets of 10/5, 8/7, 5/5/5 will be used by many. 
Breathing is important in this long workout. A quick deep breathe in before each clean might be one strategy, or holding your breath for all five could be another. During toes to bar and wall balls, it will be important to keep a nice, steady, even breath. If you've never practiced belly breathing (breathing not just to the lungs, but all the way down into the belly), then you might want to experiment before this WOD. 
Grip is going to surprise people I think. The grip from t2b will fatigue and you will feel it on the cleans. Try to keep a looser grip on the t2b instead of a death grip. I think this will help you in the long run. You may tape to prevent rips, this might be a good idea since the t2b is a big swinging motion. 

This is not a WOD I can see many people doing twice within a few days, simply because of the toes to bar. I've seen many people need at least a few days to recover. Warming up thoroughly and stretching before AND after the WOD will help this recovery, especially any hip openers, glute stretches, and midline stretches. Massages and ice are your friend after this workout! 

20 minutes is a long time. There will be some folks who will have a score of 5 from the cleans and I'm not sure how they plan on spending the next 19-18 minutes of the WOD. Hopefully they can muster up the momentum and technique to get at least a few toes to bar. (Lean back and REACH with those piggies! Use a kip similar to a pull up) For those with t2b, I would expect coming out of the gate pretty nice, but then coming to a screeching halt around rounds 4-7 because of muscle fatigue. Those that can't handle the cleans will lose time there as well, especially if they are heavy enough to be treated as max efforts later in the workout. A full round of this is 30 repetitions and a quick round would take about 45 seconds. I predict firebreathers and top scores will be in the 14-15 rounds for both men and women. Those that will come out on top are those who can handle the 145/100 weight well, that have the gymnastic prowess and technique to keep moving on those toes to bar, and the lungs to get those wall balls done. 

Other thoughts, especially from those who have tried it? 

coming next...WOD 11.6 (AMRAP in 7 minutes of thrusters and c2b pull ups)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thoughts on CrossFit Open Sectionals WOD #11.4

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet transitioning on the muscle up

HQ just came out with the following for WOD 11.4:

AMRAP in 10 minutes of:
60 bar-facing burpees
30 overhead squats, 120#/90#
10 muscle ups

This workout is continuing the trend of separating the pack of 23,000+ people competing. It allows those folks to get at least 1 repetition, while allowing those with the skills to advance further ahead. 

This burpee is different than normal ones in that there is no standard for vertical position of the body. All they want you to do is have thighs and chest on the ground at the bottom, be perpendicular to the barbell, and then jump with two feet over the barbell and land on two feet. You may come up from the burpee and step UP to the bar, but you have to jump OVER the bar with both feet. (aka no step overs or bunny hops over) If the jump over is no good, you MAY jump back over correctly without completing a new burpee. I imagine staying low and twisting mid air to be in position for the next burpee will make people more proficient than others. Going fast out of the gate probably won't be advantageous since it will gas you more than desired for the OHS.

This weight is moderately heavy enough to separate people at this point. Your shoulders and chest will be feeling the burpees a bit, but your lungs even more. You must control breathing and composure to get these overhead squats done in as few sets as possible. Dropping the bar will cost athletes a good deal of time to snatch or clean and jerk back up. You may squat snatch directly into an overhead squat. Interestingly, there was no mention of taking the bar off a rack. While people are asking, I would play it on the safe side and take it all from the floor rather than risk the very off-chance that HQ would accept a bar off the rack. Range of motion will be key here; judges need to be discerning of open hips at the top and below parallel at the bottom. HQ knows this is a movement that a lot of people short, so mind your hips and butt!

For those that may not know, a muscle up is getting from a hanging position on gymnastic rings to pulling yourself up and into a dip on top of the rings. In gymnastics, it's such a basic movement that it is not scored in competition, but in CrossFit, it's a high skill and strength movement. The reason they placed these at the end of the WOD is that HQ knows many folks will not be able to complete this movement. For those that can do them, ten repetitions is not unreasonable and they can move on to the second round. However, doing 60 burpees and 30 OHS right before will tax you and I think many people who have mu's will be surprised by this when they get to the rings. In terms of range of motion, flashing the wrists out ensures that a full lockout at the bottom is obtained. At the top, elbows must be straight and up at the top of the dip. Tony Budding mentions that this should be a true muscle up with no huge kips or roll overs. This might be cause for confusion, as most people need a pretty big kip. However, there are "butterfly muscle ups" and some videos out there of people being inverted on the rings with feet completely above them and then using the downward momentum to swing into a muscle up. I believe this is what HQ does NOT want. As long as you don't try to be "cutesy" with it, just do your regular muscle up. Lungs will recover by now, but muscle fatigue will be the biggest factor. You will see a lot of people resting longer than you think they should, but they are trying to get a feel for their body and recovering enough to succeed on that mu rather than fail an attempt.

Ten minutes is not a long time domain, nor is it intended to be. It is meant to weed out those who cannot do a muscle up, and to some extent, a moderately heavy overhead squat. 

Get through those burpees. Fast enough to get them done, but not so quickly that you burn out for the overhead squats. Try to get all 30 overhead squats without dropping the bar. If this isn't possible, try to get them done in as few sets as possible. This is a heavy weight for some of you (me included!) so do the best you can. Make sure you hit the standards because there's nothing worse than going through most of a movement and getting it taken away from you. If you have muscle ups, get as many as you can get done. Each one will separate you further and further from the pack. If you are lucky/fit enough to get a full round down, get on those burpees as quickly as possible. 

I can't see anyone doing 2 full rounds, however, I can see a LOT of scores of 60 and 90 (60 for those who can't handle the OHS weight and 90 for those who don't have muscle ups). Beyond that, I see the top 20% guys getting 1 full round plus some burpees. The elite men may get 1 round + 60 burpees + some OHS and elite women will get 1 round + some burpees. I would be really amazed at anyone that gets 2 full rounds (and I would want to see video!) 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thoughts on CrossFit Open Sectionals WOD 11.3

Apologies in advance, I was away on business in the beginning of the week, so I am getting to this late.

Ditty about to jerk at CF KoP
HQ surprised me with this one. As their message was "everyone should do these workouts, no scaling is encouraged" I didn't expect there to be a heavy lift, let alone for multiple repetitions. However, they have given the bigger, stronger folks what they've wanted: 

AMRAP in 5 minutes of:
Squat clean, 165#(men)/110#(women)
Jerk, 165#(men)/110#(women)

You can think of this workout in many different ways, in fact, at least 10 ways:
-squat clean and press
-squat clean and push press
-squat clean and push jerk
-squat clean and split jerk
-squat clean and thruster
-power clean and front squat and press
-power clean and front squat and push press
-power clean and front squat and push jerk
-power clean and front squat and split jerk
-power clean and front squat and thruster

The whole point is that you must achieve 3 key points:
1. the bar must start on the ground 
2. you must be in a squat below parallel with the bar in a rack position
3. you must lock the bar out overhead in a stable position with hips, knees, and arms locked out with feet underneath the hips

Because this is a heavy weight, splitting up the scoring in to a squat clean and jerk does 2 things:
1. allow most people to clean and squat the weight. If there is failure, it would most likely be on the jerk, not the clean. 
2. differentiates people's scores after they submit them. Let's say two people complete 20 clean and jerks, but one of them is able to squat clean the bar in the last two seconds. That person achieves one more rep (41) than the other person (40). This will prevent a lot of "ties" at the same data point. 

Form will be key here. 5 minutes is a LONG time to do heavy olympic lifting and anything involving a loaded squat (even a wall ball) taxes the body unlike most other movements. Some people might be strong enough to string together the first 5 or even 10 repetitions. Personally I think this is not advantageous in the long run. Instead, let the bar drop from the top. Controlling down to the bottom will reserve your resources and allow for better recovery. 
The best method (if you can manage it) is the squat clean and thruster. It will save the most time which again, saves your body from being under that bar. Using the momentum gained from the thruster up can make a huge difference. Of course, if no momentum can be gained from the bottom of the squat, then a split jerk or push jerk must be used. If splitting be sure to bring those feet back in and don't drop the bar too early!
Let's say you get the squat clean, but fail on the jerk. You are allowed to power clean and then attempt the jerk. However, the 2nd clean will not count towards your points, even if you do a full squat. In other words, you cannot count two squats in a row. It must be scored squat/jerk/squat/jerk/squat/jerk, etc. 
In terms of timing, consistency is key. Don't walk too far away from the bar and be sure to set yourself properly. Deep breath in and drive yourself into the ground ready to receive that bar in the rack position. Either dive under the bar in a full squat or power clean it and go down into the squat. Rise up either into the thruster or stand up, set your feet back under the hips for the jerk, and get under that bar. Drop the bar and repeat, but ONLY if you are recovered enough for the lift. Failure on a clean is frustrating to the mind and taxing on the body.

-not locking out their arms, hips, or knees
-not locking out with the bar over their heels (when tired, most people will keep the bar out front)
-rushing too fast and gassing themselves in the first minute
-dropping the bar too early and not demonstrating stability. This is a fine line but bar cannot be wobbling
-not bringing their feet back in from a split or being too wide on the push jerk. I don't think Tony Budding actually addressed foot width, but I would not count someone who was very wide even if they had the bar overhead locked out. Feet need to come back under the hips or at least come in from a wide squat width

-glutes, shoulders, quads, lungs, lower back

-top guys will get 90+ reps (45 clean and jerks) This equates to 9 per minute or about one every 6-7 seconds. There are people capable of basically dropping the bar and completing a rep right after that for all of 5 minutes. Top women will get 80+ reps.
-this will separate the crowd immensely. It will also push the stronger people way ahead of the pack. Some of the lighter guys (who may be doing this with bodyweights below the prescribed weight) might complain about this, but it just goes to show that strength and technique matters. Chris Spealler is 5'5" and 145lbs. but I bet he gets 30+ reps.
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