Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reader Testimony: Bob W.

Check out Bob W., a client at CrossFit King of Prussia and a different man from 8 months ago! Below is his story and details of his workouts and nutrition. I've edited some things for format and emphasis, but the content is all from Bob. 

Bob W. Pre-Paleo and Pre-CrossFit
Name: Bob W. 
Age: 31
Height: 5'10"
Weight before: 250 (10/22/2011)
Current weight: 195

 Hey Chris,

Here are some details about what I have been doing/eating/lifting over the past 8 months.  For a solid timeline, I joined my "globo gym" for my 31st birthday, October 22nd 2011.
I started "Paleo-ish" once around Christmas 2011, gave up on it fairly quickly, then started back on it pretty strictly around February of this year. The last 3 months or so I have been pretty much 95% paleo.

When I first joined the gym my workouts were pretty traditional.  I did some TRX with a trainer, jogged on an elliptical as much as I could, and lifted weights at a low weight/high rep interval.  At that point I was just trying to get active again and start to even be READY to get back into shape!  My knees hurt, I couldnt do much, it was pretty bad.

My diet before was the big issue obviously.  My portion size was giant and I ate crap.  Not fast food so much, but just a ton of pasta and hoagies and heavy sauces. I was a carb-a-holic. Typical breakfast was sometimes a breakfast sandwich or similar,  lunch was usually cheesesteaks or hoagies, dinner was pasta and meatballs etc.  Obviously I didnt eat this stuff everyday, but it was a majority of the time and in far too big proportions.  In addition, a few years ago, I stopped drinking alchohol pretty much cold turkey.  You might think that I would lose weight from that, but I think my body was so used to elevated blood sugar levels that a major sweet tooth developed when there hadn't been one before.  I ate a lot of ice cream and cakes and cookies. I also ate whatever my kids were eating, which tended to be processed chicken fingers, mac and cheese, etc.  I bet I put on 10lbs a year for the fours years after my oldest son was born.

My diet now is pretty on point.  I eat an omlette with two omega-3 eggs and some eggwhites plus some kind of vegetable almost every morning.  When its not that its cold fish/chicken/steak from the night before with a veggie or handful of berries.  Snacks are jerky, some nuts, maybe and organic plain greek yogurt (I know, I know) on workout days.  Lunch is typically a big piece of meat/fish grilled up with vegetables.  I've found a number of paleo-adherent condiments to keep it interesting.  Dinners are again a big protein with a big salad (lemon juice and avocado oil dressing is the bomb) and MAYBE a sweet potato. I always add good fats like avaocado etc.  If I need something sweet later, its usually a small spoonful of organic "no sugar added" peanut butter with some berries.  A couple weeks ago Sara grilled me some bananas and drizzled a little high quality melted 90% cacao chocolate on them, it was awesome.  We eat a TON of shellfish and seafood. I go grass-fed and natural when I can, although its not 100% feasible with the quantities of food a family of five eats.  We already drop $400/wk at the grocery store so I take what I can get!  There are enough websites and cookbooks for paleo eaters right now that its pretty easy. Luckily my family has been super supportive of this and they actually eat much better now too.  They often have a bread/rice/pasta dish which I just pass on, no big deal.  I take a multivitamin, probiotic, and BCAA'a and I work outside so I get a lot of excercise during the days and lots of sunshine.  I'm working on sleeping more, thats my biggest failure.

My workouts now are dynamic, fun, and a work in progress.  I do CF KoP 2-3x per week in additon to recently adding a couple strength days (Wendler 5-3-1, body weight accessory work).   When the weather is right and I want to run I'll do CFE (CrossFit Endurance), main site WOD's, or just tabata/HIIT sprints for 12 minutes max.  I am able to do all this either at 6AM or after the kids (ages 5, 4, 1.5) go to bed so I don't take away from our time together.  In addition I work 50-55hr weeks and my wife works weekend nights.  Beyond that I'm in Grad School!!!   If I can do this literally anyone can. For my birthday this year I am getting myself one of those Rogue garage gym packages with bumper plates for my garage so I can lift heavy whenever I get time.  Oly lifts have become my favorite, I love how technical they are. I hung a pullup bar in a doorway off my living room and I dont walk under it EVER without doing 5 chinups.   I call it "muscle-toe"!

Basking in his leaned out (sunburned) glory?
The main resources I have used to make these changes are, not to be too cocky, but my own dedication and determination.  That coupled with equal parts love and support from my wife and kids.  This whole thing has been as much for them as me.  I'm am a better dad and husband now, happier and more vibrant.  Physically my body has NEVER been more well rounded.  I'm stronger, faster, leaner, more flexible.  I could not do a pullup 8 months ago now I can do 12 strict dead hang in a row. I'm SOOOOO close to a muscle up.  This allows my body do do basically whatever my mind tells it to, which is HUGE with young kids and an active lifestyle.  Mentally I'm happier, clearer, sharper, more focused.  I'm confident I can do whatever I put my mind to.  I don't want to totally discount the whole "long duration cardio and light weight/high rep" scheme becasue it got me started on this path.  In addition I was eating a more traditional low-fat whole grain heavy diet, with which I did in fact lose weight.  I'm pretty sure that at that point anything I did to sweat and eat less would have been an inprovement, but still I don't want to slam the methods that got me going.  What the CF/paleo transition did for me was switch me physically and mentally into the next gear, and make my changes less of a "diet" and more of a lifestyle.  I'll never gain that weight back (may never lose anymore either, don't care, I want to get stronger and faster and leaner and more powerful!!)  becasue I am more mindful and aware of my body everyday now.  I am aware of how incredible I feel when I give my body lots of what it was designed to take in and nothing it wasn't.  I am aware of how great it feels to work my body the way a hunter/gatherer worked, in short burst of explosive effort followed with plenty of rest and recovery.  My family is actually eating and living better becasue of it.  It really has made a huge positive impact on my life!!

There it is, the brief version!  If you need anymore details or pictures I have tons of both, don't hesitate.  Also remember that you did my "on ramp" and KoP and, while I was avoiding sugar etc before, your blog really got me going and interested in Paleo its overall benefits and effects.  I have you to thank in a big way for all this!! 

Bob and his motivation
Bob's story is all too familiar, at least in the beginning. Family man whose high carb, high sugar diet caught up to him, even with working outdoors and having a workout routine at the globo gym. His story aligns with the idea that how you look is 20% physical activity and 80% what you put in your mouth.  (some would even say 10/90 or 0/100!) So no, being on a treadmill for an hour or even doing high intensity exercise won't matter if you don't change your nutrition. The fact is, when people cut out pasta and bread and sugar, not only do they lose weight, but that "puffiness" in their faces goes away too. That's the inflammation going away, and yes, I had it too (see "You've Got a Fat Face")

 A chief complaint from people is that they can't afford a CrossFit membership. Bob shows that you can get a great workout in by just doing some sprints, modified workouts at a globo gym, and when you can afford it, get to a CF gym for solid coaching. I love that Bob is now into Oly lifting and his clever re-naming of mistletoe for his pull up bar. And I agree with him on not getting down on the cardio/typical gym routine, because frankly it's better than nothing! Bob shows that despite a busy work schedule AND going to grad school AND having 3 kids, it IS possible to hone in on your workouts and nutrition. But the motivation has to come from within and it always helps to have the support of loved ones. He does this for himself, but more importantly he does it for his wife and kids. No doubt he is and will be an amazing role model for his kids to brag about to their friends. 

If you have a testimony to share or if you'd like a nutrition or fitness consultation, email me at 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ghee: What Is It? Why Should I Use It?

You may not have heard of ghee (pronounced with a hard "g" and silent "h") before, but when it comes to Paleo/Primal cooking, you'll find it's a staple in many kitchens. Let's take a closer look at what it is, why it's good for you, and how you might use it. 

Take grass-fed butter, heat it up to evaporate the water and let the milk solids settle to the bottom. Remove said milk solids and voila, you've got ghee. It was traditionally used for cooking in many south Asian countries such as India, Nepal, and Pakistan, but now has moved into Paleo kitchens around the world. You can actually make your own ghee like Nom Nom Paleo does, but I prefer to save time by buying it from Amazon.  Typically ghee is a solid at room temperature, looking just like butter. These pictures are right after I got it shipped to me in some hot weather, so it's a liquid here. Since the water and milk solids are not present, ghee can be stored at room temperature for months! For more on the amazing history of ghee, head over to Whole30. Did you know traces of ghee have been on pottery from 6,500 B.C.?!

Ghee is primarily saturated fat, and by now we should all love and cherish saturated fat from grass-fed animal sources. Also, since 99.9% of the milk solids have been removed, many people allergic to casein and lactose do perfectly fine with ghee. I'm not sure if I believe in a perfect food, but this is darn close! 

I use ghee most of the time for cooking, especially sautéing, frying, etc. Basically if a recipe calls for vegetable oil to coat a pan, I use ghee. You really haven't lived if you haven't coated a pan with ghee and then fried your eggs in it. (Ok, well, maybe if you've fried them in bacon grease) I also use olive oil and coconut oil on occasion, but ghee just tastes so darn good (like buttah!) plus it has a higher smoke point due to the lack of milk solids and water. You can also use ghee in any application you would use butter. Sometimes if we have run out of Kerry Gold butter, I'll put ghee on my baked sweet potato. Or I'll even put it in my coffee with coconut oil! And I'm not gonna lie, I've been known to just drink ghee straight out of the container. The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

CrossFit A.C.T. Garage Games Recap and Pics

This past weekend, Ditty and I had the opportunity to compete in the CrossFit A.C.T. Garage Games at CF A.C.T. in Saddle Brook, NJ. As part of the Garage Games series of CrossFit events, this was a "minor" competition where athletes could accumulate points towards the series. Although "minor," there was serious competition, with several athletes having competed in their respective Regionals as individuals. Going into this, I had not trained these specific workouts, even though I knew them. I just wanted to use the competition to stay "alive" and keep the motivation burning to train. As you'll read below, there was one, maybe two workouts that I probably would have wanted to try beforehand. 

CrossFit A..C.T. Garage Games crowd watching a demo
There were three main workouts and a fourth for the top ranked at the end of the day. With a Rx'd division and scaled division, here were the workouts and how I did:

WOD 1:
AMRAP 7 min
1000m row
Max reps squat cleans 135/95 (scaled 95/65)

I was split on how I felt about this one. I don't like rowing, nor does my short stature and light weight really lend to any stellar performance on the erg. However, I do like squat cleans. I didn't think about any kind of numbers before the weekend until the night before when my buddy, Dan, asked. He was going for 20, so I thought that was a good number. That's exactly what I hit. I got off the rower around minute 4, and had 3 minutes left. I did sets of 3s and 2s for the most part. Looking back, this is a workout that I might have benefited from practicing. Although I felt like I was moving pretty well, there wasn't much fire in me to push into the mid 20', I wasn't counting during the WOD. Out of 73 competitors, 20 reps tied me for 45th with a bunch of others. Top score was 33 by Ian Berger, Regionals qualifier.

Heat 1 ready to go 
Kacie H. from CF Apex on cleans (ended up 2nd overall)

AMRAP 5 min
OHS 115/75 (scaled 95/65)
weighted sit ups 45/25 (scaled 25/10)
SDLHP 115/75 (scaled 95/65)

Overhead squats are my nemesis, but I felt ok going into this one. The CrossFit Open in 2010 was a disaster when I went to do 120# OHS's. Since then, especially this year, I have been working on my OHS's and I was happy to get all 10 reps strung in the beginning. Unfortunately, the weighted sit up got the best of me, or rather, my shoulder. The movement called for athletes to sit in a butterfly position and hold the plate in front of their feet, then swing it up and over the head behind you where you would lay down and touch the ground with the plate with extended arms. Then you had to violently sit up with the plate in extension to bring it back in front of your feet. On my round of 7 sit ups, my right shoulder gave out and I felt a *crunch* as my torso wanted to move up from the ground, but my right arm (and weight attached to it) wouldn't let it. I eventually used momentum to get the plate up and continued with the workout, but not nearly at the same intensity. I ended up with 57 reps, just 3 reps shy of a full round, and good enough for 59th place. Top score was by Ian Berger again, with an amazing 104 reps.

me on OHS

the dreaded weighted sit up

Ditty on OHS
AMRAP 10 min
10 T2B (scaled k2e) (later changed to burpees)
25 double unders (scaled 75 single unders)
10 thrusters (95/65) (scaled 65/45)

Going into this workout, my shoulder was definitely feeling a strain. It was tough for me to be in an overhead wide grip position (for instance, holding a snatch over head), but I felt ok about this third WOD because everything was in a vertical plane to my torso. A surprise came when Bill, head of CF ACT, announced a change in format. Instead of toes to bar, it was going to be BURPEES. The reason was that there was only a corner of the gym with pull up bars, and it wouldn't be fair to the guys at the other end of the gym. As Bill announced this, you could hear a sea of groans ripple through the crowd. I was fine with either and was just hoping for an equalizer for the big guys who took WODs 1 and 2. 
The workout was certainly a lung burner. I kept a solid pace on burpees and dubs felt great. I knew the thrusters could slow me down, so I tried to string as many as I could. I didn't feel my shoulder during the workout which could have definitely slowed me down. In the end, I got 5+ rounds for 231 reps; good enough for 11th place.

Kurt M. of CF Apex on du's

Dan M. of CF Soar on thrusters
Overall, I got 39th place out of 73 Rx'd guys. The top five went on to compete in a 4th workout that I actually don't know what it was because we had to leave early I later found out was a 10 min workout: 15 hspu's, "Grace" (30 clean and jerks 135/95), and max c2b pull ups for women, or max muscle ups for men. The top three guys happened to all have competed at Regionals as individuals, so these were no slouches. 
In terms of the programming, I had mixed feelings. I liked the first workout and would have kept it. Although rowing and cleans are almost the exact same movement, it's a good workout and test of metabolic conditioning with strength endurance. Plus, the time domain is just right for a competition. As for the second workout, I might be biased because of my injury, but I thought the weighted sit up was just silly. To put that much torque on a joint that is already fragile is asking a lot. If they wanted weighted sit ups, we could have held the plate against our chest. I also thought the time domain was too similar to WOD 1. Instead of a 5 minute workout, program a max effort movement, such as a box jump, deadlift, etc. The third workout was a good lung burner, and I'm glad they changed the T2B to burpees. Not because I like burpees (I don't), but because T2B and a weighted sit up from before would have been very similar movements. This similarity among workouts didn't stop there. In all three workouts there was a barbell squat of some sort (squat clean in WOD 1, overhead squat in WOD 2, and thruster in WOD 3). While I'm all for squatting, I think there could have been better variety. 

Karyn Marshall (the first woman to ever clean and jerk 300#) on OHS at 56 years young
I realize there are limitations in programming a competition, so as much as I wrote my criticisms, I didn't come away with hard feelings. In fact, there were a ton of great things about the day: Overall, I thought the actual day ran extremely smoothly. Announcements were clear, heats were organized, and even the scoring system was updated live so we could all check our scores and rankings. The judges and staff ended up working basically all day, and having been in their shoes, I am grateful for their time and hard work. And at the end, the cream still rose to the top, as evidenced by the top 3 in each category. By no means do I feel like I was even close, and that's a good thing. I can walk away with more competition experience and drive to get stronger. Not to mention making more friends, as we sat next to a bunch of athletes from CrossFit Apex, another PA affiliate that we often cross paths with and had competed side by side at the Mid-Atlantic Regionals. I'm also proud that Ditty did this, as I know it was out of her comfort zone, but I think she did awesome!

 If you haven't done a competition, get out of your bubble and do one. Whether it's CrossFit, Olympic lifting, a 5k, tough mudder, thumb wrestling...whatever it is, it will make you a better person. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Liver: Better Cold?

A short post, as tomorrow Ditty and I head up to my old stomping grounds to compete in the CrossFit ACT Games in Saddle Brook, NJ on Saturday. Considered a "minor" event in the Garage Games scoring system, it should be a good way to get that competitive fire back from Regionals without going crazy. One of my resolutions was to do more competitions, so this is the first in awhile that isn't related to the Open or Regionals. I'll be sure to update you once the dust has settled. 

Back to the topic at hand. You may have read my Liver post...if not, be sure you do after this. Anyway, people, including myself, are always coming up with more palatable ways to get down the superfood and tonight I found a way that will probably work for me from now on. I included a recipe in the old post for pate, or even not blending everything together and eating the liver like steak. This is similar, but instead of eating it hot, I ate it COLD.

artery-clogging, heart-attack-causing, delicious bacon grease
I did this tonight because something was cooking in the microwave and I was too impatient. So I ate the liver cold with solid bacon grease slathered on like butter. I'll tell you was GOOD! The grease had a more substantial taste, so everything tasted more like bacon than liver. So if you're looking for the simplest way to cook liver, do this: cook your bacon first and leave the grease in the pan. Once cooked, take the bacon out and put the liver in (sliced). Let it cook until just about firm and then take out. Put everything, including the grease, in a container and put it in the fridge overnight (or a few hours). Then, enjoy whenever you want. 

And if at any point you thought "but isn't that bacon grease going to clog your arteries?" then you need to watch this. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...He'll Want to Be Lean and Strong!

When I was a youngster, let's say around three years of age, I believed in Santa. I bet most of you did. That Christmas Eve, my parents and I set out cookies and milk. Or as I referred to them, "tooties and murr." There's a VHS tape (If you know what that is, I know you were born before 1990) of me standing by the dining room table and just staring at the tooties. I had already had one, and it was time for bed, but I still wanted another. Behind the camera, my dad asks, "Chris, what is it?" I respond, "Tooties." "What?" "I want tooties." "It's time for bed, Santa's coming." "But I want tooties!" Needless to say, I lost that battle.

People are greedy. Especially CrossFitters. When I ask CrossFitters, whether new or old, what their goals are, they usually respond something like this: "I want to get bigger and stronger. But I also want to lean out. And I want to be a fast runner. And I want 10 muscle ups. And..." 

Wait, what? 

It's not that I don't understand where they're coming from. They realize that to get better at CrossFit, they need to be stronger and that usually includes being bigger with added muscle mass. But at the same time, they don't want to gain weight and instead want that shredded look or to be "toned." Plus, they want to get better at running, gymnastics, etc. They want more than one tootie, and as the phrase goes, if you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a glass of milk. 

The problem is that trying multiple strategies usually leads to a net result of zero and frustration. They may start strength training and reducing metcons, but also cut calories thereby cutting protein, fat, and carbs, thereby reducing their recovery and ultimately, their strength gains. Do you see where this is going? 

So here's my advice to you. Figure out what you REALLY want, and go for it. Can you deal with putting on some belly fat because you are upping your calories and possibly drinking dairy to get stronger? Or can you tolerate your deadlift/squat/bench numbers going down because you are in a leaning out phase? Or even worse, NOT fall prey to the sexy metcon because you know it will drive cortisol up and therefore, body fat? With any of these decisions come consequences, for good and bad. You need to decide what you TRULY want and dedicate at least three months to it. Not a week, or two weeks, or even three. Three months. And even then, some people would say it should be longer. That number is ultimately up to you and your goals, but the point is that you can't fiddle around with something short term and expect long term results. Because if you give a mouse a tootie...

always ready to eat

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CrossFit for Hope Fundraiser: Greater Philadelphia recap

On June 9, 2012, various affiliates on the Greater Philadelphia region gathered in Manayunk, PA to perform the "Hope" fundraiser workout:

3 rounds of 5 stations, 1 minute of work performed at each station:
power snatches, 55/75#
box jumps, 24"
thrusters, 55/75#
chest to bar pull ups

Among the affiliates represented were CF 215, CF King of Prussia, CF Manayunk, CF Explode, CF Go Hard, CF Center City, CF Generation, and CF Delaware Valley and many more. It was a fantastic way to celebrate the CrossFit community and raise money for St. Jude's Hospital. Thank you to Micah from 215 for setting this whole thing up. 

Here are some of my favorite pics from the event that I took, plus the whole slideshow of pictures at the end. 

Where did you do the "Hope" workout? How did it feel compared to Fight Gone Bad?

Laura from KoP mid-snatch
Kyle from KoP with a modified db snatch
Kyle and his coaches aka "pit crew"
Perrin from 215 on box jumps
Los from 215 keeping it cool
Megs from KoP keeping it close

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CrossFit and the Need for Strict Pull Ups

Franco Columbo and perfect pull up form
Let me ask you a question. Be honest. Can you do a pull up? I don't mean a kipping pull up. I mean an honest-to-goodness, no kip, strict pull up.  If you're a CrossFitter and are saying something to the effect of "no, but I have kipping pull ups," then we need to have a chat.

One of the staples of CrossFit is the kipping pull up. While it can be a movement which generates a lot of power and be an efficient way to move your body from point A to point B, it is not a pull up. I repeat, it is NOT a pull up. Yes, it's a way to get your chin over a pull up bar and generates more power, blah blah blah... I even say this stuff as a CrossFit coach, because while it is true, there is STILL a clear difference between a kipping pull up and a pull up. Unfortunately, a lot of CrossFitters have become complacent and are perfectly content with their kips, usually on bands. This doesn't make sense since the kip itself is an assist to the pull up, and/or it's a transition to something else (e.g. bar muscle up) Doing it with bands means you're doing an assisted assisted pull up. It also means you're now head of the Department of Redundancy Department.

Some of you might be angry or defensive right now. This post is not meant to belittle your accomplishment of the kipping pull up, but rather, it is meant to spark a fire in you to get stronger. Because here's the deal, being stronger is better not only for performance, but for safety. With a huge range of motion in the kip, the shoulder girdle better be strong or it's going to suffer from injury at some point. And let's face it, if someone walks in with strict pull ups, I can teach them to kip in 10 minutes. However, I can't get someone with only kipping pull ups to do a strict pull up in the same amount of time.

Kevin B. of CF KoP on a chest to bar pull up
As a side note, I differentiate a pull up from a chin up as the former with a pronated grip (palms facing away) and the latter with a supinated grip (palms facing towards). Since you most likely kip with a pronated grip (unless you're OG firebreather Greg Amundson), it would behoove you to work on the pull up. However, if you would like to work on your biceps, the chin up is an excellent exercise. (what, no bicep curls??)

So what do you do now? For one, you need to see the bands as a good way to assist your strict pull ups. If a workout comes up with pull ups, resign yourself to doing strict pull ups (yes, you will probably need to use a thicker band to get that chin over the bar.) This is where you need to leave your ego out and get on the path towards being a badass. What if the WOD doesn't have pull ups? I tell people to come to class early or stay late and do 3 sets of 5 strict pull ups with bands. The bands you use should make you struggle on that 5th rep to get your chin over the bar.  do 3 sets of 10 reps of ring rows (or body rows) before or after a workout. This is a movement where you setup gymnastic rings (or TRX straps) about chest height and lean back with a flat body, fully extending your elbows and then pulling yourself back towards the rings. You can make this movement progressively harder by starting further and further forward. Once you can do all three sets fairly easily, move your feet forward. In addition to the ring rows, you can also do negative pull ups. Get on a box and jump up to chin-over-bar and slowly lower yourself down. You may simply fall straight down at first, but don't be discouraged. Working negatives is easier than starting at the bottom, however, don't do high reps (more than 3-4 sets of 5). This eccentric movement (lowering of the body) can wreak havoc on your muscles if done at high, intense reps.

[Another thing to consider is weight. Yes, it's harder to do a pull up if you have excess body weight. There are plenty of articles on this blog and other more-qualified sites to discuss losing weight, but this probably plays a big factor with many of you]

anatomy of a pull ups (engage the lats and retract the scap!)
While you're doing any of these movements, make sure you retract your shoulder blades (like you're trying to pinch an penny between them) and are engaging your lats (muscles under your arm pits). Doing so will make you stronger in the right places and create a stable shoulder girdle. (the whole dang point of doing these!) The ultimate goal is to have more than a few strict pull ups. I'm vague here because some people will eventually have 15+ strict pull ups while others have 4-6. For my goal of getting you not only strong, but also SAFE(r) from shoulder injuries, "more than a few" is something you should interpret for yourself. From there, you can play around with variations such as chest to bar, weighted, L-sits, wide grip, narrow grip, one armed, etc.

me with an L-sit pull up variation
As you are working on your strict pull ups, also work on tightening up your kip form. Too many people flail about and have extremely loose midlines and no hollow body. This is usually due to lack of shoulder and lat strength. What SHOULD your kip look like? Just check out the video below from gymnastic guru Carl Paoli and the following vid for progressions.

Carl Paoli demonstrating proper Kipping Pull Ups:

Carl Paoli on Kipping Pull Up Progressions:

Robb Wolf's podcast about Kipping Pull Ups vs. Strict (skip to 24:54)
Pull Up article - Catalyst Athletics
Perfect Pull Up - Ido Portal
The Road to Pull Up Domination - Element CrossFit
Get Strict with your Pull Up - CrossFit Brea
Get Strict - CrossFit Virtuosity 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why Iceland Women are Ridiculous CrossFitters

In case you haven't done so, go check out my recap of our visit to CrossFit Reykjavik and meeting Iceland Annie. If you have, read on.

from Davidsdottir, Thorisdottir, and Helgadottir (l to r) all qualified for the CrossFit Games
A few months ago, an article came out about the Icelandic women and how they absolutely DOMINATED the Europe region during the Reebok CrossFit Open. (see "The Icelandic Advantage" by Jane Holgate) The top 3 women out of all of Europe are from Iceland: Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin Davidsdottir, and Thuridur Helgadottir swept the top spots. Hjordis Oskarsdottir followed closely in fifth. 

Guess what. During the European Regional Competition in May (yes, ALL of Europe was a region), the top three repeated: Annie first, Katrin second, and Thuridur third. Hjordis came in eighth. Astounding consistency and showing of fitness for a country the size of Ohio.

The above-mentioned article cites 3 main reasons why these Icelandic women dominate the scene: genes, mental fortitude, and culture. Emma Keen, a non-Icelandic athlete said in the article, "“I think their general attitude to their well-being is much more serious than in the UK where a lot of people's expendable income here is spent on alcohol and socializing and begrudge £30 gym membership,” Keen says. “The Icelandics think nothing of spending a lot of money to benefit their health.”

[Warning: this has absolutely no scientific steeping, but purely speculation and observation. So for you geeky scientists that need proof, you can look elsewhere.] I absolutely think culture has a lot to do with it. I saw evidence of it during our trip to Iceland.  Besides visiting CF Reykjavik and working out with their team going to regionals, here's why.

In one of the hotels we stayed in, we were flipping through channels and came across this Icelandic game show that pitted high schoolers against each other in fitness skills. Even though it was in Icelandic, seeing these young teenagers doing push ups, dips, max holds from a bar, and other movements was unlike anything that you'd see State-side. It was clearly a normal thing for these high schoolers to be involved with physical fitness in more than just a "40-minute-walk-around-the-track" PE class. Anywho, here are some screen shots of the events. 

obstacle course involving monkey bars, cargo nets, and other activities

lifting "stones" - looked like rubber balls filled with sand

this was the biggest difference between Iceland women and American women: max DEFICIT push ups

boys held their own in a max dips contest

max hang = mental fortitude
I did say why the Iceland women are ridiculous CrossFitters. Why not men? My theory is that while the teenage boys were in the competition, they were doing similar things that other males across the world do. In the US, it's socially acceptable for a guy to be doing dips, push ups, and pull ups. If you are a female and you do these things, then good on ya, but let's be clear you are probably above average in terms of strength. 

Do you think the US could ever get to this point? Would this even be something you would like to see? Working in education, I see gym classes being cut left and right to give more classroom time, so I think the attitude of Americans would have to change a great deal for fitness to play a bigger role. 

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