Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Get to Know: Jon S. - CF KoP Athlete

Name: Jon S.
Age: 34
Height: 6'2
Highest Weight and when: 300lbs January 1st, 2011
Weight now: 225lbs as of January 29th, 2012

Q: Give us an idea of your background, specifically related to fitness and eating. 
A: I was a lean 185lbs as a senior in high school. I played football for school but my friends and I lived to play basketball. We'd run full court 5-on-5 for 6+ hours a day at least three times a week. Despite my mother’s best efforts, I ate like crap but it didn't matter at that age and activity level. Even my first few years in the military I ate everything in sight and nothing changed. Then I woke up one morning fifteen years later and I was fat. That's what happens when your activity level drops to zero and you continue to eat like a care-free teenager.

Q: When did you change your diet and what made you change?
A:  A good friend of mine was suffering from horrible stomach problems. It was recommended that he stop eating gluten, so he did and lost 30lbs in six weeks. Zero exercise. It was about a month or two later that I got into Crossfit and learned of the Paleo system. The brutal, straight-forward logic of Paleo backed by the results of eliminating grains that I witnessed firsthand and I was sold. Sometime in August, 2011 is when Katie and I really went all-in with the Paleo system. We went through the kitchen and threw away all the crap we had. The reason we even looked into being more fit is because we just flat-out got tired of being overweight and feeling like crap. I was actually starting to develop moderate heath issues. We made a promise to each other that thing were going to change in 2011.
Outdoor adventure WOD (Oct. 2011)
Q: What benefits have you seen from changing your food?
A: Everything! My mood is more balanced, my energy level is higher, the fatigue of shift work is less substantial. I eat better so I'm actually eating less. I'm probably consuming a little less than half the volume of food I was previously. The 300lb guy in the mirror that used to disgust me is now a 225lb guy that I feel good about. Yes, the food is more expensive but I’m eating less of it so the cost difference is effectively zero. Consider this: a Primo’s hoagie is about $8-10. A full pound of grass fed bison meat is about $9. If I eat a half pound of bison and two avocados for lunch, I spend about $4.50 for meat and $3 for fat. Either way you slice it, I eat better and cheaper.

Q: What has been the hardest thing about eating clean/paleo?
A: Truly, the most difficult part of going Paleo is the elimination of sugar. Those first three days reminded me of what it was like when I quit smoking ~5 years ago. I had headaches and was irritable, but you know what? It passed. Once you defeat your sugar addiction, and yes it is an addiction, the next thing is the convenience foods. Sandwiches are the devil. Everyone at work orders hoagies for lunch and I microwave my grass fed bison roast. There is a bit of ridicule that comes with "eating outside the box" but I take solace in knowing I can kill the naysayers with my bare hands.

Lean and Mean at Barbells for Boobs (Nov. 2011)

Q: You changed your diet at the same time you started Crossfit. Do you think one has helped the other?
   A:  Crossfit introduced me to Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain and the Paleo system. From a strictly nutritional perspective, I would still be eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) and be much less healthy. Beyond that, the community we have at CF-KoP is absolutely amazing. It's hard to fall off the wagon when you have both awesome coaches leading you and incredible athletes around you. I tell people all the time that Crossfit isn't just an expensive gym; it's fun, it's a community and it's my own personal fitness support group. 

Q: What advice do you have for those who are looking to change their food habits?
A: The first step is making the commitment to yourself. I'm lucky because Katie is right here with me through all of this. It's hard to fall off the horse when you have a partner that is right there alongside you the whole time. It's not easy and there are moments of weakness, so having a strong support system is vital.

Q: What are your nutrition and/or fitness goals?
A: For nutrition, I'm just going to keep eating this way. This isn't some gimmick that I can just stop. My heartburn is entirely gone. I'm not gassy, bloated and fatigued all the time. My doctor laughs with joy when she sees my blood work when she used to express genuine concern. My quality of life is better now that it has ever been. As far as fitness goes, I just want more. I want to perform more work over a shorter period of time. I want to lift heavier weight and run/row faster, further and longer. I’m going to be posting some big numbers by Festivus 2012.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: My personal success is a testament to our incredible community. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without all of you, especially Katie V, and for that, I thank you.

Celebrating Festivus at KoP (Dec 2011)

Editor's Note: Jon has been a very active member of CrossFit King of Prussia, but I wanted to highlight the fact that changing his NUTRITION resulted in significant change prior to CrossFit. In other words, CrossFit is a great fitness program and can help you become stronger, faster, etc. but if you truly want to change how you look and feel, nutrition is going to have a bigger impact than any exercise program. Jon is a great example of persistence, dedication, and the pursuit of health. 

If you have any questions for Jon, leave them in the comments.

For more on the basics of eating clean and establishing good habits, check out my previous blog post Nutrition, Fitness, and Health 101.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday = Food Prep Day

When it comes to changing your nutrition, one of the best things you can do for yourself is prepare. This will mean different things for different people based on cooking skills, where you eat meals, and work schedules, but will help you resist the temptation of office snacks and holiday treats. Ditty and I don't have work schedules that allow us to eat breakfast at home, so it means preparing all breakfasts, snacks, and lunches for the work week. For dinners, we lay out what we are going to have each weeknight so that we can go food shopping, but the actual preparation usually happens the night of. It might take a few hours, but it is worth having prepared food that we like and know are better for us than fast food or office cafeteria options. It's also just time to spend together and rock out to music, listen to podcasts (Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser anyone?) or have something on TV in the background. Here's a peek at our Sunday routine in pictures.

Frying up sausage for my breakfasts to go with...
Sweet potatoes! I cut up 3 or 4 into tiny slices and roast them in ghee. These are divided up and eaten with the sausages.
Ditty likes 3 hardboiled eggs for breakfast, so we make 15-18 (a spare set is good for pre-WOD on weekends)
Also with breakfast, Ditty likes carrots and almond butter. Buying bulk and then splitting portions saves money!
snacks can be simple: pepperoni and salami divided up into snack bags.

Lunch is usually a crock pot meal. This time it's Chocolate Chili from The Clothes Make the Girl (Melissa Joulwan). I upped the servings so that we had enough for both of us for five work days. (2lbs. of meat to 3lbs.)

Some of you might think this is monotonous or boring. And then you might realize you've been eating the same cereal for 15 years. If this is overwhelming and you think "I could never do this/I don't have the time, etc" then just know that this has been an evolution of experimenting and figuring out what works for us. This is what you need to do. Maybe the best prep day is Tuesday night. Maybe you only prepare lunches because you can have breakfast at home. Maybe you're a night shift worker and need to prepare dinners. Maybe you don't have a microwave at work. My biggest advice is figure out your goals and tinker with different recipes and foods. And DON'T make excuses. Not all of you know how to cook, but if you can throw ingredients from a recipe into a slow cooker, then that's pretty darn good. And if you say you don't have any time, really examine how much time you spend watching TV, playing on Facebook, etc. If you have a family, make it a family event and get the kids involved. Nothing better than to prepare future generations for self-sustaining cooking!

Read on:
"Temptation Alley" - Ditty's Diary
"Diet Secrets of the Tupperware Man" - CrossFit Journal Article by Greg Amundson 
"Food for Kids" - Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo

Do you prepare your food for the week? If so, what does it look like?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Liver: the Paleo Superfood You Should Be Eating

Liver. Just the mention of the name sends shudders down people's spines. It functions as a vital organ in animals and humans, but is it really something we should be eating? Let's take a look. 

Chuck Norris rarely ate, but when he did, it was liver

You may not realize it, but eating organs is one of the best things you can do for health and longevity. Hunter-gatherers even favored the organs while throwing muscle meat to their dogs. Rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, organ meats may not be palatable, but they are certainly good for the body. Liver in particular is one of the best organs to chow down on. It's a great source of CoQ10 (important for heart health), contains high quality protein, and is one of the best sources of iron and vitamin A. If you were to compare the amount of vitamins in liver to fruit and vegetables, it's like comparing a Ferrari to a Dodge Neon. Both will get you what you need, but one is supercharged. Case in point: check out the chart below from Paleo Cafe. You'll see that liver has 3x potassium compared to an apple, 4.5x the amount of vitamin C compared to a carrot, and a whopping 1,335x the amount of vitamin A compared to red meat. The next most concentrated source of vitamin A is carrot juice (source: USDA)

holy nutrients, Batman!

 Liver is also known for its mysterious anti-fatiguing effect. A 1975 article published in Prevention magazine described the experiment as follows:
"After several weeks, the animals were placed one by one into a drum of cold water from which they could not climb out. They literally were forced to sink or swim. Rats in the first group swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up. The second group, which had the added fortifications of B vitamins, swam for an average of 13.4 minutes. Of the last group of rats, the ones receiving liver, three swam for 63, 83 and 87 minutes. The other nine rats in this group were still swimming vigorously at the end of two hours when the test was terminated. Something in the liver had prevented them from becoming exhausted. To this day scientists have not been able to pin a label on this anti-fatigue factor." (Weston Price Foundation

Are you kidding me?? Swimming 9x longer and having the experiment actually end before they could find out what happened with those remaining nine rats is astonishing. If you are a triathlete, CrossFitter, or just a HUMAN BEING, this should inspire you to eat liver.

In high school and college, you probably saw those pictures of human livers from alcoholics compared to healthy person's. The same can be considered for animals. Make sure you're choosing healthy, vibrant, red liver when about to chow down. If reading this is not enough to convince you, check out this picture.

I know which one I'm picking

Yes, I realize the thought of eating liver is still gross. There are a lot of recipes out there in the paleosphere and beyond that can help with your aversion to this superfood. Two of the main things you'll usually find in a liver recipe? Bacon and butter. Yum. Knowing this, I made my own liver pâté. (yes I searched how to get those symbols over the "a" and "e.") The liver is from a shipment from PhillyCowShare. They had a box of cow parts that no one really wanted (liver, heart, tongue, tail) so I took it. Score!

1. Gather tasty ingredients. Amount is up to you, but here is what I used: 
3 strips of bacon
1/4 chopped onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. butter + another 2 Tbsp. later
1/2 lb. grass fed beef liver

2.  First, I cooked the bacon. Then I took the strips out, but kept the bacon fat to saute the onion.

3. Then, I added the strips of liver in with the onion to cook. It probably took about 2 minutes each side. Then I added the bacon back in. (Note: At this point you can eat the liver like steak. I will most likely do this next time)

4. If you're going for more of a pâté, then throw all of this in a food processor or blender and whirl away. Store in a refrigerator for 30 min. or so to let it cool down, and then serve on carrots, peppers, or if you're not 100% paleo, on crackers or chips.

So now you know why liver is so good for you AND you have a recipe to make it a little more palatable. Bacon and butter truly make everything better. But if that's still not enough, check out the links below for more information about liver and some recipes too.

Weston Price Foundation: The Liver Files
Balanced Bites: Chicken Liver Pate

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paula Deen and Type II Diabetes: Helping or Hurting the Paleosphere?

By now you have heard of Paula Deen and her recent "coming out" about her Type II Diabetes. Plenty of people are on both sides of the issue. Here is a really quick breakdown of the main points and my reactions. If you want to read more detail, head over to a good summary article by the Huffington Post:

Paula Deen Diabetes: Star Confirms Diagnosis, Drug Endorsement

-Deen confirmed rumors about her Type II diabetes on the Today Show earlier this week. She was diagnosed three years ago, but kept it a secret until now, explaining "My knowledge about the disease was very limited," she told USA Today.
 Let's call this for what it's worth. She clearly didn't come out with this information to her viewers for publicity reasons. The same reasons that she is facing criticism now. There have been rumors for years about her diabetes, but none of them were confirmed until this week. I do wonder what her diet has looked like over the past few years though.

-Deen says her stance on food has been and will continue to be "moderation."
 Wait, your stance on food has been moderation, yet you end up with diabetes? Seems a little off to me. At one point she says to a newspaper, "You don't want to make a steady diet of just lettuce...You don't want to make a steady diet of fried chicken." This all or nothing perspective on food is precisely what's wrong with a lot of people's thinking. That, and misinformation about what is healthy and what is not.

Caramel cake from Paula Deen
-She and her two sons are now contracted spokespeople for a diabetes medication called Victoza. 
I can't believe that this woman is openly promoting recipes that include a caramel cake (two full cups of sugar in the cake, three cups of sugar in the icing) and then getting paid millions of dollars to promote a diabetes medication. This is like being the guy who throws a strip of nails out in front of your car and then walks over to you and says he's a mechanic. Well, actually that he KNOWS a good mechanic and that he uses him. Every day. By injecting himself with needles. I digress...

-Critics of Deen are not surprised, especially with all of the butter and sugar she puts in her recipes.
My biggest problem with this whole story is not with Deen, but with her critics. Let's be honest, no one's surprised that she has Diabetes. In fact, I wonder how many other chefs and TV personalities on the Food Network also have it or some other metabolic syndrome. But when people look at her recipes, they immediately focus on the "artery clogging" fat while lumping it together with the "fattening" sugar. I agree wholeheartedly with the latter. But blaming her diabetes and fat gain on eating fat is just misdirected assumptions. It's Ancel Keys all over again. (Ready more about Keys and his scapegoating fat over at Lean Gains) People focus on the butter in her recipes, but it's not the butter! (Now, I wish it was grass fed butter, instead of chemically unstable margarine or regular butter, but a blogger can only be so choosy.)

Lady's brunch burger - scapegoat for the wrong reasons
So, what's the whole point of this blog post telling you things you could find on any news website or gossip column? The next time you're at a happy hour and the topic of Paula Deen comes up, be a defender of the fat. Let people know that eating fat does not make you fat. Sugar, yes. Fat, no. Eating fat helps brain function, joint mobility, cellular reproduction, immune response, and a ton of other things you probably want. This fat should be in the form of saturated animal fats, avocados, coconut oil, ghee, lard, etc. Basically, if someone offers you the Lady's Brunch burger, kindly ask them to take the doughnuts off and you'll gladly eat the rest. 

Here's a great clip from the documentary "Big Fat Lies" on fat and why it's GOOD for you, not BAD:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Post That Never Was: Steve's Club and Kandahar CrossFit

Well, I was going to recap a great MLK Jr. day workout with our Steve's Club kids, but KDitty beat me to it! So instead of writing exactly what she so eloquently has put to paper (screen?), I will just link to her blog post. P.S. She is currently doing a Paleo/No Sugar challenge, so those who are interested in that should check out her other blog posts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CrossFit Gear: Flexible Athletic Tape - The Game Changer

Let's keep this short and to the point, shall we? If you are CrossFitting, olympic lifting, or anything else that can cause calluses on your hands, you need athletic tape. And not just the regular tape you find at Sports Authority; you need FLEXIBLE athletic tape. It will protect those little digits of yours while also being comfortable and most importantly, wait for it....flexible. This is especially important for areas like the thumbs which need to flex in that painful, yet oh so crucial hook grip. When I switched from regular tape to the flexible variety, it was a whole new world. For serious.

the goods. Porous yet sticks to itself
Don't know where to find flexible athletic tape? I already did the work for you, so click the link below to head to my Amazon store. This particular brand is tried and tested by yours truly and I will end up ordering more of the same once I'm done with my 6 rolls.

The game changer in action before some squat cleans
-Do you use tape? 
-How do you tape up?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reebok: "The Sport of Fitness Has Arrived" commercial

If you are in the CrossFit world, you've probably seen this video. It will be airing on national television during the Giants/Packers game which will ensure a huge audience. I wonder how many people will show up for an intro class at their local box!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scaling Up a CrossFit Workout - part II

In the first part of this series, "Scaling Up in a CrossFit Workout - part I" (I know, original titles) I talked about situations where you or a client might want to scale up and some general expectations about that person's performance. Here, we're going to dive into the "how to's" of scaling up. Just as there are an infinite number of ways to scale down a workout, there are also an infinite number of combinations for scaling up. Let's take a look.

1. Increase Resistance/Weight - This can be an increase of weight on equipment (think loading the bar with more weight) or it can mean increasing body weight (think wearing a weight vest) or it can mean using bands creatively to create resistance at certain parts of an exercise. If I take a beginner and teach them the clean, I am going to give them very light weight to focus on form. At the opposite end, once that form is dialed in, we are going to increase that weight sufficiently to cause challenge and adaptation from that challenge. The increase in weight should not change the range of motion or performance of the actual movement outside of the scope of the workout.

2. Increase Repetitions - The first thing that comes to mind when scaling up on "Angie" is to wear a weight vest. But what about doing "Angie x 1.5"? Increasing the reps preserves the same motions, but may create a more level playing field for finishing times. It also could help prepare athletes to go out of their comfort zone if they've never done over 100 pull ups, push ups, etc. 

3. Increase Difficulty of the Stimulus  - By using different equipment, you can keep the weight/reps/and range of motion the same, but increase the difficulty of the movement. Examples: do ring push ups instead of regular; thick bar deadlifts instead of regular; run uphill for the same distance, etc. Getting out of your comfort zone will better prepare you for future battles.

4. Increase Range of Motion of the Stimulus - this is different than #3 in that the distance traveled by an athlete will vary, while maintaining use of the same basic set of muscle groups. For example, have your athlete do strict or chest to bar pull ups instead of kipping; instead of handstand push ups, do them on parallettes and go below parallel; instead of situps, do GHD situps.
We saw this increased range of motion scale play out in the 2011 CrossFit Games when one event had athletes using smaller metal plates for deadlifts. This forced the athlete to start lower to the ground than they were used to and it devastated their backs.

5. Delay the Start - this is more of a mental scale, but if you find you play the "rabbit" role (people are chasing you), why not switch it up? Let others start a few minutes ahead of you and then chase them doing the same workout.This will help keep a mental edge especially towards the end of the workout when you really need to push the limits in finishing.

- These scales are by no means the be-all-end-all of scaling up (or even down) a workout. They are merely five methods that I thought of from coaching experience and my own experiences. You can combine these methods to create a "super scale up" if you want, but be careful in knowing your limits. 

- For the most part, you're going to want to consider the stimulus and try to maintain that. Don't do completely different exercises unless there is a reason for the substitution.  

-Also, scaling up a timed workout will almost surely cause a your time suffer. This is fine if it's a few minutes, but not 20. You still need to preserve that intensity.

- Unless you're a firebreather, you probably won't be scaling up in every workout. But if you know a WOD comes up and you're particularly good at those movements, go for it. 

- Similar to folks who might scale DOWN only one part of a workout, you might want to scale UP for only a part of a workout. For instance, if a workout calls for heavy deadlifts and pull ups, but you can hang on that pull up bar all day, change them to chest to bar, but keep the deads at a Rx'd weight. 

- Be careful when working out in a group. Don't brag about scaling up or focus too much attention on it. It can come across as being a d-bag if you do.

Tyler Hass talks about different ways to scale up using rings in a CrossFit Journal article

Monday, January 9, 2012

Scaling UP in a CrossFit Workout - part I

athletes at CrossFit Central East Regionals 2010

With new clients, we always insist in MCI (no, not the old phone company):

That is, we want newbies to first learn how to do something, then be able to do it consistently and correctly, and then finally add the intensity piece with weight and/or speed. In order to achieve this, many folks have to scale down workouts by using less weight or less reps. This allows them to focus on form and keep intensity high. For instance, if we are doing "Angie," (100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 air squats, for time) I am not going to have brand new clients do this as prescribed. Rather, I'm going to scale it to their ability. I can do this by scaling the degree of the stimulus, or by scaling the reps. By putting the athlete on rings and doing ring rows, I am providing a lesser degree of difficulty for pull ups. I could also have them do half or even a quarter the amount of reps as prescribed. Scaling helps maintain a degree of intensity that varies from workout to workout.

But what if you or a client need to scale UP? I don't mean less scaling down in order to achieve the prescribed workout, I mean someone who wants to go above and beyond the Rx. In this two part series, I'll discuss situations in which you may want to do this, how to actually scale up, and throw in some other considerations. 

Kristin T. at Barbells For Boobs - Helen Meets Grace event

First, there need to be TWO PREREQUISITES, for someone looking to scale up and both have to do with experience:
1. Form is Locked In - this speaks for itself, but I'm not going to have Mr. Reverse Curl do 185# power cleans if he can't properly demonstrate a power clean at light weight. He needs to show me good form before he can scale up, let alone do a prescribed weight. 

2. Familiarity with the Workout - the athlete needs to have experience with a workout and/or movement to know if they should be scaling up or not. Here's an example: If you tell a former strongman that he's going to do "Grace" (30 clean and jerks at 135# for men, 95# for women), they'll probably scoff at you and want to load up that bar with 225. But anyone familiar with Grace knows that she's a nasty one, and even the strongest of people can be destroyed by her. I need to know that someone understands the workout and what is expected.

Joe M. at Iron Cross Athletics Grand Opening

Ok, so if someone meets those two prerequisites, then here are situations where we might scale up.

1. Progress Has Plateaued - If Mrs. Fran has been CrossFitting for a few years and her Fran time is staying around the same sub 3-minute time, I'm going to have her scale the weight up from 65# to 75# or 85#. This will slow her down for sure, but it will also make her regular Fran time faster when she picks up that 65#.

2. You Want to Get Stronger - This makes sense, especially when you look at it on a strength day. If I asked you to find a max backsquat, you keep progressively loading weight until you hit a max. The same idea can be applied to metcons. Even though a workout might call for 55# kettlebell swings, if you want to be able to swing a 70 pounder, you just have to start swinging a 70 pounder! It might be tough at first, but that's the point. You will adapt and overcome.

3. You Want to be More Competitive - If you are consistently finishing workouts ahead of the class, you might not feel as motivated to give it your all unless there is some close competition. We call this being the "firebreather" or being "rabbit." If you are always being chased, who can you chase?

These are the three main situations in which a CrossFitter might want to scale up. In part II, I'll discuss some ways to do just that.

-Are there other prerequisites in which you'd want to consider scaling up?
-How about other situations that someone would want to scale up a workout?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What Malcolm Gladwell Has to Do with Olympic Lifting

A few days ago, I won some swag from Catalyst Athletics for a Twitter contest they hosted. CA is a gym out in California specializing in olympic lifting and they're one of the best in the biz. I started following their website mostly because of the owners, Greg and Aimee Everett. Greg is a well known oly lifting coach and co-host on the Paleo Solution podcast with Robb Wolf; and Aimee is a national weightlifting champion. 

One of the prizes I won was a CA sweatshirt. Nothing much more to say besides the fact that it's super comfy. Plus it makes me look more badass than I really am. 

I knew I should have listened to warnings about making faces
The other prize was Matt Foreman's book, "Bones of Iron." (paper version or Kindle version) Essentially it's a collection of his articles from the Performance Menu, a journal run by Greg Everett. So where does Malcolm Gladwell come in? Well, if you thought it's because this little Jewish man who writes for the New Yorker spends his free time cleaning, snatching, and jerking...you'd be wrong. But if you read "Outliers," and you think this is about the 10,000 hour rule...well, then you'd be right. 

The 10,000 hour rule basically states that you need to do something for that amount of time before you master it. Even if you do something for 3 hours every day, it would still take about 10 years before you hit that quota. Gladwell cites a number of examples of people who took about that amount of time before they were recognized as geniuses, masters, or experts. Examples in his book include the Beatles and Bill Gates.

(By the way, Gladwell was not the first to come up with this theory, but I would say he's the most famous person associated with it. So I'm just going with the crowd on this one.)

Anyway, what does this have to do with Olympic weightlifting? Well, reading one of Foreman's articles entitled "Third Snatch from the Sun," (yes, he's very witty), he discusses the theory of taking powerlifters and turning them into weightlifters. Although they can move massive amounts of weight very easily, the coordination needed for olympic weightlifting is completely different and takes years to hone one's skills. Here's a passage that really stuck with me:
"When an athlete performs snatches, cleans, and jerks, there is a strengthening effect that develops very precisely with the movements. All of the muscles and connective tissues of the body move in a very exact way, and they grow stronger and denser in the positions of the lifts themselves. Every fiber of soft muscle tissue, along with the athlete's tendons and ligaments, increases in strength and power when the athlete performs thousands of snatches or cleans. Bone density even increases in the supportive posture of the lifts. And this type of specific strength takes millions of reps and several years to accumulate." (2011)
 So what is this all saying? You need to PRACTICE! 

Practice? You talkin' 'bout practice? (AI would probably not be a good olympic weightlifter)
It's an obvious thing, but to get better at something, you need to do it....a LOT. People walk into our CrossFit gym and they want to be good at everything, but they don't spend any time outside of a WOD honing their skills. This can be for any movement really: double unders, handstand push ups, rowing....but the two movements that really need work are the clean and jerk and the snatch. 

When I attended my USA Weightlifting certification in Pittsburgh, the coaches there said that it takes full time olympic weightlifters FIVE YEARS to get their skills down and another FIVE YEARS to find their max lifts. Guess what that adds up to. Yep, 10 years. And that's everyday with double and triple sessions, unlike our CrossFit schedule of once every few days or even weeks. 

So, hopefully this article did two things for you:
1. Made you not feel as bad that you suck at clean and jerking and snatching
2. Motivated you to keep practicing and realize that it takes literally thousands of repetitions to become comfortable with the movements

Practice at home, practice at work, practice at the gym, practice with a broomstick, practice with weights....just practice! And most importantly, have a coach who knows what they're doing teach you in the beginning and try to get observed anytime you can after that. Building a strong foundation of correct movement is essential.

Now let me go work on my snatch.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grass Fed Beef from Philly Cow Share

At CrossFit King of Prussia, we participate in Philly Cow Share. Since you should already know the benefits of eating grass fed beef (cows that eat grass vs. grains are healthier, resulting in better omega-3:omega-6 balance and thus better lipid profiles, reduced inflammation, etc), it's no surprise that health-conscious CF folks try to eat quailty meat. 

Mmmmmh. Beef.
Philly Cow Share works like this: as a group, we each buy part of a cow. Typically each share is 1/8th, or about 43lbs. of grass fed beef. (Some people decide to split shares if they live alone or want to keep costs down) For our gym, we wait until we have 8 shares worth of people and then order a cow. Although we could buy eighths by ourselves from their website, it's cheaper to pay the price of a whole cow at once. Philly Cow Share then gives us a delivery date and delivers the beef by truck directly to our gym. The shares come vacuum sealed with 20lbs. of ground beef and 23lbs. of steaks, beef cubes, and roasts. Ditty and I manage to fit all 43lbs. of beef in our freezer, even with other meat and vegetables in there, but some people go out and buy a chest freezer. 

A car seat for beef.
About their cows, Philly Cow Share says,
"We select cows from local farms near Philadelphia in Lancaster, Chester, Delaware, and Mercer counties. We personally visit each farm and talk with the farmer to guarantee the cows are grass-fed and free of growth hormones and antibiotics. We also require the farm to follow sustainable, organic farming practices, but do not require the USDA organic certification."
like laying out Halloween candy. Except better.
An eighth share works out to be $8-$10/lb. Since a grass fed steak can cost up to $30 at a farmer's market, this is a very economical way to eat quality meat. Depending on how much beef you eat, this can last anywhere from a month or two up to six months. If you are on a limited budget, or you just want to try a little bit of grass fed beef, you can also order just a burger patty bundle or just a ground beef bundle (both bundles are $80 for 10lbs.) Considering the fact that you can literally TASTE the difference in grass fed meat, plus the health benefits, I would do whatever you can to make room in your budget for grass fed beef. And if you can get 7 other people in on the deal, buying the whole cow saves you $70+ vs. buying just an eighth yourself.

the breakdown of steaks in 1/8th of a share
Where to get grass fed beef:
Greater Philadelphia/Tri State region - PhillyCowShare.com
Other areas - EatWild.com

Do you eat grass fed meat? Where do you get it?

Monday, January 2, 2012

CrossFit Home Gym: How to Hang Gymnastic Rings part II

In my first post about hanging rings, I showed you how I put up my personal set of rings in my garage. Over the holiday break, Ditty and I traveled to her parents house and I had another opportunity to hang rings. This time it was for my father-in-law, E, who had gotten us into CrossFit in the first place. (Two years ago he competed in the Masters Division at the South Central Regional CrossFit Games) He had a pair of gymnastic rings hanging outdoors on a pull up bar, but my new brother-in-law and I had the idea of putting them in the garage. Since the setup is different than mine (and probably more like many of you out there) I thought I'd share pictures and descriptions of what we did. 

 To give you an idea of the setup, we were working with a two car garage with 15ft. high ceilings. E wanted the rings pretty much in the middle of the garage so that he would face perpendicular to the garage doors. Luckily, there was a crawl space/small attic above the garage attached to one of the bedrooms.

 One of the biggest tasks was just getting the plywood up off the joists. The claw hammers we had did not grab the wood at the right angle, so it made for a time consuming task of pulling nails up. Eventually we drilled holes large enough at one end to pull the plank of wood up. (see above: there is a square cutout of the plank on the right side)

 After pulling the plank up, we used a tow webbing that was about 25ft. long and draped it across two joists. They acted as both supports so the load was spread out over two joists and also as extensions for the rings to hang from. We then used a drywall saw to cut holes for the webbing to drop down into the garage. Then we drilled holes in the joists and posted U-bolts to keep the webbing from swaying along the joists.

 In order to get the right length of the very long webbing, E was downstairs and attached the rings. We pulled up the slack until he thought they were a good height and then we tied it off using an alpine butterfly knot. (you can probably use any knot that won't loosen, but we just happen to run across this one as we were Googling) After we were finished, we nailed the plank back into place to further hold the webbing and knot in place. (You can also see the back of the U-bolt on the left joist)

 Here is a view from below. As you can see, the webbing made for a very convenient extension and already had extremely strong loops sewn into the ends. All we had to do was connect carabiners!

 Rings at push up level. (Jealous of that rower in the background? me too)

 A view to the outside of the garage.

E on ring push ups. Getting it done.

The next day we did a WOD Fight Gone Bad style (5 stations, 3 rounds of 1 minute of work at each with 1 minute of rest in between rounds)
Wall ball
ring push ups
sit ups
kettlebell swings
Prowler push

After doing a number of ring push ups (and handstand ring push ups) I can personally attest to the stability of the ring setup. If you have a similar setup in your home, go spend a few dollars on webbing and carabiners and get it done!
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