Latest News from Rally Fitness

Five Ways to Get New Members for Your CrossFit Gym While Keeping the Current Members Happy

Results of CrossFit workouts

There’s good news and bad news about marketing your CrossFit gym and both are based on the same fact.  In 2005 there were 13 CrossFit affiliates and as of the writing of this blog, there are more than 13,000 in 120 countries. This means two things: (1) this is a wildly popular exercise program – in fact, THE most popular – on the planet (good news) and (2) this is a hyper-competitive landscape for any gym operator (bad news).

On any given day, a potential CrossFit member will likely pass 2 or 3 gyms on her way to work. Plus, current CrossFitters are like any other consumer in that they are always looking for a better, cheaper, more rewarding experience, which might be down the road only a few blocks away.

In a very real sense, success in building a sustainable CrossFit business involves the survival of the fittest. This is made more challenging by the fact that the people who decide to start their own affiliate are most likely fitness experts, but not business or marketing experts. Both skills are critical to success. Hopefully, this post will begin the process of connecting those marketing/business synapses.

Here are five ways to attract new members while keeping existing members happy.

  • Decide on your gym’s identity
  • This seems pretty simple. You want hundreds of fitness fanatics, who are also paying customers, to show up every day and then tell their friends about the cool box where they sweat their guts out. Simple.  Right? Not so fast Sparky!

    This identity decision is the one factor that many unsuccessful CrossFit affiliates failed to think through. As Webris founder/contributor Ryan Stewart noted in his piece on marketing CrossFit gyms, “This can be simplified by two choices: catering to experienced CrossFit athletes or newbies.

    “Having experienced CrossFitter’s work out at your gym is great for building a brand for your gym – the better your athletes, the higher you place in competitions, the greater the association between your gym and quality training.

    “However, this can have a negative impact on training new athletes. New athletes need a lot of attention before and during the workout – advanced athletes don’t.”

    It is certainly possible to have a box with both of these groups, but the marketing focus will be different depending on the target population.

  • Use smart tactics and media that appeal to your target group

  • Track your sessions of CrossFit on Faecbook

    Again, this seems pretty straight-forward but the devil is indeed in the details. The types of incentives that are used to attract experienced CrossFitters are much different than those used for people new to the CrossFit experience. However, everyone wants a chance to check out the facility with little or no risk.

    The most important consideration on any marketing tactic is its relevancy to your target market. According to Vanessa Rodriguez in her post on this subject, “Reaching your ideal audience has never been easier but you do need to know what to market to them once you’re in front of them. You need to make sure your “offer” is something your target finds interesting.”

    Whatever incentives are used for getting new members – coupons that are good for one free workout, two-for-one memberships, free workouts in return for writing and posting online reviews – are best delivered via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other, more targeted social media such as Pinterest, which caters to a more female audience.

    The prime CrossFit member lives on social media. They read almost no newspapers, watch almost no network TV, listen to very little commercial radio and wouldn’t think of going anywhere without their phone. Since most prospective and existing members are on social media, this is where a smart gym operator should focus his/her marketing efforts.

  • Work the internet

  • It’s true what your mama said. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade, that first impression for your gym starts with a website. In many cases, this website is poorly designed and difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, when you hire someone to design your website you either get MORE or you get LESS but never what you pay for. Here are some suggestions for getting more.

    Thousands of books have been written on the subject of building a company website and there is not enough space in this post to do this topic justice. However, hiring someone (please resist the temptation to hire your brother-in-law or cousin who lives in the basement of their parent’s home!) to design your CrossFit gyms site is pretty much a crap-shoot.

    Before hiring anyone for this make-or-break business tool, ask for examples of other sites they have created/designed in the “fitness” or “self-help” categories. Then ask them what they were trying to accomplish with the design and elements of content for these sites. If what they were trying to do comes close to what they actually did with the site, they should at least be on your list of possible contractors.

  • Spring and summer promotions

  • Vanity can be a powerful motivational tool and it can get otherwise lazy couch potatoes off their butts and into your gym. The best time to start these types of promotions is immediately after January 1st when men and especially women are thinking about how they are going to look in a swimsuit, come spring.

    Summer body with CrossFit workouts

    Any variation on the “Summer Slim Down promotion, suggested by Rodriguez, is a good approach for this time period. The basic promo involves using Facebook to attract new members. “This involves marketing this as a special 6-month high-intensity program that is different from the regular class workouts. New members would sign up for six months at a special price and once they are hooked and love the results they see they would sign up for a long-term commitment to your gym.”

  • Get business people busy at your box

  • As we noted in an earlier post on the demographics and psychographics of CrossFit members, most of these folks bring home a decent income, which means they work hard in their chosen profession. Plus, they are extremely competitive. A corporate wellness challenge promotion is a great way to channel these factors into new memberships for your gym. A variation of this idea was proposed by Rodriguez in her post.

    “Get local businesses to compete against each other. Give the winning business either a free membership for 6 months, products (such as vitamins, protein powder, etc.) or a trophy (because everyone loves to brag with a trophy).

    The competition could be whatever suits your gym. It could be weight loss, the total time devoted to working out, increasing in strength, or training for a triathlon or something like Tough Mudder.”

    The great thing about this promotion is that it appeals to both existing members and potential members. Plus, many companies would consider paying for the membership costs for their employees as a part of a corporate wellness program.

    Start Slow and Go for It!

    The number of marketing ideas for your gym is only limited by your imagination. Since every business has a constant turn-over of customers, a year-round marketing schedule it critical to the success of your box. Don’t wait. Start this process now.

    In the coming months, we will offer more marketing suggestions for CrossFit boxes in this space. In the meantime, if you have any killer ideas, send them our way. Post a comment below.

    Water in/Water out: Why Hydration and Perspiration are the Yin and the Yang of Your Workout

    CrossFit class

    Is there anything better than a long drink of cold water after a grueling CrossFit class? The body craves it and there are very good reasons for this. Water regulates the body’s temperature, it lubricates those joints that have been pounded into submission and it also helps to transport nutrients, giving the athlete just enough energy to get up off the floor and go home!

    If hydration is the yin of your workout, then perspiration is the yang.

    In addition to being the body’s air conditioner, sweat has many other remarkable advantages. These range from purging toxins from the body to acting as an antibiotic for the skin.

    Having the right amount of water coming in and going out in the form of sweat, is another part of getting fit. Here are some things to think about


    Never Underestimate the Power of Hydration


    How to stay Hydrated


    According to FamilyDoctor.org, if an athlete is not properly hydrated, it is impossible for him/her to perform adequately. Without this water, muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue or many other, more serious symptoms will occur. How much water is needed?

    The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:

    • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising
    • Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
    • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
    • Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

    Athletes may want to measure how much fluid they lose during exercise to get a more specific measurement of how much water to drink (16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost).

    Many athletes favor sports drinks instead of water. There are good and bad aspects of this hydration strategy. First the good: The potassium and nutrients in some sports drinks can help provide energy and electrolytes to help an athlete perform for a longer period of time.

    Now here’s the bad: They are often high in calories from added sugar and may contain high levels of sodium. If the objective of a workout is to lose some weight, adding unnecessary calories is counterproductive. Plus, some sports drinks contain caffeine. All and all, water is the best, cheapest and most healthy drink to hydrate the body.

    Signs of Dehydration

    Dehydration occurs when an athlete loses more fluid than he drinks. When the body doesn't have enough water, it can't work properly. Dehydration can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of dehydration can include the following:

    • Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Muscle cramps
    • Dry mouth
    • Lack of sweating
    • Hard, fast heartbeat

    Symptoms of severe dehydration can include mental confusion, weakness, and loss of consciousness. You should get emergency medical attention immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

    Too Much Agua

    Weirdly as it seems, it is possible to drink too much water. This brings about a condition known as Hyponatremia which is a rare condition that happens when there is too little sodium in the body. It can occur in athletes who drink too much water. Athletes who participate in endurance activities (for example, marathons or triathlons) have a higher risk of hyponatremia. When sodium levels in your body are too low, your cells begin to swell with water. This can cause your brain to swell. It can also cause your lungs to fill with fluid. Symptoms of hyponatremia can include confusion, headache, vomiting, and swelling of the hands and feet.

    How do you know you have an adequate amount of hydration? That’s simple. It’s all about the urine.  If his/her urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, the athlete is most likely staying well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign of dehydration.

    No Sweat? Big Problem

    sweating from CrossFit workout

    Perspiration may be the most under-rated bodily function in history. (I know what you’re thinking. And YES it’s just as important as THAT one!). For a CrossFit athlete and anyone else who gets hot and sweaty, it’s a miracle drug.

    According to the Lifehack Blog , there are at least ten “amazing benefits” to sweat that most people never think of. These include:

    1.  Sweat glands help heal wounds

    For the last few years, more and more research has been done on eccrine sweat glands which host an important reservoir of adult stem cells which aid in the process of wound closures.

    1.  Sweat enables toxin release

    When the body heats up, toxins are released from our system using sweat as the conduit.  Experts agree that we mainly release excess salt, cholesterol and alcohol. Which means that a sweaty work-out will de-bloat us, clean our clogged arteries and help with a hangover?

    1.  Sweating is an antibiotic

    If the skin is wounded by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders.

    1.  Sweating can inhibit kidney stones

    Research shows that regular exercisers and dedicated water drinkers flush their system more efficiently and help to control the onset of kidney stones.  Sweating during exercise causes the body to demand more hydration which in turn keeps the kidneys flushed.

    1.  Regular physical training produces amazing sweat glands

    CrossFitters push themselves into whole new arenas of training.  Fortunately, our body’s incredible anticipation of these sessions allows it to begin cooling earlier as well increasing the actual size of sweat glands to keep up with body’s needs.  

    1.  Sweat cleanses pollutants from the skin

    The sweat glands tend to be one of the ways our body rids itself of dangerous pollutants such as BPA.  Even when not detected in blood or urine, our sweat has shown potential to effectively eliminate BPA from our system.

    1.  Sweating is happy juice for the brain

    Getting good and sweaty can improve one’s demeanor but it is important to train with heavier weight training or anaerobic exertion to get the real benefit. A person’s endorphin level is unique and it will be through trial and error to find the right kind of physical activity that will induce your very own brain “opiates” and get you hooked on feeling the “rush” after sweating it out.

    1.  Sweat is a natural pain reliever

    Those exercise endorphins not only stimulate the brain’s mood enhancers, they also are natural pain relievers.  Exercise stimulates neurochemical pathways in the brain, resulting in the production of endorphins that act as natural painkillers.

    1.  The zits take hit from perspiration

    By opening up your pores, the perspiration process helps them release the grit and grime that holds in bacteria which as we all know, leads to ZITS.  

    1.  Sweating is a personal HVAC system

    This is still the best reason for good, old fashion sweating. Regular exercise, which keeps the sweat glands in tip top shape, help our bodies regulate its temperature more easily.


    Whether it is hydration or perspiration, to get the best benefit and stay safe in your CrossFit workout, watch the water!  Let us know what you think about this by posting on our Facebook page . Oh yeah…send this article to a friend. That’s what friends are for.

    The Business of CrossFit: An Update on New Market Research

    New Market Research on CrossFit 2017

    A couple of years ago, we shared some market research data related to CrossFit facilities. Since 2014, there have been BIG changes and its growth graph now looks like a hockey stick!

    According to a recent report from CNBC,By the numbers, CrossFit  is possibly the biggest fitness trend in the world. CrossFit has 13,000 gyms in more than 120 countries, up from just 13 in 2005. That's more than the 12,521 Starbucks  locations in the United States. Its direct rival, Planet Fitness, has just 1,124 locations.

    With 4 million CrossFit devotees, roughly the population of Los Angeles, it is crystal clear that this fitness program – which some liken to a cult – has tapped into something that was missing in the fitness industry. What was this missing ingredient?  That’s hard to pinpoint.

    Is it the shared pain of a CrossFit group? Perhaps it is the camaraderie that results from this pain? Most likely, many factors have led to this explosion of popularity, but the basic premise is just as simple as it was when Greg Glassman started it.

    CrossFit workouts change daily and contain variety to keep its membership on its toes. The regimen consists of functional movements that aim to increase individual work capacity and is applicable to other sports activities. CrossFit also encourages its members to follow a Paleo diet.

    By the Numbers

    As noted in a Quantcast Analytics report, the vast majority of CrossFit members are between 24 and 34. The breakdown of CrossFitters is as follows:

    Under 18:   18 %
    18 – 24:        6%
    25 – 34:       42%
    35 – 44        19%
    45 – 54         8%
    55 – 64:   Less than 3%
    65+:          Less than 3%

    Gender

    Men and women are represented equally as CrossFit participants

    Ethnicity

    The percentage of CrossFit athletes who list their ethnicity as “white” is 86%

    Earnings

    Over half of CrossFit participants have an annual income of greater than $150,000

    Families

    The percentage of CrossFitters with children is 59%

    Education

    The percentage of CrossFit participants with post-graduate degrees is 40%

    CrossFit workout with RallyFitness gym equipment

    Business is Good for CrossFit Affiliates!

    A report from Channel Signal, a business analytics service, notes that the failure rate of CrossFit facilities is less than 2%. This is a remarkably low failure rate.

    According several media sources  “affiliates pay a fee to use the name CrossFit, but then that's basically it. Affiliates are also locked in at the fee they paid when they joined the network. CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman said he has some early affiliates who still only pay $500 a year. The current licensing fee sits at $3,000, and Glassman doesn't plan on raising it anytime soon.

    “The Reebok CrossFit Games aren't a major source of income, even though the event draws 15,000 people through its gates daily. The Games attract sponsorships from fitness companies, but the vast majority of those deals fund the prize money. Last year the Games doled out $2 million in prizes.

    Another huge part of CrossFit’s appeal has been its ability to scale.  According to a report, “Once a prospective box owner has completed his or her certification, the barriers to entry are quite low. CrossFit gyms are called “boxes” to emphasize their low-tech bias. Many are opened in former industrial settings, within garage or loading-bay doors for example, offering access to fresh air.

    Start-up costs are so low and most boxes offer monthly memberships for somewhere around $200 per month with additional discounts for long-term commitments and for active military, police, fire personnel, and teachers.

    Early Adoption of Social Media has paid off Big!

    CrossFit social media adoption

    The small but dedicated management team of CrossFit has shown amazing insights about how their members consume media. CrossFitters don’t watch a lot of TV, listen to a lot of radio or read a lot of newspapers. They do, however, consume a boatload of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and others.

    Quartz noted, “In the beginning, CrossFit gained converts by posting daily workouts on a no-frills website. It still does, but now those daily workouts are also mobile-friendly and broadcast to CrossFit’s 864,000 followers on Instagram.

    “CrossFit has also launched several Instagram stars. Two winners of last year’s games—Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet (Facebook profileand Rich Froning —have 600,000 followers and over 450,000 followers, respectively. And Instagram has also made stars of some of the sport’s more photogenic but perhaps less accomplished athletes like Lauren Fisher  (398,000 followers) and Brooke Ence (154,000 followers).

    It has been noted that CrossFit has followed the lead of Uber, where affiliate assume the costs of capital while the lean and mean corporate management team led by Glassman manage the image and innovations. “Whether purposefully or through a fortuitous accident, Glassman’s diffuse, no-frills business model has transformed a bunch of fitness nuts lifting tires in their garages into a brand Forbes estimated is now worth $4 billion. And the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”

    Snatching CrossFit Victory from the Jaws of Da Feet (and Ankles)!

    CrossFit Ankle Workout

    When the music is blasting, the box is pulsating and the sweat is flowing, it’s easy to jump into a CrossFit workout with reckless abandon. In fact, that’s the whole idea. However, sometimes that “jump” can cause injuries and it’s difficult to separate minor soreness from potentially major problems. This is particularly true with injuries to the feet and ankles.

    Who worries about their feet and ankles?  Right?

    Sure they get sore when you’re running, jumping and lifting but every other muscle gets sore too. While this is true, it is equally true that the feet and ankles, just as the shoulders and knees, are vulnerable to stress injuries.

    Have no fear! With a little knowledge, you can avoid these injuries.

    An Ortho Doc Who Understands Why You Are Crazy about Your Workout

    Dr. Keith HeierMost participants in intense CrossFit workouts have experienced the pain of a sprained ankle. While this is a very common injury, the medical explanation of this condition is somewhat more complicated.Dr. Keith Heier is an orthopedic specialist at Texas Health Orthopedic & Spine Center in Carrollton, Texas. In his practice, he has treated hundreds of CrossFit athletes and he has some insights about avoiding injuries to the feet and ankles during one of those grueling WODs.


    “There are acute injuries such as sprained ankles and metatarsal fractures, which typically occur when a runner accidentally steps in a hole or off a curb and lands awkwardly, Dr. Heier said. These happen randomly and aside from careful observation, there are very few preventative measures which can be employed.


    “There are also injuries which can be prevented among CrossFitters who are just getting started with their program called “overuse” injuries. Muscles can be strained, especially if there is little warm-up, and if the runner doesn’t give this strain the time necessary to heal, the pain and injury will get worse. Overuse injuries can also result from an athlete increasing the length of his/her run before his body is acclimated to the distance,” he noted.


    “Genetics can also play a part in these injuries,” he said. “Some CrossFitters have flat feet, high arches, bunions or hammertoes, and these conditions can lead to stress fractures of the metatarsals, tendonitis in the Achilles or planter-fasciitis.

    “CrossFit participants are so into their workout that they are more likely to get that overuse injury to their feet or ankles,” Dr. Heier said. “And because the workouts are so intense, these athletes are more likely to get the acute injury. Participating in explosive activities such as flipping tires can easily lead to a tendon tear if the correct form is not used.”

    Pushing Through the Pain

    Part of the essence of CrossFit training is pushing one’s body to an uncomfortable and even painful level. The standard response for hardcore CrossFitters is to push through that pain. Dr. Heirer explained how an athlete knows when the condition is more than just uncomfortable, and perhaps dangerous for the foot or ankle.

    “Any pain that is directly over a bone is a potential problem,” he said. “You can push yourself hard and work through most muscle or hamstring pain, but pain over a bone is NOT something you should work through. Also, pain that is lasting over a week and particular that which is over a bone has the increased likelihood of being a stress fracture. If you notice this type of pain, it’s a good idea to stop the high-intensity workout for a few days and see if the pain subsides. If it doesn’t, it’s time to go an orthopedic doctor to check it out.

    “The best way to treat this type of foot or ankle injury is to stop the high-intensity workout and use a milder, aerobic workout on a stationary bike or some very low impact workouts or mild lifting. Once you can feel less pain, you should very slowly get back into regular workout mode. It is easy to re-injure a foot or ankle by returning to a high-intensity regime too quickly. Slow and steady is better. There is a time for tearing down and a time for healing.”

    Preventing Feet and Ankle Injuries

    Many injuries to the feet and ankles can be avoided by simple, preventative actions. Dr. Heier explained.

    “For the CrossFit athlete and serious runner, there are several stretching exercises that can help prevent minor injuries,” he said. “The classic calf stretch involves the runner leaning against the wall and stretching the back of his Achilles tendon.

    “A hamstring stretch – where the athlete is bending over and touching her toes – is an easy and effective exercise to do before the workout. It is also advisable to do a planter-fasciitis stretch, which involves pulling one’s ankle back as far as possible and then grabbing the toes back toward the tibia (lower leg). With this stretch, the runner will feel the tightening in the planter-fasciitis part of the foot.

    “Finally, simple balance exercises, which help to strengthen the core of the body, are advisable before the run begins. This could be in the form of planks, back extensions or jumping rope.”

    Shoes for CrossFit Training

    Lacing up shoes for CrossFit workout

    Choosing the right shoe can make huge difference in both the health and fitness success of a runner or CrossFit athlete.  According to an article “Men’s Fitness” on choosing the correct shoe for CrossFit training, “Although a regular gym shoe might be good enough for any old workout, you aren't just doing any old workout—you are doing the ultimate workout. So you need a CrossFit shoe that provides stability while lifting, comfort and cushion while sprinting, and secure support for jumps and WODs. Just like you take care of your body while working out to ensure correct form and movement, you've got to take care of your feet, too.” Click here for the MF recommendations for the six best shoes for CrossFit training.

    “CrossFit shoes may look great on the outside, but when they have been used for more than 250 miles they present an injury danger to the wearer,” Dr. Heier said. “Wear and tear can cause running shoes to be too tight or too loose. The padding can be worn away and this causes problems.

    “My approach to choosing the right shoes involves first examining the type of foot of the athlete. Someone with flat feet should choose a ‘motion control’ shoe with a high arch which helps prevent the flat foot. There is also the classic ‘neutral’ shoe which enhances stability or cushioning. If, for example, someone has a high arch and they choose a shoe designed for a flat foot, this will tilt the runner to the outside of the foot. This could lead to a stress fracture on the outside of the foot.”

    Treatment for Foot and Ankle Injuries

    As a foot and ankle expert, Dr. Heier treats many serious and casual athletes in his practice. The treatment can range from the very simple, such as rest, or complex, such as surgery.

    “In most cases, stopping the running, icing, light stretching and prescribing a nonsteroidal are the first lines of treatment,” he said.  “Sometimes our treatment includes changing running shoes or placing an orthotic in the shoe.  In rare cases, the injury might require surgery.

    “Conditions such as plater-fasciitis, tendonitis of the Achilles and even stress fractures will heal if we give them a chance. Surgery is always the last resort” he concluded.


    Check out our Facebook page and post any experiences you’ve have with foot and ankle injuries.

    Three Ways to Avoid Winter Colds and Flu in Your CrossFit Group

    CrossFit beats the Flu

    Anyone who has a weekly CrossFit exercise habit/addiction knows that the winter months can be brutal. Not because it’s cold. Nope. Winters are tough because, invariably, somebody shows up to work out with a cold or even flu symptoms and the entire Box is exposed to their germs.

    The fact that CrossFit workouts are designed to be rigorous, putting extreme stress on the bodies of the participants further exacerbates potential for winter colds and flu spreading. Germs love to hop on an exhausted body.  In fact, Typhoid Mary was a model citizen compared to someone with a cold, huffing and puffing, tossing around kettlebells spreading germs in a CrossFit session!

    A recent article in the Washington Post noted that each year, Americans suffer more than a billion colds and between 5 and 20 percent get the flu. That’s a lot of sneezing and wheezing, but there are three things you can do to avoid picking up a winter cold from your CrossFit workout.


    Terri DeNeui on CrossFit


    Terri DeNeui, is a nurse practitioner, founder of the highly successful EVEXIAS Medical Centers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and (like you) a maniac about health and wellness. As such, she is the perfect resource for tips on avoiding the colds and flu this winter…especially in a group exercise setting such as your CrossFit class.


    Tip #1 – Let’s Give Prevention a Hand!

    Washing Hands after CrossFit

    It’s true what your grandmother said. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and hand-washing is the best prevention.

    “Wash your hands rigorously with soap and hot water a dozen times a day if you can,” Terri said. “While I’m not a big fan of hand-sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes, if you can’t get to some good old soap and water, slather on some of this stuff.  It’s easy for germs that can cause colds and flu to be passed on in a CrossFit box, where participants are rotating through equipment and surfaces because ‘fomites’ allow these germs live and then they are passed to the rest of the body via the hands.”


    Tip #2 - Up the Antioxidants

    Vitamins to beat the Flu

    Vitamin D is the key.

    Antioxidants such as vitamin D, C and E remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism,” Terri noted. “There’s some recent research that suggests that taking 50,000 IUs of vitamin D, for three days after first noticing symptoms of a cold (achy, stuffiness, sneezing) will knock out the cold. In my personal case, I up my intake of vitamin D every year during the winter months as a preventative measure. When I was an ER nurse, I used this vitamin D strategy and I never got sick, in spite of being exposed to literally hundreds of patients. At a minimum, CrossFit athletes should be taking a minimum of 10,000 IUs of vitamin D every day during the winter. Zinc and Echinacea are also excellent antivirals and can help mitigate a cold when taken in the early stages.”


    Tip #3 – If You’re Sick, Stay Home!

    Stay at home when sick

    If you feel like you’re coming down with something, odds are good that you are. So, do everyone (including yourself) a favor and stay home and rest. OK?

    “When you think about it, when someone comes to their workout, in spite of being sick, it’s very rude,” she said. “If you’re sick, don’t go to work, don’t go to school and for goodness sake, don’t go to a CrossFit (or any other) workout. By staying away, not only does this honor your fellow CrossFitters, but it honors your own body. With a cold or the flu, you are run-down and going through a vigorous workout just adds more stress to your body. When you’re sick, you will get sicker if you don’t allow your body to rest and recuperate. Plus, you will likely make someone else, as sick as you!”

    Do you have any tips for avoiding colds and flu this winter? Contact us and we will share with our readers.

    Choosing the Right Box: 7 Things to Consider

    CrossFit leaders in  action

    Deciding to be stronger, healthier and happier is easy. Accomplishing this is quite another thing. It takes commitment and support. It also takes some forethought, especially if it will involve CrossFit training.

    First, it should surprise no one that not every CrossFit box is exactly same. Some have better coaches and programming while others have a more holistic health approach. Each of these criteria (plus several more) should be taken into consideration before choosing a program.

    There are literally hundreds of criteria one should consider before joining a CrossFit program, but there are seven which carry more weight, and therefore will likely help you lose more and lift more.

  • Make a List of Your Goals
  • The old adage is true. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get your there.” When choosing a CrossFit program to join, it is important to first make a list of your goals and use this list in your discussion with potential coaches.

    If, when discussing these goals, the coach is not asking you questions and offering his/her opinions, this may not be the best box to join. The good CrossFit programs want to help you use their programming philosophy and equipment to help you meet your goals. It’s not about them. It’s about you.

  • Evaluate the Owners and Coaches
  • CrossFit coach

    The leadership of every CrossFit box is more important than any other factor. According to Antony Lo, in his article on choosing a gym, “The leadership drives the culture of the box. Some are competitors. Some are young. Some are older, ex competitors, some are ex personal trainers, some are mid-life career changers. To be honest, it doesn't matter...they have to be a good fit for you.

    What does matter is their commitment to their members and to safety. A focus on technique is obviously desirable. CrossFit preaches "mechanics, consistency, intensity" which means you get the technique right, you do it consistently and then, and only then do you try to go a bit harder or a bit faster or a bit heavier. A good coach will hold you back a bit if you don't have the technique right. It can be infuriatingly frustrating but it is the right thing to do.”

  • Location, Location, Location
  • Typically, you shop at a grocery store that is near your work or home. Why? It’s convenient. You don’t have to worry about traffic, finding a parking place or anything else. You get in. You get out. You get on with the rest of your life!

    When choosing a CrossFit group to join, its proximity to your home or work is very important because if it is too far out of the way, this presents another excuse for avoiding your workout. Of course, great coaching and the camaraderie of the other participants can overcome this location inertia, but why put up another obstacle. Look for a good box near you.

  • Check Out the Programming
  • CrossFit group working out

    As noted above (see #1), the goals of the individual are paramount in the choice of a CrossFit program. These goals are met by the types of programs – strength, conditioning, technique – the coach and gym uses.  Antony Lo notes, “In my experience, programming that has a bit of strengthening or technique work every day is usually a good sign of a coach who knows what they are doing. Some people will do just the CrossFit "Mainsite" workouts that come up and that is ok too if you want a general program - personally for me, you would have to add your own accessory exercises to get your strength up, especially if you are a beginner. Usually, if the box you are at is doing the CrossFit "Mainsite" workout, they will do technique or strength in addition to the workout.

    “Check out different boxes and their websites for a history of their programming. If you see lots "Hero WODs" which are brutal, LONG workouts, I would be wondering if they have a systematic approach to strength and conditioning.”

    It’s also important to evaluate the attitude of the leadership of the box about all aspects of a healthy lifestyle – sleep, nutrition, warmups, recovery.

  • Talk to the Members
  • Unlike any other workout regime, CrossFit training is heavily focused on the community of fellow fitness fanatics! Talking with members will help clarify whether this is a group you want to go to war with.

    According to Tim Huntley, writing in My Athletic Life:

    • Avoid gyms that do long metcons every day.
    • Avoid gyms where members praise their inability to move for days on end from perpetual soreness.
    • Avoid gyms that overemphasize competitiveness and highlight top athletes over everyone else.

    Another tell-tale sign about the camaraderie of a CrossFit box you might be considering has to do with the attitudes of the members.  Are they friendly? Do they enjoy the workouts or dread them? Are they people you would like to hang out with?

    If it is impossible to talk with members, read the organization’s blog or website. If there is no blog or website, this might be a red flag.

  • Equipment
  • Rally Fitness - Fitness Equipment

    The coaching staff of any box is much more important than its equipment, but a good gym will have adequate, safe equipment for its members. In order to get the best bang for your workout buck, the equipment – barbells, kettlebells, slam balls, wall balls, exercise ropes, plyometrics and others – are important.  

    The equipment doesn’t have to be fancy (e.g. old, used tires for flipping), but the range of physical activities is greatly expanded when the gym has adequate equipment. Before signing up, ask to see what types of equipment the box has.

  • Try it out and Then Decide
  • Any reputable CrossFit box should encourage potential members to try out the programing, coaches, other members and equipment before signing a contract. Perfectly good gyms may not have the kind of vibe you are looking for. In other words: it’s not them, it’s you. However, YOU are the most important part of this equation, so if the fit is not right, move on and find a program that is.

    Have you recently evaluated CrossFit programs and facilities? Tell us about your experience and we will share with our readers.

    How CrossFit Training Can Prevent and Cure Osteoporosis

    Cure Osteoporosis with CrossFit

    One of the most serious health concerns for anyone 50 or older is osteoporosis, a disease which can lead to bones becoming weak and brittle and much more likely to fracture. This chronic condition can affect your grandparents, your parents or you if you are a part of the “baby boomer’ generation.

    The interesting thing about osteoporosis is its cure. Orthopedic specialists note that the condition can be prevented or corrected with vigorous exercise, including weight training. It is for this reason that CrossFit training is becoming an important part of every older person’s life.

    Before getting in to how and why this high-impact exercise cures or prevents osteoporosis, here are some sobering facts about the disease.

    Bone of Contention

    According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis “affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.”

    Basically, older individuals contract osteoporosis due to the nature of human bones as they age. Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone.

    Fight loneliness and Osteoporosis

    Just the facts from the International Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.
  • Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide.
  • Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan.
  • For the year 2000, there were an estimated 9 million new osteoporotic fractures, of which 1.6 million were at the hip, 1.7 million were at the forearm and 1.4 million were clinical vertebral fractures.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.
  • Nearly 75% of hip, spine and distal forearm fractures occur among patients 65 years old or over.
  • A 10% loss of bone mass in the vertebrae can double the risk of vertebral fractures, and similarly, a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture.
  • Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. In Europe, the disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers  and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease
  • In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction and breast cancer.
  •  

    A Recent Study on High Impact Exercise and Osteoporosis

     

    German researchers recently published the results of their study on the effect of high-impact exercise, including weight training on reducing the incidence of osteoporosis. The results were surprising.

    Bone density scans were taken at regular intervals of all participants including a control group of 43 and diet, medications, weight changes, depression and other factors which might affect this exercise regime were considered in the analysis. Of the group of regular, high-impact exercisers, bone density decreased by 1.5 percent in the spine and 5.7 percent in the hip. Among the control group (which did little or no exercise), spine bone density declined by 5.8 percent and hip density declined by 9.7 percent. Researchers found this difference between the groups as significant.

    CrossFit group exercising

    Supervised Weight Training

    If vigorous exercise, including weight training, is the key to preventing or correcting osteoporosis, what part can CrossFit training play in this process? The answer is not as simple as it seems.

    The challenge for older individuals who choose to undertake any type of exercise regime lies in the potential for injury while completing the workout. Thus, if the workout is not structured properly – designed and supervised by a professional CrossFit trainer - the “cure” becomes more dangerous than the disease.

    As is the case with anyone, or any age, proper diet and a regular, managed CrossFit training program can literally increase bone density and prevent or correct osteoporosis. According to RX Review, “The best way to build bone mass is through weight bearing exercise. Research has shown that resistance training and impact loading exercises can restore bone mineral density in middle-aged men and women.” This includes weight training, jogging and plyometrics.

    Eating the correct food and getting more vitamin supplements are also critical to this process. RX adds, “Most of us get these micronutrients from milk, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables. If you are in your 40’s or older, you may want to consider taking supplements that contain Calcium and Vitamin D.”

    Before embarking on any CrossFit training, anyone 50 or older should see their family physician or orthopedic specialist to get a bone scan in order to determine their current bone strength. The physician will make recommendations as to the pace of and rigor of the exercise program.

    CrossFit experts suggest the following weight training to prevent or correct osteoporosis:

    • Any exercises using weights – starting slowly, with less weight
    • Dead lifts
    • Clean and jerk
    • Back Squats
    • Tire-flipping – starting with lighter weight and progressing
    • Running – starting slowly and increasing pace
    • Aerobic exercises

    If you care about your parents, grandparents or your own health as you age, check out CrossFit training. Osteoporosis is one disease that can be prevented and even cured. All it takes is a regular program of high-impact, but supervised, exercise.

    Have you had an experience with osteoporosis with yourself or a family member? Did you use CrossFit training to correct this condition? Contact us  and tell us about it. We will share with our community.

    How CrossFit Training Can Help Kids Learn

    Kids doing CrossFit

    During this time of year, all of that “hot fun in the summertime” is but a pleasant memory. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are turning, football is on TV and the kids are back in school. Whether the little ones look forward to those days in the classroom or dread getting up each morning depends on many things, the most important of which is their ability to learn.

    As a kid, nothing is more miserable than sitting in a classroom and being unable to grasp academic concepts – especially if every other kid in the room seems to be getting them!  Whether it is mastering elementary or middle school arithmetic, reading, science, a second language, literature or any other subject, learning is a process and one that does not come easy for every child.

    Recent research from many educators and cognitive scientists suggests that adding an exercise component to the academic training of youngsters can help them expand their ability to learn. Dr. John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of several books on childhood brain development, including “Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain,” describes the brain as a flexible muscle (“use it or lose it”) and describes how exercise can help kids with ADHD focus and improve in academics.

    Given this research, it is no surprise that physical education is becoming more important in schools. It is also no surprise that supervised CrossFit training for kids is being incorporated in this PE curriculum. Why? It can serve as an academic enhancer for kids who might otherwise be frustrated by school and especially traditional PE. This training can help those developing brains grow.  Here’s how.

    CrossFit Training vs. Traditional PE

    According to Phil Eich, who has published several scholarly papers on CrossFit training as a component of physical education classes in schools, this individualized training is superior to the traditional, sports-based PE curriculum.

    “The CrossFit Kids curriculum is effective because it creates a physical learning environment that builds on the idea that all children have differing abilities and need to be challenged at their individual point of development in order for effective learning to take place. This differentiated instruction allows a child to continually and efficiently progress, minimizing the risk of frustration or stagnation.

    “Every skill, every movement, every workout and every game can be scaled to a child’s ability (made easier or harder) so he or she is challenged by something difficult but not discouraged by something impossible. This not only allows for efficient and effective teaching and learning but also increases students’ desire to participate and challenge themselves.

    Kids in CrossFit class“CrossFit Kids uses the natural process of motor development to increase learning effectiveness and efficiency. Instead of confining a child’s development with rules and movement limitations of sports while running the risk of contributing to the detrimental effects of overspecialization, CrossFit Kids uses a child’s natural propensity for constantly varied movement by using constantly varied movement.”

     

    The Amazing Benefits of Neuroplasticity

    The great thing about the human brain is its plasticity. It is constantly re-wiring itself based on new experiences and repetitive actions. The scientific term for this is “neuroplasticity” and it explains why rehabilitation from an injury such as a stroke can sometimes lead to regaining bodily functions – such as the use or an arm or leg – lost by brain damage. Basically, the neurons in the brain “work around” the injury.

    This plasticity of the brain is particularly evident in children and this explains why they have the capacity to learn new things much quicker than adults. When deployed correctly, a physical fitness program based on the functional training of CrossFit will super-charge the child’s cognitive and physical growth.

    According to Cyndi Rodi, in an article written for the CrossFit Journal, “At CrossFit Kids HQ, we have identified four types of experiences/input which appear to enable the brain to more effectively record and recall information, thereby maximizing learning. Armed with this knowledge, we carefully craft CrossFit Kids programming in order to create lasting learning experiences for children and teens.”

    How CrossFit affects kid's brain development

    Rodi notes four tools that “make learning stick.”

    Stimulus #1 – Novel Experiences

    These prime the brain cells for new experiences. She notes, “CrossFit ensures kids will be exposed to novel experiences by prescribing constantly varied movements. This gives a different spin to the term “teachable moments.” Every time our children and teens participate in a WOD, their brains are being primed for learning through new visual, auditory, and tactile cues. As our kids work out, they are changing the “combinations” of their brain cells. These changes mean that permanent learning is just another experience away.”

    Stimulus #2 – Repetition

    As with any “learning” or rehabilitation from injuries, repetition makes it permanent. “Having been primed at first exposure (novel experience), the brain is now ready to make the pathway permanent. The more times that specific neural pathway is stimulated, the stronger the attraction between its participating neurons becomes.”

    Stimulus #3 – Complexity

    As Dr. Ratey and others have noted, one learns better when moving. Rodi notes: “Complexity causes the brain to become more active since more areas of the brain are stimulated. The brain functions as a whole unit, each part reliant on the proper functioning of the other. In learning a new skill or idea, the more areas of the brain you actively engage in any particular activity, the more likely the brain is to remember it. This is particularly potent when you simultaneously engage both the motor and cognitive areas of the brain.”

    Stimulus #4 – The Hebb Rule

    Named after Dr. Donald Hebb, a pioneer in neuropsychology, this final piece of the puzzle encourages the association of learning with other positive stimuli. “Those stimuli which are continually paired or grouped together are more likely to become permanently recorded in the brain.”

    Get Those Kids Moving!

    CrossFit training is a great way for elementary, middle and high school kids to overcome the challenges of the high-tech and largely sedentary world they live in. Childhood obesity, psychological insecurities and poor self-image can all be ameliorated by this function and fun fitness program. The fact that cognitive growth is also enhanced by this process is a wonderful lagniappe (an extra benefit.)

    Have you had experience with kids growing from CrossFit training? Contact us and we’ll share with our readers.

    You’ll Flip for This Workout!

    CrossFit Tire Flip

    For the folks who go to a regular, stainless and glass gym and hop on a treadmill for a few minutes to warm up, then get in a few reps on the fancy machines and a call it a workout, the CrossFit athletes who are out flipping giant (300+ pound) tractor tires in a parking lot must seem like “Hillbilly Jim  the professional wrestler! Who in their right mind flips huge used tires for exercise? The answer is simple:  Someone who wants to build explosive power in their lower body, upper-body strength and aerobic conditioning.

    The tire flipping exercise, recently discovered by coaches of all sports – especially football and wrestling – was a staple of the old World’s Strongest Man  competitions and is now an insanely popular activity in CrossFit gyms around the world. As Doug Fioranelli noted in an article he wrote for Onnit Academy, “The flip is a tremendous movement for people who need explosive power. This is one of the best exercises for athletes such as football linemen, wrestlers, and others who need to exert force quickly to move heavy opponents.”

    There are at least two good reasons for this re-found popularity of tire flipping:

    1. The equipment – the tire – is cheap and readily available. Just go to any tire store and they will sell one for a few bucks.
    2. The movements offer a tremendous, full-body workout

    The Basic Flip

    Tire Flip CrossFit Exercise

    As with any CrossFit exercise, proper form is critical in order for the athlete to avoid injuries. This is a big, old heavy hunk of rubber and if you do this movement incorrectly, you will feel the pain!

    According to MD Labs here’s how it’s supposed to be done.  “When you flip the tire it is best to start with the tire flat on the ground. Place your fingers and hands as far under the tire as you can in this position and keep your hands about shoulder width apart. Squat down and then while pulling the tire up with your arms and back explode out of the bottom position. As the tire comes up you should have enough momentum that you can change your hands from a pulling to a pushing position and push the tire all the way over. Immediately after the tire is pushed over and flat start the process again.

    “In the beginning you may have to use your knee to pop the tire up high enough so that you can change hand positions to a pushing motion. Try to get away from using your knee as soon as possible to avoid possible leg injury when you have one leg planted on the ground and one in the air. You can flip the tire on any type of surface from concrete to grass to sand.”

    Three Tire Flipping Workouts

    Group Tire Flip Exercise

    As with most CrossFit functional exercises, the tire flip can be used for at least two objectives; strength training and/or conditioning. The best training strategy is to vary one’s objective from workout to workout. Here are some examples for using the tire flipping in a CrossFit program.

    Flipping for time (3 to 4 sets)

    Flip a tire over 70 meters and put a stopwatch on each trip. You should get quicker over time

    Flipping for 90-seconds or two-minutes intervals (3 to 4 sets)

    Flip a tire as many times up and down the course over 90-seconds or two-minutes. Keep track of the number of times the tire is flipped. With more practice and strength, the number of flips should increase.

    Sled pulling and tire flipping (3 to 4 sets)

    You can also include tire flips with pulling a sled loaded with the heavy tire. On the course pull the tire one way and flip the tire coming back.

    Anyone of Any Age Can Reap the Benefits of Tire Flipping

    In an informal poll of fitness enthusiasts who happen to hit Facebook on a day when a question about tire flipping was posted by yours truly, more than 50 people responded, most extolling the benefits of this exercise. Some of my friends who are more (how can we put this delicately?) sedentary in their lifestyle had some witty and disparaging comments about tire flipping. However, their idea of a workout is sitting in front of a TV, drinking lite beer and watching nine hours of pro football.

    Most had great things to say about the fitness benefit of tire flipping. Former middle-school football coach, Jason Martin, from Marietta, Georgia wrote, “Actually we used to have our middle school football team do this in the off season. We would divide them into two teams and race.

    “This was different from just pushing weights around. It helped with team – building and competitive spirit. All the while, they were getting great exercise. Note we stressed form: Lifting using legs and pushing over using arm muscles. The kids loved it!”

    CrossFit athlete Debby Rogers from Dallas wrote, “It is fun and takes us back to when humans did actual labor!”

    Is Your Butt Holding You Back?

    A CrossFit Butt


    While there are many muscle groups which are critical to CrossFit training performance, none are more important than the glutes. The official, medical term for this often neglected muscle is gluteus maximus  and according to several online references it is the main extensor muscles of the hip is the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles and makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of each side of the hips.


    “Its thick fleshy mass, in a quadrilateral shape, forms the prominence of the buttocks,” notes Wikipedia. “Its large size is one of the most characteristic features of the muscular system in humans, connected as it is with the power of maintaining the trunk in the erect posture. Other primates have much flatter hips and cannot sustain standing erectly.”  

    Anyone who can stand up straight can thank their lucky glutes for this!


    “A strong butt is the key to a happy life.”

    As far as their importance for CrossFit training, or any other kind of physical exercise or sports, there are no “ifs, ands or buts,” glutes are crucial. Why? According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Glute muscles are the pelvic stabilizing muscles in the backside that keep hips and pelvis in proper alignment during exercise, and they are keys to performance and injury prevention.”


    The author of the book Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Running Strong is a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and he has been quoted as saying: “I often tell my patients, a strong butt is the key to a happy life.” While this praise might be a tad grandiose, almost everyone involved in fitness training agrees on the importance of strong glutes.


    Sprinters


    Dr. Metzl notes that glutes help generate power for push-off and sprinting and in order to “fire in sequence and with proper force,” this muscle group must be strong. He adds that “weak glutes can lead to a number of injuries around the pelvis and there is a correlation between glute activity and knee injuries.” Strong glutes protect the very vulnerable knee joints.


    Four Simple Exercises to Build Glute Strength


    In an interesting article found on the website “Breaking Muscle”  about building glute strength, Fitness coach, Cassie Dionne slyly noted, “Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group for many reasons including preventing injury, improving performance, and helping you fit nicely into your jeans.” Here are her four suggested exercises for strengthening glutes.

    • The Modified Clamshell
    1. Lie on your side with your head resting comfortably. 
    2. Your bottom leg should be straight, with your top hip bent up to ninety degrees and your top foot resting behind your bottom knee. Your hips should be forward, and should remain in this forward position throughout the entire movement to come.
    3. Squeeze your glutes and lift your knee off the ground, keeping your top foot rested on your bottom knee (make sure your hips don’t roll back because they most certainly will try to do so).
    4. You should feel this exercise approximately where your jeans pocket would be. If you feel it here, you’re doing it right!

     

    • The Glute Bridge

    Glute Bridge

    The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air.


    • Mini Band Walks

    Put the mini band around your feet – yes, your feet - and walk laterally, trying to move your upper body as little as possible. This is usually a pretty fail-safe way of getting a burn in that pocket muscle.


    • Slider Reverse Lunge

    Simply grab a Valslide or a similar tool that will allow you to move smoothly across the ground. Put the slide under one foot, and use that foot to slide into a reverse lunge, and then return to standing. Try doing this exercise after one of the ones above, and just wait until you feel the burn!


    Here are two More Glute Exercises

    Not to be outdone, Dr. Jordan Metzl also has two CrossFit exercises which he suggests for strengthening glute muscles.

    CrossFit jump squat

    • Plyometric Jump Squat

    Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat, bending knees to 90 degrees and jump up explosively and landing softly with your knees bent in a squat. Keep weight back and over heels.


    • Plyometric Lunge

    Stand with right foot forward and knees slightly bent. Lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to the floor and the leg is bent at a 90 – degree angle. Spring upward and switch legs, landing gently with you left foot forward. Immediately lower to a lunge again. Spring and switch legs once more.


    In order to build CrossFit training performance and avoid injuries which can keep the athlete on the couch instead of the gym, athletes should talk to their trainer about functional activities and specific exercises to build strength in the glute muscles. Remember what the good doctor said; “A strong butt is the key to a happy life!”




    Do you have a favorite exercise for building strength in glutes? Contact us and we will share with our other readers.
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