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. These criteria (plus several more) should be taken into consideration before choosing a Crossfit gym.
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.
The old adage is true. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you 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.
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… choosing a Crossfit gym is about what's good 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.”
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 gym 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just the facts from the International Osteoporosis Foundation:
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.
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:
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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:
The Basic Flip
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
As with most CrossFit functional exercises, the tire flip exercise 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 benefits of tire flipping exercises. 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!”
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.
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 basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
The 2016 Reebok CrossFit ™ Games were about nothing less than finding the “Fittest on Earth” ™ and that happened in the StubHub Center located in Carson, California from July 19 – 24. From the initial group of more than one hundred thousand athletes who entered the competition in February, to the 40 men, 40 women, 40 teenagers, 40 teams and 200 masters who made it to the finals, the competition was a fierce and the physical challenges were grueling.
One of the coolest part of this competition of ultimate fitness is that, unlike the Olympics or the Super Bowl or any other organized sports championship, the athletes (and the spectators) have no idea what to expect in the way of events. According to the CrossFit Games’ website, “A key element to a fair test of fitness is the unknown and unknowable. Athletes cannot train for what they do not know. At each CrossFit Games, the athletes engage in a series of challenges unknown to them until right before the competition. The combination of highly trained athletes and unknown events makes for an explosive mix.” It does indeed!
Three Stages of Competition
The Games season is broken down into three stages. The Open started on February 25, 2016, at CrossFit gyms and garages around the world and consisted of a five-week, five workouts completion. Workouts were released online every Thursday and the athletes had until the following Monday to submit their scores. Anyone who was 14 and older could sign up for the competition.
The second round of competition – the Regionals – featured the best athletes from all 17 regions. This was staged May 13 – 29, 2016, and they were live, three-day events. At the conclusion of this stage, top performers competed for the five qualifying spots at the CrossFit Games.
The finals of this ultimate test – the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games – featured the fittest of the fit, in a never-say-die battle for world dominance. It was not for the faint-of-heart, for either the participants or the spectators!
A Wide Variety of Different Challenges and Relative Scoring
According to the organizers of the event, “The Games are a playing field where the fittest athletes are given a chance to distinguish themselves through consistently exceptional performances. In a single weekend, the CrossFit Games test athletes’ capabilities across broad time and modal domains. A wide variety of different events are intentionally included. In the past, these have ranged from dusty hill sprints to sandbag carries to ocean swims and endurance events.”
As for scoring the performances of the athletes, “The Games use a relative scoring system. Athletes are rewarded according to their placing in each event relative to their peers—not according to their absolute performance on that event. To the degree which the organizers have done their job, the Games athletes are the 40 fittest men and 40 fittest women on Earth. All of them have qualified through multiple steps to get there. It’s up to the Games to determine who among them is the fittest.”
Click here to see the list of the physical challenges for all groups for the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games.
And the Winners Are…
The Top Five Teams
CrossFit Mayhem – Cookville, Tennessee
12 Labours CrossFit – Columbia, Maryland
CrossFit Yas – Abu Dhabi
CrossFit Dynamix – Astoria, New York
CrossFit OC3 – Davenport, Iowa
The Top Five Women
Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir – Natick, Maine
Tia-Clair Toomey – Gladstone, Australia
Ragnheiour Sara Sigmundsdottir – Reykjanesbaer, Iceland
Samantha Briggs – Manchester, England
Kari Pearce – New York, New York
The Top Five Men
Mathew Fraser – Williston, Vermont
Ben Smith – Chesapeake, Virginia
Patrick Vellner – Montreal, Canada
Brent Fikowski – Kelowana, Canada
Cole Sager – Seattle, Washington
For the complete breakdown of the finish of all contestants, click here for the 2016 Leaderboard.
Every regular participant of CrossFit training relishes the opportunity to push themselves past the usual physical limits of a typical workout regime. CrossFit training experts note that “anyone who comes back to the gym for the second or third WOD will likely be hooked on the adrenaline.” When this intensity is combined with the use of weights and gymnastics, there is always the potential for injury.
Because stories of mayhem tend to garner big TV ratings and internet clicks, the media – both mass and digital – have emphasized the physical dangers of CrossFit training, noting the potential for everything from minor muscles strains to permanent injuries from weight-lifting accidents. While no CrossFit athlete should ever be cavalier about injuries and should always follow directions of an authorized trainer, the physical benefits of this training far outweigh the danger.
In order to bring some clarity to the physical risks versus the rewards of CrossFit training, Dr. Rey Bosita, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute in the Dallas/Fort Worth area was asked to give his professional opinion about this issue. Dr. Bosita has lived through a WOD at a CrossFit gym (but just barely!) and his medical training and love of fitness makes him an excellent source on how to get fit without getting hurt!
CrossFit training is challenging and extremely intense, it takes every ounce of stamina one has just to complete the WOD, and yet millions of people plan their week around going to the gym. What makes this fitness program so popular?
“CrossFit training is new and it’s cool,” noted Dr. Bosita. “Exercise follows fashions and fads, similar to picking the hottest new cellphone. What makes CrossFit so popular is that it integrates training with endurance and emotion, simultaneously. “It will pull from weightlifting, running, some repetitive exercises and it also tries to make the experience fun.” Fitness experts describe CrossFit training as a “functional” training program. What does this mean?
“Let’s compare CrossFit with a traditional weightlifting program,” Bosita said. “When an athlete is doing a bench press, there are not many activities in the ‘real world’ that require someone to lie on his or her back and push up a set of weights. Functional exercise includes multiple muscle groups in the activity and integrates them in some kind of sport or other physical challenge.
“In CrossFit, there is a goal of exercising the entire body at the same time,” he said.
The Doctor Looks at the Advantages and Challenges of CrossFit
CrossFit includes a wide range of exercises and physical challenges including weights, medicine balls, kettlebells, gymnastics, running and others. Dr. Bosita explained the advantages and the potential problems of this type of workout for one’s back.
“The primary advantage is that this is a lot of fun,” he said. “In America, we need more people exercising and if this is one avenue that can get people interested in working out and taking care of themselves, I’m all for it!
“The potential challenge of CrossFit training is that it is easy to get caught up in the emotional energy of these gyms. It’s like going into a dance club at midnight. Celebrities are there and everybody’s in to it!
“My CrossFit patients who get hurt are not the ones who have been doing these exercises for some time,” Dr. Bosita said. “It’s the person who might have some fitness training background and they get overly enthusiastic and then hurt themselves in the first few weeks of a CrossFit program. When someone tries to push themselves a little too hard – forgetting that they are 40 and not 20 – they get hurt.”
How to Avoid Back Injuries in CrossFit
“Someone who is about to embark on a CrossFit training program has to prepare themselves for the program,” Dr. Bosita noted. “Before they set foot in a CrossFit gym, the person needs to be working on some strength training, some range of motion training and physical endurance training – not just for their back but for their entire body.
“When first starting CrossFit training, I believe they should start at one level lower than they think they should. Let’s say someone is a weekend athlete and they’ve been spending time working out two or three times a week. I would still suggest they start at a lower level in order to learn the routines and techniques of CrossFit. As with any other sports or workout, proper form will prevent injuries.
Dr. Bosita’s Personal (and Painful) Experience!
If Dr. Bosita sounds like a person who has had experience with CrossFit, there’s a good reason for this. He has and it was not pretty!
“It was probably one of the worst decisions I have made in my entire life,” he laughed. “I won a one-month CrossFit membership at a gym. Of course I went and I got caught up in the emotion and pushed myself a little too hard. I didn’t hurt myself badly, but for a couple of days after this, my back really hurt.
“I didn’t feel any pain at all when I was there, but afterward it was not pleasant. This is why I can offer this advice. I have personal experience that strongly suggests starting slow and getting into the rhythm is the best approach. Don’t just jump in and try to catch up with everybody!”
When should someone be concerned about back pain resulting from a CrossFit workout?
“If a person has pain after working out, the pain should be relieved after a couple of days, especially if the athlete takes ibuprofen, Tylenol or some other over-the-counter pain medicines,” Dr. Bosita noted. “However, if the pain persists and it doesn’t get better, especially if it goes down the legs or causes leg weakness, the person should see his or her physician or spine specialist and get this checked out.”Do you have any experience with injuries from CrossFit training? If so, how did you deal with them? Contact us and we will share with our readers.
Many people, including some who are dedicated to physical fitness, have a complicated relationship with food. To some, food is fuel – nothing more and nothing less. However, to others, food takes on a much more psychological importance.
With the food as fuel crowd, if it happens to taste great… all the better. However, its primary role is to allow them to run faster, get stronger and have a more productive and active life.
However, for those who need food to fulfill some emotional gaps and have a “love/hate” relationship with it, a diet which enhances CrossFit performance and speeds recovery might put these calories in their proper perspective.
It Takes Mental Toughness
Most people who decide to commit the considerable energy to become a CrossFit athlete have realized that this program is much more demanding and rewarding than a stroll into a traditional gym, no matter how many mirrors and fancy workout machines they might have. As has been noted in this space before, CrossFit is a lifestyle and by definition that includes attributes such as: work-ethic, passion to get stronger and nutrition to sustain that effort.
Where many people make a mistake about nutrition – including those who honestly want to get stronger and lose that excess fat – is that they think this process is all about a specific diet. It’s not. It’s about mental toughness. In other words, it’s about making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
While this healthy nutrition is important to supply one’s body with the type of fuel which encourages quicker recovery from the demands of a typical WOD, it doesn’t have to be an obsession. As the car insurance TV commercial correctly notes: “Hey insurance companies. Newsflash. Nobody’s perfect!”
What Types and How Much Food?
According to CrossFit Impulse, an excellent online resource, one of the toughest parts of transitioning to an eating program which incorporates foods that our bodies were intended to eat is the fact that grains, breads and processed carbohydrates are not in this group. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds serve as the basis for this food for fuel program.
Even if one is eating these types of foods, proportions are also important for obtaining physical gains from CrossFit. According to Impulse, “Next, we recommend eating those quality foods in proportions that will fuel your athletic activity and provide hormonal balance. The best way we have found to achieve this is the Zone Diet. The Zone Diet prescribes 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat for every meal. It also prescribes that you eat several small meals throughout the day.” Other fitness experts recommend a Paleo diet, which has many of the same attributes of the Zone Diet.
Does this mean the CrossFit athlete is NEVER eating another dessert or pasta dish again, until death do they part? Of course not. Having a “cheat” meal or periodic dessert is perfectly acceptable, so long as it doesn’t happen every week.
Tips on Eating From a CrossFit Athlete
Another model for an eating program that both enhances a workout and helps the body recover from the intensity of a CrossFit session comes from CrossFit athlete and regular contributor to the online fitness newsletter, The Athletic Build, Danielle Sidell. When asked about her diet and how it helps her train, she explained.
“I would describe it as simple, I don’t do anything special. I don’t avoid a whole lot of foods, I don’t stress over weighing out my food. I really just focus on taking in quality food sources, plenty of calories and stabilizing blood sugar. I want to maximize my workouts by getting the best recovery possible. I already have a very good idea of how much Macro’s are in most foods from changing up my diet so much in the past. So when I say 6 or 8 oz. of meat of sweet potatoes, I am not actually measuring it, but I would say it’s pretty accurate.
“My diet is very important in my performance. We make adjustments daily depending on what my workout is going to be, how I did, and how I feel afterwards. Not only are the nutrients very important but so is hormone balances, which are directly affected by the nutrients you but into your body.
“I wouldn’t say that my diet is a typical CrossFit diet because of some of my food choices, but I think the logic behind the diet I follow and a paleo or zone is similar. I don’t really think that one diet is better than the other. Everyone should find what works for them individually.”
What would someone find in Danielle’s refrigerator? According to The Athletic Build:
To review a typical week in Sidell’s diet, just click here.
Breaking the Emotional Connection to Food
Following a healthy diet is not easy, but neither is succeeding in the grueling CrossFit program! The women and men who get up at some unbelievable hour and push themselves through the most intense exercise session they have ever experienced don’t have a problem with challenges. Eating the right food is a part of this challenge.
CrossFit Impulse puts the entire diet challenge in perspective.
“What you shouldn’t do is go crazy trying to modify all your favorite high-carb meals into something healthy, because it just doesn’t work. The underlying issue is breaking the emotional connection to food. Food is fuel. Just eat it and get on with life.
“Food is not a way to achieve happiness. Happiness is what happens in life when you’re not eating. If you get emotional fulfillment and gratification from food then it is evidence of a hole in your life that you’re trying to fill.
“As a healthy way to set and achieve goals and spend time with like-minded people, CrossFit is part of what will fill that hole. But you have to start by realizing the situation and accepting that if you want to change then you’ve got to change. Your old dietary habits will just give you your old results.”What do you eat before and after your CrossFit training? Tell us and we will share with our other readers.
In most traditional gyms, a typical warm-up involves about 15 to 20 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike. That’s it. While most fitness experts note that “this is better than nothing,” getting ready for an all-out CrossFit session requires more than this type of cursory warm-up.
Several CrossFit websites noted the benefits of warm-up exercise:
Warm-ups serve two important functions. They enhance performance and prevent injuries. As such, an effective warm-up has both physical and mental benefits.
All too often, those trying to keep fit are pushed for time. They have jobs to do, kids to pick up, dinner to cook and any number of other responsibilities. As a result, they often join a work-out session in progress and immediately begin the group’s activity at full speed. This is a recipe for disaster.
Warming Up the Blood
According to Gale Bernhardt, a former Olympic Triathlon coach, the 10 or 15 minutes period before the actual workout begins is critical to getting the optimal benefit of the activity. She notes, “Relaxed, sitting in your chair and reading this column produces a relatively low 15- to 20-percent of blood flow to your skeletal muscles. Most of the small blood vessels (capillaries) within those muscles are closed. After 10 to 12 minutes of total body exercise, blood flow to the skeletal muscles increases to some 70 to 75 percent and the capillaries open.
“Along with more blood flow, comes an increase in muscle temperature. This is good because the hemoglobin in your blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, means better performance.
“An increase in temperature also contributes to faster muscle contraction and relaxation. Nerve transmission and muscle metabolism is increased, so the muscles work more efficiently.”
The most likely injury resulting from a CrossFit athlete failing to warm-up properly is a muscle strain or even a muscle tear. When the muscles are stretched during a warm-up, it is more difficult (taking considerably more force) for them to be injured. While muscle strains can be painful, there is also a more serious result in the failure to warm up properly.
In her article Bernhardt noted, “There have been human studies on sudden, high-intensity exercise and the effects on the heart. One particular study had 44 men (free of overt symptoms of coronary artery disease) run on a treadmill at high intensity for 10 to 15 seconds without any warm-up. Electrocardiogram (ECG) data showed that 70 percent of the subjects displayed abnormal ECG changes that were attributed to low blood supply to the heart muscle.
“To examine the benefit of a warm-up, 22 of the men with abnormal results did a jog-in-place at a moderate intensity for two minutes before getting on the treadmill for another test of high-intensity running. With that small two-minute warm-up, 10 of the men now showed normal ECG tracings and 10 showed improved tracings. Only two of the subjects still showed significant abnormalities.”
Yogi Was Right
The former New York Yankee catcher, , was famous for his malapropisms, especially about sports. One of his most famous was his brilliant, yet goofy, description about the mental aspects of baseball. Yogi deftly opined:
“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical”
Of course, this analysis can be made about a CrossFit warm-up session as well!
A proper warm-up prepares the athlete for the rigorous activities that await them. When the warm-up sessions are consistent – meaning the same activities are done as warm-ups in each session – the CrossFit athlete does not have to “think” about anything. They can just DO.
Many CrossFit trainers use the same warm-up regimen for each workout session for this reason. This allows the athletes to focus on preparing mentally for what will very likely be new activities, arranged in novel ways.
A Great CrossFit Warm-Up
There are as many CrossFit warm-ups as there are CrossFit trainers. However, following the KISS principle is always the best policy. According to Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit Inc. and the publisher of CrossFit Journal, here are simple pre-workout stretches and activities that are excellent ways to get ready for the WOD.
He notes, “The essential features of our warm-up are that they include a stretch and major hip/leg extension, trunk/hip extension and flexion, and pushing and pulling movements. The combinations are limitless and might include more challenging movements like good mornings, hollow rocks, rope climb, or handstand push-ups in place of back extensions, sit-ups, pull-ups, and dips. The movements used will largely depend on your athletic development, but over time the more challenging movements can be included without being a whole workout.”
No matter how pressed you are for time don’t skimp on the warm-up phase of your workout. If you work out at a CrossFit facility, follow the lead of your trainer and if you have a home CrossFit gym, use these suggested warm-up exercises. Your workout will be better for it.What do you do for your warm-up? Leave a comment and we’ll share with our readers.
Someone new to CrossFit training might be surprised to see big, goofy-looking balls flying around the room. As with every piece of equipment in the CrossFit training arsenal, these balls – called medicine balls and slam balls – are important tools to functional fitness training.
The medicine ball has a long, colorful history. According to several online resources, its origins can be traced back 3,000 years to Persian wrestlers who were using it trying to get stronger. According to an April 2015, article by Karl Smallwood in “Gizmoda,” even the father of medicine appreciated the physical benefits of these balls. “In ancient Greece, Hippocrates considered them to be an essential tool for helping injured people regain mobility and he advised people to use them as a general, all-purpose way of remaining healthy.”
Even the “name” of this piece of equipment is interesting. It was not originally called a “medicine ball.” This identity came into the fitness lexicon in 1889. Smallwood notes, “The word itself is only a few hundred years old, being attributed to one, Professor Roberts way back in 1889. According to a Scientific American article from the time, Roberts coined the term “medicine ball” in reference to the fact that using the ball ‘invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one’s health.’ As “health” and “medicine” were considered to be synonymous terms at the time, calling it a “medicine ball” was natural enough.”
While slam balls are a more recent innovation, they are a variation on the medicine ball and serve an important function in CrossFit training. Slam balls are similar in appearance to medicine balls but are more durable and designed to withstand high-velocity impact.
The Difference Between Medicine and Slam Balls
When they are first picked up, CrossFit trainers will immediately recognize the difference between a medicine ball and a slam ball and their design suggests how they are both used for workouts.
Austin fitness writer, Jolie Johnson notes, “Slam balls, which are non-bouncing workout balls, approximately the size of a basketball, have a tough rubber outer shell filled with a mixture of air and sand. Medicine balls, available as bouncing or non-bouncing, have leather, nylon or rubber exteriors and are filled with air or sand. Some medicine balls are soft and pliable, but others are hard and rigid. Varying in size from a baseball to a basketball, some medicine balls have built-in handles for an improved grip.
“Medicine and slam balls are weighted fitness tools. Slam balls are available in 5-pound increments from 10 to 50 pounds. Medicine balls have a larger variety of weights, starting as low as 1 pound and increasing in 1- or 2-pound increments up to 25 pounds. After 25 pounds, medicine balls increase by 5-pound increments up to 50 pounds or more.”
How These Balls Are Used
These exercise balls can be used for strength and plyometric training, both are important to realizing fitness goals in a CrossFit environment. Plyometric training, while not as well-known as strength training is incorporated in many, if not all, CrossFit WOD’s.
A recent “Men’s Fitness” article by Lee Boyce notes, “A plyometric movement is quick, powerful move that starts with an eccentric (muscle lengthening) action and is immediately followed by a concentric (muscle shortening) action. Performing plyometrics movements increases muscular power, which translates to higher jumps and faster sprint times. Combining the moves with resistance training is a way to maximize power and performance.”
The two types of balls are used for different exercises. Johnson notes that “because they have a hard rubber, durable exterior, and they don't bounce, slam balls are most often used for slamming exercises such as ball slams and chest throws against a wall. Medicine balls are used for strength-training exercises, such as the squat to press; functional movements, such as the wood chop; and plyometric exercises, such as the chest throw to a workout partner.”
She adds a precaution. The American College of Sports Medicine warns that many exercisers choose balls that are too heavy. To select the proper weight, choose a ball that is heavy enough to slow the movement, but not so weighted that you lose control or sacrifice accuracy or form.” As with any piece of equipment, it is always advisable to get professional advice on technique from a CrossFit trainer before getting a few balls in the air!
For trainers who work out at home and don’t have the benefit of a trainer’s direction, click here for eight, plyometric drills focusing on upper body training. These are supplied by Sports Fitness Advisor.