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Why Music Helps You Get Physical in Your CrossFit Workout

Listen to Music for CrossFit workout

Visit any CrossFit class anywhere in the world and there is a good possibility that the sound of music will be pounding through the room. In fact, many if not all organized exercise sessions use music as a stimulant. Why?

Music changes both the body and the mind during a workout. According to a 2013 article in Scientific American, “Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.”

In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug." There are many reasons music has this effect on the human body.

The Rhythm Response is the Key

The SA article notes that since 1911 several hundred studies have been conducted on the effect of music on the body when it is involved in physical activities. Here are some conclusions of this research.

“Two of the most important qualities of workout music are tempo—or speed—and what psychologists call rhythm response, which is more or less how much a song makes you want to boogie. Most people have an instinct to synchronize their movements and expressions with music—to nod their heads, tap their toes or break out in dance—even if they repress that instinct in many situations.

“What type of music excites this instinct varies from culture to culture and from person to person. However, to make some broad generalizations, fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating, so they fill most people's workout playlists. In a survey of 184 college students, for example, the most popular types of exercise music were hip-hop (27.7 percent), rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3 percent).”

It’s All in Your Head!

Recent research noted in the SA article, points to how music encourages athletes to keep pushing ahead with their exercise regime. “Distraction is one explanation. The human body is constantly monitoring itself. After a certain period of exercise—the exact duration varies from person to person—physical fatigue begins to set in. The body recognizes signs of extreme exertion—rising levels of lactate in the muscles, a thrumming heart, increased sweat production—and decides it needs a break.

“Music competes with this physiological feedback for the brain's conscious attention. Similarly, music often changes people's perception of their own effort throughout a workout: it seems easier to run those 10 miles or complete a few extra biceps curls when Beyoncé or Eminem is right there with you.”

Dr. Karageorghis correctly surmised that "Given that exercise is often tiresome, boring and arduous, anything that relieves those negative feelings would be welcome," However, the intensity of a typical CrossFit session may work against this “distraction” tactic.

The research notes that “the benefits of distraction are most pronounced during low-to-moderate-intensity exercise. When up against high-intensity exercise, music loses its power to override the physical feelings of tiredness, but it can still change the way people respond to that fatigue. The right music elevates mood and persuades people to ride out waves of exhaustion, rather than giving up.”

Neuroscientists have noted that different regions of the human brain specialize in processing different senses—sound, sight, touch—and the brain uses the information it receives from one sense to help it understand another. The SA article on music and exercise added, “"We have also known for decades that there are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons," explains Jessica Grahn, who is a cognitive neuroscientist at Western University's Brain and Mind Institute in Ontario. "When you hear a loud noise, you jump before you have even processed what it is. That's a reflex circuit, and it turns out that it can also be active for non-startling sounds, such as music."

Here’s Your Playlist, Now Rock It!

The intensity of CrossFit is constant. As such, a steady, driving musical beat is critical. Veteran CrossFit trainers also feel that the tune should be at least 130 beats per minute (BPM) in order to get that motivation and distraction from pain working together.

In a 2015 article for Shape Magazine, writer Chris Lawhorn proposed the Ten CrossFit Songs to Help You Crush Your Next WOD. While some of them might be a little more “R” rated than others, they all have one thing in common: They start and keep that adrenaline pumping.

Here’s the list, with the BPM for each song.

Drake's workout music

Rihanna - Bitch Better Have My Money - 103 BPM
Nine Inch Nails - Came Back Haunted - 131 BPM
Kanye West, Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney - All Day - 123 BPM
Afrojack & 30 Seconds to Mars - Do or Die (Remix) - 128 BPM
Metric - Breathing Underwater - 143 BPM
Breathe Carolina & Karmin - Bang It Out - 130 BPM
Taddy Porter - Shake Me - 131 BPM
Imagine Dragons & Kendrick Lamar - Radioactive - 139 BPM
Nero - Doomsday - 121 BPM
Drake - Energy - 86 BPM

If you think you need a little boost, some “legal, performance-enhancing drugs” as noted above, download these tunes and see if you can get your trainer to put them in music circulation at your CrossFit box.

Do you have a song that motivates you during your CrossFit workout? Send them our way and we’ll share them with the rest of the class.

When You're Ready to Explode, Grab the Kettlebells!

 

One of the most useful pieces of equipment found in a CrossFit gym is the kettlebell – colorfully described by some as a “cannonball with a handle.” This cast-iron or cast steel weight is used to perform ballistic exercises (those which focus on explosiveness) that have the unique advantage of combining cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.


While the popularity of these weighted balls has only recently taken off, kettlebells have been around since the 1700's. According to several online sources, including Wikipedia, the first kettlebells were used in Russia to weigh crops.


After realizing that their constant lifting and swinging of these weights made the farmers much stronger, they began using them for exercise purposes, leading to the development of a weight-lifting sport known as girevoy sport. The Soviet army used them as part of their physical training and conditioning programs in the 20th century and kettlebells have been used for competition and sports throughout Russia and Europe since the 1940s.


Big Advantage of Kettlebells: Flexibility



While this history of kettlebells is colorful, the real benefit of these weights comes from their amazing flexibility in an exercise program – particularly in a CrossFit environment. Typically, they come in weights of 12 kg., 16 kg. And 24 kg. These weights are chosen based on the participant's strength and flexibility.  


According to several online sources, “by their nature, typical kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs, and shoulders, and increase grip strength. The basic movements, such as the swing, snatch, and the clean and jerk, engage the entire body at once, and in a way that mimics real world activities such as shoveling or farm work, an homage to those early kettlebell devotees, the Russian farmers!


How Kettlebells are used in CrossFit Training


As with any piece of exercise equipment, the benefit derived from kettlebell training is directly related to the quality of instruction on their use. There are literally hundreds of exercises which employ these weights and all of them can either help or hurt the athlete using, or misusing them. Needless to say, it is important to obtain professional advice from a qualified trainer before starting to swing these cannonballs around!


Many think of using kettlebells in the same way they would use barbells or dumbbells. While this is intuitive, it’s also wrong.  According to CrossFit trainers, kettlebell exercises usually involve large numbers of repetitions. Kettlebell exercises work several muscles simultaneously and may be repeated continuously for several minutes or with short breaks.


This combination makes the exercise partially aerobic and but more similar to the high-intensity interval training of CrossFit, rather than to traditional weight lifting. Because of their high repetitions, kettlebell progression should start out slowly to build muscle endurance, support the joints and prevent injury. When used properly, these weights can improve mobility and range of motion which increasing strength.


The Six Best Kettlebell Exercises


There are probably as many exercises which can be done with kettlebells as there are CrossFit trainers and athletes. The simplicity of their design allows these weights to be deployed in an almost unlimited number of ways. However, no one has unlimited time, so it becomes important to get an opinion on the best exercises – for maximum return on energy (that would be “ROE” for you folks who enjoy acronyms!) expended on a workout.


Scott Iardella, is a strength and conditioning specialist, sports nutritionist, former sports medicine physical therapist, and former competitive bodybuilder with over 30 years of experience. He notes that his passion is helping people of all levels get stronger, improve performance, and discover their physical potential. He's also the creator of "The Rdella Training Podcast."


In a recent post on BodyBuilding.com, Scott picked “The 6 Best Kettlebell Exercises You Need to Do.” Here are the exercises this fitness expert recommends.


EXERCISE 1 THE SWING

“The Russian-style kettlebell swing, in which you project the weight to shoulder-height only, is an insanely effective exercise when executed with proper form. Hip power, hip hinging, and breathing techniques make it incredibly powerful. It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.

The swing is considered the most powerful kettlebell movement because it represents full-body power, extreme fat loss, and a high level of cardiovascular conditioning. It's also the foundation of all kettlebell ballistic exercises.”


Next up, Scott picked what appears to be a leg exercise, but is in fact a total-body challenge.


EXERCISE 2 THE GOBLET SQUAT

“Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern with many variations. The kettlebell goblet squat isn't just a leg exercise; it's another total-body juggernaut that offers more mobility—the ability to move easily so you can safely train with heavier loads—and improved conditioning.”


The next choice is designed to “bullet-proof your body.”



EXERCISE 3 THE TURKISH GET-UP

The Turkish get-up is a slow, deliberate movement that's been around for centuries. You start by lying on the floor, then stand up, then lie back down again in a specific sequence of movement transitions. The get-up will help you with functional tasks as well as higher-level exercises. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettlebell), it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement.”


The fourth exercise chosen by Scott shows the advantages of a kettlebell over a dumbbell.


EXERCISE 4 THE STRICT PRESS

“Once you can do the first three exercises—and have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability—the kettlebell press is another exceptional movement to learn. While it looks like an overhead press, it's not just a shoulder exercise, as you use your entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.”


EXERCISE 5 THE CLEAN

Similar to the kettlebell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The difference here is that the kettlebell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.”


EXERCISE 6 THE SNATCH


“Just to be clear, it's nothing like the barbell snatch, except that it begins with the weight in a low position and projects the weight overhead. The kettlebell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits. It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders.”


What are your favorite kettlebell exercises? Leave us a message and we'll share with our other readers.

More Than a Workout. The CrossFit Lifestyle is Transformative.

 CrossFit Celebration!


All it takes is a five-minute conversation with a dedicated CrossFit athlete and it becomes obvious that this is much more than a fad workout. It’s a lifestyle.

It has the “misery loves company” aspect of a military boot camp which has helped to bond soldiers for generations. Plus, it has the constant variety of physical activities, led by a well-trained coach, that are almost impossible for a self-directed individual to conceive of, much less execute. And finally, it has a very strong since of camaraderie among other CrossFit participants that one would never experience in a traditional health club.

According to Ross Lawrence, in an article he wrote for Active NORCAL, “CrossFit has another, important aspect which sets it apart. “It is universally scalable. Essentially, this means that a ‘CrossFitter’ can cater workouts to his or her own physical capabilities by choosing the size of the weights used and doing less taxing versions of certain exercise.”

He also reiterated the advantage of CrossFit’s variety of exercises. “As a means to stave of exercise boredom, CrossFit instructors vary group workouts every single day. Rarely, if ever, will you find yourself doing the same routine you’ve done before. Constantly mixing up programming ensures that athletes are utilizing and strengthening different muscles every time out. Using all the muscles in your body, and working them out in varying ways makes it impossible to plateau. Within one group lesson, you might use row machines, pull-up bars, elastic bands, ropes, barbells, kettlebells, PVC pipes and medicine balls.”


CrossFit Leader


“Attendees at group classes benefit from the great amount of skill and education that coaches possess when it comes to the design of the workouts. Interestingly, for the purpose of keeping each and every muscle in their bodies fit, coaches won’t even design their own routines for fear that they’ll exclude movements they subconsciously don’t like to do.”

The CrossFit lifestyle continues even when the workout is over.


Just Follow the Money

In 2015, an Atlanta-based, consumer banking marketing research company called Cardlytics began studying the purchasing patterns of millions of people who visited fitness centers that year. They analyzed the spending of people who worked out at traditional health clubs, CrossFit gyms, boutique cycling studios and yoga/Pilates/barre studios.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the company “looked at the transactions of everyone who spent at least $30 on fitness in 2015 after not spending on that type of fitness the year before.” The results showed how spending on fitness compares with the purchases outside the gym. This includes what they spend on eating out, which stores they shop, what they value and what they buy.”

It will surprise no one in the CrossFit community, that their group is dramatically different from the others!

For example, people who work out in traditional health clubs spend a whopping 14.6 percent of their food budget on the empty calories of fast food. As the Planet Fitness CEO, Chris Rondeau noted in the WSJ article, “If I look at a CrossFit client, they’re probably a much more avid, enthusiastic, maybe overcommitted exerciser. So, they may tend to eat a little better than someone that isn’t quite a serious or as fanatical about it.”

That word “fanatical” seems to show up quite a bit when CrossFit athletes are being discussed!

Gym Shopper

There are other fascinating aspects of the people who adhere to the CrossFit lifestyle. For example:

  • CrossFit members spend more on home improvement than other fitness users.
  • At casual or takeout restaurants, CrossFit members spend less on pricier items like specialty coffee and alcohol and more on such things a pizza, sandwiches, Mexican food and ice cream.
  • They like to splurge on clothes – for CrossFit. They spend 7.4 percent of the retail budget on athletic apparel, compared to 5.5 percent for cyclists and yogis and 4.6 percent for traditional gym goers.

Sports apparel companies like Reebok have taken notice of spending power of the CrossFit members. The company started making CrossFit-specific gear in 2011 and now offers about 250 apparel items and 16 footwear items for men and women. This is about twice what the company had planned to offer when it first started launched its CrossFit line.

A Lifestyle That Drives Healthy Choices

Whether they are in the middle of the often grueling WOD, shopping or having dinner at a nice restaurant, the CrossFit athletes maintain this unique lifestyle and it drives their healthy choices.

“What we notice though is that people at our gym realize that if they eat or drink to excess, the next day’s workout is going to be really difficult. So instead of having several drinks they only have one. The shift in overall health happens organically,” noted Bryan Schenone, owner of CrossFit Redding, California.


Healthy Group Dinner


“There’s an element of camaraderie with CrossFit because everyone knows how crappy it feels to be suffering through the workouts. No one wants to be last. But first or last, everyone is cheering for you the whole time,” observed Schenone. “CrossFit Redding is a really tight-knit group. We have barbeques and go to the movies together. We go out a lot, and it has become our social network.”

When an exercise program becomes a social network, there’s a strong commitment to fitness. Do you have a story about how the CrossFit lifestyle helped you feel better and helped you overcome the bad habit we all have? Contact us and share your story. We’ll share it with everyone else.

What is That Pain Telling You to Do?

crossfit


Anyone who has made the commitment to exercise, lift weights, bike or practice yoga regularly has experienced some kind of pain. Whether it’s a minor, painful twinge on the morning after a light workout or the mind-numbing-think-you’re-going-to-die kind of pain that often occurs after a high-intensity CrossFit training session, there are good reasons to be aware and grow from this pain and soreness.

Most people embark on a fitness program to lose excess weight and build muscle mass. These are valid objectives and they can lead to muscle soreness and localized pain. Here’s why.

According to the physicians at the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries. This type of pain is usually localized, affecting just one or more muscles or parts of your body. Systemic muscle pain, which you feel throughout your body, is different. It's more often the result of an infection, an illness or a side effect of a medication.

Some common causes of muscle pain include:

  • Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Medications, especially statins
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Muscle strain or rupture
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition in which muscle fibers break down and enter your bloodstream — sometimes as a side effect of using statin drugs




The BuiltLean website notes that after a workout, the body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and number to create muscle growth. This growth occurs whenever the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown. This adaption, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

How do these muscles grow? So-called “satellite” cells act like stem cells for your muscles. When activated, they help to add more nuclei to the muscle cells and therefore contribute directly to the growth of myofibrils which are muscle cells. How are the activated? Stress. It’s a simple formula: Stress is cause and muscle growth is the affect.

In order to produce muscle growth, it is necessary to apply a load of stress greater than what one’s body or muscles had previously adapted too. This will inevitably lead to the bane of every fitness junkie – soreness.

BuiltLean notes that “If you’ve ever felt sore after a workout, you have experienced the localized muscle damage from working out. This local muscle damage causes a release of inflammatory molecules and immune system cells that activate satellite cells to jump into action.”

 

Is Pain a Big Red Stop Sign?



The kind of pain which is typically experienced by CrossFit participants is the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and there is a difference of opinion about the “lessons to be learned” from this type of pain. According to Dr. Tony Webster, who works within the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence at Camosun College in Victoria, Canada, and CrossFit athlete, “It is often taught by fitness experts, and even by many sport coaches, that muscle soreness is a sign of having “overdone” it, to be avoided where possible. It is also taught that lactic acid is the cause of soreness and that post-exercise static stretching will reduce or eliminate DOMS.”

“For many specialized athletes,” he notes, “muscle soreness tends to be an issue only after prolonged layoffs from their sport or after training sessions that have been unusually tough or substantially different from normal. In CrossFit, of course, there is no “normal,” just constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity: the perfect recipe, as it turns out, for ongoing muscle damage and soreness.”

Webster continues. “The main consequence of muscle damage that we all feel is DOMS. This is soreness that first appears about eight hours after the exercise bout and typically peaks about 24-48 hours later. It’s particularly noticeable when you get out of bed in the morning. We experience muscle tenderness, pain when we touch the muscle, and stiffness that causes pain when we move or stretch it. With some gentle movement the pain usually subsides, but after prolonged periods of little movement (sitting in front of a computer, for example) it rears its ugly head again. Usually the DOMS will have mostly disappeared after about four to five days, but can persist for longer in some cases, as most CrossFitters can tell you.”

(stock image of CrossFit training class with participants smiling or laughing)

Dr. Webster notes that the major reason why DOMS is a recurring theme in CrossFit is the emphasis on constantly varied movement patterns. “A specialized athlete will typically use similar muscle groups day in and day out. Thus, the specific muscles concerned will adapt and become quite resistant to muscle damage and DOMS. The CrossFit athlete is using a far greater diversity of muscle groups with constantly differing movement patterns. The result is that we will regularly be hitting muscles with unaccustomed exercises. Voila! DOMS is inevitable in this scenario.”

No Pain. No Gain

Training is all about increasing strength in muscles and decreasing the time of recovery from the work. This is referred to by experts on physiology at the “repeated bout effect.” It means that a similar bout of exercise will not have the same consequences as before. While it is complicated medical process, Webster notes that it is “a combination of increased structural strength of muscle fibers, metabolic adaptation and neuromuscular changes. A key point is that if we go back to being a couch potato all that good work and adaptation will disappear within a few weeks.”

Is the often intense pain and soreness that CrossFit trainers experience after a workout a sign that they are overdoing it? Perhaps, but maybe not.

Maybe this pain is a sign that the muscles are being broken down and being repaired, becoming even stronger that they were before. Professional guidance from qualified CrossFit trainers and a knowledge of one’s own body are two factors that will help in this determination.

In the meantime, there is much truth in the old adage: No pain. No gain.

What CrossFit exercises cause you the most pain and what do you do about it? Contact us and we’ll share your story with our readers.

 

CrossFit Training is Making the Military Combat-Ready

military enlistment office

In war and in peace, the branches of the United States military have always represented a cross-section of America men – Southerners and Yankees, California surfers and Minnesota skiers.  On December 3, 2015, the Secretary of Defense, decided that all U.S. military combat positions are being opened up to women. This means that women will fill about 220,000 jobs including formerly male-only positions such as infantry, armor, reconnaissance and special operations units and the mosaic of Americans in the military will be even more representative of the country as a whole.

Unfortunately, the fitness of the “average” American man and woman is so poor that the leadership of the military branches is concerned about this the group of young soldiers succeeding in combat.  Sadly, the “Greatest Generation” has become the “Fattest Generation” and this has the potential of diminishing the fighting ability of our troops. This situation, along with the chronic obesity of the children who will be the next generation of U.S. soldiers, has forced the military to reconsider its physical fitness training.

Because of its popularity among soldiers – both new recruits and officers and especially the Navy SEAL program – CrossFit training has become a part of this conversation to fix the fitness of our fighting men and women.

An Early Study Showed the Effectiveness of CrossFit Training

In May 2010, the U.S. Army published a 69-page study evaluating the CrossFit program and its effects on combat fitness. This document summarizes the findings of a comprehensive evaluation of 14 military athletes over an eight-week period.

As noted in that report, “the purpose of this study was to test the CrossFit fitness program and methodology to increase the physical fitness of U.S. Army soldiers. Over the past several years, the CrossFit fitness program has gained popularity among U.S. Army soldiers and leaders.”

According the final report of this research, “Since the creation of the U.S Army, physical fitness training has played an important role in combat readiness. However, throughout its history the U.S. Army’s method for conducting physical fitness training has changed and evolved.  Most recently, in the late 1990s, the U.S. Army began to see evidence that its method of conducting physical training was not producing Soldiers ready for the rigors of modern ground combat.”

“This reality began a general move within the U.S. military towards functional fitness programs as many leaders and organizations began to rethink physical training and its relation to combat readiness. In 2006, it was estimated that up to 7,000 members of the U.S. military were using the CrossFit program regularly.  That number has grown exponentially since then represented by the fact that there are now over 58 non-profit military CrossFit affiliates throughout the world, to include affiliates at many major U.S. Army installations like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Polk, Fort Knox, Fort Meade, Fort Leavenworth, the Pentagon and the U.S. Military Academy.”

This idea of functional fitness is a critical component of the U.S. military training. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.”

This study produced four important findings. Here are the highlights.

  1. Over the eight-week study, every athlete experienced an increase in their work capacity, measured in terms of power output, with an average increase of 20 percent.  Therefore, we believe the CrossFit program was successful in increasing every athlete’s general level of physical fitness.  
  2. While those athletes that were least fit at the beginning of the study saw the largest net gains in work capacity, even the most-fit athletes in the study experienced significant gains.  The results of our study indicate that above average athletes overall work capacity increased 14.38 percent.  One of our most fit athletes, with considerable CrossFit experience, saw a gain of 28.3percent in overall work capacity.  
  3. Despite a generalized training program that did not specifically train the athletes for any of the assessments, the athletes’ performance on the assessments improved.  For example, on the one repetition maximum weight deadlift assessment, the athletes mean increase in work capacity increased 21.11 percent. These results lead to the conclusion that generalized training can prepare athletes for unknown and unknowable events, a crucial capability in combat, and can produce improvement in specialized events despite non-specialized training.    
  4. Generally the athletes in the study experienced relatively equal increases in power output in each of the assessments.  This indicates a balanced increase in performance across metabolic pathways and across the ten general physical skills.  We believe the consistency of improvement across assessments validates the CrossFit program’s claim that it produces a broad and inclusive brand of fitness.  

CrossFit is Making the Army of One Stronger

The current lack of physical fitness among young people is sad. However, if this condition impacts our U.S. fighting forces, the situation becomes more dire than merely sad. It becomes one of national concern. For its part, the U.S. Army has seen the benefit of CrossFit in preparing its recruits for physical challenge of combat and made the training its Physical Readiness Training (PRT) program.

As for those young people in high school and college, especially those who are contemplating a military enlistment, getting involved in CrossFit training would be highly advisable. If you’ve been in the military and have benefitted from CrossFit training, contact us and let us share your story with our readers.

Which Exercise Training Are You More Likely to Stick With All Year Long? Yoga or CrossFit?

It has become a cliché.  Every January 1st, millions of well-meaning men and women resolve to go to the gym and work out more. Then, along about February 1st, all bets are off and gyms are empty except for all but a die-hard few!

Recently, some exercise experts had predicted that the popular practice of yoga would change all that. The mostly low-impact, stretching focus of this exercise regimen is much easier on aging bodies than say weight-training. However, it might surprise you to learn that participants of CrossFit, not yoga, will stick with their resolution to work out.

Where the Rubber Meets the Concrete

According to new data from data intelligence firm Cardlytics and reported on CNBC, “46 percent of new gym customers drop off by the end of January, and nearly 80 percent of them give up entirely by the fourth quarter. However, it turns out that the type of gym can make a difference in how long it takes for new gym-goers to give up.”

The reports shows that among specialty workout choices, new yoga clients have the highest drop-off rate, with a full 70 percent leaving after the first month. CrossFit members, on the other hand, are about twice as likely to stick it out until February or the end of the year.

What Accounts for this Stick-to-it-ness?

According to the report, it’s all about the community.

"It's the culture and the sense of community," said Ian Albert, manager of CrossFit Concrete Jungle in New York City. "CrossFit gyms hold you accountable and will check in on you if you don't show up. It's not a huge membership, so we notice if somebody is not coming in."

"CrossFit members have more motivation to show up because of the community, the cheering and high-fiving, and camaraderie," he added. "It's more fun to workout with other people that know you."

Click here to watch the brief CNBC report

The Primary Objective of Big-Box Gyms: Selling Memberships

The commercial gyms which tend to be the most profitable are the so-called “Globo-Gyms” (a reference to the hysterical move “Dodgeball). However, the profitability of big-box gyms such as Gold’s and Planet Fitness has little to do with regular attendance. Selling memberships is the driving force in these businesses. Typically, the business plans for these Globo-Gyms is to offer special introductory memberships in January – cashing in on those New Year’s resolutions – and aggressively trying to sell memberships in the early part of the year.

Ironically, the best scenario for these big-box gyms is to have very few of their paying members show up on a daily basis. This is due to the fact that most of these large facilities don’t really have the room to accommodate all of the members who have shelled out the cash for their annual dues.

The “spinning category” of gyms such as SoulCycle and FlyWheel, have gained a small amount of growth partially because their customers typically pay for their workouts as they go.

A typical CrossFit facility invests in trained, motivated staff and the correct amount and types of equipment, while the facilities are often “Spartan.” This unique environment leads to more camaraderie among participants and trainers and thus more support for participants to meet their fitness goals over the long run.

Support from CrossFit friends and trainers is a powerful motivation for an individual to reach and exceed their fitness goals. When this is combined with the thought that every CrossFit participant has said, or at least thought: “Hey, we survived another workout…together” is a very compelling proposition!  

What are your fitness resolutions? Let us know (link to Contact Us) and we will share them with everyone else.

How CrossFit Training is Helping These Charlotte Men Overcome Drug and Alcohol Addiction

News about CrossFit training typically involves scenes of very healthy people doing very rigorous exercises at the crack of dawn. That’s part of the reason why they are very healthy people! However, this immensely popular fitness program is also being used to help those who are not so healthy – people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans every year. While intervention and treatment programs have improved, relapse rates range from 60% to 90% in the first year of sobriety, the institute said. Aside from the human misery involved in this disease, the costs to society in the form of lost productivity and public health expenses to treat these people is estimated in the billions of dollars each year.

Most medical experts feel this addiction can be overcome with a combination of behavioral modification which includes both mental and physical fitness training. Some CrossFit trainers are showing some success with an innovative program in Charlotte, North Carolina. More on this later.

What Causes Drug and Alcohol Addiction?


According to online medical website, WebMD “Drugs are chemicals that tap into the brain's communication system and disrupt the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. There are at least two ways that drugs are able to do this: by imitating the brain's natural chemical messengers, and/or overstimulating the ‘reward circuit’ of the brain.”

The report on the site continues, “Nearly all drugs, directly or indirectly, target the brain's reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that control movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which normally responds to natural behaviors that are linked to survival (eating, sleeping), produces euphoric effects in response to the drugs. This reaction sets in motion a pattern that ‘teaches’ people to repeat the behavior of abusing drugs.”

As it turns out, this dopamine can also be stimulated by the effects of rigorous exercise such as CrossFit training. The positive effect is enhanced when this physical activity is accomplished on a regular basis. Getting someone “addicted” to exercise, in some cases, replaces the addiction to drugs and alcohol.

How Exercise Affects Addiction

In a report on CNN, psychology professor Mark Smith outlined his research on the effects of exercise on addition in laboratory rats. “One of his first preclinical studies on the subject showed lab rats that had access to an exercise wheel in their cage were much less likely to self-administer cocaine than their sedentary counterparts.”

"I was amazed at how consistent the effects of exercise were," Smith said.

The CNN report concludes that exercise provides a "high" that could be important for addicts trying to combat cravings. In addition to decreasing anxiety and stress, physical activity helps increase levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, a chemical that's associated with feelings of pleasure, is often diminished over time by substance abuse.

The Charlotte Rescue Mission Uses CrossFit to Battle Substance Abuse

A report broadcast on the Fox network affiliate, Fox 46 in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 14, 2015, presented a real-world case study on how CrossFit can help substance abusers overcome their addictions.

The Rescue Mission has been helping desperate people for more than 70 years. One of its programs is a 90-day treatment program for men addicted to drugs and alcohol. They live in-house at the Mission for the length of the program and while psychologists help them work on their mental habits, CrossFit instructor Michelle Crawford helps them build up their strength through rigorous exercises and weight training.

"I think it give them some confidence in their physical abilities, some of which they've neglected over the years," Charlotte Rescue Mission's John Snider said.

Click here to get a look at the CrossFit program that is changing the lives of these men.



CrossFit physical training, in conjunction with behavioral therapy, is changing the lives of people society has given up on.  Are you aware of other CrossFit programs which are being used for helping substance abusers overcome their disease? If so, Contact us and tell us about the program. We will share with everyone else.

CrossFit Training Gets Your Kids in Shape, While They Have a Blast!

Since its beginning in 1996 in Santa Cruz, California, millions of people have been drawn to the WOD at CrossFit gyms. According to Jon Friedman’s article “Success in the Bull’s Eye,” there are more than 10,000 of these gyms and they are packed every day with both men, women and now kids.

That’s right.

One of the fastest growing demographics of CrossFit Training is children as young as 4. Needless to say, developing a CrossFit training regimen for a 5 or 6 year old is much different than one for a 25-year old. However, like adults, kids love the energy and fast-paced activities.

CrossFit for Kids

This popularity of CrossFit among youngsters has led to the establishment of CrossFit Kids. According to a National Public Radio report, “The idea behind CrossFit Kids, says co-founder Jeff Martin, is to pair fitness and fun. Since he started the program with his wife Mikki in 2004, it has taken off. There are hundreds of CrossFit Kids classes across the U.S., and more in cities across the world.”

“Fun” is the operative word here. Because of the neurological development, or lack thereof, in children, it is important to incorporate CrossFit training in a “game” environment. The synapses in these young brains are connecting like crazy and keeping them engaged and focused is critical to realizing strength building of CrossFit training.

Typically, the CrossFit training for kids is broken down into three groups. There is a 4-6 year old group, a 7-12 year old group and a teenage group. The trainers of each of these groups focus on exercises and activities that are developmentally and physiologically appropriate for each age group.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best way to train kids is with high repetition, lightweight training. Kids should be able to do eight to 15 reps of whatever weight with no problem. In order for kids to reap the benefit of strength training, they don’t need to push too hard.

The Non-Physical Benefit: Confidence

While the little guys and girls can certainly increase their strength with this type of training, the physical changes are more visible in post-puberty teenagers. The much discussed childhood obesity epidemic starts at an early age, but teenagers who are overweight are more likely to be unpopular and made fun of. CrossFit training has been credited with changing the physique and confidence of many teenagers.

Kyle McDonald of Kansas City is a poster child for the benefits of CrossFit training for teenagers.

According to a news report on Fox 4 in KC, Kyle’s entire life changed after beginning his CrossFit training.

“In middle school when I started doing it I came in and I could do nothing. I couldn't do a single sit up, I couldn't do a push up. I couldn't do anything,” said the recent high school graduate.

At 16 Kyle got serious about CrossFit with his school PE teacher Dana Davenport. In the past year and a half Kyle's managed to lose more than 85 pounds, but said he's gained a lot more.

"Along with losing weight it helped me have confidence. It helped me. I learned how to talk to people better, I learned how to listen and focus better,” he said.

Kyle’s trainer noted that CrossFit for kids is just like CrossFit for adults but with different functional moves.

Tell Us about Your CrossFit Experience

Are you or your kids involved with CrossFit training? Have you found exercises and activities that are particularly effective for younger children? Let us know. Contact us and we’ll share these with others.

November 28, 2014

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Latest CrossFit Market Research Data

Each January, corporate gym companies wait for the money to come rolling in thanks to overindulgence during the holidays and those New Year's Resolutions. Since 2011, however, they have been able to count less and less on this rapid infusion of capital into their company's coffers. Google Analytics has shown that web searches have remained stagnant for the Big Four corporate gyms, while searches related to the fitness phenomenon of CrossFit have skyrocketed over the last four years, with little sign of slowing.

The popularity of CrossFit by the numbers is interesting. Viewing a breakdown of locations and demographic groups is key information for health experts ready to open their own "Box" or improve an existing facility.

CROSSFIT DEMOGRAPHICS:

Under 18: 18%

18 - 24   :  6%

25 - 34   : 40%

35 - 44   : 20%

45 - 54   :  8%

55 - 64   :  2%

65+        :  5%

From a marketing perspective, 25 - 44 is the sweet spot to aim for in fitness and health related industries and other self-improvement businesses. This age range is settling into adulthood and likely wants to regain or maintain the youthful figure from their high school days.

Percentage of CrossFitters who hold post-graduate degrees: 40%

This is a driven core group of people who have shown they have what it takes to work hard to achieve their goals. What makes you think they won't put that same work and determination toward their commitment to CrossFit?

Annual Income of Over 50% of CrossFitters: $150,000

A post-graduate degree usually means your career pays better than if you only had a bachelor's degree or high school diploma. Over 50% of CrossFit participants are financially able to maintain their CrossFit memberships.

Male Participation:     50%

Female Participation:  50%

Yes. You read that right. The discrepancy by gender is so close that there is no significant statistical difference.

CROSSFIT BY THE NUMBERS

The CrossFit brand has been growing by leaps and bounds since 2005, when there were just 13 Affiliates. In fact, in eight short years, the growth rate has consistently doubled every other year since 2006, with more than 10,000 independently owned Affiliate boxes the world over.

  • 72% of the Affiliates are based in the United States.
  • 23.1% are located in Europe, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand (combined).
  • The CrossFit Games has enjoyed a year-over-year increase in participation of 166%, with competition in Women's divisions far outpacing the Men's.
  • Monthly class attendance typically spikes in the month of July. There were approximately 173,000 attendees in July, 2014.

WHERE IS CROSSFIT MOST POPULAR?

CrossFit's global penetration is anchored by almost 7,500 Affiliates in the United States, where it first gained popularity. Which states are nuts about the exercise movement, and which could seemingly care less?

To find the answer, we took the average of three variables: number of CrossFit Affiliates per capita, number of CrossFit Facebook posts, and the States Google Trends score for the term "CrossFit." The states where CrossFit is most and least popular may surprise you.

THE BOTTOM OF THE HEAP

Coming in dead last were the two Dakotas. With a small population of serious people who have more important things to do, it's not a huge leap to understand why CrossFit isn't favored here.

Tied at 40th are two states which likely have nothing else in common aside from this ranking. Wisconsin and Kentucky residents have probably heard of CrossFit, but it's almost certain they are in the dark on what a "WOD" is.

Dead center and tied at 24th on the list are Alaska and Missouri. CrossFit is probably a great way to work off the winter weight needed to keep you warm on those long Alaskan winter nights. Missouri's urban centers of Kansas City and St. Louis helped to secure their place on the list.

And now for the big reveal. 

The Top 5 States for CrossFit

5th:     Washington

3rd:     Utah

- tied -

3rd:     Texas

2nd:     Hawaii

1st:     Colorado

With a target market of dedicated, determined, and educated young professionals, the skyrocketing success of the CrossFit brand is certain to continue in the coming years. But with all of that high market penetration, it is important to set your Box apart from the others. Make certain you have the most functional and up-to-date equipment for your CrossFitters to use and abuse. Contact RallyFitness, and let us consult you on developing or upgrading your Box.

November 27, 2014

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Using Food Labels for Fitness

The latest fight over  labels has brought a lot of attention to the packaging of some of our favorite foods. As the years have passed, movements, including the latest to disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms, (or GMOS) have worked to include more information about our food right on the packaging. We now know how many calories are in a package of Oreos, for instance, and if that loaf of bread is made with high-fructose corn syrup. Though we’re presented with plenty of good data about our food, it can sometimes be difficult to use this data correctly. Wisely analyzing this data, as well as deftly maneuvering the grocery store aisles, is the best way to ensure you pick the best and healthiest foods for you and your family. Here are some tips to keep in mind next time you’re at your local grocery store:

Labels, Labels, Labels
Food listed as low in calories now present this information as a badge of honor right on the front of the package. A box of Wheat Thins, for example, brags the crackers contained within possess only 160 calories. This is completely relative; if you really want a 160 calorie Wheat Thin snack, you’re limited to only 16 crackers. The next time you’re shopping, remember that the forward facing labels are simply ad campaigns. These labels are used to sell the food as something delicious and not at all bad for you. The real information is located around the back. Keep serving size in mind, and look out for high levels of fat, sugar, and even sugar substitutes.
 
Get Real
While you’re looking at the back of the package, look for a percentage sign. On some products, such as juices, the labels are required to tell you how much of that product contains actual juice, for instance. You’re always better off buying 100% real products. If these products have been modified or processed, it’s been minimally so. Limiting additives and preservatives from your diet goes a long way in overall wellness. Plus, if you buy 100% real food and want to add salt or sugar later, you can. This way, you’re in control of how much you eat of either. 
Stick to the Outside
It sounds silly, but it’s true. Grocery stores exist for one purpose alone: to make money. Supermarkets are designed to keep you in the areas where the cheap foods with high markups are located. Unfortunately, these foods are not often considered good for us. The best foods, the fresh fruits, produce and vegetables, are always located on the perimeter of the store. If you stick to the outside, you’re certain to make better food choices.

As mentioned before, living a healthful lifestyle is a matter of balance. There’s a saying that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, meaning that even if you dedicate a large portion of your day to physical fitness, a bad diet can unravel much of your work. The opposite is also true, and without an exercise regimen, the best of diets will land you short of your fitness goals. If you’re ready to start an exercise program and want to build a home gym solution in your home or office building, give RallyFitness a call today. They offer high quality fitness equipment for a multitude of programs, including CrossFit. Call RallyFitness today at 855-RallyFit!