Wednesday, January 20

Day One of the Vibram Five Fingers testing

Well I started my trial run (no pun intended) of street/trail/park running using the Vibram Five Fingers shoes today. I won't be posting every single day that I run, but I want to hit some significant ones; starting with Day One. I will report on several things during my periodic postings: knees, heels, calves, thighs, time/distance, and the balls of the feet....and possibly any weird questions/looks that I might get:)

Well, today I went short and slow; it is, of course, only the first day and any new training/equipment demands gradual exposure to prevent injury. So today I started with a 15 sequence Tabata with the work period being executed at only 50%. I ran half on the streets and half on the sidewalk. Immediately I noticed that whether I thought about it or not, I was not allowing my heels to strike the ground with as much force as I thought I would (possibly verging on landing flat footed). The following is how I felt either during or by the end of the Tabata:

Knees: After years of running, sports, military related stress and having the pain in my knees go away since starting CrossFit, I was excited to find that there was no pain in the knees whatsoever.

Heels: Due to the thin sole of the Five Fingers and knowing how much we tend to strike first with our heels, I was surprised to find that my heels felt fine by the time I was done. This expected pain may have been eliminated from the need to not heel-strike from the get-go.

Calves: Although I was only going about 50% on the work portions, I expected my calves to tighten quickly. I was again surprised that my calves felt fine and still do even as I write this post.

Thighs: Again, since I wasn't going all out, I did not notice any difference with the upper portion of the legs.

Time/Distance: As stated above, I am starting slow and carefully; probably only went about a mile or so. Obviously there was no timed trial conducted (but I will be shortly for a comparison months from now).

Balls of Feet: Here is where I started to notice a difference about 400 meters into the run. Like mentioned before, I switched back and forth from running on the road and then onto the sidewalk. Because the road I was running on was very rough, I noticed that the balls of my feet quickly got a little sore. Wondering if this was from the different technique in form or from the surface, I would periodically jump up onto the sidewalk; which would prove to be much more comfortable. The difference, I concluded, is quite obvious and expected: the smoother the surface, the less pin-point directed pressure on the front of the foot.

Overall experience was fine. I felt that I was forced to pull the landing foot up and forward quicker and the soreness in the front of the foot wasn't really that bad; part of me understands that this might be from it only being the first day. I am excited to start some early morning runs by my house with my son, and gym mascot, Ben, on roads that are far less jagged. I am also pumped to do a run this weekend on a trail or in a park and see how it guess, very comfortable.

Other than today, I have been wearing them around the house just doing normal "house" things and I love how comfortable they are! It was weird at first having material encasing every single toe, but that goes away quickly.

Misc. looks/comments: None today...but give it time:) And Ben did give them a thorough sniffing inspection when I brought them home...hopefully I won't have to report on how "chew-proof" they are:)

Monday, January 18

You are what you eat...and drink.

So, let me start off by first asking you all a question: are you doing absolutely everything possible to become stronger? I know I'm not. I want to state that clearly before I go on to explain how you can improve your strength outside the gym. I don't want to appear as a hypocrite. But instead I want to uncloak a "silent" muscle killer that will hinder your progress to build yourself into an unstoppable CrossFit machine. So what am I speaking of?


Now at this time I am wondering how many of our CrossFit rugby players, hockey players, fire breathers....well, actually quite a bit of you just clicked off the website:) I know, I know, anyone who enjoys a good beer from time to time just hates being told how bad it is in the fight to gain muscle and strength; heck, I'm one of them! I am cringing even as I write this! I think a good pale ale after a hard WOD is just heaven! But it is an enemy that we all have to be aware of. Perhaps I should have posted this way back before November; right before the holidays and vacations seem to come week after week until right after the New Year. But it's now 2010 and many of us (hopefully all of us) have started making CrossFit goals. To reach these goals we must look at all the ways that will lead us to victory. Obviously there are the methods within the gym. And we can never forget how excruciatingly important nutrition is, but something that I find among all the CrossFit boxes and people I talk with (once again, I'm including myself) is that I am always hearing this same little speech: "Well, I still have a few drinks here and there. I mean, come on! I still need to have fun in life, right?" True, we can indulge here and there, but something that I want everyone to reevaluate is just how much you may be "periodically indulging". We're always told that everything in moderation is okay, but when it comes to doing your best to become stronger and you feel you aren't, maybe even more alcohol moderation needs to take place?

So if you are serious about truly getting another 35 pounds onto your DL, or breaking that 550 mark on the CrossFit Total (basically becoming an even leaner, meaner, and spartan-ish CrossFitter) then I urge you to read the following and keep my "Alcohol Kills Progress" rambling in mind. Once again, I don't want to come off as a hypocrite. I love to have a few suds from time to time, but since starting CrossFit years ago, I have reduced the intake continuously. And I know that if I have a certain goal that I am having a hard time reaching, an event that I will be competing in, or just feel like I have hit a plateau, alcohol is one of the areas that I immediately eliminate. Here's why:

First, alcohol does limit your growth hormones and along with that the ability for you to build protein which is needed for building muscle and getting stronger. It's a general consensus that this ability to gain muscle is reduced by as much as 20%! Now that low number may not seem like very much now, but the next time you are fighting to get that 1 Rep Max DL off the ground or struggling as you are coming out of the bottom of a Back Squat, that extra 20% might have come in useful:)

Second, alcohol will start to lower your testosterone levels (while increasing estrogen levels). Testosterone is a major player in the muscle-building hormones that your body produces. After some research, I found that this level of testosterone can be lowered up to 25%!!! (If you are a frequent drinker, remember that number, 25%, next time you are struggling with a Shoulder Press)

Third, dehydration. Water is sooooo important for muscle growth but gets stripped from the body because the kidneys have to use lots of water to break down alcohol. Dehydration also will play a major role in your recovery. Depending on the amount that you drink, your training can suffer for days (which again means that more muscle building is reduced once again). Remember that your body is made up of about 70% water. That is obviously an indicator of how extremely important water is in every bodily function; it's only natural that if it's that important and we then take it away, bad things are about to happen (or you could say that GOOD things won't).

Fourth is your sleep. We all know how important sleep is for your body to build itself back up and recover properly. But lets face it, if you decide to go out late and fill your body with alcohol, your sleep suffers (one way is your Krebs cycle; the process your body goes through to turn nutrients into energy). And lets not forget that once again your training the next day(s) will suffer as you begin yawning in the middle of a second pull:)

And finally we have to look at the habits that you tend to have depending on how much you actually consume. Lets face it, if you get a little tipsy you tend to get a little hungry and really don't care as much what kind of food will satisfy that hunger:) Great! Now you're eating crap, late at night, and possibly the next morning! This, as anyone can see, is a recipe for disaster (I haven't even mentioned all the gluten in your average beer; in case you are a Paleo person).

So, like I mentioned before, many of us like to have a cold one from time to time, and I don't believe that this will kill your training. But if you tend to have "more than a few" every weekend and you really want to get serious when it comes to moving more weight, then I strongly urge you to either cut back or accept the fact that your efforts will not be as productive as they could be.

Sunday, January 17

The Walk, the Pause and the Expression...and the Envy

I have a secret to admit. I am jealous of every CrossFitter that is a member of our wonderful gym. Now I am sure that there are many attributes of all of you that I could envy and be in admiration of, but the one that I am speaking of right now is strictly limited to the programming that you are subjected to each and every time that you step foot in the gym. What is it? Let me paint a picture for you.

Being a trainer at CrossFit Spokane is great and has it's perks. Being a trainer does allow me some flexibility with when I can workout. Obviously I am not thrashing myself while I am training, but having a key to the facility allows me to show up early or stay late and provides the opportunity to workout whenever I can fit it in. Most of the time I can get it in during a class time when I am not training, but sometimes not. And if not, it is great mental training tool to conduct a CrossFit WOD completely by myself with nobody around to help push me. But as a head trainer that is responsible for 50% of the programming (and access to the other 50% of Mike's programming) I am confronted with the heart of my jealousy of you, the hard working CrossFitter.

One of the simple, yet entertaining, pleasures I get at the gym is at the very beginning of a class, usually even before it starts as each of you enters the gym a little early to start a personal warm-up for the next session. It's at this time that I enjoy watching the "steps" of everyone that comes in. It usually goes as follows:

First, the "Walk". The CrossFitter swings the door open with energy and enthusiasm. Depending on the time, the individual is either fresh from their home and ready to "get their pain on" early in the day or it might be that they have come from a long day at the stressful office; and now they are ready for a solid hour of vacation away from that commitment. Whichever the case, that entry through the door is strong; it is also full of excitement due to not having any idea what the white board will be directing for the day.

Second, the "Pause". This is where the CrossFitter stops their gait as they approach the white board and proceed with a very close examination of what it says. What happens next is the best part. The third step is usually a back and forth between it and the "Pause".

The "Expression"; my favorite part. As they read the the warm-up and then onto the skill based practice, followed by the main WOD, I dare not take my eyes off of their face. It's a weird change, depending on the person, that happens. It does not matter whether you are considered a fire breather, a beginner, etc, a change happens. Some might squint their eyes and tilt the head like a dog hearing a high pitched sound. Some starting nodding up and down as they immediately begin breaking the WOD down into a way that they know will bring them the best time, intensity and efficiency. And still others, and this is the golden ticket of expressions, will get the "deer in the headlights" look by eyes widening and the jaw dropping as they quietly question why they came in today to subject themselves to this. This stage is also usually accompanied by a low-key four letter word:) No matter what the reaction, everyone will finish reading the board and then continue on to change, switch footwear, and start their personal warm-up while mentally prepping themselves for what is to come. And this brings me to the main point of my rambling....the unexpected.

Since I personally form half of the programming that you do every day and know ahead of time what the other half will be, I am subjected to not having a very key ingredient which is known throughout the CrossFit world...expecting the unexpected. Why? I already know, to some extent, what I will be doing that day long before I drive to the gym. Now, this may seem as not a very big deal, especially because on the weeks I am not in charge of programming I only might have as little as a few hours before I workout where I know what I will be doing, but it doesn't compare to finding out only 10 minutes beforehand.

Now, there may be times when we will let you know if a Benchmark is coming so you can prepare the best in the days leading up to it so you can get the best possible PR, but this is rare. And I encourage you to love it! It's the one thing that I wish I could get back from long ago before I was a trainer. Why, you may ask? Because it is that "not knowing" that truly can get your adrenaline flowing, your energy spiking and your body ready for anything.

So I want to remind you of how empowering that feeling is; to walk into a place after a possibly "chill" day, read the white board WOD and within ten to fifteen minutes find yourself executing high intensity workouts. And believe me, this really is empowering. Think about what you subject yourself to when you train at CrossFit Spokane! Regardless of what level you are at, if you have to scale, if you don't score as high on the score doesn't matter! You test your limits every single day! On the days you walk in and feel like you could move mountains or maybe just feel like crud, you execute what life (read that as 'white board' in this context) throws at you! And you do it!

So think where you can apply this acquired skill in everyday life! With possibly the exception of parenting, everything else in comparison should seem tame and mild (although as a recent uncle I know that better fitness can definitely improve that energy for corralling up those two year old kids...which might put every WOD to shame:).

Being prepared for such quick changes within your environment can allow you to approach the world's challenges with a much greater zest! Let me ask you a few questions, after CrossFitting for awhile, have you attacked snow shoveling in a different way (like utilizing a Deadlift posture and proper midline stabilization)? Have you used your squat and Deadlift skills to move odd objects like couches, trunks, boxes, box springs, etc? Have you utilized your overhead presses to play with kids, lift bags to high cupboards, etc? Have you gone black diamond skiing and found you can "push through the burn" better and longer than in years past? I know I have. And usually these everyday activities are not things you prep for as you go to bed the night before, instead they are the events throughout the day that you do without prior knowledge. They are the things that make up LIFE!

I was asked recently about what the WOD was going to be that following day. Now, every now and then I will actually tell people so they may get a better PR, but other than that, good luck getting it out of me:) In actuality I don't get the privilege of having everything so unexpected. Even when my programming brings up the movements that I am horrible at, I still get a slightly longer amount of time to prep for it. But I wish it wasn't so. I long for the anxiety that you get while walking into the gym. It is a precious gift that you get while being a member of CrossFit Spokane, whether you realize it or not. Relish in it; love it.

-The new website is coming very soon! Once it is up we will be updating many of our videos so be camera ready!:) We know it has been taking some time, so thanks for being patient with us while we get all the last minute changes and details made:)
-Due to scheduling, not as many of our former "games" CrossFitters were able to register this year for the Sectionals for the CrossFit Games, but we do have a few already. Please enter if you are able to make it...guaranteed a good time!
-Please refresh yourself on the monthly challenge that is coming up in two weeks (posted on white board). Lets get a good showing!
-CrossFit Spokane's first Boot Camp is going great and we are really excited to have our new members ready to join the normal classes here in a couple of weeks! And we also have several people ready to join the next Boot Camp starting up in February! Can't wait!
-Also, I have just recently been graciously given the gift of the Vibram Five Fingers! Stay tuned for the the start of a month long testing of street/trail running (short to moderate distance) with these new shoes that take a different approach to footwear. Once started, I will keep a weekly journal on my findings using these shoes for running and post a conclusion upon completion. And to Matt A., don't even think about busting my chops...even if I end up loving and recommending them I will still give you a hard time for wearing them; Marines have to make fun of Airmen no matter's an unwritten, unofficial rule we are taught at our Boot Camp:)