What goes into CFCH programming?

by Grace Lin

I’ve had a lot of inquisitive minds ask me about what goes into the programming at CFCH.  Do I create all of the workouts?  Is there a template I follow?  Is there a particular stimulus that we’re focusing on?

crossfit-pyramid1.png

There are many different styles of programming out there, especially ones that are geared toward a specific sport/goal.  For example, an Olympic lifting program will be biased toward building strength and technique in the snatch and clean and jerk.  Most days will include full and variations of one or both of those lifts.  Accessory strength work will also be programmed in to fill in any gaps and build strength in the legs, core and shoulders.

Here at CFCH, we implement a General Physical Preparedness (GPP) program.  Our specialty is not specializing.  We aim to build strong work capacity across broad times and modal domains.  Essentially, we are trying to build a strong, large foundation to continuously build on.  You can’t build a solid house on a small, weak foundation.  You need a strong and sizable foundation to have a sturdy building.  Similarly, you need a good foundation to be able to continuously grow and not plateau in fitness.

In CFCH’s programming, each week will address at least one high skill gymnastic movement (e.g., pull ups, muscle ups, handstand push ups), Olympic lifting (e.g., snatch, clean and jerk), power lifting (e.g., back squat, bench press, dead lift), mono-structural movements (e.g., running, rowing, biking), and other bodyweight and weighted movements (e.g., wall balls, KBS, box jumps).  These will typically come in the form of short, medium, and long duration workouts.

Some days may be pure strength days, in the form of power lifting, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, or strongman.  Some days the strength may be mixed into the conditioning, for example 15-12-9 of front squats (205/145), calorie row, and chest-to-bar pull ups.  Some days may be a long conditioning workout made to build your engine (hello, EMOMs).  Whatever the workout is for the day, there is a purpose for it and it has been thoughtfully programmed to fit into that week.  

I program at least a month in advance and receive feedback from the team before the workouts are finalized for the gym.  I create most of them, but you will see many workouts sprinkled in from other sources, like CF Main-site, Hero WODs, benchmarks, and other gyms that look too fun to pass up ;).  Periodically, we will re-test a previous workout to track your progress.  The date of the previous occurrence will always be noted on the board.  This is why we emphasize journaling your workouts, so you can track your progress (and it’s never too late to start).

In short, the programming at CFCH promotes a GPP program for the gym members.  Those looking to compete recreationally in the sport can look to the optional extra work posted everyday to further develop higher level skills on a regular basis.  Those aiming to compete in the sport at the highest level will need a slightly more specialized program, and the competitor program is great for that!  For the general public looking to stay healthy and fit, our GPP program will do a great job.  A sport-specific program will definitely do well in preparing you for that sport.  A GPP program will prepare you for life.

We have some great ideas planned.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post about new quarterly focuses coming in 2018!

My Return from Pregnancy: A Sob Story

by Camzin Martin

This topic came about from a trainer meeting where we were talking about funny squatting bails and I shared (one of) mine.

I was about 3 months post partum and trying to be sensible about my return to fitness. I had continued with CrossFit for all nine months, completing my final workout the day I went into labor. I had remained fit, all things considered, and so I expected that I would be able to ramp back up fairly quickly and regain my former glory.

To which end I was box squatting. As you may know, women’s bodies go through a lot of changes during pregnancy and birth, so to re-wire proper mechanics we had decided that today I would do a box squat to twenty inches with fifty five percent of my one rep max, and I would do that three times. So I warm up, and I steadily increase the load on the bar until I’m at my first working set. I sit back and down on the box, and I can’t stand it up.

I start to panic a little bit. You can’t safely bail a box squat because the bar would hit the box. I’m in a class setting and don’t want to embarrass myself. I didn’t think to get a spotter because I was confident I could do A SINGLE SQUAT at 55% so there’s no one paying attention to me to help me. I try to stand up again and don’t budge. So as any recently pregnant woman might do, I begin to cry. The cry turns into a soft sob, at which time my dear husband spots me in distress and saves me from an eternal box squat, and helps me re-rack the bar. So I turn to him, with tears streaming down my face,

“I think I’m going to quit CrossFit. I’ll never be good at this again!”

Fortunately he talked me off the ledge and I’ve been training ever since, and I’m pleased to say that I’m better than I’ve ever been...but the first six to nine months of training after pregnancy were some of the hardest mentally of my entire athletic career. Most days I didn’t want to go. Everything felt like I was climbing the same stupid mountain over and over only to wake up at the bottom again the next day.

Training so hard to just get closer to being as good as I USED to be was frankly, demoralizing. Add in the fatigue and stress of being a new parent and I was a miserable sight for much of that time. But this is what kept me going, and what may help you in your return from pregnancy/time off/injury/life.

1.       Support

I would not have made it another day if it weren’t for people in my life who lent an ear, as well as counsel. The people who made me understand it was ok to acknowledge that this was hard, and uncomfortable, and often unpleasant, but also that I wasn’t the kind of person who quit in the face of that. They helped me remember that the process is greater than the outcome.

2.       Perspective

Knowing that this time would pass was very helpful, add in that if I let this time pass without working toward a goal I would only regret it later. In a month, or two, or ten, if you would have wished you had never quit, then it’s worth sticking it out, because the suck does not last forever.

3.       Why

Health and fitness crafted a new path for my life, one with greater life-expectancy, improved quality of life, more energy, better self-image, and more control over my life in general. Remembering that whatever lull I’m in is far better than where I was before I started and that I’m unwilling to let this be the end point of my journey. I may be climbing the same mountain again, but from the top at least I’ll be able to chart my next course.

In conclusion, life happens and we all have stumbling blocks or set backs that keep us from being where we want to be, but stick it out. I’ve never heard anyone who regretted that.

Double Undies

Did-45-unbroken-double-unders-Only-peed-myself-a-little.jpg

by Grace Lin

DISCLAIMER: This post will mainly apply to the female audience.

Ladies, do you often struggle to with unwanted urine flow during exercise? Perhaps, it happens to you only sometimes but you can’t quite pinpoint when and why, which makes it difficult to plan for this unpleasant surprise.  As many know, the main cause of this accidental urination is a weak pelvic floor.  However, there could be another culprit that is often neglected.  This could all be speculation, but bear with me here… There has been talk about the timing of your menstrual cycle being connected with symptoms of a weak pelvic floor.

First off, what is the pelvic floor?  It is comprised of muscles that are located between the tailbone and the pubic bone.  The muscles support the bowel, bladder, uterus, and vagina.  Sphincters encircle these organs as they pass through the pelvic floor.  When the pelvic floor muscles contract, the organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten.  The opposite happens when the pelvic floor is relaxed, allowing passage of bodily fluids like urine.

So, if these muscles are weakened, then the internal organs may not be fully supported.  And thus, you might not be able to control your bladder.  Some common causes of a weakened pelvic floor are pregnancy, giving birth, obesity, chronic constipation, chronic coughing, surgeries that require cutting pelvic floor muscles, and lower levels of estrogen (e.g., after menopause).

Now what does this have to do with the timing of your menstrual cycle?  Well, as we move through our cycles, our hormone levels change.  These changes in hormone levels can result in a weaker pelvic floor at certain times during the cycle.  

One of the key hormonal players is estrogen.  This hormone is like the female version of testosterone.  It is responsible for growing and maturing the uterine lining to create a proper environment for implantation.  If you recall, lower levels of estrogen is a common cause of a weakened pelvic floor.  And guess what?  There are some periods during your menstrual cycle where estrogen is low.

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 2.27.01 PM.png

As you can see from the chart above, estrogen is at its lowest on days 1-8, 16-18, and 26-30.  So, if estrogen is lowest during these days, then your pelvic floor may also be weaker during these days.  Again, this may be just speculation, but it may be worth taking note of these days the next time you come to the gym to help prepare for unwanted pee, especially for those double unders.

Team Selection Procedure

by Connor Martin

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 2.51.14 PM.png

In the past few years CFCH has had the opportunity to be represented in elite level competitions through Teresa’s individual efforts. She has established herself at the Regional level as an individual competitor and at the Game’s level as a master’s competitor. As members of CFCH we have cheered her on as she has flown the gym’s banner and represented our CFCH.
This year presents a new and unique opportunity for CFCH to field a team to fight for a spot at the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games and compete for the Affiliate Cup. To fully understand what that means requires a brief review of the Games’ rulebook and season.

The Reebok CrossFit Games Season officially begins January 1s tof each year. The worldwide Open, the first stage of the Games’ qualification process, begins in late February and continues for an average of five weeks. At the culmination of the Open the top males, females, and teams from each Region are invited to their respective Super Regionals which take place in May. The top five males, females, and teams from each Super Regional receive an invitation to that year’s Reebok CrossFit Games (barring disqualification), and the Game’s take place in late July or early August of that same year.
For teams (three men and three women), there are additional considerations at each stage. As of the beginning of each season each team member must train three or more days at the facility which they will be representing in competition (more than half rule). They must maintain this schedule throughout the season for as long as they are eligible to continue competing (qualifying for Regionals, and/or the Games prolongs this requirement). Furthermore, if a team athlete double qualifies (i.e. as an individual to Regionals or as a masters/teen athlete to the Games) that athlete must decide and either turn down their individual invitation and go team, or accept their individual invitation in which event theirs scores are pulled from their team and their team invariably does not do as well.

For CFCH we are fielding a team this year. This means we may have people try out for the male/female spots as well as the alternate spots as season approaches. These may be members from within our community who train in our competitor’s program or they may be athletes from other gyms who join our community to have a chance to compete on our team. This means five more people will be representing CFCH this year and the community we stand for at Regionals, and we fully intend, the Games.
At CrossFit Central Houston, community is paramount and with our team it is no different. You can expect to get to know each of the team members as season approaches and spots are decided, to see them around the gym, and to see them participate in community events. As new people come through to train for an opportunity to join our team please make them feel welcome just as we would any other member. As we press forwards into the season, we welcome any questions you may have.

2018 Reebok CrossFit Games. One Community. One Team. One Goal.

What the Health Do I Eat?

by Camzin Martin

621c4d_2767a3720a294218b0eb7debedcc38dc.jpg

I made the decision to watch the Netflix movie, “What the Health” a few weeks ago. I couldn’t finish it, if you haven’t watched it I’ll spare you the nausea, but after the pigs on the processing line I had seen enough. If you don’t have the stomach to watch it here are the big take-aways; first, the film’s bias is in favor of veganism, and second, there is a lot of corruption in big food production. 

My origin point for my health and fitness journey was food. I had become quite overweight through following the USDA food pyramid in high school and the beginning of college until one of my friends convinced me to try Primal, which I had amazing, although temporary, success with. So naturally I was interested in nutrition and what was the “right” thing to do. Since then I’ve dabbled in many different nutritional philosophies before finding the right balance for me in this phase of my life and training.

If you’ve had a similar journey you’ve heard camps on different sides of the nutrition and preventable disease spectrum blame sugar, fat, carbs, meat, dairy, environmental contaminants, GMO’s, etc. Which can leave you wondering, what then CAN I eat? 

Well, as blog posts are by nature relatively short, I do not aim to tell anyone what specifically to eat. Rather, I hope to provide a starting point to do some research biased by your desire to be healthy. So here goes.

All reputable camps agree on some core principles, that are good rules of thumb. Although for many budgets and living situations 100% compliance may not be possible, moving closer toward these principles moves us toward better health. 

First, eat things that were a part of a living ecosystem. This means things that were alive (or maybe still are) before you eat them. 

Second, eat things that lived a good, natural life. If plants, this means they received appropriate sunlight from the sun, they lived in rich, nutrient dense soil, and received fresh, untreated water. If animals it means they could graze and roam freely, that they were treated with care and slaughtered in the most humane way possible, that their food sources were natural and appropriate for their species.

Third, eat foods in proportions and quantities appropriate for your height, age, weight, and activity level to create health and avoid disease.

If you move toward those principles you’ll notice it excludes foods that were chemically processed, or packaged, or produced with profit margins so high that the producer’s morality has likely been purchased long before the consumers’ goodwill could be a factor in decision making. You may also notice that it requires a level of mindfulness about what you’re eating, but beyond that, a level of research into the life your food led before it reached your plate. 

If you are tempted to endure What the Health, or Supersize Me, or any of the other popularized films on food health and safety, do so. Watch and look past the biases for the nuggets of truth and wisdom. Then do some reading from camps on the opposition and see where the commonalities lie. Read Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taube, read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth, read the Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan and read the books and references that these inquiries spur you toward. Know as much as you can and make the best decisions you can regarding your health and diet. 

CrossFit Central Houston Core Values, Part 3: Integrity

21314465_1505734452806584_6085719781938622924_n.jpg

Here’s the final installment of our 3 part series diving into the CFCH core values!  In the parts 1 and 2, we covered Relationships and Excellence.  In this installment, we will dive into the final core value: Integrity.  

What comes to mind when you see the word Integrity?  Maybe you think of a childhood role model, a mentor, or someone of high honor.  You might also think of a group of people or an organization that you admire because of their mission.  What do all these things that come to mind have in common?  They have integrity; meaning, they hold themselves to a higher standard without a third party telling them to.  They set the standard and deem it their responsibility to uphold it.  They do the right thing when no one is watching.  In other words, they have self-accountability. 

In order to have integrity, one must exhibit these characteristics: honesty, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, and trustworthiness.  These are all synonyms for integrity, and rightly so.  Integrity isn’t a word that is thrown around all the time.  When it is mentioned, it means something.  And that is exactly why we chose integrity as our final core value.  We want everyone here to have integrity as a priority in their lives.

This can look different, depending on the setting.  It could mean being honest about your reps and movement standards, or your friend’s (if you are judging).  I could mean being kind, fair, sincere, and trustworthy in all of your relationships.  And most importantly, it could mean being honest with yourself.  

Often overlooked, integrity can also mean unity, coherence, or togetherness.  This is perfect for what we embody at CFCH.  We aren’t just a gym.  We are a family.  We are united.  The recent events are a perfect reflection of our values.  The overwhelming help, cooperation, love, and care from everyone during and after hurricane Harvey was (and is) amazing.  It shows that we are here for each other no matter what, just like a family.

This final core value, integrity, is not just one in itself.  It unifies the first two values and brings them into full circle to show what CFCH is all about.

CrossFit Central Houston Core Values, Part 2: Excellence

IMG_0105.JPG

by Grace Lin

Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part series, diving into the CFCH core values.  In part 1, we dug into Relationships and what they mean at CFCH.  In this installment, we will go into the second core value: Excellence.  

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of excellence is the quality of being excellent; and the definition of excellent is eminently good.

Eminently good.

That’s a pretty powerful statement, and rightly so.  “Excellence” isn’t a word that is generally thrown around in conversation.  When you ask someone how their day is, they will usually reply with “fine” or “good.”  You rarely hear, “It’s excellent!”  And if that is a response, then you’re intrigued to learn more about why their day was so above and beyond.

Excellence is going above and beyond.  It’s putting forth the effort into going the extra mile.  Here at CFCH, that can be applied to a plethora of things.  Our coaching staff works hard to provide excellent coaching.  We emphasize chasing excellence in your movement patterns, technique, and mindset.  In addition (and building off of the first core value), we strive for excellence in our relationships.  We want meaningful and deep relationships within our community.

But it doesn’t just stop there.  Excellence can be pursued in life outside the gym.  We can extend our relationships and try to touch the lives of those around us during the other 23 hours of our day.  Excellence can be applied to your job.  Strive to be the best that you can be in your workplace.  It can be applied to family life.  Be the best dad, husband, mom, wife, sister, brother, daughter, or son.  It can be applied while running errands.  Be genuine and kind to strangers at the grocery store, park, nursery, school, etc.

Chasing excellence can be applied to anything in our lives.  Continually striving for the highest standard sets us apart from other gyms and communities.  It is something we are proud of and something we want to instill in those around us.  We are here to make people better, and, more importantly, inspire those people to pass it onto others.

CrossFit Central Houston Core Values: Relationships

by Grace Lin

In this 3 part series, we will be diving into each of the three core values we hold dear at CFCH.  The team sat down and brainstormed, ”What makes CFCH unique?”  We each wrote down all the words that came to mind to answer that question.  When we brought the answers back, three very prominent themes came up in everyone’s answers: Relationships, Excellence, and Integrity.

In this installment, we will dive into the first value: Relationships.  

It is undeniable, the community we have here at CFCH.  It is, by far, the strongest and most apparent quality we receive feedback on from both members and visitors.  Keeping up with our tight-knit community has always been a priority for the CFCH staff.  We are more than just a gym.  We are a family.  Members at the gym can rest assured that if they ever need anything, another gym member will be there to help.  This quality is rare to find out in the real world, let alone a gym.

As our family grows, we want to continue to keep community and strong relationships in the forefront of everything we do.  If you see a new face, please take initiative to say hi and introduce yourself!  Take him/her under your wing and show them around the gym.  We all remember our first day stepping into the gym (or any new place) – it can be intimidating!  A friendly face always helps ease the nerves.

Something that comes to mind, personally, when I think of family is serving others.  This could look like helping each other out during the workouts.  Especially when you’re finished and your neighbor is still working.  It could also be helping each other clean up.  We are not done until the last person is done – this goes for everything.  And finally, it could also look like celebrating each other’s accomplishments.  Be happy for your fellow members when they set a new PR!  And if they don’t think it’s a big deal, let them know it is a big deal!  Every accomplishment should be celebrated, no matter how big or small.  A victory is a victory.

So the next time you come to the gym, don’t think of it as a check off the to-do list.  Think of it as coming home to a family who wants you to be there.

For some tips on how to remember names better, check out this previous post: Flex Your Brain.

Goals Check In

by Grace Lin

It’s already the second half of 2017 and time to perform a check-in with yourself.  How are your New Year’s goals going so far?  Are you on track?  Have you made progress?  Or have they fallen on the back burner?

Now is the time to get real with yourself and evaluate where you are now compared to where you were in January.  Maybe you need to re-adjust some goals?  Or edit the timeline?  Do you need to edit your action plan?  Maybe you’ve reached your goals and now need some new additions.  Whatever scenario applies to you, think of ways that will keep you moving forward.  Periodically revisiting goals is important to keep yourself accountable.  

Remember, setting goals and achieving them isn’t always a straight path.  The journey can take unexpected turns, which makes it more difficult, but much more rewarding.  It’s about the process of getting there, not about the goal itself.  The process is what actually makes you better.

If you’re interested in learning how to set goals, CFCH will be hosting a goal setting workshop powered by Compete Every Day on August 26 (Saturday) from 12-4pm.  Check out our Facebook page for more information.  Spots are limited, so please sign up early! 

TO REGISTER, CLICK HERE: events.competeeveryday.com

You Don't Have To... You GET to

by Grace Lin

I recently read a post about how we talk to ourselves when we approach a workout.  So, it’s a typical day and you come into the gym, put your stuff down, and check out the whiteboard.  The workout is this: 

150 Burpees for time

What do you think to yourself when you read this workout?  Do you think, “I HAVE to 150 burpees”?  Or do you think, “I GET to do 150 burpees”?

I’d take a guess that most people think I “have” to do this.  I am guilty of this too.  Guess what?  You don’t have to do anything.  You get to do it.  You are fortunate and privileged enough to get to come to the gym and workout.  

This same concept goes for many things we don’t necessarily like to do.  For example, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, getting an oil change, etc.  There are millions of people less fortunate who don’t even get to do these things.  Millions of people don’t own houses, don’t own cars, don’t have a job, or don’t have enough money for a gym membership.  We are fortunate enough to have all these things!  So, the next time you’re a bit grumpy about doing a workout or a chore, try to change your perspective by saying “I get to do _____” instead of “I have to _____.”

Remember, you don’t have to come to the gym… You get to come to the gym.

Narrow Focus

by Grace Lin

Have you ever been confronted with a task that seemed impossible?  Okay maybe not impossible, but what about an extremely overwhelming task?  My guess is that you have encountered this before, and if you haven’t, you will.  So, how did you overcome the task?  Did you try to tackle it all at once?  Or did you break it into small pieces and chip away at it?  Probably the latter.

Recently, I have run into what seems like an insurmountable task: planning a wedding.  For those who are married and have been through this, you know what I’m talking about.  There are hundreds of decisions to make, tasks to do, things to coordinate, information to collect, and the list goes on.  And let’s be honest here, none of the things that go into wedding planning are “in my wheelhouse.”  When I think of all of the things that need to be done, I get overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  And then I think to myself, “Stop.  Narrow your focus.  It’s just like a chipper workout.  So, take it one step at a time and chip away at it.”  And all of a sudden, a seemingly impossible task seems extremely doable.  (Of course, I am getting help from my wonderful fiancé throughout all of this)

Now, apply this concept of narrowing your focus to your training.  You can apply it to conditioning sessions, for example, a long EMOM workout.  You look at a 30 minute EMOM and immediately want to die.  But that’s because you’re focusing on ALL of the work you need to do at once.  Instead, narrow your focus to one minute.  Complete that minute, and then tackle the next minute.  Complete that, and tackle the next.  And before you know it, you’re into minute 26 and almost done.  Taking long workouts one rep, movement, or station (however you want to look at it) at a time will help rid the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and give you a sense of purpose.  Finish a task, go on to the next, and keep on trucking.

You can also apply this to skill work or any movement.  When we first learn a skill or movement, we’re usually given a couple major points to focus on, and this helps us learn how to move properly.  Then there comes a point where the movement or skill becomes second nature – meaning we go on autopilot and don’t need to think when we perform the movement.  This is when narrowing your focus becomes imperative.  If you continue to run on autopilot, how will you ever improve?  

Take the muscle up, for example.  Let’s say you’ve learned how to do muscle ups and you’re pretty good at them.  You can knock out 5 in a row easily.  That’s great!  But what’s stopping you from being able to do 10 in a row?  What are you thinking about when you perform a muscle up?  If you don’t know the answer to that, then you’re probably on autopilot.  You need to narrow your focus and think about a specific cue that will help improve your movement.  This could be leading with the toes, staying tight in the arch and hollow positions (tighter is lighter), or popping your hips fast.  Don’t focus on performing the entire muscle up; instead, narrow your focus on a specific component of the muscle up to help improve it.  And once that becomes second nature, focus on something else.

Moral of the story, guys: Having the big picture is important, but breaking it down into smaller components is also extremely helpful.  You win the big battles by tackling the smaller components successfully.

Welcome Connor and Camzin Martin!

We are thrilled to welcome Connor and Camzin Martin to the CrossFit Central Houston coaching staff! These two both bring a wealth of CrossFit knowledge as experienced coaches and athletes. With this addition, we're afforded the oppportunities to not only bring you even more high quality coaching, but more classes and new programs! Please welcome Connor and Camzin into the CFCH family!

A little more about the Martins...

If you've watched "Every Second Counts" you've seen Connor Martin. He's the skinny kid in the back of the 2008 CrossFit Games as the youngest competitor there. He competed in the 2007 Games as well as the very first Regionals, ultimately competing on the Regional stage four times before hanging up his hat as a competitor to develop both Regional and Games level athletes.

Connor began his CrossFit career 13 years ago at the fifth CrossFit affiliate worldwide. He trained extensively under Jeff Martin (the man responsible for producing the scaling on CrossFit.com for over 9 years) before beginning his four year career on the CrossFit Seminar staff where he taught the Level 1, Level 2, and CrossFit Kids Seminars, teaching over 150 seminars all over the world and achieving the status of a Level 3 CrossFit Certified Trainer.

When his wife, Camzin, found out she was pregnant they looked to put down roots and found a home here in Houston where he developed an extremely successful competition program, a teen program, strength protocols, and an on-boarding program.

Camzin began CrossFit in 2012 and has competed as a Regional athlete every year since with the exception of the year after the birth of their oldest child. Camzin came to CrossFit with a twelve-year background in gymnastics as an either an athlete, coach, or gym manager.

Camzin taught on the CrossFit Kids seminar staff for a year before becoming pregnant with their oldest daughter and has attained her Mobility, Gymnastics, and Level 2 CrossFit Training certificates. She has written and developed masters programs, as well as hosted multiple gymnastics clinics and seminars.

Since coming to Houston Camzin and Connor have fostered their second daughter from birth and are eager to be able to adopt her before the end of the year. Their passion is in helping people find confidence, health, and longevity through fitness as well as helping athletes redefine what they thought possible for themselves. They feel honored to be able to continue their journey with CrossFit Central Houston and blessed to be able to do so with the leadership here.

Two Questions That Can Make or Break Your Training (Part 2)

by Grace Lin

In the last post, we talked about the first question to ask yourself before you train every day: Why am I here?  But, the questions don’t end there.  After answering the why, it’s important to answer the what.  

What am I hoping to accomplish in this session?

Every training session is comprised of many different elements and it is nearly impossible to focus on all of them at once (not without sacrificing quality).  But, if you choose one or two elements to focus on for that day, it completely changes the dynamic of the training session.

For example, if the workout was

4 rounds for time of
30 WB (20/14)
15 Power Cleans (155/105)
50 DU

Your focus could be, “I want to finish each set of WB in 2 sets or less.”  

Or it could be, “I know I have some technical faults on my clean, so I’m going to really focus on getting the bar to my pockets and keeping it close on every rep.”

Or maybe, “I usually take big breaks between sets of DU.  I won’t do that this time.  I’m going to step through the rope immediately if I trip up.”

The what you choose to focus on is completely up to you – it’s totally dependent on the athlete.  Answering what gives you a small daily goal to work toward.  And the continuous accumulation of these small goals will carry over into achieving your big goals.  Small victories are what make big victories, and this strategy gives you small victories that you can celebrate every day.

Two Questions That Can Make or Break Your Training (Part 1)

by Grace LIn

How do you approach your training every time you step foot in the gym?  Do you rush in at the last minute, get changed quickly, and rush out to try to catch the rest of the class in the warm up run?  Or do you come in a few minutes early and lay on a foam roller with your eyes glued to your phone?  What’s going through your head in those 5-10 minutes before class starts?

If you want to get the most out of every training session, start by asking yourself two very important questions before you warm up.  You need to get your mind right before getting your body right.  So, start every training session by asking yourself WHY.  Start by reviewing your goals.  Why am I here? 

Take these two scenarios: 

Scenario 1:  You come into the gym flustered, feeling rushed, exhausted, and fatigued.  There are so many things going through your mind, you can’t grab a hold of any of them, and it feels like a jumbled mess.  You take time to sit down, calm yourself, and review your goals.  You are here at the gym for one thing – you want to better yourself.  You run that through your head over and over again, until you can see the sentence.  Having that in the forefront of your mind brings a completely different energy level and focus to your training.

Scenario 2: You come into the gym flustered, feeling rushed, exhausted, and fatigued.  There are so many things going through your mind, you can’t grab a hold of any of them, and it feels like a jumbled mess.  You put your training shoes on, sit on the foam roller for a few minutes, and mindlessly go through some mobility drills to try to feel better.  Then class starts and you follow along.

Which of those training sessions do you think will yield the best results?  Which one will yield more focus and intensity? As our population has adapted to technology, we tend to forget about things once they aren’t in front of our eyes.  That’s why it’s important to keep your goals in front of you all the time.  So, ask yourself “Why am I here?” every time you come to the gym.  Constantly reminding yourself of your why will continue to fuel the fire for your drive and motivation to train.

So, the next time you come into the gym, ask yourself “Why am I here?”  And if you don’t know the answer to that question, then now is a great time to figure it out.  

Stay tuned for part 2 on the second question to ask yourself before you warm up.

Get Strong by Slowing it Down!

by Grace Lin

In the last post, we learned about the different types of muscle contractions: concentric, isometric, and eccentric.  Now, let’s see how knowing this information can be used in daily training to make all the gainz.  When you lift any type of weight, you are placing an external load on your body.  In other words, you’re placing your body in time under tension.  This is the stimulus that starts the process to building muscle.  Knowing this information, coaches can vary how long athletes spend time under tension in their strength training program.  We do this through tempo training (also known as time under tension, TUT, training).

What is tempo training?

Well, put simply, it is specified time under tension.  There are 4 numbers associated with all tempos.  Take this for example:  30X1

  • The first number (3) refers to the eccentric phase, or the lowering phase.
  • The second number (0) refers to the isometric phase, or a pause, at the bottom of the lift.
  • The third number (X) refers to the concentric phase, or the ascending phase.  In this case, it is an “X” which means EXPLODE up as quickly as possible.
  • The fourth number (1) refers to the isometric phase, another pause, at the top of the lift.

So if we apply 30X1 to a back squat, it would go like this: 3 second descent, 0 second pause at the bottom, EXPLODE up, and pause 1 second at the top.

It is VERY important to count correctly during tempo training, otherwise the purpose is completely lost.  I’ve seen many athletes count to 4 within 1 second during the eccentric portion of a back squat.  Make sure you are counting full seconds for these tempo prescriptions.  If it gets too tough, grab a friend and have them count for you!

Why should I do tempo training?

Well, for one, it is a fantastic tool to build strength – aren’t we here to make gainz??  Also, it slows the movement down so athletes can build better body awareness.  Along with that, it improves your control of lifts and your joint and muscle stability.  

Maybe most importantly, slowing down compound movements develops connective tissue strength.  A slow and controlled motion places more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy, ballistic motion places more stress on the tendons and joints.  Finally, the isometric pauses at the top/bottom of the lifts force you to recruit more muscle fibers, which means STRENGTH GAINZ.  This will help increase your muscle capacity and muscle endurance.

Who should do tempo training?

Everyone!  It’s great for the novice athlete to increase his/her body awareness, body control, and to build good mechanics.  It’s also great for the intermediate/advanced athlete to build strength, improve stability, and improve control of lifts.  And finally, it’s a fantastic tool for athletes who are rehabilitating from an injury because it slows down movements to recruit muscle fibers of a targeted area without placing a lot of joint stress.

When should I implement tempo training?

The most common time you will see tempo training programmed is during strength components or during accessory work.  This could look like adding a tempo to a back squat, bench press, or deadlift.  It could also be added to gymnastics movements, like adding a tempo to a pull up, ring dip, push up, or strict handstand push up.  For accessory work, you could add a tempo to hip extensions, glute ham raises, bent over rows, or glute bridges.  The possibilities are endless for the application of tempo training to your daily routine!  You could even add them to your air squats or, even better, wall squats.

A little goes a long way with tempo training.  You don’t need too many sets or reps to reap the benefits.  Start with 3 sets of 5-8 reps of your target movement, 2-3 times a week.  If you ever have any questions or want suggestions on tempos, feel free to ask any coach!  By putting in consistent work, you should see great improvement in a month’s time!

Muscle Contractions 101

by Grace Lin

Let’s learn about our muscles!  All of our movement is a derivative of our muscles (more specifically, muscle fibers) contracting.  Muscle fibers generate tension through the actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling – anatomy review, anyone?  Under tension, the muscle (specifically, the sarcomere) can lengthen, shorten, or remain the same.  Most of the time the term contraction implies shortening, but when referring to the muscular system, it means the generation of tension within a muscle fiber regardless of length change.

All movement requires muscle contractions.  These contractions are categorized into isotonic and isometric contractions.  Isotonic contractions generate force by changing the length of muscle fibers, while isometric contractions generate force without changing the length of muscle fibers.

Isotonic contractions can be categorized into concentric and eccentric contractions.  Concentric contractions occur when the muscles shorten while generating force.  An example of concentric contraction would be the upward pull during a pull up.

Eccentric contractions occur when the muscles lengthen while generating force.  An example of eccentric contraction would be lowering down from the top of a pull up (AKA the negative).  Many coaches implement eccentric loading to build strength because it allows athletes to push their muscles past their normal point of failure.  On average, you can lift 30-40% more weight eccentrically than you can concentrically.  For example, an athlete may not be able to perform a strict pull up (concentric contraction), but they can jump to the top of a pull up and slowly lower themselves down (eccentric contraction).  Additionally, eccentric movements cause the most damage to muscle fibers and is one of the main reasons we experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Isometric contractions also have an important place in training.  Some examples of these would be holding a hollow body, plank, the bottom of a pause squat, holding onto dumbbells, etc.  But the most important isometric contraction that we perform every day is our posture!  Engaging our core while sitting and standing is an isometric contraction.

All three types of muscle contractions are beneficial to strength training.  We use all three every day we are in the gym.  Understanding them better can help you fine tune your training to maximize your strength potential.  Stay tuned for the next post on how we implement these types of muscle contractions in tempo training!

The Open is Over...Now What??

by Grace Lin

Congratulations on finishing the 2017 CrossFit Open!  We hope you had a blast these past 5 weeks and are excited to tackle it again next year!  Now, for a small percentage of the population, the Open was stage 1 of advancing to the next level, Regionals or the Masters Qualifier.  And an even smaller percentage will advance from Regionals to the CrossFit Games.  But for the majority of people, our “Games” was the Open.  So, now that it’s over, what do we do?

Now is the time to reflect upon your performance during the Open.  Did you have any glaring weaknesses?  Was there a particular workout that you struggled with more than the others?  Was there a workout where you performed extremely well?  What can you identify as your strengths?  The list of analyzing questions goes on.

We are going into what’s called the off-season.  This is the time to get better at those weaknesses you identified from your reflection.  Don’t try to take them on all at once!  That’s a recipe for failure.  Make a list of things to work on and chip away at them.  Each of these items should have an attainable goal.  Just pick one or two at a time.  Create an actionable plan to attack each weakness.  Once you attain your goal, move to the next item on the list.

Take this example of a goal and actionable plan of attack:

GOAL – consistently string together 10+ DU.  

PLAN – spend 10 minutes before/after class working on DU, 3 times a week

The Open is a great test of fitness for everyone.  The workouts are expertly designed to highlight strengths and expose weaknesses.  Now, for the majority of us, we have the next 365 days to work at improving upon our exposed weaknesses to become better, well-rounded athletes.  And when the 2018 Open rolls around, we will be fitter and ready to test our progress!

How's Your Head Game?

The state of mind that you take going into a workout (and life) is one of the most important things that will impact your performance.  There are a lot of factors that go into your workout performance, like the workout movements, weather for the day, people in class, time of day, etc.  Most of the factors (like the ones just mentioned) that people take into account when assessing their performance are out of their control.  But, something that is ALWAYS in your control is how you think.  What is your mindset when you go into a workout?  Is it consistent from day to day?  Or does it change once you see what the workout is?  The best athletes will have the same, consistent mindset going into each workout no matter what.  

Take this example I recently experienced.  I had a 2 part workout to perform:

12min AMRAP
5 Power Clean
10 T2B
15 Wall Ball
*Rest until the 20 minute mark, then…

3 Rounds for time
20 DB Shoulder to Overhead
25 Pull-ups
30 KBS

Now, let it be known that the only movement that I would consider a strength in any of that is the power cleans.  I am average at T2B and pull ups.  And wall balls are my mortal enemy.  I had two completely different outcomes after performing this workout.  I did really well on the 12min AMRAP (the one with my mortal enemy).  And then the 3-rounder ate my soul.  So, here is what happened:

I went into the first workout with a plan of attack and a POSITIVE mental attitude.  My goal was to go unbroken on the wall balls, because I knew this was my weakest movement in the triplet.  And guess what??  I did go unbroken on every set of wall balls, with an added bonus of going unbroken on the T2B!  I came out of the workout feeling very happy with my effort.

During the rest period, a comment was made, “This part is going to take forever.  It’s going to suck.”  For some reason, that comment stuck in my head and it kept growing.  I went into the workout with my mental game completely off… I went into it with a negative mindset.  And guess what?  The workout did suck.  During the workout, all I could think about was how much it sucked.  I was thinking of every excuse in the book to drop off the pull up bar or put the KB down.  The workout crushed me when it shouldn’t have and I came out mentally defeated, feeling terrible about my performance.

So, what’s the lesson to be learned here?  No matter what extrinsic factors are surrounding you, DON’T let them mess with your mindset.  You are always in control of your mindset.  Focus on you, and only you.  Get into the habit of practicing positive thoughts going into ANY workout.  Remember, the mind is a muscle that needs to be trained, just like anything else.  And repetitive training will yield muscle memory.  It’s not going to happen overnight; it’s going to take consistent and intentional effort every day.

The next time you’re about to do a workout, stick with positive thoughts!  Take these for example:

THINK: I can do this, stay moving, one rep at a time, get to “blank number”, etc.  

DON’T THINK: This is hard, I’m tired, this is heavy, this sucks, I can’t do it, I’m breathing so hard, I still have “blank number” to go, I can’t breathe, etc.  

Practice makes permanent.  Make the effort every day to keep a positive mindset in everything you do.  Create small goals for yourself to keep a winning mindset.  Small wins turn into big wins, and big wins turn into victories.

The CrossFit Open: Tips for Success

by Grace Lin

We are in the middle of the 2017 CrossFit Open!  I hope you all have enjoyed the first 2 weeks and are HAVING FUN with these workouts!  As we approach the next 3 weeks, you may start to feel a bit worn down from all of the energy highs and lows.  The Open is a very exciting time, but it is also extra taxing on our bodies, both physically and mentally.  So, to help you stay healthy (mind and body), here are some tips for success as you attack the rest of the Open:

Stay hydrated!  One of the most important things you can do for your body is to drink enough water every day.  The general rule of thumb is to drink at least 2 liters a day, PLUS 500 milliliters per hour of vigorous exercise.  Check out this post about staying hydrated: Hydration.

Recover properly!  A major player in any successful training program is proper rest and recovery.  Each workout we perform is the stimulus for change; the ACTUAL change happens during the recovery phase.  This is when our body repairs and builds muscles.  In other words, your gains happen during recovery.  So, if you aren’t recovering properly, then your gains will suffer.  Several factors go into recovery (e.g., nutrition, sleep, hydration) and there are also many different methods of aided recovery (e.g., massage, compression).  Check out this post on how to recover properly: Rest and Recovery.

Mobilize!  This should be a habit you already have, but just as reinforcement, mobilize every day!!  Spend at least 15-25 minutes every day on mobility.  It’s usually best to hit 3 major areas: thoracic spine, lower body, and upper body.  If you have specific problem areas, make sure you spend some extra time there as well.  Check out this post on mobility for some tips:  Mobility.

Sleep!  This goes hand in hand with proper recovery.  Don’t let your sleep suffer!  You should aim for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night.  For some reason, sleep is one of the first things to go when our lives get busy.  However, people don’t realize that’s a negative feedback loop.  When sleep is reduced, the body does not function at its peak and many things suffer, like brain function, emotional stability, physical health, and hormone balance.  Check out this post on tips for a good night’s rest: Sleep.

Hand Maintenance!  Keep your hands healthy!  As we go through the Open, we don’t know what the workout is until it’s announced on Thursday night.  This means you must be SMART with your training the rest of the week leading up to Friday Night Lights.  So, if there are a significant number of gymnastics pulling movements (e.g., pull ups, toes-to-bar, muscle ups) programmed during the week, make sure you prioritize your hands.  If you feel like they’re going to tear in the middle of the workout, STOP and switch to ring rows!  It’s not worth tearing up your hands.  Also, stay on top of your hand maintenance and make sure your calluses are smoothed out.  Check out this post on tips for taking care of your hands:  Hand Maintenance

HAVE FUN!  I know the Open is an exciting and stressful time of year.  We all want to do our best, and in doing so, we put that much more pressure on ourselves to perform to our expectations.  I am extremely guilty of this.  Just remember, pushing to do your best is great, but always have fun while you’re doing it.  Otherwise, it’s not that enjoyable ☺