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CrossFit 101

Over the past month or so I've been asked many questions about CrossFit so I'll address the most popular ones here for those of you who are still in the dark.

 

First, some terminology and abbreviations.

WOD- "Workout Of the Day." This is the main portion of the work out that changes daily.

Box- What we call the location of the work out. Analogous to a "gym", excpet there are usally no mirrors, TVs, and no treadmills. Instead, there are pull up bars, olympic bars, plates, kettlebells, medicine balls, rowing machines, huge tires, sleads, jump ropes, etc... 

Tabata- pronounced: ta-BAH-ta, is a technique that can be applied to most any movement where there are eight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. For example: Tabata Sit Ups would be 20 seconds of sit ups, 10 seconds rest repeated 8 times. The way you "score" (or, record) this work out is to write down the lowest number of reps performed in any 20 second period of work. I'm at 12 sit ups at a minumum in the 20 seconds of work time. You work to increase this number across each of the eight reps. 

AMRAP- "As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible" This is generally how a WOD  is descirbed. For example, a 7 minute Burpee AMRAP would mean to do as many Burpees as possible in 7 minutes.

12.1, 12.2, 12.3, ... 12.5- These are the CrossFit Open work outs, or the initial "qualifiying" round of work outs for the Annunal CrossFit Competition (Or "The Games"). All crossfitters and people who perform the exercises at home are welcome to participate. The specifics of the work outs can be found here

Rx- "Prescribed." The suggested weight for a given work out. This can be modified if it exceeds your ability 

 

1. What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a training program started by Greg Glassman in California in the early 2000's that is based on creating general fitness (rather than specialized skills) by "constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements." (CrossFit Journal,  A Beginner's Guide to CrossFit 2004). 

2. What do CrossFit work outs look like? Each Box is slightly different, but mine always structures the work outs lasting 50-60 minutes like this:

1. Warm Up- A 3-7 minute period of loosening up the body. Examples include streaching, jogs, skipping, hopping, rowing, buddy relays, etc. 

2. Buy In- An extended warm up that is specific to the work out. For example, whatever muscle or joints will be most focused on during the WOD or Strength Portions, those muscles/joints are targeted in this 5-10 minute section. Burpees, Box Jumps, Push Ups, Medicine Ball Toss, Kettle Bell Swings, etc (all at low intensity) can be done alone on in conjunction with several movements.

By this portion in the work out, you should be very winded or at about a 7-8 on a 1-10 exertion scale. 

3. Strength- This 10-15 minute segment can be either mobility OR strength focused.

A) The Mobility aspect focuses on opening up either the hip or the shoulder joints by performing (and holding) various positions for 2 or so minutes each. 
 
B)The Strength portion can either be setting (or re-establishing) a 1RM (one rep max) or performing a lift at ~80% of your 1RM.
 
a) A 1 RM is set by gradually increasing the weight of a lift until you can only perform ONE rep. Proper form is imperative.
 
b) Once a 1RM is set, the strength portion of most lifts usually is four sets of four reps (4 x 4) at 80-85% of your max.
 
Specific lifts include (but are not limited to): deadlift, squats (front/back),  Kettlebell Swings, Turkish Get Ups (TGS), Push Press, and others.  Generally, a movement is performed in groups of three people to allow for ample rest time between sets. If the WOD is particuraly long, this may be omitted. 

A full list of CrossFit exercizes can be found  here. 

4. WOD- This is the main part of the work out each day; all prior parts prepare you for this part. There is no set WOD, and that is the POINT; Routine is the Enemy! Generally, the WOD is 7-25 minutes of an EXTREMELY high intensity circuit. A list of WOD's can be found  here. Also, all Boxes usually list their specific WOD daily on their website. My gym's are listed here. There are several WODs that are named after ladies that you perform every so often to demonstrate improvement. The WODs never isolate muslces; or in other words, you'll NEVER see bicep curls and tricept extensions since CrossFit focuses on multi-joint full-body movements like pull ups, push ups, squats, deadlifts, push press, etc. These movements can be combined with short periods of cardio such as a 100 or 200 m jog, or jumping rope (double unders are a CrossFit favorite). WODs are generally performed for time and every person's score (time, reps/modifications) is listed on the white board daily.

After the WOD, you should be extremely winded and can't speak because you are so exhausted. On a scale of 1-10, you should be at a 9.5 or 10 after completing the work out. Falling on the ground to rest after a WOD is perfectly normal. If you aren't exhausted, you didn't do it right.  

*please see my note below about scaling/modifications as related to the WOD. 

5. Cash Out- This is essentially the "cool down" portion of the work out, yet you still work. Often the cash out is Tabata Sit Ups, Wall Walks (standing on your hands with toes on a wall, walk yourself along the length of the wall), or some other movement. If the WOD was particualrly long, this may be omitted. 

3. "But I can do a [insert movement here], CrossFit can't be for me."

This actually is the most frequenty mentioned comment when I talk about CrossFit. Every time it comes up, I mention the importance of MODIFICATIONS. For example, I personally cannot do unassisted pull ups so I MODIFY them by using a resistance band to assist me in the movement. I still do pull ups, just with some help to increase my overall strength. Just last night, I decreases the resistance band that I was using and it has only been a month working towards this; soon I'll be strong enough to not need a resistance band. If you do not have access to bands, doing an inclined pull up from olympic rings or a low bar is another option.

Push ups also have modifications (inclined or dropping to knees) as do most other movements. Often times the prescribed "Rx" (suggested) weight is too heavy, so lessen it so that you are still working hard but it is do-able. Same goes for high reps, just decrease the reps proportional to your level.  The goal is always to be working towards more strength and endurance, so do whatever is necessiary to achieve this. As a cautionary note, you should still be working hard! Coaches should be able to guide you to proper reps/weights for each work out.

4. "But I've heard of many people getting hurt, isnt CF dangerous?"

Well I'm sure this is true someplaces, my box emphasizes proper form above all else (our coach was a powerlifter at a major university in Texas). I do have bruses on my knees and torn up hands, but it is all part of the process. Provisions can be taken to avoid this like wearing capris, gloves, or those high protective knee socks. I am proud of my battle wounds!

5. But I'm a 40-something Parent who works like crazy, I cant do this CrossFit business, I'm too old.

This couldnt be furhter from the truth! Please re-read #3 above were I mention MODIFICATIONS. The majority of people in my gym are in the 40's and have kids and 9-5 jobs. The movements that are preformed are essential to daily functioning, think about it: how else do you sit down to go to the restroom...kinda looks like a squat to me! Even pregnant women can do CF, just in a modified sense. I highly suggest trying it out, CrossFit isn't for everyone but it is so general and inclusive that most people can benefit. 

6. What does your weekly exercise schedule look like?

I try to go to crossfit (or do my own version in a Hotel or at the YMCA at work) at least three times a week. Ideally, I'd like to go 5 times, but life has a way of interefering. This is what a typical week looks like for me:

Lunch Time After Work 

Monday Spinning CrossFit

Tuesday Zumba CrossFit

Wednesday Bowling

Thursday Zumba CrossFit

Friday CrossFit

Saturday CrossFit (9 am)

Sunday 

Back when I was marathon training too, I'd run  two times a week (tempo run during the week and a long run on sunday) and keep CrossFit at fewer than 3x a week at a maximum. I'm no longer training for anything so I run/walk/jog/sprint as I please with my dog. 

7. Do I have to do a Paleo diet with CrossFit?

No. A Paleo diet is one focused on eating meat/fish, veggies, furits, and nuts and eliminating grains (Bread, rice, pasta, corn, etc.), processed foods, and sugars. BUT, this diet really complements the CrossFit style and many affiliates endorse some version of it (Whole9 or Whole30 at my Box), but is isn't necesssiary. While CrossFitting (or any strength program for that matter), it is necessiary to eat sufficient amounts of calories and protein.  

8. Will I lose weight while CrossFitting?

This is a tricky question. Many people do lose weight, but at a slow rate yet their physiques increase dramatically. I haven't posted my progress pictures yet for this reason. I also started Paleo at the same time I started CrossFit so it is hard to say definitively what caused my 12 lb (and counting) loss. Here is a if you are interested CrossFit/Paleo success story. But, this question is tricky since weight loss really isnt the goal of crossfit; you'll be in infininately better shape but the scale may/may not wholey reflect it. In short, ditch the scale and focus on increasing strength and losing inches/body fat.  

I hope that answers most general questions. If you have further ones, please do not hesitate to shoot me a message. I'm smitten with CrossFit and LOVE to discuss it.

 

saying good-bye and farewell to my control issues

It was weird actually, I went though today as sort of an out-of-body-experience type of day.

You see, I really dislike my plans getting messed up and today my entire week's worth of plans got trashed. I dont just mean exercise plans got messed up--I mean work scheduling involving many people, my personal grocery shopping, putting my dog in the kennel, packing clothes, my work out/eating plans, bascially EVERYTHING!  I was supposed to be in Louisiana for work all week but due to incliment weather, I'll be in Louisiana this weekend for work. I'm quite bummed that I'm missing my hubby's birthday, but I do understand the need to work this weekend (scheduling issues with a tool). Anyhoo, working this weekend isnt the point of this post; my dealing with change is...

Rather than making some excuse to "grab something quick" and therefore unhealthy so that I could take care of all the messed up travel plans (flight, hotel, car, boats, co-workers, contractors...), I grabbed a salad (still quick, actually) and cancelled/rebooked all my travel arrangements. Surprisingly, I had the updated project schedule out before lunch! I didn't even feel the tightness of anxiety that I normally do as I'm re-working out plans nor did I really second guess my salad desicion either...this is the first time this has happened--ever. I also dislike when I'm not dressed appropiately and I had on my "louisiana travel outfit" on consisting of jeans, sperrys, and a fishing shirt which is not "appropiate" in the office on days other than Friday. But, I made myself forget about this. (I think I get more work done when I'm comfortable anyways!)

I've been working on my control issues, but it has always been a mindful thing; today I just kind of kept rolling with the punches. Maybe the next thing I work on is my need to plan EVERYTHING... 

So now that my previous plans for this week have been changed; I can make new plans!

 

  ~~~~~~~~~~Exercise~~~~~~~~~~~   Travel

  Morning Lunch Evening

Monday CrossFit

Tuesday Spinning  CrossFit

Wednesday Shopping Bowling Walked the Dog

Thursday Zumba CrossFit

Friday CrossFit *NO Work Today* ~Fly to LA~

Saturday Hotel CrossFit ~In LA~ 

Sunday Rest ~Fly Home~

 

I also need to go grocery shopping after CrossFit tonight so that I have food to eat for lunch and dinner and I need to walk my puppy tonight as well since she'll be grumpy that I took her to my parents house (analogous to the Kennel).  

 

These are the meals I plan to make:

1. CrockPot Paleo Pulled Pork

2. Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad in a Butter Lettuce Leaf (for those who asked its just rotisserie chicken mixed with mayonaise, relish, cilantro, pepper, and lime juice--all in random amounts) 

3. Almond Crusted Fish (whatever is on sale)

4. Organic Grass-Fed Steak (again, whatever cut is on sale) + Veggie (whatever is on sale!)

 

So I'm getting much better about my control/anxiety issues! I think the main reason i'm okay with this is that I'm only missing one day of CrossFit, rather than five...LOL! One obsession transferred to another, I guess!

 

And now I'm off to CrossFit...

 

:-D 

2008 vs 2012 WOW!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

2008 @185 lbs vs. 2012 @ 158 lbs 

Running Retirement + A Semblance of a Plan

I really thought I could just wing things, food- and exercise- wise this past week after my half, but I cannot seem to be able to handle not having at least a semblance of a plan.

Since I'm "retired" from running at present, I have no "workout regimen" hanging over me. This is such a relief, but all this "freedom" has left me uneasy and unfocused. And I certainly cannot allow myself to be unfocused! I have goals to reach, DAMN IT!

But, allow me to briefly address my Retirement. Running is what helped me reach my initial weight loss goals. It provided me a much-needed reprieve from the stress of everything and it also has significatly skewed my wardrobe to be 65% fitness apparel and 45% work clothes. But last year, I took running to the extreme by making a New Year's Resolution to run one race each month and PR at each subsequent race. I came to realize that this resolution was simply utter madness. "Race," to me, means 10k or half marathon, and this did me in. Since I'm living in Houston and had serious heat fatigue in my April race last year, I decided to take the summer off from sanctioned races since they required out-of-city/state travel and I started a new job at this time making that diffuclt. I continued running as if I was training for halfs all during the summer, I just ran really early or really late in the day as to avoid the crazy summer heat.

 

So these are the races I ran last year:

✔   Jan 31- Houston Half Marathon (Former PR: 2:24:52/ 11:03 per mile)

✔   Feb 20- Austin Half Marathon (New PR: 2:22:50/ 10:54 per mile)

✔   March 20- Warrior Dash ~5k with Obstacles (39:13, New PR)

✔   April 23- ROC (run over cancer) Half Marathon (2:28:20/ 11:18 per mile...walked the last 1.5 miles + Severe Heat Fatigue)

✔  Sept 24- Beachpalooza Galveston 5k in the sand (38:05)

✔  Oct 1- Susan G. Komen Houston Race for the Cure 5k for my Mommy, a breast cancer survivor! (NEW 5k PR: 29:02/ 9:18 per mile)

✔  Oct 8-Ten For Texas, The Woodlands, TX (New 10 Mile PR 1:44:52/10:27 per mile)

✔  Nov 24- Run Thru The Woods Turkey Trot 5 Miler (New PR 46:10/9:20/mile)

✔ Dec 4- Las Vegas Half Marathon  (2:28:20, 11:18/mile)

✔ Jan 15- Aramco Houston Half Marathon (New PR 2:21:11/ 10:46/mile) ***Includes a ~3 min potty break***

X  ConocoPhillips Rodeo 10K Run February 25, 2012  (Sick)

✔  Woodlands Half Marathon March 3, 2012 2:26:44 11:12/mile.

Here is my "last" race photo from last weekend's Half Marathon.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

 

Needless to say, all this running burnt me out. I also have tons of other hobbies (golf, bowling, archery, guns, sewing, scrapbooking, decorating my new home, playing with my dog, work, etc.) and running has since lost its excitement. I no longer get butterflies from running 13.1 miles with out stopping to walk or from running faster than I've run a given distence previously. My joints really started to hurt too. One day I hadn't even passed the gates to my neighborhood and I was already dreading the rest of the run. At this point, I knew I needed a break. 

So I'm taking a break.

I'm not sure how long, and I'm certainly not saying I'll never race again, but for now, I'm taking a break. If I feel like running, I'll go. But I'm not going to pound out 20ish miserable miles each week just because my schedule says to. I'm going to focus on CrossFit at least four times a week. Now, dont quote me on this, but I'm nearly certain my puppy is going to protest my decline in mileage, so I WILL continue to take her for casual walks/runs. 

So that is my plan: CrossFit 4x a week + walk the dog frequently.

 

As far as eating goes, I tried not logging my food last week because I felt like I had a solid grasp on what (quality and quanity) I was eating. In reality, I do have a solid handle on things...WHEN I PREPARE ALL MY OWN FOOD (and eat Paleo). This mentaility doesn't work when I eat out. I simply go crazy when I eat out (i.e. 4 pieces of pizza and 1 beer last night for dinner...a prime example of Paleo-What-NOT-To-Eat!). So this is my compromise, when I eat out, I MUST log; when I prepare my meals from home, I'm confident in not needing to log. If anything, this week really emphasized how important it is for me to go grocery shopping and prepare my own meals. I also felt crappy last week from consuming crap. Interesting notion to eat crap and feel crappy, eh? Do not eat crap (grains, sugar, processed crap).

 

That is my happy-medium between obsessive logging and flying by the seat of my pants. 

 

Oh, and those goals I previously mentioned:

 

  • Doing an Unassited Pull Up (I'm still using bands) 
  • 16-18% Body Fat (I'm at 20% now) 
  • Making it to Regionals in CrossFit 
  • Vein-y Forearms (CHECK!!!!!)
  • Defined Abs
  • Increasing my weights/Decreasing my times on CrossFit work outs.

 

Melting March Madness Inception and Fierce February Conclusion

My personal monthly challenges have really kept me focused so far this year. To keep the trend going, March's challenge is the "Melting March Madness" challenge. My goals for March are:

1. Eat 99.9% "Paleo" each day. By "Paleo" I mean lean meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts are allowed and grains, sugars, and processed foods are not. By "99.9%" I mean I am allowed to have ONE "questionablly paleo" item such as yogurt, cheese, salad dressing, wine, alcohol, beans, potatoe, etc. This does NOT mean I can have grains or processed foods; grains upset my stomach and inflame my body so I may not eat them. This does not mean I can go crazy on this one item either. The other things I mentioned (yogurt, cheese, etc.) do not negativaly affect me like grains do, so I will consume them in moderation. When I do have alcohol, I am only allowed ONE glass of wine or ONE vodka water. ONE. This will allow me a little flexibility in the diet, yet still keep me in the appropiate zone to meet my goals.

 

2. Pre log food prior to eating it. Planning has been key to my scucess with Paleo and I need to get back to my cooking ways. Making meals earler in the week will give me more choices for lunch time left overs. 

 

3. Macros:

Carbs 20-25% (ALWAYS < 150 g)

Protein 30-40% (ALWAYS >100 g)

Fats  35-40%

 

4. Sleep more than EIGHT hours and wake with out an alarm. Sleeping 7 hours each night really helped me in February, but with the increased number of work outs I have planned for March, I think I'm going to need that extra hour of sleep. 

5. Calories and Activities 

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

 

To recap Fierce February:

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I improved on: Protein, Pre-Logging, Lifting, Days with one X, Calories, Sleep.

I declined on: Carbohydrates, Running, Days with all Checks, Yoga.

I lost 3.6 lbs during the month of February. 

 

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