Category Archives: Crossfit

How your digital devices and apps do not move the needle.

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You downloaded the latest G50Xtreme workout series, you bought the compression training apparel, have the app on your smartphone and checked in via social media at your gym to keep yourself accountable, and posted a sweaty selfie so we know you didn’t just show up and lie. You’re doing it!

 

 

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You then grab a super-greens superfood drink, enter its caloric info into another smart app and track your intake of nutrients. Off to shower, a clean dinner of steamed veggies and grilled chicken or white fish with a sprinkle of pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and a small glass of Chardonnay (c’mon, live a little now, ya hear!)

You calculated at the end of the day that you burnt X amount of calories (and you’re on track), fulfilled your workout quota and beat it by 10% from last week, so now you can add a restorative session of yoga or Pilates. Book a massage, because your body needs it and you earned it.

Crash on the couch, catch up on emails with House Of Cards playing in the background on Netflix, finish up that presentation for tomorrow. Turn off the tube, but turn on the Kindle for a little reading on how to be more effective, assertive and confident (you’ll follow up with the podcast in the morning on your way to work). Sleep 6 hours or less, and after 12-16 ounces of overpriced coffee in the morning, it’s off to the races again. You sit for 8-10 hours. Wait, no, you have a standing desk too, because more and more offices do that, because it’s good for you.

How you doin’?

What are you working towards?

Why is the standing desk good for you? No need to tell me, by the way, I know you read the research, Self magazine and GQ tweeted about the benefits.

My question was about your workout: what’s it doing for you? Is your posture better? Fewer headaches? Good alignment and muscular balance? Right on!

Now, can you get those results without all the digital noise around you? Can you also apply your fitness to your everyday activities: do you hunch at your desk, do you stand evenly, is your neck bent at 45 degrees staring at screens, or do you practice good posture outside the gym, are you mindful when sitting, walking, standing, carrying your messenger bag?

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Bottom line: if you’re not getting the results, the digital gizmos and social media wear thin and become useless landfill fodder. Because if you’re so disciplined that you’re making progress, you don’t need them. And if you are not disciplined, no amount of toys will fill that gap between you and your goal.

Save some cash, save some time, reconnect with yourself and people without a crutch. Dumbo eventually learned how to fly without holding on to his feather.

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

Dirty Dozen Tactical Fitness Challenge

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“Are you tactically fit?” is a recently popular question.

Crossfit games, “invented by a former Navy SEAL”, there is a stamp of authentication (not as much of an endorsement abroad, by the way, only the USA in my experience demonstrates this level of pride for their military and are thankful for it, at least in democracies).

What does this Dirty Dozen Tactical Fitness Challenge mean? It’s a combination of all-around athletic performance drills ranging from strength, swimming, agility and speed.

I used a site that appealed to me from explaining what it is, to providing the scorecard to assess my “tactical fitness”. Click HERE.

Comparing it to the scorecard from Georges Hébert, it’s a different set of standards, where throwing,climbing, fighting have more importance, whereas I speculate that marksmanship, weapon handling or fighting might be part of the military’s specialized training, thus only covering fitness per se, conditioning.

Tactical Fitness Challenge Test Scorecard:

ExercisePass /​ Fail Criteria
4 mile ruck (50lbs)1 hour maximum time
25# Pullups max reps2 – 10 reps
Bench press (bodyweight)Pass or fail 1 rep:  5 reps — 15 reps for extra points
Dead Lift (1.5x bodyweight)Pass or fail — 1 rep
(2–5 reps for extra pts)
Fireman Carry (P/​F)100yds of equal bodyweight
400m sprint60–80 seconds
Shuttle run 300yds60–80 seconds
Plank pose (P/​F)1 minute minimum /​ 5 min max
3 mile run (P/​F)18 minutes to 23 minutes for extra points
IL Agility Test<15 secs to >19 sec
Swim – can you swim?
(P/​F)
Yes /​ no
Swim 500m timed6 minutes – 11 minutes
Swim – Buddy TowPass/​fail – 25m rescue swim

 

 

Now, I only did a portion of the tests today, not being able to logistically go to a swimming pool, carry a buddy for the fireman carry, or time to do the rucking, so I will split things up to test things (normally to be done in 2 sessions max, arranged however you wish), but here goes, half-dozen:

Bench Press 15xBW (175lb)= 10pts/max.
10x25lb pull-ups =10 PT’s/max.
5×1.5BW (265lb) DL=10 PT’s/max.
70sec 1/4 sprint 5pts.
Plank 3 min 3pts (didn’t push, failed at being more resilient, got bored more than tired).
Illinois agility test 17 seconds 3pts.
What’s cool for me is that I have done absolutely NOTHING specific to prepare for this other than following the all-around athleticism system Hébert advocates. At 41 years old, with injuries and less than optimal general recovery, I am pretty pleased at having nearly maxed on all the strength requirements, and done pretty well on the others. I am not, after all, a spec ops 20 or 30 something 🙂

Lifting Terminology

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In the process of my translating Georges Hébert’s work, as well as the upcoming release of the 3rd installment of his Practical Guide to Physical Education, the chapter on lifting refreshed me with something something cool: lifting terminology in French!

Revisiting those terms I hadn’t heard since childhood P.E. classes was interesting, to see how some names almost cue the exercises to perform. I wonder also if they give any particular exercise some “freedom” to do the move (as opposed to rigid standards), the way Crossfit terminology adapted terms to avoid being chastised for incorrect form or deviation from standards in other lifting sports.

Anyway, here’s a fun translation of the terms used in English and what they are in French (translated already, so no French words in this blog). Grammatically, they’re conjugated, past-tense vs English nouns.

  • The standing Military Press/Shoulder Press: the “Developed”.
  • The Jerk: the “Thrown”.
  • The Clean: the “Shouldered”.
  • The Snatch: the “Torn Off” or “Ripped At The Roots”.
  • The Swing: the “Volley”, only one here that’s a noun. (Now, this is a one-arm exercise only, an overhead straight-arm swing, a move I have not seen, other than criticized versions thereof, which in this case is performed with a “Forward Slit”).
  • The Bent Press: the “Unscrewed” (a one-armed drill where the body leans down during the overhead pressing part, leaning side being the opposite of the pressing side, and done so to avoid jerking and keep it “grinding”. I’m going to play with that with my kettlebell heavy press!)

Exact descriptions will be presented in book 3, chapter VI.

A bench press, by the way, would be a “lying developed”, while the clean & jerk is “shouldered & thrown”, which sounds more appropriate IMHO.

Über Fitness part 2 (final)

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Are you a well-rounded athlete if you are the top guy in your sport?

Does specialization make you better than general fitness?

These two questions are leading because their phrasing most likely steers you to the answer “no”, especially if you are educated in the field of fitness, or at least well-read.

Athletes, more specifically professional athletes, tend to have imbalances because of overuse patterns and the demands of the sport. The resulting specialization creates not only imbalances, but potentially limitations. Of course, we can argue that some sports offer some sort of all-around balanced development, but in general, the hyper focus on the task to accomplish makes it difficult for a sprinter to run a marathon, a bodybuilder to fight in the ring, or a gymnast to be a good diver (the latter example because gymnasts are taught to always land on their feet and the concept of going head first after some flips doesn’t compute).

We could discuss that with the Crossfit games, the displays of athleticism are tremendous (and I guarantee you the competitors’ training is anything but WODs), but that would be perceived as a cheap way to get readers 😉

Back to Georges Hébert and his Natural Method, since it’s still an unknown subject to 99.99% of the fitness population. His goal is all-around athleticism: a balance of speed, endurance, strength, mobility, skill and functionality. According to Hébert, games, sports and manual labor are the finality of physical education. These forms of physical exercise are useful for the following reasons:

  • They augment the general physical value of individuals and extend what can be called “physical knowledge”.
  • They entertain the “taste” for physical activity by breaking up the monotony of methodical training.
  • They help perfect agility, develop a sense of practicality, promote ingeniousness by giving complete freedom to individual action.
  • They satisfy a need for variety and pleasure by providing a release from methodical training.
  • They demonstrate functionality and bring out the advantages of good physical preparedness. Greater success is achieved, indeed, even more in the various branches of physical activity as one is better prepared thanks to methodical training (strength and conditioning).

So, what are we learning with Hébert’s Natural Method? Is it yet another secret sauce never revealed to you until now? While I could say if it’s new to you the answer is yes, the reality is that it’s a method that withstood the test of time, and that if you are a fitness enthusiast, your skills and abilities deserve the right to rekindle with your body’s natural desire to move well, as it is engineered to do so. Forget fat loss, muscle gain or some other specialized goal. All of that comes naturally, and it is so much more than just the moves posted on various social media. The philosophy behind the method is very wholistic and revolves around 3 major points:

  1. Hygienic action (not about being freshly scrubbed, read Book 1 if you want to know what that means in details about cleansing the system through air baths, circulation etc).
  2. Functionality/Utility.
  3. Mental benefits.

We all need that, we tend to forget those aspects too frequently, and that’s what the Method is also about 🙂

Behind the Super Bodies

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To continue along the lines of my previous blog entry and a mention of the über athleticism displayed at the Crossfit games, it is important to realize the difference between the participating athletes and the rest of the Crossfit world, or rather, its everyday box gym members. Again, not another attempt at using a buzz word to get clicks on this blog.

These athletes train extremely hard. What they call a WOD is not the WOD advertised in the boxes. Their WODs is not much different from a StrongFirst well-designed program: scalable, periodized, waving of the loads, progressive. In other words, they’re cohesive. They may do many different exercises, but, just like I remember reading in tips to get ready for my first RKC, and to make a funny analogy, you don’t train for a swimming competition by climbing mountains. They have a plan, a structure and Crossfit is merely a name at that point, not a system or philosophy. It’s like a variation of the Olympics with the athletes participating in every single event. Folks training for American Ninja Warrior train specifically for the event, and if you were to take one participant from each competition and do a Freaky Friday switch, they would do poorly, purely from a SAID standpoint (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). You get what you train for.

To not digress from the subject of the post about super bodies, one look at the Xfit Games and you’ll see very muscularly developed bodies, like superheroes, male and female. Where I am going with this doesn’t come from a standpoint of envy because of my leaner, lithe frame. Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, right? Not quite: I can do the moves, but don’t need to, don’t train to, to that level, but I can get you there. No, the subject of the matter is: the amount of work necessary to develop that kind of body requires an extreme level of commitment, discipline, motivation and goal setting, something most of us lack on a daily basis, and even if we don’t lack those qualities, we most likely lack the logistics to achieve that: time, finances/sponsorship, lack of/reduced responsibilities and the necessary P.E.D.’s to recovery faster and get back to the intense regimen. Yes, the last part is highly likely and there is no denying it. Lance Armstrong was a scapegoat, the next 35 guys in line did what he did, he just trained harder, smarter and pushed more. The playing field was level, and it’s not like he skyrocketed leaving a trail of dust between him and the next guy. Ditto for these athletes. I even spoke to a pro athlete, whose name and sport I won’t mention, but I will tell you he was at some point prescribed Albuterol, a drug that would test positive on a test but could get “ignored” if you take it year-round for a medical condition (in which case it’s exempted). Stop taking it in the off-season and you’ll get in trouble. But the governing body associated with it looks the other way if it’s *cough cough* prescribed” for said “condition” and why? For entertainment reasons and ratings.

The super bodies at the Xfit games are “supplemented”. Fitness marketers will tout a 3 times a week, 20 minute a day routine that will get you shredded and beefed up. That doesn’t happen usually and if it does, it certainly doesn’t last. If it takes years for a body builder to develop a massive physique, getting the same physique and condition it to do several days of super high intensity sporting events “naturally”, genetics or not, doesn’t happen. If you have kids, a full time job, commuter traffic, household duties, you can get fit, healthy, lean and strong. But you will not be an athlete of high caliber. Those that are at that level commit to sacrifices your life couldn’t tolerate without sending things into a tailspin. Movie stars get paid millions and devote months to achieve super bodies, which usually “deflate” after the shoot, unless they play the same part (or variation thereof) for years (Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, anything Dwayne The Rock Johnson does…)

Want a super body that can do, look like and do again and again, then do ONLY that, find a sponsor, a doctor with flexible morals or diagnoses and commit to living and breathing that daily. If you’re like the rest of us, find enjoyment in getting better, fitter, healthier and making sure it first your lifestyle. Need to find someone, let me know and I will find help in my network who will do amazing things for you if I can’t help you myself.

 

Crossfit isn’t going anywhere

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Just like the Internet… I want to throw a disclaimer right off the bat: I am not writing a post to bash Crossfit and its aficionados in the hopes of getting a few clicks or instigate some kind of viral controversy.I’m rather more interested in making some observations and business suggestions so that all trainers who plan on doing what they love beyond the 18-36 months average career span of a trainer can adapt to the two kinds of markets that will benefit from the Crossfit movement.

The expression “if you can’t beat them, join them” goes somewhere along those lines. I don’t believe anyone needs to beat Crossfit. Its numbers are growing quickly and steadily, and may reach a slowing in their hockey-stick growth, but not much in terms of a dip (I don’t have a crystal ball either, but I am not too bad at detecting trends).

It’s not a matter of endorsing the philosophy behind it, what happens in the public perception, whether WODs are reflective of the Crossfit Games athletes’ actual training and how training is done in a box (Crossfit jargon for “gym”). Can you look like them and perform the Herculean feats of strength displayed in those games with the ever-changing software of their seemingly preferred go-to Paleo Diet and a few WODs per week? I don’t believe so, or rather, “it depends”, but that’s for another blog.

What I do believe (and the belief is supported by hard evidence with numbers in the first option) is that Crossfit creates either a market of joining them by becoming an affiliate, and benefitting from the movement’s popularity, or simply, as I chose for myself, by providing a workaround some of the more known setbacks experienced by the masses who join Crossfit boxes run by inept trainers.

Indeed, you can pay your way through a one-day course, pay your fee and open a box. I know amazing and smart trainers that did it, and I also saw nimrods with less fitness education than my 4 year-old do that as well, fueled by only their enthusiasm for fitness. For many years, my email signature was “I fix Crossfit”, and I was tapping in the injury market that was spilling from every box nearby. I’d run into people at sporting good stores, hear them chat about X move, or try on toe shoes, and insert myself into the conversation, drop a simple tip and a business card, and wait. Anytime I got a call, I converted that into a client. 100% of the time. I’d improve their deadlift, fix their swing, or help them do real pull-ups (no kipping).

Silly, huh? Some trainers who know may think “that’s stupid, those are basic moves”, but, um, yeah, it’s all about the execution of the basics. I don’t have to be Pavel Superman Cook to teach that basic if I know it well and deliver. If it’s awesome to the client, it’s good for both the client and my business. For reference, my approach to fitness has always come from an injury prevention standpoint first. Just like your first gun lesson revolves around safety, my own background in spinal injuries (which led me to become a trainer) got me to move clients safely and strongly.

Crossfit only helped me expand on that approach. I even created the SmartFlex™ with the intention of helping people move better, and when at some point in its marketing development, people asked me “would you partner up with Crossfit” (this was an exploration, that conversation was only hypothetical), at first I thought it was against my philosophy, but then I realized: if the popular belief is that Crossfit causes people to get injured, why not help them not get injured and make a buck while at it?

So, join them by becoming an affiliate, or help them by getting the education to help them reach their goals, correct their imbalances or other issues. There are many options, from the FMS (Functional Movement Screen), NASM’s CES (corrective exercise specialist), Z-Health, Indian Clubs, partnerships with physical therapists and chiropractors, Teeter inversion tables for spinal decompression and realignment, tools like the SmartFlex™ etc. They can be the pilot of the NASCAR, you can be their pit crew!