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Beat the heat, with water

It’s that wonderful time of year again! When everything is growing, the sun is hot, and the air is humid. Sweat is running down your back whether you’re training or just hanging out. There’s no better time of year in my opinion, but we all need to be sure we stay hydrated all summer long. How can we be sure we are drinking enough water and staying hydrated?

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Well, the first thing is to understand how our bodies absorb water. Every cell in our body brings in available water through a process called osmosis. How osmosis works in a healthy individual is the cells of the body contain minerals in a higher amount than the material outside of the cells. This creates ionic pressure and allows water to travel into the cells through the cell walls. Basically the minerals in our cells draw water into the cells. These minerals are known as electrolytes. If the electrolytes aren’t in the correct ratios we become dehydrated and can even die.

There are various products on the market to help keep electrolytes in the proper ratios. The one product I’ve had the best results with is called “elete“. This product is a simple electrolyte solution that you add to your drinking water. Just a few drops and you’re ready to go. An added bonus is there isn’t any weird flavor associated with the product.

By adding electrolytes to your drinking water you will help your body hydrate itself, and feel much better through the summer. You won’t feel as thirsty because you will finally be getting the water to the place where it’s most needed, inside your cells.

So to avoid dehydration, cramping, heat stroke, and many other hydration issues try adding electrolytes to your water. Your body will thank you!

A coach’s compass

So what is my compass guiding this journey? Why train hard and live this way? Why share this program with so many people? Well first off it started from a personal drive to improve my own health and well-being.

As a kid I was very active, outside climbing trees and hiking the rolling hills of Otsego county. I was even eating “right”, following the new food pyramid recommended by the federal government, and drinking milk and water in lieu of coke and pepsi. During the school-year I was active in sports, and during the summers I worked on local farms helping put up hay through the hottest days of the year. Even with this lifestyle in place I still felt like something was wrong. I was a chubby kid, and had a hard time staying focused on any task. I was frequently sick and had a constant feeling of fatigue.

Rockin' my twenties. (not really)

Rockin’ my twenties. (not really)

Heading into my 20s I was only getting worse. I refused to drink alcohol, but had the appearance of a beer gut and very little energy. Once I got out of college I followed the safe path of working for a business and punching the clock every day. I was comfortable and complacent. In no time at all I was in my mid-30s and feeling like I was in my 60s, and I DIDNT LIKE IT.

Five years ago I decided to make a change and in my search for a better lifestyle I found the CrossFit web site. My first impression was “stupid name, but let’s see how this stuff works.” Within in three months I had exceeded the fitness and physique goals which had been eluding me my entire life. As I continued training and improving it became apparent to me that the CrossFit methodology was literally saving my life. Not only was I physically healthier, but the improvements in my confidence and work ethic were having a profound impact on my relationships and sense of well-being. And I looked a lot better too! This type of training became more than exercise, it became an entire lifestyle. Everything from nutrition, sleep schedule, mindset, and recreation were brought in line with my health and athletic goals.

Rockin' the forties. (that's more like it!)

Rockin’ the forties. (that’s more like it!)

So why did I make this change? Because I was ready for a change and in the long run it’s so much simpler than the alternative! The goal of getting better every day gives me a purpose, which then creates a positive re-enforcement loop which spreads throughout every aspect of my daily life. I still get butterflies in my stomach before every workout, but in the grand scheme of things a 5, 10, or 15 minute workout is a drop in the bucket in comparison with the results I get out of it. Making the effort to eat real wholesome food is easier than dealing with the health outcomes of eating crap. Scheduling my day so I get a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night is so much better than shuffling around like a caffeinated zombie very day.

Having seen such an incredible transformation in myself I came to believe that anyone can achieve similar or even better results training this way. Now, keep in mind I never had any interest in becoming a coach and business owner. I was comfortable in a cushy job, I had the house, cars, vacations, everything we all usually place first and foremost. But the belief in the life-altering effectiveness of CrossFit just wouldn’t let me be. I found myself compelled by an overwhelming desire to help as many people as possible. Three years ago I committed myself to this mission, and I haven’t been disappointed.

The transformations I see in our athletes here at CCF, every day, continues to amaze and inspire me. Whether it’s weight-loss, increases in athletic capacity, decreases in chronic pain, or even reversing/eliminating major health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes, our athletes are doing the work and reaping the rewards. These are people who now believe that every good thing in life can be achieved through hard work. These are people who believe they deserve something more than simply “getting by” in life, rather they deserve actual measurable fitness. These are people who believe in themselves, and they are my compass, guiding me personally and professionally.

My Compass

My Compass

A coach’s roadmap

So, how did I get from here:
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to here:
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in just a few weeks? What did I change and what did I keep the same? Let’s start with what changed.

My training! I went from lifting maximal weights for single reps every day to relatively lighter weight, higher rep intervals. I also started training a wider variety of movements. In CrossFit we train everything from running to gymnastics to strongman to power lifting and weightlifting. With the analytical equipment available today it has been scientifically proven that each and every one of us can optimize our gene-expression by increasing the variety of movements we do every day. For instance, if you have a desk job and are sedentary most of the time you will see a huge improvement in your health and well-being by simply walking every day. If you want to see more results quicker add in a completely different movement like push-ups to your daily walk.

Another change was my sense of well-being. As a small business owner I’m aware of the importance of being mindful and even using meditation to control stress and improve my mental performance. By bringing my training back in line with our program I found myself less stressed and more relaxed than I’ve been in years. I’m already sleeping better, and old aches and pains are receding and resolving. I love the sport of weightlifting, but I gotta say I really love how I feel now.

So, what didn’t change?

My nutrition. I’ve been eating real whole foods for the past decade, and I’ve followed a strict “paleo” diet for the past 5 years. I know my genetic background sets me up for more of a pudgy slow physique, so I’m very careful with what I eat. My performance goals dictate the food that goes into my body. None of that paleo-cookie shit or 80/20 crap (80% clean, 20% junk food). I eat real food every meal; protein, carbohydrate, and FAT. I try to get the best whole foods I can afford and make the most of them. I figure I’d rather spend the money now on real food, rather than spend it later treating diabetes, cancer, or all the other diseases which are bankrupting us.

So that’s the roadmap I’ve used to get me where I am now. Where will it lead in the coming weeks? Stay tuned and find out.

 

A coach’s journey.

I’ve never been on the ball enough to take before and after pictures of myself, but over the past few months I’ve inadvertently accumulated some selfies which speak volumes. First off, a little history, and then the big reveal.

I’ve been involved in physical training since the age of 11, but never had the kind of strength and physique results I sought until I started following a CrossFit program 5 years ago. At that time I was a pudgy 38 year old, training body-builder style 6-8 hours per week, and running 6-15 miles per week. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working and got turned on to CrossFit by a couple friends from California. Within three months of starting the program I exceeded my strength and physique goals and continued making progress.

Fast forward to March 2014 – I sign up for a Weightlifting seminar at CrossFit Warwick with five time National champion Donny Shankle and start shifting my training focus to more weightlifting, less CrossFit. May 18th I attend the seminar and pretty much get my mind blown, Donny is one hell of a coach! He also announces at the seminar that he will reside in Warwick NY and coach at CrossFit Warwick for the foreseeable future. I make up my mind then and there to train with Donny as much as possible and only train weightlifting.

July 13th 2014 – I compete at my first meet. My Snatch had (and still has) a long ways to go, but my Clean & Jerk was a lifetime PR @ 120 kilograms. Here’s a picture of me and Donny just before I hit the platform for 120:

Liberty games

 

I continued training hard after the meet, but shifts in my business became very stressful and my results started spiraling down. I still trained on Donny’s program, but couldn’t recover enough between sessions to make any progress.

After a year of business turmoil and pure weightlifting I was pretty strong, but looking kind of dumpy:

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April 16th 2015

This spring I found myself taking over the coaching of most of our CrossFit classes, and I didn’t feel comfortable coaching the program when I was only weightlifting. Knowing how quickly I was able to adapt in the past I was more than confident that shifting my training to our CrossFit program would have me performing and looking like a CrossFit athlete fairly quickly. The second week of May I still focused on barbell movements, but in a more high intensity interval fashion. By May 21st I looked like this:

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I then started adding in more gymnastics movements, running, kettlebell swings, etc… Basically our full CrossFit program. I took this picture last Thursday:

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6/11/15

Things are starting to come together, my endurance is improving, my strength is maintaining and improving, and I’m starting to look like a CrossFit athlete.

This past week has been fun, I continue testing out workouts for our program and broaden the scope of my training. I took the following picture yesterday and was astonished at what I saw:

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6/16/15

The vast improvements in just one week indicate that my training is ramping up correctly and my body is responding well to the stimulus. I expect even greater improvements in the coming weeks.

Next post I’ll go in depth on what I’ve changed and what I’ve kept the same to go from a power-belly sporting weightlifter to a svelte CrossFit athlete in just a few weeks.

Nutrition Teaser

A long term goal is nearing completion! The CCF paper on nutrition will drop before the month is out. This paper has been a labor of love and also a source of frustration. There is so much misinformation out there it’s difficult to not put too much good information in the paper and have it turn into a book.

So what does this paper contain? Here is a sneak peak:

We train like our life depends on it, we should eat the same way because our life DOES depend on it. No shortcuts! You can’t out-train shitty nutrition.”

Don’t get lured astray by paleo-ized treats. This is a slippery slope and can only lead to disaster. Replacing a few ingredients in a recipe for crap doesn’t magically convert the item to healthy nourishing food. A gluten free cookie is still a crappy cookie. Put on your big boy/big girl panties and reach for the veggies instead of some bastardized snack. Real food satisfies where-as crap food leaves you empty and craving more.”

real food

“Build your daily nutritional intake around real whole foods. Meat, vegetables, nuts & seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar. Processed foods are low in nutrients and packed with calories. The opposite is true for real food. Meats, vegetables, nuts & seeds, and fruits are all packed with vital nutrients without overloading your body with excess calories.”

We’re past the halfway point!

The CrossFit Games Open continued with workout #3. With this workout CF headquarters put us all on notice that the Muscle-up is a general movement in the overall program. In previous years the open has included muscle-ups at the end of challenging workouts, only extremely fit athletes would even make it to the muscle-up portion, but this year 15.3 began with seven muscle-ups.

The beauty of placing this movement at the beginning is that thousands of athletes around the world finally performed a muscle-up. We had a couple of our own athletes get the movement for the first time. We also had a few athletes get very close, to these folks I say keep working and you’ll have it very soon. In order to facilitate proficiency in specific movements we issued a white-paper on “vanilla” CrossFit movements to all of our athletes, and we are in the process of releasing movement specific programming to improve these movements. An athlete who dedicates themselves to the pull-up and ring-dip progressions will find muscle-ups to be minimally challenging rather than insurmountable.

15.3

For less experienced athletes the scaled division of the open offered a challenging version of the same workout minus the muscle-up. 14 minutes to perform as many rounds of 50 wall-ball shots and 200 jump rope single-unders is no joke. Most of our competitors had fear in their eyes before they began 13.5, but after the workout everyone was satisfied with their performance. I honestly believe folks surprised themselves in this workout, exceeding their own expectations by 100s of repetitions.

There are only two more workouts left in the open. We have yet to see the thruster rear it’s bastard head. Last year we saw the rower included in an open workout for the first time, will we see it again or some other movement added to the open mix? Or will we only see the usual suspects? Bar-facing Burpees anyone?

Two down, three to go!

Our athletes completed the second workout of the 2015 CrossFit Open this past weekend. 15.2 was actually a repeat of the second workout from 2014. The workout was designed to separate the top games competitors from the rest of us mere mortals. The further the athlete could progress into the workout the more time was awarded to continue. Yeesh!

The movements were fairly simple, overhead squats and chest to bar pull-ups. The three minute cut-off made the whole thing spicy. If you completed the required reps within the time cap you were awarded an additional three minutes, as well as more reps to complete within three minutes. Quite a few of our newer athletes completed their first pull-up ever during this workout! Most of our longer-term athletes completed more repetitions this year as compared to last year! The over-all fitness of our athletes continues improving.

15.2

As a coach I wasn’t too excited about this workout, simply because we haven’t been open long enough to prepare folks for this type of demanding work-out. I was pleasantly surprised to see everyone rise to the occasion and kick ass anyways. The first workout was exactly what I was expecting, but I didn’t see this one coming. I’m curious to find out what CrossFit HQ has in store for us this week. Double-Unders, Wallball Shots, and Box Jumps? We’ll find out tomorrow night!

 

Some thoughts on CFG Open 15.1/15.1a, and thank yous.

The first workout of the CrossFit Games season is on the books! When HQ made the announcement I was excited and a little surprised. My excitement hinged on the continuing evolution of CrossFit as a sport. Not only did 15.1 offer a fairly standard CF workout, but 15.1a gave us all a chance to hit a new personal best on the Clean & Jerk. Another significant change was the inclusion of the athletes bodyweight in the overall scoring for 15.1a. This is a first in the history of CrossFit, and should quiet some of the usual complaints about the sport.

My surprise hinged on the fact that the workout looked exactly like our programming from the preceding week. We spent three days working on the Clean and Jerk, and Wednesdays workout was a Toes to bar/Snatch burner, using the exact same weights! Either Dave Castro is watching our programming, or I’m psychic. We’ll see how my mind-reading skills hold up over the remaining four weeks of the open.

I heard a lot of complaints in the larger fitness community about pairing up a metabolic conditioning workout with an advanced barbell movement. Many nay-sayers thought that going after a Clean and Jerk in a fatigued state was bound to fail and possibly be dangerous. I saw the opposite to be true in my perusal of scores from around the world, as well as in the performance of our own athletes. I saw established CrossFit Games athletes hit lifetime record Clean & Jerks, and at least half of our athletes had significant PRs on the lift. I’m not talking about 1 or 2 pounds here, we had folks hitting 10 – 20 pound PRs! Let’s just say that the energy in the box was ELECTRIC!

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I want to thank all of the folks who volunteered to judge, you all made the event flow so much smoother, and allowed for more athletes to compete at the same time. Nothing is more lame than having to workout alone, I credit our judges with enabling our athletes to experience the workout in a truly competitive environment.

I also want to thank our athletes for giving the workout 110% effort! Many of our competitors have been training CrossFit for less than two months, and still signed up for the open without knowing what to expect. It’s truly humbling to see people who have either never competed athletically, or haven’t competed in years or decades, step up and make a go of it. You people are exceptional human beings and I look forward to the rest of the Open and having the honor of working with you. Bring on 15.2!