Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for July, 2015

Sunday musings 7/26/15

Sunday musings…

1) Spectator. I am missing my friends in Carson as Mrs. bingo and I must remain home for family reasons.

Reasonably sure Mike and Deanna have the whole med team thing covered without the eye doc, though.

2) Milestones. Are you on Linked-In? Among the automatic notifications one receives is the announcement of work anniversaries. For example, this year my connections were informed that I had a 10 year anniversary at SkyVision Centers (aside: huge upset victory).

This morning my FB feed informed me that The Daigle has been Facebook friends with so-and-so for 5 years. Like it’s significant.

I’m going with FB friend anniversaries as a Sign of the Apocalypse.

3) Size. You know the old saw: size matters. In certain settings saying this will set the audience a-twitter, in others it may make one twitterpated. Here, in CrossFit, but specifically while viewing the CrossFit Games, we are seeing that size does, indeed, matter.

I continually return to the classic treatise “What is Fitness” in CFJ #2, Coach Glassman’s seminal article introducing the principles upon which CrossFit has been built. Early in the article he references the differences in build, in size, between various types of athletes, singling out for particular praise those who run the 400 and 800M at the highest levels. Here, at this size and build, is likely to be found the prototype for the ideal expression of fitness as we define it.

What are you seeing this weekend as you watch the Games? What strikes me is the reinforcement of the concepts so elegantly described in CFJ #2. TheDaveCastro has once again put together a witches brew of tests that are revealing the importance of balance in training and its effect on size. Over-emphasize strength, and by doing so emphasize an increase in size? Gonna be tough to haul that extra muscle mass on both a run and 31 times up on a bar muscle-up. Sub-6:00 miles and flying through 100 pull-ups? The size you’ve shed would surely have helped in Heavy DT.

Some things are simply given and cannot be manipulated. The tallest and shortest competitors have all faired less well at the highest levels through no fault of training, for example. While you watch the final day of Games 2015, especially if you have followed this sport for awhile, pay a bit of attention to the changes in size of both the men and the women over the years. I found myself telling Mrs. bingo that so-and-so had gained too much mass this year, obviously over-weighting strength and with performance on other measures correspondingly suffering.

There’s a sweet spot when it comes to performance, one that changes if you value different outcomes. If we are talking about CrossFit and the CrossFit Games, the theoretic sweet spot was predicted years ago by Coach in CFJ #2. Finding the proper size that balances the emphasis among all of the essential characteristics of fitness is part of what it takes to win the CrossFit Games.

4) Change. While we’re on the topic of sweet spots, there’s probably a timeline over which there are optimal times to effect major life changes. For example, true entrepreneurship is quite rare after the age of 45 or so. Most people who are viewed as entrepreneurs don’t really start anything new, or even have any truly new ideas after that age. There are exceptions of course, but they prove the rule for the most part. If you ask them about their breakthrough most will say they are just now acting on something that came to them years earlier.

Which makes me want to ask those exceptions: “why now?”

Change is hard. Even evolutionary change (a catcher is turned into a 3rd baseman in the minors) can be gut-wrenching. The longer you wait to make that change the harder it can be to pull the trigger. Especially if change means leaving something that is OK, or good, or even great. Change is not any easier if you are leaving something less than OK or good, it’s just a bit more…I dunno…inevitable I guess.

And why 45? What’s significant about that mid-40′s thing? Probably the multiplying effect of 25 years of adult connections and the fact that every change you might make now imposes change on someone else I guess. You’re 20 and you walk away from a D1 track scholarship to pursue the CrossFit Games–pretty much just you in that equation. You don’t want to wake up at mid-life and wonder if you could have made a pro team, run with that invention, performed on Broadway, or earned a living as a writer. At 25 you’ll have years to bounce back if it doesn’t turn out. 45, family, comfortable job with a pretty clear and secure 15 years ahead? What a daunting proposition, to consider departing from good for only the chance of great.

Who’s to say which is the harder choice with the greatest personal consequences, to make the change or to walk away, forever unsure of what might have been.

I’ll see you next week…

You Can’t Do Everything

The image is as clear in my mind as if it happened last weekend. There I am sitting at the kitchen table, the catalogue of courses and extracurricular offerings at the college I was about to attend open before me, my Dad reading a magazine nearby. Having long ago decided on a pre-med curriculum my classes were for all intents pre-chosen.

What amazed was all of the non-academic offerings. There was literally everything you could think of. I checked off water polo, the outing club, and some other exotic activity I can’t remember now. Oh yeah…did I mention that I was a recruited football player and that I would start my college career a week early when I reported for camp?

Dad looked up from whatever it was he was reading and chuckled. “You can’t do everything. You’ll have to choose.” Pretty simple, but awfully powerful. Once upstream choices are made the universe of downstream possibilities is changed, so part of Dad’s advice was to prioritize which choices you make when. In my excitement at the discovery of all the options available at my tiny little college I’d forgotten about higher priority choices I’d already made: be pre-med and play football. My world like yours and everyone else’s would be bound 24/7/365. Goodbye water polo. So long Outing Club. I’d be lucky to find time for a beer.

It’s like that in CrossFit, too. CrossFit is fun. Getting better at stuff is fun. Stronger, faster, leaner…all fun. There are all kinds of cool things to get good at, too. I mean, the snatch? Right? What’s cooler than a silky smooth snatch?! You know the answer to that one: a really BIG silky smooth snatch! Heck, one-armed KB snatches aren’t even the coolest thing you can do with a KB. Don’t even get me started about C&J, Turkish Get-ups, Pose running, all that awesome mobility stuff Kel talks about, and come on, there’s something called Virtual Shoveling. All of the CrossFit FB pages, Youtube channels and Instagram stuff is exactly like that catalogue on my kitchen table so many years ago.

In my mind I see my Dad nodding, see the wry smile on his face. You can’t do it all. You’ll have to choose. Everyone has to make choices. Listen to Rich Froning on Julie Foucher’s inaugural podcast talking about choices this year. Heck, go back a couple of years and read what Julie wrote on her blog about CrossFit and school. There are important choices you’ll have to make upstream from your CrossFit choices, and those upstream decisions will alter the menu for your CrossFit choices.

Need a job? Hopefully you have one then. Best not only show up to work but also be at your best when you do. You might need to consider some of your CrossFit choices in light of how they might affect you on the job. Got a family? Hopefully your family life is happy, makes you happy. Best show up and be your best there, too. Sure, being a better version of you through the work you do in the Box might make you better at home, unless getting fitter means not being at home.

In the gym it’s more of the same. The snatch is really cool and all, but is it deserving of the amount of attention and time we devote to it at the expense of say a better, safer kipping pull-up? You’ve decided to do CrossFit and there are simply some things that you have to do well before you move get a big snatch. Become CrossFit fit, for example.

Once you’ve made other, bigger choices (job, family, etc.) how much CrossFit you can do might be less than the amount that would allow you to expand much beyond core CrossFit. The WOD. Maybe a little supplemental strength work. Skill work that makes you better at common movements. Mobility in an effort to injury-proof yourself (so you can be your best at work and at home). If you live in SoCal I understand how irresistible the whole virtual shoveling thing is, but maybe a better back squat might be in order first.

CrossFit is no different than my old-fashioned college catalogue; it’s different only in degree for athletes seeking fitness and those seeking fame and fortune. In a universe bounded 24/7/365 you can’t do everything.

You’ll have to choose.

 

Posted by bingo at July 19, 2015 12:06 PM

CrossFit Programming: Basics

There is a tension that exists between CrossFit, the strength and conditioning program and CrossFit, the Sport of Fitness.This tension is usually expressed in the guise of criticism of various versions of CrossFit programming. What’s very interesting is the lack of tension on this topic among the truly elite CrossFit athletes. If you look at their programming it looks like they are training to become…wait for it…really good at CrossFit.

Weird, huh?

What does that mean, anyway? Good at CrossFit? This is a perfect time for you to both re-read the seminal article “What is Fitness” in CFJ #2 and to recommend it to anyone who is either curious or unsure as to what constitutes CrossFit, and for the sake of this essay, CrossFit programming.

CrossFit is the pursuit of a broad, inclusive general fitness where fitness is defined as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. In the vernacular, CrossFit trains and tests us to move larger loads further over a longer period of time. In order to do this Coach Glassman has identified 10 Essential characteristics of Fitness as so defined, each of which needs to be equally expressed. Cardiovascular/Respiratory endurance; stamina; strength; flexibility; power; speed; coordination; agility; balance; accuracy.

Fitness as defined by CrossFit and Coach Glassman includes a precisely balanced degree of each of these 10 elements, with no one element being more of less important than any other. The CrossFit Games, and the athletes who take part, are simply an expression of the farthest right side reaches of the fitness Bell Curve. Look carefully and you will see that the events overall ask for equal competence in all 10 Elements; the athletes are simply better than the rest of us across the board. They get there because they do more work on all of the 10 Essential Elements.

While people who work off of CrossFit.com, and most folks in CrossFit Affiliate gyms, can assume agreement on the benefits of seeking Fitness as defined by CrossFit, this is not to say that either our definition of fitness or our particular way of seeking it (expressed through our CrossFit programming) is appropriate for every individual. Some people just like to run really long distances, while others are happiest when they lift really heavy stuff. Still others are interested only in the appearance of their body, and their entire fitness program is geared toward achieving a particular vision or visual. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these desires, nor anything inherently wrong with the programming necessary to achieve these outcomes.

It just may not be CrossFit.

Because of this, the issue of programming is always on the table. Is there an optimal version of CrossFit programming? People take turns at supporting and denigrating the programming on the Main Page of CrossFit.com and in Affiliate gyms. Countless efforts are made to “improve” on the model you see on .com. Some of these alternatives make sense, while others in my opinion are not really alternative CrossFit programming but alternatives to CrossFit itself. Most of these, indeed most of the conversations in general, have to do with strength and strength training. Are you (is anyone) strong enough? Will CrossFit.com or another version of CrossFit make you strong enough?

The 10 Essential Elements found in CFJ #2, “What is Fitness” are also posted on workout 030530 ( ironically on a day when heavy Deadlifts were prescribed). Pretty much all of the conversations noted about programming revolve around the premise that strength is somehow more important than other elements of fitness. Reasonable people can disagree on this point, but as a premise in discussing CrossFit the notion that strength is a, or the, primary element of fitness has no standing. There are 10 elements of Fitness, each no more and no less important than any other if we are seeking a broad, inclusive general physical preparedness that we call “fitness”. Full stop.

Whoa, wait a minute there Darrell, aren’t you the guy who co-wrote an article called “Strong Medicine” introducing a programming alternative called “CrossFit Strength Bias”? Hasn’t your home gym programming had supplemental strength training per CFSB principals since it opened? Isn’t that statement there just a bit, oh, duplicitous? Forked-typing?

Nope. Not at all. You see, if you read the original article you will see that CFSB is one way to address a DEFICIT in strength relative to the other 9 Essential Elements, not a program meant to gain strength at the EXPENSE of the other 9. As such it, like some others, is a program for the masses, a CrossFitter who perceives a hole in his/her fitness that needs to be addressed, not at all unlike a CrossFitter who does supplemental work on balance or flexibility. Additional Element-specific work, be it strength or agility or whatnot, that drives continued balance and improvement in all 10 Elements is very much CrossFit. All versions of CFSB (we are now trialing a new protocol) are designed to be one way to address this imbalance. There are others that you may enjoy more (Wendler, Westside, etc.), and just like having personal goals, there is nothing inherently wrong with another supplemental strength program as long as it works without the need to sacrifice other competencies.

Whether you are looking at members of a CrossFit Box or competitors at the CrossFit Games, CrossFit is outcome based. The outcome desired is a broad-based fitness comprised of equal quantities of each of the 10 Essential Elements. What goes into the left side of the hypothetical Black Box should produce “Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains” if the Black Box is a CrossFit athlete of any type. An increase in your Deadlift brought about by concentrating on strength training at the expense of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance will be accompanied by a decrease in your 5K run time and vice versa. This may be precisely in line with your goals, but it is not CrossFit as defined by Coach Glassman and expressed at its limits by Games athletes.

Programming for CrossFit should be aimed first and foremost at CrossFit outcomes. What you find on CrossFit.com, and what you should probably expect to find as the primary goal in an Affiliate gym, is programming that seeks to balance all 10 of the Essential Elements of Fitness, increasing all of them in an effort to produce increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

A demonstration of CrossFit programming will be available in a couple of weeks online and on ESPN. It’s called the CrossFit Games.

 

Conflict of Interest Mania

Sometimes someone says something so profound and says it so profoundly well it’s best to simply share what they said and get out of the way. This is one of those times. This gem appeared in the WSJ letters to the editor 7/10/15:

 

“The philosophic underpinning of the conflict-of-interest mania in medicine is the assumption that every physician is a spineless, deceitful, money-grubbing felon-to-be. The conflict-of-interest mafia stifles innovation and restricts creative thinking.

The New England Journal of Medicine would never have published the Hippocratic Oath if it ever found out that Mel, the local herb salesman on the Island of Kos, once bought Hippocrates a flagon of wine on a hot summer day.” –Leo A. Gordon M.D. Los Angeles

 

That, friends and colleagues, is brilliant.

 

 

 

You are currently browsing the Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind blog archives for July, 2015.