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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘affiliate’

Evaluating Risk in the Mature Athlete

“Achieving a risk level of 0.00000% is costlier than 0.0%.” –Saurabh Jha (on Twitter)

Think about that for a minute. It was written in the context of medicine and medical care, but we should think about risk in the context of our CrossFit or fitness practice, too. Beth and I had a really nice conversation with my sister-in-law Amy (of Champlain Valley CrossFit, home of Games champion Matt Fraser) about CrossFit for the masses. The specific topic was how many CrossFit WODs should regular folks, especially–ahem–more mature regular folks be doing each week and what sort. In a way it was a discussion about managing risk.

As I’ve gotten older my ability to challenge my body without incurring minor injuries has declined. At the same time, my ability to recover from those injuries has declined apace. A far more mundane, but equally actionable observation is that I do not recover from the intensity of the WOD as quickly as I did 5 or 8 or 10 years ago. In other words, there is some risk in continuing to do CrossFit in the same way that I did in years past.

There is a flip side to this, of course. Prior to embarking on my Crossfit odyssey I would be incapacitated with back pain 2 or 3 times each year. Since January 2006 that has occurred precisely once, and that was because I deviated from standard-issue CrossFit to join a friend in his Oly workout while visiting. I am struggling to create a regular workout schedule since CrossFit Bingo/Comet CrossFit closed. Without question I am not as healthy as I was at this time last year.

Each of us is a study group of one, each with a personal risk/benefit ratio that can only be discovered by at the very least coming right up to the edge of “too much”. The more experience you have the more confidence you probably have in your own ability to determine where that is. Others can, and should, put the responsibility for charting that course in the hands of their CrossFit or other trainer. Once identified, though, it makes little sense to flirt with the flame of “too much” when there is so much to be gained from “enough”.

For me what that means is continuing to pursue at least the maintenance of my functional strength by continuing to follow the latest version of CFSB from The Brand X Method(R). I find that 2 high intensity WODs, 3 at the most, is what I can handle each week. As much as I hate to admit it, long brisk walks are becoming a staple of my fitness and health plan. I should probably ask Abbie the Wonder Dog to join me on those.

Nothing is completely safe; seeking yet another zero after zero after the decimal point before starting treatment means never starting. Once effective dosing is established, in medicine or in CrossFit, one must judiciously minimize risk, but not to the extent that the benefit cannot be achieved.

CrossFit Programming and the CrossFit Open

CrossFit Open workout 17.2 will be announced tonight. This is a good time to reflect on the different aspects of CrossFit. 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 musings, 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 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 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 we here, and most folks in 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 and in Affiliate gyms. For example, I think there are legitimate criticisms that can be leveled against gyms that do not emphasize proper movement. Countless efforts are made to “improve” on the model you see here on .com. Some of these alternatives make sense, while others IMO 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 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 Mr. bingo, aren’t you the guy who co-wrote an article called “Strong Medicine” introducing a programming alternative called “CrossFit Strength Bias”? Didn’t your home gym programming have supplemental strength training per CFSB principals since the time 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, for 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 (I am now using the  newest protocol, v3.2) 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 CrossFit 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 online tonight. It can be used as a workout or a test.

 

Mourn Like You Meant It

There’s been lots of loss around the White house of late. Lost parents, parents soon to be lost, lost innocence, lost friends, lost trust. Tons of loss. Some of those losses are inevitable of course, but others are sadly losses born of the choices made by others. Whatever. We–you and I and our loved ones–do not get to make choices for those who come in and out of our lives. While that knowledge provides little salve for the sting of loss it at least allows us to make a clean break, to leave behind a loss after a proper amount of legitimate, honest mourning.

A problem arises when mourning is tinged with regret. This is made all the more problematic when the regret is not honest regret, when it is disingenuous, the result of a conscious decision made without any consideration of anyone other than oneself. You know how this goes. “I wish I’d visited Papa more after he got sick.” “My best job was the first one I ever had; I should have gone back and asked if I could start again.” “Man, I can’t believe ABC is closing. No place was ever as good that.” “I wonder if it would be different if I’d gone and had that beer with XYZ.”

Some regret is real. I get that. You’ve got a crappy job and you need it, and you just can’t get on a plane to see your Dad/Mom/sibling. Deep down you think you were wronged in some way at some time by somebody, that your boss/family member/friend could have been better to/for you and you had no choice but to leave the job/business/friendship. Heck, there are some families where so much toxicity is directed toward you that the only way you can remain healthy is to separate from the family. I get that, but let’s face it, stuff like that is not the norm. In most cases everyone could have tried harder, done better. Including you.

You, and I, can legitimately regret that, not trying harder.

What’s the lesson here? Well, as I said some losses are unavoidable. Death comes for us all. Miss that chance and it’s gone forever. Suck it up and spend the time BEFORE it’s time to mourn. The person who departs gets no satisfaction from your regret, they simply left saddened by your absence.

All the rest? Well, your choices have consequences for everyone involved. Bad or sad things are at least partly on you, and protestations of regret (Oh I wish I’d; Oh I should have) make it infinitely worse. Suck it up and own your decision. Suck it up and own the consequences. A business that depended on you folded because you left? A friendship ended because you gave up? A family less close because you were all “Cat’s in the cradle” all the time? You chose one of your ‘wants’ over some meaningful someone’s ‘need’? Saying you miss this or that about any or all of these only makes it worse. You chose to miss it.

Listen, I’ve done all of the above and properly suffered because of it. Some things are too valuable to take a chance on needing to mourn them. It’s much less painful, and much more believable, when you’ve made every effort possible to prevent a loss. Then others will believe you when you say “I miss…”

More importantly, you’ll believe it yourself.

 

Doc or Trainer: Owning Your Own Job

We are starting to see some turnover among the OG CrossFit Affiliate owners. Some, like Skip, were in literally on the ground floor, and a successful Box rode them into the sunset (enjoy your retirement!). Others, like Steve and Kelly, have nearly 10 years into ownership as they approach both mid-career and mid-life. They turn over a highly successful business and take on the role of “Founder” (can’t wait to see what’s next for you!). Some owners have left the CrossFit fold and changed the name and structure of their gyms. There have certainly been some closings, typically folks who either didn’t really know what it was they were getting in to, or found that being the owner of a job is more than they bargained for.

As such, the successful CrossFit Affiliate is much like every other small business where the owner is also operator. My day job is like that: if I don’t show up for work no revenue is generated. A huge percentage of small businesses run just like this. What you own is not so much a business as it is owning your own job.

With all of the talk of exercise as medicine lately, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the megatrends at work in the fitness industry and medicine when it comes to practitioners. In medicine we are in the midst of what is nothing short of a diaspora with physicians leaving the private practice of medicine for employment in ever-larger organizations. It should be noted that this phenomenon is in direct response to government action. Men and women who once owned their job, with all of the responsibilities (payroll, rent, etc.) and freedoms (hours of operation, client experience, etc) now work is settings where process and protocol is dictated to them, and fidelity to the organization has primacy.

Thanks to CrossFit and the CrossFit Affiliate model, the megatrend in fitness is exactly the opposite. Trainers have been unleashed from the corporate environment where salesmanship is the most highly regarded skill, and put in charge of a job where outcomes drive the business. Affiliate owners are the new private practitioners of fitness, in charge of everything from programming to toilet paper.

A certain tension has always existed between large medical organizations and smaller private practices. It should come as no surprise that similar tensions exist between CrossFit and its Affiliates and large fitness businesses and their partners. Large organizations crave control and abhor independent competition. Indeed, for those behemoths the only thing worse than independent competitors is being shown up by them. You know, like getting better surgical outcomes or having clients who look like the crowd at the Games. Large organizations often turn to government to suppress this type of competition and make the megatrends flow their way.

There are several important points to be made from this comparison. First, of course, is that every Affiliate owner and every member at every Box should fight alongside HQ is this battle. Trainers get better with more experience, not with more certificates.
Trainers who own their jobs also own not only their outcomes but everything about the experience of their clients. Just like a private physician. I’m biased, of course, but this is well worth fighting for.

For those fortunate enough to train people for a living the reality is that you don’t, and likely never will, own a business. There are very few large CrossFit businesses. For every CrossFit NYC or CrossFit Eado there are 3 or 4 hundred boxes run primarily by the owner. What you own is your own job. You’ll need initiative, passion, and resilience. A thick skin is helpful, too, because you’ll get plenty of feedback on that job. With a little luck you, too, may one day leave behind something significant enough that there is someone there to carry on when you leave.

There’s some turnover in Affiliates. At the moment nothing like a trend exists. Owning your own job is not for the faint of heart, and some will find it not their cup of tea. Others, like the OG’s above, will leave for that next thing on the horizon. What mattered is that they had the opportunity to own a job and took it, creating something that will live after they have gone.

The best boss is the client (or patient) who chooses you. The chance to work for them is worth fighting for.

I’ll see you next week…

Why I Coach and Why I Care About Your Coach

Why do I coach? I mean, I already have a day job, and 24 hours in a day is a lie. Why do I care about CrossFit coaching that occurs, or as the case may be doesn’t occur, in other Boxes? Heck, I’m fortunate in that I have personal access to our CrossFit Subject Matter Experts (great video by Coach Burgener on CrossFit.com. Keep ‘em coming!), and one of my favorite places–CrossFit.com–has no real coaching to speak of. There are lots of demonstrations but no real feedback, and you need both for true coaching.

I coach for rather selfish reasons. It’s unbelievably satisfying to see someone achieve a goal they could barely even imagine, even more satisfying to have that athlete give thanks for whatever small contribution I might have made. I enjoy it so much that I took a huge bite of humble pie and went to a clinic where better coaches dissected all aspects of my coaching in order that I might be better. My son Randy  and wife Beth came for the same reasons. I coach for the pure enjoyment of helping people get better, and I coach CrossFit because it’s simply the the best way I’ve found to achieve that.

Why, then, would I care about coaching anywhere else by anyone else? Greg Glassman has not only given us the CrossFit system of creating fitness, he has offered a clear path to a greater role for a coach in the production of not only fitness but also health. I am part of that coaching lineage. What am I to make then of the athlete who comes to my gym with 2 years of membership in a CrossFit Affiliate who cannot perform an air squat? What is the appropriate reaction when I see athletes from other Boxes participating in fitness competitions who perform basic lifts at opening weights with grossly dangerous form? It makes me wonder if they were ever coached at all.

If you are a CrossFit athlete at an Affiliate gym you should demand coaching. More than that, you should demand coaching excellence. You’ve chosen to join a gym and you’ve put yourself in the hands of a coach who should be teaching you CrossFit and teaching it well. Otherwise you might just as well hang out on CrossFit.com. Perhaps you would be better off.

For CrossFit coaches out there I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It’s no longer enough to just roll out some rubber flooring and hang a few pull-up bars, if it ever was. You’ve been hired to coach athletes and make them better. Do it. You are trained to coach CrossFit, so for the love of God coach CrossFit. Teach mechanics, then consistency, then and only then intensity. Seek for them and on their behalf virtuosity in both your coaching and their CrossFit. You, too, are part of that same coaching lineage as I, one that began with Coach Glassman and includes thousands of others. How you coach reflects on each of us, and frankly it reflects on CrossFit itself.

That, my friend, is why I care.

 

 

When CrossFitters Compete

Registration for the CrossFit Open, the largest simultaneous participatory athletic event in the world, begins January 15th. Are you in? Of course you are! It only costs a few bucks (sorry Dave Castro, I haven’t actually been to the Games site yet so I don’t know the actual entry fee!), and you get to take part right alongside everyone. Even Rich, Annie, Julie, Sam, Jason, and, you know, EVERYONE.

Competing in CrossFit, CrossFit as a sport, is not really my thing. I have too many old injuries that take all of the fun out of “unknown and unknowable” as a game, but I totally get the whole “it’s fun to compete at my thing” aspect of CrossFitters competing . The Open is one cool way to compete, and for me it’s the only one that is enough fun for me to throw my hat into the ring, too. Even at that I will approach each event with safety as my priority. I want to be a part of the whole Open experience, but at the same time I don’t want to get injured and miss any training time in the gym because, let’s face it, I really like begin in the Box.

Injuries in competitions pitting CrossFitters against one another have been on my mind lately. Not crazy, freak injuries that are just bad luck, but injuries that appear to be predictable, at least to me. I’ve been a spectator at almost every CrossFit Games, multiple Regionals and Sectionals (when we had them), and many local competitions set up just for the fun of the competition and the gathering. I’ve been to a number of one’s locally very recently. There’s a trend in these non-HQ sanctioned events that I’ve noticed, and I think we need to talk about it. Now, with the Open almost upon us, is a really good time to do that.

The Open as you know, or are about to know, is one WOD per week posted each week for 5 consecutive weeks. That’s it. One WOD. Not 3 WODs with an hour between each, or a weekend’s worth of work that includes epics like “Elizabeth” followed by “Grace” followed by “Fran”, or a Sprint Tri followed by the BUDs obstacle course. One WOD per week. On top of that you will discover that the WODs chosen will allow for the maximum amount of participation; almost no one will be excluded by a movement or a load that is beyond them because of the structure of the WODs to come. This has been the signature of the Open and there is no reason to expect that the wide-open funnel at the entrance to the Games will be any narrower in 2014.

Yet, when I visit a Box or attend an event as a spectator, or even just look at the WODs posted for a competition, I invariably cringe at what I see. There might be enough volume to make even the hale and heartiest from the NC Lab blanch. The loads on familiar movements are so extreme that they are almost self-parody. To top it off there appears to be an “arms race” between competitions to see who can program the most obscure movements in our entire CrossFit quiver, stuff we do on only the rarest of occasions, and even then only for the unique training effects to be garnered more through mastering the movement than maximizing work with the exercise. Think heavy Turkish Get-Ups or ambushes with axel C&J. These competitions are supposed to be fun for Heaven’s sake!

The “Gamesification” of local competitions is a tragedy in the making. Looking at the events in some of them makes me think of some of the WODs I see posted in various places, long chippers with ever more clever names, each meant to out-do the last. These WODs as an Odyssey have been aptly called “Any Asshole” WODs, as in “any asshole” can put together a bunch of exercises and thrash a group of CrossFitters with them. Even worse is programming for regular CrossFitters that simply pounds away, day after day, with this kind of stuff, or pounds away at them in a local competition. People are getting hurt, missing work, missing time in the gym. It’s not OK.

I am confident that this year’s CrossFit Open will be like the last. It will include standard issue exercises and loads we can handle. Coach Glassman will see to that. For the rest of you who are holding “friendly” competitions around the world I am throwing down the gauntlet: stop hurting my people! Think CrossFit Open more than CrossFit Games when you program for your event. Be inclusive with movements and loads–you can very adequately test your competitors fitness with exercises and weights we use all the time. Save those weird and wacky events (100M backward sprints! One-arm barbell Cleans!) for the controlled setting of a training session under the direction of a trainer concentrating on technique.

It’s supposed to be fun, but as we say in my day job: it’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out.

 

Sunday musings 11/10/13

Sunday musings …

1) Chew toy. What “The Heir’s” dog apparently thinks when she sees a Pekinese.

2) Wind. Lake Erie is a’boil, and the flag stands at attention. NOW I understand.

3) Airs. As in “taking on”. I have before me an ad for “Single Estate” Vodka. What does that even mean? “Single Estate” like wine? Am I to somehow equate a “Single Estate” vodka, potatoes presumably harvested from a single farm on which the still resides with, say, Chateau Margaux?

That’s just silliness.

4) Marines. Happy Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps. There’s a quote floating around about savages with clean bodies and dirty minds, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, I think. Pretty much fits the crew I’ve come to know, though YMMV.

There are too many Marines hereabouts to send a shout-out to you all–I’d surely miss someone important. Happy Birthday to you all, but especially my “extra” son Alex, recently promoted to E5 and off to EOD school very shortly.

Semper Fi to you all.

5) Community. We speak of the CrossFit Community as if it is a single whole. Omnibus. All of a type, all rowing in the same direction, a single coxswain at the helm. Non-CrossFitters, especially external critics, always talk of the CF Community in this way. More so, when CrossFit is spoken of in the plural, it is done so with an “understanding” that everyone is having the same experience in the same way in the same kind of place, and that we all have the same singular point of view regarding fitness.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once upon a time, back in the days of the Giants, the real OG’s, this was a little closer to reality. Everyone could track themselves back to CF Santa Cruz, and the only people who did NOT have a common CF experience were actually the people who worked out at CFSC–all the rest of us did the WODs as posted here on CrossFit.com. We kinda did all act the same back then. We had that alternative rocker, first to plant the flag swagger of Discoverers, and we fought tooth and nail to defend our tiny fiefdom. Fitness evangelicals with bared teeth and low body fat–that was us, almost to a person.

It ain’t like that anymore. How could it be? ~8,000 Affiliates and –what–1.5MM people CrossFitting? All defined in a single way and labeled the CrossFit Community? Everyone’s CrossFit the same? That’s silly. Maybe not “Single Estate Vodka” silly, but silly nonetheless. There is an ethic, a style, a culture that has its roots in those early days of CrossFit Santa Cruz and a CrossFit.com with 800 posts per day, but that culture includes a very important version of CrossFit and CrossFitters that harkens back to the earliest days of CF and some of the single-digit issues of the CFJ–the solo CrossFitter.

One of the earliest issue of the CFJ was filled with a “how to” instruction guide for constructing a garage gym. Many’s the athlete who did her WOD in a commercial gym–my first 6.5 years as a CrossFitter took place in a fancy Globo. The earliest manifestation of the CrossFit community was the coaching and support that took place on CrossFit.com and the Message Board because there simply weren’t any Boxes available. While most of us have emigrated to a local Affiliate, there are still thousands among us who work out solo, many by choice and many of them in the shadow of a Box. They are part of the CrossFit Community at large, though they eschew working out in a communal setting.

Why is this so? For sure there is a financial aspect for some, but it appears that this is actually a very minor consideration for most. Fitness for the solo CrossFitter is sometimes simply best pursued alone. For still others the growth of CrossFit, and the concomitant growth of members in any single gym, has changed the local atmosphere enough that on balance they’d rather CrossFit alone than in an Affiliate. This should surprise no one. There are very few Boxes that have been open for more than 5 years that are the same size with the same feel as they were on Opening Day, and for many an OG this feel doesn’t fit.

And that’s OK.

The solo CrossFitter is part of our culture, maybe the linchpin of our culture, at least historically. The majority of CrossFit has evolved such that most WODs take place in a group setting. For many (most?) this is part of the attraction of CrossFit, that you share your efforts and your discomfort right there with another CrossFitter in the neighboring rack. The CrossFit Community has room for both, the solo CrossFitter who craves the solace of solitude and the gym member who can’t imagine making the effort without the energy of the entire class. Everyone, both those inside the Community and those outside, are at their own peril should they fail to realize this.

Because we are, in fact, all the same because we are different in the same very important way: we each, in our own way, on our own or in our group, have used CrossFit to take ownership of ourselves.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at November 10, 2013 6:48 AM

The Discipline/Habit Continuum

Have you had those days when you trudge into the gym, the Box, with little to no desire to be there? Beaten down and on the verge of defeat, you simply show up, punch in, go through the motions, punch out. Had some of those? Yah…me, too. It happens elsewhere in your life, too, in other places and at other times when you don’t really ‘have to’ be there, doesn’t it?

Well then, why did you show up?

There’s a continuum, I think, along a line that includes discipline, motivation, and habit. It might be a circle or a feedback loop–I’m not sure yet. The end result is something like consistency. Was it some sort of discipline that prompted you to go to the gym and do that workout when you didn’t really have any too much desire to be there? Some sort of force of will, a conscious imposition of rational to overpower emotion? Or were you simply motivated by some end-goal long before chosen, a milepost toward which you travel no matter what because the destination is so compelling? Subtle, I know, and I confess that the subtle difference between discipline and motivation may escape my vocabulary at this stage.

What I DO understand, though, is the concept of habit, and habit formation, and the consistency that arises from positive habits. You know, just like the Crossfit prescription of Mechanics before Consistency before Intensity. Whether it’s the PULL of motivation to arrive at some wonderful destination, or the PUSH of discipline driving you there, it is the creation of habit, of consistency, that ultimately gets the job done.

Success is about building those habits, the ones that produce good outcomes. You went to the gym that day because going to the Box at that time is the habit you’ve developed; punching that clock on that day provides the consistency that will bring a giant forward leap on the next day when you show up with a spring in your step and fire in your belly. Any kind of habit that consistently moves you forward along a road to success is a habit worth creating. For example, I’m in the habit of assuming that every day in the office is gonna be a good day, unless it’s a great day, and I’ve noticed that this kind of habit is contagious.

Whether pushed by discipline or pulled by motivation, give yourself permission to go about creating habits that move you.

 

CrossFit and Recovery.

You can’t do a search for “CrossFit” without wading through countless articles about CrossFit “injuries” and whether CrossFit is safe, or how to do CrossFit safely. Heck, half of my “Zite” CrossFit section is polluted with that genre. The CrossFit community itself is awash in comments and stories of folks who are over-worked. Rashes of niddling little injuries pile one upon another until the recipe brews up not a finely tuned soufflé but rather something more like the cheesy crust rimming the pan that contains the remnants of over-baked mac n’cheese.

How can this possibly be? We watch our Games athletes in this run-up season to our Games, parse their programs and compare their 3-a-days to our 3-a-weeks, and yet it is we who fall apart, not them. We marvel at the Princes and Princesses of our kingdom like the wondrous Christmas above, see them parachute into view leaving behind shock and awe, only to find ourselves reading about this or that danger or catastrophe or calamity from an “over-trained” CrossFitter. How come?

It’s simple, really, and that’s probably why it’s so hard. The sensational stories about danger? Meh, nothing more than tabloid folderal, no more common in reality than teenage vampires in bikinis on page 3 of some magazine at CVS. Oh sure, they both exist, but the noise made about their existence is laughably out of proportion to their true numbers.

No, the real reason we as a group struggle with this is that we forget a couple of really fundamental things about CrossFit, the fitness and health program. The WODs here on CrossFit.com are openly described as created to challenge the fittest athletes on earth. Period. Sorry, but that’s not you, and that’s not me. If we do these as Rx’d and as scheduled the vast majority of us will have a “wheels come off” experience, either a little at a time or in one spectacular crash.

Again, why? Well, because of the other CrossFit fundamental that we all too frequently forget: OUR CrossFit is a training program to allow us to be fitter, healthier, and therefore better at LIFE. Christmas, Jason, Rich, Julie et al are our equivalents of Andy Murray (now playing in the Wimbledon Finals) or Danica Patrick (driving a car and turning left this afternoon): they are paid in part to excel at CrossFit. Each day is carefully planned and includes a healthy dose of rest and recovery.

Ah, there it is. Rest and recovery. Not only that but carefully planned rest and recovery. You talk to your Coach about loads and time domains but when’s the last time you sat down and talked with your trainer about your schedule? Have you EVER discussed recovery? Whether you work out in a Box or on your own, do you have an injury prevention plan? Think about it. If we are doing Crossfit in order to be better at something…anything…whenever we have some sort of Crossfit malady that decreases our functionality we’ve achieved the exact opposite of our goals. Maybe we can’t go to work. Even worse, maybe we can’t go to the Box. CrossFit is FUN and the gym is FUN; not being able to go to the gym stinks.

Here’s my bid: pushing ourselves to our limit 3 days on/1 day off is part of who we are, and we should continue to do just that. Go ahead and take a full dose of the CrossFit prescription. Be inspired by Christmas and her peers and occasionally give in to the temptation to do something extraordinary like “CrossFit for Hope” as Rx’d. Or really crazy, like “Eva”!

At the same time follow their example and consciously build recovery into your own CrossFit program. Can’t fit 10 hours of sleep into your 24 hour day like Jason? No time or money for a couple of massages and the chiropractor every week? Me either. My day job really messes up my CrossFit, ya know? I can’t remember the last time I took a nap. So go hard when you workout, but schedule in breaks. Make them mandatory. Allow those little aches and pains that prove that you are, indeed, working hard to heal before they become an unstoppable cascade of real injury. (Do a search on the Message Board for “Larry Lindenman” and “rest”, “scheduled rest”, or “de-load”). Accept that you may need to make tiny compromises in order to prevent injuries. For example, if you can’t afford to have your hands rip from pull-ups, do whatever it takes to prevent them regardless of the sniping you may encounter here or elsewhere about gloves, wraps, or tape.

There are three fundamental aspects of CrossFit: business, sport, and fitness. The few and fortunate among us who participate at the highest levels of the first two often have the luxury of fewer non-CF priorities and can apply laser-like focus on training, including recovery. You and I, on the other hand, must remember that CrossFit is a tool, the best tool, that we use to make ourselves better. Like all powerful tools it must be accorded respect.

We must plan our recovery lest we recover from our wreck.

 

The CrossFit Games Effect and the Traveling CrossFitter

Do you travel at all? For work or for fun? If so, do you drop in on local CrossFit Affiliates for a WOD? Some folks do this just for fun on their home turf, bop around and visit local Boxes for variety, community, whatever. What has your experience been like? Did you feel welcome, regardless of your experience or your expertise?

The answers to this question will likely drive the conversation about our community’s next iteration. You know, CrossFit.com to Affiliate to international phenomenon, or something like that. What I hear is mostly something along the lines of “everyone was really friendly and I was welcomed by the owners”, and the collective experience of Clan bingo has been just that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything other than that from any CrossFitter who can reasonably be described as “average” or more advanced.

There is a somewhat newer experience we hear of though, one that has become a bit more common as the Games have grown, and it usually comes from the less experienced or less talented CrossFitters. There are some Boxes that are focused on coaching only those folks for whom the Main Page CrossFit.com WOD’s as Rx’d are considered the CrossFit “starter kit”. Kinda like “unless you can do 95% of .com WOD’s as Rx’d we don’t have room for you” stuff. Pretty harsh, especially if you are an average CrossFitter (like me) and you are not aware of this before arriving at the garage door and getting ambushed.

By and large the CrossFit Games are a unifying force for our community of CrossFitters. One need only look at the FB pages of CrossFitters attending the Regionals these last few weeks, littered as they are with posts and pictures of their experiences. The universal thread is the thrill of meeting like-minded individuals en masse, the ease of talking with people who don’t need a translator to interpret the lingo. The advent of competition at an international level seems to have had a different effect on occasion in some quarters.

We have had a culture of inclusiveness, “CrossFit is for everyone”. The work being done by the mad scientists behind the curtain at HQ is very much geared toward measuring and enhancing the effect of CrossFit on the middle of the Bell Curve and below, attempting to answer the questions surrounding fitness as a measure and producer of health for the masses, not just the elite performers. This “CrossFit is for everyone” ethic typically extends to the classes at most Affiliates in which the Newbie just out of his on-ramp class does a scaled WOD on the platform next to last year’s Regional Team competitor. Boxes have traditionally been open and welcoming (for a drop-in fee, which is cool) to all traveling CrossFitters looking for a dose of the CrossFit Rx in the company of the like-minded.

I’m not saying that this has changed so much as maybe just saying I’ve heard a canary or two around the mines as it were. A chirp here, a squeak there. Nothing really, as long as the stories of average CrossFitters who felt unwelcome remain rare enough to be considered a kind of “urban legend”. It’s important to remember that the Games-worthy athlete is the exception, even in gyms that consider themselves the birthing grounds of such rare and wonderful creatures.

The true power of CrossFit and the true measure of CrossFit’s worth is STILL the fact that CrossFit really IS for everyone. It’s not the “man bites dog” phenomenon of a victor at the Regionals coaching and cheering for the stragglers, it’s the fact that the faster and stronger do that at every CrossFit class at every Affiliate every day. Allison Belger talks about the shared struggle as the foundation for our community and this is partly true; what builds the community is the support that radiates from the fittest to the still unfit, the message that you really can share this sruggle with us. The community is functional in much the same way that our movements are functional, from core (members and owners) to extremity (visitors, newcomers).

While we are all blessed (or cursed) with different abilities and potentials we shouldn’t forget that we were all once new to this wonderful CrossFit thing, too. The beauty of it all is that we are still more alike than we are different despite the fact that there are now so many more of us. Wanna know my “Fran” time or 1RM Deadlift before I jump into your 5:30 class as a visitor? Sure. No problem. Just use it to figure out how I’m gonna fit in, not wether I’m gonna be allowed.

Because ya never know, if you do I might be sitting right next to you at the Regionals cheering for that woman in your Box who kicked my a$$ in the WOD and then stood right next to me and cheered me on to the finish.