Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘open’

The Final Glide Path

My gentle, sweet, and much beloved father-in-law is now on his final glide path. As sad as we all are to be witness to this last landing we are equally joyous at this bonus year we’ve all enjoyed. What a gift it has been. You see, Bob was told he had a scant few months to live almost 1 1/2 years ago. Through a combination of good fortune, excellent modern medical care, a strong foundation of fitness (Bob’s trainer used CrossFit principles in his training!), and his drive to thrive, he has graced us with innumerable moments of love and joy we had no expectation of sharing.

Nothing focuses your attention on what matters in life so completely as imminent death. It’s quite a shame, actually. What we as an extended family have done over these last 15 months or so has come to seem quite natural and, while not easy, not terribly difficult to pull off either. Our efforts have centered on love and kindness. Full stop. We have all made an effort to connect so that we might express and share our love. That we might give ourselves extra opportunities to be kind to one another. It has certainly taken a bit of work, and for some of us it has tasked us with looking carefully at how we prioritize our lives. In the end, though, we all discovered that the effort/outcome equation has fallen squarely on the good side: we got more out of the effort than we ever thought we could.

Listen, it’s never the same before you see the glide path beginning. To conclude this little snippet by imploring you to totally re-order your life as if you, or someone special to you, is soon to land their flight forever is so trite it’s little more than drivel. It’s not natural, and none of us can do it. What is possible, though, is to inject just a bit more of that love and kindness into your everyday thoughts and actions with your loved ones now. If you get the same kind of optimization of your effort as we all in Beth’s family have received (and as an aside, what my family achieved during my Dad’s illness) perhaps you can try to add just a little more of each over time. It’s very CrossFitty, that. A little more love and a little more kindness offered today in the hope that tomorrow you and your loved ones will be a little bit closer, a little bit happier together than you were yesterday.

As for us, all that is left is to fasten our seatbelts as we hope for fair winds and the gentlest of landings.

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.

 

Sunday musings 2/26/17: Information Offloading

Sunday musings…

1) Hinnie. A mule/horse cross used for work in hillside vineyards in Portugal. Hardy and sure-footed.

Even Beth didn’t know that.

2) Modernity. Synonym for progress. Or not.

3) Business. “Business is never just business.” The Godfather.

It’s amazing how true this is. How false rings the phrase: “It’s just business.” Business, like politics, is ALWAYS personal. Someone wins; someone loses. Someone is brought along to victory without making a contribution, given a gift. Someone is collateral damage. Somewhere along the line the Hinnies go to work, but the ox gets gored.

4) PAI. Personal Activity Intelligence. This is a new fitness measurement from the company Mio Global that proposes that one can measure fitness through a proprietary formula that takes into account variability in your heart rate associate with activity. It owes its claim to Scandinavian data over some 40 or so years that shows an increased longevity associated with a higher PAI.

I put my sensor on yesterday and will embark on a bit of an exploration. As anyone who has read my stuff knows, I am actively in the process of developing a single metric for health, one that includes Fitness, Emotional Well-Being, and traditionally Western health measures. Call it the OHI or Objective Health Index. A serious challenge to any such measurement is that it must be accessible to the overwhelming majority of people anywhere. Any successful effort must also be simple and relatively easy to understand as well. Heart rate is all of that.

After a single session in my classic CrossFit garage gym it is evident that PAI is not an adequate stand alone proxy for fitness. Like almost every such proposal it is only really an effective measurement of cardiovascular fitness. While we would all agree that this is a critical element of fitness, we in the CrossFit universe would–and do–scoff at the notion that all one needs to do to be fit is run or bike long distances. This measurement, like all others, will need a companion integer that allows us to add strength to our Fitness variable.

Still, this stands to be interesting.

5) Offloading. Why do I write? Why do I sit down and use time that could otherwise be put to use in the gym, or in the office, or even just hanging with the Man Cub? As a long-standing lover of language I am always on the lookout for the best vocabulary to explain concepts I sometimes struggle with. Offloading is a term that is used in this case to describe what it is that humans do with information that they do not need to keep on hand in “useful memory” space.

This is what I do with ideas when my “wetware” memory is full.

This is hardly new. Indeed, the sturm und drang associated with the mega-trends in education, etc. associated with our massive information/recall apparatus that is the internet actually has its origin in the Greek era of Socrates and the transition from an oral tradition to one in which teachings were written. (HT to Frank Wilczek). Prominent adherents to the oral tradition such as Socrates and Simonides argued forcefully that the advent of the written transfer of information would weaken the mind and produce an inferior type of intelligence. In a fascinating and delicious ironic twist, all we know of either of these men we know because someone else wrote down what they recalled hearing.

In my day job we are still encased in a paradigm in which information is transferred from teacher to student and then tested to see if that information has been committed to memory. Imagine, with the explosion of data now available in the world of medicine we test (and test, and test…) both new doctors and established ones to see if they remember a certain percentage of facts, regardless of how often those facts come into play in the act of practicing medicine. The CrossFit analogy is to test a trainer on the precise moment that the obturator engages in the deadlift. One neither needs to know this to teach the deadlift, nor does one need to have memorized this in order to have it on hand in the gym. So, too, in medicine.

Please don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy knowing a bunch of stuff and being able to call up that stuff without needing to use my Google-Fu. The reality is that we have made a move from memory in written form to memory in digital form that is just as profound and disruptive as that from oral to written. We have only to remember where it is we have stored our memories, our books and our music and our musings.

And our passwords. We still need to remember our passwords.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

Sunday musings: Think for Yourself

Sunday musings…

1) Aperitivo. 6:00 PM in Italy means retreating to a soothing spot for a drink and a small snack of some sort. Saying it that way really doesn’t do “aperitivo” justice in much the same way one would insult a siesta by calling it a nap.

One doesn’t have a slice of pizza and a Bud Light for Aperitivo.

2) Blend. In the wine world there is an age-old conflict over which is better: single vineyard or blended wines. It is no different in the wider spirits community that includes whiskey (or whisky, if you will) of any and all sorts. What the question boils down to is a simple one in which we are asked to determine if we value a unique, somewhat difficult to produce experience more or less than one that is reliably consistent. Is a wine produced entirely from the famous To Kalon vineyard more special than one that uses To Kalon grapes as part of a blend meant to be consistent year after year? Is single malt scotch which varies over the years a more pleasing experience than, say, Johnny Walker blends?

And what, for Heaven’s sake, does this have to do with fitness?

Of late I have found myself working a bit of supplementary work into my CrossFit training. This additional work is not on top of my CrossFit–I’m kinda old and additional volume just crushes me now. Rather, it is inserted between WOD’s for the dual purpose of continually working on the weaker links in my 10 Essential Areas of Fitness, and it is not really varied at all. I have come to liken Crossfit when constantly varied as akin to that single vineyard red wine: you get what the vineyard gives you in any given growing season and make the best wine you possibly can in that year. “Fran” comes up on a day when I am doing CrossFit and I feel young and strong, so I do it As Rx’d, for example.

My supplemental work comes at regular intervals and is quite planned and predictable. Longer, slower, lower intensity workouts in the oxidative pathway are easier on my joints, and they have the added benefit of allowing me the luxury of higher order cognitive engagement during the workout. Who among us is able to use anything but our reptilian brain during a full-on, high intensity CrossFit WOD? The latest version of CFSB provides me with a consistent schedule of full-body, functional movements that I am hopeful will allow me a lifetime of unassisted elevation off the loo. More along the lines of Opus One, the famed Napa Valley blend that aims for a consistent character each year.

The point, of course, is that neither is inherently better, though either may be the better choice at a given time and under given circumstances.

3) Commentary. How do you feel about celebrities of any sort offering up commentary on issues that are far afield from the activities that made them famous? While I confess that I am about to boycott any and all manner of reporting on what someone in power has said but not done, or might/could do but has not yet done, this is not an inquiry into what is opined so much as who is doing the opining. Does the fact that one is famous give one permission to speak on issues outside your direct sphere of influence, and if it does, are we to give more weight to the opinions of the famous simply because of their fame?

Why, for example, does anyone care about what George Clooney thinks about, well, anything?

I’ve long found it fascinating that talent and achievement in sports and entertainment seems to give both the famous and their followers the notion that a familiar name in, say, football makes one an expert in, oh, environmental policy. To be fair there are some celebrities who use their hard-won free time and riches to become experts in something that is far afield from their day jobs. Matt Damon and his efforts to provided potable water in developing countries comes to mind. Since it is not possible for a black man to no longer be black once he has reached a pinnacle in sports or entertainment it is entirely reasonable and appropriate for him to comment on social issues such as race, discrimination, and social mobility if he so chooses. Here I think of LeBron James and his increasing engagement in this kind of discussion.

What I am thinking about is more the question of whether celebrity ought give the speaker more gravitas, more influence in the discussion. Why should I care what the flavor of the day in Rap music thinks about immigration policy? Or that quarterback who is constantly being interviewed about reproductive rights? There isn’t an airsickness bag big enough to contain my reaction to the braying of the glitterati on both sides of the aisle in our last presidential election cycle. Why does anyone care who Tim Robbins or Kid Rock will be voting for and why?

Listen, I’d love to tell you that I am famous, and that this little rantlet is a classic pot calling the kettle black thing, but there are about 11 people who really read my drivel and 10 of them think I’m full of shit. No, what I’m saying here is really, really simple: think for yourself. Celebrities have a passkey to the bully pulpit, but they rarely have anything other than their fame that allows them to stake their claim to the podium. Seek out the thoughts and opinions of people who may be smarter than you are in a particular area and listen to what they have to say. Consume and digest views that are different from your assumptions, just realize that this dish should be consumed based on its quality, not the fame of the chef. Neither beauty nor fame nor fortune bestows upon the fortunate anything but an audience.

You don’t need the opinion of a celebrity. Think for yourself.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

Clutter

In the never-ending battle for supremacy on the countertop, my wife Beth and I are ever engaged in a tug-of-war over clutter. Though we were until very recently unaware that this is a THING. Like, with a guru thing, one that people engage in quasi-worship and for which they pay real money. Some “Kon Marie” or something like that. Totally news to us. You?

The anti-clutter thing, such as it is, is dramatically more than the comical little game that Beth and I have going on. Adherents think there is a true spiritual goal, an attainable endpoint that must be reached and then maintained. And not just on the kitchen counter mind you. No, no…on every counter, real or virtual, in every “room” of your life. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a place for a bit of order in a life, and we could all stand to be a little lighter when it comes to our stuff, but the fervor and the zeal with which adherents of this THING take it is spooky. Weird bordering on abnormal. It reminds me of the kitchen drawer in the house owned by Ben Affleck’s character in The Accountant: one fork, one spoon, one knife.

There’s only one person living there, after all.

Like everything else we can find merit on both sides of the clutter coin. For example, my workouts in the Casa Blanco garage gym have been of much higher quality since a little construction project was completed and the Men With No Last Names cleared out along with all of their stuff. My cleans have been much better now that they are performed in a clean garage. The pleasure that Beth gets from seeing a clean kitchen counter would be comical if it wasn’t so genuine, and frankly my pleasure at seeing her so happy is pretty significant, too. (Note to self: Beth will be home in 2 hours; get cracking at clean up).

There’s a flip side, though. Apparently there is research that validates my little slice of the countertop: people are more creative if they are surrounded by a bit of clutter. As I muse my computer peeks out from a pile of old newspaper clippings, magazines and books, and various chochkies from our life as it is today. Oh, and there would also be the Man Cub’s toys. They are apparently to Kon Marie what kryptonite is to Superman. Though we now live in a tiny cottage, a life that has us in a constant state of “purging” our things, what remains is not so much clutter as it is a measure of our lives and our loves. A clean surface around my keyboard leads to a blank screen. One woman’s clutter is another man’s muse.

I guess this is really just one more essay on the concept of “enough”. The monastic pursuit of any unreachable, unachievable outcome is one that must be accompanied by some degree of unhappiness in my opinion. What joy is there in the perfectly uncluttered closet complete with one pair of perfectly ironed and folded socks if all your eye sees is the possibility of going to work barefoot?

It all makes me think of an essay I read last month about clutter. Have you ever noticed, as did the author, that the arch villain in every movie you’ve ever seen lives in a perfectly ordered home, devoid of any clutter whatsoever? The hero, on the other hand, can hardly find her feet, let alone her socks, as she wades through the clutter of her tiny little hovel. That villain has a plan, meticulously laid out and ready to be put in play with single-minded zeal. Funny thing, though: the hero always seems to make her breakthrough with creativity, flexibility, and something she finds among the clutter, right where she knew it had to be. Every single time.

Now that I think about it, we do have pretty impressive swaths of countertop that are as devoid of clutter as the desert in Lawrence of Arabia. No villains around here, though. I have my tiny little corner of the kitchen table, and as long as you don’t move my “cheese” I know where pretty much everything is. That doesn’t make me the hero, though.

Can we talk about my wife’s closet?

Unshakable Belief Meets Unmovable Facts

This week I spent some time talking to a couple of folks who, unbeknownst to them, were talking about each other. Well, talking to them is not really accurate–they were having a discussion and I was having a listen. Both were talking about the effects of a particular happening on a particular person they both knew, effects that both could surely see if only they cared to remove their blinders and look.

They told wildly different stories. Their belief sets were so unshakable, so impervious to penetration by petty inconveniences like facts and reality, it was as if they wore not lenses to clarify but masks to obscure. The blind running from the blind, if you will. I’m fascinated when I see this; I see this almost every day when I am plying my trade as an eye surgeon. So much of what is “known” about medicine isn’t really known at all but “felt”. I constantly run up against an unshakable belief that is often expressed in a statement that begins “well, I think…” Indeed, I heard this from both folks telling me what was transpiring.

I’m fascinated and exasperated in equal parts by this because of how completely this unshakable belief nullifies the otherwise logical power of observable, measurable fact. If I step back and think a little more deeply about this phenomenon I am also terrified that I, too, may harbor similarly unshakable beliefs that blind me to the truths of a fact-based reality. This weekend brought me to a gathering of true experts in a particular field of my day job, one I was quite flattered to attend. There were a couple of points that I’m just convinced my colleagues got wrong, points of view it looks like I shared only with myself. Am I right? Is my insight so keen, my ability to analyze the data presented so much better, that I am just a full step ahead? Or is it rather that I am clinging to a point of view supported only by the virtual facts created by personal beliefs I am unable or unwilling to walk away from?

This simple awareness and acknowledgement–that I may suffer from “belief” bias–might be enough to inoculate me.  I certainly owe my patients (and my readers) an effort to investigate that.

Sunday musings 3/27/16

Sunday musings…

1) Crenellate. Create multiple indentations on an otherwise smooth edge.

No reason. Just a cool word.

2) Eyelash. The normal lifespan of a normal eyelash is approximately 5 months.

Nope. I didn’t know that, either.

3) 16.6. Recovering from surgery from a non-CrossFit condition, I sorta kinda did a couple of the 2016 Open WODs. At some point over the rest of the year I will eventually do them (hopefully Master’s Rx), but for now I’m about to embark on CrossFit Open 16.6: constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity, with the intension of improving my work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

The CrossFit Games Open 2016 is an interesting and fun diversion, one that gives us a common experience across time zones and geographic variance. For me, though, the real magic happens in the other 47 weeks, the 47 week experience that you could call “16.6″ and heading into “17.0″.

That’s why I’m here.

4) Easter. Does it strike anyone else as odd, or something like odd, that it is only the two major Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter) that have superimposed, widely followed non-religious traditions? Try as I might I find no such superimposition on such equally important annual religious observations like, say, Ramadan or Yom Kippur . More so, if you do a little digging into the Easter Bunny’s origin you find that in his original incarnation he, like Santa Claus, kept a ledger of “good and bad”, with the good receiving eggs/candy/gifts. While I have no insight into why this might be, I find it odd.

In the Christian world there is no more important celebration that Easter. Indeed, the very concept of Easter is as difficult and complex as that of the Trinity. Judaism and Christianity share the Old Testament, and presumably therefore share a belief in the same Deity. It is in the interpretation of the Messiah that most people understand the difference between the religions (interestingly, the Koran recognizes J.C. as a significant prophet), but the more profound difference between Christianity and all other religions as far as I can see is the chasm that faith must leap to accept both the Trinity and Easter miracle.

While I am best described as having faith in a deeper, greater Presence, I am not a very religious person any longer (this makes Grambingo very sad). However, not unlike the CrossFit we all practice here, it is instructive to note the secular attempts to nullify the religious aspects of both Easter and Christmas, while noting how hard it is to hold tight the two beliefs that are the crux of Christianity.

For those who do the hard work of Christianity I offer a heartfelt and sincere Happy Easter.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

Sunday musings 2/28/16

Sunday musings…

1) Sleep 1. 9 hours of solid sleep last night. While I don’t recommend major surgery as a means to more sleep, still, that was nice.

2) Sleep 2. Over the New Year’s weekend I changed my nutrition strategy. After 10 years as a strict Zoner I am now using what I consider to be a version the Zone (Macro) in a timed fashion. I’ll expand on this another time, but one of the main reasons to have done this is to improve my sleep, both quantitatively and qualitatively. I think it’s better, sleep that is, except for the effect of…

3) Sleep 3. …alcohol. Seriously, is there a weirder substance out there? On a macro level, drink too much and your life expectancy is lower, too little and ditto. Drink juuuuust enough and you live longer. Except the sleep thing. Alcohol messes with your sleep.

Still working on that particular sleep hack. Let me get back to you on that one.

4) Sleep 4. Man, lots of sleep apparently lost by Affiliate gym owners over 16.1, eh? It appears that the WOD has a couple of, ahem, logistical challenges when it comes to running it in a Box. Apparently there are a whole lotta boxes (boxen?) out there built like the classic big-city shotgun apartments of yore: long and narrow. As a partner in an Affiliate who writes most of the programming, I certainly understand the need to take architecture into account when designing the local version of our international kick.

Here’s one man’s take on it: I love 16.1. I think it’s everything we’ve come to know and love about CrossFit, both in a CrossFit Affiliate and in garage gyms and big box commercial gyms the world over. It’s a classic triplet with three easily scaleable movements utilizing one of the most time-tested formats in our quiver, the AMRAP 20:00. It’s inclusive; very few people will drop out of the Open because of these movements and these loads. Indeed, Mrs. bingo’s observation was spot on: “I’m proud of CF tonight; those two regular folks could be from our gym.” Frankly, if you’re looking to criticize (and I’m not, at least not here), you could very well quibble with the fact that it’s taken so many years to get a longish WOD programmed for the Open. At that, it’s more a quibble for folks outside of CrossFit who still think fitness equals long, slow, runs or rides.

The CrossFit Open is our annual “Big Tent” event, one in which we all gather both literally and figuratively to celebrate our shared experience. It can be a challenge for the Affiliate owner, and neither gym members nor HQ should dismiss this. But the Open is ours. All of ours. The Regionals and the Games are for the professionals and the wanna-be professionals, as near to what we do in the gym as Rory McElroy is to Joe Sixpack at the local Muni. When I recover rest assured that I will do all 5 Open WODs so that I, too, can be under the Big Tent that is the Open.

I imagine I’ll sleep pretty well after each one, too.

5) Sleep 5. I’m pretty sure no one at HQ is losing any sleep over this, but I wonder if maybe someone should. In the WSJ this week was an article about the buying habits of different types of gym members. The results of that part of the study were so predictable, reinforced stereotypes so completely that they were comical. My only surprise was that CrossFitters paid more for monthly dues than any other group including boutique cycling gym and yoga studios, but that turns out to be because those members don’t use their boutiques as often as we use our Boxes.

We spend less on pretty much everything else we buy than everyone else. Oh, except fitness clothes that is. Time for a big, fat “thank you” from Reebok right about here; CrossFit gear has sold at a rate 4 TIMES the internal Reebok/Adidas predictions. No matter what you think about the CF/Reebok deal, it looks like CF is underpaid. Of note is that we spend less on food than athletes in other genres, both at the grocery store and out to eat. Funny, that. The assumption is that eating healthier is more expensive, that it must take up a greater percentage of your finances. I’m going with that would make Coach sleep better, except he probably already knew that. Plus, I’m not sure Coach ever sleeps, anyway.

Here’s the part where someone, sometime should probably be losing some sleep: only 13% of CrossFit Newbies who sign up and pay in January are still paying for CrossFit in December. Whoa. This “fall off the cliff” decline was seen in pretty much every group of gym members over their first year, so it’s not just CrossFit. Again, not surprisingly, the big commercial gyms with a low-price business model that actually seeks non-attendance saw the lowest drop-off in membership after 12 months.

13% though. What does this say? What does it mean to the Affiliate owners and by extension to CrossFit, Inc.? We all, Affiliate owners and members alike, tend to think more about the people who are there in the gym every day and every month, working hard on their health and on being the kind of people we would remember. For me that 13% number is a punch-in-the-nose red flag that those nagging feelings about folks who drift away are real. It’s a big ol’ wake-up call about the constant need to attract new members to the gym to replace that 87% who for whatever reason just drift away. Man…13%.

Coach told my boys “[it's] easy, and it’s fun!” Lil’bingo and The Heir (and for that matter Mrs. bingo) would certainly agree that the 13% who stay real DO make it fun. Those folks who are there in your class every day, 3 on/1 off, cheering you on whether you PR or end up DFL…yah, that’s all kinds of fun. But it ain’t easy, at least it hasn’t been for quite a few years now. There’s nothing easy about replacing that 87%, and knowing that the number is that high doesn’t make it any easier, either. The professional trainer seems to need a bunch of sales professional in them according to these numbers, and as far as I can see that’s not really on anyone’s radar screens. Lots of really smart, dedicated folks who run Affiliates are up nights thinking about this. I used to be comforted by the fact that CrossFit has about a 2% penetration in the fitness market, that growth could come for everyone by moving into that 98%. This new number bugs me, though. 13% stay.

Eventually, someone might have to lose some sleep over this.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

Sunday musings 4/5/15

Sunday musings…

1) Easter. For my young life two days each year were always tough. Easter and Halloween. Seems I always got sick. Turns out I’m allergic to chocolate. There you go.

Happy Easter, anyway!

2) Failure. “A stumble may prevent a fall.” Proverb of some sort.

That’s pretty good. Whether the endeavor is physical, mental, or spiritual, the act of righting oneself before calamity is instructive, no? One sees the upcoming fall and is somehow able to remain upright through recalculation, recalibration, and then realignment to the new reality.

Learning from a mistake in progress, as it were.

3) Competition. We finished up the Open season at CFB yesterday with the first competition held there in its brief history. We did something radical, at least as it relates to the various and sundry fitness competitions held at CrossFit gyms and elsewhere over the last several years.

We did CrossFit WODs.

I know, I know…that’s just crazy talk. Have a competition in which you do WODs that you do every month in your gym, WODs that have come up time and again on CrossFit.com. Classic couplets where the work lands squarely in the Phosphagen energy pathway. “Every Second Counts” kinda stuff. WODs where you have history, where you can track your progress, done in a competitive setting where proper form is required. Measurable, observable, repeatable with a dose of virtuosity.

The athletes did “Fran”, followed by “Grace”. The top five men and top five women then faced off in “Diane”. No epic beatdowns. No exotic or esoteric movements. Nope, this was the CrossFit we all thought of and all did back in the day when CrossFit.com and CrossFit Santa Cruz were all there was. Pretty much everyone came to the event with a history in all three WODs, and pretty much everyone left with a new PR in each one.

The strong did well. The technically proficient did well. Lots of lessons were learned by both the athletes and the spectators, most of whom are relative newcomers to the CrossFit world. Most of what they learned came from watching who won: the winners were both strong and proficient.

One lesson was particularly telling, although not at all unexpected by yours truly (10 years a CrossFitter). One athlete who competes at many an all-day slog-fest said afterwards that she almost didn’t enter the competition because she found the announced WODs “too easy.” During a congratulatory fist bump (she came in 3rd) she said how hard it was and how thankful she was that she participated.

Go back and read “What is Fitness”, CrossFit Journal vol. 1, #2. It says something about the evolution of CrossFit in the wild that a competition in which the athletes do “Fran” and “Grace” is considered novel. That classic “Girls” now constitute something that you program as a novelty. That after only 10 years an event named “The Three Girls Showdown” is considered somehow retro.

Once upon a time all you needed to stratify a group of athletes in a competition was one WOD per day, and I get it that the evolution of CrossFit as sport means that it is now necessary to ask more from the 1/%. I understand that there are individuals who need more volume in their training in order to perform at their highest level on the job. More of everything is called for in these small cohorts.

For the rest of us, though, whether in the gym getting our daily dose or in the arena competing against our last PR, we could certainly do worse than returning to what it was that made CrossFit what it is. Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. Start with yesterday’s WOD, “Angie”, the very first WOD I ever did. The one that left me in a quivering mass on the floor of a commercial gym 10 years ago.

Simple. Elegant. Brutal. Go get you some.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at April 5, 2015 6:11 AM

Sunday musings 3/15/15 (By the Numbers)…

Sunday musings (by the numbers)…

1) 3.1415. Oh, why not? Pi on March 14, 2015? That’s really kinda cool.

2) 15.3. I will never get a MU (torn supraspinatus), and will be forever shut out of any event that requires one. So be it.

One should be ever mindful of the difference between CrossFit the fitness program, and CrossFit the Sport of Fitness(™). My “inter-mural” competitive juices have long run dry (more in a moment), so competing at the Sport of Fitness is of little interest to me. The Open is a measure of my fitness relative to my peers, a chance to experience the unknown and the unknowable, and the experience surrounding the Open is just fun.

CrossFit for me remains my fitness and health prescription; 15.3 is just Friday’s dose.

3) 90. Humans sleep in cycles of ~90 minutes. Each cycle is centered by an interval of REM sleep, the deepest type of sleep. There is some teleological thought that the natural tendency to be wakeful at intervals is a vestige of our hunter/gatherer origins, a brief time to assess threat before continuing to rest.

Our best sleep over a night is one that is an even multiple of our particular cycle (it’s not precisely 90 min. for everyone). Mrs. bingo and I have known this for some time, and I have tried to time my sleep/wake schedule to coincide with either 4 cycles (6 hrs.) or 5 (7.5 hrs). Multiple factors intrude on this strategy of course (alcohol intake, age, gender), and multiple outside agents conspire to make it more difficult (sunrise, canine appetites, spousal sleep).

In our over-scheduled/over-pressured world I am not advocating an intense evaluation of sleep, or any particular method of doing so (we are playing with the UP24, for example). I am simply noting that there is both a quantity and a quality metric if one does evaluate sleep, and for that matter rest in general. Recovery is worthy of your attention whether you do CrossFit as sport or fitness.

4) 1. A moment ago I made mention of my competitive juices having run dry. That’s only partially true. It’s probably more accurate to say that I have chosen to de-emphasize the competitive aspects of most of my activities.

For certain this does not include the existential threats that surround my business, my vocation, those competitors who would gladly contribute to its and my demise. In that arena I am certainly as competitive and driven to win as I have ever been about anything. In this arena my battle simply is one of waning energy and the ennui of competition that ever waxes. No unknown and unknowable at 3, 30, 300 or even 3,000 feet here.

What has changed over the years is the incessant, all-consuming need to win at everything else. Not desire mind you, but need. I grew up in one of those hyper-competitive families where everything was a game to be played and every competition a zero-sum game in which you only won if someone else lost. I had to win. We all had to win. We competed for EVERYTHING. Board games, backyard basketball, philosophical discussions. Everything. Seriously, there would be blood drawn as we wielded our knives and attacked a new tub of butter in the race to make the first mark.

Now? Not so much. I find myself drawn away from all sorts of quasi-competitive activities, fearful that I will either feel torn about letting loose my competitive devil, or having done so feel badly about an all-out assault toward victory. Some competitions are so silly that they simply cannot be taken seriously; these I enjoy deeply. I “beat” my buddy Scot in a deadlift WOD by 0.5 seconds by my account, and he “beat” me because his bar was 40# heavier by his. I “won” a game of “Cards Against Humanity” by expertly playing the “Tasteful Side-Boob” card. That kind of stuff.

A middle ground exists, of course, but it seems to be one I personally am not very good at identifying. There are times when I burn to compete. Times when all I want to do is win. As I have evolved and become aware of the risks of collateral damage my impulse is then to turn away. I miss the joy that is to be found in the game for fear of the consequences of the unbridled quest for victory. How does one find that space in which the competition itself is enough?

For you see, I haven’t forgotten how to win.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at March 15, 2015 8:19 AM