Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘pharoah’

Sunday musings 11/8/15

Sunday musings…

1) Chignon. American Pharoah. Still.

2) Kindness. “The world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild.” –Mary Karr

3) Varied. It’s quite amazing to me, after all these years, that there still exists such a misunderstanding about the difference between variability, randomness, and frequency when it comes to CrossFit WOD programming. People both laud and criticize a program for having too little or too much of any of the three. Worse than that, all too typically an evaluation of one particular program usually follows at most a week or two of evaluation and inspection.

Look for instance at CrossFit.com. For 15+ years now we have before us the sine qua non of CrossFit programming, a bright shining beacon to constantly varied functional movement. Major exercises come up regularly, but they are presented in a dizzying array of formats. Peripheral, ancillary movements come up in general programming seldom, if at all. There is a form and there is a pattern here: 3 on/1 off, with variability in load, duration, and complexity. There is a style here: for example, mono-structural strength is presented as a stand alone WOD. After as little as a month of study you should be well aware of what type of CrossFit programming will be found here.

So, too, should it be at a CrossFit Affiliate. Constantly varied should be just that, but programming in this manner does not preclude the inclusion of a “bias” in the training. Whether it be strength, endurance, or competency in gymnastic maneuvers, it is perfectly OK to express this sort of tendency. Indeed, it may be a way for an Affiliate to differentiate itself in the ever-crowded space the commercial version of CrossFit has become.

The point is this: it is pointless to make a statement about a particular version of CrossFit without examining it over many weeks. Once examined it is quite reasonable to state that the style of programming does not suit you, or does not fit your needs, but it is equally unreasonable to smear that programming because it does not match your personal desire regarding frequency or style. For example I find no use for WODs dedicated to movements seen in Strongman competitions, and yet you’ll not find me speaking poorly of either this type of programming or gyms that have this bias.

Heaven knows there are so many CF gyms in most locales that you should be able to find pretty much anything you need. If not, there’s always a return to our roots, a return to the days of the garage gym. You could do much worse than following Coach’s programming on CrossFit.com in your own little cave. Just remember, the proof of any program, at least a CrossFit program, is not in the process but in the results.

You can’t fake increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

4) Veteran’s Day. What do we owe the men and women who served our country? I guess more specifically, what do we owe those who served in a capacity in which their lives were threatened? This is a question that has meaning both as a society of citizens and also as a nation of individuals.

We will celebrate Veteran’s Day on Wednesday. I like to think that in my little corner of the world Clan bingo expresses a collective thanks in all walks of our lives. More importantly, though, is the fact that we all acknowledge that each of our service men and women had a uniquely personal experience, and we try very hard to respect that when we engage them as Veterans.

Perhaps it’s generational on the part of either the Vets or in general, but there is certainly a very different ethos surrounding each of the wars or conflicts they survived. This may say more about us, we who did not see conflict, than it does about them. My exposure as a physician to WWII, Korean, Viet Nam, and now Iraq/Afghanistan/Kuwait literally seems like 4 wholly different experiences. My reaction is simple and straightforward: I make no assumptions, and I offer goodwill and kindness.

One of my football coaches broke down and sobbed over what he’d seen and done in Viet Nam, and my Dad wouldn’t touch a gun, categorically refusing to speak about Korea. No matter. I, we, are indebted to both, and all who came before and after them. We are a stronger, richer society because men and women like them stepped forward and stood tall.

Happy Veteran’s Day to each of you who served, here chez CrossFit. Happy Veteran’s Day Cat. I owe you a call. Happy Veteran’s Day Pop. I owe you everything.

I’ll see you next week…


Sunday musings 11/1/15

Sunday musings…

1) Fall Back. Needed that.

2) Pharoah. A champion goes out on top. Not a dry eye chez bingo. Google “Tim Layden” for a great review.

3) Jacket. The motorcycle jacket has been alternately called an iconic male look, and a caricature of masculinity. I do not own a motorcycle jacket. Am I somehow not masculine, or am I subtly making a statement about inclusivity?

Or do I just look stupid in a leather motorcycle jacket?

4) ACL. There is a veritable epidemic of non-contact ACL tears among young female athletes. Unlike concussions in young male athletes, the collective response from media sources of all kinds to this: crickets. Also absent, any hint of a change in how girls are training for their sports.

Why is that? How is that OK?

5) Relative. “Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.” What exactly does that mean? For whom does this apply? I’ve been perusing the programming of some CrossFit Affiliate (and a couple of recently de-affiliated gyms still programming CrossFit-type WODs), watching videos and looking at pics of their athletes, and it looks like there’s a bit of confusion out there.

The “relative” in that definition of CrossFit speaks to the universal scaleability of the physical part of the CrossFit prescription. Load can be moved up or down. Duration can be increased or decreased. Movements that maintain the desired stimulus of the posted WOD can be substituted where a particular skill has yet to be acquired. Intensity is relative to the individual athlete in question, and in the classic application of the CrossFit prescription it is only “high” after that athlete demonstrates mechanical proficiency on a consistent basis.

Watching last year’s Games and Regionals footage one of the things that impressed me was the tight correlation between the virtuosity of movement and the resulting work performed in the more accomplished athletes. One cannot help but notice at all levels of competition the movement flaws seen in athletes who could not sustain enough intensity to place highly in an event. If you go back in time and watch videos of the early days of CrossFit you are struck by the emphasis on proper mechanics as a vehicle to increased efficiency and therefore more work or power output. Form is the gateway to intensity.

At my Alma Mater there is a saying about teaching that goes like this: the perfect classroom is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log, and a student on the other. I always had that image when I watched videos of Coach at the original CrossFit Santa Cruz, when I read his earliest writings in the CFJ. You know, the perfect gym is Greg Glassman on one side of a barbell and a CrossFitter on the other. CrossFit, at least the CrossFit I learned from Coach, is more than just writing a WOD on the whiteboard and opening the garage door. Every solo CrossFitter I’ve ever met, even those doing Coach’s own programming, was better after being actively coached.

“Relatively high intensity” is both a highly personal, individual metric, and a constantly moving target. It requires a shared knowledge of an athlete’s mechanics and consistency by both athlete and trainer. Programming must not make high intensity either unobtainable or unavoidable. There is only one Greg Glassman, just as there was only one Mark Hopkins. Williams College today is much larger than that single log, and Heaven knows CrossFit is much larger than CrossFit Santa Cruz ca. 2003. There is, however, a lineage that we should be able to trace back to both men.

If a gym is training people according to the CrossFit prescription, shouldn’t we be able to look at that gym and see that lineage?

I’ll see you next week…


Sunday musings 6/7/15

Sunday musings…

1) American Pharoah. History. 37 years in the making.

2) Chignon. Multi-purpose Spanish word that means awesome, cool, strong, smart, tough. Always something good. Used prior to the Belmont by the American Pharoah team to describe their horse.

My new favorite word.

3) Time. Maybe it’s a stretch, but it seems to me that the a watch depicting a single time is somehow a bit…I dunno…provincial in some way. Shouldn’t one have an eye on at least one other time zone?

Kinda like knowing more than one language?

4) Dulya. Ukrainian word for control-alt-delete or “force quit”. Also comes with a hand sign equivalent to the letter “T” in ASL (no idea why) which has quickly morphed into a dismissive gesture roughly translated as “forget you”.

All of which makes me think of the wildly different interpretation of otherwise culturally innocuous gestures across time zones and cultures. You know, like crossing your legs, a ubiquitous sitting position in the West which can get you banned from households in parts of the East.

Or the peace sign. Did you know that our All-American, iconic gesture created seconds before “Teach the World to Sing” is a vulgarity in Western Europe? Yup. Means “up yours”, or something equivalent, if you turn the palm side of your fingers towards yourself.

Just when you thought those Parisians had forgiven you for ordering your Pommes Frites in English.

5) Easy. Man, it’s tough out there. Just last night my iPhone ran out of battery power while I was Tweeting in a restaurant that didn’t have WiFi while straining to watch The Belmont on a 30 inch screen. The struggle was real, I tell ya.

I know you can all feel my pain.

Funny, isn’t it, how “First World Problems” take on such outsized importance? We are surrounded by convenience that only 10 years ago would be unimaginable. More than that, we have so internalized their existence, those conveniences, that we have come to prioritize them in many ways. Admit it, you don’t even blink at your data plan bill but you chafe at every doctor’s office co-pay. It’s come to a point where we not only expect comfort and convenience, but we are annoyed to the point of near anger when the next wave is slow to arrive.

Fat-burning pill, anyone?

What makes this phenomenon all the more interesting is the fact that we are likely wired both mentally and physically to respond to inconvenience. To difficult. At least when it comes to the further reaches of performance. There is a veritable bounty of research that shows better and deeper learning if the material to be learned is presented with even the tiniest of obstacles. Heck, just taking notes with pencil and paper rather than a laptop increases retention.

What does this have to do with CrossFit? Kind of a batting practice fastball, that one. “Relative intensity” by its very nature forces us into a zone of discomfort. We never really get terribly comfortable if we are doing it right. How many times have you heard something that goes along the lines of “It never gets easier; you just get better”? The closest we ever get to comfort is becoming comfortable with discomfort. I don’t think you can escape the conclusion that we, as physical beings, respond to relative difficulty in our physical training as predictably as we do when obstacles are placed along the pathways of intellectual gains.

After all, “chignon” was uttered by those around American Pharoah when they watched him work.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 7, 2015 6:18 AM