Thursday, February 24, 2011


Just as Edwin Star asked the same question about War, I wondered what is Fear good for?
We all get afraid, we all experience FEAR in life.  Today, I'm talking about it in the context of our health and specifically Crossfit.  When I first started, I was afraid... very afraid almost everyday.  It's odd to think back now because I can't even recall why I was afraid.  I can not articulate what I was actually afraid of.

I'm not afraid of much.  At age 41, in my (wonderful) second marriage, with my third child working at a tough company for 20 years ... I've lived through a lot.  I'm not a tough guy like our military, police, or firemen but not much in normal life scares me.  So what the hell was I afraid of?  I'm honestly not sure.

"I am afraid of the WOD" is too generic of an answer.  You can't be afraid of a WOD.  Are you afraid of dying from it?  Are you afraid that it will hurt?  Are you afraid that you will embarrass yourself with a DNF (did not finish)?  Next time you say you are "afraid of the WOD", ask yourself to be more specific.  If you are even able to provide an answer, it'll likely be lame enough that you will quickly lose the fear and develop a more positive attitude towards it.

Now that I've doled out advice, I'm promptly ignoring for the next paragraph.  However, I did feel fear a few nights ago during the Back Squat WOD.  It dawned on me... heavy back squats still strike fear in me.  I am afraid I will blow out my knee or tear a leg muscle.  Reasonable?  Maybe.  Likely?  Doubtful.  I just know that it is keeping me from achieving better weight, improving my form, and impressing my wife (she monitors my back squat max performance carefully).  It is time I overcome the fear somehow, some way... to achieve more.  My approach?  I'm going to take my own damn advice and see what happens.

By the way.... clowns and snakes are a WHOLE different story.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diet - What is it Good For?

Zone?  Paleo?  Atkins? South Beach?  Which one is right?  During my fat years, I read a lot of books and tried a lot of different diets.  After many failures and one very big success, I realized a few things about diets.

Every single book will discuss its diet as the single and perfect answer.  It will purport to have "done all the analysis" and "conducted all the studies" that PROVES it is right, 100%.  I become very amused when a diet or supporters of a diet claim that the other guy has it wrong.  They cite a combination of anecdotal and qualitative analysis to support its position.  The argument is without failures, very convincing.

Unfortunately, the human body is a complex organism and food a complex compound.  No two people are the same, it is what makes the world go round.  It seems an obvious fact that no two people will react to foods the same way. At this point, the most objective book, in my opinion, remains The Culprit and the Cure.  The reason is because the author is not selling a diet.  Instead, he read a bunch of other people's studies, in fact, almost all of them.  He drew general conclusions about diet and exercise but clearly stated they were guidelines based on the "average results" from all the studies.  He even acknowledged his exhaustive study could not be consider factual knowledge.  The human body is simply too complex and the interactions of food too numerous to draw hard and fast rules.  I lost a lot of weight using his

In Defense of Food takes a similar approach to say that food's affect on the human cannot be dissected easily.  He explains the origin of the now universal approach of breaking foods into macro (protein, carb, fat) and micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals).  It stems from a government sponsored study that concluded fatty beef was bad for you.  The Beef industry used its significant lobbying power to "spin" the study to saturated fats versus fatty beef.  So began the carb revolution and the significant weight gain of America.

It just goes to show that you can't really trust ANY book, study or publication 100%.  If money is involved, and it always is, there will be a bias.  So my first conclusion was, "use my head and do what makes logical sense"

I think it is obvious where some foods are on the spectrum of health.  Clearly a diet of twinkies and coke will not provide healthy results.  Likewise, a diet of natural fruits, veggies, and meats seems to be pre-destined to help your health improve, maintain weight and keep you well.  However, when we delve into the particulars of a sweet potato versus a turnip green, it seems like we are splitting hairs from the same head.

As most of you know, I'm a Zoner.  I considered going Paleo, but was turned off by the zealousness of it.  I believe Paleo's premise is makes a lot of sense.  It makes sense that eating how our bodies did as we evolved provides healthy results.  I've seen people get great results with it.  It just wasn't for me because of the restrictions.  I was certain I would fail at it, so I didn't try it.  So my second conclusion was "go with what works for you".  Make sure the diet is achievable, but effective.

I get irritated when it declares knowledge in areas where studies are inconclusive.  I get irritated by Dr. Sears (father of the Zone) in the same way.  However, I like the Zone because I can stick to it, I feel good on it, and it keeps helping me improve.  If Paleo or South Beach or any other diet does the same for you, stay with it.  In my opinion, they are all in the ballpark of healthy eating:  "Whole foods, in reasonable proportions with a sense of balance."  Personally, I saw better results on the Zone than I did following the Culprit/Cure guidelines, so I switched.  Since then, I've added back things and taken other things away trying to find what works best.  I've learned what I should really avoid (alcohol) and what I can indulge in (dark chocolate) with consequence.  So my third conclusion is "don't be afraid to experiment and learn."

Finally, most diet books are written to help people walk a thin line between how they live/eat now (poorly) and how they should.  Most are written to make you believe wholesale changes aren't needed.  Bullshit.  If you have crappy eating and exercising habits, you have to BLOW IT UP and start over.  If you want to pretend that tweaking a crappy lifestyle is the answer, you are DOOMED.  You have to make a serious choice to change.  That means truly starting over and simply installing a healthy, permanent diet and exercise program.  If you don't want to do that, then you need to bookmark this definition.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Success Story

Some of you know Dax Weindorf.  He was a regular throughout the summer and fall until he moved.  He still comes back on the weekend.  His wife discovered an old picture on her phone.  You be the judge if Crossfit works:

From Dax:

This was me at 215.  2 months prior to starting crossfit.

Word of advice for those just starting. Don't cut yourself short. You've heard Bryon say this... Don't miss WOD'S and work hard at getting better with form. Oh yeah, almost forgot. No one can push you as hard as you can. This is me 7 months in at 190. and 11% body fat down from 20%.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Team WODs: Point/ Counterpoint

This is a direct quote post Katie Bell sent me to include here.  It is unedited by me.  I will provide my commentary at the end.
My Case for the Team WODs

Like all families, CrossFit 540 has traditions. For example, we usually go to same restaurant on box excursions (Mojito’s). We have our own signature WOD (The 540 – 50 OH Lunges 35/25, 40 pull-ups, 30 Thrusters 95/65, 20 Burpees, 10 Squat Cleans 135/95). We celebrate all national holidays (and apparently local snow days) (or any other day Trevor deems appropriate) with the Filthy Fifty. And, new to the list, we do team WODs on Saturday mornings.

I had already come to look forward to the weekends at CrossFit. Without the schedule of my weekday duties to fret about, I feel like I work out on Saturdays and Sundays with a clearer head and more focus. There’s a particular gleam to the equipment that only occurs during those mid-morning to early-afternoon hours, when the garage doors are open wide, the sunshine is streaming in, and children are climbing up and down the tractor tires. Also, I have free time and I appreciate being able to develop technical skills before and after the WOD. I like catching up with the people who’s weekday schedules don’t coordinate with mine. The addition of the team WODs has given me even more to look forward to.

I was scandalized when I recently found out that not all members of the CrossFit 540 family love the Saturday morning Team WODs the way I do. And they don’t just not love them; they hate them to the point that they are considering not coming on Saturdays at all. DON’T DO THAT! I guess I can understand some of the reasons why a person might feel like Team WODs are more of a test of nerves than of fitness, but I can think of lots of reasons why showing up is a better idea than staying home:

1. A missed workout is a missed opportunity. Every workday of our four-day cycle is a chance to get stronger and faster. Systematically skipping a workday is a sure way to delay progress. And I don’t care what you say – you’re not going to get comparable benefits doing an alternative workout somewhere else. If those workouts really worked, you never would have signed up for CrossFit in the first place.

2. The Team WODs build a stronger community within CrossFit540 (which is my very favorite thing about our box). I know that we typically buddy-up with people we already know, but it doesn’t always end up that way. The Team WODs give us an opportunity to get familiar with CrossFitters that we may not regularly talk to. And when you team up with someone you already know, spending approximately 40 minutes sweating together is a great way to really close.

3. No man is an island. Or in less dramatic terms, working as a team balances each person’s strengths and weaknesses requiring that we support and rely on each other to complete the WOD competitively. The fact that one person takes an inordinate amount of time to do burpees is balanced by the other’s utter inability to perform double unders; and in turn, the one person makes up time lost with incredible dexterity to do wall balls, and the other speeds through push presses. In the end, it all evens out, and we are better for it.

4. Accountability makes us better. Knowing that someone is counting every single rep, or is going to chastise you for missing the full range of motion, or is losing time or holding a squat longer because you are slow will motivate you. That motivation may push you enough that you will get out of your comfort zone and make improvements that will be reflected in your regular WODs. Forcing someone to share your misery with you sounds awful, but the silver-lining is that we all expect this to be reciprocated. For example, I’m telling you that your squats aren’t deep enough because I think we are friendly enough that you will tell me my butt’s sticking up in the air during push ups.

5. Physical qualities aren’t the only things developed by CrossFit. We also improve perseverance, conviction, dedication, self-respect and moral fortitude. Team WODs reflect qualities that aren’t always represented in individual WODs, like adaptability, humility and generosity – things we can all stand to improve.

6. Injury is not a legitimate excuse to skip a team WOD. I certainly am not encouraging a person to work out if they should be letting something heal. I am, however, encouraging someone to work out if they should be limiting the use of something and would have come if the WOD was individual. Teams WODs can be modified and scaled just like individual WODs. Similar to the argument I made in 3 above, we all have weaknesses. You deny yourself the opportunity for a workout of the healthy parts of you, and you deny your potential partner the opportunity to get stronger by compensating for your injury. Further, each person brings more than physical performance to the WODs; the team is denied any encouragement, technical critique, and fraternization that you would otherwise provide.

7. Team WODs simulate competitions held outside of our box. If you aspire to compete in the National Games, or just to get involved in some small local competition, the Saturday morning Team WODs are a great way to practice.

8. Finally, you signed up for this. You pay CrossFit 540 to challenge you and hold you accountable to an increasingly higher standard of physical fitness. And if that’s what the Team WOD’s do, then on Saturday mornings, you’re getting your money’s worth.


For the most part, I agree with Katie.  I think many of her points are valid, especially #3, 4 and 5.  That said, I COMPLETELY understand the nervousness and apprehension of team WODs.  Each WOD has contained at least one exercise where I am severely weak.  Also for most team WODs, I've had a stronger partner (it's really easy for me to find a stronger partner :D).  I've worked harder than ever before.  I push harder because I don't want to let someone down.  

Here is the cool thing.  At least once during each WOD, I've been the stronger of the two of us.... even just for a moment in time.  It felt great and motivated me to keep pushing.  For at least one of the WODs, I probably only did 1/3 of the work.  But during another, I did 2/3s of the work.  You know what, I enjoyed the 2/3s more than the 1/3.  In other words, if you aren't able to do as much, you are helping your partner feel better about themselves!!!

If you are nervous about the team WOD, find somebody during the week you enjoy being around and coordinate a time, and go be partners.  Then have some fun.

Thanks Katie for the post.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February - Make It or Break It

We’ve all heard of the witching hour.  I believe that February is the witching month.  Many people start their new year off with resolution to lose weight, get in shape, and solve world hunger.  I put the three together because all are damned hard.  The good news is that the first two are within your control.  January is typically a month of strong willpower because the memories of our Holiday overindulgence are still fresh.  Then comes February, the month of broken promises and a return to our old ways.  January sucked so HARD with all the changes we made.  Our minds wander back to the “good old days” of indulgences and leisure time.  Of course, this analogy applies to any “second month” of a major life change.

I’m at the beginning of Year 2 on my fitness journey.  I remember distinctly that February was a tough month for the reasons above.  At first I pushed through it, but it continued to get worse.  I was lucky because I was so convicted in my goal, I continued to push through it.  But I’ve had many moments in the last year where it just seemed too hard.  My guess is if you are new to your “healthy” commitment, this month will be your first true test. 

If you are dealing with this phenomenon, then I recommend a counter-intuitive approach to “fixing” it.  Immersion.  Sit down in front of the computer and begin reading about health, diet, exercise.  If you are doing Crossfit, this is REALLY easy.  You can go with the “official” reading of the Crossfit Journal.  Or if you want some different perspectives, there are a ton of Crossfit spin-offs that use the same basic foundations from diet to workouts.  The point being is the more you read, the more convicted you become about the positive changes you are making.  The other point is:  it doesn’t take a whole lot of hard work :D and so you have NO excuse to avoid it.  Give it a try.

The next thing to focus on is you have about 3 months before “summer” and associated clothing arrives.  You can significantly impact your body in 3 months.  You can lose 30 lbs and build a ton of muscle and cardio health.  BUT, you can’t do that if you have a major false start in February.  Recommitting in March actually puts you TWO month behind versus staying committed in February.  You will lose ALL of the progress you made in January and the opportunity to get better for February.  It isn’t a 10 lbs swing, it’s more like 15 – 20.  DON’T lose February AND January.  You’ve come too far.