So You Want to Try CrossFit?

Andrea Ager CrossFit Games 2011So, you’ve heard about this CrossFit thing and you’ve decided to give it a shot. But, maybe you are a little worried because you’ve heard about it from friends who do it. Or you’ve watched a few videos of some of the elite (or insane) athletes doing crazy workouts. You don’t think you are that strong, that fast, or that fit yet.

Don’t worry about it.

Seriously. The nice thing about CrossFit is that everything is scaled appropriately for your capabilities and experience. So, everyone starts out light if they aren’t familiar with weight lifting. Heck, for the Overhead Squat I spent weeks using nothing but a wooden dowel until I became more flexible and skilled.

One of the most important things to focus on when you are just starting out is to take the time to get your form and technique perfected before trying to go heavy. Don’t be shy about scaling the lifts and WODs (i.e., workout of the day) by using less weight or scaling the technique (e.g., doing burpees without the push-up component). A good coach will recommend that when you are new and tell how you to scale, because he or she wants you to get the most out of the program and not get injured. So, focus on learning in the first few months (and it does take months) so that you become really good at the lifts and exercises. Then, once you feel comfortable and you’ve worked through the adaptation (you will be sore a lot), you can start adding more weight. Your coach will help you program that.

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Killer Abs and Core Workout with the L-sit Chin-up

The L-sit Chin-up is a killer exercise with a movement that is borrowed from gymnastics. It helps strengthen the abdominal muscles, hip flexors, shoulders, back, biceps, and builds up your entire “core”. Your core strength involves all of the muscles of your abdominal region and back, and they are critical for supporting your spine and keeping your body stable and balanced during many different exercises and weightlifting movements. The stronger your core is, the better you will become at lifting weights and body weight exercises; plus you will reduce your risk of injury.

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Great Training Program Videos for 4 Critical Lifts

I just discovered the “6 Weeks to Superhero” series from T Nation and have really been enjoying them. It features Christian Thibaudeau, who is actually a bodybuilding coach. But, I think some of the lifting tips and training exercises would also work well for someone who just wants to get stronger and better that these 4 critical lifts:

Deadlift
Squat
Bench Press
Overhead Press

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Your Choice: One Fast Food Meal or a Full Day of Meals, Snacks, and Treats?

For fun and science, I tracked my daily intake yesterday for my entire day of meals, snacks, and treats. I was quite surprised at the total calories and discovered that I really should be taking in about 1000 more calories. I already feel like I’m eating a ton of food every day. I eat steak, chicken breasts, lots of veggies, some fruit, snacks, and even have a small treat every night.

I now know that a single large-sized meal at McDonald’s is pretty close to my daily intake. So, I created this chart just to visualize the crazy comparison.

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Struggling with Push-ups? Try the 1-minute Push-up.

woman doing pushupI know a lot of people struggle with push-ups. There are, of course, lots of ways to train your body to perform push-ups. Most people tend to focus on volume: Do more push-ups more frequently. This does work to some degree. I remember when I would just keep doing push-ups all day long, whenever I had a free moment. Just drop and do 10-20 quick push-ups. By the end of the day, I had done anywhere between 150 to 250 push-ups. It certainly helps.

But, my real breakthrough in push-ups came when I started experimenting with isometric push-ups. You’ll find a lot of variations of what people mean by isometric push-ups, but it basically involves doing push-ups very slowly and holding your body at different points in the range of motion. It creates constant tension in the muscles and builds up incredible strength. For mine, I started out with a goal of a 1-minute push-up: Take 30 secs to slowly lower yourself to the bottom of the push-up (do not rest on the floor) and then take 30 secs to push yourself slowly back up to the top of the push-up. Then I worked up to 2-min push-ups. A full minute to slowly lower down and another minute to slowly push back up.

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Exercising with a Friend

Toys lifting weights togetherI personally believe that a big reason many people fail to maintain a regular program of exercise is that they are trying to go it alone. This chart from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that more than 50% of men and women exercise solo (source). When men exercise with others, it tends to be more often with friends (e.g., I bet it’s team sports). Women, on the other hand, tend to exercise more with family.

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The Benefits of Green Exercise

Ansel Adams photograph of Snake river

I first wrote about Green Exercise in post on trail running last year. It is “physical activity in the presence of nature.” There was some interesting research published that even just 5 minutes of green exercise decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. While all types of natural environments produced advantages, including green urban environments (e.g., a city park), researchers noted that those that contained water resulted in greater benefits.

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Paleo Shopping and Meal Planning

shopping cart of paleo foodMeal planning is very helpful when you’re Paleo. Otherwise, it is too easy to get into a rut with the same old food or fall off the Paleo wagon when you’re pinched for time (I’ll just eat a bowl of cereal this one time). You should also plan to cook more than you need for a given meal, so that you have easy leftovers for lunch during the week. I’m not sure what it is about lunch, but it seems to be the most challenging meal. A lot of Paleo followers cook up big batches of food on the weekends when they have more time. I remember grilling something like 10 chicken breasts one Sunday. It was nice to just pull a pre-grilled chicken breast out of the fridge during the week for a quick meal.

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Getting fit isn't rocket science. But it isn't "easy" either.

Diet coke junk food obesityI was reading a good post today that inspired me to say a few words on the subject of fitness and weight loss. I am continually amazed at all of the misconceptions, misinformation, and old-fashioned BS advice that keeps floating around regarding how to lose weight, get fit, and be healthy. There is no magic pill or drink, there is no magical exercise, there is no way to lose weight and be fit while continuing to eat crappy food. Sorry, if you’ve been told that and you believe it, you’ve been lied to (again) and you’re fooling yourself.

On the flip side, if you are already eating healthy, but you refuse to get serious about exercise, you won’t really be fit and healthy either. You may look “skinny”, but you won’t be strong or healthy. And I promise you that your body will eventually pay the price.

Like I said, it isn’t rocket science. If you sat down and had a really deep session of thinking about how our bodies work, why they work the way they do, and were completely honest with yourself; you would come to the same conclusion. To be an optimal physical organism (i.e., fit and healthy), you have to fuel your body with the real food it was built to run on and you need to use that body the way it was meant to be used.

I sometimes use the sports car analogy. If you take the most amazing sports car and put crappy fuel in it, it will run poorly and eventually break down. If you put great fuel in the sports car but you leave it parked in the garage and never drive it, it will eventually break down as well.

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