Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nutrition Challenge 2015

So apparently there's been a call for another nutrition challenge.  And we hear you loud and clear.  Last year at about this time, I organized what can conservatively be described as one of the greatest nutrition challenges in the history of the world.  If you weren't with us then, let me tell you that there were spreadsheets, formulas, tracking, measuring, and excitement abound.  When Steph asked me to start planning this year's challenge, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to top that performance.  But I've done it.  However, this year I don't expect nearly the participation we had last year.  And the simple, honest reason for that is the following:  this time it's going to be really hard.

While last year's challenge was amazing, it definitely had its flaws.  The scoring was pretty fair, however not completely objective in some regards due to scaling and/or missed workouts.  While the spreadsheets were a true work of art, they also required a boatload of effort and upkeep from yours truly.  And that runs counter to the true spirit of this challenge, which is that YOU should be doing all the work.  And finally, I felt like we all walked away from that challenge without having really learned anything about ourselves or our diets .... and that's a crying shame.  This year I have a plan to fix all of that - and it comes down to one simple word:  Macros.

Since I can literally feel in the air how deflated you got reading that word, I'm going to handle the remainder of this post FAQ style.

What the hell is a macro?

Macro is short for macro-nutrient.  They are the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that make up every single piece of food or drink you put in your mouth.  If that didn't help, then don't worry because we're going to teach you all about it before the challenge.  Also, you should have learned in like 3rd grade but I won't hold that against you because I still don't know basic geography.

What are we going to be doing with said macros?

We are going to be tracking them daily and reporting out on them weekly for points and money.  This will also require that you learn how to measure food (or make a damn good estimate) and establish what your current baseline intake looks like.  This is all stuff that you will be taught how to do and guided through along the way.  If you take nothing else away from this challenge and make absolutely no progress in any other regard, I believe wholeheartedly that developing this skill is something that will benefit you for the rest of your natural life.

Isn't this diet just the latest stupid fad?  

First of all, smack yourself right in the face.  Macros are just like everything else you think is new and fancy:  it's been around for a very long time, people just started using different names and re-selling it recently.  Marketing, I believe they call it.  Personally, I started tracking macros as a sophomore in high school back in 1999, and lost about 40 pounds doing it.  That's a true story.  Also, new research indicates that our paleolithic ancestors did in fact NOT eat paleo, and that cave paintings were simply a rudimentary form of tracking protein intake.  That's not a true story.

Note the two dear in the painting, one large and one small:  that equates to approximately 50 grams of protein.

Tracking and measuring food seems incredibly complicated and difficult.

Oh, it does?  Let me offer my sincere apologies, I wouldn't want to ask you to anything difficult.  You know what's easy?  Smoking cigarettes.  Why don't you do that instead.

Seriously Tim, I want to do the challenge but tracking macros is scary and out of my comfort zone.

Okay you're right, it's challenging.  At this point, I feel the need to remind you that participation is 100% voluntary.  You don't have to do this.  You also don't have to squat, run, do pull ups, go to work, or get out of bed in the morning.  You don't have to try.  You don't have to push yourself to uncomfortable places.  You don't have to learn anything new that may be helpful to your health and wellness in the long run.  It's all optional dude.

Why are you choosing this methodology in particular for the challenge?

Because I believe it's the most beneficial thing we can do for our gym as a whole in terms of overall diet.  It can be applied to any style of eating, whether it be paleo, vegetarian, vegan, all fast-food, or strictly drugs and alcohol (all of which are not recommended and equally ridiculous).  It's also a valuable life skill that you can use to evaluate your current diet and make adjustments down the road that will be important to you, no matter what your different goals may be and how they may evolve.  Not to mention that the scoring for awarding a "challenge victor" will be 100% objective and based on your adherence to your own personal targets.  Your fate is in your own hands and the potential outcome is completely tailored to you and your goals.

Will I be able to lie, cheat, and fake my way through this challenge just to get a T-shirt?

Yes, Kiva, you will be.

During the challenge, can I eat giant 600 calorie cookies from Bread Company and not get penalized for it?

Yes, Steph, you can.

Have at it.  The part all these macro fiends neglect to tell you is that you have to follow it up with 4 straight meals of nothing but plain grilled chicken breast and steamed brussels sprouts in order to hit your numbers for the day.

Will there be cheat days during the challenge?

The beauty of this system is that it eliminates the need for "cheating."  There's really no such thing.  While the giant cookie example above may seem facetious, it's actually quite true.  You can eat whatever you want, as long as it's moderate enough not to blow your daily numbers entirely and you recover from it with the remainder of the day's choices.  In the words of some stupid CrossFit T-shirt:  "There is no off day."

My life or work schedule does not allow me to track macros / I'm too lazy to do this / I eat out too much to make this work / I don't know basic math / food labels are too hard to read.

As part of the program, I will be keeping cages full of kittens in my backyard.  Every time I hear an excuse (any excuse) about why you can't make this work, I go out back and I punch one.  That's a joke, don't make some outraged cat-loving post on Facebook ... because then I'll have to un-follow you for being stupid.

Will you be making like 8 more posts laying out all of the details and rules for the challenge?

You bet your sweet ass I will.  In addition, we will be holding a seminar for all participants to teach you how to use the tools provided for the challenge and about tracking your food intake in general.  Get ready for some fun.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Talking Tempo

Well it's official: I've run out of things to write about.  Last night / this morning (I'm an insomniac - if you know a good sleep doctor I'm all ears) I sat down to write a post about about how to deal with a bad day at the gym, only to realize that I've already written that post before ... like 6 times.  The only highlight that's worth sharing is the following:

Maybe your neck and traps are all locked up because yesterday you did 34 consecutive bear crawls without a break because your partner moved at the pace of an actual bear.  A bear that only seemed to get faster and angrier with every subsequent bear crawl - or as bears simply call them – “crawls.” 

You can thank me later for not sharing the rest of it with you.  So it's come to this:  today we're going to talk about tempo ... And I'm also going to purge a couple pictures I haven't had the opportunity to use yet.  So what is tempo you ask?

It's not this.  And FYI, if you're stupid enough to attempt this in our gym, please make sure that you've signed ALL the waivers.  I mean the whole stack.

Tempo is a concept that I find myself talking about A LOT in my coaching lately.  Also, I attempted to start writing it on the white board once but was met with questions about whether people were supposed to be doing 33 sets of 1 back squat and I promptly stopped.  Of course, there are numerous links out there to other websites piloted by less mentally handicapped people than myself that explain this concept in great detail.  But I assume you read this site because you enjoy my humorous "everyman" explanations of incredibly complex concepts.  Or perhaps you simply read it because it shows up in your inbox every time I post and you can't figure out how to configure your spam settings.

Here's a picture of a Ford Tempo.  If you drove one of these in high school, I'm sorry but there's no other way to say this:  you suck.  It looks like an '89 Ford Taurus took a dump.

Tempo is simply the speed at which you are prescribed to execute a certain movement - pretty much any controlled movement from a back squat to a pull up to a push up.  You'll often hear myself and our other trainers saying something like "slow and controlled on the way down, then explode up" when coaching the movements mentioned above.  This is simply a verbal way of explaining the desired tempo of said movement, and is our way of keeping you from crashing into the bottom and losing tension and/or position.  All sounds pretty simple, right?  Now here comes the confusing part where you might have to use your math brain:  tempo is typically written using a nearly impossible simple to decipher code after the movement description.  Here is an example:

Back Squat 5RM (tempo: 33x1)

And I just lost 90% of you.  But for the 10% that are still here, I'm going to continue and I promise to keep it brief.  I'm also going to tempt you with promises of kittens and babies to come.  "33x1" has a very specific meaning and it's not telling you to do 33 singles.  Here is the breakdown:

1st Number (3) = the eccentric or lowering portion of the movement.  AKA, the part where you move down.  In a squat, it's sitting down into the bottom.  In a pull up, it's lowering yourself to an extended arm position.  In a push up, it's lowering your chest to the ground.  In this example, you should take 3 seconds to lower to the bottom of the squat ... which is A LOT longer than you think.  This is important, because it is a well documented fact that strength is built during this portion of most lifts.

Here's a picture of a kitten to keep up my entertainment value.  OMG look at how cute that kitten is ... he must do tempo squats.

2nd Number (3) = the pause in the bottom of the movement.  In a standard tempo movement, this would be 0 meaning you don't pause.  In this back squat example, you're taking a 3 second pause in the bottom. Good luck.

3rd Number (x) = the upward portion of the movement.  In a squat, it's standing up.  In a pull up, it's pulling up.  In a push up, it's .... pushing up.  X means do that sh*t as fast as you possibly can without falling over or rupturing your colon.

4th Number (1) = the pause at the top of the movement.  For a squat, it's at the top standing tall. For a pull up, it's having your chin over the bar.  For a push up, it's the planked out position with locked elbows.  Typically the only reason to prescribe a pause here is because it will really piss somebody off and greatly increase the time under tension of a set.

The Mayor of Kirkwood knows how important tempo is ... and so does that guy behind her.

So now you're an expert in both reading and writing tempo prescriptions.  Why did I share all of this with you today?  Well, as I clearly stated at the beginning, I've simply run out of interesting things to write about.  Also, I have a dream of passing on all of the useless knowledge I've collected over the years to our greater community so that someday you may go out into the world and prescribe sets of 19x9 tempo front squats to future generations.  And now you get that joke.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sweatin' to The Oldies

For those of you that know me well, you also know that I'm right most of the time.  Whatever I'm doing at the moment, and whatever my reasons for doing so, you can rest assured that they are absolutely sound and correct.  This applies to my fitness methodologies of course, and also stems into other areas of my life such as Tupperware management (hint:  I wash the containers at work so I'm not bringing home dirty crusty dishes every day).  However, today I have to eat crow.  You see, I've learned a lot in the last couple weeks as I've re-entered the world of metabolic conditioning and cardio in preparation for the upcoming HOA competition.  And one of the most important things I've learned so far is that cardio may actually be good for you.  BALLS.

One of the many benefits is the added piece of mind you get knowing that you'll survive the coming zombie apocalypse ... for a while ... until I'm converted and start chasing you down.

Let me tell you a story.  One day in an attempt to be playful and lighthearted, as Steph walked by me at the gym I felt the need to give her a swift kick in the ass.  She quickly decided the best way to block this was to use the fingernail of her right index finger to ward off the attack.  Needless to say, this did not end well for her nicely manicured fingernail.  It was cracked, bloody, and purple within a matter of seconds.  I felt so terrible for causing such injury that I resolved to buy her a manicure the next day.  However, much to my astonishment when I saw her a mere 12 hours later, the fingernail had healed completely and appeared as if nothing had ever happened.  Thus, I learned two very important lessons from this whole encounter:

1) Never try to be something you're not (playful and lighthearted).  Just don't.  It embarrasses us all, and can lead to serious injury.

2) Steph heals like the Wolverine.

I spent much of the next few weeks checking the tops of her hands for signs of retractable adamantium claws, to no avail. Don't get me wrong: the claws are there, but they're metaphorical.

What's the point of this endlessly entertaining anecdote?  Well you see, over the years I've started to notice interesting things about some of the more endurance-prone athletes we have at our gym:  they tend to recover faster from hard work, and heal much quicker from injury.  It's like that one time Steph had to have knee surgery (remember that?) and then like 4 days later was hammering away at pistols with 100 pounds on her back (slight exaggeration, but still).  Even after only two weeks of re-introducing conditioning and some light cardio into the mix, I have to say I'm already feeling the benefits.  Worth nothing that I think the key here is everything in moderation, which just so happens to be my specialty.

Which reminds me, does anybody need 1500 oz of Coconut Oil?  It doesn't fit my macros ...

I realize that this analysis is completely lacking in any kind of scientific evidence, and is solely based on my astute observations of one genetically superior human being and my own experiences after 12 days of a little rowing and running ... If only there was a super-sciencey article that I could link to better explain this phenomenon, and therefore validate much of the CrossFit methodology ....

Strength Ratio - Cardio For Strength Athletes

Monday, August 3, 2015

Four Years

Let's walk through a little scenario, one that I'm certain happens on a weekly basis at the gym:

Athlete:  My position really sucks on these Overhead Squats, it's very uncomfortable and I can't use very much weight.

Coach:  Okay.  Here are a couple exercises (foam rolling, stretches, ummmm Overhead Squats) that will help you make improvements in strength and position.

Athlete:  Rolls on foam roller for 14 seconds.  Stretches arms overhead for 6 additional seconds.  Returns to barbell to find out (much to their shock and amazement) that nothing has changed.  Assumes coach is a dumbass who doesn't know how to fix the problem and moves on to something else.

Sounds familiar, eh?

I'm just gonna call it quits and do some light jogging instead.  Or is it pronounced "Yogging"?

The problem here is that this is actually the coaches fault.  Here's how their response should have gone:

Okay.  Here are a couple exercises (foam rolling, stretches, ummmm Overhead Squats) that will help you make improvements in strength and position.  YOU'LL NEED TO DO THESE FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS ... PROBABLY LONGER.

I've actually used a line very similar to this on many occasions before, and you know what the general response is?  Laughter.  I guess it's funny for some reason.  However, I'm not joking.  And today I want to share an article with you that speaks exactly to this point.  I love Greg Everett's approach, because he's always very real about the hard work and dedication that it takes to make a positive change.  There are no quick fixes.  This approach isn't for everybody:  some will give up after putting in a few months or years of hard work because the results they expected just aren't there ... even though they may actually be making exactly the right amount of progress.  It's frustrating I know, but sometimes reality can be just that.

Here is the article:
Greg Everett - Real World Overhead Mobility for Weightlifting

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hoover Biscuits

For those of you that aren't avid Facebookers and may not have heard, we have a very special event coming up.  That's right, it's time to fracture those fingers, wrists, and possibly faces with another devastating round of Hooverball!  I was told to put together a post to provide you with the event details, and I plan to do just that ... and so much more.  You see, many of you probably don't have the encyclopedic knowledge of the rules and history of Hooverball that I do, so today I plan to educate you in hopes of broadening your horizons.

This is J. Edgar Hoover,  Inventor of Hooverball, Floor Sucking Devices (today known simply as "vacuums"), and the receding hairline.

It all started back in 1930, early in Hoovie's presidential term.  His personal physician started to notice that the president was turning into a bit of a fatty, as the stress of the presidency, founding the FBI, and blackmailing everyone around him began to mount.  A suggestion was made that perhaps J. Ed should take up volleyball to keep in shape.  "Volleyball!  Poppycock!" responded the president adamantly.  You see, at the time there were rumors about his sexuality floating about the halls of the White House, and he could not risk being seen on the beach in tight jeans high-fiving other men all greased-up in sun-tan lotion.

This is what is refereed to as an anachronism .... because Ray-Ban Aviators didn't exist in the 30s.

No, volleyball would not do.  He needed something dumber.  Something manlier.  Something with more unnecessary risk of injury.  Something he could get away with playing in the middle of winter in a 3-piece suit.  And then it dawned on him: let's just play volleyball with a 6 pound ball!  Brilliant.  However, his team of doctors advised against bumping and setting a heavy medicine ball, as it would risk injury to the president's hands - which he needed for torturing terrorists and signing bills and what-not.  So it was resolved to simply catch and throw the ball, instead of bumping it around.  Originally they coined the game "Volleyball for Dumbasses" but then decided after some debate to stick with the less controversial "Hooverball."  Thus, a national pastime was invented.

The game was massively popular from 1930-1931, mostly in the grounds surrounding the White House.  It resurfaced again in late 2006 when some CrossFit bro stumbled upon it and thought it looked "totes badass."

As far as strategy is concerned, it's very simple:  just single out the person on the other team that clearly can't catch for crap and throw every ball to them as hard as you can.  But you have to make it very obvious that you're doing so, otherwise not everyone will figure out that you're a jackass.  Please join us on Friday August 6th for some Hoover-rific fun.  The festivities start at 6 PM, at the sand volleyball Hooverball courts in Fenton Park.  BYOB and BYOF.  Steph will be adding Med-Ball-Launches-From-Across-The-Gym to her warm ups next week to help us prepare.  Hope to see everyone there!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Leave It To The Experts

It’s a pretty well-known fact that I read too much.  Well, let me clarify:  I read too much about fitness, nutrition, and weightlifting.  Articles and books about things like politics, religion, current events, pop culture, and history are really of no interest to me.   But is reading too much about the stuff I do choose to read about really an issue?  Well maybe, but mostly because 50% of the material I read contradicts the other 50%, and about 95% of all of it ends up being completely useless anyway.  But it helps me pass the time.

Why, what do you do on Saturday afternoons?

But every once in a while I do come across something that ends up being very beneficial and really sticks with me for a long time.  A while back I read an article on the top 10 things that make a good CrossFit gym, according to some “expert” (who was probably just some boner like me).  But one of the concepts that stood out from that article was actually related to what a CrossFit gym should NOT be, and that is a standalone entity.  The gym is … well, it’s a gym.  It’s a place to exercise, and our coaches and owners are here to help you do that, safely and effectively with the use of what we’ve learned both in a classroom setting and through our collective years of experience.  We are not chiropractors.  We are not physical therapists.  We are not dietitians.  And most importantly, we are not psychiatrists (that last one was a joke … sorta).

But really, if you ever need someone to just sit down and talk through your innermost feelings with, please reach out to Brian.

Here are the 3 main places where I tend to see the need for “outside help”:


Yes, it happens.  Every once in a while, something may get tweaked or twisted in the course of all this intense exercise.  Let’s not sugarcoat it:  sometimes shit is going to hurt beyond just a little muscle soreness and stiffness, and we may suffer a boo-boo that doesn’t want to go away.  Your coaches are there to help you modify your workouts by changing the movements to pain-free options, prescribing common stretches or mobility exercises, or possibly recommending a few days rest of the affected area to see if it heals.  But listen:  none of us has an advanced degree in biology and anatomy and 14 letters before our name.  I mean, have you ever seen the inner workings of your shoulder joint?  I’m not convinced the doctors even have a clue what’s going on inside that mamba-jamba.  If you’re suffering from some chronic pain or having an issue that can’t be fixed by a little rest, modification, or light stretching, it’s time to seek outside counsel.  And we are happy to recommend some great sports therapists right in the Kirkwood area (cough cough CIHP cough cough).

What’s that, your shoulder hurts when you hold it at a 47 degree angle?  Oh, I see the problem:  the end specs on your rotary girder are all out of whack.  Let me pop that back into place for you.


This is an area where I can see how one might mistake our trainers for experts, what with their rock hard bodies and beautiful skin.  Not to mention asses that just don’t quit, such as Ed’s.  But at the end of the day, the best we can offer you is advice based on our own personal experiences.  And hey, that might be good enough and just what you need!  But there’s also the possibility that your dietary needs might be a little more specific, and the advice I give you lands you with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  Again, depending on the severity of your particular circumstance (whether true or simply perceived) it may be advisable to seek help from an actual expert in diet.  Of which there are roughly 60,000 available online for a small monthly fee.

Shout out to my new nutrition coaches at Working Against Gravity.  They asked for measurements of my thighs, waist, and hips, but I only sent them ones of my calves with a giant red sign that says “FIX THIS.”  Good luck.

Weightlifting, Rowing, and Other Technical Stuff

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword.  Obviously your CrossFit class coaches are qualified to teach you the Snatch, Clean and Jerk, running, and how to function on the C2.  If not, we’d have fired their sorry asses years ago (ask Louis).  But you can only go so far within the confines of a 1-hour class intent on hitting several different domains of fitness.  This section is more to highlight the fact that we do have some true experts in our midst, and if you really want to focus in on particular skills such as the above, they are available for your utilization at different times throughout the week.  This is included as part of your membership of course, because we’re just really nice like that.  Tony is one of the most experienced weightlifting coaches in St. Louis the World, and he holds class every Sunday at BARx.  We also have other barbell-focused classes throughout the week.  Janeann is an ex-collegiate rower and a great coach, if you’re ever looking to shore up your technique on the erg.  We also offer additional mobility and endurance classes led by coaches who are very dedicated to their craft.  Please reach out to these experts if you’re ever looking for a little extra focus .... hint:  you should be.

And just kidding Lou.  We still love you bro.  Sorry, this was the best picture I could find of your face.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Solving The World's Problems

There's a lot going on out there in the world these days, and sometimes I feel we need to tackle the big issues head on.  Typically I don't know (or care) what's going on in the news or the rest of society outside of my little sphere, because who has the time?  That is, until the other day when I became the victim of a racist comment.  And I never even saw it coming.  Brace yourself for some harsh language:  somebody told me that I didn't look like a weightlifter.  As these situations tend to go, it took a minute to set in ... hold up, are you implying that all weightlifters look the same!?!?

Because I think this 5'0" 110 pound woman and 6',6" 417 pound man would beg to differ.

I hate to blame the victim, but this one was probably my fault.  I should have never been discussing weightlifting with a normal human.  That's like driving down wrong side of the highway with your eyes closed.  The conversation actually revolved around back injuries, which most people suffer from when doing things like getting out of their car or mopping the floor a little too vigorously.  Us lifters tend to get them occasionally by pulling heavy bars off the floor or doing 150 kettlebell swings.  And I'm sure we could argue all day about which path to injury is better (note to self: do that someday).  Unfortunately this isn't the first time something of this nature has happened to me.  A while back, one of my (female) friends asked me this question:  if you squat so often, why are your legs still so skinny?  Back then, I didn't have the wisdom and self control that I do now, so I answered with the following:  my legs are skinny for the same reason your face is so ugly; genetics.

On a related note, all that overhead pressing still hasn't filled in my hairline, wanna rub that one in too?

As with all of my silly anecdotes, there is a story here about the bigger picture.  All of this got me thinking about why I lift weights in the first place, which is pretty important considering I do it most every day.  You see, in the psychology world there are two types of motivation:  intrinsic and extrinsic.  I think those are just fancy words for internal and external, but what do I know seeing as I barely passed pych 101 and college and did so by cheating.  The main idea here is that you can either lift weights because you want other people to be impressed and know how awesome you are, or you can lift weights because you effing love it or have another deeper personal reason for doing so.  Now I'm in no position to say which type of motivation is better, but it does seem that one of them leads to a lot more useless social media posts.  If I was externally motivated for example, I may have answered that weightlifter comment with something like "yeah, but I can snatch my bodyweight!" and then pulled up my InstaGoogle account and scrolled through 400 videos of me lifting with my shirt off.  This would have only led to more stupidity and questions, because ultimately nobody really gives a rat's ass what you can do except you.

Oh you did a barbell workout yesterday?  Well these cats are cuddling with each other so GFY.

Perhaps you have also fallen victim to some prejudicial comments in the past.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  For women, the weightlifting stereotype tends to be of Svetlana from the Ukraine combing her mustache prior to a 400 pound clean and jerk.  And for men, it's the general bodybuilder image that has been burned into the public's brain for the past 50 years.  Oh you strength trained yesterday?  Well you must suck at it, because you aren't strutting around in a banana hammock flexing your airbrushed 9-pack ... Loser!  It's up to us to fight these stereotypes the same way I propose we fight all of the evils of society:  just ignore them and go on living your life.  And maybe occasionally help those wienies when they need something heavy moved.