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CrossFit = Increased Productivity


There’s no doubt that CrossFit increased the efficiency of gym-goers worldwide. We were previously relegated to aimlessly wandering around a gym full of cardio machines and bodybuilding accessory equipment with no actual clue how our bodies build muscle or lose fat. The professionalization of the coach has given fitness enthusiasts access to world-class instruction and insight at a fraction of the cost of a personal trainer. This efficiency doesn’t stop at the door of the gym. CrossFit increased productivity in the workplace, the kitchen, and in family time. Here are just a few ways CrossFit has increased my productivity.

1. An anchor point.

“Morning rituals” have become a buzzword. Meditation, writing, gratitude, and healthful habits have (thankfully) replaced inspiration. This is not a fad. We’re finally coming to grips with the fact that positive change in one’s life is had through repeated, incremental, sustainable exposure to desired behavior. No one makes a radical life change and sticks to it over the next decade. The staggering data on failed New Years’ Resolutions are proof positive. CrossFit encompasses all of the elements of adopting a positive habit – it occurs at the same time every day, it has a mentor (coach), and is done in an interpersonal context (your fellow athletes). Your body will even begin to give you subconscious physiological cues that this activity is taking place.

2. Stress management.

I’m not talking the “oh, I feel better because I worked out” kind of feelings. I’m talking real, quantifiable hormonal changes. Simply put, your body emits a hormone called cortisol when it’s in danger, experiencing external stressors, or you have a deadline to meet. There’s a very important reason for this response – your great-great-great… ancestors used the hormone to achieve great physical and emotional feats to save themselves from immediate harm and death. Unfortunate for you, a sedentary culture has rendered cortisol essentially useless for physical activity. So, when you have a bunch of emails that you’re stressing about, you’ll have the same response as you would if your life was in danger. Physical activity performed at an appropriate intensity return your physiological response to the – more appropriate – physical environment instead of office stressors.

3. Reliance on experts.

We live in a crazy world where Jenny McCarthy’s advice replaces our physician’s, Instagram models are fitness professionals, and Dr. Oz sells us magic pills daily. The distractions are endless. With literally the entire known human history in our pocket, we can waste an incredible amount of time attempting to be our own experts. CrossFit has, as previously stated, put a large number of people in front of world-class professionals daily at a fraction of the cost of personal training. It has democratized coaching and fitness with open-source communities and free resources. Of course, there are coaches that should not be seen as the end-all-be-all, but CrossFit has certainly cut through the noise of supplements, fad diets, “The 8 Exercises to SHRED Your Abs” click-bait. It’s a community of people that have all come to the conclusion that consistent hard work, reasonable whole food choices, and being a part of a community is the single best way to achieve fitness.

4. Time management.

People are notoriously poor at managing their time. It’s a played-out cliche, but we’re all given the same 24 hours. So, why do some people accomplish so much more in their’s while you’re always complaining about being busy? Simple: time management. The simple act of attending a class almost demands you practice good time management – pack a gym bag, arrive on time, and eat a healthy meal afterward. These habits beget more habits. Try “AMRAPing” (as many rounds as possible) your work. You would be surprised to learn that you’re actually capable of accomplishing – working on a single task – more in 20 minutes than you currently stretch into 60.

Will joining an affiliate or doing workouts in your garage automatically make you the most productive person in your office? Of course not. But, the activities that take place inside the gym are a clear reflection of productivity habits that occur outside the gym. Give it a shot and let us know what you find out!

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Will Lifting Weights Make Women Bulky?

By: Pat Palombo


In this installment, we’re going to dispel a common fear held primarily among women about resistance weight training. It’s pretty common to see someone initially apprehensive about picking up something heavy because they don’t want to get “too bulky.” Though this misconception spans the entire fitness community, it can be exceptionally detrimental in the world of Crossfit and to your general health and wellness. There are many reasons why you won’t accidentally turn into She-Hulk overnight and we’re going to explore a couple of them today to eliminate that fear of the barbell.

First and foremost ladies, you just don’t have it in the hormones. If you’re worried about getting bulky from weight training there is little to worry about because for the most part, it will take a decent amount of focused time to even get there. The main driving factor in muscle growth is a hormone called testosterone. It increases protein synthesis and in turn, increases muscle growth. The main hormone prevalent in the female body is estrogen, not the muscle boosting testosterone. Now for those of you who have those goals, we’re not saying it’s impossible for women to pack on muscle mass, it will just take some time and effort to do so.
 Another main factor in muscle size is the specifics of your training style. So muscle size adaptation is called hypertrophy, the type most ladies are apprehension about is specifically called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This is an increase in the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cells but doesn’t necessarily include accompanying muscle strength. All that fancy talk just means the muscle increases in volume, this is achieved through specific training involving high repetition numbers using sub-maximal weights. Though we do higher repetition workouts in Crossfit, the adaptations we experience are more towards the myofibrillar growth. This is where more actual contractile proteins form to make us stronger and faster. The high-intensity nature of Crossfit supports this type of strength adaptation over the bulking on of muscle.
 Finally, don’t always go off of what you’ve seen from competitors. The Crossfit Games are hugely popular and if you do Crossfit, you probably watch them at some level. It’s easy to sympathize with them because we all do the same movements and workouts, we know how they may feel out on the field. So it would be an easy jump to think, “I’m gonna look like that if I keep going.” The truth is those athletes, especially the female athletes, train specifically to achieve those types of body compositions. Most all of them have trained for years on end, following specific training protocols to gain more muscle mass to maximize their strength. They also usually all eat to a calorie surplus to fuel their training. They didn’t become bulky strictly from weight training.
 At the end of the day, resistance weight training is a vastly important aspect of well-rounded fitness. Without that type of training, we wouldn’t be able to support any kind of loading in the real world safely and effectively. Strength balance helps our joints stay safe, it keeps us from undue strain when lifting some groceries, and it supports good movement patterns. Our bodies were built to move and move well, part of that is allowing it to adapt to resistance. You won’t become a bodybuilder by accident, you won’t do a strength biased workout one day and wake up the next upset because you now have boulder-sized deltoids. Don’t fear weight training because without it everything seems heavy.

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At the time of writing this it’s late June, which means the majority of people who made a health-related New Year’s Resolution or “Getting that Summer Bod” have fallen off the wagon. One of our Core Values is honesty. As a coaching staff, we’ve taken a hard stance against the misinformation in the fitness industry. There is no “perfect workout”, supplement, ab routine, diet plan, or superfood that will unlock the secret to weight loss. I’ve opted for “losing 20 pounds” as our case study because it is the most often-cited exercise goal I’ve heard from people first starting an exercise routine. So, let’s examine what that will actually take. Honestly.

Simply put, you can lose 20 pounds in several months by eating fewer calories than you do now and exercising vigorously for three to five hours per week using resistance training, interval training, and cardio training. Simple enough, right? So why, then, does everyone who sets out to lose 20 pounds not succeed? Because the truth in weight loss – and pretty much anything you wish to achieve – is that the process is incredibly simple (eat less, move more), but undoubtedly difficult.

This is your litmus test – if your weight loss solution involves a complex “system” or “plan” with anything short of complete sacrifice and lifestyle modification on your part – it probably won’t work. Let’s examine what it actually takes to lose 20 pounds.

Diet

Eating less seems simple enough. But, truth is, a healthy diet permeates more of your daily habits than you might think. Here are a few examples:

  • Buy, prepare, and pack protein with every meal
  • Spend time every week doing meal preparation
  • Prepare your meals ahead of time!
  • Know how many calories you’re intaking each day.
  • Men – drink 5 or less alcoholic drinks per week. Women – 3 or less
  • Minimize sweets – especially around the office or when you’ve had a “hard day”

Exercise

Move 3-5 hours a week. Simple enough. Why is it so rare that people actually stick to it? There are plenty of factors that contribute to non-exercise – schedule, not knowing what to do, difficulty forming a habit, losing interest, and budget. Here are some examples of what it actually will take to stick to an exercise routine:

  • Chances are, you’ll need to hire a coach or trainer. Most access (“globo-gym”) facilities are set up to where less than 5% of people paying a membership actually go. Read: You probably won’t either.
  • You’ll need to pack a gym bag every day. If you go home before the gym, you probably won’t make it to the gym.
  • Childcare – you’ll need to make arrangements.
  • Be proactive – block out your workout time in your schedule. Leaving it up to chance means it won’t happen.

Consistency

Underpinning every truth in weight loss is consistency. Using our 20 pound example, you can expect to lose this weight in five months. Four if you’re incredibly diligent. Two if you plan to gain 30 pounds back (read: crash diet and over-exercising). When was the last time you stuck to something for five months? Truth is, most folks can maintain for 3 weeks.

There will be sacrifice. You will need to plan. You will need to adjust pretty much every part of your day. Your likelihood of success goes up with someone in your corner. Find a trainer, a coach, friend, or significant other. Behavior change happens in the context of relationship. Losing weight is a behavior change FIRST, diet and exercise second.

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At social events I’m always tempted to lie about what I do. Something that doesn’t have a ton of follow-up. I’m thinking Marine Ophthalmologist or something along those lines. Something without a ton of follow-up conversation. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE talking about the intricacies of fitness, behavior change, strength, and conditioning. What’s really been bothering me lately is peoples’ reaction to finding out I work in fitness more particularly CrossFit. They almost-instantaneously descent into negative self-talk upon learning what I do. What’s worse is that there’s no amount of convincing that pulls people off that ledge of negativity and self-destruction. Here are some of the most recent “converstion starters.”

  • I’m way too fat to work out.
  • I tried working out once but…
  • I’m too old for that.
  • I’m sooo busy.
  • My knees hurt.
  • I like chocolate WAAAAY too much.
  • I’d be the slowest one in the room.

Ugh. What a buzzkill. But, I’ve been thinking about these conversations a lot lately. What’s really beneath all that negativity. What are you really saying? 

I once read about a trainer who would do this as her approach to answering that question and it really opened my eyes to what’s beneath these negative statements. Her approach to her athletes losing weight is one of the best I’ve read. Instead of lecturing and giving orders, she asks (I’m sure I’m butchering this): “How is smoking/gaining weight/drinking/whatever serving you?”

I love this approach because it is non-judgemental and helps people reach their own conclusions. After thinking about this question, I finally realized why people react to working out with such weird negative self-talk. When they say “I’m too old” they DON’T really mean they’re too old. Hell, I saw a 60-year-old man do rope climbs today. So what are we really saying?

I’M NOT READY TO CHANGE

AND THAT’S COMPLETELY OK. Would you ever recommend that someone have kids when they feel they’re not ready to do so? Of course not! While not as life-changing as parenthood, adopting healthy habits is nothing short of fully pervasive.

So my plea is that we change our language to be a little less self-hating. Stop speaking such negativity about yourself and be honest – you’re not ready to change certain parts of your life.

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 The Short On Breathing Long

By: Pat Palombo 


Last time we geeked out we discussed various ways of promoting and optimizing recovery. In this installment let’s delve into the benefits and practice of breath control.


 Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or box-breathing are all terms to describe using the full capacity of the lungs when breathing. Regardless of what you call it, you do this by breathing deep down into the belly first, then upwards into the chest, and finally raising the shoulders to get that last little bit of air into the lungs. This type of slow but full breathing is something we rarely do, and even more rarely when we need I the most like when we’re exercising.


 Prioritizing this practice of breath control can help strengthen the diaphragm and increase the lung’s ability to ventilate CO2 in exchange for oxygen. A number of athletes have used this practice to boost their recovery, performance, and focus. The CO2 exchange aside, breath control can have a positive effect on your heart rate and nervous system.


 A simple but effective way to begin this trying a pre workout lung priming and then a post workout box-breath cycle. Before you warm up to workout: breathe deep into your belly, then chest, and finally raise your shoulders at the end to fill your lungs completely. Match that inhale tempo on the exhale. It’s important to do this for five to ten breaths, then start your warm up with your lungs primed and your nervous system charged to receive stress. Post-workout is where the box breathing comes into play. To settle the nervous system down and calm the heart rate you begin the inhale again into the belly, then it travels up the chest and ending in the shoulders, but now you hold that breath. Again you exhale matching the inhale tempo but also suspend your breathing after the exhale as well. Match all of these inhale, hold, exhale, suspend tempos to at least five seconds each (like a box), and do this for at least five breaths. This will hijack your nervous system and calm your heart rate down, boosting recovery.


 As we have said before, your ability to perform is only as strong as your ability to recover. There’s the obvious benefit of box-breathing post workout to initiate recovery faster, but priming the lungs prepares our bodies for the oxidative demands of high-intensity exercise. As a bonus, you may find that box-breathing can have a meditative effect too; it’s way better than counting sheep if you can’t get to sleep. For those athletes always looking to move the needle in a positive way, breath control is a viable tool to gain more of an edge. In CrossFit, we focus on increasing our work capacity across broad time, and modal domains might as well increase our lung capacity too.