Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Darkest Before the Dawn...

I watched a little bit of The Biggest Loser last night and, lo and behold, a Reebok-CrossFit commercial pops up telling me that the "sport of fitness has arrived." I'm pretty excited! I would love to see a snowball effect of everyone getting more serious about their workouts, then eating better, then eating even cleaner (organic and grassfed), then Kellogg's will turn to making un-grain cereals in order to stay afloat fiscally. The world will be a better and healthier place! Oh what beauty!

But it's always darkest before the dawn. Due to the awesome nature of CrossFit everyone will jump on the band wagon this year. It will be very easy for it to become a buzzword meaning "workouts that will kill you." Let me say this though, CrossFit is NOT a BOOTCAMP. Your coach needs to know how to arrange movement types, speeds, and loads in order to elicit a very particular response from YOUR cardio-respiratory, neurological, physical and mental systems.

CrossFit is NOT a Bootcamp:
  • It's not just any ol' hard workout of 20 of these, 20 of those and some tire flips. 
  • It's not doing 5 days in a row of 45minute painstorms involving hundreds of reps.
  • It's not a full hour of activity for activity's sake without focus on specific form and someone just yelling "GO! FASTER!" at you.
  • It's not lifting a million pounds any way possible just because it's hard.
  • It's not numbing out and forgetting what you did by the time you get home.
CrossFit is brilliant and scientific:
  • It IS hard: the workout will reveal your weaknesses instead of just being an onslaught of $hit to do.
  • It IS a method in which you take the time to find the current holes in your training and FIX them before moving on...this does NOT make the workouts easier!
  • It IS intelligently programming your week, your month and your year of workouts to create a positive training stimulus by varying loads, intensity, and tasks.
  • It IS learning. Learning how to do work safely and correctly because strength will only get you so far. FORM and determination will take you over the moon.
All this was highlighted in a video that circulated on Facebook in which an IFBB Physique pro does a so-called CrossFit workout. Her workout consisted of:
3-5 Rounds
20 reps of bench press (bodyweight),
20 reps of back squats (bodyweight),
20 reps of clean and press (half-bodyweight)
I hate to say this but it's stupid. It's a stupid workout. This is a great example of a hard workout but NOT a CrossFit workout. *You can see how NOT to CrossFit by watching this video. Using these same 3 movements, a CrossFit workout would be MORE likely to look like this:
3 Rounds
9 reps bench (half bodyweight)
12 reps clean and jerk (bodyweight)
15 reps back squat (one and a half times bodyweight)
Look at the two versions again and see if you can't see why the latter would be a more effective strength training stimulus. Even still, the rep scheme in combination with the weights makes this an advanced strength-endurance workout for an advanced CROSSFIT ATHLETE. The latter version has a rhythm and a pattern. The movement that uses the smallest muscle groups gets the lightest weight (respectively) and the least amount of reps to enable the athlete to keep moving and effectively tire the shoulders for the next movement. The next movement is an Olympic lift that, when performed correctly, will engage the legs in an explosive movement in order to help the arms get the weight safely overhead and locked out. The third movement then uses the heaviest weight which will again tire the core and legs making the second round of clean and jerks (heavily reliant on core strength and explosive power through legs/hips) more difficult.

YOUR safety and health is paramount as we head into this bright new world of CrossFitting popularity. I urge to please please please...continue to be picky about who you let coach you!

CrossFit boxes will be opening everywhere and many towns already have several. Go try them all out and see which one makes you feel like:

1) you're learning something
2) you're a valued part of a team
3) you're effectively getting work done
4) you're getting better each week!
If you feel that your workouts are constantly crushing you and/or you aren't able to describe the movements to a family member or friend (ie you aren't learning anything) then please find another place or trainer to visit! While workouts will be hard, you should not feel like you've been hit by a bus repeatedly for weeks. Don't get me wrong, maybe your coach is super nice or is really cute. But if they don't know how to safely and effectively get you from Point A to Point B you can keep them on your Christmas card mailing list but break free and find another place to go!

Best wishes!