CrossFit

Coaches Corner: Strict Press

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One of the most common issues I see with the strict press is not engaging the core enough. This leads the athlete to lean back at the top of the press, putting extra strain on the lower back and increasing the risk of injury.
 
Here’s how a good strict press should break down:
 

  • Unrack the bar with purpose and get it in a solid front rack position.

  • Tighten your mid-line (core) and squeeze your glutes and quads even as you engage your upper body.

  • Recruit your entire upper body for a press, not just the shoulders. Engage your arms, upper back, and chest; a strict press requires everything to, well, press. 

  • Keep the core stable and lock out the arms overhead. If you’re doing multiple reps, this should be your starting position. Bring the bar down quickly to touch your chest and press back up. Your body is primed with the weight coming down to press it away, so get ready. Pausing at the shoulders blocks momentum and, more importantly, can psyche you out when the going gets tough.

Don’t lean back. It may seem easier because you’re recruiting more of your chest (as in an incline bench press) but it is terrible for your back.

Coaching Tip: Eight Ways to Welcome New Members

This week we stole a great article from Morning Chalkup, a daily roundup of all things CrossFit. 

It’s January and that means new members armed with resolutions and hungry for some fitness. Here are eight ways to help them feel more comfortable at RPE.
1. Say hello. It can be scary going to a new place, period. Now imagine walking into a new place where everyone has their shirt off, music is blaring, barbells are dropping, and a packed room of athletes are using weights in ways you never knew existed. Intimidation city, population one! So when you see a fresh face at the gym, say hello, introduce yourself, and make a new friend.
2. Save the weight-loss advice. Maybe wait until a little later before offering unsolicited weight loss advice. Yeah, it's the new year and lots of athletes are focused on the scale, but the in-shape athlete telling the new out-of-shape athlete how to shed and shred might not be the most encouraging.
3. Offer help. Bands, barbells, PVC pipes, ab mats, you name it.  They're not always easy to find. Don't wait for them to ask for it. Pick one up and bring it over.
4. Don't coach. Unless you are the actual coach leading the class, don't coach a newcomer. You don't know their background, if they have any injuries, or if they've been on ramped yet. That is not your job. Let the coach do the coaching.
5. Partner up. No one likes being the last one picked on a team. Do a solid and partner up with the newcomer. It doesn't matter if you're the fittest in class and you'll need a second barbell; lead by example. 
6. High fives abound. Fist bumps, high-fives, knuckles. Whatever. Make a point to find that athlete and congratulate them on a great workout. There's no better way to encourage a new athlete to return than offering some praise. 
7. Encourage them to return. Walking through the door was the hard part. Help make their decision to return easier by encouraging them to come back. "Will I see you again tomorrow?" shows them that CrossFit isn't like any other gym they've ever been to. 
8. Remember your first time. Remember, unless you were born with a double body weight back squat and a 400-pound deadlift, someone had to help you get to where you are. Return that favor.

Coaching Tip: CrossFit Etiquette

This week’s column is a bit outside the coaching sphere, but important to the overall success of a workout and our community. Here are 10 resolutions I hope everyone will make in 2019.
 

  1. Sign up for class and sign in. Our classes are getting larger and we want to make sure they’re staffed appropriately. We also want to track attendance to know when it’s time to add (or delete) a class.

  2. Be on time. Our coaches work hard to start and end class on time. If you come in 10 minutes late, you don’t have time to warm up and it can disrupt the class.

  3. Listen. Coaching instructions while at the white board are designed to keep you safe and help you be successful with the lifts and WODs. Side conversations keep you – and others – from hearing

  4. Protect the equipment. Please don’t drop light weights from overhead. This is called ghostriding and it can damage the bar and break the plates, not to mention bounce around and hurt someone. Oh, and dropping kettlebells on the platform is also a no-no.

  5. Clean your stuff up. That means wipe off the equipment and the floor and put everything away – where it belongs.

  6. Stay in your space. We can get pretty crowded in some classes with people and equipment.

  7. Respect the athlete’s space. Someone starting a big lift? Be careful not to walk in front of them – they need to concentrate.

  8. Introduce yourself to new members and drop ins. Remember, CrossFit is about community!

  9. Respect the coach. Our coaches work hard and want only the best for you. That’s why they’re continually providing you with tips to help you improve. After all, no matter how long you’ve been doing CrossFit, we all have room for improvement!

  10. Use the right towel for the right purpose. The bright white ones are for your face; the grey icky ones are for the floor.

Coaches Tip: Run Better and Safer

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The running equation is pretty simple: Speed = stride length x stride rate (cadence). So if you want to run faster, you can either increase your stride length (take bigger steps), or increase your stride rate (take more steps per minute).

  • Stride rate (cadence). Studies of elite runners suggest an ideal cadence of about 180 strides/minute or more. Taking smaller, quicker strides minimizes the impact on your joints, decreases the risk of overstriding, and helps prevent injury.
  • Stride length. Too often when runners try to pick up their pace, they end up overstriding (reaching out too far with each step, exaggerating the heel strike and increasing the force through the knees, hips, and back). To increase stride length without risking injury, increase stride length on the back side of your stride rather than reaching forward. In other words, use your glutes and hamstrings to push the ground away, rather than reaching forward with your front foot to lengthen your stride.

Written By:  Kate Blankshain, PT, DPT

Eat This/Not That: Staying Hydrated

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We’ve all been raised to believe that we need eight glasses of water a day. But what’s a glass? When do you drink? What should be in that water? Does it need to be water? What about during workouts? Here are some answers.


Why drink? Sixty percent of your body is composed of water, including 75 percent of your muscle and 85 percent of your brain. It’s why a headache, fatigue, and weakness are the first signs of dehydration. You need water to absorb vitamins and nutrients; to ensure proper digestion; and to detoxify your liver and kidneys.

Does coffee count? Actually, no. Coffee and energy drinks with caffeine (as well as alcohol) act as diuretics and thus contribute to dehydration.

How much to drink? The idea we need to drink 8 glasses (2.5 liters) stems from a 1945 government recommendation. But the reality is that how much you need to drink depends on your own individual composition and activity level. I recommend drinking at least 25 percent of your body weight in ounces with an ideal goal of 50 percent. So if you weigh 140, aim for 70 ounces (about ten, 8-ounce glasses). And make sure you drink after workouts. The American Heart Association recommends a pint of water for every pound you sweat.

Should I drink during workouts? If you can. If you’re dehydrated, studies find, it could affect your performance. And make sure you hydrate before a workout, too.

Do I need sports drinks or added electrolytes/carbohydrates? Not unless you’re engaged in duration exercise, something like Murph, or it’s really hot. For our typical workouts, plain water is fine. There’s some evidence that cold water is even better in terms of performance. Having said that, if you work out early morning before you eat consider adding some Xendurance Fuel 5+. It contains a blend of sweet potato carbohydrates and caffeine to provide quick energy.

Is there such a thing as too much water? There sure is. It’s called hyponatremia and it can actually be fatal.

So how do I stay hydrated? Glad you asked. My best tip is to carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and keep it filled. If plain water is boring, add fruit or cucumber slices or sugar-free flavorings. Just keep sipping!

Enjoy the Process, Move with Intention

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When you started your CrossFit journey, your coaches told you two things that would provide the best chance at obtaining the results you wanted: come to class and bring a positive attitude. While critical steps, I want to take it even further: you also need to bring a Purpose with you.

 

That means understanding why you do CrossFit and why each movement is important in meeting that goal. And that means going beyond just the movement. Whether in the warm-up, strength or metcon component, even the cool down, every movement – from a plank to a sit-up, to an Olympic lift or muscle up – offers an opportunity to improve. To get better at the movement, to get in better shape, to give yourself a better chance at lifting more weight, completing more reps, or mastering more movements.

 

Think about how much better you’d do if you started moving with a precise purpose. But purpose isn’t just for the 60 minutes you’re in the box. Purpose should be a part of every moment of your day, including waking up in the morning, going to work, spending time with your family and friends, even choosing what to watch on TV. Once you understand the purpose of each “movement” of the day (To earn money? Stay healthy? Surround yourself with and give out love? Improve your community?) your ability to meet those goals will improve – just like your performance in the box.

Take Care of your Hands!

Contrary to the machismo central to CrossFit, ripped hands are not cool. And, if you’re taking care of your hands, they shouldn’t happen. That’s why proper hand care is crucial.

I’m not talking soft hands; you need your hands to be tough enough to handle our rigorous workouts. But you also need to find a happy medium between tough and calluses the size of marbles. Otherwise, when you’re hanging on the bar doing pullups, toes-to-bar, or other gymnastic moves, those calluses will rip right off.

Here’s what I do to protect my hands (and I never tear):

  • Moisturize daily. The worst thing is dry skin, which creates the perfect environment for growing calluses. This is particularly important in the winter. If your hands are really dry, moisturize them when you go to bed and sleep with socks over your hands.
  • Shave your calluses once a week. This keeps the skin from building up too far. I use this callus remover.
  • Use a Ped Eggas needed to remove dead skin and keep your hands smooth. Just don’t overdo it!

Let me know if you have any questions or want a quick hand appraisal!

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Coaching Tip: It’s All About the Thumbs

How do you grip the pull-up bar? If you say with all five fingers over the bar (like a monkey grip) then you need to change. To ensure the right grip, reduce the risk of tearing, and stay safe, you should grip the bar with your pinky knuckle over the bar and your thumb wrapped around the bar, not on top. Also, grip the bar across the middle of your palm, not where your fingers meet the palm. It’s the same way you’d grip a barbell.

Correct Grip  

Correct Grip  

Wrong Grip

Wrong Grip

This is, by and far, the stronger grip. It can keep your shoulder more stable, reduce the risk of tearing, and, hopefully, keep you from slipping off the bar. It also helps build grip strength and works to activate your lats.

Have a weak grip? Active bar hangs and farmers’ carries can strengthen your grip.

Eating Out: It’s All About Planning

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By: Alex Carlson

Many of my clients wonder if they can track macros and still eat out. I say, of course! It just takes a bit of planning. Here’s what I recommend:                          

  • Choose the right restaurant. Check the menu online before you go. Look for words like “grilled,” “broiled,” “baked,” or “roasted.” Skip “fried” and “creamy.”

  • Keep it simple. Stick to the basic food groups; protein, carbs, and fats. In other words, opt for the salmon with a side of veggies versus the pasta with a rich sauce.

  • Ask for it on the side. As in, “Can I have the sauce/dressing on the side?” Trust me, you’ll wind up using a fraction of what they give you.

  • Do the math first. If you’re following a macro-based plan, enter the macros before you leave the house (you’re able to do this because you checked the menu ahead of time, right?)

  • Skip the minefields. That means alcohol and dessert – the minefields of dining out. Try sparkling water with lime in a wine glass rather than Chardonnay, and a cup of great coffee after dinner rather than the chocolate ganache.

Finding CrossFit at Fifty

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Ten years ago, Megan McCann, now 50, lay in a hospital bed with nine fractures and multiple other injuries. A truck had hit her as she rode her scooter to work in Atlanta. She spent four weeks in the hospital, underwent nine surgeries, and used a wheelchair for several months. 

For the next 10 years, she did little, if any, exercise. 

“I’d always been athletic, always maintained my weight through exercise,” said Megan. “But as I got older I became more sedentary.” And the weight piled on. 

“Then this woman I met started talking about Crossfit, I was like, ‘You’re kidding me.’ The only thing I knew was that people overdid it and got rhabdo. I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ But Deb kept talking about it and telling me how they could modify it.”

She did her own research and realized it was true – if you found the right box.

Megan has been at RPE now for four months and everything has changed. She went from not being able to touch her toes to deadlifts. From not being able to lift her arms over head because of a frozen shoulder to snatches, jerks, and overhead squats.

She remembers one day early on when the class was practicing back bends. Megan, who used to be a gymnast and did them all the time, struggled. Then Julie appeared with a giant medicine ball and showed her how to do it. 

Megan was so overwhelmed she went into the bathroom and cried. “It was so amazing to me that I could do that again,” she said. “I never dreamed my body would ever do it.” That was the day, she says, she officially drank the Kool-Aid. 

Unfortunately, Megan also injured her knee early on. Turns out it was a meniscal tear. In August, she had surgery. Four days later, she was back in the box.

“My biggest fear was losing the momentum of Crossfit,” she said. Every day, the coaches modified the workout for her. By early October, less than two months after her surgery, she back-squatted 55 pounds 100 times. 

Another bonus? She’s lost 20 pounds with no other changes in her life. Although, she admits, “I am starting to make smarter choices about what I eat.”

Why are we telling Megan’s story? Because so many people think you have to be young and fit to do Crossfit. The reality is that anyone can do Crossfit – at any time. You just have to show up.

 

Happy & Healthy Shoulders - Part 4

Here's our last video in our four part shoulder series: Integration. 

Many of us spend so much time sitting, driving, texting that we're constantly in a hunched-forward position. This places our shoulders in a rounded position causing dysfunction when we try to lift overhead or perform pull ups. 

We've already established how fragile the shoulder is, and that most injuries happening in CrossFit are shoulder related. Most of these can be avoided by simply following the rule of mechanics, consistency, and then intensity but, if my shoulders are rounded all-day it's a losing battle.

What you do for the other 23 hours in the day can and will affect the hour you spend working out. Spend less time sitting hunched forward looking at your computer and more time standing tall with shoulders pulled back.

October Member of the Month: Amy Dean

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Name: Amy Dean
 
Age: 40-something (if you have to put that I'm 47...yikes...!!)
 
How long have you been in CF? Almost 4 years
 
How did you come across CF? I’ve always been active in sports, but since college had been primarily running.  After having 2 kids within 2 years, I was ready to get back in shape but running alone just wasn’t enough anymore.  We had just moved out of the city and I tried a couple local gyms, but found myself bored and unmotivated.  I’d heard about CF from a few friends at work, asked around and did some research, and realized that if I wanted my body to feel and look different, I needed to find a better way to challenge myself – this was it.
 
What are you favorite movements/lifts? What are your least favorite? 
Favorites: Toes to Rings, Squats, Cleans
Least: Handstands, Snatches
 
Any recent PR’s you would like to mention? Back squat #155 & Clean #85; Significant because in both cases, it took someone else in class pushing me past what I thought were my 1-rep maxes, telling me that I could and SHOULD push more. Lesson learned (thanks Coach Brad and Laurie P!)
 
What is one fitness/health goal you would like to set for yourself? This year my goal at CF was to complete Murph Rx – next year I want to beat my time and have pushups that aren’t so ugly at the end! Health-wise overall I also would like to get a better handle on my diet, which gets much harder with age. 
 
What is your biggest challenge that you’ve overcome? It's not huge as far as life challenges go, but my biggest challenge on a daily basis is TIME.  I’m a working mom with a job that requires travel.  Our families aren’t anywhere close to help with kids, so it all falls on us, and finding time to work out as much as I would like to is always tough.  “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”  Not sure who said this, but it sums up my outlook on life. I know that to be the best mom/wife/employee, it has to start with being the best ME that I can, which means finding time for my workouts.  Sometimes it means the kids come with me (thank you RPE!), many times it means a 5am start time, but I find  a way to get it done.  “Action Expresses Priorities” - Gandhi
 
What’s one thing most people don't know about you? Do you have any hidden talents? Nothing all that interesting and no hidden talents.
 
How has CF changed your life? Strength and confidence! I hadn’t tried to climb a rope since probably 4th grade – and early on would even avoid the WODs that had them…Now not only can I do them, I kind of like them too!
 
Why do you keep coming back to RPE? So many reasons…The coaches are amazing and make you feel special – no matter what level you are.  If you are looking for a place to go and be invisible – this is NOT the box for you!  The community and people are all about teamwork, camaraderie, and inclusiveness.  We cheer each other on and acknowledge milestones and accomplishments.  Most of all, it’s FUN and makes me HAPPY to be a part of the RPE family.

Happy & Healthy Shoulders - Part 2

This week our focus is activation. We often find ourselves in a slumped posture with our shoulders rounded forward due to texting, driving, and time spent on computers. Then, when we all go to the gym and we do a lot of workouts that involve our chest and upper back muscles. Both of these daily and gym habits lead to tension found in the chest and upper back/neck area. That’s why we recommended in the first video to use a lacrosse ball to help reduce the tension in those areas. 

The next step is to activate our back muscles, which are often weak from being in a lengthened position all the time. The goal is to activate these muscles so they can help us stay in a better posture. The last thing we want is for you to come the gym and try and lift overhead from a slumped mid back. (Do a quick test - try and do a snatch with a rounded back and then repeat while focusing on a straight mid back. You’ll feel the difficulty). 

The other goal of these exercises is to start priming the rotator cuff and the scapular muscles. It is important that these muscles work in coordination with each other to maintain proper shoulder movement. You are not going to be making big strength gains with these exercises, but instead it is more important to maintain control during the movements.

Perform each of these exercises for 2 sets of 10. Check back next week where we prescribe exercises on how to strengthen the shoulder.

Happy & Healthy Shoulder - Part 1

Alex and I will be beginning four-part series on the shoulder. Injuries to the shoulder are the most common reason I see CrossFitters in my office. Alex would agree that most complaints he hears are about shoulder pain or tightness. A healthy shoulder joint is dependent on good shoulder mobility, scapular stability, rotator cuff strength, thoracic mobility and good mechanics/form. Our goal will be to address all of these so that if you follow along during the 4 weeks, your shoulders will be more prepared to tackle our daily WODs. 

This series will be broken down into 4 topics - stretching, activation, strengthening and integration. We ask that you focus on the stretches, drills and exercises we demonstrate each week.

The most common injury to the shoulder is called impingement. Many of you who are complaining about pain in the front or top of the shoulder, also pinching sensations, are likely dealing with impingement. What happens is the tendons of the rotator cuff, likely the supraspinatus, get pinched in the shoulder during any overhead movements. You can feel pain during pull-ups, wall balls, KB swings, and snatches, for example.

The role of the rotator cuff is to keep the head of the humerus (shoulder bone) centered in the joint during any movement. When the rotator cuff gets tight, weak or imbalanced, it can't do it anymore. As the tendon gets pinched, the more pain you are going to feel.

This week we will start on stretching and mobilization. Follow along with the video and perform daily. 

Stay tuned for next week when we cover how to activate the weak muscles around the shoulder.