Category Archives: workout

Spartan Race Super Mountain Creek, NJ

I just ran the Spartan race super at Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ and it was every bit the challenge I was expecting and more, I am not sure what I was expecting considering it is a race on a ski slope called MOUNTAIN Creek but I have to admit there were times I thought it was too difficult. But at the end it was exactly the physical challenge I wanted and often need to prove my fitness level.

Spartan Race

The race was very well run. When I got o Mountain Creek I had no problem finding parking and there were plenty of buses to take me immediately to the starting area. If I do have one complaint it is that I it was so well organized that I didn’t need to be there an hour and a half before my race time like the website suggested.   After getting there I checked my bag, which was 10 dollars and enjoyed the atmosphere while the opening climb just past the starting line taunted me. There was plenty of water for the racers and bathrooms as well. The area was very muddy but I suppose that can’t be helped because of the downpour the day before. During the race there were plenty of people guiding you where to go and sometimes how to complete an obstacle. I maybe could have used a few more water stops but there were at least 4 on the course. When the race ended it was a smooth finish when I got my medal, my t shirt, and of course my free beer and then was directed to the hoses to hose myself off from all the mud and filth I had gathered on the course. At the festival areas there were cool spots to take pictures, plenty of reasonably prices Spartan race apparel, and food and rink to go around. It was the easiest and stress free obstacle race I have done from an organizational standpoint.

The race itself was anything but easy and stress free. But before I get into the course itself let’s talk about my preparation. I signed up for this race probably about 6 months ago. I always like to do a fall race because it allows me the summer to train. Then a few months after signing up I kind of forgot about it. The friends and co-workers who were thinking of doing it with me bailed out one by one so I kind of put it on the backburner.   Not to say that I was out of shape. I just didn’t directly train for a Spartan race. Although looking back now I am not sure anyone can train to conquer the terrain that Mountain Creek provided.   I decided my summer was going to be spent following Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program plus doing CrossFit a few times a week. t did increase my squat by 15 pounds, my deadlift by 25 pounds. and my bench by 10 pounds.     That is quite a lofty workout regimen but doing a max squat or deadlift doesn’t exactly help me climb a rope or scale a wall. I like to think I am always in pretty good shape. In fact, the last two challenged I have done I didn’t really train for. Last October I ran a half marathon with zero to no training. The Spartan race if you don’t know is a 8.8 mile trek through rough terrain with obstacles along the way. The ideal Spartan racer is probably lean, quick, and able to cover ground quickly but also is very strong particularly in his or her upper body compared to their body weight. Think Ninja Warrior with much better cardio. Pretty much all my weak spots when I do CrossFit. I am a heavier guy who struggles with the rope climbs, pull-ups, muscle ups, and things like that.   But, as I preach to my athletes you can’t just accept the challenges that you are good at. You have to be able to attack and conquer your weaknesses as well. So I went for it.

The race itself was very challenging particularly the hills and the rough terrain. The very beginning of the race there was a hype guy who got us all pumped up and we ran through smoke to start the race and I ran about halfway up this giant mountain then it hit. The walking begins. The run turned into more of a hike. The fact that it poured the day before probably didn’t help. To be honest there wasn’t that much running throughout which kept the race quite slow. The uphills were too daunting to run and the downhills were just as steep with rocks and mud that you couldn’t really run those either. There was one long section of some good trail running which was challenging but manageable and that was actually quite fun. I haven’t trail run in a while but it reminded me of Lewis Morris Park in Morristown where I used to trail run all the time. It was up and down with rocks and tree roots Trail running has a totally different style than road running. You can never zone out or you might find yourself face first in a pile of mud and rocks.   There were probably 5 severe climbs where running was not an option except for the elite’s I suppose. Let’s put it this way, I didn’t see anyone running around me. The obstacles themselves were challenging in their own right. Some of them I surprised myself with how well I did it. The traverse rope I have never done before so being able to do that with no problem was a lot of fun. I went for the supine approach. Then there was the typical scaling of different sized walls. Some were harder than others. On one of the bigger walls a fellow Spartan helped me get over by letting me use his knee to get a boost. Being only 5’9 and my shoes and socks weighed down with mud and water didn’t allow me to get the vertical enough to get up and over the large wall.   There were several mud pits culminating in one where you had to go under a wall underneath the mud which of course they had a photographer waiting as you popped up on the under side. Smile!

Spartan 5

There were carrying challenges as well. The atlas stone carry was a fun one where you had to pick up an 80 pound atlas stone covered in mud then carry it about 15 yards. Do 5 burpees and repeat. The Log carry was similar but more challenging. I noticed some of the logs had holes cut out for grips and some did not. Of course mine did not. Mine was also a lot thicker rather than longer which didn’t allow me to put it on my shoulder like some other people did. It wouldn’t fit. I had to carry this heavy ass log in front of me fatiguing my biceps the whole time. Of course right after the log carry was the sandbag pulley. Those two directly after each other was cruel and unusual punishment. I attempting the pulley but with the combination of my hands being wet, my grip and biceps being shot I couldn’t quite get it up. I teamed with another Spartan who as a team we were able to get the sandbag all the way up and down. Thank God Spartans stick together. The two consecutive obstacles right after each other seemed to be a theme for this course because another extremely challenging set happened earlier ion the race. The first was the stone carry. Basically you had to fill up a large bucket with stones. Had to be above the holes punched on the top inch of the box they said. Then you had to carry the bucket up a large hill and turn around. This was extremely difficult. I was forced to put the bucket down several times.

Spartan Race

At the bottom of the hill you dumped the bucket out back into the pile with your forearms and hands throbbing they sent you right to the vertical rope climb. Not only were my hands dying and my arms shot but now we immediately had to jump into waist deep water and climb a rope. I can do a rope climb no problem. This rope even had knots in it which made it much easier. But again the course got me here. Jumping out of water to climb a wet rope was just too much. I actually got about halfway up but just couldn’t go any further. If I had sat there for 10 minutes or so I could have gotten it but I didn’t want to hold everyone up who was waiting behind me. So I jumped out of the water, did my 30 burpees and moved on. Just when I thought it was time for a little running to give my hands a rest next up was the true Ninja Warrior special. Climbing horizontal on a wall with little sections for your hands and feet. Think rock climbing wall but instead of moving up you are moving sideways. I took about 4 falls on this one but since there weren’t a lot of people behind me I eventually got it. I was pretty pumped because I surprised myself on this one. Once that was over my hands felt like curled up balls on knotted muscle.

Spartan Race 2

There was one more obstacle again where I surprised myself. It was a large up and over wall. The bottom section was a flat wall then above that there were horizontal beams. I knew I could get up and over the beams but the wall was high and at this point I wasn’t sure I had the energy or the grip strength to get up there. I sat for about 2 minutes watching others then finally made my jump and on the first try got up and over. I was pumped about that one. That’s why these races are so much fun because you get challenged and end up doing things you didn’t think you could. There were a lot more obstacles and stumbles along the way. Of the 25 obstacles I was unable to do 4 of them and on two others I got help from another Spartan. The 30 burpee penalty for each failed attempt was not fun but sometimes saved me time. The last major uphill then down was soul crushing. It ended basically where the ski lift drops off skiers. This ended up with the best view of the course. I actually stopped for a second partly because I sucking wind but also because I wanted to take in the view from the highest part on the course and enjoy it for a second. That last downhill was brutal. It was a decent of loose rocks and gravel, which made my quads burn like never before. I saw several people wipe out and one man actually just take a seat. After all that there was only about 50 yards on crawling under barbed wire on mud and more rocks down another hill to get to the finish. Of course there was the last obstacle of the hanging rings, which I got two rings deep and had to bail out. 30 burpees later I was able to jump over the fire logs and pose for my picture as best I could and it was over.

Spartan 4

The course took me 4 hours and twelve minutes. If you had told me before it started that the 8.8 mile Spartan race would take more almost 20 minutes longer than it took me to run the New York City Marathon I would never have believed it. I might not have taken on the challenge. However, sometimes that’s where greatness lies, going into all challenges blindly and dealing with the next obstacle in front you one at a time until you are finished. Would I do it again? I don’t think I would attempt it again without training specifically for it. I feel like I could do the sprint but as I sit here two days later with my entire body still sore I wouldn’t say I would attempt it again in such a manner. Is this my last Spartan Race? Absolutely not!   I now have a base of knowledge and know what it takes. I have a time to beat and a goal for next time. I will be back! Arooo!

Spartan 10

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How I Write Programs For Athletes

One of the questions I get a lot is how do I write programs for my athletes.  Most people don’t seem to understand how much effort goes into this.  There is a lot of research involved when you work with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. I read the journals every month to keep up with the latest information that is currently in the field.  I am not going to pretend I read every article every month but I pick out the ones that I am interested in or that pertain to an athlete I am working with and make sure I read it. I also like to read blogs of other coaches I respect and websites like T-Nation to keep up not just with the science need of things but what is actually going on in the field. So creating a program for an athlete is not just throwing a few exercises together and see how much they can lift and help them get stronger.  One of my favorite quotes I have heard is “Anyone can make you tired.  A strength and conditioning coach teaches movement and improves performance.” So this post is about exactly what goes into writing a program for an athlete.

What Sport and what position does the athlete play: This is a crucial first step not necessarily because of what exercises you are going to do but also because of what exercises you are not going to do.  For example, I will place a lot of restrictions on an overhead throwing athlete such as a baseball pitcher, volleyball player, or a swimmer.  The Shoulder is the most complex joint in the body and it has to be treated with care.  I also look the sport to see what type of metabolic demands it places on the athlete based on their sport but also their position. Take Football for example.  A Wide Receiver needs to train differently than a lineman.  If you were to give the two the same workout plan.  Chances are the wide receiver would be getting slower or the lineman would be getting weaker.  With metabolic demands I have to consider is the sport highly aerobic or more anaerobic in nature.  Baseball players for example don’t need much in terms of aerobic conditioning but a Field Hockey player would need quite a bit more.  Within aerobic and anaerobic constraints there are also different energy systems that come into play.  The ATP-Pc or phosphogen energy system allows for approximately 12 seconds or less of work capacity.  An sport where this is the primary energy system would be softball.  A softball player would never have to work for more than 12 seconds at a time during a game.  The glycolytic energy system is one of moderate power and moderate duration. After 12 seconds peak power drops and some amount of aerobic capacity is needed.  A sport which demands this energy system would be soccer.  The soccer player needs short bursts of sprinting speed but also a continious motor throughout the game.  Lastly is the Oxidative system which is your highly aerobic athletes.  An example of this kind of athlete would be a cross country runner.  In plain English there is no need for a football lineman to run 2 miles during training just like there is no need for a cross country runner to work on his or her 1 Rep. Max Squat.  Each athlete has different needs in training.

Think about the Individual:  I evaluate every athlete who steps in the door.  Whether that means a formal evaluation before training starts or just by watching them complete the dynamic warmup.  Movement quality is so important not just in term of injury prevention but for growth within training.  Movement quality can mean an injury that is not quite healed or it can just be a result of years of pervious poor movement patterns.  From the ages of 1-5 almost all humans move in similar ways.  These dysfunctions occur later in life from the lives we lead.  So when I write a program for an athlete who has a poor movement pattern I will try to correct that first before I overload that movement pattern with weight.  If an athlete can’t get his shoulders to full flexion overhead.  I wouldn’t have that athlete do heavy shoulder presses.  To be honest an athlete with a poor movement pattern probably would not be able to execute a dynamic and coordinated movement in that pattern under load anyway.  This is something called muscular inhibition. The brain simply won’t allow the body to put itself at risk of injury.  The second part of the evaluation is athleticism.  Is the athlete strong?  Are they quick?  Are they explosive?  My general rule of thumb is to attack weaknesses with training.  For a strong kid who has heavy feet I would program a lot of speed drills and a lot of plyometrics. For a kid who can run all day and has a high motor I would train strength.

Exercise Sequence:  I always start with a  thorough and lengthy warmup that includes dynamic movements, injury prevention drills, core, and glute activation exercises.  Then I have the athlete work on corrective exercises if there are any.  These will include specific mobility or flexibility work that is geared toward the individual.  Finally I will almost always have the athlete perform a core lift first.  I believe bench press, squat, and deadlifts are every athlete’s foundation for strength.  On 90% of my programs written the athlete is doing one of those three exercises first or at least a variation of them and doing multiple sets of at least 4 or 5.   If the athlete is doing an Olympic lift I may substitute that for one of the core lifts as well although some athletes don’t olympic lift and others are just at the point of working on olympic lifting skills. That first core lift is the only one where I have the athlete complete all of the sets without starting another exercise.  I think this sets the tone as to how important this is and requires the athletes full attention.  I also try to incorporate all of the basic movement patterns into the programs.  I believe that for a complete strength training program you need to incorporate squats, presses, pulls, hip hinges, and carries in a equal fashion.  I think this creates a balanced athlete who has total strength and makes them less likely to get hurt. After the initial core lift all of my strength training is usually done in circuits that may include a mix strength training, conditioning, skill work, and mobility.  I will most often save anything that is high intensity for the end of the workout as to not fatigue the athlete for strength training.  So if I program a high intensity interval of wallaballs and burpees or I have an athlete push a sled I will make sure those are done towards the end of the program.  I usually save my core and abs work for a period where I want a programmed break to help the athlete recover and catch their breath.  Sometimes this is in the middle or sometimes it goes last.  At the end of of the workout I have the athlete foam roll and static stretch for at least ten minutes.

Periodization:  Traditionally as a CSCS you are taught that to have an athlete peak for a season you need to follow a linear periodization model that might look something like this:  General Prep period where the athlete is introduced to the basics and is usually performing a mix of strength training work while being re-acclimated to training.  That would be followed by a hypertrophy / endurance phase lasting anywhere from 3-6 weeks. During this phase the athlete would be performing 3-6 sets of 10-20 reps at 50-75% of their one rep max. Then a basic strength phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps between 80-90% of their one rep max.  That would be followed by a strength and power phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 2-5 at 75-95% of their one rep max. Then there would a transition period during pre-season followed by peaking where the athlete will perform 1-3 sets of  1-3 reps at 93% and above.  Then in season the athlete would be doing maintenance work  at 2-3 sets of 6-8 at 80-85% of their one rep max.  Lastly that would be followed by another transition period of active rest during post season.  This sounds all well and good if I am training a one sport athlete with a training age of at least two years with no movement deficiencies and lots of free time to dedicate to training.  However, that is not often the case.  An athlete who is new to strength training no matter their chronological age might be better served in a general prep period for maybe almost a full year.  Within those first two years of training I will often program a less traditional non-linear training approach.  I will use those same phases as the linear approach but instead change them from week to week.  The non linear approach instead of building towards a season will have the athlete go up and down throughout.  For example one week the athlete could be in a strength power phase and the next week in a hypertrophy / endurance phase.  This non linear approach allows for athletes to deload from time to time and it allows for active recovery which might be necessary for an athlete who is new to training.  The research shows that non-linear training programs are effective but there is also more research needed.  You can also work your way up to a peak in the non-linear approach as well because your peaking and transition periods would still be written into the programs.

So there it is.  Everything that I take into consideration when writing an athlete’s workout program.  There are a lot of trainers who just show up to the gym and wing it and perhaps this can work for a young athlete for a short period of time.  If you want to find a coach who will use scientific principles, practical information, and has the experience to create a thorough workout program for you as an individual come see us at Inception Sports Performance in Madison, NJ or go to NSCA.com and find a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in your area.

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Hydration for Sport Performance

In the summer months hydration becomes a critical factor for sports performance. The hotter and more humid the weather is the more fluid you will lose and subsequently need to replace. Dehydration cannot only affect your performance on the field but can also potentially lead to things like heart attacks, stroke, and even death if not managed properly. One of things that I was always taught was that thirst is the least effective indicator of dehydration. When you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated to some degree.

Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium play a crucial role in your body’s ability to function. They help muscles contract and nerves conduct in a coordinated manner. Therefore any disturbance in that electrolyte balance can hinder performance on the field.

The question of which is better water or Gatorade is a tough one. For most people in most situations water is just fine to replace fluids lost during a workout or a game. Sports drinks like Gatorade have excess sugar that is just not necessary for performance. However, sports drinks do help replace electrolytes lost and give added calories for energy. If you were in a situation where food is not readily available like in the middle of a game then Gatorade would be the better option. Also, if you were in extreme circumstances such as 90 plus degree weather or high humidity then Gatorade would be a better option. If you don’t like the taste of water and need something that will cause you to drink more fluids than Gatorade would be a better option for you as well.

To monitor your hydration status there are a couple of things you can do.   First is to weigh yourself before a practice or game and then again after. Each pound lost during that event is equal to 1 pint or half a liter of fluid. This needs to be replaces before the next practice or event. Often an athlete can lose weight during a season and they can attribute this to being in shape. However, be aware of chronic dehydration. Fat loss does not happen that quickly where you will lose 5-10 pounds in a matter of weeks. If this seems like a lot of work for you there is another way in which you can monitor your hydration status. You can monitor your urine. If your urine is dark in color then you are dehydrated. Replace fluids until your urine is a lighter color similar to lemon juice.

 

 

Pre-Game: Before a sporting event where you know it will be hot and humid you should drink at least 16 ounces of fluids an hour or two before the event. The colder the fluid the better it is for keeping your body temperature down.

 

In-Game: During a training session or game you should drink as often as possible. Your goal should be 6-8 ounces every 15 minutes.

 

Post-Game: After the event remember to monitor your hydration status and replace fluids lost. Every pound you lose needs to be replaced before competing again.

 

 

Keep these tips in mind and you can dominate your workouts this summer.

 

 

Joe Lopez C.S.C.S.

http://www.Myoffseason.org

 

 

 

Lacrosse Workouts not only for your sport but for your position.

 

Lacrosse is a game of athleticism. The athletes who play lacrosse have to be quick, agile, and powerful. It is a largely anaerobic sport where there are bursts of speed followed by downtime. In order to play this way the athlete has to train this way as well. In the game you need to be able to change directions quickly. Good footwork and flexible hips are important. Speed ladder drills and change of directions skills are excellent for improving these qualities.

Strength is needed in the hamstrings, glutes, core, and forearms in particular. Posterior chain strength is important for sprinting speed. Deadlifts are a great exercise for strengthening these areas. The core and forearms are important to release powerful shots on goal. One of the best exercises to strengthen these muscles is called a farmer’s walks. For an added core challenge perform single arm farmer’s walks.

Power is a combination of strength and speed.   In order to change directions on a dime and fire balls into the back of the net you need an explosive and powerful core. Medicine Ball slams and rotational throws are great for building a powerful core.

Training should also depend on what position you play because each position on the field has unique demands.

If you play attack then you need to be quick, powerful, and have the ability to twist and turn in various directions to get off your shots. You also need to have strong legs to sprint at top speeds. The Prowler push is a great exercise to develop this top speed.

Middies need more endurance than anyone else on the field. In order to cover both ends of the field you need the most aerobic capacity of any position on the field. 400-meter repeats are a great drill for midfielders. Run 400 meters or one lap around the track as fast as you can. However long it takes you, rest that same amount and then repeat until your time decreases by more than 10 seconds.

Defenders need to be the strongest on the field. They need a strong upper body to slash opponents to try and loosen the ball. Defenders also have to backpedal quite a bit and open up their hips in order to recover quickly to protect the goal. Sledgehammer swings on a large tire are a great exercise for defenders.

Goalies need excellent hand eye coordination and quick reactions. While they also need strong hands and wrists, the eyes are perhaps the most important muscle a goalie can strengthen.

At our facility in Madison we have a vision coach board. It works on exactly this. It quickens reaction time via neural pathways. We also have Certified Strength and Conditions Specialists who can help you train the way you should for your sport and your position. We can help you reach that next level of performance. Visit www.MyOffSeason.Org for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Marathon training week 3

This was a strange week. First of all a heat wave hit NJ.

As you can see this heat wave was no joke. 95 degrees every day with high humidity. My strategy was pretty simple. Drink abnormal amounts of water all day long. Run at night usually around 7:00 p.m. When running I make sure I bring water with me. I love my handheld amphibian water bottle. It cradles my hand and I don’t feel like I am going to drop it. My other secret weapon is my cool towel. You may have seen this towel advertised on TV. You wet it, rinse it, then snap it and it cools around your neck. I just tucked it into my neck under my shirt and it was nice and cool on my neck.
For two of my runs on the hottest days I went to Loantaka Park which is a paved trail with a lot of tree cover. That kept me out of the sun. My times were pretty good considering the heat. I made a point to run flat routes this week. It also helped me that this was a scale back week. For my long run I scaled back after two weeks of progress. Last weekend I did 7 miles and this weekend only 5. What does everyone else do during a heat wave? Tell me in the comments.

Monday: Crossfit
Tuesday: 3 miles easy pace and 9 mile bike ride.
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 3 miles and Crossfit
Friday: 15 mile bike ride
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 5 miles

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Marathon Training week 1

Week 1 of 16 weeks of training was interesting to say the least.  Of course we are in the middle of a heat wave here in NJ so 95 degree temperatures with 80% humidity felt like a kick in the stomach.  I am loosely following Hal Higdon’s marathon program.  When I first looked at week 1 my thoughts were this is going to be easy.  I am in pretty good shape after having never really stopped running since last year’s NYC Marathon was canceled.  The only thing I need to start doing is log more miles and run more often.  In the “Off-Season” I typically run once or twice a week and usually on the weekends.  With this program the miles and the pace don’t scare me but the 4 days a week I need to get used to.

The plan:  Week 1:

Monday.  Crossfit

Tuesday 3 miles easy pace. 8:40 a mile. This turned out to be no problem.  The heat wave didn’t kick in at this point yet.

Wednesday 3 miles easy pace. 8:41 a mile.  Crossfit at night. Again no problems here.

Thursday.  Bike ride 12 miles

Friday was supposed to be another 3 miles run but I ended up not doing it.  My wife misplaced something which led to a 4 hour search that ended at 9 oclock at night but that’s a story for another day. Turned out to be an off day.

Saturday was where things got dicey. The heat wave kicked in.  Even at 9 a.m. it was already hot and very humid.  I decided to join the Morristown Running Company’s group run.  I have done this in the past and enjoyed it.  They do a 5 miles run and my plan was to do another mile on my own after for the 6 I was supposed to run.  Keep in mind I just ran 7 miles last weekend at about an 8:30 pace no problems.  At about mile 3 I literally felt like I was going to puke.  It was a brutally tough run.  All types of things are going through my head now.  Things like I am too heavy.  I am 8 pounds up from this point last year.  CrossFit and biking is just too hard on my legs.  I was able to gut out 4.5 miles at a 9:30 pace but I had some thinking to do.  I can’t remember the last time my pace was over 9 minutes a mile.  Maybe Mile 23 of the 2011 Baltimore Marathon.

Sunday.  3 miles still super hot and humid and I finished at a 9:04 minute a mile pace.  That is still slow and my legs felt heavy but it wasn’t quite as bad as the day before.

All in all I am going to forget about week 1 and chalk it up to unusual heat.  I went back and looked at last July when I was training for NYC and it seems like I ran at night more often.  7 or 8 o’clock right before the sun goes down so I may try that for some cooler temperatures.  Week 1 is in the books and already the mental battle begins. But I still have a smile on my face because it is summer and most of my days are spent like this.

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CrossFit Transformation.

I am now 6 weeks into CrossFit. I decided to take measurements before I started which would help me determine just how effective CrossFit was for body composition and overall fitness. While I knew that CrossFit felt different than what I was previously doing I didn’t quite know how much change would occur in just 6 weeks.
CrossFit preaches a Paleo diet which is the eat like a Caveman approach. All organic meats and fresh veggies and fruits only. No processed foods, no carbs, no sugars, no beans, and no dairy. I didn’t quite adopt the Paleo diet completely but I am slowly trying to get there as much as possible. What I have done is increase my protein intake dramatically. I was always focused on just the number of calories that I eat and trying to keep that number to help me maintain my weight. I wasn’t necessarily focused on what foods I was putting into my body. This diet helped me lose 90 pounds and it also helped me maintain that weight loss for 7 years. However, in the last 6 weeks I have been attempting to get a good 40,30,30 split. 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat. My goal now is to get 200 grams of protein a day and also particularly after a CrossFit workout to have a a protein shake with 40 grams immediately after. I stopped eating cheese, yogurt, and bread which were staples of my diet for a while. I still use Saturday and Sunday Dinners as cheat meals. I allowed myself to to eat whatever I wanted on these days. I used to eat a lot of fast food which was light on calories. I often ate dunkin donuts flat bread egg whites and things like that. Now, I am basically eating salads, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and a lot of Think Thin protein bars which I love. I also eat edamame and dried peas and lots of fruit.
My workouts these days are CrossFit twice a week, one other day a week at regular weight room which is mostly abs and core and 2 runs a week consisting of 3-6 mile runs. In about another month my runs will becomes more frequent and also more intense as the weather gets better. I am running the NYC Marathon this year so I decided to only do CrossFit twice a week so that I have enough time to train for that.
So just 6 weeks into CrossFit at only twice a week:
My weight went from 188-192. I gained 4 pounds. If I was just using a scale as my measuring tool I would not be happy. But let’s look at my other measurements.
My neck went from 15 to 15.25
My waist went from 37 to 35.5
My Hips went from 40 to 39.5
My Body Fat percentage went from 22-20%
My Chest went from 44 to 42.75
My Chest and Shoulders went from 52 to 52.5
And the most amazing number is my thighs went from 18 to 22.5.

I gained 4.5 inches in my legs in 6 weeks. Wow! I knew Crossfit was very leg heavy and I could feel my legs becoming stronger but to gain 4.5 inches was crazy. If you look at all of my numbers everything went down but my shoulders and my legs went up. This is reason number one that you can’t just use a scale as your measurement tool. I can’t wait to see how these numbers continue to change as I get more and more into my CrossFit workouts and also as I start to run more in preparation of the Marathon. The latest research shows that CrossFit increases Vo2 max which will help my oxygen uptake and I think if I take care of my body and recover properly I expect great things from my marathon times. So far CrossFit is a success and I am very happy with it.

CrossFit

ImageAfter my two weeks and four intro courses of CrossFit I can say two things for sure.

1.  I am going to be really sore for a while

2.  Overall they do a nice job teaching the movements.

I joined CrossFit to see what all the hubbub was about.  I have always wanted to give it a shot because I did admire the shear intensity of the workouts that I saw posted on their website.  www.CrossFit.com. I have also seen the CrossFit games on TV.  Everyone I see who does CrossFit seems to be in incredible shape and something has to be said for that.  In the end I was curious and just needed a change of pace.  I like to be challenged physically and this seemed like the place to do that.

When you sign up for CrossFit they require a two week and 4 classes intro class.  I attended the past two Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.  Each class follows a simple format.  Explanation of the workout of the day.  They use a white board to explain what the day’s plan is and how it is going to be done.  They might mention a few keys to look for or a tip of the day regarding nutrition.  Then a warmup which might be a dynamic warmup or a mobility drill but most likely a little of both.  Then the W.O.D. which is the Workout of the day.  The actual workout is usually short but quick and high intensity.  Their mantra is Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.  They openly tell you that if you do CrossFit you will be good at everything but great at nothing.  It is a well rounded fitness program.  You will develop some speed, some strength, some endurance, and some power.  There is nothing that you will not be able to do.  Climb a mountain?  o.k!  Run a 5k?  no problem!  Hop a fence?  easy!  Kill Zombies?  Any day!

The four workouts that I did lasted no more than 10 minutes each.  They said that 85% of the workouts are between 5-15 minutes but some go as long as 40 minutes.  When the workout is done there is a cool down and a recap.  You always write your score or time on the white board when you are finished.  It feels like a community but there is also competition which I like.  It is so different from my old gym where I would put my headphones and and do my own thing.  Here it is like everyone is suffering / achieving together.

My workout of the days were as follows:

Day 1:  Kattleball swings and box jumps timed.  You had to complete 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 of one alternating with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 of the other.  I completed the workout in 5:16 seconds and I was more winded and more sore than I had been at my own gym in months.

Day 2:  Thrusters and jumping pull-ups.  A thruster is a front squat into and overhead press while a jumping pull-up is off of a box and jumping up to the bar and fully extended the arms each time you come down.  The workout was to do 5 rounds of 10 Thrusters and 10 pull-ups.

Day 3:  Deadlifts for 5 reps. 10 Burpees and 250m Rowing.  As Many Rounds as Possible in 10 minutes.

Day 4:  OverHead squats for 10.  Pushups for 5 and full range sit-ups for 15.  AMRAP in 12 minutes.

The coaches are there the whole time coaching technique and stopping you to correct and teach if needed.  The technique and the range of motion took priority over the workout.  All workouts could also be modified or scaled as they called it to fit your needs.  If you couldn’t do a full pushup you would drop to your knees or add a pad under your chest to decrease range of motion while still working on technique.

The 4 days were very logical and sequential.  They went with a top down approach which I would always recommend.  They started with Overhead squats which led to Front squats, High Pulls, Jerk snatches, Hang Cleans, and eventually Deadlifts.  Every movement was taught with an excellent sense of functional anatomy and how the body was designed to move.

If you were teaching these movements to High School kids or really anyone you could no doubt spend more than 4 days drilling them.  Some people spend years trying to perfect their technique.  But you have to remember that everyone comes in at different skill levels plus the fact that people joined a gym because they want to work out so you can’t keep them out of the regular classes forever.  I commend them for making everyone attend the 4 intro classes before entering the regular gym atmosphere.  From all the negative things that I heard about CrossFit I have to say that my experience at Guerilla CrossFit in Morristown, NJ has been overall positive so far.

There are a few negative but not from a standpoint of coaching or knowledge or anything like that.  Just the programming risks.  I still feel that plyometrics and olympic lifts are not meant to be endurance lifts.  They are meant to develop power which is a combination of strength and speed.  When you make these lifts endurance based people can easily lose their technique due to fatigue or just the pounding on the body can result in injuries even if technique is sound.   If the coaches are willing to stop and correct during the actual workouts like they were for the intro workouts than I think this problem can be negotiated to an extent.  The one thing I am not sure of is how many coaches are on the floor during a typical session.  In the intro classes we had a 5 to 1 ratio.  If it is a 20 to 1 ratio then that might be risky.

Bottom line is if you are an athlete who needs a programmed sport specific workout for your sport then I would NOT recommend CrossFit.  There are just too many programming flaws and too much variety to really develop sport specific power. There are risks involved in all activities and if you think of CrossFit like a sport then you realize that no matter what you do there are risks involved.  If a football player gets fatigued in the 4th quarter and lowers his head then he runs the risk of having another player hitting him in the back of the head and possible breaking his neck.  CrossFit is the sport of fitness so If you want to get into great shape and really challenge yourself in all aspects of fitness then I WOULD recommend CrossFit for you.  I know I am going to have a blast with CrossFit and I can’t wait to experience the community of CrossFit and really suffer / achieve together.

CrossFit. Is it for you?

CrossFit has received a lot of attention from the public as a whole.  Their marketing campaign is the sport of fitness has arrived.  For a few years now I have been intrigued by CrossFit.  I have seen the nationals on TV and the Reebok commercials.  I have also spent time googling Crossfit people and looking at their bodies and trying to determine if it is the workout itself, the diet, the A Type personalities, or a combination of all of the above.  I mean who would not want to look like this?       images-2

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Then I wondered if these types of people were just athletes who no longer had a sport.  Maybe former gymnasts or other college or even pro athletes who just loved fitness.  After that I realized that was me.  I am a former athlete who has run Marathons and tried different things mostly because I no longer had an outlet for my competitive side.  On top of that fitness and working out is my only real hobby.  It’s what I love to do on the weekends.  Go for a run or hit the gym for a pick up game of basketball.  I have done yoga, swam laps in the pool, played flag football, taken different cardio classes such as spinning but eventually most of them bored me.  I even did Muay Thai for two years. I don’t run marathons because I think I will lose body fat.  I have written extensively on this blog about how slow long distance running does not mean less body fat,.  I run marathons because I like the competition.  I compete with myself for my personal best and I love the journey of training for a race.  I love following a plan over the course of 16 weeks and seeing it come to fruition at the end.  So why can’t I do the same things with CrossFit?  I lift weights. I lift weights a lot.  I have missed an entire week at the gym once in the last 12 years and that was because I hurt my knee.  But as you get older “how much do you bench?” becomes less and less important.  Combine that with the fact that I can’t bench nearly what I used to when I was 290 pounds I was benching around 325.    Now I weight 190 and I bench around 245 for a max.  Pound for pound it is very similar but when I lost 100 pounds 8 years ago I decided that being strong has never really done anything for me.  I want to be able to move, to be powerful, to be coordinated, and to be able to react to any situation.  I tell people if Zombie apocalypse happens would you rather be able to run or bench press twice your body weight.  I think CrossFit might be the type of well rounded workout that provides all of those qualities.

I tried doing the Workout of the days on my own but at a commercial gym it just isn’t possible.  Number one when no one is looking it is just too hard to push yourself.  In a class setting  here you have others suffering with you and pushing you through it creates a bond similar to being on a football team or in the military.  I wanted that feeling of we are in this together.  The other things is at a commercial gym if you were to work out with the intensity of a Crossfitter you would look like a complete nut.  I am starting to get bored with my usual routine of Chest / Tri’s Back Bi’s, Shoulders and Legs, and Abs and cardio on the weekend.  Lifting slowly with too much rest in between might make you look bigger but is that what I really want.  Cartoon muscles that can’t perform with power and precision in a coordinated manner?  Do I want to be fat, slow and strong or do I want to be lean. quick, and powerful like a cheetah.

Unknown    As a strength coach and a CSCS I also know there is a lot of haters on the Crossfit movement and I have also been one of them at times.  Olympic lifts are meant to increase power and not endurance.  No-one should clean for 1 minute straight because their form might slip and create problems.  Plyometrics are about quality and not quantity.  To amplify the stretch shortening cycle you should focus on a quick spring like effect and not on the number you can do in a given time.  The stretch shortening  But if you are an NFL Lineman your body has to adjust on the fly for a bullrush or a speed rush.  Our bodies ate adaptable and that is our greatest gift that we can achieve and overcomes physical, mental, or social obstacles.  Maybe we can have it all.  I think my knowledge of the olympic lifts will only help me on the CrossFit journey because I can recognize problems in the kinetic chain and correct them quickly.

I don’t know if I am going to like CrossFit or not but I am attending a free class this weekend at Guerilla Gym in Morristown, NJ.  I am interested to see how much instruction there actually is on some of these lifts.  Of Course I am not going to tell them I am a cscs because I want to see what I can pick up from them in my pursuit of knowledge. I can say that as a strength coach I would not recommend CrossFit for any athlete who wants to train for their sport.  There are just too many risks and there is no single energy system that CrossFit trains you in.  But as a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast my curiosity got the best of me and  I am going into this with an open mind.  When I started this blog I said let me be your guinea pig so here it goes.  Maybe I will love it and it will be a new passion for me similar to running.  Now I just have to work on those stupid kipping pull-ups that I can’t seem to get.  Stay Tuned for more details on my CrossFit experience.

My Top 10 posts of 2012

These are the articles that received the most views in 2012.  I always love getting feedback and seeing the number of  views  for my articles so keep it coming in 2013.  This year I had people from all over the country contact me about my articles. I am always humbled and honored that people take the time to search me out for advice about health and fitness.  JerseyStrong was viewed in 60 countries worldwide.  In the month of December my articles for Stack Media made me one of the top 10 most viewed on the platform.  I sincerely hope everyone has a HEALTHY and happy new year!

1.  Product review of the Nike Plus Sport Watch

2.  High School Strength Coach.  Necessity or Luxury?

3.  How to Gain 4 pounds of muscle in 10 days.

4.  How to Warm Up Like the Pros.

5.  2012 ING NYC Marathon.

6.  Things I eat.

7.  3 Step Approach Guaranteed to Build and Protect Shoulder Muscles.

8.  The Ripped Lower Ab workout. 

9.  What an Amateur Runner Thinks during a 20 Mile Training Run.  Warning.  Explicit Language.

10.  How Long can you build muscle.

Of course there are other articles that were not the most viewed out there in cyber land but I think you should still check them out.

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon:  A Runner’s Viewpoint.

I was also featured in Men’s Health Magazine this past year so this article was probably the most viewed overall because it reached millions of people worldwide via Men’s Health Magazine.  I included the link in my blog post.  If you haven’t seen it yet check it out.  Image