There’s a reason that I quote and refer to and invoke the name of Dan John with regularity. This captures it as well as anything he’s written.
Reasonableness Let’s just get this out first: I believe that a Reasonable Way of Eating and a Reasonable Training model trump insanity all the time. So, in my last few workshops, I have gone to the whiteboard and scribbled illegibly in my scrawl that earned “D’s” in handwriting at St. Veronica’s School and asked these questions:
What’s a tough workout? Dozens of hands go up, dozens of answers. I truly enjoy this part as we swim from totally random training programs to sports (“Run a Marathon!”) to a multitude of DVD programs and the like. There are programs that can kill and programs that have from 16-50% injury rates in six weeks. Remember, this is a roomful of fitness pros and we still all think we need to kill you to make progress.
What’s a reasonable workout? A few hands go up, a few shy answers like “Even Easier Strength” I discuss “hand waving” again and again in my writings. It is this side-to-side handshaking wiggle we do with both hands followed by our mouths saying “You know” and our shoulders shrugging. With reasonable, sadly, we seem to NOT know. I argue that reasonable workouts cover all the basic human movements in a repeatable repetition scheme and appropriate load while providing plenty of time and energy for corrective work in any and all areas. Reasonable seems repeatable.
What’s a tough diet or way of eating? Most hands go up with everything from pure fasting, protein drink only diets to sheer lunacy. I had a girlfriend who had a three-day diet. Day One she ate seven eggs. Only. That was it for the whole day. Day Two, she had seven oranges and Day Three was seven bananas. She would lose seven pounds doing this. That, my friends, is a tough diet. I would probably find a three-day fast easier as my blood sugar will go crazy on the fruit days and turn me ravenous. Oh, on Day Five? She put on nine pounds.
What’s a reasonable diet or way of eating? Crickets. Nothing. Blank uncomfortable stares. As a classroom teacher of over 34 years, my one fear has always been passing gas out loud during a lecture. As the group stares back at me, I have one of two thoughts: either I farted or we have a problem. I checked. It wasn’t me. Seriously, some of the biggest names in the fitness industry won’t raise their hands and tell me what a reasonable way of eating is in this age of one million diets. Years ago, at the Olympic Training Center, we were told to focus on these three things: Protein Veggies Clear Water
Is there anything stunning there? Later, Robb Wolf summarized the most complex eating program (dozens of books by the same author promising all kinds of things and the problem is always that you don’t do it right) in the world with these three memorable lines: More Protein More Fiber More Fish Oil Please note: I have stolen both of these concepts and I now claim them as my own. Remember, the first time I say something: I am quoting someone. The second time I say something :I say “My good friend, fill in the name, always says….” The third time I say something, I say “As I always say…” This is what I remember from my ethics class on the topic of Intellectual Property. As I argued in Mass Made Simple, I think we know how to eat: Honestly, seriously, you don’t know what to do about food? Here is an idea: Eat like an adult. Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid’s cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and comfort foods whenever your favorite show is not on when you want it on, ease up on the snacking and— don’t act like you don’t know this— eat vegetables and fruits more. Really, how difficult is this? Stop with the whining. Stop with the excuses. Act like an adult and stop eating like a television commercial. Grow up. Now, let’s get back to the point: Eat like an adult!
[Sparked by a discussion in the gym, regarding the CrossFit Open workouts. Just some stream of consciousness, and perhaps a more complete expression of where I stand on the subject of CrossFit Competitions]
Another CrosFit Games Open Workout is upon us. Are 17 minutes of Snatches and Burpees healthy? Should you sacrifice form for a faster time, or one more rep? My personal take on it is this:
If you want to do the Open workouts, by all means do it. It’s a cultural experience for many people, to be doing the same thing as literally thousands of other people who share their interest. It’s fun to see how you stack up against the rest of the CrossFit Nation, and it’s a way for you to test your mental and physical capacity.
But decide: Are you doing CrossFit as a Sport, or are you doing it to be healthier and get in shape?
Much has been made of the potential for injury in CrossFit. I’ve beaten that drum a time or two myself. I’ll wager a fair amount that I’ve been around CrossFit longer than just about any (or all) of you reading this, and I know people who have sustained injuries through their participation in CrossFit.
But, I know a lot more who have been injured playing soccer. I personally have had knee and ankle reconstructive surgery, fractured an ankle and several toes, torn a hamstring, separated a shoulder, suffered more sprains, strains, and contusions than I can count and at least 1 concussion (that I can remember), all from playing soccer. Oh, and a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and another shoulder separation from playing flag football.
And yet, I’ve never discouraged someone from playing soccer or flag football.
Injuries are an accepted part of Sport, and I would argue that as the level of Sports performance increases, that risk of injury also increases. Athletes routinely put themselves into situations where they can be injured, or worse, and we applaud them for it. ”Playing hurt” is a badge of honor for many.
And that, I think, is what needs to be acknowledged—if you approach CrossFit as a Sport, you have to accept the potential for repercussions. In the quest for a faster time, or a heavier weight, or more reps, it’s possible to push yourself to the point of injury.
This is where common sense and a dose of reality need to come into play. I’ve said this before , but if you aren’t physically capable of performing the movements with appropriate range of motion and control, you probably shouldn’t be attempting to do them quickly and with intentionally compromised form. It makes no sense from a ‘health’ standpoint.
In the end, it should be looked at as a risk/reward relationship. There will always be a risk of injury anytime you move. Some activities increase the potential for injury—although these are often the same activities that provide the greatest potential for reward. The key is to establish basic competencies and strength before pushing boundaries.
To paraphrase a conversation I had with Ido: Don’t be afraid of something because it might hurt you. Ask yourself, ‘what can I do to prepare myself so that it won’t hurt me?’
Most of the people who train here at CFSW are not planning to compete in CrossFit competitions. They want to look better, feel better, and move better. That said, one of the hallmarks of CrossFit is and always has been the competitive aspect of the workouts. In many ways, competition is the driving force behind CrossFit’s growth and popularity, and it can’t be removed without fundamentally changing things.
How do you reconcile the two? Understand the difference between training and competition. Realize that even professional athletes don’t compete every day. Understand the basics of how to move effectively and safely, build a foundation of skill and capacity, and then make decisions based on an assessment of risk/reward. Recognize where you can charge forward and where you need to scale back.
By all means, COMPETE. Never quit, never take the easy way out. But also don’t intentionally take the path to injury.
Those of you who are Facebook followers of our page will notice that we post a lot of things there that don’t make it to the blog. Articles, videos, etc., that we find interesting or just want to share. Go ahead, take a look!
We did kind of a twist on the “Annie are you ok?” team workout and Fight Gone Better. 5 stations: wall ball, power clean (75#/55#), box jumps, push press, row (for calories), in a 21/15/9 setup.
Each team member starts at a different station, and completes 21 reps (or calories). Teams rotate when everyone is finished at their respective stations. Once you finish your station, you get to rest until it is time to rotate. Once everyone has completed all 5 stations at 21 reps, you would do the same thing for 15 and 9 reps, respectively. Score was total time to complete.
And I came across the video of the first “Annie are you ok?”. It was done at a 2006 CrossFit certification in the original Santa Cruz HQ gym. You’ll notice current CF Games stud and workout namesake Annie Sakamoto prominently featured. And if you look closely at around the 0:57 mark, you’ll notice a handsome youngster, with nary a grey hair to be seen starting the burpees…