Jan 02

Don’t Be A Failure

Another year, another chance to wash away the habits and behaviors we have carried with us until this point and strive for self-improvement over the coming 12 months. The internet is awash in resolutions, goals, and optimism for the coming months.  Gyms will once again be filled with well intentioned people while those of us who attend regularly throughout the year silently curse the long waits for equipment, the crowds, the squat rack bogarted for curls.  But in the back of our minds we are silently counting the days until early February when the enthusiasm and dedication that burned so bright on January 1 has dulled and faded to the lackluster glow emanating from the TV as you sit and binge watch for hours, full of reasons why you can no longer get in shape, eat well, lose weight, etc. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. Let’s make this year different. Below are the top 5 reasons why you will fail to meet your resolutions, and how to finally achieve those goals and make 2015 your best year yet.NYE Fail

5) Fail to Set SMART Goals

If you’ve clicked on one of the gazillion articles clogging up social media this week on how to set goals, likely you have seen this acronym. For those of you unfamiliar, it stands for:

Specific: clearly define what you are going to do

Measurable: how will you identify when you have met your goal?

Achievable: a goal should be beyond your current capabilities but something you could do with some effort

Results-oriented: you are focused on a final result, not a singular action

Time-bound: set a reasonable deadline

SMART

So what does this mean in real life? An example of a common goal clients set is, “I’m going to get better at CrossFit.” As you can tell, while this is great in theory, it really doesn’t set any parameters to stick to. A better goal might be, “by the start of the Open I will achieve 10 unbroken double unders.” This goal is specific, rather than just “being better” you have identified a skill you will improve on. It is measurable, 10 double unders are something you can count. It is (hopefully) achievable and time-bound. If you have been consistently getting 1 or 2 reps at a time, with consistent practice you should be able to string 10 together by late February. You have a final result, rather than just saying improve my double unders.

4) Fail to Put Together a PLAN

Another example I commonly see with clients. I often hear people say, “I want to get a strict pull-up” or, “I want to get my first muscle-up” . I say, “great! What’s your plan?” I get a blank stare back. Setting goals is all fine and well, but if you haven’t figured out what actions you are going to take to achieve it, it’s unlikely to happen. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, the plan might be fairly simple or more elaborate. For example, in the double under example above, it might be to add 5-10 minutes of practice to warm-up or cool down 3 times a week. It might be to add one more rep a week until you get to 10. So if you can string together 3 now, next week you work to string together 4, the following 5, and so on…you might surprise yourself and skip right to 10 or more somewhere in there but the point it setting a goal isn’t enough, you have to determine the steps to actually see it realized. And if you aren’t successful in achieving your goal by a given time frame, maybe go back and edit your plan. Nothing is set in stone, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and change course.plan

3) Goals Do Not Align with Values

This is an idea I have been thinking about a lot of the past few months. My friend Coach Lizzie B took me to see Dr. Demartini speak a while ago, and the focal point of his lecture was that we all have a hierarchy of values that essentially control how we view and interact with the world. In my own training journey, I have frequently heard, “find your why”, that is why do you train? Why are you competing or striving for these goals? While they are slightly different ideas, I have been evolving my own thinking to realize that they are interrelated. Your values drive how you prioritize your time. They should therefore also help determine why the goals you have set are important to you. If your goal is created to impress others or because it is what you believe you should do, but not what you truly value, it is unlikely you will be successful. Additionally, I believe you should have a hierarchy of goals. If you don’t value training as the most important aspect of your life, but your top goal is to qualify for Regionals or some other high level competition, do your goals and values really align?  This is something I am coming to see more and more frequently. Life is complicated, it evolves, and we need to be honest with ourselves and those around us about what is important to us. What matters when we are 25 will likely not be the biggest priority at 35. That’s OK. But when you are creating goals based on an archaic set of values you will run into problems. So while I respect people who set a challenging and difficult goal such as qualifying for Nationals in weightlifting or podiuming at a Spartan race, make sure that your values are lined up with those goals. If the top of your values hierarchy is family, then career, then training you are not aligning your values and goals.

Values

2) You Are Lazy

There. I said it. No one wants to hear it, and certainly no one wants to admit it, but many people are just too lazy to get what they want. A goal is something that you have to reach for, and to stretch yourself to achieve it requires…WORK. Great that you have the energy and passion to write down a SMART goal, and hopefully you’ve outlined a plan to achieve it, and you really believe it matters to you. Are you going to do whatever it takes in the coming months, the not so fun, not so easy parts, to achieve it? Are you willing to skip a night out with friends so you can get up the next day and give the gym 100%? Are you willing to put off buying the newest Lulu pants so that you can spend that money on a coach or supplements or high quality food? Are you going to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you are tired/sore/unmotivated/it gets hard? I like to call that grit, and this tends to be where most people fail. A lot of people can’t handle me as a coach because I tend to be pretty direct (re:blunt).  It’s really hard to strive for greatness. And while not every day on the journey is great, it’s showing up on those not so great days that set you up for success.

CLB work

1) You Don’t Have Fun

This is tied in to number 3 and 2 above, and is one I am still learning myself.  One of the surest ways to lose sight of your goals and get off track is to forget why you set them in the first place. While anything worth doing is going to include some struggles, you should also be enjoying the process.  If you aren’t, then why are you doing it? For me, that means focusing less on the outcome and enjoying the process of chasing a dream. My best training is always when I train with friends and have some laughs along the way. Try and find a community that shares and supports your goals.  This could be joining an online group such as the Whole 30, or finding a friend who wants to hang out a few days a week before or after class to work on a skill together.  Whatever it is, find a way to make it a social and enjoyable process. Help support and push each other.  A great support system goes a long way!

fun

Mar 27

14.5 Tips and Tricks

Wow!  What an exciting workout announcement. Was anyone else blown away watching the showdown between Sam Briggs and Rich Froning? Such a close one!

Photo from games.crossfit.com

Photo from games.crossfit.com

14.5 is here, a classic couplet of thrusters and burpees. Doesn’t get anymore CrossFit than that! As the last Open workout, some of you may be going into this one thinking, “Thank goodness, this is the last one”, while others may be on the cusp of qualifying for Regionals. Whatever your situation, these are a few of my tips for attacking 14.5 and maximizing your potential.

This couplet contains two relatively low skill movements that require a high energy output. This makes it a great test of fitness, but also means that you can’t suddenly improve on your skill on one of these to see major gains. For something like this, it’s all in the details of how you prepare in the hours leading up to it, and execute in the workout.

Tip 1: Eat well the night before you perform 14.5. I don’t mean eat your veggies, I mean get plenty of calories across all the macro nutrient groups.  If you are in the top 100 of you region by now you should have enough of an understanding of how your body runs to know what fuels you well. Make sure you eat whatever that is in a large quantity. This is the type of workout where you don’t want a bunch of food sitting in your stomach, so you want to eat light the morning of.  This means that you will be primarily fueled by your dinner the night before. Don’t skimp on calories.

My go to for calories and deliciousness.

My go to for calories and deliciousness.

Tip 2: Follow your standard warm-up. I know, it’s the Open and we all get jazzed and nervous because we want to do well. Keep your routine. If you usually warm-up for twenty minutes, don’t warm-up for an hour. Keep things as routine as possible.

Tip 3: Mobilize your overhead, front rack, and squat positions. K-Star has something like a million different videos and posts telling you all the ways to do this, so google it, and pick 2 or 3 for each and do them. Personally, I like to warm up my squats with some goblet squats and hold the bottom squat position for a while. For overhead and front rack I will roll my lats across a PVC roller and then spend some time working a lacrosse ball around most of my shoulder, biceps, and triceps area. I also like to work in this thoracic extension drill:


Tip 4: Play your own game, by this I mean go by your own strategy. We saw Briggs take off right out of the gate, and then slow slightly but basically try and maintain for the rest of the workout. Conversely, Annie took off with everyone else and slowed much more by the end. Trying to keep up out of the start cost her more time in the long run.  My point is, know your own pace and stick to it. If going unbroken on the early sets of thrusters is at the limit of your capacity, don’t do it. Better to take a quick short rest or even a couple and maintain that speed throughout than try and sprint through those early sets only to crash and burn. Ask yourself this, would you rather run a 5k or sprint a 100M? If you are of the 5k variety, you are probably more likely to go out at a fairly  fast and steady pace that you can maintain throughout and be able to hold it there. Someone like me, who prefers a short sprint, might aim for a steady but not slow pace until about the set of 9. Then it’s turbo speed to the finish. Both athletes could have pretty comparable times, but they had a different means to get there. Figure out which one you are and then execute it.

Tip 5: No missed reps. Period. Hit your depth, get full lockout. It’s too much energy and time to miss these. If you need to rest, think about pausing at the top of the thruster for a breath or two. Make sure you get the chest all the way to the floor on the burpees, and jump with BOTH feet together. Do not skip over the barbell because you are tired. If you need to, step up to the bar before jumping. Focus on breathing. This is all about your engine, so you should expect to breath heavy and don’t try and stop it when it happens. Breath through it, keep the reps solid. Conversely, you are never going to fail on a burpee, so just keep moving. It’s going to hurt. But the less you stop and rest the sooner it will be over.

burpee2

Tip 6: Have FUN! I know a lot of people complain about both of these movements, and guess what, complaining isn’t going to make it any easier for you, or anyone around you. The whole point of doing the Open and being a part of the community is to enjoy it! Don’t stress about it or over think it! For most people this is the end of your 2014 Games season. Try and celebrate your achievements and have gratitude for the community and support you’ve enjoyed throughout. Good luck!!

Dec 26

Plantain AKA PR Chips!

I was recently in South America (Colombia to be exact) and one of the many delicious treats I had while traveling was homemade plantain chips.  I don’t know if it was the freshness of the plantains, being that most of the fruit comes from Colombia, or the fact that I enjoyed them while training in a gym high up in the hills of  paradise in Medellin, but they were AMAZING! I have not yet been able to recreate the perfection of what are fondly called “coaching chips” by the staff there, named for the way they lend themselves to a yummy paleo snack while coaching.  But every batch I have made since my return to the States has been delish, and I have fondly taken to calling them “PR chips” as they have fueled multiple PR’s since I have returned State side.

Ingredients:

Plantain(s)- I have been making larger batches with a couple at a time, but you can make as many or as few as you’d like!

Coconut oil- a few Tablespoons, depending on how many plantains you are cooking)

Salt & Chili Powder- really, any seasoning you’d like!  For a sweeter chip, try cinnamon.

Plantains are carried in most grocery stores, usually near the bananas. They are often sold very green, but will quickly ripen left on a counter for a few days.

Plantains turn yellow then black as they ripen.

The rule of thumb is that the greener they are, the more they mimic a potato in flavor/consistency, and the more ripe (yellow/black) the more they act like a banana, turning sweeter and softer.  For chips, I prefer them yellow, but not so ripe they are super sweet. To each his own though, so play around with different ripeness and see what you like. I’d stay away from very green ones.

Start by putting a frying pan over medium-high heat and dropping a few spoonfuls of coconut oil in to the pan.  You should have enough oil to coat the entire bottom of the pan.

Cut one tip off of the plantain, then make an incision in the skin along the entire length of the fruit.  Next, slice the “chips” from the fruit. The thinner you make them , the crunchier and more chip like they will be. Try and make the slices a consistent thickness though so that they cook evenly. Leaving the skin on makes it easier to slice these thinly without smooshing the chips.

Frying up some noms!

The oil should be hot now, so turn it down to medium. Start peeling the skin off of each chip using the incision you made in the skin to get them started.  Once they are peeled, drop them in the oil, making sure they don’t overlap. Watch them carefully, the more ripe/sweeter they are the faster they will caramelize and then burn.  I swoosh the oil around to coat them evenly, and flip them once they are a nice dark brown on the bottom. Once you have browned both sides, use a perforated spatula to drain them and scoop them into a bowl.  Lightly coat with the seasonings of your choice and voila!  Eat them hot and crispy, and then go set some PRs!

Sep 12

Did You See Her Snatch!?

Today’s post is dedicated to the women of weightlifting (WoW)! A sport that historically has been dominated by men (women’s weightlifting wasn’t contested in the Olympics until 2000), and in general is not covered much by the media has limited the endorsement of females in the sport.  In the last five years CrossFit has certainly helped the sport grow, but still the stars of the show tend to be the males.  In every group page or website dedicated to weightlifting that I follow, the videos posted are almost always of the top males.  Don’t get me wrong, these videos are amazing, and who wouldn’t want to watch Dmitry Klokov catapult hundreds of pounds overhead seemingly effortlessly? But the videos that are the most inspiring to me, are the ladies. And if you want to become a better weightlifter, watching videos of the top athletes is a great way to help your form, especially if you are watching lifters with a similar physical structure.

Christmas Abbott, a competitive weightlifter and top level CrossFitter goes for a snatch PR at the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Regional.

The most well known female wightlifters are the Chinese. Selected at a young age to begin training for this highly technical sport, they follow an exhaustive training regiment for years. Although they only took home two golds from London after a disappointing showing by Jun Zhou in the 53 Kg class, they have some of the top talent in the sport today. Here is Mingjuan Wang, a 48 Kg lifter (106 lb) easily snatching 93 Kg (205 lb) three years ago at Worlds.

One of my favorite lifters is Boyanka Kostova, a 58 Kg lifter formerly lifting for Bulgaria, now lifts for Azerbaijan. She is one of only a few lifters who uses the power jerk instead of the split jerk.

Two of my long time favorite lifters are Lidia Valentin and Maria De La Puente out of Spain. This video from the 2008 European Championships shows some excellent lifting from De La Puente and Germany’s Julia Rohde as they battle it out in the 53 Kg class.

Noticeably, none of the lifters covered so far have been from the good ol’ U.S. of A. What gives?  In general, the US hasn’t had a history of producing top weightlifting talent as consistently as most other nations.  While we did send two women to the 2012 Olympics, Sarah Robles and Holly Mangold, we have only won two Olympic medals in 12 years, both of those in the inaugural 2000 games. Many things contribute to this, but I’d speculate the sport’s lack of popularity and in turn a lack of facilities and coaches are key factors.  Most women have never even heard of weightlifting, and there aren’t many programs developing female weightlifters.  However, the sport is certainly growing in the States these days, and one of the coaches leading the charge is Glenn Pendlay and his team MDUSA out of South Carolina, formerly out of Cal Strength.

Another top level coach is Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics in California. His wife, Aimee Everett was a 2007 National champion.

 

Aimee sets-up for a snatch.

In my own experience, I have noticed that even in just the last couple of years local meets have seen a considerable increase in female competitors.  A search just two or three years ago for gyms with a dedicated weightlifting coach/program resulted in very few options, even in the large metro area where I live. Today, it takes both hands to count the number of programs available in the area. As the sport continues to grow, the US women’s talent will undoubtedly grow with it.

Weightlifting is an amazing sport, if any readers are interested in getting involved but have questions, feel free to post to comments or contact me directly.

Aug 09

Only the Strong Survive

I’ve been thinking about starting this site for years.  I’ve talked about it with friends, mentioned it to clients, and written about 100 posts over and over again in my mind. But every time I sat down to write, I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts down.  Call it writers block, analysis paralysis, or laziness.  It was probably a little bit of all of those things.  But mostly it was fear.

This has been a dream of mine for so long that I could never take that final plunge and hit “Publish” because I was afraid it wouldn’t succeed.  Anyone who knows me well is likely surprised by this truth, as I approach most things in life with such fervor and directness it can be abrasive. Equally, anyone who knows me is by now more than aware of the passion I have for lifting, nutrition, and fitness in general, which is why I don’t take this project lightly.

The final push to get this off the ground has been building for weeks, months, maybe even years depending on how you look at it. For so long I struggled how to realize my goal for this site- to help women get strong(er)- without isolating one half of the gender population.  And then I understood that this site is more than that.  It is about developing the physical and mental strength to survive.

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” ― Mark Rippetoe

Let’s face it, life is hard.  And it doesn’t get easier. What is the difference between those who cry and complain about it and those who can keep pressing forward, determined and confident in their ability to persevere? Strength.  Show me a woman who can deadlift two times body weight and I guarantee that is a woman who doesn’t have a problem facing the challenges thrown at her by day to day life.  Because physical strength doesn’t come without mental strength, and as physical strength builds, so does mental confidence. And for women, who are rarely taught how to use a barbell, for a culture that rewards thinness over fitness, and a collective mindset that fears looking “muscular” or “bulky”, there are far fewer doors openings for them to enter the world of strength training.

This site is a way forward for all women who currently train to learn and improve, for those who wish to train but don’t know where to start, and for all of the men out there who are training or encouraging women to train. No longer will “strong for a girl” suffice. Fitress is about being strong. Period.