The Why

By Ryan Kucish

I had my first experience with Olympic Weight Lifting in 2002. I was a junior in high school and it was my first day of weightlifting class, which also happened to be the first year my school had offered this course. To say I was excited would be an understatement. Up until this point I followed the basic “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” protocol that involves the bench press, squat and deadlift.  I always assumed that these were the best lifts to achieve strength and give you the edge required in sports.  I assumed this class would follow that dynamic and would make me better at those three lifts. My weight lifting coach was also my English teacher, Mr. Myron, unsuspecting, I know. On the first day of class he showed us video highlights of Olympic Lifts. I knew of Olympic Weightlifting and saw glimpses of it every four years when the Olympics came around, but I didn’t really understand it.  In my eyes, I saw guys of all sizes throwing weights above their heads while contorting their bodies into strange positions to pull it off.  I did not understand how these lifts were more significant than my bench press and deadlift, but I saw something in Mr. Myron that drew me to focus on his commentary. I realize today that I saw passion in his eyes. He lit up like a kid on Christmas. While most of the other teenage boys zoned out, Mr. Myron was so driven to make us understand his passion that I was sucked in.

Mr. Myron explained weightlifting in such a simple, profound way, that I still use it with athletes to this day.  He told us, “This is Olympic Weightlifting! The lifters, divided by weight classes, are trying to lift the most weight possible overhead in two different lifts: The Snatch and Clean & Jerk.”  Of course the class full of teenage boys erupted in laughter upon hearing these terms. However, Mr. Myron continued, “Each athlete has three attempts at each lift, which makes each lift very important.”  My hand went up “So, why those lifts?” I asked, wondering what was special about these two movements. He responded to my broad question with a simple answer, “The goal of the Snatch is to get the most weight from the floor to over your head in one movement. The Clean & Jerk is to move weight from the floor to overhead intwo movements.”  He explained to us that these two lifts have adapted into what they are today simply out of necessity.   

100 years ago these lifts look way different than they do today.  The clean & jerk for example looked more like a muscle clean into a strict/ push press, broken and mechanical.  Over time the athletes who learned to drop their bodies under the weight were lifting more than the guys remaining rigid and upright.  The sport reached a turning point. It was less about catering to brute force and now more about explosiveness and speed (power) to lift more weight.   The two lifts are a symphony of strength, speed and precision.  I like the way US Weightlifter Donnie Shankle phrases it, “It is like trying to thread a needle, but the thread is on the tip of a rhino horn running at full speed.”

From that point, I realized that these lifts were on another level from what I thought was weightlifting.  Mr. Myron explained the lifts very simply and then made it relevant to me by describing how these lifts will make me a better athlete.  “You have to understand how strong and fast you have to be to lift these weights from the floor to overhead.  It will make you a better athlete no matter what sport you play.”  I remember him concluding, “If you can get 200lbs from the ground to overhead, how much more confident are you when a 150lb guy is in your way on the playing field?” He was right. Realizing my capabilities made me a better athlete across the board, not just a stronger weight lifter.

15 years later I owe a lot to Mr. Myron for introducing me to Olympic Weightlifting. The passion he showed drew me in like a moth to a light.  I am thankful that Mr. Myron made me a better athlete, but I am more thankful that he made me understand the Why.

“The Why” is reason why we lift, go through programming, do warm ups, mobility exercises and everything else in between at the gym.   What does this movement achieve?  How will this make me more fit?  Why do we do below parallel squats? The Why is something that is so easily lost when members are only focused on going through the motions because that is what they have been taught to do. This was a hard lesson for me to learn as a trainer. What we have to understand as athletes and even more so as coaches is that every second that we are training/coaching, understanding why we do what we do is the most important aspect of every lift. It isn’t hitting every position perfectly every time or lifting the heaviest in your weight class, it is the Why. I got into CrossFit for just this reason.

Eight years after Mr. Myron’s weight lifting class, I was introduced to CrossFit. It was the only program that carried a true definition of fitness.  Using science and math, CrossFit eloquently defined fitness and how to achieve it.  Much like my Mr. Myron did in my adolescence, CrossFit did what all other types of workouts and strength programs could not.  It made me understand the Why.  It was clear, concise, and proved by science. Everything else at this point in my fitness career was a marketing scheme to sell something or programs backed by corporations with other invested interests while the whole time never fully knowing who is right and who is wrong and why this was important. Greg Glassman changed that with the first CrossFit Journal article, what I like to refer to as my fitness bible, "What is Fitness?" by Greg Glassman.  Coach Glassman gives a clear definition for fitness that no other person or program has been able to disprove. I encourage all of my athletes at Skyline CrossFit to read his journal entry to understand fitness and why we do it. 

As athletes you must ask why. As coaches you must be able to explain the why. It is crucial as an athlete, daily wodder, or competitive athlete, to fully understand why you are doing what you are doing.  You should be able to answer these questions: Why do you CrossFit?  Why is working out legs more than once a week important for overall fitness?  Why do we do full range of motion movements?  Why the pullup is more beneficial than the curl for overall fitness?  The list of questions is infinite.  You should be able to answer and understand these questions for your own knowledge and to keep your eye on the focus of achieving fitness.

When trying to achieve goals you must understand how to achieve them.  Auto Mechanics make the average person feel like complete idiots when they explain to a customer why their car is making a funny noise.  Mechanics need to understand why every little part of the car is important and how it works. You are the mechanic of your body.  Your tools are your workouts and the why is your gasoline.  Sure, blindly going through a CrossFit class will make you more fit than you were, but we must come to a point where we want to excel and not just survive. To excel in CrossFit bleeds into all aspect of life.  Understanding the Why is important with achieving any goal whether it be financial, personal, fitness, or career goals. So I say to you find your Why. Ask questions, do your research and never lose sight of Why this is important.

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CrossFit Is Dangerous

Written By: Charlye Hebert 

“CrossFit is dangerous and my cousin/friend/daughter/person on TV was hurt doing it.” – Every person that disagrees with my choice in fitness regimen.

I get it. CrossFit looks scary. There is a lot of negativity associated with lifting for time or from the fail videos that we see circulated on social media. However, I also understand that popular things tend to have a lot of unwarranted hate. Let’s break down some of the arguments.

Myth: CrossFit is bad for you.

Truth: One of the best things for joint health is muscle growth to support the moving parts of the body. The most efficient way to burn fat is by weight lifting. I do agree that (with any sport or fitness routine, not just CrossFit) someone with a preexisting injury should take certain precautions to not exasperate their injuries, but to say that CrossFit as a whole is bad for your body is simply not true. As we learned in the blog post last week, CrossFit is made up of functional movements. Functional movements are the best thing to promote health and wellness in your body. At Skyline CrossFit, we make mobility and recovery just as much of a priority as lifting, running, throwing, and gymnastics.  We are confident in our choices knowing that the functional movements we preform are beneficial to our athletes. This goes without saying that one movement may not provide the same value to every person, which is why we scale and modify movements to reach specific goals.  

Myth: You will be injured. 

Truth: As with any sport, the risk for injury is always there. Baseball players risk elbow injury, football players risk concussion, soccer players risk knee injury. CrossFit is a sport and it should be treated as such. There is a risk of injury every time we get into our vehicles to drive to work. To reduce this risk, we wear seatbelts, drive cars that are equipped with air bags and other advanced safety features, and take extreme caution in our own skills and abilities. The same is true for our time in the box; we have our own safety features. The amount of focus and time we as trainers spend on making sure our clients are safe is hard to describe; it is never ending. To say that we do not take the risk of injury seriously is insulting. The only thing that will cause injury is improper form, but adding a trainer to this equation substantially reduces the risk of preforming a movement incorrectly. In fact, working out without the instruction of a trained professional can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you are teaching yourself new skills. In CrossFit we wear our own seatbelts by practicing progressions and always teaching fundamentals, no matter what the skill level.

Myth: Anyone can pass the CrossFit exam and become a trainer.

Truth: I wont get too far into this subject. The course and the exam is difficult, y’all.  Trust me. I really questioned if I would pass the exam, because not everyone does. In fact, the pass rate is not very high. The handbook is over 200 pages of information that we must learn, while the course itself consists of a written exam and two days of classroom/practical training. The title of CrossFit Trainer is not one that is easily earned and those who do earn it have hours and hours of training in safety, methodology, and kinesiology. It isn’t handed to anyone.  The Level One course is just the beginning. The course opens up a world of knowledge, but the learning never stops. Trainers spend countless hours reviewing articles over movement, scaling techniques, practicing their own lifts and critiquing one another to make sure that we provide the best information to our athletes.

Summary:

I’m sure we can all agree that immobilization is the most dangerous thing in the world. Heart disease kills over 600,000 Americans per year. That is one out of four deaths every single year.  For me, it is a no brainer. I would rather CrossFit than suffer from disease. It is my medicine and my prevention. CrossFit, along with any fitness routine, has the potential to be dangerous and that is not something that will ever be hidden or wrapped in a pretty package. However, under proper instruction, the benefits of healthy nutrition, metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, lifting and throwing, and sports far outweigh the risks of not having a comprehensive fitness routine. 

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What is CrossFit?

Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. This is the definition of CrossFit.  As a CrossFitter I'm sure you have heard this more than once. This description is very accurate and precise and even though it says everything, it satisfies no one, as quoted by the CrossFit Founder, Greg Glassman.  As a trainer, I say this phrase all the time but I never truly understood what it meant until recently. This week’s Skyline CrossFit blog I'm going to break down the definition of CrossFit so that we all can understand exactly what we were doing. The why of what we do is not just important, it is everything.

We will start piece by piece.

Constantly Varied. This can broken down into one word: variance. Why variance? To be blunt, if you tell me that you have a routine, a leg day and a chest day for example, I can immediately tell you what you suck at. If there is a pattern or routine to your fitness “plan,” there is a deficiency. Deficiency is the space in between your patterns of movement; the things we do not do. We as humans and athletes require a pattern that has no pattern. Routine is the enemy.

Intensity. This is such a great buzz word.  Intensity gets tossed around more in the fitness world more than the words protein powder and gainz.

Some branches of the fitness community measure intensity as how red your face gets and how loud you grunt next to your buddies. I do not have to explain why this is a bad measure of intensity.

Other areas of the fitness community measure intensity based on their heart rate. This is far from accurate. Increased heartrate is a correlate to intensity, but a terrible measure of it. For example, if I ride a roller coaster or get pulled over by the police, my heart rate will rise, but am I becoming more fit from this? No. My rapid heart rate did not suddenly turn my speeding ticket into a work out simply based on the “intensity” of its beat.

Intensity is defined by power. What is power? The true definition of Power is Force times Distance over Time.

How much did you move? How far did you move it? How long did it take? That is power.
How fast and how hard? That is intensity.

Intensity is the best answer to all of our fitness goals because it is measurable and relative to the person performing the work.

If intensity is the best answer to all your fitness goals then why don’t most people do it? Because it sucks. It’s hard. That’s why people choose the tambourine instead of the violin. Why they major is sociology not physics. That’s the difference between successful people and and unsuccessful people. Successful people pursue hard things, unsuccessful avoid them. Running long slow distances will make you good at just that, long slow distances but nothing else. Just like playing the tambourine will only get better at the tambourine, that doesn’t make you a musician.
— Greg Glassman

Functional Movement. A lot of people have a hard time articulating what functional movement is. They theoretically understand it, but have a hard time expressing it verbally. As a trainer, I myself have been stumped trying to explain functional movement to athletes. I often over think it, but then remind myself that there is indeed a very simple answer. Functional Movement is defined by Greg Glassman as “movements that are categorically unique in their ability to express power.”  Now that we know how to measure power, we can express these functional movements on paper; it is quantifiable. These movements decidedly have the advantage of moving large loads for long distances and doing it quickly. Bicep curls, lateral raises, and skull crushers do not move heavy loads for a long distance very fast. Think of the distance between your elbow moving from the extended position, to bent during a bicep curl. This is not very far, the weight is exponentially low, and the weight does not go anywhere anytime quickly. Squats, cleans, and deadlifts move a heavy load, a long distance (floor to end position), and do so extremely fast. They get the most work done in the least amount of time; they are more powerful movements. They are efficient and effective and are seen everywhere. They are on a construction site, on the football field, and in combat. Functional movements are built into our DNA, they are part of who we are.

In light of all of this information, do not be so quick to consider getting “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” tattooed across your forehead. As trainers and athletes we say these words until we are blue in the face, but as I explained earlier, while this definition says everything, it does not mean anything to the person who does not define variation, intensity, and functional properly. My goal is that by breaking down the definition of CrossFit into definable terms, meaning they can be found in any dictionary, we may be able to give you the tools to also define CrossFit to yourself and to those who may be curious as to what CrossFit is.  In a nutshell, we do more work than anyone else and that is our objective.

Dylan experiencing intensity.

Dylan experiencing intensity.

30 Days To Be Better

By. Francisco Salgado

Have you noticed that when you go out of town or on vacation you return with a few bad habits? Well, I am a creature of habit. Whether good or bad, if I do it enough it becomes a part of my daily routine.

Charlye and I recently took a trip to Washington State that involved no meal prep and it was fantastic! We did not run wild off of our leash, but we definitely relaxed, which was very well deserved and needed.

We returned home on a Tuesday night and told ourselves that we would get back to our routine of meal prepping on Sunday to round off the end of our vacation week. Of course that meant five extra days of picking up dinner from various restaurants. Just as we planned, we fell right back into our meal prep routine, but sticking to it was not as easy as when we left. Remember how I said I picked up habits easily?

Speaking for myself, some days I would skip eating my already prepared meal just so I could pick up something fast and tasty (I am talking to you Chik-fil-a).  Some nights we would go to our favorite Mexican restaurant simply because we were both in the mood for it and neither of us would tell the other no, because hey, we both still wanted it. If we are both guilty, neither of us are wrong, right?

This sort of routine continued for longer than I would like to admit. Some weeks were better than others, but over the course of a month there were some very unhealthy habits beginning to develop and I could feel it in my body more than I could see it in my physique. Waking up to coach the five am class was a lot harder because I couldn’t fall asleep before midnight. Throughout the day I had a difficult time staying alert, my moods were all over the place, and I was having an even worse time trying to motivate myself to workout. The cycle was beginning and I knew I had to make a change before it was a habit.

To make matters worse, at the beginning of this month when I sat down to go through my budgeting I looked through my bank statements and wanted to kick myself for spending so much unnecessary money on eating out. Keep in mind, we were meal prepping AND spending money on food we did not need. A bank statement can be a running record for bad eating choices if you went through what we did last month.   

After some self-reflecting and criticism, Charlye and I got together and talked about challenging ourselves for 30 days. The main purpose of this challenge was to get ourselves back on track; getting back the structure! The one single rule was that we could only eat food purchased from the grocery store. This sounds pretty simple, but this includes no stops for coffee in the morning, no chips from the convenience store after a long night of bartending, no soda from vending machines, and no food from street vendors. Every single item would come from the grocery store. With my personality, a cold turkey fix was what I needed.  

Meal prep is not a strange concept to us, doing that was not difficult, but sticking to it has been. It has taken both of us holding each other accountable for what we are eating and where we are eating from: home. We are into our second week and so far we have stuck to our plan.

With this challenge were hoping to get into a better habit of saving money, eating healthier choices, and ultimately keep our routines in check. Our routines are aimed towards living a fuller, healthier life. The only rule may be that we can only eat pre-purchased “grocery store” food, but we are still accountable for what these foods are. This made sticking to our meal prep that much easier because there is no longer the alternative of Taco Bell or Skeero’s BBQ to tempt us.

Eating from home has forced us to be more aware of time management, since the excuse “oh I can just pick up something on the way” is no longer an option. Are we eating 100% clean? Absolutely not! We planned for “cheat meals.” There is a loaf of bread for sandwiches and an oven pizza in our freezer. We have a bag of oven baked chips and a few sweet snacks to turn to when we have a craving. We have planned to have days where we can relax, but relaxing does not have to equate to eating out and not being aware of what is going into our bodies. In fact, the first week we had to make a second trip to the grocery store because we miscalculated how much food we would need after our meal preps were gone. We were not used to feeding ourselves from home over the weekend! Not only is this a challenge to our diet, but to our bank accounts, priorities, and shopping skills. Week two has gone much better in regards to planning, even with my three year old being with us for the next two weeks.  

So now we would like to challenge you. Would you and your family/significant other be able to sustain one month of eating food only purchased from a grocery store? This is not a challenge strictly for clean eating, but a challenge to your routine. Let us know your progress! We will be back for an update in two more weeks! Our end date is on Charlye’s birthday, August 12th, which I think will be well deserved. The next goal will be jumping right back to eating from home the following Monday and I have a feeling we will survive.

Every habit, good and bad is created by you. What habits will you choose to create? 

Nutrition Progression

Nutrition Progression

 

Think back to your first day at CrossFit. You walked into a pristine box (fully air conditioned), grabbed a barbell (with no warm up), loaded up 240 pounds and executed the most perfect snatch that any Olympic weightlifter would be envious of. You continued to return five days a week, hit a new PR everyday, never felt fatigued, joined the competition team and now you are on the podium at the Games. Sounds familiar, right?

 

If you’re anything like me, my first day went nothing like this. My first day was a question of my life and if ending it would be easier than finishing the WOD after the warm up alone left me out of breath and covered in sweat.

 

So now think back to your first day of eating to sustain the level of activity that CrossFit demands. Maybe there isn’t a distinct moment, or maybe you haven’t started yet. I can tell you, my attempt was a lot like our imaginary first day of CrossFit. I lined up all of my plastic meal prep containers, added 4 ounces of chicken, a cup of broccoli and a cup of rice and thought, “This is it. I am now the conductor of the gain train. CHOO CHOO!”

 

By dinner-time of day two I had a glorious spread of Cheesy Gordita Crunches and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

 

It took me a few years to realize my mistake. I would go from a constant on-again off-again relationship with proper nutrition. I was either meal prepping and eating extremely clean, or I was not meal prepping and eating like Bruce from the cake scene in Matilda. There was no in-between and no balance, which left me with little progress on the barbell as well as little change on my outside appearance.

 

Nutrition is a lot like lifting. If you start by going medicine balls-to-the-wall, you will find yourself very tired, mentally and physically. This is compounded when one attempts any form of diet, miracle pill, fast, cleanse, etc.  Nutrition in CrossFit should start where we all started in lifting; learning the basics and then moving on to more advanced skill as we are able to.

 

Now, it would not be realistic to transition from eating out 21 times a week, to cooking at home and cutting out all of the things that we crave overnight. Can it be done? I’m sure that it can be. Would it be more beneficial to your wellbeing than a gradual transition? I don’t think so.

 

If you’re feeling down about not having a weekly Instagram post of your meal preps or that you don’t know where to start, remember your first day in the gym. Slow changes to an end product are the goal.  For example:

 

Try cutting out the amount of times you eat out by a quarter for the first two weeks. Then down to half of that amount for the next two weeks. In a month or two (maybe three), see if you are able to limit yourself to two meals out per week.

 

Try substituting lean ground turkey for recipes that could use an increase in protein content. Homemade spaghetti sauce and meatloaf both taste great with turkey meat.

 

When you are at a restaurant, have your server split your meal in half before it hits the table so that you now have lunch the next day and a reasonable portion for dinner in front of you.

 

As you become more advanced, make more aggressive changes. The changes don’t have to happen right now, or even next month. Make your end goal deadline 6 months to a year from now. In that time, you will think back and say to yourself, “Man, that wasn’t so bad. I could have done this a long time ago.”

 

On an ending note, be sure to forgive yourself if you have a rough day and allow yourself to have days of indulgence every now and then. We are all human and life should be rewarding. Our workouts and CrossFit should be a celebration of what our bodies can do, not a punishment for what we ate.

 

If you have any questions about nutrition or would like more tips on diet changes, reach out to Charlye at CharlyeHebert@Yahoo.com or any coach at Skyline or Humble CrossFit.