The Honest Approach to Assessing Our Performance

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How do you approach your workouts? Let’s face it. Most CrossFitters are not competitive, in the “Rich Froning” sense of the word. There are other ways that we should assess and acknowledge before we allow ourselves to become discouraged with our performance, rather than comparing ourselves to the “Fittest Man On Earth”.

The way we program here, CrossFit PHX literally allows our competition ready athletes to train alongside the brand new novice lifters. The rationale behind this training environment, versus separating competitors from recreational athletes, serves two purposes. First, to provide a certain amount of motivation for the newbies as to how far you can go with TIME and DEDICATED PRACTICE. Two, for those further along and more conditioned in strength and stamina, to give back and provide motivation and support those who are just starting, or still working, on the journey to the best version of themselves.

When it comes to training, there has to be a progression. I think this has become a common theme in my blogs. Where do we start, how do we start? Here are a couple things to keep in mind as you continue on your fitness journey.

1. UNDERSTAND, Do Not Accept, Your Limitations – Are you a smoker who just quit? Do you have a few too many cocktails during the week? Are you a “foodie” and not the cleanest eater in the world? How long have you been away from the training game? Where is your mobility at? How consistent have you been over the years? The answers to questions like these will allows to establish a baseline of expectation. These answers will also let us know how far we truly are from competing in the CrossFit Games. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just IS. Being honest with ourselves in answering questions like these will go a long way in identifying weaknesses that need to be worked on before we even touch dropping your Fran time.

2. MOBILITY – Does the bar keep falling forward when we get anywhere deeper than our power position in the snatch?Having trouble getting full depth in our squat? Can’t hold that front rack position with our elbows high and the bar resting across our collar bones? Chances are we lack dexterity in the shoulders, mobility in the hips, or are imbalanced front/back left/right, or potentially all of the above! For many of us, lack of performance has nothing to do with lack of strength or endurance, and everything to do with lack of mobility. Mobility is the often overlooked performance metric when we assess our ability to do work as athletes. How much we lift, and how fast we get things done almost always trumps quality movement and body position. If we take the time to correct these deficiencies, we’ll see an exponential increase in performance simply because we are no long fighting against our anatomy for optimal position. We’ll be able train harder for longer and decrease injury risk along the way.

3. SPEED COMES WITH PROFICIENCY – As we become more and more mechanically proficient, as movement patterns get less choppy, we magically become faster without actually working harder to do so. In the very beginning, depending on how coordinated you are and how fast you pick things up, movements such as cleans, snatches, deadlifts, and even seemingly simple stuff like pull ups and push ups can be a huge kick in the ass. Muscle sequencing is huge. If we attempt to execute a pull up and start that pull with our biceps first, instead of our lats, its only going to take a handful of reps or a set or two to discover you’re doing it wrong. However, if we take the time, slow down, and focus on body position, movement sequence and mechanics, over time we can move twice as fast with half the effort.

4. AMRAPS (Time Domain Workouts) – Before we set a goal for ourselves of a 30 round Cindy. How about we work to establish a pace, however fast or slow, that allows us to move steadily for the whole 20 minutes? We’ve all seen the folks that burn themselves out in the first five minutes on pace for 30 rounds, only to find themselves accomplishing 16, drastically less work than they are actually capable of. . The smoother we become in the movement, the less effort they actually take. When things require less effort, we can do a lot more.

5. Rounds/Reps for Time (Task Domain Workouts) – Once we figure out that a thruster is more about the hips than the shoulders, and our pullups are more efficient with a  stable shoulder girdle and a strong pull from the lats through the biceps, we’ll literally shave minutes off our Fran. When moving through task oriented work outs, we should probably understand the intent of the workout. Unlike an AMRAP where we are trying to accomplish as much work as possible in a given time allotted, we’ve now shifted to getting a certain amount of work done as fast as possible. Once we account for #3 on this list, let’s now focus on avoiding the redline. So what if we can get through 21-15 in less than 3 minutes, but we take another 5 minutes to get the 9’s done because we can’t catch our breath and our muscles have shut down. Before we look at attacking WODs as prescribed, we should ask the question, “When this was programmed, how long did our coach intend for it to take?” For our muscle science nerds out there, “What energy system are we supposed to tapping into?” Workouts like 30 Clean and Jerks at 135 pounds were set up to be done in less than 5 minutes, while 3 rounds of 400m Run, 21 Kettlebell Swings, and 12 Pull Ups, are more for the 15-16 minute range. If they take you any longer chances are the weight is too heavy. Your mechanics aren’t quite there yet and your making each rep way harder than it has to be. Or the reps are too high for your current fitness level. All of these issues can be fixed with scale: choose a lighter load, run a shorter distance, do less reps at the prescribed weight, or substitute less complex movements. We need to take the time to ask our coaches how long things should take if they don’t offer up that information right off the bat.

Focus on these factors and giving ourselves an honest assessment will alleviate a lot of head aches and make for huge gains, safer training sessions, and an overall more enjoyable experience from one workout to the next. Keep the intensity high, and our focus sharp, then everyone wins!

RAISE YOUR STANDARD!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

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STICK TO THE PROGRAM!

 

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It’s been the talk of the town in my gym as of late about programming, competitions, additional training, etc. What is truly the best programming model for achieving gains in fitness?

Here’s a list of common mistakes people make when subscribing to programming:

1 – “Rich Froning does this. Jason Kalipa does that. We should try it.” They want to try everything all the time. Listen, however the big dogs train to compete, there is most definitely a system in place. Think big picture, and get away from the sheer variety with which they train. They utilize periodization just like everyone else in conventional strength and conditioning. There are periods where they train for volume, because volume drives movement patterns: the more you do something, and the more often you do it, the move efficient you become. There are periods where they train for straight up output: How much can I pull in a single rep? How many repetitions can I accomplish unbroken, before my form breaks down? Then there are periods where they train for proficiency, getting all the little things right: when to start their second pull in a clean or snatch, when to hit the gas in a MetCon, or simply keeping the core tight and levers long in gymnastics movements. Where people get lost in the noise, and truly the beauty of CrossFit, is that you can attack each of these points of emphasis ALL THE TIME. But rest assured, there is a method to the madness, and there is a point of focus, regardless of the energy system being taxed, or the modality being worked.

2 –  “Have you tried a (Insert Scandinavian Name Here) Cycle to improve your squat max?” They train out of context. Too many people too often adopt these fantastical training methodologies without reading the fine print. Many of the strength “cycles” out there for bench press, back squat, you name it, were put together in an environment that accounted for any and all external influences. The athletes that made the astronomical gains that create the foundation for whatever protocol’s popularity were guaranteed the rest needed for the body to recover from the loads, volume, and frequency of whatever the training demanded of them. Most people do not get enough sleep/rest (and yes, turning off your brain so your body can devote energy to recovery and repair is the biggie here), or the foundation of training to truly make the stimulus worth their while. Therefore, when their gains are minimal if any, and they are exhausted by the end, they are left wonder why this didn’t work for them when they Olympians the program was designed for killed it. That’s not to say they don’t work. As a matter of fact they can be quite the killer addition to your regimen, just keep in mind all the OTHER STUFF you may have going on that could inhibit those gains.

3 -“I’ve been at this for almost a year and I still don’t have (insert skill here).” You haven’t put in the deliberate practice. As I said earlier, volume drives consistency. If you’re not putting in the time on a consistent basis to promote the appropriate adaptation, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to be able to do one double under EVERY TIME before you can ever expect to get one hundred strung together. It’s probably a good idea to pick up a 225 pound deadlift before you expect to clean it. There is definitive progression to progress. There are certain steps that can not be skipped on the road from good to great.

4 – “You’ve reached your ceiling.” You’re not even close. When people say that you’ve reached your ceiling, DO NOT accept that. The reason it is an unrealistic expectation to walk into any given box to see what CrossFit is all about and try and fast track it to Regionals six months later is because you’re not even close to your ceiling. In reality, you’re closer to the floor. All things being equal if the top of human physical potential is equal for everyone, those athletes at the professional or Olympic levels are pretty damn close to the absolute top of that spectrum. The difference between you and them isn’t so much PHYSICAL AGE, but more importantly, TRAINING AGE. How many hours of dedicated practice do you have with respect to Games athletes. How many thousands of reps are you behind in your clean and jerk? How many ropes have you climbed over the course of your life? These are all questions you should ask yourself, and be honest with the answers before you start laying out your master plan to get you to the CrossFit Games next year.

5 – “I don’t get it.” They have no idea why they train the way they do. This one is my favorite. There has to be a method to the madness. It is our job as the coach to communicate the rationale, or at least be willing if asked to explain the “WHY”. This does two things: it creates confidence for your members that they are be lead in the right direction and furthers your credibility as a coach that you actually know what the hell you’re doing and understand the intent of any given workout if you’re not the one handling the programming.

At the end of the day, it does not matter. Do not hear me incorrectly, HOW YOU TRAIN means everything in terms of making progress. However, the model you follow, does not. Assuming that you follow something put together by someone who is knowledgeable and experienced, you should make progress. But when you jump from program to program, cherry picking your favorite workouts, lifts, or movements, you’ll never get to where you want to go. Be present, have faith in the process, hold yourself accountable, and be consistent. Do that, and I promise you’ll find success in fitness.

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Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Training and Mt Everest

 

Training is a lot like climbing Mt Everest. The process can be long, and you spend way more time below the summit than you actually do at the peak. But you’ve reached the summit, none of that other stuff matters.

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For those of you not familiar with my analogy, when you look at the way you train and your expectations of setting Personal Records and accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself, there a few factors that come into play that get you where you want to go. Just like when tackling the highest mountain in the world, first and foremost, you must continually put one foot in front of the other and BE CONSISTENT in your efforts.

Secondly, as you ascent towards the summit, you’ll spend a bit of time in the beginning acclimatizing at base camp. This is where you establish your FOUNDATION OF FUNDAMENTALS and give your body a taste of what you’re about to put it through. Now you are consciously conscious of where you are and how much further you have to go, as well as an idea how much work its going to take to get there.

Once you’ve been accustomed to the lack of oxygen and the extra effort required to accomplish things that were simple at sea level, now set off on your trek. At this stage of the game, you’ve exposed yourself to all the things wrong with movement patterns and started consciously working on the little nuances of IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY of these movements. Right about now, is where you’ll start attempting max lifts and recording workouts for time and volume so you have a GAUGE OF YOUR PROGRESS along the way.

Are ready for the biggest kick in the nuts? After making all that progress up to “Stage 1”, you get make your way back down to Base Camp. Then you’ll head back up to “Stage 1” for a bit before you press on to “Stage 2”. Then, guess what? Once you get there you get to come back down to “Stage 1”. And so the process goes, until you get the peak, look down at the trail you’ve blazed and get your first look at the world you left behind on your way to the glory of accomplishment. The same principle of ADAPTATION AND ACCOMMODATION applies to your training. As you improve and achieve benchmarks, you’ll scale your intensity (volume, duration, loads, speed, etc…) to let your body and nervous system adjust to their newfound capacity for work and output. After a while, even though the challenge hasn’t disappeared, you’ll become consistent in your performance and you will need to up the intensity to stimulate improvement.

However, let’s not forget good old mother nature. You need to be prepared for the occasional gust of wind, or storm, or worst case an avalanche and have the patience to weather through it on the way up the mountain. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Blah blah blah! Life doesn’t work like that. SHIT HAPPENS. We get sick, we have kids, we get injured, we move and switch gyms. The variables are endless. Whatever yours are, hopefully you’ve experienced enough gratification in your progress to this point, that when life temporarily gets in the way, it won’t completely derail you. If nothing else, it will just force you to alter your course a bit. You sprain your ankle, well Olympic lifting and most things ballistic are out, so take that time and be productive! Become really efficient with your gymnastics, or more solid with you squats. Then once you’ve healed, you’ve weathered the storm, pick up where you left off and keep going! At the end of the day, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD.

Before you know it, after all the bad weather, the setbacks, the inherent ups and downs of the climb, now you’re at top. You spent so much time looking up at your goal along the way, turn around and witness the journey that you just finished. Take pride in the struggle. No one ever made it to the top of the mountain and said it wasn’t worth it. Enjoy the view, you’ve earned it! You were CONSISTENT. You were PATIENT. You were SMART. You HAD A PLAN. You BUSTED YOUR ASS! This is your reward! Enjoy the view, you EARNED IT!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Moving from Conditioning to Strength

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2 Months for $240 @ Crossfit PHX, Now – August 31st

Here we go!! We’re going to utilize a very concentrated effort over the next couple of months to improve not only your strength but also anaerobic capacity. Now that we’ve pushed though an amazing conditioning phase its time to get back into a strength cycle. This strength cycle will be broken into 3, 4-week cycles, each with a different emphasis: Base, Growth, Power.

As we establish your base for strength, think of it as reconditioning your body for heavier loads in the coming weeks. We’ll be using gross lifts such as deadlifts, squats, and presses in conjunction with gymnastics and explosive movements. The goal through this first phase is to not only reconfigure your system for going heavy, but also increasing motor unit recruitment through compound movements to assist later on with your Olympic lifting development. For example, the heavier you are able to deadlift, the more comfortable you’ll be pulling a clean quickly though the first and second pull. Furthermore, the stronger your front and overhead squats become, the better you’ll be at receiving the loads you land with in your clean and snatch.

That being said, we’ve spent so much time over the last couple months improving your ability to control your body in space, now its time to put all that skill work into practice. Look forward to skill and gymnastics work to be worked into your strength progressions along the way.

In our growth phase, we’ll manipulate the sets and repetitions to strength and size. Ladies don’t be scared, you won’t turn into the incredible hulk. Most of you have been with us long enough to know that it takes much more than touching a barbell or two to become Mrs. Olympia. We train like athletes, so that we can perform like athletes. Somewhere along the way, we may just become stronger and healthier as well. In this phase, gymnastics and skill progressions will be reintroduced to drive home the basics improve coordination through movements in their entirety.

Lastly, our Power cycle will focus on moving loads quickly. Not only will there be critical development in Olympic lifting, but just like our gymnastics, these movements will be broken down and compartmentalized, then executed as fast as possible. Just a simple example would be pausing at the bottom of a front squat and driving out of the bottom with a load roughly 50-60% of your max clean. The point of our power cycle is to improve force and velocity by speeding up your rate of force development. Not only will we dismantle your Olympic lifts, but we’ll also rebuild them so they are better than before.

As far as WODs are concerned, expect them to quick and fast. They’ll be orchestrated so that you’re able to push your engine to its limits, but also increase your lactate threshold. This adaptation will allow you, over time, to push harder prior to “redlining” during a workout. This, is why we precede strength with a conditioning phase, so your body is able to use oxygen more efficiently in working tissues, especially when the INTENSITY and TIME components limit its availability. For those of you interested in competing in the coming months, this is your preparation! For those of you who have no interest in competing with anyone but yourself and the clock, expect to finally hit Benchmark WODs as prescribed or scale less as the weeks go by. Either way, expect IMPROVEMENT and RESULTS!

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Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why I Chose CrossFit – A Coach’s Perspective

1. Intensity

– CrossFit brought the INTENSITY of the collegiate weight room and granted access to those who never got that experience. There is different feeling when the perfect storm of accountability and competition come together. It has been nothing short of amazing to see the animal that comes out of people when there are 5-10 people pushing through the same struggle at the same time. For the Type A’s in the box it feeds the beast and they all want to come in first. For the introverts, it brings out a side of them they may or may not even know they have.

Image2. When the Coaching is Good, ITS REALLY GOOD

– In an industry plagued with weekend conferences that allow people to call themselves subject matter experts, coaches from box to box, through the innovations of social media and round tables have been able to critique, constructively criticize, and call out the pretenders in the industry. Not only that, for the members that habitually visit other boxes, coaching techniques and cues are brought back, shared, and taught – thus improving the quality of the product delivered to the members as a whole. Most importantly though, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a box with a truly credentialed and experienced staff, you as member have the advantage of spotting bad coaching/programming and are now equipped to make an intelligent consumer decision.

Image3. The EMPOWERMENT of WOMEN

– CrossFit unlike any other fitness revolution in history, has shifted the public paradigm of what fitness is, and where women fit. Women now have an appreciation for performance AND aesthetics that didn’t exist a decade ago. Hell, The United States Marine Corps didn’t dare attempt raise the physical fitness standard of women until after CrossFit became a mainstay in the American fitness continuum. Whether that is a fact or not, I don’t know, but I feel it is more than coincidence. For a woman to do a pull up a decade ago was a fantasy for most and an ability reserved for gymnasts and elite athletes. To see women embrace their shape, their musculature, and ditch the scale and acknowledge what is really important, body composition and the improvement of performance in countless measure has been revolutionary. Women’s idea of beauty as shifted from one of skinny to one of strength, truly embracing the saying, “Strong is Sexy” thanks to CrossFit.

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4. Awareness

– The sheer perception of fitness has shifted dramatically in the American landscape. It is no longer good enough to be healthy enough to wake up each morning without fear of coronary event. People now see the possibilities of human capacity. There is no substitute for the dedicated training put into becoming and professional athlete of any kind, even the tops in the world in CrossFit. However, people worldwide are awakening to the excitement of what they will accomplish at their box each and everyday. The difficulty, complexity, and technicality of each movement and WOD has been embraced. Members worldwide take on the challenges presented at their respective boxes with a smile and yearn to learn more and get better when they leave covered in sweat, all an effort to smash their last personal record or erase a slower previous time. CrossFitters are AWAKE and have been exposed to what they can accomplish and how much they can actually improve in the sport of life: all the while watching these improvements crossover into their performance of activities of daily living or recreational sports.

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5. COMMUNITY

– Most importantly, like nothing I’ve experienced outside of football or the Marine Corps, CrossFitters know stuff and use language that only other CrossFitters know. The “Comradery Through Shared Adversity” is taken to heart, as everyone in this crazy community knows what “Fran” is. Everyone wants to get their first muscle up. Everyone has lied in disbelief as how hard a particular WOD was. Everyone talks down on “Cherrypickers” while at some point cherry picking themselves. Everyone has asked someone they barely know, “Where were you the other day?” when the normal cast of characters isn’t complete in a certain class. Each and every CrossFitter reps their box and feels their box is the best on the block. Its home, and no one is permitted to tread on their turf. Yet, at the end of the day, these families come together for the greater good and rally to support one another: Kevin Ogar.

ImageAt the end of the day, it CrossFit has created an environment where intensity is mandated, good coaching is expected and appreciated, women are empowered, awareness has been raised, and a community has been fostered to a familial standard. These and so many more aspects of this crazy love for fitness and performance are why I fell in love with CrossFit.

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Truth About Your Goals

Why do we concern ourselves with EVERYTHING when the answers we seek are in the details?

Your approach fitness the same way you answer this question, “How do you eat an elephant?” – One bite at a time!
As corny as it sounds, as cliche’ as it may be, it’s true. Fitness becomes overwhelming because we make it that way.

A few questions you should ask yourself:
– Are my goals really MY goals?
– Is my lifestyle in line with those goals?
– What purpose do my goals serve (motivation, accountability, competition, etc…)?

What I’ve noticed about people overall in my years as a coach and personal trainer is that often times their goals are not really their own. They are really the product of external influences (magazine covers, friends, family, careers) and there really is no OWNERSHIP of the process. This is why people really fail. The second reason being that their process, doesn’t really match the results. But I’ll touch on that in a minute. It isn’t the diet, it isn’t the program, it isn’t supplements that failed you. Your misplaced motivation is what drives you to fail. Its what makes you get in shape and fall off the wagon 3 months into the new year. Its what allows you to hammer the gas for a few weeks or a couple months if you’re lucky and then stall out because there is no more fuel in the tank. This misplaced motivation, is a falsehood that allows you get started but fails to keep you going. Why, because its a fire burning outside, subject to be put out by a harsh gust of wind, a torrential downpour, or sand being dumped over it. All this is a metaphor for all the “I can’ts” “You can’ts” and utter lack of belief that stops us dead in our tracks.

I had a discussion with a member of mine and the question came up, “Why are you here?” Why do you put yourself through the exhaustion, the burning muscles, and lack of breath by the time workout is over, only to do it all over again the next day. WHAT IS YOUR REAL MOTIVATION? His honest answer, “I want to drink a beer and have a cheeseburger and not worry about it.” This is a guy that never wants to compete, never wants to get on stage, never wants to be south of 6% body fat. He just wants to be the best he can be within the confines of what HE DEFINES as a happy life. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. To be honest with yourself, that’s where you need to start. Because when the fire comes from within, there is nothing that can put it out. NOTHING!! Because he doesn’t want to go to the CrossFit Games or get on stage in the 2014 Mr. O, does that make him lazy or complacent? No, not at all. It makes him happy. Because his goals are HIS. He owns his process. And guess what, he’s happier for it and continues to make progress as he moves forward in his journey of fitness.

That is where the rest of us can take a lesson from this guy. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about striving for that six pack and setting benchmarks like a 500 pound deadlift and 4.5 40yd dash. Clean eating and quality fitness regimen will take you a long way, there is no denying that. I’m not telling anyone to downplay anything they are striving for. All I am saying is that you should take a step back and really look at what you’re putting into the process. If you look at the training regimens of the top athletes in the world in their given sports, are you putting in anywhere near the time, are you committed to your nutrition anywhere close to the way they eat? If the answer is no, and more than likely it is, then how can you be upset or stop pushing for achievement because you came up short? To be realistic, is not synonymous with being pessimistic.

Really look at what you want out of life. What is fitness to you? What are you willing to put into the process? Is that drive for progress internal, or is it a passing trend because of some set of unrealistic external influences? The former is the main ingredient in success and lasting results. Take ownership of your process. Once you do that, fitness will stop becoming a chore. The ebbs and flows of progress, the setbacks, will become few and far between. Whatever you medium, be it CrossFit, bodybuilding, spin, recreational sports, or simply putting miles in with your headphones in, it will become an enjoyable PROCESS and the results will be EVERLASTING. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want. Results with a process that we enjoy. While the struggle is inevitable, when you own it, that struggle becomes an enjoyable one and you’ll see the process through to the end.

If you take nothing from this blog, remember this. Take ownership of YOUR PROCESS. You set your own finish line and don’t stop running until you get there. The journey is what makes the destination worth it.

– Derz

 

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.