I often find these at TJ Maxx, and can’t resist them. Trader Joe’s makes a version too. And now that I think about it, I bet Danielle makes these for Trader Joe’s. Anywho. I literally tear the bag open and eat the entire thing, hunched over, as to not attract any bystanders who might think I’m apt to sharing. I’ve thoughtfully included tasting notes on the flavors I’ve tried. You can buy them online at Amazon.
Plantain Chips & Guacamole
Brandon went camping with his brother + I’m not keen on cooking for one = so I ate this for dinner. And then for breakfast. And then for dinner again.
Because #4 reminds me of my childhood. And that’s probably why I was grounded for like ¾’s of high school.
Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain…
Kelly Starrett is the alpha leopard from MobilityWOD. He also runs the CrossFit Mobility Certification course…which, much to my chagrin, is consistently sold out. Since we’re opening our own gym, we thunk it useful to invest some brain power into learning how we should be moving our bodies and how to fix people like me who don’t move well. Plus, about 2 months ago I started getting such terrible low back pain that I couldn’t air squat or sit down in a chair without it screaming at me. My apathatic attitude towards mobility had finally caught up with me. So I bit the bullet and wandered over to the chiro. After some x-rays, the doc said my L4 and L5 were out of line and my hips were something like 15 mm off kilter, with a side helping of pelvic tilt. My latest ‘back crackin’ was about a week ago and I feel 99% better. Then this book came. I’m only about a quarter of the way through it, but I’ve already been able to “self medicate” with some remedies for my issues, and I’ve learned why women get a little leaky when they do double-unders. It’s an incredibly motivating book (even with the dreadful cover). Now I just have to make myself do the stretches. Order on Amazon.
Speaking of the chiro. I was sitting in the waiting room, flipping through a magazine that featured the city’s 40 most fascinating people under 40…or something. They were so fascinating and accomplished that I completely forgot the theme of the article. That kind of stuff always makes me roll my eyes. Fancy sounding titles and fancy, soft focused glamour shots to along with. Anyway. A few days ago I came across this glorious website and it made me laugh pretty hard. Maybe it was just the timing, you won’t laugh and you’ll think I’m weird…
Are you over 30 and bummed that you missed your chance to be a 20 under 30? or a 30 under 40? or some other random number under some other random number? Well here’s an award for you. If you think you deserve an award, fill in your name and your job title below and you’ll be given an award. Then you can put “award winning whatever” on your resumé.
High five for being such a tremendously awesome individual. You do everything better than everyone else. Period. No one else comes close to being as awesome as you are…
My new award pairs nicely with the mug I gifted myself a couple years ago, dontcha think?
Like Health-Bent + UncommonGoods on Facebook (+ follow Health-Bent on Twitter). Then, comment below with the worst Christmas present you’ve ever received or given (just because I like to laugh).
One winner will be selected at random. Health-Bent will notify the winner via email, so please triple-check that your email has been entered correctly. Winner may choose from any UG eligible product as their “prize”.
Thursday, December 13th @ 11:59 Eastern. Email will be sent Friday.
People are under the false impression that their tap water, and even bottled water and water produced by home filtration systems is “pure”. It isn’t.
Distilled water is the purest form of water. Tap water is loaded with many types of suspended pollutants, chemicals, toxins and other contaminants. Bottled water is usually plain tap water that has been minimally filtered to get rid of the bad odor and taste. And home filtered water, (even reverse osmosis), is not pure either. Many microscopic contaminants make it through the filtering process to end up in the water you drink. And filters become clogged and neglected and can turn into breeding grounds for bacteria. If this happens, “filtered” water can actually become MORE contaminated than the source water!
H2O Labs’ Best-in-Class Countertop Home Water Distiller model with 100% Stainless Steel Steam Chamber and Condensing Coil, this water distiller has White Baked-Enamel Metal main body and New One Gallon Break-Resistant Food Grade, (BPA-FREE), Polypropylene Carafe. Worth over $200.
I warned Brandon not to expect this to happen every week…it’s a lot of planning and a lot of upfront, no instant gratification type of work. But then, as the week went by and all I had to do was reach in the fridge, re-heat various piles of food and clean up NOTHING but a couple of bowls–I actually thought that this may just be the new way I do things. The drudgery of Sunday was most definitely reaped well into the week. Added bonus, all the new found free time allowed me to finally start unsubscribing from all the annoying email newsletters I get.
Over 100 recipes, with more than 100 that have never graced the pages of this website. Our publisher doesn’t want us to divulge too much info at this point, but we can say that we’re ecstatic to announce that we have PIONEERED a brand new way to make Paleo & Primal desserts. There’s not one speck of almond flour in this book! Everything is still completely grain and gluten free, low carb (some with no added sugar)…and tested perfect enough to fool those who don’t even eat Paleo.
We’ve been working on the book for quite a while now, and we have completely neglected you. I do apologize for that…but hopefully, this announcement will alleviate any misgivings.
Now, all that’s left, is for me to learn how to write coherent, grammatically correct, punctuated, sentences.
Preparation is the mother of success when you eat Paleo. But let’s admit it, you’re not perfect. (I am, though.) But really, if you’re anything like me, a normal person, I’d dare to guess you’re not always prepared with Paleo meals and snacks at your disposal. Maybe you travel all the time. Maybe you have kids that need after school activity snacks. Maybe you’re in a meeting that has breakfast pastries and vegan bacon as your meal option. Maybe you just don’t feel like cooking anything. So what’s your go-to, perfect protein calorie source? Jerky. The only Paleo perfect protein option that doesn’t require frigeration–leave it out at room temperature for days on end and it’s still amazingly perfect to gnaw on. Want to learn more about the marvels of meat preservation. Read this.
We get emails all the time asking us to review or giveaway stuff. We want you to know that we only agree to do it when we actually BUY, EAT/USE and LIKE the product(s) we’re telling you about.
What You Get
One of each of the products listed below. Worth over $65 smackers. Click on any of the products below to learn more about their ingredients.
Spotting an A-hole on the internet can be tougher than you think. Part of their talent can be making you feel like you’re the jerk for feeling the way you do. It’s a no brainer when the insults are direct and overt but that’s not always the case. Today I want to expose some of the more sneaky and subversive types of A-holism. The following tutorial will help you see through their crap, because if they’re pointing a finger at you, they’re probably pointing 3 back at themselves. (Get it?)
Knowing these signs will have you spotting web trolls and pompous editorials in no time. The only thing left for you to do will be to sit back and watch the author’s stupor at those who take offense. The very best examples of A-holetry will use most if not all of the techniques we’ll discuss here. Anything that only has 1 or 2, you’ll just have to make a gut call.
Without further adieu, things to look for to spot an A-hole on the internet:
1. Bias. Typically you’ll see this right up front. The author will lead with a quick but subtle bias in their introduction. They’ll use somewhat vague adjectives with negative connotations right away, things like “frivolous”, “impractical” or “well-intentioned”. An even more subtle approach you could see to undermine credibility is the use of nouns like “fad” or “hobby”. They might even compare the subject to something they know is entirely opposite or unrelated and will be offensive to their target.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: The Paleo diet is the most popular whim since the Master Cleanse.
2. Passive-aggressiveness. A tell-tale sign would be to notice the author possibly being open minded to other opinions but quickly shutting that down with a backhand.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: You don’t have to agree with us; if you want to let your oblivion kill you, then best of luck to you.
3. Mis-characterization. This can be done in two ways. First, you might get the idea that this person has very little knowledge of what they’re arguing against. This is also known as ignorance. Second, the mis-characterization may come in the form of using only the most extreme examples to illustrate points.
4. Polarization. There will be no shades of gray, only black and white. Remember, they’re using extreme examples, so even though it’s not realistic at all to think that everything is so cut and dry you’ll notice that this will never be acknowledged.
Ex. Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: If you eat a Paleo diet, you can never eat dairy again…NEVER, EVER…EVER.
5. Using rhetorical questions as main defense. Imagine a scene from Law and Order.
Prosecution: “You wanted her dead didn’t you?…that’s why you left the toilet seat up knowing she would fall in.”
Defendant: “No, I uh, I….”
Defense: “Objection your honor, leading the witness!”
Are the points being made with an open ended cross-examination of the things being disputed? The key is to omit actual answers and substantiation.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: How can you trust someone who eats raw meat and doesn’t wear shoes? How could fat (bacon) possibly be good for you if most M.D.s don’t think it is?
6. Contradiction. No A-hole postulation can be complete without this. There are 2 types of contradictions you’ll see employed. For starters, you may find the author says one thing and then draws a completely opposite or mutually exclusive conclusion just a few words later. Alternately, they could use contradiction known commonly as “the pot calling the kettle black”. Fighting dogma WITH dogma. If you notice the same methods being used as what one claims to be against, BINGO, contradiction.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: You should never eat “Paleo” food that replicates junk food, it won’t cure your psychological problems. By the way, here’s a recipe for Paleo Fried Chicken. (<– this really happens in Paleo blogland. A lot.)
Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: It wouldn’t surprise me that you’d recommend a different nutrition plan to everyone if you make a living off of personal consultations. You should buy my plan instead; it’s a one-size-fits-all plan that will help you figure out what personal adjustments you should make.
Paleo a-hole: I’m so tired of feeling like I should look a certain way based on societal pressure. Now let me tell all you “intellectually challenged” people how you should actually look if you want to be healthy.
7. Condescension. You will perceive this as being ”talked down” to. The writer will appear miffed that anyone would believe something different than they do. Patronizing commentary and sarcasm works for their purpose here as well. You will read things like “waste of time” or even simply quotes around a word to imply eye rolling.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: Questioning what we’re telling you to eat makes you stupid, that’s probably why you can’t understand what we’re telling you. Mainstream a-hole: Including more meat is a great idea, if you love horrible ideas.
8. Assumptions and generalizations. You know the saying about assuming right? NO? It makes an ASS out of U and ME. Enough said. But I’ll say more anyway, this one really ties back into #3 (Mis-characterization.) and #4 (Polarization.) but it’s worth mentioning. The A-train has to keep running and it’s fueled by assumptions and generalizations. You will find continued instances that ignore the practical side of what’s being debated and drive home a few more unsubstantiated accusations.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: The Paleo diet is a low carb diet. The Paleo diet is impractical. The Paleo diet costs 10 zillion dollars a month.
9. Arrogance. Nothing crushes A-holyness faster than admitting you don’t know it all. That’s why this one is a little harder to detect since it’s more about what is NOT said. You may get a hint of this if you notice claims that are just as hard to prove as those denied…but…since the author knows only black and white (see #4) they will imply that their way is the ONLY way. With all due respect though, they probably are special snowflakes. (#1, #2, #6, #7, #8 all in one!)
Ex. Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: How dare you quote a random study to support your argument! I have a random study right here that says the exact opposite, except this one is right.
10. Big words. The author will need to seem like they are very intelligent so you’ll think, “well, they did say ‘ad hominem’ so they must know what they’re talking about.”
Bonus. Sketchy motivation. (This one is not required but it can really put the icing on the cake.) This can be as easy as selling a product that happens to be the opposite of what is being argued against or even needing attention. Other examples include denouncing things that threaten them or being the smartest, most interesting person on Earth and having a desire to make sure everyone knows it.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: I work for the government where my job is to sell subsidized grains, however, I disagree entirely with the Paleo diet because you cannot be healthy without hearthealthywholegrains. Paleo a-hole: In case you didn’t know, sugar is not Paleo.
(Starting with “in case you didn’t know” is a classic.)
Well everyone, I do hope you’ll find some use in my tutorial. I wish I could say I totally fabricated my examples, but these examples come paraphrased (and admittedly slightly embellished in some cases) to you from mainstream news and Paleo blog sources. If you need further examples, they’re not too hard to find. If you’re like me you can’t stand a-holes, be sure to come back next week when I release my new e-book, How to Be Nicer and More Humble Than Everyone ($19.95).
Brandon and I just got home from the CrossFit Games Southeast Regional competition, which was held in West Palm Beach, Florida this past weekend. We had a phenomenal time gallivanting and competing. Here’s my recap:
We spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday cooking and prepping. Here’s what we brought:
Curried chicken salad, bananas, avocados, cut pineapple & mango, meatballs, sausage & eggs, sardines, coconut rice pudding (yes, we eat rice sometimes), chocolate, pepperoni, pre-roasted sweet potatoes stuffed with butter and heavy cream for coffee…because half ‘n half just doesn’t cut it.
Even though we brought a crap ton of food, we barely ate any of it. My nerves shot my appetite throughout the day, so I was starving by dinner time and cold or re-heated food wasn’t going to cut it. And really, when we’re faced with new food horizons, we feel obligated to eat and try each and every thing we can get our hands on, so we went out to dinner every single night.
Day 1 started out with a 4 person workout, 2 men + 2 women, each gender had to complete 2 sets of 20 handstand pushups and 20 partner deadlifts. Brandon and I did this workout. That’s me in the center of the photo, the tall one. My badass partner is about 5’2 and I’m 5’9, so locking out at the top of the deadlift was really fun.
Communication started breaking down (along with my back) on our second set of deadlifts. We ended up 13th. Not a great start.
My back was totally jacked up after this workout. I spent the next few hours alternating icing it and getting it electropulsed. Okay, I don’t really know what it’s called. Some kind of pad/sensor thing was stuck on my back and I felt like I was being speed acupunctured by a handful of ninjas.
The second workout was another 4 person one, with 2 men + 2 women. There were 3 stations: row 1000 meters, then 25 alternating pistols (one legged squat), then 15 hang cleans (225 lbs for men, 135 lbs for women). Working one at a time, each teammate to complete all the above listed work. The first teammate would row 1000 meters, get off and advance to the pistols, while the second teammate would start the row. The second teammate couldn’t start their pistols until the first person had finished their pistols and so on and so forth until you finished the hang cleans.
Brandon and I both did this workout too. We ended up placing 4th (by like 10 seconds, grrr), which jacked us up to 7th overall at the end of day one. This was probably my favorite workout of the whole competition.
Brandon and I felt pretty good after Day 1. No real soreness, no complaints. We ended up eating at a restaurant in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida called Grease. We knife and forked some insanely greasy (I say this affectionately) blackened blue cheese & bacon burgers. We also got involved with some sweet potato fries/tater tots with sriracha mayo and Brandon polished off one of our teammates sweet potato sundae.
Day 2 started off with a 2 person event, 1 man + 1 woman. Each person had to do 3 rounds of 10 alternating one-arm dumbbell snatches. Men had 100 lbs and women had 70 lbs. You had to some silly 100 meter sprint in between each round too. This workout KILLED a good majority of the girls, team and individual. Many, many, many of them didn’t finish the workout or didn’t do the minimum amount of reps (I think it was 10) to continue on the competition.
We placed 3rd on this workout and made it into the CrossFit Games recap video (nice still right?):
I was the only person that whole day that had the burpee penalty. The rule was that you had to do a burpee if you dropped your dumbbell. It was pretty much bullcrap. Not because I was innocent (I was guilty), but because the rule was only enforced on me. Whatever.
This is what I came home to on our gym’s comment board. I love my gym:
The second workout of day 2 was a nasty squat, pullup, shoulder-to-overhead workout for the 2 men + 2 women that didn’t do the first workout. The weird thing about this workout was that the barbell could never touch the ground. The girls had to start. They did their squats, then the men would hold the barbell while the girls went to do pullups, and so on and so forth until the girls were done. Then the boys would start and the girls would hold the boys’ barbell. If the barbell ever touched the ground, the team would incur a 1 minute penalty.
With a 25 minute time cap, not one team finished this workout.
Day 3 started off with the Snatch Ladder. Men started at 155 lbs, women started at 105 lbs and we had 50 seconds each for the 3 men and women teammates to make a good snatch lift before you could move on the next, higher weight. You could try as often as time would allow, but once you didn’t make the lift, you were done-zo.
Brandon did phenomenally well. PR’d (personal record) his snatch by 20 lbs. We all agreed that the sweet potato sundae directly caused his PR.
Brandon sat in 235. He did it twice, but could never stand it up. But heck, let’s not be too greedy, I’d take a 20 lb PR.
I, on the other hand, was not happy after this workout. I power snatched 135 lbs right before we left and was thinking I could maybe, possibly hit 140 or 145 by the time I was all amped up on the competition floor.
Instead, I looked like I’d never picked up a barbell in my life. I mind f!@#d myself, evident in the photos:
Let me count the errors: 1.Lifted with my butt instead of my chest. 2.I didn’t keep the bar close into my body. 3. There was no pull under the bar.
I am still very irritated about this.
But on a happy, cheery note, our gym owner, the one and only, Paul Beckwith, snatched 285 lbs that day, highest of the day. He pulled 295 easy, sat in it and just couldn’t stand it up.
We tied for 1st place in the Snatch Ladder.
The last workout of the event, well…you can just see for yourself:
Okay, that was just for shock and awe. I’m fine. But obviously, I’m not that great at muscle ups.
The boys did great, but unfortunately, like all but the Snatch Ladder workout, how well you did really depended on the girls.
The boys started out this workout, they completed all their work, and then the girls would complete all of theirs. The boys came hauling in around 2nd/3rd, when we started.
We ended up DNF’ing the workout because we (the girls) couldn’t get through the first 20 muscle ups. It was sad, but honestly, we all knew it was coming. I felt bad, not because we didn’t finish, but because the boys weren’t ever really able to showcase how amazing they are. Brandon placed 31st and Robby, the guy in the gray shirt pictured above, placed 19th in the Open Southeast, one of the largest and hardest regions.
After flip-flopping between 4th and 7th all weekend, we ended up 7th overall. Which honestly, I’m content with that. With 13th, 4th, 3rd, 16th, 1st, and 11th place finishes, we just weren’t consistent enough. Too many weaknesses. We didn’t deserve to make it the Games in California. I don’t train for this. I do the scheduled gym WOD 3-4 times a week, and will occasionally lift on my own, that’s it. Brandon is definitely more dedicated and motivated than I am.
It’s hard for me to stay motivated. I realized this once the CrossFit Games Open started. I rarely go 100% day-to-day, I just don’t care enough (unless it’s a benchmark). I think I’m a lazy athlete. But when I had to enter my score for the Open, a score for the world see (not like anyone is actually looking), I was finally motivated to go balls to the wall. I was excited and I wanted to kick some ass. But by that point, I was only going to do what I trained up to that point to do, which wasn’t much.
So I’m happy we drove that 20 hours because it has definitely fueled my fire. I’ve got an itch for next year and training started yesterday.
Sometimes I get a sense that people believe that dissatisfaction is a cultivated evil; sown only from the seeds of unjust social expectations. And while I do believe it’s true that we don’t owe anybody anything, and all we have to live up to is what we decide; I don’t believe that having dissatisfactions or insecurities about things you wish to improve is altogether an unhealthy thing as it seems is popularly believed.
Everyone has things that they want to improve. Justifying, excusing or trying to lend false confidence to yourself isn’t going to help anything. “Don’t worry about it” is something that people say, but seldom do. We can either attempt to convince ourselves we’re wrong about feeling the need to make personal changes or we can use those feelings constructively. We’ll not be RSVP’ing to the Pity Party and let us tell you why…
As “Mad Men” fans, we naturally tuned in to the season premier this past Sunday night. There was a quote that resonated with us…
Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.
We cannot look at the pressure we put on ourselves (from whatever the original source) as necessarily cruel or portray it as unjust. If we weren’t achievers by nature we wouldn’t be bucking conventional wisdom and seeking our own ideal at the expense of convenience in the first place. Paleo is absolutely a way to reach health and body composition goals. All that’s left is to decide is what/whose standards you want to live up to and what its worth to you to get there. Nobody HAS time, they make time. It can not only be done effectively, but also efficiently. Making excuses or dodging the pressure you’re putting on yourself will only keep you where you are. Even if you’re in a great place – complacency is dangerous.
I’m in no way advocating cruelty as motivation, but maybe some of the societal pressure we take in, rationalize, and apply to ourselves is something that we honestly believe would be an appropriate change for us. Evaluating the way we look, act, and are received is simply part of being on Earth. The point I’m trying to make is that I believe it can be perfectly normal to take what society thinks is “good” + what you think is “good”; mesh it together to figure out what you want and is necessary, and go for it. It is truly a blessing and a curse. You’re constantly proud of the progress you’ve made and where you’re at, but slightly dissatisfied all the while thinking there’s more. Once you reach a goal you want to set a new one, etc…you know what I’m talking about. Let’s call it “healthfully dissatisfied”. Temporary satisfaction can usually be found when you know you have done all you can do and will continue to do so. And we believe dissatisfaction and insecurity lies where you know you haven’t.
Dissatisfaction fuels the fire and excuses put it out. Nobody is perfect and unless you’re not interested in progress, I believe pressure is just a part of the equation. If dissatisfaction is coal and ambition is fire, what would you get if you added pressure and some time to work on it? Hint.
The best part…you only pay $7.50 for overnight shipping. It’s unreal. Every order we’ve ever received has been bundled in freezer packs, surrounded by a giant styrofoam cooler and our food has always been delivered to our doorstep completely frozen.
You can read more about who they are and about their farming practices here.
*If you already do CrossFit I’d love it if you left a comment here on your experience/what you love about it for those who may read this and like as many opinions as they can get…thanks.
Clearly, exercise and nutrition go hand in hand for many health minded individuals. We always say that nutrition is the most important factor for lifelong health and longevity (avoiding disease!) but what about physical adaptations that can make you more capable today and physically strong for the long haul? How about agility/flexibility/balance/et cetera to benefit you in your fight against aging and decrepitude (physical incapability).
This is where exercise…things like CrossFit come in. Not for “melting body fat” or burning off calories – those are myths for other articles – but for building strength, confidence, and fortitude. I am realizing that there are probably a large number of our readers who are “CrossFitters” but likely a large portion that aren’t…I want to take the time today to describe what CrossFit is…why Megan and I believe in it and think you should try it…and what we believe makes it work so you can implement these techniques on your own if getting to a CrossFit gym simply isn’t in the cards.
I don’t intend this to be too scientific or CrossFit jargon laden (although it is in there)…simply our take on CrossFit…why we do it…and why you should consider doing it too…or something like it.
My personal journeys with exercise and nutrition have both been meandering paths. My nutritional interest began in college when I was starting to cook for myself. Growing up I seemingly was able to get away with eating anything and I certainly never thought twice about what I would put in my mouth. I remember our meals being mostly meat based…good ‘ol southern meat and 3 type plates mixed in with all your other typical American fare. I cringe now when I think about the cereals I thought were synonymous with “breakfast”. None of that changed until my early twenties when I just decided I wanted to look great (read: get more ripped) and maximize my odds for a clean bill of health for as long as possible. I did the Men’s Health conventional wisdom, low fat and lots of whole grains plan for a few years.
From there I first read Cordain’s The Paleo Diet sometime around 2006 and did a lean protein paleo (what I call politically correct paleo) type plan for quite some time but I still didn’t “get it” the way I do now. Megan and I then read books by Pollan and discovered the Weston A Price Foundation and sites like Slow Food and added sprouted grains back to our diets along with some dairy. But it wasn’t until we found sites like Mark’s Daily Apple, Archevore, and Chris Kresser…read books and articles by Taubes…and watched documentaries like Fat Head that we really began to get a much better “big picture” on food and maybe more importantly began to “unlearn” conventional wisdom. All these opened our eyes to “beyond Paleo” scientific explanations that help explain and support a “Paleo template” and allow more adept application of such to a modern lifestyle in lieu of aiming for a Paleolithic reenactment. All grains went back out as we came to see even the properly prepared as merely “tolerable” not “optimal” and we added high quality dairy back on occasion. That’s the abridged version of how we ended up eating a low-moderate carbohydrate, low sugar (especially fructose), high fat (except omega 6), no grains, moderate protein diet that flies right in the face of nearly all conventional wisdom.
Megan and I have been together virtually this entire time. We have grown in this together and shaped each others grasp and application of the subject. When we met I was more nutrition than foodie and she was much more foodie than nutrition. She even worked under highly trained chefs as a pastry chef for a while after we met and was dead set on going to the Culinary Institute of America after getting her undergrad. She was accepted but I selfishly talked her out of it. I became way more interested in cuisine and she in nutrition and Health-Bent was eventually born from our new mutual growth together as the outlet for the things we really do take the most pride and enjoyment from.
What the hell does that have to do with CrossFit? I’m getting there I promise.
Megan and I both grew up playing sports…at the time exercise and “practice” were the same thing. I played baseball and hockey and Megan swam and played volleyball. Physical activity wasn’t designed for the sake of activity but for getting better at your sport…I don’t remember ever thinking it was “work”. Funny how that happens isn’t it? I was introduced to weightlifting around 10th grade and began to actively “train” for sports by doing things other than those sports. Some team mates and I went to a personal trainer, there were after school “conditioning” programs leading up to each sports season. You know the drill. Lifting weights and “cardio” (running and “sucking wind”) were always separate. I carried this philosophy right on through college. I was no longer playing organized sports so I decided I would get very serious about weight lifting and I did. I favored pumping iron over cardiovascular-respiratory endurance and I gained 20+ lbs of muscle my freshman year of college. Megan spent her college days going to the gym, lifting some weights and punching the clock on the cardio deck…typical protocol for most people. As a side note we wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for the gym at our University…in a roundabout way it’s sorta how we met.
After a few years at this I was realizing that when I would actually run my shins and legs would hurt and I felt that the increase in strength was causing an inequality in endurance. I graduated from college and almost took a 180…I started running more than lifting and became interested in mountain biking. My natural inclination for competition led me to 5ks and 10ks…then mountain bike racing, off road adventure races and triathlons that included a lot of canoeing and kayaking as well. I got faster but I shrunk. I’m about 6’-2” and in the course of two years I went from about 210 lbs to 185 lbs at the same leanness…which means I lost all that muscle I spent years trying to get. My endurance days peaked right around the time Megan and I got married in 2008…a typical race I participate in and trained for was 3-6 hours. I was riding 50 mile training rides on my bike and running at least 6 a few times a week. I still lifted weights but it was infrequent and when I did I was noticeably weaker. Weights I’d used years prior for many reps had me spent at just a few. I didn’t really like it. Now I’m not saying that either way is necessarily bad if that’s what you love to do but it’s certainly specializing on one side to the detriment of the other. Fitness can be a roof peak in which you can slide down either side…but what if it doesn’t have to be that way?
Discouraged about my loss of strength I discovered CrossFit and decided to give it a try. I wanted to gain my strength back and wondered if I could even improve my endurance too. It looked like good “circuit training” to me. Demanding and challenging…I had no idea.
So Megan and I went in to our local affiliate in June of 2009 (she wasn’t as enthused as I was). We were taught the “CrossFit warm up” which consists essentially of 2 rounds at your own pace of: 10 pull ups, 10 push ups, 10 dips, 10 sit ups, 10 back extensions, and 10 overhead squats with a pvc pipe. Mind you…I was still believing that I was a very capable person…knowing I wasn’t as strong as I once was but built up on the idea of “how far I could go”. The current fitness paradigm most subscribe to almost implies that fitness is defined as endurance and I was under that assumption at the time. This “warm-up” whipped our butts. I was able to do all the movements with full range of motion without modification but barely. Megan was shown how to modify them to her ability level and still use proper form and range of motion. It’s worth mentioning that she (along with a large percentage of first time CrossFitters) couldn’t do 1 pull up.
We were then instructed that we were going to try a CrossFit “benchmark” workout…that would show us what it was all about. I was already spent but determined. The workout is called “Helen”. These workouts are named after some of the original crew of the gym that has since trademarked “CrossFit” and it’s said girls names are so fitting because they are like named storms. These workouts are benchmarks because they are used to show progress when you repeat them (although any workout could if done exactly the same). We were shown the required range of motion, depth and extension for the movements of Helen and how to do them safely…3 rounds for time (as fast as possible!) of: 400 meter run, 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull ups. With a big red interval timer and a countdown of “3,2,1…go!” we took off down the mangled pavement outside the gym toward the 200 m turnaround. I believe this was really the first time in my life that I had demanded my body to “suck wind”, move weight, and do gymnastic body weight strength movements at the same time and it showed. Megan modified the workout as she did with the warmup and I was able to somehow get through it Rx…which in CrossFit lingo means as prescribed. For Helen that means a 53 lb kettlebell for men (36 lb for women) and pull ups without assistance. It took us both 15 minutes and some change.
It was uncomfortable. Lifting weights while talking to buddies OR riding and running at a pace you can maintain was much more cozy. But when we looked around and saw CrossFit members completing the “warm up” and making it actually look like a warm up…we knew there must be something to it. Megan always recalls how inspired she was watching the female coach (shoutout to you Bobbi) show her how to do pull ups by effortlessly jumping up to the bar and doing a few. If you have any sense of “if they can do it then I can do it too” in your body…then this experience is all it will take to sell you. There was still apprehension for what was to come but we dove right in. If that wouldn’t be enough for you…I’m going to go on.
I went through our journey in nutrition above. We were familiar with and practicing a Paleo diet (though still tweaking…and still are!) when we started CrossFit. At the time I felt as if we were the only people in our entire state who had even ever heard of such a crazy thing as eating like hunter/gatherers (I admit we aren’t in the most progressive state). Imagine our surprise when we found out that CrossFit was teaching and promoting a paleo diet and many folks at the affiliate were getting into it. I bring this up because I know you’re here because of the food side. But CrossFit promotes a paleo diet because it is for the most part (and used to be even more so) driven by grassroots evidence based performance. CrossFitters and the CrossFit mentality was to embrace whatever made the most sense and got the best results…no matter how unorthodox or unconventional. So the CrossFit community is putting the same kind of scrutiny on nutrition as you are and has been looking at exercise under the same kind of microscope.
CrossFit is really nothing more than a combination of other things. Each item is not unique…it’s the combination of them that is unique, it’s the shifting of expectation that’s unique. So CrossFit is about looking at human movement, exercise, and exertion the same way Paleo/Primal/WAPF dieters look at food. For food we say: What is food? What should we eat? What should we avoid? Why? Are there individual nuances? With fitness its: What is fitness in the first place? What should you do? What should you avoid? Why does it work? What are the benefits? Individual nuances?
What is fitness in the first place?
This part is a little bit of a synopsis of what you’d get if you went to a CrossFit certification. I told you about how I had been on both sides of the apex of the roof of the “fitness house”. On one hand I was strong but it hurt to run and on the other I could run but lost a lot of muscle and strength. In fitness we can call each end of the spectrum being a “specialist”. Phenoms at cycling like Lance and of bodybuilding like Arnold would be specialists. Society rewards them for being the best at what they do and they have certainly had to sacrifice one side for the other for that success. That’s all fine and good…if you stand to make a lot of money for specializing it would make the decision look a lot different, but what if you simply wanted to be the best you could at everything you can think of and even things you haven’t thought of or anticipated yet? If you specialized you’d know that you would be limiting your success one one side or the other.
But if you decided that fitness was defined as your competence in 10 general physical skills (something CrossFit borrowed from Dynamax):
You would see that being fit means being more “well rounded”. I certainly experienced a shift in my competency based on my training. Since I didn’t forsee a paycheck from either side how could I maximize all of them? Well, that’s by specializing at not specializing. One could argue between being average or above average at lots of things vs. being great at 1 or 2 things…but think about it this way. If you’re eating a paleo/primal diet for health and longevity…then you should be exercising for that as well. So if you’re really strong and powerful but don’t have endurance, flexibility, accuracy, or balance for example…how’s that going to help you play with your grand kids? And if your have lot’s of endurance and flexibility but little strength…how long will you be able to continue to do what you like to do as you get weaker as you age? CrossFit strives to build “functional fitness”…the kind of stuff that translates to your life…anything and everything that could ever be.
So what do you do to become functionally fit?
I told you CrossFit was a mashup of things that aren’t unique on their own. Those things are:
gymnastic and bodyweight movements – pull ups, push ups, hand stands and handstand push ups, air squats, sit ups, back extensions, ring movements like ring dips and muscle ups, climbing rope
traditional conditioning methods – running/sprinting, rowing, sometimes stationary biking
weight lifting – Olympic weight lifting (clean and jerk, snatch) with all variations, power lifting (deadlift, bench press, overhead presses, squatting), kettlebell movements, dumbbells, and other unique combinations of lifts like front squat + push press = thruster
plyometrics – box jumps, burpees, jump rope (singles and doubles)
medicine ball training – med ball cleans, wall ball shots, slam balls
The equipment is actually very minimal compared to what you’re used to seeing if you are a member of a big box fitness type gym. You’ll see pull up bars, wooden boxes, medicine balls, barbells and bumper plates, some rowers, a place to run, medicine balls. CrossFit gyms are commonly called “boxes” because the you just need space for your body and the basic tools to elicit the response. Combining these things into all different patterns and variations and performing them at high intensities is what makes you change in a small amount of time per session. Sure you can mix these things together anyway you like and call it whatever you want…CrossFit is simply the brand that has already done it and makes it convenient for you…and in many ways standardized which is helpful. You’ll come to find out that those fancy machines with cables or levers and cushy seats are just taking up space and slowing you down. See, those machines and equipment reduce and isolate your movements in ways that aren’t conducive to the way you’ll be moving in life. You want to move yourself in different planes and have great body control and balance AND be able to move weight (FREE WEIGHT) efficiently and properly. Unless that bag of potting soil or wheel barrow in your yard has a pulley system attached to it how are those machines helping you? We want your bones to bear weight demanding your core to give you stabilization and strength. This minimal equipment makes our core strong…and you’ve heard this before…your core is where real power comes from.
Exercise performed free of seats and tethers promotes “midline stabilization” which makes you strong all over. You’ll learn to translate that newly found core strength into “core to extremity” translation through these movements. I know it sounds daunting…and this is why I recommend finding a CrossFit affiliate over starting on your own. At least to get the fundamentals down. Most affiliates have great coaches who would scale you (pick the right weights and modifications for you) while teaching the proper form so that your body is safe since they’re teaching you to move it along natural patterns that your body likes and avoiding compromising positions.
Most CrossFit workouts are between 2 and 30 minutes long. And believe me, this is plenty if you are doing it right. Some days are simply strength and technique and the rest are all out “metabolic conditioning (metcon)” workouts…mash ups of all those exercises above. Sometimes two of them, sometimes three and occasionally more. Sometimes heavy weights, sometimes light…higher reps and lower reps…you get the idea. Metcons are usually set to a clock (like Helen) or done in a fixed amount of time for as many reps as you can do in that time. This is going to shock your system so to speak and eventually you’ll be able to do more work in less time. That means higher power output. (Force x Distance) / Time = Power. Now, if you can get well rounded in many movements so that you “increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains” you’ll really be in business. What that really means is that you are becoming competent in those movements and those skills and you can do them with good output in short time windows and long ones. It’s no wonder many military, law enforcement, and life safety personnel are using these methods. Their life literally depends on their abilities in many, many circumstances. Now, the probability of them being in these situations is surely higher…but don’t all of us face these hardships in some form at some time? How can becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable ever be a bad thing?
What should you avoid?
Being static. Being sedentary. I love fitness and nutrition because in many ways they are the things you cannot buy. Health cannot be bought. Sure you could have a chef and a trainer…but you cannot buy the results, you have to earn them. I don’t know how to explain to you how the machines in the gym are holding you back without you trying something like CrossFit. But they are. Isolating and artificially supporting your movements are dampering your results. Putting a divide between “cardio time” and “strength/lifting” time is holding you back from your potential. CrossFit OR some form of “functional movements performed at high intensity” is the only way I have found to see the best of both worlds. I rarely bench press anymore and yet I can bench close to the most I ever did back when all I did was lift. I squat and deadlift much more than I ever did, my 5k is as fast as when I was an endurance racer. I have put back on that muscle and currently sit at 210 lbs again but I can do so much more with it. I can do a 150 lb weighted pull up and run a 6 minute mile. Overhead squat 285 lbs and then do 100 jump rope double unders in a row. In many ways I surpassed my capabilities from each respective “specialist” avenue I went down but now I have the things from the other side as well.
I told you Megan couldn’t do 1 pullup on day 1. Now she can do a ton. Dead hang, kip and butterfly. And she could do more than 100 in several minutes. She can do muscle ups and handstand pushups. She can squat and put more weight over her head than she weighs, and has recently run several half marathons. Before CrossFit, 5 miles was the farthest she had ever run.
I told you about our first workout “Helen”. Megan now does this with no modifications in around 10 minutes and I am right around 8. How is that for being able to do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time?
*And before you go and start thinking this is only for men or girls who want to get big…think again. Ladies, if you’re afraid of looking more fit…well I can’t help you…but getting big typically requires special and often illegal supplementation in women. Everyone has a general homeostatic point of muscle they reach…it doesn’t just keep going forever. Women can gain muscle doing this (and that might cause weight gain) but in almost ALL cases this actually translates to a much better body composition/look. Unless runway skinny is your thing.
Why does it work?
Put simply…if you want to get better at something…doing it often usually helps. If you don’t use your body you’ll lose it. One less than obvious reason CrossFit works is because people will stick to it. It’s that simple. If your fitness plan is only interesting enough to keep you at it for a week or a month it doesn’t really matter how good it is now does it? If you join an affiliate you’ll be doing your workouts with a group. You’ll get to know people. You will all be required to do the same things (with different modifications mind you) and you will look over your shoulder and compete. CrossFit will set the stage for you to compete with yourself and give you so many more metrics to do it with than just a 5k time or something. You’ll be in an environment where you see what people have become capable of and it will change your definition of “normal” for the better. “What seemed beyond me becomes me” will start to make sense to you. You’ll be inspired and maybe a little embarrassed all at the same time. Don’t let it get you down…PLEASE. Understand that this really is a sport in and of itself. If you take a liking to it working out will be like “practice” was for me when I was a kid. Yeah you’re working out but it’s about more than just getting work done. But if this is really a sport (the sport of fitness) that takes away the idea of just “getting a burn” for the hell of it you still have to realize that you can’t be great at any new sport on day one. You’re going to have to pay your dues but there will be others there paying them with you.
If you join a gym you’ll never have to wonder what your workout is going to be and plan it for yourself…because your gym will be doing it for you…and for the most part…these gym owners and coaches know what they are doing. It will be like having personal training and direction all the time. It will hold you accountable and push you.
It works because you’ll stay with it…but beyond that it works because of the intensity. The time frame of 2-30 minutes seems short. But going hard for that amount of time makes you better in the medium time energy pathway you’re in (glycolytic) while pushing you out on the short/strength pathway (phosphagen) and the long/endurance pathway (oxidative) all while minimizing time requirements by you. This is how you get the best of both worlds if you do as above and stick with it. Strength, power, and speed WITH endurance, stamina, agility…sprinkle in some coordination, balance, accuracy, and flexibilty. Ta da.
What are the benefits?
I think I inadvertently covered most of these already. I think it’s good for you in case you haven’t noticed.
Naturally, it can help you shed unwanted body fat too, especially if coupled with a Health-Bent diet. And it can do it by improving your insulin sensitivity…and how your body uses/stores nutrients (or doesn’t).
It makes you feel good (even when you’re sore). Of course any exercise is supposed to improve mood and give you that natural high and improve energy…all the more with CrossFit.
And you’ll really feel like you are accomplishing things. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the mental strength CrossFit instills. Many people talk about this but I think it’s still somewhat overlooked. There is undoubtedly a confidence that comes with pushing through what you thought were your boundaries. Starting CrossFit with a lot of hesitation and self doubt is normal…but sticking with it literally forges stick-to-iveness that translates to much of your outside life. For more on the mental aspects of CrossFit and the gusto that physical preparedness can provide I’d point you to some of my favorite articles on the subject by Blair Morrison. The series is called “Fitness Is”...check out Potential in particular.
Individual nuances and caveats?
People with existing injuries and no exercise experience can do CrossFit. In fact, it might benefit those folks even more than people in decent shape. I’ve talked about how it’s infinitely scalable. Don’t let your age or background be an excuse…nobody is good at it when they start and it’s never too late to start improving yourself…you will scale down and take baby steps if you have to. Find a good gym and you’ll be shown how to do any movement at your current level and how to progress from there. Injuries present similar problems but a well trained staff can work around those no sweat. Many times injuries you thought would get worse with exercise and full range of motion movements actually improve a lot with the strengthening and stabilizing that CrossFit promotes. If your coach doesn’t promote form first and THEN intensity…do it anyway, though they probably will. Learn how to do it well with light weight before you ever try to do it fast with more weight. The minimal equipment idea makes it great for doing at home with a relatively small investment BUT we hear time and time again from people who tried to learn it on their own that they really were not “getting it right” until they got coaching. It can be done individually but you’ll miss out on the inspiring and motivating atmosphere and the coaching and probably on meeting some good people. But if there’s not one anywhere near by…try CrossFit.com exercises and demos. Take a look at some of the free articles…see the daily blog for programming and BE SAFE.
Mark Sisson’s Primal Fitness moto will suit you well if you’re trying to design workouts for yourself at home. Move around constantly at a slow pace, lift heavy things on occasion, sprint, and avoid injury. You’ll want to include some days that are just slowly practicing the movements mentioned above, some days where you lift heavy and nothing else, sprint from time to time, and some days that combine the movements into an intense workout you try to complete as quickly as you can. A race to finish your variable amount of work basically.
Whether you’re at an affiliate gym or at home…listen to your body. Overdoing it and overtraining is not good…it’s easy to think more is more in terms of improving – it’s not. You’re going to be sore. You need to recover adequately and recovery is what makes you better. If you’re feeling badly don’t work out that day. 3 days on 1 day off is standard but there is no right way. To start 2 days in a row is plenty unless your gym has beginner workouts to ramp you up (on ramp program). You’ll figure out what works for you and how you feel when you need to rest and recover with time…but just make sure you don’t get overzealous and hurt yourself or put unhealthy stress on your system. This is supposed to be for better health not worse!
I’m not going to lie to you – IT HURTS. But to Megan and I it’s just one of those things in life that is worth having either BECAUSE OF or INSPITE OF it not coming easy. Eating well can be a huge pain in the ass too but it’s worth it. CrossFit can change everything you thought you knew about exercise and physical preparedness just like Paleo changed what you thought you knew about food. If you are like us you’ll wish you had only known about it sooner and you’ll wonder why you ever did anything else. We’ve been at it for almost 3 years now and while our program always evolves we’ll never go back to our old ways. Here is the link to see if there are CrossFit affiliates in your area. And here’s a local article that recently featured Megan and I about our gym.
A program like this can literally double or triple what you’re able to do (sometimes more depending on where you start). It can affect you mentally in profound ways. What are you waiting for? Let fit happen to you.
Again, please share your thoughts in the comments for all those considering giving it a shot.
Here is my latest attempt at “Grace” (a CrossFit benchmark workout)
For Rx Grace a 135 lb (95 lb for girls) barbell must travel from the ground to locked out overhead, 30 times. You do this workout as quickly as possible. My latest time was 2:04. Next time sub 2 minutes. Megan’s latest Grace was 2:34 Rx
Don’t you like my shirt? I know where you can get one.