Blog

Be consistent! Focus on the Process! The process will get you there! 

A LOT OF PEOPLE come to me and ask about the newest hottest nutritional online coaches page.  These pages say they have developed a new science and they are doing it “different”.   (There is no new science) No matter,  it’s about external stimuli and intake!
I always ask, what’s their micronutrient approach? What’s their caloric prescription?  Why is someone successful and some not?
I can tell you.  No matter what you do, and consistent approach to nutritional intake and exercise stimuli will get you where you need.   Simply educate yourself, chart your macros and DON’T QUIT!
Constant short sided goals maybe stunting your ability to hit your goals.   Focus on losing 5 lbs a month not 20.    Focus on running 1 mile.  Focus on that 200 lb back squat.   Hire a great coach to get you there.   You can do it!
Be consistent! Focus on the Process! The process will get you there!

You get what you pay for. Be All In with your health!

Train. Get fitter. And do it five or six days a week.

That’s what CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman wrote in “What Is Fitness?” It’s a commitment, to be sure, but weekend-warring will get you only so far.

ALT TEXT

“Two days a week isn’t a way to accomplish much of anything—in anything, not just CrossFit,” said Andrew King, owner of CrossFit Bel Air in Forest Hill, Maryland. “If you eat healthy two days a week, if you see your wife two days a week—the list would be endless.”

For that reason, CrossFit Bel Air, an affiliate since 2011, does not offer membership levels below three classes per week.

“We’re trying to develop well-rounded people, and two days (of training per week) makes that tough,” King said.

Holes and Pitfalls

CrossFit Lewisburg has only offered unlimited memberships since it opened in 2010 despite regular requests from potential clients for alternatives, said affiliate owner David Rowe.

“We have found that athletes with that sporadic of an attendance have the highest risk of washing out of the program entirely,” he said. “If you’re coming once or twice a week, you’re not gonna see the results to keep you motivated, and you’re not gonna connect with the community in a way that gives you that incentive to return every day.”

As Glassman’s “World-Class Fitness in 100 Words” indicates, “routine is the enemy” and variation is a key component of the success of the CrossFit program. You might start the week on Monday with heavy back squats, work gymnastics and pull-up progressions on Wednesday, and end the week with a gnarly grinder of wall-ball shots, box jumps and sprints. But if you’re only coming to the gym twice a week, the odds are low you’ll hit all aspects of training necessary for quality general physical preparedness (GPP), Rowe said.

“If they only show up to a Monday class one week and a Thursday class the next week, they might hit the long day of monostructural (training) and they might hit the medium day of weightlifting and gymnastics, but they’re missing those sprint pieces, they’re missing those skill focus days, they’re missing their heavy day—so they’re missing the overall picture,” he said. “And if they’re missing out on 80 percent of the programming every month, (they) simply won’t see the progress that CrossFit sets you up for.”

Though the magic is in the movements and their variation, it’s repetition that breeds progress: mechanics, consistency, intensity. The concept isn’t unique to CrossFit. Whether you want to learn Portuguese, to play the piano or to snatch, you have to practice. And how much you practice directly correlates with how good you get.

ALT TEXTMany CrossFit movements require regular practice, and some trainers say infrequent exposure can send an athlete back to square one. (Matt Ingber)

“If you’re only coming twice a week, you’re not getting enough exposure to the different lessons that we have and learning the mechanics of the movement,” said Jessica Grondahl, owner of CrossFit Fargo in North Dakota. “Two hours per week isn’t enough … because you’re always kind of relearning it each time.”

King agreed. CrossFit Bel Air used to offer a two-class-per-week option, but King dropped the program after two years, weary of watching clients struggle to make any real progress.

“It was just an endless cycle of teaching them the same thing over and over again,” he said. “So if Person A came two days a week for six months, they might see squats three times, they might see double-unders twice, they might see box jumps three to four times, and every single time it’s like you have to revisit (the technique); it’s like a fundamentals class every time they come in.”

It’s a problem that’s exacerbated by the deconditioned level of most of the general population.

“Ninety percent of the people that walk in … haven’t worked on mobility for 25 years,” King continued. “It’s eye opening how many limitations they have with the hamstrings and shoulders and back … so then to teach them something and expect them to do it is like a never-ending project, and two days (per week) is just not enough time to get it done.”

Even if an athlete isn’t terribly deconditioned, King said two days per week isn’t enough time to take someone from fine to fit.

“If a guy comes in and they’re already really fast or really strong but their form is not good, as coaches, we can see that they have the potential to be even faster, even stronger and do it safely, (but) we can’t relay all that information to somebody in two days a week,” he said.

Additionally, athletes who train infrequently are at risk of falling into what Grondahl calls the “soreness trap.”

“Very often they’ll come on a Monday, and they’ll come the next day, and then they don’t come for another five days just because they’re so sore,” she said. “And then they start over, and then they get sore again, and they kind of fall into that cycle. Coming three times a week, your body adapts a lot better.”

ALT TEXTRegular attendance can help athletes mentally adapt to the challenges they’ll face each class. (Tim Desmarais)

Mind-Field

The perils of sporadic training are more than physical.

CrossFit is about learning to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, a feat that requires regular triumph of ego over id. Facing that discomfort just a couple of times a week usually isn’t enough to make the rewards of effort more appealing than the snooze button.

“If (training) is not a routine and a habit and they miss one day, then they kind of fall off the wagon and they fall off the radar,” said Melissa Lopes, owner of CrossFit MVA in Alexandria, Virginia. “The athlete will develop slower. It’s going to take much more time for them to see potential gains. They won’t see the effectiveness as quickly and may lose interest in the program.”

Though CrossFit MVA offers a twice-weekly membership, Lopes estimates only 10 percent of her members have selected it, with the majority of that percentage coming from new members in the twice-weekly fundamentals program. Most of the rest are lost causes, clients who disappeared after fitness failed to become a habit, she said.

King had another reason for ditching the twice-a-week enrollment option:

“It bred a community of cherry-pickers,” he said. “If you can only come two days, you’re gonna try to find things you’re good at that you like to do.”

King acknowledged the struggles of being both a coach and a small-business owner faced with clients who want to come in when they want and do what they want. But what’s good for fitness might not always be good for business, and King would rather see a client walk away than give in to demands that thwart fitness.

“Every dollar, every person impacts your bank account,” he said. “But if you have morals and a standard of practice … and people don’t want to live up to that or give it a try, it’s like, we’d rather lose the money than have you train improperly. I think in the long run it establishes a good reputation.”

ALT TEXTCrossFit High Intensity first offered only unlimited memberships, but Juan Salvatecci has since added limited options in response to requests. (Juan Salvatecci)

Mixing Business and Fitness

Despite what may seem like obvious shortcomings of infrequent training, many affiliates offer levels below three times per week. For Jonathan Farwell, owner of CrossFit Ironborn in Concord, New Hampshire, the decision to ditch the affiliate’s three-class level and replace it with two classes was a response to a trend he said could potentially hurt his business.

“A lot of times the people with three-times-a-week (memberships) were only making it in twice a week,” he said. “If they’re paying for it and not coming, then they’re gonna feel that loss of value.”

Rather than risk losing clients who felt they were wasting their money, he decided to give the people what they were asking for with their actions: a two-class-per-week membership.

Juan Salvatecci made a similar business decision. Though he offered only unlimited classes when he opened CrossFit High Intensity in Ocoee, Florida, nearly six years ago, over time requests for limited membership options began to flood in from prospective clients.

Today, he offers membership levels of unlimited, four, three and two classes per week. Though he encourages clients to choose the unlimited level, “From a business perspective, it’s better to have those two-time-per-week (clients) than not have those numbers come in at all,” he said.

Neither has CrossFit Fargo been immune to the demand for limited options. While Grondahl stresses the importance of frequent training—she recommends athletes train four to five days a week with a minimum of three to maintain progress and results—she offers a two-classes-per-week membership. Though she had offered only an unlimited membership since CrossFit Fargo opened in 2013, she added the two-class level in 2015 to keep up with demand after new affiliates with more options opened nearby.

“It’s more of a marketing thing versus what we feel is actually beneficial for our clients, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of what people actually get,” she said, estimating that two out of 200 CrossFit Fargo members are actually enrolled in that option.

“We really battled with adding that two- and three-times-a-week membership because we didn’t want to put a limit on fitness,” she said. “And then we just saw a need to kind of go along with people’s perceptions and make more of a business decision and a marketing decision.”

ALT TEXTAt CrossFit Fargo, owner Jessica Grondahl uses limited memberships to attract hesitant clients who then upgrade to unlimited when they realize more regular training will result in greater fitness. (Kylie Herland)

She stressed that the offering is mostly about getting intimidated people in the door. Once they’re in, they often upgrade their memberships.

“They don’t really know what to expect and think it’s gonna be so intense that they can only come a couple times a week,” Grondahl said. “And then when they find out what it’s really like, people get addicted right off the bat. And our trainers do a good job of explaining that if you’re only coming once or twice a week, you aren’t going to learn the mechanics of the movement (and) you’re not gonna increase your fitness.”

Target Markets

Though Lopes agreed that training twice per week isn’t an ideal way for most people to get fit, she said some populations could benefit from it.

“For someone who’s never worked out before or has had a long break, starting out with two times a week … works out well, at least as a transition period for four to six weeks, just to kind of ramp up,” she said.

Sherry Hopkins, owner of Iron Warrior CrossFit in Troy, Michigan, agreed.

“It’s teaching them functional movement patterns that they may have never been taught before, as well as adding weight and building self-confidence,” she said. “It could take a while for them to really build that real repetitive pattern, but it still educates them, right?”

Hopkins opened Iron Warrior CrossFit in 2012, originally offering two- and three-times-per week memberships in addition to an unlimited option. She has since eliminated the first two levels and now offers only an unlimited membership, but she says the decision was based on simplifying the billing process, not the effectiveness of the programs, which she said served her older population particularly well.

“Literally, it’s changed them,” she said. “Because commonly, they’ll sit, or they’re not so active. So for people who are slowing down in their lives … just adding that one or two days (of CrossFit) has been really good. Whether it’s one, two, three days a week or unlimited, it offers people strength, mentally and physically.”

ALT TEXTOne size fits all: Iron Warrior CrossFit only offers unlimited options to keep billing streamlined. (Matt Ingber)

Madelyn Carpenter joined Iron Warrior CrossFit seven years ago at 62, training twice a week. Formerly arthritic to the point of near debilitation—she sometimes had to crawl up stairs on her hands and knees—Carpenter, now 70, can deadlift 125 lb. and climb stairs with ease.

“I’ve lost 22 pounds. I’m moving like I did in my 60s. I don’t struggle with joint pain anymore,” she said.

In May 2016, she upped her training to three days a week but maintains that the twice-a-week level is a great option for older clients.

“I think it’s excellent,” Carpenter said, “because it gives you enough time in between to recover, because it takes you longer to recover when you get older.”

A twice-per-week level might also work well for athletes whose primary sport lies elsewhere—many of Lopes’ two-times-a-week clients are triathletes who come to CrossFit MVA to get their strength in—or for frequent travelers who get the rest of their fitness in on the road, dropping in at other affiliates or busting out body-weight workouts in hotel gyms.

But regardless of why athletes choose twice-a-week memberships, these affiliate owners and athletes do agree on one point: Training isn’t enough.

“It can’t be just the physical; you also have to look at your diet,” Carpenter said.

The Workout Is Not Enough

Though Carpenter had been training twice a week for nearly five years, she said she didn’t see much improvement in her fitness and mobility until she eliminated processed sugar from her diet approximately two years ago.

“Everything has improved, but I don’t think it’s (because of) just one element,” she said.

That’s exactly the reason Farwell has no qualms about offering a two-class membership.

“I think training two times a week is perfectly fine,” he said. “To be truthful, that’s about the amount of time I get to train a week … . It’s all about what you’re doing outside of the gym as well.”

Emphasizing the importance of good nutrition and sleep, Farwell said athletes’ progress has more to do with what happens outside the gym than how much time they spend in it. He argued that even training three times per week is no defense against poor lifestyle choices.

“What’s going to make the bigger difference in your life: the three hours you spend in our four walls or however many hours there are in a week?” he asked. “Well, the answer is pretty obvious when you think about it. So as long as those two hours you’re getting inside the gym are quality hours and you’re not wasting your time or our time … and we’re giving you the tools to be successful outside the gym, you can absolutely benefit from (training) twice a week.”

ALT TEXTNo matter how often you train, coaches are clear that you must stay active and eat well outside the gym to reap the greatest rewards. (Tim Desmarais)

Salvatecci urges his twice-a-week athletes to come to class early and stay late to get extra work in. But more importantly, he stresses that they need to be active outside class.

“Coming in two times a week is better than doing nothing, but with that, you also have to understand that you’re not really gonna see the results that you want at two times per week,” he said. “You’re gonna have to do something else on your own time. You’re gonna have to go running, go biking, do something. You can do push-ups, sit-ups and squats at home and do sets of 10 of each and do those for rounds, and when you come in, your workouts are gonna be much better.”

Overall, if you find you aren’t improving, you might ask yourself if your commitment is lacking.

“It’s always interesting when we’ll have two people join at the same time,” Rowe said. “They’ll graduate from fundamentals around the same time, and the one person will be there religiously four to five days a week and the other person will show up maybe once or twice. Fast-forward a few months: The consistent person has their pull-ups and they’ve PR’d all their weights … and the person coming once or twice a week is saying, ‘Why don’t I have my pull-up yet?’”

He continued:

“And I have to have a talk with them that consistency breeds results. And normally if they’re not motivated to come more than once or twice a week, I probably won’t see them again after those first few months.”

About the Author: Brittney Saline is a freelance writer contributing to the CrossFit Journal and the CrossFit Games website. She trains at CrossFit St. Paul. To contact her, visit brittneysaline.com.

How’s your Chromium Bruh?

Chromium

What is chromium and what are some chromium benefits?

Chromium is a metallic element that humans require in very small amounts. It is an essential part of metabolic processes that regulate blood sugar, and helps insulin transport glucose into cells, where it can be used for energy. Chromium also appears to be involved in the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Two forms are commonly available as supplements: glucose-tolerance factor (GTF) chromium and chromium picolinate.

Why is chromium necessary?

Chromium enhances the actions of insulin and is necessary for maintaining normal metabolism and storage of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Inadequate intake of chromium has been linked to the development of glucose intolerance, a condition seen in type 2 diabetes. Chromium can also help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, and may play a role in preventing heart disease.

What are the signs of a chromium deficiency?

An estimated 25-50% of the U.S. population is mildly deficient in chromium, a greater incidence of deficiency than is found in almost any other developed country. The industrialization of the American food supply chain, reflected in very low soil levels of chromium and the loss of chromium from refined foods, especially sugar and flours, probably contributes to this. Dietary chromium has a low absorption rate, which becomes even lower with age, so the elderly are especially at risk. Life threatening clinical deficiency may be rare, but deficiency is common.

Because adequate dietary chromium helps to maintain insulin sensitivity, chromium deficiency can contribute to the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Even mild deficiencies of chromium can produce problems in blood sugar metabolism, and contribute to other symptoms such as anxiety or fatigue. Altered cholesterol metabolism, accelerated atherosclerosis, decreased growth in young people and delayed healing time after injuries or surgery can result from chromium deficiency.

How much, and what kind of chromium, does an adult need?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends:

  • males 19-50, 35 mcg per day
  • men over 50, 30 mcg per day
  • females 19-50, 25 mcg per day
  • females over 50, 20 mcg per day
  • pregnant females over 19, 30 mcg per day
  • lactating females over 18, 45 mcg per day

Dr. Weil recommends 200 mcg a day as part of a multi-vitamin multi-mineral, and recommends 1000 mcg of GTF chromium a day for those with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

How much chromium does a child need?

According to the NIH:

  • infants 0-6 months, .2 mcg per day
  • babies 7-12 months, 5.5 mcg per day
  • children 1-3 years, 11 mcg per day
  • children 4-8 years, 15 mcg per day
  • young males 9-13, 25 mcg per day
  • young females 9-13, 21 mcg per day
  • teen males 14-18, 35 mcg per day
  • teen females 14-18, 25 mcg per day

How do you get enough chromium from foods?

Brewer’s yeast, broccoli, grape juice, meat and whole-grain products are all excellent sources. Some fruits, vegetables, and spices provide chromium. Romaine lettuce, raw onions and ripe tomatoes are all good sources.

Are there any risks associated with too much chromium?

Researchers have not found any toxic effects that result from taking high doses of chromium.

Are there any other special considerations?

Diabetics taking chromium should do so only under physician’s supervision, as should anyone using prescribed medications for blood sugar control.
The following medications can alter stomach acidity and may reduce chromium absorption or increase excretion of chromium:

  • Antacids
  • Corticosteroids
  • H2 blockers
  • Proton-pump inhibitors

The following, when taken with chromium, may be metabolized more slowly or quickly, or may change the absorption rate of chromium:

  • Vitamin C
  • Niacin
  • Beta-blockers (such as atenolol or propanolol)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Insulin
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Prostaglandin inhibitors (such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, piroxicam, and aspirin)

facts about hydrating while exercising

With warmer weather comes talk of hydration—unfortunately, most people don’t have the facts about hydrating while exercising.

ALT TEXTHydration expert Sandra Fowkes Godek, Ph.D. (Courtesy of Sandra Fowkes Godek)

Sandra Fowkes Godek holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and is director of the Heat Illness Evaluation Avoidance and Treatment (HEAT) Institute at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She specializes in thermoregulation, hydration and electrolyte replacement in football players, and she’s worked with top athletes at the NFL level.

Fowkes Godek busts five common hydration myths you’re going to hear from “experts” in the coming months.

Myth 1: Urine Color Is an Accurate Measure of Hydration

The idea that you should strive for clear urine is mistaken, Fowkes Godek said.

“Urine color is a delayed response, (and) when you are exercising, sweating and drinking to replace the fluids … your body is in constant flux, so it’s hard to use it as a really good measure in those cases,” Fowkes Godek said.

She also pointed out things you ingest—such as vitamins—can change the color of urine.

The bottom line is if your urine is almost clear, you are over-hydrated.

“That’s just as dangerous as the other way around,” she said. “Twenty years ago, we used to say, ‘Drink until you pee clear.’ Well, that’s not normal!”

ALT TEXTDon’t worry: Slight thirst does not indicate an instant and dramatic decline in athletic performance. (Dave Re/CrossFit Journal)

Myth 2: Once You Feel Thirsty, You’re Already Dangerously Dehydrated

“That’s not true,” Fowkes Godek said. “Once you feel thirst, you are still normally hydrated.”

Just as many people have lost touch with the feeling of hunger, Fowkes Godek said many people ignore their thirst and, as a result, don’t truly understand what thirst feels like. If you’re someone who always has a bottle of water in hand, Fowkes Godek said the first sensation of thirst is not a danger sign.

The other side of the coin: Stop drinking once you are not thirsty. The body is well equipped to let us know when we need fluids.

“If you are thirsty, drink. If you are not thirsty, don’t drink,” Fowkes Godek said.

Myth 3: You Need Sports Drinks to Replace Electrolytes

Most sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, contain small amounts of sodium and carbohydrates. They are designed to be palatable; they are not designed to replace sodium.

“The problem with sports drinks is people think they are putting enough electrolytes back in, and most cases they are not putting (in) anywhere near the amount of electrolytes they might need,” Fowkes Godek said.

“Sports drinks, for the majority of people, don’t even put back half of the sodium they lose in sweat,” she said.

ALT TEXTIf you aren’t thirsty, put the hose down and walk away. (Dave Re/CrossFit Journal)

If you’re concerned about sodium loss during exercise, Fowkes Godek advises eating a meal or snack with water when you’re done working out. Doing so will replace sodium without risk of over-hydration. Typical sports drinks can’t restore blood-sodium levels because they are not salty enough. The trouble begins when a heavy, salty sweater attempts to replace fluids by drinking sports beverages, which causes blood sodium to become increasingly diluted. To replace 30 g of sodium, for example, an athlete would have to drink 65 L of sports drinks—which would cause hyponatremia.

Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) occurs when blood-sodium levels become diluted and fall below 135 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Hyponatremia can cause mild symptoms such as irritability and fatigue or more extreme symptoms including nausea, vomiting, seizures and comas. Brain swelling—exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy (EAHE)—can cause death.

If you drink a special high-sodium beverage to replace electrolytes, it’s essential to pair that drink with carbohydrates. Gatorade’s carbohydrate content is 6 percent—not enough to facilitate sodium absorption. A true sodium-replacement drink is anywhere from 10 or 12 percent carbohydrate.

“Without a carbohydrate, the majority of the salt you put in your stomach ends up in the toilet within two hours because your body has a protective mechanism against a (mass) of salt,” Fowkes Godek said.

ALT TEXTMany hydration recommendations are utter nonsense—especially if they come from a manufacturer of sports drinks. (Dave Re/CrossFit Journal)

Myth 4: Any Level of Dehydration Negatively Affects Performance

The biggest problem with this statement is the word “dehydration,” Fowkes Godek said.

We’ve come to think of dehydration as an illness or a condition, but it’s really a verb.

“It’s a process of losing body fluid—the opposite of rehydration,” Fowkes Godek said.

If you are well hydrated, it’s normal to experience dehydration. The impact of dehydration on athletic performance depends on the hydration level before the exercise or competition. If you start exercising and are well hydrated, you can easily lose 3 to 4 percent of body weight with no ill effects. Even if you start exercising and are at the lower end of hydration, you still have a ways to go before performance suffers.

“If you start an exercise bout and you are very thirsty, you can probably lose about 2 percent and still not see any performance detriment,” Fowkes Godek said.

Many athletes find over-hydration leads to cramps and negatively affects performance. Bottom line: Pay attention to your body’s signals, and if you aren’t thirsty, don’t drink.

““You can drink too much water, and you can drink too much Gatorade.”

—Sandra Fowkes Godek

Myth 5: You Can’t Drink too Much Water

“You can drink too much water, and you can drink too much Gatorade, and you can drink too much Pedialyte,” Fowkes Godek said.

If you flood your body with fluid of any kind, you risk EAH.

Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid EAH:

Drink when you’re thirsty. Don’t when you aren’t.

About the Author: Hilary Achauer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health and wellness content. In addition to writing articles, online content, blogs and newsletters, Hilary writes for the CrossFit Journal. To contact her, visithilaryachauer.com

Volumn is not king … Long Live The King INTENSITY

As a CrossFit coach, I have been approached several times recently by athletes with the question,“What else can I add in on top of my normal CrossFit class?” or “Can you make up extra stuff for me to do outside of the gym so I can get more work in?” These questions are raising an interesting topic that will take us back to the original intent of CrossFit.

The Current Trend – Desire to Increase Volume

There seems to be a trend happening in CrossFit boxes around the country and among many CrossFit athletes that an increase in volume will expedite the fitness process. This is true among competitive athletes who are trying to get the Regional or Games level, or your everyday members at your local affiliate. James Hobart, of CrossFit HQ’s seminar staff recently wrote a post on this subject that is full of great information 1. I will break down some of his thoughts and add a few of my own here.

When CrossFit started to become popular it was because of its potentially devastating effect on the body in such a short workout period while still causing tremendous health benefits. The simplicity of combinations of weightlifting, gymnastics and mono-structural movements was completely effective in developing a well-rounded fitness that worked across broad time and modal domains. The original prescription in a structured CrossFit class was a warm-up, short workout, and a cool down; perform five days a week and voila you have elite fitness.

Somewhere in the past few years we have adopted this idea that just a one-hour CrossFit class is not enough to create a full fitness program. So we added in additional volume in the form of an extra metcon, more weightlifting, more skill sessions, and before you know it your one hour of CrossFit has turned into two hours of a compilation of randomly designed workouts that may or may not actually be effective. Somewhere along the line we have forgotten the original intent of CrossFit.

Intensity is King, NOT Volume

So here is my thought. Intensity is King and will rule over the servant of Volume any day. Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit has said, “Be impressed with intensity not volume.” In its original intent CrossFit was made to be short in duration and high in intensity. Many times it is easy to get into a mentality of, “more is better” or “maybe if I add volume I’ll expedite the fitness process”. James Hobart says in his article, “Volume is not the cure-all; effective coaching is.” If an athlete is going to a normal CrossFit class and there is a well-rounded program in place, then that is sufficient for making continual progress. Even if slow, progress will be there; remember intensity is King. A single effective dose of CrossFit a day is enough to obtain and sustain lifetime fitness.

Different Needs for Different Athletes

As a coach it is important to understand an athlete’s goals with their training and work towards achieving those individual goals with each athlete. On the topic of additional volume, there are two cases that occur most often. The first is the athlete that wants to be competitive in CrossFit. The second is the athlete who has experienced some weight loss but progress has slowed. In both cases one of the biggest factors in deciding if more volume is appropriate is mechanical consistency in the athlete’s movement. The athlete should be able to move well, consistently at a high intensity, and be able to make improvement in movement with verbal cues from a coach.

For the athlete who is seeking to be competitive, an appropriate amount of skill work added to a normal prescription of high intensity CrossFit will suffice for making progress towards the desired goals. As for the second case, it is common that when an athlete sees quick progress in CrossFit and loses weight, but then progress becomes slower as they approach a much lower body weight that athlete will try to add volume as a way to continue the large amounts of weight loss. Again, intensity is King. To see continual progress in CrossFit, just doing more CrossFit is not the solution.

Understanding Power Output

A classic example could be a workout like Fran. A simple couplet of thrusters and pull-ups that is potentially devastating for the athlete that pushes deep into their anaerobic threshold. The transverse would be something like running a 5k, longer duration and much slower pace than the typical Fran. These two represent opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes volume and intensity. Fran would be relatively low volume, yet high intensity. While a 5k would be higher volume, but much lower intensity. Now is there place for longer workouts with a lower intensity threshold, yes; however these workouts should not be the staple of a CrossFit program.

Many people will assume more is better. Even so much as saying that the longer CrossFit workouts are actually “better” than the shorter ones. This is not the case, and in most CrossFit programs rarely will you see a workout that lasts longer than 30 minutes. Why? Because as the time period increases the intensity decreases. To simplify it, we can look at intensity in terms of total power output. Power output is equal to force multiplied by the distance divided by total time (P=(f*d)/t). In this case, if the time it takes to accomplish a similar task is longer than the effect it has is a much lower power output. Lower power output = lower intensity.

Developing Lifetime Fitness

In many cases, an athlete who tries to add more volume over the course of time will end up doing more harm than good. Remember we are talking about lifetime fitness, not quick gains. In a lifetime of fitness it is not necessary to sacrifice a dose of high intensity for more volume for the sake of just doing more. A complete CrossFit program that is effectively programmed to be completed in an hour class will suffice for developing a lifetime of health and fitness. For an everyday athlete, a single dose of high intensity CrossFit is sufficient; Intensity is King over Volume.

Why adults should practice gymnastics?

When we watch the gymnasts perform at the highest level, such as the Olympics or national championships, it’s easy to be amazed at how strong and flexible they are. The raw physical strength, flexibility, power, agility, coordination, grace, balance and control required in gymnastics are impressive, but these elite level athletes are not the only ones who can benefit from participating.

Here are the Top 10 Health Benefits of Gymnastics:

  • Flexibility: Flexibility is a primary factor in gymnastics. Increasing flexibility can also be an effective aid to the reduction of injury, preventing people from forcing a limb to an injurious range of motion. By learning movements and combining them in a routine, the gymnast can attain greater flexibility and greater control of the body.
  • Disease prevention: Participation in gymnastics can help maintain a healthy body, which is key to preventing numerous health conditions such as asthma, cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Being involved in gymnastics helps encourage a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Strong and healthy bones: Participation in weight-bearing activities — including gymnastics — can develop strong, healthy bones, which is important to develop at a young age. As we age, we inevitably experience a decrease in bone mass every year. Building strong, healthy bones at a young age can help reduce the risks of developing osteoporosis later on in life.
  • Increased self-esteem: A study conducted by researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have indicated that children who participate in physical activity like gymnastics are likely to have better self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • Daily exercise needs: The American Heart Association recommends children participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Adults age 18 and over should participate in 30 minutes of exercise at least five days per week. Participation in gymnastics helps meet the exercise recommendations set forth by the American Heart Association.
  • Increased cognitive functioning: Participation in gymnastics does not only offer physical gains; it is beneficial for improving concentration and mental focus – an important aspect of anyone’s life. Gymnastics allows children the chance to think for themselves, to stimulate their imaginations and to solve problems safely.
  • Increased coordination: Gymnasts do not react with as large a “startle response” to sudden imbalances as non-gymnasts. By applying this conditioning outside the sport, people become better equipped to avoid hazardous situations by quickly identifying them and naturally correcting body alignment when walking, standing or jumping, etc.
  • Strength development: Gymnastics produces, pound-for-pound, the best athletes in the world. Gymnastics uses almost exclusively body weight exercises to build upper body, lower body, and core strength.
  • Discipline: Gymnastics instills a sense of discipline. Each student must have the self control to make corrections when a coach asks them to, and they must also have the self discipline to stay on task when a coach is working with another gymnast.
  • Social skills: At all ages, gymnastics provides an opportunity to develop social skills. Younger children learn how to stand in line, look, listen, be quiet when others are talking, work and think independently, and how to be respectful of others. The older kids learn how to set a good example for the people who look up to them and become role models at a young age.

Nothing was supposed to happen the way it did !

Mike Walker’s wife always accompanied him to the gym. When the couple got home from CrossFit or cycling class, she would shower while he sat in the recliner to drink coffee, eat breakfast and take a 30-minute nap. But Susan Walker wasn’t feeling well on the morning of Feb. 5, 2016, so she stayed behind to sleep. When her husband returned home, she dragged herself from their bed to make them coffee and chat while he sat in the recliner.

While she stepped into the kitchen, the 64-year-old seemingly started snoozing.

“Man, he fell asleep really fast,” Susan, two years younger, remembered thinking after she walked back into the den.

ALT TEXTSusan and Mike Walker.

But something was unusual about Mike’s sleeping. He was snoring. Mike never snored.

“He was making a gurgling kind of noise,” Susan said. “When I heard it a second time, I realized it wasn’t snoring.”

Her husband’s eyes were rolled back and he was gasping for air.

She moved behind him, threading her arms under his, thinking she could do the Heimlich maneuver. She felt his chest involuntarily expand, then he collapsed into the recliner.

“Mike, I’m gonna get you help!” she yelled.

She called 911 and the operator told 125-lb. Susan she had to get her 190-lb. husband flat on the floor to perform CPR. First she tried slamming the recliner backward to no avail. Then she submitted to the 911 operator’s instructions.

“I was wrestling him, literally, from that chair. The 911 operator said, ‘Don’t worry about hurting him. Just get him on the floor.’”

The operator counted while Susan performed CPR on her husband.

The firefighters arrived first.

“When I heard that siren, it was the best sound I ever heard in my life,” she said.

The paramedics got to work but had trouble finding Mike’s airway.

“They said that it was an unusually long resuscitation.”

Twenty-three minutes, to be exact.

By that point, Mike had vomited and urinated on the floor.

“He was not breathing. His heart wasn’t beating,” Susan recounted. “For all intents and purposes, he was dead.”

ALT TEXT

Beats a Vegan

After first responders got Mike’s heart beating faintly, they transported him to a nearby hospital, where medical staff determined the percentage of blood leaving his heart each time it contracted was 5 percent. A normal range is 50 to 75 percent.

“It was not enough to sustain him,” Susan said.

Family and friends were allowed to visit Mike in pairs while doctors tried to unravel the mystery of what had struck an otherwise-fit man. Doctors summoned the entire family that first day in the hospital.

“When that happens you know it’s not good news,” Susan said.

She continued: “They said they didn’t know what was wrong. His heart was very, very weak. He was very, very sick.”

Doctors wanted to implant a stent but Mike wasn’t strong enough to handle the procedure. They asked the family’s permission to first use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a process in which a machine drains a person’s blood from the veins, adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide, then warms the blood, returns it to the artery and pumps it through the body. ECMO allows the blood to circumvent a damaged heart and lungs so they can heal.

“He was cold to the touch,” remembered Susan, who stayed with her husband during her every waking moment. “He felt dead. He looked dead.”

The ECMO machine is a device of last resort. Most people don’t survive it.

“There’s a high mortality rate just because the patients getting on it are near death to begin with,” explained Dr. James Bower, cardiologist at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bower is Mike’s cardiologist.

The hospital record for fewest days on an ECMO machine belonged to a 50-year-old vegan marathoner—until Mike came along. Now it’s a 64-year-old CrossFit athlete who holds the distinction.

After technicians removed Mike from the machine, doctors were able to place the stent. But then Mike developed a severe lung infection.

“He had pneumonia beyond belief,” Susan said. “They didn’t know what the bacteria was. At one point, he tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.”

Infection-control staff, however, determined the test was a false positive.

Mike also underwent the implant of a temporary pacemaker to keep his heart beating and a tracheotomy to help him breathe.

Doctors eventually confirmed what Susan had been insistently denying all along: Her husband had suffered a heart attack. They believe his case was an anomaly in which a piece of plaque became lodged, causing a blood clot.

Despite the stroke of bad luck, Susan said the medical staff kept repeating the same thing: “In terms of CrossFit, they said over and over and over again, they said exercise … is what kept him alive.”

All told, Mike spent six weeks in the hospital—roughly two in the ICU in a medically induced coma. By all accounts, he should have died.

“We watched four other families say goodbye to loved ones whose hearts they got beating again but they were brain dead,” Susan remembered. “So there was always that fear (of) … is he alive mentally?”

By the time he was discharged, Walker had earned a new nickname: Miracle Mike.

Luck Was a Lady

ALT TEXT“More than one doctor said CrossFit saved my life.” —Mike Walker

Mike started CrossFit in April 2012. The way he saw it, it was a way to stave off muscle atrophy as he aged. Plus, he had plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Luckily, his friend Bob Alexander was already training CrossFit.

“He would come to my garage gym on Mondays and we would both go up to CrossFit Huntersville on Saturdays,” Alexander said. “We did that for four years. He and I developed this kind of cadence of doing this work.”

Alexander’s son, daughter and son-in-law ran the affiliate before selling it in 2015.

Mike was averaging four workouts per week.

“I was one of the five healthiest people in my doctor’s office of any age prior to the heart attack,” he noted.

It was that health that kept him alive.

“If he hadn’t been in the shape that he had been in, then he wouldn’t have survived,” Bower said. “The better shape you’re in … the better chance you’re going to come out (alive).”

While he was in the hospital, Mike went into cardiac arrest as many as eight times, the doctor said. Yet he walked out of the hospital with only two medications and his brain intact, and he went back to work and back to CrossFit.

“I’m not only surprised he’s alive; most people (experience) so much brain damage they’re in a nursing home for the rest of their life,” Bower said. “They don’t recognize their family because there’s so much memory loss.”

The cardiologist added: “He’s a very lucky guy.”

Memories of Movement

Mike doesn’t recall much about the morning of Feb. 5, 2016, or of social events and meetings in the 72 hours leading up to that day. His wife and family shared most of the details with him.

He has no memory of any pain or any warning sign that preceded what he now knows was a heart attack. Mike made no attempt to call out to his wife, to get up from the chair, to reach for either phone within arm’s length.

“I was there one minute and then gone,” he said. “Not quite dead but definitely gone.”

What he does recall is his CrossFit training.

ALT TEXTWalker estimates he’s back to 90 percent of his pre-heart-attack fitness, and he’s still hitting PRs.

“More than one doctor said CrossFit saved my life. I had an unusually strong heart and lungs. I was in grave condition, so close to death that if I had been a couch potato, 100 percent I would have been dead,” Mike said. “They couldn’t believe I had survived and, even more bizarre, without any damage to the heart or lungs or brain.”

Mike, who is 6 feet tall, lost 38 lb. in the hospital.

“I looked like a scrawny 90-year-old man.”

In physical therapy, he was at first limited to walking 100 feet, then 200 feet—with assistance.

“The big accomplishment at the end of getting out of acute rehab was walking 900 feet without a walker.”

He was not allowed to lift anything until April, when his cardiologist approved no more than 10 lb. at a time. Later that month, he unsuccessfully tried pressing an empty 45-lb. bar above his head. And push-ups were out of the question.

These days, however, the financial adviser says he’s at about 90 percent of his pre-heart-attack fitness level. He’s already bested his previous deadlift PR of 235 lb. by 10 lb., and he can easily press 100 lb., clean 110 lb. for reps and squat nearly 143 lb. for 5 sets of 5. Since his heart attack, he’s done Fran with 65 lb. in about 10 minutes, squatting to full depth.

“If Bob hadn’t gotten me into CrossFit, if I hadn’t learned about CrossFit, if I hadn’t bought into CrossFit … I would not have the amazing recovery that I’ve had,” Mike said. “My fitness and CrossFit saved my life, but it’s also meant that I’ve had a much faster recovery because I knew how to get stronger again.”

About the Author: Andréa Maria Cecil is assistant managing editor and head writer of the CrossFit Journal.

All images: Courtesy of Mike Walker

For Full Access:

SUBSCRIBE / LOGIN