The Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Athlete of the Month September: Audrey Lauzon-Laroche!

Audrey is one of our faithful 6 AM community members. She is always positive, supportive, and has made so much progress since joining our HCF Family. We are proud to have her apart of our community. Read more about her life and experience with CrossFit below!

1. Who are you and what do you do? 
My name is Audrey and I soon turn 32 years old! I am from Montreal, Canada and moved to Houston in September 2015 to be with my husband. It took me around six months to get acclimated to the culture and after two years, I can now say that Houston feels like home.

I have an MBA in Non-Profit Management and a Masters in Communication. I worked for the Food Bank of Montreal, UN Women in Senegal, Keep Houston Beautiful, and I just started a new position with the Trade Office of Quebec in Houston! Our governmental office assists businesses from Quebec to develop partnerships with organizations from the Southern United States.

I traveled a little by myself and with my husband. I have been in Europe many times, I visited four countries in Africa and a few in Central America. Now, I want to explore Asia and discover South America. There are so many places to see!

2. What is your athletic background?
Before I came to the US, I played Ultimate Frisbee for almost eight years in Montreal! For a year, I was looking for a league in Houston, but I couldn’t find one with a schedule that fit mine.

3. What made you join CrossFit?
I always wanted to try CrossFit, even when I was in Montreal, but you know how it is… I was too busy with work, studies, and my other activities. 

However, when you move to a new place, you have more free time and you can ‘’reinvent’’ your life. When I saw that CrossFit Humble was offering morning classes, I decided to try it! I always wanted to work out in the morning before work. In October 2016, I went to a community work out on a Saturday and I got hooked! 

4. What does CrossFit mean to you and how do you stay motivated?
CrossFit keeps my life balanced between personal and professional time. It is a stress release.

There are many reasons why I stay motivated! First, I can observe improvements month after month. I am stronger, I have more endurance, and I am more flexible. Secondly, it is perfectly integrated to my weekly routine. It starts my day on a positive note and it gives me energy for the rest of my day. Finally, it is a good way to socialize and make new friends. 

5. What is your favorite CrossFit movement?
I would say box jumps! ..Even if my husband gives me hard time about it. Hehehe.

6. What is your least favorite movement?
Definitely deadlift. It is like my brain hasn’t understood how it works yet! I’ll get there one day.

7. What are your goals for the next year?
I just got married in August so for the last eight months my ‘’wedding body’’ was my main goal. Now, I want to work on my food diet. I want to feed my body more efficiently so I can improve my performances. 

8. What had been your favorite moment/accomplishment so far at Humble CrossFit?
The first time I was able to do rope climbs was a turning point. I realized that I was more ‘’athletic’’ than I thought. I had some rope burn, but I was so proud of myself!

9. What is your favorite cheat meal?
Cheese!! Every single meal including cheese! Especially pasta!

10. Do you have any advice for people hesitant to try CrossFit or for those struggling with their fitness goals?
Crossfit is for everyone no matter your age or your physical condition. We celebrate every single improvement without regard to how big your advancement is.

My only advice is to integrate your workout schedule to your daily routine. It needs to become a good habit like brushing your teeth.

 

Back Braces, Knee Sleeves, Wrist Wraps, OH MY.

Back braces, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and compression sleeves, oh my! The fitness world is overloaded with accessory items that claim to be the latest and greatest for your athletic needs. But what do they do? Are they helpful, harmful, or do they just look cool?

I went on a quest to find information and turned to the most reliable resource I know, my Airrosti provider. In layman’s terms, compression items are excellent for the days where additional support may be needed, i.e. one rep max days and days with high reps. What compression items are not good for is long term use. Essentially, if you are not able to get through class WOD’s without your knee sleeves or wrist wraps, it may be time to see your physio to address the underlying issue. Why are you in pain and what can be done to alleviate this? A general rule of thumb is that if it hurts, do not do it. There is a difference between discomfort and pain.  If a back brace is what keeps you upright and out of pain during a WOD, you should definitely treat the pain with a long-term solution, not the temporary fix that a back brace provides. This is how chronic pain develops.

So, what does all of this mean? If compression and support items help you, use them! Just not all of the time. You should be able to function without these items and reserve their use for the days of anticipated heavy lifting. I have listed some suggestions below, their pros and cons, and a link to find them. Note, some links are affiliate links, but all opinions are my own and are products that I currently use or would strongly recommend.

Back Braces:
Uses: Reinforces the spine to help keep neutral positions and prevents rounding of the lower back. These are especially useful on one rep max days for dead lifting, squats, and cleans. 
Note: It is very important to gain the core strength to keep your spine and lower back in the proper position with and without the brace. 

 

Wrist Wraps:
Uses: Provides stability in the wrist to assist with keeping the joint rigid during movements that may put pressure on the area. The wrist by nature is a very weak joint. Using a wrist wrap will help to brace the bones when mobility or strength is an issue.
Note: Again, wrist wraps are not a long-term fix, but rather a means to allow the benefit of the workout, such as front squats, to be performed while supporting the wrist until the desired level of mobility is reached. 

Knee Sleeves:

Uses: Knee Sleeves are great for support as well as for warming up the knees when moving a large load. Knee sleeves can provide support especially during times of high impact such as running or squatting.
Note: Knee sleeves should not be used for day-to-day knee pain unless prescribed by a doctor. The knee is a delicate area with an array of vessels, nerves, and muscles that should not be constricted on a daily basis. 

KT Tape:

Uses: KT Tape or Rock Tape allows the skin to be lifted microscopically to increase blood flow to affected areas. KT Tape allows for the muscle groups to both heal and offer support at the same time. This is by far one of our favorite treatment methods to use.
Notes: KT Tape can be used as a compressive treatment as well as a treatment to promote blood flow to muscles. The results vary depending on how the tape is applied, either to stretched muscles or relaxed. Please consult your doctor or find literature on how to apply KT tape correctly to fit your specific needs. 

 

If you have any questions or would like to find more information on the support items discussed, please come see me! Keeping our athletes healthy is what we are here for! 

CrossFit Is Dangerous

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

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

Myth: CrossFit is bad for you.

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

Myth: You will be injured. 

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

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

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

Summary:

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

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What Is CrossFit?

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

We will start piece by piece.

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

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

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

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

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

Power.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Dylan experiencing "intensity."

Dylan experiencing "intensity."