Jul
11
2014

Moving from Thinking into Doing

ddd

Three years ago this week, I saw Kayser post on Facebook that he just did a CrossFit workout and it kicked his butt. Not knowing exactly what CrossFit was and confusing it with some P90X system, I left a comment on his post asking, “Is that some sort of DVD?”

He excitedly responded that he did the class at TwinTown, just four blocks from our building, and that I should do an intro with Teddy as soon as possible. Since Kayser grew up in the town over from me out east, I trusted his advice and have never regretted it for a moment.

I could extoll the virtues of CrossFit for the community that it introduced me to in Minneapolis and beyond. But you probably already know that I have made lifelong friendships and spent the last few years happily celebrating countless birthdays, new jobs, random Fridays and even two weddings.

I could speak volumes on the high-quality coaching, support and encouragement that I have received from Teddy, Peter, Kayser, Joe, Brock, Ashley, Michael, Andy, Martha, Emily, Drew and others. I could tell you how they helped push me to achieve new PRs in every movement and exercise, from being able to actually squat below parallel to cutting my baseline time in half.

But what I most want to discuss is how CrossFit, and thus TwinTown, helped me transform from thinking into doing. And through that process helped me finally connect with my actual self.

Growing up, I wasn’t very athletic but always wished I was. I thought constantly about how great it would be to be picked first for kickball or score the winning run for my team. I got to high school and college, dreaming about how much I would like to be stronger and be in better shape. I wanted to take so many more risks, try so many more things, but was always thinking, never doing.

Post-college, I was always busy. I organized lots of social activities for my friends and was always running around to see a new play or concert or gallery opening or happy hour, etc. It was an active life, but with little physical activity. I filled up my time to mask the fact that I was dissatisfied with my life. I even did improv for a few years, enjoying the ability to escape and be anyone but me.

Cut to that summer in 2011 when I did my first month of CrossFit and felt every bone and muscle in my body suddenly be forced to work and shake and be sore. And from there, I was eventually getting my chin above the bar and climbing to the top of the rope. I was using equipment that I had never dared to touch before and sweating by choice. And I was happy!

I improved and worked harder and allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of strangers and friends. Allowed myself to wince and tremble, grunt out loud and collapse in a pool of sweat and tears. And I wasn’t playing a character or doing it for laughs. I was me.  For better or for worse, I was being my true self, warts and all, displaying all my quirks and all my grit.

Outside the gym, I was now signing up for half-marathons and (multiple) Tough Mudders and on vacations going horseback riding and zip lining and training at a Muay-Thai gym. On my weekends, I was going to yoga and boxing and stand-up paddle board classes. I was competing against people and standing up in front of a crowd of 700 plus and telling my story. I was no longer thinking about all these things in my life. I was actually doing them.

Now, three years later, I am physically stronger thanks to CrossFit. But more importantly, I am mentally stronger and more closely connected to who I am, rather than just always thinking about whom I want to be.

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    Jul
    10
    2014

    How Eating Affects Your Mental Toughness

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    “Mental toughness is combined with a perfectly disciplined will, that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind- you could call it ‘character in action.’” 

    “Having natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sports place on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.”

    These definitions are from our friends at Wikipedia and I feel that every time we step through the doors at TTCF this mental capacity is demanded of us. But if you lack discipline outside of the gym, it’s hard to muster it at game time.

    The difference between athletes and everybody else is that athletes eat for performance, which requires intention and discipline around the clock. What is fueling you for your workouts? Are you intentional about what you put in your body? Are you setting yourself up for failure or success?

    Most of us live a fast paced life where we gravitate towards convenience. Gotta have it now and gotta have it quick!

    Cooking every meal might not work for you. But until someone comes out with a Paleo friendly drive-thru we have to find other ways to eat right. Here are a few pointers that have worked for me:

    http://paleomg.com , http://nomnompaleo.com , http://www.paleocupboard.com

    1) Pick out some yummy recipes (Hint: I pick out easy ones, lots of crock-pot meals because leftovers are never a bad thing)

    2) Spend a few hours cooking meals for the week. You can always freeze extras.

    3) Plan for healthy snacks for when you are short on time (trail mix, veggies, protein, fruits)

    You know when you are going to be busy for the most part. Plan out meals for the day so you feel great before, during and after workouts.

    All of us have had times in the gym where good nutrition translated into good performance. Make eating right your full-time habit instead of your part-time hobby!

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      Jul
      09
      2014

      Ay Breh, You Got Some Protein?

      o-OATS-HONEY-CHEERIOS-PROTEIN-570

      What’s the deal with so many different snack foods now featuring protein? It’s certainly a selling point for the companies that are marketing it as something that is apparently otherwise hard to find, and maybe in the eyes of the food industry it’s a step towards making meals more balanced, but I just don’t get it.

      If you are craving a bowl of cereal, go for it. If you really need to crush a candy bar, do your thing – but call it like it is. If you are trying to fix something that’s lacking in your diet by getting an important nutrient from an additive put into cereal and “nutrition” bars you’re missing the point.

      Eat real food and your body will love you for it. Cut corners and you’ll get half-assed results.

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        Jul
        08
        2014

        Gymnastics Classes

        gymnastics

        Have you ever wanted to get a solid handstand?

        Or maybe you would like to get a standing tuck?

        Or perhaps you want to do a back handspring?

        Well now is your chance! I am working with a local gymnastics school to get an adult gymnastics class going for our gym. This class will be an opportunity for TwinTown clients to work on gymnastics skills. This class is for all levels; beginner through advanced. It is a class where individual goals are worked on in conjunction with physical conditioning. This is a wonderful opportunity to develop spatial awareness, core control, and strength. Anyone can benefit from this class.

        If you would like to challenge yourself to learn new skills and become a more well rounded athlete, I highly recommend this class. If you are interested please email me so I can get you a spot (ashley at wbbcminneapolis.com). There will be 10 spots available, first come, first serve. Class time/day is not set in stone, but I am aiming for Sunday nights. If the majority of those who sign up prefer a different day/time I will do my best to coordinate. This class will meet 1x/week for 6 weeks. Cost TBD.

        Whether your goal is to do a handstand without a wall, or to do a standing tuck, or maybe you just like bouncing on a trampoline, either way this opportunity is for you! Let’s try something new, challenging, and fun! I look forward to developing new skills with you!

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          Jul
          07
          2014

          You Needn’t Play To Win

          gregg-popovich

          “One of the most overrated thoughts out there is that if you weren’t a great player, you can’t be a great coach.  It’s a big fallacy-Frank Martin (South Carolina)”

          Three weeks ago when the San Antonio Spurs ravaged the Miami Heat in game 5 of the NBA finals, Gregg Poppovich joined the ranks of Phil Jackson, Red Auerbauch, Pat Riley, and John Kundula as the fifth coach to win 5 NBA championships.  Additionally, Poppovich also holds the current accolade of being the longest tenured coach in any of the big 4 American Sports.

          Tom Crean, head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers men’s basketball program, coached his former program at Marquette to an average of 20 wins a season from 1999-2008 which included a Final Four appearance in 2003.  In 2012 he was named the Jim Phelan National Coach of the year, as well as ESPN’s national coach of the year.

          No one in his or her right mind is going to argue Phelan did a bad job recruiting, or that Poppovich didn’t have outstanding players (ie. Leonard, Ginobli, Parker), my point however is this: These two outstanding coaches never played at a high level of the game.  In fact Tom Crean never even played a year past high school.

          ESPN staff writer Jason King states that Tom Crean, whilst at Marquette, was denied by a talented young recruit because “he wanted to learn from someone who had actually played the game,” (King).  Creans response: “You do what you want, but when we play you, make sure you pay attention to the double teams we put in place to keep you from scoring,” (King).  As for the kid “He hardly ever played, we won a lot more against them then they did against us.  I think I made my point,” (King).  As fascinating as that is, the sheer number of college coaches who have never played past haghschool is somewhat staggering.  The sweet 16 in 2011 featured 5 coaches who never played a day on the floor for a college team (Drew, Cronin, Williams, Willaims, and Crean).

          Playing basketball and coaching basketball are separate entities that needn’t be related.  On-floor coaching is just one aspect one must consider.  There is recruiting, the off-floor speaking, the stat-crunching, and the managerial work as well.  One of the most profound things a coach can do is decide who needs to be where and doing what on the floor in order for the team to succeed. Secondly,  These “little guy” coaches have a quality that an all-star may not have; they know how hard they have to work in order for them to be take seriously. 

          Unfortunately we  constantly see a lot of celebrity worship in the CrossFit world wherein someone who clean and jerks 350 pounds tends to be taken more seriously than the coach who can only put up their bodyweight.  In my opinion a great coach in a group fitness setting does the following:

          1. Recruits- This does not mean poach from other gyms.  It simply means going after the people you want to work with.
          2. Crunches stats- constant and meticulous tweaking in programming to accomplish a specific goal and address problematic areas or where a mass tends to be failing.
          3. Off-floor speaking- The best coaches get you excited to get back in.
          4. Manages properly- The best coaches can give a pro athlete and the person who just came back from having knee surgery the exact same experience that is safe, effective and challenging.
          5. The best coaches can pattern-match movements.  Coaching in a CrossFit gym is sort of like being really good at the memorization game where you have to remember what box the squiggly line is in.  Good coaches can isolate movements so they make sense; and they cross-reference other things you may or may not be good at in order to help you succeed.

          The best coaches are those who know how to coach, not those who were the best players.

          TLDR: The best coaches are those who can coach, not play.  One of the many reasons why Poppovich just totally out coached the worst NBA franchise of all time (say what you want).  Sorry Bieber.

          Jason King. “Stars on the Bench, If Not on The court.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 06 July 2014.

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            Jul
            03
            2014

            How Sleep Affects Your Mental Toughness

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            On average how many hours of sleep should you get per night? Do you notice a difference in your productivity, energy, attitude, etc. depending on how much sleep you get? Does sleep determine your “mental toughness” in the gym?

            An article in the April 2014 Success Magazine, by Larry Keller, weighed in on a few of these questions. “No matter how organized you are, your efforts at being more productive may be for naught if you’re constantly fatigued.” I feel the same holds true for your workouts.

            A 2011 survey conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers and others estimated a $63 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy due to lost productivity from insomnia.

            Another study by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that participants who were limited to an average of 5.6 hours of sleep per night took longer to perform tasks such as finding information quickly and accurately on computer monitors than when they had adequate sleep. For you parents with new-borns, you can definitely echo these findings.

            Sleep needs vary, but most adults require 7-9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

            If you would like to improve on the quality of sleep at night, here are a few tips:

            - Stay away from electronics 2 hours leading up to bedtime. (Shut off the TV, stay away from your phone, and get your face booking done earlier). The lighting from electronic devices stimulates your brain making it harder to fall asleep.

            - Sleep in a cool, dark room.

            - Read a book or do your daily journal. This is also a good time to prep for tomorrow so you don’t lay in bed thinking about how you will get everything done that you need to.

            If you struggle with getting enough sleep at night, try taking a 20-30 minute nap during the day. Numerous studies have shown that napping improves memory, learning and creativity.

            Personally speaking, my best days in the gym are when I have had adequate sleep the night before. There are many factors that come into play with your mental toughness. What are you doing outside of the gym to improve on your scores in the gym?

            …Stay tuned next week for “How Eating Affects Your Mental Toughness”…

             

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              Jul
              02
              2014

              Why so many different squats?

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              I remember fumbling my way through the perils of “leg day” back when I first started working out. Most of my time was spent between either the leg extension machine, or the leg press machine, but I did manage to incorporate some squatting too.

              I’m sure my unguided form was something that even a visitor to the weight room would shake his/her head at, but at least it wasn’t complicated, right? The bar goes across the back of your shoulders, you squat down, you stand up, you’re done! Easy! HA.

              You can surely imagine then, the shock that came with my first experience in a CrossFit gym. Not only was I squatting to a completely unfamiliar range, but they had me put the damn bar on the front of my shoulders – the agony!

              It wasn’t until later, when I was drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid, that I realized why there are so many variations of the squat. As is true in any strength program, you get stronger by putting your body under a continual stress (weight), and then over the course of time you adapt by getting stronger. So if you are only used to squatting with weight in one place, you are really only strong with the bar in that position.

              This is fine in the gym, but in life we are not always in a position to carry things where they are most convenient. Training your body to be strong with a weight on it, through as many natural movement patterns as possible is what gives you the best results in your everyday life.

              If you’re new to squatting, working on a back squat (or just a body weight squat) is a great place to start. But the more confident you grow, the more important it becomes to continue to expand your capabilities. It might not come easily at first (hi, overhead squats!), but the more you practice the better off you’ll be down the road.

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                Jul
                01
                2014

                Barefoot and lovin’ it!

                Vibram FiveFingers KSO Evo

                Recently I have been struggling with a case of shin splints and I have never had them before. It all happened when I decided to wear my Keane sandals to do a running workout that consisted of: 800 meter, 4 x 400 meter, and 800 meter run. A couple hours later my shins were killing me. Many of you know that I workout barefoot, however running on the pavement really makes for a bloody mess. So although I prefer no shoes on the pavement I needed something to scrape up other than the bottoms of my feet. Ever since my shin splint incident I have found a great pair of Vibram shoes - Vibram FiveFingers KSO Evo Women’s Running Shoes. I tried them on at REI and it was love at first step. These shoes feel so light and fit like a glove! For anyone looking to dive into running barefoot or close to barefoot, these shoes are great! I used to own Vibram shoes when they first came out and they felt bulky and uncomfortable, so I got rid of them. I decided to try them again and I must say they have improved significantly!

                A number of studies support that barefoot running is healthy and natural, however modern sidewalks with pieces of glass or nails make enjoying these benefits unbearable. If you want to feel like you are running barefoot without the worry of ripping up your feet, then try these shoes. Wear them a couple hours each day working up to full-time. Even though these shoes feel like you are wearing nothing, they should not be used as a tool to reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles.

                In March 2012, Valerie Bezdek claimed Vibram deceived customers by advertising that its shoe could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific evidence. Your chances of injury in Vibrams or any other shoe does not go down just because you changed footwear. It can adjust HOW you run which will affect how you use your muscles, but it isn’t a cure all.

                In a small study done in 2009 by Vibram they found that the FiveFingers model was effective in imitating barefoot running while providing a small amount of protection. So although these shoes may not reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, they are effective in imitating barefoot running with the safety of knowing that little rocks and specks of glass won’t cut up your foot. I highly recommend these shoes for anyone that wants the feel of running barefoot.

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                  Jun
                  30
                  2014

                  The Power Of Pain

                  Kip_Keino_Mex_1968

                  First, I need to make a correction from my last post.  I mistakenly claimed it was the Masai Tribe in Kenya that we hear about in the Olympic years.  Although the Masai do produce good runners on occasion, I should have referred to the Kalejin Tribe.  I’d like to further explore this fascinating group of Nilotic people who reside in the Rift Valley Province in eastern Kenya.  They are the third largest tribe after the Kikuyu and Luhya.  The Kalejin make up the vast majority of Kenyan men and women to have won Olympic medals and world titles. David Epstein, senior editor at Sports Illustrated, states “There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon: There were 32 Kalejin men in October of 2011 who went under 2:10.”  However it’s not just the marathon these people dominate.  From the 800 meters to the marathon from 1980 onward, about 40% of international top honors have gone to the Kalejin.

                  How is this athletic dominance possible?

                  NPR, in their radio broadcast, “How One Kenyan Tribe Produces The World’s Best Runners, claims that since the sixties, scientists have come up with theories based on the Kalejin high starch diet, socio-economics, and altitude, (Warner).  Although these do all seem somewhat important, it doesn’t explain the dominance of the tribe.  When Epstein was researching his book The Sports Gene, he began to ask a controversial question: “Is there something genetically different about the Kalejin that makes them superior runners?” (Warner).  According to Epstein, not even scientists with tenure would show his research.  Those who did talk to him mentioned one striking feature that could possibly set them apart: Kalejin have thin calves and thin ankles.  If one is to think of the leg as a pendulum, the more weight you have further away from the center of gravity, the more difficult it would be to swing.  Epstein goes on to say “if you were to go to the Olympic starting line and measure everyone’s ankles and calves before the race, you could predict, statistically, who’s likely to win. (Epstein)

                  Perhaps genetics does play a role, but consider this: These people know how to suffer like nobody else.

                  Brock in his post last week, wrote about mental toughness.  Mental toughness is one of the primary attributes of any elite athlete; It’s also the desired trait of any Kalejin man or woman.  The Kalejin have a tribal ritual that by its very nature makes these people exceptionally tough. Trigger warning to all those who are somewhat squeamish, stop reading now.

                  In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico city, Kalejin runner Kipchoge Keino, defeated Jim Ryun, the American record holder in the event, someone who I have previously noted.  Two days before the race, doctors in the Olympic village had ordered Keino not to run, as he was diagnosed with a severe gallbladder infection a couple days earlier.  If any of you have had a gallbladder infection you know how terrible he felt, and you also know that the pain is exacerbated when you breathe.  Here’s the even more amazing part: Keino set the world record in the 1500.

                  When Kalejin men are 12 years old they begin burning themselves with hot coals on their legs and arms.  They do this to get ready for an initiation ceremony that is simply about enduring pain, nothing else.  Elly Kipgogei, who is mentioned once again in NPR’s piece and in Epstein’s book, claims the ceremony begins with crawling naked through a tunnel of African stinging nettles.  Upon exiting the tunnel he was beaten on the bony part of his ankle, and his knuckles were squeezed together.  The leader then drenched his genitals with the formic acid from the nettles, (Warner).

                  That was simply the warm up.  The boy was then circumcised with a sharp stick.  During this entire process the boys cheek had dried mud upon it.  If he flinched, made a sound, or even rustled his forehead: he would be stigmatized by the entire community.  True suffering in silence.

                  Although there are more factors to be explored, I believe this to be a distinct advantage and an absolutely astonishing trait. Pushing through pain is what makes you a Kalejin man or a woman.  Conversely, in the West we do everything we possibly can to avoid it.

                  Epstein, David J. The Sports Gene. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

                  “Keino V.Ryun.1500m.1968 Olympic Games,Mexico City.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 29 June 2014.

                  Warner, Gregory. “How One Kenyan Tribe Produces The World’s Best Runners.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 29 June 2014.

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                    Jun
                    27
                    2014

                    How do you know if Foundations is right for you?

                    bandaid

                    Take the test.

                    We have designed a screen to test an athlete’s competency in the three areas where all elite CrossFitters excel: core control, hip hinge and the squat.

                    I know many of you are thinking that Foundations is for newbs. This is wrong.

                    In fact, many experienced CrossFitters in our gym could use Foundations. Myself included.

                    I am not a beginner. I have been CrossFitting for about four years and I am a CrossFit coach.

                    But after spending the past year battling nagging injuries it is clear that my body is broken and I need to successfully complete Foundations in order to pursue my athletic goals.

                    How long will I do Foundations? Until I test out. This could take a month, six months or a year.

                    It doesn’t matter to me. I’m tired of the frustration that comes with setting myself up for failure.

                    Right now, I cannot successfully fulfill the range of motion requirement in the squat test. This means that my body is unable to properly support a load on my back, in the front rack or overhead.

                    No wonder I’ve been a bandaid for the past year.

                    All of my injuries—pulled hamstring (twice), tweaked calf (twice), pulled groin, tweaked back, wonky shoulder, aching hand/wrist—are the result of a dysfunctional squat.

                    If you don’t think you need Foundations, prove it. Check your ego, get at your coach and take the test.

                    The worst that could happen by accepting my challenge is that you move better, prevent injuries and hit PRs.

                    Do you want to be a rock star in the gym?

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