Look How Far You've Come, Baby!

It’s safe to say that if you know Alfredo or have ever seen him at the gym he is the man with the best head of hair and the biggest biceps. Alfredo is a natural born athlete and an important member of the UB community. Alfredo has been CrossFitting for 5 years and in the past year he has really stepped up his weightlifting game. He has always been able to put up some impressive numbers when it comes to any barbell lift.  However this past year Alfredo has taken his lifting more seriously and focused on form and technique... proving the journey of fitness is never over.

Then:

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Now:

There is no stopping Alfredo when he commits, and I hope to see him in a competition by the end of the year!

You're Invited

You are invited to the CrossFit Foundation’s upcoming 2017 academic nutrition conference: “Diet and Cardiometabolic Health - Beyond Calories” this Friday, July 21st, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The CrossFit Foundation’s Sports and Health Sciences Institute is bringing together a group of leading scientists and public health experts to consider the effects of diet “beyond calories.” Eleven experts in nutrition, metabolism, and public health, from the University of San Francisco to the University of Copenhagen, will present on and discuss the wide-ranging health impacts of what you eat and drink.

As ongoing revelations and the chronic disease crisis demonstrate the disastrous results of relying upon food and beverage industry-influenced science, the CrossFit Foundation believes it is more important than ever to support truth in the nutrition, sports, and health sciences. 

This is a free public event, with breakfast and lunch provided - we just ask you to register using this link below (which also contains the schedule for the day). 

Come learn from these world class scientists and academics and meet the CrossFit HQ and Foundation team on July 21st!

The Pursuit of ‘Intentional Perfection’ in CrossFit and Life

The following is an old post with an important lesson worth sharing.  I ran into this article when it was originally posted in 2013, but it feels relevant. Why?  Because anyone can benefit from the pursuit of virtuosity.  And this Canadian breaks it down well.

As I begin to reflect on my first year as a competitive CrossFit athlete, and what it will take to achieve my big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) of competing at the CrossFit Games, two words come to mind.

Intentional.

Perfection.

These two words will be at the core of everything I do in the world of CrossFit in this next season. These two words are my foundation for success, my performance catalysts.

Intentional Perfection. Here’s why…

One thing I have learned through my short relationship with the sport of CrossFit is that it is a game of movement efficiency… In my (humble) opinion, the ability to execute any (and all) movements efficiently is the performance trump card in CrossFit. This is the secret ingredient that separates the good from the great.

Movement efficiency is more valuable than strength, speed, quickness, size, weight, height, explosiveness, metabolic conditioning capacity, or any other physical characteristic… I am of course making the assumption that if you are familiar with the sport of CrossFit you know that work ethic, determination, and mental toughness are all prerequisites to elite performance.

Now, when you combine perfect functional movement with the physical characteristics above, magic happens…

Enter Rich Froning.

One of the biggest learnings I have had since immersing myself in this sport was an observation that Rudy Nielsen, owner of Outlaw CrossFit, made of Rich.

“He does every rep perfectly.”

“He does every single f#$%ing rep, f*$%ing perfectly” (Rudy’s words)

Don’t believe Rudy?

Take a look at the video below which shows Rich Froning completing Isabel (30 Snatches @ #135 for time) as one of the last workouts of the grueling 2012 CrossFit Games.

Make a note of what his first couple of reps look like and compare those to his last few…

Pretty amazing.

When I unpack Rich’s performance of Isabel a little further, I realize we have to demystify what we are seeing with a couple of observations.

  • This level of performance doesn’t come overnight.

  • It isn’t a unique natural gift or talent.

  • There isn’t anything extraordinary or special about it.

Rich epitomizes “intentional perfection”.

What sets Rich apart from everyone else is that he is intentional about every single movement, and that every single movement he performs is perfect. Whether it is the first workout of the year, or Isabel at the Games, there is no difference.

So why aren’t more people like Rich?

Well besides the prerequisites mentioned above which Rich does better than anyone in the world, being intentional and perfect in every movement isn’t easy, and I would argue that it isn’t normal. Whether in CrossFit, or in life, we live in a society that justifies and accepts taking shortcuts. We do this among other reasons because we know we are susceptible to cutting corners ourselves. And in this admission we take two steps further away from that unbeaten path of intentional perfection.

Furthermore, in the sport of CrossFit practicing intentional perfection is humbling. In boxes and CrossFit gyms where the culture values having an “Rx” beside your name over flawless movement the chances of achieving intentional perfection become slim.

So what does intentional perfection look like in practice?

  • It means modifying a workout when you don’t have the foundation to perform the movement perfectly.

  • It means taking off weight to ensure perfect form and technique in lifts.

  • It means reducing the volume when your technique starts to fail.

  • It means intentionally recovering (stretching, foam rolling, etc.) everyday so that you can sustain and build the right functional muscles and pathways.

  • It means going to physio when your hurt instead of pushing through and compensating.

  • It means studying role models and masters of these movements.

  • It means visualizing what it looks like in your minds eye to execute perfectly, time and time again.

  • It means asking your friends and coaches to hold you accountable and call you out when you deviate from perfection.

It means being vulnerable enough to take 2 steps back, knowing that the long term benefits are exponential.

For me, this is the perfect time in the CrossFit season to lay this foundation of intentional perfection. There is no pressure of the Open or Regionals workouts, there is no pressure of making a team, there is only my training and 12 months before the beginning of next year’s adventure.

Finally, to practice what I preach, if you ever see me at a gym or competition and I’m not practicing intentional perfection please come over and give me a hard time!

And if this post resonates, I’m happy to do the same for  you! :)

Reserve Your Space!

Only a few spots left!

Whether or not you are hitting the beach this summer, stay motivated by establishing a mid-season comprehensive body scan.  These scans are comprehensive and individualized snapshots of your body that give you the information you need to:

  • Pinpoint the exact impact of a new training or diet plan
  • Track progress over time, down to exact muscle and fat changes in different areas of the body
  • Optimize your training to suit your body’s specific needs
  • Compare your bone density to others like you
  • Identify long-term health risks

Save your spot here to get your July 24th scan scheduled!

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Habits in the Making

Habits: One of the more powerful influences on your daily choices. Many start in early childhood, while others are cultivated over time. Either way, from the moment you wake and choose what you eat for breakfast until the moment you choose to brush before bed, your habits are the quiet (or not so quiet) whispers in your ear urging you to the choices you've made many times before.  Habits mindlessly rule the day - whether good, bad, or indifferent to your intended lifestyle.

But instead of surrendering to unchecked routine, what if you took charge?  Take some time today to acknowledge your habits.  Write a list of all the things you routinely do.  Do you mindlessly munch while watching TV? Check your phone every few minutes? Overspend? Procrastinate? Skip breakfast? Now rank them - are they beneficial, necessary, or damaging?  Pick one or two you would like to change.  But instead of focusing on what not to do (don't think of a pink elephant), replace the habit with a new one.  For example, instead of drinking a soda you drink Pellegrino with lemon.  Instead of popcorn with your evening show, take up another mindless activity like knitting.  If you don't want to create a replacement habit, create a totally new one.  Make it specific, visualize what you will look like or have once you are successful with that habit, and commit to it for at least a month.  Start small. Tell people about it - you want to create the support system to keep you accountable.  New habits take work, but if you go through the motions to set yourself up to win, they to can become a mindless (but positive) choice throughout your day.

Weekly Dose of Awesome

This week's Awesome is an interesting cat. Quiet and mellow most of the time, just consistently coming into classes and getting work done. It takes the right question, or a proper nudge, and you'll get a glimpse at his funny side. But under his nonchalant demeanor, you can see the fire burn!  And over the last months, I've enjoyed watching him step up his game.  He sometimes comes in before class to put in some extra training, and he's determined to improve his mobility on the way to Gainzville. I especially enjoyed watching him get into the House Cup during the Open. Again, it took some prodding, but once in it he was committed as always - mixing it up with the community and putting forth his best effort. Don't miss your chance to get to know this cool dude:

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Name: Michael Stevens
Nickname / Alter Ego: Money-Stevens; has nothing to do with having money. It's a long story, but it all started in HS and a snow-ball fight - I was making it rain and the rest is history. The nickname has stuck with me over 2 continents through college and beyond
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan (but SF is definitely my second home)
Occupation: Finance – Portfolio Management
When did you first start CrossFitting? Mid 2015
When did you first start CrossFitting at UB? March, 2016
Favorite WOD: Favorite is a strong word, but 17.1 was a good one
Least favorite WOD: Any that require a mobile body...so all of them!
How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? Kristina (also a UBer) kept bringing it up and at some point I said something like "Stop talking about it and be about it" and she actually did so I had to try it as well. Haha I had heard about CrossFit, good things and bad, but you can't knock something until you try it!
What is an unexpected way CrossFit has affected your life? Keeps the fight alive! I’ve played team sports my entire life and CrossFit has a lot of similar aspects. The playing days may have come to an end, but the drive never dies. What keeps me coming back is the community of UB all striving for similar goals and everyone always willing to offer a helping hand. Great teamwork!
If you could be any super hero, who would you be? Wolverine – Blades in my hands and the ability to regenerate? I'll take it.      
What’s your favorite Nicholas Cage movie? The Rock or Face Off
How About Harrison Ford? Star Wars
Denzel Washington? Training Day
Julia Roberts? Pretty Woman
Tom Hanks? Forrest Gump or Saving Private Ryan
That list just made it seem like I haven't seen a movie since like '99, but I'm going to blame the questions! :)

Bodyweight Lovin'

It is easy to get caught up in the glow of weight talk.  No, not how much you've lost or gained -- I am talking about how much is on the bar.  Even for the CrossFitter who proudly promotes "constantly varied" movements, it isn't uncommon to see weights become a priority in lieu of bodyweight movement progressions.  But instead of choosing which to train, why not train both!

Training your squats, press, or bench?  What about your, push-ups, handstand push-ups, squats, lunges?  The second group of movements are more than warm up movements, they are the building blocks to functional strength and require their own attention.  Specific goals for each movement create a way to track progress.  And if you aren't tracking your progress, there's no way to determine whether you are training effectively or just moving for movement sake.   

Body weight movements ain't just for babies.

Body weight movements ain't just for babies.

On the cover, big weights are glamorous.  But just like any magazine - the pages inside are what you are buying.  Creating balanced training goals will establish both a great foundation as well as big numbers on the bar.  Besides, today's simple movements lead to tomorrow's bad-assery (...muscle ups anyone?).

Barbara Wants You to Handle Your Hands

Tomorrow is the WOD Barbara.  If you haven't faced it before - she's quite the beast. It is also one of the named WODs that is 100+ pull ups.  Here are some thoughts to help you get through the day tomorrow.  

  1. Calluses - Maintain your hands!  Calluses are a good thing - they make your hands durable for all the barbell/bar/ring work you do.  Once you develop some of those bad boys, "keep them filed or shaved down regularly so they are still present but flush with the skin on your hand. Raised areas and ridges are a no-no. If you have particularly thick callouses, a foot callous shaver (or an actual straight razor) is helpful to actually cut away some of the thick skin, and then you can buff it down smooth with a metal nail file, pumice stone, ped egg, or dremel tool (only half kidding?)" (Hand care from CrossFit South Hills)
  2. Technique - You will be working on your grip technique before you get going tomorrow.  I believe that if you keep solid technique and stay the course on smart sets - tearing shouldn't be on tomorrow's list of outcomes. That said, what happens when you lose your grip, or you stay on that bar a little too long and you surpass your skin's threshold?  Hand tears!  Ouch! (Anyone telling you this is an achievement is a liar - a hand tear is an injury)  
  3. Tape Grips - One way to prevent tearing or protect your hands after tearing is to create a tape grip.  Follow the guide below or watch this video for a great tutorial on creating your own.  Think you will want the extra safe-guard?  Stop at Walgreens today on the way home and pick up some tape.
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Precommitment: What Will You Do to Succeed?

You've set your goals (they're on the whiteboard... right?). You've laid out the path steps required to get there. You're motivated. You're determined. That is until you face temptation and instant gratification (hello holiday slackers). Your impulsive side - the hedonistic side of you that has kept you from reaching your goals before now - can be the hardest hurdle between you and the finish line. So how do you control it? What tools help you compromise what you want in the future, versus what you want right now?

One tool I found via the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is the website StickK. StickK is built around the concept of precommitment contracts, a deterrence strategy utilizing incentives to force you to stay on track. For example, let's say you set up the goal to go paleo and lose 12 pounds in 4 weeks. StickK helps you set up the timeline (3 lbs a week) and the stakes (... Do you want to lay money on the line? If so, how much? If you fail, where do you want that money to go? A charity? An organization you despise? What will motivate you?). Then StickK encourages you to designate a referee (an independent third party who monitors your progress) and supporters (your cheer leaders). Then 3, 2, 1, go! You and your determined self are off after your goals.

Fail

Because nobody wants to end up here.

With a tool like StickK, the question remains - how much of a priority is your goal? What are you willing to put on the line? I found this a really interesting concept. If you have thoughts about it, post to comments!