CrossFit began in the early 2000's as a free exercise program dedicated to constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. The Workout of the Day (WOD) published daily on CrossFit.com created a cult like following with garage CrossFitters, active duty military personnel, and globo gym goes who were quickly on their way to getting kicked out for grunting. CrossFit soon moved to a warehouse space nearest you and provided a fun, energetic, and every changing workout to bring your fitness to the next level. Bicep curls were out and cleans became standard practice for the former athlete and soccer mom alike. This is CrossFit at it's finest as a fitness program.
In 2007 at his parents ranch in California, Dave Castro brought a few of his friends out to compete in the first ever CrossFit Games. He deemed the winners of this multi day event to be the Fittest on Earth. As the friendly meeting of exercisers grew, so did its audience and level of athleticism. In direct proportion with audience and TV coverage, these athletes became modern day gladiators lifting heavier and heavier weights, running longer, and walking on their hands better than many Americans on their feet. This is CrossFit at it's finest as a sport.
Both sides of CrossFit have positives that they bring to the fitness community, but the main issue I see arise is when we combine too much of the two. CrossFit as a fitness program should epitomize health at its forefront and competition extremely secondary. Exercise technique is always held as the top priority and load and intensity only increased when form has been achieved. Injury should not be occurring, or a rare occurrence based on a mistake of the athlete or coaches. This fitness program is perfect for everyone with its wide range of scalability in every workout preparing us for anything life throws at us from sitting up from a low chair to rock climbing on the weekends. All of these athletes can still compete, but once a week competing against friends or themselves is plenty. The remainder of their time in the gym should be spent practicing and training.
Now entering the realm of CrossFit as a Sport, competition is at the top of these athletes goals. Although technique is also a priority, these athletes need to be near the top of every fitness related task from gymnastics, to strength, to endurance. Practice and training should be the vast majority of how workouts are conducted. Competition should be saved for a few times a year, namely local competitions, the open, and potentially onto regionals or the games. Just as an NFL player only competes 16 times a year, the remainder of his day revolves around practice, training sessions, and recovery. Additionally, just like any professional athletes, these CrossFit athletes will get injured. At the rate they train and push themselves, it is inevitable. We now look to how we recovery from injuries and do our best to prevent them in the future.
Why is this important to distinguish CrossFit as a fitness program and CrossFit as a sport? Because too often in our gyms these lines are crossed. The vast majority of people walking into our gyms want to be better humans. They want to loose weight, be healthy, move well, learn a few cool moves (handstands are the best party tricks), and maybe light a fire they once had as a high school athlete. These people are here for a fitness program, not to be CrossFit athletes. They are here for 60 minutes, 3-6 times a week, and will never spend enough time recovering, on accessory work, or perfecting their macros to be as safe and effective of an athlete as possible. When a soccer mom hit a PR back squat, then wants to go light in the MetCon, that's okay! When accountant Joe feels a little something in his shoulder during cleans, he should stop or modify the movement. We want to push these individuals to elite fitness, but not push them to injury.
CrossFit athletes however need to do certain things that aren't the safest. They need to push through a certain degree of pain. They need to do kipping handstand pushups that push stress on the cervical spine. They need to do things that will help them win. This is a select few of us, and CrossFitters need to make the distinction between them. Some want to win their heat at Regionals and others just want to live a better life. Make sure your training and coaching aligns with those goals.
Each month I sit down and analyze where all of our athletes are currently at. We are all at different levels, have varying goals, but do share similarities. For whatever reason, I haven't shared in the past a lot of the methods to our madness. But, I do put a lot of work and thought into our programming based on what all of you need, want, and enjoy. That doesn't mean you'll enjoy every workout, but what it does is make you a well rounded athlete excelling in all aspects of fitness from endurance, to strength, to gymnastics, and everything in between. Our primary goal for our gymnastics in the month of July was Butterfly Pull-ups. For August, we will be focusing on Ring Dips. So although you will see ring dip drills and practice popping up throughout the month, don't neglect perfecting your skills in what we built upon in July on your pullups. Before class and after class are the perfect time to work on honing those skills.
This week (July 30th, 2018) we will be testing one of CrossFit's benchmark workouts, Elizabeth. It is one of CrossFit's original girl WODs consistenting of three rounds of a fundamental weightlifting movement and calisthenics. Sound familiar to last week? That's because just like Fran, Elizabeth consists of a 21-15-9 rep scheme of Cleans and Ring Dips. We will be completing this workout again in 4 weeks with the hope that after becoming more proficient in ring dips, you will be able to increase your performance on this benchmark workout.
CrossFit at Aspire Sports Lab has a lot in common with popular exercises programs from P90X to Orange Theory to any other HIIT (high intensity interval training) class. We base our workouts around constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity, just like many of them do. The main difference, I want you all to care and strive toward elevating your performance. Work on your weaknesses, perfect your technique and care about your performance. Remember the scale and body fat calipers are only one measure of our fitness. But by testing these benchmarks and adding in new skills to our bag of tricks each month, we can quantitatively define that we are fitter individuals.
Read more at: library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/13_03_Benchmark_Workouts.pdf
Tips on how to balance life and fitness...
Endurance racing takes time and commitment to be successful. Luckily, with the correct planning, you can have a life in addition to an amazing hobby. No matter what diehards may say, there is much more to life than running, obstacle course racing, cycling, or triathlon. Family, friends, work, and other hobbies should still encompass your life. Here are some tips to make sure you still have friends to cheer you on by the time you make it to the finish line!
Scheduling is vital when it comes to balancing your life. Creating a weekly schedule of your training ensures you get everything done. It also allows you to balance out your work and/or other activities. I experienced a good example of this while planning a weekend trip. Being that I was going to be the only one biking, I didn’t want to bring my bike on the trip just for a few hours of riding. So, I switched up one of my weekly swims with a long bike ride to get that done. I was able to swim on the trip much easier since we were staying on the beach.
Don’t forget to schedule your recovery as well. Not only should you be doing your mobility exercises anyways, but if you are on vacation or just wanting have a good time with friends, you don’t want being tight from your morning workout interfering with whatever might be on the agenda.
You’ve got it down as to when you are doing your workouts, but now you’ve got to make sure you are prepared for them. This means packing your bag, getting your gear ready, making sure you have the right fuel, etc. The night before your workout, you should have everything you need ready, including pre and post workout fuels.
Hydrate! Hydrating is always important, but even more important when drinking alcohol. When we drink alcohol it dehydrates and increases urination. Make sure you are hydrating before, during, and after drinking. Take in some extra electrolytes before and after as well. Nothing is worse than skipping or being hung over during a workout just because you indulged in a few adult beverages the day before.
Include Friends and Family
Don’t be the person that only talks about their racing and training. But, do be the person who invites friends and family to cheer you on at races. That can be a huge step to helping them understand your passion. Also, if they happen to want to join you for a workout, but it slightly conflicts with your training plan, who cares?! One workout is not going to ruin your training and you may never know what that slow bike ride or run/walk may be doing for that person.
Unfortunately sleep is very important. Out at night and have an early training session? Sometimes you’ve got to play the best of both worlds and leave the party a bit early. Hey, at least you went and had a good time. And while everyone else stays out an extra couple of hours, you’ll be getting a good night’s rest and making them feel like crap when they see your Instagram post of your 10 miler the next morning.
Contrary to the title of this article, you can’t really do it all. You have to make the decision as to what is most important and when. Sometimes, especially as you get closer to your important races or events, some aspects of your social life might change. Maybe you can’t go out at night, or you may miss that day at the beach. But, that’s ok because you have an ultimate goal that you have been training for. Once your race is over, you can relax a bit and let things other than your prioritize your life.
The biggest thing is this – be realistic about your training and life. Skipping a great time with friends just because you are training for a race can be a mistake. Workouts can be made up or even skipped from time to time. If it’s on occasion, that is not going necessarily going be the difference between you and a PR. What’s the purpose of training if we aren’t enjoying our lives? Do it all by scheduling, preparing, sleeping, and prioritizing.
How to Survive a Hot Workout
A large portion of our year here in South Florida is hot and humid. That fact however shouldn’t be an excuse not to get outside and utilize our tropical environment as a great place to workout. The beach is still beautiful, parks still spacious, and outdoor spaces should still be enjoyed. Though the heat and humidity can be uncomfortable, tough, and dangerous to exercise in, here are a few steps to conquer it safely and learn how to embrace the heat of South Florida in the summer.
There is nothing more important than hydrating when it comes to hot and humid conditions. Before I partake in any outdoor physical activity, I begin hydrating early that day (a minimum of 2 hours prior or I won’t even participate in outdoor activities). My typical one hour run hydration consists of a minimum of 32 ounces about 2 hours before a run. I always try to be over hydrated than under. Also, bring water with you to keep you hydrated throughout. Also remember that water isn't the only thing you need to be taking in. Electrolytes are vital for the body to absorb the water you are taking in, so make sure you are supplementing with electrolytes in additon to water.
Just like any workout, make sure to eat properly beforehand. Always eat 1-2 hours before a workout to allow time for digestion and proper fuel for the exercise. For workouts over an hour in duration, bring some food along as well, something easy to digest like a power gel, sports drink, or my personal favorite, raisins (university tested to be just as beneficial as sports jelly beans).
Time It Properly
Even for the most conditioned athletes, working out midday is sometimes just not the best idea. Temperatures in the high 90s with little wind and high humidity can be detrimental to not only health, but performance. Avoid the hottest times of the day and try to work out when there is at least a little breeze blowing.
Shade can be a rarity in South Florida. It’s not my fault palm trees don’t provide much shade. Find a nice, shady place to workout and it will decrease the temperature dramatically. Even better is when this shade is in an open place like the beach or a park that you still get a breeze to cool you down a bit extra.
Embrace the Heat
Heat doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you don’t want it to. I personally love running on really hot and humid days. I just make sure I prepare for it properly before I partake in any physical activity. After proper preparation, I have learned how to embrace the hot environment and feel that it makes me stronger in other workouts. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (just don’t die of heat stroke).
One of the toughest questions I faced when getting into triathlon was whether I should purchase a traditional road bike or a tri (or time trial) bike. I have come up with a little guide to steer you in the best direction when it comes to this difficult question. Remember, no matter what, a good fitting at your Local Bike Shop will be necessary!
Questions to ask yourself:
Can you borrow either of the two?
YES – Borrow it. Whichever one. Try it out, see if you like it, and begin making your next move from there. If you can ride it for your first couple tris, even better. Now take what you have learned and make a purchase.
NO – Too bad, keep reading.
Will you be riding in group rides?
YES – Because of the constant braking and shifting needed in group rides, you’ll need to go with the road bike. Shifting on a tri bike out of aero position is a pain and you won’t want to be in aero while drafting. You can also put on aftermarket aero bars to get into a pretty decent aero position when riding alone or in a race.
NO – There’s no need to worry about braking out of aero position because you’ll be riding alone, so go with a tri bike.
In your training will you be with triathletes or cyclists?
TRIATHLETES – Go with a tri bike. You may be the only triathlete in the bunch without a tri bike, so you might as well fit in.
CYCLISTS – They will be riding road bikes, so you probably should also.
How athletic are you?
VERY – A very athletic person is going to have the flexibility (or be dedicated to work on it) to be comfortable in aero position and is going to want to compete in their age division at races. You are going to want a tri bike to have that competitive advantage.
MODERATELY – Although you many need to spend some extra time working on your mobility to be comfortable in aero position, I would still go with the tri bike. Being able to get into a good position to use a larger percentage on quads vs. hamstrings on the bike will save your legs for the run.
NOT VERY – Positioning is going to be uncomfortable to get into on a tri bike. Also, you are not going to be competitive enough at this point for the advantages to outweigh the comfort factor. You might want to get a road bike for the ease of the ride and the fact that you will ride more if it is more enjoyable, which it will be with a road bike.
Other things to consider:
Road bikes are more popular than tri bikes, therefore they are more abundant both new and used. You may get a much better deal on a road bike. I would rather get a great deal on a full carbon road bike with great components, then spend the same amount on a tri bike that will be needed to be upgraded in the near future. Check your LBS (local bike shop) for end of the year deals and the used market to see what’s out there.
You definitely have a better shot at getting a good deal on a road bike, but you also have a better shot at a road bike being able to be ridden around the block and taken for a ride. LBS’ often don’t carry tri bikes in stock. So, when purchasing your first bike, this might be tough as you will not be able to test out the exact bike you are purchasing. This becomes less of an issue on your 2nd bike as you will know much more of what you want. But, for your intro bike the sport, it is nice to ride around and see what you are getting yourself into.
Interest in Triathlon vs. Cycling
When I purchased my first bike, my main priority was finishing a 174 mile charity cycling event. Doing a triathlon was in the back of my mind, but wasn’t my primary concern when purchasing a bike. Fast forward to a few months after that ride, and I was in love with triathlon and regretting my decision getting a road vs tri bike. But, my initial intentions was not to be focused on triathlons, it just worked out that way. So, if you think you will be more into group rides, cruising the coast, and socializing with other cyclists – you need a road bike. But, if there is a chance that triathlon will dominate your mind – you need a tri bike.
You will be more aerodynamic on a tri bike, even if you put clip on aero bars on a road bike. You will also be in a better position to be quad dominant on the bike, leaving your hamstrings fresh for the run. If you can handle the aggressive position, a tri bike is going to be advantageous during a triathlon for those 2 reasons. In my opinion, even if you currently aren’t flexible enough to be comfortable in aero position for a long duration, you need to work on that.. There is no such thing as not flexible enough – work on it.
My first bike was a road bike. I purchased it to complete a long charity ride and then signed up for my first triathlon shortly after. When I realized I was much more interested in triathlons, I regretted getting a road bike. I felt out of place not having a tri bike at races and knew my positioning was not as good as it could be. Never the less, I road my first year of races on that road bike, including my first Ironman. After knowing I was in this sport for the long haul, I upgraded and purchased a tri bike. Now, I love having my old road bike for group rides and my tri bike for when I am solo. I absolutely love having both. Also, financially I would not have been able to purchase the tri bike I did at the time I purchased my road bike. If I had bought a tri bike back then, I would still be looking to upgrade. Therefore, I am happy that I was able to purchase a great road bike back then and save for a great tri bike now. I love having both!
Have any additional questions? I would love to help! E-mail me at AspireSportsLab@gmail.com
HaIts Half-Marathon season and thousands will be running 13.1 miles in the next few months. Here are a few tips to make it the best run of the year!
Learn to run. I know this may sound stupid, but it's true. We all think we know how to run properly, but chances are we don't. Learning proper technique not only will reduce your risk of injury, but will increase your running efficiency and make you faster. Learning a proper "Pose Running" technique is the best gift you can give your running. You wouldn't try to swim a mile without learning proper technique. The same should go for running.
Train Intervals. Running is dominated by Long Slow Distance training plans. Although this method of long runs will get you to the finish line, running miles just to run miles will not make you faster and will increase your risk of injury. Decrease the distance of your runs and train using intervals. For example, instead of a 5 mile run, try running 3 miles with 3 minutes of hard running, followed by 2 minutes of easy running. Repeat that 5 minute interval until 3 miles is complete.
Prioritize 5 to 10 minutes for post workout mobility. Running is very demanding on your body. Take care of it by rolling and stretching for 5-10 minutes after your workouts and runs. Work on just one area for that entire time and move on to a new area next workout.
Don't just run. Running is great and pretty necessary to complete 13.1 miles. But, to reach your potential strength training is essential. Workout with High Intensity Interval Training to be time efficient and get the most out of every workout.
Focus. Running can be very therapeutic and allows you to free your mind. Although great for the mind, not focusing during your runs will not make you any faster. By concentrating on your workout, technique, and pushing your mind and body through barriers, you will become a better runner.
Have any more questions? Contact me today at AspireSportsLab.com or call 954-465-7839 to find our more ways to have the best race of your life!
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.