How Can I Improve My Endurance In The Box??

Before I was a crossfitter and a coach, I was an endurance athlete.  Marathons and triathlons were my forte and had never done any formal strength training before and certainly  NEVER had done anything like CrossFit.  In the beginning, even though I was muscularly weak, I could get through most of the  workouts without stopping.  My coaches at the time kept complementing me on my “motor” which translated to my aerobic capacity or endurance.

Endurance allows people to work out at a certain intensity or for an extended amount of time. There are a number of factors that contribute to create an athlete’s “endurance profile,” and two of the most important are VO2 max and lactate threshold.

VO2 max, or the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body can consume oxygen during exercise, is the most popular measurement of aerboic capacity.  The higher your VO2 Max is, the better you can endure even the shortest CrossFit workout.  Lactate threshold is the level of exertion at which lactate accumulates in the muscles.  That’s that heavy, burning, tired feeling you get during a workout as lactic acid builds in the muscles.  Luckily, it’s possible for virtually any type of athlete to improve both of these measures.

I firmly believe that keeping up with some form of cardio training can and will help you in the box. Think about workouts like “Cindy” that are strictly body weight movements over a 20 minute time span…the secret to a good score is to keep moving. Even a workout like “Grace” (although a much shorter workout) requires you to control your breathing so that you can move the weight without long breaks.

If you find yourself regularly sucking wind during your workouts, you may benefit from some cardio cross-training. Running, cycling, or swimming on your CrossFit “rest” days can train slow-twitch muscles to fuel workouts more efficiently and to fight fatigue. A continuous practice of purely cardiovascular training can also help condition fast-twitch muscles which will enhance endurance.

An example would be a 30 minute cycling session or a 30 minute run/walk interval session.  I’m not suggesting you have to go for a 5 mile run to improve your cardiovascular fitness…just acclimate your body to a longer workout than what we typically see in our WODs.  BUT…don’t get me wrong, CrossFit intensity is a different beast.  Even the shortest of workouts can be vomit-inducing.

My best advice is…

Train smart. The gradual adaption principle—that is, slowly and steadily increasing mileage and building these workouts over a gradual increase in time increments, will help prevent injury from introducing a new element to your workout repetoire.

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Playing It Smart

In order to get to the point, I have to start from the very beginning.  In a competition 16 months ago, doing a movement I would never regularly perform nor program, I felt something in my left shoulder.  Not sure what that something was, I knew it wasn’t “okay”.  An MRI revealed a 75% tear in the supraspinatus of my rotator cuff.  Surgical intervention was the only option for repair.  A few months later, I was on the table for a reconstructive surgery.  Six weeks in a sling…no usage allowed followed by another 4 months of physical therapy.

Upon returning to my workouts, I took it slow on the overhead movements, but still felt as though “something” wasn’t right.  I still had chronic pain.  Several injections, prescription anti-inflammatories, topical gels, etc and I still had no relief.  And I was in a holding pattern from progression.  After 8 months, the doctor made the call for a second surgery.  This time a “biceps tenodesis” procedure…basically meaning my biceps tendon was impinged in the shoulder joint.  This was another reconstruction, another set back, another soul crusher.

And here I am now…nearly 3 months post-op, cleared for some light overhead movements, and trying to find my way back to training.  Here’s where I struggle.  Those of you who know my work ethic, taking it “easy” is very difficult for me.  I am terrible at being patient.  But, I also have a very real fear of re-injuring myself and having to go through this all over again.  As I make my attempt at some of these workouts, I have to keep reminding myself that scaling the weight, the movements, etc. is keeping me on track for progress, but it is also protecting my shoulder from further injury.  The struggle is real…but it boils down to one thing…my ego.  I need to do a better job of checking that shit or else I am going to end up back on the table again.

And what does this mean for the future?  Hard to say right now.  My inclination is that I play it safe from here on out.  That I come to terms with the reality that, according to my doctor, I will always have a “crappy” shoulder.  And by “crappy”, he means compromised, weak, susceptible for re-injury.  So what?  I am 40.  I am in pretty good shape.  I can still do some pretty cool things in the gym.  I can still make gains.  But, I just have to approach it with a different (smarter) view.

Cheating:It Happens! 

Let me begin with a definition:

Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

As a coach, it is occasionally brought to my attention about athletes who cheat in the gym.  
The definition of cheating can be very broad.  There are those who don’t get full range of motion on a squat or those who NEVER get their chin over the bar, but still give themselves an RX on the whiteboard.  And there are those who flat out lie by cutting out reps, lie on their time, or give themselves an extra round in an AMRAP. 

I read a blog the other day that categorized athletes into 2 different types: I and II. 

Type I-Athletes fully commit to whatever the WOD is for them for that day, whether it is on-ramp, rx’d, rx’d+, foundations or a warm-up.

Type II -“Athletes” complain about a movement or two in a WOD, try to modify the on-ramp or tone-up/tone-down their WOD & quickly identify movements that ‘suck’ (we all know that they never stop sucking – so suck it up!).

Type I-Athletes complete an extra couple of double-unders, pull-ups or wall balls when they have lost count or think they may have missed a couple of full reps.

Type II -“Athletes” think that when they mess up at 48 double unders, it is ‘good enough’ and move to the next exercise before finishing the last few reps, or are okay with not getting their chin over the bar on the final rep of Fran.

Type I -Athletes work up to the buzzer, even if it means they will only get 20 meters of the next 200 meter run because there is only 10 seconds left.
Type II -“Athletes” finish the round they are currently on, and lie down with time remaining on the clock.

Type -I Athletes ask their coach to closely judge them, give them pointers, and make necessary adjustments when given a ‘no-rep’ call for not getting full depth on a squat.

Type II -“Athletes” roll their eyes at a coach for correctly judging them, scoring them, or giving pointers on how to get full reps. They try to ignore the coach, hide from the view of a coach and continue to ‘sneak’ through bad reps.

No one likes a cheater; whether it’s in the gym or in everyday life.  I’ll admit it, too.  It bothers the hell out of me.  But, I have to remind myself of one thing.  Cheating in the gym isn’t a sign of physical weakness.   It’s mental weakness.  Plain and simple.   Those who cheat don’t have the mental toughness it takes to legitimately push through a workout.  CrossFit taxes the entire body, including the brain. We must be wholly strong, body and mind. Only by staying true at a moment of crisis will we truly grow. Cheaters do win, but is that prize really something desirable? Is the temporary win greater than the long term loss? I say no. When the sweat pours into your eyes, when the weight gets exponentially heavier, when your entire body is burning and screaming for you to quit…don’t. 
This post isn’t the place to expand cheating to all walks of life, but it’s the same as cheating on taxes (save a little money now at the risk of getting caught and paying a higher price later). Applicable to cheating on your diet as well, where you wonder if that extra piece of pizza really was worth it. Current gains for future failures.

Let’s be honest:  When somebody is a regular cheater, everybody in the gym knows it.  The cheater even knows it.  Coaches may attempt to manage it, but it’s hard to force someone to have integrity.  So, how do we deal with it?  When you look at the whiteboard and choose to compare yourself to other athletes, ignore anybody who falls outside of “quality.” The known cheaters do not fall into the “quality” category.  And besides, it’s  just a score on a board.  It’s a workout.  And if you’re a competitor or you like to chase a fellow CrossFitter during regular WODs, keep your eye on comparable athletes and cut the cheaters from your radar.

Coach Erin

Inspiration

I asked the question on Facebook, what inspires you? I asked because inspiration (for me) is hard to articulate. It’s not one certain thing or person or action. But moreover, several traits that encompass inspiration.

I see a lot of people (both famous and everyday folks) using social media as their outlet to attempt to inspire others. But what I see mostly from those individuals is a lot of selfies while flexing, video selfies of their snatch PR, and pumping up their own accomplishments which begs me to ask the question, is that more for yourself or for others? I see it more as a “look at me, look at me” rather than an attempt to reach people. Nothing frustrates me more that inspiration under false pretenses. This made me realize something. I think being humble and modest while being a total badass at something, you are able to motivate others to work a little bit harder. Those who are showy and boastful do nothing but come across as arrogant. (Of course this is all my opinion…afterall, that’s what a blog is for.)

So then I have to ask the question again, what inspires you?

For me, it’s the people who get up before the sun to grab a work out so that they can get their kids to school or get to work on time (or both). It’s the people who drop serious poundage on their own accord because they decided it was time for a change. It’s the ones who go way beyond their comfort zone to tackle their goats. It’s the ones who work hard every day without excuses.
It’s the ones who selflessly help others without hesitation. For me, it’s not about how you look or the weight you put up, but rather the character in which you convey.

If my opinions offend anybody, maybe it’s because you posted too many selfies on Facebook. (I went there).

Screw the Scale!!

At the gym this morning, I saw a woman on the scale with a disappointment and slump in her posture as she waited for the scale to balance. She sighed and stepped off, took a look at herself in the mirror, and walked away.
I instantly remembered why I don’t own a scale anymore. It’s a constant battle with a number. And when that number isn’t what we want, we ask ourselves what did wrong or vow to deprive ourselves of this or that until the number is good.

Here’s what I think…if we have to focus on a number, how about we look at the number we can be proud of. For example, the number of miles we ran. Or the number of workouts we made it to this week. Or the number of pounds we cleaned, jerked, deadlifted, or snatched. How about the number of rounds we crushed in that AMRAP? Or the number of years we’ve been on this earth.

There are so many numbers we can celebrate so I vote kicking that damn scale to the curb. I wish we could put a number value on living a healthy lifestyle. The most important thing we can do for ourselves everyday is look out for number 1. Celebrate what our bodies can do rather than hold it to some standard we think is “ideal”. Make today a great day! Find a number worth giving a high five for!

A Fire in My Belly!!!

Ok…so haters gonna hate, right? Sure…as with anything that may be misunderstood or weird or “cult-like”, the critics will follow like ambulance chasers. Most of the time (most), I let it roll off of me like water on a duck’s back. But, there are those specific instances that strike that feisty chord in me and my inner-rationale says, “let the lion loose!”

Here is the long and the short of it…
I love crossfit. I love the people. I love what it’s done for my health. At nearly 40, I love what it’s done for my body. I have made amazing friends through crossfit. For me, there is no other justification needed.

For those who mock, criticize, purse their lips and shake their heads, I say, “grow a pair!” You may THINK you’re in shape and conditioned until you try a crossfit WOD (that’s “workout of the day”). I can guarantee you…without hesititation…your ass will be handed to you. You may end up in the fetal positon. You may even cry a little for your mommy. But, there are those of you who will never have the balls to walk through the door to try it out and will still criticize the community, the lifestyle, the overall idea of what we encompass.

I AM A CROSSFITTER and I am damned proud of it. I am a CROSSFIT COACH and I am damned proud of it. For those who don’t “get it”, that’s ok. Maybe one day you’ll decide to see what the hype is all about. I encourage it. I hope that day comes. Because then, you may have a legit reason to decide whether or not it’s right you. And then you can post your links on Facebook about crossfit or even roll your eyes to your friends when it’s mentioned.

I encourage physical fitness in all forms. Whether it’s abs all day long, or running, or circuits…I think it’s awesome (maybe prancercize is out). I would never criticize those who are out there busting it to be better than they were yesteday. Don’t be the douche who blasts crossfit when you have no idea what it’s about! Keep on keeping on!

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How does a coach like to be coached?

Hello all!  I took a brief hiatus from my blogging…not because I didn’t have anything to say…

no-sir-ee.  I never lack verbage.

I did take the time; however, to reflect on a few things.  I started thinking about my coaching of others which then snowballed into thoughts on the qualities I like in my own coaches.  And then I freaked myself out.  I started thinking about how I don’t like certain coaching styles (nothing on a personal level, just not my preference) and how I have favorite coaches.  And I panicked…what if my athletes don’t like my coaching?  But then I stopped being paranoid (not really) and was able to break it down to a few simple qualities I find important in my the guys/gals who I look to as coaches.

1. I prefer coaches who NEVER claim to be an expert.  The reason being is a good coach is always aspiring to be a GREAT coach.  That translates to someone who is always seeking to learn more and improve themselves, and have that trickle down to their coaching.

2.  I want my coaches to walk the walk and talk the talk.  Be able to show me how to do a butterfly pull-up, help me with my technique on a muscle-up by being able to demonstrate to me what it’s supposed to look like, show me proper form on a squat clean or snatch…etc (you get the idea).  I struggle with finding credibility in a coach who can’t perform the task they’re trying to teach me.

3.  Much like #2, but I want my coach to get in the box with me…sweat, struggle, dry heave a bit, kick my ass in a WOD or maybe even allow me to kick their ass.   It’s about getting in there and showing your athletes you’re down to throwdown (no matter how craptastic the workout is) and challenge yourself.  For me personally, that goes a long way.

4.  OK…so we all have our days when we feel like a weak piece of crap…we can’t do this lift or our time was super sucky.  It’s called an off day and we all have them.  I tend to take those days super personally and reduce myself to a blubbering, frustrated idiot (I just so happened to do that this weekend over ring dips).  I even sometimes throw myself a little pity party.  BUT, I love my coach to be the one to tell me to pull my head out of my butt, chalk it up to a crap day, and move on.  Maybe not in those words exactly…but again, you get the idea.  The great coaches will tell you you’re a badass even when you’re not feeling it so much.  And they also know no one is as hard on themselves as YOU are.

5.  Most importantly, BE HUMBLE.  BE GRACIOUS.  BE ENCOURAGING.  BE TACTFUL.  BE KIND.  The people you coach need and deserve that.

These obviously aren’t  the rules for everyone.  And if I’m your coach and you don’t particularly like it when I do this or say that…it’s ok to tell me.  I’d rather be able to reach you in a way you prefer and will respond rather than upset you and have you feel like you didn’t get a great workout in.  (Or worse…stop coming!)Image