Don’t Sweat It Out!

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program.  STRENGTH and conditioning.  Obviously, strength will be part of everything we do, but how and why?

If you are at Decoded Training Center, strength days are programmed, on average, about one out of every 6 days.  It is important to remain focused on strength these days.  Strength is much harder to build than cardio or other measures of fitness.  As an example, I can take someone who is used to sitting on the couch watching I Love Lucy reruns and have them ready to run a marathon LONG before they can back squat 500 pounds.  Cardiovascular endurance comes relatively easy; strength takes years, maybe decades, of dedicated practice to build.

First, let me go on a tangent and clear up a common misconception about strength.  There is a difference between muscle strength, or contractile potential, and muscle size, called muscle hypertrophy.  Strong muscles don’t necessarily mean large muscles and vice versa.  So, first and foremost ladies, stop worrying; GETTING STRONGER WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULKY.  There are many examples of athletes who are very lean but can move lots of weight, and there are just as many huge, ripped bodybuilders who can lift relatively little weight.  I’ve met yoked-out, professional bodybuilders who could only squat 315 pounds, and not even get below parallel!  Muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy are trained in different ways.  Strength is formed through smaller sets of 3-5 reps, while hypertrophy is gained through sets of 8-15 reps.

When a strength day appears on the whiteboard, I often see athletes frustrated because they are not leaving pools of sweat on the floor and gasping for air at the end of class.  Guess what!  You are not supposed to.  Strength training requires small sets with lots of rest between. Here is some bad news for all of you athletes that think you must follow a strength day with a metcon or a mile run; you are wasting time and effort.  Research has shown that mixing strength training with cardio will negate much of the potential gains in the strength portion.  It is advisable to wait several hours to a day between strength and cardio sessions.

If you need more convincing, here are a few reasons focusing on a strength day will benefit you:

Delay Effects of Sarcopenia  Sarcopenia is a condition that begins around your 40th birthday.  Your muscles start to deteriorate.  As you age, this makes you grow weak.  Eventually, if you survive long enough, you will not be able to balance yourself or perform simple, every-day tasks.  You will be in a wheelchair and need a caretaker (hopefully you didn’t piss off your children too much).  Strength training acts as a buffer and fights the effects created by sarcopenia.

Prevention of Osteoporosis  Similar to sarcopenia, osteoporosis is the weakening of your bones as you age.  Resistance training is the best way to fight and prevent osteoporosis.  Look in the CrossFit journal for several stories of elderly persons who had their osteoporosis diagnoses reversed (they were cured) after starting CrossFit.  There is not a single drug in all of modern medicine that can make that claim.

Improved Performance  Strength training will help your daily WODs.  The ability to move heavier weights will help you move lighter weights faster.  Also, strength training targets your phosphocreatine metabolic pathway, helping you use carbohydrates stored in muscle cells more efficiently.

Weight Loss  Muscle tissue, especially the muscle fibers created by strength training, is very expensive.  It takes a lot of calories to build and even more calories to maintain.  Stronger muscles increase your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories while you sleep.  Over a 24 hour period, you will burn many more calories from a strength day than you will from a 3 mile run.  Depending on your eating habits, most of these calories will come from stored body fat!

There are many more benefits of strength days than the few I listed here.  I urge you to treat these strength days with the respect they are due.  Come to the gym.  Lift heavy shit.  Don’t run or do a metcon afterwards.  Go home, get stronger, and watch the body fat disappear!

 

With love,

Coach Jeff

Nutrition Challenge

download

Decoded Athletes:

As many of you know, nutrition comprises 80-90% of quality health and fitness.  To this end, we are starting this first in a series of nutrition challenges.  We are currently in the planning phases and will have a start date for you soon.  Please read the below information and, if you are interested, please email me to reserve a spot at jmhohman2007@gmail.com.  Emails only please.

Our first nutrition program is a 21 day sugar detox.  It is designed to rid your body of the toxins and cravings associated with processed foods and sugars and to teach you to prepare and eat healthy meals.  Here is what is included:

  • 1-1 ½ hour seminar 7 days prior to the start date to explain what you need to do and what to expect.
  • 7-day guided preparation before the actual start date.
  • One-on-one consultation to refine your nutrition plan to your individual needs.
  • 1-1 ½ hour seminar at the beginning to discuss the programming and nutritional concepts.
  • 21 days of detailed meal plans and recipes.
  • Program book with nutrition log.
  • Recipe book.
  • 2 ½ hour cooking demonstration focusing on quick and easy meal prep/planning
  • Private Facebook group with constant dietary support.
  • Spice shop tour to teach you how to season food without harmful sugars and chemicals.
  • Farmer’s Market/Grocery store tour to teach you how to shop for a healthy lifestyle.
  • Optional in-home visits (extra fee).
  • 1-1 ½ hour seminar at the end of the 21 days do discuss how to continue your healthy lifestyle.
  • Workout programming to compliment any “low” days you may have.
  • All seminars/classes will be held at the Desert Hot Springs location.

Costs are as follows:

  • $125 for Decoded members
  • $175 for non-Decoded members
  • $30 to attend seminar only

I believe this will be a great nutrition program to begin your healthier lifestyle!  Once you rid yourself of your addiction to processed foods and sugars, you can expect to feel better, perform better, and have more energy.  This equals increased performance in our WODs and the ability to burn fat as an energy source.  Again, please email me if you are interested.

– Coach Jeff

What Does “Rx” Mean?

images

What do we mean by the term “Rx”?  Many athletes do not understand the intent of a workout as written, often called as prescribed or Rx.  Some of you do not even pay attention to the whiteboard, but rather just wait for one of us coaches to tell you what to do.  Others get scared of the whiteboard until a coach modifies their workout, thereby calming their nerves.  Well, there is no need to be concerned here, so please read on…

An Rx designation on a workout is meant to describe what humans are capable of, with time and training, not necessarily what you are capable of today.  It is okay to not Rx a workout, especially if there are some higher-skill movements.  It is always better to modify (or scale) a workout and perfect your technique before increasing load, range of motion, or intensity.  Rx is a goal to someday strive for, and in many cases, it is not beneficial to go Rx.  Some of you may have noticed my goal on our goals board, which was to NOT go Rx on a single workout for the month of March and to focus on speed and intensity instead.  This means that I will not do a workout as prescribed even if I am capable of doing so.  Part of this is to set aside my ego, but much of it has to do with power output, work capacity, and intensity, things we can discuss in a future article.

For now, let’s look at the following hypothetical workout:

5 Rounds for Time of:

  • Handstand Walk for 100 Feet
  • 30 Single Leg Squats (Pistols), alternating

I do not know of anyone at the ranch who can Rx this workout today.  But does that mean I would avoid programming it?  Absolutely not, and here’s why:

First of all, these complicated movements can give some people goals for themselves.  I believe that everyone, short of those who have experienced a traumatic injury, can eventually perform these movements.  Changing things up helps prevent fatigue, burnout, and plateaus.  Hopefully, you will look at this workout and be excited and challenged by it.

Second, and most importantly, attempting to progress towards these movements, as prescribed, will reap exponential benefits, even if the actual movements are never accomplished.  You may never be able to do a handstand walk, but trying to get there will improve shoulder stability and strength.  This will improve your handstand push-up, overhead pressing movements, deadlift, and squats.  More importantly, it will help you when you lift that heavy box your husband left on the garage floor back onto its shelf.  You may never be able to do a pistol, but trying will improve your squat strength, balance, accuracy, and flexibility.  Also, when you are 95 years old and trying to convince your kids that you do not need anyone to take care of you, those pistols you progressed towards “back then” may prevent you from falling and breaking a hip.

The point is that an Rx workout is meant to challenge you and push you outside of your comfort zone, but it is perfectly acceptable if you cannot do the workout as prescribed.  Rx denotes the ideal human movement and ability, the level which you should be striving for, not necessarily where you are at today.  The magic of fitness lies not in the achievement perfect movement, but in the constant pursuit of perfect movement.

— Coach Jeff

Massage Therapy

sports massage

Hello athletes, I’ll keep this short and sweet.  With summer quickly approaching, you will be seeing several changes at Decoded Training Center.  To start with, beginning this Thursday, March 16, there will be a world famous massage therapist available to help you heal from and prevent injuries and improve your athletic performance.  The world famous massage therapist of whom I speak is our very own Yessica Mendoza (she is world famous because she is known by people born in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, and Laos).  She has proven herself as a massage therapist and has already helped several of you to recover from some workouts.

You must book an appointment with Yessica through zen planner.  You have to book at least 12 hours in advance.  I set up the appointments in 30 minute blocks.  So, if you would like an hour massage, then reserve two consecutive blocks.  The fee is $1/minute and is payable to Yessica when you show up for your massage.  If you are still having trouble accessing the zen planner website, please let me know and I will take care of that ASAP.

Stay tuned for the upcoming 10-week total body transformation challenge…. There will be a very limited number of spots available!

Nutrition and Supplements 101

Below is an email response I wrote for a friend who had some questions.  Most of you have heard this stuff from me before, but I decided to copy and paste it here because I had to write it again anyhow.  It is long, sorry, but worth knowing.

 

Okay Cory, this is going to be a somewhat long answer, I’m sorry, but I feel you need to know some of the technical details to make an informed decision.  There is simply too much marketing hype on the internet.

First, I’ll address supplements.  Creatine gets an undeserved bad reputation in some circles.  It is the MOST studied supplement on the market.  I am talking thousands of peer reviewed studies!   No study has ever found evidence that creatine damages your kidneys.  People think it does because doctors test the creatine level of your kidney to see if you are in kidney failure; kidney creatine level is a marker, not a harmful substance.  Ingesting a creatine supplement does not increase kidney creatine.  These are two different things.

Creatine does assist workouts that function primarily in the phosphagen metabolic pathway.  This energy pathway is used for very short duration (30 seconds or less), high power output movements.  If you are attempting a 1, 2, or 3 rep maximum lift, with lots of rest between sets, you are working in the phosphagen system.  Here, creatine acts as a catalyst to replenish ATP from ADP and a free phosphate molecule.  Creatine does not significantly benefit any activity lasting more than 30-60 seconds.  It is great for strength training and muscle hypertrophy.  It is shown to give a 3-5% increase in performance.  How does this translate to the real world?  If you are an Olympic athlete, it is the difference between gold and bronze.  If you are a regular schmuck like me, not much.

BUT, creatine has great neurological protective benefits.  It may help prevent Alzheimer’s and helps protect (and maybe restore) nerve (brain) tissue after traumatic injury.   Creatine Monohydrate is the most studied and available form.  It is cheap and easy to find.  Because of the low price and potential benefits, I think it is worth the money to pick some up and throw it in your water bottle once a day.

Typical dosage is 5 grams per day.  Some people choose to do a loading phase for the first week.  Muscles use creatine that is stored in the muscle.  That means the stuff you drink will not be immediately bioavailable for metabolism.  That is why creatine is better post workout or anytime throughout the day than it is pre-workout.

Protein, another highly studied nutrient with tons of marketing hype!  You need at least 0.7 grams per pound of body weight daily.  This number increases to 1.0-1.25 g/lb depending on your goals and activity level.  It is generally best to get this from natural sources such as lean meats, but this can be hard to do.  I cannot eat enough chicken breasts in one day to get the 225g of protein I need!  This is where supplements come in.

The goal of ingesting protein is to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).  Your body has many other uses for protein, but MPS is our goal in fitness.  When you exercise (or do nearly any activity), you are causing minor damage to muscle fibers.  Your body repairs and strengthens these fibers through MPS.  Milk based proteins are the best at stimulating MPS.  Meat proteins do an okay job, and vegetable proteins, while they are beneficial for other protein requirements, actually show a negative effect on MPS.  Most of your whey isolates will be good.  Empirically, I have observed better results on the whey isolates than on the whey blends.

Some people will say that your body can only use 25-30 grams of protein at a time, so you shouldn’t take more than that.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Your body can use up to 30 grams at a time for MPS, but protein has many other uses in the body.  Any extra protein you consume will not be wasted.  If that were the case, I would be shitting pure protein shakes!

Some people will also talk about some special 30-minute post-workout window when you need to get protein.  A 2009 study found no significant difference between athletes who ingested protein 30 minutes post-workout and those who ingested protein 3 hours post-workout.  So, if you forget your protein shaker at the house, don’t worry, you’ll be fine.

Finally, there is no evidence that too much protein can be harmful, but there is a law of diminishing returns.  Another recent study found no significant difference in body composition between people who consumed 1-1.5g/lb of body weight and those who consumed 3-4g/lb.

Another supplement I recommend is fish oils.  It is great for recovery, fighting inflammation, improving cardiac health, and protecting joints.  I recommend fish oils over the glucosamine/chondroitin pills.  You want to focus on Omega 3 fatty acids, and, more specifically, EPA and DHA.  Here is the best way to choose a quality fish oil supplement:

  • Look at the nutrition label and find the amounts for total fat, EPA, and DHA (ignore all other numbers).
  • Convert total fat from grams to milligrams by multiplying by 1,000.
  • Add the EPA and DHA together.
  • The sum of EPA and DHA should be more than half of the total fat. If it is not, ignore that supplement.

Pure Pharma, COSTCO, and Jym all make good Omega 3 supplements.  I’ve noticed price does not necessary determine the quality of the supplement, only the size of the pill.  I’ve been taking the COSTCO ones lately, but the capsules are huge!  Pure Pharma has small pills, but they are expensive.  Regardless of the directions on the label, you want to take at least 2,000 milligrams of EPA + DHA daily.  You can divide the dose between morning and evening or take them all at once.

Some foods are also great sources of Omega 3’s.  Walnuts, wild caught fish, and grass fed beef all have high levels.  Grass fed beef, ounce for ounce, has more omega 3’s than most salmon and is one of the healthiest meats you can eat.  Most of the “bad for heart health” stuff you hear about red meat refers to the feedlot beef.

Remember, if you are tracking your macronutrients on a zone or similar diet, your fish oil supplement needs to be included in your daily fat intake.

One more note about Omega 3’s: if you are expecting any type of surgery, stop taking the fish oils at least two weeks prior.  Omega 3’s make your cell walls (including blood cells) more pliable.  This has the same effect as a blood thinner.  Your individual blood cells will be able to bend and sneak around blockages (think scabs and wounds) easier, so you want to cut back on these pre-surgery.  Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

And, finally, nutrition.  I break nutrition into two very distinct categories.  You can eat for elite athletic performance or eat for general health and well-being.

Nutrition is definitely the hardest component of elite athletic performance.  What you eat is one of the two factors that separates average and good athletes from great and elite athletes.  But, eating for performance requires meticulous tracking and logging of your food intake.  You need to weigh and measure everything.  This can be difficult on a busy schedule.  I do recommend that everyone weigh and measure for at least a month, even if they do not plan on sticking with it long-term.  Eat to perform is a great resource for dealing with this kind of nutrition.

Eating for well-being is somewhat simpler.  It still helps to track your intake of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, but it is not always necessary.  Eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.  Eat real foods; something that has a face (beef, chicken, fish) or that is or used to be green.  Shop the outside of your grocery store; stuff packaged in the aisles is almost always processed and bad for you.  If your food has a nutrition label, it is not real food.  Broccoli and steak does not come with nutrition labels.  Prioritize meats and healthy fats (avocado, grass fed butter, coconut oil, nuts, seeds) over carbohydrates.  Good fats are extremely healthy for you.  I can get you on our meal plan if you like; you will have access to weekly recipes and shopping lists.

Carbohydrates are not an essential macronutrient, even though some will tell you that you “need” carbs.  Your body can synthesize carbohydrates from fat and protein, but your body cannot synthesize fat or protein.  That being said, carbohydrates are essential for top athletic performance.  Try to get 30-40 grams of protein with each meal.  It’s hard, I know.

Why the big emphasis on protein?  It is the only macronutrient that we can consistently predict results from.  Everybody is different, and fat and carb metabolism vary drastically from one person to the next (why tracking is so important to determine your individual body’s needs).  Protein is consistent.  Protein increases your metabolism.  It also helps build more muscle, which in turn burns fat while you rest.  Remember that most fat burn occurs while you are resting (your resting metabolic rate accounts for 50-80% of your daily caloric needs).

Did it look like I forgot to talk about calories in this nutrition part?  I didn’t.  Most people need to eat more, not less.  Living in a caloric deficit is neither healthy nor sustainable.  You do not want to starve your body.  Doing so will decrease your metabolism and increase fat storage.  Our bodies are designed to go into survival mode when caloric intake decreases.  Historically, this was necessary to survive long winters with no food.  We do not have to worry about that in the modern era, so do not starve your body.  It will not make you happy.  It is too hard to stick to.  Eat to Perform and Science Driven Nutrition recommend a wave method whereby you have extended periods of eating sufficient amounts of food combined with short, intermittent periods of decreasing calories.  The calorie deficit phase is designed to burn fat stores and then ends before your body completely reverts to starvation mode.  Much like a periodized strength program, the wave method is designed to control the yo-yo diet in a way that achieves long-term results.  I am an Eat to Perform (ETP) coach, and I have noticed that many people see such benefits during the performance modes (eating more calories), that they do not want to decrease calories.

I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, please let me know.

 

Jeff

The Proper Use of Weightlifting Belts

Nothing says deadlift day like everybody strapping on their weightlifting belts.  But, why do you wear a weightlifting belt?  What advantage does it give you?  Do you know how to use a weightlifting belt?  Are you sure?  If you cannot confidently answer these questions, then read on…

Before I get into the technical aspects of a weightlifting belt, let me share my personal opinion.  I do not like weightlifting belts.  Heavy deadlifts and squats are excellent developers of core strength.  That’s right!  People sometimes ask why we don’t do more core work, but we do core work every day!  That is why we call these functional movements.  The lifts (power and olympic) are great developers of core strength.  If you are not squeezing your core every rep of air squats (or any other movement) you do, you are doing them wrong.  I can spend all day talking about stabilizers vs. primary movers, but that is beyond the scope of this article.  If you want to discuss this sometime, please see me. 

Back to the topic at hand, people often use weightlifting belts as a crutch.  Because of the belt, they do not develop the core strength that they should by powerlifting.  That being said, you will sometimes see me in a belt.  I have a pre-existing back condition from a work injury.  When I see a heavy weight on a barbell, I remember the pain I felt before and I get scared.  It is a psychological thing, and I believe all lifters have experienced this mental block.  For some odd reason, wearing a belt gives me greater confidence.  My rule is simple:  if I am lifting more than 80% of my 1 rep max for a given lift, I wear a belt.  80% or below means no belt.  I do have exemptions to this rule.  For example, I recently did a multiple round workout that included 365 pound deadlifts each round.  This is more than 80% of my 1 rep max, but I did not wear a belt because I did not want to slow myself down by donning and doffing the belt each round.

To understand the purpose served by a belt, we must first consider proper technique when lifting.  It is of utmost importance when squatting or deadlifting to maintain a neutral spine.  We often say this means keeping your back straight, but that is not entirely true.  The spine has a natural S-shaped curved created by the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions.  Having a neutral spine means maintaining this natural curvature throughout a movement. 

The spine is an amazing piece of human anatomy that allows us to twist, bend, and move in multidimensional planes.  Each vertebrae, however, has a limited range of movement.  Bending any one of these spinal joints under load, even if that load is only your bodyweight, creates significant shear forces on the spine.  Sometimes this can lead to immediate injuries such as a torn spinal ligament or bulging disk.  More often, these are repetitive motion injuries.  Your spine is built to last millions of flexion and extension cycles when done with proper form.  Inappropriate rounding of the back causes a severe decrease in the robustness of the spine.

To prevent these injuries, we should maintain a neutral spine as we move.  We typically do this by squeezing our core.  When I say squeezing our core, I do not mean simply tightening our abs.  It must be a squeeze of all the muscles that support our core, including but not limited to our abdominals, glutes, and spinal erectors (think tummy, butt, and back muscles).  Think of your abdomen as a balloon.  When you lift, you want to think of squeezing the balloon walls form all sides equally to prevent the air from bulging out in any one particular direction.  This helps to stabilize the spine and keep it neutral under load.

Keeping with the balloon metaphor, when we use a weightlifting belt, we are reinforcing the walls of the balloon.  Now, imagine wrapping a sturdy belt, with no give, around the balloon, and blowing as much air as you can into the balloon.  As you can imagine, there will be significant pressure against that belt, and the inside of that balloon with be tight.

This is exactly how you use a weightlifting belt.  First, when you are about to lift, you want to cinch your belt down as tight as possible.  It should be uncomfortable, otherwise it does not do you much good.  Next, as you are setting up and bracing for the lift, you want to try and force your abdomen, all sides equally, into that belt.  Think of using all of your core muscles to try and break that belt off of your abdomen.  The weightlifting belt DOES NOT replace your core musculature; instead, it gives your muscles a solid wall to push against.  This causes significant stabilizing force around your spine.

One more note about using a weightlifting belt; it is my observation that most people wear their belt way too low.  The belt should ride above your hips and around your midsection.

In closing, don’t wear a belt.  This is functional fitness, meaning its stuff we want you to apply in your everyday lives.  It is unreasonable to think that you are going to don a weightlifting belt every time you pick up your dog’s food bowl from the floor (deadlift) or sit down on a toilet (squat).  But, maintaining a neutral spine is just as important in these daily actions as it is in the gym trying for that 500 pound back squat.  And yes, I am assigning equal importance, relative to a neutral spine, to sitting on a toilet and squatting 500 pounds.  If you must wear a belt, for whatever reason, please follow the advice in this article and do not have a false sense of security.

For more information about the importance of a neutral spine and methods to ensure you are achieving it, check out Dr. Kelley Starrett’s work at www.mobilityWOD.com

  • Coach Jeff

Nutrition Challenge Part 1

This is the first in a series of nutrition challenges.  Proper nutrition is foundational to your health and everything we do here!  It is often to difficult to make huge changes in your lifestyle all at once, so this nutrition challenge series is designed to help you make incremental and lasting changes to your eating habits over time.

For the first challenge of this series, all you have to do is weigh, measure, and record everything you eat, at least 5 days per week, for 4 weeks.  That’s right!  I am not asking you to change your eating habits yet, just start tracking what you eat.  Once you see your intake, I won’t have to convince you to make changes.  This will also give me a feel for where everyone is at, so I can plan from there.

Once you sign up, you will receive an email containing information, tips, and a chart on which to track.  If you prefer hard copies, I will give you those as well.

Everybody who successfully completes this challenge will be entered to win some cool prizes, including a free month on your membership.

To enter, contact Coach Jeff by phone, text, email, or in person.  Give him your email address and tell him you wish to participate.

This challenge will officially run from September 4 – October 2, 2016.  All tracking sheets will be due by October 5.

Dietary Tools

Hello Decoded Athletes,

I have attached a file you can download to your phones or personal computers.  You will need a Microsoft Excel program or viewer to see it.  It is a very basic nutrition calculator.  Enter the highlighted amounts (if you know them) and the calculator will generate the amount of calories we recommend each day, how much protein, carbs, and fat you should be eating, and your lean mass and body fat figures.  For many of you, you may find that the calculator says you should eat more than you actucally do!  Yes, in many cases people must EAT MORE FOOD TO LOSE MORE FAT.  I can explain all the geeky science another time.  It has to do with a term called metabolic flexibility, which means fixing your broken metabolism.

So, how do you use this info?  I recommend downloading the My Fitness Pal app onto your phone from google play store or apple app store.  Adjust the settings to the numbers the calculator gives, and monitor your intake.  Measuring is impotant!  If you have questions or need help, please reach out and let me know.

Coach Jeff

Macro Calculator