What’s in a Warm Up?

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Want to improve in the gym? Begin with your warm up. It might not be the most exciting part of your workout, but maaaaaaan does a good warm-up go a long ways!

While there isn’t one perfect routine to perform before every workout, there are some principles you can follow to make the most of the 15 or so minutes before you begin.

The most important part of your pre-workout routine may seem obvious, but it’s also easy to overthink: get sweaty. If your body temperature is up to the point that you’ve got a good sweat going, you’ll be moving about as well as you can hope for given the time constraints of a class. “Warm it up, Kane.”

Don’t be so quick to shed your layers. Especially in the winter, keep those sweats on throughout the warm-up. Those extra layers will only help you get going more quickly. Remember that the goal of the warm-up is to get sweaty. Don’t start trying to cool off at the first sign of a little warmth!

Save the in-depth mobility sessions for later in the day! A little light stretching after you’re warm can be helpful if you need to get a specific part of your body moving (something for the shoulders if you’re going overhead, some hip work before you squat, etc.) but the bulk of your mobility work should be done some time after you are done with your workout. I like foam rolling before workouts because it’s not very intense and does a good job of getting larger, more general areas moving.

Use movements that don’t unduly challenge your range of motion too far, or involve much impact. If you’ve been sitting at work all day, or are fresh out of bed, going for a run or getting after some double under practice might be a little much. 5-10 minutes of rowing or biking would be a better, less strenuous use of your time. Get those muscles and joints to gradually work through a full range and they’ll love you for it.

We always have warm-ups programmed in our classes, but hopefully these pointers can help guide your further productivity the next time you show up with a few extra minutes to spare.

The Best $3.00 You Will Ever Spend

Lax_ballNowadays, what can you get for $3? An RX Bar? A bag of Giants sunflower seeds? Three Powerball tickets? Not much outside of these, unless you are one who frequents the “golden arches”. Then I guess you could get a double quarter-pounder, a McChicken and a value French fries.

Well, there is one more thing that comes to mind that would be worth your $3.00: a lacrosse ball. Of the aforementioned items and almost anything else out there for the price, can you get more than one use out of any of them? Probably not.

The white lacrosse ball that I purchased early on in my CrossFit journey has seen more places on me than anyone except my wife. It may not be the pearly white ball that I once had, but it has lost no value in my mind.

Over the past couple of years, the lacrosse ball has become more widely known as a mobility tool than as what it is ordinarily intended for. Here are a few practical uses for one outside of the gym:

Mobilization for the desk-jockey:

  • In some cases you don’t even need to stand up to mobilize. Start with the ball just above the back of your knee, on your hamstring. Keep it there for five minutes, then slowly move it closer to your buttocks until you have it right on your glute. The people who know you do CrossFit already think that you’re weird, so prove them right and help yourself out while you’re trapped at work.

For the standing desk-jockey:

  • This one will take slightly more effort on your part, but at most about 2%. You will slide one shoe off and stand on the lacrosse ball. The amount of pressure you can put on it will increase as your foot starts to loosen up. Typically, I start on the ball of my foot, with my toes curled around the ball. Try to let it sink into your foot instead of just rolling it around. You will notice how when you relax, your muscles start to let their guard down and allow you to really make some progress. I have spent an hour on each foot on more than one occasion, but I’ve also done quick sessions when I don’t have a lot of extra time on my hands.

Airplane travel:

  • A wise man, you may know him as Matt Onken, once told me to bring my lacrosse ball on a plane and mobilize while you cannot do much else. So, recently I had a three and a half hour flight to California and I brought my lacrosse ball. It was the longest mobility session of my life, but I also felt like a new man walking off that plane, which I have never been able to say before. I did the hamstring/glute one from above but also my entire back. This one is really difficult: you need to find any spot on your back and just lean against it. I started on my upper back and worked it around different areas for about five minutes each. I watched two movies and fell asleep all while getting in some quality mobility work.

There are literally hundreds of uses for this little devil. Spend some time with your lacrosse ball in areas that you need it the most and I guarantee you’ll start to feel better. Any of our coaches would be more than happy to recommend some of our favorite tips and tricks for putting the lacrosse ball to work. Just ask if you’re in need of some recommendations.

What the Running Skill Series Taught Me

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Do you enjoy running, or do you hide from it? Is it a way for you to relax and calm yourself down, or the exact opposite? Are you part of the 80% of people who get injured when they run, or are you the happy minority?

If you’ve had negative experiences with running, what was it that caused you to dislike it so much? Does running make your workouts exponentially harder? Is it boring? Do you hurt yourself every time you try to run?

For me it was all of the above, especially the last one. For as long as I can remember, I have had shin splints when I’ve gone running. This dates all the way back to my high school football days, where the only time I wouldn’t feel them was when the adrenaline kicked in during a game. Even running the bases in softball was tough. It would almost make me want to not try for anything more than a single so I wouldn’t have to limp further than to first. To most recently when we would have a running workout in CrossFit and I was forever resigned to rowing.

I tried all kinds of running shoes, orthotics, shin compression sleeves, you name it I’ve tried it.

I remember about a year ago when I hurt my wrist and couldn’t do many of the gym’s workouts. I was sick of doing squats and sit-ups, so I decided to go for a run because I couldn’t stand sitting around anymore. I was going to run all the way around Lake of the Isles without stopping, or at least that was my hope. But just in case I needed to stop or my shin splints flared up, I had my wife follow me in the car blaring the Rocky 4 soundtrack as I ran in my all-gray sweatsuit. Just kidding… well only the rocky 4 part. Everything else actually happened.

To my surprise, I made it all the way around the lake without stopping once. The second farthest run I’ve ever run. Well, for the next week I could barely walk because my shin splints were so bad.

So needless to say I hated running!!

As a competitive guy it always bothered me that I couldn’t run and I’d have to scale to something that I knew my body could handle. Six weeks ago I decided to do something about it and forced myself to take on the uncomfortable task of  joining the TTF Running Skill Series.

This clinic is designed to teach you how to run with the proper mechanics, and mobility that is required. At this point I had tried everything else, so why not.

We started off with a heavy dose of mobility and how to treat any hot spots or places we tender after running.

Think of it this way. If you are deadlifting with a round back a coach sees you doing it, what is their response? Do they say “well that was terrible, now try one hundred more until you get better?” No! A good coach will correct any faulty mechanics immediately, and will point out any movement/mobility issues so you can work to improve them.

Why should running be any different? Because it’s a basic movement and we have been doing it our whole life?

Week by week, we increased our running and every week I had no shin splints. Fast forward to week six, back on Lake of the Isles for thirty minutes of straight running. Once again I made it all the way around without stopping, but this time no shin splints. The next two days I ran again, still no shin splints. I was amazed.

This course taught me something that anyone can learn. It taught me how to run without pain and how to supplement my activity with proper mobility tricks to keep me moving.

If you are someone that has pain every time you run, or if you were like me and avoid running at all costs for fear of injury, you should check out our next Running Skill Series on May 23rd.

Take control of your workouts instead of letting them dictate what you can do!

 

Shoulder Mobility Journey – Part One

In the past, I have documented how my lack of shoulder mobility has held me back and lead to injuries. I have also stated that until I fix this problem, I won’t kip, I won’t go overhead and I won’t be able to reach my goals of walking on my hands, stringing together strict muscle-ups and doing a freestanding handstand pushup.

It’s time to man up and do something about it.

This time, instead of just writing about it, I’m going to show you what my shoulder dysfunction looks like with two basic, but telling, tests.

Kelly Starrett arms overhead test:

For this test, you should stand with your feet hips distance, raise your hands overhead with your thumbs back, elbows locked out, and ears visible while keeping a neutral spine.

Passing this test means you have the shoulder and upper-back mobility to safely and successfully perform movements where your arms are overhead like a pullup, push press, strict press, jerk, or power snatch.

One fails this test when their elbows flare out, shoulders roll forward, and/or their lower back arches. Failing indicates that areas like your lower back will overcompensate for the lack of mobility in your shoulders when trying overhead movements.

Shoulder MOB P1

FMS Shoulder Mobility Screen:

The first step is to measure the distance from your distal wrist crease to the end of your longest finger. You can use a ruler or any other measuring device.

Next, stand with your feet together and make a fist with your thumbs inside of your fingers, like you wouldn’t do if you were going to punch something. Extend both hands out to your sides with your elbows locked out, then reach one fist behind the neck and the other one behind the back at the same time, trying to get the fists as close as possible to each other without forcing it. To test the other side, repeat these steps and switch your top and bottom fists. You may try up to three times per side.

A “passing” score occurs when your hand measurement is greater than the measurement of the gap between the end of the two fists, i.e., your fists are touching or almost touching. If the hand measurement is about the same as the gap between your two fists, or a lot less, then you have suboptimal shoulder mobility.

In most cases, either of the last two results means you will struggle with the same overhead movements mentioned above. Worse, either of these scores, but especially a score where your hand measurement is a lot less than the gap measurement, means you’re likely more susceptible to injury while performing overhead movements. (my hand measures 7″)

Shoulder 2

As you can see from the pictures above, I have a long journey ahead of me. This is frustrating. But I’m sick of dealing with these dysfunctional shoulders, so it’s time to put my big boy boots on and get to steppin’.

I will check in every three months for the next year with pictures of my progress and my quarterly routine to un-stick my shoulders.

Stay tuned . . .

Proactive Versus Reactive

 

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Amongst the many good habits we have, there is one particular bad trend that I see in almost all the people that I work with (I even fall victim to it myself from time to time). We tend to not want to work on what’s uncomfortable until we need to work on it. I’m talking specifically about the restorative processes that we use (or neglect) to take care of our bodies after we workout.

I was talking with a member before a workout the other day and they told me that they needed to scale a specific movement because it didn’t feel so great in their shoulder. We switched up the movement and went on with the workout. Afterwards, I asked them what they had been doing to work on this issue. Their head dropped and there was the familiar “well… you know, I’ve been doing a little stretching here and there.”

You would never wait until you get in a car accident to get your breaks replaced. It’s all-too-often though, that I see people not willing to work on what they know needs attention because they simply know they can get away with it for a little longer.

YOU! Yes you. You need to stop this. And not because it will make me happy (it will though). You need to stop this because I’ve been in your shoes and I can tell you first hand how frustrating it is to wind up on the sidelines with some nagging pain that could have been avoided.

No matter what your chosen activity, you need to be good to your body. You don’t need to dedicate hours of your day to stretching, but please don’t wait until your body is telling you that you went too far to get on some restorative work.

We’re kicking off a new class at the start of March to give you some mobility guidance and get you going. Every Monday, Molly will be leading a 45 minute class to get you working on nipping any potential issues in the bud. Keep an eye on our schedule for sign-up!

We don’t expect perfection from our members – just effort. The dedication is in your best interest anyways, and I promise it will be worth the while. All your coaches are here to help, but at the end of the day you are going to need to do the work. Get busy working on what you know needs to be done!

What Are We Trying To Do Here?

11878919_1050844324933763_6988515572939100698_oWhich one of these examples best fits the direction you want to go in the gym?

Example A:

- New PR’s/Faster Times

- Getting Stronger/Going Faster/Working Harder

- Becoming a “Better Mover”

Example B:

- Becoming a “Better Mover”

- Getting Stronger/Going Faster/Working Harder

- New PR’s/Faster Times

One is sexier than the other and, for the world of instant gratification we live in, is much more attractive. One is a little more vanilla and, for a lot of us, takes some time before we even notice a difference.

I’m sure you see where this is going, but guess which example we support?

One of these paths leads to longevity and the other leads to destruction. We choose to play the long game and we hope you do as well.

Along with making your safety at the gym paramount, we strive to make everyone who comes through our doors better movers.

We believe in quality over quantity. We would rather have you finish a workout last, if it means you execute the movements with perfect form, than finish first with bad form.

Just because your body has been able to “take it” up to this point doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Look at the approach you take in other areas of your life: doctor/dentist appointments, changing the oil in your car, taking out a life insurance policy.

You can justify why taking precautionary measures in these area’s is the smart thing to do. Then why do you decide to take a different approach when it comes to your fitness?

The beautiful thing about mobility is that you can start anytime and you can do it anywhere. For many mobility exercises you don’t even need any equipment other than what God gave you.

“Okay, I want to improve my mobility but I don’t know the next steps to take?”

You don’t need to be a doctor to know what areas of your body don’t move the best. If you can’t touch your toes, start with some hamstring work. If you can’t support an empty bar overhead, work on your shoulder mobility. If you can’t keep your chest vertical throughout a squat, maybe you should work on making your hips more mobile.

Of course if you have had any type of injury in the past, or are dealing with one now, the first place to look is to professional advice from a doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor.

As coaches, we try to give you some of the more common mobilization techniques, hitting the areas where most of us need more range of motion. In  doing these, you might not always “feel the burn,” which you then might interpret as, “I’m not working.” Feeling like you’re not working doesn’t mean that the exercise is not working. It may just mean that you are mobile in that specific area of your body, so your joints and muscles aren’t under a lot of tension. Don’t get pissed because you can’t feel anything, rather, look for ways to keep your mobility in that area what it currently is or improve your mobility in that area by looking for a different variation of the movement.

We often talk about how well children move. For example, watch any child under the age of five squat. It is immaculate. But over the years the “use it or lose it” approach definitely applies to the way we move.

This does not mean that you are destined to remain how you are right now, forever. You can reclaim your mobility, but it might take more dedication and time than it did ten years ago.

We can only push you guys to work on mobility so much, the desire to improve must come from you, too. We have many areas we can help you in your endeavor to become a better mover, but you need to want it.

At What Age Do We Develop Movement Dysfunction?

23428703034_0aa9eae278_oThe next time you’re around a toddler, watch them move. They squat with perfect mechanics and can hang out in the bottom position all day. When they pick toys off the floor their backs are flat and their hamstrings and glutes are loaded. Their movement is effortless and graceful.

My ninth graders on the other hand, move inefficiently with poor mechanics and a lack of body awareness. These guys are athletes; they’re more active than most kids their age, but they still have trouble performing basic functional movements like squatting and deadlifting.

I figure there are many contributing factors to their poor movement, the three biggest being puberty, sitting all day at school and at home, and today’s technology putting their bodies is awful positions for prolonged periods of time.

This lack of quality in movement at such a young age puzzled me. I was curious about when a child’s pure mobility begins to break down. As an experiment last week, I asked my eight-year-old super-athlete of a nephew to squat and pick up a shoe box for me. His squat was flawless, but his lumbar spine was curled when he picked up the box.

I was surprised by this. I know it’s just one kid, but let’s just say for arguments sake that this is the norm: kid’s movement begins to break down at the age of eight. Then what will their movement look like at 18, 30, or 45? Not good.

I mean, I didn’t stare at a computer or phone all day when I was a kid. I learned how to type on typewriter for crying out loud. I was highly active and played sports and games outside all the time. Yet, because I didn’t properly care for myself as a youth, my adult life has been plagued by poor mobility in the most crucial areas for functional movement.

The thought of this is disturbing. I picture a population of Quasimodo-like hunchbacks snap chatting and roasting each other (ask a high schooler about the app) on their phones who can’t perform fundamental movements.

Not all hope is lost though. This scary future is preventable, and some damage is reversible. It will take good old fashioned hard work, but this makes the victory even sweeter. I stress to my young athletes that mobilizing now is crucial, and I give them mobility work to do on their own.

Here are some ideas you can use yourself or share with the kids in your life:

Get up every 20 minutes and move.
Hold your phone or tablet at eye level with a neutral neck position.
Use a standup desk for at least part of your day.
Sit in the bottom of your squat for a few minutes every day.
When moving, be aware of whether or not you are using your core for its sole purpose: to support your spine.
Be physically active, move often.

Movement dysfunction is a snowballing SOB. Stop it before it’s too late.

 

 

 

Do You Even Work On Mobility, Bro?

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How often do you work on flexibility and mobility outside class?

A lot of us attempt movements in the gym that we really shouldn’t because our bodies don’t move well enough to perform them safely.

Here’s a simple rule we all should follow: until you move well enough to complete the range of motion of a movement correctly and safely, you should not perform that movement.

Take overhead movements for example. If you cannot stand with your arms raised overhead, thumbs back, elbows locked out, maintaining a neutral spine with your ears visible, then you cannot safely perform overhead exercises. Including kipping pull-ups!

We gut through these difficult movements with with terrible form and pain faces to feel the false sense of accomplishment that comes with grinding it out. Doing something the wrong way is not an accomplishment; it is a shortcut and a recipe for injury in the gym.

I’m willing to bet you have not made flexibility and mobility work a priority in your training. I don’t mean doing four minutes of mobility work before or after class, I’m talking about making it the priority.

Flexibility is how far your joints and the soft tissues influencing joint movement will stretch. Mobility is the ability for the joints to move freely and easily.

A lack of mobility can be the result of deficiencies in flexibility, neural movement patterns, stability and strength. Since human movement is dependent upon flexibility and mobility, it is in your best interest as a CrossFit athlete and a human being to have a flexibility and mobility program specific to your needs.

After a few years of frustrating injuries, I made mobility and flexibility a priority. Since doing so, I have not sustained an injury. But I have also backed off movements that I cannot complete with good form until I have the range of motion to perform them safely.

If you want to make gains in the gym, or simply want to move well and age gracefully, you must approach your flexibility and mobility training with the same intensity and enthusiasm you have for your strength training and metabolic conditioning.

No more excuses. Make mobility work your priority.

Help! My shoulders are leaking!

scapYour shoulder is made up of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), clavicle (collar bone), and scapula (shoulder blade). The humerus connects to the scapula via a ball and socket joint called the glenohumeral joint. So any articulation of your upper arm will involve your scapula to some degree.

The funny thing about the scapula is that it’s not directly attached to your skeleton. It is held in place by muscles in your back. If these muscles are loosey-goosey when you try to push something heavy over your head, the scapula will sag and you will be leaking energy out of your shoulders. The heavy thing is likely to bonk you on the head. If the heavy thing is your body, and you are doing a handstand, you might bonk your head on the ground.

Before you press overhead you should give yourself something solid to push from by engaging your shoulder blades. But how can this be accomplished? Most of us are very “connected” to our front sides, probably from years of navel gazing and minute examination of our abs in the bathroom mirror. How are you supposed to connect to some weird bone in your back that you can’t even see?

Here’s a drill that I will freely admit I stole from Pavel. Stand with your back against the wall with your knees bent. Walk your shoulder blades up the wall in a R-L-R-L pattern until your knees are straight. Strive to move each of your scaps independently and really reach with each. Now work your way back down. Repeat!

Why meatheads need yoga

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Can you deadlift 400 pounds, but not touch your toes? Are you able to do dozens of pull-ups, but unable to reach your back in the shower? Are pistols and handstands out of the question because it is uncomfortable or impossible due to range of motion deficiencies?

How are your overhead squats? Are you able to keep your heals on the ground, getting full depth on your squat, all while keeping the weight centered over your head?

Some, or should I say a lot of us laugh or snicker when asked how often we do mobility or yoga. But we will puff our chests out and brag about the countless hours of lifting that we have done in the past week.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. The difference between those who can consistently snatch 200+ pounds isn’t strength, but flexibility.

I would bet on someone with mediocre strength and good mobility, over someone with great strength and poor mobility any day. Why? Because a high-powered athlete with poor range-of-motion is going to be nursing injuries on the sideline.

What does the Eat Well challenge have to do with my mobility?

For those of us that participated in the Eat Well challenge, not only did we improve our diet and overall health, but more importantly we learned the power of discipline. We saw the effect of our channeled energy towards one main goal. We now know what foods our bodies can tolerate, and which ones we cannot.

The Eat Well challenge had no shortcuts. There wasn’t instant gratification in the sense of that quick fix, like you get from that slice of cherry cheesecake.

You had to put in your time, punching the clock day in and day out, as you marched towards day 45 where your goal would be complete.

I dare you to do the same with your mobility!

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My best recommendation would be to go to a yoga class. This takes the guess work out of trying to figure out what to do, for us meatheads out there.

One or two yoga classes will not give you a bodyweight snatch. But over time an active yoga practice will give you quicker recovery, better focus, increased balance and fewer injuries that keep you from WOD’ing. The list of benefits goes on.

Just know that you have to put your time in. Yes, you will feel amazing when you walk out of yoga each and every time, but the gains pay for themselves.