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!

 

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.

CrossFit Callus Care

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The opposable thumb is the main anatomical feature that makes humans functionally different from apes. Our ability to grab things is essential for tool use. Every time I hit my thumb with a hammer I howl thanks to the human genome.

As all CrossFitters know, the downside of repeatedly grabbing things is that you develop big gnarly calluses after a while. You know that you have CrossFit hands if your spouse recoils in horror when you attempt a tender caress.

Tender caresses aside, the practical reason to take care of your paws is that if you leave calluses unattended they’ll pinch and tear leaving you with a big, scary wound that looks like Freddy Krueger’s face on your hand.

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Lately I’ve been using this shaver from Trim that I bought for like $2 from WalMart.  It rules!  In the picture you can see smooth patches underneath my middle, ring and pinkie fingers.  Those used to be calluses and now they’re smooth like butter.

Now that my hands have been restored to velvety softness I can’t wait to go to CrossFit and smash something with them!

3 Ways to Streamline your Workout Recovery

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Recovering from a workout is just as important as the actual training session. It might not be as fun, but our bodies need to recover from training in order to get stronger. Here are 3 easy steps that you can take to ensure you are recovering properly from a hard day’s work.

Move on your days off. While curling up on the couch might feel like the best method of recovery, it’s important to move during off days. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but do try to get your heart rate up a bit without further taxing yourself. The more full range movements you can work through, the better. A light row, some time out walking, going for a swim, or taking a yoga class are all great options!

Work on improving your mobility for 15 minutes before bed. There are two big benefits. First, you restore full range to your rapidly-tightening tissue. Second, by unwinding before your head hits the pillow you get a more restful sleep. Two birds, one stone – BAM!

HYDRATE. This one is commonly overlooked in the winter, but it’s important year round! Drinking water is vital to proper hydration (shoot for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces everyday), but replenishing electrolytes can be just as important – especially if you’re depleted after a long workout. Products like Nuun electrolyte tablets are an easy way to make sure you’re replacing what you sweated out.

The moral of this story is that if you want your body to perform well, take care of yourself outside the gym.

Why I Eat Rice

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I can’t help but laugh as I write this. It’s ok if you’re laughing too. Let’s face it. Asian people eat a lot of rice.

But for me it was not always thus. When I first discovered the Paleolithic nutrition plan, I was neurotically strict.

No grains means no grains, right? I was so strict that I would discard the rice bowl at the Korean BBQ. I was that guy.

But something always bugged me about the eliminationist aspect of Paleo. Ethnic differences are a matter of evolutionary forces. I don’t look like other people. Maybe I shouldn’t eat like other people?

It’s not so far-fetched. Geneticists know that most Asians lack the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol. (Which explains the red, puffy faces you see at the karaoke bar) If most Asians don’t tolerate alcohol is it so unreasonable to think that most Asians do tolerate rice?

My theory was put to the test the first time I visited my mom after going Paleo. In my mother’s house you do not refuse food. So I ate the rice she put in front of me, convinced that I would be convulsed and retching into the toilet within minutes.

Lo and behold, I was fine. I did not get a headache and drive my car into a tree. My butt didn’t explode. Cool.

In the ensuing months I learned something very important. Rice doesn’t make me sick but it does make me fat. I eat rice sparingly now, primarily in the context of a recovery meal, when I am very motivated to get my insulin levels up.

The main point I want to make here is that I only made this discovery because I started from a clean slate. I knew what it felt like to be on a clean diet so I had a point of reference when I started to introduce a questionable food.

If you want to learn how to thrive; if you are sick of one-size-fits-all diets, join us in our Eat Well challenge. The challenge is six weeks long. The first four weeks will be a reset where we rid our diets of foods that are known to be problematic (think processed foods). During the final two weeks we will systematically reintroduce the foods we eliminated to see how our bodies react to them.

It’s going to be awesome. Register here.

How is your relationship with sleep?

10653734_887950794556451_8639299496106600015_nWe have all heard the recommendations for the amount of sleep you should get nightly numerous times: between seven and nine hours depending on the individual and other variables involved.

If sleep were a line of credit, how often would you be borrowing against it for each hour you under slept?

Are you in serious sleep debt? Do you forget what it feels like to even get a night of “average sleep?”

Harvard Health Publications says, “Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it’s like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.”

Studies done by Penn State University College of Medicine, talk about how we cannot fully recoup our Workweek Sleep Deficit just by sleeping in on the weekends and napping.

Another article by the “Sleep Doctor” himself, Michael J Breus, talks about a few other factors you are facing because of not getting the proper amount of sleep, including:

  • Diminished cognitive performance
  • Reduced alertness
  • Increased inflammation
  • Interference with healthy immune functions
  • Triggers metabolic changes
  • Impulse to overeat
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Disruptive hormone levels
  • Elevated blood pressure

Now think about how this may affect you in the gym. Our workouts are demanding enough to stack the odds even more against us by not sleeping enough.

There are plenty of things that life can throw at us, but typically, for most of us, it is no more than a night or two off the beaten path of our normal sleep pattern (parents of new borns not included) that throw us off our game.

If you are looking for results in the gym, sleep should be pretty high on the totem pole of priorities. Help yourself out by going to bed around the same time every night. Stay away from electronics up to two hours before bedtime. Sleep in a cold dark room.

If you are no longer in college your motto shouldn’t still be, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” In this world of instant gratification, sacrifice an episode of Game of Thrones and set yourself up for success tomorrow!

Improved Mobility – The Comfortable Way

photo The lacrosse ball is now almost as much a staple in CrossFit gyms as a barbell is. We use them to massage and break up tight tissue to improve range of motion where we might be lacking. While they are extremely effective at getting into some of our tighter muscles, sometimes their dense build can be a bit too much.

Enter: the Yoga Tune Up Ball. Think of a ball with the inner-density of a lacrosse ball, but with a layer of foam wrapped around the outside. This slightly softer composition makes the idea of working on your mobility a much less painful one (especially if what you need to work on is sore!). The Tune Up ball is also available in 3 different sizes, so getting at some of the harder-to-reach tissue is no big deal.

Lack of mobility is one of the biggest limiters to success that I see when working with athletes. If you know you would benefit from further work, I’d highly recommend giving some of the Yoga Tune Up products a try. Coach Kayser told me about these a while back and they have been a go-to for me ever since.

One Foot in Front of the Other

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I’ve heard people say that injuries are inherent in training. While I understand the point that they are trying to make (at least in the case of professional athletes), I disagree with that generalization. If you are paying attention to proper technique, taking care of yourself outside the gym, and maintaining a balanced recovery schedule, there is no reason you should plan on getting hurt.

That being said, sometimes it happens, unfortunately. And sometimes to those that are in the best shape. If you are working out to live a long happy life as a strong person (you are!) then the trick is to not let an injury completely sideline you while it gets better.

I follow a long-time crossfit.com contributor named Pat Sherwood on Instagram. A few months back he was in a motorcycle accident that left him with a separated AC joint – an injury that for most would mean a lot of time away from anything workout related. I was very impressed not only by his motivation to keep active while his shoulder healed, but also by his humility in accepting that scaling options were going to be common for him to prevent any further issues with his shoulder-on-the-mend. He posted this video on his page showing some of the ways that he was staying productive through his healing.

Just so we’re clear, I am NOT saying that you should be further challenging yourself in an area that is recovering from an injury. If a doctor has told you to stay off it, do that. I AM saying that just because you have some current limitations, you do not have a pass to become a couch potato and undo all the work that you’ve put in.

Remember that our staff is here to help! If you ever have questions or are unsure of something that has been problematic for you, please don’t hesitate to ask us about it. It is our job to keep you safe and we are here to accommodate the needs of all the different athletes that we work with!