Rest Day Rant: Lifting and Eating AKA JUST DO IT

Posted: October 20, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

This week’s rant may ramble all over the map, but I will endeavor to keep it focused around one common theme: our squat program.

There are two groups of people I want to address: those of you who are becoming adept at “missing” squat days, and those of you who regularly and lift.

For those of you who are conveniently missing our lifting days: you are setting yourself up for a horrible, prolonged, flaming, chodent-filled death!!!!! Well, not really, but you are undermining your overall health and fitness. And I know passive aggressive behavior when I see it. Your child can only have so many “Dress like Martha Washington” days at school!

Let’s review all of the benefits of lifting (in no particular order):


  1. Weight training builds stronger bones, thus reducing your risk of osteoporosis (especially important for the ladies).
  2. Weight training raises your basal metabolic rate, thus increasing the amount of calories your body burns throughout the day. In fact, all of that running and met con stuff you love is a recipe to a lower basal metabolic rate if it does not include some big liftin’ and some big eatin’. Take a look at a marathon runner and tell yourself, “this is why I must lift.”
  3. Weight training will boost your energy level
  4. Weight training will increase your muscular endurance and make you less likely to get injured.
  5. Weight training will lower your blood pressure
  6. Weight training will improve your posture
  7. Weight training has been associated with positive reduction of chronic disease, such as diabetes.
  8. Weight training boosts your immune system
  9. Weight training reduces the amount of weaksauce in your soul
  10. Weight training makes you a lean, strong, sexy BEAST!

As much as I continue to preach the necessity of weight lifting and adequate eating with adequate protein, some of you still resist. Some refuse to let go of the insane notion that counting every calorie that goes into your mouth and out of your body through exercise will produce your optimal health. Despite the countless number of Infragilis athletes who are a walking testament to this way of life, some still sneak to the treadmill for 60 minutes of “cardio” and over-restrict their food intake, thus eating like a sick rabbit.
There are two things I have supreme confidence in giving all of us the type of body and life we want: weightlifting (used to include all of our lifts), and a big diet that includes foods shown to promote optimal health. Make no mistake, and write it down: if you are skimping on either one of these two in any way, I guarantee you are likely not seeing the results you want out of CrossFit. Just for emphasis, let me say it again: if you restrict your weightlifting, and/or if you restrict your eating, this is the reason you’re not getting the results you want.

Stop resisting and just do it. Trust me, I understand the fear associated with lifting and not restricting calories. In 2005, I was over 500 pounds!!!! I still get it. I still hear those voices telling me to overrestrict my food intake. Worse yet, I once had a trainer who told me that “cardio” was more important for losing weight than lifting. Luckily for me and others, that camper got the boot. Let go of your fear of lifting big and eating big. Build a raging, thriving lean body mass, and I promise you will look great and, more importantly, feel fantastic. The topic of lifting is so important to me, that I am fast approaching a belief system that will no longer allow people to join Infragilis if they want a “non-lifting” option.

Now, on to those of you who have been coming religiously to our big lifting days. There are two topics I want to cover.

First, for those of you who come and, as such, assumed you could brazenly skip over the above diatribe that included nutrition, well, this is for you: GO EAT SOMETHING. There are some of you who come every, single day and put in your work. You guys work your butts off and I love you for that. But then you get in the BodPod and have lost muscle and gained fat.

This is being said with all love and understanding from someone who’s been there: your diet is whacked.

A recent study found that the prevalence rate for thyroid disorders among women was around 2.5% and 0.6% for men. In other words, your diet is whacked. In my years as both a CrossFit athlete and trainer, I have personally thought that my body had something wrong with it or somehow my body defied the laws that govern human anatomy and physiology. Over the last few years, I’ve trained a small handful of hardworking athletes who experience the same stinking thinking. You see, to be convincing that you are the exception to the rule, you must first convince yourself that you’re eating a “clean” diet. You likely just are not eating as great as you believe.

Unless you fall into this very small percentage of people who suffer with some type of thyroid disorder, then the more likely scenario is that you are not eating a sufficient amount of food (especially protein and fat) to sustain a healthy body. Instead, your brain has analyzed the continued amount of high output data (all of your exercise) and the continued amount of low input data (the food you eat) and assumed you must be dying. It’s like a hunter-gatherer who runs all day long (high energy output), but kills no food (low energy input). Cortisol is having a party throughout your bloodstream, and you’re brain has flipped your metabolic switch to “absorption.” Even worse, high work output, coupled with low food intake can put your body into such stress that you develop symptoms resembling adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Adrenal fatigue is any decrease in the ability of the adrenal glands to carry out their normal functions. This can happen when your body is overwhelmed, or when stress exceeds the capacity of your body to compensate and fully recover. As a result of the increased endocrine related demands the adrenal glands can become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress. For CrossFitters, the three biggest causes of adrenal fatigue are overtraining, undereating, and inadequate sleep (or a combination of two or more).

Adrenal fatigue is on the rise and some studies now cite higher prevalence rates than thyroid disfunctions. Here are two articles you must read on adrenal fatigue. There will be a test with burpee penalty.

The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue

Now, there are also those who are simply living in a fantasy land about their “clean” diet. For those people, their diet isn’t really “clean” at all. However, given the type of people I train, I honestly believe that the bigger problem we are facing here is undereating rather than simple delusion about the types of foods you are eating (though you may still want to have a wake up call about this, too).

Before I move on to the next topic for my lifters, let me say that I strongly encourage you to visit your doctor and have a full physical and blood work. Your doctor can test your thyroid and your adrenal functioning. You can also get a measurement of your testosterone and cortisol levels. I strongly encourage everyone to do this at least yearly.

Okay, now let me put on my meathead hat for a minute. Those of you who have attended all of our squat sessions discovered how much this past week sucked. And I mean it sucked BAD, especially Thursday. Ten sets of three reps of front squats at 90% of your 1 rep max is actually considered cruel and inhumane treatment under the Geneva Convention.

A recent study found that lifting at 90% of your 1 rep max produced higher Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which leads to higher energy expenditure post-workout. In other words, you get more bang for your buck. And, despite the fact that I wish it wasn’t so, you will not see much increase in your maximal strength unless we include many days at or over 80%.

In describing such heavy days, I think a line from the movie 300 is best:  “this will not be short, you will not enjoy this.” Yep, that pretty much sums up how I feel when I’m asked to lift between 80-90% of my max for reps on just about any lift. It isn’t much fun. On a regular basis, I hear the voice to quit much more frequently on heavy lifting days than on big met con days.

On Thursday, we really saw this come out in force. Everyone had doubts. Everyone wanted to quit. Everyone started to ask for less weight because of “form issues.” Let’s be clear: if you can hold perfect form near the end of a heavy lifting day, you really didn’t lift heavy. In my training, I often have many 5X5 squat days at or above 80% of my max. Trust me, the last few sets ain’t pretty. There will never come a day when I post those videos on Facebook.

“But JIIIIIIIIIM, you always yell at me about my form and technique.” Duh. That’s my job. It’s like this: in baseball, my coach made us take hundreds of cuts every day with a significant down stroke. He didn’t want us swinging with an uppercut, so he drilled and drilled and drilled the down stroke. Come game time, most of us had a beautifully level swing. Growth in our strength happens when we push our threshold. The job of your trainer is to make sure you do not delve into a dangerous and unsafe point past your threshold. You will struggle. It will be hard. You will feel dizzy and want to quit…but get down in that hole anyway. Let us worry about your form. Trust that we will not allow you to get into dangerous territory. We cannot cheat ourselves on the 80%, 85%, 90%, and 95% days (yes, there are 95% days coming).

I understand! Next week I have sets on back squat at 90%, 95%, 100%, and 102% and I’ve thought about that day about 1,303,593 times since yesterday. Regardless of how bad it will suck, I am going to get it done. I may very well have to dump some of those lifts to the floor. Worse things can happen….like finding myself in a life threatening situation and being too full of weaksauce to do anything about it. So, let’s all buck up like little campers and embrace the suck of heavy lifting.

To review:

  1. Stop skipping squat days. God kills cuddly things you think are cute when you do.
  2. Eat. And then eat some more.
  3. Embrace the suck.

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