Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Rest Day Rant: Reaching a Turning Point

Posted: December 22, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last Rant. Soccer has truly dominated my weekends lately.

Are you at a point in your program where you feel stuck? If so, have you sat down and made an honest assessment of the things holding you back. Could it be (gasp) your diet? Perhaps you still let the voice break your workouts down, either in your weight or the intensity you apply to the WOD. Maybe you fall into the category of on-again, off-again CrossFitter and have yet to fully commit to the program.

No matter what is holding you back, the first step in moving forward involves getting honest. If you’re anything like me, then the person you must be honest with is yourself. Are your kids really so busy that you can’t make one of the seven class times we offer? If I’m honest, soccer has not taken up every single minute of my weekends. The truth is more like this: after spending about 2-3 hours at the soccer fields, I didn’t feel like writing anything. The truth is I could have written something had I really wanted to. Is it really true that you don’t have the money to come more often? I have single mothers, full-time students, and even a married couple who are both graduate students who all manage to scrape together the cost of CrossFit month after month. Are you really eating clean? Really? Really??!?!?

You would think honesty is pretty easy when it comes to CrossFit. But I’ve recently learned that is far from the truth. 🙂

About 9 months ago, my workout partners and I made a turn toward a very intense and dedicate course of strength building. We didn’t intend to move away from heavy met-con workouts, but it happened. When we started this strength building, my metabolic conditioning was at a pretty high level for me. I had run my first sub 6 minute mile, and put up PRs on a variety of WOD’s such as Helen, Fran, and Fight Gone Bad.

Flash forward to a couple of Saturdays ago: I was competing at a charity event and the WOD was Fight Gone Bad. I had been on a string of five consecutive performances over 300 reps, with a PR of 389. Well, at this event, that all came crashing DOWN to the tune of 267. The most humbling part happened in the third round. As I approached the last set of push presses, I stared at the bar for nearly 20 seconds. It’s not that I broke for so long; it was the fact that I mentally did not want to continue. That’s right, I wanted to quit.

Prior to this event, I realized that the longest met con WOD we had done in this last cycle (which is a vicious modified Bulgarian cycle) was 10 minutes long. I could justify this with a mountain of “experts” who said it’s easy to re-build endurance, and that while building strength, you really have no need for the longer met-cons. Blah Blah. I had lied to myself and lost an important piece of my program.

This leads to my second key for taking the next step is continuing to practice the mental battle. I know it is hard to build strength and complete a number of killer WOD at the same time, but you still need to put yourself in the habit of practicing the mental discipline of pushing through. See, I’m not sure if I lost so much metabolically as I did mentally. I lost the will to finish when the suffering continues. Sure, I can clean, snatch, back squat, and front squat a ton more than I could nine months ago, but I’ve lost that mental edge, that will to push through the suck…the desire to embrace it.

Fortunately, all we really need to do is decide to reach for that turning point. We can choose on our very next workout, our very next meal, our very next lift to reach out and turn that page. We can decide today that the excuses will end and the results will begin. We can set our minds to complete honesty about our program right now. We don’t have to wait.

This happened in a real way for me Friday. Yesterday was the first day in F-O-R-E-V-E-R that I did not lift a weight at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We did a weird incline walk that I read some Games guru has his athletes do, and then we completed five rounds of 20 double unders and a 200 meter run. So I decided that the double unders had to be unbroken or I had to start over and the run had to be a sprint. By round 3, I wanted to cry like a baby and quit. I felt like a big, sweaty Bulgarian lifter trying to sprint and I wanted to give up. But a little voice, a different voice started to whisper, “Why not find your groove again today? Why not just finish this dang thing?” I didn’t want to, but I listened to that voice. And guess what……

 

IT SUCKED!!!!!!!!! I wanted to vomit and curse Greg Glassman for ever making up a thing called CrossFit.

But I finished. And I didn’t die. I didn’t even pass out! And I took one huge step toward reaching that next turning point in my program.

Listen, don’t be dramatic. Don’t set some magical “date,” like New Year’s or your grandmother’s dog’s vet’s birthday to start your turning point. Just do it. And stop wasting time!

Rest Day Rant: Find Your Mojo

Posted: November 18, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that some of our Unbreakable Athletes seem more motivated than ever during their lifting sessions and workouts. Some, though, do not show the same enjoyment for their workouts that they did a few weeks ago. Still others have become like ghosts; rarely seen these days.

We all struggle with motivation at times. This occasionally involves a legitimate loss of the original enjoyment you had for an activity that lasts for a brief period of time. Loss of motivation can also serve as a sign of overtraining or a lack of taking care of ourselves.

Let’s take on the last issue first. At CrossFit Infragilis, we have a general goal of where we would like to see our athletes progress. We want to make you stronger. We want to help you feel the best you’ve felt in your life. We want to make your everyday lives better and help you function more efficiently outside of the gym. Our program endeavors to meet these and other general fitness goals. Therefore, we lift often and progressively heavier. If you do not eat to support this work, your body will begin to show signs of overtraining. If you are not sleeping adequately, you’ll start showing these same symptoms. If your life lacks enjoyment outside of the gym, you’ll start showing signs of fatigue, depressed mood, and all the rest. As some of you learned last week, when I see these symptoms in you, I do not allow you to lift at the prescribed weight. If you’re not going to take care of yourself, someone has to in some small way.

Now what about those of you who eat well, sleep well, and often have a great time outside of the gym and, yet, you’ve still lost that loving feeling with CrossFit. Have you allowed yourself to get “stuck?”

Some athletes fall for the trap that, “I’m going to get to a certain point with (my weights, my pull-ups, my box jumps, fill in the blank), and then I’ll maintain.”

I’ve seen athletes stay on the same pull-up band literally more than a year. Some athletes will never increase their box jump height while still others never put more weight on the bar no matter how good their technique is or how long they’ve been lifting. They rarely push themselves to new heights and, as you would expect, start becoming “bored.” Also, they stop seeing the amazing results they saw once had when they began their CrossFit journey.

If nothing changes, nothing changes. You must set goals and continue striving to get better or you will lose your mojo. My first CrossFit trainer once told me that “you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, there is no such thing as maintaining.” This is so true with your fitness program. Let’s use the front squat as an example. Suppose 95 pounds was a huge achievement for you nine months into CrossFit. That weight kicked your butt and left you sore for days. Flash forward almost another year, and you’re still using 95 pounds, and sometimes will use 105, but rarely. I can promise you that 95 pounds now isn’t doing for you what it did a year ago. Also, from a psychological standpoint, you’ve lost that feeling of accomplishment you had when you were able to achieve something difficult. Some motivational theorists believe that the higher your perceived probability of success, the lower your motivation is to engage in that activity. Research suggests that our motivation is often highest when we have a moderate perception of success. Therefore, it is a good thing to have a little doubt. For me, I know if I don’t feel some butterflies before a WOD or a heavy lifting session, I don’t seem quite as motivated to do it.

So what are we to do? First, buy yourself a journal. I know there are a lot of fancy apps out there, and I’m not saying don’t use those, but there seems to be something powerful about handwriting your goals and results. Write down not only long term goals, but goals for every week. Write down your weights and your times and start pushing to get a little better each time out.

If you’re really struggling with motivation, take some time this weekend to recall what you really love about CrossFit. Write this down as well. Reflect and see what’s been lost in addition to your motivation. Maybe you love the community and seeing your friends. Well, pick up the phone and ask them to encourage you to start coming with more regularity. Plan events around your workouts with friends, like getting coffee or going for lunch afterwards.

If your loss of motivation has something to do with our actual program, please do not be afraid to call and talk to me about it. Better yet, schedule a time and we’ll sit down and talk about it and your individual program and results. At Infragilis, we are committed to the program of every single athlete, so let us know what we can do to help!

Rest Day Rant: To Cheat or Not to Cheat

Posted: October 27, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

To cheat or not to cheat, that is the question when it comes to a lifestyle of healthy eating. This is a very hot-button issue and one that has personally caused me much joy and anguish.

Near the end of 2011, I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Body in which he made a compelling argument for choosing one day out of your week as a “caloric spike” day: a day in which you purposely not only cheat, but literally splurge with as many calories as possible. The main argument was this kept the brain from habituating to a seven-day per week healthy diet and, thus, causing a plateau.

After reading Ferris’ references, and doing some additional research, I decided to experiment on my own. I can vividly remember the first splurge day I had in January of this year:  donuts at the crack of dawn (mmmmmm….warm), Shoney’s breakfast buffet (the waitress asked “how can someone who looks like you eat like that?” after my sixth trip to the buffet), lunch at CiCi’s pizza (more buffet), ice cream in the afternoon (with brownie chunks), Chinese buffet for supper (and more ice cream), and then a Sonic blast and a candy bar before bed. I woke up the next morning and the last thing on my mind was eating. 

Four months later, I tested myself in the BodPod and had put on a significant amount of muscle and achieved my lowest body fat percentage to date. In my mind, the splurge worked; this was the silver bullet.

From April to September, my splurges grew in both volume and intensity. Unbeknownst to me, I had unlocked the cage that held the beast of my food addiction. He was content to let me believe that I was still in control. By July, I noticed that I didn’t look as lean as I was in April. Instead of backing off my splurge days some, and instead of getting back into the BodPod to understand fully what was going on with my body, I made a critical error: I began cutting back on my intake during the week.. The dreaded metabolic killer known as caloric restriction had returned.

My addiction had tricked me, and once again I was on a downhill slide with my eating. The splurge days got only worse and, thanks to my caloric restriction during the week, my nighttime cheating re-emerged. As I sit here typing this rant, I stand at the entrance of yet another reset with my nutrition plan…and it begins with a woodshedding of the splurge day.

When you struggle with food, as I do, splurging is a terrible idea. I should have known this, but I had once again gotten to a point of frustration with my nutrition. You see, I have and will always struggle with my eating. I am a food addict and I will be until the day I die. Now I realize that I simply cannot handle letting the beast out to that extent. My splurging grew so out of control that my body simply could not handle the caloric excess and started storing fat.

So, does this mean I’m wallowing in despair? Perhaps I’m moping around having a pity party? Nope. Frustration with food has become a constant struggle in my life to the point that I am now accustomed to this….and, luckily, I know the solution – a return to what has given me documented success – a strict Paleo diet without a day of excessive splurging.

You may be wondering, “so you’re going to eat clean ALL THE TIME?” No. Once a week, I will allow myself one, carefully planned, completely accounted-for treat moment. This moment will be managed in my overall caloric and macronutrient goals for the day. Why would I do this? For me, psychologically, staying rigid 24/7, 365 days a year is a one-way ticket to the asylum. I simply cannot manage the increasingly loud voices to give up my healthy lifestyle to return to my previous ways of eating without restraint. By giving myself one predictable “off” moment, I can calm these voices and stay on plan the rest of the time. When the temptation hits, I can simply remind myself that I will have one moment of food bliss on Saturday.

Also, I must return to the full volume of food I was eating prior to my unjustified restriction. My body is made up of a huge, thriving lean body mass that simply must be fed during the week. When I restrict my intake, and allow myself to become hungry, I arm my inner beast with the weapons that will make me crumble and then cheat when I should remain strict.

Some of you Unbreakable Athletes may be wondering why I am writing this. The answer is simple: despite the fact that I never formally announced my splurge days, talk of them spread through Infragilis like a virus. Many of you have started your own version of a splurge day. Unless you are currently at your desired body fat percentage and successfully maintaining that with a splurge, I strongly urge you to stop devoting an entire day to cheating immediately. In my personal and professional opinion, you are undermining your program.

Should you never cheat? Well, I didn’t say that, but I would cheat only if you have the discipline to let it stop with one cheat moment per week, preferably an item you’ve denied yourself rather than an entire feast.

According to Joel Marion in The Cheat to Lose Diet, leptin is an “anti-starvation hormone and increasing calories in a planned fashion actually helps keep your body from thinking it is starving. When the extra calories are provided from a cheat meal, your body recognizes you aren’t starving. Your leptin levels are increased with the cheat meals, causing your body to increase leptin to your body’s unique level. Leptin keeps your body from hanging onto fat and excessive body weight when you are starving, as a means of protecting itself. When leptin levels increase, your body feels fed and allows you to lose more weight.”

Still, some of us may need professional assistance to help plan these cheat moments effectively. Within Anatomies, we have nutrition consultants who can help you build an effective plan to help manage these moments of cheating while still promoting optimal results.

When it comes to struggling with food, no one feels your pain more than I do. This week, when reading about Rich Froning’s diet of peanut butter and chocolate milk, I immediately began resenting the world’s fittest man. Alas, I’m just not wired like Froning, so I must continue to fight the struggle and battle against food. Please don’t let the weekends undermine all the hard work you put in during the week in the gym. Remember, you can’t outwork a bad diet.

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.

Rest Day Rant: SQUATZZZZZ

Posted: October 6, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Why in the world are we killing ourselves with squats? What’s the deal with all of these percentages and reps? This isn’t math class, is it? Are we seriously going to squat this much for three months?

This past Tuesday, we embarked on an ambitious three-month strength building program that focuses on the back squat and front squat. Some of you may be wondering, “why?” In this week’s rant, I want to talk briefly about our program. There are two overarching philosophies as to why we are focusing on the squats. The first is personal and the second is more scientific. This will help explain the why and how of our program.

The “why” of our program centers on a deep belief of mine about strength. As Coach Rippetoe says, “strong people are hard to kill and generally more useful in life.” My first CrossFit coach, Chad Pittman, used to say that “strength is the glass into which you pour your fitness.” Stronger people are generally happier and healthier people. Research has shown that serious strength training provides the following life benefits:

  • Improved muscle strength and tone
  • Better weight management
  • Prevention and control of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and      arthritis
  • Pain management
  • Improved mobility and balance
  • Improved posture
  • Decreased risk of injury
  • Increased bone density and strength
  • Reduced body fat
  • Increased muscle-to-fat ratio
  • Boosted  metabolism (burning more kilojoules when at rest)
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Enhanced performance of everyday tasks.
  • Decreased risk of depression
  • Reduction of anxiety/worry
  • Improved aesthetic  value of your butt in jeans (okay, I added this one)

Building muscle is especially important in women and older athletes. Strength training is vital to helping build muscle mass and bone density. When I say “strength training,” I’m not talking about doing a bunch of kettlebell swings and running forever. I’m talking about serious, aggressive, dedicated, heavy barbell lifting. Please hear me emphatically: no matter who you are, you need to be stronger. This doesn’t mean you have to lift a house, though that would be cool. This means that your training should have at its core a methodology to take your current strength and increase it progressively over time. There’s a lot of programs out there claiming to use “CrossFit methods” in a variety of “killer WOD’s.” Some places have incredibly long WOD’s with lifts sprinkled throughout that leave you daily with that beat down feeling. But unless they have a dedicated focus on barbell lifting and increasing your strength, I would argue such a program is ultimately inferior.

On side note: one of my clients has a friend who trains with another practitioner in town. This trainer informed the nice lady that they don’t lift “heavy” because he doesn’t want his ladies to “bulk up.”

Amy squatting LIKE A BOSS

This person desperately needs to be fired or perhaps horsewhipped, or both. Just take a gander at the ladies at CrossFit Infragilis. They do not look like dudes. The male body produces 10 times the testosterone that the female body generates. So, unless you’re pumping some substance into your body, or out working a man by over 10 times, you have nothing to fear. In fact ladies, if you’re not lifting and instead killing yourself with lots of “cardio” and being tricked into believing the two billion kettlebell swings and wall balls you’re doing every week constitute weight lifting, then I’ll hazard two guesses: (1) you’re probably beginning to look frail, and (2) I bet your butt doesn’t fill up your jeans in a good way. Make no mistake: squatting does a booty good.

So, why have we chosen the squats for the next three months? First, I consider the squat to be the King of all functional movement (BTW, I consider the deadlift to be the Queen). The deep squat is our body’s natural sitting position. A recent study at Duke University also found that no other weighted movement builds greater muscle mass than a full squat. Additionally, the authors found that “Squats create an overall anabolic environment in the body that maximizes gains from other exercises.” According to Men’s Health, because squats involve a large muscle group and require a tremendous amount of energy, they trigger the release of extra testosterone and growth hormone in the bloodstream. That’s a good thing as these two hormones help keep coritsol from wreaking havoc in our bodies. Additionally, the ability to squat heavier will also translate to more capacity on other lifts, such as the clean.

In my personal and professional experience, I have seen no other exercise improve someone’s quality of life more than the full squat. In my

The deep squat is a perfectly natural position for humans. Ask JoJo!

opinion, everyone needs to squat. First, learn to do it properly. Second, get that lift consistently good. Then, work to get heavier a little bit each time. If you’re an Infragilis athlete, this is going to happen from now until the end of the year.

Now, just how do we plan on executing this? You’ve already noticed that when we are following our squat program, you’re given an exact number of sets and reps at an exact percentage of your 1 rep max.

The term hypertrophy is defined as the increase in the size of a muscle through increasing the size of the component cells of the muscle. Huh? Though killer WODs, such as Fran and Helen are very demanding, they are not ideal at increasing the size or strength of the muscles. The increase in the size and raw strength of a muscle occurs best through progressive overload training in such a way that causes hypertrophy. Simply put, progressive overload training involves increasing the weight and repetitions in a systematic way in order to stimulate hypertrophy and, thus, muscle growth. By carefully varying the repetitions and the percentage lifted, the athlete will ultimately see gains in both the size (mass) and the strength (endurance) of the muscle. Two variables must be manipulated for this to happen most effectively: volume and intensity.

In terms of strength training, volume refers to the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time. Intensity is defined as a percent value of maximal functional capacity, or expressed as percent repetition maximum.

“So you’re saying, Jim, that I should just lift heavy all the time? Great, I’ll add two-a-days.”

Wrong. In fact, unless we’re Bulgarian professional lifters who spend all day lifting heavy stuff, eating whole buffalo at a time, and growing beards like a boss (including the ladies), trying to “max out” too often can and often will lead to overtraining syndrome. Overtraining almost always manifests itself in a decline in performance, and often results in injury. In order to prevent this, the volume and intensity of our lifting program will be systematically varied in order to allow adequate recovery. In other words, don’t go lifting “extra” on your own. If you’re coming to class regularly, and following the prescription thoroughly (which includes a good nutritional foundation), then this will work. There’s no need to “dabble” with other things. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Here is a great article on overtraining.

Please note, we’re not lifting so much only for the sake of increasing our strength. No one wants to sit in the gym, rub their ever-expanding gut, brag about their 20 minute mile while saying, “but I can squat 400 pounds one time.” On the athletic field, no one cares how much you can squat when you lose. We are getting stronger to improve our overall performance. In the next three months, we’ll still run and row…a lot. We’ll still do pull-ups…a lot. We’ll still jump rope, and get upside down for handstand push-ups, and all the rest…a lot. We want to improve our overall health and fitness every time we’re in the gym. So, strap in and, as we move forward toward the end of the year, remember to trust your program, eat big (and clean), and REST.

Unbreakables,

We were well represented at the first annual Pensacola Beach Bash. Not only did CIA have the most teams competing, but every team also put up major effort. It is a testament to your hard work and dedication that we go on the road to an independently run competition and have your fitness validated the way it was today.

I’ve never been more proud to be associated with a group of athletes and people. Though I could write pages on what happened today, each team has their own story to tell. It is truly a humbling privilege to work with each of you every day. Thank you for trusting me with your health and fitness.

We had three teams finish in the top 10, and four teams in the top 20. Every team and every athlete finished every workout. Many coaches and judges that I know made a point to comment to me about the outstanding form you all showed, especially with the barbell work. I hope for each of you that this will be a day you long remember in a positive way.

Remember, there will be no main classes tomorrow (Monday, October 1, 2012). The 6:15PM Essentials course will meet. For those of you wanting to workout tomorrow (note, all Beach Bash athletes should REST), you can do WOD 1 at home or come to the basement at Anatomies and do WOD 2.

WOD 1

For Time

100 Jumping Jacks
75 Air Squats
50 Push-ups
25 Burpees
50 Push-ups
75 Air Squats
100 Jumping Jacks

WOD 2

3 Rounds for time

Row 500 meters
25 Kettlebell Swings (55/35 lbs)
15 Push Press (95/65 lbs)

Rest Day Rant: Become a Healthy Skeptic

Posted: September 28, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Well, since today is a rest day for me, and this weekend will be filled with travel and four Beach Brawl WODs, how about a Friday Special Edition of our Rest Day Rant?!?

Today will be somewhat of a different kind of rant. It would be easy to read this and say, “what does this have to do with me and CrossFit?” Please hear me: this may be one of the most important rants to date. Like the line from the movie 300 says, “This will not be short. You will not enjoy this.” And Tracy, no, this isn’t from Wikipedia. J

Imagine this scenario with me for a moment: you’ve been having headaches. You’ve not been feeling well. Perhaps you visit your family doctor who then refers you to a neurosurgeon.

What if this doctor said the following to you: “I have a gut feeling that you have a tumor somewhere in your brain. I’m not going to waste my time on complicated, yet accurate, tests such as an MRI. I’ve been performing brain surgery for 40 years, so I know a tumor when I see it. So I’m just going to cut open your skull and dig around until I find that sucker.”

How many of you would allow this surgeon to operate on you?

This may sound silly, but often in life, we base important decisions on our feelings, emotions, and past experiences rather than solid, credibly-collected evidence. I love the way Robb Wolf justifies his incredibly detailed descriptions of digestion, fats, etc. in the Paleo Solution:

“I need to answer all the inaccuracies that form the basis of our governmental and academic nutritional recommendations…otherwise you are trading one false god for another.” (p. 113)

Another one of my favorite “thinkers,” Coach Mark Rippetoe, puts it this way:

“You are right to be wary. There is much bullsh@#. Be wary of me too, because I may be wrong. Make up your own mind after you evaluate all the evidence and the logic.”

The reason I go into such detail on not only what we do, but also why we do it, is because I want you to be armed with knowledge, and knowledge is power. I am not interested in whether you “think” or “feel” that you’re getting stronger or leaner: I want to put those beliefs to the test. I want to demonstrate with evidence that you are stronger, faster, learner, better than you were before.

Imagine a world in which critical decisions were not based on feelings or opinions, but objective, credible evidence?

Many of you have probably never heard of Project Follow Through – the largest social experiment ever funded by the United States Government. This was a follow-up project to help bolster Project Head Start, in an attempt to keep low-achieving children from falling further behind their peers in reading and math.

You can Google the actual study, so I won’t bore you with the details. One approach out of many attempted educational strategies worked: ONE. This approach was called Direct Instruction. The evidence was overwhelming. In fact, none of the other approaches yielded positive outcomes. So our government, in its infinite wisdom, endorsed all teaching approaches. Why? Because most teachers didn’t “like” direct instruction. They “felt” it was an infringement on their freedom and creativity as teachers. We see how well this feelings-based decision has benefited our educational system.

The same decision-making strategies are applied to fitness and health. People select programs based on what some self-claimed “expert” tells them, or a friend, or the overweight guy on the health club couch who breaks the club with his coffee consumption. When these decisions are made, rarely do positive results follow.

We should develop a healthy skepticism in our lives. One of the things I appreciate most about Ellen as an Infragilis trainer is that she constantly asks me “why are we doing this?” Or, “what is the reasoning behind this?” Her questions stem from a desire to learn, but they also function to hold me accountable. This isn’t Africa and I’m not Jim Jones touting my own brand of Kool-Aid. The recommendations I make come from the evidence I have evaluated, both in my personal program and with my own clients.

As I told someone this morning, the day I encounter an Athlete who eats exactly how we suggest, sleeps adequately, perfects form, and also applies appropriate intensity to his workouts and shows negative results will be the day I start earnestly re-examining my approach to health and fitness.

So how do we become critical consumers of information? How do we develop a healthy skepticism in life? Here are some steps (and sit down, this will take a while).

What pops into your mind when you think of the word argument?

The word “argument” may make you think of two people shouting at one another, perhaps even throwing pots and pans against the walls as they continue shouting.

Alternatively, you might think of someone trying to persuade you to do something.

However, we use the word in a different way when talking about critical thinking. In this context, an argument consists of an assertion along with empirical evidence and a theoretical explanation for the assertion.

In other words, an argument is a statement describing the world (assertion) along with empirical support (evidence) and theoretical support (explanation) for the statement.

Our lives are full of arguments. In becoming a critical thinker, your first step is to identify the arguments presented to you.

What Are the Parts of an Argument?

An argument generally consists of three parts:

(1)  an assertion is, a general description of the characteristics of one or more things or the relation between two or more things

(2)  empirical evidence-that is, specific observations that support or refute the assertion, and

(3)  theoretical explanation-that is, a hypothesized mechanism or model that logically justifies or refutes the assertion

For example, suppose your friend claims that your university discriminates against unattractive people in its hiring practices. She provides survey results showing that 25% of the people in your state are unattractive but only 2% of the employees at the university are unattractive-attractive. She concludes that personnel interviewers tend to trust and believe attractive job candidates more than unattractive ones.

Ask yourself a few questions about your friend’s argument.  Please take the time to write down an answer to each question, using your own words.

First, what is the assertion?

Second, what is the evidence?

Third, what is the explanation?

In this example, the assertion describes a relationship between two things—(a) degree of attractiveness and (b) probability of being employed by the university. In particular, the assertion is that the less attractive a person is, the less likely he or she is to be hired.

Notice that we have slightly changed your friend’s wording that the university “discriminates against unattractive people in its hiring practices” so that we can focus on relationships between things.

In this example, the supporting empirical evidence is the survey result that 2% of the employees are unattractive but 25% of the people in the state are unattractive.

Finally, the theoretical explanation concerns a mechanism, that is, that personnel interviewers believe attractive candidates more than they believe unattractive ones.

Can you criticize your friend’s argument?

What’s wrong with the assertion?

What’s wrong with the evidence?

What’s wrong with the explanation?

When my psychology students answer these questions, they generate a number of high quality critical answers. For example, a major problem that students often raise about the assertion concerns how to define and measure attractiveness.

Similarly, critical students typically have questions about how the evidence was obtained. For example, was the survey based on samples of workers in the state and samples of university workers who were really representative of those groups? This is an important question!

Finally, in criticizing the explanation, students typically point out that there are alternative theories that could account for the evidence–such as the possibility that when people become competent workers they also tend to make themselves look more attractive by using good grooming and fashion techniques. Another alternative explanation may be that the pool of applicants to the university contains a high percentage of attractive people and a very low percentage of unattractive people. How do your answers compare with these? Listen Infragli…don’t just passively accept what’s pushed on you!

Now, WARNING…DANGER WILL ROBINSON. I’m about to enter into some serious GEEK-SPEAK. Most of you won’t care about this stuff, but I believe it is one of the major reasons most people would buy the Brooklyn Bridge. Most people take absolutely no time trying to understand and critique exactly how presented evidence was collected. Well, here’s your cure for insomnia right now:

Types of Empirical Evidence in Non-Natural Sciences

The term empirical evidence means observable. Empirical evidence is observable data, such as the results of observing a natural setting or a laboratory experiment.

Examples include observing the behavior of children in a classroom or the results of an experiment in which students were taught under two different instructional methods.

Furthermore, it is important to note that you can make observations in these situations without any special abilities. For example, the empirical data collected by one person should be the same as the data collected by another observer looking at the same situation.

Critical thinking involves considering how well the empirical evidence supports the assertion. To do this, you need to understand the kinds of empirical evidence thrown at you.

When you come across empirical evidence, you can ask yourself two questions. First, is the evidence measured in numbers (i.e., quantitative) or in words and pictures (i.e., qualitative)? Second, is the evidence based on observations in a natural setting (i.e., descriptive) or on the results of experiments (i.e., experimental).

In the non-natural (i.e., natural sciences being chemistry, biology, etc.) sciences our major ways to collect empirical evidence are the following.

Quantitative-descriptive evidence. This type of evidence is based on observations of the natural environment that are expressed in numbers, including survey results and regular test scores. For example, a researcher who is investigating social cooperation in learning might observe children in a classroom and count the number of times each student offers help to or asks for help from another student.

Qualitative-descriptive evidence. This type of evidence is based on observations of the natural environment that are not expressed in numbers, including clinical interviews and subject protocols. For example, a researcher might write a descriptive narrative of a child’s social interactions with other students over the course of the school day.

Quantitative-experimental evidence. This type of evidence consists of the results of an experiment that are expressed as numbers. For example, a researcher might arrange one classroom so that children work in small groups and another classroom so that children work as a whole class. This is an experiment because the researcher is actively manipulating the environment, rather than just measuring it in some way. Further, suppose that the researcher counts the number of times each student offers or receives help in each of the two classrooms.

Qualitative-experimental evidence. This type of evidence consists of the results of an experiment that are not expressed as numbers. For example, a researcher may write narrative descriptions of a child who was assigned to a small group and a child who was assigned to a whole-class arrangement.

For example, for each of the following pieces of evidence, what would each one represent if we used either “1” for quantitative- descriptive,   “2” for qualitative-descriptive,  “3” for  quantitative- experimental, or “4” for qualitative-experimental?

___In a Midwestern college, half the students were required to eat each of their meals in cafeterias that were painted “institutional green,” and half were required to eat in cafeterias that were painted in soft pink, turquoise, and peach. Although the food served in the two cafeterias was identical, student ratings of the food in the institutional green cafeteria averaged 2.0, on a scale of I to 5 (with I as worst and 5 as best), whereas student ratings from the pastel cafeteria averaged 4.0.
___An analysis of 100 drivers involved in serious traffic accidents revealed that 25% had recently suffered a financial or personal loss such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job.
___In an analysis of his problem-solving behavior for “2 + 4 = ___,”   a first grader reported, “I take one from the 4 and give it to the 2.  Now, I have 3 plus 3, and I know the answer is 6.”

___One student was taught computer programming using the standard manual and another student was taught by allowing lots of hands- on experience. When solving a new programming problem, the traditionally taught student said, “I haven’t had this yet,” whereas the actively taught student said, “This is fun.”

The correct answers for the above items are “3,” “1,” “2,” and “4.” Note that manipulations of the environment that produce evidence are experiments, whereas observations of naturally occurring events are descriptions; also note that when measurements involve numbers, they are quantitative; and when they do not, they are qualitative. When you make decisions about what you are going to do or what you believe, what type of evidence are you using? Are you using any? Think about this carefully.

Everyday people try to sell you something. People are trying to persuade you to do something, vote for their candidate, buy their product, stop doing something, and all sorts of other examples. Are you using critical thinking to make these decisions? More importantly to your health, are you gathering evidence regarding your progress? If not, you may become a slave to your feelings.

Evidence forces us to be honest. Getting in the BodPod forces me to be honest about my diet. Testing for one-rep maxes on lifts forces me to be honest about my strength training. Making a qualitative rating of how I feel post-workout forces me to be honest with how good I’m following my rest and recovery protocols. When I shy away from evidence, then allow Crazy Jim that still resides in my head to become CEO of the crazy committee in my mind. When this happens, I become emotional about my program. Emotional decisions are rarely right decisions.

Okay, I’ve bored you enough for today. I hope at least I’ve motivated you to become a little more skeptical in your daily life.

Rest Day Rant: Pursue Virtuosity

Posted: September 23, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a slight tendency in some of our Unbreakable athletes that needs to be addressed immediately: the often unconscious temptation to not achieve the full standard on a movement.

In most cases, I believe this occurs for two reasons: first, most of us get tired and that voice starts screaming at you. It says things like, “you can’t get that low,” or “no one will notice” if you don’t complete a full rep. A second, though less prevalent reason is zeal to conquer a movement that has historically plagued you. I can still remember when I was almost ready to perform unassisted pull-ups. Though I was close, I wasn’t quite there, but I still tried to make my chicken-neck, chin-below-the-bar pull-up count in a workout.

One of the blessings of working with our Unbreakable athletes is that we, as of yet, have not had to endure those “win at all costs” douchebags who cheat their motions and reps in order to scream “TIME” before anyone else. We have a way at CIA of weeding those folks out quick.

Whatever the reason for not completing the full movement standard during a WOD, this is a serious problem that can undermine your progress. Please make no mistake: we do not fuss about mechanics and movement standards because we believe that all athletes should compete. Our insistence on sound technique and full movement is an outgrowth of our intense desire to see you make progress.

One of these movements will give results…

Often over the last nearly two years, I’ve used the statement, “Only the full range of motion will give the full range of benefit.” This highlights one of the two major reasons we nitpick your movement. The full, below parallel squat, with your weight on your heels, your chest up, your hips locked, knees wide, and with full hip extension at the top is the only variation of a “squat” that will produce the type of physical and neuroendocrine adaptation needed to give you the results you want. An athlete comes to me and says, “I want my back to look like Katie’s back.” I will tell you that Katie’s back looks the way it does because she completes the full range of motion on her pull-ups, ring rows, push-ups, and bent-over rows, to name a few. The full range of motion on all of our movements will absolutely change your body and your life.

The second, perhaps more important, reason we fuss over mechanics involes injury prevention. Let’s take the squat for example. An above-parallel “half” squat often stunts posterior chain engagement and overloads the quads, thus overstressing the patella tendon to hold the athlete in place. Failing to complete full extension at the top of a press leads to muted trap involvement, thus overloading the deltoid and exposing the labrum and rotator cuff at risk. These are just a few of numerous examples.

Admittedly, you can spend an hour searching You-Tube videos and find thousands of CrossFit videos with very scary techniques. What’s most disturbing are those videos in which trainers and other onlookers are heard in the background cheering. Recently, I watched a video of a lift that demonstrated down right frightening and dangerous technique while finding a new 1 rep max. Now, I realize that when you’re trying to find a new 1 rep max, you will see decline in form. But to post such things online for people who do not know any better is irresponsible, in my opinion. There was a comment made, “And I am fine” along with the video.

One of the philosophies of Kelly Starrett that I love most is his “right or wrong” over “pain or no pain” comparison. According to K-Starr, you do

Never shy away from good PVC work!

not measure safety, or technical accuracy with the standard, “well, I’m not hurt, so it must have been fine.” For long-term injury prevention, you must make your rubric right movement over wrong movement. We must make ourselves come to hate wrong movements. While bad movements may cause a one-time injury, repeated bad reps may also add up to eventual injury. I’m not sure about you, but I still want to do CrossFit in my seventies. Continued acceptance of form like I saw on this video will seriously shorten the CrossFit life of any athlete, in my opinion.

So, what are we to make of this short, though very important rant? As you move into a new week of training, strive for a new standard: virtuosity.

You may be wondering, “what in the world is virtuosity?” CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman defines it as “performing the common uncommonly well.” Furthermore, “virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive…” and is “always the mark of true mastery (and of genius and beauty).” You can read Coach Glassman’s entire article on the subject here.

Do not settle for anything but the full range of correct motion. Strive for mastery and beauty in your movements, and I promise you that your results will exceed your wildest dreams. Unbreakable athlete, Dr. Jeff Wilson, is a great example of the pursuit of virtuosity. Jeff was not even close to one of our stronger athletes when he started training last June. While some people would be discouraged when others outperform them, Jeff dedicated himself to mastering the movements. A little over one year later, Jeff consistently lifts as much or more as any other athlete, even athletes that outweight him. At a body weight of around 185 pounds, he PRed his back squat this week at 300 pounds, while also PRing the front squat at 245 pounds. With solid mechanics firmly established, Jeff is ready to see huge growth on these lifts when we begin our 12 week squat cycle in October. Right movements will always produce results: always.

“But JIIIIIMMMM, how do I know if I’m performing a movement correctly???” Well, the most obvious way is to come to class regularly and listen to, receive, and apply feedback. Also, don’t assume that we know everything. Exercise was not invented by Jim, Ellen, or Katie, and we certainly still have much to learn. Spend time educating yourself. Watch videos, read artcles, and spend time talking to your trainers and fellow athletes. Here’s my CrossFit Bromance, Kelly Starrett explaining better ways to do box jumps, for example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZDXc_hLvf4

Discipline yourself to hate bad movement. Strive for perfection and elegance. Become an Unbreakable Virtuoso, and then see what happens to your life.

Rest Day Rant: Better is Better

Posted: September 17, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

Yes, I’m writing about nutrition again. Why? Because, quite simply, your nutritional program is the single most important part of your overall CrossFit program. You cannot outwork a bad diet…PERIOD. So, I will continue to hammer this topic into oblivion. The battle with food has proven to be the most difficult one of my entire life, so I completely understand how hard it is to change your eating.

Adrian Bozeman, one of the leading certification trainers within CrossFit has a saying that I love: “better is better.” For example, some people will say, “I only lifted five more pounds than I did last time.” Well, my friend, “better is better.” “I only took two seconds off my Fran time.” That’s better than last time, and better is better! Would you rather lift less or go slower?

Most of us need to apply this logic to our nutritional program. For most of us, me included, we take an “all-or-nothing” approach to our diet that ultimately becomes our downfall.

Perhaps this sounds familiar. On Monday morning, you’re ALL IN. Maybe you are totally clean for a few days. Then it happens: some food you love begins calling your name. After struggling to fight off the temptation, you finally cave and enjoy yourself. Then that voice says, “well, you’ve messed this up. The week is ruined.” Then you dive head first into a period of debauchery, promising yourself that the next Monday you will do it “for real.” Perhaps you even have a “food party” on Sunday to celebrate your renewed commitment to this new lifestyle of eating that you’re convinced you’ll stick to “this time.”

Flash forward six months of this repeating roller coaster and your “new lifestyle of eating” has left you with a new 18-20 pounds you didn’t have when you started. Frustrated, you make the very bad decision to “take some time off” from CrossFit and your “diet.”

This is a common landmine many of us fall for in our attempts to strengthen our nutritional program. There are a rare few who can flip a switch and make a complete transformation in their eating. My hat is off to those people, but that in no way resembled what happened for me.

When I first started my journey to lose weight and improve my health, I was eating around 6,000 calories of day, including such healthy choices as Snickers bars and Hardees Monster Burgers. Things such as Cool Ranch Doritos and Oreo Cookies were staples of my daily food intake.

Try as I might to make a cold turkey switch to healthier eating, I just couldn’t do it. My mind was obsessed with the foods I felt deprived of and hatred of the new foods I was trying to eat.

Then I decided to use the “Better is Better” principle to my eating. I substituted a whole family size bag of Doritos with a 100-calorie snack pack. The same 100-calorie snack pack helped me with Oreos as well. Make no mistake, this was still a terrible diet, but it was better than what I had been doing prior.

Next, I decided to keep eating snack packs of Doritos every day, but only every other day with Oreos. After a week, I was able to alternate Doritos one day, Oreos the next. Two months later, both foods were eliminated from my diet.

Prior to my lifestyle change, I had Hardees for breakfast and lunch every day. Initially, I kept both intact, but reduced my breakfast to one biscuit instead of two, and replace super size fries with regular size. Next, I started bringing my breakfast twice per week, and then my lunch once per week, but I didn’t bring both on the same day, so I was still eating Hardees daily. Again, it was still a terrible diet, but better than what I had previous been eating. After three months, I completely eliminated Hardees from my diet. In fact, Hardees is one place I have not visited since losing weight.

Additionally, I started forcing myself to try one new “healthy” food per week. Anyone can try at least one new food. Also, I switched from regular pasta to wheat pasta and brown rice from white rice. Granted, most hard-core Paleo faithful cringe at the mention of wheat pasta, but at that time in my life, it was better than regular pasta. When I would eat at Subway, I would ask them to “scoop” the bread, which means they pull the extra break from the inside. Today, I eat no bread at all, but at that time, it was better than my prior eating. Again, better is better.

Today, I am seven years removed from the start of my lifestyle change. My transformation into a Paleo lifestyle has taken me quite a long time. Even now, I do not believe my diet is where it should be, though it is light years better than it was in the past. Each week, I try to make small changes to my eating to better improve my health. Some days are much more challenging than others, but I continue to tell myself, “better is better.”

Are you train wrecking your nutritional program with an “all-or-nothing” approach? What’s one change you can make this week to make your eating better? If you’re like me and really struggle with food, this “better is better” approach may prove the right strategy, as long as you continue making forward progress. Remember, small steps, taken every day really add up over time. Don’t wait: make a small change to improve your nutrition this week.

Rest Day Rant: Too Young to Learn?

Posted: September 8, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

***DISCLAIMER***

This is without a doubt the most controversial Rant I’ve written to date. Some of you may be very offended at my views and may think what I describe with my child equate to horrible parenting or worse. Please remember, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. It’s perfectly okay for you to disagree…in fact, feel free. Let’s just not get emotional about it. The child I describe in this Rant is mine, and anyone who has spent 20 seconds around her knows she is happy and full of life (and herself).

Let’s start today’s Rant with some contextual video. Please NOTE: the following video contains profanity. If such language is offensive to you, please do not watch. You will be able to understand my points just fine without it.

Today was the First Annual Anatomies 1 Mile Fun Walk and Carnival to support National Childhood Obesity Awareness Day. Team Moore has been told all week that we will participate and put forth our very best effort.

So we arose bright and early and, given that I live in the Ocean of Estrogen, time was given to find the perfect race-day clothing. My three-year-old, Josie, was particularly excited and picked out the cutest outfit and proclaimed, “I’m ready to WORK HARD!”

Prior to the event, we didn’t talk about a “race” or “winning” or receiving “awards.” The point made to our children was that we had another unique opportunity to improve our health and fitness through the application of our best effort.

First of all, let me say that I realize that a mile is a LONG distance for a three-year-old. So, the events I’m about to describe should not be confused with a parent who pushes their child to some incredibly ridiculous standard that even an Olympian could not achieve. Today was nothing more than a vitally important learning opportunity.

So we arrived at Anatomies and commenced on our ritualistic pre-workout stretching routine. As always, I tried to “pump” both Kennedy and Josie up to help motivate them to put forth their best effort. Josie was seriously excited. When we approached the starting line, we actually had to hold her so she wouldn’t take off too early.

Then the race started. Four laps around a ¼ mile track was the task at hand. Josie informed me that people who run work harder than those who walk. I agreed with her, so we set off on our run. Never did we encourage Josie to try and beat anyone else, even though kids older than her were passing us left and right. This was billed as a “fun walk,” but kids are kids, so most of them ran.

Josie completed the entire first lap without stopping. That’s pretty dang impressive for a three-year-old in South Mississippi humidity in my opinion. The whole time, we were pouring praise and encouragement on her. At the end of the first lap, the trainer in me clicked in and I directed her to walk a bit (to allow for some recovery). Still, she was feeling good about the event so we spent most of the second lap interspersing runs with short recovery walks. Spectators cheered her on the whole way, and she drank this up like a famished kitten in a bowl of cream.

The third lap began a different tale. “Daddy, I want to go home.” “Daddy, my tummy hurts.” “Mommy, hold me.” I was able to give her physical benchmarks to aim for before stopping, such as, “let’s run to the tree and then we’ll walk.” It wasn’t pretty, but Josie was able to finish the third lap.

Shouts of encouragement such as, “This is the last lap, JoJo,” got us about 20 feet before a meltdown started. My goal was for Josie to finish on her own. Note that at no time did she demonstrate any physical symptoms that would suggest she needed to stop. She was just fighting that voice to quit for the first time in her young life.

The last lap took almost as long as the first three combined, but as she saw the finish line, she told me, “Daddy, let’s run to the end,” and we both crossed the finish line in a full run. Everyone gave her high fives and cheers. Josie then spent the next thirty minutes playing carnival games and hearing from many adults’ statements such as, “you worked so hard,” and “you ran so fast.” Her smile suggested it was perhaps akin to Christmas morning for her.

Now, here’s where the teachable moment begins. “Attention race participants. Please gather around the stage for our awards ceremony.”

Josie was the first person to the stage. The top six children in the six and under category were announced. Josie’s focus on the event was well beyond the focus most three-year-olds would allocate to such a happening. Her name wasn’t called. Josie said nothing. She clapped for every child who received a medal. Next, the top six in the seven and over category were announced. Again, Josie clapped for every child, while listening intently and intensely. The stage then cleared and children returned to the carnival. Josie stayed at the stage.

“Where’s my award and prize?”

“Josie, you did a great job to finish that big run, but these children finished faster than you. You did great, but you didn’t earn an award.”

“I want an award. I WORKED HARD.”

“Josie, you did work very hard. But you also stopped and walked a lot because you were tired and you said your tummy hurt. When you stopped or walked, these children kept running. Therefore, though you did work very hard, they worked harder.”

Josie listened to every word I said as evidenced by sustained eye contact with me the entire time. When the word “harder” left my lips, she melted down. Intense crying, sprinkled with, “I want an award for working hard” continued as she spiraled into an abyss of emotionality. She sought comfort and coddling from her mother.

Now, freeze and look away from the computer and ask yourself what you would do in this situation. Think about it hard and very honestly.

At that moment, I recognized this as the same type of situation I have encountered with my two older children. With my first baby, Alex, I feel I got this wrong all the time. Here’s how I would have reacted when Alex was that age.

“Excuse me Miss Event Coordinator. First of all, why is a three-year-old grouped with six-year-olds? You should have had a tots division. Second of all, how do you know that some of these kids completed all four laps. (In fact, even with Josie, when I checked her in at the finish line table, I said, ‘I don’t know about everyone else, but Josie Moore finished all four laps…’ Yes, I’m awful like that). “Miss Event Coordinator, EVERY child should receive the SAME award.” Note, all participants today received a certificate. I honestly used to believe that if one child received a medal, ALL children should receive a medal.

Today, this is what happened: We took Josie inside Anatomies to the Kidz Zone and did not discuss the event any further. I simply told her, “Remember today so that next time, if you want an award, you can remember that awards come with hard work.”

She usually loves going to the Kidz Zone, but she was inconsolable today. Most parents, I feel, would have tried to conjure up some equivalent “special” award to help end the meltdown, or perhaps in some misguided attempt to rescue their child’s self-esteem. Admittedly, early in my parenting career, this is exactly how I would have reacted. But, today, I was content to let her live in this feeling of despair. It was very hard for me to commit to this course of action.

Then an interesting thing happened. Laura brought Josie back out to the lobby. JoJo was still sitting in her mother’s lap whimpering. When she saw me approach, she looked me in the eye and said, “Daddy, I want to run again.”

“Josie, we will run again another day.”

“No DaDa. I want to run now and I want to do better.”

Please do not miss the fact that we did not talk about trying to “make up” for her previous effort. In my personal and professional (from my years as a child psychologist) opinion, I believe she, on her own accord, decided that the consequences of her previous effort were not to her liking and she wanted to try and make a better attempt.

So I said, “Of course we will run again right now Josie. How about one more lap?”

“Will I earn an award?” Note her use of the word “earn.”

I made the decision to set up a new learning contingency. “Josie, if you make it around the track one time without stopping at all, you will get on stage and earn an award. It will not be a medal, but it will still be an award for trying even harder. But if you stop even one time, or walk, even one time, then we are going home and there will be no award at all. Do you understand?

“Yes Sir.”

“So what happens if we run without stopping?”

“I get on stage and earn an award.” Another use of the word, “earn.”

“But what happens if you stop or walk even one time?”

“We go home and I don’t get an award.”

When we stood at the starting line, Josie declared, “let’s do this thing!” Out of the five total laps Josie ran today, the last lap was by far the easiest of them all. Not once did I have to encourage Josie not to stop. The whole time, she said things such as, “I’ve got to work hard to earn my award,” or “I think I can, I think I can.” There’s an incredibly tough hill on the first half of the track that even breaks me down at times. Determined, Josie yelled, “I can do this.”

We crossed the finish line to no fanfare. There were no cheers, other than her mother and her sister, and no shouts of praise or encouragement. This was just between Josie and her inner self. Valerie Folkes, the person who worked her butt off the pull off today’s awesome event, gave me Josie’s certificate of participation. A three-year-old child has no idea what a certificate of achievement is or what it means. All Josie knew was that this was her “award.” I had no need to create some “special” award that no other child received.

I placed Josie on the stage. No one was around, nor did I even attempt to recruit anyone’s attention. Upon making the “formal” presentation of Josie’s award, she first looked at the certificate and said, “But I want a medal.” I said, “this is your award today. Next time, maybe you can earn a medal, but today, you won by refusing to quit.”

She looked at her certificate, and then, well, the picture speaks better than anything I could write.

On the way home, Josie wouldn’t’ let go of her certificate and possibly could have burned a hole through it if her gaze had laser-like power. She asked me, “Daddy, can we frame this like Sissy’s awards?” Kennedy has several framed awards for her past teams’ soccer accomplishments and the newspaper story on her winning entry in the overall Petal Elementary Science Fair a few years ago.

“Of course we’ll frame your award, Baby Girl. I’m so very proud of you.”

Then, almost as an aside, I heard a throat clear and Kennedy, who is now 12, who finished the entire race before anyone else today, but didn’t receive an award because she forgot to check in at the finish line table, asked, “are you proud of me?”

“Of course I’m proud of you Kakey Jo. Team Moore was well represented today!”

Perhaps I could go on for a few more paragraphs about what I think today meant for Josie in the grand scheme of life. Maybe you think what I did today was horrible. The words here are my opinions, and I will allow you to make up your own mind about today. I hope you will leave comments here or on Facebook, no matter what opinion you form.  I can tell you that, as of the moment of writing this Rant, Josie is having a wonderfully magnificent day. We’ve had to strategically hide her certificate so she doesn’t try to nap with it.

Did you miss a past rant? Check out some of the other rumblings and grumblings from CrossFit Infragilis’ resident big mouth at the links below:

Olympic Lifting Technique

Burn the Boats

Intensity and Results

Diet and Results

Strength Training

Logic, Reason, and Lifting

Stress and Results

Embrace Weaknesses

Your HeadSpace and CrossFit

Courage (Part 2)

Courage (Part 1)

Olympic Lifting Technique (long)