Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who should do CrossFit?

CrossFit seems to be a very polarizing topic.  You have the group of people who live, eat, and breathe CrossFit then you have the group who label it as a gaurenteed injury and loss of gains.  I, however, seem to fall somewhere in the middle. I would not say that I am pro-CrossFit but I do think that it does have some merit and has helped thousands of people in the recent years. If you are reading this then you are probably contemplating whether you want to give CrossFit a try. It is my hopes that the following information will help guide in that decision process.  So lets get right to the main points.

Who SHOULD do CrossFit?
Those who need or want coaching
There is typically at least one, maybe multiple, coaches present at each workout.  They are there to guide the workouts, ensure the safety of participants, offer cues for correction, and provide motivation.  If you are new to exercise then a coach will be helpful in providing advice on how to train, how to use proper form, and how to make the most of your time at the gym.  These coaches also create the workouts and have them ready for you each day.

*Side note:  There is really no way to know for sure if the box you go to has a quality coach or not.  You can become a coach/trainer during a weekend certification.  You just have to be willing to make that gamble.  There are some really great coaches at CrossFit gyms but there are also some really poorly trained, dangerous coaches as well.
Those who want to be part of a fitness community
This might be the biggest draw of CF.  You don't just show up, workout, and leave.  You become part of a group.  People learn your name, you develop relationships, and you get instant accountability.  For some people that support system will make a huge different in exercise adherence.

Those who like competition
There is a reason that so many former athletes are attracted to CF.  Competition is a huge part of the CF atmosphere.  You have gyms against other gyms in local "games", the elite athletes competing for top numbers and times in WOD's, and then you have the average joe's just competing against themselves.  One could argue that to make progress you are always in competition with yourself but CF put a focus on it as evident by their many timed workouts.  The entire object of many workouts is to just finish in the least amount of time, much like a race(ie competition).  So if you are driven by that competition, whether with another group/person or yourself, then CF might be your cup of tea.
Those wanting a general fitness program laid out for them
As I mentioned previously, the coaches have a workout ready for you when you walk in the door.  These workouts are based on general physical preparedness and focus on whole body, compound movements and rely on utilization of multiple energy systems.  For some people this is great because they don't have to take time out of their schedule to come up with these exercise plans.  They simply show up and get to work.

Now let's talk about the flip side.

Who SHOULD NOT do CrossFit?

Those who have specific sports or competition goals
CF is based on general fitness and takes pride in avoiding any type of specialization.  If you are training for any specific event then your training plan should be specialized for that event.  CF does not jive with this model.  When you go to a workout, you do THAT workout.  It doesn't matter if it will take away from your specific goals, it is the WOD(workout of the day). Again, one could argue that CF training could help you in other non-CF arenas, but that goes against the law of specificity.  A law that states that in order to optimize performance in a particular skill you need to practice that specific skill.  So unless that skill is the CrossFit games then performing CF workouts will most likely limit optimal performance.
Those who like exercise freedom
This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I wouldn't join a CrossFit gym.  I like to have the freedom to dictate my own workout.  If I feel like riding my mountain bike for the day's workout that is what I am going to do.  If I feel like doing an all body-weight workout that day I want that option. I don't really care for Olympic lifting but you can't walk in a CF gym without snatching or cleaning something.  I would hate to have my workout handed to me everyday and forced to do something I don't really want to do.  To me that is one of the great things about exercise.  You have full freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how hard you want.  At a CF gym that decision is made for you.  Some would think of that as plus but it is a real turnoff for me.

Those who are injured or prone to injury
Many of the CF workouts are based on time and total reps, both of which require speed.  If you are increasing the speed of movements, adding in complex exercises, and topping it off with accumulating fatigue then you drastically increase the chance of injury.  I am not saying that an injury with occur but the odds are definitely increased.  So if you are prone to injury because of previous or current conditions then the risk is not really worth it.  Also if you are currently injured then you will most likely have to modify movements or drop certain movements all together.  CF workouts are not very conducive to this.  CF workouts run best when everyone is doing the same thing.  Sure, a coach can let you modify the workout but they probably won't be able to give you the attention you need to protect your injury.  After all, it is not personal training, it is group training.  They have to do what is most beneficial for the group and tending to your specific needs does not accomplish that.

Those who don't like dogma
Not the 1999 movie starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, but the ideology. This is another big turn off for me.  CrossFit is filled with dogma.  If you talk to people that do CF then you will hear that there is one way to train (crossfit), one way to eat (paleo), one way to perform exercises (american kb swing), even one way to dress (reebok gear and ridiculous tube socks).  And if you disagree with CF dogma then there is typically a huge backlash.  On more than one occasion the corporate CF head honchos have filed lawsuits against people who "dis" CrossFit.  One dogmatic thing I find interesting about CF is how they wouldn't be caught dead using an elliptical trainer but they have no problem using a rower or Airdyne bike.  All three are big pieces of equipment that utilize large muscle groups in a coordinated fashion to elevate heart rate.  To praise one and condemn the other makes no sense.


So there are my reasons why one should or should not join CrossFit.  I tried to be as unbiased as possible as to help you make an informed decision about taking on a new exercise regime.  As I said before CF does have many benefits and has been a life changer for probably thousands of people but that does not mean it is for everyone.  It is up to you to make that choice I just hope this information will help.

 Amerson Fitness

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to improve your diet

I have said it before and I will say it again, you must have a good diet if you ever want to to reach your health, performance, or physique goals.  There really is no way around it.  Diet has the most influence over health and fitness related goals but the good news is that diet is also something that you have complete control over.  You can make the choice to buy and eat healthy foods or you can choose to stop by you local fast food joint and poison your body with garbage. I suggest you do the former. So with today's post I would like to offer some tips on how you can make those right choices and improve your diet one smart choice at a time.  

Go to the grocery store at least once per week
If you are only going to the grocery store once or twice a month then you are forced to buy products with a longer shelf life.  That usually means buying items in a box, can, or frozen bag, all of which lower the overall quality of food.  But if you go to the store every week then you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, know, the good stuff.  It might require a little more planning with your schedule but it is worth it in the end.  You will be fueling your body with fresh, nutrient rich foods that taste better and provide you with more health benefits.

Focus on whole foods
What do I mean by whole foods?  Pretty much if there is a brand name associated with it then chances are its not a whole food.  Good examples of NOT whole foods are ric-a-roni, hamburger helper, beanie weenies, lunchables, hungry man, etc.  Whole foods typically don't come in a package and usually do not have an ingredient list.  You are pretty safe choosing from fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle, most meats and fish from the meat market, and certain grains with just one ingredient(i.e., whole oats, quinoa).

Record 3 days worth of food intake
If you don't know where you are then you don't know where you should be going, and a food log can be a very powerful tool to help guide you.  Not only does it allow you track your intake over a few days but it makes you more aware of what you are putting in your body.  For instance, you might think about what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and say to yourself, " I did pretty good today."  But what you don't think about is that mid-day candy bar, the cocktail at dinner, and the ice cream before bed.  Those little non-meal items add up and can sabotage your hard work.  So for 3 consecutive days write down everything that you eat or drink no matter how small.  Then review your log to look for trends, deficiencies, and areas that need improvement.  If nothing else it will guilt you into saying no to that donut because you know you will have to write it down.

Invest in a lunch box (and use it)
I have been lugging around my lunch box (AKA Coleman Cooler) for years now.  At times I may look funny but I always have a healthy lunch when I need it.  I don't get tempted by fast food and I don't resort to eating whatever I can find close by.  Packing your lunch gives you complete control over your meals away from home and guarantees that you can have healthy and nutritious food on the go.

Learn to cook
I am not saying that you need to be a culinary expert when it comes to cooking but you should know how to do some basics.  Baking/broiling in the oven, sautéing over the stove,and grilling are some of the basic skills you should learn.  Doing a simple google search you can learn how to perform these skills within minutes.  As an example, one meal we had this past week was home-made fajitas.  I grilled some marinated chicken, sautéed an arrays of vegetables, and ate them with fresh avocado and a side of black beans.  It was a simple meal that required minimal cooking skills but tasted delicious.  Learning to make your own tasty meals with help you to avoid eating out when you get a craving.  Food made at home is always healthier than food ordered out.

Food should be enjoyed but it should also be monitored.  You should always be aware of what you are putting in your body and how it is affecting your health.  These tips will help you to tackle both of these objectives with really minimal effort.  Give them a try and see how your diet and health improve.

 ,Amerson Fitness