Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"That's a Big Calorie Burn"

Our metabolic conditioning workout yesterday was simple but brutal.

Row 500m, rest 2 minutes.
Repeat four times.

The impact of this type of work is very high.  A 500m row allows an athlete to exert 80-90% of maximal force for 90-140 seconds.  This kind of effort is the definition of "sucking wind".

The point of a workout like this is simple - let an athlete test and improve their maximal output in the glycolytic energy pathway, recover, and repeat.  It fits right into CrossFit's purpose of "improved work capacity across broad time and modal domains."  In this case, the modality is a Concept 2 rower, and the time domain is ~120s with a 120s recovery.  Competence at that output level for that duration translates well to nearly any sport or task you may wish to attempt.

After the workout, one of my clients commented on the calorie burn from the workout.  I didn't know what to say - I should have said "actually, no, the calorie burn is insignificant, and we don't design workouts for calorie burn anyway."  What I thought to myself was "didn't I already cover that?"

Burning calories in a workout is a waste of valuable time.  No workout we program is designed to burn calories - they are all designed to increase your performance!  We program to increase your performance across broad time and modal domains, which is to say we program for fitness.

The idea that working out to burn calories can lead to fat loss has a simple appeal, but when tested via science the results are anything but conclusive.  In short, the body is not a simple input/output machine, and causes of fat accumulation are multifactorial.

"But Paul, you went to Aviation Officer Candidate School, and you workout out all day, and lost fat, along with all your classmates." Yes, yes we did, but we had restricted food intake; we could eat three times per day and the amount of very limited.  Nor did we get dessert!  "In the wild", when a human gets hungry, it eats.  In the wild, when a human gets hungry it often eats whatever crap is most easily obtained.  In other words, inducing caloric deficit in everyday life is as likely to stimulate increased intake of food as it is to stimulate fat loss.

"But Paul you have lost 36 pounds over the last 7 years, and you do CrossFit 3-5 times per week, are you saying those things are not related?"

No.  Those two facts are related.  But the takeaway is simple - you cannot out train a bad diet.  When you eat like we recommend, and train, you will lose fat and feel freaking great doing it.  You will not be hungry.  That's why it is sustainable over time.

In Part II, I'll describe a model for why exercise in combination with the diet that made you fat in the first place will not make the majority of you lean.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Habits - they kill you, they save you

Habits are behaviors that are beneath consciousness - slurping coffee, putting on a seat bell, squatting with the knees caving in and the arch flattening to the floor - these bits of stored and programmed behavior save us and kill us.  And CrossFit offers a unique setting to allow athletes to undo the damage from years of habitually poor movement.

In last month's newsletter we talked about better movement and how mobility restrictions must be addressed so that athletes can get into good positions for creating force safely.  Good position is an irreducible element of running, lifting, jumping, punching, kicking, climbing, throwing, hitting a baseball or kicking a football.  Simple test - imagine someone kicking a record field goal if their hands were clasped behind their neck.  Or a golfer hitting the legendary hole-in-one while standing with one foot off of the ground.  Never going to happen.  

But what if you happen to see an athlete who is out of position, but you know that athlete has the requisite mobility to be in a good position.  In other words, imagine what it’s like for me every day! 

How then do I help athletes get into better positions?  It’s easy - you talk to them, show them pictures, get hands on to help them, or use a “blocking device” so that the only way they can move is the right way in the right position.  But all of these techniques will fail in the long run if they are not repeated enough to create new movement habits.  

Do you remember putting on your seatbelt?  Some of you may not even remember driving to work or school!  An example with movement that we see is that almost everyone has is the habit of using quad dominant movement, with knees forward and glutes/hamstrings relaxed - suffice to say that this is not good.  As a famous football coach says, "We don't practice until we can do it right, we practice until we cannot do it wrong."  Yes, and that is also the goal of CrossFit with regard to good movement habits.

In the end, our job is to do what is required, whatever is required, to create success for each of you!  Solving complex movement problems is a significant and satisfying part of our job. We want you to move well, to create power and speed and look good doing it.  Over time, we find that better movement carries over into every aspect of our clients’ lives.  

Call 207-489-8996 or email cffotg at gmail dot com to schedule your introductory session today!  Let's get to work rebuilding your movement, you strength, your work capacity.  You will start where you are, and get stronger and better every day.

"Stronger today than yesterday, stronger tomorrow than today."