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."

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Power of Exercise and Intermittent Fasting

If you're already off to a good start on a healthy fitness plan, and you're looking for ways to take it to the next level, then you might want to consider intermittent fasting. In essence this fitness-enhancing strategy looks at the timing of meals, as opposed to those fad plans where you eat just one or two things for several days in a row.
On intermittent fasting, the longest time you'll ever abstain from food is 36 hours, although 14-18 hours is more common. You can also opt to simply delay eating. For example, skipping breakfast may be just the thing to get you off a plateau in your fitness routine. The issue of fasting is a major shift from my typical recommendations. I've not been a major advocate for it in the past, but as many of you who have been reading this site for years know, I am always learning.

To that end, I've now revised my personal eating schedule to eliminate breakfast and restrict the time I eat food to a period of about six to seven hours each day, which is typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm.

I made this shift several years ago and it was a powerful change.  In the bad old days, though, I also tried this, and just wound up savagely hungry in the morning.  What makes it work is eating the good food when you eat.  

Dr. Mercola's other tips:

  • Don't blindly trust human studies on IF as some of these show misleading results due to major design flaws.
  • Don't even think about intermittent fasting if you eat the typical American portions of high glycemic junk food.
  • When following an IF regimen you need to make it low glycemic and high in protein and fiber. Eat whole foods, possibly high in dairy and whey protein, along with nutrient dense antioxidant foods.
  • Adjust your fuel food according to your specific condition and type of training.
  • Your intermittent fasting regimen must make sense. The length of your fasting intervals should be optimized to yield maximum biological impact. What really counts is your net fasting time (period between meals minus digestion time.) It takes your body roughly 5-8 hours to fully digest a meal and shift into a fasting mode. Three to six hours of "not eating" between meals will not be sufficient to put your body in a fasting mode and therefore will fail to get you the results you're looking for.
  • The female-specific response to fasting or intermittent fasting is no different than the female response to intense exercise. There is indeed a tradeoff between benefits and side effects. And the question "should women fast" raises the same issues as the question "should women exercise intensely".

Friday, September 26, 2014

NIH Test Supports Low Carb, High Fat

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fatlose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories.
"To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that's given these diets without calorie restrictions," said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. "It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that's really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories."

Who's left to fight for the benefits of the world's most unnatural fad diet - the low fat diet?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CrossFit: Coming to a Preschool Near You | The Fit List |

Although weight training can benefit teens, heavy weights should not be used with young children, says Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.
"I'm real leery of weights prior to puberty," Gould says.

Funny quote.  Here's what the CrossFit Kids designers, Jeff and Mikki Martin, say about it:

"Since founding CrossFit Kids a decade ago, the Martins have received a variety of criticism and concerns over whether young people should be engaging in weight lifting and a program as rigorous as CrossFit. Many observers assume that kids are engaging in the same type of intense workouts as adult CrossFitters. The Martins respond by explaining that the workouts are tailored for every age group. CrossFit Kids doesn't load children with weight until they reach age 10 to 12. Before then, they max out with small medicine balls or light dumbbells.
"People see high-end, top athletes doing amazing things on CrossFit Games on TV, and they assume we're doing the same thing," Mikki says. "CrossFit Kids is developmentally appropriate to age.""

Monday, September 22, 2014

An Oldie but Goldie

The implication of this basic endocrinology is that obesity is caused not by eating too much and sedentary behavior, but by a disruption of the hormonal and enzymatic regulation of fat tissue caused by the easily digestible, refined carbohydrates and sugars that we do eat. Indeed, by this logic, calorie-restricted diets – starvation and semi-starvation diets as used in the studies Ms. Parker-Pope discusses–can be thought of as particularly counterproductive ways to reduce carbohydrate consumption and so insulin levels, starving the body, as they do, of the energy required to effectively run metabolic processes.

In the past decade, clinical trials have repeatedly demonstrated that when obese and overweight individuals consciously restrict the carbohydrates they eat, but not calories, they not only lose weight, on average, but their heart disease and diabetes risk factors improve significantly. Their insulin resistance, in effect, resolves. Those of us who have lost weight ourselves and witnessed the effect of these diets on our patients can confirm that this is exactly what happens.

For more on this topic, read this:
The Scientist and the Stairmaster

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Road to CrossFit

A person asked me last week how I came to be a CrossFit trainer and then gym owner, and I enjoyed remembering the road I travelled.

My story is all over my blog, in our pamphlet, on our Facebook page, on our web site (, and still it doesn't really tell the tale.  So here's a bit of self indulgence.  I found CrossFit in 2006 just after my martial arts instructor and dear friend died.  A soldier I worked with suggested that I look at cross after he heard about some of the body weight workouts I was doing.  I tracked the WODs over time and marveled at how crazy they were - deadlifts and running, in the same workout, with no rest?  That's crazy.  But after a while I began to see what they were going for - so I decided to try it.

After my first workout of the day (WOD), I was hooked.  I was training hard at that time, lifting heavy weights, running sprints and longer runs, and doing body weight work (squats and handstand pushups).  Still, CrossFit humbled me, wrecked me.  It was clear I huge holes in work capacity.

So I trained as hard as I could and I went to a Level I certificate course.  Then I was invited to come to the Level II course.  Somewhere in there, I was doing PT with the Navy, and hated it.  It hurt my knee, it was not of high enough intensity to make anyone much more fit, and it was boring stuff.  I made a comment to the instructor about how to make it better and he gave me the gift of suggesting that I take the lead role for a class (he thought he was daring me, and I was in fact being a bit rude).  He never coached again while I was there.  I had the double bonus of not having to go through his class and instead being able to practice being a coach, learning every day.

With that group, I had no barbells, no pullup bars and only the gear I could pack in my truck and bring with me.  Still, we made CrossFit style WODs with what we had and they all noted the positive impacts from the workouts.  They approached the Navy fitness test with confidence, some noted huge improvements with just a couple of months of "low tech" CrossFit.  It was satisfying.  That period of time earned me the moniker "The Punisher" from some, but I alway laughed at that.  No CrossFit workout is hard - unless you work hard enough to make it hard.  It is all "self punishment".

About that time I had my first paying clients.  That was huge fun, and the clients made rapid progress.  I had a small framed former runner, who was an incredible athlete, who went from no deadlift experience to a 315 pound deadlift (double his body weight) in just a couple of months.  I was lucky to find Chad because he was so easy to coach - anything I asked him to do, he did.  No muss, no fuss, no real work on my part.  I wish I could work with Chad now, he'd become a monster.

Along the way I began to attend more training seminars - CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Olympic Lifting, CrossFit Coach's Prep Course - and then was able to apply what I learned with clients.  I started a CrossFit group on base that ran for about 18 months.  Again, the chance to work with real folks regularly was incredibly fun and satisfying - the successes were huge - fat loss, performance gains, friends made.  That group wound down in 2009 or 2010, but I am still in contact with several of them - and to Star, Angela and the gang, thank you!

In 2010 we bought a CrossFit Affiliate and started CrossFit Fire of the Gods in our garage.  We made enough money to get more CrossFit gear for our clients and pay for more training.  Janet was able to go to (and easily passed) a Level I Certificate course, and she trained friends (and their friends) in our garage.  To Laura and Paul and Jo Anne - thank you!  We miss you but are grateful for your trust and the lessons you taught us about how to work with athletes.

All this happened as I was winding down a career as a naval officer.  I put hours and hours, week after week, into reading and blogging about nutrition and fitness, watching training videos, and of course practicing what I learned on myself and then our clients.  I spent a lot of time exploring various avenues for how to switch from employee to business owner - all seemed prohibitively expensive.  Then a few things happened in our favor and here we are - owners of a CrossFit affiliate as our full time life.

Why?  We love to learn and teach.  Teaching about health and fitness lets us create:  Impact.  Results.  Change.  Transformation.  Athletes exceeding perceived limits.  Chasing performance.

We see the impact of improved physical capacity when applied to the rest of life.  That's what we do every day, every workout, every client interaction, every SM post, most things we read, and a large part of what we talk about.  How can we help?  How can we make more impact faster?  How can we reach every client?  How can we make these painful workouts seem desirable to the uninitiated?

So, come see us and help us make our dreams come true by chasing a better you through CrossFit.  Call 207-449-8996 or email us (cffotg at gmail dot com) and let's get started today making 2014 the year you made the big change in your health and physical capacity!