Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What to look for in a Crossfit Gym

So my quest begins. I've moved to Barrington, Illinois, and out here in the 'burbs there are not a lot of crossfit gyms. That's one reason why I thought about starting my own (I've decided to try another venture, more on that later). So now, after almost three years of crossfitting, what has my experience taught me in what to look for in a gym?

Programming: Do they actually have a plan with programming? Do they usually divide up the WOD into a strength element and then have a met-con finisher (this is a good thing)? Do they go through strength cycles (aka, avoid the sexy met-con)? Or do they just throw together a bunch of random movements and say do it for time? Do they include dangerous movements? Strength really does seem to be the factor in separating the men from the boys in crossfit, and if you don't work on strength with a plan/periodization, you're not going to get your deadlift up to 400# (which in the world of weightlifting isn't that much), or overhead squat 1.5 your body weight. There must be a plan, or else you're just spinning your wheels.

Emphasize proper technique: I feel like this one should be a no brainer, but in some gyms people get respect for squatting heavy even though they don't hit depth, or they don't reach full extension on thrusters when doing Fran. Personally, I don't believe in letting technique slide for a better time on a WOD (aka a stopwatch whore). I've been injured enough from lifting incorrectly that it's just not worth it to me. This is one reason why I believe it's better to divide the WOD up into two workouts, for example find your 5 rep snatch max and then do an AMRAP of toes to bar, KB swings, and jumping lunges. You want to work on the complex lifts, but you don't want to do 50+ of them because your form will degrade and you will injure yourself.

Work on mobility: If you've been following my blog over the past year, then you know how much working on mobility has improved my life and my workouts. I no longer have constant pain in my hip, my shoulder no longer feels numb after a workout, and my elbows feel good. However, there are a lot of people out there that completely ignore this aspect of training, even though recovery is perhaps more important than the workout where we wear ourselves down. Gyms should set a time after each wod for at least rolling out some.

Emphasis on Diet: Like recovery, diet is as important or more than the actual workout. I've been to a gym where the owner walked in carrying a bag from McDonalds. If you see that, it's your sign to look elsewhere.

Coach/athlete ratio: This one is also important. They say a coach can effectively handle up to seven athletes, but more then that and it's easy to miss somebody's mistake/poor form. A low ratio also helps in the coach tailor the Wod for each athlete, since we're all different.

What is the owner like: This is very important for making it easy to have fun at the gym. If you're in your forties and have kids, and the owner of the gym is in the same situation, you'll be able to relate. If you're a triathlete and the owner plays Ultimate Frisbee, you'll get along. If you're the type that needs your coach to yell at you and question your manhood for moto and the owner is an asshole (I've met a few of these) then you'll get along. If you respond better to positive feedback and the owner is a nice person, you'll get along. This isn't to say that you won't get along if you're not identical to the owner, just that both of you will know where you're coming from and it makes it easy to feel like you're part of the community.

And with that I'm off to go audition a couple of gyms in the neighborhood and see what gym "speaks" to me. Here are the four candidates:
  1. Crossfit Rise
  2. Crossfit Arlington Heights
  3. Crossfit Roselle
  4. Crossfit LGN
Obviously, Crossfit Oldtown will always be my home (you never forget your first), but I'm excited to see where this will lead me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top five memories at Crossfit Oldtown

Three years ago I joined Crossfit Oldtown. My first day was the first evening class Jerry held. It was a tabata workout with a bunch of jujistu folks, and the rest is history.

So in order to celebrate, I thought I'd list my top five most memorable moments at CFOT, so without further adieu...

This was a great time because it really let me know how much I've progressed as a crossfitter. The previous year I attended this competition I was unable finish either met-cons and although I got a respectable 2 rep deadlift of 365, it required me to throw technique to the wind and I was hurt for weeks afterward. That year I felt crushed and was disappointed I was really that weak. In 2010, I felt much, much better. I finished every workout, and I actually did well enough that I was able to enjoy it. Realizing how much better I've gotten at everything crossfit was an amazingly positive experience.

With project virtuosity I've seen a lot of people succeed in things that have always given them fits. Every time I see this it makes me feel good, but one celebration stands out in my mind. Joe Hart had issues with the clean, and after I helped him make a few adjustments he was able to break down that barrier. ...After he had cleaned more weight then he had ever before, he was so stoked he literally could not stop smiling. There was one point, where I think he believed no one to be watching, where I saw him celebrate by shadow boxing. As I saw him battle with the inner deamon and win, I was so happy to think that I had played a part in his sucess.

This might not be the most positive experience on the list, but it damn sure was memorable for all those involved. I forgot my shorts, wanted to do the workout, so what's a crossfitter to do? If people didn't know me before, they remembered me after.

For a brief period of time, I held the fastest 500m row time in CFOT. Athletically speaking, I'm not used to winning, and so the fact that I was on top of the leader board made me feel a high that I really hadn't felt before. It made me feel like any fitness goal of mine was attainable. This high actually hasn't been matched since, except for....

This was easily the happiest day in my crossfit life. I could not stop smiling for the entire day, and I tried. For over a year I couldn't get one. I knew it was because of a lack of chest strength because my pull ups were pretty sound, but my ring dips were a bit spotty. A few month prior I had decided to start doing random sets of push ups throughout the day and finally, finally, it had paid off! But now, now I could do a muscle up! I had obtained a goal I once thought impossible! I could do anything! I could rule the world! Behold, I, Adam Houston could get a muscle up! What's that boss, I'm fired? Who cares, I can do a muscle up! You could have told me anything and I wouldn't have cared. I honestly don't think I had ever felt as proud and happy as I did that day

It has been a fantastic three years at CFOT, I've progressed so far from where I used to be physically speaking it's hard to remember what I used to be like. Now I crossfit, eat paleo, and work on mobility daily. I've overcome tendonitis in the shoulder, a torn labrum of the hip, as well has having really weak abs. Many thanks to Jerry and the coaches, for without their guideance none of this would have been possible. And many thanks to everyone at CFOT, for being such an awesome community!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paleo diet = awesome

I've been pretty strict paleo for over three months now, and every time I run into some one who I haven't seen for a while comments that I've lost weight. I really am trying my best to eat as healthy as possible. I don't try to be "paleo" in the technical sense and use agave nectar and lots of honey. I don't use sugar or sugary foods, and I try to get some healthy fats (n-3) as well. Here's a pic of a couple days worth of food for me, protein powder, almond milk, fruits, nut butters, and meat.

I've tried hard to maintain/gain some muscle, and it seems like I'm still losing fat, but to be honest I feel like I'm also getting more muscle as well. I was walking around my apt, and I looked over and saw this:

It's hard to believe that's me, that I'm getting closer and closer to what I want to look like. I'm going to be leaving Alexandria and CFOT soon, and it makes me very, very sad to leave. However, I am so very, very glad that I am leaving on such a fantastic note, where I can feel satisfied. I would almost say I've reached my goal, and this is a goal I've had since I was in elementary school.

I still feel like I have a ways to go, but it's not too much farther, and wow I am starting to impress myself. This really proves the premise that physique is a product of diet. I've been crossfitting for years now, but by far each improvement in how I look has been the result of me stepping up on my diet, from Zone to paleo to paleo + protein powder. Now I just need to figure out what to do to improve my performance as well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The crossfit games

So I'm participating in the sectionals this year, and although I'm pretty happy with my performances, as well as having a lot of fun with my CFOTers, I can't log into the crossfit games website. I created an account, and they took my money, but now I can't log in. I emailed them once and they said they are aware of the problem, and are working on it, but it's been over two weeks now and I sent them another email, to which they haven't responded. I'm thinking of just asking for my money back, especially since I won't be here in DC to finish the whole thing.

...Getting my Risto weightlifting shoes today, after two months of waiting for them to say I'm excited is an understatement.