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Exercise versus caffeine: Which is your best ally to fight fatigue?

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Monique Tello, MD, MPH


Chronic lack of sleep makes it hard to focus on a task. As if this didn’t make complete logical sense, multiple research studies have shown that sleep deprivation has about the same effect on our cognition and coordination as a few alcoholic beverages.

What do you do when you need to concentrate, but you’re tired?

Many of us reach for a cup of coffee, or a soda. Mountains of solid research have shown us that caffeine (in doses ranging between 30 and 300 milligrams) improves attention, alertness, reaction time, and mood, especially when we’re tired. An average cup of brewed coffee contains between 80 and 100 milligrams of caffeine; a soda, between 30 and 60.

But exercise works too. This is also well-studied. Even a short bout of any cardiovascular exercise wakes us up, speeds mental processes, and enhances memory storage and retrieval, regardless of our fitness or fatigue levels.

So, when it’s late afternoon and I’m struggling with charting or finishing one of these pieces, what should I do: exercise a bit, or go for coffee?

One recent (and very small) study compared these two wake-up methods. This well-conducted study used healthy but chronically sleep-deprived volunteers to compare three interventions: caffeine, stair-climbing, and placebo. They found that just 10 minutes of stair-climbing boosted self-reported levels of energy far more than a moderate dose of caffeine (50 mg). However, this was a very small study — only 18 out of 90 healthy, college-aged women met all the criteria and were willing to participate.

Digging deeper: Exercise offers more long-term benefits

While the findings make a whole lot of sense, I went to the existing piles of literature for more information.

Interestingly, another study looked at the effects of either exercise alone or exercise plus caffeine on cognitive tasks, and found that (perhaps predictably) exercise plus caffeine had the greater benefit.

Caffeine (in the form of coffee) has been well-studied, and regular intake is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, but may increase cholesterol. It may be protective against certain types of dementia and cancer, but has been associated with bone loss and rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, there are many benefits, but there seem to be some risks as well.

But there are multiple studies suggesting that exercise has multiple long-lasting positive effects on physical fitness and function, cognition, mood, and behavior in just about all populations studied, in all ages, fitness levels, and regardless of baseline cognitive function. Some of the greatest benefits have been seen in older patients, as well as patients at risk for or diagnosed with dementia.

The take-home message? Caffeine can provide a boost in alertness and energy levels that may help you to think faster and better, for a while. But even a short burst of exercise can do the same, maybe more, and for longer. In addition, while caffeine is associated with both good and bad health outcomes, exercise is good for everything.

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THE UNDENIABLE REASON YOU NEED TO DEAL WITH INSOMNIA

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Jodi Helmer

Struggling to fall asleep or staring at the ceiling wide awake in the middle of the night is not just frustrating; insomnia can wreak havoc on your health.

Defined as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep that happens at least three nights per week and lasts for at least one month, insomnia has been linked to a host of health issues from weight to anxiety. Research has also found links between insomnia and dementia.

A 2018 study published BMC Psychiatry found those with insomnia had double the risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

Researchers followed 51,734 adults who were diagnosed with insomnia between 2002–04 and a test group with 258,715 adults who did not have sleep difficulties. During the three-year follow-up period, 2.54% of those with insomnia developed dementia compared to just 1.34% of participants who did not have insomnia. Younger patients (under age 40) with insomnia had twice the risk of developing dementia.

The study is part of a growing body of research linking insomnia and dementia.

“Through early diagnosis and effective treatment of insomnia, there is the potential to possibly reduce dementia risk. But first we need to know more about the specific connections between dementia and insomnia,” says Keith N. Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association. “As the authors of this new publication state, it is still unclear exactly what underlies the association between primary insomnia and dementia. More research in this area is needed.”

Breno Satler Diniz, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, co-authored a meta-analysis on the connection that appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Research that reviewed five studies linking sleep difficulties with an increased risk of insomnia. He admits that while the connection is strong, the mechanism is not well understood. He points to studies showing that those with sleep issues have higher levels of inflammation; lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein in the brain that appears to protect against dementia; and increases in amyloid-beta protein, which has been linked to the loss of thoughts and memories that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease as potential explanations for the connection.

    “[By] understanding that sleep problems increase the risk of dementia, and gaining more knowledge of the underlying mechanisms, we will be able to develop new treatments to mitigate the risk of dementia in this vulnerable population,” Diniz says. “Such information is helpful to raise awareness in clinicians and patients on the importance of treating properly sleep disorders.”

    Given the prevalence of the sleep disorder — about 30% of adults report dealing with bouts of insomnia — and the potential for serious health consequences, significant efforts have been made to develop treatments.

    Research shows cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga and medication are all effective treatments for insomnia. Maintaining good sleep habits such as regular sleep/wake times; sleeping in a cool, dark room; steering clear of electronic devices before bed; and avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evenings can also help improve sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “If your sleep does not improve with simple sleep hygiene techniques, you should look for specialized care, for a proper assessment and management of sleep problems,” Diniz advises.

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      3 Numbers That Can Dramatically Improve Your Rowing

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      Dement Dominguez

      Strap yourself in, grab the handle, and go. For a lot of athletes, that’s the extent of their relationship with the rower. Despite the fact that rowing is an integral part of many CrossFit workouts, athletes just don’t spend the time getting to properly know the erg, the indoor rower. In truth, the erg is a highly developed machine meant to replicate the effects of rowing on water, which is why elite rowers train on it during their off season. And when they do, they make sure to take several different factors into consideration—depending on the goals of their program. For us, these factors translate into numbers—three numbers that relate to three factors that can have a profound impact on your rowing performance in any given workout.

      1 The Damper Setting

      What is it?
      On the side of the flywheel housing (the big circular fan cage at the top of the rower), there is a lever that can be moved up or down. This lever adjusts how much air flows into the cage. The fan cages are usually numbered 1-10; the higher the number, the more air that flows into the flywheel housing, making it harder to spin the flywheel with each pull. Lower damper settings allow less air into the flywheel housing, making it easier to spin the flywheel.

      Why It’s Important
      Sometimes athletes incorrectly assume that a higher damper setting equals a tougher workout—or that they’ll row at a faster pace because of it. In reality, the difficulty of your workout, or the pace at which you row, has more to do with you with than the damper setting. When rowing at a high damper setting, you move slower up and down the erg so you’ll need to apply more force with each pull to go faster. At a lower damper setting, you’ll have much less air flowing into the flywheel. Because of this, you’ll be able to move up and down the erg faster without applying as much force per stroke.
      So, where do you set your drag factor? Think of it this way: Over the course of any given distance, would you rather apply more force with each pull or pull more while applying less force with each stroke. Although you might have an idea of which is better for you, it’s best to take a scientific approach and experiment with different damper settings to find your sweet spot. Start with a damper setting of 3-4 and see how that feels. What pace were you able to keep over the course of 1,000 meters? Retest rowing 1,000 meters at different settings to find which damper setting is more ideal for you.

      2 Pace (in Meters)

      What is it?
      When rowing, your pace is identified by how long it takes you to reach a certain distance. We’ll discuss pacing using meters, although you can also use calories. On ergs your pace is expressed as time per 500 meters. For example, a 2:30 pace means that it takes you 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete 500 meters. Depending on the format of your monitor setup, your pace is usually be found between your overall time and meters rowed (as pictured above).

      Why It’s Important
      Knowing your 500m pace allows you to control the speed at which you row—depending on the distance you need to hit. For example, let’s say a workout calls for you to row 1,000 meters. Assuming you already know that your fastest 500 meter row is 2:30, it doesn’t make much sense to assume you can hold that pace over 1,000 meters. A better strategy would be to lower your pace in the first 500m and gauge how you feel during the second 500m. If you feel strong, you can increase your pace accordingly. Through repeated practice of this method, you’ll find your optimal pace for different distances.

      3 Stroke Rate

      What is it?
      Your stroke rate is the number of strokes (pulls) you take on the rower per minute, or SPM. Technically, each time you pull on the handle the performance monitor will register a stroke. Depending on your monitor setup, your stroke rate can be found at the bottom left of your monitor (as pictured above).

      Why It’s Important
      Just like with rowing at a higher damper setting, athletes may incorrectly assume that the higher their stroke rate, the better the workout—and/or the more meters they’ll accumulate. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.

      For example, let’s take two rowers of equal height and build who are both rowing 1,000 meters. Both rowers are moving at an equal pace of 2:30/500m and have the damper set at 5. However, Rower A has a stroke rate of 40, while Rower B has a much lower stroke rate of 28. This means that Rower B is able to generate the same amount of power in 28 strokes per minute as Rower A does in 40 strokes, making him/her a more efficient rower; generally speaking, this boils down to technique.

      Watching your stroke rate is also important for maintaining consistency and control in your row. Let’s say you’re shooting for a five minute 1000m row. For the first 500m you’re able to maintain a 2:35 pace at a stroke rate of 28s/m. As the second half of the 1000m row approaches and fatigue sets in, it’s likely that you’ll subconsciously begin to move up and down the erg at a slower pace. Keeping an eye on your stroke rate and ensuring you maintain it around the 28s/m range is crucial in helping you maintain your desired pace. If you notice your stroke rate dropping, it’s likely that your pace will also drop.

      The demands of the WOD may dictate whether you keep a high or low stroke rate during your row. If you need to perform heavy cleans right after your row, perhaps it’s better to use a higher stroke rate with a lower damper setting (which will place greater emphasis on your aerobic capacity). If you want to use the rower to lower your heart rate, consider using a slightly lower stroke rate with a higher damper setting. Just remember, it’s about finding a stroke rate that you can maintain for the duration of the row, and leaving enough energy for the next movement in the WOD if needed.

      Bonus: Don’t Forget the Drag Factor

      Drag factor is a numerical value that represents the rate at which the flywheel slows down. The higher the damper setting, the more quickly the flywheel decelerates. Therefore, the higher the damper setting, the higher the drag factor. So, why should we worry about drag factor when we already know where to set our damper? Well, various factors affect the amount of air that flows into the flywheel including temperature, dirt on the flywheel, and wind, to name a few. That means that setting the damper at 5, for example, may feel slightly different on each rower you sit on. Drag factor helps adjust for the various factors that affect air flow into the flywheel.

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      I AM CROSSFIT- AMANDA FORTUNE

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      For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my weight, and what my perception of healthy was. As a kid I stayed away from activities that required too much endurance or strength. The fear that I would be embarrassed when the “fat girl” couldn’t perform as well as everyone else overwhelmed me.   As I got older, I realized I controlled my health.  I decided to join a gym, and it paid off, for the most part.  I was finally at a comfortable size, enjoyed working out, and loved seeing the results.  Then life happened. I had a full-time job, an infant step-daughter, working on my college degree, and a home to take care of.  When would I force myself to work out?  I tried to make time, and when I was in a good cycle, things were great. But eventually the enthusiasm would fade, and back to old habits.

                   It was clear to me that the only way I would every maintain the “healthy” state I desired was to work out constantly and restrict every single thing that went in to my mouth.  That was not a realistic lifestyle for me.  Once I found out I was pregnant the fear of weight gain set in quick.  I tried to continue working out, but after three months, my doctor discouraged it.  I gained nearly 70 pounds!  At first, it didn’t seem to phase me because I was so consumed with this new gift, but after time, the size and lack of energy really got to me.  I was almost to a point of depression.  I forced myself (very reluctantly) to get back into the habit of working out.  I dropped weight, and was very pleased, but as soon as I’d let off the gas, the pounds would creep right back on. My doctor had begun to have concerns due to family history and was disturbed at some of the health risk we would soon be addressing. Until there was CrossFit!

      After being introduced, and taking a ramp up class, I was hooked.   There is never a reluctance to go, or me forcing these unrealistic habits for myself. Knowing the proficiency of my performance comes from what I fuel my body with has taught me to eat clean without making it this dreadful task.  It has literally changed my mind, body, and soul. That perception for “healthy” that I had strived for is no longer what I want to be.  I know now that being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean being skinny. My new healthy is being able to push my body to unbelievable measures, hitting new PRs, being strong and fit, dropping weight, and keeping it off.  I have been able to drop 30 pounds and maintain it! CrossFit has taught me self-love, strength and confidence. I’m learning to get “I can’t do it” out of my head and proving to myself that I can!  I love everything about this community. The coaches, the members, the weights slamming, the sweat angels, and the feeling of accomplishment after crushing a demanding workout.  

      It’s been over a year since I made the decision that changed my life, and I still get butterflies as the clock is going down...3-2-1—Gooooo.  During my check- up this past year I received a clean bill of health.   The doctor was more than pleased with all my numbers. I gave all the credit to CrossFit, and all the support from my family at CrossFit Hogtown.  It was around the same time that I started training for my first solo competition. All those years I spent shying away from opposition because of fear and self-doubt, I was going to compete! And you know what, I won!! I have never won anything in my life, but that day I won.  Not just because I was on the top of the podium, but because I proved to myself that I was able, and strong, and for once felt fierce.  To think where I have come from literally brings tears to my eyes.  What I love most is that my daughters see this strong woman I have become, mentally and physically.  It has introduced them to a beauty outside of what society has tried to force on them. For so long I told myself I couldn’t do it, until I finally just shut up, and I did that!

      I am Amanda Fortune, and I am PROUD to be CrossFit!

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      3 Tools To Help Keep Hunger At Bay

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      Robbie Farlow

      Good God, it took long enough. But at long last, the scale is FINALLY moving in the right direction—you’re losing weight. And it’s about time, too.

      • You’ve spent weeks of hitting the gym with the consistency of a well-oiled machine.
      • Sacrificed precious Sunday afternoon hours when you could have been catching up on the latest season of Jessica Jones on Netflix.
      • And you’ve been getting 7-8 hours of sleep instead of mindlessly scrolling Facebook before bed.

      But then it hits you like a bolt of Force Lightning and for the first time since you decided to start losing a few pounds, you feel hungry. And these aren’t small hunger pangs. No, these are ravenous, starved Rancor-like cravings.

      Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds has been there. Standing in your kitchen, staring down that pint of ice cream, that bag of salty, greasy potato chip goodness, or that container of peanut butter.

      But you’re on a “diet,” you’re trying to get leaner. And this time you’re committed to doing it right; a “cheat day” is out of the question, and you can’t fit your temptation into your macros. So what the hell are you supposed to do? How do you fight these cravings and win the battle against hunger?

      1: Hydrate, Yo

      I’m assuming you don’t live on an arid planet like Tatooine. So you have easy access to water whenever you want it. And if you want your body to lose body fat more efficiently while keeping hunger at bay, you need to stay hydrated.Those hunger pangs you’re feeling might actually be your body trying to tell you that you’re dehydrated. Why does this happen?

      Because nature hates you, that’s why.

      The same part of your brain that tells you that you’re hungry is also responsible for sending out thirst signals. Your damned brain can’t tell the difference and send you mixed messages.

      You hear, “Let’s eat some ice cream.” When what your brain is trying to communicate is, “Yo, I’m thirsty but I don’t know how to tell you that, so you should definitely polish off that pint of Chunky Monkey.” And since your body can’t tell the difference, it’s always best to err on the side of thirst first. If you’re wrong and still hungry after 20 minutes, go ahead and eat something. (But make sure it fits your macros.)

      One more thing, water is physically filling. When your stomach is full of water, it sends signals to your brain that it’s full and doesn’t need anything (or needs less). That doesn’t mean ONLY drink water all day and skip food. But, when those cravings come knocking and try to burst in…open the door and throw some water in its face.

      My point: drink water. Lots of it. The standard rule of thumb is to aim for half your body weight in ounces per day. So if you weight 200 pounds, guzzle down 100 ounces of agua.

      2: Distract Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

      If I tell you NOT to picture a pink elephant right now, guess what happens?

      Your brain conjures up the most beautiful pink elephant the world has ever seen.

      What does a pink elephant have to do with hunger? Well, replace “pink elephant” with donuts, muffins, or bacon cheese fries. And guess what? Now those are all you’re thinking about.

      Screaming to the heavens about how hungry you are will only make things worse. Master Broda (read: me) said it best:

      Boredom leads to eating, eating leads to too many calories, too many calories leads to unhappiness.

      Think about it. How many times have you sat in front of the TV binging Netflix, when suddenly your brain (because it has nothing else to do) decides its hungry. Five minutes later, you’re mindlessly munching on cookies, ice cream, peanuts, and washing it down with a few beers. A few episodes later, you’ve consumed more food than a Wookie at a wedding.

      So here’s what you do instead: distract yourself. If your brain is preoccupied, it won’t be consumed with thoughts of how much you think you need to be stuffing your face.

      • Go for a walk. (exercise + distraction for your brain = double win)
      • Fire up your amp and dust off that guitar in the corner
      • Hell, read that book you’ve been putting off for a while now

      When cravings come at you, find a fun and creative activity that will distract your mind from the food. In short, do ANYTHING ELSE besides open that fridge.

      3: Get Better Sleep

      There is one time you’re guaranteed to not be eating: bedtime. Sleep is a vital factor when it comes to burning body fat and building muscle. And the better your sleep, the less hunger you’ll feel during the day.

      There are two hormones that play a major role in hunger — leptin and ghrelin. Both of these hormones increase or decrease production based on your sleep. Leptin is a powerful appetite suppressant, while ghrelin is the hormone responsible for increasing your appetite. And if either of those gets out of whack due to your poor sleep habits, you’re in for a world of issues.

      Have you ever noticed how it’s harder to fight cravings on days where you have less sleep? Well, yeah. You’re fighting both hormones, fatigue, diminished willpower, and, on top of everything, you look exhausted because you’ve got heavy bags under your eyes.

      Follow these simple tips to get more (and better) sleep:

      • Set a bedtime and stick to it. You may not be twelve years old anymore, but if you’re still eating like you are, you’re also going to need a bedtime.
      • Cool the room. Ideal sleep temperatures are between 64-68 degrees, use a fan if you find yourself too warm. Sleep with as little clothing as possible – bonus: if things get steamy with your partner, you’re already ahead of the game there.
      • Make everything as black as my emo heart. The darker it is, the more your body gets trained for sleep.
      • No screens, caffeine, workouts, or food close to bedtime. All of these things can work against your quest for a solid block of sleepy goodness

      Force Choke Your Hunger

      If your goal is to lose body fat, you will, at some point, encounter hunger. It’s a part of the process. And anyone who tells you that they never feel hungry on a diet is lying to you. So when you’re attacked by those pesky pangs of hunger, remember, they’re normal.

      And fighting them back is sometimes as simple as drinking more water, distracting your brain, and getting more sleep. If you equip yourself with these three tips, you’re going to be much more successful at losing belly fat, eating better, and becoming the sexiest mofo you know.

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      A Beginner's Guide to CrossFit

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      Brendan Rice

      Over the course of the last decade, CrossFit has becoming one of the biggest movements in the history of fitness, with over four million athletes visiting 15,000 CrossFit gyms located in 120 countries all over the world. Those that join the community in this fun and competitive sport simply can’t get enough of it once they’ve started. Athletes quickly find themselves in the best shape of their lives and competing in ways they maybe never thought possible.

      There’s a good chance you’re reading this because you’ve heard a lot about CrossFit but want to know some of the basics in order to get started. You’ve come to the right place. The following is an exciting introduction to the world of CrossFit:

      What is CrossFit?

      Originally developed by Greg Glassman, CrossFit is a fitness regimen that has evolved considerably over the last few decades to become the first program to define physical fitness in a way that is measurable. It is designed to increase work capacity over a long period of time through different types of exercise, but more than anything, CrossFit’s primary goal is to improve athletes’ fitness and health.

      What is a WOD?

      This is done through daily workouts, known by CrossFit athletes as the Workout of the Day, or WOD. These days, there are many places to find a great CrossFit beginner WOD, which typically involves exercises like weight lifting, kettlebell swings, the pull-up bar, and other customized workouts. Many CrossFit workouts are timed and all of them exist to help build muscle and improve overall health. Depending on your program, your WOD log may include all sorts of different exercises.

      How Do I Find a CrossFit Box?

      There are CrossFit boxes, or gyms, all over the world, finding one nearby should be easy! Check out this handy map of CrossFit Affiliates to get started. These gyms love beginners and are helpful and friendly in assisting rookies eager to get their start. It all can sound quite intimidating, but CrossFit communities really do a great job helping new members feel comfortable.

      How Strong Should I Be to Start?

      Your CrossFit exercise list will grow more challenging as you get more familiar with the sport and improve your general fitness, but at the very beginning, the trainers at your box will help you get started at whatever level is appropriate for you. In other words, there is no “minimum” requirements in terms of weights or times. There are plenty of stories of athletes starting at the bottom and working their way up to greatness. You obviously could do the same!

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      I am CrossFit Jed Orman

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      My name is Jed Orman and this is my CrossFit story.

      I am originally from Davidson County and graduated from East Davidson High School in 2002. I played a lot of sports in high school and got my introduction to weight lifting there. I continued to stay active in fitness while in college but still managed to gain weight well above the 185 pounds I weighed when I graduated.

      After college, I moved back home and started working in Lexington. I put on some more weight and started running to help manage some of that. In 2006 I ran my first 5K and slowly worked up to my first half marathon in 2010 and my first triathlon in 2011. While living in Trinity, my wife and I had our first child in 2012 and I fell back into bad habits. They got worse with the birth of our second child in 2014. However, I still managed to run when I could. The bad part was, my strength training was missing, and unless I could find a partner, running was incredibly boring. 

      My wife and I moved to Lexington in May of 2017 and I told her when our new budget got straightened out I wanted to do something different, in addition to my occasional running and trip to the YMCA. I had been eyeing CrossFit Hog Town (CFHT) and knew several of the members, so in September of 2017 I gave it a try.

      Because of the timing of CFHT’s move to a new facility, I couldn’t do the traditional “ramp-up” program and was offered the “burn boot camp” classes until another ramp-up class was offered. I took this option and felt fairly confident going in that I could handle it.

      First day of class – a little nervous but excited. It was incredibly difficult and humbling. I was completely drained, but I left wanting more. 

      I kept doing the burn classes for around 7 weeks, getting better and better with my ability to handle the workload, and finally was approached by one of the coaches to try the CrossFit group classes. After passing the test out, I tried my first class the next week. It was incredibly difficult and humbling. In fact, all the classes are. They are designed to push you as far as you are comfortable going, and even though some nights I left in pain I always wanted more.

      All while doing CrossFit, I still kept running at least once a week. Every Thanksgiving I start my day with Lexington’s Early Bird 5K run - I think I have done it for the past 4-5 years. I didn’t really know what to expect because I hadn’t trained but I also knew that I could push myself for 25 minutes…especially since I had been pushing myself for 45 minutes in most of the CrossFit classes. I ran as hard as I could and finished in 22:46 – a pace of 7:20/mile. This was my best 5K time. EVER. AND I hadn’t been training for it. My previous best was probably 10+ years before and many pounds lighter at 23 something. These results made me even more of a fan of the work I had done at CFHT.

      At this point, I am committed to CFHT and a huge advocate. I think CrossFit workouts in general are great, but the variety and quality of coaching at CFHT sets them apart. Since I started, I have lost about 25 pounds (unintentionally – because I still love ice cream), gotten better at just about everything I do from a fitness standpoint, and made a lot of friends along the way.

      If you are considering a change to your fitness routine or want to try something new, give CFHT a try – it won’t disappoint.

      I am Jed Orman and I am CrossFit

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      Exercise As Part Of Cancer Treatment

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      Monique Tello, MD, MPH                                                                                                                                                                                          Harvard Health Blog

      In a first, a national cancer organization has issued formal guidelines recommending exercise as part of cancer treatment, for all cancer patients. The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) is very clear on the directive. Its recommendations are:

      • Exercise should be embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care and viewed as an adjunct therapy that helps counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment.
      • All members of the multi-disciplinary cancer team should promote physical activity and help their patients adhere to exercise guidelines.
      • Best practice cancer care should include referral to an accredited exercise physiologist and/or physical therapist with experience in cancer care.

      Lead author of the statement, clinical researcher and exercise physiologist, and chair of the COSA Exercise Cancer guidelines committee, Dr. Prue Cormie is also very clear in her statement to the press:

      “If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every cancer specialist and subsidized by government. It would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”

      The evidence on benefits of exercise during cancer treatment

      On the research supporting the bold guidelines, Dr. Cormie states: “the level of evidence is really indisputable and withholding exercise from patients is probably harmful.”

      She is correct. There are hundreds of studies showing real, tangible benefits of exercise for patients with a variety of different cancers and at different stages.

      Exercise specifically as an additional therapy for patients undergoing cancer treatment has been well-studied and associated with many benefits. In one analysis of 61 clinical trials of women with all stages of breast cancer, those who underwent an exercise program during treatment had significantly improved quality of life, fitness, energy, and strength, as well as significantly less anxiety, depression, and lower body mass index and waist circumference compared with the regular care groups. In another major analysis of 28 trials involving over 1,000 participants with advanced cancers (including leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, lung, breast, GI, and prostate), an exercise program during treatment was associated with significantly improved physical function, energy levels, weight/BMI, psychosocial function, sleep quality, and overall quality of life.

      COSA’s prescription for exercise during cancer treatment

      The COSA statement advises that people with cancer should:

      Avoid inactivity and be as physically active as they are able, with the goal of:

      • at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, cycling, swimming) each week; and
      • two to three resistance exercise (e.g., lifting weights) sessions each week involving moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercises targeting the major muscle groups.

      Their care team should:

      • tailor exercise recommendations to the individual’s abilities, anticipated disease trajectory, and health status
      • consult with accredited exercise physiologists and physical therapists as the most appropriate health professionals to prescribe and deliver exercise programs to people with cancer
      • promote these recommendations throughout treatment;

      Finding a way to include exercise as part of cancer treatment

      More research will help us understand exactly how much exercise is optimal for people with specific cancers. For now, COSA’s exercise prescription translates to about 21 minutes per day of exercise, plus a couple of muscle-building sessions per week.

      I asked experienced nurse practitioner and cancer survivor Eileen Wyner what she thought about these guidelines, and she was unequivocal in her enthusiasm: “I think that is a terrific idea.” Though she is four years in remission from lymphoma, she remembers her chemotherapy treatments well. “I was in very good physical shape when I got sick, but I got weak fast. I would walk the hospital hallways with my IV pole when I could, because I knew from being a healthcare provider how important it was to stay as active as I could. But I did not do anything for my arms at all.” The new guidelines call for some kind of resistance training twice weekly, and Wyner feels that could have been helpful to her: “At one point, after my chemo treatments were over, I was home and I decided to get something out of a lower cupboard in my kitchen. It was so shocking to me when I realized I could not get up. For the life of me, I could not push or pull myself off of that floor. I couldn’t get to a phone, to a window… I was stuck there. I realized how weak I was, how weak my arms were… I’m lucky someone was able to help me, or I would have been in real trouble.”

      What you can do

      If you are being treated for cancer, the exercise recommendations can certainly sound overwhelming, but it’s important to remember the idea is to individualize the activity plan. Wyner suggests a little stretching and strengthening class during chemo infusions. “We were there all the time anyways, why not do something formal right then and there? It could be something basic and easy, modified for where the patients are at. It could really help people.”

      The idea is for patients to do whatever they can manage, as they will reap the benefits, from conditioning to emotional well-being to relapse prevention.

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      Want A Better Nights Sleep?

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      Written by K. Aleisha Fetters

      According to a 2016 study, more than 1/3 of American adults don’t get the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep per night. If you’re included in that group, you’ve likely heard (and tried) many tricks to get a better night’s sleep: Follow a set sleep schedule. Drink sleep-inducing tea. Turn on a white noise machine.

      But when it comes to scoring quality shut-eye, what you don’t do is just as important.

      Case in point: These seven common mistakes can stand between you and the sleep your body needs. Take note of each for a restful night’s sleep.

      1. REFINED CARBS

      As if those sugary, refined and processed carbs (Think: white bread, cookies, candy) didn’t have a bad enough health reputation, 2016 research from Columbia University shows that, on days when people eat sugar and refined carbohydrates, they have trouble falling asleep. When they finally do nod off, their sleep patterns are disrupted. The carbs-sleep connection may have to do with the roller coaster blood sugar and insulin levels that refined carbs cause, according to researchers.

      They also note that when study participants ate more fiber from carbs such as whole grains and produce, they slept much better.

      2. UNWINDING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

      As soon as most people’s heads hit the pillow, they start scrolling through social media. And while it might feel like “unwinding,” the bright blue light of your phone can throw your circadian rhythm out of whack and make falling asleep more challenging once you actually power down, says W. Christopher Winter, MD, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine clinic and CNSM Consulting and author of “The Sleep Solution.” In fact, a 2016 study published inPLOS One found people who use their phone the most, especially before bed, sleep the worst.

      If you absolutely have to check Instagram before bed, Winter recommends turning down your phone’s brightness. If you have an iPhone, turn on its Night Shift setting, which will dial down the screen’s blue light at night.

      3. THICK BLANKETS

      We know, it’s not what you want to read this time of year, but hear out an expert: “When you go to bed, your body is in a state trying to cool down,” says Winter. “We all experience a natural temperature drop right before we fall asleep.” So, if you’re under thick blankets and wearing extra warm PJs, you prohibit your body from cooling itself and kickstarting sleep. Plus, research published in Diabetes links consistently sleeping in a chilly room (66° is a good temp) to improved insulin sensitivity and lower levels of fat.

      Finding it hard to get out of bed when it’s cold outside? Try setting your house’s thermostat to start warming up right before your alarm goes off.

      4. NIGHTCAPS

      We know what you’re thinking: “Wait, I fall asleep faster when I’ve had a drink!” It might seem that way, but it’s important to realize “sedation is not the same thing as restorative sleep,” says Winter. What you’re vying for is the latter. In fact, in one 2015 study out of the University of Melbourne, researchers found that alcohol triggers the same changes in sleep patterns that you’d see in someone receiving small electric shocks all night long. Sounds really restful, huh?

      On average, it takes one hour for the body to metabolize (aka break down) an ounce of alcohol, or about a shot, so time your drink and bedtime accordingly.

      5. LOTS OF PILLOWS

      All of those decorative pillows on your bed look trés chic, but when it’s time to sleep, they are better off decorating the floor. “To minimize back and neck pain, I advise my patients to sleep in a ‘neutral spine’ position,” says Anne Marie Bierman, a physical therapist with Athletico in Illinois.

      “For example, if you are lying on your back, avoid propping your head up with too many pillows,” she says. “If side-lying, try to keep your neck in line with the rest of your body with an appropriately sized pillow.”

      6. COUNTING SHEEP

      ‘If I go to sleep now, I’ll get 6 hours and 32 minutes of sleep.’ We’ve all been there, experiencing the minute-by-minute math equations, sheep counting and trying to will ourselves to sleep. But it doesn’t work. “You can’t control when you fall asleep. But you can control being in your bed and turning the lights out with a goal of resting, rather than sleeping,” says Winter.

      Rest itself is incredibly recharging. “And by changing the goal, you take off the pressure to fall asleep — which will actually make falling asleep easier,” he says.

      7. SLEEPING ON YOUR STOMACH

      When you sleep on your stomach, you tend to put your body — especially your neck — in some pretty unnatural positions … for hours on end. “If a patient has neck pain and is a belly sleeper, we discuss how that prolonged prone position can affect the joints and soft tissue as they sleep, increasing stress on their neck,” says Bierman . (However, if you’re a stomach-sleeper and your neck feels fine, cool. Keep doing what you’re doing, she says.)

      Changing your regular sleep position can be tough. If you’re trying to make yourself into a side- or back-sleeper, consider using pillows to wedge yourself into place so that you still have the pressure you like on your tummy. A weighted blanket is another great option for making you feel like you’re on your stomach, even when you’re not.

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        3 Common Squat Mistakes You Can Fix Today

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        Posted by: Maureen Quirk
        Global Newsroom

        Whether your workout class of choice is boot camp, HIIT or boxing, there is one movement that consistently shows up across the board: the squat.

        It’s one of the basics and yet many have never properly learned the movement’s basics.

        “The squat is such a well-known movement that you’ll always see people incorporating it into their gym routines,” says Reebok trainer and eight-time CrossFit Games competitor Stacie Tovar. 

        “Because it’s this common, people just assume they know how to perform it, but in reality, many have probably never been taught.”

        Until now. 

        “When I coach,” says Tovar, who is the owner of CrossFit Omaha in Omaha, Neb., “I stress to the people in my classes that they should not add weight to the barbell for back squats or front squats until after they’ve mastered the air squat.

        “The air squat needs to be the starting point,” she continues.

        Simple, right? 

        Tovar says think again, pointing out the air squat is deceivingly complex.

        She adds, “Unless you have a coach there pointing it out, it can be difficult to recognize where you’re going wrong.”

        After years of coaching, Tovar says there are three common squat mistakes that can be addressed immediately. 

        1. Rising onto the toes

        When squatting, feet should stay planted on the floor, but often, people find themselves rising up onto their toes.

        “Think you’re doing that? Then, wiggle your toes,” says Tovar. “The moment you go to wiggle them, you will shift back into your heels. This is the correct stance.” 

        2. Chest folding forward

        Folding one's chest forward while squatting is frequently a result of exhaustion. When a person becomes tired, it’s natural to revert to leaning. Correcting this lean is simple: Pull the chest up.

        Tovar says the easiest way to avoid this mistake in the first place is to consciously think about pulling the chest up. “If you’re thinking about it, chances are you are doing it correctly,” she confirms. "Most of the time, people just forget to focus on it."

        3. Knees caving in

        If a person’s knees are caving in, the way to correct this is as obvious as one would think: Pull the knees apart.

        “When pulling apart, keep in mind that the knees should stay in line with the toes,” says Tovar. “Make sure your knees never come outside of your toes. That will lead to just as many balance issues as when they were caving in.”

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        I AM CROSSFIT- PATRICK MCDADE

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        CrossFit. Cross-Fit

        What does it mean to be fit?

        What does it mean to be a man? What is masculinity? Are these genetic? What is our full genetic potential? Do we want to know?

        Humans are energetic systems, and we still know very little about our bodies and the universe that we interact with. Questions seem to be the objects of my motivation in life and thus CrossFit.

        How is it that I can be at a social gathering with 20some strangers, and come away from that experience just as exhausted as a WOD? What is really going on there? It cannot be that I did not eat enough carbs the day before. Is there something else at play here? How is it that I found so much more strength during Festivus, but if I tried to do the same workout in a gym by myself that those barbells seem like a metaphor for gravity itself?

        Is the answer to ask no questions? I’d say, no. Sometimes questions can paralyze us; paralysis on analysis. Sometimes questions can be veiled doubt and fear. Should I really go to the gym today? Should I do Rx today? Can my hips get there today? Will my shoulder hold up today? Self awareness is a gift and can be a hindrance. I try to be with those fears and doubts with compassion and patience, for myself. Where did these fears and doubts originate?

        Society, upbringing, genetics, trauma? It amazes me how much fear and doubt can hold an athlete back. They are energetic concepts, with relative aspects.

        Society is social construct, and our society has its own set of energetic channels. CrossFit can be daunting from this perspective, and it takes a well thought out, analyzed and questioned personal vision to not get lost. What do I want from CrossFit? Am I chasing an unattainable vision of masculinity put forth by what I have been told? What is right for my body at my age with my injuries and my current lifestyle? When I am 50 will this personal vision still be the same, and if not, has CrossFit programming served me? I’d like to think so.

        Empowering myself with questions leads to a more well rounded vision and perspective. It is amazing to read about the anatomy and physiology of the human body after questioning what the proper form for an exercise is. It will only lead to the answer that the human body is totally interconnected. You cannot get away with shortcuts and patience is a virtue for a reason. So, take a step back. Ask some honest questions, and proceed on your journey a little more patient with yourself.

        I am Patrick and I am CrossFit

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        Memorial Day Murph

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        Memorial Day is an American Holiday which honors the men and women who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces. It's usually associated with BBQs, pools, a day off of work, and sales, but Memorial Day is a somber reminder of the sacrifices inherent in protecting and providing the freedoms we celebrate here in the United States.

        For CrossFitters, Memorial Day is generally marked with the Hero workout Murph. Murph, named after Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, is viewed as a rite of passage in CrossFit, but sometimes the man behind the workout and the reason we do that workout are lost. 

        Who was Michael Murphy?

        Michael Murphy was a Navy SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after being killed in action in Afghanistan. While conducting operations in the mountains of Afghanistan, his team was discovered by enemy forces and ended up outnumbered in a firefight in the extreme and mountainous terrain. As he and his teammates all suffered major injuries, including mortal wounds for most of the team, Lieutenant Murphy fought his way out of cover and into open ground to transmit his team's location and call for support. Lieutenant Murphy purposefully left cover and relative safety for open ground to call for help and in the process was mortally wounded but continued to engage the enemy until he was finally killed. 

        Of Lieutenant Murphy's team, there was only one survivor, Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell's story, and the story of that operation, is told in the book Lone Survivor and the movie with the same name.

        What is Murph?

        Murph is a CrossFit Hero workout which Murphy himself would regularly do. Murphy called it Body Armor and it was the same workout we know and love today:

        1 mile run

        100 pull ups

        200 push ups

        300 squats

        1 mile run

        Murph would complete this while wearing his body armor. The CrossFit version of this suggests wearing a 20lb weight vest and allows the middle portion to be partitioned as needed.

        What's the point of doing Murph on Memorial Day?

        Unlike other CrossFit workouts, completing Murph isn't about crushing your time or competing or even finishing the workout as written. Murph exists as a reminder of the actions and sacrifices of men and women like Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy. Murph is an opportunity for those of us who are still around to celebrate Memorial Day to experience a whole bunch of discomfort and intensity as a tribute to men and women like Lieutenant Murphy. 

        This doesn't mean you can't enjoy your day off, have a BBQ, or buy a deeply discounted laundry machine. Just don't forget that Murph isn't only a workout and always remember the men and women whose sacrifices have afforded us the opportunity and freedom we enjoy every day.

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        Hydrate

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        Here's is a great excerpt from a Journal Article on hydration and training in the heat.  Read the full article at http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Heat_Starr4.pdf

        Bill Star

        Hydrate!

        Water is the key. This nutrient, which we all take for granted, is crucial to every function in the body temperature regulation, nerve-impulse conduction, metabolism, immune system, eliminative process, and all the rest of the workings of the body.

        Two misconceptions get people in trouble:

        1. It takes a large amount of dehydration to bring on negative reactions.

        2. You can depend on thirst to inform you when you’re at risk. It takes a surprisingly small amount of uid loss, just one percent, for your body to become dehydrated, and you can’t depend on your thirst to tell you what’s happening.

        Researchers have found that even a tiny shortage of water disrupts biochemistry of the human body and can limit performance. Water balance is the single most important variable in athletic performance. Besides a ecting overall strength, dehydration causes the brain to shrink slightly, which in turn results in an impairing of the neuromuscular system, coordination, concentration and thinking.

        It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to be able to gure out you’re not going to be able to perform at your best when these things begin to happen in your body during any form of physical exertion.

        Water is your best friend when dealing with very hot

        weather.

        “But what about Gatorade and those high-energy boosters that have recently ooded the market?”

        After all, Gatorade is loaded with electrolytes. Yes, and that’s a good thing, but at the same time, it contains sugar, and sugar slows the assimilation process. And those high- energy drinks contain a huge amount of caffeine, which promotes rapid water loss. So no cola or coffee. I typically use coffee to get me kick-started for my cardio and weight workouts, but I have to do without that caffeine jolt when it gets hot. I’ll come back to this discussion a bit later on.

        Overheating and resulting de ciencies in fluids and vital nutrients can come about amazingly fast when temperatures climb to 100 degrees and humidity gets extreme. As much as three quarts of sweat can be lost in a single hour. When this happens, blood volume drops appreciably. If it drops too low, circulation becomes impaired so that the brain and other vital organs are deprived of oxygen.

        Heat illnesses fall into three categories: heat fatigue, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat fatigue su erers will experience cramps, usually in the legs and abdomen. If these symptoms aren’t dealt with right away and the athlete continues to push himself, the next step is heat exhaustion. This is a more serious response to the heat and results in fatigue, weakness and collapse. An athlete suffering from heat exhaustion may have the following symptoms: normal temperature; pale, clammy skin; profuse sweating; nausea; headache and dizziness.

        Heat stroke represents the most serious heat illness because it can end in death. Every year, we all read reports of athletes, usually football players, taking part in two-a- days, who died from heat stroke. The symptoms include high body temperature; hot, red and dry skin; rapid, strong pulses; and in most cases unconsciousness.

        All are preventable.

        Starr, Bill. (2013). Training in the Heat. The CrossFit Journal. 3-10.

         

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        THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRAINING JOURNAL

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        BY CRYSTAL MCCULLOUGH

        I have always been involved in physical activity and trained with some type of purpose. In high school, I played varsity sports. In college, I played intramural sports. At 25, I joined the Army and trained in order to be in shape for my job and score the highest I could on my PT test. Once I got pregnant and got out of the Army, there was a year or so I didn’t do anything and felt like I had to start over completely. My easy go-to with a small child was running, so I could put him in a stroller and go. This was the first time in my life I needed to find a new goal completely on my own; someone or something else no longer defined my goals. It was up to me to set my own.

        I set goals to run 5ks, then 10ks, then to run a half marathon. I kept logs of my runs so that I knew where I was in my training. I set goals for each race that I ran to be better than the previous one. Does this sound familiar?

        In 2010, a friend introduced me to CrossFit. The gym I started at was very big on tracking workouts. I am so thankful they felt that way because it put me in the right mindset from the very beginning. From my first workout, I kept a training log and still do until this day. I still have all those journals and will pull them out on a rainy day. Sometimes, when I ran or did CrossFit, I filled the whole journal before I would start a new one. Now, depending on the meet I’m training for, I sometimes start a new journal after each meet so I can look at the difference between the cycles.

        FIVE REASONS TO KEEP A TRAINING JOURNAL

        1.    It shows you where you’ve been. Sometimes, we feel like we aren’t making any progress. It helps to go back and look at old journals and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. Writing down workout times and maxes gives you a visual way to track your progress.

        2.    It allows you to take control of your fitness. In all likelihood, the coach isn’t going to remember the numbers you hit the previous week. Keeping a record allows accuracy in percentage work.

        3.    It provides you with your own accountability. Writing your daily workouts shows you how many days you trained or didn’t train. It keeps you motivated to workout.

        4.    It allows you to write down sleep and nutrition habits as well as how you were feeling while you were training.

        5.    It helps you to track you goals and set new ones. If you never write anything down, how do you know when you’ve met a goal?

        I realize that it is an extra step, but it is a crucial step to achieving optimal success. Regardless of what sport you are involved in, keeping a training journal can be just as important as the recovery process to keep you motivated and your eyes on the prize. Whether a soccer mom or an elite athlete (see Lisa and Hunter below!), we all have goals, and visually tracking them ultimately leads to greater success.

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        Crossfit hands: perfect guide to preventing and treating rips

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        By Jenifer Charles

        I am an accountant. The hands of an accountant are typically soft and smooth. We use our hands to create spreadsheets, work a calculator and staple documents. The closest we come to developing a callus is from repeatedly hitting the 'plus' button on our keyboard with our pinky finger.

        I also shake a lot of hands. One day, after a handshake, the client asked if I’d been doing a lot of yard work.

         

        “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

        He seemed a bit embarrassed and I realized how rough my hands had become. I was healing from a recent rip and the edges of the tear were hard and scratchy.

        Crossfit has changed my hands

        As soon as I fell in love with the feel of a barbell, I developed calluses and tears. I’ve ripped and healed and ripped again.I felt pride and awe the first time my hands bled from too many toes to bar. But after that I realized the injuries to my hands kept me away from the pull up bar and made the barbell painful to hold.

        I’ve tried gymnastics grips, gloves, athletic tape, grippers. But nothing felt as good or worked as well as feeling the cool, chalky bar with my bare hands.

        I soon learned that the best treatment for a rip is to prevent it.

        Robin Ribeiro is a former gymnast and the owner of RipFix. She walked me through the elements of good hand care. “Is about every day hand maintenance,” she says. “Not just the rips.

        It starts with the grip.

        Although adjusting your grip on the bar won’t completely prevent callouses, it will reduce them. If you currently grip the bar with your palm, try gripping the bar at the base of your fingers.This way less skin is compressed between the bar and your fingers, and you’re able to move with the bar more easily.

        How you work the bar is key,” Robin adds. “Try re-gripping at the top of a pull up and avoid having a death grip on the bar.

        The combination of bars and chalk and friction make the development of callouses unavoidable. The more we work, the bigger and harder our callouses become. Chalk dries out our hands and causes roughness.Rough, hard skin gets caught on the bar and rips.

        How do we prevent our callouses from turning on us mid-WOD?

        1. File them down or shave them.

        “Use a pumice stone or a razor if you need to,” says Robin. A good time to file your hands is after a shower when your callouses are a bit swollen and soft. File until you no longer feel hard edges. Your skin will still be thick, but it needs to be smooth and consistent.

        2. Apply a moisturiser.

        Applying a moisturiser before going to sleep every night is also a good idea. “Your hands should be smooth and supple,” says Robin. “Your hands don’t have to be ugly. I apply moisturiser to my hands and feet every night. It keeps the callouses from hardening and adds moisture back into your hands after chalk has dried them out.

        And yet, when we do rip (although we swear we’ve followed all this great advice)…?

        3. Ripped hands: clean first.

        Wash your rip with soap and water. (And wash the barbell – or rig – too. No one wants to share your hand slime or blood!) Cut away the skin as close as possible to the rip. Leftover skin gets hard and will catch on the bar to cause another rip. “Pack in a salve,” adds Robin. “Really pack it in. Then wrap your hand with some gauze. You want to protect the tear but you also want some air to get in.” You can use a topical antibiotic like Neosporin. The idea is to keep it clean, treated and covered.

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        One of my favorite products for bandaging my hands is self-adhering wrap. I wrap some normal gauze around my hand, then secure it with the wrap. It doesn’t slip off like a band aid, and it doesn’t get all grimy and stiff like normal medical tape.

        Robin recommends sleeping with a sock over your hand. It’s a good way to let the wound breathe and it prevents the salve or topical antibiotic from getting on your sheets.

        “You have to keep treating your hands while they heal,” Robin says. “Athletes make the mistake of not treating a rip like a real injury. Your hands need to recover just like the rest of you.

        But what if we can’t stay away? What if we can’t resist?

        How do we protect our hands while they’re healing and still get some time in at the box?

        You can make some grips from athletic tape.Here’s a chart on how to do it, but you can also Google “how to wrap hands” for different methods. Making your own grips to use them for WODs with a lot of bar work can also help prevent rips.

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        Source: Steve Bonham

        Remember 14.4? All those toes to bar?

        I knew I was in trouble when I started to see flakes of skin falling from the bar. By the time I was finished, my hands were torn and bleeding. I had some topical antibiotic in my gym bag. I immediately washed and dried my hands (hellfire!) and packed in the antibiotic. For the next few days I applied treatment regularly and within a week my hands were good enough to go back to WODing.

        Ever since 14.4, I’ve kept ahand care kit in my gym bag containing antibiotic, bandages, athletic tape and gauze.Not only has it come in handy for me, I’ve also shared with fellow CrossFitters.

        Don’t wait until you rip to start taking care of your hands. They’re an important part of your training and progress.

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        Quick Q&A on Keto, Carbs and Glycemic Index

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        ADEE CAZAYOUX

        Here's a great little Q&A from our folks at Working Against Gravity (WAG)

        Q: Would you recommend going the keto route?

        A: At Working Against Gravity, we don’t believe that there is one nutrition plan that fits everyone. Whether you’re following Atkins diet, keto diet, Zone diet, the WAG diet or another plan, the success of the plan depends on the person following it. If ketosis fits your lifestyle and it’s a plan you can follow: do it. If you feel great, you’re performing well at the gym and you’re impressed with your progress: go for it! However, at the same time I’d recommend doing your research. You should be aware of what you have to monitor in your body to stay safe and healthy.

        Q: Can getting all of your carbohydrates from vegetables give you the same energy as starches?

        A: There is definitely a difference between getting all your carbohydrates from vegetables instead of from starchier sources like potatoes, pasta, oatmeal and rice. Here’s something to consider: foods from the vegetable category also provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber, which not only benefit your digestive health, but also satisfy any deficiencies your body may have. At the same time, the starch carbs provide some benefits too. Because starch sources are higher in calories, and because your body absorbs them faster, these foods provide energy to ensure you’re performing at your highest level. So ultimately, a diet with a mix of the two is likely your best option. If you plan to eat most of your carbs from vegetable and high micronutrient sources, but then around training sessions incorporate a starch source, you should see increased energy and performance.

        Q: How much should I worry about the glycemic index? 

        A: When thinking about the glycemic index of your carbohydrates, first consider your workout plan. High glycemic carbs absorb and enter your bloodstream quickly and provide a quick boost of power. Low glycemic carbs absorb more slowly, but provide longer-lasting energy. So around workout times focus more on those high glycemic carbs to help improve your performance during your workout. Outside workout times, focus on low glycemic carbs, which are higher in micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Strike that balance that’s right for you and your body.

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        I AM CROSSFIT-PAULINA HANNER

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        Hi my name is Paulina Hanner. I am a 27 year old, Middle School Behavior Specialist who is married with 2 energetic dogs and I have always loved a good challenge… 

        I remember growing up in a neighborhood with mostly boys during my childhood years. While these boys were some of my best friends, in order to hang out with them there was an unspoken rule and expectation that said I had to keep up with them and do everything they did. From bike riding through the woods, building club house forts, speed skating down the steepest hill in the neighborhood to endless paintball and air soft matches I never shied away from an opportunity to hang out with the boys and show them up. Throughout elementary school and middle school, the boys treated me as an equal and cut me no slack for being a girl and I respected them so much for this. I remember thinking how strong I must have been as a girl to keep up with the boys I grew up with.

        It wasn’t until the summer of our upcoming 9th grade year that we all started taking interest in other things and began to spend most of our time with other friend groups outside of the neighborhood. I started to spend more time doing “girly” things and less time outside playing air soft or paintball. I remember feeling torn and wondering why high school had to be so stereotypical.  I say I felt torn because I wanted to do girly things but still needed to feed the competitive and athletic side of myself. It didn’t take me long to find my way on to the track and soccer team in high school and like my childhood, I remember these years as some of the best memories of my high school career. I remember wanting to be the fastest sprinter and best striker on our soccer team. I was always up for the challenge of pushing myself to be a better athlete and sized myself up with other players to push myself to produce more. When I graduated high school in 2009, not only were my high school years of playing sports coming to an end, but my motivation to remain athletic suffered. I started college and worked close to 40 hours a week at Cook Out. I found myself having less time and less energy at the end of a school day and 12 hour shift and started to indulge in a lifestyle of fast food eating habits. For anyone who has never worked for a restaurant, it’s always the easy choice to eat where you work because you end up spending the majority of your time there anyways and why wouldn’t you choose to eat conveniently? With the combination of daily life stressors that come along with being a full time college student on top of paying your way through college, I realized that my unhealthy eating habits had hit an all time low and it was not ok to eat fried chicken nuggets and milkshakes everyday! I joined a local gym and like many gyms, I had free rein to more equipment than I knew what to do with. I found myself sticking to the leg machines, elliptical and treadmill. I always saw guys lifting weights on the opposite side of the gym and while I was curious to cross over and give it a try, I always found myself playing it safe and sticking to what I knew and was comfortable with.  Over the course of my college years, my gym attendance dwindled. I remember starting off going to the gym multiple times a week and by the time I moved to Lexington, my attendance at best was once or twice every month. Knowing myself, I needed accountability and never found that at a traditional gym.

        After moving to Lexington three years ago, graduating graduate school, getting married, buying a house and starting my dream job, I felt like my life was finally settling down. I remember talking to a friend one day who was trying out CrossFit. She kept telling me how much I would love it especially with how competitive I can get. She encouraged me to give it a try. After a couple of months of contemplating signing up at a gym again, I decided to try out CrossFit. I started with the Ramp Up Class in January 2017 and LOVED it! I never understood the significance of CrossFit until I began my own CrossFit journey and I was glad I gave it a shot. 

        But still, why CrossFit? After a year into my own experience, I see a confident and stronger me when I look in the mirror everyday! Now don’t get me wrong it’s the hardest physical activity I’ve ever done in my life. I think this is part of what hooks you. It’s a fight against your own limits especially on days when you feel like the workout wins. But see, it’s so much more than just pushing yourself physically and mentally. It takes courage, accountability, positive vibes, strength and a supportive community to surround you so you feel empoweredto show up and go as hard as you can each day. The other thing is CrossFit does not discriminate. I was not happy with myself when I began my CrossFit journey, but that is the beauty behind it. CrossFit not only provides me with a space to workout but it’s a safe, judgment free space where I can try out new things (even when I look super crazy as hell), and I know it’s always going to be OK. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life or if you had the worst or the best day before coming in to work out. When I CrossFit, the only thing I have to think about is being focused, maximizing my reps, watching the clock, chugging my water and getting through the workout no matter whatchallenging movements I’m faced with. It has made me strong enough to handle whatever comes my way in the gym and in real life. The other piece that makes CrossFit unique is the fellow CrossFitters you are going to meet throughout your journey who are facing the same emotional and physical battles that you are as an athlete and person in general. Being a social person, the friendships I have formed during this journey with fellow CrossFitters and coaches at my box has also played into the big picture of coming back day after day. 

        Thanks to my CrossFit journey and supportive box, I feel like I have finally regained my childhood motto of “loving a good challenge” and this is why I am CrossFit.

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        Gone Bananas!!

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        Eating a banana might be as effective as taking ibuprofen, says a study from Appalachian State University

        Nathan Katzin

        Getting a serious workout in? Running a distance race? How about a strenuous home repair project?   Instead of reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen to ease those aches and pains, a new study suggests eating a banana might be just as effective.  It’s been common knowledge for years that bananas are a great way to restore energy. Now a study from the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory suggests that bananas can be as useful as ibuprofen in easing inflammation.

        In a randomized trial, the research team brought in 20 cyclists and tested their blood before and after a workout. The cyclists drank plain water, water with sugar or water with carbohydrates from two types of bananas. Researchers found that not only did both types of bananas reduce inflammation, they also had an antioxidant effect, which helped keep immune cells functioning optimally.

        Targeting Specific Enzymes

        The study focuses on the effects of bananas on an enzyme known as COX-2 mRNA. Banana metabolites, or the products of metabolism, seem to limit the expression of COX-2 mRNA, the same enzyme targeted by ibuprofen. This helps limit inflammation.

        “Ibuprofen is the number one drug taken by athletes to combat inflammation,” says study leader Dr. David C. Nieman in a press release. “However, research shows that it can cause intestinal cell damage and, in some studies, was found to increase inflammation in athletes. Now, athletes know there is a natural alternative—bananas and water."

        The study, was co-authored by scientists from the Dole Nutrition Institute, NC State Plants for Human Health Institute and the UNC Charlotte Bioinformatics services division. 

        Dr. Mary Lila with the Food Bioprocessing & Nutrition Sciences Department at North Carolina State University said the study’s data is compelling, but the next step would be to compare the effect of bananas and ibuprofen directly. "Using ibuprofen directly as a positive control will be a direct way to see the comparative effects and provide the gold standard for demonstrating that the claims suggested by the original work hold firm," she said.

        What Else Can Bananas Do?

        Bananas may have a similar effect to aspirin or ibuprofen, but there are so many other benefits. 

        “Consuming bananas with water during exercise has several advantages for athletes and fitness enthusiasts above those linked to regular sports drinks,” said Dr. Neiman. “That includes a stronger anti- inflammatory effect, better nutrition, and improved metabolic recovery. This makes bananas close to the perfect food.” 

        Bananas are grown in 107 countries and are ranked fourth among the world’s food crops in monetary value. Americans already consumer more bananas than apples and oranges combined. That number will most likely grow.

         

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        Liquid Courage

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        Written by Stronger U Nutrition

        Oh, alcohol, that wonderful source of liquid courage and the best social lubricant there is. 

        Alcohol has been around since the beginning of time and us humans have figured out all kinds of different ways to go about making it. We’ve gotten mighty creative with it, as well. Making it from all kinds of fruits and vegetables in the most unlikely of places.

        Alcohol and our use of it dates back millennia. Now, obviously, alcohol doesn’t come without its problems. And we’re certainly not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t drink it. Alcohol can be a messy subject for some of us, and only you know if you can handle it or not. But this email is for those of you who choose to drink it on a semi-regular or regular basis.

        Here’s everything you need to know about alcohol and how it works in the body:

        Alcohol is technically a 4th macronutrient. I know, this is where things get confusing since just a little while ago I told you there were only 3 of them. And for all intents and purposes, there are only 3, that we track regularly. But alcohol does act like a 4th one, and in fact, it’s 7 calories a gram, for any of you who are curious.

        But on top of being a 4th macronutrient, alcohol acts like a toxin in the body. Which is part of the reason why it’s gotten us to make so many bad decisions for thousands of years. Toxins lead to toxic behavior, you know?

        Really though, the body does view it as a toxin. So much so that when you drink alcohol the body stops metabolizing all other forms of energy like carbs and fats and shifts all of it’s focus to metabolizing alcohol. Which means that when you’re drinking you’re actually putting any and all fat burning efforts on hold for as long as it takes you to metabolize whatever it is that you’re drinking.

        Now, where things get extra tricky is that even though alcohol is the 4th macro and the body prioritizes breaking it down over all other things, alcohol can’t actually be stored as body fat. Which seems counterintuitive when you think about the fact that the term “beer belly” is so widely used.

        But people who gain weight and drink quite a bit don’t do so because the alcohol is making them fat. They get that way because if you remember from above, alcohol puts a stop on all other fat burning processes. Which means whatever it is that you’re eating with alcohol is going to be more easily stored as body fat. And that doesn’t just go for food. That goes for whatever mixers or whatever else happens to be in the alcohol that you’re drinking.

        Oh, and we haven't even talked about the fact that alcohol lowers our inhibitions leading some of us to wake up in the morning like we're in The Hangover, surrounded by pizza boxes, and wondering what in the world happened last night.

        See why this can be such a slippery slope when you’re dieting?

        But, all of that being said, we know that plenty of people drink socially with their friends and family. And remember, above all else, we care about you making this program work for you and fit your lifestyle. Because of that, we’re never going to tell you that you can’t drink. That sort of decision is completely up to you here above all else.

        What we will do though is work to make your decision to drink as easy to log and account for as possible. Which is why we have plenty of alcohol recipes in MyFitnessPal. All you have to do is search Stronger U cocktail, Stronger U wine, etc.

        We have these listed because it’s important to be able to account for alcohol when you’re drinking it. The alcohol itself may not be able to be stored as fat, but it does have calories, and those calories need to be budgeted for in your daily macro intake.

        This is why we suggest if you know that you’re doing to be doing some drinking, we want you to plan ahead. We like it when people budget alcohol into their daily calories and stick to that budget. Which is a whole lot easier said than done after you’ve had 3 beers and that 4th one is starting to look really good, isn’t it?

        Remember, at the end of the day, a glass of wine isn’t going to ruin a day of eating or completely put a halt on all of your hard earned progress. Dieting and losing body fat doesn’t work that way. But we do encourage you to be sensible to limit your alcohol intake while you begin to reign in your macros, just like a healthy individual would tend to do.

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        The Importance of Scaling

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        By: Rhett Clark

        Here’s a quick post to think about. Rome wasn’t built in a day.  You didn’t get out of shape in a day; and you certainly won’t get into shape in a day. The same goes for movements. Very few of us have the ability to look at something and learn it. It often takes repetition after repetition to ingrain the correct pattern and become proficient at something. There is often a learning curve associated with correct movement as well. This is where scaling comes into play.

        As a coach there is nothing more frustrating than seeing an athletes ego get in the way of progress. Often times we see athletes try to scale up a workout instead of doing it Rx. We also see athletes try to get a workout Rx when they should be doing more manageable weights or movements.   Keep in mind, there is a difference between challenging and inappropriate when it comes to weight and movement selection. For example: If my max deadlift is 300 pounds it would be challenging for me to do a 21-15-9 of deadlifts and HSPU at 225, it would inappropriate for me to do it at 275.

        Each workout has a desired intent. Some are meant to be heavy, some are meant to be long and grueling, others are short burners that elevate the heart rate quickly. It may not be inherently clear to us as athletes what the intent is but by breaking down the workout and its structure we can come close. Workouts like Grace, Isabel or Fran are meant to test our work capacity at given loads. Murph is used to test endurance and muscle fatigue over time. In terms of results; the times or scores when plotted should resemble a bell curve, with the majority of people having around the same times.  There will be people that went faster or had more reps than the average and there will be some below the average. Over time it is expected that your scores gradually become better than average. If we get too far ahead of the average then the workout can be deemed too easy and scaling up should be considered. If you are constantly below the average think about scaling the weights or the movements to have a more normal score. By following this approach we would constantly be improving, becoming more proficient, finding a weakness and then improving up on that weakness.

        As athletes we think more is better, more weight, more reps, more complexion. We forget about intensity. We forget that if we lighten the load we can move faster with less breaks. We add in things like strict movements and other unneeded variations to make it feel like we are accomplishing more work. In reality we are missing the intent of the workout. We have to remember that its ok if we can’t do a HSPU or kipping pull-ups our third day into CrossFit. Want to get better at CrossFit? Leave your ego at the door, get out of your own head and do things you are capable of.

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