The Torch Ruck Club
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by Geoff Rand
With vacation season soon approaching, many of us are thinking of spending it someplace full of sun and sand, possibly with a drink in our hand. But just because you are away from the Box, it doesn’t mean you need to abandon your workouts. In fact, with the tendency we all have to overindulge on our time off, it might be more important than ever to get that blood pumping and burn some calories. Plus, we’ve all experienced that first day back at the Box after a long absence. It sucks. Staying active on your vacation can help minimize the pain upon your return.
The big hurdle to overcome with travelling and working out is the lack of programming. While I’m sure Amanda would love for you to take her with you to the islands, that’s probably not realistic. But have no fear, that trail has already been blazed for you. Here are two links to help you out. The first is 75 primarily body weight WODs, and the second is a website devoted to travel WODs. Both feature WODs requiring no or minimal equipment.
Alternatively, you could take a deck of cards with you (or download a deck of cards app) and do the core centric version (burpees, mountain climbers, flutter kicks, situps, and jokers are 400m sprint), or substitute an exercise for any equipment you may have available.
Another option is to rediscover some of the CrossFit Girls. Many of them require minimal or no equipment.
Angie (100 each of pullups, pushups, situps and squats – for time)
Barbara (20 pullups, 30 pushups, 40 situps, 50 squats – 5 rounds for time, with 3 minutes rest between rounds)
Cindy (5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats – max rounds in 20 minutes)
Mary (5 handstand pushups, 10 pistols, 15 pullups – max rounds in 20 minutes)
Don’t forget your warm up. You wouldn’t jump right into a WOD without warming up here, so why would travelling be different? Pack your jump rope and twist off the bristles from a broom, and throw in some inch worms or push ups, and you’ve got all you need to be plenty loosened up for any travel WOD. And, don’t forget to stretch afterward.
One final option when on the road is to drop in to a local Box. This is a great way to get your sweat on and it can be fun to experience the nuances of different coaches and vibes of different Boxes. Here are some tips if you are thinking of hitting a new box while travelling.
· Research the local Box’s policies regarding prior registration, cost, paperwork, drop in requirements, etc. Some may require online registration and actually limit the number of attendees for a given WOD. It’s always a good idea to call or email ahead of time and let them know who you are and when you are coming.
· Arrive early to fill out waivers, pay, meet the coaches, and figure out how the Box works. Take notice of whether or not weights are dropped, equipment is wiped down after the WOD, etc. Introduce yourself and ask questions if you are unsure of anything.
· Be Open Minded. Coaching varies from place to place and you may be shown an alternate way to do an exercise that you might not be familiar with. Now is not the time to say, “Well, we do it this way.” They might actually be telling you the same thing CFF does, just in other words.
· Communicate any injuries or exercises you’re uncomfortable with.
While your normal routine is interrupted, being away from CFF is no excuse for not working out while on vacation. With the simpler, body weight workouts you might be doing on your own, it might even be a good time to involve other family members and workout together. Also, if you’re like me, my day starts with my workout and I just feel better and get more done if my workout has been knocked out early on. Finally, if you are looking for an escape from your travel companions, whomever they might be, a travel WOD or drop in is a great excuse for a little time to yourself to clear your mind. It may keep you from ripping someone’s head off later.
If you happen to workout or travel someplace cool, send Amanda a photo. Bonus points if you’re doing a handstand hold on the beach or back squatting a family member or friend with the Grand Canyon or some other neat place in the background. We’ll feature your photos in a future blog article or on the CFF FB page.
by Geoff Rand
Whenever I’m watching TV these days, the same commercial keeps coming on, the one for the Simply Fit board. If you’re fortunate enough to not be familiar, this device looks like someone left a skateboard in hot car and it got all warped. You’re supposed to balance on this thing and twist your way to a fitter you. You can watch the ridiculousness here.
Like many commercials for exercise equipment, the statements in the ad seem to be in contradiction with reality. One of the testimonial users says, “It’s so fun I don’t feel like I’m working out.” And the financial backer, Lori Greiner of Shark Tank says, “I like being toned, but I’m not big into working out or sweating.” If it doesn’t make you feel like you’re working out, you probably aren’t. My initial reaction was that this is just another piece of junk fitness equipment praying on the false hopes of the uninformed.
Now I’m not going to knock the efforts of someone who is going from sitting on the couch all day to doing some kind, any kind, of activity. Perhaps that sedentary person would see some results from the Simply Fit board, just like they would from any increase in their level of activity. However, they can only expect to see positive changes for a limited time with a device like that because the body will eventually adapt to the new stresses being placed upon it.
One of the reasons the CrossFit formula works is that it involves constant change. Changes in type of exercise, duration, tempo, and load all keep the body from getting used to any one thing. Our coaches take care of the programming for us, so we don’t need to think about it, only show up.
We do need to be a little more mindful of the workout when it comes to the strength portion where the loads are up to us to choose. We all have certain loads that we are comfortable with as it pertains to various lifts, but you want to avoid being comfortable. If you routinely grab a bar at the same load, say for hang power cleans, eventually your body is going to adapt to that weight, and you will stop seeing gains because your body is no longer being challenged.
You should be tracking the amount of weight you’ve done in your lifts along with the number of reps and any other variables in your day-to-day workouts. Use that information to know where to start and strive to increase load once you’ve been successful in a given movement, in proper form, at that load. Failing a lift is actually a good thing. It tells you what your limitations are and gives you a target to work towards.
One of the benefits of strength training is that the body continues to burn calories at rest to maintain that muscle. Having muscle also helps replace our jiggly areas with firmness.
I know some people have concerns about becoming too big or too muscular from lifting heavy, and I’ll tell you this. I have a co-worker whom I’ve worked with a long time who competes in physique competitions. In between competitions, she maintains a strong, fit look, nothing too crazy. When she gets into preparation mode for an upcoming competition, she changes her diet to a precisely calculated and timed number of meals, calories, and nutrients, and adds a daily intake of supplements she hauls around in a divided container that rivals some fishing tackle boxes I’ve seen. She also takes time off from work and works out more frequently under close supervision from her trainer, focusing on nothing other than preparation until the competition . The result is she does look pretty muscular during this preparation time, but once the competition is over and she goes back to her normal eating and workout routine, she returns to her lean, yet somewhat muscular, more normal look. Her competition physique is just not something that's easy to maintain. So know that if you are worried about turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger from lifting too heavy, unless you are following a super strict fitness and diet regimen, you won’t.
So continue to challenge yourself in your lifts. Get used to being uncomfortable. Strive to hit failure. Don’t let your body adapt. And know that we'll always make the workout fun, but we will never let you feel like you’re not working out.
On the Mat…My First Exposure to Yoga
By Geoff Rand
It was a cold Saturday in late February. A light wind whispered through the bare tree branches. I walked into the Box like many times before, ready for the team WOD. I thought I was ready for the yoga class that followed. It was just going to be some sitting cross-legged on a mat with some light stretching, right? No sweat. I can handle that… I was wrong.
We lost a good man that day…
I had seen that CrossFit Frederick had a new yoga instructor, Gabby, running classes on Saturdays at 10:15 AM. Over the years I had heard several people at the Box say “I wish they had yoga here.” Many were really excited to hear that yoga was coming to CFF. I figured a yoga class was like what they showed on TV, a bunch of people sitting quietly on their mats doing some gentle stretching. At the time, my shoulder was really sore and I figured some easy stretches would be good for it.
We cleaned up after the team WOD; I downed a quick shake and unrolled my mat. We had a good turn out for the first yoga class, about 15-18 of us. Gabby got right into it. I don’t remember the first stretches we did, but I’ll never forget the core work that came next. Leg raises… A lot of them. All the way up to 90 degrees and 45-degree and 15-degree holds. A slew of expletives were expelled from our mouths as we gasped for air, abs on fire. Gabby cracked a smile. Not a wicked “Amanda” smile, but more of a “who are these people?” smile. I guess CrossFit types blurting out 4-letter words aren’t her normal clientele. She offered the encouragement that we were almost done… Almost done with the core exercises, that is.
We moved right into the next series of movements. I came to learn that this was “the flow”, meaning there is no stopping, just transitioning from one series of poses to the next. We did many Chaturangas, a sort of push up movement, and upward and downward dogs, variations of pikes and planks. The repetition gives you plenty of time to get comfortable with the poses, and that was good because they were all foreign to me. I lost track of time, but I guessed we had been there awhile by the growing pool of sweat on my mat. But we weren’t done just yet.
Lunges, twists; balancing on one leg. I can’t remember how many times I had to use my arm to brace my fall. I felt like I was miserably failing a roadside sobriety test. The poses gradually increased in difficulty, but there was always a way to scale it to your ability, and you could take a break if you felt you needed to.
Next up, the crow pose where you press your hands to the ground while leaning forward and balancing, resting your knees on your triceps, with your feet off the ground. I wasn’t expecting to be able to do it, but I tried. The fact that my arms were slick with sweat did not make this any easier. My knees wanted to slide down my arms. I was shaking, waiting for the face plant, but it never came. A brief victory. For a moment, I considered joining the circus.
But somewhere during all of this, a friend hit his wall. He was completely drained and spent the rest of the class sprawled out on his mat. Man down.
We continued on with a few more poses, and then transitioned into more of a slower-paced series of stretches. Child’s pose, corpse pose, things that were more in line with what I had expected yoga to be. By the end, I was tired and relaxed, but feeling energized. It is a difficult sensation to put into words.
I returned for several weeks after that, and I’m still attending Gabby’s classes, as my schedule permits. Each week there are familiar poses mixed in with new challenges. Every class is different. What’s cool about her classes is that you can join in no matter what your skill level or experience is with yoga. Just starting out? Use some yoga blocks to help support yourself as your flexibility improves. Intermediate or advanced yogis can try inversions and balances of increased difficulty.
Gabby often makes reference to “your practice”, and practice is how you get better. After a few weeks, I’m starting to maintain better balance. My headstands are steady and I’m controlled rising up and lowering out of them. My handstands will require more work, however.
Even though yoga turned out to be something very different from what I expected, I enjoy it. I think it compliments our daily WODs nicely. Yoga helps improve balance and increases flexibility. And, with the pace of the flow, it certainly is a workout. Gabby offers words of encouragement during her classes and reminds you to be in tune with your breathing. It is fun, challenging, relaxing, and energizing all at once.
So bring your mat to her next Saturday session and experience Gabby’s Power Vinyasa Flow and see if you can put the feeling you feel into words. Please pre-register via the Mind Body program.
By the way, Gabby is now “one of those CrossFit types” and you might see her WOD-ing beside you during various sessions throughout the week. She’s still smiling, but I haven’t heard her blurt out any 4-letter words yet.
UPDATE: Gabby has since modified her yoga sessions slightly from what is depicted above. Since she started doing the Saturday team WODs with us, she realized an intense yoga session might be a little too much for people who just did that WOD. She has changed her program to have a bit more of a restorative concentration, "focusing on breathing, stretching and a little flow in the beginning to get your heart rate up." It is suitable for those staying on after the team WOD and those who may have just gotten out of bed. In the session I attended a couple weeks ago, she tailored it to target the areas that just got blasted during the team WOD. I think it is a great change. Gabby is always seeking feedback on her sessions, so contact her through Facebook should you have any questions or suggestions.