Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Questions for Chris: Eggs and A New Perspective

Q: How to hard boil eggs
A: I'm assuming you're asking "How do you hard boil eggs?" Well in that case, check out this post I did awhile back - At Home with Chris P. - Hardboiling Eggs

Q: Does eating a lot of eggs increase cholesterol or risk for heart disease?
A: No. First of all, dietary cholesterol is different than blood cholesterol. Secondly, even if it were, high blood cholesterol does not cause CVD (cardiovascular disease) and subsequently myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). If there IS a number to be concerned about about it, it would be your triglycerides, fasting blood sugar levels, and small dense LDL particles. These are more closely associated with the bad stuff.

Q: Hi Chris, I'm interested to hear your feedback on the article by Gillian Mounsey entitled "A New Perspective" that was posted on Aimee's blog with the 7/27 wod.  - Joe
A: For those that have not read the article, here it is: A New Perspective. Now, I'm not going to claim I know Gillian Mounsey very well. I do know she has been a "famous" CrossFitter in the past and I totally respect her athletic achievements. While her article can seem like CrossFit is bad for people, I think you need to read it with...perspective. 
This is a world class athlete with a clear need for competition and high standards. She grew up being a "natural" athlete and went through phases of gymnastics,  bodybuilding, CrossFit, and now strength training in the form of barbell lifts and olympic lifting. She paints a picture of CrossFit that is a program which runs people into the ground with high volume exercises where form is not the priority. Unfortunately I have to agree with her; but only to an extent. 
I do think that many people become addicted to CrossFit and the "unknown and unknowable" workouts stimulate that part of the brain that says "Yeah, let's do this crazy workout so I can look better naked AND tell my friends what I did." This is why I wrote my recent article on "Obsession with Epicness." It's not smart to run yourself into the ground day after day and expect to A.) get stronger and/or B.) think it's healthy. That's just fracking ridiculous logic.
The bottom line is that people need to be smart with training. And if you're not smart enough, then find a smart trainer. Like I said, I respect Gillian's accomplishments and her history, but a lot of the negative aspects of CrossFit were her own doing (or her coach's) If she didn't learn proper form, or decided to do a ridiculous workout with heavy weight and high reps, etc. then that was her decision. At the end of the day, no one forced her to Zone, lose form during Grace, or do 150 pull ups/150 burpees after a CrossFit hiatus. Those were her decisions. It's pretty clear that she either sets high expectations for herself or feels like others expect big things from her.
I think one of the benefits of CrossFit is that it introduces movements that normal people would never encounter. I see soccer moms deadlifting and backsquatting and this would have never happened if it weren't for CrossFit.  Gillian talks about the benefits of barbell squatting, pressing, etc. and I am confident that if it weren't for CrossFit, many women (and men) would not be doing these things at all. If CrossFit needs to be the gateway towards strength training, so be it.
If there is anything to take from her article, it's to focus on form first and not let your ego get in the way of smart training. Programming is important too. Instead of every day being a grind of 30 min+ workouts, you should be strength training and be ok with untimed workouts. Not everyone is looking to compete like Gillian. She needed a focus and she found it in olympic lifting meets. I think everyone will go through an evolution of training, but if you can establish a solid focus on form and strength training, everything else will fall into place. 

More reading: 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gluten Bell Curve and Why It's Better to Lie

bell curve.gif
You've probably heard of a bell curve. It's a figure used to explain that the majority of a population are "average" while there are a few outliers at opposite ends of the spectrum. You can use a bell curve to describe various things: grades in a math class, height of a group of people, etc. You could also use a bell curve to describe tolerance. Let's take the sun, for instance. The average person can tolerate a moderate amount of sunshine, while a few people can tolerate a great deal of sunlight (typically dark skinned people) and a few people can't tolerate much sunlight at all (very fair skinned people). This makes sense, but what's funny (actually, sad) is that when it comes to food and drink, people are generally more accepting of people at the EXTREME end of things. Allow me to explain. 

Have you ever been at a bar with people and decided not to drink? People look for a reason why. And more so, you might feel the need to give an excuse. "Oh, I have to get up early tomorrow," "I drank a lot last night,:" etc. even if you do, they look at you funny because it's socially expected to drink and not doing so is not "normal." However, if you said you were a recovering alcoholic, people back off and let you do your thing with your water and lemon. 

Same thing happens with bread, pasta, and other gluten-laden things. It's more acceptable to say you're celiac than it is to just say you don't want to eat bread, pasta. etc. To me, this is absolutely ridiculous. Knowing that gluten wrecks havoc on the human body, (whether you are diagnosed with celiac disease or not), why isn't it socially acceptable to just choose not to eat grains? 

Let's go back to the bell curve. I do think there is a spectrum of tolerance when it comes to gluten. Some folks simply cannot have it or else it sends them over the edge (think celiacs) while a small percentage of people can probably can tolerate a decent amount. What the middle of that bell curve (majority of people) doesn't realize is that gluten can affect and aggravate things such as ADHD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility, depression, and a plethora of other diseases. You might be saying, "Well, I don't have any of those things." Ok, tell that to a 14 year-old who smokes and says she doesn't have lung disease. Yet. In other words, just because there isn't an immediate reaction to gluten doesn't mean it's harmless. 

What's the end message? Try taking gluten out of your diet for 30 days. It's only a month! At the end of that 30 days, I bet you will have seen changes. (weight loss, less puffy face, less inflammation, less achy joints, etc) If you are truly itching for some gluten at the end of 30 days, go ahead and have it. I'll bet you have some adverse side effects (stomach ache, achy joints) Personally, if I have beer, even just a glass or two, I wake up with very swollen glands. You'll slowly, but surely realize that you're better off without it. 

And if you're in a situation where you just don't want to eat that birthday cake or dinner roll, maybe it's better to lie and just say you're celiac. You're 70 year-old self will thank you. 

P.S. All real food is gluten free, but not all gluten free food is real. 

Resources for the skeptics:
"Type 1 Diabetes: The Gut Connection" - (read this if you believe you believe non-celiac people are fine to eat gluten)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

CrossFit Home Gym: How to Hang Gymnastic Rings

In looking for a new house, one of the big criterion I was looking for was space for a home gym. Although I am a trainer at CrossFit KoP, there are days where it would just be easier to bang out a workout at home. Now that we have a great home with a spacious 1-car garage, my goal is to create a home gym with the ability to park the wife's car in the garage. 

The first thing I had to do was paint the garage. It came with the house unpainted, so I just got some Behr exterior semi-gloss white and got to work. It took just about 2.5 gallon cans to cover the whole garage (19'x10'x11'). 

a close up of one of the supports (resting on Rogue bumpers)
I had already bought a number of Rogue things: a Rogue barbell, Bella barbell, bumper plates, clips, and the rings. The rings offer more versatility than a pull up bar, so my priority was to get the rings up first. Researching different methods from people on the CrossFit forums revealed numerous options. (I tend to do a LOT of research). The best combination for me was to brace the rings through 2x8 pieces of wood that were lag bolted into the ceiling studs (joists). This method allowed me to distribute the load across multiple beams, making it safe and stable.  See the video below to check out the full setup. 

updated 1/3/12 - general list of tools and hardware

stud finder (get one that finds the center of the stud, it will save you time - you get what you pay for, mine was $45 but way better than the $10 one I had originally)
drill and drill bits (standard set includes a variety of diameters)
socket wrench for lag screws
saw (if cutting the wood for your needs)


2x6 piece of wood. I got an 8ft. length and cut it to size
lag screws/bolts - these grip the wood extremely well - you'll need 4 - 8 of these, depending on how many ceiling joists you have . Mine were 5/16ths of an inch in diameter and I used 8 total. They were 3.5" long
eye bolts - these are the circular things that hold the carabiners to the wood. 2 total and 3/8ths inch in diameter. Off the top of my head I forget how long, but just enough to go through the 2x8, so maybe 3 total inches including the eye
washers and nuts - get the same size as your eye bolts (mine were 3/8ths of an inch in diameter). these will distribute the load across the wood better. Use washers on your lag screws too. good idea is to get regular washers as well as "lock washers"
2 carabiners

something that you don't absolutely need but I did is to countersink holes in the wood so the nut and washer on top of the eye bolt was "in" the wood. For this you need special drill bits. Mine are "Ryobi forstner bits" from home depot.

there are a lot of great discussions on the CF forum, (mainpage) so check it out and do some searching around. Google is your friend!

For those with a crawl space above your garage, here is a solution for that setup:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Push Presses, Triple Extension, and Catapults

Yesterday I posted about jumping and how it relates to the olympic lifts. Peterson from CF KoP commented about doing push presses and having his heels come off the ground. I thought this topic was discussed enough to make it a separate post. First is Peterson's comment, then my response. 
Peterson said...
So I just talked to Aimee about confusion that I had over this very thing. For a push press, I was yelled at (not angrily or anything) for my heels coming off the ground. I don't get why this is an issue since when you jump, you jump from the balls of your feet, with the heal coming off of the ground first. Isn't it just natural that at lighter weights, your heels will be coming off of the ground? I'd guess that having your feet coming off of the ground would be wasting the momentum you built up in a way that isn't directly getting more weight overhead, and that if you are truly at your max, all of your effort goes towards getting that weight overhead without any of the waste seen in your heels coming off the ground...
Peterson, great observation. This is always debated, but my take on it is this: For strength-based (heavy) push presses, you should start with feet planted firmly and fairly even weight distribution with a slight bias towards the heel (but not so much as to wiggle your toes). You should not change the width of your feet AKA do not widen them in the middle of the movement. When driving through the push press, your heels may leave the floor momentarily as a result of the drive up, but it should not be the goal. Your ankles are first closing the angle between your shin and foot (dorsiflexion) and then extending (plantarflexion). As a result of this violent change (and your hip extension), your heels will most likely come off the floor, but if you can help it, try to keep them down.

The metcon (lighter) push press such as in FGB or other workouts is different. If you are cycling push presses at high repetitions, you will naturally be on your toes more as this offers the most athletic stance and most dynamic posture. However, since it is a lighter and more manageable weight, this is generally acceptable with the caveat of having your form dialed in before performing high rep push presses.

This all brings up a very debated topic: heels coming off the ground in triple extension during a clean or snatch. 

Lu Xiaojun - 2010 77kg World Champion
There seem to be two camps when it comes to triple extension. Those that say you should intentionally push off the ground and shrug UP to fully extend the hips, knees, and ankles (triple extension), and those that say the shrug is more of a transition to getting under the bar in triple extension. While I tend to agree more with the latter camp, I think the important thing to realize is that ankle extension (raising the heel) is a result of the hip extension and force imparted on the floor, much like the push press scenario described above. 

Aimee Anaya of Catalyst Athletics
Now, there is a misconception that the "catapult" technique originally coined by Don McCauley promotes flat footed triple extension (no ankle extension). There is a strongly worded blog entry by Sean Waxman about this here. I think what McCauley conveys is correct, but his message gets lost in translation. 

Casey Burgener, son of Mike Burgener
In the end, the extension of the ankles should not be on purpose, but it will just happen as a result of the 2nd pull (hip extension). Variety in anatomy and speed under the bar will change the angle of athletes such that a freeze frame may show one person look almost like a ballerina while others may look quite flat footed. Either way, their ankles are on the way to plantarflexion, but can be cut short by a fast pull under the bar. 

What are your thoughts on heels coming off the floor? 
Is this the first time you've heard of this debate? 
What do you think of the Waxman vs. McCauley debate?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Olympic Lifters and Jumping: Pat Mendes

Back when I started CrossFit at CrossFit King of Prussia, we had an oly lifting seminar with some guest coaches from NY. Although I had previously experience with CrossFit, it was done in a typical school gym where there were only metal plates. Thus, I did not have a ton of experience (let alone good coaching) to refine my olympic lifting. When I started at KoP, my clean and jerk was around 135 and snatch was practically non-existent (not that there's much existence of it, gotta work on that) Anyway, one of these guest coaches had us box jump and I was wondering, "What the heck does jumping have to do with oly lifting?" Well, it has EVERYTHING to do with oly lifting! You are essentially JUMPING that bar off the ground. Granted, your feet won't much as much as an unloaded jump, but the ability to push through that ground and accelerate the bar is essential. (as is hip extension, etc). Based off my jumping ability, his coach told me he saw my clean and jerk up at 185#; I told him he was nuts. That was summer of 2009. Today, my clean and jerk is 215# and my clean is 225# at a bodyweight of 150# (same as in 2009).

Check out these clips of Pat Mendes for more proof about oly lifters and jumping. This guy is 21 years old (many videos feature him at 20yo) and 285lbs. Incredible. (all videos safe for work)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Obsession with EPICNESS

Do you have an obsession with epic workouts? I'm guessing that as a CrossFitter, you probably do. I just saw a video of a CrossFitter in Scottsdale do 1000 pull ups and 1000 push ups for time. It took him over 4 hours to do it. 2009 CrossFit Games champion Mikko Salo did 1000 burpees in 82 minutes.

I suppose feats of strength/endurance/etc. have been occurring throughout history. From Wikipedia, Jack Lalanne in 1957 (age 43) swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500-pound (1,100 kg; 180 st) cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile (1.6 km) swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km). Dean Karnazes ran across America in 75 days, totaling over 3,000 miles and averaging 40-50 miles per day. Diana Nyad swam 102 miles at age 30 in 1979. And the list goes on.

There's something appealing to ridiculous workouts whether it's the work itself or explaining to people you just did 100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 situps, and 100 squats for time and watching their jaw drop. To those seasoned CrossFitters, you know this workout as "Angie" and for some of you, it's not even that epic.

It's easy to get caught up in the EPICness of these workouts, but also realize the importance of BORING workouts. By that I mean 5x5 back squats, 7x1 shoulder press, 400m sprints, etc. Yes, some of you might like these movements over others, but at the end of the day they don't get as much glamour as those epic metcons. I think it's important to focus on a solid foundation, especially when it comes to strength. A lot of the athletes who do these major EPIC workouts already have a great strength and cardio background. (plus they're usually genetic outliers) Just because you see a video of a guy doing 1000 handstand push ups doesn't mean you should try it.

Know your limitations, and every once in awhile, go for one of the hero workouts or longer metcons. But the majority of your time should be spent getting strong and building a solid foundation, not killing yourself every other day with muscle-wasting workouts.
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