Monthly Archives: August 2011
Aug 31st, 2011

Articles Galore


Jack getting into the bottom of a clean

A lot of articles for you…

Cheating to Win by Charles Staley

Strength coach Charles Staley, in this article published back in 2010, does his best to debunk gym-related conventional wisdom, using the sport of weightlifting as his counterpoint to many of the myths we’ve read about related to training.  And no, you don’t need to squat as deeply as the guys in the photos are to reap the benefits of the Olympic lifts.  It’s a breezy read and pretty entertaining.

Short Sprint Intervals are Anabolic and They Improve Conditioning

This is an article from Charles Poliquin’s blog that looks at the results of a study that examined the effects of a short sprint program with minimal rest in between efforts on a group of wrestlers.  The results in a nutshell:  the wrestlers got fitter and their hormonal status improved for the better (their cortisol levels dropped and their testosterone levels increased).  

This is a good thing.  Basically, short sprints are a great way to get you in shape (or keep you in shape) and put your body in a state where it’s set to grow muscle (or keep muscle).

Want Great Abs?  Do the Olympic Lifts!

In another article from Charles Poliquin’s blog, the benefits of the Olympic lifts (the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, and its derivatives) on abdominal development are examined.  The findings:  Olympic weightlifters have great abdominal development.  

This is great news for those of you who are into the old core training thing, since the Olympic lifts are a regular part of our program.

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Aug 30th, 2011

Art De Vany’s New Evolution Diet Food Pyramid


A very small photo of the New Evolution Diet Food Pyramid

Last week, paleo diet pioneer Art De Vany revealed his version of the food pyramid, the New Evolution Diet Food Pyramid.  Check out his blog post explaining it here:

Also, in case you missed it, check out JP’s comment from yesterday’s post regarding organic farming, the failure of economic forecasting, and the misuse of said forecasts for public policy decisions.

Plenty of food for thought on the CFO blog these days (cheesy pun, I know).  At the risk of opening a can of worms, where do you stand on these matters?

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Aug 29th, 2011

What if “Eat Less, Exercise More” is All a Bunch of Bologna?

Taubes on The Dr Oz show
(Check out what’s written on the screen behind them.)

Exercise more and eat less.  It’s the one piece of advice you can always count on at your doctor’s visit.  We’ve all heard it at some time or another.  And not just from our doctors, but from neighbors, friends, mothers, and sisters.  Today, it’s conventional wisdom that in order to lose weight you must keep your calorie intake low AND put in extra time at the gym. Makes sense, right?  Today I’m going to share a completely different take on the weight loss debate. 

A few months ago I read science writer, Gary Taubes’ most recent book Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It. You may remember Taubes for his recent piece in the New York Times entitled "Is Sugar Toxic?" or his highly controversial NYT Magazine article that rocked the low-fat dieter’s world.  Since his 2002 article, Taubes has been on a mission to expose the real culprit of the obesity epidemic and put all this low-fat business to rest.

He spent the next 5 years researching what really makes us fat and in 2007 published, Good Calories, Bad Calories.  It wasn’t long before his followers demanded he write a shorter, more condensed version of this 500 pg-bad-boy, and in 2010 he came out with Why We Get Fat, a more accessible manual for the lay person.  In this book he challenges the archaic calories in, calories out paradigm and brings forth research that calls into question everything we thought we knew about weight loss. 

Here are some basic take-aways from the book:

1.  Your body is not a bank account. 

We’ve all done it. We indulge in some sugary treat and then justify it by saying, "oh well, I’ll just burn it off later".  Unfortunetly, it’s not that simple.  It’s the hormonal effect of eating these foods that’s the problem, not so much the calories that’s in them.

I know most of you have heard me say this a million times, but here I go again…when we eat foods that are high in sugar or high in refined carbohydrates (e.g. pasta, cereal, bread) these foods are rapidly converted into sugar and enter the bloodstream where they cause our blood sugar to sky rocket (this is where the term "sugar-high" comes from).  However, having massive amounts of sugar in the bloodstream can be quite dangerous and the body immediately steps in to bring your blood sugar back down to normal levels.  This is where insulin steps in.  Just the thought of eating that chocolate cake signals your pancreas to release a huge blast of insulin who’s job it is to pull the sugar out of the bloodstream and into your cells.  This is the crucial step.  Sugar and refined carbohydrates, will drive up your blood sugar levels which drive up insulin and cause you to store fat. 

So even though fat has twice the amount of calories per gram than carbohydrates do, it doesn’t cause the fattening insulin spike that sugars do so you don’t really need to worry about your intake. 

I should mention that in an interview Taubes does cautions readers, that even though carbs/sugar are the primary drivers of insulin, this doesn’t necessarily give you a free pass to eat copious amounts of fat and protein.  In other words, it’s about quantity and quality.       

2.  Severe calorie restriction can backfire

When we simply cut back on calories, the body adjusts by down regulating your energy expenditure.  In other words, if you cut your meals in half, your body will get the signal that it needs to slow everything down and conserve energy in order counter balance the loss of energy (food) coming in.  The result is a metabolism that’s moving a snail’s pace and hanging on to every ounce of food it takes in.  Even if you keep your exercise regimen the same, your performance will likely suffer and your body will try to expend less energy while you are at rest making you feel more tired throughout the day.  And finally, severe calorie restriction can have long-lasting and damaging effects to the metabolism resulting in significant and rapid weight gain the instant you return to a "normal" way of eating. So even though you may lose weight initially you’re likely to gain it all back and some.

3.  You can’t cardio your way to weight loss.

This lesson is probably the hardest for people to swallow.  Taubes goes in to a lot of detail discussing the role of exercise in weight regulation.  The message here is twofold. First, doing tons and tons of cardio without adequate recovery may burn a lot of calories but it’s also a great way to jack up your stress hormones.  One of the main jobs of stress hormones like cortisol is to release stored sugar into the bloodstream to help provide your body with the fuel it needs to escape danger.  And we all know how slimming high blood sugar can be, right?  The second reason lots of cardio can hamper weight loss is a no-brainer: it increases our appetite.  Duh?  We’ve all experienced this.  Why do you think there are so many "turkey trots" on Thanksgiving day?  It makes perfect sense.  Think of it this way:  after a hard workout or on a hot day when you’ve worked up a good sweat, you feel thirsty.  This is your body’s way of replacing the water it just lost.  The same thing happens when you work out.  You work up an appetite so you can replenish the energy stores that you’ve just used up on your 10k run.

Why We Get Fat is a book I’d recommend to anyone who would like a primer on how the foods we eat affect our body composition (either favorably or unfavorably).  It would especially be helpful for friends or family members of yours who are sedentary.  That being said, if you’re currently training at CFO and are familiar with the type of eating we recommend, you’re already well on your way to understanding Taubes’s material firsthand.

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Aug 28th, 2011

What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?

Does anyone remember CFO trainer Lau?  He has been MIA for the last few months, but has finally come out of hiding.  He sent me this video of what he has been up to.  You may remember the video from last year–this one is even better!

Paradise Circus from Laurent Frat on Vimeo.

What adventures have you had this summer?  Please post to comments.  Also, a big welcome back to Lau–I hope to see you at the gym soon!!!

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Aug 27th, 2011

Another Frighteningly Strong Woman

Schedule Update: Strength Saturday will happen on Sunday this week from 2 to 4 PM. We’re all full this week, unfortunately. Email me if you would like to get in next week (9/3).

Mini sent this video my way this evening and while the video above fails several of my criteria for being watchable, the subject of the video, Jennifer Thompson, is truly amazing. Thompson tips the scales at at a mere 132 pounds. In the video above, she squats 315 pounds, bench presses 293 pounds, and deadlifts 419 pounds. Those lifts shattered a number of American records for those lifts in her powerlifting federation (USAPL) and added up to a massive 1027 pound total, also a record.

All of the lifts were performed with nothing more than a singlet, a belt, and some shoes. No squat suits, bench shirts, or knee wraps were used. The squats were deep and there was a marked lack of screwing around during the competition. I was impressed.

Provided you can get around the awful camera work, bad editing, and misspelling of the subject’s name in the opening credits (really?), the strength that Thompson displayed was humbling. Her lifts are quite respectable for a man significantly heavier than she is. This woman benched 2.2 times her bodyweight. That is unreal. Few men manage that feat, let alone women.

Time is short this evening, so I cannot expound at length upon some of the issues raised here, which include, most importantly, my hurt feelings over how strong Thompson is. On one hand, this video could be used as evidence that size does not always equal strength. That is very true within certain parameters. However, Jennifer Thompson chose her parents very wisely. Most human beings will never be able to display that kind of strength at that low of a bodyweight. Thompson is amazing and is an inspiration, but very few, if any, will equal what she did at 132 pounds, men or women.

This brings me to another point, that I hear quite often, which is an insistence upon keeping bodyweight as low as possible, especially among females. If you were not excelling at sports from the time you were a child and could not jump higher than almost everyone around you, chances are you are not an exceptional athlete. That’s okay. Welcome to the club. Therefore, just because someone is capable of performing a feat of strength at a given bodyweight does not mean that you should be able to do the same. Maybe you can, but maybe not.

If performance is important, then training and diet must accommodate those goals. This might mean muscular bodyweight gain. This is to be embraced and celebrated. Those that insist women must be skinny are not only wrong, they are not entitled to an opinion on the matter and are to be ignored. More on this next week. Lift like Jen Thompson, but be more concerned about the weight on the bar than the weight on the scale.

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Category: Fitness
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Aug 26th, 2011

A Building Update and a Goodbye


Lilly at the plate for Team USA

Fire Inspection a Done Deal

Before we get to our farewell, I wanted to give an update on the building to all of you.  On Monday’s post, I wrote that we were working to get the fire inspection done within the next couple of weeks, that it was a huge step for us, and that I’d update you as soon as the test was done with the results.

Well, yesterday afternoon, we had the fire inspection (which I learned of about an hour before it happened).  And the good news is, we passed the inspection!

So what does this mean?  This was a huge step for us and if we didn’t pass the inspection, there was no way we were going to get back into the building.  We now have a couple of items left on the City’s checklist to finish off, and as soon as we get done with that, we’ll present our case to the City and ask them to let us move our operation back into the building.  I don’t have a definitive timeline, but we’re looking to present our case to the City as quickly as possible.  As soon as we get to that point, I’ll be sure and update everyone.  

We’re one step closer, without too many steps left.  Whew!

Farewell, Lilly!

We’ve given a lot of well-deserved ink in the past to Tami and her Team USA Baseball exploits, but did you know that we have another Team USA Baseball player training at CFO as well?  Lilly!

Look, here’s proof:  Team USA Women’s Baseball Roster

Although I’m happy to shed a little light on Lilly’s athletic pursuits, it’s also a little bittersweet because tomorrow (Friday 8/26) is Lilly’s last day here at CFO.  The real world is calling her, and she’s shipping off to Boston (with apologies to the Dropkick Murphys) to start a new job.  She’ll also be training for next year’s world championship run as part of Team USA, too.

We’re going to miss her, but since her mom also trains at CFO, maybe she’ll come back and visit us every once in a while.

In the meantime, if you see her in one of the evening classes tomorrow (she usually trains at either 5pm or 6pm), wish her well.  And let’s show her some love on the blog, too!

So long, Jacobson, but don’t be a stranger!

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Aug 25th, 2011

Happy Birthday, David!


Today is David Halperin’s 83rd Birthday!  Some of you may not know David (he is the seated gentleman in the middle bottom of this picture).  He has been a member of CFO for the last 3.5 years and attends our Elements class.  I have seen David deadlift over 100 pounds, bench press 70 pounds, and shoulder press 50 pounds.  He tries every exercise, even if I tell him not to, and never complains about a workout.  He has been sick for the last two months, but we are hoping to see him back at the gym soon.  Happy Birthday, David!

Please post birthday wishes to comments.

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Aug 24th, 2011

Prather Ranch Delivery Date


I firmed up the final details related to the Prather Ranch delivery yesterday.

Your 40-lb boxes are going to be delivered to CFO on Tuesday, September 6 at 6pm.

The cost of the 40-lb box is $240, payable by cash, check (made out to CrossFit Oakland), or credit card.

The following people have boxes being delivered:

Chris T
Steve D (2 boxes)
Michelle N (2 boxes)
Brian C
Kirsten & Gary (Split)
John P
David R
Hannah & Joe P (Split)
Marc T
D-Sal & Stas
Sean S

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Aug 23rd, 2011

Building Update…and a Free Sep 10 Seminar


Sarah getting ready to stand up out of the bottom of a clean

A couple of items for you…

The Latest on the Building

Although we’re still working out in the Yard, there has been a lot of work happening behind the scenes to make getting into the building a reality.  One of the biggest items on the list that we’re working on is getting approval from the City on the fire detection system that we’ve installed in the building.  I won’t bore you with the details of what this system does, but the final piece of the installation process was completed last week, when a dedicated telephone line was connected to the system.

The only piece left for us involving the fire detection system is getting approval by the City.  The inspection is imminent and will most likely happen within the next couple of weeks.  It could happen at any time, and we’re shooting for getting the inspection done this week.  But it will all depend on the schedule of the person doing the inspection.  

As soon as the inspection happens, we’ll be sure to update you with the results.  This piece is one of the major checklist items for getting back into the building and we’ll be glad when it’s done with.

I know that you all want to get back into the building.  We do, too.  You all have been so great with your support and we can’t wait to pay back your patience with a great indoor facility.

Free Seminar for CFOers:  Getting the Most Out of Your CrossFit Training

I wanted to let all of you know that I’ll be doing a seminar on Saturday, September 10, beginning at 11am.  This seminar is free to anyone from CFO, regardless of whether you’re just starting or have been with us since CFO 1.0.  I’ve tried to come up with a title for the seminar that sums it up in a couple of words, but I just can’t.  So here’s my attempt at describing the seminar, its origin, and its purpose.  This is a little wordy, so if you wanna skip down to the very end of the post for a quick read, go down to the part that is titled "What You’ll Get from the Seminar."

So many people come up to me and ask what they should do to get x, y, or z (a muscle-up, a 5-minute mile, etc.).  I’m always willing to answer these types of questions and I love doing it.  But many of you out there may think you’re bothering me, or that I might not have enough time for such questions, or anything along those lines.  In addition, often times I receive the questions right before or during a group class, which limits the amount of time I can give you to answer the question to its fullest (often times I just tell you what to do without giving an explanation).  So with that in mind, I wanted to do a seminar on setting goals for any fitness-related pursuits you may have.

Before getting into goal-setting, though, it’s important to understand what we’re after in terms of fitness as it relates to the CrossFit model.  As such, I’m going to define the CF model of fitness and how it relates to what you’re trying to achieve with your health and fitness.

Once we’ve laid the foundation of the CF model of fitness, we can then get to goal setting.  I’ll touch on a couple of important points related to setting goals (one of the most important ones will be addition by subtraction, which I’ll explain in the seminar).

I’ll also make myself available to anyone who attends the seminar for a follow-up 1:1 planning session where we can map out the steps needed to achieve up to 3 fitness-related goals.

And the final piece of the seminar will be an open Q&A session, where you can ask me about anything you want related to CrossFit.  I can even give you fashion advice (this is to see if you’ve read the post up to this point).

What You’ll Get from the Seminar 

Whether you’re brand new to CFO or an experienced Games competitor, every person who comes to the seminar will get the following:

  1. An understanding of the CrossFit model of fitness
  2. An understanding of how to set and achieve fitness-related goals within the CrossFit model of fitness
  3. A 1:1 planning session with me to map out the steps needed to achieve up to 3 fitness-related goals
  4. An open-ended Q&A where you can ask me about anything you want related to CF training

And finally, there is no time limit on the seminar.  The Q&A session is open-ended and I will not end the seminar until everyone’s questions are answered.

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Aug 22nd, 2011

Justin and Steve D Compete at the Summer Throwdown


Justin and Steve D doing the obligatory shirtless, post-workout picture

CF cliche posing aside, Justin and Steve D did a great job of representing CFO at the Lalanne Fitness Summer Throwdown yesterday.  And yes, Steve D was the mystery competitor I wrote about on Thursday’s post.

The events were tough ones.  Both Justin and Steve had to confront a couple of skill elements that weren’t exactly in their wheelhouse in workout 1, which was as follows:

Max Rounds Plus Reps in 9 Minutes:
9 Squat Snatches @ 135#
9 Squat Cleans @ 135#
9 Overhead Squats @ 135#
9 Shoulder-to-Overheads @ 135#

Both wanted to simply get through one round, and both achieved that and then some.  

For Steve, whose previous PR in the snatch was 135#, he managed to get 12 snatches at that weight during the workout.  Quite the feat!  When the clock sounded, Steve had gotten through one full round and 3 snatches.

Justin also wanted to get through a single round going into the workout.  He’s been putting in a lot of work lately with overhead squats and snatches and it paid some dividends for him in this workout.  When it was all said and done, he got through one full round, 9 snatches and 9 cleans.  Nicely done!

After workout 1, Steve and Justin picked it up with strong performances in workout 2, which was a double-under/sandbag run/plate burpee AMRAP (10 minutes).  Both had initial issues with the double-unders that they overcame to finish strong (Justin passed 5 guys on the run).

Workout 3, which was max pull-ups in 3 minutes, was more of the same for both, improving on their earlier performances, especially Justin, who turned in the 4th best performance overall, tallying 72 pull-ups.

Only the top 10 men moved on to the final workout, and although they both fought hard and gave everything they had to make it there, Justin and Steve finished outside the top 10.  Justin ended up in 14th place and Steve finished in 47th place.  Justin finished 8 points (reps) behind the 10th-place finisher–tight competition!

Great job, Justin and Steve!  Way to represent CFO!

Final Standings:

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