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The Workout of the Day or WOD is custom-programmed for the CrossFit Oakland community and is taught in our regular group classes under the close supervision of our highly trained coaching staff.

Feb 13th, 2012

Sac-Town Throwdown is a Wrap!


Jenn finishing off one of her ten bar muscle-ups

What a weekend of competition at the Sac-Town Throwdown!

First the quick summary…

For those keeping score at home, here is where each of the three teams finished in the competition.

Masters:  8th Place
Open:  21st Place
Novice:  22nd Place

The Masters team members were CPeak, Marc, Jade, Jenn, and Lance.

The Open team members were Candace, Tamara, Brandon, and Wale.

The Novice team members were Hyo, Katie, Aaron C, and John P.

There were lots of great moments, but here are some that really stood out, in no particular order.

On Saturday

  • John P battled his way through 250 double-unders.  Double-unders were his goat coming into the competition.  I don’t think he can say that any longer.
  • The Masters team finished in 5th place among all Masters teams in the really, really long Quadtathlon, where each member did a 1-mile run, 75 burpees, 250 double-unders, and a 1600-meter row.  That’s not divided up among the four team members; each team member did all that stuff!  This performance was what got the Masters team to day two.  Their final time was 36:02, and they were one of the few teams to finish under the 40-minute cap.
  • Jade carried the team in the Quadtathlon.  She finished her events in the workout so early that she would run out and pace her teammates on the run.  And to top it off, she got her first dead-hang pull-up.
  • Candace and Brandon ran roughshod over a 10-minute AMRAP version of Helen that involved 800m stationary bike sprints, 21 ground-to-overhead with 45-lb/30-lb dumbbells, and 12 chest-to-bar pull-ups.  They ended up with the second best performance of all Open teams!
  • Tamara had to get gritty on the Quadtathlon workout, battling her way through a 1-mile run, 75 burpees, 250 double-unders, and a 1600m row, in that order.  Yowser!
  • Marc powered his way through 13 snatches at 135 lbs in 3 minutes.
  • Katie PR’d in the snatch by 20 lbs!
  • Hyo and Aaron got their first pistols, and then got 4 more in the gymnastics skills competition, having never done them before.
  • Wale powered his way through 75 brutal burpees after blasting the mile run.
  • CPeak made his muscle-up look like a piece of cake.
  • Lance went beast mode on the tire flips and rope slams.
  • And last but not least, Jenn powered through ten bar muscle-ups in the final workout of Sunday, beating two of her three male competitors along the way (she was the only female doing the muscle-ups).  Strong work!

On Sunday

Due to the Masters team’s strong performance in the Quadtathlon and consistent performances in the other three workouts on Saturday, they qualified for the final on Sunday, which consisted of two rough workouts.  Only 8 teams made it through to the finals, and they grabbed that 8th-place spot by 1 point–clutch!

The first Sunday workout was a 400m car pull, where all four members pulled a police car around the track.  The car had four ropes on it and each person pulled one of them.  All the teams were game and this was a tight race from top to bottom.  When it was all said and done, Team CFO finished in 7th place on this workout at 2:32, just 1 second off of the 6th place team, CF Nor Cal.

The second and final workout on Sunday was a team relay race, where each member did a couplet of exercises and then tagged the next person.  Marc did squats and toes-to-bar, Lance did rope slams and tire flips, Jenn did sandbag thrusters and bar muscle-ups, and Jade finished the relay with overhead walking lunges and box jumps.  There was a 25-minute cap on this workout, and only 4 teams made it under the cap.  CFO finished up 6th place overall in this workout, with Jade nearly finishing box jumps as the clock hit the 25-minute mark.  So close!

There was a ton of hard work on display this weekend, and I can’t wait to see people get after it when the CrossFit Open starts up at CFO in 10 days!

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Feb 12th, 2012

Team CFO Still Alive at Sac-Town Throwdown


The Masters, Novice, and Open Teams from CFO at the Sac-Town Throwdown

Kind of a brief update tonight…  

All three teams had strong performances and a bunch of breakout performances from individuals.  I’ll provide a full recap tomorrow here on the blog.

In the meantime, know that the CFO Masters Team–Jade, Jenn, CPeak, and Marc–finished in 8th place after day 1, which means that they’re moving on to the finals tomorrow (the top 8 teams move on to the finals).

All of the scoring information, as well as the Sunday workouts, are posted on the Sac-Town Throwdown Blog.

Let’s cheer our Masters on and get them pumped for a strong performance in the finals tomorrow!

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Feb 11th, 2012

The Shoulder Press and Bench Press

Michelle Pressing

Michelle in the midst of a shoulder press

Firstly,  pictures from the CrossFit Total that took place at CFO in late December are now ready for your consumption. You can revel in watching yourselves and your gym mates hold their collective breaths and perform maximal effort lifts for nothing more than the joy of setting personal records. They can be found at:

Also, I will be holding a Starting Strength Training Camp on the Shoulder Press and the Bench Press on Sunday, March 4, starting at 1 PM. We will probably go until around 5 PM that evening. The camp will start with a discussion of the mechanics of the shoulder press and then transition into a warm up followed by plenty of time underneath the barbell. We will take a break to talk about the bench press and then lift again. The afternoon’s festivities will conclude with a discussion of programming for the pressing movements, injury prevention, and a question and answer period. The cost is $125 and attendance is capped at 8 people to allow everyone a proper dose of constructive feedback delivered at an appropriate volume. Additional details and sign ups can be found at the Aasgaard Company Store.

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Feb 10th, 2012

3 Teams from CFO Competing This Weekend!


The few, the proud, the ones who showed up for the team photo

We have a big thing happening this weekend:  We have three different teams from CFO competing in the Sac-Town Throwdown!

There are three divisions in the competition:  Masters, Novice, and Open.  And we’re sending a team for each division.  This is a great idea for a CF competition, because it allows anyone, regardless of current level of skill or fitness, to take take part in a CF competition and get to compete on a relatively level playing field.

Each team consists of two men and two women, and our teams are as follows:

Jenn T

Aaron C
John P


For many people on the list, this will be their first CF competition.  For others, this will be just another competition for them.  We have a great mix of experienced competitors and newcomers, which is really great to see.

The competition goes Saturday from 8:30am to 4:30pm.  After Saturday, the top 8 teams move on to Sunday’s competition.

Let’s give it up for our 3 teams in comments!

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Feb 9th, 2012

It’s Competition Season – Don’t Miss Out!


Manwell:  Veteran Competitor & Birthday Boy (Feb 7th)

‘Tis the season for CrossFit competitions!!  The OC Throwdown and the NorCal 40’s are in the books and the SacTown Throwdown is coming up this weekend in Roseville, CA (we’ve got a ton of athletes participating, so do your best to check it out).  And the Big One – the first step on the road to the CrossFit Games starts later this month when the first workout of the CF Games OPEN is announced on Feb 22nd.

If you have not yet registered to compete in The Open, we strongly urge you to do so.  If you are looking for a reason, check out this blog post from our friends at CrossFit Turlock which asks the question, "Do you want to exercise or be coached"?

We will be holding The Open workouts at CFO each Saturday starting on Feb 25th @ 11am.  You will be assigned a heat, a coach and your scores will be officially validated on the CF Games website. This is a great opportunity to compete against the global CrossFit community and more importantly to see what you’ve gained through your hard work at the gym.

Here’s what you need to do to make it all official: 

1.  Register as an athlete on the CrossFit Games website.  Make sure to choose CrossFit Oakland as your affiliate and again select it as your team.  Do not create a new team – we have already created one and you simply choose CrossFit Oakland from a drop-down menu. If you are not linked to the CrossFit Oakland affiliate and team, we will not be able to validate your scores.

2. If you would like to complete the workouts at CFO and have your scores officially validated by our coaches, you must also register through our CrossFit Oakland site, so that we can arrange judges and organize heats for each Saturday workout.  You can purchase all 5 workouts for $50 or pay our regular drop-in fee of $20/workout.  The deadline to sign up for the 5-week package is Sunday Feb 19th, 2012.  If you are doing drop-ins, you need to sign up by the Thursday preceding the workout.

Please feel free to email us with any questions and get out there and compete!

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Feb 8th, 2012

January by the Numbers


Lance in a moment of calm before his rope workout in the NorCal 40s

January was a pretty good month in terms of hitting the benchmark targets we’d set.  Our January benchmarks were as follows:

Strength Benchmark
Back Squat 5-Rep Max

Conditioning Benchmark
Max Rounds Plus Reps in 10 Minutes:
7 Pull-Ups
10 Hand-Release Push-Ups

We were shooting for an 80% rate of improvement and exceeded that in the back squat and fell just short of that in the pull-up/push-up workout.  There are many factors that can affect the numbers; the timing of the workouts (whether after a rest day or another workout, how early in the week, etc.), how well-recovered people are, and numerous other lifestyle factors.  Taking all of that into account, 80% is a pretty reasonable target that we should be able to hit going forward.

For the Back Squat 5-Rep Max:

  • 84% of you improved your squat 5RM from the beginning of the month to the end of the month.
  • 16% of you stayed the same or got worse on your squat 5RM.

For the Pull-Up/Push-Up Workout:

  • 77% of you improved on your performance.
  • 23% of you did not improve on your performance (nobody stayed the same).

And just a reminder, the benchmarks for February are as follows:

Strength Benchmark
Snatch 1-Rep Max

Conditioning Benchmark
400m Sprint

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Feb 7th, 2012

Prather Ranch Order Follow-Up & February Benchmarks



Here’s who’s in on the Prather Ranch order, along with the number of boxes.  Is there anyone out there who’s willing to split a box?  We have one person who wants to split a box but we need one more person to make the split happen.

Ek – 1
John P – 1
Justin – 2
Jon Y – 1
Andre – 1
Mariko – 2
Sam L – 2
Raymond – 1
Brian C & Joey – 1
Ev – 1
Roland – 1
Arnold – 1
Tami – 1
Marc – 1
Jason W – 1
Stas – 1
D-Sal – 1
Aaron J – 1
Joe P & Mark P – 1
Gabriel & Sean H – 1
Sabrina & Mark D – 1
Brandon – 1
Dawn – 1

February Benchmarks

Tami is taking the reins from Connie for the February programming.  Connie did a great job with January’s programming and I’m expecting the same from Tami this month.  In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss January’s results and throw up some numbers related to the January programming.

In the meantime, the benchmarks for February are as follows:

Strength Benchmark:  Snatch 1-Rep Max
Conditioning Benchmark:  400m Sprint Time

We’ll be testing your 1-rep max snatch tomorrow, and we’ll test your 400m sprint time on Wednesday.  Stay tuned!

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Feb 5th, 2012

Helpful Tips for Improving Sleep



Do you remember how it feels to get 8, 9, or even 10 hours of sleep?  When was the last time you got a full night’s rest and woke up feeling refreshed and re-energized?  For most Americans with families, careers, and a social life, a restful night of sleep is hard to come by.  In fact, I often meet clients who boast about how little sleep they need and how they can get by on as little as 4 hours of sleep.  Since when did "getting by" become acceptable?  Sleep, like food and exercise, are absolutely vital for optimal health. You could just as easily "get by" on eating candy bars and Top Ramen, but would you? Let’s be smart about our sleep, just as we are about the time we put in at the gym and the food choices we make.   

Hormonal imbalances, stress, and environmental factors are some common underlying causes of poor sleep patterns.  Under the influence of various hormones, including melatonin, seratonin, and prolactin, the human body’s natural sleep-wake cycle can become easily disrupted when any of these hormones is thrown out of balance.  There’s more and more research being done on the effects of sleep deprivation on weight, the immune system, and cardiovascular health.  If this topic is of interest to you, you might want to check out, "Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival" by T.S. Wiley.  And in the meantime, here are some places to start, when it comes to improving sleep.

Sleep Environment Checklist

  1. Only use your bed for sex and sleep. Period.
  2. Sleep in complete darkness. How do you know if your bedroom is dark enough? If you wave your hand in front of you face, you should not be able to see your hand. Cover your windows with dark curtains to keep the outside light out and cover up your alarm clocks with a something that will block the lights from brightening up your room.  We’ve all heard that melatonin is good for sleep, right? Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, beginning at sunset and peaking about 3 hours later. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room, it can significantly disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Moreover, if you don’t get enough production before midnight, you can get a spillover effect and wake up feeling exhausted.
  3. If you wake up at night, avoid turning on the light.
  4. Unplug TVs, blinking lights, and computers. Or better yet, take these things out of your bedroom.  It won’t kill you to put your alarm clock in a separate room or hallway.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Avoid late night sugary snacks. This will raise blood sugar, resulting in an equally dramatic drop (hypoglycemia) while you’re asleep causing you to wake up and have difficulty falling back asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine 6 hrs before bed. 
  • Avoid alcohol before bed.  Although people claim that a night cap helps them sleep, the effect is usually short lived and you will most likely wake up hours later, unable to fall back asleep.
  • Eat dinner early and enough.
  • Avoid working out too close to bed time.  Exercise will elevate cortisol (stress hormone) levels during a time when these levels should be low. 
  • Deep breathing or meditation before bed helps to calm the mind and helps for better sleep.
  • If you like to read before bed or need to stay up for whatever reason, try to use lamps/lights that are eye level or below. Bright, overhead lights mimic sunlight, telling your body that it’s time to get up!
  • Try journaling before bed. If you have difficulty falling asleep because your mind is racing, it might be helpful keep a journal next your bed and write down your thoughts and get them out of your head.

Natural Sleep Aids

If changing your sleeping environment or pre-bedtime habits do not work, it may be possible to improve sleep by supplementing with the following:

  • Valerian Root: This herb acts as a nerve & muscle relaxer, but for a small subset of people it actually acts as a stimulant (I am one of those people)!  Don’t experiment with this herb on a weeknight.
  • Magnesium: This is one of my favorite supplements! I recommend this to just about anyone struggling with sleep, PMS, or constipation.  Start slowly and increase the dose gradually each day.  You know you’ve taken too much if you get diarrhea. I like Natural Vitality’s Calm, which comes in a powder form and is sold at Whole Foods or Berkeley Bowl. Take it after 5pm.
  • Melatonin: Trader Joe’s sells a minty chewable tablet that you can take at bed time.  Simply let the tablets melt in your mouth as you fall asleep.  It’s important to note here, that that whenever you take any exogenous hormone, you may shut off your own natural production of this hormone.  You’re body senses that you’re getting enough, and starts to slow down its own output. 
  • 5-HTP: Instead of taking melatonin directly you can take its precursor, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).  5HTP is an amino acid that’s used to make melatonin.
  • Sleepy Time tea, passionflower tea, and California poppy are all perfect for calming the racing mind.
  • Fresh ground nutmeg about 4 hours before bed

I hope this was helpful. NItey Night!

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Feb 4th, 2012

Do Personal Records Have Expiration Dates?


Aisha contemplating the true nature of the PR before attempting to set one herself.

I was speaking with lovely and talented Dave Sally this evening when he suggested writing about the concept of the personal record, or PR for short. Specifically, should you refer to your lifetime PR when selecting training weights? When a trainee sets a personal record and does not improve upon that record for a period of time, does it still count? For the purposes of talking about accomplishments, if you did it then you did it. Nothing will ever erase that. However, for the purposes of making training decisions, PRs are perishable commodities.

Early in a trainee’s lifting career, PRs come easily. This is symptomatic of what Mark Rippetoe has deemed The Novice Effect. When a lifter is still new to barbell work, gains are rapid and can be made under less than ideal conditions. Once the easy gains have been made and progress slows, then more effort must be expended to continue improvement. The heavier the weights become, the more careful a trainee must be about recovery. PRs start requiring more than just showing up the gym. They require a little bit of thought and maybe even some planning.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation involving my favorite lift – the squat. The workout calls for three sets of five repetitions (3×5) for sets across (meaning the weight stays the same for all the sets) – also a good choice. Our hypothetical trainee squatted 225 pounds for a five repetition maximum effort (5RM) four months ago. Our lifter is not on a fixed lifting schedule, but is engaged in a program that includes significant doses of variety with every workout, a la CrossFit.

How relevant is that 5RM for the workout today when the lifter is interested in performing a 3×5? The answer is, "It depends." Obviously, a 5RM does not directly translate into a weight for a 3×5, but such data is useful nonetheless. If recent attempts at a 5RM were below that 225 mark, then that PR has probably expired and more recent 5RMs should be used as a guide when selecting a working weight. If the trainee has not done much, if any, squatting in those four months, then it is also wise to be conservative and also consider the 225 to be expired. If the lifter trained their squats regularly, although hasn’t attempted any 5RMs during that time, then maybe that number is just fine, or even too conservative. Determining the proper number is dependent upon recent training. "What have you done for me lately?" is the order of the day.

To recap, PRs live forever in our hearts. If they were set months (or years) in the past, they may not be useful for guiding today’s workout. Recent training history and how a lifter feels on a given day need to be taken into account. Here’s to the recognizing when a PR is relevant and to setting new ones.

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