One step at a time

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Yesterday we posted a video on Facebook recounting the story of Kyle Maynard scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro without the luxury of being born with hands and feet. The most powerful part for me is when Kyle began to describe the mental struggle with what seemed like an insurmountable task. Paraphrasing he said “I had to remind myself to not look up and think about how far there is to go. Instead look back and see how far we’ve come. One step at a time.”

 

I want to explore this attitude in the context of all of our fitness journeys. There are many things we see people do in the gym that may seem unattainable.

 

“I want to get a pull-up.”

 

“My goal is to be able to do a muscle-up.”

 

There is no question getting your first pull-up and your first muscle-up are incredibly rewarding moments. They also can be an intimidating or seemingly

But sometimes by putting so much emphasis on such tangible milestones, we forget to look back and appreciate the smaller personal bests—and the equally as important milestones—along the way. Sometimes we even get ahead of ourselves trying to skip steps, and move further along in the process than we’ve earned.

 

The attitude of “One step at a time” is the surest path to obtain goals. For example think about your pulling strength (your eventual road to a pull-up and muscle-up) as being on a 100-step staircase. In this way, pull-ups and a muscle-up are simply just two other steps on the staircase, no less, or no more important, than the step before or the step after.

 

Using this analogy, let’s say a ring row with a perfectly horizontal body is step 25 on the staircase, while a pull-up is step 50, and a muscle-up is step 75.

 

he pulling strength you gain going from step 49 to step 50 is equivalent to the strength gained moving from step 50 to 51 (where step 51 might mean you can do 2 consecutive pull-ups), yet we’re more likely to celebrate reaching step 50 than 51. But why? Why is getting a pull-up somehow more important than being able to do two consecutive pull-ups?

 

It comes down to ego and our perception of what is important.

 

But if you change the way you think and your attitude about what you should or shouldn’t be able to do you’ll have way more to celebrate along the way. You can also look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, instead of fretting over the fact that you’re not quite to that 50th step yet. You also won’t get as frustrated and impatient waiting to reach step 50 because you’ll also get enjoyment reaching step 46, 47, 48, and 49, too.

 

 

Here’s a challenge:

 

Set 5 small goals along the way to your ultimate goal, and remember to pat yourself on the back when you reach them.

 

Because the journey is always more fun than the destination!

 

Recap of Some Key Components of the Deadlift

Anyone that has performed the deadlift, knows that it can be an extremely gratifying lift. The picking up of heavy objects can produce a feeling of empowerment. Performed properly, the deadlift is a lift that allows us to maximize our strength potential and physically express that potential. Notice I did say “performed properly”. This is important because while you may get away with sub-par reps every now and again, you will never know your true potential because the injury bug will eventually bite you. Even if maximal strength is not on your radar, these key points should be of note for you, if longevity and living that happy, healthy life are of import.

We can break the deadlift down into 3 critical phases.

  1. Set-up
  2. Execution
  3. Finish

If one of these areas is not up to standards, you probably won’t be training long or you will be chasing your own tail through a pattern of  “every time I get close to a new PR,  my back starts acting up”. So let’s take a closer look at the the aforementioned phases, and some key points for each phase.

Set-upstep1

The set-up is crucial for all multi-joint lifts. It is the foundation for us to build upon.  The “Frankenstein Monster Set-up”  is a quick, effective way to prepare
yourself for the deadlift. Without exhausting every “trick in the book” or “cues”, we can break this phase down into several key focal points.

  1. Stand with your feet in a comfortable stance, somewhere around hip-width, and shins touching the bar.
  2. Lift your arms in front of you and rotate your thumbs towards the ceiling.
  3. Pull shoulders back and down.
  4. Glutes tight, ribs tucked.

This initial position, even before attempting to grab the bar is important. For the beginner, it helps us recognize or “feel” a solid position. Next…

  1. Send your hips back without surrendering your neutral spine. This is referredstep4step2 to as the “hinging” or “hip hinge”
  2. With a soft bend in the knees, grasp the barbell with one hand, then the opposite hand.
  3. Lifting your chest to remove any slack out of your arms, should consequently remove any slack out of the bar.
  4. Maintain solid grip on the bar, push your butt toward the ceiling
  5. Maintain vertical shins and pull with your hamstrings to ratchet your hips down into your starting position.

Executionstep5

Once we have established a proper set-up, we can begin to execute the movement.

  1. Gently screw your feet into the floor.
  2. Maintaining a neutral spine, take a deep inhale.
  3. Squeeze your knees back and drive your hips up.
  4. Once your the barbell clears your knees, keep the bar close to your body  and your hips begin to come forward to meet the bar.

Finishstep6

The finishing position is simply standing upright and squeezing your glutes, ensuring that your shoulders are on top of your hips. Finishing with tight glutes can’t be stressed enough. It helps us perform the lift properly, but more importantly it helps us perform the lift safely. Athletes that are unable to squeeze the glutes at the top of the lift all too often experience either some acute or chronic low back pain. This pain is experienced  because the athlete moves the fulcrum from the hips (hip hinge) to the low back. Thus the load is shifted to the low back.

A few key takeaways;

*Maintain a neutral, braced midline from set-up to finish.

*Knees back, drive hips up.

*Squeeze glutes to finish lift.

Stay tuned for a video in the coming days! Happy and safe lifting!

-Coach Tim

November Athlete of The Month – Irene Kirschenbaum

Each month we spotlight a different CFA athlete who stands out and shows just how awesome they are. What is it that makes up an Athlete of the Month? It may not be the person that finishes the fastest, Rx’s every WOD, or gets a PR every time they walk in the gym. Although we love and celebrate when those things happen, the Athlete of the Month is made up of much more than physical ability. This person shows up, gives their best every time, and then gives a little more. They are hungry to learn and always ready to do the work. They support their fellow classmates and encourage them to reach their goals. This athlete embodies what we believe the CrossFit Austin Community should be about.

Our November Athlete of the Month is Irene Kirschenbaum! Irene has been with CFA since September of 2015. You’ll typically find Irene putting in the work in the afternoons/evenings. This girl’s attention to detail and her dedication to doing it right is incredible. She kicked off her CFA career with some very focused personal training and she has set herself up for success in so many ways. If you want a good example of how doing your homework can help you succeed, she’s it 😉 Not to mention she’s just super fun to have in class! We’ve enjoyed watching Irene make continuous gains over the last year and we’re excited to watch her continue to progress for many more years! Irene, we are proud to have you as our November Athlete of the Month and as an awesome part of this community. Congratulations!

 

State your Name and/or Nickname please:
Irene
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Words to live by?
Be kind. Be joyful. Be present.
What is your fitness background?
I’ve always been fairly active, but have never played sports or done any kind of training before.
How long have you been CrossFitting?
A little over 1 year
Take us back to your first day of CrossFit… How did you feel? How do you compare it to workouts today?
Because of my neck (car accident and severe whiplash), I started out with personal training sessions for about a month before the prep course, which happened to be just me that month. By the time I jumped into a class, I’d been working one-on-one with coaches for over 2 months. I remember being so excited to be moving with the group, and also realizing how much I had to learn. I still feel pretty similarly, but I’m a lot less scared. I’m getting stronger, and starting to feel more capable and confident. irene-4
 
What’s your favorite part of CrossFit Austin?
The people. This is such a terrific community of people — genuinely supportive and encouraging of each other. And the coaches are such an invaluable resource — knowledgable, patient and willing/available to help.
Current Training Goals/PRs?
My goal is to just keep putting in the work. I’m totally fine with slow, incremental gains as long as I’m making progress and my form keeps getting better. (Also, to hit bodyweight on all my lifts.)
What advice do you have for folks just starting out in CrossFit?
Show up. Just keep coming. And know that the people around you are glad you’re there and are ready to cheer you on.
What is your cheat meal go to?irene-1
Definitely queso… or, does whiskey count as a meal?
Tell us about a moment you felt most proud of yourself during a workout.
Anytime I hit a PR, even when it’s tiny, is pretty fantastic. Honestly though, my biggest challenge is around the mental game. I’m most proud of myself when I get out of my head and out of my own way, and trust myself.
If you could create a WOD and name it for yourself, what would it be?
Wow, I have no idea! Except that it would be for quality, not for time 🙂
 irene-3
What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit?
Music is a big part of my life too; I currently sing in two different choirs. I love anything that gets me outside, especially hiking. I’m also a proud cat-mom to my Benny, and will gladly tell you all about him any time!
Tell us something we don’t know about you…
I have a birthmark “L” on my left foot.
Longhorns or Aggies?
O-H-I-O! Go Buckeyes!
Leave the fine folks of CrossFit Austin with some parting words…
 Who I am is what fulfills me and what fulfills the vision I have [for the] world. Commitment is a big part of what I am and what I believe. How committed are you to winning? How committed are you to being a good friend? To being trustworthy? To being successful? How committed are you to being… a good teammate, a good role model? There’s that moment every morning when you look in the mirror: Are you committed, or are you not? – LeBron James

How to improve beyond Group Fitness Classes

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The popularity of group based fitness classes have exploded over the past several years. Starting with CrossFit going truly mainstream circa 2011, 2012 many other fitness concepts have piggy backed on the intensity based group class model like we discussed a few week ago. The reason for this is it works, and it’s a good approach to get people working hard for themselves. That said today I’d like to discuss some ways to improve it, taking your training from “Good to great” if you will.

Lets start with this first, group classes and Bootcamps are quite good at a few things. They are:

  1. social,
  2. fun,
  3. and they motivate you to work harder than you otherwise might.

But they have their limits. They do not:

  1. Take into consideration your specific physical weaknesses, limitations or goals
  2. nor are they all that effective in prescribing specific intensities, to ensure you’re getting the most effective stimulus to promote physical adaptations.
  1. They do not promote a one-on-one relationship with a mentor coach to help you with a long-term fitness plan.

Because of this it is hard for group classes only to be a complete program. The issues can be minimized with good well thought our structure group programming, but even that can come up short since impossible to maximize a program for some people that come twice a week and some come 5-6 days a week.

Many people whose fitness endeavors start solely in bootcamps or group classes don’t stick with it for long. And even those who thrive in that environment longer term tend to see plateaus and regressions due to a lack of addressing individual needs.

What we have discovered through being part of the MadLab Group is a “hybrid model” of fitness really is the best solution to eliminate the issues. Utilizing the incredible environment of the group class concurrently with weekly, monthly, or quarterly personally training to address individuals limitations, weaknesses, or specific goals.

Here’s how a combination of personal training, and group classes can maximize your fitness efforts.

Group Classes:

  • Doing group classes two to three times a week is useful for providing a social, competitive environment that helps you feel connected to a greater community.
  • It’s a time to work hard together, share a laugh or two, and make lifelong friends in the process (much better than the anti-social Globo gym where nobody knows your name).
  • It also helps you stay accountable; if you’re meeting a friend to hit the 4 p.m. class, you’re not going to bail no matter how tired you are after work.

Personal training:

  • For new athletes, personal training allows you to learn complex movements at a pace that is right for you. One-on-one attention is proven to be the best way to learn. After 10-20 initial personal training sessions, you’ll have a better understanding of the movements you were taught—as well as your own fitness level—than you would if you went through a group introductory program.
  • For veteran athletes, it allows you to get additional one-on-one coaching for specific skills—often the more technical ones—you want extra help with.
  • And if you’re ever injured, personal training can become a rehab session, so you don’t need to abandon your gym routine during this time
  • One-on-one time also allows your coach to cater to your physical and emotional limitations and goals, not only to help keep you safe, but also to keep you motivated, and to provide specific movements and intensities that are going to help maximize your development.
  • It allows you to develop a relationship with your coach—a health and wellness mentor in your corner—to keep you accountable to your goals for years to come.
  • It gives you the chance to get one-on-one help in other aspects of life, such as nutrition—another concept that differs from individual to individual, and is therefore best tackled in a one-on-one setting.

So in summary a group class based training regime with consistent individualize training really fills all the gaps you need to improve your fitness over the long haul. We recognize this and our proud to be implementing this “Hybrid” structure as the next evolution of CFA.

Goals vs. Opportunity || Coach Wes Kimball

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Whether it be in the fitness, nutrition, business, or just life in general goals are all the rage. Pick up any book on one these topics and there is sure to be a chapter or two on setting goals. Short term goals, long term goals, SMART goals, big hairy audacious goals! The list goes on and on.  While I agree that goals are important they tend to overshadow a simpler and to me more powerful concept: Opportunity.

Opportunity is presented to us daily and finding happiness, success, and achievement hinges on us recognizing these opportunities and seizing them.  Maybe it’s an opportunity to help someone that’s not as good as you at something. You learn by teaching and the person you help has a new respect for you as a person and a peer. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to go above and beyond what’s asked in a job or as an athlete. You don’t have to do the little extra things but your coach or superior notices when you do. Setting yourself up to be depending on down the road.  Maybe it’s something bigger like moving to new city, taking a risk, talking to a stranger, or exploring a new place. All things that don’t fit nice and clean into a goal or plan, but force us to grow as a people and expand our view of the world.

I’m a relatively young guy that doesn’t have a ton of life experience. However, I’ve seen on numerous occasions, people so wrapped up in what the end state of a “goal” should look like that they fail to see thousands of opportunities to get themselves there. I’ve also seen many a successful person that has seized a moment or opportunity that’s carried them far past what they thought could be accomplished.  Ultimately both are important, but don’t get blinded by the pursuit of something, and miss out on all the wonderful opportunities around you.

-Coach Wes

Stress: Good, Bad, Indifferent

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The holidays are quickly approaching, and should be a welcomed, happy time. But with more hectic schedules and traveling plans, we often get pulled out of our daily routines. Not always a bad thing…but we need to have a good approach so that we don’t spiral out of control with our “to-do’s” and put our health on the back-burner.

“How often should I workout? How hard should I push myself? How often can I/should I have a “cheat” meal? If I ate x,y, and z…is it ok if I put this or that condiment on it for flavor? I missed my workouts on Monday and Tuesday because I was cramming for an exam and slamming Red Bulls for two days, do you think it would be a good idea to workout for 3 hours as hard as I can to make-up for that?”

These are sample questions that many folks have, and the answer isn’t always straight-forward (aside from maybe…don’t only consume Red Bull for 2 days). There are several variables that can affect the answers for different individuals. But never-mind the detailed, individual answers to those questions right now. What about the self-induced stress that may be accumulating each week, over something as little as “everything I ate this week was clean, but I put Sriracha on my chicken breast….and that has sugar in it.”

Yes, minimizing sugar is an important part of a responsible, healthy diet. However, if you are overworked and under-recovered (in life, not just the gym) and you add extra stress to your mind/body about every little thing…you may be doing yourself a disservice.

Below is a snippet from an article the American Psychological Association posted about stress: revised 2013

“When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.

Stress can make existing problems worse. In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain. Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example. Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes. “

Research shows that activities like yoga, as well as breathing and other relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning. The ‘ole adage “sick and tired of being sick and tired” seems to ring a bell regarding the above. If you stress your mind worrying about too many little things, for an extended period of time, then chances are you will adversely affect your health and quality of life. Your brain won’t be firing on all cylinders, thus you will not sleep well, or produce the needed amount of certain hormones that help keep you functioning above the mere survival status. Coincedently, those same folks that seem to always stress, then in turn will naturally begin to stress about how their health is declining, turning circles…chasing their own tail.

We need to have a plan, to act as our guide. But if things don’t go perfectly, because life just happened, let it go! Take a step back…breathe…reassess…refocus….recommit. Dont just say “screw it” and ride the trainwreck all the way to Howthehelldidigetheresville. Develop a new plan of attack or tweak the current plan a bit and give it a shot.

If you don’t have some sort of routine to unplug and unwind, I suggest now as the perfect time to contemplate adding some simple de-stressing strategies to your life. There are many ways to do this, and the APA offers a few.

-Coach Tim

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