“I’m pretty sure I’ve got the ‘fat kid’ genome in my DNA,” she says as longs for a donut between lifts. Then, she crushes some heavy snatch drills before returning home to make a clean meal of almond-flour crusted chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. Donut craving resisted.
It’s practically a rite of passage in a CrossFitter’s fitness journey… you realize nutrition is far more impactful on your WODs than how much time you spend on a roller, how much money you spend on protein shakes, or how many classes you attend per week. It’s a brutal realization because we think we have “earned” our right to eat whatever we want. We can pay for it, so we can eat it, right? I worked out today, so I’m in better nutritional shape than anyone else, right? We’ve got news for you, even the head honchos of CrossFit know what’s up in their pyramid of fitness:
The daily decision between convenient, processed foods and wholesome, simpler foods sadly doesn’t ever go away; it’s foundational to our health. As owner of CrossFit New England (oh, and by the way, coach to CrossFit Games champions Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir), Ben Bergeron puts it this way--if you ask ANYONE how their normal nutrition is, everyone, to a person, says, “pretty good.” You may think about your kids, a roommate, or your high-school-age self as the comparison, but no one truly knows that they eat “pretty good” unless they can define how different foods affect their bodies.
Let me say that again, no one truly knows that they eat well unless they can define how different foods affect their bodies. You need a true comparison. How does your current body respond to small, measurable changes? No one can compare for you.
Athletes at CFI occasionally ask for nutritional pointers. As a coach, it’s so difficult to help an athlete when the athlete does not reflect on what he or she is eating. “Tell me about your typical day’s food and drink” yields a murky soup of “um” and “mostly good” responses. Why? People don’t enjoy looking in the mirror when it’s donuts versus broccoli. In fact, try writing all you eat in a journal for one week. It’s hard looking at your true habits when you write down all the crap peddled to you at the supermarket, so best to ignore the question, yeah?
Anecdotally, I want to share my programmed experience with nutrition these past 50 days. The Whole30 Challenge is tough, but the benefits are impactful--they bring awareness to me, myself, and I.
Whole30: A Simple Reset
The Whole30 Challenge is a month-long, “hard reset” of your body. By giving up grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and...wait for it...sugars and sweeteners, you are removing cravings and dependencies that are endemic to our American diets. The Whole30 Challenge has a HUGE following. I mean super huge. Like, brands even print “Whole30 approved” on certain items. Not sure about what you can eat? There are numerous bloggers ready to answer you immediately.
Perhaps the most curious rule of Whole30 is no measuring. No body weight scales. No food weight scales. No measurements of your body. Eat compliant foods, and eat however much you want. See the results in the mirror, but don’t put numbers to them. Having measured food for macros before, this was a strange change for me.
So why did I do this? The “hard reset” of your body brings massive benefits not on day 29 or day 30, but the days thereafter. The program instructs you to reintroduce food types to your diet and observe how they affect you over three days. Don’t go out on day 31 and consumer alcohol AND dairy AND sugar AND bread at the same time. Reintroduce the one thing you missed most, and pay attention to how it affects you.
I, for example, LOVE cheese. But, dairy tore me up in the reintroduction stage even more than sugar. A scale didn’t have to show me that cheese was a bad choice. My digestive system and energy overtly responded with, “Yeah… stop eating that.” I now have a very good understanding of my choice to eat dairy from now on. Apply to all foods, and you’ll be well versed about your unique metabolism--converting foods to energy.
So where did I go from those first 30 days? The creators of the Whole30 Challenge have an answer for that, too. Coined “Food Freedom,” the reintroduction days help you decide your new food rules for yourself. Based on reintroduction, weigh how important it is to you to keep being Whole30 compliant with enjoying non-compliant foods occasionally. These are guidelines to feel less constricted yet reap the benefits of that hard reset. For example, here are some of my food freedom guidelines:
Because I saw awesome results from strict Whole30, these adjustments give me more wiggle room while maintaining the Whole30 effects.
Whole30 Challenge may not be appealing to everyone, but it certainly brings focused awareness to your body’s reaction to different foods. Whether you choose Whole30 challenge or a simple food journal, how will you answer the question, “Tell me about your daily food and drink choice?”
Coach Josh Womack
“The Open? I thought that was more for people who have been doing CrossFit for a while…”
That was my response back in 2014 when my coach asked me if I was planning on signing up for the CrossFit Open. I had just started basics 30 days earlier and my abs were finally recovering from my first WOD, Annie (50-40- 30-20- 10 repetitions of double unders and sit-ups). Now, I was being asked to take another leap of faith and sign up for the Open!
“Well, what is it anyway?”
What exactly was I being asked to sign up for? I found out pretty quick that the Open is many things. It’s an opportunity for all CrossFit athletes to sign up and see how they stack up against each other. It’s also the starting
point for the CrossFit Games. The top athletes in each geographical region move on to the Regionals competitions, then the top athletes at Regionals move on to the CrossFit Games. But it all begins with the Open. All athletes, novices and pros alike, start the season with this five-week competition. One WOD is announced each Thursday night and athletes have until the following Monday night to complete the WOD and post their score online.
“But wait, I can’t do double unders!”
So, I signed up for the Open and the first week comes around. We all gather around a computer screen for the ceremonial WOD reveal:
30 double unders
15 power snatches (75/55)
The first thing that goes through my mind is that there’s no way I can do this WOD! I haven’t even gotten a single double under! But coach tells me not to worry about it; just try your best. I remember that WOD clearly. I started with two singles, then gave the rope a double flick and jumped higher. Nothing. I landed on the rope…I told myself to stay calm and tried again. This time I got the double under and was able to start getting into the rhythm of two singles, then a double. My judge started counting down my reps remaining: “5 more double unders!” Before you know it, I had
gotten through three sets of those double unders! The rest of the weeks brought more movements I didn’t think I could do or wasn’t comfortable with: overhead squats, heavy deadlifts, toes to bar, and on and on. Each time, I either surprised myself and was able to do the movement as prescribed, or I scaled the WOD to ensure I could keep the
intensity up and get the same stimulus.
“I can’t wait for next year!”
I’m so glad my coach pushed me to sign up for the Open that first year. By the end of the five weeks, I was already looking forward to the 2015 Open! I had some clear areas that I knew I needed to improve and started to make
some goals for the upcoming year. If you have any doubts about whether the Open is right for you, come talk
to me or any of the coaches. This will be a great time for the CFI community to join together and work through these WODs. Here are a few of the things we’re planning as a gym this year:
1. WOD reveal parties: Thursdays at 8PM (February 22-March 22),
along with weekly head-to- head match ups.
2. CrossFit Open WOD on Fridays, along with extra open gym times to
ensure that everyone has the chance to do the WOD.
3. In-gym competition (similar to the Wednesday Night League, we will
have two teams co-led by a coach and a gym member).
4. And much more!
Also, starting this week, be on the lookout for prior year open WODs in our weekly programming. This will give you an idea of what types of movements and WOD styles to expect. Finally, don’t forget to sign up for the Open by February 22 at games.crossfit.com!
My Morning Ritual
Nutritional advice can be overwhelming. With a ton of information flying at you from every direction, often contradictory, it’s no wonder it’s generally the last thing my clients really want to address. For that (and other) reasons, I prefer to find simple habits that are easy to implement, have huge value and impact, and overtime can build INTO a larger nutritional picture simply by crowding out the less savory options. Long-term success starts by changing small things first – baby steps. Let’s talk about one.
Here’s an easy ritual that packs a powerful nutritional punch, with many health benefits, which you can very quickly turn into a habit you love. Lemon juice, sea salt, and water. First thing in the morning – before you do or consume anything else.
Whether you consider yourself a morning person or not, we are typically in a state of high(er) self-control after we wake up and before we jump into the fray. This makes the morning a great time to bring some awareness (mindfulness) around our body, what it needs, and to start each day on the right path.
I have been following this simple protocol for years, and it’s become something I look forward to every morning.
Why Lemon Juice and Sea Salt?
Fresh Lemon (and lime) juice is a nutritional powerhouse. Containing more vitamin C than oranges, they also are high potassium and anti-oxidants, both of which are beneficial for overall health and combatting the stress of daily endeavors.
Additionally, lemon and lime juice acids are chemically similar to hydrochloric acid (HCl) which is the primary component of gastric (stomach) acid. This means they can aid digestion, and can even help the stomach produce more HCl. The benefit here is improved nutrient and vitamin absorption, as well as the destruction of food-borne pathogens.
Sea salt, specifically colorful salts like Pink Himalayan (my favorite), provide additional sodium and a dose of minerals that contribute to adrenal health, liver detoxification, hormonal balance, hydration, and more. They can also aid in the production of stomach acids in combination with the lemon/lime juice, further improving digestion, absorption, and protection.
Why First Thing?
Making this drink the first thing you do in the morning does a few things for us:
This is a simple one. Mix the juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon or lime with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of colorful sea salt in a full glass of ROOM TEMP. water. Drink and enjoy. Avoid cold water first thing in the morning as it can shock your system which restricts digestion.
I recommend starting with 1/2 lemon and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt until you get used to the taste. I find it really enjoyable, but your mileage may vary.
Add this simple ritual to your day for the next few months, and see how you feel! Does it help you kick-start your day? Do you enjoy or tolerate the drink or the process? Do you notice any changes in your energy levels throughout the day? I’d love to hear your experiences!
Coach Nick Kirkes
The Most Comfortable Performance Enhancer.
Do you ever receive a piece of advice that sticks with you for all time? Here’s one of mine: “Always invest in a great bed and a great pair of shoes because when you’re not in one, you’re in the other.” Too true. As a CrossFitter, you probably have the shoes covered; you rock the latest pair of Nanos, or you pause class to change into your lifters right before the WOD. But let’s talk about the other investment—your sleep.
Secondary only to nutrition, sleep is a performance enhancer that can bring big rewards.
In his article entitled “Sleeping for Performance,” Martin Rawls-Meehan states that “Exercise, nutrition and sleep make a virtuous circle comprising the three essential elements of fitness” http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Sleep_RawlsMeehan2.pdf. Rawls-Meehan points to research evidence suggesting that subjects who sleep ten hours 1) have improvements in sleep, strength, agility, and reaction time and 2) retain muscle memory for movements at a higher rate. It benefits both brawn and brain.
Among performance benefits, why not also enjoy your bed longer? Heck, that’s enough to get me to improve my sleeping habits. So how do we achieve this? I’ll address this two ways: practice and products.
Let’s first look at practice. Practical advice about sleep comes in many forms. Recalling from both Rawls-Meehan’s article and personal experience, here are my top pieces of advice for improving your sleep practices:
Never discount what sleep does for your performance in the gym, at work, and at home. Nutrition helps you with energy production, but sleep regenerates the production cycle. If you’re looking for a good New Year’s Resolution or simply a better habit in life, consider what small changes you can make to impact 7-9 hours of your every day. Adding magnesium to your micronutrient supplements is a ten-second act that improves
your 7-9 hours of sleep; moving your phone charger across this room is temporary annoyance that yields successful sleeping and waking patterns. Follow the challenge to see how your sleep can affect your performance!
Challenge: For 21 days, record a scale of 1-10 about your energy level. 1 is “exhausted,” and ten is “energized.” Record this scale in your journal for three periods:
1) during your workout, 2) during your workday, and 3) during your time at home.
Days 1-7, don’t change anything about your current sleep patterns. Days 8-14, add a practice or products change above, but only one! Days 15-21, add a second practice or products change above. On day 22, do a final journal entry about what you observed from the challenge! Post your journal comments here for others to see.
“Sleeping for Performance.” Martin Rawls-Meehan. The CrossFit Journal. Link:
Coach Josh Womack
“Culture” is a workplace buzzword these days. The feel when you interact with others, the service attention you receive, and the priorities of the people all contribute to that culture. Each CrossFit Box (gym) has a culture, but there is a huge difference between the gym and the workplace—one pays you to fit a culture, and the other you pay to enjoy the culture. CrossFit can be financially unachievable for some, but those who do have a membership “get it.” The members know the people are what we’re paying for, not the equipment or the class times. Each person shapes the gym’s personality, and it’s rewarding to be a part of that identity. CrossFit is not a cult, it’s a culture.
I’ve been a CrossFit trainer for 17 months, but I’ve spent 5 years as a member of six CrossFit boxes (yes, a member, not a drop-in). Some communities have a culture worth propagating, and some have a culture not worth much. That’s intuitive, right? Some are great; some aren’t worth much. However, some cultures aren’t apparent to you until you’ve been a member for a little while. Once it’s apparent to you, and you’re comfortable with some other members, you must ask yourself this question:
“Do I fit the culture, or do I need to fix the culture?”
The question is a fascinating one. It’s one that determines how important you are to the gym and those around you.
I’ve observed many types of cultures that need fixing in a bad way. “Box 2” for me had a two-section gym, in which the “serious lifters” always had one side while the “regular people” had the other; talk about divide! My “Box 4” only used high-level, competition-style instruction and programming, and few fitness levels were able to enjoy the classes for which they paid a lot of money. Does your gym present you challenges, or does it give you obstacles? You should not feel handicapped by your own trainers!
Alternatively, I’ve also observed many types of cultures to fit into. “Box 1” for me had a familial, home-grown following which inspired its members to value time with one another rather than times on the leaderboard. “Box 3” has a hands-in “break down” after every class, during which the person who gave the most valiant effort led that countdown. Now, at CFI, the culture is loyal one. Our athletes chose to “fit” into a new space, a familiar family, and a new ownership. We knew if we didn’t fit right away, we’d fix it. Our athletes value who they know rather than what they knew at previous CrossFit gyms.
As a coach at CFI, I’d love to charge everyone with the same question about culture: “Do you fit into the culture? Or do you need to fix it?” Take ownership of your vision of CFI—what are we missing, and how can you make it happen? Do you want more recognition for your effort? Recognize others without expecting it in return. Cheer other classes on, even though you don’t have a bar in your hand at that moment. Select a new partner in a partner WOD to make a connection. Your personality is as much a part of us as, say, a coach or an owner; we lead and train for you, so we are passionate about meeting your wants and needs. You fit into our culture, but you can fix small aspects to make it a better home for yourself. Your desired culture is our commitment to our athletes and our community.
Coach Josh Womack
A fat guy walks into a gym…. No this isn’t a start to a joke. This was me back in early 2015 walking into my first CrossFit gym. Throughout my life, I have had ups and downs in my fitness journey. Times in my life where it was a primary focus and I was in amazing shape and times where I fell off that horse due to any number of reasons. I have also tried many types of fitness from being a gym rat focused on those isolation movements that made muscles big but didn’t really add strength to the height of my cardio when I raced bicycles. In 2015, I had started a new job at Eli Lilly here in Indianapolis, breaking the many years of spending many weeks on the road travelling. I like to blame all that travel on why I had gained 50 lbs. but if I am honest with myself it started even before my years of travel with not eating well and letting my time on the bicycle or gym fall away. What I did know is that now that I wasn’t travelling it was time to start down that road to being fit once again. But how? I had tried other fitness regimes and I could never maintain them. After about a month, I would just lose the desire. Enter CrossFit….
I hadn’t really heard of CrossFit before the last project I travelled for with my old company. There were a number of people at the client that were into CrossFit. When I expressed I was looking for a way to lose weight and keep motivated they sent me some links to videos and had a number of discussions over the last couple of months of the project. I have to be honest, in viewing the videos, I was hyped but at the same time nervous about my ability to do any of the movements I saw. It had been years since I had done even 10 pull ups or squatted heavy weight. In addition, what was these Snatch and Clean/Jerk movements? Those looked dangerous and complicated. Curls, Dips, Bench, Shoulder Press…. I knew these things. After about a month at Lilly, I decided to take the leap and try this thing called CrossFit. I looked up a number of gyms that were close to my house. Ultimately, I decided to reach out to Coach Lin at CrossFit Carmel.
I still remember that first week of basics. I am a decently athletic guy with decent coordination so even with my 50lbs extra I was able to pick up the movements fast and was out of basics in a week. Ok I thought to myself, this isn’t that hard I can do this. I am also a competitive person and I thought I knew how to push myself. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! CrossFit offers so many things, great workout, great community, and…. Quickly letting you know just how unfit and zero mobility you really have HAHA. I still remember my struggle to get below parallel in squats, having the flexibility to complete an overhead squat, and simple movements such as pull-ups and toes to bar. I have since become proficient in these movements but I can’t say I have mastered them. To be a CrossFit athlete means a never-ending journey. You start with the basics, with scaling all the WODs either due to weight or in ability in movements. You work for months until that fateful day you Rx your first WOD. What a great feeling! However, it doesn’t end there. There are always movements to learn, to perfect, to get just a bit better.
For someone that loves to learn, as I do, it is an intoxicating sport to be in because there is always something more to learn. Ultimately, it is this desire to keep learning and follow new avenues to improve that drove me being a CrossFit coach but that is a different story to be told in a follow up: The Journey to CrossFit Coach
Back in 2014, when I got out of active military service, I found myself longing for something to belong to again. It was an aspect of being in the military I did not realize that I would miss until I no longer had formations, organized physical training, spending months together with the same guys every day. Some of those things I thought were just the annoying part of being in the military. What I didn’t realize until after was that those were just some of the things that created the bond and team atmosphere I began to crave on the outside.
After the military, I got a job, went to work every day, went to the gym afterward, did some bench press and other random non-complex things, went home, had dinner, went to bed, and started over the next day. The biggest variation I had was which body part I was going to crush while I was at the gym.
I eventually made a career move that brought me here to Indianapolis. Within the first couple months of being bored with the globo gym, I got over myself and emailed a CrossFit gym, CrossFit Carmel. The response I got was warm and inviting so I went in on a Friday at lunch to give it a shot. I was a little worried about the WOD but, like most decisions in life, I said “screw it” and went after it. I found myself in a class with 15 other people all routing and yelling for each other until the very last person finished their very last rep. I was cheering right along. What really impressed me were the coaches. They made me feel welcome from the minute I walked in and were eager to have me back, which felt great.
What I realized, and experienced, over the coming months and years was that this wasn’t just a place where you go workout. Obviously, you do. But you go there, and you stay there because it feels like a second home. This is a place that when you go in for a Saturday morning WOD, you end up staying for the next one as well, then realize that you are still there hanging and talking 2 hours after. The first great friends I made, and ones I will be lifelong friends with, I met in a CrossFit gym. I know that the people here would give up their own time if I was in need or asked them for help. I know I can count on these amazing people. It feels like family.
Fast forward a couple years and here I am typing this up in my own gym. I get to hang with my family every day. I get to push them to their physical potential, all while continuing these awesome friendships I made as an athlete and now, grow them as a gym owner. I love how our community has come together through so much change and adversity and still continues to thrive in their fitness goals. It makes me extremely proud when I see classes rooting and cheering for every last person and then high fiving all around once the chaos is through. These are the moments that bond us as a community. As a family.
There is no doubt in my mind that I have the best job in the world, that I have the best coaches in the world, and that I have the best athletes in the world. I have the best family in the world.
Coach Chris Warsop
CrossFit’s worldwide presence has transformed its “constantly varied, high intensity, and function movement” mission into a bona fide sport. Local throwdowns, annual events, and the CrossFit Games have inspired near-and-far competition for your everyday box-goer. With CrossFit’s status as a sport, standardizing movement requirements and rule compliance is a necessity, which is why each individual and team receives a personal judge during all competitions. A judge has the following two roles: ensure movement standards and count repetitions. The judge’s role is crucial to providing fair competition across all events.