Posts Tagged by squat

Functional Fitness and A Ton of Weight

Functional Fitness.  It is becoming more popular in the health and fitness world and is also the basis of all CrossFit programs.  CrossFit can actually be defined as “a regimen of constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity in a communal environment leading to health and fitness.”  

I know there are many skeptics out there who like to debate this and preach that CrossFit is a very dangerous sport.  My brother-in-law actually said to me recently that CrossFit is the “sport of injury.”  Well all of that is just basic ignorance in my opinion and comments like this generally come from those who have never even tried the sport or have an understanding of what is actually being accomplished everyday.  Yes, what we do may look chaotic and “unsafe” but it really is quite the opposite.  All the workouts (WODs) are strategically planned by our head coach and all the classes are highly monitored.  I can’t tell you how many times my form has been corrected during a WOD.  

If we look past what you actually see athletes doing during a CrossFit WOD and get down into WHY we are doing these movements, we will see a different picture begin to emerge.  Not only are we working out to be healthy and feel good, we are doing this to prepare us for life.  It’s done to carry those heavy bags of groceries, to change a flat tire, to take your child out of a carseat, to do laundry…you know, everyday things.  And not just do these things, but do them efficiently and without injury.  Sounds interesting right?

Last week this was dropped off in my driveway:

Pellets-Functional-Fitness

That would be 100 40-pound bags of wood pellets.  It gets COLD here in CT in the winter and if you couldn’t tell from all my bitching this past winter…I HATE the cold!  So to keep the house nice and toasty, we have a pellet stove.  I love this thing…

Pellet Stove

However, pellet stoves need fuel and that’s where these bags come in.  We do not have a garage to store the bags in so they need to be moved down to the basement…one by one.  Our basement does not have an entrance from the outside, so we must walk from the driveway, around the back of the house, through the living room and down a flight of stairs.  It’s only about 50-75 feet, but making that trip 25 times while carrying 80 pounds of weight can get tiring.  And that’s just what B and I did.  We each moved a ton (literally) of pellets.

Pellets-Functional-Fitness2

When we first moved into this house 5 years ago, I didn’t help with this task.  B’s brothers would come up from NY and help him.  About 2 years ago (2 months after starting CrossFit), we got a delivery of 1 ton.  I decided to help B that time and I remember it being difficult.  He would put two bags on my shoulders and I would carry them down.  I remember being sore afterwards.  This year was a different story.

Not only was I able to lift and carry two bags on my own, but I did it quickly and without injury or any soreness the next day.  Knowing how to properly squat and clean weight up to my shoulders saved my back from injury.  Having a stronger core, kept my body more properly aligned while carrying 40 pounds on one shoulder and another in front of me. It’s pretty clear that my training has come a long way.

So while I might not look like the epitome of health and fitness on the outside, like the sport of CrossFit, I tell a different story on the inside.  Practicing functional fitness has prepared me for all the different things life will throw at me.  I wonder what will come next…  

How are you prepared?

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My First CrossFit Weightlifting Clinic!

Last weekend I attended my 2nd CrossFit clinic.  The first was on pull-ups and double unders…two things I’m horrible at.  I learned a lot of tips to improve my skills, but I’m still a ways off from mastering them.  This time the clinic was on two olympic weightlifting moved…the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.  FUN!

When I first started CrossFit I hated lifting weights.  The repetition was SO BORING!  What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t challenging myself and once I started doing that, everything changed.  Now all I want to do is lift heavy things!  So when I heard there was a Ladies Only weightlifting clinic being held at my gym…I immediately signed up.

We started by going over the game plan for the day from our rad coaches Gina and Amanda.  We did a quick warm up and then moved right into the Snatch practice.         

CrossFit-Weightlifting-Clinic1

CrossFit-Weightlifting-Clinic2

This is a VERY challenging move.  You need to go from the ground to overhead in one explosive movement.  This is all while having your hands very wide on the bar, which (at least for me) isn’t the most comfortable position.  We went through numerous drills on positioning and ways to improve balance and posture in the lift.  Super helpful!   

In a full snatch, you land in an overhead squat position and then stand.  Here is a good breakdown of the movement:

My overhead squats are not the best as my hip mobility is lacking, but I’ve been able to get a few of these at a light weight.  During the clinic I focused mainly in Power Snatches, which is landing in a quarter squat position.  It’s not as techcnical, but allows you to get good practice with the lift.  

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CrossFit-Weightlifting-Clinic-Snatch2

CrossFit-Weightlifting-Clinic-Snatch3

The coolest part of the day was that the coaches were able to film us using Coach’s Eye.  I have to say I was a bit weary about the recording at first, but after seeing that my technique wasn’t all that bad…it was awesome!  Here I am at 65 pounds:

Plus the app allows you to watch in slow motion, frame-by-frame, and use drawing tools to see how your body is aligned.  I think I need this!

We kept practicing and building.  I only got to 75 pounds which was my 1 rep max going in…plus it took me 3 tries to get it!  For some reason I have a mental block with this lift and fail when I go to drop under the bar.  I have a lot of practice here for sure. 

Next we moved onto the Clean & Jerk…one of my favorite moves.  For some reason, I always feel strong with this move and it’s always fun to throw around a lot of weight over head.  Remember when I did Barbells for Boobs??

Unlike the Snatch where you go from ground to overhead in one movement, the Clean & Jerk is two movements…the Clean and the Jerk.  Here’s another fun tutorial:

Again, in a full Clean you land in a squat position, but ultimately the end goal is to get the bar overhead, so Power Cleans work as well.  I prefer Power Cleans anyway because I lose my balance in with Squat Cleans…again, more work to be done there.  

We moved through the practice and drills fairly quickly with this movement, focusing most on the landing position of the Split Jerk.  This position can feel unstable if your legs aren’t wide enough and your balance is off.  Oh and look…here I am again.  This time with 85 pounds.

I built up to 95 pounds and was about to go for 100 but we ran out of time.  

We all sat and reviewed the videos to see where we could improve.  I got a great idea about what I’m doing well, what I need to work on and how to get there.  Super excited!  It was so helpful to get this individualized feedback plus have a lot of fun with some great women.  Like the first clinic it was full of laughs and jokes only the females understand 🙂

Have you ever tried weightlifting?

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Hip Mobility For Squat Improvement

Mobility

About two years ago, I hurt my hip while training for my first half marathon.  My orthopedist said is was psoas tendonitis and sent me to physical therapy for about six weeks.  Ever since then my hips just haven’t been the same, or maybe I’m just more aware of them.

The restriction I have in my hips has become even more apparent since beginning CrossFit. Movements like squats, lunges, box jumps, etc… all require a high level of flexibility in the hips to keep proper form and avoid injury.  I’ve noticed that as I’m getting stronger, I’m finding it harder to increase my intensity due to the restriction in my hips and needless to say, this is VERY frustrating.  

I spoke with my coach this week about what I can do to work through this and the answer I didn’t want to hear is rest.  Two weeks off from heavy or deep squats and no other movements that will aggravate my hip flexor.  It needs to calm down in order to slowly build it back up. Unfortunately, all the running I’ve done in the past few years has restricted my mobility and hence my progress.  I’m halted around 155# for my squat, yet I can deadlift 225#.  I should be able to do more!

So after some research on hip mobility drills and using what I know from physical therapy a few years ago, I’m going to be focusing on loosening my hips in the next few weeks.  Here’s how:

1. Put in some rolling time.  Spending at least 5-10 minutes before class rolling out my quads, hips and my back to loosen up all of my muscles.  Not only do I need to do this before working out, but I need to get it done at home as well.   PVC Pipe

2. Stretch, stretch and stretch some more.  One of the greatest things I used in PT was the stretch strap.  It helps get deeper stretches in those hard to reach and deep muscle areas like the hips.  Here is one of my favorites:

stretch strapThis along with various other hip, quad and hamstring stretches like lunge complex, extended hold goblet squats and skater squats, I will help loosen that area up.  

3. Post workout ice.  This is something I used to do a lot after many of my long runs, but I have been lacking in this department lately.  Some of the WODs that I do are so strenuous and I’m clearly not putting in the proper recovery time.  So besides stretching post workout, I need to commit to icing my hips for about 10 minutes after heavy squatting days.  

4. Rest.  Meh…I don’t like rest because it’s harder to get back at it when I get out of a steady routine, but I know how crucial it can be to improving in the long run.  This means keeping the weights lower and not pushing myself to hard until I am feeling less pain in my hips.  We’ll see where we’re at in 2 weeks.

So hopefully after all of this I will be able to:

Squat All the Things

Here are some great resources I’ve found on hip mobility drills if you are looking for some additional information:

Do you struggle will any mobility issues that limit your progress?

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Week 2 of the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge Including WODs 3 & 4

Lurong-Week2

Week 2…not a big fan of week 2.  The lack of energy I experienced in week 1 carried through into last week and actually got worse. Towards the end of the week I was actually getting light-headed and my vision was getting blurry.  That made me a little nervous. I also found myself to be VERY hungry.  

So after 5 days of strict Paleo, I decided to throw caution to the wind on Friday and listen to my body.  I ate bread, a small amount of cheese, potatoes and had a few cocktails…I basically stuffed my face and I felt GREAT!    I’m not really sure what that means, but all I know is that it helped. 

When the challenge started, our coach asked us to monitor our calories for a few days and look at our macronutrient consumption. What’s a macronutrient you ask?  Well they are the 3 main sources of food that provide energy: protein, carbohydrates and fat.  The percentage of each macronutrient you consume depends on your body type and your weight.  Here is more information on how to calculate all of this that he posted on the CFM blog:

Body Type description and macronutrient estimates:
Ectomorphic – Naturally thin and skinny limbs -(thyroid dominant, fast metabolic rate, high carb. tolerance) – protein: 25%, Carbohydrate – 55, Fat – 20%

Mesomorphic – Naturally muscular and athletic build -(testosterone dominant, moderate carbohydrate  tolerance).  Protein – 30%, Carbohydrate – 40%, Fat – 30%

Endomorphic – Naturally broad and thick – (Insulin dominant, slow metabolic rate, low carb. tolerance) – Protein – 35%, Carbohydrate – 25%, Fat – 40%

Determining Caloric needs:
To determine calorie needs, match your activity level and goals to the below information.  This will lead you to the right equation for your goals.  Once you found the equation, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by the given multiplier.  This will yield you your daily caloric estimate:

An example of how this works:
140 lb., moderately active woman interested in fat loss would begin by taking in between 1680 (140 lb x 12) and 1960 (140 lb x 14) cal/day.

Chart:
Sedentary (minimal exercise – 2x/week) fat loss = 10-12, weight maintenance = 12-14
Moderately active (3-4 x a week), fat loss = 12-14, weight maintenance = 14-16 
Very Active (5-7x a week), fat loss = 14 – 16, weight maintenance = 16-18 

Macronutrient split:
Once you determine your proper caloric intake use the first chart above to determine your body type and the proper macronutrient split.   Then calculate your proper split for proteins, carbs., and fats for the day.

Ok so according to this I’m Endomorphic and I need to consume 2,300 – 2,700 calories per day for fat loss.  That’s A LOT of calories!!  When I recorded my calories for the first few days, I was only coming in around 1,900, but that felt like it was more than enough.  I guess not when you consider the amount of exercise I’ve been doing.  Sounds like it’s time to get eating!  

I’m going to keep trying my best at this diet, but if my body tells me it needs something I’m going to eat what I feel is necessary.  I’ve already dropped to only being in the top 39% when it comes to diet in the challenge, so clearly I have no aspirations of winning 😉

Lurong-Week2-Diet

Now, let’s move on to the workouts!  I actually really enjoyed WODs 3 & 4 compared to the suck fests that were WODs 1 & 2.

WOD 3 – The Hang Power Clean Sprint (Level II)

Time Limit: 5 minutes

  • Descending ladder of hang power cleans, 65# (10-8-6-4-2)
  • Ascending ladder of shuttle sprints in 10m increments (20m-40m-60m-80m-100m)

The rep sequence begins with 10 cleans and a 20m sprint, proceeding through the ladders until complete.

A 5 minute time cap?  That’s not a lot of time at all!  Level III had 95# cleans, which I could’ve done but not quickly so I opted for Level II.  I was pretty confident that I could finish in under 5 at 65#.  And I did!  I moved through this WOD fairly easily banging out the first 2 sets of cleans and the shorter runs.  By the 6 reps of cleans, the bar started feeling heavy but I kept it steady.  I think the worst part was the last 100m run.  I felt like I was moving in slow motion as my quads were starting to burn out.  In the end, I finished in 4:25 and was VERY happy with that!

WOD 4 – The TT2B Chipper (Level II)

Time Limit: 10 minutes

  • 50 Thrusters, 45#
  • 50 Ab Mat Sit-Ups

The athlete must complete all 50 Thrusters before moving on to the next movement.

Lurong-WOD4

This WOD is called TT2B because Level III has Toes to Bar instead of the the Ab Mat Sit-Ups.  I can barely get one T2B, which is why I opted for Level II.  

Before the WOD, I warmed up with the class and did the first part of the workout which was overhead squats and 1 1/4 front squats.  I hit a new overhead squat PR at 85# and warmed up my legs with some 95# front squats.  Now bring on those thrusters.  45# is pretty light for me, but I still wasn’t sure how long  50 of them would take.  I was shocked that I did 20 in about the first 45 seconds…whoa!  My problem with thrusters is that my wrists start to hurt after a while, even when I where wraps.  So after the initial 20, I had to take a break every 10 reps and shake my wrists out.  I ended up finishing all 50 in 3:30…not bad!  

Besides making me a little dizzy from all the up and down, Ab Mat sit-ups are no big deal and I got through all 50 of those at a steady pace.  My final time was 5:42 and I was VERY happy with that.  Like I said, I really didn’t know what to expect and I was concerned I might not finish within the 10 minute cap…clearly that was no big deal.

Turkey-Curry-Meatballs

Last night, I made these great Turkey Curry Meatballs for dinner to start the week off right…YUM! After 2 cheat days this past weekend, I’m back on track for the rest of the week until Friday when I head to Walt Disney World for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler and to indulge in the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  All bets are off there!  

So goals for this week are to eat more, eat smart and work hard.  It’s a testing week and I’m hoping for a new dead lift PR tonight…let’s go for 230#!!

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One Year of CrossFit

Sarah_Chalkmonster

One year ago today I walked into my first On Ramp class at CFM.  I was excited to start this journey, but terrified at the same time. It seemed like complete chaos in there.  The music was blasting, barbells were dropping and people were moving all over the place in some sort of strange dance I didn’t know the steps to.  It was thrilling to watch and I couldn’t wait to join in.  

CFM

During that first class we went over proper form and movement set up: shoulders back and down, squat stance, etc…  It was like a whole new way of holding my posture and moving my body, something that has now become second nature to me.  Our first WOD was a few key movements for time:

  • 200m run
  • 15/12/9 of:
    • Air squats
    • Push-ups
    • AbMat sit-ups
  • 200m run

I finished this in 10:45.  Not great, but not too shabby for my first day.  I’m sure I could shave at least 3 minutes off that time today….going to have to give it a try soon.

Since then I have made some pretty impressive (in my opinion) improvements to my strength and fitness.  Here are some of my weight improvements from the first time I did the movement:   

  • Dead Lift: 63# >> 220#
  • Back Squat: 53# >> 145#
  • Front Squat: 58# >> 128#
  • Overhead Squat: 43# >> 73# 
  • Squat Clean: 45# >> 73#
  • Power Clean: 63# >> 103#
  • Thruster: 33# >> 75#
  • Close Grip Bench: 48# >> 90#
  • Shoulder to Overhead: 33# >> 85# (split jerk)

I remember during that first week when I picked up my first 33# barbell, I thought it was SO HEAVY!  It never even occurred to me that I could lift over 200#.  Crazy!

220# Dead Lift!

220# Dead Lift!

Not only am I stronger, but my running has improved a great deal!  With minimal running training, I was able to PR my 5K time by 4 minutes, my half marathon time by 8 minutes and somehow complete a full marathon!  I don’t think it would’ve been possible without CrossFit.  

Christopher-Martin-5K

CrossFit has changed my life in more ways than I could have imagine.  It has not only made me physically stronger, but the emotional strength that has come out of it was unforeseen and just as rewarding…if not more.   I read a great article yesterday about how those who do CrossFit are “a society of those who simply want to be better” and this is 100% the truth.  It has given me the confidence to just be better.  To be better to myself and to others.  To strive to reach what I see as the unreachable.  To look my fears straight in the face and tell them to fuck off…I got this. 

CFM has become a second home for me.  I look forward to going there and that is something I have NEVER said about any other gym.  The only other place I look forward going to and torturing myself is Walt Disney World for a race, but that has a ton of other positive things surrounding it.  But CFM is different, I can go there and not be judged.  I have amazing coaches who not only look out for my well-being, but also push me out of my comfort zone.  Just yesterday, 2 different coaches told me to go up in weight and I’m so glad I did.  It’s pretty awesome to know that people have faith in your abilities even when you don’t.  

Barbell

And then there are the friends I have made.  I am lucky to have found a positive, supportive group of people through CrossFit who not only push me to be better, but make me laugh everyday. They make working out fun because let’s be honest, if we didn’t laugh our way through a lot of the WODs we would be miserable…they are HARD!  Plus it’s really cool to see everyone’s progress over time and how each of us have our own strengths.  Having this support system to talk about tough workouts with or to make me go on days where I’m just not feeling it has probably been the best thing to come out of CrossFit.  Totally unexpected and totally awesome.   

CFM-Girls

While I have made tremendous strides in my fitness this past year, I’m still nowhere near where I want to be.  Body weight movements are still very difficult for me.  Pull-up, push-ups, burpees, box jumps…REALLY HARD.  In fact, I can’t do any of them without scaling down or having some sort of modification.  I know if I lost weight these things would be easier for me, but I sadly have a love affair with food and booze that is difficult to break up with.  I am eating MUCH better these days and try to eat clean 80% of the time, but I’m not perfect and still love my bread and martinis.  I know I’m getting stronger and leaner so this will come with time and practice.

Clearly, I love CrossFit.  It has made exercise fun and coming from me that’s saying something!  I used to HATE weight training and dreaded doing it with a passion.  I would do these repetitive exercises alone in my basement and just be bored to tears.  To actually look forward to power clean practice is mind-boggling to me.  I don’t foresee stopping anytime soon and all I want to do is GET BETTER.  With every PR I hit, the more exciting this sport becomes and the more I want to keep going.  Yes it’s hard, yes it hurts and yes I must be crazy, but I love it 🙂  

I must be crazy if I'm smiling on an Air Dyne!

I must be crazy if I’m smiling on an Air Dyne!

Have you tried CrossFit?  
If so, what have you learned from it?
If not, are you interested in trying it?

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