“Take your running shoes off!”
If you’ve trained with me in either a class or an intro session you’ve no doubt heard me say this, which usually brings a confused look and two questions.
“Why should I take off my brand new $100 running shoes/cross trainers?”
“What kind of shoes should I be wearing?”
I intend to answer both questions. And…..No, it’s not because I want to see if you can match your socks.
Contrary to what the athletic shoe salesperson might recommend: greater cushion, more support, and higher stability. I recommend a less is more approach. Running shoes are fine for the high impact activities they are designed for, but the cushy floating feeling they create can be troublesome in our training room, especially under heavy loads.
Essentially, you want to be able to make a positive nerve connection from your brain to your feet.
Being able to stabilize your body properly under load begins with your contact with the ground. If you are standing on a surface that feels unstable or squishy, you are less likely to feel comfortable performing exercises that require you to focus your weight in your heels while taking a heavy load through a big range of motion.
Furthermore, the modern running shoe/cross-trainer with a lot of heel cushion for “stability” puts the foot in a toe down/forward slant. This position tends to turn off the muscles in the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lumbar spine musculature), and transfers a large percentage of the work to the quadriceps (front of the legs). The posterior chain is the primary driver in strength building movements like back squat and deadlift and the source of explosive power in the clean and snatch. It is essential that the posterior chain stay active.
When asked what shoes I recommend, I tell people to look for a shoe that has a flat stable sole and a low heel with minimal cushion. Asics Tigers work well, and are worn by a number of Level 4 trainers. Merrell, New Balance, Brooks, and Inov-8 make minimalist running shoes that work well. Believe it or not, skateboarding shoes (with the laces tied) make excellent CrossFit shoes, as well as indoor soccer shoes like the Addias Samba. You could just kick it old school with a pair of Converse Chuck T’s. The Vibram Five fingers have become popular recently, and certainly have their place, but please don’t feel you have to go that minimal. For Olympic and Power lifting (Squat, Dealift, etc), there is no better shoe than a shoe for that purpose.
Remember: Flat sole. Low heel. Minimal cushion. Less is more.
HYDRATE OR DIE!
I’m sure Camelbak sold a lot of hydration packs with this threat, but it’s not something too many of us need to be concerned about. Or is it?
- Are you interested in having energy and feeling great?
- Are you interested in performing well in the gym?
Living in Washington State, water is plentiful and abundant. But despite all this water, I would be willing to bet that most of you are not getting the water you need (75% by current statistics). Lack of proper hydration can cause a significant loss in performance, decrease metabolism, and affect many vital functions.
If we were to use the popular car analogy, you know, the one where if you were a car, food is the gas you put in your fuel tank, junk in equals junk out, that whole business. Well, water in your body is like the oil, anti-freeze, and windshield wiper fluid. Try driving your car without any of those things. No go!
So, if water serves a number of critical functions that are directly influential to your athletic goals, how do you make sure you’re getting enough? The common prescribed solution is to either drink eight 8oz glasses per day or drink when you are thirsty.
“But I do that, why do you think I’m dehydrated!”
Those recommendations are acceptable for a sedentary person in a controlled environment. Perhaps you work in such an environment, but you are not sedentary! You are a CrossFit Seattle athlete. Your fluid loss is greater, so your needs are greater. You require a better hydration plan.
1. Let’s begin by throwing out the 8 glasses of water idea, especially, if you have trouble counting your rounds during Cindy. Everybody has different requirements.
2. Get yourself a 32oz BPA free water bottle. Put water in it. Start drinking.
3. Take half your body weight in ounces. That’s how much water should go through your water bottle, into your body, everyday as a baseline. YES! That’s a lot of water. NO! I don’t care how much you have to pee. Remember, as your weight changes, so does your water requirements.
4. Now weight yourself before and after exercise. Add 16oz of water to your baseline per pound of body weight lost. Again, remember to recheck as your activity level, outdoor temperature, and environment change.
“But what about coffee, soda, tea, beer, wine…blah, blah, blah.”
NO! Doesn’t count. That stuff will put you in a deficit. Drink water.
“But plain water is booorrrrrrrrringgg.”
True. But do you notice how good you feel when you just drink water?
Ok, I get it. Plain water can be boring. So here’s a tip.
In your 32oz water bottle put one Emergen-C packet, and one Nuun tablet with water and ice.
- Emergen-C is a powder loaded with vitamins and minerals. It comes in a ton of different flavors. You can find it at any grocery store.
- Nuun is an electrolyte supplement that comes in a tablet form, which dissolves in your water. It also comes in many flavors. I have seen it at QFC, but you can find it at REI or any bike shop.
Using both products together, you are getting vitamins and minerals, and electrolytes with your water. Both of which become very depleted during exercise. You could probably make Black Cherry (Emergen-C) Cola (nuun) if you wanted. I promise you, with this mixture you will suck your water right down, especially after a workout. Careful, it’s not an inexpensive drink.
One more thing.
Before you start chugging gallons of water, you should know about hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is caused by the dilution of sodium from excess amounts of water in your body. This is like hydration to the extreme. Drink too much water and DIE! Kidding aside, it really is a dangerous condition. But, like life threatening dehydration, probably not something to be concerned with in your daily life.
I often get asked the question from new people just starting on their Level 4 CrossFit journey,
“How many times per week should I come to the gym?”
My answer is always,
“As many times as you can recover from…”
What we’re talking about here is what’s known as frequency in the trainer world. Or, how many times you workout in a given amount of time. It’s commonly known that anything you do frequently you will get better at or adapt to, which is in essence change or a result. Any change for the better when it comes to health and fitness is a positive result.
So, more frequency, equals more positive results.
The frequency commonly known to crossfiters who follow the main site is a 3 days on, 1 day off schedule.
A few problems arise from a 3 on, 1 off frequency. The first and most obvious problem is that it does not fit well with a typical work week. The second problem with a 3 on, 1 off frequency is that it can be brutal on beginners without proper scaling. For beginners following a main site style frequency; 1 on, 3 off would be more appropriate, but you still have the 5 day work week issue to deal with.
Level 4 clients for the most part are working professionals, typically on a 5 on, 2 off work week. Level 4 programming is aligned with the standard work week and planned accordingly. With proper scaling, and thoughtful progression, a person could come in as many times as their schedule would allow, provided they were recovering from their workouts. To aid recovery, light/easy days, following hard/heavy days are programmed into the week. And yes, (before I hear the collective whine) Level 2 programming also has both relatively easy, and really hard days.
I will usually recommend a beginner start with 2 days per week, with plenty of rest in between days. After a month or so, if you are recovering well from your workouts, add another day. Your goal should be to work up to at least 3 to 5 classes per week. When you work up to a frequency of 3 or more classes per week, your results will really start to present themselves.
Currently, if you are only at the 2 classes per week mark, it’s really important that you try to stay active outside the gym on your off days. This will help you recover from intense days in the gym, allowing you to increase your frequency.
With regard to a Level 2 client and above, your 5/3/1 strength cycle should determine your frequency. That’s not to say that you would needlessly skip a non-strength day, but in order to continue producing gains in that program, it’s imperative that you not miss critical lifting days in your cycle.
The next question from the new crossfiter is usually,
“How do I know if I’m recovered enough to workout again? When I’m not sore anymore?”
It is more than a matter of being sore. Being repeatedly sore the next day, or sometimes the second day, is common and expected at first. Being sore for more than 4 days or a week is either a recovery skills issue or a scaling problem.
By recovery skills I mean:
- Are you eating enough (of the right foods) to fuel your frequency and intensity?
- Are you getting adequate rest/sleep/downtime?
- Are you stressed out with work/money/relationships?
- Are you adequately hydrated?
- Are you doing any mobility work?
- Are you using recovery tools like the Mobility WOD, Yoga, foam rollers, lacrosse balls, jumpstretch bands, or ice?
“No”……. “Maybe”……. “Kinda”…….. “Sometimes”
The skills of recovery are the subject of another article entirely, my point here is that getting good at being able to recover quickly will allow you to increase your frequency, which will in turn get you the results you’re looking for.
Remember: Work smart, recover hard. Repeat. Frequently.