Dear Coach: Setbacks & Surgeries

My last blog post was months ago and I blamed it on a busy schedule. But I can happily report that after that, I started jumping in on work outs with my athletes (fun & hard!) and going straight to the gym after work so I couldn’t change my mind. I also made use of all my personal equipment and did a lot of quick workouts in my room at home when I couldn’t get to the gym. I mainly used my resistance bands to perform various arm exercises, did body weight exercises for my legs, and used my physio ball to target my back and core. I even jump roped for cardio in my driveway…  Which is WAY harder to do for 10 minutes than I remember it being as a child. 

However, late October and November have been a ride. I’ve recently had a few health setbacks that have forced me to scale way back on my workouts.

I had a stomach bug that sapped me of all energy for a week, then just a couple weeks later when I was finally back in my groove, I had to have my appendix removed unexpectedly. (I hope you enjoy the photo I provided! I’ve never had surgery and the pain medicine I was given was quite a trip! LOL) This surgery has proven to be a lot more of a pain than I thought! Even though the appendectomy is done laparoscopically and is minimally invasive, ten days later I am still getting winded, still have tenderness in my belly, and still can’t cough or sneeze without wanting to cry. I’m not supposed to be exercising for at least another two to three weeks and when I start again, I’ll have to start at half the weight I was using. This is to ensure my abdomen muscles heal fully and I don’t give myself a hernia.
Between my knee issues (fun fact: I also have an upcoming surgery in February to remove an irritated plicae and clean up the scar tissue around my meniscus…) and my appendix, this has not been the comeback year I was hoping for after that stress fracture I had last year!

I’ve lost over five pounds of muscle and while I’m pretty lean, I’d much rather be strong. I’m itching to get back to exercising and put some weight back on. I am both cursed that I slim down quickly and lucky that my body tones quickly. For me, given my smaller stature to begin with and the fact that I’ve lost some weight rather quickly, it’s so important that I strengthen and build some muscle back before I start doing any running. I certainly don’t want to re-fracture because of these unplanned recent events!

Everyone has setbacks, gets sick, suffers an injury or has to have an emergency surgery some time! It definitely is frustrating. It’s exhausting to start all over again and lose gains and progress. But we’ll get back and hopefully exceed our goals! Just remember all the reasons why pushing on is important to you and tap into that motivation when you’re healed. 💪🏼🏆

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Home Workout 4

Here’s another home workout you can do sans equipment! Just you and the comfort of your own home. No excuses! If you have questions on the exercises, leave a comment!

Perform each exercise for 12 reps or 40s where indicated*, straight through the set.
Rest as needed, or 2 min at end.
Repeat for 3 sets.

  • Single leg step ups (12 on each side) – use a chair or sturdy chest.
  • Inchworm – keep feet planted, walk hands out to straight arm plank, hold, walk feet back in towards hands and repeat.
  • Jumping jacks*
  • Forward lunges w arms up (12 on each side)
  • Push ups
  • Forearm plank

Good luck!

Dear Coach: More Favorites?

Dear Coach, Got any more fun favorites to share?

-Fitness Fan


Fitness Fan,

There are always more things to like when it comes to fitness! Here’s a couple more of my favorites (and not so favorites)…

-SPORTS BRAS! Is this a weird thing to love? I love that I can buy them for $5 at TJMaxx. I mean really? I’ll take 10….

-CORE! I LOVE ab exercises. One of my favorite feelings is when my abs are sore from a previous workout and just me laughing even makes the muscles ache a bit.

IMG_4503-LEGS! Strength training my lower body is a fave. I love squats. Sumo squats. Squats with overhead press. Goblet squats. Front squats. I love it.

-SUMMERCan I count a season as a favorite when it comes to fitness? Well I am. Spring (and summer) is my favorite time to year be exercising outside.  The temperatures are perfect, everything is coming to life again.  After all the snow is gone, you have a much greater appreciation for how the sun feels on your skin and how you can actually start to sweat again because you’re finally thawing out after a long, cold winter!  Who could pass up that view?!

Dislikes: 

-HEADPHONES. I’m always yanking the wire out of my ear or iPod by accident and disrupting my gym flow. Although I found a great pair that hooks into my ears so they stay in place, I still can’t stand the feeling of ear buds in my ear when I start to seriously sweat.

What do you think?  Have a different question for me? Comment!

-Coach A

Get Back on the Bike

Today, I want you to go into your shed, garage, or other storage unit and wipe the dust off your old bicycle. Fill those old tires up with some air. Adjust the seat, because you’re not twelve anymore and probably have a few extra feet on your frame.

But just because you aren’t a kid anymore, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get back on the bicycle. In fact, this is one bandwagon you should definitely hop back on!

Bike riding is a phenomenal workout. And with the gorgeous summer weather here, there’s no reason you should be doing your boring cardio routines on a stationary machine in a stingy gym.’

Here’s why bike riding is so great.

First of all, there’s these things called bike lanes on most roads now. So, it’s not as dangerous as you think to be out cycling on the roads. If you’re at a busy intersection, just cross as a car and follow regular traffic rules. As a rule, I always wear a helmet too. This doubles as protection and a visor from the sun. Now, to the stuff you’re really interested in…

Why biking is so good for you.

You get a full body workout. Yes, you’re primarily working your legs to propel the bike, so your glutes, hamstrings, and calves will look great. But working the handlebars also gives tone to your arms. Plus overall, you’re burning tons of calories while riding – which contributes to fat loss and therefore, overall slimming and toning effects. Going for an hour bike ride, even at a slow or moderate pace, can burn hundreds of calories. And since you’re biking outside, taking in the changing scenery and paying attention to the roads and traffic, you’ll barely notice the time passing!

If you choose to incorporate some hills into your ride, you can up the intensity and overall workout you’ll get by standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This engages your arms even more as you grip the handlebars, as well as activates your core to keep you stable as you climb.

Additionally, biking gives your joints a break. Biking is considered a low impact form of cardio. Spare your knees for a change and switch from running, walking, hiking, etc., to biking. When you’re running, your knees are receiving the impact from hitting the ground, but since you’re smoothly cycling the pedals around instead, your joints are spared.

To make sure your knees won’t get sore or irritated from this low impact, albeit repetitive, movement, make sure your bike is fitted properly for your height. There should be just a slight bend in your knee when it’s fully extended on a downward pedal.

And finally, you’ll reap the usual benefits of doing cardio in general. Your heart will be stronger, you’ll reduce the risk of heart disease and other conditions. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, feel better about yourself and be more alert. You’ll de-stress by working out and you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors. So do yourself a favor, and get back on the bike.

Tabata

Dr. Izumi Tabata is a Japanese scientist who came up with the method of training called tabata. Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training. This specific style of training consists of choosing four exercises that target large muscle groups or involve the entire body. You begin with one exercise and perform it for 20 seconds at your maximum ability, then rest for 10 seconds. The same exercise and times are repeated for a total of 8 sets. Then, you move on to the next exercise and perform it for 8 rounds of 20 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest in between, and so on for the other exercises you selected.

In total, tabata style workouts take only 4 minutes for each exercise, so you can complete an intense workout in just 16 minutes! Most exercises that are done in tabata target large muscle groups for maximum effect. Some exercises may include burpees, squat jumps, lunge jumps, kettle bell swings, medicine ball slams, mountain climbers, sprints, pushups, tricep dips, and various core exercises.

The benefits of this type of training are that it improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. So the cardiovascular system, which requires oxygen to function, improves, AND the anaerobic energy systems are targeted too. Therefore, muscles are trained and strengthened as well. Most types of exercise don’t hit both systems as hard as tabata.

These benefits are what lead to fat burning and muscle building. Additionally, this type of training leads to an increased metabolism, so even after you finish your tabata training, your body continues to burn higher levels of calories for a longer period of time. That’s an added bonus to the improvements and calorie burning you’re already working for!

The only drawbacks to tabata are if you have certain heart issues or very high blood pressure. Because tabata elevates your heart rate, and keeps it elevated for so long with minimal rest between the full body exertions you are performing, your heart cannot recover entirely.

Additionally, if you have problems with your joints this type of workout might not be the best. These high bursts of intense full body exercises might put a little too much stress on your joints and cause irritation if done for so many repetitions.

There is one more important thing to note about tabata. Tabata is HARD. It is not for the weak of heart. It will feel like the longest, most uncomfortable four (up to sixteen if you do the whole workout ;)…) minutes of your life. Your muscles will fatigue. You will be out of breath. But don’t let that deter you from trying this awesome, effective training method because it WILL get you results!

Here is a sample Home Workout Tabata program to try:

tabata

The Dangers of CrossFit – Why the Workout Is Not Worth Your Money or Your Life

This post will probably be unpopular to people, but it’s not simply my opinion in a blog. A lot of what you’ll read below is scientific and factual. Not only did I study the mechanisms of movement and physiology of exercise in college; not only do I personally train athletes and adults in achieving various fitness goals; not only am I an active and fit person, but I have also done copious amounts of research on this topic. Additionally, I have yet to meet a professional in my field – high school and collegiate athletic coaches, Kinesiology professors, exercise physiologists, certified personal trainers, gym owners, and physical therapists – who recommend CrossFit. Every educated health professional I’ve talked to and every study I’ve read on the topic agrees: CrossFit is dangerous and is NOT the way to increase cardiovascular performance or increase strength gains.

The topic of CrossFit generally just makes me angry. It is dangerous. It is not based on science. There are so many issues with it, I could go on for hours. I’m going to delve into the main issues with CrossFit, so brace yourself for some heavy reading in this post.


The ideology behind, and structure of, CrossFit is an issue. The structure includes WOD’s, or Workout of the Day’s. These workouts are the same for everyone across the board. No individualization. There is a serious difference between randomness and variation. Randomness is not productive. Variation, on the other hand, is. What’s the difference? Randomness is just that: random. Workouts are thrown together without foresight and a future plan or goal in mind, except to “be fitter”. But you cannot build and progress when your workouts are random. CrossFit doesn’t model their WOD’s on variation. WOD’s throw people into the same workout, regardless of experience, fitness level, etc. You can’t randomly start doing movements and exercises, then move to totally different ones the next day, and expect to make real progress and gains. You need variation in your workouts to keep your body adapting. You need to progress from one movement to another, moving up in advanced techniques, or weights, or intensity, or frequency, etc. Variation allows you to build and progress on prior gains.

In addition to this, during these WOD’s, CrossFit coaches push people past their safe limits. The more sore you are, the better workout you had. But that’s just not true. Soreness doesn’t correlate with a successful workout, or toughness, or fitness. Of course when working out there is going to be discomfort; burning in your muscles, shortness of breath during cardio, etc. But PAIN is a different sensation altogether and when a coach encourages you to push through the pain, you should question their professionalism, intellect, and training. It is NOT healthy to push yourself through pain. This only promotes your risk of injury and will be detrimental to your achieving your fitness goals.

This brings me to my next point: the people who run CrossFit. Coaches don’t even need education to run a CrossFit and instruct you. Trainers who REALLY know what they’re talking about and doing will have a educational degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, or another related field, or they’ll have a certification from a reputable organization, like NASM or ACSM. These professionals will attend conferences to remain certified and up to date on their degrees. Often times, a reputable gym will require practical demonstration before hiring a new trainer to ensure that they are educated properly and can provide proper training.

If the CrossFit box is even remotely responsible, the coaches will go to a weekend training seminar where they learn power lifting technique. A weekend! To learn power lifting! I’ve been doing power lifts for years, and teaching them for a couple of years, and I still check myself and compare with other educated professionals to ensure I’m doing and coaching people properly. These are advanced movements, requiring precision and skill. You cannot learn perfect form and give perfect instruction on various power lifting moves in a matter of two days. Performing power movements with improper coaching and form at high repetitions or for time, as done in CrossFit, leads to an even higher risk for injury.

In addition to this point, the idea CrossFit employs regarding power lifting is unscientific. During workouts, participants are encouraged to do as many reps as possible in a timed circuit, or repeat a move for 20, 30, repetitions. Power lifting is NOT meant to be used in this manner. Power lifting and Olympic lifting are meant to be done with precise form, low repetitions, and high weight. These movements need to be executed with the proper technique and are supposed to be explosive, powerful movements. You’re supposed to perform them with adequate rest between sets, and they’re done over very short periods of time. You can’t simply run through an explanation of these movements, throw weight on a bar, and tell someone to repeat the movement as fast as possible for as many reps as they can for two minutes. It goes against your body’s capabilities and crosses the line into the danger zone. Your body is not meant to be put under such intense stress for so many of these explosive, powerful repetitions at a time. This only increases your chances of getting injured by putting undue stress on ligaments and joints. The more you do any movement repetitively, with high weight especially, the more you increase your chances of getting hurt and doing real damage to your body. So, if you’re going to engage in power lifting exercises, do it right. Find a real coach who knows the science of proper technique, who can coach you, spot you, and help you progress gradually to prevent injury – the way power lifting is supposed to be.

rhabdo

The next point is also related to danger. The photo placed here for your viewing is a CrossFit creation. This disgusts me the most. CrossFit appears PROUD and finds HUMOR in using this photo of a clown called Rhabdo, who appears to be on a dialysis machine, with a kidney on the ground, standing in a pool of blood, with various, serious tears in his muscles, looking absolutely decimated. What?! Is this what CrossFit promotes?! Without even getting into the science of it yet – is this what you want your coaches to make you feel or look like? Is that what you call a successful workout?!

Now the science of it – what is rhabdo? Why does CrossFit seem to know so much about rhabdo that they have a logo of a clown suffering from it? Rhabdo, or rhabdomyolysis is a serious, but typically rare syndrome. It involves the breakdown of muscle fibers to such an extent that their contents filter into your bloodstream, leading to kidney complications like renal failure, where the kidneys are so overwhelmed with clearing out waste from your body that they literally fail to do the job. Rhabdo can cause death. Usually, people need hospitalization (see the clown on dialysis?) to treat the issue. It can take weeks to recover from this, if you’re lucky. Rhabdo “is uncommon and normally reserved for the elite military trainee, ultra-endurance monsters, and for victims of the occasional psychotic football coach” (Robertson). Basically, your average mom or dad who is exercising, a fit, collegiate athlete, or another regular person working out, wouldn’t experience or suffer from rhabdo.

When working out and strength training, microtears in your muscle are unavoidable. Macrotears, however, are a problem. When an untrained, unfit, or previously trained person (and by this I actually mean anyone who isn’t pretty much an elite athlete or in military shape) participates in the high intensity of CrossFit training, and pushes themselves the way the coaches direct, muscles will undoubtedly become strained and sore. This can lead to rhabdo.

So why does CrossFit know so much about it when it’s prevalence is about one in hundreds of thousands of people? Well, in exercise, eccentric contractions of muscles allow the body to lift more weight than concentric contractions. If these eccentric contractions are done with high intensity volume, or high repetitions, you get into the danger zone. Your body is not ready for it. Does this kind of training sound familiar?

Yes: CrossFit. High intensity. High repetitions. High weights. Lack of education. Bad training. Being pushed beyond your body’s safe limits. Not working up to the exercises gradually. Rhabdo.

In an article written by the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, he literally discusses the risks this type of training has in promoting cases of rhabdo. He addressed the issue of rhabdo once, back in 2005. Apparently it’s such a problem, CrossFit has had to address it time and time again in their newsletters, issuing real warnings about the possibility and risk of suffering from rhabdo by participating in CrossFit. CrossFit recognizes that exertional rhabdo, or rhabdo from exercise of a high intensity, can be lethal. So the intensity and structure of CrossFit workouts can literally kill you. In the article, it states that one of the worst rhabdo cases CrossFit has seen involved a middle-aged, fit SWAT guy, who luckily recovered from CrossFit induced rhabdo, and can now “easily blast through workouts that once nearly killed him” (Glassman 2). If the workout nearly killed you, perhaps it wasn’t the safest workout to be doing.

The rhabdo associated with CrossFit so far is showing itself differently than what people typically see with rhabdo, which is associated with “exhaustion, dehydration, high humidity, high temperatures, and long practices” (Glassman 2). The author here states this is NOT the type of rhabdo CrossFit is dealing with. The people who have developed rhabdo at CrossFit sessions aren’t showing typical warning signs, like panting or discomfort. These people apparently left sessions just fine, like every other participant. Then went home and had near death experiences that led them to contact a doctor, or venture to the hospital. This is alarming! CrossFit attributes this phenomenon as a result of people not being capable of performing the CrossFit workloads as a result of inadequate prior training levels. They state that training programs including but not limited to those offered in “commercial gyms, fitness magazines, popular internet sites, the U.S military (including special operations training), and police agencies … all proved woefully inadequate at preparing [people] for sustained power output” (Glassman 3).

So…this guy is telling us that a U.S military trainee, someone who has undergone special ops training, who needs to not only endure, but pass practicals consisting of months of the most rigorous training both physically and mentally, is not even close to being physically fit enough for CrossFit? Does this not alarm you?! Perhaps the issue is not the prior training people have or have not had, but the “sustained power output” being referenced here; the same power lifting and Olympic lifting movements discussed previously; explosive movements and power outputs that aren’t meant to be sustained.

Finally, any of the benefits I’ve read associated with CrossFit can be said of just about any exercise program a previously sedentary person might begin. People who are overweight, inactive, and generally unfit try CrossFit and it “works” because they’re actually moving. This would still be true if they joined a gym or started doing cardio on their own. Simply adding movement that burns calories would give these people the same initial results of weight loss and strength gains. In the article “Why CrossFit works…but really doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and why beginners just need change”, sums it up nicely. CrossFit is “Random highly intense exercise. For the unfit or formerly fit, this works great initially…It isn’t that the exercises are super awesome targeted muscle sculpting patented exercises. Instead, it’s that the people who generally do them weren’t doing them before” (Magness).

CrossFit should not be the training program inactive and unfit people turn to when they want to lose weight or get in shape because, aside from everything else you’ve read thus far, once those initial results plateau, which they will, there’s nowhere to go. In a random workout program like CrossFit, you can’t just push harder – you’re pushing as hard as you can already! And here we can circle back to the beginning of my post where I discussed randomness and variation. Variation allows you to progress in a specific direction depending on your goal. Randomness doesn’t. Therefore, there’s really no progress to be gained in CrossFit, unless you want to progress to injury, or worse.

To sum up this lengthy post: CrossFit is led by untrained individuals, promotes improper training techniques, increases the risk of injury, focuses on random workouts, and can kill you. Is the workout even worth this kind of risk? If you’re going to be fit, healthy, and train, do it right and do it with educated professionals who know what they’re talking about, can coach you on a personal level so you continue to develop, and can keep you safe. Oh, and alive.

Please refer to the list of references used in this post for further reading on various topics that were discussed in here.

References:

  • Glassman, Greg. “CrossFit Induced Rhabdo”. The CrossFit Journal Articles. Issue 38 (2005): 1-3. CrossFit. CrossFit Inc. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Magness, Steve. “Why CrossFit Works…But Really Doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and Why Beginners Just Need Change”. The Science of Running. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Robertson, Eric. “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Sept 2013. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

And for a more personal, but still fact-based account of CrossFit, check out this great article below:

  • Simmons, Erin. “Why I Don’t Do CrossFit”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 May 2014. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

Thanks for reading this far.

Agree? Disagree? Learn something new? Have a personal experience with CrossFit? Leave a comment.