This has been a question I’ve been asked a lot since since shoulder surgery and since recently moving out of the “box” and into arguably the best powerlifting/strongman gym in the area. Yesterday was no different when one of my gym friends asked me if I was still in to CrossFit. She and I met through a mutual friend and in a CrossFit class I was coaching, so this was definitely a very valid question to be asking. We’ve also been training at the same gym (not known to be a CrossFit gym although it is an affiliate) for about a year together and have also competed in a Stongman comp together. Again, valid question since I seem to be all over the map this past year with how I’ve been training. So, what’s the answer?
Occasionally – if you’re talking about the clock ridden metcons that CrossFit is known for (otherwise, what is CrossFit?).
Shoulder surgery was definitely the catalyst that motivated me to be a better athlete all together. And CrossFit has been the gateway drug I needed to introduce me to Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, and Strongman amongst other modalities. This past year plus I’ve tried my hand at 12 weeks of a hybrid CrossFit/Strongman style programming done by a friend/fellow coach, 12 weeks of Strongman specific programming that felt a little bit more like powerlifting, an attempt to program for myself along with a local box (my wife and I tested all of the WODS that I wrote for the box for over two months), and now I’m finishing the third week of Travis Mash’s “Getting Jacked” programming. I have training/working out ADD I believe. However, I’ve learned quite a few things through this journey.
- Leave your fucking ego at the door. No, seriously. DO IT. If you’re not listening to your body and in turn doing something that you KNOW you really shouldn’t be, then WTF? Now, if you’re getting paid to do this – and I mean that you are sponsored by Reebok, Rogue, Innov8, Again Faster, Progenex etc etc etc and you DO NOT have a day job because you’re getting paid to do this – then by all means, bring that ego to the bar because you gotta make those dolla billz. Yet, I digress…we’re all adults here, and if 25 reps of something sounds asinine or an extra 10lbs on the bar makes your form go to shit or 30 more seconds of anything is going to make you puke like you were in college again (which you may still be anyway) then grow up, let the drama go, and say “oh, right, I can say no and still know that I just had a great workout despite xyz”. Now, if you’re a sandbagger and you need your ass kicked responsibly, then shut up and do one more rep…otherwise, grab some water and be ok with the fact that you know your body better than anyone else and it’s ok to do your own workout as long as you’re safe and not harming anyone else.
- Find something that you really enjoy and what you’re good at (they will likely be similar). I have found that I really like Olympic Lifting, I also happen to really like Strongman implements, and I really like gymnastic movements (like pistols, anything on the rings or pull-up bar, jumping, etc). So, what does that all mean really? I find ways to put those things in to my programming because that keeps me interested and in the gym.
- Figure out what you don’t like, or what you probably shouldn’t do. I hate pushups, they are a big challenge to me, I curse them, to me they are stupid (really they aren’t, it’s a good bodyweight movement). So, to that extent I don’t do a ton of them, although I do find ways to work that range of motion and strength because I realize that I can’t avoid it all together if I want to continue to train the way I do. Powerlifting is boring to me, it doesn’t hold my interest. I see the purpose of it, but for me it wouldn’t keep me going back to the gym day after day, so as a modality I skip it. I won’t really ever compete in powerlifting, so other than a general understanding of the modality and its usage I’m ok without it. I also know that the shape of my shoulders, structurally, isn’t designed to handle tons of overhead movements (presses, pull-ups, etc) – hence one of the reasons I had surgery, though definitely not the only reason. That being said, I don’t do a lot of arm intensive movements back to back in my daily training sessions. Unfortunately, it took shoulder surgery for me to realize this.
- CrossFit Group WODs are fun, I love CrossFit and what it’s open my eyes to. They’re fun to coach. They’re fun (and sometimes scary) to watch. It’s fun and motivating to workout with a group of people and to share in a similar experience. There’s definitely something to be said for the cardiovascular aspect of such WODs, too. Especially for me since training more in a strength bias lately, I realize the importance of keeping the heart pumping and the body moving. Big bonus, not only did CrossFit introduce me to a healthier lifestyle all together, but it also brought me to a box that I would meet, workout with, and ultimately marry the best WOD partner ever. That’s worth it’s weight in gold any day. And without CrossFit, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Olympic Lifting, Strongman, etc.
- I’ve never been stronger, and I am continuing to get stronger. Realizing now that if I stayed in a “box” I likely wouldn’t have increased my strength beyond a certain threshold due to the inherent design of most traditional CrossFit programming. I had to get out of the box and into a gym with a ton of strong ass mother fuckers to break that ceiling. I witness people squating over 600lbs, deadlifting over 700lbs, benching over 400lbs and flipping 800+lb tires on a regular basis. I enjoy the gains, and I enjoy the inspiration that these strong individuals provide. “Surround yourself with the best to be the best” is the moto of the gym, and it’s true – surround yourself with like minded people who will motivate you to be a better version of yourself and BAM that’s what will happen.
- High repetitions can be a recipe for disaster. Now, before you go and bitch at me about how you just did 100 back roll to supports and you feel amazing, I don’t care. For me (and likely most of the population) form goes to shit and injury soon follows with high repetitions, especially when the pressure of a time component is added. Now, if you’ve left your ego at the door, you might be alright because it won’t matter that it took 2 minutes longer to complete your 100 back roll to supports because you executed them all perfectly. And higher reps equal greater hypertrophic response (google it) which equal great muscular gains (I didn’t say strength because some may disagree with that, although for me it’s definitely worked), but those higher reps are executed at a manageable weight with adequate rest between sets.
- Eating food is fucking fantastic. I LOVE TO EAT. I’ve done my share of Paleo challenges and have learned how to eat healthier, feel better, stay healthier (I’m WAY less sick), cook more and make better decisions regarding the FUEL that I put in my face. Now, I am NOT Paleo, and if you are and it works for you I think that’s amazing because it really helps a lot of people. For me, cutting out dairy caused me to get too skinny and loose strength. Besides, ice cream is one of my favorite foods. I added grassfed dairy back in to my diet after my longest Paleo challenge and have had no issues. I still have a challenge when it comes to sugar, but otherwise I eat what I want, when I want, in the quantities that I feel keep me satiated and strong. It is still a fight to be ok with the 15# weight gain and the tighter clothes because of the unfortunate conditioning in my past to fit in to a specific mold, but that’s a longer post for another time.
- Training the posterior chain and doing accessory work is BRILLIANT. Prior to shoulder surgery I paid attention to the coaches without doing a ton of my own research. Then came recovery post surgery – I learned a TON and keep learning as much as possible. One of the biggest take-a-way’s was that I need to be pulling equal to, or double the amount, of any pushing movements. I’ve also taken accessory movements seriously and in turn have experienced an increase in overall strength finally pulling more than 235lb in a deadlift, for example (a spot that I was stuck at for YEARS). Anyone that takes my classes might get annoyed with the constant reminder of how important I feel pre-hab, accessory training, posterior chain activation, core engagement, etc are…but if I reach just one person so they can avoid injury or surgery then I’ve done my job and paid it forward.
- Mobility is necessary for increased strength and recovery. If yoga isn’t your thing, call it something else. But get your sweaty ass to the mat or park yourself on the carpet in front of the boob tube (that isn’t even a thing any more) and mobilize! I like yoga, I teach yoga, therefore I encourage it. But again, refer to #2, find a way to enjoy getting mobile because it really does help. I rediscovered yoga after an inconsistent at best relationship with it in the past, and discovered that I really enjoy the entire practice – both the mental aspect and the physical aspect. My strength has improved, my anxiety has decreased, my injuries are less frequent.
I’ll stop at 9. I really wanted a round 10, but 9 is my favorite number and I think my quota of smart ass comments may be depleted for the day. If you managed to read this whole thing, go check out Brute Yogi – this is my wife, Lisa’s, brain child. You might even find me in there too, just sayin.