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The Fall Open

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Opener of 110kg

On Saturday, Nathan and I competed in the 1st annual Fall Open at Empire Strength in Spokane. Weightlifting competitions are rare up here, so we felt like it was important to go down and participate. Weightlifting competitions contest the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. Each competitor gets 3 chances to lift the heaviest weight that they can for each lift. You have to call your opening lift, and you cannot take weight off of the bar. That sounds simple, but there is a ton of strategy that goes into a good plan for the event. You don’t want to start too heavy, because there is a chance that you’ll miss 3 lifts at that weight and be knocked out of the competition. You don’t want to start too light, because then you essentially waste a lift and are going to have a very hard time jumping to your next weight. Lifters go right after each other according to how much weight is on the bar, often leaving a very brief window to go back to the warmup room and get ready for your next attempt. And all of this is to be done wearing a singlet, in front of 3 judges and a crowd of people. There is generally a winner declared in each weight class for the Snatch, for the Clean & Jerk, and for the overall Total.

Neither of us had ever done an official competition before, so we were both a little unsure of how it would all go down. Admittedly, we were both a little nervous, but neither of us had any expectations other than making it a learning experience. We wanted to go make some lifts, learn some things, make some friends and have some fun.

All of those things were accomplished. Nathan make 5 of his 6 lifts and I made 4 out of 6. We both made the mistake of starting too light, which sabotaged our later lifts, but we wanted to make sure and make our first-ever lifts in competition. I was surprised at how nervous I was. I’m generally an athlete that rises to the occasion and thrives off of pressure, but not this time. I was jittery all the way through the Snatch part of the competition. I felt shaky on my opener of 90kg, which is only about 80% of my 1RM. I then jumped to 95kg, and made a good lift. I finished at 100kg, which I missed. I’m a little disappointed in that last attempt because its only about 90% of my 1RM, and I just made a poor lift. I can hit that all day long in a training setting. I learned something though; starting too light means that you may end up getting up to your heavy attempts too fast. I actually think I’ll open around 100kg next competition, because it’ll allow me to get sufficiently warmed up and comfortable under the heavier weights. Nathan easily hit all three of his snatches, and will probably start quite a bit heavier next time.

By the time the Clean & Jerk started, we were pretty well settled in. My nerves settled down a bit, and we were both a little more relaxed. We both went 2/3. I went 110kg, 115kg, and 120kg(x). I got called for a “press-out” on the Jerk at 120kg, so it wasn’t a legal lift. The “press out” rule is something foreign to the CrossFit world. Whereas in CrossFit, it’s generally considered a “Ground to Overhead” however the hell you can do it, in weightlifting, for the Jerk (and the Snatch actually) you must land under the bar with your elbows locked out for it to count. If you land with your elbows soft and have to extend, or press them out, it is not a legal lift. If you’re curious, I have a video that shows mine. As you’ll see, it doesn’t take much for a lift to be disqualified. Keep that in mind next time we test 1RMs.

Again, I’m disappointed, because 120kg is significantly less than my 1RM C&J of 130kg. As in the Snatch part of the competition, I learned something that I can move forward and improve on.

I haven’t seen any results posted, so I’m not sure how we placed.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’m excited for the next one. Truthfully, I’m just thrilled to have gone down there and done it. Trying to throw hundreds of pounds over your head in front of a crowd of people, in a new gym, and while basically wearing your underwear is kind of an odd experience. However, it’s not as bad as it seems. It helped me as a lifter, as a coach and as a person. I now feel like I’ve got a grasp on the flow of the format, and will be much better equipped to prepare myself and other athletes for next time.

 

Resting

Taking Time Off

RestingTaking Time Off from the Gym

It happens to the best of us. Every once in a while, you just can’t seem to fathom going to the gym and giving 100%. Sometimes it’s once a month, sometimes it’s once a week.

Sometimes you need to just push through it and get your butt here. It’s not unusual to have a stellar workout when you feet the least like working out. The energy of the gym has a way of firing people up as soon as they walk in the door.

Other times, you need to listen to your body and take some time off or take it easy. You will not die if you miss a day, a week, or even a month. Nor will you get fat, slow or lazy in that period of time. Here are some options and recommendations for how to approach taking time off in the best way.

Taking time away from the gym:

  • Take a day off once in a while: This is a nice way to assert your freedom from the gym. Enjoy one of your other hobbies instead. Go for a walk or a hike instead. If you want to sleep in once in a while, do it. It’ll help from getting burned out and having to take more and more time off.
  • Take a week or two off: Every so often, your body and mind need to heal and recuperate. CrossFit isn’t easy, and it can slowly start to wear on you, until one day you just can’t bear to do another burpee, thus ending your CrossFit life. That’s not good, assuming you actually like your results, progress, friends at the gym, and even sometimes the agony of a WOD. Taking a week off from time to time can help you feel fresh and rejuvenated. I take an entire week off once every 2-3 months or so. I don’t workout at all during that week, and I feel great by the time I come back.
  • Take a month or more off: This can get a little risky, as a month is long enough to have to experience that just-starting-CrossFit soreness, and it can be a little frustrating to come back after that long. Sometimes it is needed. However, if you really need to take a month off, you should probably come talk to me about how to achieve a better balance in your workouts, as you’re probably doing to much and/or too often.

If you are the type of person who needs the hour at the gym every day to keep you from murdering your family or co-workers, the following options are good ones to utilize while still attending class:

  • Don’t keep score: Constantly tracking your times, weights and reps can add to the toll of always doing intense workouts. This is especially important for those of you who compete in the sport of CrossFit. It’s really nice to just come workout once in a while and not care if you do well.
  • Only do “x”: If you feel like you are having one of those weeks, you’re welcome to come in and skip the strength, or only do the strength. Just let the coach know what is going on, and don’t be disruptive to the normal class. You’ll still get some work in, but you don’t have to go 100% for the whole hour.
  • Go at 50%: You always have the option of going half speed, either in effort or weight, or both. Again, just let the coach know that you’re taking a bit of a rest day, and that you’re going to use half your normal weight, or just go through the motions of the workout.
  • Follow the percentages and recommendations of your coach: We have “deload” weeks programmed every 3 to 4 weeks. During these weeks the volume is lower and the weights are lighter. Sticking to these prescriptions will help you avoid physical and mental burnout. If you choose to ignore them, you significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll eventually need some serious time away from the gym.If and when you decide to explore these options, you should have a plan. If you decide you need to take a day off once in a while, that’s fine, just take it off and get in the next day. Just don’t let one day turn into two, and then three, and then a week, and then a season, and then never. If you’re a Monday, Wednesday, Friday person, just take your Wednesday off and don’t miss Friday. Don’t feel guilty, and just enjoy it. If you’re going to take more than a day off, know beforehand when you are going to come back and stick to it 100%. If you need some guidance, or feel guilty about utilizing one of these approaches, please come talk to me. I’m happy to help you decide what you would benefit the most from. I promise I won’t tell you that you’re being lazy.
Next Foundations starts November 3rd!

Our Next Foundations Session Starts November 3rd.

Foundations

Foundations

Our next Foundations session starts November 3rd.  The course will run for four weeks on Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30pm.

Foundations is designed to introduce beginning CrossFit athletes to the movements and lifts that we utilize in our normal classes.   If you’re looking to get started with CrossFit, this is a tremendous way to start.  You will be able to gradually learn the basics, and you will slowly be introduced to the intensity that we utilize on a daily basis.  This will allow for a safe and thorough start to your CrossFit life.  In addition, we feel that starting with a group of beginners is less intimidating than jumping in with people who may have been doing CrossFit for years.

Please feel free to email info@crossfitsandpoint.com with any questions or concerns.  If you’d like to sign up, you can register and pay here.  The cost is $100.

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Why Stretching your Lower Back is a Bad Idea

Why Stretching Your Lower Back is a Bad Idea

Many people assume that stretching and adding flexibility to their lower back is beneficial, and that it will resolve their pain or tightness. I frequently see people bent over with a rounded back, straining to touch their toes in an attempt to alleviate a perceived back issue. When asked “why?”, most people tell me, a. their back is tight and needs to get loosened up, b. their back hurts and it feels good, or c. they really don’t know.

photos.demandstudios.com-getty-article-110-165-86484070_XSHere’s a short explanation of why that and related stretches are a bad idea.

Your lumbar spine is a series of stable vertebrae designed to bear load and transmit force. These vertebrae are slightly mobile to allow for a margin of safety and avoid destruction, but are at their strongest when they are held together in alignment. Think for a second about an extremely tall building that is designed with a bit of “give” to allow for wind, earthquakes and other natural occurrences. If it were made of cement and it cracked in the middle, the results would be catastrophic. Instead, they can sway slightly from side to side. The spine is similar, in that can be subjected to a fair amount of force before is completely destroyed. However, just as with a building, it is strongest and most resilient when it is locked into position.

Continuing the metaphor, if your spine is intended to be a structural pillar of support with a small amount of give, then the intricate array of muscles around your core act like a series of guy-wires, assisting the spine to stay strong and tall. When one side of the pillar is impacted or deformed, the guy wires act to get it back into place.

When you stretch those guy wires, you are reducing the tension that they are able to create and the amount of support they are able to provide. When they are stretched too much, or too violently, it results in instability, pulled muscles, herniated disks, fractures, etc.

So when you stretch out your low back, you are doing much more harm than good. Then why does it feel good? Generally speaking, it feels good because you activating stretch receptors that send a signal to your brain that can be perceived as good or even helpful. However, in reality, you may be ensuring that you will remain in pain until the stretching is stopped.

So what should you do instead? First of all, I’m not a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist, so you might want to go see one of them first to find out the root of the problem. But, in general, you are going to want to look up or downstream of the issue you are experiencing. Often, other areas are to blame for the symptoms of low back pain. Tight hips, poor posture, glutes that are “turned off”, etc can all be to blame for the pain that has manifested itself in your back.

What should you take away from all of this? Don’t treat your spine like a mobile joint. It should be a rigid conductor of force. Try and think about keeping a rock solid spine and core throughout the day whenever you sit, stretch, lift or move. Stretching your low back isn’t nearly the solution that many people think that it is and can often do more harm than good. Doing something because it feels good in the moment can be a dangerous habit.

Maxing Out

I’d like to take some time to address “maxing-out”, which it probably seems like we seem to do a lot of. At least two to three times a week, we are setting a RM of a lift and then doing drop sets at lower percentages. Currently, it’s 1RM Front Squats, 1RM Back Squats, 2RM Snatch and 2RM Clean and Jerk.

Setting a “RM” for the day is an incredibly convenient way to accomplish a lot of goals without having to deal with percentages.

  1. It allows your body to auto-regulate to it’s current capabilities. If you are particularly tired or beat up, you haven’t been eating or sleeping well, or you’ve been spending most of your time out on the lake with a drink in hand, your body isn’t in a place to perform at its optimal state. If I write a program prescribing certain weights and percentages based on a 1RM that you set several months ago, the prescription is going to be too much on that particular day. Setting a Rep Max and then doing back off sets allows you to work optimally for the day. Side note: The drop sets and specified reps are incredibly important. When the whiteboard says: “Find a 2RM Hang Snatch, then complete 1×2 at 95% and 1×2 at 90%” it doesn’t mean find a 1RM and go home. I promise that we’ll find your 1RM at the end of the training cycle.

  2. The flip side to the above is that it allows you to go for it when you’re feeling it. These are the days you can set a new PR and prove all the hard work that you’ve been doing.

  3. The RM gives you something to shoot for every week. If you are feeling good and know that last week you snatched 155 for 2 reps, you can set a goal for the day of 160 or 165.

  4. The Snatch and Clean & Jerk are the lifts that we do our most “Maxing” on. They are very technically demanding. If your technique falters for a day/week/month and I ask you to do a set of 2 at 90% of your 1RM, you might end up bashing your head against the wall for 20 minutes trying to eek out one rep. A Rep max allows you to set a benchmark for the day with perfect technique, ignoring previous results.

  5. It allows me to have a daily report of how we are doing as a coach and how the well the program is working. If everyone takes a dive on the 3rd week of the rep scheme, we’ll probably back of the next week. If everyone is continuing to climb, we’ll probably push for one more week.

This should help you read the whiteboard, analyze your progress and make a better plan of attack for the day. It should also reassure you that you don’t need to quit CrossFit because you regress for a week or two. It just means that you need to take a look at your training and life outside of the gym. If you still can’t figure it out, ask me or another coach.