In my last post I mentioned that I joined the team at Big Vanilla in Arnold. Another change I made mid-January was joining CrossFit South River. I visited 3-4 local places around Annapolis trying to find a gym that mimicked what I did in Chicago and aligned with what I wanted to accomplish with my own body. I hit up 24 hour fitness, CrossFit Annapolis, Evolutions, and Excellence In Fitness for whatever free trial they had. All fine places but nothing really grabbed me until I hit CrossFit South River. CFSR is owned by Erin Boensch and John Klessinger, who both love fitness and enjoy living an active and healthy lifestyle. They do CrossFit on their own, and loved it so much they decided to start up their own gym or “box” as it’s called in the CF vernacular. Right away I could tell they were genuine people and great teachers. They don’t push you into whatever lifts and weights that suit them, instead they do a great job of safely pushing you just outside of your comfort zone. I really appreciated the way they treated their clients and how they spent extra time with the new clients that hadn’t done anything like this before. They are great coaches and I immediately wanted to be part of their team.
The CrossFit methodology mirrors the way I’ve trained the last 6 years in Chicago, but with a little more focus on some of the Olympic style lifts. Like most trainers, I had shied away from some of these complicated lifts because quite frankly they’re harder to teach can often carry a slightly higher risk for injury. Let’s take the Deadlift as an example, most trainers would say it’s too dangerous and some might even say it’s not functional. CrossFit asks, “what if you drop your keys while trying to get in your front door?”… How would you pick them up? The answer is, Deadlift. Or another common example, what are you doing when you get off the couch? Answer: A squat. These are tremendous lifts that establish the foundation of almost every functional movement we see in life.
I was hooked. I loved the people and atmosphere and I agreed with the main CrossFit principles. It seems only natural to take it to the next level, so at the beginning of February I completed the CrossFit Level I Trainer Certification which will allow me to coach with John and Erin at CrossFit South River.
The 3 Main Principles of CrossFit and now d3 Fitness are: Constantly Varied — Functional Movements — performed at High Intensity. With the help of some great coaches at Trident CrossFit in Alexandria we learned how to break down complex movements into progressions that anyone can follow. Again, these lifts are the most functional lifts out there, lifts like the squat, deadlift, pull-ups, and cleans…and everyone should be doing them in some form or fashion. It’s important to remember the progressions and that all the movements can and should be scaled or modified accordingly. As they say: Crawl, Walk, Run. Learn the movements without weight, slowly, get comfortable in the move and technique, and then gradually add weight, speed, power until your form deteriorates. Then you scale back with less weight, slow it down and get your form correct, and then gradually build up the weight and speed again. This goes back and forth as you keep getting stronger and stronger in the movement. Of course, technique being of the utmost importance! If you find a weakness, work on that weakness. CrossFit is all about being the most well rounded athlete you can be. Working on all skills and not specializing in any ONE thing at the detriment to the others.
That 3rd principle in the CrossFit definition of fitness is intensity. Intensity cannot be overstated. Intensity = results. The example I like to use with clients is the fat marathoner. A marathoner is a specialist of sorts. They work on just one skill (running), but at the detriment to their overall fitness. An average person training for this race does hours of running, logging mile after mile and yet, 12-16 weeks later is still often overweight, carrying high body fat and is slow. Why? There could be a variety of things that play into this but the main cause is usually intensity. Let’s say they run 12 min/miles that first month slow and steady. They’ll probably lose some weight because they’re not used to the time demand this type of training requires and they’re burning a huge amount of calories. In that second month, however, they’re not burning quite as many calories because the 12 min/mile pace isn’t as hard or taxing on the body. What’s also happening is the longer aerobic training sessions are causing them to lose some strength, speed, power and muscle mass. During this training most runners stop doing any other workouts. Whether it’s due to time or they think it’s not going to help them, the first thing to get cut is strength training. Muscle is our most metabolically active tissue, meaning the more muscle you have the more calories you’re going to burn. This loss of muscle contributes to the reduced calorie burn and results in the loss of speed, power, and strength. Some runners compound this further by having poor nutritional habits. I know a lot of marathoners that start overeating because “hey, I just ran 15 miles so I can eat what I want”. This kind of thinking can stop your weight loss journey dead in its tracks. So…..let’s sum up what’s going on: You’re training for your first marathon — you’re losing muscle, speed, power, and strength — you’re spending a ton of time logging mile after mile which opens you up for injury — and your nutrition habits are suspect. After your race (which is a tremendous accomplishment you should be very proud of), your weight is about the same, your body fat is about the same, and you may have some type of injury you’ve been battling during your training. Is this you?
The better way to train is to use high speed/high intensity intervals. Vary the time and distances, but the intensity of each session should be relatively high. You can still do your long runs but you don’t have to do them quite as far and certainly don’t need to log the “maintenance” runs 2-3 times/week like most training programs call for. A good example program would be: CrossFit 3-4 times week, one short interval day, one longer interval day, and one stamina/intermediate time trial day. This last stamina/intermediate TT run is where you can stretch it out and this should be done on a rest day. The other days you can double up CrossFit and interval runs. It’s important to remember that intensity is relative to the individual…so this doesn’t mean you’re trying to run 1k repeats at 4 mins out of the gate. You need to do time trials and see where you’re at, record the times and base your training accordingly.
A great book on this is Power, Speed, Endurance by Brian MacKenzie.
I can tell you from personal experience that this type of training works. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I did a 1/2 Marathon on December 1st. Since then I’ve been doing all speed work; 800s, 1Ks, 5Ks,1min on/1min rest, hills on the treadmill with 12% incline at 7, 8, or 9mph etc…the point being that 5 miles is the longest distance I’ve run until this past Tuesday. I’m one week out from my race and I decided to do an 8 mile time trial. I ran 8 miles in roughly the same time as a previous 7 mile run back in October. Stay tuned for my results after next week’s race!
Believe me, this style of interval training, along with a CrossFit regimen is the new way to train for endurance events..or any event for that matter….and speaking of Events, the CrossFit Games 13.1 is now underway. I’ll be coaching and competing with CrossFit South River in my first games. I’ll be coaching the WOD classes there twice a week in the mornings, as well as offering personal training services there and at Big Vanilla. I hope to add a CrossFit Endurance class starting later towards the summer. CrossFit South River is located off Route 2 (Soloman’s Island) at 109 Mayo Road.
Hope to see you there!!