Workout of the Day

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Let’s talk a moment about your “core.” I kind of hate the word. It’s been appropriated, misappropriated, and re-mis-appropriated in ways that have made the word lose its significance and value. To put it simply, though, your core is the lynchpin of any compound movement pattern. Squat, press, hingle, pull, carry -- your core is the piece that either allows or disallows transfer of energy from one limb to another, from one limb to an object, or from your body (as a system) into an object. As such, it makes sense why “core training” has such a buzz about it and why having a strong core is important if you intend to move heavy weight (or even your own body weight) with any sort of proficiency. But here’s the thing: you can have a the “strongest” core in the world, but without the capacity to brace under load, your core is useless. Bracing involves locking your torso into a proper position using countering forces of internal pressure and muscle contraction. Practically, bracing generally looks like locking your spine into a neutral position, pulling your ribs and hips into alignment, and engaging the muscles of the torso and hips to own this position under the demands of heavy loads.

To clear things up, let me use an analogy. Imagine trying to push a friend into the pool using a pool noodle. I don’t care how much jousting pressure you apply, that pool noodle is going to bend and wobble all over the place, and the amount of force that actually makes it to your friend isn’t going to do much in the way of pushing. Now imagine trying to push your friend into the pool using a 4x4 plank of wood. Just about every Newton of force you apply to the plank is going to make it’s way to your friend, and in the pool they go (sorry, friend). The pool noodle is an unbraced, weak core. You can have the leg strength of 1,000 powerlifters, but without a strong and properly braced core, you’re engaged in the futile task of trying to move big weights with a pool noodle, and that’s just not going to happen. This applies to everything we do. Pressing weight overhead, lifting a weight from the floor, squatting a weight, carrying or loading weight.

It’s of course a bit gimmicky to promise an easy fix to make sweeping improvements in all of your lifts. After all, there really is no “easy way.” But, this is a simple change you can make that will have a profound effect on your position and strength. I’m not going to say that bracing is some magic bullet, but I have seen athletes easily add 5-10% to their lifts just by bracing a little bit better.

We regularly address the concept of bracing in our GPP curriculum, but it deserves continual attention and re-emphasis. We’re not going on and on about bracing your core because it’s the sexy topic of the year. We’re interested in performance, and bracing will get you just that. We’re not making this stuff up, folks. Brace hard.

- PS


11/21/17

  • Snatch pull + snatch - 4x(2+1)

Then...

  • Every 3 mins for 12 mins, for time:

    • 5 snatches (65% of heaviest)

    • 200m sprint


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During WWII, with high demands for production of wartime equipment, and little extra resources to allocate towards making sweeping company-wide innovations, the Japanese concept of “kaizen” made its mark on the business and manufacturing world. Kaizen, which literally means “change for better,” was adapted as a business strategy for making small, easily applicable changes to business practices that add up to large and significant change. This concept of small and simple changes worked, and became pivotal in the business philosophy of many large-scale manufacturers (such as Japanese automakers) and spread to business practices worldwide. And, more recently, the concept has also caught some traction as it applies to personal development and growth.

You’ve likely heard of the notion of “1% better everyday.” While I think the numbers game of this specific idea can get a bit distracting, the concept offers us a meaningful and effective way to look at making progress in any personal or business endeavor. This concept of kaizen simply directs us to focus our attention not on the massive sweeping changes that we eventually hope to reach, but on the little thing that we can do today. There will always be more to change than you can feasibly handle at any one time, and so keeping your attention bound up in the depth and breadth of what can change is a futile exercise. Instead, kaizen reminds us: you know what little changes you can make right now; make those changes, and let them add up. This approach has value both for the record-chasing top performer and the layperson.

We’re here to get a little bit stronger, move a little bit better, work a little bit faster, to do a little bit more than we did yesterday. You know what to do. Keep moving the needle, folks.

- PS


11/20/17

  • 20 min AMRAP

    • 2 rope climb ascents

    • 10 ring dips

    • 30 squats


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Thanksgiving is almost here, and we're as excited as you are to spend quality time in the company of friends and family and to indulge in some of the culinary goodies of this time of year. No Boundaries will have special holiday hours as follows:

Monday - Wednesday: normal class schedule

Thursday: closed

Friday: closed

Saturday: normal class schedule

If you're looking to squeeze in a little bit of fitness during our holiday hours, take the opportunity to exercise your creative muscles and find some fitness out there in the world, and maybe even share in a workout with friends or family who are in town for the holiday. Play frisbee at the park, find a big stone and carry it, practice handstands in your backyard and jump on a trampoline, or go for a hike or a beach run. Then take some video or a picture of you and your free-range fitness and tag us on social media for some mad street cred!

Be sure to get your classes in early next week!

- PS


11/17/17

  • Box squat - 8x3

Then...

  • 3 rounds for quality:

    • 16 DB front rack walking lunge (AHAP)

    • 16 DB death march (AHAP)


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Imagine, for a moment, that you’re blowing up a balloon with the intention of getting it to full capacity. Now imagine attempting to blow up the same balloon, except now someone is squeezing the balloon between their hands. The first scenario would be, without a doubt, easier to manage. Balloon with no added resistance is easier to fill than balloon with added resistance -- physics, right?

Now think for a moment about your posture. More specifically, think about your posture while you’re recovering after a hard workout, or between sets in the middle of a workout. Your capacity to take air into your lungs isn’t all that different from blowing up a balloon, and the effect of your position and posture on your capacity to breathe isn’t all that different from your ability to blow up a balloon with our without someone adding to the difficulty by squeezing said balloon. You probably see where I’m going with this.

Slumped and slouched over after a workout and between efforts not only looks like a posture of submission and defeat, it’s a suboptimal position if you’re interested in breathing well and recovering optimally. Squishing your poor diaphragm between your ribs and your organs isn’t a recipe for effective breathing, and ineffective breathing isn’t a recipe for peak performance. I know you feel tired and I know it takes effort not to slump, and that’s okay. But let’s stand tall, folks. It’s in your best interest.

- PS


11/16/17

  • Hand over hand rope sled pull - 3x100’

Then...

  • 10 min AMRAP

    • 30 double-unders

    • 20 push-ups

    • 10 lateral box jumps (24”/20”)


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How many phone numbers can you still recall off the top of your head? A dozen? Five? One? If you spent a good portion of your life in the pre-cell-phone era, you likely recall a time when it was necessary to know at least a handful of numbers, and you probably had quite a few recorded in a pocket book. Young buck that I am, I grew up right in the transition period between needing to recall numbers and letting my phone do all of the work for me. For people growing up today, it’s all but unnecessary to waste brain space on remembering a family member or friend’s phone number.

Except there may come a time when you do need to recall a number. Perhaps your phone battery is dead or you’ve lost your phone, and you’re stranded and need to get ahold of someone? We rest heavily on technology, and while I’m certainly not a Luddite and I see the value in our technology, I also recognize a problem with handing over the reigns to tech, particularly in the fitness world.

The primary purpose of a fitness practice is to train the body to be more able (i.e., performance). But when we surround ourselves with technology that ostensibly guides, enhances, or optimizes our fitness practice, we turn into more of a decorative tree on which tech ornaments are hung to do their thing. We become less the mover and more the moved.

Without a doubt, wearables such as the FitBit or Apple Watch can serve as a helpful reminder to remain active, as a way to monitor activity levels and some basic vitals, and as a way for recording data. I am positive that there are individuals whose activity levels have been changed for the better with the help of wearable technology. But there is also research that has found a huge majority of these wearers feel guilt and pressure to reach daily goals and alter their lives to get in their steps, and many feel resentful of the inaccuracy of theses devices and many even feel ruled by and antagonistic to their health-oriented device. That doesn’t sound healthy.

This tech extends beyond just wearables. Everything from mirrors in a gym to heart rate monitors to high-tech video recording and movement analysis falls into this category of fitness-oriented technology. And while a mirror on the wall can help you get feedback on the position of your hips in a squat, it cannot answer the important question of how it feels to have your hips in the right position in the squat. With our primary goal being to train our bodies to move better, it’s a slippery slope to set ourselves up to rely on something extrinsic to always be defining better for us. If you spend your training career squatting in front of a mirror and relying on that feedback, you’re going to be unprepared when life calls for a squat and there are no mirrors around. Your senses are deadened to self-sufficient knowing and understanding of movement, and that’s absolutely missing the point of why we engage in this fitness practice in the first place.

Note that I’m not saying there isn’t a place for technology in fitness. I think it is entirely possible to coexist with and take advantage of the tech available to us to better our game. You can still have and use a smartphone and remember a handful of phone numbers. The key is to be the master and user of the technology, not the other way around. Stay in the driver’s seat, folks.

- PS


11/15/17

  • Weighted strict chin-up - 3,3,3,3

Then...

  • 12 min EMOM

    • Min 1: 20s max cal row

    • Min 2: 20s max KB thrusters (106/70)


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Let’s not forget, it is all connected.

Your movement reflects your life and your life reflects your movement. Thrusters, for example, are not themselves that important; but this is a matter of being, and the object of that being is just a varied expression of the same thing: you. Your attitude, your approach, your execution and follow-through. It could be thrusters, it could be taxes, it could be your relationship with your family. There are no exceptions -- all are branches of the same tree.

Are you careless? Purposeful? Invested? Rushed? Do you even show up?

Let's not forget: we cannot separate who we are from our actions. Choose your actions well!

- PS


11/14/17

  • Strict press - 5,5,5

Then...

  • 16 min AMRAP

    • 20 KB swings (70/53)

    • 15 strict press (75/55)

    • 10 C2B pull-ups


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I wrote last week (LINK) about the very real (though perhaps counter-intuitive) problem of overbreathing. In short, when we breathe too much (i.e., more than is needed for our level of activity or rest), we disrupt our physiology and homeostasis, and this can have both chronic and acute negative side effects. One way that I noted we can take control of our breathing -- and therefore our physiology -- is by prioritizing nose breathing.

Breathing through your nose provides a host of benefits, both in training and at rest.

1 - Volume control.

Piggy-backing on last week’s topic, breathing through your nose helps to control the volume of air that moves in and out of the lungs, and aids in slowing down your respiration rate. Apply this to exercise, and you will find that when you breathe through your nose only you are forced to take long, slow breaths rather than hurried partial breaths. On top of controlling volume of air inspiration and expiration, breathing through your nose encourages diaphragmatic breathing and helps to detrain the all-too-common chest and shoulder breathing pattern.

2 - Prepare your air.

Physiologically, the nose is designed to breathe. The hairs and mucus in the nose warm and moisten the air as well as filter out particles, and the presence of nitric oxide in the paranasal sinuses acts to sterilize the air you breathe in through your nose. Consider your nose as your built-in air purifier.

3 - Better oxygenation. That gas that I mentioned above, nitric oxide, is quite the multi-trick pony. Produced in the paranasal sinuses, you draw in a significant concentration of nitric oxide when you breathe in through your nose. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, and acts to improve the ventilation-perfusion ratio (better gas transfer between lungs and blood), as well as significantly increase oxygen saturation in the blood. Think of this as a fuel additive that better pumps the fuel (oxygen) to your engine (muscles), and makes the fuel higher octane as well.

4 - Tune your nervous system.

Slow, deep breathing through your nose has also been shown to upregulate parasympathetic function, which is the “rest and digest” mode of your autonomic nervous system. Practically, this means better mental state, lower stress, better recovery, better sleep, etc. Feeling stressed or anxious? Shutting your mouth and letting your nose do its job might do the trick.

This only scratches the surface, but it's safe to say that there are some good reasons to let your nose do the lion’s share of your breathing. This means at work, in the car, while you sleep, and even while you train. A note on nasal breathing in training: because of the limits on ventilation capacity with nasal breathing, it can be challenging to maintain nasal-only breathing as intensity increases. This can, however, be trained and adapted like anything else. Start with your warm-up, trying to maintain nasal breathing as much as possible, and gradually work it into your training, starting with rest periods and longer duration low-moderate intensity efforts. Your breath is your gateway to your state and your physiology. Breathe better!

P.S. Coach Preston will be starting research soon on nasal breathing and performance in high intensity exercise, and will need participants for a study. If you’re interested in being a participant, or are just curious about the research, let him know!

- PS


11/13/17

  • Yoke carry - 50’ max

Then...

  • 4 rounds for time:

    • 600m run

    • Rest 1 min


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I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw an advertisement pop up in my social media feed for a new Planet Fitness that’s opening up in my area. The advertisement was (unintentionally) probably the most accurate and revealing piece of marketing I’ve ever seen. It read as follows: “Join online now through Nov. 6 for ONLY $0.25 down and $10 a month. Get unlimited fitness training in a clean, comfortable Judgement Free Zone. No commitment!”

Let’s break this gem down to its key points.

First, there’s price. Only $0.25 down and $10 a month? Cheaper than a date night at the local taco Tuesday joint, it’s such a minimal expense that you could afford to pay for a membership for the rest of your life and never use it, and not feel the least bit guilty. We like to call this a “no skin in the game exchange.” A weird thing happens wherein free/cheap things are far less likely to be used and valued than things which come at a cost. This is skin in the game. (Side note: on top of this, we have the availability to join online. No required human interaction, no interpersonal interaction, just anonymous exchange of money for access. Not only is monetary skin in the game held to an absolute minimum, but interpersonal skin in the game and accountability is entirely non-existent.)

Next are the highlights of the gym: unlimited access, clean, comfortable, and no judgment. The notion of “unlimited” appeals to an insatiable desire for accumulation of more. Be it belongings, social media likes, or access to gyms, many people are heavily in the business of the fruitless game of unending accumulation (and generally, subsequent disuse). I can get behind cleanliness, but prioritization of comfort and lack of judgment point to exactly why, despite there being approximately 37,000 gyms in the United States, the majority of our population is inactive, sick, and unfit. Effective training will make you uncomfortable. That is both a side effect of how physical adaptation occurs, and an opportunity in itself to grow. And while we agree with Planet Fitness that interpersonal or ego-driven value judgments have no place in a training facility, the notion that you should be free from all forms of judgment flies in the face of how to learn and grow -- how to be a student. In the interest of seeking improvement, we put a high priority on feedback, both negative and positive. This is the bread and butter of how you or I get better. Without feedback, there is no opportunity to improve.

The last line is perhaps the most revealing: no commitment. I get it, commitment is hard. But that’s kind of the point. It goes back to our notion of skin in the game. With skin in the game, we are invested in a practice, a person, a business venture, whatever. We have a personal (or financial) interest in the success, and that’s part of what can make it work. Think of a romantic relationship or a business deal built on the foundation of no commitment -- this is not a recipe for sustainability or durability.

I appreciate Planet Fitness for their honest advertising, but I’m saddened by the fact that their advertisement is exactly what speaks to many people. Cheap, easy, and no commitment. Unsurprisingly, Planet Fitness’s business model is to sign up as many people as possible under the assumption that they won’t actually use their membership. Consider that one Planet Fitness gym that had a maximum capacity of about 300 people had approximately 6,000 members, over half of whom never used their membership (you can listen to the full story HERE), and this is the norm more so than the exception.

Let’s just say that we’re about as opposite as you can get from Planet Fitness while still being in the same general business. Are you interested in putting skin in the game, discomfort, feedback, and commitment? We are too. Welcome to the fold.

- PS


11/10/17

  • Spend 15 mins on pistols

Then...

  • 10 min AMRAP

    • 20 pistols (10/leg)

    • 10 T2B

    • 5 box jumps (30/24)


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What if what you’re seeking is just around the corner? What if all of the work you’ve been putting in up to this point accounts for 98% of what it takes to reach that next breakthrough, and you’re just a few steps away? And what if, despite that, you can’t see it yet and so you decide to stop?

I had a particularly rough training run on Sunday. It was cold and wet, I was tired and my body hurt, and I was in a bad headspace that left me feeling defeated and sorry for myself. It wasn’t my best showing, but because of the nature of trail running, I was stuck with no option but to move forward -- I couldn’t exactly sit down in the middle of the woods and say “I quit,” despite how much I wanted to. And, sure enough, I turned a (literal) corner and things changed. It was still cold and wet, but I had a little boost of energy, things didn’t hurt so bad, and my mindset shifted. I don’t honestly know why. Sometimes it’s the nature of the beast that persistence, and particularly persistence when things are the hardest and seem most burdensome, is the very thing that takes you to that next step. And very often, that big change is just around the corner.

It’s easier when you’re on a long trail run, because you don’t have a choice. But in all other walks of life, this is perhaps the hardest and most pivotal choice to make: when it gets hard and you can’t see what’s around the corner, do you keep going, or call it quits?

I don’t think there’s ever an easy answer to this question, and sometimes you’ll miss the mark, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll keep going and nothing will change (yet). Sometimes you’ll keep going and find that you’ve been on the wrong path all along.

But it’d be a real tragedy to decide to call it quits when change is just around the corner, wouldn’t it?

- PS


11/9/17

  • Double KB bent over row - 3x8

Then...

  • 4 rounds

  • In 90s

    • 100m sprint

    • AMRAP KB C&P (106/70)

  • Rest 90s