Workout of the Day

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We’ve all seen plants that have taken on an unusual shape, whether through intentional grooming or unintentional physical restrictions -- bushes shaped like Mickey Mouse, trees forming arches, branches growing in odd shapes around an unmoving fixture such as another tree or a large post. With time and some physical restraint, these plants take on atypical shapes. Palm trees, for example, will grow relatively straight and vertical in their “natural” and uninhibited state; but with the application of some external force, such as tying two palm trees together near their apex, the trees will over time bend and grow to form a curved shape. And even though this heavily curved shape is not “natural” for the palm tree, after it spends some time adapting to the restraints that coerce it out of its straight shape, it will naturally snap back to this curved shape even some external force attempts to straighten it. Even though the DNA of a palm tree has “straight and vertical” written all over it, enough time and some force can rewrite the standard shape of the tree.

It should be no surprise, then, that you have a hard time getting into a good front rack with a barbell when you spend 15.5 of your 16 waking hours with your shoulders slouched forward, back slumped, and head pitched forward in front of your spine. It’s no wonder that your front rack position looks a lot like your hunched-over-your-computer-or-phone position, too. Because while we are far more complex than trees in many ways, in some ways we really are not. If you spend enough time in a position, your body will adapt to occupy that position with the most ease, and, in the same way that it would take quite a bit of force to unbend a bent palm tree back to its “natural” straight shape, trying to move your body out of its most commonly occupied position will take considerable effort and force. Put simply, you front squat the same way you sit at your desk or stand in line at the store. If you’re interested in training your body to occupy and move in strong, safe, and effective positions (and you should be), I strongly suggest you address the positions you spend 95% of your life occupying.

- PS


7/26/17

  • 6 rounds, in 90s complete:

    • 100’ keg carry (AHAP)

    • 5 keg clean & press

    • AMRAP burpee to plate

  • Rest 2 min


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Imagine, in preparation to compete in a half-marathon, performing all of your training on a treadmill in an air-conditioned room with the temperature set at a comfortable 70 degrees. Now imagine that race day comes and you find yourself running on a trail filled with rocky terrain, small streams, and soft sand, and with temperatures in the high 90s with high humidity. I don’t care how good you got at running on a treadmill, you will be unprepared for this race.

CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman, is quoted as saying “we fail at the margins of our experience.” And we absolutely do. This applies to more than just the weather when we train, and to more than just fitness, too. Training conditions are as much an element of training as the exercises performed or the reps and sets. If we are preparing to perform in a specific sport, our training experience should touch on and, as much as possible/reasonable, match the potential conditions of performance day. If we are training for life in general, then our diversity of potential experiences and demands can benefit from an infinite variety of exposures. Take this a step further, and you can apply the same principle in order to better prepare yourself for everything from boardroom presentations to taking the Bar exam to a theater performance. Of course, some of these outside-of-margin failures will inevitably happen. We must encounter these margins of experience at some point, and often it is unpredictable. But when we shape our training exclusively around ideal conditions, we are intentionally keeping the margins of our experience small, and therefore drawing unnecessary boundaries around our performance.

What does this all mean for you? Some days it’s going to be hot, and some days it’s going to be cold, and some days you’re going to be tired or sore or upset or just not feeling it, and these are all opportunities to expand the boundaries of your experience. Your goal in training isn’t to set the ideal conditions for getting the best performance number on that day, it’s to train for optimal performance on any given day, regardless of the condition.

Training is available, rain or shine.

- PS


7/24/17

  • Deadlift - 5rm

  • 14 min EMOM:

    • Even: 6 KB goblet squats (AHAP)

    • Odd: 6 KB swings (AHAP)


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Let’s play a game of reverse engineering together.

You’ve decided to pull the trigger and participate in something that you’ve been interested in for a while. The thing can be whatever you want: attendance at a seminar, a mentoring program, a coaching package, a piece of education, whatever. We’ll say this thing has a cost -- let’s say $500 -- and the reason you’ve finally decided to go for it is a “special.” You had been unwilling to before, we’ll say because of the cost, but the special swayed you from a “no” to a “yes.”

Now let’s step backwards a bit: what would that special have to be in order to change your decision? $20 off? $50 off? $100 off?

The numbers don’t matter so much as what your choice to be moved from “no” to “yes” says about your perception of value and your will. For the sake of example, we’ll say that $100 off is what sealed the deal for you. The question must be asked: is that $100 more valuable than your participation? In other words, is it really just a $100 issue? Digging deeper, if all it took was that $100 discount to get you to dive in, did you really want it and see value in the first place? Or were you just looking for reasons to say “no” to the thing you really wanted?

The numbers don’t really matter if you truly want it -- you’ll make it happen.

- PS


7/21/17

  • Sled drag - 4x100’ (AHAP)

  • 10 min AMRAP:

    • 200m run

    • 25 DUs


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The all-nighter. The entire rationale behind “fast” food. The skipped fitness practice.

All bad habits. All sacrifices of good habits at the altar of “the necessary.”

Let me start by saying that we all know what good habits are. And we all know that we sometimes miss the mark on making these good habits truly habitual in our own lives. I will be the first to admit to pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper for school, and of saying, “today’s too busy; I can’t get to the gym.”

Living a healthy life is time consuming and difficult. It requires time in the gym, meal prep, time spent mobilizing and stretching, a full 8 hours of sleep. Time is the only resource we can’t make more of, and everything has its cost.

It’s easy to justify to ourselves the sacrifice of gym time, sleep, or nutrition. It doesn’t hurt anyone but us--it gives us the time we want to deal with whatever else is demanding our attention.

I do take issue with the idea that it doesn’t affect anyone but you, though. I guarantee most of us are far more pleasant, patient, and understanding when we’ve had a full night of sleep, proper diet, and exercise.

The most effective version of yourself, the one that can best take care of all the “fires” life throws our way, is the one that has been taken the best care of. We know that getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, and eating the right foods all make us better. So why are those always the first things to go when other, more urgent stuff jumps in our path?

Sometimes we have no choice but to sacrifice healthy habits because something truly important and urgent occurs. Emergencies happen. But I’m willing to bet that, a lot of the time, what we think is an “emergency” is actually just the result of poor planning and a lack of focus on priorities.

If being healthy is truly a priority (and I’m betting that most of us want to say that it is), then we should be taking the time to plan like it is.

- Joy Sprimont


7/20/17

  • Front squat - work to 1rm

  • 10 min EMOM

    • Even: 8 supine ring rows

    • Odd: 30s max wallballs (20/14)


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It’s something of a cruel irony that the time when we are most likely to let technique and movement quality degrade also happens to be the time when we are most vulnerable. Of course there is no good time to let quality of movement slip, but let’s think of it in the context of a cycling race: at what point is it “best” for the cyclist to make a mistake, to slip, understeer a turn, etc? The answer is closer to the beginning of the race. The cyclist is less fatigued and has more time to recover last time -- again, not ideal, but better than the alternative. Towards the end of the race, the cyclists mistakes are more grave. Greater fatigue, the final sprint to the finish, and very little time to recover from the mistake make any errors exponentially more serious.

We observe that athletes tend to let their movement quality slip at the least optimal times: under the highest levels of fatigue and intensity. In the final reps of a set or the final seconds of a workout, movement quality is tossed aside in favor of haphazardly squeezing out another rep. This is where performance is limited and injury risk is high. It’s important to point out, though, that this is most often a mental failing rather than a physical one. Were the context different (i.e., if there were 10 minutes left in the workout as opposed to 10 seconds), the athlete would be physically capable and (here’s the key) mentally committed to moving with technical priority. The mind gives up on the body, not the other way around.

It should be no surprise that we have also observed the highest level performers executing their highest quality of movement in these “final rep” contexts. The best performers don’t let up on movement quality when performance demands are at the highest, they double down.
Next time you’re seconds away from the finish or completing the final reps, remember: your sprint to the finish, literal or metaphorical, is your best time to double down on quality.

- PS


7/19/17

  • Bent over barbell row - 3x8

  • For time:

    • 800m run

    • 5 rds

      • 100’ keg carry (AHAP)

      • 10 shoulder to overhead (95/65)

      • 10 pull-ups

    • 800m run


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What do you think of our current standard for “healthy”? I, for one, am not impressed. Specifics vary by source, but our standards tend to fall squarely in the middle of the spectrum of well and unwell -- more so in the vein of “not in ill health” than “in excellent health and function.” Healthy, by our societal standards, is surviving, not thriving. And what’s worse? Most people fall below this standard.

I’d like you to think of this situation of sub-standard standards like grades in an educational course. If a teacher proposed to her students that she wanted them all to strive to get a C, it should be no surprise that very few students would end up working for a B or an A. Getting a D would become run-of-the-mill, an F somewhat disappointing, and a C would be celebration-worthy. Sound a bit off to you? Me too.

The standard defines not only the highest level of achievement, but the average as well. High standards drive high achievement. And while of course we can’t simply change the standards with a snap of the fingers, if enough of us elevate our own standards, maybe we can...

- PS


7/18/17

  • 300m sandbag front carry (AHAP)

  • 4 min AMRAP

    • 25 C&J (95/65)

    • Max cal row

  • Rest 3 min

  • For time:

    • 25 C&J (95/65)

    • Cal row (# of cals from AMRAP)


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Sometimes the best time to do something is right away. I say this somewhat hypocritically, as I have probably a dozen lists of “laters” floating around in various notebooks and documents. Topics to research, exercises to learn, movement dysfunctions to address, movies to watch, books to read, practices to employ, etc. These lists have come in handy from time to time, but the reality is that putting something on a list to do “later” has, historically, meant that it never gets done. New items are added to the list at a far greater rate than they are checked off. And I know that I’m not alone in this.

The aphorism to “strike while the iron is hot” speaks clearly to the pursuit of physical improvement. We all likely have a list, whether literal or metaphorical, of things that we need to address in our physical practice (improve hip mobility, daily yoga, practice handstands), and we all likely see this list grow more than it shrinks. If we’re speaking to common human practice, things tend not to happen unless they happen right away. There are countless examples of the iron being hot: an injury, a mistake made in the execution of a movement, a medical diagnosis, a learning or training opportunity. The reality is that each of these situations opens the door up for our best chance to metaphorically strike and make a change. If your knee begins to chronically hurt because you heel strike when you run, don’t add “learn how to run better” to your list of things you’re going to get to later. The iron is hot: the issue is evident, pressing, and relevant when your knee begins to hurt, and it’s likely that it won’t be so in a few weeks. Strike.

- PS


7/17/17

  • Weighted ring dips - 3,3,3,3

  • 12 min AMRAP

    • 10 pull-ups

    • 20 pistols

    • 30 squats


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As a rule of thumb, if a claim makes you scratch your head and think, “woah, that’s unbelievable/goes against everything I’ve heard,” it might be so for a reason. This isn’t to say that humans can’t hold common beliefs that are downright erroneous -- human history shows that we are rather good at being confident in our own fictions -- but that sensational claims ought to hold up against some fact checking rather than being taken at face value.

The recent film “What the Health” has been garnering quite a buzz for exactly this reason: it’s claims are downright sensational. And while films making outrageous (and often egregious) claims about diet and health are not new or uncommon, the most disturbing part is that people will indiscriminately listen and follow.

“What the Health” is among a handful of “documentary health films” that takes a cherry-picked selection of research, a slew of misrepresented and misconstrued data, grandiose appeals to authority, and some outright false claims and sensational conclusions, and combines them into a 90-minute agenda-driven film. Unsurprisingly, the film has garnered a number of thorough critical reviews that dig into the evidence and expose the rampant misrepresentation and false claims in the film. (See two well-constructed and detailed criticisms HERE and HERE). While it is evident that I disagree with many of the film’s claims and take issue with its manipulative approach, I encourage you to both watch the film (it can be found on Netflix) and read the critical analyses. Blindly accepting the film as farcical because I or someone else on the internet said so is as irresponsible as blindly accepting the message of the film.

Scathing reviews aside, this film and others like it exemplify the critical errors our population makes in how they engage with evidence and personal education. Blindly following the claims of any single study, film, or piece of advice is trusting in the brick over the edifice. Where each study is an individual brick in the wall, the wall is the accumulation and synthesis of all of these studies -- the collective ideas garnered from a massive body of research. And while each brick is important, no brick defines the edifice. When the morning news loudly proclaims that “a new study shows eggs are linked to cancer,” they are taking the brick for the edifice (and grossly misinterpreting it on top of that). Clearly media has failed us in its ability to accurately represent evidence in the world of health and fitness, and so we need to take personal responsibility. Are you up for it?

- PS


7/14/17

  • Overhead squat - work up to 1rm

  • 4 rds

  • 90s AMRAP

    • 10 DBL KB DL (70/52)

    • 10 DBL KB swing

    • AMRAP KB shoulder to overhead

  • 2 min rest


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I would love to tell you that every moment you spend working on your fitness will be exciting and engaging, but there reality is that some of your work will dip into the mundane. In fact, there are many times when the mundane work is going to be exactly what carries you forward to the next level -- to something more engaging and exciting. And we see this pattern everywhere. The mundane is something of a necessity, for the writer, the researcher, the restaurant owner, the parent, and any human being working on becoming better.

What defines the mundane is a level of relative simplicity and repetitiveness, and this is exactly what makes it so valuable. To get the most of our fitness, we are called on to regularly learn new movements, learn and play new sports, attempt new feats, challenge our limits. But to support these practices, we must also do some basic things repeatedly: practice basic body weight movement, large volume of recovery and accessory work, mobilize, warm-up, and accumulate reps. The mundane is “reps,” in the truest sense of the word. And with regularity, these mundane practices form the foundational structure on which all of the more exciting elements of fitness are built.

I pride myself on being rather optimistic, and of course a positive “go for it!” attitude can breathe more life into every practice, exciting or otherwise; but to think that you can reach any level of success without time spent on the mundane is a pipe dream. Want to get better? Dig into the mundane. It’s your one-way ticket to the next level.

- PS


7/13/17

  • 4x20s max cal bike

  • Rest ~2 mins

  • 15min AMRAP

    • 300m row

    • 20 sit-ups

    • 100’ sled sprint (5 plates / 3 plates)