Monday, December 10, 2012

Is this thing on?

I've been trying to post something for the last week or so.  Nothing has struck me as "post-worthy".  Yeah, I've been doing lots-working, training, riding my bike when I can, etc.-but nothing I really felt was interesting enough to write about.

I suppose the biggest thing going on has been my focus in my own training.  Like I said above, I've been riding my bike a bit, but I've focused a bit more on strength work recently.  Fact is I just haven't had the time to get out on my bike (part laziness, part time constraints, and part just not interested).  It's still my absolute favorite thing to do, but everyone once in a while you just need a break.  For me, the break's been all about trying to regain the strength I had before I started doing triathlon and mountain biking.

In my college days, I used to be a beast.  I was 250lbs of silverback gorilla.  All muscle.  I'll be honest in saying that I did it to get attention, and honest in that I did it to be intimidating (making up for a real low self esteem problem at the time).  The change in my life came in the form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and later in MMA, where size and appearance aren't the deciding factors in who's gonna win a fight.  Maturity played it's role and soon, after learning to fight, I found myself riding a bike, running, and yes, actually swimming.  The rest is history.  What sucks about all this, though, is that even with the "healthy" change and difference in my attitude towards what "tough" actually is, came a HUGE loss in upper body strength and generally anything that didn't involve swimming, running, or riding.  What was fine at the time finally caught up with me this summer when I realized I was weak as shit, and could only lift about a fraction of the weight I was able to in my early 20's.

Now, before you get carried away and think that I'm back toward being a meathead, I'll explain.  My priority this time around is to be functionally fit.  Functional Fitness is a term that gets thrown around so much in the fitness industry it ought to be outlawed.  What functional fitness truly entails is performing daily and not so daily activities with proficiency.  Things anywhere from simply getting out of bed in the morning to moving a refrigerator from your basement to your garage (did that last one this past weekend!).  It's about being able to live your life and use your body as it's meant to be used, and it's about having a certain quality of life that will last you into your later years.  I'm very dedicated to giving  this last one to my clients, and now I've decided to take care of myself in the same way.

So with my workouts, I now have a more total body focus.  I'm not a big fan of Crossfit, but I believe in a lot of the principles they follow.  I agree with their idea of using body weight for many exercises and I agree with their ideas of using a full range of motion.  I agree that being able to move between one high intensity exercise to the next is important, and I agree that pushing yourself in different ways on different days is important to keep your body "on it's toes" so to speak.  Why I differ in philosophy from the Crossfit folk is primarily in timing their exercises and using a high volume rep scheme on powerlifting exercised that were not exactly designed to be used in such a way.

 I'll get into the timing thing in a second, but first a word about the high rep schemes for power lifting exercises.  I will say that when weight is adjusted appropriately, high rep power lifting movements can be useful.  I've learned with kettle bells that exercised like cleans, jerks, and snatches have their place in being "endurance" exercises.  However, when I see videos on youtube of "Crossfitters" doing high rep sets of cleans, jerks, and snatches with horrible form (as a coach watches no less) I begin to cringe.  The key, as with any workout program, is form and safety.  Complex movements need to be scrutinized at every point, otherwise the risk is far higher than the reward.

As for the timing of their WOD's (Work Outs of the Day), I'm in disagreement mainly because it encourages rushing through your sets to get the most done.  It places quantity in front of quality and I'm not in favor of that.  Even with a coach watching, your natural inclination when timing yourself is to beat the clock in any way possible.  Get in as much as you can in the least amount of time, usually at the expense, again, of form and safety.  No es bueno.  In order to get the most out of anything, you need to keep yourself honest and keep yourself safe.  Fighting against a clock invites too much variation to the equation.

With all that, I will be honest in saying that I do train some Crossfit workouts and I really do enjoy a lot of what they have to offer.  For where I'm at in my life, it makes sense to push myself in a different way and enjoy my workouts.  I'm not planning on competing in anything for the next few months, so this will be a nice little project for me to enjoy through the winter.  And, as an added benefit, it will be nice to have a focus which does not include having to depend on the weather.  If this winter is going to be anything like what we've had in the past (save for last winter), I'll be looking at months off my bike due to the snow.  Never a bad thing, and in this case, I'm looking forward to making the most of it.

I'll say this as a bit of a disclaimer... If Crossfit is your thing, than go on and get yours.  Fitness is all about what works for you and your lifestyle and interests.  If you like dodgeball, play dodgeball.  If you like bodybuilding, body build.  And if you like riding your bike, ride your bike.  As long as you're out and moving, you're doing it right.