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How do you decide what your training should look like?  istock_000020671765small

I was having a discussion with my coach a few days ago and the topic of ‘values’ surfaced. What was important to me. What were my goals and how could we achieve them via training and lifestyle habits?

After some thought, my current value set revolves less around a specific set of movements or numeric goal, like a 500-pound deadlift or a strict L-muscle-up. No, my objectives at the moment are less quantifiable than that.

I currently place a premium on how I feel, both physically and emotionally, my sleep patterns and cognitive performance.

These may seem a little unusual until you get into my personal background. The last few years I’ve been working myself out of a state of Adrenal Insufficiency, more commonly known as Adrenal Fatigue.   

A prolonged battle with stress (loss of a loved one, running a small business, etc.) impaired my bodies ability to deal with stress. Insomnia, Brain Fog, Fatigue, Anxiety, difficulty rising in the am, and suppressed thyroid function.

After dealing with all that for a solid three years, I can say I care more about staying as far out of those conditions as possible than what my hang power snatch numbers are. (Note: I truly enjoy Olympic lifting and recognize the value they provide. However, if I focus on them too much it taxes my nervous system too much and slow progress towards what I’m actually after.)

I know my training, diet, and lifestyle are all working right if I sleep well, wake with good energy and maintain it throughout without a ton of (caffeine and sugar!). Also, I need to be able to deal with the daily stressor of owning a small business (and life in general) without being overwhelmed with anxiety.

In a nutshell, I place a value on function, vitality, and longevity.

Should these be everyone values? Absolutely not! Some people want to to be highly competitive in their given sport while others want to look good at the beach. These are all worthy pursuits. The point is you and your coach should be adjusting your training, lifestyle and habits so they’re in line with your goals and values.

What are your values and is your training moving you closer to them?

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So you’ve just finished your first Tabata workout. It was a mash-up of Dumbbell Squat Cleans (DBSC) and Sit-ups (SU). You pushed hard and got a great sweat, but now you’re wondering what to do with all these numbers!

First things first. You want to record your totals for each exercise and then add them to for your overall score. Now when you come back to this workout in the future, you’ll know whether you’ve improved or not.img_8963

But how can we leverage this data to help enhance our scores moving forward?

First, we need to look at the data.

Yup, in CrossFit your scoring is data and as such it can serve as one of the most valuable tools if you used correctly.

So, if in the example workout above your numbers looked like the follow.

DBSC 12/10/8/6/5/4/4/3
Sit-up 15/12/10/9/7/6/6/6

DBSC = 52 (6.5 per round)
Sit-ups = 71 (8.875 per round)
Total = 123

Simply put this athlete came out too ‘hot’ and gassed out

Now let’s say we go back in time and convince this person to pace a bit try for a more steady pace. 7 or 8 DBSC and 10 sit-ups per round. Assuming they could average around those numbers per round, they could be looking roughly 60 DBSC’s and 80 Sit-ups. Total score 140. Total improvement, nearly a 14%. All that from just looking at a little data and applying some pacing.

Now let’s assume you had a different set of figures
DBSC 8/8/8/8/8/8/8/11
Sit-ups 10/10/10/10/10/10/11/12

DBSC = 67 (8.37 per round)
Sit-ups = 83 (10.3 per round)
Total = 150

This person is either holding back or doesn’t understand what they have for an engine hiding under the hood! On the surface, this score might seem great. Unfortunately, without pushing their limits, there will is no reason for the body to try to adapt. So what do we do here?

The answer is simple. Let’s take them just a little bit outside of their current comfort zone. We’ll ask them to maintain a pace of 10 DBSC and 12 Sit-ups for as long as possible. Based on the numbers above this is clearly very doable for them but will require a bit of a push a the end to maintain.

DBSC 10/10/10/10/9/9/9/8
Sit-up 12/12/12/11/10/10/10/9

DBSC = 75 (9.375 per round)
Sit-ups = 86 (10.75 per round)
Total = 161

So again just understanding our numbers and tweaking them a bit we’ve increased the power output and with created a stimulatory response which will force a series of positive adaptation in our athlete.
For more on this check out ‘Know your numbers’

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“…lack of Vitamin D is linked with poor bone health, but new studies suggest that milder deficiency may also be linked to asthma, some cancers, and diabetes.”

Running a gym I get asked all the time about what supplements are best. The answer is ‘it depends’. It depends on who you are, what’s going on in your life and what your goals are.

In the end, there are two supplements almost everyone needs to consider. Fish oil and Vitamin D. I strongly encourage all you to look into both of these and find out what your needs are.

If you have access to recent blood work check your 25(OH)D or calcidiol, levels, if you have an upcoming appointment be sure to ask to have them checked!

Below is a jump start on your Vitamin D research. vitamin-d

25 excellent reasons to take vitamin D!

Highlights from the list include

  • Bone Health
  • Muscle Power and Force Development
  • Lean Body Mass
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Treatment of Depression and Brain Disorders
  • Immune Function
  • Treatment of Autoimmune Conditions


John Jacob Cannel, MD, founder of the non-profit Vitamin D Council in the US says: “Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease.

Also from http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

Studies indicate that for proper health, serum vitamin D levels should be a minimum of 50 ng/mL (125 nmol/L), with optimal levels falling between 50-80 ng/mL (125-200 nmol/L). These values apply to both children and adults.


Vitamin D: Confounding Factors – A great piece where Mark gets into how diet, environment, and genetics affect the equation.

Athletic Performance and Vitamin D.

  • Vitamin D-producing ultraviolet light improves athletic performance.
  • Physical and athletic performance peak when vitamin D levels peak and decline as levels decline.
  • Vitamin D increases the size and number of Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers.
  • Vitamin D levels are directly associated with musculoskeletal performance in older individuals.
  • In older individuals, vitamin D improves physical performance.
  • Such 25(OH)D levels may also protect the athlete from several acute and chronic medical conditions.

Not so fun facts


Extra Credit.
Michael Holick’s, Video great video Vitamin D and Prevention of Chronic Diseases

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Notice the title. It’s says ‘cheat meals‘, not days. Cheat days are a bad, bad idea on many levels. The first and foremost being you feel like utter garbage the next day.

Seriously, eat well for any length of time, then have a bender of a day. You will feel hung over the next day. Been there done that, not worth it to me.

While we’re at it, let’s define a meal. A meal is food intake at one sitting. Once my butt is up for anything but a quick break to grab another drink, the meal is over. No “well lunch was only 3 hours ago, so this is part of that…”

Why are cheat meals important? Personally, I don’t think the 30-day challenge is sustainable indefinitely. Eventually, you’ll snap and may never get back on track. Having a cheat meal once in awhile is a great release.

It’s also nice to have a target in the distance. Knowing I have a cheat meal coming on Saturday night makes it very easy to keep things clean the rest of the week.

So how do you handle it? A cheat meal every 5-7 days is probably the tightest I would run with it. If you do it more frequently than that, you may find yourself slipping back into old habits before you know it.

Now if you’re completely happy with your current body composition and performance in the gym, you might go as high as two cheat meals a week, possibly three if you are very very active. (Personally, I tend to do ‘just’ enough damage at a sitting that I don’t want to do it again for another 5-7 day.)

Make sure your food intake matches activity. If you notice your pants are getting, snug or abs aren’t quite what they were on Day 30, dial back the intake a little.

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There are definitely some legitimate reasons not to workout out on a given day. The two excuses I will accept every time are you either contiguous or non-ambulatory.

It should be pretty obvious that nobody wants whatever pathogens you’re trucking around in the gym, but there’s a second reason you need to consider. Our immune systems and ability to recover from workouts/stress are linked. Yes, you might be able to still ‘hit the WoD’ hard, but guess what? Your return on that investment is going to be little to zilch. As hard as it might be to take, you’ll make bigger ‘gainz’ from extra sleep and rest.

Next, up I need you to be ‘ambulatory’. If you’re not fit to operate a vehicle, is it really a good idea to put a bar over your head? If you have to be carted across the parking lot in a wheelbarrow, what are you hoping to gain from ‘Fran’?

Ok, all that aside we’ve been open to the public 2009 and I’ve been coaching people with this methodology since 2006. In that time we’ve worked successfully with people with all sort of issues.

A partial list in no particular order unnamed

  • Broken wrists, arms, legs
  • Torn knee cartilage
  • Missing limbs
  • Post-rehab training for
    • Right Hemicolectomy
    • Liver resections
    • Knee and shoulder surgeries
  • Various Autoimmune disorders
  • Cancer survivors

I literally could go on and on, but really in the end the story is the same. If you can get yourself to the gym safely and you’re not spreading the Flu, Noro (or whatever the germ-pocalypse of the week is)  we can work with you.

Simply communicate with the coaches, have an open mind and get ready to work.

For more info on the concept see Greg Glassman’s ‘Working Wounded’