Posts Tagged ‘exercise’


Reflecting on the pressures I feel while navigating through the challenges of escaping my poor health/fitness condition, I wondered if it was anything like what a 600 lb. octopus felt when squeezing through a hole the size of a quarter.

The ability of the octopus to compress like that could reasonably be considered a survival mechanism, although I can’t seem to locate any authority that states the reason for the behavior. Makes sense, though: Why else would you scoot through an unreasonably small opening, if not to get away to live another day? Or, to twist the question into the shape I’d like it to take, why else would you put yourself through all this pressure and/or pain except to stay healthy?

The other question I can’t find an answer for is whether this is painful for the octopus. Granted, it’s hard to ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, but their physiology should suggest whether it would be possible for the compression to cause pain.

This all came to me when I was joking about meeting the four horsemen of the apocalyptic workout–the day that makes you want to end all exercise forever.

I’d had a workout that left me sobbing in pain and frustration: changing my dosage and timing on one of the medications to prevent migraines had made me light-headed and light-sensitive, so I was doing my workout in the shade in sunglasses…and with my eyes closed whenever possible. Every squeak of the equipment and sound of the timer going off put my teeth on edge. I had flash migraines, where it felt like someone had shot me in the left eye with an arrow, but only for a few seconds at a go. I was cranky, because the changes had disrupted my sleep schedule.

Unrelated to the medication change, I was cramping in my left quad and gastroc. My body seemed to be screaming at me to quit, assaulting me on all fronts. I felt rather like the one time I’d had sunstroke, just before I passed out. And then, the crowning blow was a simple hamstring stretch.  This is usually the “ahh” moment, as I’m almost done and everything left to do is on my back on a nice foam mat.

Pain exploded in my right quad, radiating to my hip. That’s when I started crying. As I said before, pain for a purpose, to achieve a goal, is one thing, but there’s no sense in suffering needlessly. And, as often occurs, I began doubting whether I would ever progress.

The same thing happened for the next three workouts. I felt like I was squeezing my fat ass through a teeny hope, pressured by pain and fear. My husband felt a big knot in my quad. I set up for an early appointment with Stephanie the phenomenal PT, but, in this case, early meant five days away rather than three weeks.

In the meantime, Gary was rolling the knot. Foam rolling is the best way to do this for yourself, but it’s really difficult for me to get the balance right for most of these, so we’ve taken to using a rolling pin over the area. As I’ve mentioned before, muscle knotting is common in people with fibromyalgia. Usually neither Gary nor I can find the knots, although massage and/or physical therapists seem to put their fingers on them immediately. This one was big enough for him to find.

So we looked up how to deal with knots in muscles. The instructions basically said (in all the sources we could find) to stretch the knot away from the contraction. Since we had no idea how to figure out which way it was contracted, Gary and I decided to go with rolling along the same direction as the muscle fibers. Turns out that was the right idea, and that, yes, until you’ve had a lot of hands-on training, figuring out which direction it should be stretched isn’t that easy for most people.

So he put some pressure on the rolling pin and ran it up and down the knot, the IT band and the hip. I concentrated on breathing like I was in a Lamaze class (although when applied to childbirth, I gave up and asked for the epidural) so the crying incident would not be repeated.

The rolling (and some anti-inflammatory OTC meds) helped, but I dreaded the hamstring stretch each and every day after the first time my quad screamed. On something like the fourth workout after this ghastly newcomer showed up, I had finished the hamstring stretch and was into the piriformis stretch (which you do by pulling your knee toward the opposite shoulder) and there was something like a pop where the knot had been, a burning sensation, and then an immediate reduction in the pain.

Ahh. Is that what the octopus feels once it’s out of the hole?

Go, Kevin, go!

Posted: September 12, 2011 in CrossFit, Fitness, Obesity, Weight Loss
Tags: , ,

One of the major things I do with my time is volunteer and work as a part-time staff member at DailySource. One of the fun things about that is checking out loads of papers and magazines online to find out what is being reported any given day.

Among my favorite metropolitan newspapers is the Star Tribune out of Minneapolis, and when I went to see what goodies the had for me, there was an article called “He went from flab to fit.” Clicked on it, and lo, there was a CrossFit success story about a guy named Kevine Ole! And, oh, my, could I relate:

The first day I went in, I did a workout called Baseline No. 1, where they put you through a 500-meter row, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups. On the white board it doesn’t look like much … so I started rowing for all I was worth and after 200 meters I stopped dead in the mythical water. Squats took forever; sit-ups were terrible; I had to do the push-ups from my knees and I had to stand on a box and jump to do a pull-up. Then I had to run out into the back of the office building, where I collapsed against the Dumpster and lost my lunch.

And now, after losing about 45 pounds of fat, he’s a hoss. Way to go, Kevin!

 


So, in my continuing streak of poorly timed illnesses and injuries, I decided to throw in some oral surgery.

I cracked a molar badly enough (probably from my bad habit of grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw during intensive problem-solving … and sleep (extremist enough for you?)) to end up having to have it pulled about … oh, 2006 or 2007. I was told then that I should get an implant. I’ve obviously procrastinated, but I have had a few intervening problems.

Anyway, the time had arrived that I could postpone no more. This sumbitch is over $4K, and my husband’s dental insurance will end when he retires, and he’s seriously talking about doing it at the end of this year or beginning of next. And the entire process takes over three months if everything goes according to plan. So I’ve pushed it about as long as I should.

Last Tuesday I went and had the half-hour procedure, which consists mostly of the surgeon taking a plug out of your gum and sticking a titanium stick in there that they can attach a crown to after the thing heals sufficiently. Let me tell you kids this: I now see why Halcyon is a frequently abused prescription drug. Wow. I got a short vacation from myself, and could truly relate to the “All is Groovy” lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel. (Yeah, I never tried anything illegal, not even pot, although friends assure me I’d really like it.)

Anyway, I was pretty zoned out that day. And the next, which surprised me, because usually Tylenol 3 does nothing more for me than regular Tylenol. Of course, the last time I took it, I wasn’t taking enough muscle relaxant to down a baby rhino. So I was buzzed enough that when my son asked me if I were going to work out, my reply was “I can’t lift heavy machinery.” His reply: “Well, then, you’re fine, ’cause we won’t be doing that.”

So that knocks out Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I was able to function without the Tylenol 3, and spent most of the day putting out fires from work. By early afternoon, I was completely exhausted. So I took off a third day, but told my husband after we’d watched the latest Netflix delivery of “Foyle’s War” that I would start up CrossFit the next day.

Friday am, more work. I really regret not working out this morning, because it was friggin’ hot out there tonight. Yes, I live in one of the multiple locations with record-breaking heat. The electrical folks have been telling us they’re going to start rolling blackouts because the electrical usage is high, even for us A/C lovin’ South Texans.

I walk out and see “15 minute AMRAP.” Oh, I think to myself, just 15 minutes. Apparently I have short-term memory loss, as the last AMRAP about killed me. But, no, I’m focusing on the 15 minutes, forgetting that first I’ll have to warm up, and then the damn AMRAP will eat my lunch. When my husband said “10 minutes,” I thought he meant 10 to go, not 10 finished, and I thought I’d probably pass out from heat exhaustion before it was over.

I learned two things tonight:

  1. Wall ball sucks when there’s steaming animal poo somewhere in the yard around you and you can’t find it. You just have to breath it in whilst tossing a medicine ball at the house’s siding and catching it. And check your shoes every time you walk back in the garage, ’cause you’re certain it’s following you.
  2. Pouring water on your head when you are overheating and not sweating enough to cool down is a good idea. Pouring it onto your bangs before the aforementioned wall ball makes it slide into your eyes with the salt that’s on your forehead (even if you had no discernible sweat).

I also observed that working out at high temperatures when tired makes you not want to talk to anyone. I think I mostly grunted or simply yelled “Round.”

Let’s see if this teaches me to fear the AMRAP. Maybe not avoid it, but certainly to not think “Oh, it’s only X minutes.”


Dr. Brian M. Scott, a mathematics professor at Cleveland State University, once said to me, “If you know one expert, you know all the answers. If you know two, you’ll never be certain.” I have repeated this bit of wisdom more times than I care to calculate (probably because I’d be wrong), and Scientific American’s “Can Fat Be Fit?” interviewee Paul Raeburn reinforces this view when discussing his opinion that being somewhat overweight isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re also exercising:

The statistical things are very tricky and I wouldn’t sit here and say that I can go through all the mathematical minutiae and analyze what’s going on — far from it; I can’t get into the nuts and bolts at all. It really requires a professional, and the evidence for that of course is that the professionals argue madly over these things about whose right and whose handling the statistics correctly.

Go to their section on “The Science of Weight Loss” and you may find yourself confused about exactly what the right answer is. For example, the article “Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier?” doesn’t really answer the question, as the experts seem to be saying, well, generally yes, but there are exceptions, and we don’t really know why.

So what should we laypeople believe, when things like this, back in 2005,  have happened:

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a rare and curious apology. She apologized for the mixed messages and contradictory studies regarding the dangers of obesity, acknowledging that flawed data in several CDC studies had overstated the risks.

The article goes on to say, well, folks, be skeptical of what you read. Well, gee, thanks.

As I indicated in an earlier post, there are studies that support the contention that interval training, or mixed difficulty exercises, such as CrossFit are actually better for weight loss and increased fitness. There’s also a study saying that the kind of diet CrossFit advocates will make you feel more satisfied and, presumably, will make you eat less overall:

Eating fewer, regular-sized meals with higher amounts of lean protein can make one feel more full than eating smaller, more frequent meals, according to new research from Purdue University.

One of my favorite studies is the one that says that obesity is spread socially:

The people we associate with can have a powerful effect on our behavior—for better or for worse. This holds true for human health and body mass, too. The heavier our close friends and family, the heavier we are likely to be.

Don’t know how that works in my reality; I’m usually the heaviest, by a wide margin (excuse the bad pun), in any of my social groups. But maybe it’s not the peer pressure, but simply that you “caught it” from them:

Obesity can be “caught” as easily as a common cold from other people’s coughs, sneezes and dirty hands.

That would certainly take us fatties off the hook.

Then there’s this, that could give a deconditioned fattie like me an excuse to ditch the exercise for the nearest fad diet, from an article headlined as “Study: Exercise Won’t Cure Obesity“:

Though better nutrition coupled with exercise has long been the favored prescription for losing weight and avoiding obesity, a new study suggests diet actually plays the key role.

Lovely.  But I never thought exercise on its own would make you lose weight. But I am convinced, at least for me, that I won’t be able to keep it off unless I exercise. Losing weight? That’s another thing entirely. I can’t say for certain that you can’t lose weight just by exercising, but it doesn’t sound like the scientists know for sure either. All I know is I feel better and am more motivated to watch my food intake since I started CrossFit.

Think there’s a study on that? Wait. I am my study on that. So there.


I’ve been told many times by diet/fitness consultants that when you exercise, particularly when building muscle, you retain water and so not to rely on what the scale tells you. But many things I have been told have turned out to be wrong, so I figured I should verify that particular snippet of wisdom. In looking for confirmation, I found some interesting articles. First, adapted from WebMd, “5 Surprising Reasons You’re Gaining Weight” (read the article for details), is a list of five things that can effect the scale even if you’re eating right and exercising:

  1. Not getting enough sleep,
  2. Stress (couldn’t that be causing No. 1?),
  3. Medications,
  4. Some medical conditions, and/or
  5. Menopause.

Doesn’t answer my “retaining water because of exercise” question, but still interesting. Another article found on the search for confirmation that you may have water weight from exercising (from the January 2011 issue of Prevention magazine) reveals that exercise can

  1. Control appetite and cravings (not really news; have heard that for years),
  2. Boost the brain’s ability to learn new material (news to me),
  3. Improve your ability to plan (also news to me).

Interesting, but still doesn’t answer my question. But I find a glimmer of hope for finding the answer to my quest in an article from the October 2010 issue of American Fitness called “Electrolytes: What are they?”:

The concentration of sodium in your blood actually increases during exercise because you lose proportionately more water than sodium.

Well, sodium will make you retain water; that’s why the health care community tells people to watch their levels of salt, particularly those prone to high blood pressure. So exercising *could* increase sodium and therefore make you retain water. However, the same article argues that most people don’t exercise long enough for a significant sodium increase.

After several hours of scanning articles, I haven’t found anything explicitly saying that working out and building muscle will result in water retention, but I found this fabulous post by Leigh Peele, “The Science of Scale Fluctuation,” which begins

I have had the pleasure of training and consulting some of the strongest people in the world. Actors, doctors, coaches, athletes, government leaders, models, etc. These are people who can train for hours at a time. They spent years in school studying to better themselves and some run our lives with the decisions they make.

Put these leaders, these champions on a scale, and if that scale doesn’t say what they want it to, they will weep before your eyes. I have held a 6’2 and 230lb pure muscled man in my arms as he wept. All because of the scale.

She goes on to explain why your scale shouldn’t rule your self-esteem, which was really the point of my search. So there, scale. Bite me.


Pukey the Clown was among the reasons I was really not thrilled about trying CrossFit. I think clowns are generally creepy (except those at Cirque du Soliel), and a vomiting one is just too John Wayne Gacy for me. Why, I wondered, would anyone think working out until you vomited was a Good Thing?

The tradition at some CrossFit gyms is to handout a Pukey the Clown t-shirt the first time a participant throws up. According to Plano Crossfit coach Troy Dodson,

Our goal isn’t to make you throw up, of course, but it happens sometimes. The clown T-shirt is just to lighten things up and let the person know they’ve pushed themselves hard.

Pushed yourself hard? Or too hard? Or maybe you’ve done something incorrectly? Or do you just think you’re a badass if you workout so hard you vomit?

I’d pretty much put Pukey out of my mind until I thought I was going to throw up during a workout. I told Coach Gary, and he laughed and said “So you’re about to do a Pukey, huh?” I was irritated about that until he explained a bit more. From his point of view, vomiting during a workout probably means you’re doing something wrong. One of the guys in his group vomited during a workout, and they gave him a hard time about being Pukey the Clown. He hasn’t repeated whatever the underlying error since.

In my case, I hadn’t hydrated sufficiently (and slowly) before I started working out, and trying to gulp down water during the workout made me nauseated. If I had thrown up, it would have been due to a my own dumb mistake, and calling me Pukey the Clown *might* have helped remind me not to do it again.

On the other hand, I don’t find shame or ridicule much of a motivator, although there are award-winning coaches who’ve used it regularly and get results. Me, I’d just avoid the whole situation and not go to CrossFit anymore if I was actually shamed. If you caught me on a good day, and I perceived it as good-natured teasing, it wouldn’t be a good day (I’m an only child and wasn’t conditioned to teasing early on, so I’m probably overly sensitive, particularly in areas where I don’t have any confidence). I’m hard enough on myself and have enough internal criticism. As I’ve said before, I respond best to praise. Tell me I’m doing a good job, and I’ll try to top myself. Tell me suck, and I hang my head in shame and lose all motivation.

So I guess whether Pukey is a good thing or bad depends on two things: what the person using Pukey means by it, and how the person being christened Pukey, whether by shirt or commentary, feels about it. A thread on the CrossFit discussion board shows the split pretty well. The original poster casually mentions that he almost always vomits after workouts and was asking about how to eat afterward to replace whatever he’d lost. He clearly didn’t think it was a big deal; in a later post in the thread, he basically says that it’s proof he’s working out at high level. Others on the thread disagreed; I’m afraid I’d have to put myself in their camp, although the original poster would be correct in pointing out I’m not into it to compete. I’m just looking at getting healthy, and I just can’t reconcile throwing up after most workouts with health.

Anyway, some of the posters basically recounted the side effects of bulimia: bad teeth and throat irritation from the acid eating through both. But I particularly liked what Matt Haxmeier, clearly no weenie, had to say about the probable causes of recurrent vomiting:

You can make very good gains without puking on workouts…If you find that you can go fast enough to puke frequently:
a.) are probably sacrificing form.
b.) If not a.) then you should perhaps consider scaling up the weight or ROM so you can’t go as fast.
It’s much harder to puke on a workout using 75% of your max then 25% of your max.

Chris Walls chimes in with:

Or c) change your timing on when you eat prior to the workout, and/or drink WAY less water DURING the workout. You’re not going to die of thirst over the course of a CrossFit Class/WOD.

(Thanks, Chris. Wish I’d known that before…and I sure thought I was gonna die of thirst, but the close-to-barfing kind of cured me of that.)

So, fellow fatties and/or newbies, Pukey the Clown is, like most of CrossFit, what you make of it. I think of him, like most clowns, of someone to assiduously avoid. If you like him, well, I think you’re a little whacked, but you probably think the same of me. Again, the beauty of CrossFit is that it can accommodate both of us.

Just go puke where I can’t hear you, ‘kay?


My daughter-in-law said something encouraging when I was groaning and creaking in and out of a recliner because of my workout soreness. She said, “The bad soreness will go away after a few weeks; after that you’ll only be lightly sore.” Nice to know.

You can expect muscle soreness when you work out. You can expect your ligaments to be stretched and a little unhappy. Those pains actually seem to get better during a workout and bother you more after prolonged periods of disuse, although scientists aren’t sure why. Contrary to what we all thought, it appears lactic acid only causes the burning sensation you sometimes get while exercising, but not the “delayed-onset muscles soreness.” At any rate, the burn means you’re about at the muscle’s limit, and the soreness is part of the process of rebuilding muscle. So you can blow that kind of pain off and count it as part of retraining your body.

But there’s also the pain you need to pay attention to and consider whether you need to scale back until you’ve gotten stronger, and work on form and intensity. And some pain means you need to take a day or so off to heal, to see your doctor or even go to the emergency room.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “more macho than thou” games or to be embarrassed to admit you’re hurt because you don’t want to be perceived as a weenie. Don’t. CrossFit is great because it can accommodate injury or lower abilities, so take advantage of that flexibility. And if you allow yourself to be really injured, you’ll be off your exercise routine longer than if you take care of yourself.

It’s not just the deconditioned or the overweight who can injure themselves. Gary, my husband/coach who is in great shape and rarely injures himself, somehow hurt his back a little just the other day. He’s icing it and staying away from things that cause it to hurt “the bad way,” but he’s continuing to work out using the exercises that don’t stress it and scaling back on the ones that do until he can do them.

My knee injury flare is another case of when stopping is a good thing. Right now, the tops of both knees ache a little, but it’s not a sharp pain and I feel better after walking around on them, so I’m still good to go. But a few days ago, my left knee screamed at me during the workout. I’ve injured myself enough times to have a pretty good idea of when I need to pay attention and when I don’t, but whenever you have a sudden, sharp pain, that’s generally a bad sign. I iced the knee that day and the next, took an unscheduled rest day, and my knee was up for the next workout.

Sharp or intense pain that is qualitatively different from what you feel some hours after you’ve finished working out is something to investigate. Joints are particularly susceptible to errors in the form, or the how, of any exercise. That includes the joints you don’t generally think of, like the places where your vertebrae meet  (the bits that look like wings)(the facet joint) or the joint that is between your tailbone and your hipbone (the sacroiliac joint, commonly referred to as the SI joint).

I’ve injured both a facet joint and an SI joint. The first was when I was younger and lighter, and it still took me over six weeks to recover from, even with physical therapy and muscle relaxants.  Twice. I remember the second time better than the first, because I knew exactly when I did it. I was lifting a pile of casebooks in the law library from the bottom shelf and didn’t have my back in the right position and I felt a weird twinge in my back. The next day I could hardly straighten my back. That’s the kind of thing you see the doctor for.

The SI joint took a while to figure out because I had weird symptoms. The primary place where it hurt was in my lower left abdominal area, so the docs went through all the possible GI and GYN items first. It’s more common to hurt in your lower back or thighs, but referred pain like mine isn’t unusual. After exhausting the other possibilities (and when I’d gotten to the point that 2 vicodine at a time didn’t do anything but take the edge off the pain), I went to a physical therapist who shoved a finger in the right spot and almost made me yell, it hurt so bad. One good maneuver, and the therapist had the damn thing back where it belonged and the pain lessened almost immediately.

What I found interesting about the experience was that Stephanie, the physical therapist, had also had an SI joint problem at one point; she was a competitive pole vaulter, so not a deconditioned person like me. It’s more a matter of moving the wrong way at the wrong time, which can, but doesn’t have to be, a result of exercise. She did it stepping off a curb.

If you get a sudden pain and then a muscle bunches up away from the original pain, you’ve probably torn a ligament, and you need to call your doctor or get to the ER. That one’s pretty hard to miss.

Bottom line: If it hurts right away and really bad, check it out with a doctor. If it pings, pops or twinges, check it out with a doctor. If it’s the worst pain you’ve ever had or if you suddenly can’t move a limb or joint, go to the ER. If it swells and bruises, ice it and see the doctor. If it’s just sore or achey, particularly if it gets better with movement, keep on going. If your muscle starts burning, push the envelope, but if you just can’t stand it any longer, you can give it a little break to get some oxygen, and then get back on with your workout.

If you do something dumb like me, and bop the back of your head on the hyperlite during a situp because you didn’t make sure it was clear, well, you probably do it a lot (I do) and know the difference between something you’ll shake off and something you can’t.

Of course, I’m not a doctor or any other kind of health care professional, so if you have any doubt, check it out with the folks who are trained to figure it out. I can only share what I’ve experienced, not diagnose you.

As far as the soreness goes, hang in there. You’ll keep discovering new muscles (even in your hands and feet) you didn’t know were there, but that means you are getting stronger.


Looking at the CrossFit discussion boards and some of the articles, you find a lot of people and comments that will piss you off as a fattie. They just don’t get it. My husband’s advice: Ignore them. There are more people who will support you than won’t; the people who assume you’re lazy or uncommitted either lack empathy or prefer to throw stones at the challenges others face rather than looking at their own shortcomings. Or, I suppose, it is possible that their experiences with overweight people trying to overcome their eating and fitness issues are largely negative … but they’re still likely judging an awful lot of people on relatively few experiences.

And, for me, it’s hard not to project my own insecurities onto others when I don’t feel good about the way I look.

But you’ll also find people with great comments and suggestions for coaches working with the obese or the obese CrossFitters themselves. In one thread, Susie Rosenberg, who has been there, says:

I’ve got a growing interest in this area myself. I guess it comes because I’m a person who’s lost almost 100 pounds … “I’ve come a long way, baby!” When I hit my heaviest, I couldn’t stand at the sink long enough to dispatch a sinkful of dishes and I couldn’t walk a half-mile without stopping to rest. Man, EVERYTHING hurt: My back, hips, and knees ached all the time.

I started my journey back to health and fitness very slowly. I began with simple aerobics (stepping, marching, sidesteps, kickbacks to music) plus simple exercises with light weights. (DB curls, overhead presses, lateral raises)
Not more than a half-hour in duration. Initially, I had to take the next day off to recover; eventually, I was able to do this for an hour at a time, almost every day.

After losing about half the weight, Jason Ackerman (Albany Crossfit) got a hold of me and after that there was no turning back. Spin class with high-intensity intervals, lots of work with weights and body weight exercises, and eventually Crossfit WODs … heck, this past year I was in the best shape of my life. At 52, thank you, Jason, very much.

I work with the obese now. One client I have walking for a half-hour 3x/week alternating with a very short routine working with a pair of 8 lb. DBs. It’s all about building the exercise habit. This woman got fairly winded from doing a set of 5 overhead “squats” onto a low chair with the DBs, so she’s to start with 2 sets of 5. Once she gets a bit more used to moving, I’ll bring her into the gym and keep her moving. Farmer’s walk, SDHPs, squats, overhead presses and push presses, step ups onto a low box/step, short sets of walking lunges … it doesn’t take much to be “a good workout” when you are massively overweight and terribly deconditioned. How well I remember.

There are things to keep in mind. First, one’s abdomen gets in the way with certain movements. (It can be hard to breathe with a big belly when you are doing situps or trying to forward bend and reach your toes!) Second, the center of gravity is shifted, folks have to lean back to compensate for the weight in the belly, so you get an exagerated lordosis–hard on the lumbar spine–and you have to be careful with heavy weight overhead as a result. Alignment is critical, and folks need to really concentrate on tucking the pelvis under and lifting the chest.

[Jodi, aka CrossFit fattie, gives Susie a standing ovation.]

Laura Rucker had a great comment in another thread:

[Y]ou scale the workouts down so they can complete a workout and get some satisfaction out of it. That will keep them coming.

Many of us in the Brand X box would have been considered obese. We were also committed to sticking to the program, and too stubborn to quit, even though we could not run 400m, we walked some of it, and we couldn’t jump on a box but we could step up to it and even though we could not do a pull up, we could do ring rows and jumping pull ups and work our way into them. Take me, for instance. You would not think it to look at me now. That’s because it DOES work for the people you are asking about.

Scale it down and any obese or overweight or unfit person can do this. And then some.

[Jodi gives Laura a standing ovation.]

And kudos to Mike Miner, who looked for help in training a friend who weighed in at 430 pounds and is still working with obese clients when he’s not being a hoss on the competition circuit. He’s another who talks about the positive community at a typical CrossFit group:

One of the reasons why CrossFit works so well is the community. The sense  of camaraderie, the feeling of belonging. That band of brothers, or sisters, type feeling you get from sweating, grunting, and lying exhausted in a pool of drool and sweat after a Grace, or Fran workout. It’s cheering till the last one finishes, and then giving them a sweaty ol’ hug when they PR. It’s screaming as a 60-year-old lady pr’s [hits a personal record] on her deadlift and hits 135 for the first time. It’s cheering for the guy who’s beating you in the competition, and then congratulating him for kicking your ass. How sick is that? It’s the CrossFit community. It eliminates assholes and terminates douchebags. It strengthens the weak  and lifts up the wounded. It’s a feeling you cannot find at any other type of gym, no p90x class, no zumba, no GLOBO will ever be able to come close to duplicating it. In my opinion it is the most important element of the CrossFit experience.

Think of it this way: If someone wants to lose weight or quit smoking, do the doctors tell them to try it alone? No. They try to get them to go to a weight loss group or a smoking cessation class. It’s the same principal. If you want to get in shape, be healthier and enjoy life, find a CrossFit gym. And get in on that community love.

[Jodi gives Mike a standing ovation.]

So, fellow fatties, we are not alone and we are not without support. So get out there and change your life — it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.


Rest day. It should be the best day of CrossFit, but, oddly enough, it isn’t.

Why? Because I seem to be stiffer and sorer and I usually have a rough first day back.

And now, because of my knee problem and falling off the wagon (temporarily), I’m getting more of them.

And it’s my own fault, because I asked what I thought was a simple question. You may recall that I am obsessed with earning foot rubs for consistency in my CrossFit workouts. The deal was that after two sets of 5 days of working out (with a rest day in between), I earned a foot rub from my wonderful husband/coach. So when I missed the day after my first in a 5-day set, I asked whether I should start a new 5-day period running, or just workout for 3 days and then begin the next 5-day set to count toward a foot rub.

Turns out it wasn’t a simple question. Five days on, one day off is a common practice, but in CrossFit’s training materials is an article by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman that says “Generally, we have found that three days on and one day off allows for a maximum sustainability at maximum intensities.” [If you read the article and are a language fanatic like me, try to overlook the punctuation errors and the use of the word "fetes" instead of "feats"; as far as I know, the typical CrossFit workout doesn't include parties.]  Maximum depends on the person working out; my maximum sustainability is way lower than the average CrossFitter, but the principle still applies.

However, as Glassman points out in another article, “A Theoretical Template for CrossFit’s Programming,” three days on and one day off doesn’t synch well with the typical five days on, two days off work week. Hence the popularity of five days on and either one or two days off within the CrossFit community.

After these observations, Glassman’s explanation starts to get really complicated, as the importance of the rest interval depends on the mix of exercises in the particular workout. The bottom line, though, is that in order to continue improving, you must build rest days into any fitness regime. Elizabeth Quinn at About.com puts it well:

Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For recreational athletes, building in rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.

She goes on to explain the difference between short-term recovery (the hours immediately after exercise) and long-term recovery (rest days … and even rest weeks) in her article, emphasizing that the body needs time to repair and build muscles, recover from strain and adapt to new demands placed on it. Without rest days, you are more prone to injury.

And it’s not only rest days that matter. You need to makes sure you get sufficient sleep. If sleeping is a problem for you, then you may want to look at ways to improve your sleep, up to and including getting a sleep study done, particularly if you hear from everyone that you snore. For me, the wake-up call was when we visited friends out of town and my snoring wasn’t immediately identified by our hostess, who went up and down the hall trying to figure out the weird noise. When I asked her just how loud it was, she said, “Oh, I think the neighbors probably heard it.” (Not only do I have smartass children, I have smartass friends.)

So, after discussing it with Coach Ken Tollett of Hill Country CrossFit, my husband/coach has put me on a rest schedule every three days. After he realized my big sticking point was centered on my foot rub points, he gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse: I get one for every three 3-day stint.

So take your day off, really off (e.g., not getting too caught up in non-workout activities, as blogger Kelly found out), even if the day back seems harder. Your body will thank you for it.


Flatulence seems an unlikely topic for a CrossFit blog, I suppose, given that fart discussions are generally reserved for middle-schoolers and movies aimed at them. And, for some reason, scientists looking for ways to measure pretty much anything. But it was very disconcerting to find out that gassy outbursts occur frequently during CrossFit workouts. For me, they seem to really get going during situps.

Gary assures me it happens to everyone. I don’t know that I find that comforting.

I know why I have trouble overall with controlling emissions. As pretty much any woman who has borne children will tell you, control becomes more difficult after that first kid pops out and throws all the works out of kilter. Add irritable bowel syndrome to the mix, and, well, you could audition for one of those silly fart movies.

But why during exercise?

LiveStrong suggests that it could be because of swallowing air when drinking (yeah, you’re trying to get hydrated at the same time you’re gasping for air; makes sense) and tells us that gas and diarrhea are common enough among marathon runners to have earned a nickname, the Runner’s Trot. The same problem even plagues walkers, although at least one study indicates that the amount of gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise is less than (and directly related to) those experienced by the same people during nonexercise periods.

According to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology, “Exercise and gastorintestinal function and disease: an evidence-based review of risks and benefits,”

Light and moderate exercise is well tolerated and can benefit patients with inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease. Physical activity can also improve gastric emptying and lower the relative risk of colon cancer in most populations. Severe, exhaustive exercise, however, inhibits gastric emptying, interferes with gastrointestinal absorption, and causes many gastrointestinal symptoms, most notably gastrointestinal bleeding.

Hmm. Doesn’t say much about mere farting, but does explain the reason why competitive athletes would suffer from Runner’s Trot. For those of us who are just working within the parameters of normal humans, though, it sounds as though exercise is, overall a good thing for that pesky gas.

On a more positive note, EnduranceDoc.com says:

Although some may have concerns about increased flatulence during exercise, this is actually a good sign (although your neighbor or training partner may not agree with that statement).  Passing gas during exercise is a sign of good intestinal function – so feel free to let it out!

Umm, sorry, doc, but I’d really rather not. If you do let it out, though, apparently there is etiquette to be observed. And some exercises apparently do help reduce gas and other gastrointestinal problems.

For me, the most likely culprit for exercise gas is diet related: too many simple carbohydrates or eating foods I’m sensitive to. Both of these will cause bloating, pain, and gas for me. I can tell very quickly if I’ve been eating too many processed, simple carbs because I will be hungrier more frequently. If I reduce the amount of carbohydrates overall and increase the quality of those I do eat (fresh fruits and veggies), then I find that the gas level goes down (and I’m not starving all the time, either).

I also found out a couple of years ago that I have a couple of food sensitivities (not the same as a food allergy): corn and dairy. After avoiding them assiduously for two years, I now can have dairy in limited amounts without too many problems; corn still sends my digestive tract into a tailspin. One doctor helped me figure out what the problems were with a very simple test: stay off one of the following foods at a time for five days, then try it again after the five days are over. If you’re sensitive to the food, you’ll have a nasty episode of GI symptoms when you return to the food:

  1. Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream)
  2. Citrus (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits — raw, cooked, or juice)
  3. Chocolate
  4. Tomato (and tomato products)
  5. Cola (any kind that is brown)
  6. Grains (wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice)
  7. Eggs
  8. Sugar (refined sugar in any significant amount)

I figured out the corn/cheese problem after going for Mexican food at one of our favorite places and, within 24 hours, was cramping and running to the toilet every few minutes. It takes a while to get through the list, but it’s worth it — although I can tell you know, avoiding corn in processed foods is a trick. Read all the food labels once you figure out what your particular enemy is — if it is a grain, you’ll want to go through each one individually. Tip for prioritizing: If you crave it, it’s probably a problem food for you.

The upside of finding out that I had sensitivity to dairy and corn was that I was pretty much forced to eat healthy so that I could control what was in my food. Until then, I had massive GI problems at least three times a week. Now I only have really serious reactions only when I go out to eat and either decide to ignore the ingredients or don’t know all that’s in something.

Of course, what worked for me may not work for you. Here’s a few links to some articles with suggestions for reducing bloating and its consequence, gas:

We all want to avoid farting because of the social consequences, but the really important thing is to eat healthy to be healthy.

And gas is getting expensive these days, anyway.