Strength and human spirit have been on my mind a great deal this week. I read an article the other day about Alex Honnold free soloing one of the most challenging climbs in Yosemite Valley, and it made me really think about the mental side of the human spirit.
Here’s a guy just barely in his 30’s who has dedicated his whole life to climbing. He has practiced this route so much that he has memorized 3,000 vertical feet of movement. It’s phenomenal to me that he was able to train his body and his mind to conquer a task that appears utterly impossible. No ropes, no safety net, just climb (you can read about it here).
This same thought of human spirit and mental toughness came to mind the other day mid workout. At Icehouse on Monday we did a CrossFit bench mark workout in honor of those who lost their lives at Pulse Night Club in Orlando last year. The benchmark is called “Filthy 50” and we have designated it as Orlando 50 after the 49 people who have lost their lives. 10 movements 50 reps work your way through to the end.
It was somewhere in the middle of 50 wall ball shots (throwing a 14 lb ball 9 feet in the air) that I had the thought, “I wonder if the people in the gym realize how strong they really are.” 10 movements 50 reps each and each time after a short rest, they all go back and pick up their bar, their kettle bell, or their wall ball. I wonder if they have been able to channel this inner strength, the one that picks up the wall ball and does 50 reps, outside of the gym?
Sometimes life can through some serious challenges our way. Building this amazing mental strength in the gym can really help with these challenges. Being able to focus and complete the task at hand in the gym when all your mind is telling you to do is drop the wall ball and quit is such an incredible feat. The mental toughness it takes to walk back to the ball, pick it up, and keep throwing is part of being an Everyday Athlete.
This translates to your everyday tasks, whether it’s at work or or in your personal life. It helps you take obstacles and approach them like workouts. Instead of seeing something as overwhelming or impossible, it helps you look at it and break it out in a way that you can tackle it “one rep at a time,” as if it were a workout. At Icehouse we are not only training ourselves to be physically strong but mentally strong as well.
How has the mental strength you’ve built in the gym helped you out there in your everyday life?
As I’m sure you all have noticed, winter has officially rolled into Fargo. It’s been snowing for a week straight, that nasty cold bug is now on it’s 2nd round through, and holiday parties have taken over your social calendar. With all of the craziness of the season, it is even more challenging to stay on track that usual. So here are a few tips we use to keep ourselves consistent despite the crazy weather and calendar.
Plan Your Week and Stick to the Plan
It gets really easy to say I have happy hour so I am going to skip the gym today. Skipping today can lead into skipping tomorrow, which can then lead into “I’ll start again on Monday.” More often than not we know what days those holiday parties or happy hours will fall on, so it is possible to plan around them. If you know Thursday & Friday are busy, build those in as rest days and make the Team WOD on Saturday, or take advantage of all the snow and go cross country skiing! Either way keep moving as much as possible, even when the weather is trying to tell you to sit by the fire inside.
Eat In/Meal Prep as much as possible
This is a very similar point to the one above, but probably even more important. Not only do you have to combat the busy schedule, you are also tempted daily with Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, drinks, and all the deliciousness that is holiday treats. We won’t tell you to just walk away every time since we are human and also enjoy a good peanut butter blossom too, but being prepared can help minimize these run-ins so they don’t last the entire span of December. Still pick a time each week and do some meal prep so you have healthy meals & snacks on hand as much as possible. If you are eating healthy and keeping yourself nourished, it can be easier to skip the cookies (still challenging, but much easier if you aren’t starving), or at least keep the cookie incidents to a minimum. Heating up one of those pre-planned meals prior to a happy hour can also help you avoid the appetizers as well.
Add in some regular self care
It is important to give yourself some downtime as needed, especially when your social calendar is overflowing. I understand adding in a yoga class, or a book club might not be realistic in an already crammed schedule but finding some ways to get centered can be helpful. If time is a challenge, a 5 minute meditation either first thing in the morning to help you wake up or right before bed can make a big difference. You can search for guided meditation on Youtube if it helps to keep your mind from wandering.
If you have 10-15 minutes you can add in ROMWOD, not only is it a great way to wind down, it is also great for mobility and to keep you healthy and balanced from all of those workouts!
If you are over extended, it is ok to say No
One year I went home and had 6 Thanksgiving dinners to hit in one day. Six. In One Day. I was a little younger then, and I live far away so thought I had to go to all of them. Well I ended up basically doing drive bys for most of them, not being present, eating wayyyyyyy to much (clearly) and just ended the day exhausted and frazzled. While I know this might be an exaggeration, if you have already committed to the amount of social outings you and/or your schedule can physically or emotionally handle, it is within your right to politely decline. Think of it this way, if you try to cram in that 6th dinner, are you actually going to have a good time, or are you going to show up exhausted, stuffed and a drag? Do what you need to do to stay sane 🙂
Get some sleep!
I know, easier said than done, but it is doable. If you are an IPhone user, the most recent update allows you to set an alarm to tell you to go to sleep based on how much sleep you need and when you need to be up. This has been a lifesaver for me to be rested up for those morning classes! Alarm or no alarm, put the phones down! Try reading a book (remember those) for a few minutes before bed each night so you aren’t staring at a screen right before trying to fall asleep. Read a chapter, put the book down, then get some sleep.
I could easily turn this into a 25 things to do to survive the holidays, but just sticking to these 5 will go a long long way! Good luck navigating those social calendars!
There’s magic in CrossFit, have you noticed that yet? I was asked the other day how it’s possible that working out for 10 min in a day can make you in better shape. How is that possible when everything you know says to be constantly moving for over an hour? Yes it’s true.
It is possible to get in the best shape of your life in less time. That magic ingredient is called Intensity. It takes people who can barely get off the couch and transforms them into jacked unicorns. Intensity is a measurable factor, it’s Power: force multiplied by distance divided by time. To state that simply: Intensity is doing more work faster.
This doesn’t come easy for some, the idea of doing more work when all you want to do is rest, that’s a hard concept. Let’s take a look at Fran the popular CrossFit benchmark workout we completed recently (21-15-9 thursters (95/63) and pull-ups). Fran is a great workout to drive intensity if done correctly. It’s a workout that should be completed in under 7 minutes. Pushing the intensity of this workout means scaling the weight we use for most of us. Maintaining a constant push through the entire series of movements, if you need to break up a set, that rest period should be for no more than 5 seconds. Intensity is, as Coach Greg Glassman states “learning to be comfortable, being uncomfortable”.
Intensity drives favorable adaptation of the human body. Simply put intensity is what makes you a jacked unicorn! Let’s dive a little deeper though and chat about the do’s and don’ts of pushing your threshold. In order to get good at increasing intensity you first need to make sure your form is dialed in and solid. The workouts that are less technical (i.e. body weight movements) are a great time to test intensity. The goal is to keep pushing even when you want to stop. When you do reach that point where you need a break, it’s short and precise. You count to 5 in your head, collect your breath and you’re back in the WOD. The goal is NOT to go out so hard you can’t recover, that actually causes the workout to loose it’s intensity and its intended purpose.
A great way to achieve this intensity level is by scaling the workout. If a workout calls for 21-15-9 of 135 lb back squat and burpees, and your squat one rep max is at 200 lbs, this would be a great opportunity to scale. You could do the workout at 95 lbs and really push the intensity. Try to do the set of 21 in 2 sets and try not stopping through the burpees. This will push you to a new level verses doing this workout Rx and having to rest for 5 min of it because it’s too heavy. The latter approach makes this workout an aerobic endeavor and slows your progress to becoming a jacked unicorn.
Each workout programmed is your chance to give it everything you’ve got. We see a little too often people not giving their all in a workout, hanging out at the chalk bucket, taking a long walk to their water bottles and thus not seeing the changes that they want to see. Form, consistency, THEN intensity will get you where you want to be.
So a few weeks ago I went to TedX Fargo, and one of the speaker’s topics was “Own Your Stuff.” So here we are 🙂
As most of you know, I quit my day job 2 months ago (wow those 2 months flew!) to focus on Icehouse to try to help make it everything Coach Sara & I want it to be. AKA I needed to stop half a$$ing 2 things, and whole a$$ one thing.
One driving factor in making that decision was the simple fact that I wasn’t owning my sh*t…I mean stuff. I was using the day job, and lack of time it created as an excuse for how we were doing as a business, my training, my nutrition, lack of rest, etc etc etc. Yes the 50 hours I was spending at a job I didn’t care about, distracted constantly about the gym (which I actually DO care about) was a contributing factor, but a factor that I chose. So if I wanted things to change, I would have to do something about it.
Now, I am not telling you to walk into your boss’s office and throw in your badge & keys, but I am urging you to step back and take a look at what is holding you back from where you want to be (this can be in your career, life, health, fitness, anywhere really), and really think about what is driving that. And furthermore, really look at that information and see how it sits.
One of my (many) personal examples: nutrition. The base of the fitness pyramid, it is ridiculously important, yet I was saying “I’m too tired too cook, I forgot to meal prep, I lost track of time between classes, etc etc.” If I as a gym owner can’t own my sh*t and get my nutrition in line, how could I possibly be expecting our members who work full time, have kids, spouses, and lives outside of the gym to also deal with do reign in their nutrition when I was half a$$ing it myself? When I actually sat with that information, it did not sit well AT ALL. That is so hypocritical it’s embarrassing.
While I was okay with my overall nutrition, not like I was washing down Sandy’s with a 6 pack on the reg, I still needed to be more dialed in and consistent. I now spend my Sunday afternoons meal prepping for the week, and it’s already made a huge difference. A few hours on a Sunday = less scrambling during the week, eating the right foods, more energy, and already some big PR’s. Even some better sleep to boot! Every Sunday I still have to make myself go in the kitchen and do it, but damn does it feel good when it’s done!
So, what is holding you back? Here are a few common ones we hear:
Not enough time? – How many hours of TV are you watching a day? How long do you spend scrolling through Facebook every evening? Maybe that time would be better spent reading, or at the gym…
Not enough money?– How much are you spending monthly on eating out? Happy hour? Amazon splurges? A simple budget & plan can easily cover a gym membership and real food.
I’m too out of shape? – How did it get this way? What can you do to change it? All you have to do is start. Go for a walk. Get the bike out of the garage. Do SOMETHING!
It’s summer, I’ll start in the fall– Now I get it, beer seems to taste better on a hot day, but if you are waiting to start something fall will turn into winter, winter will turn into spring, then it’ll be too nice to start again before you know it. So go for a walk. Get out the bike…see where I’m going 🙂
So I ask again, what is holding you back? What can YOU do to change it?
For a lot of you at the gym this last two weeks has felt like your first 2 weeks of CrossFit, except you’re probably just more familiar with that sore feeling. Believe it or not in this constantly varied, functional fitness world, there is a method behind the madness. At Icehouse we do training cycles, to keep making you better athletes. Each cycle is roughly 12 weeks long with our training pinnacle being the CrossFit Open (even if you’re not a games athlete, it’s a lot of fun).
So back to why you are feeling a little bit sore lately, this might seem like words from the nerdery but stay with me. Last training cycle we stayed in the heavier weight ranges, slowed things down, shortened the reps and worked on building strength. Now we’ve switched gears and this cycle is all about gaining muscle mass, endurance, while continuing to gain strength, and it’s called hypertrophy.
Image Credit to iluvesports.com
Hypertrophy involves enlarging a muscle by overloading it from a strength standpoint. We have added reps while keeping the weight in the 60-80% of our 1 RM. This make our muscles grow to the size of Arnold Schwarzeneggers (just kidding…kind of). This type of volume, weight combination has several advantages to it, one being muscular endurance. Not like the marathon running endurance but the “hold on to the bar for 5 more squats in a metcon” type of endurance. After a few weeks of this style of training you’ll be able to push a little bit harder during the mid range workouts (i.e 20 Push Press, 20 Box Jumps, 20 Front Squat). As you’re learning this does not mean they get easier, it means your time should get a little faster.
This style of training also gives you yet another opportunity, to perfect your form. As always it’s Form, Function and then Intensity. Staying in these lower weight ranges allows you to feel the movement and how you are moving. You can work the little things like weight in your heals, chest tall or getting your head through the window, while still getting stronger.
In the fitness world any type of variation in your training will leave those muscles feeling sore. In this case we have increased your volume of training pretty significantly. Things will start to adapt over the next week or so and your body will adjust to this new volume and every step wont remind you that you’re a CrossFit athlete.
Since we know you have been following along this goal setting series, you no know why ya need them, what they are, and how to start. So what is the plan to keep on track at Icehouse?
As Coach Sara alluded to on Facebook, next week is test out week. If you’ve been with us a while this is a great way to see progress! If you are newer and haven’t done a test out week this is an excellent time to baseline, so do what you can do make it in Monday, Wednesday & Friday of next week!
We will be using some of that time in class to set our goals for the next quarter/6 months. We know time is limited for lots of folks, so we are going to use some class time to get these set, we think they are that important!
Here is something new we are adding, you will give a copy to your Primary Coach. What is that you say? Well each of you will be designated a Primary Coach (PC) to help you on your path here at Icehouse, and we’ll help you crush those goals. Your PC will help to keep you on track and accountable. We are both obviously still here for any questions and to support all of you, we have just added another layer to make sure you have what you need at all times to be successful.
Once we have our initial goals set, you will sit down with your Primary Coach quarterly for one on one goal setting sessions to make sure you are on track, and get new goals set regularly. So the first round we’ll do together, then it’ll be one on one going forward. Your PC will also be checking in with you regularly to see how things are going, not only at the gym, but in life as a whole.
We are excited to be able to add this to your memberships. We want to make sure you are getting everything you need and to help you stay on track with your health and wellness goals! As always, thanks for being awesome!