Written by Sage Burgener (and her brother, Casey)
I’m not going to say much in this post, I’m going to let my brother’s letter do all the talking (he doesn’t know I’m posting this. He’ll probably be upset. I’m ok with that).
But I will say that last year when I was training for the CrossFit Games I was struggling with feeling like I was mentally weak. I saw all these amazing athletes around me that, during the hardest of workouts, never had one look of pain or struggle across their face. They appeared to be immune to the torture. I never felt that way when I was working out. I feared workouts. I feared getting under heavy weights. I feared the pain that was to be inflicted upon me via thrusters. Because I feared so often, I was certain that I had some rare, possibly fatal, medical condition.
My brother Casey got his degree in physics,which basically means he knows everything. Therefore, I burden him with all of my questions about life, liberty and the pursuit of chocolate. I wrote him an email asking him, as an Olympic athlete, what he thought it meant to be “mentally tough.” The letter he wrote to me seriously changed my life. I am not saying that I am mentally tough by any means, but I at least have a better understanding of how to go about becoming a better person each day. I read this letter almost everyday and it has gotten me through many times of self doubt. It is long, but I promise you won’t be disappointed if you read the whole thing…especially if you feel like you may have the same medical condition that I had.
“First, you need to decide what you are going to do. This may sound like a simple step, or like you’ve already done it, but let me tell you, it’s the hardest, and most important step in being tough. Once you make the commitment to do something, then almost nothing can stop you. This is why it took me so long to decide to come back to lifting. I knew once I committed, nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals, no matter what the costs, or how much workouts sucked, or how badly my body felt.
So with you, you have to really really really decide that the Crossfit Games are what you want to do. Once you decide this, the process will be easy. When you commit, it’s easier to block weaknesses out of your head, and workouts will seem like steps forward to your goal, rather than burdens. When you commit, I really believe you can do anything. Really take this decision seriously though, because if you only “half” decide you want to do it, or do it for “fun”, then you shouldn’t even worry about Regionals, and just train whenever you want to and not care about how a workout goes. If you decide to do it for “fun”, then you can’t be bothered by any performance at Regionals or any meet, because you decided not to take it seriously.
Now, either decision in your case wouldn’t be a bad one (in my opinion), just make sure you stick to your choice wholeheartedly. I read a great book recently, and it talked about how when someone commits to something, they should do it all the way, and be satisfied with whatever the outcome. So if you commit to the Games and start training as hard as you can, you have to be comfortable with the possibility that you may succeed tremendously, or fail miserably (in terms of winning and losing). The important thing is that you committed, and you did everything you could to make it happen. Trust me, if you do that, the thoughts about winning and losing seem to almost disappear. It’s about overcoming yourself, and pushing yourself to become greater than you were the day before, that’s what really matters.
I’m reading a great book right now, and while I don’t agree with a lot of points (it’s an atheist book that talks a lot about being selfish), it has a lot of great points about pushing yourself to your highest potential. He talks mostly about pushing yourself in terms of knowledge and creativity, but I think a lot of it applies to life as well. Basically, every decision you make should be a conscious one in becoming a better person. Every decision you make has meaning to it, and you pursue a better self constantly. The friends you choose, the people you surround yourself with, the food you eat, the books you read, the television you watch, how much sleep you get, everything should be a stern decision that makes you go in a better direction than the one you’re headed towards. Surround yourself with people who want to make themselves better, and who in turn push you to make you better.
One of the big points in the book is the “will to power”, which basically means that when you conquer yourself and get rid of everything that has once held you back, you can “will” yourself to do anything. This is really difficult to achieve, but think about how much it could help if you just strive for it. If every time you have a bad day, or feel a negative emotion, or have a bad workout, you “will” yourself out of the poor mindset, refusing to let it beat you down, and just continue your journey in becoming the best you can be. I’m not saying you can be like this every day, but the important issue is that you are truly DOING it. You’ll slip up, you’ll still have bad days, but as long as your moving forward, and not letting yourself continue to slip, then there’s nothing you can’t do.
Mental toughness for me has always been hard to explain. I’ve never really thought that I was mentally tough, but the reason why I was successful in meets is because I KNEW what I was capable of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit lifting, or give up, but I didn’t because I committed to what I was doing. That was one thing Mom and Dad taught us that is invaluable; to never quit. When you commit to whatever it is in life, make sure it’s a positive direction, and just don’t quit. Fight with all of your being to achieve what you set out to, and know that you’re becoming a better person because of it. So even if you have a bad day, or hate Crossfit, or lifting, or school, or whatever it is, you can still have the confidence that what you’re doing is making you better in some way, and that is a beautiful feeling.
A lot of this may not seem like it pertains to mental toughness, but when you think about it, what does that mean anyway? Toughness means you fight through pain, or discomfort, and continue striving forward. But why would you do this in the first place? It seems against our nature to put ourselves through pain and discomfort, so why bother? The answer is this; because we are committed to making ourselves better, committed to be something greater than what we currently are. Think about the people who are tough, the one thing they have in common is that they’ve committed to something. Whether it’s becoming healthy, smarter, a better parent, or a Crossfit Games champion, they decided it was what they wanted, and they didn’t care how hard it became, or what obstacles showed up, nothing was going to stop them from following through with the decision they made.
The last thing I’m going to say is that while all of this seems draining, and challenging, it also has to be fun. Commitments can be joyous, they don’t have to be discouraging and hard all the time. I committed to being a husband, that doesn’t mean it’s a burden. It’s challenging, and tough at times, but I love every minute of it because I DECIDED that it was what I wanted to be. So take comfort in knowing that no matter what decision you make, or what direction you want to pursue, it’s going to be amazing because it’s your path, your decision, your direction. There’s beauty in the successes and the failures of your journey. Soak up every ounce of it and know that you’re becoming a better human being. “
KB Line Drill
20 KB Snatch Right- 1.5/1
20 Pull Ups
10 KB Snatch Right
10 Pull Ups
10 KB Snatch Left
20 Pull Ups
20 KB Snatch Left
We all make poor choices against our better judgment. It’s kind of what makes us human – the tendency to actively and willfully make decisions that will result in unfavorable outcomes. Sure, the candy bar tastes good, but you know you’ll feel awful after eating it. Yeah, that blog is fun to read, but you know you’d be much happier if you finished that essay for class first. And yet five minutes later, a candy bar wrapper sits, emptied of its contents; your molars house fragments of nougat and sport a caramel sheen; light nausea approaches; and you find yourself wading knee deep through comment sections, MS Word window minimized. What just happened? Why did you do those things that you told yourself you wouldn’t, that you warned yourself against, and whose negative ramifications are already coming to fruition – just as you predicted?
Last week, we began the dialog with my introductory post on akrasia – the act of knowingly working against one’s own interests – but we didn’t get into any details. Today, I’m going to try to provide a few answers. I’m going to delve into the reasons for akrasia, particularly as it pertains to making bad eating choices. I won’t discuss psychological issues, per se, instead focusing on physiological explanations, but keep in mind that the two are often one and the same. You can’t really separate the mind from the body (well, without killing the person, that is).
Whether we pick up the phone to order takeout, open the candy wrapper, shove the spoon into the jar of Nutella, or accept the offered slice of cake, we are making a decision. Most health experts say making the healthy decision is a matter of willpower. So that if you make an unhealthy decision you simply don’t want it badly enough. Like Bob Newhart in that old Mad TV sketch, they seem to think all you have to do is just “STOP IT!”
Well, it’s not that easy. Otherwise, folks wouldn’t be making these decisions that go against their better judgment. Otherwise, they’d indeed be “stopping it.”
So why do we do it?
Many – perhaps most – poor dietary choices stem from an inability to resist cravings. And who can blame you, really? Whether they’re for chips, sweets, or something specific like wheat, cravings are difficult to ignore by design. Their very purpose is to get you to give in to them, to override your rational side and promote decisive, single-minded pursuit of whatever it is you crave. Something, then, is at the heart of these cravings. Something physiological. But what?
1. You’re missing something from your diet and your ancient genes are misinterpreting the modern cravings.
There’s often a disconnect between what our animal bodies need or desire and what our human minds know is best. When the animal body perceives a deficiency, some nutrient lacking in the diet, like salt, it often develops a craving for that nutrient. 20,000 years ago, if you were salt-deficient you would have gone looking for shellfish or rock salt, because those are the salt sources you knew. Your food memory bank was rather limited in scope. Today, that same salt deficiency might manifest as a craving for Pringles or Cheezits, because those foods are listed under “salt” in your food memory bank.
Let’s look at some research on the subject. In one study (PDF), human volunteers were put on a strict low-sodium diet and treated with diuretics for ten days, rendering “substantial sodium depletion.” The effects were pretty telling. Salt thresholds – the minimum detectable level of sodium chloride dissolved in water – lowered dramatically; the subjects could detect lower levels of salt during sodium-depletion than they could during sodium-repletion. Furthermore, salt depletion made salty foods taste better than they had before the study, and salt-depleted subjects rated the saltiest foods as the most attractive and desirable.
It’s quite possible that your “Pringles cravings” are actually salt cravings, and that the former is simply what your animal body associates with “salty.”
2. You’re missing something from your diet and your modern self is misinterpreting the ancient cravings.
What about sweet cravings? Paul Jaminet thinks that sugar cravings might actually be fatty meat cravings. It sounds crazy on the face of it, but he makes some salient points. First, certain amino acids are actually slightly sweet. These sweeter amino acids are also hydrophobic, which means they are found inside cells with fats, and they repel water (fat doesn’t mix with water). Hydrophilic amino acids, which are water-soluble, do not associate with fat, and trigger the umami tastebuds, are not sweet. A leading theory of sweetness even suggests that in order for a compound to be sweet (to interact with sweetness receptors), it must be hydrophobic. Paul suggests that in a Paleolithic environment with ample prey, bland (rather than sweet) tubers and less abundant/seasonal fruits, cravings for sweets drove us to eat calorie-dense, nutrient-rich fatty meat.
It’s possible, yet again, that our animal bodies are confused by the modern (and totally understandable) conflation of sweet with sugar and misinterpret what is actually a need for fat. Perhaps those sweet cravings turn into sugar binges because sugar isn’t actually what your body wants.
3. You’re addicted to wheat.
Wheat contains opioid peptides that may be able to activate opioid receptors in our bodies. You know what else activates opioid receptors? Opium, morphine, and heroin. (I’ve never tried any of them, but I hear they can inspire some real devotion from their users. See: Trainspotters, Requiem for a Dream.) I know that may sound glib, and I’ll be the first to admit that research into this is still very preliminary. You won’t find any ironclad evidence on PubMed that wheat is addictive. But the thinking goes that rather than hitting you like a ton of bricks and rendering you speechless from the sublime triggering of your opioid receptors, wheat addiction manifests as a stubborn lingering thing.
Evidence does exist, however limited. One older paper (PDF) that identifies multiple opioid peptides in wheat gluten, suggests that they are capable of binding to brain opioid receptors via a “plausible biomechanical mechanism,” and deems them of “physiological significance.” Dr. Emily Deans, of Evolutionary Psychiatry, has actually used naltrexone – a drug that blocks opiate receptors – to curb wheat cravings in celiac patients who are trying to kick the “habit.”
Wheat plays a huge role in the diets of industrialized nations. If you’re reading this, you probably grew up eating it. You may still be eating it from time to time – and that may be at least partly responsible for your urge to eat that slice of bread.
4. You’re addicted to sugar.
Similarly to wheat, sugar has addictive properties. A review of the rat studies shows that rodents will become quite addicted to sugar rather quickly, at times even choosing it over pharmaceutical-grade cocaine. There’s evidence that the addictive properties affect humans, too. As with wheat, naltrexone has been shown to reduce the rewarding properties of sugar in people. When you block the opiate receptors in the brain, sugar simply isn’t as rewarding and you’re not driven to consume as much of it.
Sugar appears to be addictive in both rats and humans. You, being a human, could very well be drawn to make bad decisions about sweets because you are addicted to them.
5. You’re stressed out.
Everyone knows about “stress eating.” Chronic stress is repeatedly linked to obesity and overeating, and there’s strong evidence that it even elicits cravings for specific foods or nutrients. Like sugar. Remember our old friend cortisol? It’s one of the premier stress hormones, and in high cortisol responders – people that secrete lots of cortisol in response to stress – cravings for and intake of sweets increase dramatically. Stress also appears to increase the desire for “comfort foods,” those deadly high-sugar, high-fat concoctions, via an increase in ghrelin, a hunger hormone.
Stress can also lead to salt cravings, probably because the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones also produce hormones which monitor electrolyte balance. And indeed, stress can also increase salt requirements, which, as we know from earlier, can often manifest as “chips cravings” or “cracker cravings.”
6. You’re training too much without adequate fueling.
My general rule is that starchy vegetables like tubers and potatoes, as well as sweet fruits, are elective foods. You don’t need ‘em, and most people, especially those who are trying to lose weight, will be better off limiting them. They can be tasty, though, and if your activity levels warrant a higher intake of carbs, you could eat them. I have no problem with that and I don’t see them as problematic in that situation. In fact, if you’re doing daily Crossfit WODs or pounding the pavement to the tune of 100+ miles each week, you had better eat some tubers and some fruit. If you don’t, if you go very low carb while trying to maintain that breakneck pace, you will suffer. You will probably also crave easily-digestible, refined, processed junk carbs. Think chips, bread, pizza, pasta, or – my own personal favorite/nemesis from my Chronic Cardio days – tubs of ice cream.
Your body needs to replenish the glycogen, and it needs carbohydrates to do it. Gluconeogenesis can only get you so far if you’re pushing your body to its limits. In the face of heavy, glycogen-depleting training, a lack of Primal starch sources will have you craving sweets and grains in no time.
7. You’re not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep has long been associated with overeating and obesity. For one thing, poor or disrupted sleep schedules promote disrupted cortisol secretion, which – as I’ve shown above – can affect our food choices. Bad sleep also increases insulin resistance, which changes how we process macronutrients (especially carbohydrates) and renders us more prone to fat gain. And now, a recent study has shown that a single bout of acute sleep deprivation (just one night) causes people to find food more rewarding. Patients on no sleep derived more pleasure from food, desired more food, and reported more hunger than patients who had slept. And that was just a single night. Just imagine the effects of days, weeks, or even years of chronic poor sleep.
If you’re running on no sleep, you may very well be more susceptible to the wiles of junk food.
8. You fear being socially isolated due to your food choices.
Peer pressure doesn’t just occur in groups of teens smoking joints behind a 7/11. It can happen at birthday parties, at office events, or during the holidays. Wherever treats are being served, and the vast majority of those in attendance partakes, those who would otherwise refuse the offered treats often feel pressured to give in. You hem and haw, try to say “No, thanks,” but you start thinking you see shared glances between judgmental partiers, sense hurt feelings from amateur bakers, and you worry about looking like a “health nut” (as if that’s a terrible thing or something), so you take the slice of cake or square of brownie and partake. You know what happened last time you gave in. You remember quite vividly the downward spiral of junk indulgence that transpired then, and probably will again. But still you eat it.
One explanation may be that social rejection – even if it’s only imagined – can manifest as physical pain. To figure this out, researchers ran brain scans on study participants as they played a virtual ball-tossing game and then began excluding them from play (PDF). Ultimately, all participants were excluded from the game. During both explicit social exclusion (in which players were prevented from participating by other players) and implicit social exclusion (in which extenuating circumstances prevented participants from joining the game), the brain scans registered significant activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region of the brain that acts as a “neural alarm system” or a “conflict monitor.” Whenever “something is wrong,” the ACC lights up. Physical pain famously triggers the ACC, but the ACC is not involved in the physical sensation of pain. It’s involved in mental distress.
Distress is a negative sensation. It is unpleasant by its very definition. If you’ve resisted the treats in the past and felt socially isolated or rejected because of it, you may be conditioned to take the treat next time in order to avoid the isolation and avoid the activation of your neural distress center.
Do any of these sound familiar? When it comes to making poor dietary decisions, keep in mind that we are complex animals and the causes of our actions are multifactorial. Some or all of these factors may play into your particular misstep. Maybe you gorged on cake at the party both because your ACC was buzzing in trepidation at the prospect of social isolation and because you’d been putting in way too many road miles, you were overtrained, your cortisol was spiked, your blood sugar was low, and you were craving sugar. It could be any number of things from this list (and even some that aren’t on it).
So, while the decision ultimately rests on your plate, you might find it helpful to understand that a whole host of factors is actively influencing you. These aren’t excuses, and they don’t remove responsibility, but they do show you what might be going on under the hood. Hopefully by understanding exactly why we often make bad decisions about food against our better judgment, we can tip the scales in our favor before the next one is made.
10 Box jumps- 24/20
20 Wall balls
A: Press: 5x 65/75/AMRAP 85%
B: WOD- AMRAP 8
Tabata Run or Row
5x 65/75/AMRAP 85%
10 Hang Squat Snatch 95/65
A: Oly Skill Work
Squat Snatch: work up to 65%
Open Gym today:
Hours: 10 and 11am
This is your last chance to try the Opens WOD, all scores need to be submitted by 5pm today.
This weekend all classes on Saturday will be moved one hour earlier:
CrossFit Kids: 8:30am
Endurance Practice: 9am
Class: 9 am
Competition Class: 10 am
There are now classes at 5 am on Tuesday and Thursday.
Remember we have noon classes on Tuesday and Thursday.
by Vic Magary (http://www.gymjunkies.com/
10. Women will get bulky from lifting weights
Let me be more specific – women are afraid that lifting HEAVY weights will make them bulky. Crappy fitness videos abound with women performing biceps curls and triceps kickbacks with dumbbells that should only be used as paper weights.
Women can not get big and bulky for one very good reason…their bodies don’t produce enough testosterone to build the large bulky muscles you’re likely to see in bodybuilding ads. Testosterone is a key ingredient to putting on muscle mass, and the only way women can get this type of big bulky look is by taking steroids and hormone injections. This is why you see bulky female body builders.
So don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights if you’re a woman. Lifting heavy will make a woman strong, not manly. And personally, I find a strong woman sexy as hell.
9. Yoga will make you long and lean
I’ve been to a few yoga classes in my day. And yes, I’ll admit my attendance was at least “partly” motivated by the target rich environment of fit young ladies (there was only one other dude in the class). But the flexibility and breath training of yoga appealed to the martial artist in me, so I took the class seriously.
My take on yoga? After over 25 years of martial arts training, yoga was the best flexibility training that I ever experienced. I also found yoga to be outstanding for balance, static strength, and breath work. But hearing someone say that yoga will make your muscles long and lean makes me cringe. Maybe we’re dealing with semantics here, but I’m thinking the “length” of a muscle is not going to change anymore than the skeletal structure it’s attached to. Perhaps the increase in flexibility from yoga training causes people to use the term “long” to describe their muscles. Whether it’s poor terminology or marketing hype, yoga will not make your muscles long.
As far as lean, yoga will contribute no more to being “lean” than any other activity using equivalent caloric expenditure. I’m saying that if your yoga class causes you to burn 150 calories and mopping the floor causes you to burn 150 calories, mopping the floor will make you just as lean as doing yoga. But then you’re unlikely to see the hot blonde chic doing the downward dog in yoga pants while mopping your floor.
8. Deadlifts and Squats are dangerous.
Have you picked a bag of groceries off of the floor recently? Then you’ve done the deadlift. Have you stood up from a seated position? Then you’ve done the squat. Danger in these movements is a factor of load and technique. Proper technique will ensure proper skeletal alignment, reducing the chance of injury. Using a load appropriate for your current fitness level will also reduce the chance of injury. Notice I did not say eliminate injury. All movement involves the risk of injury to some extent, whether it’s rocking a 400 pound squat or crossing the street.
7. Three sets of ten repetitions is the best program for building muscle.
Let me make this clear from the start: There is no “best program” for building muscle. There are too many factors that change from person to person to call anything “best”. That being said, three sets of ten reps is a good program for building muscle – for the beginner.
But damn near any resistance training someone does if they have no prior training is going to garner a muscle building response. Beware the lofty promises of the glossy fitness mags. Three sets of ten reps is not a cure-all for the muscularly challenged. The Gym Junkies muscle buiding program would be a better starting point for people with prior training experience.
Bottom of Form 1
6. Machines are safer than free weights
Damn near every exercise machine lulls you into a false sense of security. The machine makes you think you are strong, when you are much weaker than you would be if you spent the same time and effort with free weights. The machine forces you into a plane of motion that is not natural and almost always robs you of the opportunity to develop stabilizing muscles, posture, and balance.
So when the real world strikes – and the real world always strikes – and you have to lift a couch or push a car or pull your dog off of the mailman, you’ll find that all of your machine work doesn’t quite transfer to the task at hand. Skeletal and muscular injuries are a risk in ANY exercise program. A deadlift isn’t bungee jumping. Grab the bar and move some damn weight!
5. Looking fit = being fit.
Oh how I love it when the former high school football star walks into my gym for the first time. He’s five or ten years removed from his varsity jacket, but he still appears to be in pretty good shape. Hell, he still goes to the gym three days a week and he IS in better shape than the average Joe.
But his fitness mag workout built muscles lie to him. They give him an arrogance that I smell and I can’t help but satisfy the urge to serve him some humble pie. So I feed him a simple 4 minute workout of Tabata squats. No added weight – just his body. His face reddens, his legs quiver, but he makes it to the end. And then curls into the fetal position in the corner.
Being “fit” should give a person relative high performance across a broad spectrum of physical attributesincluding strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination. You can look like an underwear model and still get humbled by having to move the refrigerator.
4. Targeting specific muscle groups is the best way to lift.
How many times have you heard “Today I’m doing bi’s and tri’s” or “Monday is my chest day”? How you plan a resistance training program depends on several factors, but the one factor we’ll concern ourselves with here is the goal in mind.
Why are you doing resistance training? I prefer to design programs around movements instead of muscles. The real world is never going to give you a task that focuses only on your “bi’s”. The body moves as one piece so it is important that you treat it accordingly. Full body movements like deadlifts, power cleans, and presses should be the staples of any resistance program.
At least any program that wants to get you fit and not just ready for your beach vacation.
3. You need supplements to get in good shape
Supplements should be used only for what they’re name implies: to “supplement” an already nutritious diet. Pills, powders, potions, and magic elixirs are not the Holy Grail they are purported to be.
Most supplements are useless, and the few that are beneficial should only be applied after solid nutrition is in place. What supplements do I consider alright? A good multi-vitamin is never going to get bad mouthed by me. An omega-3 supplement if you are unable to get it from your diet (and few of us can) is alright. And maybe, and I said maybe, a protein powder if you are unable to acquire the required amount of protein from your diet. Keep the Horny Goat Weed to yourself.
2. Long slow running is the best way to lose weight
I so wish this one would go the way of the dinosaur. But I still hear people saying how they’re running 5 miles a day in their efforts to lose weight. I tell them that if they want to run to lose weight they should sprint their ass off until they see stars and then walk until the stars go away. Then repeat this cycle until they feel like it is impossible to continue.
The reality is that long slow cardio training of any kind – whether pounding the pavement or watching the wheels go ’round on the eliptical is inefficient to put it nicely and a waste of time to put it bluntly. And for all of you wannabe-gerbils rocking the treadmills, don’t get me started on the pretty lights and the “fat burning zone” of the digital read out. Just like your prom date saying it’s her first time, those things lie – don’t believe the hype.
Cranking your metabolism into a fat burning furnace takes pushing yourself to an exertion level that is “uncomfortable”.
1. Crunches will get rid of belly fat
Oh man, this one is right up there with long slow cardio as far as pervasive myths that get my blood boiling go. In a very broad sense, getting rid of fat is a simple factor of expending more calories that you take in.
And doing a crunch, which moves the body through a minuscule range of motion, is not going to expend many calories. Cranking the metabolism with some solid muscle building resistance training is going to go a hell of a lot farther in reducing your spare tire than racking up your crunch total.
I’ll even go as far as to say you can get the abs of a Greek god without doing a single crunch.
10 Min Goat Work
4 Squat clean and Jerk 205/155
6 Rope Climbs
A: Squat Clean and Jerk
Redemption on Opens WOD and or/
4 squat clean and Jerk 205/155
6 Rope Climbs
C: Endurance WOD
SD/Comp: 5x 1 min hard with decreasing rest of 1min, 45s, 30s, 15s
LD: 8 x 1min hard with changing rest of 1min, 45s, 30s, 15s, 30s, 45s, 1min