Get Fit, For A Change…


If you have ever tried to start a new healthy habit or perhaps eliminate an old one you know difficult change can be.

Our bodies are adaptation machines however and will adapt to the stimulus they experience most frequently. One way to prime your body for change is to exercise. Exercise causes a whole host of changes in your physiology that can make learning a new habit or skill easier. It is also a great replacement for bad habits you are trying to eliminate. Whatever your goal may be fitness can play a huge role in your transformation. The most important part of change is starting, taking action towards your goal. Even if you slip and fall it is way better than never having tried at all.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly” -G.K. Chesterton

That’s why if you are interested in pursuing a new career, relationship, or habit you should make it a priority to dedicate time each week to rigorous physical exercise. Exercise has numerous physical benefits but it goes beyond that. The way you eat and the way you move your body has a direct impact on the way you think, your mood, and how you make decisions.

Improving cognitive function can give you the energy and mental stamina to make other great changes in your life. Numerous studies have shown significant brain benefits as a result of both cardiovascular and resistance training routines. Exercise has been proven to increase the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin and other neurohormones like the endorphin dopamine. These act on the opiate receptors in our brain to reduce pain and boost pleasure.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” -John Wooden

Exercise has also been shown to stimulate the growth of the hippocampus, synapses, and glial cells in your brain. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and individuals who exercise are able to better recall information.

Synapses are the junctions where our cells communicate with one another, sending signals throughout the body that guide our actions. Exercise stimulates the growth of synapses which helps reinforce learning. The stronger we develop neural pathways through our synapses the stronger we reinforce the pattern. If you are trying to learn a new routine or information exercise can help.

Glial cells provide support and protection for cells in the brain and central nervous system. Exercises stimulates the growth of these cells helping you literally build a bigger brain. It is believed that a bigger brain leads to enhanced cognitive function.

Exercise also increases blood flow, improves our hormonal balance, and aids digestion and insulin sensitivity. These are all tremendous factors in our ability to be alert and energetic. If you are looking for the attitude, attention, and focus to make positive changes in your life then exercise will help you.

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to fitness or any other change you want to make in your life get in touch with a coach who can help you. A coach will help you evaluate your situation and come up with a plan that fits your needs and lifestyle. A community that is focused on fitness and self improvement will also help you stay dedicated to your goals.

Athlete Spotlight-Suzanne B.


19.3 Racks and Sacks athlete spotlight goes to Suzanne B. This girl is awesome! Hard working and determined! She walked in Friday morning having never tried strict handstand push-ups and couldn’t get one before the WOD then during got that adrenaline pumping and ended up with 13! 13!!! Beast mode!!

5 Pre-Workout Nutrition Tips


“Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” – Bob Knight

Many people have diligent post workout recovery routines including consuming protein shakes, supplements, and other key nutrients.

However, very few individuals give much thought to their pre-workout nutrition.

What you consume for fuel before you exercise should include more than just a stimulant based energy drink. It should contain the right types of fuel for your body and mind to meet the demands of the days activity. A great pre-workout nutrition routine will not only help your days performance but can help improve your daily energy levels, build lean muscle mass, and shed unwanted fat. It is essential for taking your performance to the next level.

Pre-Workout nutrition is unique for each individual. The types of foods, quantities, and ratios of macronutrients may need to be adjusted based on how you are feeling and performing. It is important to discuss all these factors with your coach so they can help you dial in on a plan that works best for you. Check out these 5 pre-workout nutrition tips to start creating a routine that works for you.

1. Leave time to digest

You want to consume the right amount of food to fuel your workout but not so much that it slows you down. Depending on body size and food choice the body will generally absorb about 300-400 calories per hour. That means a meal of approximately 30g of protein and 40g of carbohydrates an hour before your meal will be fully digested by the time you begin exercise. If you have ever tried exercising on a full stomach you the feeling of bloat as all of the blood is out of your working muscles and in your abdomen for digestion. If you continue to push through the exercise your body may try rejecting the remaining contents of the stomach. This is best avoided and makes proper pre-workout nutrition an easy choice.

2. Choose the right foods

The types of foods consumed are just as important as the quantities consumed. A balanced meal of low glycemic carbohydrates and high quality protein is the best choice. For carbohydrates the best foods to consume are fresh fruit like apples, berries, and oranges. For protein try grabbing a 4-6 oz. chicken breast or a shake containing 30 g of quality whey protein. Fats carry a high caloric load and are not an immediately available source of energy for high intensity activities like strength training so they are best left out of pre-workout meals in high quantities.

3. Avoid Certain Foods

Dairy products, spicy foods, and fibrous vegetables may not be the best choice for your pre-workout meal. They can cause cause discomfort on your gastrointestinal (GI) tract that is less than ideal when you are about to train. Feeling queasy, or running to the bathroom is not the best way to spend your time at the gym. As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask “will this food bother me?”, it is probably not the right choice.

4. Keep it consistent

The more you change up your pre-workout nutrition the greater chance you have of something going wrong. It’s best to be a bit boring when it comes to nutrition, especially when you are eating to live rather than living to eat. Eating the same foods every day around your training schedule is the best way to dial in exactly the foods and quantities that give you the best results.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

5. Keep it simple

The best routine is the one that you have the highest probability of following. When you plan your pre-workout meal consider the foods that you generally have access to and can properly prepare and take with you.

So there you have it. The top 5 pre-workout nutrition tips. If you have any other questions about diet or training reach out to one of our coaches and get started.

Team Athlete Spotlight 19.1-Jayne G.


Athlete spotlight: Jayne did an arguably harder version of 19.1 that included the ski erg and modified wall balls. This was Jayne’s first Crossfit Open workout, and I was blown away by her mental toughness and athletic drive. She kept a strong pace throughout only pausing to take a break once in the 15 min AMRAP. This is more than I can say for myself as I was curled over, dry heaving, and questioning all my life choices up to that point for a solid 10-15 seconds every round. Jayne inspired me to stop making excuses, stop complaining, and to push my boundaries every single day. In my humble opinion, this is exactly what the open is all about! (honorable mention: Connor Horstman for puking not once but twice after both 19.1 attempts).

Team Athlete Spotlight 19.1-Chris D.


Racks and Sacks 19.1 athlete spotlight goes to Chris D. !!! This guy is awesome!! Not only is he the nicest guy, he worked after class with the team (they love after class team skill building 😜) to practice wall balls and every single rep for 19.1 was to full depth!!! Awesome job Chris!!!!!

19.1 Team Athlete Spotlight-Gabby F.


Spotlight athlete of the week is Gabby. Gabby is battling a shoulder injury and still showed up to work. Zero excuses and always wants to do her very best. She pushes herself harder each and every class. Watching her grow exponentially lately is so inspirational. She shows up to dominate and always has a smile on her face doing it. I am beyond proud of her this week! So happy she’s on the <<cough cough>> number 1 Team! #snatchmeifyoucan

Team Athlete Spotlight 19.1-Mike S.


The Aggressively Average team member spotlight for this week is Mike Swider! This is his first Open, and he is a stellar athlete who absolutely CRUSHED the 19.1 WOD at FNL the other night, racking up 247 reps! Beyond that, he has such a great energy and attitude about him, and really pushes himself. We are so glad he is on our team and a member of CFSTC!

Coffee, Wine, Bacon and Fitness


The truth about some of your favorite indulgences

When you’ve gotten into a consistent fitness routine and finally started to feel good about the healthy choices you are making you tend to adopt a few new favorite foods along the way. At the top of the list for many folks are coffee, wine, and bacon. These foods are dietary staples in the fitness community and seem to fall somewhere in the category of “not bad enough to worry about and maybe even good for you.”Obviously with this kind of grey area it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the health benefits and potential pitfalls that can occur when eating these favorite foods.

Coffee

More than 450 million cups of coffee are consumed everyday in the united states alone. Coffee also happens to be the world’s number one source of antioxidants due to widespread consumption and high levels of polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Despite its amazing capacity to fight free radicals in our body most people reach for a “cup of joe” each morning for one reason only. That energizing boost of energy from it’s high caffeine content.

Caffeine has become a huge catalyst for many of us to have a productive start to our day. For some of us taking one day without it and WHOA, watch out! Caffeine is also a popular beverage choice before a workout due to the increase in focus, energy, and alertness that make us feel ready to perform. Caffeine has even been shown to reduce pain associated with exercise making it a truly powerful training partner. Caffeine may also create a more favorable environment in the cells of muscle tissue that facilitate force production.

It also turns out that a cup of coffee can be beneficial post workout as well. When we exercise our bodies utilize glycogen, a form of glucose stored in our muscles, as a fuel source. In one study it was observed that athletes who consumed caffeine with carbohydrates after exercise had 66% more glycogen in their muscles 4 hours later. This significant boost in glycogen storage means you have set the tone for success in your next workout in terms of available energy.

Challenges arise when the quantity and timing of caffeine consumption begin to interfere with rest and recovery. Caffeine has been shown to interrupt sleep even when consumed 6 hours before bed time. Individual caffeine sensitivity can vary from person to person so you need to really listen to your body.

Wine

Red wine has long been touted as “heart healthy” and the best choice if you do wish to drink. However if you are a competitive athlete, trying to build muscle, or on a mission to lose fat there really isn’t much of a place for alcohol in your diet. After all, alcohol is merely empty calories (it will only contribute to fat gain, not lean muscle growth) and interferes with sleep, testosterone production, and puts extra wear and tear on your already busy liver. If you do find yourself in a situation where a drink is fitting, red wine tends to be a better than cocktails and heavy beers when it comes to calories and sugar.

What about the heart health benefits and antioxidants in red wine, don’t those make a glass worth it a few times a week?

Yes and No. And mostly no…

The link between red wine and heart health is still unclear and a positive correlation between the two has not been found. Red wine also doesn’t seem to perform better than other alcohols in its effect on cholesterol and heart health. Some of the hype around red wine comes from its resveratrol content. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skins of grapes. It is possible that resveratrol reduces LDL levels and prevents blood clots. Unfortunately to consume high levels of this nutrient means drinking more alcohol and creating other potential health problems. Resveratrol supplements may not be absorbed that well so look for other good sources in foods like blueberries, peanuts, and plain old unfermented grapes!

Bacon

Bacon. Crispy. Crunchy. Delicious.
Is there any dish that can’t be improved by its presence?
Bacon may be the most controversial and beloved food in existence. In the wake of the paleo dietary movement and a shift in the way our country views dietary fat intake bacon has become the “little cheat food that could” for folks in the fitness community.

Bacon is made from pork belly and contains high levels of both monounsaturated and saturated fats. Bacon contains the monounsaturated fat oleic acid which is found in other healthy fats like olive oil. Saturated fat, long considered a culprit of heart disease actually plays an important role in our body’s signaling mechanisms. The ratio of different fats in the diet, genetics, and lifestyle choices all contribute to how much saturated fat we can consume for our optimal health.

So it turns out that bacon may not be so bad for you after all, but you have to be choosy. You have to consider the quality of the pork and the processing it undergoes during the curing that transforms bacon into the product we all know and love. The process generally involves curing the cuts of pork belly with salt and sugar and then the application of heat through a smoking process. There is also generally the application of some form of nitrates or nitrites to help preserve quality and appearance of the bacon.

For starters when you select your bacon product focus on where the pork came from and how it was raised. The tops brands will be pasture raised or humanely raised and organic is definitely an appropriate choice for this food. Next you will want the ingredients list to be short and not too sweet. That means pork, water, sea salt, and a small amount of sugar in the form of brown sugar or maple syrup. If you see a long list of preservatives and words you don’t recognize steer clear.

Finally some brands will use different sources of nitrates, even if the brand claims to be nitrate free it will often contain an ingredient like celery powder which has naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates can convert to a carcinogenic compound known as “nitrosamines” under high temperatures. If you like your bacon crispy and brittle then you increase the chance of consuming these compounds. No fear, our body blocks the effects of these carcinogens in the presence of Vitamin C so grab a slice of orange or grapefruit with your bacon to play it safe!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to enjoy your “healthy” vices in the most appropriate ways possible. If you have questions about nutrition and how other dietary and lifestyle choices are affecting your training it can help to discuss them with a qualified coach who is experienced with nutrition as well.

Prime The Pump


Have you ever started a workout and not quite felt ready?

Like your body should be able to perform the exercise but it feels extra heavy or a step behind? Maybe you’re watching others moving around you at lightning speed and you wonder “what am I doing wrong?!”

Knowing how to prepare your body for exercise is a skill in itself. A great coach will instruct you on how to warm up in a way that physically and mentally prepares you for the day. Having a deeper understanding of how your body works will be hugely beneficial for taking initiative yourself and getting the most out of your hard efforts. You will be able to ask the right questions and know if you are really working up to your potential.

Today we will explore how to prepare for strength based workouts as well as high intensity intervals or cardio sessions. Understanding these principles will help you prepare your body and take your fitness to the next level!

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Preparing For Strength And Power Workouts

To prepare for a strength workout you can utilize a rep scheme called a “wave load” to prepare for big lifts. Wave loading lets your body tap into its ability to activate high threshold motor units, the signaling mechanism telling your muscles to contract. The more motor units you activate the more muscles fibers you utilize to produce movement. Understanding how to recruit as many motor units as possible is essential for moving heavy weights or to move moderate loads at high velocity such as in an olympic lift.

Say you are trying to find a 5 rep max back squat. If your current max is 300 you might start out performing sets of 5 starting at 135 pounds, adding 20-30 pounds each set and resting a minute or two in between. By the time you get to 225 though, the weight is already feeling heavy and a feeling of dread creeps in. Most people use a linear progression like this to build up to their heavy weight. The load feels heavier and heavier.

The problem with this approach is that your body is an efficiency machine. It doesn’t want to work any harder than it has to lift the load. It will only recruit the minimum number of motor units required to lift the weight in front of you. Every weight feels heavy because it actually is heavy relative to the muscles you’re using to lift it! Meanwhile however you are using up precious energy trying to slowly build up to your goal weight for the day.

One effective strategy to build up to the goal weight effectively and bust out new personal records is using a wave load technique. Rather than use straight sets of 5 reps all the way up to your working weight you can use single reps at a higher load than you would want to use for a set of 5. This helps your body recruit more muscle fibers because of the demands of a heavy single rep.

Every training session is kind of like blowing up a balloon. Blowing up a heavy duty party balloon fresh out of the package can require some serious lung strength. It’s a challenge right? This is similar to building up to a new weight in your workout. It’s hard to do and physically demanding. What happens once you’ve blown the balloon up all the way? It’s stretched to a new dimension that if you let all the air out, would make it easier to blow up the next time. This is what performing a heavy single is like before performing your set of 5.

Instead of progressing in a linear fashion such as:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 5×205
  • 5×225
  • 5×245
  • 5×275
  • 5×295
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 35  Total load = 7,825 lb.

 

Instead try an undulating periodization:

  • 5×135
  • 5×185
  • 3×225
  • 1×275
  • 3×265
  • 1×300
  • 3×295
  • 1×325
  • 5x New Max Effort Attempt

Total reps = 22   Total load = 4,855

If your goal is to conserve energy for a new max it is clear to see how a wave load can still prime your body for a heavy lift without wasting unnecessary energy!

Preparing For WODs

CrossFit workouts can be brutal. Sometimes you find yourself gasping for air and wide eyed in the first two minutes. Wondering how you’ll last until the time cap or complete the prescribed number of rounds or reps.

If this is an experience you have had it means that you were either not properly warmed up for the workout or you didn’t properly scale the weights and movements. Warming up for a workout requires several key components. Increasing respiration so your heart is prepared for greater cardiac output, movement progressions that warm up your muscles and reinforce the movement patterns, and mobility work to improve performance and reduce injury risk.
As a general rule of thumb, the shorter and more intense the workout is, the more warm up and preparation it requires. You need to be prepared to give an intense effort and that will look different every day depending on the workout.

Warming up the heart and lungs is as important as warming up the muscles. You’ve got to rev the engine before the race. You don’t want the first round to the your warm up because you lose intensity. Intensity is where the magic happens.

Approaching each WOD , whether long or short,  should include a progression of movement and a progression of intensity.

Examples are:

  • Pull ups
  • Chest to bar pull ups
  • Bar muscle ups
    or
  • Moderate pace row
  • Fast pace row
  • Sprint

Regardless of the goal of a given workout, the warm up should be done with intention. If offers an athlete the chance to be aware of their form and to work on breathing and movement skills. It is an integral part of performance.

Challenge yourself to be present and thoughtful during your warm up. Are you giving it enough effort. Your warm up shouldn’t be a workout but it should leave you sweating and prepared. Figure out what works best for you.

Meet our Newest Coach


We are pleased to announce that Jennifer Hopper is officially a CFSTC coach!

A sports enthusiast at heart, reinforced by a purist competitive spirit, Crossfit is the perfect fit for Jennifer to fulfill her drive of continued growth in mind, body and spirit.  She has a focused passion for helping others and seeing them be the best they can be; she is blessed to be able to share her talents with the members of Crossfit St. Charles.   She was a competitive basketball player and collegiate softball player turned running enthusiast and can now help others build upon the foundational fitness Crossfit provides from youth sports to everyday adult functional fitness.  Outside of the gym, Jennifer is an IT professional and a proud mom of two.

Hopper will be pushing athletes through the Wednesday at 6p class and subbing whenever available. Give her a huge congratulations and check out her class!