Get a Grip!

Having opposable thumbs is divine. It allows us to grip. Its part of what makes us human and special.
We pick up our kids, carry groceries, open jars and hang on for dear life. Among athletics, we lift weights, throw balls, and grip bats, clubs, and rackets. Anything we do that requires holding something is limited by our grip.
Simply gaining awareness of the importance of grip and being mindful of using will yield immediate improved strength and in some cases skill.

The Ignition Switch
There is this super cool magic trick that the body does called the Law of Irradiation. This is the ability of one muscle, when it tenses strongly, to recruit the tension of nearby muscles.
Make a fist, squeeze as hard as you can, feel the muscles in your arms start to tense.
Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and feel your quads start to engage.
Instant Strength. It’s Magic.
Phrases like “break the bar” or “screw your feet down” are common coaching cues before big lifts. This generates hip and shoulder rotation for stable positions that are ready to move heavy loads.
But in order to generate torque, you need a strong connection point.
If you opt for a weak finger hold, you’ll notice you can’t lock the shoulders in as well. This limits performance and results in compensations at the elbow, shoulder or spine.
The same is true with a “disengaged” foot. Feel your foot relationship with the floor and the whole system gets stronger.

The research shows that even a slight grip, can significantly increase rotator cuff (supraspinatus and infraspinatus) activity, which improves the ratio of muscle forces between the rotator cuff and deltoid
This helps reduce the risk of impingement and sets up the shoulder for performance.
Make Big Gains With A Strong Grip
Lift, carry, hang, and climb…that’s the best way to build strength, along with strong hands to support it.

Here are a couple of specifics to put into practice…

1. Hold Onto Things
When we grip an object to do work, whether its a barbell, dumbbell, pull up bar etc. we want that  object to become a part of us. We “absorb” an object with a strong grip which makes it much easier to move as opposed to a loose grip that allows the object to be wobbly and less stable.  Consider a strong grip on a dumbbell for a bicep curl and how it engages the entire arm.
Please be advised, if you are not using a hook grip, You are doing it wrong!

When holding onto a pull up bar, a solid palm grip not only improves safety on the bar but it activates the shoulder.

Strong Grip=engaged shoulders
Weak grip=turtle neck

2. Grip Work For Shoulder Work
There is a strong correlation between grip and shoulder strength
Partly because lifting weights improves both the grip and rotator cuff, but there’s also evidence to show that grip exercises provide a training effect for the shoulder as well.
If you’re struggling with some shoulder pain, grip intensive exercises like farmer carries and deadlifts can provide a training effect for the shoulder, with minimal risk of furthering any irritation.
You can also use this evidence to close out your shoulder training days. Throw some carries and hangs on the tail end of your shoulder days, to increase workloads, without piling more repetitions on the joint.

Get a grip on things…
Irradiation of the upper extremity from gripping a handle or weight is a natural part of movement and necessary for proper shoulder function.
For those reasons, if you want to improve the capacity of your rotator cuff and shoulder complex, exercises that use a grip are better options for strength, function, and overall shoulder health.
A strong grips makes you stronger overall.

Offering the Chalk

Shortly after Opening CrossFit St. Charles in 2008, I saw this youtube video of a 3 year old girl on a play ground about to swing through some monkey bars.
Little Girl: I’m gonna stick it!
Dad: Ok, let’s go
LG: (falls off monkey bar)
Dad: What happened? Needs some chalk?
LG: Jumps up and runs off to play

That was Kelly Starrett and instead of asking his daughter if she was ok (he knew she was) he offered her chalk for her grip.

It’s what we do everyday.

The hardest part of working out is the simple act of coming in our doors.
We offer the coaching, equipment, programming and guidance to attain real fitness and health to anyone who has the commitment to “stick the landing”

Sometimes, all you need to know is that you CAN do it.

CrossFit St. Charles
“Offering the Chalk”

CrossFit St. Charles Open Banquet

We had an amazing time at our CFStC Open Awards Banquet. It’s always great to get out of the gym and appreciate Val and Ryan Barr for hosting. The food was amazing and the awards were epic.
I’m looking forward to the next Open in the fall of this year!

Fruits and Vegetables


When did “Fruits and Vegetables” become 1 word?

Fruits and vegetables seems to have become one word when it comes to giving advice on a healthy diet. However these two different food groups must be approached with different strategies. When it comes to optimizing health you need to choose the foods that best support your health and training needs.

Fruits and vegetables have varying macronutrient and fiber contents and can also contain different types of vitamins, minerals, and other key micronutrients. They contain different types of carbohydrates that affect their digestion and effect on blood sugar.

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” -Michael Pollan

In America most folks are still missing out on many essential nutrients and simply do not consume enough vegetables. In schools kids are encouraged to have either fruits or veggies. The fact is that 8oz of orange juice is not going to provide the same nutrients as 1 cup of broccoli. Whole fruits do contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals but when turned into concentrated juices they are not much different than drinking a soda.

Even as an athlete you may be guilty of eating 2 or 3 bananas in a day but neglected consuming foods like green cruciferous vegetables that have true health benefits.

Fruits are higher in sugar and unless you are a high level athlete training multiple times per day you probably do not need to consume that many carbohydrates in your diet. A piece of fruit to fuel your workout and some fast digesting carbs post workout should be the majority of your “carb” intake. Fill the rest of your meals with vegetables that will make you feel full and contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

A healthy diet should consist mostly of healthy fats, high quality proteins, and complex carbohydrates from vegetables which are nutrient dense and have a minimal effect on insulin.

If you are consuming fruits focus on fresh seasonal fruit that will have a low impact on blood sugar. Dark berries are one of the best fruits in this regard and contain high levels of antioxidants. Kiwis and pineapples are a great choice that is ideal for post workout recovery.

If you are looking for a more natural approach to eating, feeling better, and looking great then we can help you get there. Reach out to today to see how!

Festivus Games Recap

Festivus Recap

WOW what a day!
Congratulations to our home grown competitors
Josh and Michelle, Jamie and Anne, Jason and Rebecca,Chris and Shelby, Dave and Suzanne, Nikki and Chris, Val and Tim(Puma), Kris and Sara (who took 3rd in Novice!) We are all so proud of all of you. Your training and tenacity showed and represented well.
Festivus prep starts months in advance but really kicks into gear the week before the comp. We start to physically prep the gym and make a plan for all the re-organization. Friday the 9a class sticks around loads all the extra equipment onto the uhaul for storage. I wish I would have taken a picture of Coach Chris and the 9a girls beasting those Echo Bikes into that truck!  We hustle to get everything cleared out so that we can still have class at 1130. (So much thanks to Coach Hopper for teaching 1130 class with about 3 mins. notice.) The work continues through the rest of the day and well into the evening with the final staging of the first WOD done by the 5:30p class.
The competition got great reviews from everyone. It was smooth as silk. This was all due to the efforts of our amazing volunteers. Our judges, some of whom judge almost every heat, our DJ, Scorekeeper, runners, Staging supervisors, Break room management, photographers and anyone who just got stuff done.

To all our coaches and members who helped on Comp Prep Friday,  Comp. Saturday, and those that were able to stay and help with the clean up (the gym was back in order in about 30 mins!) THANK YOU!

Eat This Not That!

Easy food swaps to keep you fit.

Is there anything like a piping hot slice of pizza sliding out of the oven? How about a heaping mountain of nachos in front of you during the game or a tall stack of pancakes for weekend brunch?

As you look to improve your diet you may have struggled to give up certain foods. Knowing how to make a few simple ingredient changes can have a major impact on your nutrition and health. The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any of the delicious foods you love. Whether you are an athlete, a mom, a busy working professional, or maybe even a combination of all three of those, making healthy diet choices easier is something you can benefit from. Try these a few of these easy switches to make any meal healthier!

“You are what what you eat eats.” -Michael Pollan

A twist on pasta

Spaghetti dinner is a staple in many American diets but if you are focused on eating healthy you have to tread lightly. The calories and carbohydrate content of pasta adds ups quick. Even alternative pastas that are gluten free are still calorie dense foods to keep an eye on. A better choice is to try veggies like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini. Combined with a low sugar tomato sauce and a healthy serving of lean protein pasta night can take on a whole new meaning of health.

A new slice on pizza

Pizza can be tough to navigate as your range of options is so vast. Some local joints may use great quality ingredients but still pack a caloric punch. National chains should be totally avoided with the processed ingredients and additives that make up their knock-off pies. Since most of us would love to keep pizza in our lives it is important to develop a system of eating it that supports your diet and lifestyle goals. Gluten free has become a buzzword and marketing tool used to attract new customers. I’m not here to have the GF debate about whether or not your body can digest it, I’m saying that a pizza crust made from processed starches that happen to not have gluten does not make them any healthier. Luckily you have a few options…

One method is to limit total intake, order a pizza with as many veggies and proteins on it as possible and limit yourself to one slice of the crust. Or you can try finding a restaurant that has or making your own cauliflower crust pizza. This is a great low carb alternative that lets you reach for another guilt-free slice.

Flip what you sip

It’s easy to forget the calories that are found in drinks. A study conducted by Harvard found that women who consumed sugar sweetened drinks daily tended to consume more calories daily and gained weight. Meanwhile women who eliminated sugar sweetened beverages tended to consume fewer calories and demonstrated better body composition. Scientists believe that drinking calories doesn’t provide the same signaling mechanisms in the body as food does. Basically our body doesn’t recognize it has consumed calories and the subsequent insulin spike can leave you feeling energy depleted and hungry.

Soda, juice, and alcohol don’t really belong in your diet if you are trying to build muscle or burn fat. If you are looking for a fun drink try reaching for a juice made from vegetables like kale and collard greens, powerful nutrients like ginger root, and maybe a dash of lemon or lime juice. Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, can be a great option as well provided you find a low sugar variety (always read the label) and of course there are many great flavored sparkling and seltzer water options out there.

The Burger Swap

One of the toughest foods to give up can without a doubt be the hamburger. Before you part ways with this American classic let’s figure out a way for you to still enjoy your cheeseburger in paradise…

There are two ways to clean up this delicious food. One way is to eliminate the bun. Replace it with a collard greens wrap or two pieces of fresh romaine lettuce. Two large portobello mushrooms can also do the trick if you have them available (Pro tip: Grill the mushrooms for 2 minutes on each side with a little oil, salt, and pepper).

The second way to clean up your burger is to make sure you have a patty made from high quality grass fed beef or organic ground turkey. Balance the fats you use as topping and try swapping out the cheese for some fresh avocado slices.

Pancake, stacked to jacked

Fluffy buttermilk pancakes or belgian waffles are a staple of weekend brunch. Instead of shooting for the white flour varieties though try a cleaner approach next time. Start with the batter. Substituting bananas and ground flax meal, almond, or coconut flour are a much better alternative. Keep an eye on the fat content if using nut flours as they are very calorie dense. Make sure you have a ratio of at least one egg per pancake or add a scoop of protein powder to the mix to keep the macronutrients balanced. Top with fresh berries and grass fed butter and avoid the powdered sugar and whipped cream. Also be sure to spring for real maple syrup over any of the high fructose corn syrup versions. It is packed full of antioxidants and so sweet that just a teaspoon will go a long way in terms of flavor.

If you want to learn more about eating healthy and getting in shape then talk to a coach today.

We can develop a plan for you to help you achieve your goals!

Energy Systems Exploration

As a living, breathing, blog reading individual you’ve probably learned the basics around how food provides the body with energy. There are actually several different ways that this can occur and they depend on the activity being performed. Depending on our sport or activity, nutrition, genetics, and level of training will each play a role which energy system is primarily utilized. As you can see in the pictures above these athletes have trained to optimize a certain energy system in their body to improve performance at their respective sport. Regardless of which energy system is predominantly used all energy is stored in the form of ATP.

Adenosine Triphosphate or “ATP” is the energy currency of the body. Each of the energy systems in the body have their own way of producing ATP to power our daily activities. There are pro’s and con’s to each energy system but ultimately having a better understanding of how our body uses energy can help us make informed decisions on diet and exercise. Let’s learn about each energy system…

Alactic System aka the Creatine Phosphate System
Lactic Acid System aka Glycolytic
Aerobic System aka Fatty Acid Metabolism

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” —Tony Robbins

Alactic System

(aka the Creatine Phosphate System)
What is it: The alactic system utilizes creatine phosphate (CP) as an energy source. It fuels high intensity efforts. Creatine is able to donate its phosphate molecules to the the Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) molecule allowing it to return to ATP, with potential energy stored in its chemical bonds. Creatine comes from the food that we eat with the highest levels in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish. It can also be supplemented for vegetarians and vegans.

Time domains: This energy system is exhausted in 8-12 seconds for most individuals and you will fatigue when your CP and ATP stores have depleted. It is great for quick bursts of energy.

Efficiency:It requires 30 seconds to 2 minutes to replenish energy stores.

By products: Heat released from the breaking of chemical bonds.

Examples of activity: You may see this energy system in action through the short powerful bursts seen in weightlifters, powerlifters, pitchers, and shot putters.
What training looks like: Training the CP system means using short time domains with long rest periods in between. In the gym this means keeping rep ranges to sets of 6 or fewer reps.

Lactic Acid System

(aka Glycolytic system)
What is it: The lactic acid system utilizes glycogen (glucose stored in the muscles and liver) as a fuel source. It is for longer lasting high intensity activities. Our body is able to store about 500 total grams of glycogen in the muscle and liver tissue which provides around 2,000 calories worth of energy. Running out of this fuel source is commonly referred to as “bonking.” Some athletes consume carbohydrate foods, drinks, and supplements during training and competition to prevent running out of this valuable fuel source.

Time domains: It is the primary fuel source for activities lasting from 30 seconds to about 3 minutes. You know you have fatigued this energy system when hydrogen ion accumulation causes a burning sensation in the muscles.

Efficiency: The lactic acid system is very efficient at providing fuel but fatigues quickly. Due to the long recovery time it is favorable to alternate levels of intensity between glycolytic and aerobic dependence to sustain high output.

By products: The byproduct of this system is pyruvate. Which must be cleared from the blood to continue to utilize this energy system. This can take 30-60 minutes.
Examples of activity: This energy system would rule during a 400 or 800 meter sprint, a hockey lines time on the ice, or most CrossFit workouts. It is seen in mixed use with the aerobic system during longer workouts or soccer and basketball games where the players alternate between a slower jog pace with periods of intense sprinting and jumping.

What training looks like: To train this energy system you can utilize interval style training. Intense bursts of energy followed by a recovery period that allows you to stay at a threshold of high output. These athletes tend to have increased muscle mass and ideally lower body fat percentage.

Aerobic System

(aka Fatty Acid Metabolism aka Krebs Cycle aka Citric Acid Cycle…)
What is it: This is the creation of energy from fat, glycogen or protein in the presence of oxygen used to power low and moderate intensity activities. The mitochondria present in muscle cells takes the available fuel source through a variety of reactions to produce ATP. Since fat molecules packs 9 calories per gram they tend to be the main choice for this energy system. Even the leanest individuals carry enough body fat to fuel many days worth of activity.
Time domains: Any activity lasting more than 3 minutes in duration.

Efficiency: This system produces energy much more slowly than the others. The good news is it can utilize an unlimited fuel supply of fat.

By products: The aerobic system only produces water and carbon dioxide when generating ATP.

Examples of activity: This energy system is your predominant fuel source for jogging, cycling, swimming long distances, and most of your daily activities.

What training looks like: Athletes who have become efficient at using fat as a fuel source are able to convert the energy from fat more quickly, allowing them to sustain higher levels of work capacity for activities with long durations. These athletes are usually easy to spot as they have exceptional muscle definition and extremely low body fat.

As you can see from the graph, our average work capacity is dictated by the length of time we are performing an activity.By training in all three energy systems we can become more efficient in all areas, thus increasing our work capacity across the board.Individuals who only try to utilize cardio or lifting heavy weights to improve work capacity will fall short of their well rounded counterparts. If you’re an individual who wants to improve general health it is beneficial to train each of the energy systems.

If you’re ready to increase you work capacity and become more fit give us a call today and we’ll help you get started!

Speed Is a Skill

Here is how to master it…

Depending on your sport the importance of speed could be a defining characteristic of your success. Naturally track and cross country athletes want to run fast, but speed can help in almost all team and individual sports where strength and conditioning comes into play. Whether you’re a running back who needs to hit the gap just a split second before the linebacker can wrap you up or a basketball player who needs to explode past the defender for a layup speed can be your best friend on the field or court. Given all else, a faster athlete tends to be a better one and luckily many of the defining characteristics of speed are skill based. That means they can be trained and improved upon. It is important to work with a coach who can teach you the skills and mechanics you need to learn. When improving speed is the focus you need to make progress in at least one and possibly all 3 areas of strength, mobility, and mechanics.


An athlete can become faster by improving their absolute strength and relative strength to their body weight. This can be achieved through a combination of resistance training and plyometric exercises. Heavy squats and deadlifts will help develop the the motor unit recruitment and force production ability of the leg muscles. Plyometric exercises like box jumps will strengthen connective tissue and improve the stretch shortening cycle in the muscle. Athletes will grow stronger and more powerful and this will directly correlate with increases in speed. Working with a coach who is well versed in speed development will help you get results quickly as well as stay injury free.


Improving mobility, the ability of your joints to move freely and easily can directly improve your speed. This is primarily due to the increase in stride length when the hips, knees, and ankles have full range of motion. This allows for greater muscular contraction due to the body having a higher threshold for motor recruitment. Your coach should explain the proper way to dynamically stretch, warmup, cooldown, and mobilize as a part of your program. It is important to discuss any past injuries with your coach so they can help you to the best of their ability.


The foundational movement pattern of running is a skill just like any other. Learning how to generate power through the proper mechanics can be a game changer for many athletes and may make you feel like you are running for the first time all over again. The timing, stride length, ability to change directions, and use both the arms and legs for explosive movement are all essential skills to improve speed. Your coach will be able to address your unique needs and provide the proper guidance to dial in your mechanics.

If you are serious about improving speed to crush it in your sport seek out one of our coaches to develop a training plan to reach your goals.

CrossFit Open 2019 Wrap Up


The WODs are done and the results are in. This 2019 Spring Open has proven to be my favorite to date.

Congratulations to Aggressively Average for coming out on top of the scoreboard and claiming their spot on our trophy. Congratulations to all the teams who did the wods, tooke the judges course and judged and showed up to FNL to support everyone. Getting a chance to meet people we don’t normally see in class is one of the greatest perks!

This year’s Intramural allowed us to come together in competition, community and celebration. It allowed us to be a part of something a greater than normal. It made doing the Open WODs more important than just a regular workout. It raised our standards of movement and gave them meaning. It pushed us to achieve the unexpected.

Our Captains were amazing! They worked harder than anyone realizes, keeping up with their teams, coming in early or staying late to help motivate and judge. Some came during their normal work hours just to support their teammates. During the WODs they “put everything on floor” with their performances and were an inspiration to everyone. We are all so grateful to Nikki, Rebecca, Maria and Angie for their leadership!

I loved all the workouts.(Yes, even 19.5)  They were elegantly designed, extremely challenging and well scaled. They allowed for all levels of athletes to participate in the excitement of competing against the clock and pushing themselves to new levels.

The Open (as is all competition) is a test.
It tests your levels of fitness, strength, skill, endurance, commitment and tenacity.

It’s a chance to put what you’ve learned to work and see what happens. Everyone in this gym should be proud of what they have accomplished.  

If you PR’d a movement, did a pull up/chest to bar pull up, handstand push up or cleaned a weight you’d never done before, or simply pushed yourself harder than you thought possible, then you know why you did the Open.

Now is the time to draw your new starting line. It’s time to look back over those WODs and figure out what is most important to you. What would you invest your time into improving over the next six months. Because guess what…2019 Fall Open is COMING!

This is a perfect time to do some hard focused work. Get back to some basics that will support the more advanced movements. I’ve asked everyone to make a list, soon I’ll be asking for it. Be ready!

The Fall Open is like a pop quiz that is 50% of your grade. Let’s use this to make some magic happen!