Friday, May 31, 2013

Cancer Prevention: Reap the Mental and Physical Benefits of Fitness

It's a scary thing. Knowing that you can train consistently, eat right and do all the right things and still come down with a disease that can be life threatening. In this day and age typically folks follow certain lifestyle behaviors that lead them to an unfortunate condition such as heart disease or lung cancer. Lifestyle behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, chronically being sleep deprived, consistently remaining under stress or eating highly processed foods to name a few. But what happens when you do everything in your power to be healthy and you get news that you have cancer?

I've never personally been affected or had a family member diagnosed with cancer, but about 7 months ago one of our star athletes Shannon front desk extraordinaire came down with a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma: cancer of the soft tissue. It's a rare type that was found in her right leg. Thankfully after two knee surgeries the cancer growth had been completely removed. It only had to be about 3months after her surgeries that she was able to come back full force CrossFitting like a pro again.Quite impressive.

I think things like this can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. I mean how was she able to bounce back so quickly? Pure luck? I'm one of those people that believes the universe always balances itself out. If you treat people how you would want to be treated and work hard everything will work out. Not only does Shannon have an incredibly positive personality, but she was psychologically prepared to take on this challenge. Speaking with Shannon in depth about this she quoted "I couldn't have done it without my experience of pushing thru things in the box and the incredible community supporting me." In the early spring, our owners Dayna and Head Coach Craig launched a fundraising cook out at the Boardroom (local bar in Hilton Head) and the entire community came out. We can't fail to mention they both worked the bar that evening utilizing their many years of solid experience. It wasn't surprising the support and I say not surprising because I've been apart of CFHH for a long time now and that's the best part of this place. The strength in the community and people we have who walk thru our doors every day. It was enough strength to help Shannon pay all her hefty medical bills.

CrossFit Hilton Head makes you...
#1 Grateful - grateful for the community, people and supportive environment
#2 Confident - confident enough mentally that you can run your first 5K, achieve a body weight snatch, that first marathon or even beat cancer
#3 Most importantly Humble - humble for the fact that there will always be another challenge and if you work at it and want it you can get there. The last piece is when you get there you don't feel obligated to tell anyone, but yourself..

My experience with illness is limited, but what I do know is that those who have the most successful recoveries seem to be strongly associated with major mental, emotional or physical behavior changes. Some people get better by radical lifestyle changes and others by calling on their optimism and belief. You can't control an experience like cancer or a life threatening disease. All you can do is control the factors above and I strongly believe that CrossFit will make any person more prepared.

Check out thoughts from Melanie B, guest blogging today as she wrote a great article on the benefits of fitness during and after a diagnosis of any kind of cancer...

Cancer Patients Should Reap the Benefits of Fitness

Doctors are beginning to emphasize the importance of physical fitness in the recovery and quality of life of cancer patients. This growing trend is due to a number of studies that have found regular exercise to help improve appetite, mood levels, and energy levels in cancer patients.

While cancer patients may be reluctant to improve their physical fitness when they are still sick, the benefits are becoming increasingly clear. Some hospitals have even developed programs that can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual patient, depending upon their current level of physical fitness and where they are in their cancer treatment. Even patients with cancers like lung cancer and mesothelioma have seen results with tailored workout routines.

Sleep quality

Getting more fit can help you sleep better at night. Some of the medications or treatments you may be on could be negatively impacting your sleep quality. Regular exercise can help you sleep longer, deeper, and more continuously at night. This can help your recovery, since your body needs restful sleep in order to heal properly.

Energy levels

One of the the most common side effects of cancer treatment is fatigue. Studies are not showing that exercise can actually increase energy levels and therefore help combat fatigue in cancer patients.

It is important, however, to make sure that you do not overdo it. You want to engage in moderate, regular exercise and listen carefully to your body as you proceed. Any signs of pain or soreness call for a period of rest to allow your body to adjust. Some muscle soreness is to be expected, particularly if you have led a sedentary lifestyle until now.

It is imperative to speak with a doctor before beginning your workout regimen. They will be able to create an appropriate routine, which will be beneficial for your current condition and diagnosis. They will also be able to recommend many different forms of low impact exercise that you may enjoy, two examples being swimming and yoga.


Swimming is a great type of aerobic exercise, particularly for older patients. The strain on your muscles and tendons is not as great as certain other forms of exercise, as the water will support your weight. Low impact exercises make it less likely that you will be injured or aggravate any existing joint pain caused from treatment.


Yoga is increasingly employed in hospital settings to increase flexibility, endurance, mood, and energy level for patients. If your hospital does not offer yoga, you can usually find yoga classes being offered in your local community. Be sure to disclose your physical condition beforehand, so that an appropriate type of yoga will be recommended for your special needs.

No matter what form of exercise you begin with, it is important to take the step to get active. Every little bit can help and go a long way throughout your journey.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All Comes Back to the Technique: Proper TT Position

Isn't it weird after that first week of CrossFit you realize that almost all of it is boiled around solid technique? For the majority of folks who workout, it's really not something you think about. After about 6 months of starting CrossFit 3 years ago, I realized that in order to get better I'd have to dial in on the technique. The first 3months are always really cool for anyone because their adjusting to the training style and they see big gains. The question is what do you do when those big gains slow down? Are you willing to face the "skill" work?

Today I want to pull our attention to the Bike as we've got great group of Less Miles athletes training for the annual Beach Bum Triathlon series on the Island. If I were to start with any triathlon this would be the one. On On Tri does a great job of putting this event on and its entirely on the beautiful HHI beach off of Coligny circle. Better yet the distances are mangeable, 400m swim, 6mile bike (beach cruisers allowed) followed up with the typical 5K run. Did you know the top ten above and below 40 years old get Monkeys? Probably the coolest award ever.

We're going to talk TT position meaning Time Trial position. This is pretty much the standard for most triathletes and technique I am still working on to this day. If you're a road cyclists or a mountain biker some of these same principles will apply, but with a few adjustments. I have CrossFit Endurance and Power, Speed, Endurance to thank for all these helpful hits on the proper bike mechanics. I also attended Doug Katona's bike seminar, which was a huge eye opener. Who knew there was so much to biking?

Normally I like to start with the proper position, but let's go thru the common faults first.  I'll then breakdown what any good coach would do is coach you on "what to do" verses "what not to do" ...

1) Rounded Back - we can't all be Lance Armstrong. The position he gets into isn't the norm. Make sure when your cycling you keep midline stability and above all get a proper fit on your bike. It's really the most important factor as everything from there will affect your body position.

2) Head lift - tons of pictures of me doing this at races branching out my neck like giraffe. Keep the head slightly down and your eyes forward. I've also learned shades are a nice addition so the pebbles don't spring up into your eyes. Sprint triathlons? not a necessity.

3) Too Far Forward - if you sit too far forward your going to put unneeded pressure on the upper
body and it can compromise your speed because of the positioning with your legs.

4) Too Far Back - biggest thing here is that it will lead to inefficiency of your pedal stroke and stress you'll be placing now will be on the lower back. Not good if you have to get off and run a marathon.

5) Hands to Far Forward - you'll fatigue a lot quicker and reduce your power output. CFE has a great suggestion, if you're doing 3 bikes per week do one out of every three rides on a trainer verses the road. All the PROs spend a great deal of time on their trainers.

6) Shoulders Up - strong upper body is important yet if your shoulders stay tense and are too far up it'll put stress on your cervical spine.

Check out Doug Katona a leader in teaching cycling mechanics...

Now let's sum it all up to make it easier..

Above all good time trialist's establish proper position from getting on and spending a lot of time on the bike. This doesn't mean you have to bike every day, but practicing that smooth 3-4 O'Clock stroke can pay dividends with your fluidness when it comes to pedaling. They also learn early on to do two big things...

a. Get Slightly Forward in the saddle so it's visible and
b. Minimal upper body movement as Doug mentioned.Only pull out of POSITION if there is a super steep climb or sharp curve. Most importantly, keep that back flat and relaxed.

We had our first bike workout with our CFE team this evening as the Beach Bum. Out athletes did quite well and picked up a few of these tips (many of which haven't been on a bike in a while). I think the coolest part about being a coach and an athlete is that your costantly learning. When you teach something you only get better at it and it takes a lot of reps.The most exciting thing for me is seeing someone accomplish something for the first time. I'm sure most coaches can agree.

“One of the most important keys to Success is having the discipline to do what you know you should do, even when you dont feel like doing it.”All comes back to the technique...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two Minute Tuesdays: Don't Kick out the Back

You can never do enough technique work whether its running, CrossFit, swimming, cycling, gymnastics ... you name the activity the software is involved. Check out the quick video we have for you runners this week who think pulling out the back is okay.

Simplest learning point tonight. Keep feet underneath your hips so you can maximize the large hamstring muscle group in those legs. Good runners pull straight up!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Drink Water Much?

Man it was hot out this Memorial day weekend and with summer coming quick in Hilton Head it's time to throw out a reminder on Hydration. Before we get started, I want to commend Head Coach of CFHH, Craig Hysell on a phenomenally well-written blog, Are You Exercising or Are you Training? If you have 5minutes its worth your time. Especially if your an athlete who can't understand why your not progressing. Piggy backing on Coach Craig, hydration differs from the every day exerciser to someone who is training. Folks who are exercising typically don't think about their fluid intake those who are seriously training put hydration on a pedestal. It's really that hidden tool in the shed for so many folks in life and training.

What makes hydration so important? How long can you go without food? A week, two weeks its about a month actually. Now how about water? Try 1-3days tops. Fluids account for about 50-60% of body weight and when it comes to lean tissue (meaning organs, muscles, anything other than fat) its about 72-75%. That's right your lungs and heart need water to function.
 Why else is it important? 
Well before we even start the sexy list, number one has to be just a mere 2% dehydration of the body WILL reduce performance of an athlete. Other fun facts...
  • Water helps transfer glucose, oxygen and fats to the muscles - Muscles need energy to contract folks, make sense? 
  • Eliminates waste products - gets the bad stuff out!
  • Absorbs heat from your working muscles - meaning they contract better ... see a theme? 
  • Regulates body temperature - mechanism is important especially you endurance athletes who enjoy the summer race scene
 This one's from back in the day, but don't let hydration get the upper hand on your mobility...

Did you know that research shows that 9 out of 10 College football players step onto the field at mild dehydration levels? That means it's an every level of athlete kind of thing. What's most important here is that if you're really TRAINING this post is important to you. Nutrition - Hydration - Electrolytes need to all be treated separately. You have to track this stuff because as we all not at the base of performance lies Nutrition. I just started training a younger athlete whose a top the ranks of our Bluffton Cross Country Team and this was one of the first questions I asked. How's the hydration? How many ounces are you getting in per day? It seems like the smallest of tweaks, but by nailing down a focus on it and treating it separately in training is key.

Coaches out there don't let your athletes get away with poor hydration or an electrolytes imbalance. One of the most common symptoms is irritability. Do you really want irritable athletes? You're the first line of defense guys. Here are a few quick tips for everyone TRAINING out there...

1. Weigh yourself before and after a workout (endurance athletes hit a 60min TT run) for every lbs. you lose from your body weight drink at least 16ounces to replenish.

2. Sell water bottles and electrolytes at your gym. We're working on getting our Endurance team some sweet water bottles so they not only drink more water, but advertise to the public when their not telling their friends how awesomer their workouts are.

3. Avoid them beers and shots at the bar. I know this is tough one for most. Myself included, but if you're really dedicated in the heart of training say at least a month out. Shut it down. I've got Muncie 70.3 coming up July 13th and  I'm in that boat. What are you willing to do to achieve your goals is always the question?

That's a wrap gang. Don't forget that usually the bigger the challenge smaller the solution and the smaller the change the greater the impact...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Back to the Roots

I'm rolling out from San Francisco in a couple hours and man it's quite bitter sweet. This was my first time to the West Coast (yes I don't get out much) and it's been an absolutely incredible experience. I haven't taken a vacation in a while that was more about sight seeing than crushing a race. Obviously, I did have the opportunity to run the 102nd Bay to Breakers and did quite well, but this go around it wasn't the complete focus like Ironman or an "A" race event.

To cap off my trip this morning, I went for a 5mile "Rave Run" at the Lafayette Reservoir Park in Lafayette, CA. A rave run for those who don't know is a run where there are no expectations, but to simply get out there and run a scenic trail, road or course because of the breath taking surroundings with the fact being that you may just never have the opportunity again. Getting to the top of the first hill this morning it hit me. The message of why I run and the enjoyment I receive from it was so ever clear... I found myself at the top of steep CA mountains peering out over the beautiful reservoir with the ability to see for miles. It felt like I had straight up freedom and that I was meant to be there this morning. It felt like I was back to my roots...

It's obviously been a big month in my life ... stepping down as Fitness Director to shift gears into solely focusing on my passion of training and coaching has been the best decision of my life. I don't think we always truly understand how we feel at certain points over our time on this planet. Sometimes we're too busy to notice or we might be scared to face the facts. For many of us, life itself can simply push us away from what we truly want to achieve ... There are so many factors on why and how someone lives their life and trying to understand these factors can be quite difficult. The greatest gift of all would have to include having a highly level of emotional intelligence (EI). Understanding why we feel the way we do at every moment would be an absolute privilege.

What I do know as a Coach and an athlete is that understanding your emotions in the realm of training for a race is quite important. Your emotional profile affects the progress and recovery within your training...

Just for Fun - many athletes just want to have fun every time they compete in a race. Probably the best profile to have and the most common. These are the age group athletes that understand they're participating because its fun and they enjoy it. They don't want to be beat up or struggle. For the majority, these are the emotions desired. The ability to successfully run a race, feel good, and smile the whole way. What could be better? Feelings to balance: Happiness, Enjoyment and Excitement.Continuing to do it for those reasons comes naturally to these folks.

Accomplishing the Impossible -  Ever set that training goal you never thought would happen? I've worked with all levels of people and when it comes to seeing someone hit their goal this is the crew that provides the biggest emotional rush on my end as the coach. Whether the goal was to lose 100lbs and be able to play with their kids, running that first 5K or tackling a marathon its quite inspiring we these folks get to their peak. It's also the crew that has to balance their emotions the most because they lack self efficacy (the belief that they can do it). I think it has to do with the image of the challenge being impossible, lack of confidence just for the mere fact that they haven't been there or done it before. Nike has a phrase "Just do it," these folks are successful when they just do it one day at a time. The right people always seem to get there. Feelings to Balance: Self Doubt, Fear and Intimidation. Keeping enough confidence to keep going when the challenges keep popping up.

Have to PRs - As an athlete, I fall into this category. Yes, you need to be this person in order to be competitive, but it takes a lot of balance so that you can still live your life. This person has to be regimented, disciplined and structured in order to be successful, but at what cost? Its important be careful with someone who exhibits these emotions as the line they walk is a fine one. Coaching this athlete is tough, but the best way to do it is to connect with their sense of achievement weekly so that they have palpable progress and make sure that they're not getting tired or burning themselves out. Asking how they feel quite regularly is critical. Above all, this person still needs to have fun. Feelings to Balance: Sense of achievement, discipline and fatigue. Making sure these athletes hang on to the true benefits of competing and achieving.

The Bay to Breakers was a straight up FUN day and it was just what I needed in my training cycle. Given my transition in life it was the right timing and for that I am truly grateful. If you as an athlete aren't having enough fun schedule a "B" race or a Rave Run. I had the opportunity to stay with an incredible former wellness coaching client these past 5days. She's someone that has invested as much in me as I have in her and I am truly grateful for the relationship. She gave me the star treatment these past 5days paying my entry into Bay to Breakers (more a party), wine tasting in Napa, siz row seats at a Giants baseball game, a trip to "The Rock" and to cap it all off a day of exploring on 17mile drive at Pebble Beach.

These are memories I'll always have, but what I'll remember the most is my morning 5mile run thru the Lafayette Reservoir that brought me back. Standing a top the CA mountain crests just straight up soaking in the fresh air and running thru the dirt hills allowing me to be within myself. Thank you Allyson for this very crucial gift at the right time.

As an athlete and a coach sometimes you have to get back to your roots. A lot of the time you have to get more connected with your emotions. Emotions need to be controlled. They need to be understood. Emotional intelligence is not only the marker of a great athlete, but a marker of someone who gets the most out of life. Don't ever discredit the impact that those things make...

Bay to Breakers 2013
Time: 45:36  
Pace: 6:07 - Haynes St Hill ... mad steep!
Place: 109th out of 22,467 

Result: Heck a ton of fun. Ran back 3miles thru the race to be within the party!

 Best costume of the day.
 Yep lots of exposed and naked people at B2B. Confirmed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Making the Hard Decision

Every day in life we make decisions. Decisions can be small, big, horrible, smart, life changing .. As living breathing humans we have to understand that they come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. This week marks my last week officially as the Fitness Director at Hilton Head Health just recently voted #1 Weight Loss Spa in the Country by Fox News. I never thought this week would come, but what I do know is that this decision was not only the biggest of my life, but the toughest and life changing for many reasons.

The guests I've Coached and Trained - its incredible to train or coach someone who was once 100 lbs heavier or to work with that person whose never lifted a weight or exercised a day in their life. Its absolutely inspiring. 

The H3 Family  - Adam, Bob and Robert of HHHealth have taught me so much. They taught me how to be role model for others, how to grow professionally and how to educate myself and show my passion for healthy living. I know I'm a better person today because of every staff member of the H3 family. 

The memories - Countless positive memories. From the day I stepped in as an intern they quickly began. Every memory from my first "Fit Week" to falling off the treadmill in Cardio Central or even being a part of the A&E Heavy TV Show Series. I started and grew our H3@Home Wellness Coaching and took the lead on Devins Dash a 5K race in memory of one of our fellow co-workers. I am truly grateful and humbled by all these memories.

I could write a book about my time at Hilton Head Health. What I do know is that I am moving on for the right reasons and I am a better person because of my time spent in those walls. I can now dial  in on my training, coaching, and grow my knowledge of evidenced based endurance training. I'm following my passion. There really is no risk involved now.

What do you think is one of the toughest decisions for the endurance athlete? I think it comes down to that initial jump from long slow duration training to CrossFit Endurance. I hear it all the time at seminars ...the questions in the back of the room ... "What about my 20mile run? or 100mile bike? How is it possible to be ready on race day without doing so much distance?" It's entirely possible.

If you haven't checked out the June 2003 CFJ article, "Metabolic Conditioning" by Greg Glassman please give it a read. It explains how intervals do the trick. If you're not a journal member sign up. Glassman discusses energy pathways and how training these different pathways allows us to reap the same benefits of a typical endurance athletes protocol. Metabolic Conditioning can be achieved thru different intervals such as "Tabata Training" which we've heard the study of the 4minute workout group that trounced the 60min steady state workout group when it came to VO2 improvements. Dr. Stephen Seiler renowned Exercise Physiologist wrote an article called "Understanding Intervals" where he talks about 1st and 2nd wave endurance adaptations reached by training the phosphagen and glycolytic systems and 3rd wave adaptations that come specific to the sport. Dr. Seiler believes by focusing on the 1st two (E.I. CrossFit) it broadens the cardiovascular stimulus. There was also a recent blog on "Why Women Shouldn't Run" It caused quite the stir at our box, but convincing it is...

At CFHH, I see these adaptations with our athletes. Each week we focus on a short interval and long intervals specific to the sport and it continues to prove the research behind anaerobic impacting aerobic. The simplest distinction between theses two training stimulus is that Anaerobic does not require oxygen for energy, aerobic training does. Anaerobic impacts aerobic, but not vice versa.The fact of the matter is that there are winning rowing programs that train all intervals. Police training programs in Florida who have found that CrossFit produced better run distance times than prior programs. Numerous evidenced race results by CFE athletes going anaerobic coupled with a few third wave workouts (tempo and time trials). One of our Athletes recently ran her first marathon a week ago at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lindsay Martin ran 3:32 qualifying for Boston 2014 and placing 14th Age group in her first shot with not too much aerobic training. The longest run Lindsay completed prior to the race was 15miles (purely to test the nutrition). She coupled her 4 CrossFit Workouts per week with 3 Run Specific CFE WODs.

The most important point of today's blog is to remember that high intensity efforts can produce dramatic aerobic benefit without the muscle wasting seen with endurance training. Take the sprinter verses the marathon runner body type. Quite a different picture huh? The toughest decision is putting the trust in this though. I get it. You won't get your 3hour training run any more, but are you willing to dial it back for the bigger benefits?

Quick how to on training the Pathways
Phosphagen ... 10-30sec... 30-90 sec recovery ... 1:3 recovery ratio ... Reps 25-30 ... Example run specific workout would be 50m-100m sprints, 200m for elites.
Glycolitic...30-120sec...60-240sec recovery (you would want to shorten the recovery as you gained fitness)...1:2 recovery ration...Reps5-15... Example run would be 200m to 600m
 Oxidative...120-300sec...120-300sec...1:1 recovery ratio...Reps3-5...Example run would be 800m, 1200m up to mile repeats. *All these must be trained with the ability to hold the technique

Its a hard decision making the switch to the CrossFit Endurance model when your used to regular endurance training.Can you agree though that sometimes the hardest decisions turn out to be the best?