administrivia: week of 06.30.08

June 30, 2008

Hell Week is here!!! Grit your teeth and get through it.

Friday is July 4th and there will be no camp on that day.  You will have enough time to recuperate during the weekend so Bring It! this week. 😉


good times and more certs

June 30, 2008

Apologies for the brief hiatus in posting this weekend. I attended the CrossFit Level I Instructor Certification this weekend at CrossFit One World in Union City, CA.

Had an amazing time and learned a ton of stuff related to weight lifting, nutrition, and programming.

Perfected the overhead squat and got the mechanics of the kipping pullup down…now practice, practice, practice.

I also got to workout CrossFit style (Day 1: Fran; Day 2: Fight Gone Bad). As a result I feel like I was hit by a truck this weekend so I’m taking a break today. Ha ha! Suffice to say it was Intense (with a capital I).

Back to work!

the fat burning zone

June 26, 2008

A tenet of fat burning “wisdom” is that the best way to lose fat is to do “long, slow, steady-state aerobic exercise in the fat burning zone.” As a result you’ll see people at the gym strolling on the treadmill (and paying close attention to the fat-burning zone) while chatting with their friend. Fast forward three months and they ask why their body composition hasn’t changed. Ugh.

It is true that the body burns a greater amount of fat at lower intensity aerobic exercise than it does at higher intensities but this has been grossly misinterpreted. At lower intensities the body may burn 50% of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35%. But at higher intensities it will burn more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than it does at lower intensities.

Obviously, if you go for an 8 hour hike you are going to burn a considerable amount of stored body fat as fuel, but chances are you don’t have 8 hours every day to invest in your workout. So when you do exercise, you’ll reap more benefits from doing so intensely.

Think about it logically: if you have 1 hour or less to exercise, does it make sense that working out at a lower intensity would cause you to lose more fat? If you answered yes to that question, you believe that expending less energy is going to help you lose more fat. Not on this planet!

Performing high-intensity exercises burns more calories, kicks your metabolism into high gear for the duration of the exercise and for hours afterward, has a slight effect in increasing resting metabolism, and allows you to perform more activity throughout the day.

If you are starting out an exercise regimen, do go ahead and scale back the exercises to learn proper form and for safety reasons. Gradually tweak the intensity of your workouts to the point where you can do higher intensity anaerobic work as well as aerobic exercise. Research on this subject shows that a combination of weight training, anaerobic intervals, plyometrics, and aerobic activity results in faster fitness gain and fat loss than either weight training or aerobic activity alone.

Madness: According to this evil chart my heart rate should top 136bpm to be in the “maximum fat burning zone.”  Pffffttttt.

administrivia: 06.27.08

June 26, 2008

This Friday we’re doing 4 x 880s which is fancy talk for 8 laps (aka 2 miles) around the track. They won’t be run continuously because we will be working on speed.

After the speed training, the regular workout will follow. See y’all there!

body composition

June 25, 2008

Condensed from Tony Leyland’s article “Body Composition: Not the Holy Grail” which appeared in the January 2007 CrossFit Journal.

Probably the most common request a trainer gets from trainees is to measure their body fat percentage. While somewhat useful in monitoring whether one’s on the right health path or not (when in used in combination with other tools), this test is to be taken with a grain of salt. Why?

For starters it is very hard to measure body fat accurately. Fat in the body is found around nerve cells, in the blood, in cell membranes, within our organs, deep in the torso, etc. A skin fold caliper test which only measures subcutaneous adipose tissue cannot possibly be that accurate. For this reason a bodyfat test is considered to have a standard margin of error of around 3%. That means that if you have been told you have 12% bodyfat, you would fall somewhere between 9% and 15% bodyfat. If you then take into account average population deviations, the numbers are more between 6% and 18%.

Because no single body composition tool is ideal, it is best to use a combination of simple measures besides the bodyfat test. Enter BMI (body mass index = the relationship between waist and hip girth).

If BMI and skinfold measurements are both high, you can be confident that the cause of the high BMI is probably excess body fat. If the BMI is high and the skinfolds are normal or low, then the high BMI is likely due to above average musculoskeletal development (i.e. denser bones, tendons and ligaments and greater muscle mass). This is why BMI calculations are notoriously inapplicable to athletes.

Body composition is simply an anatomical snapshot of the body. It is related to anatomy, while the components of fitness (e.g. flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, power, etc.) are related to physiology (movement). Good body composition does not necessarily prove good physiological functioning. If you believe body composition is a component of fitness then you must also believe that liposuction surgery, which will reduce the percentage of fat in the body, will actually make you fitter!

We all have genetic differences and our optimum body composition will vary. If you seem to be genetically resistant to being very lean, current research seems to show that there are no health consequences as long as your fitness and nutrition are good. A recent study showed that people with relatively high levels of body fat who exercised regularly had fewer health risks that a similar group of individuals who were thin and did not exercise. According to research by Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger, a world-renowned epidemiologist, “Fitness level is far more important than body weight as a predictor of longevity. Individuals as great as 50 pounds over the recommended weight in height/weight charts have lower mortality rates than thin people who are sedentary.”

All this to say that a better way to measure health and fitness is to measure performance. If 3 months ago you ran a 10K in 1½ hours, squatted 15 kilos overhead, and did zero pull-ups and today you can run it in under 40 minutes, squat 65 kilos overhead, and complete 10 pull-ups, those would be more worthwile tests of your progress, fitness and overall health.

There really is no need to strive to conform to an “ideal” thin body type dictated largely by society if you eat well, exercise frequently, and are by all accounts continuously improving your performance. A model thin type who does not exercise, eats like crap, and could not push herself off the floor after falling, is not fitter or healthier than you.

escape your food obsessions

June 23, 2008

Stress doesn’t only wreck havoc on our state of mind but also on the way we relate to food. If you’ve ever reached for a bag of potato chips after an interaction with your boss, you know what I’m talking about. Chances are you are being driven by your emotions in making questionable food choices.

Here’s a handy guide to help you deal with the cravings that will leave you feeling satisfied all the same:


You Crave

Try Instead

Lonely Filling comforting foods, macaroni, bread Bean soup, oatmeal
Angry Crunchy foods, steak, crusty bread Lean steak, carrots, gum
Sad Uppers, coffee, sweets, sugar drinks Fruit, hard candy, whole wheat
Happy Goodies, cake, ice cream Fresh flavors, mint, fruit


06.21.08 pacifica trail run

June 21, 2008

Phew! That’s done.

We went in thinking that nothing could be worse than Pirates Cove…and it wasn’t in a way…it was just completely different. The race took us through two mountains. The second mountain was quite a lot taller than the first one, so much so I thought the race would end up in heaven. But at some point it took us through a mini forest which was quite a welcomed sight after the hot portions of the race. Better yet it was the placement of the finish line, ten steps to the left of the end of the trail. And much better it was all the cold drinks and food available to the finishers.

You gotta give it to the folks at Pacific Coast Trail Runs (, they sure know how to organize kick ass races.

From coach’s singing screeches, delirious talks of showers, dirty legs, annoying runners, and the Coke induced burping contest at the end, it was a very fun run. Stay tuned for times…