2012 Capital City Open

Alright, I wrote the following copy (yeah, I'm fucking journalist now) to be posted on all of Balance Gym's various blogs. It's basically a request for people to come out to support a bunch of Balance athletes/lifters/coaches this Saturday. Here goes...

Come out to Balance Gym Kalorama (CrossFit Dupont) to support and cheer on your fellow members and coaches as they compete in the 2nd annual Capital City Open, an Olympic weightlifting meet where athletes will snatch and clean & jerk. Each lifter gets three attempts at each lift. The combined total of their two best/successful lifts determines their place. Balance will be represented by both members and trainers. Of the 52 total participants, Balance alone accounts for 16 total lifters! That's 30%. It is -- I used a calculator.

Let's be honest, you and I both know you don't have anything better to do this Saturday. Swing by Kalorama and watch some weight get thrown around. You may even catch a few of your favorite (or least favorite) trainers rocking some singlets. How can you resist now?

What: 2012 Capital City Open
Where: Balance Gym Kalorama
When: Saturday, April 21st from 10AM to ~6PM
Who: 12 Balance gym members and 4 Balance gym trainers
Why: To support your fellow members and coaches as they lift heavy-ass weight over their heads.


Session 1: 10AM-11:15AM
Novice Female (all weight classes)

Sarah Shyr
Morgan Reynolds
Emily Baskin
Ilda Bajraktari

Session 2: 11:30AM-1PM
Senior Female (all weight classes)

Leah Cochran
Cali Hinzman

Session 3: 1:15PM-3:30PM
All Men (69kg - 77kg)

Ross Paolino
Sergio Schwimmer
Jeff Jenkins
JP Goshco

Session 4: 3:45PM-6PM
All Men (85kg-105+kg)

Aaron Bolton (Bolt)
Eric Peterson
Ken Greenfield
Robin Habberly
Jim Bathurst
Chris "Tex" McQuilkin

All of the athletes listed above are Balance folks. Yeah, folks. Many have been training hard for months preparing for this competition. Some have been competing in Olympic weightlifting since 2010, while others learned the lifts only a few months ago. Regardless, they've all worked their asses off to lift some serious weights on Saturday. Want proof? I got proof for days, son!


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 30

Well, today is Day 30 of my Paleo Challenge, but due to a few circumstances, I am forced to extend the entire experiment until next Monday. So, all told, it will technically be a 35-day challenge. Will this break me? I think not. I hope not. I don't know. Shit.

The earliest Kari can check my bodyfat and lean mass is next Monday, hence the extra days. After measurements and photos are completed, I will begin the process of reintroducing some non-Paleo foods. This is where a lot of people screw up. Think about it: you've just spent 30 days eating healthy, relatively natural foods, essentially detoxifying from all the crap you've been consuming since that first beautiful bowl of Apple Jacks, and then what do you want to do? Shovel a bunch of bullshit down your throat. The problem here is if you experience any reactions (gastrointestinal, energy level, etc), you have no idea which food caused it during your White Goodman metldown.

One of the best but oft overlooked aspects of Paleo is the opportunity to find out how certain foods affect you. So it's crucial to slowly reintroduce the things you've been weened off and observe/feel the results. Someone who is extremely gluten intolerant will react badly to breads and grains when they first try them after 30 days of Paleo. Some people will have poor reactions to dairy, legumes, and or sugary foods. You have to take advantage of this opportunity to see what foods may be affecting your health, digestion, and performance.

I've conferred with Dr. Mike Molloy, our resident coach/immunologist/athlete/smart person, and he gave me the following prescription for the reintroduction of non-Paleo foods:

1) Dairy first - least likely to be a problem. Cheese. You could be fine with milk and you'd still shit your pants just because you've stopped making lactase. This is good to know. That would make for an awkward staff meeting.

2) Legumes second... peanuts, beans or corn tortilla chips.

3) Grains third. Try a sandwich... sushi or some rice dish second. All the other grains suck anyway. Mike clearly doesn't respect my sugary love-bitch, Little Debbie...

You demon woman!

Now, don't be dumb -- I'm not going to reintroduce these foods by eating a piece of cheese and then some peanuts and then a slice of Wonderbread. Each group will be separated by some hours and possibly days to gauge my body's tolerance of each one. Do I have a gluten or lactose intolerance? No idea. I hope not because chocolate milk is like kissing Jesus. But we shall see.

The most important takeaway here is that everyone is different. Some people are allergic or intolerant to certain foods, while others are not. I have a suspicion people in China are more receptive to eating rice. Why? Because it's been a staple of their diet for over 10,000 years. Does this mean it's good for them? I can't say for sure, but they're probably better adapted to it than people of European descent. Check this out, if you're interested in the relationship between grains and human evolution.

So, for those of you participating in this latest go'round of the Paleo Challenge, be sure to slowly/intelligently reintroduce non-Paleo foods and see how your body responds. This is Biohacking 101, people. Don't slouch. Sit up straight and get your shit right.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 17

Supplements have been a part of my everyday life for a while now. I'm not talking about muscle milk and power bars, though. I'm referring to essential vitamins and minerals that improve overall health and performance. I've added a few things to my regimen for the Paleo Challenge. Here's a quick rundown of what I'm taking...

1) Vitamin D3. This has been a staple of my supplementation for the past 2+ years. This is one of the most recommended vitamins from doctors, nutritionists, coaches, and, well, everyone. It has an absurd range of health benefits regarding bone heath, asthma, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and so on. I take 5000 IU before bed every night. If I feel sickness coming on, I will sometimes take upwards of 20,000 IU. Healthy Origins -- about year's supply for $15.

Looks like leperchaun gold. Works just as well, too.

2) Fish Oil. I've been on and off fish oil for the past few years. For this 30-day span, I will be taking it regularly. Not really doing a specific dosage, but taking two spoonfuls per day of Carlson Labs. Some high quality shit, son!

3) Digestive Enzymes. Robb Wolf recommends these in his book, The Paleo Solution. Many people are deficient of the proper acid levels in their stomach to proficiently break down food and ensure sufficient absorption of essential nutrients. Digestive enzymes are supposed to help this process and make sure you're getting the most out of what you eat. I could list the ingredients, but I'm just going to tell you it has ox bile in it. This can only be a good thing. Now Foods Super Enzymes.

4) Goku Kola. This is an herb that has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries (apparently). I'm not much of hippie herbalist, but I've read that it helps improve collagen production, which in turn, helps tendon health. And when you've got some bullshit knee issues, you will try anything.

5) MCT Oil. I wouldn't really call this a supplement per se, but I've been putting it in my morning coffee with some Kerrygold unsalted grass-fed butter. What sorcery is this, you ask? It's called Bulletproof Coffee. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides and they are "considered a good biologically inert source of energy that the human body finds reasonably easy to metabolize" (Wantan GJ).

Please keep in mind that supplements aren't a free pass to good body composition and performance. That's how fat and lazy people think. It's not magic. You still need to eat well and exercise intelligently. Quality supplementation does exactly what it says... it supplements everything else. Get after it.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 18

This is some of the realest shit ever. If you or any relatives are suffering from an autoimmunity or something as awful as multiple sclerosis, why not at least try altering your diet? What do you have to lose? Think about what you may stand to gain...

Minding Your Mitochondria


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 15

So I thought it would be good to explain the type of training I'm doing while in the midst of this Paleo nonsense. As noted, my knee is in rough shape, so the exercises I love most (snatch, clean & jerk, squats) are out of the question. Even the power variants are somewhat off limits because of the impact and force the knees absorb. It's a major bitch.

There's a classic expression that rings true for many gym-goers: You cannot out train a bad diet. And this very true for the most part. For me, I realized early on with enough consistency and heavy resistance training -- in my case, Olympic weightlifting -- I could still keep an acceptable physique without having to watch my diet or do any conditioning whatsoever.

Shirtless lifting in Puerto Rico is mandatory.

I mean, I'm no Devin Maier, but this video was taken during a time when Taco Bell and KFC's Double Down were staples in my diet. Food quality was unimportant to me. And hey, I still looked alright. A little too skinny if you ask me. Now, I'm getting older, my knee is messed up, I have ongoing shoulder issues due to poor mobility and inactive lower traps. I can't currently do the O-lifts and my genetics may finally be saying, "Fuck you, dude, stop eating like an asshole."

This past January, I visited Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. Eric Cressey is a very popular strength & conditioning coach, lecturer, author, and major dude who is smart as shit. He works primarily with baseball players and is known as "the shoulder guy" but he has an array of athletes that go to him for help, including my cousin Murphy Smith:

This turned into a 624' homerun.

Eric did an initial assessment on me and then developed a program to address my problem areas. It's a four day split that includes some big lifts (trap bar deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, push jerks, chin-ups), an array of corrective exercises, a lot of very innovative core work, and a very thorough warm-up & mobility routine. The program incorporates a lot of supersets, focusing on hip/glute work, horizontal pulling, unilateral work, and basically getting the correct muscles to work properly. Here's a sample from Day 1:

A1. Push Jerk; 4 sets; 4 reps
A2. Prone Depression to Extension; 3 sets; 6 reps/side
B1. Standing 1-arm Cable Rows; 3 sets; 10 reps/side
B2. 1-foot Leg-elevated Push-ups; 3 sets; 4 reps/side
C1. Crossover Reverse Fly; 3 sets; 10 reps
C2. Reverse Crunches; 3 sets; 8 reps

Eric knew that my goal was to eventually get back to Olympic lifting, so he included exercises like push jerks and high pulls. One thing Eric does to ensure people don't skip their corrective work is to superset it with their major lifts. So rather than sit around and rest, you're actively working on muscle imbalances/weaknesses.

It's a very interesting program and far different from what I'm generally used to. Only one heavy barbell per session, despite normally doing 2-3 with Olympic weightlifting. Most people who partake in the Paleo Challenge are usually doing CrossFit sessions of heavy lifting and high intensity metcons -- not this dude. This program has minimal conditioning, which I prefer. And with the detailed warm-up routine and corrective exercises, I'm hoping this program improves my mobility, posture, and positioning in the O-lifts.

This would be nice.


Unnecessary Censorship

The title of this post has nothing to do with Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censorship. I wish it did, actually. But alas, we're swimming in a sea of stupid bullshit and I had to bring something to light.

Back in late January, I was filmed alongside Christy Phillips and Danielle Dionne in a video for the 2012 CrossFit Games...

Let me first say that I was very grateful that Christy and Danielle allowed me to be part of this experience. They let me design the entire workout, take them through each portion, and be a part of the final product. The three of us go way back to the 2009 CrossFit Games, so it was fun to do it again. I also appreciate the media guy (sorry, can't remember his name) from CrossFit HQ filming me and, more importantly, keeping me in the video. It would have been easy to say, "Ya know what, let's just blur out that bearded weirdo."

Now, let's get down to what irks me. I designed the workout with some quick skill testing and then a short metcon. It went like this:

1) Max Broad Jump - 3 attempts
2) Fastest across Strength Grid - 2 attempts
3) Max Calories on Airdyne in 30 seconds - 1 attempt
4) Six minute metcon

The above video included everything overlaid with voiceovers from Christy and Danielle about their preparation for this Games' season. All in all, it was a great workout and a cool video. There was one glaring omission, though, that both surprised and angered me. This was their six minute metcon:

amrap in 6 minutes:
3 hang clean, 135lbs
7 kettlebell swing, 70lbs
25 unbroken double-unders

Upon watching the above video, do you notice what's missing? That's right, not a single repetition of their kettlebell swings. For a while now I've been trying to understand why and the reason is almost too ridiculous to fathom. It's not because their swings were performed poorly or in a dangerous fashion. It's not because their kettlebells were made by Nike or anything. No, it's because their swings were to chest/eye level and not completely overhead.

"WTF?" indeed, funny monkey-face.

Going overhead has been called the "American" swing and swinging to chest level is often referred to as the "Russian" swing. Generally speaking, swinging a kettlebell to chest level is normal; swinging a kettlebell overhead is the CrossFit standard. Just ask AJ Moore. But this really confuses the trifling fuck out of me. I mean, the video even included footage of them carrying kettlebells over to the main gym for the metcon. And yet, they're essentially censored.

Isn't CrossFit all about variance and trying new/different/innovative shit? Hell, the Russian swing isn't even innovative since it was around BEFORE people started swinging shit overhead. Movement standards with CrossFit workouts change on a daily basis, so why is it so unthinkable to do kettlebell swings to chest/eye level? The Games don't always use chest-to-bar pull-ups. In 2009, kipping wasn't allowed during handstand push-ups; in 2011, kipping was encouraged.

Now, I'm not sure if this was HQ's doing or the camera guy, but the whole thing is stupid (and therefore, probably HQ's decision). I shouldn't even be worked up over it because in the end, it's just exercise anyways. But that's exactly it. It's just exercise. So why is the height of a kettlebell swing so offensive to these prissy, uptight douche-canoes?

The point is... there's more than one way to do something. If you don't have a climbing rope at your gym, then you can do towel pull-ups. It's not a perfect substitute, but it provides a similar stimulus. If you don't want your clients doing overhead "American" kettlebell swings because you believe the heavier weight causes a potential danger, then you can have them do Russian swings to chest/eye level. It's not a ridiculous notion. Meanwhile, CrossFit is fine with this...

But this is just unacceptable...

Well... I guess I understand Tex being unacceptable.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 10

Alright, I suppose I should offer some stats here. First off, a big thanks to my good friend Kari of Nutrition Figures for taking my body measurements. It's no easy task, to be sure. It took us roughly 15 minutes to awake her after she fainted from seeing me shirtless. A common side-effect of my physique. A gift and a curse, I'm afraid.

Bodyweight: 170.5lbs
Bodyfat: 11.9%
Lean mass: 150.1lbs
Fat mass: 20.4lbs

So I'm already beginning this challenge relatively lean. Personally, I think 12% is pretty good considering that I generally eat at Bobby's Burger 3-4 times per week. Not to mention, my training has be derailed to shit as of late. Kari projects I could drop down to possibly 6% on strict Paleo. I still can't decide if this is a good thing.

I had my blood taken over a month ago and I'm still awaiting the results. They won't be very reliable, though, because I wasn't fasted. Medical degree or not, some doctors are fucking morons. Regardless, I'll post those when they come in -- if they come in at all.

And finally, the moment you've all been salivating for...

I'll give you a moment to let your collective boners subside.

All good? Okay, on with it then. These pictures were taken on Day 8 of this challenge. I assure you, not much difference since Day 1, so the discrepancy shouldn't matter. Two things come to mind looking at these pictures: 1) My posture is fucking terrible and 2) My hair is fucking amazing. In any event, I'm interested to see any significant body composition changes.

We're 10 days in right now and everything is going smoothly. I'm cooking a lot. It's annoying, but I just pretend I'm a contestant on Chopped and it gets easier.