CrossFit Forte Weekly Bulletin
July 21-25, 2014
The goal of CrossFit Forte, as both a gym and wellness community, is to provide its members with a foundation to improve their quality of life. Realizing that quality of life is ultimately shaped by the other 23 hours our members spend outside the gym each day, we found it fitting to launch a bulletin to inform community members with posts ranging from nutrition and sleep habits to goal-setting and time management. We have an amazing community and a great platform to grow in collaboration with one another, so we look forward to exploring a diverse array of topics as well as receiving your input on this bulletin in the future. If you wish to contribute an article, or just simply have a comment or request, feel free to email us!
We’ll post two articles each bulletin, as well as a roll call of links we found insightful, useful, compelling, or all of the above.
A SMART Approach to Goal-Setting
People join CrossFit gyms across the world seeking to improve themselves in myriad ways: enhancing energy levels, improving aesthetic appeal, increasing strength, joining a community of like-minded individuals, or striving to compete at a local, regional or national level. If we can benefit from adopting an intense fitness routine, we can easily envision the ways in which we will notice positive changes in work, in play, and otherwise.
We read articles about the benefits of vigorous exercise, fawn over testimonials of lives turned completely around by adopting CrossFit, and seek to adapt these narratives into our own lives. However, as with most things in life, we can get sidetracked. We can get inefficient. Put plainly, we start to stagnate. Most of us have hit this point at one point or another and its immensely frustrating. We live in a culture transfixed by the notion of instant gratification, and if we do not see results in a hurry, we can get frustrated and question our methods or program effectiveness.
This need for instant gratification often makes wholehearted, focused goal-setting very difficult. Most goals are not realized overnight and we can get frustrated when results do not manifest quickly.
To remedy this, it is helpful to think of how goal-setting works for children. You know, the beings with the shortest attention spans on the planet? If professionals found a way to give children a handle on goal setting and management that actually works, then we should take note.
We are not children, but we could learn from the simplicity of an approach that works for them. We want results that we can see quickly and we want to be able to manage our progress. For this, our goals must exhibit five characteristics: They must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-Bound. Acronyms are helpful for kids and adults, so we will call them SMART goals from this point.
The Importance of SMART Goals
Has your boss ever given you a really vague project with no real time window for completion and no real criteria for what he or she expects? If so, you can likely understand the importance of SMART goals in the workplace and life in general. Below is a brief discussion on each SMART element and its relevance in wellness.
Gone are the days when you say that “I want to get fit” and call that a goal. This is general, relative and terribly unclear. Your idea of fit, muscular, thin, sexy, etc., will change drastically as you develop and you should plan for this. Instead of ambiguous language, try more specific, intentional wording: “I want to string together 50 double unders.” “I want to lose 4 inches in my waist size.” “I want to do 80% of the WODs as prescribed (RX).” When you do this, there is NO uncertainty about what you want to accomplish and no wiggle room for weaseling out of your commitment.
Measurable goals can be tracked. This is one element that is really helpful for students, as they can track their progress toward goals and see improvement, which keeps them intrigued and driven. For instance, while kids may monitor words read per minute and stay motivated this way, you may track your measurements in your waist and thighs each month, or your muscle-ups in 10 minutes each two weeks, or your progress toward completing 80% of WODs. You will be continuously motivated watching the numbers between your current state and your goal move closer together and if you see this is not happening, you will know to adjust and consult with your CFF coaches.
Set goals you can achieve. Nothing keeps people faithful in their commitment to achieving their goals like seeing progress from their efforts. If you have a goal to squat 450 pounds in the next two months and you currently squat 185 pounds, you are not setting an attainable goal. Why? Because two months is not enough time to make this drastic change. However, if you swallow your pride and opt to push the goal downward and think intelligently about timing, you can then set goals in subsequent time windows to get you closer to an ultimate goal of 450.
Consider the interplay of variables involved in your goal-setting formula. If you want to improve your bodyfat percentage, consider what that takes. If you think you can really achieve goals by only paying mind to WOD requirements, you are not being realistic. Nutrition and sleep account for, arguably, 80 percent of the progress you make toward your fitness goals. Working out is not enough. Don’t set goals without taking into account what you really must do to achieve them. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
This is where kids really thrive and where those of us who demand instant gratification blossom. Instead of saying you want to improve your squat by 150 pounds in a year, break this into manageable chunks so that you can feel some success and feed off of it. If you break this into 30 pound increments, spread out over five time-bound periods within the year, you will be able to monitor your progress toward that goals and feel victorious when you achieve smaller, checkpoint goals. Nothing makes people hungrier for success than the taste of success itself.
Implications for You
You may not care if you ever make it to the podium at Regionals, but do you want to make it to the podium of a local competition? Do you just want to be able to compete in the Rx division? Are you CrossFitting to supplement your training for another sport you love? Or doing it to look better naked? Is it simply about taking care of your body to maintain its longevity, or are you looking for a community of people to support a healthy and active lifestyle? Think about it. There is no wrong answer. However, whatever your answer is, setting SMART goals will undoubtedly help you get where you want to be.
Decide what you want, educate yourself, and make a plan. Don’t forget you aren’t on this journey alone. Complete our goals form here, and we can set you up for an individual Goal Consultation with a coach.
A Simple Guide to a Confounding Concept: Insulin Manipulation
People talk on a daily basis about body fat. Popular culture has warped our perception of beauty to an unrealistic degree, but it’s also forced us to consider our habits and evaluate our progress under a microscope. Virtually everyday, I hear:
“I’m getting stronger, but I’m not losing this (grabs fat pocket for effect)!”
“I want to gain like 10 more pounds, but keep it super lean.”
“I’m just trying to drop those last 10 pounds.”
Sound like you? At some point in the past year, I bet most of you have said at least two, if not all three, of these things to yourself or someone else (no judgment, I certainly have).
The truth about getting lean is difficult to corral, as competing ideologies espouse differing notions with regard to nutrition and training. You’ve all likely bought into the idea that high intensity, constantly varied exercise is not only fun and demanding, but also effective. Score! You are a part of the way there. Now you just want to know how you can drop and continually resist unwanted fat.
Macronutrients and Glucose
When you eat, your body breaks down macronutrients (amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates) so they can be used as fuel for your body. Your liver manages the rest (thank your liver for all the booze its handled for you).
All carbohydrates (ALL carbohydrates) are broken down into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that is toxic in your bloodstream, so your body has devised a method of storing it in your muscle tissue as well as your liver for fuel. Excess glucose is converted into glycogen in the muscles and liver, where it is stored for fuel during arduous exercise (it is the second preferred energy source for your body aside from fat).
Still here? Recap: Glucose is a sugar from carbohydrates. Your body stores it for fuel.
Glucose triggers a hormonal response in the pancreas, which produces the peptic hormone insulin when blood sugar (glucose) levels reach a certain level (typically over 110 mg/dl). Insulin then allows for glucose to enter into muscle and fat cells. Without insulin, your cells aren’t absorbing glucose.
This is perfect after exercise, as your cells are depleted of glucose and glycogen. An insulin “spike” after a workout is the justification for a post workout meal with both protein and carbohydrates.
Most other times, however, your cells are NOT depleted of glucose. This means that when your blood sugar spikes and your pancreas releases insulin, your cells store glucose as fat, as they are not necessary. To be clear, fat, such as butter, is not stored this way.
Recap: Insulin spikes allow glucose into your cells. This is good when your cells need it, but terrible when your cells are already full of it. If you didn’t just exercise or arise from a long night of sleep, your cells are probably full of it.
Luckily, insulin has a nemesis. While insulin prompts storage of glucose (which was obviously great when we were hunters and gatherers who would go for days without food), glucagon released by the pancreas actually allows your cells to release stored fat to be used for energy.
This release of fat occurs both during exercise (hurray, exercise!) and when blood sugars are low (hence the conflict between this and insulin). Therefore, the two essentially exist in a zero-sum balance: increases in blood sugar cause pancreatic secretion of insulin and signal a stop to glucagon secretion. When your blood sugar is low, however, your insulin levels will also be low because of the lack of excess glucose and your glucagon levels will signal a need for your stored fat to be expended to keep you alive (or get you ripped).
1. Blood sugar is extremely important. When it is high, insulin is released. When it is low, glucagon is released.
2. This is a big difference. Insulin allows glucose (sugar) into your muscle and fat cells. If you already have reserves of glucose, this glucose will be stored as fat. Prioritize carbohydrate consumption at times when you know your glucose and glycogen levels will be low, so your body will use them as fuel. Think mornings and after workouts. A consultation with a coach can help you determine how much and when you should be consuming your carbohydrates.
3. Glucagon works its magic when your blood sugar is low. This is the underpinning for low-carbohydrate diet crazes. When glucagon is secreted, your body will use fat for energy.
4. Control and be aware of your blood sugar. There is a place for healthy carbs in your diet, understanding the basic principles of this metabolic mechanism can help you to strategically place them for optimal performance and body composition.
Final note: Don’t starve yourself. Notes on that will emerge next week. Be good.
Lovable Links This Week:
Joe De Sena inspires in an interview with Tim Ferris. Lesson: mental toughness outworks talent any day. Also, if you don’t read or listen to Tim Ferriss, start.
The New York Times now advocates for high-intensity exercise. Highbrow culture embraces you, CrossFitters!
You likely aren’t getting enough. You probably want more. Reading this would be practical for you.
Paleo folks love nothing more than eating things that emulate the foods they no longer eat that are the complete opposite of Paleo! You are lying if you say otherwise!
J.K. Rowling has a mindset and perspective from which we could all take a page (no pun intended). Regardless of whether or not you liked wizards (she now writes mysteries, so drop your judgment), her story and message carry major weight for reflection.
Popular notions surrounding health and fitness often cloud the fact that the true point of wellness is for you to lead a more sustainable, enjoyable life. If your fitness and nutrition routine is leaving you short of this, you need to reconsider what you are doing and why.