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So You Wanna be an Athlete?

crossfit-athletes-2Most of my career has been spent in a gym setting for one reason or another; first as a trainer and performance coach and most recently doing rehabilitation.  I’ve watched the same behaviors happen time and time again.  You probably are guilty of them yourself or “someone you know”.   Since my office is in a CrossFit, I will use that as the scenario for today’s “tale”:

Meet Jax

Meet Jax (because a pretend name like John or Bob would be boring)…Jax is late for the WOD.  He drives into the parking lot on two wheels at 90 mph, hustles through the door, changes quickly and declares himself ready to workout.  But, his entire day has been as rushed and unprepared as this moment right now.  Jax’s never really been able to “catch up” with himself today, rushing out without breakfast and grabbing a coffee or energy drink on his way into work.  He was behind before he arrived, so he went straight to the day’s tasks at hand and in spite of his best efforts, ends up rushed all day.  He was too busy to remember to drink water in between meals and slammed down a quick lunch all in the name of progress with a diet coke to stave off afternoon drowsiness.  Like most Americans, he ate lunch sitting at his desk; which, believe it or not, is a step up from the front seat of his car where most of his lunch hours are spent.  The one thing he does more than anything during his work day is SIT.

So, paint a portrait of our friend here:  He is undernourished (not underfed, big difference), dehydrated, and stiff.  Now, fast forward to his WOD.  Take all of the factors listed above and throw in the fact that he neglected to warm up.  Let’s define warm-up, quickly because he’s already late.  A warm-up is NOT: arm swings, leg swings, a couple of side lunging stretches, some trunk rotations all capped off with some toe touches.  That’s a sad attempt to forcefully stretch cold, stiff tissue.  Fail.

Warm Up the Right Way

A warm-up IS: several minutes of vigorous activity that elevates heart rate, increases body temperature and probably gets you sweating.  Hence the word WARM.  This can be done with a 1000m row, followed up with dynamic movements that closely resemble the WOD you are about to do.  The point is you should be warm, sweaty, loose and ready to move.  In our box, the term Movement is Medicine is mantra.  However, if you can’t move well you don’t get the benefit of the workout.  Further, you will likely end up hurt.

Let’s assume Jax makes it the WOD unscathed.  Now, he’s got to rush pick up the kiddos, get home to let the dog out, get dinner on, or any variety of tasks he can use as excuses for not doing a proper cool-down.  Physiologically, this is a very important step that is nearly ALWAYS skipped for no good reason.  It takes 10 minutes to do a decent one.  Immediately, jump on a rower for another 1000 m or so to properly transition out of the WOD.  Next, jump on a foam roll or lacrosse ball and iron out the rough spots in your glutes, legs, back, etc.  Finish up with some light stretching and mobility work and you’re done.

Recipe for Disaster

But, that doesn’t happen with our friend Jax.  He rushes out of the box and on to the aforementioned tasks.  This all takes significant time, so he doesn’t eat for another two hours after his work out.  Famished, he noshes on any and everything in his cabinet and ends up on the couch for the rest of the night before he finally forces himself to go to bed.   Sound familiar?

After one day like this; let alone the cycle we all fall into occasionally where MOST days are like this, your body is planning a rebellion.  It’s a calculated, yet predictable, plan that will hit you when you wake up in the morning, or when you try to work out again.  The results become catastrophic over time; nagging pain, swelling, stiffness, injuries and eventually stopping the WODs altogether.

The Moral of our Story

The solution is simple.  If you want to be fit and toned, strong and have an envious body on the beach, you HAVE to do the work.  The work doesn’t only happen during your workout (WOD), but it has to happen with every choice you make throughout your day—what you eat, how much water you drink, how you spend your downtime and your work time, when you go to bed and what you do to take care of yourself.  The key here is making conscious choices that have a positive impact on your health.  Little changes can make a BIG difference and you’ll be hitting those new PRs in no time.

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