Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By The Numbers

Recently released on the Crossfit Journal was an article by Flatirons Crossfit about an experiment they performed. The experiment was conducted with the purpose of proving that the Paleo diet actually brings about all of it's purported benefits, such as weight loss and leaner body composition, improvements in cholesterol and other blood markers, increased strength and metabolic conditioning, reduced pain and improved immune response, and better energy and mood. They said of this experiment, "We decided to embark on a Paleo study rather than a challenge. There was no competitive element; rather, affiliate members agreed to participate in a scientific investigation following the standard guidelines for experimentation with human participants. This meant that they committed to participating, filled out consent forms, followed an experimental protocol, provided data at regular intervals, and participated in an interview and debriefing at the end of the study."

The premise behind this study was great. Crossfit needs nothing more than quantifiable data that proves their method works. There are countless personal testimonies, but without the numbers to back up their claims, they will never make a large enough impact on the fitness and nutrition community.

I will allow you to read the article for yourself but I wanted to point out a few of the results. Some of the areas they wanted to track changes in were body composition (% fat, waist inches, weight), physiological measures (Total Cholesterol and Triglycerides), performance measures (Crossfit Total - 1RM Back Squat, Shoulder Press and Deadlift and the met-con "Christine") and subjective measures (energy levels). Results in each of these areas were positive. The Mean (average) result in each area over the 8-week period of the study looked like this:

Weight lost (pounds) - 7.1
Inches lost (waist) - 1.4
% Fat lost - 3.0
Crossfit Total change - +20%
Met-con ("Christine") change - -69 seconds
Total cholesterol change - -17
Triglycerides change - -1
Energy level change - perceived to be improved

All in all I was pleased with this study. However, it is still not enough. The sample size was not nearly large enough (only 12 participants) or diverse enough, and not enough measures were taken to ensure that everyone complied and did exactly what they were told. This was a great start, but I hope that Crossfit HQ takes a hint from this and embarks on something much larger and more concrete.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Tapping Into All Our Gears

There are, without a doubt, a wide range of intensities that people bring with them to the gym. From the casual exercisers to the hardcore go-getters, Crossfit attracts people who simply want to get the workout done to those who love the challenge and face it head on.

Of course, to get the best results out of our workouts, we must be in the latter group and go all out during the WODs. So what can we do to push ourselves to that limit? I believe there are several factors that influence how hard we push ourselves.

First off is our goals. Goals are an excellent source of motivation. Obviously, having them is the first step! After some general goals are set, they can become more motivating based on their specificity, rewards, personal meaningfulness and having a detailed plan in achieving them.

Another factor is fear, and there are two types. The first one is fear of pain. Pushing ourselves 100% can cause a great deal of discomfort, and many people have a fear of feeling that way. Some fear it so much that they will refuse to ever push themselves past a certain point. Obviously this is an issue that must be dealt with, and it absolutely can be overcome. The other fear is of how we appear to others. While others are watching, some people fear appearing weak, or appearing like they are slacking. They also fear possible punishment for not pushing themselves hard enough.

A sense of achievement is a factor as well. I personally love a good challenge and the feeling of satisfaction from overcoming it. Some Crossfit workouts are very difficult, and I almost feel a sense of victory after "conquering" them.

Our ability to focus on the task at hand plays a role as well. What are you thinking about when you're exercising? While you are performing the WOD, are you spending the whole time thinking about work or family? If we are to give something all of our effort, we must be able to clear our minds and focus entirely on what we are doing.

This is all I can think of for now. If you are able to improve in any of these areas, be sure and make an effort to! If you feel there are other motivating factors besides these, please share them in the Comments section.

Yours in fitness,