What Happens After Your Newbie Gainz Stall (and when under-eating no longer works)

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What Happens After Your Newbie Gainz Stall (and when under-eating no longer works)
Written by: Coach Slater

Newbie Gainz
When you first start at Derby City, it’s almost a guarantee to PR every time you step in the gym. In the first 8 months, you’re gaining muscle and losing body fat at a crazy pace. You’re exposing your body to new stimulus, learning new techniques every single day, and your body is physiologically adapting as a result. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that these gainz will continue in a linear fashion forever. You’re going to clean a gazillion pounds in six months, or you’re going to win the CrossFit Games in two years.

What’s happening in this newbie phase is called neurological adaptation, which means that you are causing a large number of neurons to fire rapidly in a more synchronized way, enabling you to rapidly lift heavier weights. So, your muscles aren’t necessarily growing yet, you’re just training your nervous system to create more efficient pathways. After your body begins to cement the neurological adaptations, then you’re able to push yourself harder and harder, triggering muscular adaptations, which is when muscles grow and get stronger. That’s why it’s important to focus on technique when just beginning, so you’re not neurologically adapted in poor positions. You want to give your body the ideal opportunity for future growth when those newbie gainz slow, to not create muscular imbalances by recruiting the wrong muscles in a particular movement.

So, when your typical neurological adaptations slow (aka, your newbie gainz stall), you begin to rely on muscular adaptations. This is the phase where discipline and dedication are needed, because you’re no longer setting new PR’s every time you walk in the gym. It “feels” like you’re flat-lining, but you’re not. You’ve just progressed to the next inevitable step in your training evolution. Now is when you need to find discipline to stay consistent with your workout frequency, nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction. Whereas you were once focused on achievement every time you first walked in the door… “first pullup, first bodyweight back squat, first snatch over whatever pounds”… you need to discipline yourself to focus on “progress” now. Achievement is so ingrained in our culture that we often ignore progress. But, you’re in this for the long haul, right? Now’s when you prove it with discipline and consistency. That’s what you do when you newbie gainz stall.

Ruining Your Newbie Gainz
Let’s go back to the beginner phase I mentioned earlier to talk about how you could be hurting your future progress by undereating. You can make gainz in that neurological adaptation / beginner phase while in a caloric deficit. You could come into Derby City, undereating because you think that’s what you have to do to maintain the body you want, while actually doing damage to yourself, and still make gainz. You could eat only 500 calories a day and still PR your back squat every week because your brain is just learning to do the movements efficiently. You haven’t really hit overload yet. But… when you finally do hit that point, you’re going to regress and you’re not going to like it. Now you’re under-recovered and going into a negative hormone state. Maybe you’re wondering why that awesomeness couldn’t last forever? Well, you have to adapt. What works today isn’t going to work next year.

This is the first time your body has done this kind of training, and your body doesn’t know any better than to adapt. Now the next bikini season rolls around and you think, “Well, 1,000 calories worked last year. Let’s do 800 calories this year.” But, you find that you can’t lose weight, or worse yet, you gain weight. Your body learned to create homeostasis at 1,000 calories, so there’s no longer a caloric deficit which will work. Your body is going to remember the stimulus that took you into adrenal fatigue and it’s not going to allow you to get there again. So, typically, you dig harder and add more volume via running or extra “cardio” outside of the gym, without fixing the real issue related to your recovery/nutrition. You’ve metabolically adapted to undereating and now you have to start from scratch to reteach your body how to eat and produce.

So, using this theoretical 1,000 calorie human, they can’t just start eating 2,200 calories tomorrow, like maybe they should have been doing the entire time. What if they’ve been eating 1,000 calories/daily for years now? Well, if they start eating 2,200 calories now, they’re going to gain weight incredibly quickly and lose trust in the process. Instead, they need to slowly adjust by gradually increasing calories, basically starting a metabolic repair program. Specifically, I suggest keeping your protein intake constant at around 0.8g/lb of bodyweight and adding 5-10% to your total carbs and total fats each week until you get to a “more reasonable” total number of macronutrients based on your lean muscle mass, body fat, and activity level. I like to suggest Carbs at 0.5g/lb of bodyweight for Off Days, 1.0g/lb for Easy Days where you’re moving slowly just trying to get loose for the day, and 1.5g/lb for Moderate Days at Derby City where you’re working hard, getting in a good sweat, etc… I typically hold beginners and intermediate athletes to “Moderate Days” and never progress to Heavy Days or something higher, because honestly, most people overestimate how hard they’re working.

Bringing It Home
To summarize, let me say that you needn’t be disappointed when those newbie gainz slow. It’s a natural part of your progress, and it marks the point in your fitness development where you need to learn discipline. Working out, eating right, and sleeping well should become a part of your daily regiment, just like brushing your teeth, showering, and going to work. I included “eating right” because you could be harming your future progress by messing up your nutrition during this beginner phase. In reality, I should have said “eating right” before anything else, because nutrition should be at the base of your fitness pyramid. It’s importance can’t be overstated. If your newbie gainz stall completely, the answer is always the same: you’re not eating enough, and you’re not recovering. Recovery is made possible by food and sleep. Set yourself on a path for future success.

Predicting metabolic adaptation, body weight change, and energy intake in humans”, Hall, Kevin.

Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans”, Muller, MJ.

The Truth About Metabolic Damage”, Teta, Dr. Jade.

Coach, I Can’t Hit 80% Today (or, Gauging Your Rate of Perceived Exertion)!

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Coach, I Can’t Hit 80% Today (or, Gauging Your Rate of Perceived Exertion)!
Written by: Coach Slater

Not every day is the same. Not every day progresses the way we’d like. Maybe you didn’t sleep well because your kid was up sick all night, or you forgot to eat all day because your boss has you on a new project, or you drank too much over the weekend.

As a result, sometimes the percentages on the board just *aren’t* going to happen today. You try to make it happen, but you end up walking a few steps to catch that last power clean or kinda good-morning-ed that last back squat. But hey… you got the lift, right? Not really. We want every rep to look the same, just as it does for high-level CrossFitters, Olympic Weightlifters, gymnasts, track & field athletes, you name it. We want to see consistent mechanics in order to see progress. But, our bodies don’t always comply, and that’s fine. That’s part of training.

When 80% feels like 286%, go down to 70% and finish the sets/reps while moving well and ingraining that proper movement, rather than moving poorly and potentially starting a bad habit. Today’s workout isn’t the end-all-be-all. What’s more important is the hundreds of workouts you’ll perform over the course of a year.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (or RPE)
So, why does 80% feel like 286% sometimes? Let me now tell you a little about RPE. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that “the RPE scale is a psycho-physiological scale, meaning it calls on the mind and body to rate one’s perception of effort… The RPE scale measures feelings of effort, strain discomfort, and/or fatigue experienced during both aerobic and resistance training.”

Said plainly, RPE is a subjective measure of how hard you feel like you’re working during a set or workout. While you may assume that 225lbs should always feel lighter than 275, 315, 355, 405, that’s not always the case. As mentioned before, if you slept poorly or didn’t eat, then that 80% is going to feel much heavier.

But, here’s where you can better use our listed percentages as a guideline to help you lift more efficiently, based on how you feel that day.

RPE Scale
Instead of seeing 80% on the board, think of it like an 8 on a scale of 10, in terms of effort.

Effort Level:
7: Weight moves quickly when maximal force is applied to the weight; “speed weight”, 4-6 reps left in the tank
8: Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed but isn’t a struggle; 2–4 reps left in the tank
9: Last rep is tough but still one rep left in the tank
10: Maximal, no reps left in the tank

Hopefully this scale can help you be honest with yourself and see that what’s important isn’t just the weight on the bar, but how the weight on that bar feels at this exact moment. The flip-side of this new knowledge is that sometimes your 80% will only feel like 60%. And on those days, crush it. Add more weight. Having the ability to increase (or decrease) you intensity based on how you feel is great for making better progress. Our programming will fluctuate percentages, but you have the freedom to adapt on the fly, based on how you’re feeling.

What’s the Deal with Different Whey Proteins?

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What’s the Deal with Different Whey Proteins?
Written by: Coach Slater

Quick post to answer a question I’ve overhead about whey proteins: “What’s the difference between whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate?”

First, there’s major marketing dollars behind protein supplements, so brands may want you to believe that one or the other is far superior. In reality, the differences in absorption rates seem to be extremely minute, so it doesn’t appear that there’s really a difference between any of them. All three can result in muscle growth, but there are some differences in lactose, fat, and carb content.

Whey Concentrate
This version is typically 80% protein by weight, and contains some carbs (in the form of lactose) and fat. It’s generally the cheapest whey protein out there.

Whey Isolate
This version is more than 90% protein by weight, so you get more protein per scoop compared to the Concentrate. One version of isolate is called “ion exchange” which just means it’s lost some important recovery substances during production. The other version of isolate is “cross-flow microfiltration” which maintains some integrity during production and is more easily digestible with essentially no carbs or fat.

Whey Hydrolysate
This version is predigested so it will absorb faster into your bloodstream compared to the other two, but how much faster is up for debate, and since you only workout once a day, it probably doesn’t even matter. Nonetheless, this supposed speed increase is the primary reason it costs more than the other versions.

Bottom Line
As long as you don’t mind the few extra grams of carbs and fat, and you’re not lactose intolerant, whey concentrate is the most economical choice for you. The protein we sell at Derby City, from Stronger Faster Healthier, is a whey concentrate made from grass-fed cows. Is the fact that it’s grass-fed important for your whey protein? Frankly, not really… but, until we find a better protein alternative, we trust SFH and trust that each scoop gets you the amount of protein it says you’re getting – which we can’t say with every brand.

Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness

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Heart Rate Recovery: An easy way to track your fitness
Written by: Coach Slater

We know you watch our TV monitors to see how your heart rate escalates during WODs, but do you watch it as closely AFTER the workout to see how quickly it deescalates? Didn’t think so… let me tell you why you should.

The time it takes for your heart to return to a normal, resting heart rate is a strong indicator of fitness and mortality, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The decrease in your heart rate two minutes after exercise is known as your Heart Rate Recovery (HRR). In general, people who exercise regularly, and therefore are more likely to have healthier hearts, have faster HRR times than people who do not regularly exercise. Hopefully that’s obvious.

To learn your HRR, check out the TVs in the gym to see what your heart rate is immediately after you finish a workout and write this number down. Watch the clock or grab your phone and watch for a minute to pass. At the end of a minute, write down your heart rate again. Wait another minute and write down your heart rate after two minutes have passed post-WOD.

The difference between your heart rate immediately post-WOD and two minutes later is your official HRR, but you want to see AT LEAST a 12 beats per minute reduction per minute for each of the two minutes you’re tracking. (Sorry for writing “minute” so many times there.) If your heart rate decreases less than 12 bpm each minute post-exercise, then you might have a hidden heart condition that warrants a doctor’s visit.

Here’s a scale to consider for judging your HRR:

You have a healthy heart if your HRR is between 53-58 bpm two minutes post-WOD.

You have a healthier heart if your HRR is between 59-65 bpm two minutes post-WOD, you exhibit a greater fitness level, and your physical age is moderately less than your calendar age.

Very Healthy:
You have a very healthy heart if your HRR is more than 66 bpm, you’re considered very fit, and your physical age is a lot less than your calendar age.

Here’s what you can do with this new info. If you’re someone whose heart rate takes longer to recover, it may be a good strategy to pace your workouts until your recovery rate increases. However, if you recover quickly, you should be increasing your intensity to see how high you can allow your heart rate to reach.

Happy monitoring!

(1) “Heart-Rate Recovery Immediately after Exercise as a Predictor of Mortality”. Cole, Chris. N Engl J Med 1999; 341:1351-1357.

(2) “Cardiovascular System Science: Investigate Heart-Rate Recovery Time”, Scientific American.

(3) “Heart rate recovery after aerobic and anaerobic tests: is there an influence of anaerobic speed reserve?” Del Rosso, S. J Sports Sci. 2016 Mar 28:1-8.

Combating Soreness

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“Coach, I’m still sore from that Open workout. What the hell?”

So, what can you do to reduce that delayed onset muscle soreness? First, let me explain what you’re feeling. That soreness is caused by inflammation due to microtears between your muscles and their surrounding tissues. It’s not uncommon, and our programming intentionally adds volume/intensity weekly so your body is exposed to new stimuli allowing for a compensation period which results in muscle growth and/or fat loss.

Soreness is most typically brought on by “eccentric” movements, or when a muscle forcefully contracts while lengthening, like when lowering a deadlift, or sinking into the bottom of a squat or pushup. These damaged muscles release chemicals that trigger inflammation, which awakens your pain receptors.

Now, let me tell you some easy things you can consume/do to counter that soreness.

Fish Oil
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are widely accepted as having a positive effect on inflammation; but, research is mixed on its effectiveness at reducing soreness, per se. Proper dosage is also a sticking point for researchers, but the wide majority of evidence says that a higher dose of fatty acids has the greatest effect; “higher” meaning more than 3g daily. So, take it to reduce inflammation caused by our American diets, but don’t necessarily expect it to help reduce soreness.

Curcumin is a buzz-supplement for the reduction of muscle soreness, and there’s growing research supporting its effectiveness. 2.5g twice daily has repeatedly been shown to decrease muscle soreness and actually offset some of the performance deficits caused by exercise-induced muscle damage. You’ll likely find curcumin bottled with turmeric, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure you take both with black pepper extract as neither are absorbed well without it.

Magnesium Sulfate / Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt baths are shown to have a significant effect on perceived pain, and cause a dramatic drop in blood lactate levels. Magnesium is a muscle relaxer, and as it’s absorbed thru your skin via a warm bath, it flushes lactic acid from your skeletal muscles. As a side benefit, magnesium helps convert tryptophan to serotonin, which balances mood. So, if you’re low in magnesium, you might also suffer from sadness or moodiness. One caveat… I wouldn’t recommend Epsom salt baths post-workout. Save these for at least a couple hours later.

Ice Baths
Ice baths definitely reduce “perceptions” of exercise-induced fatigue and soreness, especially when you plan to workout again later that same day; but, ice baths aren’t recommended as a long-term strategy for managing inflammation and muscle soreness. Repeated use of ice baths may actually hamper muscular adaptions to exercise. So, if you use them, do so sparingly, for a short duration, and not at excessively cold temperatures.

Vitamin C
Research on Vitamin C’s ability to reduce muscle soreness is mixed, but I’ve seen enough research saying that taking a minimum of 1,000mg pre- and post-workout can’t hurt with regard to muscle soreness, so I say try it out for yourself. Vitamin C is dirt cheap, after all, and you can even supplement your Vitamin C intake by adding an orange into your post-workout nutrition.

While research is mixed on the effectiveness of vitamins on muscle soreness, research seems to be pretty conclusive about the positive effect that polyphenols can have. They’re the nutrients found in blueberries, cherries, and pomegranates. A daily dose of 1 or 2 tablespoons (1/2 oz) of pomegranate juice concentrate or cherry juice can result in reduced markers of muscle soreness. 96 hours post-workout, your cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”) will be markedly lower.

Taurine & BCAA’s
Earlier, I mentioned that fish oil shows a significant reduction in inflammation but none really in muscle soreness. Well, taurine and branched-chain amino acids are the exact opposite. Research on these two show a significant reduction in muscle soreness but none really in inflammation.

A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness. Part I.” Kim, J., Kim, L.
Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise.” Bryer S., Goldfarb A.
Does combined antioxidant vitamin supplementation blunt repeated bout effect?” He F., Hockemeyer J., Sedlock D.
Supplementation with a polyphenolic blend improves post-exercise strength recovery and muscle soreness.” Herrlinger, K., Chirouzes, D., Ceddia M.
The effects of polyphenol supplementation on muscular strength, power, and soreness following eccentric exercise.” Machin, D.
Cryotherapy and Exercise Recovery: Part 1.” Cressey, E.
The acute effects of flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique on recovery from maximal eccentric exercise.” Morgan, P.
Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).” Nicol, L., Rowlands, D.
Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” Davis, J., Murphy, E.

Working Out Hungover. Yay or Nay?

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Working Out Hungover. Yay or Nay?
Written by: Coach Slater

Workout hungover, they say. You’ll sweat out the toxins, they say.

Not so fast.

Working out to get rid of a hangover isn’t a terrible idea, but let’s discuss why, so you can sound smarter than the bro science guy. The root of hangovers isn’t that the body lacks water or electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc…) after a night out. A hangover hurts because chemicals like acetaldehyde are produced when your body breaks down alcohol and these are toxic and pain-inducing. Basically, high levels of alcohol cause inflammation in the brain.

When you consume an alcoholic drink, the alcohol moves directly into the bloodstream without being metabolized in the stomach. It only takes five minutes for alcohol to become detectable in the bloodstream, where it then travels to the liver to be metabolized. For most people, it takes about two hours for the liver to metabolize a single drink. If you continue to drink alcohol faster than your liver can metabolize it, the excess alcohol is carried by the bloodstream to the brain and other areas of the body. For those taking insulin – a hormone which regulates glucose in the blood – this can problematic because the liver is busy removing alcohol from the bloodstream rather than regulating blood sugar levels.

Hopefully you drank some water or some non-alcoholic decaffeinated drink before going to sleep, or at the very least, you’re drinking it now. If you vomited last night, then hydrating becomes even more important, but don’t look to Pedialyte as a miracle cure to your dehydration and possible low blood sugar. Research shows that neither Gatorade nor Pedialyte are any more effective than plain old water at easing hangovers, and your body does indeed need fluids right now. When drinking, an anti-diuretic hormone is suppressed, so your water balance is thrown out of whack by the frequent bathroom breaks. Plus, Pedialyte isn’t going to help with the inflammation that’s causing your body to feel like hell.

So, depending on how much you drank last night (since you’re reading this article, you probably drank a lot), restrict your workout to a half-effort. You will inevitably get a slight endorphin rush from the workout, which will make you temporarily feel better. But, if you aren’t rehydrating before/during/after this workout, then you may be doing yourself a disservice by further dehydrating your already aching body. Use the workout to slightly raise your heart rate and get your muscles working to stimulate the release of those endorphins and even adrenaline. You’re not going to “sweat anything out” though. By morning, all of last night’s alcohol has already passed through your system.

Afterwards, get back on track by having a normal meal with carbohydrates and more water, or possibly a Sprite. The taurine in Sprite-like drinks are effective at reducing that pain-inducing acetaldehyde chemical in your body. Then get some rest. You need it.

Use Your Heart Rate Monitor to “Go Harder” in 2016

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I was asked recently about how to set a goal to “go harder” in 2016. If you’ve picked up your Goal Setting Worksheet, you know that this is a vague goal that we wouldn’t want you to set for yourself. We want goals that are objective and measurable. So, I suggested to this DCCF-er that he use his heart rate monitor and shoot for a “higher” heart rate at least once a week for the first two months, then twice a week for the next two months, and so on… I wanted to follow-up on that thought to give him (and you) more info on what these heart monitors are doing for us, so you can adjust your goals accordingly.

Put simply, they’re providing an objective measure of how your cardio-respiratory system is working, which you can use to gauge your intensity and either scale it back or crank it up.

Of the five heart rate zones our monitors show on the screen, here’s a quick breakdown:

Zone 1 (Gray): 50-60% – This is a comfortable zone for warmup and cool down.
Zone 2 (Blue): 60-70% – This is “average” effort which should allow you to maintain a conversation. This zone is good for maintaining your aerobic conditioning and recovery between our higher intensity interval WODs.
Zone 3 (Green): 70-80% – This “above average” effort is good for making improvements to your aerobic capacity.
Zone 4 (Yellow): 80-90% – You’ve now entered the “hard effort” zone which is good for maintaining anaerobic capacity.
Zone 5 (Red): 90-100% – This zone, where you’re going as hard as you can go, develops your anaerobic capacity.

CrossFit taxes the anaerobic system pretty regularly, so that’s why you need to be comfortable spending time in zones 4 & 5. However, some of us may find it easier to stay in zones 2 or 3, but upping the intensity to zones 4 or 5 will put our anaerobic energy system to the test. So, if this person is you or if you’re trying to “go harder in 2016”, you can use your heart rate monitor to work yourself into the red (zone 5) then stop and rest until your heart rate returns to the blue (zone 2). If you’re adding a new day to your workout week, say going from 3x/week to 4x/week, then this pattern of working to the red then resting to the blue can also help you slowly get accustomed to the additional volume. As you adjust to working in zones 4 & 5 more often, then you can stop resting once you hit red, and begin spending more time in those zones.

Keep in mind that being dehydrated can increase your heart rate by up to 7.5% and heat/humidity can increase your heart rate by 5%. Luckily, it’s the middle of January and it’s freezing outside, so you can’t use the second excuse for why you’re in the red during Monday’s workout.

Derby City Guide to Success

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We’ve just entered a new year, and we’re seeing a bunch of new faces at DCCF. Accordingly, we thought it would be good to refresh our Derby City Guide to Success… part House Rules for making all of your health & fitness dreams come true at Derby City. And part old man’s rant.

1. DON’T CHEAT! No one cares what your score was. Everyone cares if you cheated. The whiteboard is meant to inspire your best effort but it does not mean anything. You are only competing with yourself. Use the group to motivate your effort. Be honest with everyone else, and be honest with yourself. You know what full range of motion is, so there’s no excuse for shoddy reps. If someone calls you out for doing something wrong, listen to them. You’re suffering through a workout, so you might not be critiquing yourself as hard as you would normally. The person standing around watching you workout is breathing gently and probably has sub-60 heart rate. You’re halfway through Fran. You’re biased, trust us. If you lose count, the next number is always 1 minus whatever you last remember. If you know you have trouble keeping count, ask someone to count for you. If you want to get on a leaderboard, you must have someone count for you. If no one saw it, it didn’t happen.

2. BE UNCOMFORTABLE! Effort earns respect. Work hard. Go heavy or go home. The only way to get stronger is to increase the load. Always strive to go a little heavier and a little faster. Never say, “I can’t.” When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Push your limits. Intensity is what makes the program work; and what you get out of the program is directly related to how much discomfort you can endure. But, don’t forget that technique matters! You need to be good at the movements to get a great workout.

3. CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR! Somewhere a high school kid is warming up with your PR. Also, don’t drag people down with a bad attitude. Be optimistic, have fun and push yourself and those around you to do better. You are in total control of your behavior. No excuses!

4. TURN UP! Frequency and consistency of training are super important, so come to class. If you come 2x/week, try coming 3x. If you come 3x/week, try coming 4x. If you come 4x, trying coming 5x. For newbies, make sure you’re staying consistent. For old hands, don’t start thinking that it’s okay to just do your own thing whenever you want to. There’s a myriad of reasons we have class — you’re less likely to bias yourself towards the things you’re good at; you’ll get some competition; and no matter how experienced you are, you still need coaching and you can still stand to work on the basics. If want more, we have additional competitor programming at night.

5. TAKE OWNERSHIP! Be responsible and respectful and take pride in your gym. Don’t let others get away with things that are bad for them or bad for the gym. Remind people to take their clothes with them and pick up their water bottles. If you see someone doing something that you’re pretty sure will hurt them, tell them to cut it out. We don’t care who it is. You call them out. Safety first!

6. BE SOCIAL! Connect with the community. Learn names. Find friends. And do not ever… ever… ever… put away your weights because you finished the WOD but there are still others working. The first person to finish a WOD is the first person to cheer on others. There is nothing more disheartening than the rest of the class putting weights away when you have two more rounds to go. So, the next time you’re done with the WOD, look around and cheer on the person next to you. We’ve all been there before, the last person working. We all know that extra push is invaluable. Don’t be shy. Root on your fellow athletes, LOUDLY. That’s what Derby City is all about.

7. DON’T LIE TO YOURSELF! If you’ve plateaued or been in a training rut for over 6 months, then it’s your fault. There are no exceptions to this rule. It’s not the coaches. It’s not the programming. It’s not your work schedule. It’s you. You are your own worst enemy and you’re standing in the way of your progress. Cut the excuses. Listen to your coaches. Improve.

8. BE EARLY! If you’re not early, you’re late. Give yourself enough time to sign in, hit the bathroom, change clothes, and move around a little before class starts. Most likely that means showing up at least 10 minutes prior to class.

9. CLEAN UP! Put away your toys. Clean up your sweat. We wish we didn’t have to say this, but don’t spit on the floor. Don’t chew gum, and really don’t spit gum on the floor. Pick up your used tape, pens, notebooks, scrap papers, band-aids, water bottles and sweaty clothes. Put away all the equipment you used back where it belongs. Stack the boxes neatly, put the bars in the racks, stack the plates tightly in order, hang up your jump ropes correctly.

10. CHALK STAYS IN THE BUCKET! Don’t take it on a field trip around the gym and don’t use it to write on the floor. You can walk over three feet and bend over another two feet to put your hands in the bucket and *gently* apply some chalk before continuing your set. You don’t need it next to your bar, pullup station, or wherever else. Keep it in the bucket. Both the chalk blocks and the chalk dust.

11. RESPECT THE EQUIPMENT! Drop as a last resort. Put things down gently. Dropping weight should be a necessity, not a convenience. If you only have 15s, 10s, or 5s on your bar, then you can’t drop. 25s and up only. ALWAYS keep your weight under control. NEVER drop an empty barbell. NEVER drop a kettlebell or dumbbell.

12. SPEAK UP! If you notice that equipment is broken, there’s no toilet paper, bring it to our attention so we can do something about it.

Keep Your Wrists Feeling Good

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I often see athletes rubbing their wrists or bending their hands back, to relieve some nagging pain in their wrists. I often ask, “Have you tried rolling out your forearm?” but the response is typically the same. “My forearm? But it’s my wrist that hurts.” Yes, your forearms, that group of muscles that enable you to hang on to a bar, hold a 12oz beer, type on a keyboard, move a mouse, or flip someone off in traffic. Those same muscles.

Tight muscles often shift their burden to their tendinous ends, where they attach to your bones, their “origins” or “insertion points”. When this shift happens, you’ll experience inflammation or injury at the tendon or joint. So, issues in the forearm often result in issues at the wrist or elbow. To avoid this problem, it’s important to ensure the forearm muscles remain healthy.

You need your forearms to remain healthy so they remain strong. Their strength directly relates to your overall strength, known as “radiant tension.” Put simply, radiant tension is the act of utilizing your grip strength to create tension throughout your arm and into your shoulder. Squeeze your fist as hard as you can for 30 seconds then use your opposite hand to feel the tense arm up into the shoulder. You’ll notice your entire arm tenses up. During lifts, this tension helps utilize torque and strength while stabilizing the elbow and shoulder joints to prevent injury.

So, with that background, here are two ways you can keep your forearms, and therefore your wrists, pain-free:

1. Rolling


First, I would suggest regularly rolling your forearms with a barbell or on a Lacrosse ball. For the barbell, lay on ground, placing your palm down on the ground, then gently placing the skinny part of the barbell across the top of your forearm. With your opposite hand, work the barbell up and down your forearm, but not on the joints, while flexing and extending the hand. For the Lacrosse ball, place your forearm on top of the ball and roll from wrist to elbow. For both, apply enough pressure to where it’s slightly uncomfortable but not unbearably painful. With any super-painful areas you find, take time to pause on those areas, squeeze your fist, then relax, and continue this pattern of contract/relax a few times until the spot relaxes. Coupling this contract/relax method with deep breathing can help the fascia relax. (Fascia is a small layer of fibrous tissue covering the muscles.) There used to be a lot of discussion about rolling helping break up fascial adhesions, but lately, research points to its neuromuscular benefits. Basically, your brain telling your fascia and muscles to relax (reduce tone) so they can properly fire.

2. Voodoo Floss & Static Stretching


Post-WOD, you can use a combination of Voodoo Floss bands and static stretches to elongate the muscles and normalize the tissues. You wouldn’t necessarily want to perform these stretches Pre-WOD as elongating the muscles can put them in a weakened state. Also, if you’re experiencing pain and haven’t rolled out the knots yet, stretching will only tighten up the existing knots. Think of pulling on a shoelace with a loose knot in it, it only gets tighter. So I suggest stretching after you’ve reduced the inflammation and removed the knots from the muscle via rolling.

That being said, by applying the bands over the insertion points where your forearm muscles attach to your wrist and then stretching, you’re helping break up any tacked down tissue to create better mobility. Apply it reasonably tight then work your wrist thru various ranges of motion. You are restricting blood flow during this time, so when your hand turns ashy, take off the band and gauge any improvements. You can repeat the process as needed.

Pregnancy and Weightlifting Belts

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Pregnancy and Weightlifting Belts
Written by: Coach Slater

A DCCF-er, who’s requested she remain nameless for now, recently asked me about pregnancy and the safety of wearing weightlifting belts. I have read a decent amount on fitness and pregnancy, but I’ve never seen anyone specifically discuss pregnancy, weightlifting belts, and the intraabdominal pressure they generate. So, I began a mission to find out more… long story short… I didn’t find much in terms of conclusive evidence, but I’ll share with you what I learned!

1. The Valsalva Maneuver and Wearing a Belt
The Valsalva maneuver is a forced exhalation against a closed airway and is used to create additional intraabdominal pressure during maximum effort lifts. It also causes a quick spike in blood pressure and can result in that narrowing of vision or blacking out that you’ve surely experienced after standing up with a really heavy clean. During pregnancy, it’s recommended that you limit this maneuver to keep a continuous breathing pattern, exhaling during the resistance phase and inhaling during the negative/lowering phase, thus keeping an even amount of pressure throughout the movement. This lessening of pressure likely means that you’ll need to lower your weights at some point to accommodate the inability to create additional intraabdominal pressure. And, while no one seems to make the leap from this discussion to that of using a weightlifting belt for similar purposes, I can see that the two would be linked. If it’s recommended that you don’t perform the Valsalva maneuver because of the adverse effects of intraabdominal pressure on blood flow to the fetus, then it would make sense that you shouldn’t utilize a weightlifting belt because of its usage for creating greater intraabdominal pressure. Not totally scientific, but I’m not wearing a lab coat.

2. Lying On Your Back and Lower Back Issues
Somewhere around 12-16 weeks, the uterus becomes big enough that when you lie flat on your back, it can exert pressure on the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart, which reduces blood flood and may lower blood pressure. Obviously, interfering with blood flow to the placenta can be harmful to a developing fetus. So, situps tend to be out of the question.

Obviously I don’t need to tell you about lying on your belly. You’re smart enough to know about that.

But, keeping the lower back strong thru the pregnancy is important due to the additional weight being added to the anterior/front. With that in mind, I believe you should continue to deadlift thru your pregnancy, because they help strengthen your back & hips. Done properly, they do not cause back strain. Bending over improperly and picking up your groceries might hurt you if you’re not being careful, but a proper deadlift is safe. That said, as your belly grows, you might need to switch to a wider stance or use dumbbells/kettlebells to accommodate the growing belly.

If you’re experiencing pregnancy-related lower back pain, that could be due to vertical push movements (shoulder press, push press, push/split jerk) or cleans, especially if you tend to lean backwards while letting your hips shift forward. So, try reducing the weight and focus on keeping your hips under you with your spine in a neutral position.

3. Hormones
During your pregnancy, your body will increase the production of a hormone called “relaxin” which works to relax supportive tissues in your body. It allows your body to stretch to accommodate the growing fetus and relax the pelvis in anticipation of labor. That’s a necessary effect obviously, but it’s not great for training purposes because a softening of ligaments means you need to be careful when performing dynamic movements that tap the full range of motion of a joint. So, for instance, you may find that it’s easier to stretch your chest and shoulders at the bottom of a kipping pullup, but you’re doing so at the expense of extra stress on your joints because your ligaments are softer and not as able to help protect them. You may also find that heavy squats, cleans, jerks or snatches no longer feel as strong because your knee, hip, shoulder and elbow joints are not as stable as they were pre-pregnancy due to relaxin reducing the amount of elastic energy available to you. So, beware of this phenomenon and don’t be ashamed at backing off the weight a little or reducing your range of motion.

4. Intensity
Apparently, there use to be a general rule of thumb that pregnant women shouldn’t exceed a 140 beats-per-minute heart rate while exercising, but that’s been debunked now. Instead, you’re warned to keep your intensity in check so as to not subject the baby to oxygen deprivation. That’s why “perceived exertion” is a better way to determine your intensity, because you can easily go over 140 bpm but still be breathing easily (you’re a fit mom after all!). But, don’t get into a state where you’re gasping for breath and unable to carry a conversation while working out. If you’re breathing extra hard, there’s a good chance there’s insufficient oxygen in the blood, meaning the fetus is getting less oxygen. Use the “talk test” to help gauge your perceived exertion and keep your intensity at a safe level.

There you have it. Those are the important bits of knowledge that I’ve learned while researching fitness and pregnancy. I wish I’d learned more specifically about weightlifting belts and pregnancy, but no one’s testing that out on pregnancy women as it turns out. Shocker. Anyway, as a guy who’s widely recognized as not necessarily being “kid-friendly”, I’m pretty happy with what I found out. So, I hope you found this info helpful, too. Feel free to shoot me a message or grab me in the gym if you’d like me to expand on any of these ideas.