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Best Warrior Debrief

2 Weekends ago I was lucky enough to get to participate in the Connecticut National Guard’s 2018 Best Warrior Competition.  The competition was 4 days of physical and mental challenges designed to determine the best soldiers within the state.  The winners would be sent on to regional level competition where they would again be challenged.  The winners of that regional event would then move on to compete for the national title of “Best Warrior”.  I knew I wanted to participate in the event since I first heard about it last year.  I am super competitive and really love a challenge.  I have so many goals in life relating to long endurance events and other physical challenges such as mountaineering (I’m going to do it one day!).  This competition seemed like a perfect fit and something I knew would challenge me.

The competitors also have to select a mentor to help them prepare for the event and then provide support during the event.  They cannot help you complete any tasks but they can offer advice, help you strategize and even carry extra gear for you like dry boots.  The mentor is a crucial role and no one could win without an excellent mentor.  I feel I had one of the best. I spent the 4 months leading up to the event studying all of the manuals that would be tested, working on my land navigation skills and training for the ruck march. I talked with my mentor going over gear lists and he triple checked all of my uniforms and equipment. When the time came I felt ready to go mentally and not bad physically.  I had a nagging lower leg/tendon issue that started just 1 week before the competition that wouldn’t go away.  It was just going to be something I had to deal with over the course of the event.

Our 4 days started off on Thursday with a “showdown” for you nonmilitary folks that is just a gear inspection. We had been given a list of gear that we had to show up with.  They inspected our bags and made sure we had those items; if they were missing you would be deducted points.  We are not sure exactly how each event was scored but it seemed to be on a 100 point scale.  With first place getting 100 points, second getting 99, etc.  If you did not complete an event you received 0 points, which would put you out of the running for first place.  It was very important not to get a zero.

Following the showdown we had to conduct the army height and weight test to make sure we me the army’s body composition standards.  Because I am just too swole I always have to “get tapped”, which just means getting my body fat taken via neck and waist measurements.  This was our first go/no go event.  Meaning if you failed the body comp you would be out.

After the body composition measurements we began our second go/go no event, the PT Test.  This was a standard APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) which consists of 2 minutes of max push-ups, 2 minutes of max sit ups and a 2 mile run.  The push-ups and sit ups were done to the Army standard, meaning you could only rest in the plank position for the push-ups and the up position on the sit ups.  If you put your knees down on the push-ups or rested on the ground for the sit ups you would be done. I did fairly well on the PT test scoring 58 push-ups, 68 sit ups, and a 14:08 2 mile run.  Not by best 2 mile or my best push-ups but I felt good about it.  My shin was hurting pretty bad on the run but about 1/3rd of the way through it started to feel alright and I was able to push through.  I came in on the run 5th and everyone who was in front of me was way younger than me.  On the APFT you are scored based on age group brackets.  The older you get the more points you get for the same amount of work i.e. 50 push-ups for a 21 year old is less points than 50 pushups for a 31 year old.  So by being close to younger guys I had a chance to outscore them on the APFT. Those were the only events we had for that day.  On Thursday evening we attending a dinner and briefing of the weekend.  We were given a general overview of how the weekend would progress, what we could expect and who we could go to for information/assistance if and when it was needed.

Friday morning started off at 5am with us getting our gear ready for the day.  We would be traveling to the rifle range immediately after breakfast via helicopter.  The helicopter ride was pretty cool.  I had flown on helicopters several times when I was in the Coast Guard but this was the first time I got to fly on a Chinook.  That’s the big one in the photo.

After our morning commute to the rifle range we began our events for the day.  We started off by zeroing our rifles.  Zeroing is the process you have to go to in order to line up the sights on the weapon specific to your individual geometry.  Everyone holds a rifle slightly differently therefore everyone views the sights at a slightly different angle.  By zeroing the sights you are setting them up so that when you line the sights up on the target it hits where you are aiming, theoretically anyway.  There is a lot more to shooting than just pointing at a target.  Your breathing, trigger squeeze and focus all play a role.  Just because you have the sight on the target does not mean you will hit it, squeeze a little too hard and it could completely miss, breathe at the wrong time and again a miss.

I was able to zero my rifle and move on to the rifle qualification.  During the qualification you shoot 40 rounds at various targets which vary in size and distance.  After every 3 shots we had to get up and walk out to our targets to mark the hits.  I couldn’t push off of my toes while walking due to the pain.  I had to come up with this little shuffle, limp thing in order to do it. Your score for the qualification is how many targets you hit out of 40, with 40/40 being a perfect score.  Typically I score 37-39, I’ve never done 40/40, but during the competition I was only able to hit 33.  During the qualification is where I started to think something might really be wrong with my shin. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was the nerves.  Either way while not my best it was good enough to keep me near the top.

Once we were done with the qualification we moved on to my favorite part of the competition, the Stress Shoot.  Again here my shin was a distraction but during the event I was able to use the adrenaline to keep moving.  The stress shoot had several parts, some were completed for time and others were for score.  The first part of the stress shoot was completed for time.  We had to do 10 burpees in full gear then pick up a 40 lb. cratering charge and run it up to the second rifle range.  It was slightly up hill with a big kicker at the end and maybe 400m in total length from start to finish.

 

This is a picture of me at an Army school from last summer.  In the background you can see an example of what a 40 lb. cratering charge looks like.  The one we had to carry during the competition didn’t have the red tape and C4 strapped to it.  We were preparing to set off the one in the photo, that’s why it has all the extras.

At the top of the hill we dropped the charge and jogged on to the next area where we would perform an urban shoot.  We had to move through a range with vehicles, doorways and windows.  There were 4 targets we had to hit while moving but we could only attempt 2 shoots per target.  I believe I hit all 4 targets, I didn’t see the 4th one break apart but I put a hole in it so it should have counted.  After the urban shoot we had to drag a dummy about 50m and then search them for our pistol ammunition.  We then used that ammunition to fire our pistol at target from both the standing and kneeling positions.  Once we finished all of that we moved on to the final phase.  We ran up to a blanket covering something.  The grader told us this task was going to be timed and that we had to assemble the machine gun under the blanket.  He said go and I removed the blanket to find an M249 SAW completely disassembled.  I was able to assemble the weapon within the time limit and that finished my stress shoot. After the stress shoot we had about 90 minutes to rest before the helicopters returned to take us to our next event.  We used this time to eat some hot soup (it was in the 30s and low 40s), and clean our rifles.

After our second helicopter ride of the day we began our Warrior Task Testing.  We went on a simulated mission where we were evaluated on our ability to conduct radio communications, reporting, visual signaling and protecting ourselves from a gas attack by applying our gas mask and other protective clothing.  During the mission we were “attacked” by a chemical gas weapon and had to react to it.  You were scored on how you reacted by protecting yourself with a gas mask as well as how you reported the situation via the radio.  Following the mission we were tested on 37 hand signals for both day time and night time. This entire thing was my worst event of the weekend.  I know I need to work on my visual signaling (hand signals) and my familiarity with reporting.  The only thing to do is learn from it and try to improve in the future.

After the Warrior tasks we headed back to our barracks to turn in our weapons, eat dinner and get ready for an early morning.  We would be up at 1am to start the next day’s events.  My shin was in pretty bad shape so my mentor went out in town (competitors could not leave the base but mentors were allowed to) and bought me some nice pink and yellow athletic tape so that I could try taping it up for the next day’s events. I iced my shin, took a hot shower, and then iced it one more time before taping it up and going to bed.  I was in bed around 8:30pm with a scheduled 1am wake up.  O boy…

(I’ll finish up with days 3 and 4 next week since this got so long. Stay tuned!)

3,2,1 GO MD

While writing my blog post for last week I came across this awesome website: 321GOMD.com

The site is the blog of Dr. Sean Rockett.  Dr. Rockett is a long time member of CrossFit New England up in Massachusetts and also works on the medical staff for the CrossFit Games at both their regional events and the Games.

Within his blog he breaks down a bunch of medical issues that he has seen occur to his friends and CrossFitters.  Reading his blog is a great way to educate yourself and get an idea of what may or may not be going on within your body.  He also discusses things you can do to prevent injury and improve performance.

Save it to your favorites and add it to your toolbox of resources.

2 weeks vs. a lifetime

In any training program there is always the temptation to overdo it.  You can easily get sucked in to the mindset of: “If pull ups are good for me, then 50 pull ups every day must be great for me!”.  We all have done it.  Sometimes it’s not even just with exercise.  It can be with nutrition also.  You start to think “apples are good for me, I’m going to eat 10 apples a day!”.  Soon you realize though that too much of a good thing can in fact be a bad thing.

The same is true for our training program.  You get better from training by recovering from the training stimulus that you exposed your body to.   You do some pull ups, your tendons, ligaments and muscles breakdown. Then after a recovery period they grow back stronger then they were before.  The problem with over doing it is that you do not give you body the required recovery time.  Instead of breaking down and rebuilding stronger they break down, build back up a bit (but not fully), then you stress them again too soon and they break down more, then more, then more, until finally something gives.

A lot of times I see this in people in the form of tendonitis.  You can think of tendonitis as a bunch of tiny microscopic tears within the tendon.  It usually develops from some sort of overuse.  You are most likely familiar with the terms golfers and/or tennis elbow.  These are forms of tendonitis that manifest due to the repetitive nature of those sports.

People can get tendonitis from exercise as well.  They will begin to notice a small ache on either the inside or outside of the elbow, or below the knee.  It can happen in others areas but those seem to be the most common.

If you pay attention to your body you can easily remedy this situation.  As soon as you notice it beginning you need to back off of any exercise that was making it worse.  If it is an upper extremity issue you should avoid any upper body work for 2-3 weeks.  Focus on your core, low back and lower body.  You can run and ride a bike but no pull ups or push ups.  After the 2-3 weeks of rest it usually goes away and you are good to go.  Just start slowly reincorporating those activities again.

The problem is that most people do not take that 2-3 break from those exercises.  They continue to push for 2-3 months or even longer.  At that point sometimes the issue can become permanent or so hard to fix that it may never go away.  It is a shame that by not listening to their body they allow this to happen.  A really common form of this occurs in runners.  Runners seem to be obsessed with more and more.  They think more is better at all costs.  Because of this they get Achilles or patella (under the knee cap) overuse issues.

Don’t be like those silly runners.  Listen to your body.  Take the rest and recovery time when you need it.

Embrace the Process

It’s officially February and if you walk into any other non CrossFit gym you will probably notice something.  All of the crowds are gone.  That’s because by February 1st almost 70% of people already give up on their new years resolutions.

We see the same kind of thing from beginners in fitness.  At first personal records, improvements and change happen at a rapid fire rate.  It’s easy to be motivated during that first high.  However once the process slows down the motivation seems to lag.  People that are motivated purely by constant results will fall off the wagon.  They will leave the program they are at to “go find something else”.   They constantly jump ship and never stick with anything.

What I would rather see is for you to find something that you enjoy.  Not results you enjoy, but rather enjoyment in the process of fitness.  Enjoy the actual exercises, the sweat, the breathing, the environment.  Find something that you will continue to come back to regardless of the results because you just love doing it.  When you do this you will begin to realize some of the non physical benefits of exercise.  Things like stress relief and improving your mood, finding new friends, etc.

Most people who can’t stick with a program were there strictly for results.  They may have even hated every minute of the program but stayed because they wanted to get those results no matter what.  Eventually, those rapid fire results slow down and they leave.  In order to find a long term solution, you need to find something you love to do.  Those of us who have been in the CrossFit world for nearly 10 years now love the process, not the results.  It’s rare for me personally to hit a personal record these days but I still work hard in the gym because I enjoy it.  I have embraced the plateau where I am at and enjoy all of the things I get from exercise that aren’t directly related to traditional results.

CrossFit for Tomorrow, Not for Today

One of the Core Values of many CrossFit gyms (including us here at True) is to “CrossFit for Tomorrow, Not for Today”.

What does this mean?

Well to us it means that our goal is to ensure that our clients are constantly improving, getting better and moving up that continuum from sickness to fitness and wellness.

The goal is not to get everything right now at all costs. The goal is to make small improvements, safely each and every day, so that in the future you are making large strides as those small improvements add up. The goal should be to build a strong foundation.  A solid base that you can move on from, then progress up that pyramid.

We can look at something as simple as a back squat to illustrate this. If your goal is to get the maximum weight on the bar today you can do that.  You can probably set a personal record and move some serious weight.  But what if your knees are caving in? Or you are up on your toes?  What if your back is rounded?  What if you are nowhere near full depth? You might feel alright today but your knee might be pretty jacked up come tomorrow.  Or worse you could seriously injure yourself in that squat today and be out for weeks if not months.

What we would rather see is a perfected air squat before we begin adding weight to the movement. We can fix depth problems with mobility work and probably have you begin by sitting to a ball or box. Knee tracking issues can be fixed with band work or some tactile cueing from your coach.

Don’t think that by working on the “basics” you will not be getting a good workout. We can make the movement very difficult even at this level.  We can get those legs burning just by holding the perfect squat position for a few minutes.

Doing things correctly always, every single time, will make sure you develop the skills, strength and body awareness that is needed to continually progress forward. If you try to move on too quickly you will find you hit a plateau sooner than you would have.  Or worse you could get injured.

Make sure you keep this in mind while you are working out. Always leave just a little bit in the tank for tomorrow and make sure that everything you do is correct.  Always strive for perfect technique and be patient.

Remember…this is your life…play the long game.  Your goals should be to move beautifully not just maximally.

 

Where it all began for me

When I was first starting CrossFit back in 2008 it was no where near as popular as it is now.  In fact it was rare that CrossFitters actually worked out at an affiliate.  Most of us back then worked out on our own.  In parks, at regular gym, wherever we could because there were only a handful of affiliates in existence.  When I was starting out I was completely self taught.  I spent hours on CrossFit.com watching the videos and reading the forums (a forum is a place people talked online before Facebook, I know crazy right?).  One of the early videos I found that hooked me on CrossFit was the “Nasty Girls” video.  The Nasty Girls workout first appeared on CrossFit.com back in 2005.  You can see the post here and even read some of the comments if you want.

The workout was…..

3 Rounds for time of:
50 Air Squats
7 Muscle Ups
10 Hang Power Cleans [135/95]

The reason the video got my attention was because of the intensity in which they are moving.  Right off the bat you see the girls just absolutely crushing some air squats. Following the air squats they move onto the rings and begin doing STRICT muscle ups.  At the time I had no idea you could even exercise with rings and I had never seen a Muscle Up before.  I immediately wanted to get a pair of rings and do them, little did I know how hard they were and that it would take me over 2 years to actually get a muscle up and several more years before I could do my first one strict.

The original video is below if you want to check it out and see what CrossFit was like back then.  They are in the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz California.  That is where Coach Greg Glassman started it all.

You were made for more

While I was running the other day I was listening to a podcast, as I usually do, and it was about swimming.  It was relevant to me because I want to do a few triathlons this summer.

The host said he was not able to swim a single lap in the pool a few years ago.  He was 33 and couldn’t swim.  A friend challenged him to learn so over a year he trained and by the end was able to swim a mile in the ocean without stopping. The guest said something that I felt was appropriate while I was out there alone.  He said that only 2% of American adults can swim a mile in a pool without stopping and even less can do it in the open water.  The fact that the host could do that put him in “rarefied air”.  However it wasn’t that most Americans can’t learn to swim that far.  They just think they can’t so they don’t.  Or they tell themselves that they “have no desire to do that” as a way to cover up their inability to do it at the moment.

We need to be more like little children who see the world in a much different way than us adults.  They want to do everything.  They want to try everything.  They have this natural curiosity that pushes them to learn new skills and do new things.  That is part of the reason they develop so quickly.  While we are sitting on the couch they are exploring, moving, learning.  There is no reason this has so stop now that you are grown.

Life is this great big adventure.  We should all be pushing our boundaries to see what we are capable of.  Why can’t you swim a mile?  Why can’t you climb a mountain?  Why can’t you go running in the cold?  The answer is you can. You just need to believe you can and you need to work towards it.

Get out there and find out what your made of.

December Committed Club

Here it is! The final committed Club of 2017!

 

What do I have to do to get into the Committed Club?

It’s easy! Just attend classes 12 times during the month or an average of 3 days/week and you’re in. 3 days/week is that sweet spot where you can really make some serious progress and not get burnt out. As you continue to develop as an athlete you will be able to handle more days and really accelerate your progress.

 

December 2017 Committed Club

Marc 26 Classes
Jessi Cat 24 Classes
Sue Cat 22 Classes
Dave V. 17 Classes
Kristin Cat 17 Classes
Dana Cat 17 Classes
Nic Cat 13 Classes
Joe A. 13 Classes
MG 13 Classes
Elaine 12 Classes
Kelly 12 Classes
Rob Cat 12 Classes

Congratulations everyone who has made the choice to prioritize their health and fitness. If you want to be a good parent, spouse or friend you have to be healthy. If you choose to let your health suffer in order to take care of others you may not be around when they need you the most. Just like on a plane put the mask on yourself first before putting it on others.

Runners Up with 11 classes.
Keep pushing and you all will be there next month!

Ben R.
Roz

Do things others won’t

“Today I will do what others won’t so that tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”

This is one of my favorite quotes ever.  To me it describes the natural human drive that pushes us to be the best that we can be.

This quote came to me yesterday while I was out for a run.  I have a few events coming up in the spring and summer where I need to run so I try to run or hike at least once a week right now.  The only problem with yesterday was that it was 20 degrees out.

It was absolutely frigid.

My original plan was to sit in my basement and ride the bike for an hour instead of running because it was just too cold.  Then I decided “you know what?” There is no reason I can’t run outside.  People live and work in these temperatures all over the world.  Hell I spent 2 yeas of my life in Alaska.  20 degrees is nothing compared to that.  So I bundled up, put on my hat, gloves and face mask, and headed outside.  I didn’t care how far I got, I just wanted to be outside and enjoy the beautiful world we have.

Once I started running I realized how much fresher the air feels when it’s cold.  It feels so pure when compared to the hot sticky air of the summer humidity.  As I eased into my run I began to watch people as they drove towards and then past me.  They were all bundled up in their cars and most were staring at me like I was crazy.

It made me smile.

I smiled because I realized I was pushing myself to be better.  I was challenging my boundaries and seeing what I was capable of.To most of these people they had no concept of this. They probably couldn’t fathom why someone would be outside running when there was an easier way.  Thinking of this motivated me.  I thought to myself “screw easy!” I’m gonna crush this run.  I’m going to work hard and push the pace because I can.  Because you, sitting there in your car, won’t.

So…What did I learn on my run?

I learned that next week when I go out for my run I am going to run farther.  I got back home and I actually felt pretty good.  I had more in me. I am going to push my boundaries and see what I can do.  Then once I find the limit I will push even harder.

Grease the Groove

Grease the Groove was an old concept for improving skills and strength back when I first started CrossFit back in 2008.  I haven’t heard much about it lately but the concept is still a solid one.  It follows the same principle as the 10k Jump Rope challenge we have going on right now of practicing regularly and often.

A classic example of a Grease the Groove routine is one to improve your pull ups.  Set a goal of doing a few pull ups every so often throughout the day.  If you have a pull up bar you can mount in your home place it somewhere you pass by frequently.  Like the door into the bathroom.  Every time you pass it do a few pull ups.  Eventually it just becomes a habit and something that you do.

Increasing your exposure to the movements on a regular basis allows you to not only develop skills and gain strength but also increase your confidence.

Movements that work good for the Grease the Groove concept in your home are:

Pull Ups, all grips and varieties
Squats, Lunges, Pistols
Sit Ups, planks and other abdominal work
Push Ups, Dips, Burpees

Pick a place and every time you go there or past there do a few reps.  If it is somewhere you frequent often choose a lower rep scheme like 1-3 and if you only go there a few times in the day you could do higher reps like 3-5.  The goal is not to exhaust yourself and “make it a workout” but rather ingrain the movement into your body.  Make it something that is normal and easy for you to do.

Going to the bathroom?  Do 5 squats in there.

Getting some laundry out of the dryer?  Hit 5 push ups real quick.

This is a great way to stay fit throughout the day and can even help keep you motivated during the holidays.

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