Winning the Warm up

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My friend Paul Buono and I often joke about how hard he warms up. His assertion is that if he warmed-up hard, he already won the workout. Winning the warm-up entails putting your body in position to meet the demands of the task at hand. I spent a great deal of time observing how athletes manage their gym time. Considering each individual athlete, I examine how they maximize their time with mobility as well as how they address their weak positions. The initial time in the gym must be used wisely; consequently, this means gravitating towards the uncomfortable positions and stretches that we know we are deficient in. Further, one must ignite the heart rate and central nervous system to prepare the body for the upcoming workload. Time management strategies –
  1. Look at the board and see what the workout is on your way to the warm up area. Know what you’re going to be asked to do, so you can prepare your body to be ready for it. I know the class does mobility and a warm-up; however, you will most certainly require more, as we all do. Everyone is different, moves different, and has different backgrounds. Plan accordingly
  2. 2-3 minutes of light breathing work. Airdyne, Row, Jog, Jump Rope, even some crawling will get the job done.
  3. 3-5 minutes of some general mobility. Common areas T-spine, Hips, Ankles. And here is exactly what you can do to hit those areas.
T-spine Rotation x 5-10/side Penguin Stretch x 20-30s/side Runners lunge x 20-30s/side **chest as close to the floor as possible** Ankle Taps against wall x 10/direction/leg *straight on, knee out, knee in, heel stays down the whole time**
  1. 3-5 minutes of specific mobility. Pick one major problem area of yours and look to make an improvement on it. Here are some common issues I’ve seen and what to do about it.
Forward Posture - Crab Holds or Doorway Pec Stretch Overhead Postion - Relaxed Bar Hang or Roll out Lats SI or Low back issues - Banded Leg Across body stretch Hip Flexor - Couch Stretch Hamstrings - Banded Supine Straight leg Raise or Active Straight Leg Raise
  1. 3-5 minutes of activation work. Most athletes need either shoulder or glute activation in EVERY workout in my opinion.
Glutes - Banded Monster Walk x 10 step square Shoulders - Internal & External theraband x 15/side/movement There you have it. 15 minutes to put yourself in the best position to succeed before class. Be on the look out for a post workout cool down piece as well. “Win the warm-up,” and see the improvement!   #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

A Closing letter to all Open Participants

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To Whom It May Concern: If you are reading this and have completed your CrossFit Open journey then you have set yourself apart from others. You have conquered many obstacles in the past five weeks and gained a greater strength than any medal or podium could instill. For most of you (including me), our CrossFit season is over; and that is just fine. We may be a little battered and sore, but there is something about the journey that is so invigorating. Congratulations if you were one of the gifted athletes that qualified for Regional competition. Regarding the general populous, I hope this Open made you more conscientious and observant of your capabilities and highlighted areas of improvement. The difficulty of the Open allows for specific feedback on your individual needs; therefore, please take some time to reflect on your performance. This meditation is vital to appreciating and learning from the experience. Consider the following concepts amidst your reflection: 1. I made it! I ventured into the unknown and took on a task that I was not sure I was prepared for and gave it my all. I entered an arena of emotional and physical torment that required unmitigated bravery. 2. I allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my peers and the entire world. Most people do not know how to tap into these all encompassing gears, and that is what holds them back in both their fitness and daily lives. Take this small, personal victory and apply it to the seemingly arduous tasks at work or at home. 3. You know what to work on for the year; therefore, you can use the movements, rep schemes, and loads that you had trouble with to make yourself better. Attack your weaknesses because you know you have the courage to overcome anything. 4. You now know how to hold yourself accountable for movement standards. In classes, many of us (including myself at times) get away with not fulfilling every CrossFit movement standard. If this is your issue and you were “no rep’d” on a few movements, look to enhance the quality of your movement all year round. 5. I do not care what gym or “box” you are from; you have my admiration for participating. We are a part of a special group that earned honor and respect from persevering. Congratulations again, on being the person in the arena who did not sit on the sidelines. You got in the game and bled and sweated for everything you achieved. Onward, Angelo Sisco

More is not always Better

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We live in a world of mass consumption and opulence. Our desires are fueled by more money, fame, acceptance, and results. Fitness is unique because it does not always require more to succeed. It requires patience, efficiency and an attention to detail. We are so focused on what more we can do that we fail to assess what we are currently doing to determine what elements need to be altered or eliminated. Making small lifestyle changes can greatly impact your development. Consider the following:
  1. Stop eating foods that will not benefit you aesthetically or fuel your training. See cookies and chips as being the exception in your diet not the rule. Be conscious of when you eat that the timing of your meals. Your “largest” meal should follow your workout. Speak to your coaches about alternative meal options and build your nutritional knowledge. You will see that you do not necessarily need more cardio to achieve your desired physique.
  2. Get a hold of your drinking, please! No one on earth needs to drink every weekend. Save it for a special occasion and consider moderation. Binge drinking on Friday and Saturday will lead to a loss of dietary inhibitions (amongst others) and will greatly sidetrack your training. Alcohol’s has depressive, residual effects on the heart, brain, and production of necessary hormones which can stop gains right in their tracks.
  3. The importance of sleep is often overlooked. During sleep, growth hormone is released by the brain allowing for muscle repair. Ideally 8-10 hours of sleep will render optimal results for mental alertness and muscular cell repair.
  4. Make the workouts you do count. Get to the gym, stretch, warm up and enter your workout with a goal beyond finishing. Your results are directly correlated with your effort, so make each day count for something.
Try to look at all aspects of your life and see how your fitness is affected by your choices. What may become apparent is that more isn’t exactly what you need. #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

Why you need to be doing accessory work

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We are all different. We all have different backgrounds, imbalances, injury history, mobility issues, and limitations. I truly believe it is up to the athlete to be responsible enough to learn about their own bodies through education, trial and error, and proper screening. It is our responsibility as coaches to educate, empower, and enlighten our athletes on this topic. What is “Accessory” work? It is any type of isolation work to bring up any lagging area that you are aware of. This can be strength work, structural work, single leg or arm, stability work, and/or mobility. Adding 1-3 days a week of a 15-20 minute session will gradually improve these areas and make you a better athlete. One’s overall performance will improve, and compensation will diminish, thus leading to a lesser chance of injury. Here are some examples of muscle groups that we have found that are usually lagging and some exercises that can bring them up to par. In my opinion there is no right or wrong rep scheme or loading. Proper form, posture, muscular engagement and position are key. Glutes (Extremely common in today’s society) Good Mornings (All variations) Banded Monster Walks Bottom’s up single leg lateral step ups (Start from bottom position and let lead leg go up) Romanian Deadlfits ( Single & Double leg variations) Overhead Stability Therband Work Serratus Anterior Pulldowns (Single arm, Double arm variations) External Rotations Powell Raise Lat Pulldowns (Yep, I said it) Upper Body Pulling Strength Bicep Curls Bar Hang Holds (Single & Double Arms) Farmer Carries Upper Body Pushing Strength Tricep Pressdowns Tricep Kickbacks Tricep Extensions Static Holding in locked out arm position Core Work Static Holding (L sit, Knee Tuck, Arch Hold or Back Extension) Compression – (Strict Toes to bar, Strict Knees to Elbows, V ups etc) Oblique Twisting (Med ball Throws, Russian Twist, Side Plank ups) Holds & Carries (Overhead, Yoke, etc) Single Leg Imbalance work Step ups (Front, Lateral, Bottoms up) Lunges Balance Holds Single Arm imbalance Work Bottoms up kettlebell Pressing or holds Get ups Wrist Mobility/ Forearm Mobility Crawling Standard Crawl Lizard Crawl Army Crawl any Variation of locomotive or flow work If you are not aware of what is lagging with your body, I would recommend getting movement screen by a coach or pt. From there you will have good idea what you need to bring up and begin your journey in picking up these areas. #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco    

Stand Up Straight! Tips to Improve Posture

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Stand Up Straight! Tips To Improve Posture   The majority of people in the United States spend most of their time either sitting at a desk or in their car.  Sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to one's health for numerous reasons.  One of the main reasons is many people do not sit with proper postural alignment.  Many people will sit in a hunched over position for hours throughout the day.  The average time sitting during one's commute plus the amount of time sitting at work is a total of 7.7 hours per day. ( www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3527832/). Not only can your upper back and thoracic spine suffer from too much sitting but your hip flexors can also have an adverse effect and become tight.  Overall, sitting too much will have an adverse effect on your sustained health as well as your performance at the gym. Your upper back thoracic spine, and shoulders play an important role when you are exercising, and making sure you are in the right position is extremely important.  If you are not in a proper position, your shoulders will internally rotate causing your back to round.  And we have all heard our coaches cue athletes to keep their shoulder back and chest proud.   As coaches we are trying to emphasize proper upper back alignment and keep your spine safe during a lift or any movement. The first step in treating poor posture is teaching yourself what good posture is. Proper postural alignment can be attained by doing the following:  A) Stand up and flex your glutes, this should help tilt your pelvis towards a posterior angle. B) Now, flex your abs just a bit, only enough to maintain the pelvic position so you can relax your glutes. C) Next, stand up tall as if a string was pulling the top of your head to the ceiling. D) Finally, twist your thumbs all the way out so they almost point behind you while pulling your shoulder blades back a bit. Once you have completed these steps, relax your arms and try to maintain that shoulder position by using only the muscles in your upper back. Once you can feel what this position is like, the best fix for poor posture is forcing yourself to maintain this position.  Similar to other movement patterns, the only way to get to a point where you can maintain good posture is by practicing good posture over and over until it happens naturally. Every time you slouch or find yourself hunched over, make sure to consciously correct yourself.  Also, if you work primarily at a desk, it may be beneficial to begin using a stand up desk.  Ask your human resources department about getting a standing desk.  If this type of desk is not an option for you, try to get up for a couple minutes every half hour and stretch, walk, or stand. Whether you are experienced in fitness or someone who is just beginning his or her journey, you must be conscientious of your posture and position.  Making sure you take the time so stay in a good position, as well as mobilize your t-spine and shoulders, can play a huge role in improving your fitness and overall health. Below is a video that will go through some mobility to help improve posture and position.  These can be done at home or before a workout. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5r1ij6-CAg

First 3 to 6 Months into CrossFit? Read This –

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Some of you are in your first few months of CrossFit, and you are coming to grips with some harsh realities. This fitness methodology is difficult and demanding. You never really took into account your need to improve your balance and coordination because other activities do not really demand it. I have seen people from all walks of life start at the gym, and it is interesting to see how the stimulus is unique for each of them. The Bodybuilding Background –  This group of people is initially shell-shocked with the fact that the facility does not have mirrors, easy curl bars, or elliptical machines. They have a belief that they are already “strong,” but they need CrossFit to get some more cardio in their regiment. It is not long before they realize they can’t squat below parallel, they have forward posture from all the bench presses they have done, and their one rep max deadlift is being rep’d out by several other people in class. It is at this point where the fight or flight mentality kicks it, and these individuals are either drawn to the possibility of development or run right back to the “Globo-gym.” You must have the character to appreciate that you may not be the best at something initially. Evaluate the difficulty of CrossFit and how it exposes the weak points of your fitness. There will be times of celebration and marked improvement, but the majority of the time the sport exposes weaknesses. We learn from our mistakes not our successes. This process requires great patience and mental fortitude. You will have to put in extra time to correct those elements of your posture, balance, and overcompensation (both mentally and physically). But little by little you will get better; your overhead position will feel right, and your movement will cease to feel awkward. Allow the process to happen; it is proven. “Cardio” or Endurance Background Some of these individuals have run marathons and treat 5K runs as a warm-up; however, their experience with lifting weights is minimal.   They anticipate the days of 20 minute Amraps in which the majority of the workload is running. They love the longer rowing sessions, because their aerobic base is easy to tap into. Then their worst nightmare comes to fruition: They have a 3RM back squat. At this point they still think lifting heavy is not for them.   They do not want to put on too much muscle (as if it was that easy) and wish to avoid possessing the same dimensions as a typical CrossFit athlete.  They begin “cherry picking” the classes they go to in order to avoid the strength emphasis days because they feel uncomfortable. Eventually you come to realize that perhaps the reason your knees hurt in your last marathon was because your midline, hamstring, and glutes were not strong enough. You conceptualize the notion that being strong is not necessarily about just having muscles; rather, it pertains to being able to perform functional tasks well. This is practical, baseline strength that will enable you to complete life’s tasks. Your athletic achievement will greatly improve with time. Your results in marathon, 5K, or Spartan Race will be demonstrative of this new found physical awareness and strength. Couch Potato Background    These particular people are near and dear to my heart because I used to be one. I was 300 plus pounds; I had a bum ankle with screws and plates in it, but I always knew I needed a change. So you start doing CrossFit and realize that you are more out of shape then you thought. Your sense of nostalgia brings you to a time where you were in shape and maybe even athletic. These memories trigger a grand sense of frustration which leads you towards giving up. Your sense of pride is counterproductive for you at this moment.   Envision being a better version of yourself, a 2.0 if you will. Realize that this is going to be the hardest, yet most rewarding experience of your life. Check yourself every time you finish last in a workout, every time a coach scales something for you, and when you begin to plague your mind with negative self talk. Allow the difficulty to fuel you with a relentless attitude. You are on the precipice of your life, and you need to choose to stay and win or jump off into the abyss. Find ways to focus on your small successes because they were not there last week or last month. Ask for help and allow the community to support you. Yoga or Class style training CrossFit is amazing for its ability to blend many different types of areas of fitness into one program. If you participated in any other fitness methodology, I am willing to bet that you participated in a program that involved specializing. These areas, like Yoga, focus on one specific area of fitness. If your goal is to be fit in a cardiovascular and aesthetic sense, then one would conclude that your training regiment must be conducive to being well-rounded. The 10 aspects of fitness described in the CF methodology are cardio, flexibility, strength, power, agility, accuracy, stamina, coordination, balance, and speed. CrossFit programming is a harmonizing of these aspects. Ideally, you will learn to appreciate all aspects and modalities of fitness and realize they all have a place in your life. Most of us need to examine where are deficits are and fix them to ensure long term health. Enjoy all realms of fitness as they each provide another piece of the overall puzzle. No matter which path brought you here, it speaks volumes to who you are as a person. You are someone who runs towards difficulty and reaps the rewards of hard work. Stay the course, be patient, and never lose sight of who you are and where you wish to go. Angelo Sisco

Feeling out of the breath in these longer Open workouts? The honest (painful) truth about building an engine.

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You are six minutes into your 20 minute AMRAP, and your legs are dense and motionless; your lungs are burning; you are getting dizzy and losing focus. It is at this point that you want to quit more than anything. This is a natural feeling; unfortunately, the mind gives up long before the body does. These situations can only be conquered through experience. Your will can only get you so far; eventually, you must adjust your training. Engines are manufactured not found on the side of the road. Building an engine is no different then building strength. It takes time and consistent effort at submaximal percentages and efforts.    Submaximal percentages/efforts refer to reaching a level of exertion that approaches one’s threshold without reaching total failure. “Coming out hot” wherein you totally burn out will garner you a good score in the first minute or so of the workout; however, it will not allow for comprehensive success. You must have patience and allow yourself to move efficiently, reaching a point where you still have energy left to push yourself at the end of the workout. Consider this for your off-season: for the entire year I would add 2-3 long duration mono structural sessions a week. Start at 20 to 30 minutes of constant steady effort at 70-80% of maximal HR and keep moving. This is not glamorous at all, and not many athletes have the heart or the mental game to row for an hour by themselves at 6am on a Saturday. If you want to stop pausing in between workouts hands on knees dreaming of what a fresh breath would feel like, then these types of sessions are necessary.   I realize that most of you reading this won’t find this type of programming sexy and will stay away from it; hopefully, a few of you will use this process to improve yourself. You have to do something out of the ordinary to achieve extraordinary results.  So, go out and Row, Airdyne, Run, Ski, Versaclimber, or any other cyclical modality exercise. Just get on there and hum smoothly for a long duration. Add 4-5 minutes a week and build to be able to handle 60-90 minute steady sessions. Keep in mind these are to be submaximal efforts. Steady, non stop, smooth efforts is the name of the game here. Our fitness journey is a marathon not a sprint, so consider the dedication you need to maintain lifelong progress. Once you have done at least 4-6 months of this type of work consistently, I would look to start adding in mixed modal MAP (Maximal Aerobic Power) sessions. These are essential for the CrossFit effort. I would start with mono structural plus one other element whether it is weightlifting or gymnastics just to not over complicate things. A good example of a MAP session is the following: 5 minute Amrap @80-85% 10 Cal Row 10 Burpees over Erg rest 2:30 5 minute Amrap @80-85% 15 Cal AD 10 Power Clean 95/65# rest 2:30 5 minute Amrap @80-85% 250m Row 15 Kettlebell Swings 70/55# It is all about unbroken, smooth efforts; do not rush at the end to get another few reps. The goal is to find a means of pacing.  Over time I would add another modality, making it a triplet, lengthening out AMRAP playing with rest times, and figuring out what movements or combinations spike an athlete’s heart rate, so we can learn how to manage him or her. The athletes’ individual needs will be unique, so you may need to adjust accordingly. Like any fine piece of craftsmanship, an engine is not something that can be rushed or built in a day. One must take the necessary steps to achieving this valuable athletic resource. Time is your allay and you must use your time wisely. Their isn’t a secret formula to building your work capacity; you must put in hard work and variety. Most have gotten into CrossFit to hide from the lengthy workouts and long duration exercise sessions; however, they are as essential to your improvement as Olympic lifting. Add these principles to your off season and you see the benefits in your performance in 17.1. I am happy to help athletes with this issue or discuss some more programming principles or experiences I have had. I can be reached at angelo@oharecrossfit.com anytime. Angelo Sisco  

Zach Riberdy joins OCF Full Time Coach

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As of March 1st, Zach Riberdy is officially a full time coach at O’Hare CrossFit. As time has progressed, OCF has shifted its focus into hiring full time coaches. Coaching continues to be our main focus and it is the cornerstone of our mission. We want to provide the community with the best possible service and individualized attention. We could not be more excited to have Zach as a welcome addition to our already stellar group of coaches. Zach has a passion for coaching, learning and helping others that is truly remarkable. While he is new to our staff he has a wealth of knowledge and an excellent approach to developing functional skills and movements. His personality and approach to teaching directly parallels his professionalism and constant willingness to improve his own methodologies. Zach will be around OCF much more now. If you would like any help with anything, please feel free to ask him or email him at zach@oharecrossfit.com. Congratulations Zach, and welcome to the full-time OCF family. The passion our staff shares for fitness, service, and providing value is unparalleled, and Zach instantly makes us collectively better. We are a very strong team, and you should be excited for the future of our affiliate.

We All Lose Steam Sometimes: Finding ways to stay motivated on your fitness path

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We have all been there; the dull times, when your body hurts, when you are possibly injured, work is stressing you out, personal or family relationships are not the best, and the only illogical solution is to quit working out. It seems like it is getting in the way; you do not have any energy or desire to put yourself through the pain of a CrossFit workout. So what do you do?  First, you need to view CrossFit like this: it is a genuine relationship where you will find amazing promise if you allow yourself.  Consider your workout experience prior to it and how unfulfilling it most often was.  I recall doing monotonous cardio (back in the day) and thinking to myself how completely futile it all was.  I was in a relationship with my fitness that left me feeling lost.  CrossFit is not the bad first date that cost you too much for dinner; it is the marriage that will improve you as a person and all components of your life. We cherish our relationships in life, with our partners, friends, or family.  We all have had times; however, when times were not at their best, and we have thought about taking the easy way out and throwing in the towel.  That is not progress; unfortunately, it is a recipe for complacency and sadness.  Not everyday is going to be ideal, a good time, and easy; but nothing worth doing is.  In order to make something really last and see the fruits of the “good times”, we need to stick it out and force ourselves to put in the effort. I firmly believe if you find the courage to do that you will eventually be led back in the light of why you started your journey. Every relationship requires faith and overcoming daily adversity.  We must work to get to the “good times” and the moments of progress; otherwise, we aren’t being true to ourselves. Why do we run away from things that we know will help us?  If you get a promotion at work or have added stressors in your day, treat your experiences as a means of achieving some clarity.  Added responsibilities and a tumultuous schedule is an even greater reason for not quitting your journey.  Build your training into your schedule, and you will see progress in all other areas of your life.  I see it as a time where you can clear your head and get your body moving. To my worker bees out there, I want to leave you with some scientific rationale that I found quite moving.  Recent studies regarding sitting and living a sedentary life style are staggering.  “Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” (www. Heathharvard.edu)  The study elucidates the notion that every hour of sitting lowers your life expectancy.  Your work and family must be your primary focus; therefore, you need to make your health a priority.    Coach Angelo

A letter to first time Open Athletes

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Dear first timer, Congratulations on having the courage to take on your first CrossFit Games Open. Signing up and performing all five workouts is in itself is an accomplishment. Now, I would like to give you some hard truth. Please realize that this comes from a place of pure love without malice. 99.9999999% of the world will not be moving on to the regional, and an even smaller percentage will be going to the games. The games athlete is the anomaly not the rule. Your journey in the open has greater reaching ramifications than making it further in the games season; rather, it is a quest for self-actualization. Step back and come to the realization that you are doing this for the fulfillment of accomplishment, to have fun, to be apart of your community, and to test your fitness against a larger group of competitors and athletes. You are doing this to better yourself and see this task through to the end. The open is a cathartic experience that will change you and how you few yourself both physically and mentally. If you do not enjoy every aspect of these five weeks, than you are truly cheating yourself out of the intended experience. Avoid negative self talk, block out doubt and nervousness and allow yourself to be you within the workouts. Focus on your own private victories and take great pride in them. If everyone could do it than everyone would! These five weeks will fly by just as fast as they came. It will be the end of March in a blink, and all you will have left is the memory of your experience and the thirst to do it again next year. Take time to reflect during these five weeks on how adversities you have conquered translate to your everyday life. The remnants of the open should not be heartache and torn hands, but it should be a new found sense of self. The CrossFit Open scores do not define you as a person, but your participation speaks volumes about your strength. Whether we are games athletes or scaled athletes, we are measured on our attitude, determination, and willingness to stare down vulnerability and tell them it get the f@#$ out of our way. Please keep that in mind. Good luck to everyone competing this year. Please know that I am truly proud of each and every one of you. Love you all, even if you can’t do a muscle up 😃 Coach Angelo Sisco