U2 Can Compete Launch

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Friday February 5th U2 Can Compete, a mobile application that links affiliates in competitions to promote growth amongst general class members is doing a testing of its app at OCF at 8pm. We had volunteers reach to us to participate. We could not be more excited to participate in a testing of this application. U2 Can Compete’s mission is to bring CrossFit communities together with the spirit of competition, gym pride, and recognition for the athletes that work hard day in and day out, not just the Games athletes. Please come by to support your fellow OCF members who will be competing against CrossFit Harwood Heights, as well as see how this application works.

CFHH-vs-OCF

CrossFit Class Programming

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CrossFit class programming is quite a juggling act believe or not. I sometimes have a much easier time programming for individuals than for the classes. It is a mixture of combining the athlete’s goals and safety with as much elegance as possible. Also, there comes the delivering, understanding, and obtaining the proper stimulus for each workout. Let’s first look at the topic of programming for the athlete’s goals. We have different walks of life entering OCF’s classes, and the most common would be to lose weight. The second would be to gain strength. The third most common but definitely something to consider is athletes (weekend warriors) that truly want to get better in the sport of CrossFit. I imagine programming is much like a parent trying to figure out what to make for dinner having three kids with all different taste buds. I spend many hours in consideration of everyone’s goals and work best to make all of them come through. The next issue I face as a programmer is safety. Let’s face it; most of our athletes do not have the time to put into doing the little things that allow for proper recovery. Pre and post workout rehab work includes stretching, proper nutrition, and stress, sleep and lifestyle management. It’s honestly a lot of demand and I understand why everyone can’t keep this up. That being said, it’s my job to keep everyone safe with our programming regardless of how they rehab outside of the gym. This can be done through days when you are forced to “slow” down. We live in a society where more and harder is “better.” In training there are times when this is done, but there must be times where we balance this out. Imagine walking a tight rope. Once you lean to the right, the act of counter balancing would be to lean or shift some weight to the left. It is the same with training. Those days when you leave OCF feeling like you didn’t get a “good” workout in, try to appreciate that we are your guardian angels of fitness. We watch out for you and work incredibly hard for you to achieve your goals. Longevity of fitness/wellness and safety is a paramount goal in our membership and we protect our athletes, sometimes from themselves, to achieve it. I am sure many of us have heard, read, or seen athletes get hurt in CrossFit. I am not looking to hide that this happens, but my goal is to take as many preventive measures as possible to reduce this happening at our facilities. The last hurdle we have to overcome is communication and acquiring the proper stimulus. This comes from delivering the point or focus of the workout correctly, trust between the coach and athlete, and lastly the athlete working to their full capacity to obtain the proper stimulus. Every workout is written with a purpose at OCF. I can guarantee you that we are not drawing straws when it comes to putting a workout into our programming. Once the workout is in place, the coaching staff’s job is to convey that message. Once a good relationship is developed between coach and athlete, an athlete should feel good trusting that this is what’s best for them, and if there is misunderstanding in the message they can openly communicate with the coach to ensure the proper stimulus (feeling) is obtained. It is then the athlete’s job to perform the workout accordingly with their best effort possible that day. Things to consider to help with your fitness journey: 1. Identify clear goals. These may adjust over time once one is obtained, but try not to switch so frequently or you won’t accomplish any. 2. Look to have an open line of communication with your coach to establish a good relationship. 3. Discuss individualized programming with Becca or I. If you have very specific goals, they may require a different map than the one everyone else is on. This may be done with supplemental days or an entirely different program. 4. Turn your mind off and be the best athlete you can be at each class you attend. Get in there, get your assignment and deliver to your best effort. I promise the more you do this, the more everything else will fall in place. I want everyone to know that at OCF we are on a mission to deliver a world class experience every class, every workout, every day. Our goal is to deliver an unparalleled experience and help our members achieve their goals, whatever they may be. -Coach Angelo

Progressing from the Fitness to Performance Group

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Each person that begins CrossFit at either O'Hare CrossFit or CrossFit Harwood Heights will begin their journey in what we call the "Fitness Group". The Fitness Group is meant to develop the foundation of an athlete. They will learn balance, mobility and stability, as well as the basics of movements such as the deadlift, press, and squat. Getting these movements correct is the most important part of being an athlete. If one builds bad habits with these movements, there will be deficiencies with other skilled movements. On the other hand the Performance Group is where we now build on that foundation and add layers to an athlete's fitness level. There is much more asked of an athlete in the Performance Group such as working skilled gymnastics movements and much more Olympic weightlifting is implemented into the programming. CrossFit training allows people of all levels to get a great workout and see amazing results. Over time an athlete will progress and get better with consistent training. Athletes in the Fitness Group will notice that they are improving and question whether or not they are ready to move from Fitness to Performance. At this point a coach will ensure that an athlete is ready. This must be a mutual agreement. The athlete must be ready to move up, and the coach must make sure the athlete can meet certain movement requirements. A great tool that OCF has utilized is the FMS (Functional Movement Screening). This FMS is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, the FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness. As coaches we require an athlete to score a 14 or higher with no 1's. This ensures us that the athlete can meet the proper movement requirements and the demand of the higher skilled movements in the Performance Group. CFHH will be utilizing the FMS for all athletes within the next few months. As coaches we always want to see our athletes grow and progress over time. Each athlete's progression will differ depending on their consistency and athletic background. I have seen athletes move from Fitness to Performance in 3 months, and other athletes it has taken a year and a half. This does not make one athlete better than the other, it just means one athlete was able to progress faster than the other. I have also worked with athletes that have no desire to move from the Fitness to Performance Group. One thing that must be understood is that in the Performance Group the risk of injury increases because of the skilled movements that are involved. Many people have the misconception that it is required for an athlete to move up in to Performance Group over time. As an athlete one must prioritize their goals and what they want to achieve. If snatching and kipping pull-ups is not in line with your goals, that is something we as coaches will support. We always want our athletes to grow and progress, but more importantly we want each athlete to be safe and have fun with their training. As Pat Sherwood once said "the goal is to get fit, make it the best hour of your day, stay safe, turn up the music, high five some people, and blow off some steam. So remember that. Relax. Have fun. Workout." - Coach Nick

Top 5 Pre-Workout Mobility Stretches

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When it comes to CrossFit, or working out in general, there is one thing we all need and most of us lack- mobility. In a perfect world we would ask members to get to OCF with enough time to work on the problems areas, however we understand that not everyone can do that. As a coach I often times see people running into class five minutes early and just stand there because they have no idea on what stretches they should be doing. The problem areas are all different for everyone, however there are a few things we can all work on and benefit from. I have put together the top five stretches everyone should be doing, especially those of us who have just about seven minutes before class.

Ankles

01 Mobility - AnklesWhy: When we think about mobility we often think about our shoulders, t-spine or hips, but what most people ignore is one of the most important joints - the ankle. The base of any movement that involves your feet having contact with the ground. How: Start by taking your shoes off and placing your toes three to four inches away from the wall, then drive your knee into the wall. If that’s comfortable move the toes back until you feel that stretch on that ankle, drive your knee to the outside and inside of your toe as well. Repeat on the other leg. Time: 60 seconds per ankle

Hamstrings

02 Mobility - HamstringsWhy: Having flexible hamstrings can help prevent injuries as well as pain in other areas of the body, like your lower back. Having tight hamstrings reduces the mobility of the pelvis, creating strain and pressure on your lower back. Having flexible hamstrings can also help improve your physical performance over-all. How: Start by laying down with your hip next to a pole or a door way (anything that you can eventually rest your foot on with your leg extended) Keeping the other foot on the ground with the toe pointing up, pull your other leg so that it can rest against the pole. If its uncomfortable, slide your hips back 2-3 inches then try again. Repeat with the other leg. Time: 60 seconds per leg  

T-Spine “Upper back”

03 Mobility - T-SpineWhy: T-spine, otherwise known as the thoracic spine, can be the cause of a lot of pain due to a lack of mobility. One of the benefits of mobilizing the t-spine is that It will free the lumbar spine, providing stability to the core and preventing lower back pain. Working on your t-spine will also lead to healthier shoulders and pain-free overhead movements. How: Start by laying with your arms crossed on a roller with the roller just under the shoulder blades on your back, making sure your hips are in contact with the ground. Let your upper back curve to the form of the roller by relaxing and “melting over it”. Be sure to move up and down the upper back. Time: 45 seconds of rolling

Hips

04 Mobility - HipsWhy: We as humans spend most of our day sitting, whether at work or in a car. Sitting contributes to tight muscles around the hip area. Doing stretches, like the pigeon stretch, can help release the tension that is built up from sitting. Hip mobility can lead to improved range of motion with every movement, and over-all athletic performance. How: Starting from a table top position, bring out one of your legs parallel to your hips. Think of forming an “L” with your front leg. This should create a 90-degree angle between your shin and your thigh. Reach back with your back leg as straight as possible. Keep your chest up, tall, and proud. Repeat with the other side. Time: 45 seconds per leg

Pecs

05 Mobility - PecsWhy: Like stated previously, most people spend most of their day sitting down with a hunched over back. This can cause tightness of the pectorals, which can lead to internal rotation of the shoulders (hunched over look). This can cause a lot of pain and poor range of motion when doing anything overhead. How: Lay chest down on the ground with your arms in a “ T ” position. Rotate onto one of your shoulders so that it’s pushing into the ground with that same arm extended outward. Continue to roll over that side and use your other hand to press up as if you were doing a push up, in order to feel the stretch better. Time: 30 seconds per side In just about seven minutes, we can get good stretches that will help our over all performance as well as prevent injuries. These are not the only ones that can be done to help with mobility issues, but I believe these are the ones that give you the most bang your buck. I am by no means encouraging members to get here five minutes before class but on days when we get caught by that train or stuck in traffic on the way to the gym, these stretches can be done quickly and efficiently a few minutes before class. - Coach Luis

The Eye of the Hurricane

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By Coach Angelo As some of you may know I have been on quite a reading kick this year. This has helped tremendously in all facets of my life. I’ve focused much of learning on leadership, coaching, business, and personal development. One book that I came across and thoroughly enjoyed was The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford. George Mumford is a leader in the “mindfulness” practice and has worked with many high level athletes and coaches including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Phil Jackson. This concept of being “mindful” or being in the “zone” has appealed to me for quite sometime. I’m sure many of us have had instances when were in the “zone” but wasn’t sure what to call it. That poised state where everything is going by slow and controlled in your mind exactly how you pictured it, while the world is going a million miles an hour. It’s truly a euphoric feeling where I hope to spend many more hours of my life. But how do we get to this Zen state? Why would we want to? Let’s start with the definition Mindfulness –

A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Being in the present allows us to focus on exactly what’s in front of us. Not being concerned with your past, or the future. The task at hand. This is a very powerful concept if you think about it. Not just in CrossFit. How many times do you find yourself in a situation where your mind is elsewhere? Adding to that how well do you think you are performing that task if your mind isn’t in the present? Most likely not to your true potential. Why would you want to be mindful?

1. Higher Performance- In any task CrossFit and not CrossFit related 2. To be at peace with whatever life throws at you. Embracing “Good” and “Bad” with the same posture allows you to be more centered in every task 3. Enhances concentration on the task at hand 4. You learn more about yourself and how you react and not react to situations. You go deep. That is scary sometimes but necessary for growth.

Steps to Becoming More Mindful

1. Focusing on the present situation. Looking at it like its neither good or bad. Whatever is in front you, you adjust accordingly with no emotion towards it. 2. Breathing – Deep controlled breathes to help your body relax. Put you in the present and get rid of any feelings towards a matter. 3. Continuing to stay in focus of the present and not allowing things to take you off focus. 4. Trust that this takes time to develop. Embrace it and get a little better everyday.

The center space between stimulus and response is like the eye of the hurricane. The regular practice of mindfulness brings you back to this center space. The eye of the hurricane is calm, while everything around is in chaos. Look to find and live in that space. If you want to learn more about The Mindful Athlete and what Michael Jordan knew about success, check out this video:

Your Body Talks…Listen!

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By Coach Becca

In CrossFit – more is always better, right?  More weight, more reps, more days of training!  I mean, that’s what all the best CrossFitters and people with rockin’ bods out there seem to be doing: double days, long and torturous workouts, heavy weights, etc...

I will admit – this is absolutely how I used to think when I first started CrossFit – the more I did, the faster I’ll improve.  Gosh it couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

Here is the thing – you may think you’re different or that you NEED to work-out that much to help you reach the goals you have (weight loss, muscle gain, improving with a certain skill).  The truth is – your almost every day workouts or constant desire to push past what your body is telling you might be doing more harm than good.   

There are some things a lot of people don’t know about muscle development:

1. Muscles literally cannot grow/develop strength/get further definition without proper rest. 

2. It is during sleep where growth hormone (GH) levels are highest.

3. If proper recovery time (rest) is not given, the body cannot regenerate.

4. Proper rest time, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and recovery methods (stretching, body maintenance, etc.) all play a very important role with how well your training produces results.

When we train hard, which I know you all do, we are conditioning our body – which helps our bodies to:

-Improve efficiency of the heart

-Increase capillary size to help blood flow and oxygen levels

-Increase glycogen (energy) stores

BUT – if proper recovery/rest time is not given, then our body cannot produce these results, or they are produced to a lesser extent.  The body will store less glycogen, your performance will plateau and possibly even decline, and worst of all – you run a greater risk of injury.  None of these things sound very good – right?! 

So how do we start learning to listen to our bodies – how do we know what they are saying?  Some signs of over-training include:

-Easily irritated – Know whether you are generally an easily annoyed person, or if you truly see a significant difference in how quickly you have been snapping at people lately.

-Mood Swings – Again, are you usually moody – or are you just straight up crazy lately!? When was the last time you took a rest day?

-Trouble SleepingYou need sleep to recover, but if you haven’t even been able to get much sleep because you keep waking up in the middle of the night – might be time to take a rest day.

-Loss of Desire to TrainSometimes a simple day off can make all the difference in KILLING your workout the next day. 

So next time you feel run down, overly moody/irritable, or have a crappy training session – take a look at when the last time you took a day off was.  Or better yet, develop a routine if possible with days you train vs. days you rest – try to have at least 1 rest day every 3-4 days of training.  Especially if you feel like those specific training days have been especially hard. 

All in all – listen to your body and treat it well (sleep, nutrition, rest days)!  It will thank you with better endurance, strength development, and a rockin’, defined physique!

Action Expresses Priorities

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By Coach Zach Riberdy Action expresses priorities. - Mohandas Gandhi When thinking of what makes something a priority, your individual approach is a determining factor. I have a tendency to make priorities more personal, which allows me to create a bond with them. Everyone has different priorities; all of them are very grounded and fundamental. When I say that, I do not mean that certain priorities are more important than others. What I mean is that our core priorities tend to be the same; i.e. work, family, friends, religion, etc. When a new opportunity presents itself, something that can potentially have a lasting effect on a person’s life, the idea of making it a priority can be hard and intimidating. Trying to find time or make time for it, realizing the amount of dedication it may take or the sacrifice that needs to be put forth. Every reason, whether valid or a meager excuse, plays a vital role in turning a new activity, relationship, job, whatever into a priority. Every day, more and more people allow a negative thought spiral turn something with positive energy into another form of “Well I wanted to do this, but…” Most people, myself included, have a tendency to be reserved when approaching new challenges. CrossFit can and is one of those things. Joining a new gym, having to get used to an entirely new system of training, having to get used to an entirely new group of people; all of these things and a list of others present a potential hurdle or negative thought loop that could cause you to regretfully say the phrase “Well I wanted to, but…” This is when the importance of placing value into a priority becomes necessary. Holding onto something of value, from a personal memory to something of monetary wealth, the value is what keeps it close to you. Why not make your own personal well being just as valuable? Taking the time out of a busy schedule to make a commitment to yourself will add value to what you are trying to reach long term. That same value will then translate into the importance factor, which will directly lead to making your everyday fitness goals a priority. Make your CrossFit priorities match your personal goals. I have never heard from someone that hard work put towards one priority did not transfer over into other priorities in their life. The more value placed in priorities, the stronger the bond is held within them. The strength of the bond with that priority, the closer it is to your heart. This ultimately brings with it the greatest the reward. Seeing a child walk across a stage to receive a diploma, doing your very first pull up with no assistance, eating a series of healthy well balanced meals for a long duration of days turned into months, going back to school to get a degree that should have been completed years before, signing up for a 3 day commitment to a brand new gym with all new programming, or finally getting the courage to move a barbell in a direction you never thought imaginable. Every day activities hold the ability to make you humble, grateful, scared beyond belief, or bursting with pride. The strength of the bond to that activity is what makes it a priority. Allow your actions to grow stronger so they may demonstrate your priorities to more than those close to you on a personal level. Let the strength of those bonds be your reasons to taking charge of your life, and not letting life take charge of you. It is very easy to follow someone else’s lead, but often times being the example has so much more benefit.