3 Tips to Stay Healthy in “Sick Season”

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We’re in that time of year when you can expect sickness to inevitably make its campaign on your compromised, sleep deprived, holiday food filled body.  All of us can think of at least 3 people right now that are feeling some kind of way; her sinuses are bothering her, his chest is congested, she feels like she got hit by a bus, etc., etc. Being a gym, we come in contact with quite a few people every day and no matter how clean we can keep the equipment, sickness makes its way into our system some way or another.  There are things you can do though to help you make your immune system like Fort Knox....locked DOWN!  People will be amazed how you don't get sick whenever everyone else seems to be.  Its a great life to live :) Here are three things that you might not be doing that can help!    
  • Pay attention to how much water you’re consuming.
With the weather getting colder, our bodies need to be hydrated even more and let's be honest, when you're cold, you probably don't want to be chugging cold water.  Here's the thing though, our central nervous systems are fighting like crazy just to keep us warm through these cold months, on top of any potential disease or virus making a guest appearance in our system.  Keeping fully hydrated will help with keeping our bodies warm and let the inner workings of our body do what they are supposed to do with no concerns to staying warm.  So try some hot tea, or just drinking lukewarm water instead of cold water.  Set alarms even to remind you to get your drink on!!    
  • Every morning when you wake up, try making a glass of water with a big pinch of pink himalayan sea salt and a big squeeze of lemon juice.
It has to be the pink kind!  The pink color signifies the nutrient and mineral density of the salt.  Its helps with immunity, but it also increases hydration, prevents muscle cramps, aids in proper metabolism function, strengthens bones, and helps lower blood pressure!   The lemon also gives you an immunity boost with the Vitamin C and potassium content, helps digestion, helps liver function, and keeps your skin healthy! Its a quick and easy thing to do first thing in the morning that can make a whole BIG difference to your day and your immune system.    
  • Start eating more vegetables.
Ugh, right?  Who wants vegetables...The problem is that very few people get enough variety and enough quantities of them to help make a difference in their life.  Leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, and citrus are all great sources of power packed nutrients and antioxidants that can help keep your immune systems strong when your workplace is packed with runny noses and poorly circulated air. So try adding vegetables to each meal during your day.  Whether thats throwing some chopped peppers into your egg scramble, or adding a side salad to your lunch, or steaming up some asparagus or broccoli (or let's be honest, cooking up some bacon and brussel sprouts!) to make sure you're getting good variety of nutrients and vitamins with your diet.  Fun fact - having more vegetables in your diet also helps you stay more hydrated because they are made of a lot of water!     So try some of the tips and see how the rest of the "sick season" goes with these weapons in your arsenal!

Help!! My Hands Hurt!!

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You hear about them, you see people post pics on social media about them and then it happens to someone at the gym and you stare in pity and awe.  Yes, we are talking about the oh so celebrated hand rips.  I remember when I first started Crossfit and thought some roughness on my hands were calluses and how the “real” athletes in the gym put in a lot of work and that is why their hands would rip and bleed all over the place.  One day it was going to happen to me.  I’d probably be doing unbroken toes to bar or something and then my hands were going to rip and I would have an actual sports injury- a badge of honor.  Then I would be a real athlete. Until I actually did form calluses and my hand ripped on wobbly assisted kipping pull ups and my hand took so long to heal, it’s safe to assume I probably had an infection.   Tearing your hand wide open is not cool and I realized it in that instant.  Being a busy professional in a job where I had to constantly wash my hands and being a mother where you’re physically attached to washing things over and over it was not and is still not fun, safe or good for your health to be careless with your hand care.  It is incapacitating and while there might be times due to our training where it is inevitable to rip, I will be suggesting some things that work for me.  
  1. Calluses- Believe it or not in sports where there is a lot of friction on the hands calluses are a part of life.  Newer on non Crossfitters find them gross but honestly, they act as cushions and latches for your grip whether it be for the barbell (this is me), the rig for gymnastics work or even dumbbells when we do body building movements calluses are essential in helping with your hold so it is ok and preferred to have calluses.  The problem lies when we just let these calluses run wild and become big that they tear or blister often.  I have a pumice stone that I use on my hands often in the shower to soften the calluses up.  I also have a metal foot file that I use on my hands to shave the calluses away (some people use actual razor blades to cut them to skin level) and I also have a callus tool.  I make sure to keep a little bit of my calluses on my hands to still act as that barrier between my hand and the barbell.  Caution if you cut or shave to much it leaves you more at risk for a faster rip.
  2. Moisturize- In a germaphobe world with small children and careers where we are obligated to constantly wash our hands or we use hand sanitizer, we are more at risk for a hazard because the constant washing leaves us with dry cracked skin on our hands.  Plus, if you are like me and require a chalk cloud as my aura while I am lifting then you know chalk is very drying and cracks the hands.  Trust me I know, I have sweaty small hands that need chalk to hold on to anything for more than five seconds but because of these reasons it is essential that we moisturize particularly after training.  I do not recommend a water based moisturizer because well, it’s counterproductive to the anti-drying process.  I actually use Udder Balm Lotion all day or Lineman’s Professional Hand Cream.  Yes, udder balm is the stuff that is used on animals or was specifically made to moisturize a cow’s udders, but it is non gmo and made with a lot of vitamins, moisturizing components and is not water based.  It has been key to keeping my hands moisturized and safe.
  3. If you do tear guess what? You’re in for a couple of days where you feel like your insides even burn when any liquid touches the rip.  Immediately wash your hands once it happens.  This will burn, but for health and hygienic purposes very necessary and please wipe down anything that touched your scalded hand.  Proper first aid is to cover it up with some gauze or a bandage and let it air out while you sleep with some triple antibiotic ointment generously slathered on the wound.  Likewise avoid workouts for the next couple of days that have anything grip intensive, you will just be in pain and get mad at yourself for not being able to work out to the best of your abilities.  Once the rawness fades use athletic tape when you come back to the gym.  Cut 2 strips of tape double the length of the top of your palm to your wrist.  Fold the tape lengthwise to make a loop and cover the part of the hand that is affected.  Then tape the ends of that strip which should be by the wrist with the other strip of tape by wrapping around your wrist.  As you can see this is a lot of work and pain so avoid ripping as much as possible.
  Of course, gymnastics wraps, hand grips, taping the thumbs and using tape as a hand barrier for any grip work will help avoid these awful instances where it even hurts to hold a cup of coffee but they are not the only hand care that we can do.  These rips are wounds and normally we would not be ok with getting an open flesh wound on any other part of our body so our hands should not be any different.  Enjoy your fitness and training and always give it all you got but with being athletes comes responsibility to our own health.   -Coach Susie

Maintenance IS Progress

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Being a nutritional coach and being a CrossFit coach for about 4-5 years now, I’ve started to notice a very peculiar series of events that happens over and over again.  I’ve finally realized that it’s something I need to write about and bring to light, because it is easily ignored and forgotten how much our hard work in the gym and in our nutrition does for us.   Have you ever seen this happen to a friend or loved one: “I haven’t lost a pound in months!  I obviously am not seeing results going to the gym or eating well anymore, I’m just going to stop.”   Said friend leaves the gym, or stops paying attention to their diet, and 3-6 months later, you see them again.  They have either gained unhealthy weight, or they seem to have developed poor habits of drinking every weekend and eating out a lot.   What we don’t realize is that sometimes, just maintaining our weight is progress! How many times have you lost a bunch of weight on a diet, just to turn around and gain it all back and then some in a few months.  Maintaining progress is hard work, and it is hard work that shouldn’t be ignored.  Also understand that having exercise regularly in your life increases your average metabolic rate by quite a bit.   We may not realize these things are happening, but imagine across the year how many times you’ve gone to bed earlier, or skipped a night of drinking because you wanted to make it to the gym early the next morning? Those nights early to bed, those beers not drank add up across a year to equal a healthier, fitter you!   So next time you consider skipping the gym or quitting your diet, just imagining yourself 6 months from now…and reconsider.

Who Else Benefits??

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Staying motivated long term in any area is not easy, let alone fitness. This is particularly true at the beginning of your journey.   
 
There are three areas to find motivation: Extrinsic (outside of you), Intrinsic (inside of you), and Prosocial (benefiting of others).
 
Prosocial is the type of motivation that has the most long-term effects. It is human nature to want to help and/ or do things for others. 
 
The benefits of your fitness can impact the lives of many others.  We may look at fitness as an individualized journey; however, it affects many others.
 
Here is a list of how your fitness may benefit others - 
1.  Your Partner - 
  • Feeling Confident about yourself does wonders for your relationship 
  • Keeping that body in check is never a bad way to keep your Partner happy.
  • Setting an example for them on how to live a healthy lifestyle
2.  Your Children - 
  • You are their first teacher & coach. What you do, they will learn.
  • Mothers empowering their daughters to be strong and confident through fitness. Helping them see past any social judgements that may come their way.
  • Fathers & Mothers showing their children how to make time for themselves to keep their cup full in order to serve them and others better.
3. Your Community- 
  • Doing workouts next to someone and setting an example is quite motivating.  You holding the standard makes others want to strive for the same.  Believe it or not you have a lot of power. Use it for goodness. 
4.  Charity -
  • Doing workouts to benefit others. Sacrificing for others is a great way to keep moving and pushing hard. 
5. Your Coach - 
  • Coaches dedicate their lives just to make you better.  Being a great student, that gives his or her best, pays attention, and helps others is how you show your coach you are grateful for their hard-work.
 
Don’t wait until your next “motivation slump" to start thinking about this.  Start writing down who you love, what you care about, and connect how excelling and staying dedicated to your fitness program helps them. 

How To Get Your First Strict Pull Up

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Coach Zack here with some thoughts on skill work.  When I say skill work, I mean pull-ups (strict or kipping), double unders, rope climbs, handstand pushups, etc.  The movement I’m going to focus on the most is pull-ups because I feel like many people have the goal of getting a strict pull-up.  However, these same ideas can be applied to any skill work. Like I said, many of us want a strict pull-up.  That was one of my goals when I first started.  Strict pull-ups take work, a lot of work.  You’re pulling your whole body up so your chin can get over the bar.  That is pretty darn impressive.  What I have noticed through my years of coaching is that people come in and maybe work their strict pulling strength one day a week and expect to be able to do a pull-up sooner or later.  That would be so so wonderful.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.     As a gym programming for the general public, we can’t program strict pulling enough for members to see progress without taking away from other important areas of strength and conditioning.  What that means is that someone who wants to get their first pull-up has to take initiative and really focus on spending the time necessary to get their first strict pull-up.  That doesn’t mean you have to stay for an hour after class or come an hour earlier (although we’d love to have you guys around).  It really just takes some focused work 3-4 times/week.  Maybe on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, you stay after class for 10-15 minutes and work on your pull-ups.  That is really all it takes.     If you have some more time and really want that strict pull-up, we have our FitBot program that’ll help you reach it faster.  I want to help all of you reach your goals and so do all the other coaches.  We’re here to help you with the exercises you can work on after class or before class.  It just comes down to being committed and putting in that extra time.  Again, those 15 minutes can be spent working on double unders or handstand push-ups.  I just used pull-ups as an example.   One other thought I had is the use of bands with pull-ups.  I’m unsure of how vocal I’ve been about it, but I think banded pull-ups are completely unnecessary except for maybe one instance, which I will explain soon.  I want you guys to think about what the band is doing when you’re using it for pull-ups. The band is essentially slingshotting you upwards with you doing minimal work.  The band also lets you move past the most important part of the pull-up, which is the scap pull-up.  The scap pull-up initiates the pull-up and engages all the proper musculature needed for a strict pull-up.     So my question to everyone is how do you expect to get a strict pull-up if you never train the initial pull for it?  Like I mentioned there is one thing that bands could help for and that’s strength at end range.  For instance, I cannot do strict chest-to-bar pull-ups.  I can do regular strict pull-ups so I have that strength and I know how to engage the proper muscles.  One day, Angelo and I figured out that I have the range of motion to get into a strict chest-to-bar pull-up, but I just did not have the strength to get into that position on my own.  This is where a band, the smallest band possible, can help.  A band would allow me to start training that end range position and help me reach my goal of doing a strict chest-to-bar pull-up.  Like we do in class, the ring pull-up or pull-ups with box support are the best bet in gaining the strength and properly training the musculature needed for a strict pull-up.   Thanks for your time everyone and good luck with those skills! Coach Zack

A Letter to Our Confidants

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Dear Confidants....
Congratulations!  You have already succeeded in this first week of the challenge.  You made the decision to try something, that at some point may have seemed to be completely out of your comfort zone, and you did it.
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A couple of things to keep in mind during your journey with us throughout this second week.  This week the fear will begin to subside, but may creep up on you the next time you’re having a difficult time.  Remember, this is still new and its ok to struggle.  After all, its part of the process.
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Second, you are more than likely still sore from your first couple of classes, it gets better, I promise :)  Consistency is key here; your muscles and joints are still accommodating.  The best way to help them out is by showing up.  They need to move and be stretched to improve and maintain range of motion.  Be a good human to your body, stretch!  Also, stay hydrated.  Water is your friend, carry it with you and add some flavor if its too boring.  I personally love lemon water.
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Lastly, yes, it is a lot of learning.  Think of it this way, you are essentially learning how to move again.  This time properly, and under the care and eyes of movement specialists.  CrossFit is functional fitness, you are not simply being trained for success in an exercise program…. You are being trained to succeed in life outside of the gym through movement that will not only keep you healthy but safe as well.
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Cheers to you all and onward!

Fails Don’t Mean You’re Failing

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I have been having some trouble with my training lately.  Now, when I say have been having trouble I mean for the better part of 5 months I have been in struggle mode.  I can’t emphasize enough how difficult this is for me because I am my own worst critic when it comes to my lifting, there are honestly a lot of tears shed throughout the weeks because I love to train but it can be a little daunting when you give it all you have and nothing is feeling better.   When I first began here at O’Hare CrossFit I did not allow myself to want to be good at movements because I knew that I would have to put in a lot of work and at that time I was simply not committed to doing it and that was ok. It also meant I had no right to complain of not having the body or skills I wanted. Once I realized that with better movement I would get closer to the body composition goals I had at time I was all in. Since then I have been doing extra personalized programming to improve my gymnastics and weightlifting.  It has been three years of that, of a lot of lonely sessions working out alone, a lot of longer hours at the gym and a lot of repeated failures.  But in those three years I have pushed my body to do things I thought I just would never be able to do like: legless rope climbs, strict ring muscle ups, cleaning 125% of my body weight and deadlifting double body weight. Plus, with every added skill or heavier weight my body changed to give me the aesthetics I wanted.   Now the awesome thing about Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting is that you are never satisfied and want to continue with the progress, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Training like most things are cyclical and I have reached a point in my strength where now I need to take a step back and revisit and change some movement patterns and work with my positions again which might take a long time for the body to get used to.  Does that mean I am going to stop and give up? Absolutely not! It means I must be motivated every day and deliberate in my training. On those days I don’t wake up motivated I have to then find the motivation to do it because at the end of the day the extra work is what I love and what has always gotten me to my goals.  Don’t for one second think I come in here every day and it’s easy to train, easy to fail and easy to get over the bad days because it is not.  But now after a long time I’m able to smile after some sessions and that in itself is the biggest win.   -Coach Susie

Marriage Material: Making a Conscious Change

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I remembered thinking to myself once that the only true benefit I found from going to the gym was in those moments when, “3…2…1… go!” was screamed and the music was at full volume.  I saw these time domains which ranged anywhere from 2 to 40 minutes as the optimum moments by which to improve my fitness.  Ironically, my Fran and Isabelle time got in the way of me improving my Fran and Isabelle time; I was obsessed with outcomes, but I never wanted to learn how to achieve them.  It is only when I altered my perspective that I began to see change. While I pray that you realize that you will go nowhere without stretching and movement prep, I would like to address the strength portion of our workouts.  Part B is not the ugly step sister to the sexy part C; rather, she is the smarter, more well-rounded of the siblings; she is the one you marry not the one you take out for one night only.  The strength portion of the workout is meant to increase your skill set through practice as well as provide you with an opportunity for wide range muscle recruitment.  This function is essential to burning fat and developing skeletal muscle.  The idea here is that we intend on losing fat not weight.  If you are looking to be skinny and devoid of muscle, take up Meth and avoid weights all together; however, I think our collective goals are much grander than merely losing weight. Your approach to weight lifting should be a two-part process; wherein, you are learning and exerting each day.  In the learning process you want to ask your coach (not each other) questions about your form and appropriate loading.  Do not always wait until you are cued to make corrections.  Commit your errors to memory and make solid attempts at improving upon them; if you fix your feet positioning in your squat one week, do not go back to your bad form the next.  Also, you should make a conscious effort to build a knowledge base and vocabulary.  If you have been at OCF for two years and the terms RM, Power, and Hang are still foreign to you, then it is time to focus a little more.  Finally, you need to record data.  Each time you go into a lift, you should not have to figure out what weight is good for you; rather, you should have a sense of an ideal starting weight and finishing weight. The exerting element of your lifting is where you place demands on yourself to achieve work.  Work is when you move something heavy a distance.  Your body is built to accomplish a great deal and demands consistent variation of expectations in order to continue to evolve.  To put it simply you need to life some heavy stuff at least once a week.  “Heavy” is a relative term, so you need to find weights that are going to require exertion while maintaining quality form.  Here is a good test:  If you are not sweating and taxed from part B, you are not doing it right!  You should need some recovery before you get to part C. So, in review, start taking your lifting seriously, stop being a silly, and all your Isabelle, Fran, Angelica, and Rebecca times will improve.

I’M DREADING GOING BACK…. ITS LIKE I AM STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN…

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You’re right… it is.  And at this very moment, its best to just accept it.  We’ve all been there, life, work, family, and/or special occasions are abundantly taking over every part of our lives.  We allow the overwhelm to steer the wheel on all the decisions that we will face in the days, weeks, and sometimes even months to come.
In the process we abandon our routine and the habits that we have implemented to get us somewhere…a goal, a mission that we so excitingly sought out to begin with.  So what do I do now?  Just show up.  Be honest with yourself and realize that the shame is keeping you from getting back on track.  Understand that it will be like starting over.  You will be sore more often, there will be days you can’t lift as much a you used to.  Heck, there may even be things you may not be able to do that came so easy before.  Own it, learn from it, and let it go.  It won’t last forever.  Nothing like this does.
And prepare, in case new obstacles arise, and they will, to avoid feeling like this again.  Try the following to build a solid training routine, that won’t be susceptible to destruction, no matter what gets thrown your way :
  1. Be consistent.  Pick training days and times that work with your schedule and stick to them.  Every day.  Every week.  Its best to pick one class to attend consistently, if your schedule allows.  This will help not leave your training up to chance and risk not getting it in.
  2. Put it in your calendar and treat it like an appointment that you can’t miss.  If it’s not in your schedule, it’s not happening.
  3. Give yourself a reward when the task is completed. For me its a post workout snack, like my protein oats.  Every time you reward yourself, you reaffirm and reinforce the behavior.
  4. Lastly, adjust your expectations.  Accept that it may take some time and work to get back to where you were, especially if it’s been more than a week since you’ve been in the gym. Talk to your coaches about possible adjustments and modifications
Through practice and repetition, you can develop the healthy healthy habits incorporate into your training routine that will endure long-term.

When Did Being “Content” Become the Norm?

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America as a whole, and so many of us, got to where we are because of nothing but HARD work.  Not because of being exceptional at anything in particular, but simply because we wanted something and we went and got it. Whether it was a job, whether it was our “goal body”, or whether it was our high school or college degree.  We were relentless in our pursuit.   It seems that a recent trend has arose though where being content, taking the “easy” route, or avoiding discomfort or grueling work is now common.  We don’t want things to be hard.  We shy away from challenges.  We are afraid to fail.   The problem with this is that if we avoid failure, we avoid our potential.  We avoid the things we truly want.  We avoid happiness and we settle for a false happiness.   So starting today (on a Monday, a new week, a new month), try embracing failure.  We learn in the midst of failure; we learn what our true limits are.  No more of ‘that workout was hard, but I could have gone heavier’, or ‘I don’t want to try that, I don’t think I can do it’.  Stop being so content with ‘sort of hard’ and get excited to start trying new things.   Seek Failure.  Embrace Failure.  Surpass Failure. It’s what makes us human.   -Coach Becca