Doing the UN-Sexy to do the Sexy Well

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Most people who are entering in the CrossFit world do not come from a background with a well developed foundation of strength & conditioning, weightlifting, or gymnastics. I happen to be one of these people.  We spend most of lives behind a desk or in positions that are not optimal for progress in the CrossFit arena.   We look at a lot of over things that are happening in the world, via our social media streams, and see what other top level Crossfitters are doing, Olympic caliber weightlifters are doing, and gymnasts are performing. We grow to admire what they are capable of, and some of us begin to believe that this is exactly the practices that got them to perform at such a high level. We do not see the hours and years they spent doing the “UN-Sexy” movements to build a proper foundation for these proficiencies. We don’t see the teenager who is going into Olympic lifting doing RDLs, or the gymnast spending 45 -60 minutes a day stretching. It takes the experienced athlete years to be able to do the “Sexy” part of their sport.   There is no way around it; you must work, work, and work on the minutia of the sport to be successful in the grander elements.  Many people try to shortcut the “UN-Sexy” because it is not fun, taxing on the body, and does not look appealing. No one is posting their skater squats, RDLs, Getups, Bar hang holds, Bent over rows and Static midline work on IG. You see the muscle ups, snatches, cleans, and higher level movements.   If you are a mere mortal like me who spends most of his life not being athletic, moving poorly, lack activation, and has developed imbalances and asymmetries, you need to work on it. One thing is for certain, if you can grip 300 pounds, I’m willing to bet you can’t snatch it. Take some time and work on these little things like grip strength and shoulder health that will lead to amazing “SEXY” movements.  The little things will pay dividends in the long run. Enjoy the process, and be patient. Good things take time, so play the long game. Leave the short game for people that do not know better and don’t appreciate the journey.   #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

Put your best Foot Forward

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It’s that time of year again; spring is here and summer is knocking on the door.  The clocks have been set back; we have more daylight; the weather is slowly beginning to turn, and most of us are noticing that the urge to run is growing.  The beast has been kept in the cave over the winter months like a bear in hibernation waiting for the right moment to awaken and attack the trails. If you are from the Midwest, with little to no options of running out doors in the winter, some running cues and corrections may have been forgotten over the winter months.  This can cause cramps, aches, and pains that are unnecessary and unwanted.  Hitting the trails or the track safely is what is most important this early in the season. Top Five things to think about before taking off…. Posture is everything - Maintaining upright, comfortable, chest proud, posture while moving stride by stride will allow you to comfortably create a breathing cadence that won’t be affected by slouching shoulders.  Poor posture will result in the decrease of the diaphragm size and making it harder to breathe. Land light - When your foot is beginning to make contact and striking the ground, land lightly almost as if you were to tap the surface.  The harder you land the more pressure is caused on the surrounding joints, which work as a team.  A hard pounding movement will create shockwaves from the ankles to the knees to hips. Pull your foot off of the ground from stride to stride - This is one of the biggest misconceptions that people have when working through strides.  You should focus on pulling your leg off of the ground versus pushing from stride to stride.  After landing lightly through your mid-foot, actively pull your foot off of the ground to a high knee position. Pay attention to your distance - Not everyone is going to come out doing 250 meter repeats at 90% of there 1 mile pace.  Running in the spring is usually something people do to knock the rust off, so treat the distances that you are running accordingly.  Don’t go for broke on a 5k when you haven’t ran since your coach programmed 100m sprints in the fall.   Switch things up - Most people will hit the streets accumulating block after block totaling a mile or two before heading back home.  The spring is the perfect time to find a trail that is close to home, a new bike path that starts some where near by, or a local high school or collegiate track.  New areas can create a fun environment that is challenging and can remind you why you love running. Whether you would like to admit it or not, people have an innate urge to open the front door and take off.  Who doesn’t remember being a little kid, Mom giving the ok to play outside on a warm spring day?  The screen door opens and your feet are moving faster than you expected, creating a smoke cloud of debris and dust as if you were a cartoon Roadrunner or Fred Flintstone.  Remember that you are doing this for that same reason; have some fun and put your best foot forward. Coach Zach

Deloading: Improving the Longevity of the Athlete

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O’Hare CrossFit and CrossFit Harwood Heights programs both have deloading weeks in them. This time period is essential in a successful training regiment. In my experiences working with athletes of all skill levels, this week has proven to be a reprieve necessary for sustainability, recovery, and prolonged focus. A deload is a short, planned time period of recovery that steps back from the intensity and volume one may have grown accustomed to in the course of the programming. Just as our strength cycles involve us pushing limits of capacity to make gains, this deload period provides a time of systemic recovery. We stress the central nervous system (CNS) for a period of time to allow for adaptation (growth). Without allowing a deload component in your training you risk running yourself down, adrenal fatigue, injury, regression, and no gains How do you Deload? There are many schools of thought on this. I am a believer that every athlete responds a bit different so using all the approaches over a period of time and seeing which results the best is the answer. Yes there is no magic program, trial and error and making adjustments are essential.  Here are a few ways to Deload -
  1. Pull back on Intensity (Percentages)
  2. Pull back on volume (Amount of reps you are doing)
  3. Completely change up all the movements you are doing. This is less common but I have seen this help with the mental side of things as well as physical. Sometimes people just need a change of movement to get back in the groove.
Who has to Deload? Anyone that doesn’t want to burn out, train for a long period of time, or get injured.  What is the athlete’s responsibility during this week? You need to respect and understand it and not over do it, to enjoy feeling like you have more in the tank. Sweating a lot, being sore, or going to failure does not always mean that the session was beneficial. Play the long game when approaching your training. Realize that our programs have a purpose. Trust it, and you will see everything come to together exactly as it is supposed to. #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

Supplements – What do you really need?

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So many supplements are out there. We see them all the time, everywhere you look. A picture of the perfect bodied spokesperson with a bottle of product X in his or her hand implies that the product is beneficial to your fitness and physique in some fashion. The average consumer purchases supplements blindly without considering his or her goal and overall benefits of the dietary additives. Supplementation for someone who regularly exercises (3-6 times a week): If you are looking for supplements, make sure you realize what the word means. To supplement means to use ancillary sources of fulfilling nutritional gaps. The goal of the supplement is to improve training and overall bodily function. Pre workout -
    • These supplements help energize, delay fatigue, and improve an athletes performance
    • Use these directed and try not to go overboard on them. If you are sensitive to caffeine or other elements of the compound, do not use these.
    • You do not want to become dependent on anything to perform; therefore you do not want to take this before every workout. Another issue is that they are addicting; they are stimulants. If you take it all the time you will eventually need more to get the desired effect.
    • Here are some things to consider when picking out one – How do my receptors control caffeine? If caffeine gives you the jitters, you may need to look into a stimulant free one. If you train later in the evening and the caffeine will keep you up late, that may also be a reason why. A pre-workout with more BCAA’s will help you with fatigue. Also, depending on your dietary needs and intensity of the workouts, you may want to consider one with carbohydrates added to it.
Post Workout -
    • I think for most athletes this supplementation needs to be a staple. The 30 minute window from when you train is essential for recovery.  I would suggest a mixture of Protein and Carbs. The amount of each depends on your goals, sex, bodyweight, and type of session. Here are some rough guidelines to help you with this. Please see graphic below for baselines
Clearly identified Goals -
    • I go back to this all the time. Please take some time and find out exactly what you want. That can change in the future of course, but without identifying your goals clearly there is no way for progress to be measured.
Supplements are great to enhance performance, once the basic measures have been taken. Don’t skip the un-sexy steps. They are necessary for a good foundation; however, you must have a strong control over the other aspects of your life as supplements will not account for sleep, stress, diet, and lifestyle choices. Supplements add on to the improvements you are making they do not create them. #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

Do not let the open being done slow you down

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Over the course of the last 5 weeks, I have seen an incredible amount of passion, motivation, and work being put in by OCF & CFHH athletes. It is incredible how powerful the open truly is. Some may look at it as a stepping stone for getting to the CrossFit  regionals or even the games; contrarily, others look at it as a five week period wherein you pushed yourself beyond your limits. Now the open is done and we have another year until it will be here again. There is one thought I want to leave you with from now until next year: Give the same amount of effort you gave on Friday nights towards your daily fitness and priorities. Do not lose this motivation and passion. It is truly what life is all about. Find a way to keep it going inside of you. We are all capable of things beyond our comprehension, the open proved that to many of you. Focus on your personal growth during the next year; take each pitfall of the open as a sign of things to work on. Let the 2016 CrossFit Open start a fire inside of you that does not burn out. Do not go back to bad habits, lose motivation and focus just because it is over. Use this experience to carry you through the doubts and stresses of everyday life to know you have the capabilities and toughness to endure anything. I love you all. #Create Excellence Angelo Sisco

The obvious, secret ingredient to getting good at CrossFit revealed!

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If I had a nickel for every time I was asked how to get better at something pertaining to CrossFit, I would no longer own OCF, because I would be on an island somewhere. Once given the answer to really what it takes to get your first pull-up, muscle-up, handstand pushup, or how to improve your barbell cycling, many athletes get blindsided by the harsh fact that progress takes work. It takes countless hours of perfect, deliberate, well organized practice. This seemingly obvious information throws many athletes into a quandary. One must make a conscious decision to make changes in his or her life and allow for variety and nurturing pain within it. Here is the true secret to getting better at CrossFit, and it has nothing to do with your body. Fall in love with the process; learn to love the hardness of a situation. Do not let pain or impatience derail you. Making small decisions regarding your health and wellness will matriculate to all aspects of your life.  Your process is going to be unique to you, so do not fall victim to determining your self-worth by comparison to others. Your adversity is your own; take pride in your small conquests. Further, find a mindset that allows you to enjoy the grind, see benefits in the bad days, and humbly embrace the good ones. Take time to assess how exercise fills a void in aspects of your life. The interesting part about this game is that you are truly competing against yourself and it never ends. Tomorrow brings a new challenge that you will need to acclimate to; be determined! While this secret is probably no secret at all, I contend it is one of the most overlooked components of training. This is a thoughtful, methodic process that demands functionality out of the body and the mind. #CreateExcellence Angelo Sisco

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