Why Training Alone Can Be So Beneficial

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I am not going to go on a rant about how to training alone creates a greater sense of mental fortitude, and you alone can be the star in your own Rocky training montage.  However, as someone who has primarily trained alone for the greater part of my 7 years in CrossFit, I have experimented with a vast array of training methodologies.  While working out with the community has a multitude of benefit, I would like to focus on the progressive outcomes of training along.

There is something about the mental part of isolation training that requires a degree of perseverance that I find rewarding.  When you are responsible for your own course of training the onus is on you and not the culminating actions of the group.  When you do not have the communal energy to feed off of you must delve into your own reserve of determination.

In the warm up you must find the appropriate mindset for that particular day. What are going to be the specific elements of your focus?  How will you handle errors or successes?  As you look at your videos in between lifts, check your form and work on refining your movement and self-correcting.  This is crucial to the development of an athlete because you must build a stronger sense of physical awareness.  Coaching is wonderful, but true progression comes with an intrinsic understanding of needs.

In conditioning you must be hypercritical of your form.  While this may detract from your score, who cares!  The idea here is to move efficiently and appropriately; the outcomes will render themselves in time.  No one is there as a means of checks and balance; consequently, your integrity will dictate the strides you make.  The score is secondary to you holding yourself accountable

As I finished my interval rowing for today, which I considered quitting several times, I explored the universal need to challenge the “self.”  As we are all defined by different matrices throughout the day the unifying one is the internal drive to accomplish.  Test yourself and find something new within you that you may not have known was there.

Here is a little test to get you on  your way – put your headphones on and see what you are made of…

My rowing workout if anyone would like to try, I’d love the feedback. Courtesy of Chris Hinshaw

Workout 1250m Row rest 90s 1000m Row + 250m row rest 90s 750m + 250m+ 250m rest 90s 500m + 250m + 250m+ 250m rest 90s 250m +250m + 250m+ 250m +250m Pacing (1250, 1k, 750, 500, were all at 12-15s off 2k TT pace 152-155 for me) (250m were at 2k TT pace (140 for me, got into 142-143 on last series) How to perform easier paces right into 250s, rest 10s btw 250m efforts IE, 750m Row @152 - immediately into 250m @140, rest 10s 250m Row @140.

Equipment Needed for CrossFit

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As current CrossFitters, or those of you looking to try CrossFit, we all have an idea of what gear we need. I have decided to put together a list of what I think one must get as he or she progresses through his or her fitness journey. Keep in mind, it is not necessary to get all of this gear all at once, but instead; this list is what Coach Lu thinks will help you through your many workouts.
  1. A Positive Attitude- I think this is so important for those who are just starting, as well as those who have been in the game for so long to possess a amiable willingness to be open to coaching. We need to remember our goals and enjoy the process, not take it all so serious. You will improve exceedingly if you allow yourself to be receptive to new ideas. #NoRoomForNegativeNancy
  1. A Clear Mind – Staying positive could be more and more difficult when you walk through the doors with the stress of your day on your shoulders. Channeling that anger onto the barbell is important but letting it all go before the call to the whiteboard may be more important as well. Each workout seems to be more fun and a tad bit easier when you aren’t still worried about what happened at work or at home. Allow yourself these moments in the gym to distress and focus on becoming a more ideal you; this is your designated time to escape. #stresscauseswrinkles
  1. Compression Compression Compression- It all starts from the inside out right? For my guys, getting a good pair of compression shorts or tights can make a huge difference for those long rowing workouts. A sports bra can also make a huge difference for you ladies in several movements. These serve a greater purpose than just making your butt look good, they keep your body warm and circulation fluid. This type of clothing will provide greater muscular support and can prevent injury. #TheTighterTheBetter
  1. The Right Shoe- Now don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of shoes just as much as the next guy; however, we need to find the right pair of shoes for CrossFit. We all have seen the video of that woman doing deadlifts in heels. (If you have not, you might want to look it up). This might be an exaggeration of what can happen if you are not wearing the right pair of shoes, but the right message is there. Rebook and Nike have both put out a shoe specifically for CrossFit; I strongly recommend both pairs as they are the best I have tried. Regardless of the shoes you purchase, nothing looks fresher than kick a@# form! #HeelsarenotforCrossFit
  1. Knee Sleeves- Especially if you are in a competition group, knee sleeves can be a great purchase. There is nothing better than knee sleeves to keep your knees healthy, as well as giving you that experienced CrossFitter the temperature and fluidity desired in his or her knees during heavy lifts. #LookGoodFeelGood
  1. A CrossFit Shirt- Do you even lift if you don’t post a selfie at the gym? Well do you even CrossFit if you don’t rep your gym with the latest shirt they have? We are lucky enough to have some stylish and comfortable shirts here at OCF, stop by and get one.   At the very least try to find breathable material that is sized not to suffocate you in a difficult workout. #RepYourGym
  1. Tape- Tape is like currency for CrossFitters. We all have heard someone asking for tape and then following with “I’ll get you back when I get more tape”. Taping your thumbs for long barbells workouts will help with your hook grip. Taping your hands for pull ups or muscle ups can really save you from the rips we all hate. Beside that who doesn’t feel more bada** when your hands are taped. Remember when taping you want to provide support while not hindering circulation. #LookingLikeABoxerBeforeAWorkout
This gear is optional; however, I would like all members to buy into is having a positive attitude, other than that the rest of the objects are just material. There is not a single piece of gear that will help you get through a workout faster or help you PR every week. Enjoy the process, treat yourself to some nice gear every now and then, but most importantly; work hard and have fun with all of us at OCF.-#LiveLaughLou -Coach Lou

What Constitutes Success in your Training?

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What constitutes Success in your training?

I’ve have had this question asked to me quite a few times in my career. Like most tough questions, the answer depends on the individual. Also, one must understand the term “success” is a relative term.  Your manner of success is in direct correlation to your goals and desired outcomes; further, the willingness to improve and fervent dedication will dictate one’s ability to achieve.

 Top ways to feel successful about your training

  1. Some days success may mean just showing up and getting the workout in. We have all been there: tough day at work, fighting with a personal relationship, lack of sleep, not eating well etc… Getting to the gym, getting through the workout is an acceptable measure of success that day; wherein, you just getting through it.  It doesn’t matter if it was the heaviest weight, fastest time, or any other minor details that can drive us crazy.
  2. Picking a success for each day is a great way to set small manageable goals. Look at the workout, pick one movement or part of the workout and focus on it.  Be cognizant of making small changes to your movement, breathing, or pacing in order to improve in that particular realm.   "I’m going to not stop one time doing the burpees today" is a perfect example. One little impromptu goal is a great way to set yourself up for success
  3.  Take time to truly enjoy your successes. We live in a world that is consumed with the thought of scarcity. When was the last time you looked back at your first day of CrossFit and examined how far you have come? Some of you couldn’t squat properly the first intro class, you had issues swinging a 15 pound kettebell, you couldn’t keep your arm locked out on getup, or where unable to do one pushup or pull-up. When you’re having a rough day take a step back and put your mind in that place and smile. You have come a long way. Enjoy it.

I hope you all find a way to reach every success in your lives. It is truly an honor to be support of your journey.  Success is a great motivator, look to find it anywhere you can.

-Coach Angelo Sisco

The Missing Ingredient to your Training and Possibly your Life

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I’ve seen it a thousand times, an athlete take on a workout that supposed to last 12 minutes and they do the first 2 minutes all out and blow themselves out, or they allow their form to break so bad watching them move is almost painful. What causes this? After the workout is done we realize it didn’t go well, but how can we help it next time? Self awareness may be the most underestimated athletic trait of all.

Self awareness is your ability to almost have an out of body experience. It allows you to self-correct and determine error in the course of the movement.  Further, self awareness, in the heat of emotion, has been one of my biggest struggles. Once I realized I was lacking in this department, I have spent countless hours being focused and honing it.

Here are some ways I have gotten better at this. Keep in mind, I am work in progress like everyone; I am by no means saying I have this down.

  1. Be Present - When you’re doing something, interacting, or training be right there in that moment. Don’t let you mind drift, and for some of you this means putting down your phone once in a while. 
  2. Take that bird’s eye view of yourself and really try to tap into it. How are you moving? How are you being perceived?
  3. Just being more aware of “self awareness” – be cognizant of the fact that you must be self-assessing, and that you will always need to correct elements of movement.

To be “self-aware” may be an emotional intelligence that you are missing in your life. Take a look at yourself, not just others and most of the time the solution or key to success starts with you.

- Coach Angelo Sisco

Making the most of your time at O’Hare CrossFit

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Trust us. We understand busy schedules. In fact, many of the members we have here at O'Hare CrossFit initially joined because they needed a more efficient workout that didn’t require them to be in the gym for hours at a time. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways you can make your time at the box as productive and fulfilling as possible. HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME AT O'HARE CROSSFIT: SET A TRAINING SCHEDULE While you generally enjoy coming into the box, there are some days when maybe overtime at work, school papers, family issues and other nasty things can really get you in the mood to skip the WOD “just because.” A good way to deter the “just because” excuse is to get into the habit of coming in at the same time on the same days. Once you’ve created this habit, it becomes automatic. You’ll find yourself going to the box without any force involved regardless of the plants who could probably use watering (or any other strange excuse you give yourself.) Bottom line: A schedule keeps you consistent, and consistency is the key to forming healthy habits. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS, CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS If you’re serious about hitting your fitness goal, it’s critical to track your progress. And we don’t mean stepping on the scale every morning and completely freaking out at any increase in weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re doing it right you’ll be gaining lean muscle while you’re losing fat which doesn’t always result in seeing a lower number on the scale. Throw out that scale and buy a notebook. Keeping track of your workouts and progress will help you train with a purpose. If you did 5 back squats at 135 a few months ago, and that sequence has come up again, well now you’ll know what number to shoot higher than. Bottom line: Knowing what you did yesterday will help you be better today. COME EARLY, STAY LATE (TRAIN MORE, CHAT MORE) Many of us get into the habit of coming in on-time and leaving on-time. That’s by no means a bad habit. But to make the most of your workout, the best thing you can do is put in a little extra time before and after class. We know, working out before working out sounds like advice from a crazy person, but it’s really the key to taking your fitness to the next level. It’s no news to say that putting in some extra credit will turn you into a better athlete, but when you do it with other athletes that like to go above and beyond outside of class times, you’re fostering some really positive relationships. That’s when the true awesomeness happens. Bottom line: To get the most out of your training session, put in some extra work both physically and socially ASK FOR HELP It’s ok to admit that you feel a little intimidated to ask for help at the box. But don’t be! Even those big, huge, grunting, bearded guys were new once. Everyone has been in the same spot and there’s absolutely no shame in needing some extra help to understand a movement. In fact, that’s the sign of a smart athlete who’s on their way to big things. Bottom line: There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Except for maybe, “Can I pee before you start the clock?” We don’t like that one. ALWAYS HAVE A WATER BOTTLE CLOSE BY (ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE NOT TRAINING) Are you the type to only drink water when you’re feeling really thirsty or maybe you like to chug the majority of your day’s water intake right before and after a WOD? Well, you might want to change that and here’s why. Feeling thirsty and getting dry mouth indicates that your body is already dehydrated. Dehydration can reduce the volume of blood pumped by the heart which means less oxygen to the muscles which often results in premature fatigue. And if you try to quick fix your dehydration by drinking lots of fluid right before class it can cause bloating and cramping. That’s a terrible way to suffer through a WOD. This is especially important for women. “Women are not small men,” says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., exercise physiologist-nutrition scientist. “They’re five times more likely than men to have GI problems when exercising . . . women are also more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.” Bottom line: To get the most out of your training session, stay hydrated all day long before you step foot into the box. SLEEP MORE We want you to sleep more. In fact, we insist you sleep more. We can’t stress enough the importance of getting a good night’s rest because without it, all the training and dieting in the world will just be a waste of time. It’s hard to believe that something you do when you’re not even awake can be one of the most important ways you can make the most out of your training sessions, but it’s true. To put it simply, lack of sleep stresses out your body which cases weight gain and anxiety. Bottom line: Prioritize your sleep. Prioritize your well-being. PRACTICE MOBILITY AT HOME Stretching and becoming more flexible really shouldn’t take a back seat in your plan to become a fitter you. If we could tack on an extra 30 minutes to the WOD for mobility, we’d do just that! An hour a day at the box isn’t going to undo a lifetime of sitting on your bum craning over a keyboard. Invest in a few key items for home like a foam roller and a PVC pipe to improve your range of motion while you’re watching TV or right before bed. Practicing mobility at home will improve your overall athletic ability and will decrease the risk of injury. Bottom line: Mobilize everywhere and invest in the tools to do so.    

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.