Category Archives: Articles & Videos

Articles & Videos to Inspire

Handstand Hijinx – by Coach Patrick

Full Disclosure – this is a long article, but there is a lot of great information. I recommend you take the time to read through it all.

Happy March everybody! The skill focus this month is handstands and I wanted to share some philosophy and methodology behind the approach we’ll be taking to get our upside down on.

Instead of reading through my regurgitation of the concept, I will provide a solid doctrine written by Kaitlin Hardy, essentially a badass lifelong gymnast turned CrossFitter who knows her stuff on connectivity, gymnastic positioning, and the transference into CrossFit training. Enjoy…

“A. Why Handstands?
The point of learning calculus is to learn how to think; there are engineers out there who are legitimately concerned with advanced calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, but the majority of us learn calculus to train our brains in the art of abstract thought.

The point of learning a handstand is to learn how to manipulate your body. Serious gymnasts spend hours developing perfect handstand technique, partially because a vast majority of skills in gymnastics pass through a handstand shape, but most importantly because the art of fine-tuning your body to find the perfect handstand shape trains your brain in the art of body awareness.

Mastering the perfect handstand will help improve your handstand walks, and maybe your handstand push-ups, but developing the process of complex skill acquisition and precise musculoskeletal control will improve every single movement your body makes.

Every skill or action that an athlete performs—whether it be a complex Olympic lift or a handstand, involves the activation of neural pathways. The study of neuroplasticity encompasses the changes in these neural pathways, which in the case of exercisers result as a change in behavior.

Physical exercise has been shown to both facilitate neuroplasticity and, “enhance an individual’s capacity to respond to new demands with behavioral adaptations” (Hotting K, Roder B, 2013). Spending time practicing a perfect handstand will develop the same neural pathways that are essential in controlling your body through complex exercise movements.

Mastering the art of feeling exact body positions, and being able to do it while upside down, will transfer to the ability to make quick corrections in form and technique elsewhere. There is a reason that amongst the top games athletes, especially on the women’s side, an overwhelming majority have some kind of gymnastics background.

The handstand is the movement of choice for developing motor neuron pathways applicable to exercise because it requires precise control over every body part. Holding a handstand requires activation of each of the major muscle groups as well as the sensorimotor control systems essential to maintaining balance.

The cues given to athletes just learning handstands are complex and most likely conceptually brand new. Furthermore, having to think about multiple specific body cues, while attempting to balance upside down adds a new level of challenge and likely general discomfort.

A broad comparison would be attempting to master linear algebra while standing on your head. The ability to process complex thought into bodily action while in an unnatural, and likely uncomfortable, state is a careful skill that takes time to develop and will carry over to each of your exercise endeavors.

The point of mastering a handstand is to develop motor-learning skills. The benefits to your exercise elements skill set are secondary.

B. The Perfect Handstand
The ability to hold a handstand requires equal parts flexibility and strength. The ability to achieve a completely open shoulder and hip angle are paramount to the success of any gymnastics related work in the sport of fitness. Muscular control, specifically throughout the shoulders and midline, are essential for maintaining the perfect position.

  1. Arms should be shoulder width apart. There should be an exact straight line from the wrists to the shoulders, to the lower body. Ears should not be visible. This position allows the athlete to achieve full shoulder extension.
  2. Throughout the duration of the handstand, the athlete should work to push the floor away as much as possible, essentially making the body as long as possible. Attempts to make the body long will naturally move the body into a straight line. There should be no space between the neck, ears, and arms.
  3. The head should be held neutral, in a manner that from the side the head appears to be in line with the arms, and the chin is not buried in the chest. The athlete then uses their eyes to look at their fingertips.
  4. There should be no shoulder angle, when viewed from the side there should be a straight line from the wrists, to the shoulders, to the hips, and finally to the ankles. Focus on the cue, “open shoulders.”
  5. Ribs should be rounded inward and not visible from the side. The musculature of the thoracic and lumbar spine works to maintain a flat back with no visible arch.
  6. Hips should be pressed flat so that no hip angle exists. The gluteal muscles should be contracted as much as possible to maintain a straight hip line.
  7. Legs should be straight and pressed together with pointed ankles.
  8. Fingers are rounded upward with fingertips pressing directly into the floor. Body weight remains over the palms of the hands and fingertips are used to aid in balance.

C. Why Precision is Necessary
“Physical skills will disintegrate under duress and fatigue—even in athletes with the mental and emotional attributes and stamina to be the best in critical competitions. In other words, athletes don’t rise to an occasion—they sink to the level of their training; so the training bar needs to be set high.” – Peter Twist

Elisabeth Akinwale competed NCAA Division I gymnastics. She also went unbroken during the Cinco 1 event at the 2013 CrossFit Games to easily win the event. Her handstand walks during this workout are far from perfect; her legs are bent and apart, her hands are slightly wide, and her head is out too far.

Despite these form breaks, the most essential elements of handstand technique are in place. Her shoulders are actively pushing away from the ground, there is no space between her neck, shoulders, and ears, and she is actively fighting any arch in her lumbar spine.

Most importantly, all of these points require absolutely no thought process for her. She has spent so much time forming the neural pathways essential to the mastery of her gymnastics skills that being upside down is natural. She may as well be walking on her feet.

Approaching the mastery of gymnastics related movements with the goal of perfection is not just essential in the abstract sense of refining the motor-learning development process. Approaching gymnastics with the goal of perfection will make easy (physically and mentally) work of gymnastics related exercises when your body is already under stress and fatigue.

If your technically perfect work disintegrates to a level of sub-perfection, you will still be performing well enough to complete the task assigned so long as you understand the absolute essential elements of the movement. If the bar has only been set to a less than perfect understanding of the movement, your ability to complete the task when your skills start to crumble under stress and fatigue will be compromised.

Get upside down. Put in the work. Make your brain coachable.”

(For full article: click here)

Are You Not Entertained…!? – By Coach Patrick

Ooooweee Chun Li, it’s finally upon us. The 2017 CrossFit Open season has landed in our laps and on our doorsteps with merriment and mayhem at every turn. Whether this is your first rodeo or you’re a seasoned Open vet, it’s time to strap in and enjoy whatever ride each Thursday announcement brings.

There are dozens of articles out there about finding your why, motivation for joining and how the Open is for everyone; I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of Open inclusivity and the awesome broad diversity of reasons to get involved with it so I won’t rehash those words that are already out there.

I’ll just give a bit of history and perspective. I joined CrossFit in 2010 and have had the privilege of participating in every Open since they began in 2011.  Open WOD 11.1 (10 Minute AMRAP of 30 Double-Unders and 15 Power Snatches (75/55)) will always be my favorite, not only for it’s devastating simplicity and carnage but also because it started the course of history for the Open to usher in new individual challenges and ways to bring a community closer.

So here’s just some small bits of my brain space as we get going in this festive ball of sporty exercise and excitement. These are just some nuggets from a bloke who’s ran the gamut of ways to be in the Open, from scaled to prescribed, nursing injuries to posting great numbers, improvements and setbacks, judge and competitor, coach and fanboy, and even the guy who once bought Bill Grundler and Dave Castro two giant burgers at the Navy Pier before they wasted away during Regionals.

The Open is just as much individualized as it is a competition.
Simply put, it’s all about perspective. Perspective in how well you find the value and use of the numbers you score, how they relate to your past, current, and future performance and aspirations, how they relate to other athletes’ scores, and even how they stack up with the Games-bound elites. There is substance in knowing where you are as a barometer for where you’ve been and can go, there is light-hearted camaraderie in pitting yourself against someone similarly skilled or a different team, and there is appreciation in seeing the vast badassery and dedication of an elite level athlete putting up their numbers. All of those have caveats though, that substance for your barometer should be free from judgment or angst, that competition shouldn’t turn into the win at all costs or loss of light-heartedness, that appreciation shouldn’t convert to frustration over the distance between you and the elite.

Be humbled and enjoy it.
Some of these workouts can and do leave people soulless on the floor having an existential crisis. Own it, love it, develop that mental toughness and perseverance to respect a WOD that forces you to feel some misery and intensity like you may not necessarily be used to. That isn’t to say overextend yourself physically to the point of risk or injury, that’s why we train form and consistency in mechanics, but once you’re there, breathe deep, find your fire, and go to war. It’s a powerful introspective tool to get outside of a comfort zone and keep on keeping on. This Open has the chance to put you face to face with discomfort and the struggle bus. Get on, learn something new about yourself, your capacity, and capability. We as a community are all around you doing the same thing and supporting the hell out of your mental toughness PR.

Train how you fight, fight how you train.
An old adage in tactical, martial arts, and boxing worlds and true enough for the Open. You’ve already been hitting WODs, you’ve already played in the CF Open sandbox with old Open WODs sprinkled into programming, you’ve already learned new technique, you’ve already seen jumps in your strength or speed or performance. This isn’t anything alien or unfamiliar, you’ve got this because you’ve done things just like it before, and if for whatever reason you haven’t (*cough cough* dumbbells), myself and the other coaches are going to make sure you’re aware and prepared of how to knock out the movements, whatever they are. You’ve been here before and will be here again, unless of course you’ve sandbagged and held back on your effort for every WOD up until now (cue a stern look and a grumpy head-shake), now it’s time to just do work and…

Have Fun.
That’s it. High five your teammates, smile, laugh, sweat, and enjoy all the small and large moments of what will assuredly be a challengingly grand time had by all.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday FUNDay:
Split up in teams of 2, one person “judges” while the other one works, then switch

Open WOD 14.1
AMRAP 10
30 Double unders
15 Power snatches (75/55)

Another FUNday, another open WOD. This time 3 year ago. We were still under construction during this Open so the few people that actually did it here did it in the Foundations Room when it still had a hardwood floor. Ah memories!

The WOD itself is deceptively simple. Start of with 30 Double unders then it’s 15 Power snatches. Repeat as many times as possible in 10 minutes. The genius of this one is several layers deep. First we slam the heart rate into overdrive be leading off with 30 Double unders (and it’s only 30 so no time to relax and get into a flow). Then we are asked to do 15 reps light weight reps of a very technical movement that, despite the light weight, still takes a fair bit of power generation. This will further ramp up the heart rate and require even more oxygen. Be prepared to be gasping for breath in a shockingly short amount of time.

The Success Metric – by Coach Patrick

For some the New Year represents a perfect time to reflect on the past 365 days, plan for the next 365 days, establish goals, and get a sense of what it will take to achieve those goals. For others, it’s just another day, no big deal. Neither one of those folks are wrong, just living differently and if it works for them that’s awesome. However, now that the attention of the New Year has settled some it’s time to talk about an important subject that can relate to the New Year, life, goals, and obviously CrossFit. I’m talking about none other than the metric of success.

Let’s focus on your time in the box as a CrossFit athlete. Naturally, CrossFit gravitates towards a metric of data, that being weights and times to solidify a sense of success. Archilbald Athlete did Fran in 9 minutes his first time, 6 months later he did it in 4 minutes. Bam, success, improvement, champagne from the heavens, and a weekend parade.

Or Debbie Doubleunder hit a one rep back squat at 135 pounds, now she’s knocking out 185 for her one rep. Kicking ass and taking names!

Is that all we’ve got for success in CrossFit? I happily and over-energetically say nay, good sir or madam. This is an important lesson for the beginner just stepping foot in the door all the way to regular who’s been coming and working for years.

CrossFit likes data, it creates a baseline for both competition and personal improvement. I absolutely agree with the concept of keeping data (bust out your journals, everyone, jot down those important numbers and times), but there is more diversity to how we should appreciate our lifelong commitment to our fitness.

Moving better, feeling better, increased mobility, more resilient or positive mood, mental toughness, increased dedication to learn and apply that learning, improvement in self image, and a whole host of other perspectives are just as, I’d argue more so, important than that back squat number.

Here’s a timely and perfect example… this month is overhead squats. The unglamorous badass of the squat family, the hidden gem of mobility, core strength, and midline stability. Some of you will hit OHS PR’s this month, and for that I congratulate you mightily, ring some bells, high five your neighbor, and truly celebrate the work it took to get there. Some of you, however, may not hit a PR by the end of the month. Guess what? I still congratulate you mightily, let’s still high five that neighbor and celebrate the badassery of your dedication this month.

I’ve coached tons of people in the OHS over the years and it has proven to be one of my favorite lifts, not just for the benefit it brings to the whole body as a system, but also what it can teach about success.

Regardless of the numbers hit at the end of this month, ask yourself some of these questions as it relates to your OHS: Are you moving better than you did at the beginning of the month? Have you shown up every time to put in the effort of working that proper active shoulder position? Have you fought for even a little extra mobility in the bottom of the squat position? Do you have more awareness of what your body is doing as it engages the full range of motion in the squat? Have you identified things you are doing well in the OHS and things to continually improve as time goes on? Do you have a better sense of what the lift should feel or look like when performed properly?

The list of questions can go on… but I assure you there is improvement for people putting in the effort.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “everybody gets a gold star” scenario, but that is what makes CF and functional fitness such a sweet supplement to life. There is always more to improve upon, new ways to view a challenge and reestablish goals based upon tangible previous successes. We are all together embracing the suck and success. Some of us will be stellar and sensational at the OHS, some of us may be wonderful train wrecks, but ALL of us can improve, we can ALL learn to move better and develop greater awareness of where we are and need to go.

Obviously this can be extended to all things we continually work on CrossFit, one athlete’s treasure is another athlete’s trash and vice versa. So long as you stay focused and accountable on your own improvement in a way that empowers your definition of success, you’ll be prepared to embrace the glory of both the trash and treasures. Not everyday is unicorns sprinkling rainbow cupcakes on our special snowflake selves, but everyday is a chance to work toward identifying and realizing your metric of success.

So now when you are sipping on some tea, enjoying (or not so much) the snowfall under a snuggie, and reflecting on future goals and present strides in life, take a moment to appreciate the tale of the OHS, the nuance of success, and the effort in achieving it for yourself.

Rowing for Meters vs. Calories – by Coach Aaron Troyer

Whether you love or hate the rower (ergometer), you’re used to seeing it in workouts. You know how to switch the screen from the calorie setting to meters, but what’s actually the difference? Should your strategy in workouts change based on this setting?

This is something I didn’t really understand until the CrossFit Journal published a recent article about just that, in which they interviewed Peter Dreissigacker, the founder of Concept2 (the company who makes our rowers). If you’d like to check it out for yourself, you can find the link below. If you want the short answer and a quick summary, keep on reading.

The CrossFit Journal article:
http://journal.crossfit.com/2016/10/row-pro-calories-vs-meters.tpl
(click “Download the PDF article” on the right)

The short answer:

Calories – You get rewarded more for extra effort. A lot more effort produces a lot more calories.
Meters – You get rewarded less for extra effort. It takes a lot of effort to go just a little bit faster.

The quick summary:
Why is that the case? From the article, “Concept2’s ergometer monitor has a built-in algorithm that was designed to mimic the fluid resistance of a rowing shell going through water, Dreissigacker explained. This means a monitor on the meters setting—as opposed to the calories setting— forces a rower to work really, really hard to increase his or her speed, he said.”

It boils down to the computer replicating the force of drag on the meters setting, but not doing so on the calories setting. That’s pretty neat!

As winter approaches and we replace some of our running with rowing, this can be a fun strategic idea to play with. If a workout has a few 500 meter rows, you might be better off rowing at a comfortable pace and saving your all out effort for other movements in the workout.

If the workout instead has a few 30 calorie rows, it might make sense to push a little harder in that section knowing you get a bigger payoff for your effort. Give it a shot the next few times rowing pops up and let me know if you notice a difference (or if you don’t — I want to hear it all!).

What the USARIEM Can Teach Us About CrossFit Featuring Vivian Simmons (United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine)

Unless you’re brand new, you remember our old friend Vivian Simmons from her coaching days here at Recursive. Her next endeavor has taken her out to Boston, where over the last few months she’s been involved in some really cool work at the USARIEM (United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine).

They’re a seriously badass research lab. From their website “USARIEM is internationally recognized as the DoD’s premier laboratory for Warfighter health and performance research and focuses on environmental medicine, physiology, physical and cognitive performance, and nutrition research.”

A lot of her time has been spent analyzing research papers related to physical performance, and I recently got a chance to catch up with her and talk about what she’s learned. Still being an avid CrossFitter herself, the conversation naturally moved towards its application to CrossFit and I thought you all would appreciate hearing it too.

Although she isn’t always allowed to elaborate on the details of the research, there are some general principles that she’s noticed that transfer over to training and life. I attempted to organize our yammering into some useful takeaways below (her words/ideas are in bold). Enjoy!

On reaching goals:
“If you know you want a goal, you have to set yourself up a little like a science experiment.” None of the cool research being done would be possible if subjects didn’t stick to the plan. If the Army’s goal is to test how your blood reacts to exercise in high altitude, they make sure everything else is controlled and doesn’t interfere with the testing.

“Same thing with Crossfit — to get to those high goals of PRs and muscle ups you need to make sure nothing you are doing outside of the gym throws a wrench in those plans.” The habits you begin making to achieve those PRs are the real keys to living longer and healthier — not how much weight you can squat. “Your max back squat doesn’t dictate your potential lifespan (I looked it up — there are no studies linking higher maxes to longer life).”

On consistency:
“CONSISTENCY!!!!” The best outcomes almost always go to those who are consistent, whether that outcome is muscle strength, bone density, flexibility, neurologic adaptation, or life expectancy. You don’t make or break your results in one day — it has to happen over the long haul.

“Don’t beat yourself up for giving into Ben and Jerry sometimes, but don’t just justify eating that limited edition flavor because you work out.” There is plenty of research indicating that folks who consistently exercise for a longer period of time can adapt better to stimuli and have better functioning physiologic systems than folks who never start or who “yo-yo” back and forth.

On recovery:
Most of us aren’t working out because we love working out — we’re doing it so we can enjoy an active lifestyle. We spend an hour breaking our bodies down with barbells and running, and spend the next 23 hours rebuilding and recovering — hopefully a little stronger. The choices we make in those 23 hours can have a big impact on our recovery.

WARNING: Cool Viv analogy coming in hot — “Your muscles and the nerves they listen to  are kind of like a car — you cannot go from park to 60 mph in two seconds (that’s why we warm up for WODs).”

Think of your decisions outside the gym as shifting gears throughout the day. Picking stuff up off the ground, taking your dog for a walk, running to catch the bus, and walking up the stairs instead of standing on the escalator at Target can all be seen as low gear activities that enhance recovery, or keep the car running smoothly.

Netflix binging on the couch for 4 hours is like leaving your car parked in the cold. Which car do you think will handle the Autobahn better?

That’s not to say you should be moving all the time. Being in park (sleeping, sitting between lifts, etc.) is necessary just like active recovery, but the ratio is what’s important. If you never park your car, you’ll eventually run out of gas. If your car is always parked, it probably won’t perform when you actually need it.

On supplements:

Be careful if you default to supplements and pills to fix aches and pains. “Try stretching or modifying the movement before you just pop that advil and carry on.”

A huge part of the budget for USARIEM studies goes to figuring out how to lower injury rates, and most of them show that proper mobility work and natural vitamins are a better long term solution. It’s also possible that common, over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen can negate some of the positive effects of exercise (especially resistance training).

One study done here indicates NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aka ibuprofen) might block important hormone receptors that tell your bones to become stronger after exercise. “So while temporary muscle relief may be provided, think about the long term impact!” Good old fashioned stretching and proper nutrition never goes out of style — it’s pretty simple.

– Xoxo Vivian
– Xoxo Aaron

Drinkercising* – Written by Coach Aaron Troyer

Wisconsin loves beer. Cheese too of course, but definitely beer. Most of us like our Happy Hours, and I’ve been around long enough to know CFR likes to party once in awhile.

But, is it a bad idea to have drinks after a workout? (I specifically mean CrossFitting, and then drinking. It should go without saying that drinking before/during a CrossFit workout is stupid and dangerous.)

SPOILER ALERT: The answer is going to be it depends.

Let me first run through what I understand to be the main effects of alcohol as they relate to overall fitness:

In summary, drinking after working out can hinder fat loss and muscle gain goals. The extent of these effects can vary based on a ton of things (amount of alcohol, how long after exercise, gender, body composition, which study you look at, etc.). So, I don’t think someone can prescribe a direct formula for you to determine if it’s okay or not. One size doesn’t fit all here.

What I do feel comfortable saying is this — drinking after working out is fine if you’re on track for your goals. If your goal is to be the fittest woman/man on earth then shots of Fireball will probably throw you off course.

If your goal is to lose weight and you’re consistently dropping a pound or two each week with beer in your diet, you’re probably A-OK. If your goal is to PR your front squat but you’ve hit a plateau, maybe experiment with less alcohol for a month and see what happens.

If Happy Hour with friends is worth a few muscle fibers and some sleep, go to Happy Hour. Exercise is supposed to make you happier, so don’t let it get in the way of that. At the same time, I probably wouldn’t start substituting water for beer in your post-workout protein shakes — even if it makes you happy. There’s got to be a line somewhere.

If you set goals, track their progress, and adjust as needed, this type of question will be easy for you to answer (also if booze was healthy — that would make this particular decision a lot easier).

*Disclaimer: None of the above took into consideration the disease of alcoholism. An alcoholic would have a different set of rules that I’m not qualified to write about. This article was not written with them in mind. Also, if you’re under 21, you should obey they law. This isn’t an article for you either.

Sitting Survival – by Coach Aaron Troyer

We still all know too much sitting is bad. I mentioned the idea of avoiding optional sitting before, and now I want to talk more about surviving those mandatory sitting situations like plane rides and car trips.

First, let me review why sitting is less than ideal. Sitting makes it hard to brace the spine and keep it neutral because big supporting muscle groups are turned off.

When standing we get to use our big strong glutes to support our spine, but sitting turns those puppies off. We’re left with just our core muscles to support us, which eventually fatigue and give way to slouching.

When your spine isn’t braced by your muscles, you end up hanging your bodyweight on all your squished together vertebrae. Ouch.

It also doesn’t help that most seats (especially in cars and planes) are shaped in ways that trap you in to rounding the heck out of your back.

That being said, here’s a few ideas from our friend Kelly Starrett for surviving these situations:

Airplanes:

  1. Use a lumbar support placed on your back, right below your ribs.

  1. Use a lacrosse ball or softball to mobilize soft tissues in your chest, forearms, and hamstrings.

 

  1. Try compression socks to improve circulation and avoid “cankles”. I haven’t personally tried them yet, but Mr. Starrett swears by them.

  1. Get up and walk down the aisle as much as possible. Go stand in the bathroom even if you don’t need to use it. It helps if you get an aisle seat or if you know your neighbors.

Cars (most of the airplane tips apply to cars too, but here are some extras):

  1. Cycle your seat positions frequently. Modern cars have a ton of adjustability–take advantage of it.

  1. Use the steering wheel to externally rotate your shoulders.

  1. Since you can’t get up and walk around like in a plane, make sure you mobilize a little at each stop. Prop your leg up on the hood of the car or a bench and breathe some life back into those hamstrings.

You can really benefit from spending a few minutes mobilizing after you reach your destination as well. These all seem like such small things, but in my experience they really add up and make a big difference in how I feel once I reach my destination. My body always thanks me.

The biggest thing to remember is to keep moving. If you’re not already doing this, give some of these ideas a try and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear what works for you.

Mobility for Office Warriors – Written by Coach Aaron Troyer

This article goes out to all of you doing amazing and important work out there who happen to do a majority of that work at a desk. We all know the stereotype of the person in their office leaning over a keyboard with a hunched back and shoulders rolled forward. They sit like that for 8 hours a day, week after week, and year after year. Obviously that can’t be good for them, and you already know that.

This stereotype implies a mostly inactive lifestyle and associated health issues, which by joining CrossFit you are mostly eliminating. That’s seriously awesome. Nice! But, you’re not all clear yet. There are still possible consequences on your muscular and skeletal system (aka mobility), which you probably notice much more now that you’re so active. The overhead squat is so challenging for most of us because it brings out all of our mobility limitations, especially the ones caused by this stereotypical office life.

If you’re curious about how you can counteract those negative effects, I highly recommend the book Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett. Kelly is mobility guru who changed the game, especially in the CrossFit world, and is responsible for many of the mobility techniques we see in gyms all over the world. Just in case you are pinched for time or don’t like reading, I’ll give you the big takeaways now. Be on the lookout for a deeper dive into this stuff in the future — there’s so much helpful information in this book .

Kelly gives 4 major keys for deskbound individuals, which are simple things for any of us to implement. I’ll do my best to summarize below:

  1. Reduce optional sitting

    • Certain things in your day have to be done sitting, like driving to work or flying in a plane. Most of the other sitting is negotiable.

    • If you can get a standing desk, that’s great. If you can’t, you can pretty easily stack some boxes on your desk to get your screen to standing height.

    • Consider a walking meeting instead of sitting in a conference room. Steve Jobs is known for doing this.

  1. Move 2 minutes for every 30 at your desk

    • Don’t stay down for too long in a row. Set a timer if you need to. While sitting isn’t awesome, being stagnant is worse.

    • Take a walk or bust out a few air squats in the office. The squats might look weird, but you’ll feel better after.

    • Change positions frequently and allow your legs to fidget. Sit, stand, kneel, lunge, “man-spread”, cross your legs, Captain Morgan pose, etc. are all good options.

  1. Make position and mechanics a priority

    • Think of how much you focus on a nice straight back when we deadlift or squat in the gym. Take that back position and apply it to your office time as much as possible. Every time you feel yourself slouching, take a second to reorganize and get in a good position.

  1. Give your body 10-15 minutes of daily maintenance

    • Spend a few minutes on your problem areas each day. Consistency is key. You can’t get it all done in one day.

    • An easy way to fit this time in is to sit on the floor instead of the couch when you’re watching TV. Buddy up with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or your favorite stretching position. That 10 minutes will be nothing.

For the sake of keeping this short(ish), I’ll leave it at that for now. As always, feel free to ask me any questions you have. I love talking about this stuff. Keep fighting office warriors! We need you to take care of your bodies so you can keep doing important work in the world.

Q & A With Big K – Curiosity, Stubbornness, and Having Fun

img_2455Hi friends! First off, I have to say how excited I am to give you this next article. This has easily been my favorite one to put together, and I think you’ll be just as excited after reading it. That being said, it might be a little longer than the previous ones. Hang in there — it’s worth it.

What can we learn from a professional basketball player? Sure, we could learn a silky smooth jump shot, but what if we don’t care about basketball?

To me, the biggest lesson to learn from someone who has reached that level of success is what it took to get there. I like to know their habits and mindset along the way. Few athletes make it to the professional level based on raw talent alone.

Most who succeed have really maximized the talent they were born with. They’ve played the cards they were dealt the best they possibly could. The goal is to figure out how exactly they played those cards and see what pieces we can apply to our own lives to make us more successful in whatever we choose to do.

I recently got the chance to do some Q & A with the most humble professional basketball player at our gym (also the only one, but that’s not the point), Keaton Nankivil (aka Big K, Big Killa, Keaton With the Good Hair).

If he wasn’t so much taller than us, we probably wouldn’t know he even played basketball because you’ll hardly hear him talk about himself. That’s really something, considering how impressive his basketball resume is.

Although he doesn’t particularly enjoy talking about it, I want to show you all just what kind of success he’s had. And for the record, I trimmed some stuff off this list to keep it a manageable size. Here are the highlights:

High School
State championship
4 conference championships
State Player of the Year

 

College
4 seasons at University of Wisconsin, 3 years a starter
Big-10 Championship
4 years NCAA Tournament birth, twice reaching Sweet 16

 

Professional
Going on 6 years playing for teams in Germany, Spain, Latvia, and
Italy
Multiple Finals appearances

“Ok yeah, but look how freaking tall he is. Of course he’s good at basketball.” – someone, probably.

Yes, he was born a tall guy but plenty of tall guys out there don’t have the list of accomplishments above. You also might be surprised to find out he kind of sucked when he first started. There’s a lot to be learned from someone like that, and 10 questions isn’t nearly enough. But, 10 questions will have to do for now. Enjoy!

Q1: What was your first experience like with basketball?

A1: The first basketball I remember was in 3rd grade. We played on low hoops and I was a big kid, but I mostly remember throwing the ball off the backboard over and over without making a shot. I was tall so the ball would come right back to me but I would just slam it right back off the backboard again.

Q2: How long did it take before you felt like a good basketball player?

A2: I realized I was a decent player when colleges started showing interest. I still didn’t consider myself very good at 14 or 15 years old, but I was aware that the number of kids getting that kind of attention was small so coaches must have seen some kind of potential.

Q3: What are 1 or 2 of the biggest things that you think helped you develop as an athlete?

A3: The best way I have found to develop is being curious, especially with people who have expertise. I like to ask questions and try to pay attention to what other people do and how they do it. I’ve been lucky to play with really good players and have great coaches that have a ton of knowledge. Then I try and take what I see or hear and figure out the best way to apply it to my style of play and the way I train.

Q4: What are 1 or 2 things you tried, or witnessed other people try, that didn’t help in the long run? What would you do differently if you had the chance?

A4: One thing I have seen get in the way of people improving is stubbornness. There are so many people with natural ability that end up staying at one level because they don’t want coaching. I wish I had been less stubborn in my earlier days of basketball because I realize now that it only takes time away from making improvements.

Q5: Did you have any big setbacks along the way? How did you handle them?

A5:  I have been lucky not to have any big injuries over the years. I have had a handful of small problems and surgeries that have taken time to fix but nothing that has taken me too far off track for an extended period of time. That being said, even small or chronic pains do deserve full attention so they don’t get out of control. CrossFit has really helped me look more into being proactive with my body in terms of mobility.

Q6: What do you think is currently your most valuable habit/routine?

A6: My most valuable habit might just be having fun. Like any other job, if it isn’t fun you lose passion. Having fun makes me want to play and train every day and look for new things in the game to improve on. Similar to CrossFit, there is an endless amount of strategy and individual skill to work so that keeps it interesting.

Q7: How has CrossFit helped with your basketball career?

A7: CrossFit has been something completely new to me. During a basketball season we only do basketball related practice so to have a new sport to learn is really fun. I’ve learned a lot about where my body mechanics were not where they needed to be and CrossFit has helped straighten some of that out. The atmosphere at the gym also makes it a fun place to spend time.

Q8: What advice would you give to someone struggling at something new?

A8: My advice to someone trying something new would be to be to work with people at the level you want to be at and don’t worry about failing. Just putting yourself in that setting adds so much to your training without having to think about it. Also, don’t get discouraged by comparing yourself to other people or if you aren’t improving immediately. Trust that the work you are doing is going to pay off.

Q9: What’s something people don’t realize about the life of a pro athlete?

A9: The life of a pro athlete is not as glamorous as it is made out to be. There are some major benefits to it, but it can also be pretty strange and like any job requires sacrifice in others areas of life.

Q10: Any favorite quotes or books at the moment?

A10: I don’t have any specific books or quotes but always enjoy circling back to different looks at mindfulness. It reminds me to try and keep an even keel and treat people well. I think there is valuable information in it no matter what is going on in your life at the moment.

PS – Let me give a big giant thank you to all of you who have mentioned you have actually read (and even enjoyed) these little articles. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy.