July 27 2009

Dear Readers

By Mark Sisson
83 Comments

Past “Dear Readers” blog posts (1, 2, 3, 4) have started some great discussions. As I always say, I’m lucky to have some of the most intelligent and thoughtful readers on the internet. It’s always a a pleasure getting feedback from all of you, so from time to time I’ll continue to do this style of blog post.

It’s a mixed bag this week. Email topics ranged from Primal survival food and Primal weddings to food cravings and bucking the trend as a registered dietitian.

Check out the questions (and photos!) below and make yourself heard in the comment board.

Thanks, everyone!

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Question 1

A recent discussion with friends brought to mind another potential topic for MDA.  We were discussing food options for two similar situations. First for prolonged backpacking or remote camping situations. Second for world crisis times such as a flu outbreak where you just want to be able to survive and eat at home for a few weeks, preferably without needing electricity or refrigeration. I know there are companies selling various food products (Mountain House for example), but are any of them tasty, and are any of them even remotely PRIMAL? Of course in real survival situations remaining PRIMAL would be secondary, but it never hurts to plan ahead if possible.

Rodney

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Question 2

Note from Mark: You may remember our good friend Sterling from his Primal Blueprint Success Story post. He’s having no trouble staying fit (check out the photos below) but he has some questions about a new fitness goal.

I’m considering training and competing in a triathlon. A couple of questions: 1 – Will this put me in a complete state of inflammation? 2 – If you don’t think it will be detrimental to my health in the short-term, would you be willing to suggest training methods, etc?  Thanks as always for your candor and help.

Sterling

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Question 3

I am starting my third year at a university and working to become a registered dietician. I am just now starting to take my core upper-division classes.

Unfortunately, so many of these classes are conflicting with my beliefs (primal). I love food and nutrition so in what direction can I take my degree to become successful and happy? I feel like I am about to begin a life of banging my head on a wall. What should I do when I become an RD?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Shelley

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Question 4

I have no problem with feeling satisfied or full, even with small amounts of food. It’s my taste buds that spark and I “crave” (the only word I can think to describe it) makes me keep eating till I’m almost sick. I assume I will have no choice but to defeat this with will-power, but is that normal? Will I ever get past that with just diet changes, or is this a life-long fight?

Chidi

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Question 5

I would like to hear more success stories on us over 50’s folks that need a little more help and encouragement.

Is it to late when you are 60yrs old and 50 lbs over weight Female?

Where do we start? PS I got the book.

Linda

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Reader Mail

This final message isn’t a question for readers, but I wanted to share it anyway. Suz, a Mark’s Daily Apple reader, sent me these photos of her wedding. The beautiful bride and groom were recently married in a gorgeous desert ceremony wearing none other than my favorite Primal footwear. Talk about a wedding that would make Grok proud. (And don’t they look so happy!) Check out the photos and give the newlyweds your best wishes in the comment board!


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83 thoughts on “Dear Readers”

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  1. Re Question #3: Stick with it! Pander the bull*** so that you can pass your tests and become a licensed dietitian. Once you’ve done that, you can take of the mask and start helping REAL people to eat REAL food! The best way to make a difference is from within the system, so you can change the system one dietitian at a time! And perhaps convert a few more dietitians along the way. Also, think about forming a primal lifestyle club at your university. That will give you a nice social life with friends who share your passion, and an outlet for it.

  2. Shelley, I agree with Aaron, finish your degree. I am a dietitian as well but haven’t worked in awhile. You may be banging your head against the wall before you graduate. Your schooling really just teaches you the basics anyway, what you learn out in the world and on your own is your real education. It will be difficult to change the average dietitian’s thinking(won’t happen) but do what you believe and you may actually help others to feel well. Good Luck

  3. i’m just starting college this fall with an undecided major but was really looking into nutrition. My concerns were the same as Shelleys, but i think i’m gonna go for it! 🙂

  4. Sterling,
    I’m a triathlete too, and what I’ve found is that you may have to take in more carbs (like on long training days) but for the most part, your training should be long slow distance (LSD). If you keep it in a low heart rate zone, and wear a heart rate monitor to make sure, you should be fine. Some speedwork is helpful, too, but as long as you don’t increase your distances too fast, you should be ok. Make sure, too that you supplement with antioxidants.

  5. Sterling,

    Congratulations on achieving and maintaining your amazing level of health and fitness! Triathlons are a lot of fun. You didn’t mention what distance you wanted to train for. Regardless,I would check out CrossFit Endurance (www.crossfitendurance.com). You pair the short, intense CFE workouts with regular crossfit workouts and can acheive tremendous gains in speed and endurance even without putting in the kind of distance and hourt that can really harm your body. Although I’ve only tested it for running relatively short distances, proponets claim that one can compete at ultradistance events while putting in only 6-8 hours of training per week.

      1. Just want to put in another plug for Crossfit and CFE to get ready for your triathlon. I finished Ironman Florida last November in 11:02. Not exactly Mark’s caliber, but not too shabby for a first try. My training plan was based primarily on CFE workouts (particularly for running). I started training in early March using both CF and CFE. I managed to get myself hit by a car at the end of June (be sure you stop for those red lights when you’re on your bike) which forced about a month break in training (5 cracked ribs / 3 cracked vertebrae). That also pretty much eliminated any heavy lifting for me. I used CF metcon and CFE workouts almost exclusively. If you’re looking at a half Iron distance or shorter CF & CFE should set you up very well. If you’re planning a full Iron, you might consider throwing in a couple long runs and bike rides over a 6 month prep. Good Luck!!

    1. Q#2: Also an added comment regarding Terezas feedback. I would be a bit cautious doing only Crossfit workouts. Some of their workouts seem to be overkill on the nervous system. For example, doing highly technical lifts like power cleans in a fatigued state after doing deadlifts in a circuit training fashion is dumb and is a sure fire way to injury. Similarly, doing high rep front squats will tire your rhomboids statically even before your legs are tired. Technically demanding lifts should be done first in your workout with plenty of rest and then move on to lactic acid training if the need arises

  6. Sterling, you look fantastic and doubt you’ll have to change much of your diet and exercise program. I’ll be curious to hear others chime in about specifics regarding a training routine since I’ve also had interest before in participating in an event.

    The primal footwear is hilarious. Congrats! Are they sold in Canada anywhere or strictly online?

    1. Michael,
      Some Mountain Equipment Co-op stores have them in stock, or you can order from their website. But they only have a few styles so the vibram site might be your best bet depending on where you live.

  7. Shelley. . .that’s great that you’re getting your degree! We need advocates in the field, and I think your timing is just right–there are tiny glimmers in CW now, and you’ll be on the forefront.

    Hi Linda. . .we’re out here! I’m not ready to call myself a “success story” yet, but I’m 57, 30 lbs. overweight, and I’ve lost 6 pounds in 5 weeks of being primal. Walking is a really good start for exercise, and keep looking on this site for ideas–lots of amazing recipes to keep your excitement up, links to other great sites, and plenty of encouragement on the forum.

    Suz. . . how delightful!! Congrats!!

  8. I’ve been following Suz and very much enjoyed the photos of her and her man (Urbanbluegrass). As a fellow lacto-primal guy, I also enjoy seeing what those two are eating through the gorgeous meal images Suz posts via Twitter.

  9. Question 4 about food cravings – quote:

    I assume I will have no choice but to defeat this with will-power

    I don’t know that’s true. There may be ways around that.

    I’ve read that this can be because of some kind of emotional thing in the background – for example, a parent who gave a child that wanted attention sweets instead. In that example, I read that the woman with the problem got over it by repeating an affirmation while having “tapping”.

    I don’t know anything about “tapping therapy” but it sounds plausible. There’s a doctor who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres who’s written about eye-movement therapy. With that, since rapid eye movement seems to play a part in dreams, doctors have reasoned that getting someone to recount a traumatic experience while the doctor moves a pen that the patient follows with his eyes can help. It seems to work.

    Sometimes I think there’s a route in through the body where will power and just talking about something don’t help.

    If there is some kind of emotional trauma at the bottom of the cravings, those kinds of approaches might be worth looking into. Maybe even just recording oneself making positive affirmations and playing them back through an iPod every morning would help.

    1. If it is an emotional piece (and not a need for more fat in your diet), “tapping”—aka EFT—is pretty cool stuff. My wife does it with her clients, and it’s great. I’ve used it for allergies, emotional stuff, you name it.

      emofree.com is the main site for it, where you can look up all kinds of info.

  10. Question # 3, the future dietitian: Go for it!

    I’m sure that there are lots of people like me, wanting dietitians who will listen and help design an eating plan that matches our needs.

    I get tired of dietitians who just dispense the same old one-size-fits-all tripe.

    But don’t limit yourself to one style of eating. The world is filled with all kinds of individuals, and you will undoubtedly find lots of people with unique requests. Be flexible, and you’ll do well while performing a valuable service.

  11. #1Rodney: do you have the space to store jars? If so, do some canning & pickling! Also don’t forget about your dehydrator. You can make entire meals in one, besides the dried fruits, vegs, & jerkies. Mark posted a pemmican recipe/how-to here. Also, don’t forget that sometimes Nature can provide some snacks on the trail. Study the area you plan to backpack in ahead of time. Take a wilderness survival course – preferably one that focuses on wild foods (Check out books by Tom Brown)

    #2Sterling: You just keep getting/looking better, don’t you? Hubbah-Hubbah!

    #3Shelley: I agree: play the game ’til you get your degree, then bust out girl! Maybe even go to graduate school & prove them all wrong with your “ground-breaking” discoveries…

    #4Chidi; hahaha, I’m the Wrong person to ask about That one. I’m battling my oown cravings. So I’ll look here for anwers too!

    great pics Suz! (now maybe they’ll quit teasing me about mine)

    1. I second Tom Brown!

      He also does a survival camp in the North East if you can afford it. He’s the best of the best (he was also paid a million dollars to develop the Marines(?) survival program).

      1. My dad has been to his classes several times. My kids always loved going to “Crazy Grandpa’s” in the summers because of all the adventures they’d have in the Sierras. My dad also helped another similar guy teach a course in Germany. He sent me all of Tom Brown’s books. They are definately great reading! My dad, he’s 69yrs young & still at it!

      2. ooooooo I would LOVE to go to something like that!! (now accepting charity donations!! LOL)

  12. For question 1… It’s going to depend on where you’re located and the season when you go, but don’t forget that generally there are a lot of options for “living off the land”. Seasonally, near my own house, I’ve already identified wild carrots, wild mustard, and chicory plants growing in abundance. How much more primal can you get?

    There are several field guides to edible plants available on the market. I’d just recommend that you (a) identify carefully, as some good plants and some poisonous ones look similar at first glance, and (b) become acquainted with them *before* you need them.

    1. I am 53 yrs old and have lost 60 pounds doing a slightly modified version of Mark’s plan. I find that eliminating the sugar, processed food and grains ( except for small portions of steel cut oats )were a great benefit to me.
      Sugar is like I drug for me so I have not eaten any in 7 months.

      Good Luck!

    2. Exactly… you may need to go more strict in the beginning, if you’ve had weight issues for a long time. (I’m 37, have cut out all sugars & most carbs for the past three weeks, and I’m just now starting to drop a few pounds). I also do CrossFit four days a week, and have for about 18 months – and while exercise is essential, it’s only a part of the equation.

      You may want to get yourself tested for your DHEA levels, too… or, not that I’m prescribing anything here, but I’m just saying, I heard of a guy who just takes DHEA, since there are no ill effects or “rebound” issues, and it works great for him. Ahem. (You can check out a book called The DHEA Breakthrough, or The Metabolic Plan for more, if you’re interested.)

  13. RE: #4

    Chidi,

    I’ve found that as my diet improves, food “cravings” are becoming less pronounced. Also, I’ve been able to differentiate between different types of cravings. When I crave carbs, I have a feeling that I would call “the munchies”, which feels different than a healthy hunger. When you have a craving, try to pinpoint exactly how you feel–are you hungry? Munched-out? thirsty? bored? lonely? tired?, etc. By pinpointing your exact feelings, you may be able to restore homeostasis in a healthy manner. If you have emotional issues surrounding diet, consider a behavior modification technique such as Richard Bandler & John Grinder’s Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).

  14. Q1: Pemmican. The real stuff. 50% pulverized bone dry lean mixed with 50% rendered fat, by weight. Traditionally this was made with large ruminants (like cows or bison or deer). Best to stick with tradition. Pemmican is shelf stable for decades. 1 pound of it is 3000kcal or so. For both backpacking and survival stores it is perfect. The fuel to weight ratio for backpacking is as good as it gets and the long shelf life makes is a perfect survival food. It is also totally primal.

    -E

  15. Q5: Linda – I’m 50 years old & went primal 11 weeks ago. And I’ve lost 53 pounds. It’s been simple – walk the dogs every morning for an hour & do couple short full-body weight lifting sessions per week. And eat primal – life is good & getting better every day. Just get started.

    1. That is so awesome! congrats 🙂 I keep trying to drop info nuggets to my mom (she’s 61) hoping she’ll catch on, but she “doesn’t like vegetables and [has] to get XXg of fiber a day!” blah blah blah… *sigh*

  16. Q4: look on the website of Jimmy Moore of livin la vida low-carb and search for the Julia Ross podcast. Maybe the cravings are more than just something emotional/psychological… interesting podcast!

  17. #4 are the cravings just for non primal foods, or are they just to eat in general. Being primal for so long has made parties and get togethers etc easy..I just don’t crave or miss grains, sweets,etc…but man I can put back 6 eggs, 2 avocados, and a steak in one sitting…I crave vegetables and fats like crazy

  18. Linda at #5, it is never too late! I started the primal lifestyle at age 63, overweight and hardly able to move. 6 months later I am a different woman and there’s a lot less of me. Where do you start? I started by cutting out grains, sugars, cooking everything from scratch, and increasing the amount of fat I eat. It wasn’t easy overcoming 20 years of anti fat conditioning but one day at a time is the way to go. You can do it! Just take that first step.

  19. Linda at #5

    I am 66 and I have been on Mark’s diet for 7 months except that I keep my carbs to less than 30. I follow all of his exercise recommendations and do intermittent fasting.

    It is a long slow process when you are older. However, I am never hungry, I don’t have energy swings and I have no more gastric distress. So I can and will stay on this diet forever.

    Oh, by the way, I have lost 16 lbs.

  20. Sterling, question #2. I have to disagree with Aubrey, Long slow distance training is not a good idea. There is a reason endurance athletes are among the most injured and constantly inflammed of all sports. Reason 1, they train waaaay too much and Reason 2, they train the wrong way.

    Tereza is absolutley correct in suggesting CrossFit endurance. Your best bet is to find a CrossFit Affiliate near you, get strong, learn how to run effeciently and safely and follow the training plan on crossfitendurance.com. Read everything they have to offer and watch all the videos. Go intensity over volume and you’ll be fitter than ever with a fraction of the stress on the body. Plus you won’t have to go all carb crazy. Less is more!

    Good luck and nice work on getting as far as you have!

    1. Wow! That was great. . .I checked out the related video on his sample meal plan, and it was very primal (except for 1 piece of toast!)

    2. Oh man! That was awesome! If I were to put up a poster in my room like I did back in the day with Cory Haim/Cory Feldman, it would now be one of Jack. He’s so awesome!

  21. Wow! Thanks so much for posting my question Mark! I’m so happy you’ve addressed my concern. I’m not the only one with it, I see.

    I can see that the general consensus is to go through with the degree and then start to chip away at all the CW. I’m sure I’ll get whiplash during a lot of my classes from shaking my head!

    I’m a very passionate person by nature so I’ll need to keep my beliefs to myself in classes for now. Once I learn to express myself better I’ll be ready for any debates! Also, the more I learn on my own the better equipped I’ll become.

    I appreciate the nice comments and I’m fully planning on bringing the primal lifestyle to the forefront wherever I go. I’m living, walking proof of it.

    Suz, what a beautiful and unique wedding. Congrats!

    Shelley

    1. Keep plugging away at the degree! I’m a dietitian/personal trainer and I find you can make a difference if you have put in the (conventional)work and thereby earn some respect.Then just work in private practise!
      My biggest problem is my husband of 20 years.Although he can’t believe his luck that we now have butter and bacon to eat, every day he asks me if I’m ‘over the fad diet yet”.Grrrr!

  22. #2
    Forget LSD! Do some research on crossfit endurance. People who only train with crossfit and CF endurance are easily finishing triathlons and ultra marathons without putting in miles and miles of running. And they do this while maintaining muscle mass too.

  23. Mark,
    Thank you for posting my question. I have gotten some very good responses. I am already seeing a slight decrease in these cravings after just a week. Some munchies,and I think i can tell it’s for carbs. I have also started eating very slowly and savoring everything. It makes me full faster but I don’t feel like my taste buds want to keep busy so much.

    I also feel a whole lot of energy during the day compared to what I’m used to. This is great.

    1. Chidi,

      This may seem counter-intuitive but hear me out…have you tried fasting? Two thing usually happen with fasting, in regards to eating (when that time comes).

      First, your body starts to crave different types of energy (food). It is logical to assume that if your body is not getting energy for a period of 18-30 hours (typical paleo fasting lengths), then it will crave high energy foods like fat and energy types that have prolonged energy output, like protein. Make sense right?

      Second, and this may seem weird but you would think that you would eat a ton after a fast but you don’t/can’t. Most of the time I get full rather quick and there is no mistaking that I am full! I comes on quick and I get the, “If I eat another bite a may get sick” feeling!

      Fasting has many benefits, you should check it out!

    2. I find that if I eat too much fruit I can easily flip the switch from fat burning to carb burning resulting in a return of extreme hunger and resultant over-nibbling on more fruit and nuts. My blood sugar is very sensitive, however. I tested this last week by cutting down to 1/2 apple or five strawberries and it worked. Even that little bit of fruit (the whole apple) was causing my blood sugar to fluctuate enough for highs and lows and thus cravings. I used to always be hungry, now, as long as I keep my insulin from jagging out of control, I’m just not.

  24. Hey guys – thanks for the advice and comments. I’m going to try a mini-sprint first. And don’t worry…if I feel that I’m getting too tired, too inflamed, etc – I’m done. But please keep the advice coming.

  25. Question #2: Since you are involved in a mostly endurance event, you should consider training the opposite end of the spectrum at the gym. In other words, you should primarily train for strength using 80-95% of your 1 rep max weight for a lift (compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts and power cleans), doing 5 reps or less. Also consider doing hill sprints which improves anaerobic threshold as well as your VO2 max without doing boring steady-state cardio. A lot of endurance athletes make the dumb mistake of training for endurance even while at the gym which is redundant. I picked up this idea from strength coach Charles Staley.

  26. LSD isn’t necessarily about doing a huge volume – it’s mostly about making sure that your body can handle the particular time/distance demand that a race will put on it. The SLOW part is not the ‘chronic cardio’ that Mark talks about – it’s about keeping your HR low so that you can build base endurance.

    1. Aubrey…

      Keeping your heart rate low does NOT build “base endurance” (whatever that is anyway…). Your body adapts and gets better when you challenge the limits of its capacities. Pushing the limits of your cardio-vascular system through, say, sprinting stimulates your body to produces more red blood cells, more mitochondria, and thereby increase your ability to use oxygen (VO2 max). That would be how you build your “base endurance”. You develop better endurance capacity through high intensity training, not LSD. OH, and the L stands for Long, which means lots of it, as in high volume, as in chronic cardio. LSD is pretty much the definition of chronic cardio.

      And have you ever thought about what it means to “make sure your body can handle the particular time/distance”? I would assume you mean preparing your body to handle a long race without a) completely bonking or b) getting injured. I’ve already addressed how to build the aerobic capacity to handle longer distances above, which only leaves the injury aspect. LSD training has the ever so lovely side effect of extreme stress on the muscles, joints, and connective tissue. I don’t know a single runner or triathlete who trains using the (out of date) LSD method who isn’t constantly nursing some kind of injury. Pulled hamstrings, inflamed piriformis, low back pain, plantar fasciaitis, knee pain, you name it. Endurance athletes seem to wear their injuries like a badge of honor.
      Plus there’s the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation caused by overtraining the aerobic/oxidative metabolic pathway. LSD training ages your cells at about the same rate as a heavy smoker or hard drug user. Zippity do. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

      Oh, and did I mentioned the catabolic, muscle wasting effect of LSD training? It causes your body to break down muscle for fuel, meaning that over time, you will LOSE muscle mass and become even weaker than before you started the program.

      So tell me again what’s so great about LSD training?

  27. Q#2: Also an added comment regarding Terezas feedback. I would be a bit cautious doing only Crossfit workouts. Some of their workouts seem to be overkill on the nervous system. For example, doing highly technical lifts like power cleans in a fatigued state after doing deadlifts in a circuit training fashion is dumb and is a sure fire way to injury. Similarly, doing high rep front squats will tire your rhomboids statically even before your legs are tired. Technically damnding lifts should be done first in your workout with plenty of rest and then move on to lactic acid training if the need arises.

    1. Always interesting how people that don’t know anything about a program feel free to criticize, isn’t it? Clearly Kishore isn’t really familiar with CrossFit or he wouldn’t say such silly things. CF is all about proper execution, even at high intensity. There are 1-rep max strength days with plenty of rest in between sets and then there are metabolic conditioning days with high reps, at moderate weight, executed at high intensity. At no time does CF ever advocate sacrificing your form or safety.

      For a triathlete, running and swimming (and to some extent cycling) ARE highly technical endeavours. How do you expect to train your body to handle maintaining proper execution of technical, high speed movements in a state of fatigue if you only ever do 1-rep max with plenty of rest and then hit your cardio afterwards? You fail at the margins of your experience and when you only ever seperate technical movements and high intensity cardio, you will fail when you have to do a highly technical movement at high intensity.

      Running 1 mile is the equivalent of doing 1500 single leg plyometric squats. Funny how no one ever criticizes running for being ‘overkill on the nervous system’ or that ‘it’s a sure fire way to injury’. I assure you that if you do ANYTHING that many times that fast with anything less than good form you will hurt yourself.

      Anyone who expects to be able to run after they have been on a bike after they have been swimming, SHOULD, at the very least be able to perform some good power cleans immediately after a set of deadlifts. Strong hips and solid midline stabilization with the musculur stamina to maintain good form is the name of the game.

      1. Running fatigues your adrenal glands more than anything. Nervous system fatigue accumulates from doing too much high intensity work for too long. Maybe you should get your facts right while trying to be sarcastic.

      2. Why the hell would you do power cleans after a set of deadlifts? You have no potential for power generation from high treshold motor units at this point. I’m glad I know better to not take advice from people like you.

  28. Kishore, When doing max weight technical lifts CrossFit does recommend plenty of rest. An example of a strength day workout would be some kind of steady warm up then 7 sets of 1 rep max effort for 1 exercise (like a DL or Clean). 3-5 min rest time between sets, then stretching. That’s it… after words go home and let you body recover.

    The metabolic workouts may involve a combination of the same technical movements but with lighter weights. Every rep should still be done with proper form to prevent injury. If your form suffers you’re going to heavy. You may see a workout that calls for high rep 250lb Deadlifts combined with running, and sit ups, but that workout is designed for the elite level athletes that can deadlift 400-600lbs. Newbies should never take on the full weight until the movements have been mastered and they’ve built up their strength.
    Doing deadlifts and cleans in a circuit are not dumb and a sure fire way to injury… doing them improperly in any fashion is a sure way to injury. Plus you’ll get a way better result than circuit training with bicep curls on a bosu ball and lateral shoulder raises. That crap is just a waste of time.

    You need intensity to get the best results. Intensity is directly correlated to power. Power is moving a large load a long distance, quickly… So lifts like the clean and jerk couldn’t be more perfect.

    Aubrey, the best way to build endurance is high intensity intervals. The heart and lungs are just like any other muscle. To make it stronger you have to push the limits.

    Trying to keep your heart rate down is an out of date training method. Forget your heart rate all together… if you feel amazing after a run or race and look at your heart rate monitor and your heart rate was above your “ideal zone” does that mean you should have slowed down? Hell no, you probably could have gone faster!

    I never run my full race distance until I run the race, maybe 50% of the distance max once or twice. If you can handle a max effort interval training then distance running feels easy.

    Just my humble opinions…

    1. Power is proportional to weight and velocity. Intensity is the percentage of your 1 rep max weight for a lift.
      So, lifting 100 lbs in 1 sec and lifting 50 lbs in 0.5 sec delivers the same power. So, intensity is not the only factor.

      1. Power = (weight x distance)/time

        As in, how much does it weigh, how far did you move it, and how long did it take. Intensity is precisely (three bar equal sign) equal to power.

        If you lift, say, 75% of your 1 rep max (for any lift) at the same speed, over the same distance then, you’re right to say that is “less intense”. You generated less power and the endeavour was therefor less intense.

        In your example, moving 100 lbs in 1 sec or 50 lbs in 0.5 sec (assuming it’s the same distance you’re moving them) are both equally intense, because they are generating an equal amount of power. That’s just physics man.

        Whether we’re talking about horsepower in an engine or human performance, the measurements are the same. How heavy, how far, and how fast.

        1. What’s your definition of Intensity?
          In your example above, it’s still just physics ‘girl’.

  29. David, here’s some response from one of the best strenght coaches in world, Charles Poliquin on Crossfit. Now, the last time I checked, coach Poliquin has produced numerous olympic gold medalists and not Crossfit.

    Charles Poliquin on Crossfit:
    A: A lot of individuals love CrossFit. Many of them believe it’s the perfect program to achieve their goals. They’re very satisfied with their progress. And I have no doubt that some individuals have never been injured from CrossFit.

    That said, I have six major issues with CrossFit-type training:

    1. Lack of sufficient testing protocols

    When I looked over detailed notes from a CrossFit certification, I saw protocols for beginning, intermediate, and advanced workouts using multi-joint movements. But I didn’t see any protocols for testing trainees for structural-balance issues.

    I’ve worked with Olympians in 23 different sports, along with lots of professional athletes. Before having any of those athletes do their first power clean or squat, I do a series of tests to red-flag muscle imbalances that could increase the risk of injury.

    And if there’s a history of injuries with that athlete, then of course that’s addressed in the workout design.

    I’ll give you an example: Olympic shot-putter Adam Nelson couldn’t do power snatches before I started working with him because he had adhesions in his rotator cuff muscles. After we addressed the injury with Active Release Techniques (ART), Nelson was able to reintroduce the exercise in his workouts. Within a month he was handling personal-best weights.

    Jim McKenzie, a professional hockey player I’ve trained, went from a 281-pound close-grip bench press to 380 pounds in less than four months by focusing on corrective exercises — and that’s without doing any bench presses at all for the first three months!

    2. Focus on a single training protocol

    The protocols in CrossFit aren’t appropriate for developing the highest levels of strength or power or speed. I doubt if you’ll see any elite powerlifters, weightlifters, or sprinters using CrossFit protocols as their primary method of conditioning.

    For example, when I trained [long jumper] Dwight Phillips for the Athens Games, we worked first on structural balance, and then on increasing his eccentric strength.

    Besides winning gold medals at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005 and the Olympic Games in 2004, in training he beat some top-ranked sprinters in the 100 meters. I didn’t accomplish this by having him superset high-rep push-ups with mile runs.

    Coaches often overemphasize energy-system training with athletes, to the detriment of other physical qualities. Check out any exercise physiology textbook and look at the studies performed on elite athletes and their VO2 maxes. It’s not necessary for a baseball player — or a basketball player for that matter — to have a VO2 max of 70. [A VO2 max in the high 50s is considered outstanding for a male in his late 20s.]

    The promotional materials I’ve read about CrossFit imply that this type of training addresses all the strength and conditioning needs of an athlete, but the concept of specificity tells us that if you try to excel at everything, you aren’t likely to reach the highest levels at anything.

    This is why we don’t see individuals who can run a mile in four minutes flat that can also bench press 500 pounds.

    3. Insufficient instruction for teaching complex training methods

    It takes more than a single weekend seminar to develop the competency to teach certain types of exercises, or to prescribe protocols for complex training methods. I’d include Olympic lifts, strongman exercises, and plyometrics in this category.

    These training methods are sometimes criticized as dangerous by strength coaches. But when you look at why athletes become injured, you can often point to poor technique.

    Interestingly enough, my first comments about CrossFit got a lot of business for my PICP coaches. They got calls from CrossFit practitioners who wanted to learn how to lift properly.

    4. Inappropriate repetition brackets for complex exercises

    Although high reps and short rest intervals can be used to develop muscular endurance, these protocols shouldn’t be used with some exercises.

    This is especially true with Olympic lifts, where it’s difficult to maintain proper technique with high reps. And it’s especially difficult when supersetting Olympic lifts with deadlifts, or any other multijoint exercise. If you want confirmation, just watch CrossFit trainees do these lifts in videos on their website.

    The Olympic lifts should be used to develop power. If you want to develop muscular endurance, you should use simpler movements.

    5. Inappropriate exercise order

    In the CrossFit “Linda” workout, what’s the logic in fatiguing the lower back with deadlifts before doing power cleans? Not only does it prevent you from doing the power cleans with optimal technique, it makes it more difficult to activate high-threshold motor units. That’s why you should do all your sets of power cleans before you do deadlifts.

    Another problem is that combining weight-training exercises with sprints places an athlete at a high risk of injury, especially to the hamstrings.

    6. Endorsement of controversial exercises

    On one website of a CrossFit affiliate, I saw video clips of athletes jumping onto cars and standing on Swiss balls. I appreciate the need to use a wide variety of exercises with clients, but not if they’re high-risk exercises.

    Because of these six concerns, I can’t recommend CrossFit training, especially for those seeking the highest levels of athletic performance.

    But in the interest of being open-minded, let’s leave it at this: Despite its shortcomings, the CrossFit system is continually evolving. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes as more athletes, along with nonathletes, participate in the program

    1. Ahhhh, yes. Good old Poliquin. Another example of someone who makes his ignorance of CrossFit painfully obvious through his own statements.

      “The promotional materials I’ve read about CrossFit imply that this type of training addresses all the strength and conditioning needs of an athlete, but the concept of specificity tells us that if you try to excel at everything, you aren’t likely to reach the highest levels at anything.”

      I can’t imagine how someone as intelligent as Poliquin could take what is the STATED PURPOSE of CrossFit and somehow present that as if it is a criticism. CrossFit asserts unequivocally that its goal is to create athletes with the broadest physical capacities – physical generalists, you might call them. They will also tell you that this is fundamentally a compromise position. So I guess Poliquin and I agree: CrossFit won’t make you the absolute best at any single thing. If you want to be the world’s greatest sprinter, then by all means train using “specificity” for that sport. If on the other hand, you’re not a 1-in-a-billion genetically gifted sprinting freak and you’d rather just be generally fit and capable of doing all kinds of different things, then CrossFit is for you.

      As for the “insufficient instruction for teaching complex training methods” comment, that should really be a criticism of the fitness industy as a whole. At least CrossFit has sparked an interest in coaches learning how to do and teach more complex movements, whether it be from Poliquin or some of the higher level CrossFit speciality certs. Thank goodness for the spreading popularity of CF because it has reignited interest in dying sports like olympic lifting. If it wasn’t for Glassman and his followers, trainers eveywhere would still be telling their clients to do 3 sets of 10 reps of lateral dumbbell raises and swiss ball crunches.

      1. I’m still not convinced you can prove points 2, 4 & 5 above wrong. Also, I’m sure intelligent, sensbile trainees don’t really need a ‘Glassman and his followers’ to train smart and hard!
        Anytime someone sounds like they belong to a cult, RUN!

        1. Haha, very true, but they also don’t need a Poliquin. A good trainer is creative and find what works for them. For me CrossFit works. I use the main site for my own training (so I don’t have to think about it) and create my own workouts for my clients, just based on CF philosophies.
          I think the cult thing is pretty funny. CrossFit seems to draw a lot of ex-athletes and frat guy types that are so hardcore about they become a little obsessed. I try to stay out of that kind of stuff.

      2. Only 1-in-a-billion people train for specificity? What a ridiculous notion!
        You have high school athletes, college level athletes and pros who all require very specific game or sport related specificity in training.
        I personally have a very high composition of fast twitch fibers and I train for specific sprint training ‘for fun’, not competing in olympics. And I use specific training for that and it works great for me. I don’t do circuits of power cleans, deadlifts and sprints for that. There are much better ways to train.

        “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own” – Bruce Lee

        1. Kishore – If you have a training program that’s working for you, in line with your goals, then that’s awesome! There’s no monopoly on good programs and good results. CF is the one that works for me, in line with my goals, but it’s certainly not perfect either. I do tend to agree with many of the points raised by Shugart in his article on T Muscle.

          Poliquin in a great coach, and he certainly has contributed plenty to the world of strength and conditioning. What he does with olympic gold medal athletes (who are the 1-in-a-billion I was referring to) isn’t really too relevant to the rest of us who aren’t as physically gifted. It’s impossible to say any program is “better” than the other when we have any programs designed to accomplish many different outcomes, some specific, some general. This discussion started with contemplating the training program for a guy (Sterling) who has made great strides in getting his health back on track and is looking to tackle a new goal without damaging his health in the process. The overall recommendations from the posters on this website seems to be roughly the same: maintain a balance in your training so as not to sacrifice greatly in any aspect of your health or fitness.

          Although we may differ in our precise opinions on the subject, I think in the end we’re each recommending something in the best interest of Sterling and his triathalon goal. Ultimately it will be up to him to experiment with different protocols and see what works best for him!

          So I’m stepping off my soap box now. Always fun to debate a topic, but I don’t want this to descend into personal attacks. Given that we’re all interested enough in these topics to bother getting passionate about them, I suspect we have more in common than we have to disagree about 🙂

        2. Jocelyn, I guess it’s easy to go off on tangents in forums like these. Anyway, I’m sure Sterling must have got some ideas that he can experiment with. I would think it would be a good idea for him to experiment with his fuel sources for a triathalon. Too much simple carbs and you will be riddled with inflammation. 5-10 grams of fish oil (I personally use Nordic Naturals) a day would be good, just make sure you are consuming enough Vitamin-E (not plant sources, too much estrogen in it) and anti-oxidants. Good luck and train smart!

  30. Kishore, Great responce!

    Poliquin has definitely had some incredible success in the world of fitness. I love his work on testing hormone imbalances with body calibrations. I assure you I would not like to debate with him as his knowledge of fitness is incredible and far supperior to mine.

    I would like to state however that his is an opinion of a person who has reviewed CrossFit, not tried it. There are many other great coaches affiliated with CrossFit that have also had some tremendous accomplishments. Mike Burgener has been a huge presence in the olympic lifting world, and Mark Rippetoe in the power lifting world, both of whom have CrossFit certifications. There is so many styles of training and so many dominant people backing them it really is hard to say what is best.

    Poliquin is correct in saying that you won’t see any specialty athletes strictly CrossFit trained. That’s because CrossFit specializes in not specializing. The goal is to in the top 80% of everything, a jack of all trades if you will. No one will run a 4 min mile and bench 500lbs, but an elite CrossFitter will run a 5:00, bench 300, DL 500, clean 300 so on and so forth. I’d pay to see a competitive power lifter run an 7 min mile, or an olympic marathoner bench press his body weight. CrossFit is for broad and general fitness and for preparing for the unknown and the unknowable. So for the 2% of the people out there that are training for the olympics or elite level sports their specialty training is where they need to be.

    But for the rest of us that don’t specialize we need general physical preparedness. The ability to overcome any challenge that comes our way, whether it be running away form a attacker, deadlifting 100 sand bags to build a wall to protect from a flood, or playing with your kids. CrossFit was designed for that. I tried the traditional training style for years and am fitter now at 30 then my entire youth because of CrossFit. So as far as my experience goes, as long as you take the time to learn the proper techniques (as with any new activity) CrossFit will make the average Joe all around fitter in a shorter amount of time… without the drugs that are so common place in traditional style bodybuilding, power lifting and even the olympics (which I hate to say but we all know it’s true.) Plus it’s fun!

    I agree that CrossFit is still in it’s infancy and there is some room for improvement in the certifications. That’s why I recommend every one finds a coach that is qualified and knows what he’s talking about. If you can afford Poliuin than all power to you, but for most people CrossFit is an effective and affordable way to get supervised training (hopefully from a qualified coach)

    I’m sure that in the next few years CrossFit will continue to grow like crazy and only get better. Right now it’s growing at 5% per day, it’s been adopted by the Canadian and American Military and numerous schools. It may be against the traditional means of training, but then again at one time the world was flat, the earth was the center of the galaxy, fat made you fat and whole grains were good for you.

    P.s. with intensity i was referring to more than just weight lifting. Power can be measured in running, jumping, lifting, anything if you use weight x distance / time. Percentage of 1 rep max, is just that. It’s not the definition of intensity. The power you generate in a workout is a good method of actually identifying and tracking intensity.

    1. David, I was recently reading some coaches recommending redesigning teting protocols for special forces.
      Standard testing involves doing a number of push-ups, pull ups and other drills with a 45-lb vest and so on.
      New recommendations are to test the participants to be able to do certain tasks like shooting at a target in a room, shooting at certain colors and doing tasks that are simple when in a relaxed state, but hard when under extreme fatigue and mental pressure.

      1. I saw something on that as well. Some of the guys even perform better under stress… maybe I’ll add that to my workout. Push ups, pull ups, squats, shooting stuff… sweet!

  31. The Truth About CrossFit
    by Chris Shugart

    “Was I in the right place?” I asked myself for the second time that day.

    The little street near Southern Methodist University in Dallas was an incongruous blend of old houses and new bars teeming with college kids. It was 9 p.m. and the sun had set, making it impossible for me to read the street numbers. Finally I pulled over next to a bar called The Green Elephant to look at my directions again.

    And that’s when I saw them, a handful of men and women lunging down a long corridor holding Olympic bars over their heads. A well-built young man held a timer and appeared to be either encouraging them or yelling at them.

    I’d finally found CrossFit Dallas Central, one of 650 CrossFit affiliate gyms.

    Later I learned that the athletes — which included members of the SMU lacrosse team — were performing what the owner of the facility called a “single-movement mindfuck.” This group was on their 28th minute of overhead walking lunges, the only exercise in that day’s workout. The record was 400 meters in 20 minutes flat. The sweat poured.

    Earlier that day, at 6:45 a.m., I’d had the same experience, driving around an industrial-warehouse district in Plano looking for building numbers in the dark. That time, instead of lunging lacrosse players, I was clued in by a man running by my truck wearing a weighted vest. I followed.

    Ripping the vest off, he walked through a door with me close behind. CrossFit Plano was small but well-equipped with the standard markers of the “CF” gym: bumper plates, Olympic bars, kettlebells, dumbbells, gymnastic rings, climbing ropes, tractor tires, bands, Concept II rowers, medicine balls, pull-up bars.

    The runner dashed into the next room and began to do kipping pull-ups. I learned later he was doing “Murph”: a one-mile run in a vest followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body-weight squats, and another one-mile run, all done against the clock.

    This “WOD,” or Workout of the Day, was named after a Navy Lieutenant and CrossFit enthusiast killed in Afghanistan. Most other WODs are given girl names, like they used to do with hurricanes.

    I was there to learn the truth about CrossFit, the training phenomenon dubbed “one of the fastest-growing fitness movements on the planet” by the Business News Network. Later, I’d do interviews with CF fans and critics, make phone calls, and read everything I could find online. But I’d start by driving to Dallas and doing CrossFit … twice in one day.

    This is what I learned. This, as I see it, is the truth about some of the most controversial aspects of CrossFit.

    The Truth About CrossFit’s Training Goals

    “CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains,” says founder Greg Glassman in the Foundations document. Those domains are: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.

    CrossFit coaches like to point out that even champions in certain sports have huge gaps in their fitness, as defined by the above 10 domains. Ironman competitors score high in some areas, low in others. The marathoner dominates cardio endurance but he isn’t strong. The powerlifter is strong, but often has very low endurance and can’t do a single pull-up.

    If your goal is to specialize and compete in one sport, then CrossFit isn’t for you. Instead, the goal of the CrossFitter is to become “competent” in all 10 domains. He may never be a top gymnast but he will develop great body control. He may never win a marathon, but he can enter a 5K without training for it and finish near the top.

    Troy Dodson, owner of CrossFit Plano, says that for the CrossFitter, fitness itself is the sport. Indeed, CrossFit draws a lot of ex-athletes, and the CrossFit Games are growing in popularity and pulling big-time sponsors. If it sticks, CrossFit competition will join a distinguished list of training methods that eventually became competitive sports, including Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and strongman.

    The CF goal of overall fitness, “functional” strength, and all-around preparedness has attracted many law-enforcement agencies, military and firefighting units, and martial artists who like the “train for the unknown and unknowable” philosophy.

    According to the CrossFit website, “Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”

    Experienced CrossFitters aren’t the strongest athletes out there, but they’re stronger than most. They’re not the fastest either, but they’re fast. Their claim to fame is their completeness.

    And it’s easy to see the appeal: Why be big if you’re not functional? Why have great endurance if you have no strength and power? Why not be competent in all of those things?

    Critics point out that being “competent” at everything makes you great at nothing. It’s a valid criticism, but it doesn’t bother the CrossFit community. They revel in their versatility and believe strongly that being skilled in every aspect of fitness makes them, as their T-shirts proclaim, “unfuckwithable.”
    The truth? If you’re not competing in a specific sport that measures only a few athletic qualities, then why not become fully rounded? Why be the guy with the big bench who can’t run up a flight of stairs? Why be the guy who can run 10 miles on the treadmill but who can’t help someone move a couch?

    Perhaps CrossFitter Richard Doughty summed it up best when he wrote on a CF forum, “Does CrossFit make sense for an NFL linebacker? No. Does an NFL linebacker’s program make sense for regular people who want to be able to do everything well? No.”

    If you have a specific goal in your training — top-level competitive mountain biking, bodybuilding, a 600-pound deadlift — then CrossFit isn’t for you. You need to specialize. If you want to be good, but not great, at a variety of athletic qualities, then CrossFit is a good option. And that’s the truth.

    The Truth About Greg Glassman

    Greg Glassman is the founder of CrossFit. A former gymnast, the 49-year-old Glassman is credited with “creating” CrossFit in the 1980s, though the mix-and-match training system wasn’t officially named until much later. The first CrossFit gym was opened by Glassman in 1995 and the website was launched in 2001.

    Glassman is a controversial figure, quick to make enemies. While he’s revered by some in the CrossFit community (many of whom clamor to get their photos taken with him), he’s also been called a “lunatic” by at least one former CF coach. “The major problem with CrossFit is Glassman himself. His personality, his ego … he’s now doing CrossFit more harm than good,” said the former coach, who asked not to be identified by name because of ongoing friction.

    Glassman is frequently confrontational to those who question his protocols. A couple of years back, TC wrote the following snarky lines in one of his Atomic Dog columns:

    “…and screw Crossfit and their like. What, you have so little imagination that you need a website for housewives and pampered stockbrokers to give you your daily, completely arbitrary workout?

    Friday’s workout:

    Run 400 meters

    Do 20 push-ups

    Dance like a cast member of the Broadway musical Cats for 15 minutes

    That’s a workout! You’re all winners!

    Jesus!”

    In retaliation, Glassman publically challenged to a $10,000 competition against a female CrossFit athlete. When he received no reply, he called TC a “T-Nation clown.”

    Oddly, he didn’t challenge TC himself. Perhaps this is because Glassman is admittedly overweight and no longer does CrossFit WODs, according to a 2005 New York Times article. Sure enough, photos of Glassman show a man who looks out of shape.

    In addition, when Glassman asked Testosterone contributor Dan John to defend CrossFit and Dan refused, Glassman referred to him as a coward and cut ties. Still, Dan, who trained two years in the CrossFit style, is acknowledged by many CrossFitters for his contributions to the training philosophy.

    One important aspect of CrossFit is the Tabata method, a protocol that involves training the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems simultaneously, using short sets of all-out effort followed by even shorter rest periods. Dan is credited with introducing the Tabata method — first used in Japanese research, and later tested with elite athletes in a variety of sports — to regular gym rats looking for quick fat loss.

    Despite the cutting of ties, most CrossFitters still give Dan a lot of credit for their training protocols. Dan, by the way, tells me that he’s never made a penny from his CrossFit contributions.

    Another example of Glassman’s reportedly heavy-handed style: A master of “Google spanking,” Glassman responded to a lawsuit filed by Makimba Mimms, a former Navy CrossFitter who claims he suffered permanent disability from a CrossFit workout, by posting a video of children doing the allegedly dangerous workout, which was sarcastically renamed “Makimba.” (CrossFit and Glassman were not named as defendants in the suit; Mimms was ultimately awarded $300,000 for his injuries.)

    The truth about Glassman? He’s a leader, an innovator, and, it seems, a man who’s not easy to get along with.

    For the record, Testosterone requested an interview with Glassman to get his side on these issues, but we were ultimately refused after Glassman read a list of our proposed questions.

    The Truth About those Clowns

    Hang around long enough in the CrossFit world and you’ll no doubt hear about “Pukey the Clown” and “Uncle Rhabdo,” mascots, of a sort, for CrossFit.

    It goes like this: You puke during a CrossFit workout, you get an “I met Pukey” T-shirt featuring a clown losing his lunch. “Our goal isn’t to make you throw up, of course,” said Dodson, the Plano CrossFit coach, “but it happens sometimes. The clown T-shirt is just to lighten things up and let the person know they’ve pushed themselves hard.”

    Greg Glassman and the infamous Pukey T-shirt.

    The walls of Dodson’s facility are covered in photos, many of them showing people lying on the ground or on their hands and knees after a CrossFit workout. Throwing up, of course, doesn’t lead to increased fitness in any domain, but the lightheartedness of Pukey is forgivable. Uncle Rhabdo, on the other hand, may not be.

    Rhabdo, or rhabdomyolysis, is caused when muscle fiber breaks down, gets released into the bloodstream, and poisons the kidneys. On a CrossFit FAQ for affiliates, in a section titled “Ten Tips for Successful Affiliation (AKA Our Business Plan),” tip number four reads:

    “Don’t kill anyone. Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially lethal threat to newcomers; be very careful. This is a very real and present danger. Avoiding ‘rhabdo’ should be the primary concern of first- and second-time workouts. Throwing [an] unknown newbie into an established group class is an invitation to rhabdo.”

    That’s the official line, at least. Hardcore CrossFitters sometimes have a different opinion. On CrossFit’s forums, those who claim to have developed rhabdo from standard WODs are called “pussies.” Others claim that rhabdo is almost impossible to get from any type of training and is found more often in car-accident victims and the occasional ill-prepared marathon runner. One CrossFit critic has said that the warnings about rhabdo were more of a marketing gimmick to show how tough the workouts can be.

    Whatever the case, it’s not the potentially injurious nature inherent to all intense forms of athleticism that garners criticism; it’s the sometimes flippant response by CrossFit, symbolized by the T-shirt with the image of a dying clown.

    Glassman dismisses most of the “CrossFit is dangerous” criticisms with the macho posturing for which he’s become known: “If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don’t want you in our ranks,” he said in that 2005 New York Times article.

    A CrossFitter dresses as Pukey at a CrossFit event.

    The truth about the clowns? Pukey is silly fun. Uncle Rhabdo is in poor taste, to say the least. Glassman? As charming as ever.

    The Truth About CrossFit Women

    It’s said that CrossFit makes men small and women hot, and every female CrossFitter is a stunning example of female athleticism and sexuality.

    We can’t argue with the second half of that statement.

    The Truth About CrossFit Being Anti-Bodybuilding and Anti-Powerlifting

    Is CrossFit “anti-building” or “anti-powerlifting”? Yes … and no. The biggest criticism CF has of bodybuilding is that bodybuilders aren’t “functional.”

    Remember, CrossFit is anti-specialization. Bodybuilding and powerlifting are all about specialization. In that sense, CrossFit is also anti-endurance and anti-anything else that focuses too much on any one of the 10 domains of fitness. CrossFit advocates, however, do state that CF can be used to supplement sport-specific training for competitive athletes. In that sense, CrossFit functions as GPP, or General Physical Preparedness.

    Whether someone chooses to specialize in hypertrophy or pure strength, or chooses to build some muscle while simultaneously chasing cardio endurance, flexibility, power, and other goals, is a matter of preference. The powerlifter chooses to chase one domain and would rather be able to do one heavy rep for a PR than 300 “air squats” for time. Controversy arises, however, when Glassman states that CrossFit leads to better hypertrophy than natural bodybuilding.

    Specifically, he offers this hierarchy of effective mass-gaining strategies, ranked from most to least effective:

    1. Bodybuilding on steroids

    2. CrossFitting on steroids

    3. CrossFitting without steroids

    4. Bodybuilding without steroids

    In other words, Glassman claims that natural CrossFitters have more muscle mass than natural bodybuilders, based on this argument:

    “The bodybuilding model is designed around, requires, steroids for significant hypertrophy. The neuroendocrine response of bodybuilding protocols is so blunted that without ‘exogenous hormonal therapy’ little happens. The CrossFit protocol is designed to elicit a substantial neuroendocrine wallop and hence packs an anabolic punch that puts on impressive amounts of muscle, though that is not our concern. Strength is. Natural bodybuilders (the natural ones that are not on steroids) never approach the mass that our athletes do. They don’t come close.”

    When challenged, CrossFit likes to roll out their token bodybuilder, Josh Bunch.

    But Bunch had used traditional bodybuilding methods for years before adopting CrossFit. He has also said, in interviews, that he modified CrossFit to fit his bodybuilding goals, adding “hypertrophy-inducing and muscle-shaping isolation exercises on top of core CrossFit programming.”

    Likewise, some of the most well-developed female CrossFitters had great bodies before they ever discovered CrossFit; some even competed in figure and bodybuilding pre-CrossFit.

    The truth? In my research, the only CrossFitters I’ve seen who display the hypertrophy of a natural bodybuilder built their bodies with traditional bodybuilding techniques first, then adopted CrossFit.

    Yes, CrossFit can build muscle, especially in the newbie or even the experienced trainee who hasn’t changed his program in years. And there are some impressive physiques to be seen in CrossFit gyms. But no one is ever going to win a bodybuilding contest, natural or otherwise, by using only CrossFit workouts.

    The Truth About Cookie-Cutter Routines and Bad Programming

    Talk to enough CrossFit coaches and you’ll hear about how members of elite military units train right beside housewives and grandmas at CF gyms, all of them using the same workouts. For the most part, this is true.

    CrossFitters talk a lot about “scalability.” In other words, people in various stages of fitness can perform the same WOD but scale it to fit their ability level. Workouts are scaled by altering load, rest, and intensity. One person in a group class may be doing thrusters with a PVC pipe; another may be using a 135-pound barbell.

    The CrossFit philosophy is that every athlete and every regular guy or gal needs to develop the same 10 fitness qualities. The seemingly random WODs do this. “We’re asked for workouts for baseball, karate, swimming, dance, boxing, but they all get the same thing: CrossFit,” Glassman wrote in a CrossFit Journal article.

    This is where you often see a disconnect between Glassman and owners of CF-affiliated gyms. The ones I spoke with are more open to specificity. In fact, many of them check out the online Workout of the Day but then go with their own workouts instead. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but they choose their own flavor.

    Strength and conditioning coaches often describe CrossFit’s programming — or lack thereof — as senseless and random. Alwyn Cosgrove notes that this “all over the place” programming can be dangerous:

    “A recent CrossFit workout was 30 reps of snatches with 135 pounds. A snatch is an explosive exercise designed to train power development. Thirty reps is endurance. You don’t use an explosive exercise to train endurance; there are more effective and safer choices.

    “Another one was 30 muscle-ups. And if you can’t do muscle-ups, do 120 pull-ups and 120 dips. It’s just random; it makes no sense. Two days later the program was five sets of five in the push jerk with max loads. That’s not looking too healthy for the shoulder joint if you just did 120 dips 48 hours ago.”

    Mike Boyle adds, “I think high-rep Olympic lifting is dangerous. Be careful with CrossFit.”

    And here’s Charles Poliquin: “If you try to do everything in your workout, you get nothing. CrossFit is different, and maybe even fun for some people, but it’s not very effective. No athlete has ever gotten good training like that.”

    The WODs come straight from CF headquarters, but it’s up to individual trainers to decide how they’re used. Many of these trainers are officially certified by CrossFit, but that means less than it seems. For $1,000, you can earn CrossFit’s Level 1 certification in a single weekend course. (Level 2 costs $500, and subsequent certifications cost $250.) That includes lectures and hands-on demonstrations, but no written test.

    No one argues that CrossFit workouts aren’t challenging. They sure as hell are. The question is over the disconnect between “hard” and “smart.” The truth is that every veteran strength coach I interviewed who’s familiar with CF had serious reservations about its programs.

    The Truth About the CrossFit “Cult”

    CrossFit has been called the fitness equivalent of the Taliban. “CultFit” is a term of derision frequently used in heated forum discussions. And it’s easy to compare the doe-eyed devotion to CrossFit to similarly disparaged “HIT Jedi” or members of “Pavel’s Kettlebell Kult.” In fact, more than one strength and conditioning coach I spoke with compared Glassman to Arthur Jones, which could be a compliment, a condemnation, or a bit of both.

    Again, there’s a disconnect here between CrossFitters and their charismatic leader. CrossFit affiliates are often more open-minded about other training styles and sport-specific goals. Glassman is more of a hardliner.

    But is CrossFit a “cult?” This is subjective, but to my way of thinking CrossFit is no more a cult than Westside-style powerlifting, or training with kettlebells, or pursuing a sport like Brazilian jiujitsu. Sure, there’s a sense that CrossFitters seem to enjoy being invested in a training system that’s different from — and, in their eyes, vastly superior to — competing systems. But you can say that about lots of people you know who’re serious about training.

    That said, Glassman sometimes comes off as a classic cult leader, charismatic and single-minded and perhaps not 100 percent grounded in the same reality the rest of us perceive. But as long as he avoids putting cyanide in the Kool-Aid he serves his trainees, it’s difficult to see a problem with that.

    The Truth About the Kipping Pull-Up

    Of all the controversial aspects of CrossFit, it’s their pull-up variations that often cause the most outrage.

    CF uses a kipping pull-up and chin-up. This is a pull-up initiated by a body swing and a hard pull to the chest. In other words, it’s much different from strict pull-ups from a dead hang, which are often used by CrossFitters as warm-up exercises. Kipping pull-ups, with the momentum and body English, allow for higher reps.

    Critics are quick to attack: “That’s cheating! CrossFit encourages poor form!”

    At least, that’s what I said, when I considered myself one of those critics. But after learning how to do it and applying it in a CF workout, I reject my own criticism. It’s like comparing a traditional shoulder press to a push press. The latter isn’t just a “cheat” version of the former. It’s a different exercise, one that perhaps offers more carryover to real-life challenges.

    Then there’s the jumping pull-up.

    Again, it seems easy, like a pull-up shamelessly cheated. But if you do it right, with an explosive drive to the bar, followed by an effort to actively push yourself back down, it’s a whole new exercise.

    Am I going to forgo the dead-hang pull-up in favor of these cool new variations I just learned? No way; I think the strict pull-up is better for hypertrophy. But the others are nice variations to keep in the toolbox, along with jump squats, push presses, and other explosive variations on traditional exercises.

    The Truth About CrossFit and 300

    When the movie 300 hit the big screen, people marveled over the actors’ physiques. Some credited CrossFit for these transformations, and sure enough, some CrossFit gyms quickly put up 300 movie posters. But did CrossFit really develop those Spartan bodies? Yes and no.

    The cast was trained by Mark Twight, founder of Gym Jones. The workout videos released do resemble CrossFit, and Twight was, at one time, affiliated with CrossFit.

    From there, the story gets complicated, with a lot of “he said, she said.” But the gist seems to be this: CrossFit claims Twight stole their intellectual property, with a training system that seems as if it could have been cut-and-pasted from the CF playbook.

    Twight says he’d already severed ties with CrossFit and had created his own training style by the time he worked with the 300 actors. In an essay on the Gym Jones site, Twight seems to address the controversy without mentioning any names:

    “I learned and practiced several different types of training during the 15 years I earned my living as an athlete. I benefited from relationships with many mentors and coaches. I repay those teachers by not remaining a student. Instead I add their teachings to my own experience and knowledge to create my own way.”

    The truth here is muddled. The training styles are similar, but how do you copyright a training style that fully admits to being a mish-mash of other disciplines?

    One pattern does become clear though: Where Glassman and CrossFit go, bad blood and broken ties follow.

    The Whole Truth, Nothing But

    Will CrossFit be a fad that fades within the next few years? Maybe. But right now it’s going strong, with no shortage of new gym owners willing to pay $1,000 for the annual affiliation fee. (That’s on top of the $1,000 for Level 1 certification, which is a prerequisite to becoming an affiliate in North America.)

    Some of these affiliates are expansive, high-dollar facilities; others are simply garages in suburban neighborhoods. One CrossFit coach, after I promised him anonymity, said that he worries about the fast growth of CrossFit. “Let’s just say that quality control is down,” he told me.

    But let’s step back from the Internet pissing contests, politics, lawsuits, and internal drama just a moment and look at the big picture. Right now in America, more than 65 percent of the population is overweight or obese. Kids are dying from adult diseases largely brought on by the basic lack of movement. With those dreary facts in mind, it seems silly to get into bitter debates over any single style of exercising. Allegiances and preferences aside, I’m just glad to see people getting into a gym, whether it’s Gold’s, Curves, or a CrossFit gym in some city’s warehouse district.

    Still, I know as well as anyone that “can’t we all just get along?” leaves everyone unsatisfied. We need closure.

    Is CrossFit the only training system you’ll ever need, as its founder and its most enthusiastic members claim? No. And most CrossFitters I’ve communicated with will acknowledge that. Is CrossFit a fun, challenging, effective training method? Yes … but only if the benefits it offers are the ones you seek. As long as its goals match your goals, I recommend it.

    Note: Special thanks to Troy at The Pound; if you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I highly recommend a visit. Also, thanks to Sam at CrossFit Dallas Central.

  32. That was a long one, I think the battle between traditional trainers and Greg Glassman will be long and treacherous… but while that’s going on I’ll be building my own fitness empire and retiring to a beach some where. This topic is consuming too much of my life so I’m out. It’s been nice debating a fascinating subject with ya!

    1. That’s true, too much back and forth debating and my cortisol levels have already made me gain 10 lbs of fat!

  33. I’m so encouraged by all the 50+ folks out there who have changed their lives with primal! GROK ON!

    #2 Sterling… I’d go check out the CFE site Tereza suggested and supplement with some CF style workouts. CF is unparalleled (IMO) for developing overall fitness and CFE is a great supplement to build more endurance (also IMO). At the very least check it out. What have you got to lose by looking into it eh?

    #3 Get your degree and then rock the boat from the inside.

    Awesome wedding pictures you two! You’re such a cute couple. Good Luck to ya! 🙂

  34. I suggest those who think crossfit and oly litters aren’t using crossfit to achieve elite fitness to check out Mikes Gym. Burenger trains olympic team lifters and also has a crossfit gym. I’ve been at crossfit for over 2 years and seriously lifting since February. I have nothing but amazing words to say about crossfit and what it has done for me. My fitness level had surpassed any fitness level I had when I was an elite cyclist. Find a good gym with knowledgable trainers, go to a cert or seminar, train hard and rest. Your body is the machine!

  35. Hi All –

    I’m new here and to PB, generally. Right now I’m reading the book and the materials on this site, but I’ve still got a lot to learn, so apologies in advance for my ignorance.

    In regard to the reader asking about triathlon training, I’m wondering why there’s been no mention of Maffetone-style, super low end, aerobic training here. Mark Allen and Mike Pigg had great success with it, and Maffetone’s recommended heart rates seem perfectly consistent with the PB recommended 55-75% zone.

    Of course Maffetone eschews weights and sprints in the “base” phase, and Maffetone’s diet recommendations conflict somewhat with PB as well. So a “pure” Maffetone system might not be consistent with PB. From my experience with Maffetone training I can also say with confidence that his method requires a lot more time that a Tabata or CrossFit session, but, it seems, not much more time than the PB recommendation of 2-5 hours per week of low level aerobic movement. Could someone familiar with Maffetone’s method explain the potential drawbacks of his low heart rate training for endurance events, or is it a workable system generally consistent with PB?

  36. #2 Sterling,
    I think you will LOVE the sport of triathlon.
    I have waded my way through most of the responses to you above. WOW, lots of different theories and lots of information.

    I have heard great things about Cross Fit, and have experienced great outcomes from P90x workouts. But…

    in order to be able to swim, bike and run don’t forget to swim, bike and run.

    Especially the swimming and biking. You cannot become competent at either of these disciplines without getting in the water and getting on the bike.

    Not sure why this hasn’t really been mentioned yet.

    If you are training for Sprint or even Olympic distance triathlons, you can do this with a Primal diet with very little changes necessary.

    I am training for a half ironman distance triathlon and know of others doing the same that follow a paleo/primal regime with a few modifications.

    Good Luck and have fun with it, I think you are going to find the triathlon community very welcoming and supportive!!