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Getting fit and strong isn’t always fun. It isn’t easy either.

I think some people have the wrong expectations about what it takes to get stronger and fitter. Yes, it is “fun” in its own way; usually after you’re done with the workout or enjoying the results of being consistent and committed.

But it is hard. It is supposed to be hard, and that isn’t always pleasant while you’re doing it. Actually, if it is pleasant during the actual lifting and working out, you aren’t training hard enough. It kind of sucks right in the middle. Your body may be hurting, you’re breathing hard and sweating, your heart is pounding, and you may even feel slightly nauseous.

But, you have to push your body past the comfort zone to shake it up. Make your body say; “What in the hell is going on? Since when do we need to keep lifting heavier and heavier weight, or running faster and faster? I better make some friggin’ changes to this body to handle this crap that this crazy fool keeps throwing at me.” And that is when you grow.

So You Want to Try CrossFit?

Andrea Ager CrossFit Games 2011So, you’ve heard about this CrossFit thing and you’ve decided to give it a shot. But, maybe you are a little worried because you’ve heard about it from friends who do it. Or you’ve watched a few videos of some of the elite (or insane) athletes doing crazy workouts. You don’t think you are that strong, that fast, or that fit yet.

Don’t worry about it.

Seriously. The nice thing about CrossFit is that everything is scaled appropriately for your capabilities and experience. So, everyone starts out light if they aren’t familiar with weight lifting. Heck, for the Overhead Squat I spent weeks using nothing but a wooden dowel until I became more flexible and skilled.

One of the most important things to focus on when you are just starting out is to take the time to get your form and technique perfected before trying to go heavy. Don’t be shy about scaling the lifts and WODs (i.e., workout of the day) by using less weight or scaling the technique (e.g., doing burpees without the push-up component). A good coach will recommend that when you are new and tell how you to scale, because he or she wants you to get the most out of the program and not get injured. So, focus on learning in the first few months (and it does take months) so that you become really good at the lifts and exercises. Then, once you feel comfortable and you’ve worked through the adaptation (you will be sore a lot), you can start adding more weight. Your coach will help you program that.

Exercising with a Friend

Toys lifting weights togetherI personally believe that a big reason many people fail to maintain a regular program of exercise is that they are trying to go it alone. This chart from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that more than 50% of men and women exercise solo (source). When men exercise with others, it tends to be more often with friends (e.g., I bet it’s team sports). Women, on the other hand, tend to exercise more with family.

The Benefits of Green Exercise

Ansel Adams photograph of Snake river

I first wrote about Green Exercise in post on trail running last year. It is “physical activity in the presence of nature.” There was some interesting research published that even just 5 minutes of green exercise decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. While all types of natural environments produced advantages, including green urban environments (e.g., a city park), researchers noted that those that contained water resulted in greater benefits.

Getting fit isn’t rocket science. But it isn’t “easy” either.

Diet coke junk food obesityI was reading a good post today that inspired me to say a few words on the subject of fitness and weight loss. I am continually amazed at all of the misconceptions, misinformation, and old-fashioned BS advice that keeps floating around regarding how to lose weight, get fit, and be healthy. There is no magic pill or drink, there is no magical exercise, there is no way to lose weight and be fit while continuing to eat crappy food. Sorry, if you’ve been told that and you believe it, you’ve been lied to (again) and you’re fooling yourself.

On the flip side, if you are already eating healthy, but you refuse to get serious about exercise, you won’t really be fit and healthy either. You may look “skinny”, but you won’t be strong or healthy. And I promise you that your body will eventually pay the price.

Like I said, it isn’t rocket science. If you sat down and had a really deep session of thinking about how our bodies work, why they work the way they do, and were completely honest with yourself; you would come to the same conclusion. To be an optimal physical organism (i.e., fit and healthy), you have to fuel your body with the real food it was built to run on and you need to use that body the way it was meant to be used.

I sometimes use the sports car analogy. If you take the most amazing sports car and put crappy fuel in it, it will run poorly and eventually break down. If you put great fuel in the sports car but you leave it parked in the garage and never drive it, it will eventually break down as well.

Practical Paleo & Primal – How to Sustainably Eat Better to Look & Feel Better

Fresh Paleo-friendly FoodIf you follow my blog, you know that I competed in a Paleo Challenge back in January 2011 with the rest of my CrossFit box. I was pretty darn strict with myself: No sugars of any sort (even honey), no grains at all, and no dairy products of any sort. I was very happy with the results. I lost body fat, gained muscle, have more energy, enjoy clear skin, have no more stomach troubles, and just generally feel great when I eat Paleo. It is pretty amazing. My body definitely became leaner and my muscle definition increased considerably. I even got my six pack back! And my strength kept up pretty well, so I continued to see gains in my weightlifting and improvements in my CrossFit WODs. But, the biggest benefit is how I feel. I always knew that I had issues with dairy and had reduced it considerably in my diet. But now I know that I also have issues with wheat. When I finished the challenge, I had some celebration meals that weekend that included grains and dairy. Ouch. I felt lousy for 2-3 days after that. So, I’m staying Paleo and for the best reason of all: I simply feel great when I eat Paleo and avoid grains, dairy, and sugars. It’s pretty easy to avoid those foods now and I don’t feel like I’m denying myself anything. Because it doesn’t matter how good something tastes, if you feel lousy afterwards.

Numbers Don’t Lie – Focus on Performance. Not the Mirror or the Scale

I can’t tell you how many times I hear or read; “I want his/her body!” or “How do I get that body?”. The focus is entirely on their physical appearance and they just want to hear how to achieve that “look“. Well, I have a shocking revelation for you. You don’t get that body by focusing on how you look or how much you weigh. That body is the byproduct of focusing on something else entirely: Your Performance. Take a look at the people below and tell me what they all have in common.

CrossFit Woman on the Rings Male Gymnast Rings
Olympic Female Swimmer Olympic Male Swimmers
Crossfit Female Weightlifter Crossfit Male Masters Division