Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

December 21, 2009

Crossfit Culture and the Lack of the Male Voice

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 10:52 am

As many of us are aware, there is a gendered element to almost any modern cultural practice. I was taught during my time in school to critique and question the culture that surrounds me, in effort to challenge myself as a thoughtful, informed human being and to hopefully inspire others to look at things differently too. I had not considered applying these skills to my involvement in the fitness/health sphere until recently, but when I started to think through what I was seeing and reading I knew I had to formulate some sort of commentary.

from Crossfit Unlimited

The culture of sport is, like many other aspects of life, inextricably divided on gender lines. We have addressed some of these issues in past posts on this very blog, and I don’t think I need to go through a history and update on the state of male/femaleness in American sports. Let it suffice to say that in recent years there have been considerable movements for the inclusion and acceptance of females as high-performing, capable, amazing athletes. In fact, I would go so far to say that Crossfit is doing a lot currently to empower females to their full potential, and in my brief experience with the Crossfit movement there seem to be as many female heroes doing Crossfit as there are males. As you might be picking up, my issue here is not with the treatment of females in the movement, but with the image of the males involved. So with this all in mind, here is my query – if this movement is so focused on creating a balance of health in real life, how do we account for the apparent lack of male voices discussing fitness, lifestyle and reality outside of the WOD and the gym? Is Crossfit, like the popular perception of many other strength-based programs, populated by a bunch of numskulls and jocks who care solely about their Over-head squat max?

Again, based on my short and limited experience with Crossfit, filtered through blogs, online videos and discussion boards, I’d like to think that those voices exist. There are some extraordinarily gifted and intelligent men out there who we see a glimpse of every now and again. (Jon Gilson of Again Faster and Robb Wolf come to mind). But, the overwhelming majority of writers/voices that are discussing and connecting Crossfit to real life, with personality and relatability, seem to be female. Two ladies that the team here at FAHBG like to follow are Thera Storm and Melissa Urban. My question is this: are there male voices out there writing about Crossfit AND life? And if, so why are they not rising to the top and receiving recognition within the community? To further complicate things, is the movement, by not having/encouraging such a male voice, relegating females to a particular role – as behind the scenes commentors/writers – and thus limiting their influence or agency in the Crossfit culture? I don’t even want to get into the objectification issue, as more and more hits on our blog are coming from searches for “Sexy Crossfit Girls” ect. (Not to mention 90% of the pics on the CFHQ website home page are of sweaty, good looking females.)

As a young, educated male with broad and varied interests, I would feel a lot more comfortable associating myself with the sport and community of Crossfit if it seemed like there were other, similarly interesting men in the movement sharing their experiences working out and living outside the gym. Fortunately, there are several such characters in our garage community, and I think we represent balance pretty well, pushing hard in the gym and pursuing our various interests with the same fervor. And yet, even as I am writing this, I can imagine the comments and heckling that one might endure if a male Crossfitter were to write and share about life the same way Thera and Melissa do. Perhaps this is all just that 14 year old punkrocker in me, tired of being picked on by the football team, wishing to bulk up like Henry Rollins, and still wear my politics and beliefs on my sleeve.

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This post was inspired positively by Thera’s amazing post on the value of women, Melissa Urban’s letter to her mom, and inspired negatively by the current controversy within Crossfit surrounding Robb Wolf. This is also meant as a challenge and encouragement for men in the community to speak up, write and share!

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November 29, 2009

Achtung, Baby! You are about to be swindled

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , — joshuaeller @ 11:51 am

I’ve been wanting to write something about the healthcare debate for some time now.  I hear it discussed a lot.  One of the problems that seems to underlie much of what I hear bantered about is that many people’s ideas rest upon faulty economic reasoning and wishful thinking about the way the world ought to be.

One of the biggest mistakes made is that people think that we can have it all.  After all, we are America.  We can have our pie and eat it too, thank you very much. We view trade offs as the hobgoblins of little minds. We can increase healthcare coverage without it costing us anything more than we already pay – and maybe even lower overall costs.  Yes We Can!

Thankfully, not everyone has fallen prey to this nonsense.  David Brooks, in an op-ed piece, focuses the question: “Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one.” Brooks underscores the fact that “[t]his debate is about values.” Indeed, the very way he frames the question attests to this.  About the trade-off we face, there is no question.  But if it were just a question of giving up a little economic vibrance in order to gain a little more decency, wouldn’t we be barbarians not to choose decency? How many people consciously desire to be backwards, crass, and selfish?

So, there is a trade off, and right now, it seems like a pretty easy and obvious one.  But is it?  What is the trade off? Are we really giving up a ‘decent’ society if we fail to reform healthcare by centralizing healthcare? Many economists, including Thomas Sowell, see things differently.  In fact, if you were to label the current attempt to centralize healthcare as the only ‘decent’ option, you would have fallen prey to a kind of bait-and-switch swindle.

Falling for this swindle is easy. Prices of medical care are rising. The weak and helpless in our society need care. Everyone knows that something must be done, and since the free market isn’t doing the job, we cry out for government to take over.  But did you catch the mistake?  Everyone assumes that the free market hasn’t done its job in keeping costs down (isn’t that what competition is supposed to do?). Clearly something is wrong with the market.  And you’d be right.  Because the major problems of rising costs is in fact due to the market’s response to the incentive structure imposed on the market by government regulation. And the major culprit here is third-party payments – a system promoted by regulation.

Rising costs are promoted in one major way by two different entities. First, Medicare/Medicaid. These programs provide medical care free of charge to the elderly and the poor. Second, employer-based insurance. This structure of insurance is promoted by regulation because it can be purchased by pre-tax dollars, whereas non-employer based insurance must be purchased with after-tax dollars.  You do the math.  In both cases, we have little to no up front costs to the patient.

The rules of supply and demand tell us what happens next. When something costs less, people consume more of it – demand increases.  The problem is that when demand for something increases, the price of that thing also increases.  Sounds paradoxical, right?  But get behind the curtain.  When some third-party foots all or most of the cost when you see the doctor, you will tend to see the doctor more.  But you never see the corresponding rise in prices that go along with your increased demand of the services provided by the doctor – at least not until your premium goes up.  And if your medical care is paid for through tax revenues, then you’ll never notice it. (As an aside, one unfortunate practice of Medicare and Medicaid is the use of price controls for services. The refusal of the government to pay market prices for medical services, which in turn legitimizes underpayment on the part of insurance companies, is driving many doctors to refuse to accept Medicare patients, and the widespread price cap for medical services is a major factor behind the dwindling numbers of new doctors entering the market.) People economize on things they pay for. The major problem here is the over-use of healthcare services. (There are other sources that contribute to this problem, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m stopping here.)

So that’s the problem.  And in the problem lies the true source of the solution. When people are made responsible for the use and allocation of their own dollars, they tend to go to greater lengths to understand their options among choices, and they tend to get the most out of every dollar they spend. The same logic of consumer choice applies to healthcare. People economize on their medical expenses when they themselves are responsible.  They either do not see the doctor over minor issues, or they seek out good substitutes to a doctor’s visit.  Consequently, by lowering demand, overall prices for doctors’ services fall.

How do we get to this happy place of reduced medical costs?  Here are a few thoughts you’ve probably heard before. First, incentive structures need to change. Everyone should be able to purchase their own insurance with pre-tax money.  Creating preferences for employed citizens is a form of discrimination against the unemployed, and against those employed by small firms, and it reduces their ability to purchase insurance. Second, the actual costs of medical care must apply to everyone. Nothing is free to produce, and nothing should be free to consume.  Beneficiaries of Medicare / Medicaid should have to operate under some kind of allocation plan, like a health savings account. This way, they would have an incentive to economize.

Don’t get suckered by the swindle. The government has very little incentive to economize and efficiently distribute society’s limited resources. Everything is scarce, even medical care in advanced economies.  The production of goods and services does not cease to be scarce just because the government provides them, and without a price system to tell us what to produce and how much to produce, the current healthcare reform is sure to lead to even greater inequality of care.  That seems to me the greatest indecency.

-ps- Check out this brief clip of an interview with Sowell and these myths of single-payer (government regulated) systems.

November 18, 2009

Intensity: It’s Not Just Cause We’re Crazy

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 7:07 pm

If you have already tasted the CrossFit Koolaid, then you know how we feel about intensity. To say we like it would be an understatement. Perhaps, you think, these crazy people just get off on throwing their bodies around – on the ground, on the rings, under and over weights of various shapes and sizes – and generally looking like a circus gone terribly wrong. Or maybe they just are in so much pain from their contortions that they want to get the hated workout over as quickly as possible.

While both of those factors certainly come into play, there is actually some science behind our madness. It has been documented that high intensity exercise produces more of what we all want – aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, strength, fat-burning, growth hormone production, bone density, and overall hottness – and does so in less time than conventional methods of exercise.

Dr. Izumi Tabata was the first to document the effects of max-effort intensity exercise over low intensity or moderate intensity exercise. Here is what Mark Sisson had to say about it in his post  on tabata sprints:

“Tabata’s findings from a 1996 study on moderate and high-intensity interval training helped legitimize a movement – away from chronic cardio and toward high-intensity workouts. He showed that high-intensity intermittent training actually improves both anaerobic (intensity and muscle building) and aerobic (slower, oxygen consuming) body systems, while aerobic exercise only improves aerobic systems. Of course, these findings would come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever done burpees to exhaustion, or followed a CrossFit WOD.”

Mark is referring to our belief that chronic cardio – spending hours and hours spinning your wheels on an elliptical or pounding away on the concrete at moderate or low intensity – is a poor use of your time and may even be harmful in the long run. Cardio addicts have a hard time hearing that their beloved 6 miles a day is putting unnecessary stress on their joints and producing results that could be equalled or surpassed in 20 minutes with a kettlebell.

So how can you get a taste of this infamous intensity? It’s incredibly easy.

A Tabata workout consists of choosing an exercise that can be done to a maximum effort for a short burst of time – this can be cycling, swimming, rowing, burbees, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, thrusters, or the basic, sprinting – and giving a maximum effort for 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds, and then repeating 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. (Note: elliptical machines won’t work because they do not allow a maximum effort.) If you’re adventurous, you can select a series of 3-5 exercises, doing 8 rounds of maximum effort for 20 sec on 10 sec off  for each exercise in succession. The key is the words “maximum effort.” With sprinting, it helps to imagine that a hungry tiger is behind you. Point is: run as fast as you possibly can each time. If you don’t think you can get a workout in 4 minutes, I urge you to try this. Run hard, take only 10 seconds for rest, and if you’re not tired, you should head for the olympics.

If you’re reading this and you don’t already incorporate high intensity exercise, I urge you to give this a try. Just adding this in one day a week – maybe that evening you think you don’t have time to workout – can make a huge difference.

You may look crazy, but it will be worth it.

October 21, 2009

When it’s more than looking hot…

Filed under: random — Tags: , , — Mara @ 3:48 pm

We always talk about how CrossFit makes you ready for anything. You know, just in case zombies attack tomorrow, we’ll be prepared. Or we say that we want to be like grok, ready to hunt and kill our own food and defend our cave against a sabor-toothed tiger. Well, we may not have to worry about zombies or extinct tigers, but our world is still full of dangers that occasionally come too close for comfort, and our physical preparedness may prove the difference between tragedy and triumph.

That’s what happened to a CrossFitter from Hyde Park who was attacked in her apartment. Too bad for the intruder, she was ready.

Watch the video here.

Maybe boxing should be the next specialty skill for FAHBG!

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