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 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.

November 7, 2009

The Broomstick Mile – FAHBG style

Filed under: pics — Tags: , , , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 6:41 pm

DSC04979

Today we did a version of The Broomstick Mile out at Leon High school’s track. Not only was the weather perfect, but we had a great turnout and everyone got an awesome workout.

The WOD, an adapted version of The Broomstick Mile, was as follows:

Overhead Squat – 25 OR 40 reps

Run 400m

Pushups – 25 OR 40 reps

Run 400m

Thrusters – 25 OR 40 Reps

Run 400m

Sideways Plank Holds – 2 30 second holds

Run 400m

And the Results:

The Team—

Abby – 16:28, 40 reps for all exercises – Squats with black bar, 25# kettlebell for thrusters

Micah – 17:15, 40 reps for all exercises – squats with 25# weight, 35# kettlebell, and 15# kettlebell for planks

Andrew – 17:10, 40 reps for all exercises – squats with 25# weight, 35# kettlebell

Mara – 16:52, 40 reps for all exercises – squats with 25# weight, 25# kettlebell

Graham – 21:16, 25 reps – broomstick squats and 25# kettlebell

Jarrod – 20:43, 25 reps w/ broomstick

And welcome to all our first-timers! Great job! —

DaniSu – 14:45, 25 reps w/ broomstick

Whitney – 18:52, 25 reps w/ broomstick

Dustin – 17:34, 25 reps – 15# kettlebell for thrusters and planks

Amy – 13:52, 25 reps w/ broomstick

Matt – 19:26, 25 reps w/ broomstick

As the media man around here, I will tell today’s story pictorially, click on the photo for a better view:

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November 4, 2009

Mark’s Daily Apple on CrossFit – Finally!

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , — Mara @ 6:10 pm
Sandbag

The Sandbag Carry at CrossFit Games 2008

Pretty much since I first started reading Mark Sisson’s site and seeing the type of exercise he recommends – sprints, heavy lifting, no chronic cardio – I have been wanting to hear his take on CrossFit, since he seemed to have so much in common.

Finally, that day has come.

In his recent series on fitness, his third part is about Physical Fitness Standards used by any and all. He explores various army, navy, and firefighting PT tests, which are certainly not to be scoffed at, but his personal fave is CrossFit.

Here’s what he says about CrossFit’s multi-faceted and personalized standards:

For my money, this is the way to do it, especially compared to the way military and law enforcement test their recruits. CrossFit (and other similar fitness methodologies) is constantly evolving, and its athletes evolve along with it. There’s always that drive to best your personal benchmarks, to improve and to grow. Typical fitness tests, on the other hand, are usually one-shot deals; a police recruit could conceivably train just enough to pass the entrance exam, only to go to pot once he’s embedded in the force and comfortable with his place (funnily enough, CrossFit is hugely popular with police, military, and firefighters).

Now, I think CrossFit is on the right track, but it’s not for everyone. The overall, well-rounded approach to fitness is generally superior, though, (for most people’s purposes, which do not include dunking on a ten foot hoop or catching a touchdown pass) to the sport-specific training. Does the average person need to be able to complete the WOD in record time? No, absolutely not, but he or she should be able to squat down to pick up their kids, pull themselves up into a tree (using their feet, if need be) to climb around, go for a quick run with the dog, lift a heavy suitcase overhead, walk up several flights of stairs without breathing hard, and swim without sinking.

Woot-woot!

It’s no coincidence that military and fire-fighting training programs are more and more turning to CrossFit’s infinitely variable, cross-modal techniques to make sure their personnel are ready for anything!

Well, if there was any doubt, Mark is now one of my favorite people-whom-I’ve-never-met. Now when can we get him talking about treating your body like a temple?

BONUS: Check out Mark Rippetoe’s (and old-time CrossFitter) Barbell Strength Standards, to which Sisson links.

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