Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

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


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:


November 4, 2009

The Efficacy of Exercise: Another Perspective

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 3:32 pm

Enter the "fat-burning zone"

Andrew stumbled upon this article on the NY Times’ website today that captured our attention. Micah already wrote one post, but I thought I’d add another, as I had already vented my frustrations in print format.

The article begins, “For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight.”

It continues, “It is well known physiologically that, while high-intensity exercise demands mostly carbohydrate calories (since carbohydrates can quickly reach the bloodstream and, from there, laboring muscles), low-intensity exercise prompts the body to burn at least some stored fat.”

Their point is that exercise at the intensity they recommend for “fat burning” (low intensity) does not burn enough calories to significantly impact weightloss.

However, what they are referring to as “high intensity” is actually med-high intensity – what we call “chronic cardio“. That is when you are performing aerobic exercise at over 50% of your max but not pushing into the next level where things become anaerobic and you reach your output threshhold. That is how you get the “afterburn” – increased metabolic rate for an extended period after exercise – that this writer says doesn’t exist.

Low level cardio and med-high level cardio are not the only kinds of exercises out there. False dichotomy alert!!! It is such a destructive myth that there is this magical “fat-burning zone” that causes you to burn more fat if you workout at an easy pace than if you work out more intensely. This is how you end up with miles of eliptical machines churned by overweight, frustrated, burnt-out cardio queens.

At least at the end of the article they allow that exercise can change something in people’s metabolic pathways that enables them to keep the fat off. If only they had researched the effects of actual high-intensity anaerobic exercise on metabolic pathways – hello change!

Ultimately, this article starts out with a truth – exercise alone produces only very limited weightloss – but then does a horrible job of researching (not to mention articulating) everything that follows. Diet changes are extremely important, perhaps more important than exercise if your goals are simply to lose fat, but that doesn’t mean that exercise has no impact or that a kind of exercise (maybe not cardio-based???) might show more of an impact.

Furthermore, losing fat should NEVER be anyone’s sole health or fitness goal. Our longevity and other indicators of health increase in proportion to our percentage of lean muscle mass to total weight, so our goal should always be to increase muscle while decreasing fat.

So yes, if you just want to be thin, then stop that cardio and just make your diet tighter than a deadlifter’s bum cheeks. You will probably lose fat. And you will probably be miserable. But if you want to be healthy – strong, energetic, happy, AND thin – then go out for some tabata sprints, lift some heavy weights, AND trim the unsightly edges off your diet.

At least one thing is clear, by either of our standards: chronic cardio is POINTLESS!


Want Physical Change? Exercise Doesn’t Cut It.

Filed under: body image, diet — Tags: , , , , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 3:24 pm

Today the New York Times posted this article discussing the importance of combining diet changes with exercise. As it seems to be an ever-present topic here at FAHBG, here are some of the highlights and my summary:

Gretchen Reynolds (the author) points out that while exercise does burn calories, without a significant alteration in your eating habits (caloric intake) the results will be stunted and slow. Based on some uber-scientific studies, research has found that the bottom line is “energy balance” or calories in, calories out. Basically, you can workout and burn 200-300 calories, but if you go ahead and follow that with a 32 oz. Gatorade there is no net change in the amount of calories in your body. The research (Conventional Wisdom… scoff) goes on to suggest that low-intensity workouts in a stereotypical “fat burning heart rate zone” can trim pounds off which is not something the we specifically condone here at FAHBG (especially low-intensity, who would want that?!?).

The article redeems itself and closes on a note that dovetails nicely with our methods. Reynolds writes, “Perhaps just as important, bear in mind that exercise has benefits beyond weight reduction. In the study of obese people who took up exercise, most became notably healthier, increasing their aerobic capacity, decreasing their blood pressure and resting heart rates, and, the authors write, achieving ‘an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood,’ leading the authors to conclude that, ‘significant and meaningful health benefits can be achieved even in the presence of lower than expected exercise-induced weight loss.’”

This last point is the real take away from an article like this. The fact is that exercise is great for our bodies, as we were created to be moving and active. Many Americans get caught up in the weight-loss trap and never change their habits, or frame of mind. As Crossfitters our main goal is to be healthy, balanced between a good diet and constant, consistent, varied exercises. Healthy will look different for each of us, as each of our bodies was created differently. Its nice to see the NYT running an article like this, but we take it one step further at FAHBG. While losing weight is a great goal, it becomes tertiary to “creation-care” (as Father Andrew so aptly put it), and how much weight you can throw over your head or dead lift off the ground. As we begin to focus on strengthening our bodies, maximizing flexibility and eating well, the weight we lose will matter less. Want to change your physical body? I say change your frame of mind, think positive and power through every workout like it matters. The pounds you’ll begin to care about will be measured in squats, presses, lifts and time, not on a cold scale in a bathroom.


Afterthought: If you are working out with FAHBG (or following online) and haven’t yet significantly altered your eating habits… DO IT! We’re all here to help as we are all going through the same process. Its worth it.



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