Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why Does CrossFit Get Results?

Creede, CO, Fall 2006.

Today's WOD:

21-15-9 reps for time of:

SDHP 53#
push jerk 53#
Box jump 20"

Time: 14:03? (I think) This was my first workout doing 20" box jumps for the whole thing. Yay! I tried to do the KB push jerk, but couldn't quite get it, so I did the barbell instead. I'm getting closer to prescribed weights, going to really keep pushing that.

I read an interesting article on aging and metabolism that Tim linked to a few days ago. The main idea of the article (which I recommend - it explains things well), is that loss of muscle, which occurs naturally as we age, decreases metabolism, which leads to weight gain (fat) and an unhealthier body composition: more fat to less muscle. Dieting actually makes this worse because your body's response to decreased caloric intake is to slow your metabolism even further. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, biking, running, swimming, etc., is good for you, but it doesn't do anything to address the loss of muscle. So you could continue do as much cardio as always, or even increase it, and you can still put on weight as you age.

When I put on some weight recently, I was definitely up against this metabolic slowdown, and I couldn't figure out what I needed to change. I did more cardio and tried to eat less, but neither helped. I felt like everything that had worked in the past just left me in the lurch, and I felt more and more frustrated and bad about myself.

More intensity and a focus on strength building was key. I really believe this is the magic formula. It's a shame that so many people agonize over calorie restriction and hours of endurance exercise when that's just not going to be effective. I think the medical community contributes to this mass misunderstanding by ignoring important research and focusing in on what they think are simple solutions - low fat/diet foods, easy cardio, even weight machines. The real answers come from a critical look at the data, and the data back up one path: INTENSE exercise and eating NUTRITIOUS foods. This is a simple solution, but not an easy one. No gimmicky diets - you have to use your brain and make smart choices. And intense exercise is hard, you have to push yourself to the edge mentally and physically, going out of your comfort zone.

Today Tim wrote about CrossFit and measurable results. I've been doing CrossFit for 3 months now, and I have generally been focused on performance improvements. Lately, however, I've also noticed major changes in my body composition. I've only lost a couple of pounds, but I bought new clothes because mine got too big. I'm leaner, and I like how my body looks for the first time in a long time. I feel better about myself, and I feel a new sense of power. Now I know how to get fit and strong, and I will never again get stuck in that bad place where I know I need to look better but I don't know how to do it. It's a bad cycle, getting out of shape and feeling bad, and it can spill into all areas of life. For me, CrossFit has been an incredibly positive way to address it. You don't need to focus on changes in appearance or the scale; you can set performance goals and focus on that, go hard, and the rest will come along for the ride.


rosanne said...

Great rant today, I am so glad I am not the only one who loves Crossfit, but hasn't lost a lot of weight (course in my case I've gained) UGGHHH, whatever! Just having your clothes fit better is awesome and allowing yourself to change your mindset from "having to lose weight" to being able to tell yourself "man, I look better and feel a helluva lot better", is true progress. Tea time was fun today!

Margaret said...

Leaner, stronger, Rosanne and I both felt that first quiver of apprehension at todays WOD.
I was talking to Tim the other day about when that 20-30 something chick was going to come in who would clear Rosanne and me off the boards.

mtbjune said...

All of you ladies are SO strong!! I admire you guys so much...I thought I was strong because I can mountain bike...that is until I started doing CrossFit. It's a hard thing not to compare yourselves to other people and feel lame when you aren't as good but I hope that I can work my way up to y'all :) Thanks Amy for the great blog and posts!