Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 6: “The Juggling Act” – Maintaining Life Balance

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3, MetCon advice was found in Part 4, and Accessory Lift ideas were in Part 5.

Here’s our final installment of the six-part summer blog series: life balance.

Life balance refers to health in the whole sense, which not only includes physical fitness, but also social, mental, and emotional well-being. Wellness is an overall state of well-being, so to be well means to maintain healthful activities throughout the aging process.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean any human being is perfectly healthy. And in many ways, we shouldn’t necessarily aim to be perfect either. Like a juggling act, our life journey includes ups and downs in health habits during the process of living. It’s the balance that helps us remain healthy and happy throughout the years.

Let’s look at some quick tips to keep juggling the many aspects of life.

BEGINNERS:
The great part of CrossFit and any group fitness community is that oftentimes other dimensions of life are acquired along with the physical benefits. Emotions are regulated. Stress relief is noted. Friendships can develop. A second family adopts us to nurture us through personal ups and downs. There are lots of priorities hovering in our air and aura; here are some ideas to keep a focused eye on.

1.) See the Big Picture
Always remember strength and conditioning takes time. Remain patient while celebrating small victories. What next? Visualize desired accomplishments by revisiting fitness goals as needed. Just as important: also include in your vision life’s social time, time spent learning or creating, and mental health breaks.

2.) Map Your Week
After visualizing the next few months, create a plan to attack each week that surrounds your fitness routine. Map your time so an hour at Amplify is a part of a lifestyle, not a break from it nor an excuse for it. Write things down. When a plan is put into a calendar format, you are more likely to follow it through. This will also help you catch any potential setbacks before your vision falls to the floor.

3.) Pay it Forward
You are no longer a beginner! Through six weeks of this blog series and your work in the gym, you have gained insight that can benefit others. Reach out to newcomers with tips you found for success. The true newbies will look up to you as someone who successfully navigated the beginning months and juggled work and family demands with a new fitness routine. Socialize. Share. Help make our community the great place it continues to be.

VETERANS:
Assuming you’ve had success experiencing results in your extended time with Amplify, you deserve a round of applause. Yes, you… for your constant juggling act. Your ability to balance priorities is impressive to outsiders, but you know the work you’ve put in. Even if it looks effortless, continue to sweat through your self-management, since 1) it’s paying off, and 2) ups and downs will continue to balance with your life routine.

1.) Stay Committed
One hour at Amplify is a mere 4% of your day. Therefore, it gets increasingly easier to skip your fitness time as you get in the thick of life’s demands. It’s like taking your eye off the prize, just for a second, simply because things are going well. The fix? Find that place where habit becomes routine, and routine becomes a lifestyle. You’ve come this far; don’t drop the ball now.

2.) Allow for Leniency
Even with a committed action plan, a few days may fall by the wayside here or there. To use an analogy, you don’t scrap the entire car because a headlight went out. So don’t get rid of an entire routine because you made one mistake. While juggling priorities in life, sometimes we lose sight of one and just need a chance to pick it up again. Solve the issue, get back in rhythm, and smile through small errors.

3.) Spread the Love
As Amplify has grown, we owe it all to the members. You are the reason we exist. And you are the reason word gets around. Like what we do? Often, all it takes to spread healthy vibes is a personal invite. Word of mouth is our greatest asset, so please, continue to stay involved in Amplify outings, in-house events, fundraiser efforts– and don’t forget social media shout-outs for all you’ve gained in your fitness journey. Progress is continual motivation.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Balance
Physical, mental, and social well-being are ever-present as essential pieces to a happy and fulfilled existence.

Setbacks
It is not the setbacks themselves that define us, it is how we face each obstacle that proves our worth.

Time
How can we stop time? Or at least, how can we prolong the onset of the aging process?

 

This is the final part of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Check the Words of the Week links and backtrack for more!

– Scott, 8.25.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 5: “Add-Ons” – Supplemental Training & Accessory Movements

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3, and MetCon advice was found in Part 4.

What’s left? Additional work to sharpen your skills, round out your mobility, and achieve the best fitness possible. The checks and balances of strength and conditioning.

As with most of the fitness concepts we’ve analyzed in this series, there isn’t just one way to approach supplemental work. Since human bodies are all different, each individual will benefit from a specific method to their own mobility, strength, conditioning, and accessory movements. There are a quite a few ways to obtain fitness, so therefore, there are several things to consider for additional weekly work.

In other words, if we are looking to create a sum of x (lifelong fitness), we can add up entities a, b, and c (strength, conditioning, and accessory activities) in a multitude of ways (program differentiation) to achieve our desired equation (weekly workouts).

Let’s find a formula to consider for additions to your workout regimen.

BEGINNERS:
First and foremost, your biggest efforts need to remain with the priorities. Hit your major lifts and skilled movements each week, attack a variety of metabolic conditioning, and then sprinkle in your supplemental work.

1.) Core to Extremity
The functional piece of CrossFit includes range of motion through multi-joint movements, where primary movers in the hips and shoulders create a force that flows to the arms and legs. You can see this in exercises like Wall Ball Shots, Push Jerks, Snatches, or Kipping Pull-ups. Let these be first in your fitness equation. After that, put any accessory movements at the end of your workout, or on off-days from strenuous exercise. At least to start.

Start simple with extra reps of Push-ups, Bench/Box Dips, or Hanging Knee Raises.

2.) Weakness Work
Any strict movement, particularly those you struggle with, can be an accessory throughout the week. Cap off a shorter workouts with more strength.

Try Strict DB Shoulder Press (seated or standing), Strict Pull-ups (which may be band assisted in the early days), or strict, eccentric negatives in Handstand Holds.

3.) Mobility Work
Mobility efforts never end, do they? However, do not force additional work when lines of action are sloppy. Get your movement algorithm straight and be rational: form first, intensity second.

Handstands, Kipping, and even Air Squat therapy might help for technique and range of motion.

VETERANS:
Experienced athletes tend to get in routines, and often those routines cut any supplemental work for the sake of time (and effort). But what about using those 5 or 10 minutes that you can grab here and there on either end of your workout hour? Want to maintain fitness with age? Need to push through a training plateau? Stop skimming numbers off the top of your personal fitness.

1.) Pay Attention
It’s a little rare to do accessory work beforehand, but it might be an option as a quick “primer” for the day. Better yet, notice we throw in accessory lifts during class from time to time with supersets of strength movements. These are a little more traditional than supplemental in nature, but deserve the focus just as much as the partner lift (Bench Press, Front Squats, or gymnastics moves). Try to hit all reps with sound technique and ROM just like any other movement.

Maintain efforts in Barbell and Dumbbell Rows (Bent Over Row, One Arm DB Row, etc.), Bulgarian Split Squats, or Floor Press.

2.) Decrease Wear and Tear
Instead of hitting a double MetCon or adding an additional barbell lift after a full hour of work, it might be beneficial to use accessory lifts instead to maintain volume of training while taking a little stress off the CNS. This could be particularly true as an athlete ages for recovery reasons.

Consider GHD Sit-ups, Back Extensions, Ring Dips, or Bicep Curls.

3.) Cardio, Anyone?
Directly opposite of the point above, some athletes actually do need that extra conditioning work. It can sometimes be an overlooked tenet of fitness once CrossFit has entered the scene. And let’s make one final plug to simply be active in life. Use your fitness to play sports and try new physical activities. You have a body; it has function outside of a typical gym sequence, and a value greater than the sum of its parts. Put it to use.

Think about extra sessions of sustained Running, Rowing, or Biking, at an aerobic heart rate.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Body Types
We come in all shapes and sizes. Check out body types and a little about the endocrine system as it relates to fitness.

Weakness
Embrace your strengths, and attack your weaknesses. See some recommendations on how to rid yourself of those chinks in your armour.

Midline Stabilization
“So what do you do for abs?” A question common for CrossFit gyms, as if the only measure of fitness is 6-pack abs. So what do we do?

 

This is part five of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for the final piece.

– Scott, 8.11.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 4: “Hold Fast” – The Right Conditions for Conditioning

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3.

And now for the tough stuff. Strength and skill work are difficult, of course, but the lung-burning effects of metabolic conditioning is simultaneously the exciting dread and the gritty appeal of CrossFit. A lot of times, it’s what draws athletes in– and likewise, what keeps people away.

The high tides and rough waters of a MetCon can make or break us, so it’s important to note: just because we will be moving with intensity doesn’t mean we will abandon safety and efficiency. The same rules for strength work apply during a MetCon. Move correctly, move confidently, and reap the rewards of fitness. Namely, cardiovascular endurance, speed, stamina, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.

Here are some strategies to get the most from conditioning work. Anchors aweigh!

BEGINNERS:
It’s easy to lose sight of the horizon at the call of 3-2-1-GO! The ultimate vision? Lifelong fitness through safe, strenuous, effective exercise. Keep the following items in mind to hold your head above water as you maximize your MetCons.

1.) Be Smooth
Move well and move with purpose. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Work with efficiency to make gains and prevent injury. Stay organized in set-up to keep from drowning in poor movement patterns. (Think exercises like Wall Ball Shots, Deadlifts, or Kipping Pull-ups.)

2.) Be Responsive
Keep an ear open to coaching cues. Just because it’s go-time doesn’t mean we leave you alone. In fact, many movement issues are best seen when intensity is thrown into the mix. Your coach is your proverbial life jacket. Listen close. Don’t ignore persistent reminders on body positioning and range of motion.

3.) Be Patient
We’ve said it before: fitness takes time. Cardiovascular endurance in particular is a journey that deserves persistence and patience. Jump ship too early and you’ll be back ashore at square one. Follow the programming and trust in the time domains, whether long or shorter in session. In other words, let the workouts work.

VETERANS:
Humility can benefit even the most experienced athlete. Be willing to do some self-reflection– how can you improve your conditioning? Is it consistency… method… execution? To keep from treading water in your fitness journey, maintain the following approach to MetCons.

1.) Be Prepared
Just like strength work, strategize to get the most from your conditioning. Look at the rep scheme, check out the time domain, and know how you metabolically respond to certain movements. This will help you move fast and take breaks where needed. Repeating a MetCon? Any notes from last time can give you a leg-up on the retest. (Think benchmarks like Cindy, Murph, or– oh no– Fran.)

2.) Be Flexible
Although strategy is nice and all, in reality that often gets tossed overboard during the storm of a rough workout. Be willing to reel yourself in, especially if you find yourself frustrated, and adjust your sails to keep moving. Also consider forcing yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while. For instance, if you know you tend to fatigue in longer, higher volume workouts, go out fast from time to time and embrace the discomfort of lactic threshold training. This purposeful variance, even with strategy, can propel your conditioning forward.

3.) Be a Role Model
Uphold the standards. Demonstrate full range of motion and honest, hard work. Instead of cleaning up early, remember you have a crew to cheer on. Give encouragement after you finish– you were once in those new shoes and benefitted from a community that decided to pursue fitness in a group environment. Helping others will help yourself to keep pushing with the positive current. And thanks for being our captains in this venture.

RECOMMENDED READING:
MetCons
Learn about the lure of the MetCon and the dangers of addiction.

Variance
Variety is the spice of life. But is it the key to fitness?

Scaling
Increase work capacity more efficiently by correctly scaling. Check out how.

 

This is part four of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 7.28.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 3: “Going Strong” – The Smart Approach to Strength Work

We got you started with preparation tips from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, so now it’s go time.

Let’s look at how to approach any barbell lift (or even gymnastics skill focus).

First, understand there are quite a few styles of strength programs out there, with various macro- and micro-cycles to their name. Many have worth in any given fitness regimen, depending on desired goals and as long as the athlete is dedicated in following the progression.

In the CrossFit world, we want to build strength and skill while maintaining cardiorespiratory conditioning, so we put to use a generalized preparation program. Ultimately, let the coaches balance consistency and variance while you put in the work.

You’ve got your eyes on the prize, which is of course gains in muscular strength and endurance, so here are a few pointers that should allow you to ring that bell as you test your strength.

BEGINNERS:
Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up! Test your strength!
Make sure to simultaneously develop range of motion as you develop strength. Take the muscles through proper ROM so that each joint gains stability at beginning and end range. Connective tissues like tendons and ligaments need to become resilient while the muscle fibers grow in number and size, so it should all go without saying: strength takes time. You’re in this for lifelong fitness. Keep that in mind.

1.) Mechanics
Watch videos, pay attention to demos, and listen to cues. Be vocal with questions for clarification. Coaches will focus on the basics of the movement, then a few specific points during the exercise, then back to the large movement pattern. (Globally, then locally, then globally again.) Keep the form early for gains in the long run.

Mechanics Example: heels down, knees out, chest up during Back Squats.

2.) Consistency
Find and focus on the cues that seem to help– without overthinking the lift or skill. Move with solid mechanics every time, not just once in a while.

Consistency Example: stay smooth through the shoulder joints on kipping Pull-ups or Toes to Bar. Work strict pulls with sound form, then kip through the midline, not just legs, so multiple reps are clean.

3.) Intensity
If, and only if, a barbell lift or gymnastics skill is consistent in mechanics should we look to increase intensity. Be willing to reel yourself in during heavy 1rep tests or during a MetCon if your movement pattern is ever lost.

Intensity Example: are elbows dropping and lower back losing stability on high rep Cleans? Quite possibly an ego check is in order. No shame here; there’s no crowd of onlookers egging you on to swing the heavy mallet. Either slow down, drop the weight, or both.

VETERANS:
Big gun, coming through! No Rube here. Roll up the sleeves and give ‘er a whirl!
Don’t neglect the above. Check form first, then ramp up and attack the rep sequence of the day. And have fun! This is a great time to socialize between lifts. Give some kudos to the new kids on the block– they look to you for social cues. Plus, seeing others move, efficiently or not, can help with your own body awareness.

1.) Keep the Rep Scheme
Sometimes, the programmed sequence doesn’t seem like enough. Do not unnecessarily max out on a lift. Let the progression work for you. The No pain, no gain philosophy is short-sighted. Be smarter than that, and reap the benefits when it’s time. Likewise, try to hold on during the tough days. Those are on purpose, so only give in to keep safe or prevent from overtraining.

Strength Example: Snatch work calls for 5 sets of 3 at 65%, touch-and-go. You feel good and increase the weight, but have to drop in between reps. You missed the concept of barbell cycling here, and the purposeful lighter load to achieve the desired stimulus. Can’t complete more Snatch reps in a different part of the workout or on a different day that week? You missed the target completely. No prize for you.

2.) Know Your Body
Are you the type that needs a solid warm-up on the barbell before getting into the working sets of the day? Or do you tend to fatigue early and need to make bigger jumps in weight? We understand our tendencies better with experience, so let’s use that knowledge to get the most out of the strength session.

Strength Example: Deadlift options. 1) extended warm-up at #135/95 for 5 reps, then 5 more at #185/125, then 5 more at #225/155. Or, 2) quicker jumps with 5 reps at #135/95, 3 at #225/155, heavier singles up from there.

3.) Be Ready to Fail
How can you know what’s possible if you don’t test your physical threshold? Failure means we’ve tested the upper limits of our capabilities. The overload principle causes breakdown of the muscle by placing it under load, and the body rebuilds to resist future stress. We just want to safely find that failing point, and correctly do so periodically in programming, so we can approach our threshold again– whether it be in power lifts, Olympic lifts, or gymnastics movements like pull-ups and handstand push-ups. So, embrace the failure in order to succeed. Then ring that PR bell loud and clear and claim your oversized stuffed animal. Don’t worry– you’re strong enough to carry it.

Strength/Skill Examples: Strict Pull-ups to failure. Testing a 1rep Front Squat. Working on extra dips and transitions on the rings to finally achieve a Muscle-up.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Giving Up
Information on how to correctly fail by dumping a barbell.

Dedication
Hard work is never easy. Work, build gains, and work again. Check tips on how.

Movements
Click each link for pics, video, and other details.

 

This is part three of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 7.14.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 2: “You Are Here” – Upon Arriving at Amplify

You made it. You prepared with tips from Part 1 of this series, you’re off the couch, and you finally have pants on. Plus, there’s that unique mix of dread and excitement setting in for another Amplify workout.

Wait, you arrived more than a minute before class starts, right?

As coaches, we’ll get you warmed up– but keep in mind it’s a generalized warm-up before any specific workout preparation for the hour. This usually involves large muscle group movements followed by some quick drills, but you can get moving even before that. Yes, you’re in the gym, but now the work begins. If showing up is half the battle, there’s still more distance to cover.

Let’s map out some items for you to do in the minutes before class.

BEGINNERS:
To gain your whereabouts you need a zenith, since it’s easy to lose your bearings once inside the Amplify doors. Generally, there is a lot going on; often times several classes are occurring, the music is bumping, and of course there’s that whole sweating and grunting and dropping weights thing. So, let’s get you pointed in the right direction.

1.) Timeliness
Early on, we know you look to the coaches to tell you pretty much everything to do. But, surprise! You actually know your body better than anyone. Yes, even those of you with awful, *ahem*, developing body awareness. So, do you need more than 5-10 minutes preparation? Get here earlier, and follow #2 and #3.

2.) Blood Flow
Foam roll with a purpose. Rolling out increases circulation, breaks down soft tissue adhesion, and provides myofascial release. If you haven’t been shown how yet, grab a coach! A good start is to hit back and lats, quads and hammies, and calves/achilles. You can also warm up with simple PVC pipe movements or our crossover symmetry bands. Those are the elastic bands over in the corner, hanging from the wall. We have diagram details of exercises to do as movement prep there. We even have mobility posters on the wall. Still feeling lost? Don’t be stubborn– ask for directions!

3.) Socialize
Connect with our community. You won’t be disappointed. Drop any stress of the day and build your social health while developing your physical well-being. Not a social butterfly? No problem. Buddy up with just one or two other newbies you recognize. There is power in numbers, after all, and sharing accountability with another newcomer can set a grid of consistency on your fitness journey.

VETERANS:
As experienced athletes, your internal GPS is now preset– you have specific places you like to go upon arriving at Amplify. Your meridian, if you will. This is fine. Here are some reminders in case you’ve found yourself zoning out or losing sight of your surroundings.

1.) Know the Workout
Some check the WOD the night before, others like to find out upon arrival. Both for mental reasons; we get it. Either way, by the time your class starts you’ll benefit from knowing what movements are coming your way. It will help with warm-up and also any gear you may need (shoes, jumprope, wrist wraps, etc). Come with any questions to help clarify the expectations for you and other members.

2.) Movement Prep
Are you guilty of camping out on a foam roller? Don’t just sit and take in the scenery– get yourself moving so you’re not cold or stiff heading into the first portion of class. This might also be a good time to get extra weakness work in. Mobility/PVC drills? Kipping? Handstands? Even an easy barbell lift to activate the CNS might be worth your while. It’s your gym. Put it to use.

3.) Be a Leader
Give encouragement to the previous class as they finish their workout. Introduce yourself to any members you haven’t met. Build our community. Remember being a newcomer? Help guide our Intros or Elements participants. Develop comfort within our doors; everyone benefits. It isn’t just the coaching staff who open Amplify as a second home. You are here. Help make the most of it!

RECOMMENDED READING:
Warm-ups
Workout preparation and awaking the CNS. What works?

Range of Motion
Need work on mobility? Cutting your ROM in a workout? Check out these tips and videos.

Attitude
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you might be wrong? Check out how.

 

This is part two of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 6.30.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 1: “Cleared for Arrival” – Before Entering Amplify

Prior to setting foot in the gym, some items need to be in place to ensure success with any fitness program. For us at Amplify, we pride ourselves in understanding that the development of the whole person is the ultimate goal; we always want to consider the entire spectrum of health and wellness: a balance of physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.

This means we should first acknowledge time outside of the gym in order to help facilitate personal progress in your fitness journey and in life.

To start, here are some “to-do’s” before coming to class.

BEGINNERS:
First off, welcome! You’ve taken control of your fitness journey, and in looking for a safe and reliable place to land, you decided on us.

Some newbies come to us with absolutely no fitness background. Others are athletes looking for the next step in life or have been in and out of other programs before settling on Amplify. No matter what, no matter how intimidating it may feel, and no matter how much turbulence life has had before now, we are here to make that transition as smooth as possible. We’re glad you landed on Amplify.

1.) See the big picture.
Strength and conditioning takes time. Fitness is both a journey and a destination, although in this analogy we never really “get there,” we just arrive at layovers– short-term benchmarks where we refuel and reenergize to keep working our way towards the next goal. Keep in mind, it doesn’t all have to happen in one workout. Set a one month goal. Set a summer goal. If you want, set lots, aim high. But see them through. How? Write them down. Tell other people. Amplify coaches are here to help, so ask questions!

2.) Plan ahead.
We already set the daily workout, so that’s easy. But by planning your set days each week, checking the workout and any related videos ahead of time, and coming in with a plan of action, this not only shows true commitment but it’s also mentally easier once you set foot in the gym. And no extra baggage! Work around your career and social calendar, just for an hour. Allow yourself that. Let the only weight on your shoulders be that of the barbell, and the only stress be that of the MetCon.

3.) Hold yourself accountable.
While it’s okay to miss workout days, it’s not okay for it to become a habit. You didn’t register as an Amp member to stay home. We host nutrition challenges, so become involved! Use Wodify or a personal journal as a workout log to see your progress. Need more help? Find a copilot. Connect with a buddy in the same class hour as you and create weekly check-ins.

VETERANS:
Thanks for continuing to fly the friendly skies with Amplify. You are the heart and soul here, so your preparation is not to be neglected. Even after months or years at the gym, we could all use refocus and reminders.

1.) Don’t become complacent.
No recycled air here. If you haven’t felt stagnant, good on you. However, if you think your fitness journey is now an overcrowded flight circling the runway, then we need to find new motivation. How? See #2 and #3.

2.) Revisit goals.
It is just as important to examine your own goals as it is for a beginner. Life changes, and so should your outlook on approaching your fitness regimen with fun and fury. You know how exciting it is to have small victories or PR after years of hard work, but also remember to smile at life’s setbacks. That’s just headwind, after all, so set a new standard and attack. Change your altitude to improve your attitude.

3.) Maintain priorities.
Family and friends matter. Put those life essentials on level with your personal health. Along with social health development should be your physical well-being, and vice versa. After all, you can’t be there for loved ones if you literally can’t be there because of a lack of wellness. There’s always a big picture involved; invest in yourself in order to invest in others. Adjust for heavy winds, and keep navigating.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Goal Setting
Simple tips on how to plan your summer workouts and reap the benefits come fall.

The Fitness Equation
Things can look so simple on paper: fuel, work, rest, repeat. So where do we go wrong? Check out the basic recipe for success in physical fitness.

Cherry Picking
Why shy away from the very workouts you need? See recommendations on how to avoid laziness.

 

This is part one of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 6.16.2017

2017: A New Year

A New Year

Lifestyle vs. Resolution
We love challenges at CrossFit Amplify. Nutrition challenges, fitness competitions, and even the popular New Year, New You motivational cliché for newcomers.

Yet it must be said that what we are attempting to construct in those 3-, 6-, or 8-week challenges is not necessarily a resolution. It’s a lifestyle.

We have come to understand that anyone looking for a quick fix with diet and exercise clearly needs some guidance. Those who expect health and wellness in just a matter of months often become very disappointed, and therefore fall off the fitness (band)wagon. See, this isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. Fitness isn’t in the 8-minute Abs, ThighMaster, Bowflex, Tae-Bo, or Zumba. And it’s not in Bootcamps, Kettlebells, or CrossFit training either.

The magic is not in the program– although some are identifiably better than others. (Insert jab at easy target here. Shake Weight, anyone?) The magic, if there is such a thing, is in the lifestyle. It’s in the hard work. Any fitness or nutrition challenge simply exists to kickstart behavior. Realistically, whatever enjoyable activity gets a person moving can produce results. But results are not in the decision to exercise, they’re in the action.

Being active… how fitting a term.

Think about it, from your own past, with your own New Year’s resolutions. Did they stick? If you said to yourself, “no,” was it because you really didn’t want to change in the first place? And if you said, “yes,” then it must not have mattered that you began on January 1st. You could have started any other day of the year. Am I right? Maybe a new year was the kick in the butt you wanted/needed, but it was just a small part of the behavior choice.

It was a lifestyle change. Not a trick, not a scheme, and not even a resolution. It was action. And that, my friends, involves much more than just a decision.

The Translation
Find that place where motivation becomes routine.

Here at Amplify, we have a recommendation for you: follow a strength and conditioning regimen. We’ll even set the daily workouts. And post them publicly online.

The magic isn’t in the programming; it’s in the lifestyle change. It’s putting the plan into action, it’s the camaraderie with our Amplify community, and it’s the 23 remaining hours each day that are spent in healthful eating habits, mentally stimulating work, and social and emotional bonds with loved ones.

CrossFit Amplify

The Execution
Set a one-month goal. Set a year-long goal, if you can. Set lots. Aim high.

But a vision needs a plan of action, like a catalyst needs a conductor. Create a plan to collect the spark of a vision, and carry through on the attainable. One without the other is a waste of energy.

Know the days of the week you will make it in to the gym. And hold yourself accountable.

Keep in mind that this is ever-changing, and even a lifestyle can look different from year to year. Priorities can shift with work, family, and stress. Setbacks occur, and if we consider all this to be part of the process, part of life, then a big picture vision works to maintain balance.

Again, lifestyle vs. resolution. A resolution is easy to scrap. A balanced lifestyle is never thrown away; it fluctuates and evolves, naturally, but it remains intact.

The Yearly Challenge
Each year I offer a motivational challenge to each and every reader, as prompted by our own love/hate relationship with CrossFit and the tough workouts we endure.

New to our AmpFam? Welcome. The journey is fun, but the outcome is better. And the group of people here are second to none. Check past posts regarding the fitness equationdedicationprogresscommunity, etc. Ask questions. Seek out answers.

The challenge?
Step back and do some self-reflection. Think about what goals you have and how you will pursue those goals. Bigger than that? Think about what can be done to continue or set into motion your lifestyle.

  • What brought you in to the gym in the first place? Why did you step foot into Amplify?
  • What are you doing to take the next step, to make the next advancement in your fitness journey?
  • Where can the trainers help? Specifically, what can you communicate that would further benefit the time you put in the gym each and every week?

Whether you are an Amplify veteran or have just joined the ranks of our gym, here’s looking ahead at another year of fitness without boundaries.

Thanks for being here, and as always, thanks for reading!

– Scott, 1.1.2017

2016: A New Year

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A New Year

Amplify & Anarchy: What’s with the logo?
The anarchy “A” symbol was adopted for CrossFit Amplify almost 6 years ago.

Early on, the logo was debated. Would it be too edgy? A turn-off, for some? Will it be mistaken as a promotion of chaos or mayhem? Or could it be a great draw to our barebones approach to fringe fitness?

It’s a delicate subject, particularly since the concept of anarchy has a confusing and negative past. When the question comes up, I find myself answering in a variety of ways depending on time and the sentiment in which the question seems founded.

Sometimes it’s a simple, “Yep! Yeah, it is the same symbol. We thought the circle ‘A’ would look cool.”

Other times a more detailed explanation helps, since research proves the term is a bit misunderstood and maligned.

Although anarchy now represents disorder, a true anarchic view was/is not necessarily what the masses and extremists have come to see it as. In its original meaning, anarchy does not equate to mayhem. It is not chaos. It is not barbarism. And it is definitely not terrorism. The initial meaning of anarchy as it relates to human beings is the concept of having no rulers and no masters. Rules, yes. Absolute rulers, no. But the accepted definition now involves a belief in the absence of government and/or not recognizing authority through lawlessness, disruption, and turmoil.

So why did Amplify assume such an image?

Below is further background, if you’ll humor me for a bit of a historical digression.

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The “good” translation?
No one person creates a living for another. We are born free, and should live as such.

A real anarchist in no way condones violence, instead preaching voluntaryism: the belief that our society can live voluntarily in action and transaction. In close relation, the non-aggressive principle is cited most commonly as a major component of anarchism, referring to a principle of ethics in which uninitiated aggression is illegitimate or improper.

In short, both of these terms explain that we are able to make our own decisions regarding what is safe or unsafe, healthy or unhealthy, and as long as we do not initiate violence and our choices in life do not negatively interfere in someone else’s well-being, we are free to act and react as we see fit.

In this context, then, anarchy means freedom.

From the anarchist viewpoint, the historic creation of government was to control people… in the negative sense. Control has historically occurred by the rich and powerful. The rule of people by people, held to a caste system, in a divisive state. Freedom only for those in power.

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The “not-so-good” translation?
Obviously, throughout history the anarchist belief system, and in turn the anarchy symbol, evolved in meaning. Many symbols have done so, some to a terrible end. Need an example? Check into the original scribing of the swastika in Sanskrit to its most recent use as propaganda with the Nazi Party, concurrently evolving to represent hate instead of good luck and well-being.

For the anarchy symbol, eventually it came to represent disorder, insubordination, and other negative actions, most of which are historically degenerative, destructive, and even violent. Which now means anarchy is and will heretofore be used as a term synonymous with mass chaos.

Some historically infamous figures have identified themselves as anarchists and have wreaked havoc on society, leading to this evolution of the term. Anarchists have committed assassinations of Presidents and other leaders, not just in America but across the globe. They have called on violence in the name of their idea of anarchy, just as hundreds of religious zealots have killed in the name of their gods. This is the extreme. These are terrorists.

True anarchists would never promote violence. But the real truth is that anarchy now does precisely that: it describes a state of disorder.

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The point?
The use of the anarchy “A” at the gym is by no means an endorsement of barbarism and chaos.

Quite fittingly, however, some modern conceptions of anarchy actually fit well into the CrossFit world of fitness.

  1. Non-conformity. There is a draw to CrossFit for many people—we began as an edgy, outsiders’ collective of free-minded thinkers in our exercise habits. A non-conformist view towards corporate fitness, if you will.
  2. No rulers. No masters. A legitimate fitness progression within CrossFit means consistency can get us results, while variance can make those results optimal. Rules, but no boundaries. Our workouts see many leaders with many different strengths in many different fitness components… all who respect others who lead too. Masters? Only in terms of age.
  3. Chaos & Disorder. The workouts at Amplify are often chaotic, and in many ways bring a person back to an inherent, barbaric nature of primal physical work. We’re never haphazard, but our MetCon workouts can definitely leave us feeling wrecked and disordered.
  4. Community. Our fastest, strongest, and most talented of athletes work right alongside our newest members and those still learning. In fact, we’re all still learning. We build ourselves up by cheering each other on, no matter if it’s the last member to finish a workout or our top athlete at a televised regional competitive event.

What does this all mean?
It’s a free market notion that we’re in this together, that we all deserve an equal opportunity in life, just like we do in our personal fitness. This unity is larger than that which a top-down, politically biased, prejudiced workout society could ever force upon its “citizens.”

And so, Amplify is full of anarchy. Disorder to the fitness norm. Disruption in sedentary lifestyle. Chaos in the MetCons. Unity through weekly suffering. Leaders by example in a community without a fitness caste system.

No matter what angle we take on the logo and associated term, every time the question comes up from now on, I will guide the conversation so it evolves into the fact that it is now our gym logo as well.

The circle “A” stands for Amplify. And that, dear AmpFam, makes it the most important symbol we could have adopted.

New Year 2016

Yearly Challenge
Each year I offer a motivational challenge to each and every reader, as prompted by our own love/hate relationship with CrossFit and the anarchy of the tough workouts we endure.

New to our AmpFam? Welcome. The journey is fun, but the outcome is better. And the group of people here are second to none. Check past posts regarding the fitness equation, dedicationprogresscommunity, etc. Ask questions. Seek out answers.

The challenge?
Step back and do some self-reflection. Think about what goals you have and how you will pursue those goals. Bigger than that? Think about what can be done to put some order into your chaotic life.

  • What brought you in to the gym in the first place? Why did you step foot into Amplify?
  • What are you doing to take the next step, to make the next advancement in your fitness journey?
  • Where can the trainers help? Specifically, what can you communicate that would further benefit the time you put in the gym each and every week?

Whether you are an Amplify veteran or have just joined the ranks of our gym, here’s looking ahead at another year of fitness without boundaries.

Thank you for being here, and as always, thank you for reading, you rebels.

– Scott, 1.1.2016 Ⓐ
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Words of the Week

ramboDedication

In a time where the world seems to have one giant attention deficit issue, loyalty is hard to come by.

After any setbacks, any wane in motivation, any results not experienced quickly enough, we see people jump ship. Abandon their fitness routine, sometimes after just a few short months, and try the next big thing. A perennial search for the new what-next in exercise and nutrition, looking for that quick fix like the cheap thrill of an action movie. Lots of excitement, absolutely no substance.

Spoiler alert: hard work is never easy. The path of least resistance, on the other hand, is.

Not just that, it’s also the bounce around that can affect progress with personal fitness. Switching from one style of programming to another, then back again, never settling in to give the body a chance to adapt and benefit.

Even within CrossFit, consistency is key. Variance will get results, but consistency is the glue that can make those results optimal.

Work, benefit, build gains, and work again. Slow and steady, bit by bit. Like a good movie unveiling its plotline, the molding of you takes time.

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What’s the difference between dedication and stupidity?
It’s been another summer of hard work. Another summer of blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We put in some dedicated time at the gym, seeing major fitness benefits through the hot summer days. Being persistent isn’t stupid, as long as a negative impact doesn’t arise. It’s definitely a fine line, however, between being determined and being stubborn.

Let’s clarify, then. Determination is not just a degree of stubbornness, it showcases tenacity, purposeful fixation, and the will to fight adversity.

Devotion to a program is often the best effort you can give to fitness. One day does not make or break the man. One day does not make or break the woman. It’s a series of great things in life that leave the lasting effect. A lifetime of devoted physical movement and nutrition outside the gym matter as well, even with lazy days and cheat meals, or sneaking treats and dietary lapses… you know, the stuff that keeps us human.

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Where does dedication fit into the process of progress?
Many of us are in a constant fight with ourselves, yet it could be we’re in search of something we may not realize we’ve already obtained. Maybe we have our sights set on a great body. Maybe instead of aesthetics it’s a PR on a barbell lift or an addition of a certain gymnastics skill. But remember to take compliments and realize if people notice your progress enough to make a comment then that’s direct feedback you’re on the right track.

Stay dedicated. Celebrate the little victories and inspire the future you.

With all the push forward, with all the drive to become better than yesterday, we sometimes forget to look in the mirror to realize how awesome we already are.

Yes, our fitness journey is ever-present, and as a writer I constantly push readers towards the next piece of life… what will you do this year? Where are you going? What will you be? But it’s also huge for our self-esteem and our overall wellness if we realize that once dedicated, we’ve actually started to do exactly what we set out to do. This doesn’t mean we should become complacent. It just means the process is well underway.

And if it isn’t? Okay, well, start today. Set a goal, dedicate yourself to a program, and move ahead with a plan of action.

Thumbs-And-Ammo-Big-Lebowski t9 A Christmas Story (1983)

Is there a sure-fire way to remain dedicated to physical fitness?
The short answer? No.

Through the ups and downs of motivation, determination, and commitment, anyone’s dedication can falter. In particular times of stress or busy personal schedules, our workout routines are affected; we can lose focus or time or energy. It is often easier to go into binge fits with comfort food or beverage indulgences or veg outs on the couch instead of creating time for exercise and healthful meals.

There are some tips, however, to both staying committed and knowing when to change loyalty, if needed. Here are the takeaways I leave to you at the end of each summer.

Recommendations:

  • Be patient.
    Progress can come in waves, like a fury of new turns in the storyline of life. Delays in start times; skips in the film. Use these as reminders that nothing comes without hard work. Stick with it.
  • Be persistent.
    Consistency pays off in the long run. Quality time spent pursuing your fitness goals will allow your body a chance to see results and your mind to benefit from the experience. This is a potent combination, and strikes a confidence in oneself that only fuels more progress.  Feed the fire.
  • Know when to quit.
    Here’s the plot twist. If a lifting session or some post-workout skill work aren’t going well, then a new PR or your first muscle-up probably won’t happen on your 50th attempt. Remember, being persistent is one thing, being stupid is another. Too many issues with the program? Dedicated time spent still didn’t produce rewards? It is indeed time to cut your losses and find a new focus. Live to work another day.

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So, that brings the Words of the Week articles to a close for another summer. As always, I wish everyone the best in becoming better than yesterday in all that you do. Stay at it, remain dedicated, and good things will come… even if it’s little by little.

If life is a movie, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks for taking the time to read, this summer and always.

– Scott, 8.18.2015

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Words of the Week

Muscle-Up-BiathlonMuscle-ups

Another milestone worth highlighting, the muscle-up is a particularly challenging movement for those in the CrossFit world who lack any previous gymnastics background.

It’s easy to explain why people like them, though; once witnessed, why athletes who first step into a CrossFit gym set their sights on accomplishing a muscle-up.

Plain and simple, the muscle-up looks cool.

Muscle-ups are like that middle school crush– attractive and popular and seemingly unattainable. And a lot like that fleeting feeling of teenage turbulence, if ever attained, muscle-ups can confusingly become more work than ever believed. It’s because we’re always wanting more, always striving to be better. One muscle-up is never enough, we want to string multiples together… and efficiently.

Keep these off the hot girl/hot guy pedestal, however, because a muscle-up is just like any other difficult movement in the gym. And there are plenty of those in the fitness sea.

So let’s jump in head first to battle this beast from the depths of gymnastics lore and bring the muscle-up progression to light.

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What prerequisite strength exists for a muscle-up?
Similar to our previous focus on pull-ups, let’s clear up some prerequisites for strength and skill before looking at specific drills in the developmental progression of a muscle-up.

Naturally, we’ve come to realize the online hate of the gymnastics kip often utilized in CrossFit. “Cheating,” it gets called. What’s interesting is that we rarely see the sport of gymnastics get bashed for using momentum in competitive programs or in the Olympics every four years.

There’s a reason for this: gymnasts, both men and women, have a baseline of muscle strength that allows them to safely use body momentum in their movements and routines.

Pull-ups
Compared to a kip, strict pull-ups are a safer movement for a beginner. A strict pull-up helps develop muscle strength in the latissimus dorsi, the biceps, and to some extent the rhomboids and trees major in the back. These are similar pulling muscles involved in both the bar and ring muscle-up, so therefore it makes sense that a prerequisite for any muscle-up training is exactly that: a pull-up, both strict and kipping.
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The movement of the gymnastic kip can be taught on the pull-up bar simultaneously as the strict movement to help embed the concept through routine, yet this involves some quality coaching. While upper body strength is acquired, so is the idea of generating momentum. Proponents of kipping cite the athleticism it requires and develops; coordination is necessary for hip recruitment in order to use swinging momentum correctly. The kip fosters a body awareness akin to other muti-joint movements we see in Olympic weightlifting or sport-specific actions like throwing or jumping.

Kipping practice can be done before or after a workout, although afterwards would generally mean a person works while fatigued. This is not immediately unsafe, but overtrain while already muscle fatigued and that’s a recipe for potential disaster.

Just remember that kipping without at least some basis of strength is not productive.

Ring Dips
If a CrossFit athlete has a kipping pull-up, the next requirement for the muscle-up is a ring dip. While box dips and stationary bar dips are all well and good, the rings obviously throw a snag into things because of the multiple planes of movement that the gymnastics rings allow. This stabilization is what we are seeking; that shaky movement will eventually tighten up.

Strength development tends to take time for the dips, plus, these are stereotypically quite difficult for women because of the necessary upper body control.

Shoulder Mobility
The transition from the pull-up to the dip portion of a muscle-up requires stable but mobile shoulder sockets. Because the ring dip out of the muscle-up is initiated in a deeper starting position than usual, new athletes whose pull is not as experienced and therefore not as high up on the rings tend to struggle to turn their pull over for the transition.

Check mobility videos to maintain a healthy and prepared shoulder. It is an absolute necessity in the grind of a muscle-up; a stable shoulder is needed to turn through the very strength-intensive transition.

The Ring Muscle Up

What progressions will help acquire a full muscle-up?
Getting the most from your work in the gym means being smart about what scaling options you have and how to correctly move up a progression to the real thing. This holds true with the muscle-up, both of the ring and bar variety.

Below are some options for strength and skill development:

Ring Rows: A great start for the absolute newbie.  The more horizontal the body, the harder the ring row, but also be careful to try and emulate a more upright pull-up motion to work the lat muscles correctly.

  • Do keep the core tight and complete the full range of motion for best results.
  • Don’t think these are for wussies. Ring rows can be brutal, even for the experienced.

Hollow Body Position: Underrated, at least on the pull-up bar, and usable not just as an exercise in itself. As a good counter balance, the hollow position builds core stability while keeping posture, on the bar in particular. This transfers to many other aspects in gymnastics and CrossFit.

  • Do practice hollow rocks on flat ground and apply it to your starting position at the bottom of the muscle-up. A tight midline aids the stretch reflex during the loading phase of a kip as well.
  • Don’t get frustrated. Hollow positioning is not easy. (Unless you grew up a gymnast… lucky.)

Gymnastics Kip: A kip can be small or big in terms of the swing, and therefore can be used to eke out just one additional rep on a set of muscle-ups until failure or during a first muscle-up attempt with a humongous “load-up.” Hips are essential, whether on rings or on the bar.

Working on stringing more consecutive bar muscle-ups?  Remember to push away at the top to use a bigger “chest through” load-up swing in the later rep numbers as you near your max. On the rings, work neutral grip and allow the body to swing with hands pushed forward/out slightly to help a full kipping motion for success.

  • Do generate power from the hips to get them up and turned over.
  • Don’t worry if you get a muscle-up, or multiples, and then “lose” them for a day or more.  They come and go quite often. Stay at it.

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Transition Work: A few options exist in working the transition of the muscle-up. A common one involves dropping the rings down to ring dip level or below, and allowing the feet to assist in getting from a ring row position to the bottom of the ring dip. See a video here for quick tips.

  • Do work over time on using less legs will develop strength in the turnover. This is definitely different than a free-swinging kip to transition, however, so use this in conjunction with the next drill.
  • Don’t stay put in this drill from the ground. Full hollow body extension on the rings or the bar is quite a bit different and where you want to go with your progression.

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Assisted Muscle-ups: A coach or partner can be a huge help in assisting that last portion of the pull to get on top of the rings/bar in the transition. This is great when the kip looks good and the ring dip out of the muscle-up can be obtained but it’s that pesky transition that is holding everything back.

  • Do keep the rings in tight to pull them along the chest to directly under the armpits. Shoot the chest through and look at the toes, if that helps.
  • Don’t pull to the bar or the rings, pull up and over.

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Multiple Reps: Once one muscle-up has been achieved, obviously efficiency with multiple reps is the next goal. Kipping out of the bottom of the dip can happen with the legs behind a bit to continue to use momentum. A typical knees to chest kip for the dip can be utilized for those a bit slower and at the starting level of linking muscle-ups together.

  • Do work on maintaining a tight midline and great hollow position to maximize hip drive for consecutive reps. At the very top, lean back and fall into the next forward swing.
  • Don’t get anxious. Be patient for the right time to pull on consecutive reps.

Strict Muscle-ups: In need of a whole other challenge? Dead hang muscle-ups are strictly for those ready. Pun intended. Use a false grip to help the wrist on top of the rings and get a big pull before working to crank the elbows back and chest on top of the hands.

See videos here and here for great visuals on the body positions needed to complete this huge piece of muscle-up extra credit.

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Now you’ll really impress the popular kids.

Get a video so you can see yourself move, ask for coaching cues, and then celebrate your success with the public. This is one feat that deserves bragging about. No fish tales, however– be honest, be persistent, and good luck!

– Scott, 8.11.2015

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