12/21/2008

Chronicles of the Crossfit Certification: Part II

I am speechless regarding the Crossfit Level 1 Certification down here in N.C.... Well...Definitely not speechless, more like amazed and in shock. To be completely honest I was so excited to attend that I really didn't know what to do with myself. I was a bit nervous at first and I spent a lot of time the previous week reading the rest of the Crossfit Journal Articles that I still needed to memorize, and going over the notes from previous certification attendees (posted on the Crossfit Mainsite for educational purposes under their FAQ section).

In the end I really didn't need to study as much as I did, or maybe not so hardcore...but I am glad I did because the entire course seemed to reinforce all the methods and concepts I have been trying to brainwash everyone with for the last few months. I don't want to get too far ahead because I took some notes in a "journal" format (including comments and thoughts) which I am going to put up here on the site. It is pretty much the order of events and experiences as I had them and I think we can all bring ourselves a little bit further ahead in our development as this "community" if I share as much as possible with you. My head is about to explode brains and Crossfit knowledge all over the walls so get out your catcher mitts.

Finding Crossfit Charlotte's Gym
Holy hell, I spent so much time walking around trying to find this place I wanted to axe kick an infant (not really...). The hotel I was booked in was the cheapest one that we could find within general walking distance of the Crossfit Affiliate that was hosting the event. This turned out to be not as much "walking distance" but more of a "heat-seeking missile" distance. Thank god years of training in being ridiculously stubborn had prepared me for this because I spent literally hours walking around the city of Matthews (where the hotel was) and actually ended up crossing the line into Charlotte. This is the last time I ever go somewhere based on the information that came out of a lobby worker from a hotel, especially regarding the apparently secret location of a grassroots, outside the box, elite athletic training facility. I saw Batman out wandering around looking for this Gym also, which eased my mind because apparently ninja like super heroes also get lost looking for a place to workout Crossfit Style. Oh, you didn't know Batman uses Crossfit? Yeah, well, he does.

By the way, this was Friday night after I finished typing the post and was thinking that it might be a good idea to go for a brisk walk to find out how long it was going to take to get to the Gym in the morning. Long story short I finally found the place and spent the next hour hugging the building before running x number of miles back to the hotel for rest and recovery. Why does this part of the trip matter? Because you should all understand that 1. I saw Batman and 2. There are strange Crossfit Gods that test your will before allowing you into the inner circle of the community, and sometimes they do this by throwing strange challenges out of that goddamn hopper. Good thing we have been working to develop our capacity across "broad time and modal domains."

The next day turned out to be completely opposite from the miserable time I had Friday night, and the first guys to greet me while walking up to Crossfit Charlotte were instructors from Crossfit HQ/Santa Cruz. One of them was actually the guy that ran the Level 2 cert in Boston (that I snaked my way into crucial learning experience) and it was kind of cool to already have someone there familiar with who I am. The building was awesome, and the location turned out to be a pretty cool place as well. One of the interesting things about different Affiliates out there are their unique atmospheres and styles. The gyms are physical manifestations of the visions that their owners had, and you can tell that these visions were not forged in a single day but evolved as the exploration of Crossfit progressed. I really think you need to go to one to experience it and really understand that here in NH we can forge a facility in whatever image we see fit. Exciting things to think about.

Day 1
The Certification kicked off around 9am with instructor introductions and an overview of the weekend, then immediately launched into the most basic of the 9 fundamental movements that Crossfit preaches (and that you have all been working so hard to develop in our training sessions). One of the reasons this experience was so awesome was because just about everything that we were instructed on was then practiced and evaluated with such precision and attention to detail that we couldn't help gaining skills and technique almost by the minute. The staff teaching the course was the same crew that I have been downloading videos of forever, and even though you might not know their names they are celebrities in the Crossfit world (and definitely to me).

It was only a short time before I felt right at home with all the people in the class and the instructors. My mind was hungry for each class and one of the best feelings was knowing that I could almost finish every sentence that was coming out of the instructors' mouths. I am far from knowing everything there is to know, I am just a child in this world of unique concepts which so often seem to fly in the face of the traditional/mainstream fitness industry.

Before I get off on a conceptual tangent I want to finish the outline of coursework that we experienced over the weekend. The point of this post is to show an outline and share my personal experience with the education I received while the actual meat of the information will appear over the next few weeks as it comes up in direct relation to our training. While I was enthralled the entire time I was down there I feel like some of you might not appreciate a 30 page breakdown of what I learned all at once. This is called a foundation for a reason and we want ours to be of the most solid and sturdy nature possible.

Back to the actual Lectures: We are introduced to the first three movements out of the 9 fundamentals. A good quote to recall would be,
"the magic is in the movements."
We would hear this phrase often over the course of the weekend and for good reason. All these types of exercise we were listening to had things in common and followed a certain system of "tenets" that gave reasons as to their efficacy in training. The most important to me were that all the movements could
"move large loads over long distances in relatively short periods of time."
This description of a movements ability was a critical point for me, and I could instantly see how these words fit into every single training session we have participated in. Another critical point to note would be how we are always using our core and then extremities in these functional moves. Why? Because that is how the human body was designed to operate. Throw out all the catch phrase bullshit that exists out there in the mainstream fitness industry that you have all been trying desperately to sift through. Functional movements are effective because they reinforce and prepare us for all the types of movement we will encounter in LIFE, not just sport. Everything we want to accomplish with physical ability is in tune with this definition of functional capacity, and to develop this we have only to look at the simplest and most efficient types of exercise that force the organism to work as a single unit.

A great quote from Coach Glassman that sums this all up,
"Training in a segmented fashion develops segmented capacity."
I might be butchering it a little but you get the idea, and it has become a powerful thought that is easily used to define and reason why we use the fundamental, functional movements that I have been showing you for the last few months. Enough said on that for now because this concept will reappear constantly over your self-education in the Crossfit ways.

We started with squatting, front squatting, and overhead squatting movements and learned a great deal about how to develop them properly with little more than the body and maybe a wooden dowel or PVC pipe as tools. Once the lecture was completed we all went outside and broke into groups to practice the movements, after which we were treated to a delicious session of Bottom-to-Bottom Tabata squats. You all know who Dr. Tabata is and what his training protocol represents (because it hurts and people remember painful experiences!), which means further explanation would be a moot point other than noting the :10 rest was in a static contraction at the bottom of the squat position.

After our playtime we continued the lectures with a definition of "What is Crossfit?" in order to help us explain to people how and why we train the way we do without scaring the ever living s*%! out of them with our overwhelming enthusiasm. We went in depth in exploring the concepts of "functional" movements, core to extremity training, elemental compound exercise principles, why movements are irreducible, what makes these things safer than the average peck deck fly machine, how and why things are constantly varied, and a host of other things that truly make Crossfit what it is. Almost all of this information is easily found in the links at the top of the page which come directly from Crossfit. Just in case you missed them, however, I will reintroduce these concepts and definitions over the next few weeks as a refresher so we are all on the same page.

In the end this lecture came out and explained how training with varied stimuli and the movements that Crossfit incorporates will develop a "general physical preparedness" which focuses on providing a capacity to excel in any situation that nature could throw at you. This is critical to understand because we are not specialists. We are learning to become experts in any number of training methods in order to provide us with the best overall capacity for survival. This paragraph reminds me of day number 1, when I was originally typing the first post for The Savage Society and trying to sum everything up to help everyone understand just what the hell I wanted to help bring to NH.

Next we covered "What is Fitness?", and I want to point everyone to the Crossfit Journal with those same words for it's title. That free pdf file should be downloaded and read in detail, you will expand your conceptual understanding of everything we do here 100 fold if you do so. Pay attention to the 10 general aspects of fitness, what the "Hopper" is and why it helps our understanding of survival fitness, and especially the 3 metabolic pathways. This is the science behind why we can train for marathons and ultra distance in less than six hours a week successfully. This is part of the reason Olympic lifting can make you bench more, why pull-ups add reps to your tabata squats, and it all reinforces how training the body as a unit and developing fitness to excel "over broad time and modal domains," pays dividends previously never dreamed of.

The following lectures included the next 3 fundamental movements: The Shoulder Press, Push-Press, and Push-Jerk. Again we went through the necessary set-up and teaching of these exercises, as well as how to recognize and work on correcting faults in them. I especially appreciated how the instructors not only broke down the movements and showed corrective measures for specific problems people have with them, but also reinforced the understanding of how this progresses into the "most efficient" way of moving these loads overhead. Everything we learned for movements was cross-sectioned with how it would be understood and applied in real life, or survival if you wished to connect the dots that far...and I did. After the lessons were over we went and spent considerable time learning the movements from scratch (I got to replace concepts from my initiation into power and Olympic lifting during high school with more effective concepts of efficient movement, like the words "dip and drive"). The quality of the practical application instruction was second to none and I feel I got the most mileage from these portions even though they involved physically demanding intervals. Fun as hell, to be honest.

Concluding our practical application of the overhead lifting series we moved onto the final three movements from the 9 fundamentals: Dead lift, Sumo-DL-High pulls, and Medicine ball Clean (eventually would become clean and jerk). This was the most informative series of movements that I listened to lectures on, and the insight gained from them will play a huge role from my very next session of training that I run. Understanding in common terms how to teach these movements and correct faults is something I can not wait to impart to the rest of you.

At the end of day 1 we celebrated by trying to destroy any squirmy little metabolic pathways we could get our knuckles on with a 70+ person Fran workout. You want to talk about motivation and energy? Holy hell it was insane in there, you can see nothing but smiles and sweat in our class picture which was taken a few minutes after this WOD's completion. I have never had so much fun! This experience is the sort that gets people so hooked on Crossfit they become known as cultists. What a great way to end an awesome day.

Day 2
Technique and Intensity
This is where Crossfit gets a ton of opposition from the rest of the fitness world, and usually from people who have not done any homework regarding what we do. I know for a fact that the MMA team, the soccer team, and even the Garage Gym crews have all made great strides in their understanding of technique, form, and proper body mechanics during the sessions they have had with me. This is not a pat on my back at all, it is a testament to a mental focus on the part of the athletes during training to acquire the skills necessary to safely and efficiently move loads over distance as fast as possible. People need to realize that form is second only to safety, and that the two are interwoven in what we teach. There would not be intensity if someone couldn't apply the fundamental technique to a movement, instead you would find only injury. "Grace" is a named Crossfit workout that challenges the athlete with performing 30 Clean and Jerks for time. If you go look at the videos of the fastest times for this you will see how critical form and technique are to completing the workout with a "good" time. Smooth is fast here, especially with beginners. Intensity is something we add in after we lay the foundations of bio-mechanic efficiency, and when fatigue due to intense exertion enters the equation we will always see a breakdown of form. There is a delicate middle ground we are looking for in order to hit a certain level of stimulus for the athlete, it lies between "perfect form" and "high intensity" without sacrificing "safety".

These topics were reinforced by a friendly workout that involved a maximum number of rounds in 12:00 of 7 medicine ball cleans (20lbs) and 7 push-ups. We did an extensive warm-up with the medicine ball clean and jerk and found that our abilities had progressed since sleeping the previous night (weird?) and learned that this was due to our brains connecting new "wires" based on Saturday's experiences and drills. The actual 7x7 for 12:00 wod was pretty fun, and even though I did it in boots and jeans (I had to check out of the hotel in the morning and planned on going straight from CF Charlotte to the airport so it sucked to be next to me on the plane). The general lesson learned here was that it required little weight or time to create an intense and brutal workout. This is a lesson everyone on the site should probably understand by now.

After spending a great deal of time on the intensity and technique lectures and practical application we moved into the nutrition class. I will address this in detail separately because the amount of information is huge. For now go Google "world class 100 word nutrition" and live by that, period. I don't care if you eat junk food, but eat the good stuff you need to recover FIRST. Right now my concern is more on how much everyone is learning, we can get as detailed with nutrition as we want down the road as long as you pay attention to your hydration and recovery for now. Do not take this lightly but there is only so much I can type up in a day! If anyone needs more specific information please make a note under comments and we can handle it from there. To be honest the definition you find from googling those words is what I try my best to live by and it has worked for me despite the crappy economy.

The second to last lecture was on the ham-glute machine and understanding the role of mid-line stabilization in training. This is how Crossfit describes your abdominal and lower back muscles. They are actually including a bit more, like your hip flexors, rectus femorus, and a number of other little fellers that play a huge role in moving you and stabilizing your center (core). There is enough information here to fill 100 posts, but some interesting notes to challenge you conceptually will appear in the next few posts. To start you should prepare to be amazed on the topic of sit-ups...I sure was.

The last lecture of the day was about programming, and there was an immediate increase in classroom excitement. This is where most trainers love to spend their time for education and in essence will make or break most of them when it comes to success. Yes, this is exciting and allows us to be creative, but it is easy to overdo it (especially with new trainees) and this can lead to injury or loathing for some. I love programming and have paid close attention to the rotational measures of various Crossfit affiliate sites and other programs of like-mindedness. I learned a massive amount of stuff over the weekend, and some of the topics covered in this lecture really helped fill in any gaps that I felt needed to be filled as far as programming and wod design went. At the end of this we came up with a class wod that I thought was pretty cool, I will bring it up as a surprise for everyone next week as an optional wod for a rest day. It was pretty brutal sounding.
Most important concept for me?
"Routine is the enemy."
This was not only the hardest concept to grasp from the first day I discovered these concepts back when I was 19 years old, but it has easily become the most rewarding in application. Everyday is a new exciting exploration of personal challenge, and while there are structures and foundations that remain the same I salivate for new benchmarks in my training.

This outline is nothing more than...well...an outline. I can not begin to fully describe my appreciation for the education and coaching I received down in NC. I learned tons, and it is all coming at the Savage Society as fast as I can spit it out. Thank you to the Instructors and the other attendees for being so supportive and open as a community, it was everything and more that I had dreamed it would be. Goodluck in Australia, Ohio, and language school to just name a few of the endeavors the attendees were tackling. I hope everyone the best and if you are reading this and feel I could ever help your efforts out there please email me and let me know. I wish there was more I could do for the community because it has been so good to us in the short time we have been around. Train hard and I hope to see everyone very soon.

5 comments:

Dan said...

Samy - Congrats on getting your level 1 cert!! It's a great time and tons of great info to assimilate!

sdaghir@gmail.com said...

Thank you very much, sir! It definitely was a great time, I loved every second of it.

Eric said...

Quick Shout out to all the guys at the Saturday MMA Drills class. I wanted to thank you all for the great instruction and helping me through some new movements.

Also, I am impressed and super excited to see the intensity and hard work you guys put into the Conditioning class after 2 hours of gappling! You guys have the heart and desire that CrossFit is all about. Great working with you all hope to see you soon for some more pain!

Eric

BamBam said...

I just wanted to say thanks to Eric. He is a crossfit trainer that happened to show up to the MMA class on a day that Samy was sick. I asked him if he was up for putting us through a work out and he was happy to. we got the same quality instruction as we would have from Ross/Samy.

The main site wod for the was snatch/hang clean/ soomo DL high pull for 5/7/10 reps. and do as many rounds a possible in 20 min. we changed the snatch to DB thrusters. Nuri wimped out by the way.

With 95lbs; I (Ben) got 8 or 9 rounds i lost track for one round.
Fitzy got 7 rounds plus extra 1 set of thrusters and 1 set of cleans.
Doug got 4 rounds with 65lbs.
Jeremiah pushed him self till he was about to puke again.

Eric hop in a some point maybe he can post his score.

Nuri will also coplete this exersize and post his score.!?!

I was extremely impressed with the completely out of shape and unathletic Fitzy who scored higher than most of the MMA guys.

Thanks again Eric. Hope to see you back down here soon. Maybe you can meet the demon that currently goes by Samy.

sdaghir@gmail.com said...

Thanks for posting the info, Ben. I will add your scores and training notes into the stuff guys did today once I finish typing it up tonight.