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There has been a lot of talk lately along the lines of “what about abs”, and having thought it over, I have to admit there does seem to be a lack of ab work in CrossFit. Probably the most challenging and effective moves for the abdominals involve the Swiss ball. I have hesitated to incorporate it because I’m not sure folks are really ready to handle this level of “intense” isolation.

WOD 090401

Three rounds for time of 21-15-9

Swiss Ball Pikes
Swill Ball Planks
Swiss Ball Exchange

swiss ball ab exercise

Abs Exercise #1: Swiss Ball Pikes

Place your feet on top of the ball while your body is in the push
up position. Lift your hips towards the ceiling and move your body into
the piqued position. Keeping your abs tight, slowly lower to the
starting position.

swiss ball ab exercise

Abs Exercise #2: Swiss Ball Planks

Begin by placing your elbows on the Swiss ball. Keep your feet
about hip width apart. Keep your abs pulled in and your back in good

hold for 30 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat

swiss ball ab exercise

Abs Exercise #3: Swiss Ball Exchange

Begin by lying on your back with the ball between your feet and
arms overhead. Bring your arms up to meet your feet and exchange the
ball from your hands to your feet.

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Photo: Tom Campitelli

So now we know that a double espresso before a workout works wonders, but what about afterward?  The topic of post-workout (PWO) nutrition is a hotly-debated one over in the bodybuilding territories of the internet.  Over there, the debate is typically not whether one should have anything post-workout, but rather which super-mega-extreme frothy tanker of aspartame and diheximethylcrapalose* (now in Fruit Punch flavor with real Acai!) will get you totally shredded (or pumped, I guess, depending on your goals).  Bypassing the hype, though, is there anything that sets the post-workout window apart from any other time for nutritional benefit?  Turns out, there is.

The Why
I’m going to geek out on you here for a second.  As you may or may not know, the body provides three separate pathways for generating and burning energy:  ATP/CP, Glycolitic and Oxidative.  In the first, the body burns adenosine tri-phosphate for extremely brief (under a second), maximum-effort movements.  In the second, the muscles burn through their reserves of glycogen at about 90% effort, which lasts about 12-15 minutes.  The final is the domain of the endurance athlete, in which the body combines oxygen from your lungs with bodyfat reserves to allow you to work at about 50-70% for, essentially, hours on end. CrossFit metcons specifically target the second pathway, focusing on intensity rather than strength or volume.  We will focus on strength (Max Effort) sometimes, and will occasionally dip into volume (Murph or a 10k), but the heart of CrossFit is the short, painful metcon (Fran is a classic example).  It is here that PWO nutrition is the most useful.

You see, immediately following a punishing workout, the muscles are desperate to replenish their spent glycogen stores.  The body can supply their needs by mobilizing body fat or by converting protein to glycogen, but these processes take time!  And your muscles are thirsty!  They need their glycogen NOW, dammit!  Here’s where the magical non insulin mediated glucose transport comes in.  In the period of time immediately following a workout, we can fly in an emergency shipment of nutrients and amino acids directly to the muscles in a sugar airlift.  It’s the most direct line from mouth to muscle you’ll ever get, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of it.

Why?  RECOVERY.  As you all know, 5-6 workouts a week is brutal, and there’s nothing like a bad case of DOMS to wreck your day.  And it’s not just about soreness:  faster recovery means you’re able to hit the workouts harder more often, thereby providing greater stimulus and growth to your muscles and central nervous system.  Faster recovery means fewer injuries, and less likelihood of illness or overtraining.  Remember:  we do not get stronger in the gym.  All we do in the gym is controlled damage to ourselves.  We get stronger as a result of our body’s response to that damage, so it is in our best interests to maximize our recovery by as many (legal/safe) means as are available to us.

The What

Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that PWO nutrition is a good idea.  “But what,” you’re asking, “should I EAT?  Which is better, Gatorade or Muscle Milk?”  The answer, of course, is neither. Sure, you could lay out $50 for a tub of chalky-tasting chemicals specially formulated by marketing agents with a penchant for the letter “X,” but why bother?  There are cheaper, healthier and tastier options.

When considering your choices, these are the things you want to keep in mind:  a generous amount of carbs, a small amount of protein, and as little fat as you manage.  Now, normally I’m not a very big fan of the carbohydrate, but in PWO-land all the rules go topsy turvy, so now they’re good – and the higher their GI, the better (I know, right?).  As for protein, the ideal ratio of carbs to protein is 4:1, so about a quarter of the carbs.  Fat slows digestion/absorption, so while most of the time I’m huge fan o’ the fat, this is not its time to shine.  So what fits the bill?


  • Chocolate milk.  As crazy as it sounds, lowfat chocolate milk is just about perfect for post-workout recovery.  It has that great 4:1 ratio and is quickly absorbed by the body.  In clinical studies, it performed as well or better than the highly processed fancy supplements.  If I were to get really nitpicky, I’d advocate one made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup, but whatever.
  • Regular milk.  Rebecca’s drink of choice.  Organic is better than not.  Lowfat versions have less fat, but whole has more nutrients, so I put that choice down to personal preference.
  • Kefir.  This is what I drink.  I have my reasons.
  • A sweet potato and a little jerky or salmon
  • An apple or banana with some skim mozzarella or deli slice
  • Applesauce with a little cottage cheese and cinnamon
  • Lowfat yogurt or rice pudding
  • Mix a little unflavored/unsweetened whey with some juice

You get the idea.  Eggs, tofu/legumes, brown rice etc are suboptimal, as the fiber and/or fat makes them slow to digest and absorb.  For 30-40 minutes of your day, fat and fiber are bad and sugar is good.

The When
Note that this little trick only works if you’ve pushed yourself hard enough to deplete your body’s glycogen stores.  So your special PWO meal/drink will only be effective if taken immediately after a hard metcon – the harder you worked, the better it will work, and the more immediate the better.  The window is only open for about an hour – after that, your body has returned to business as usual.  This is not to say that nutrition after a Max Effort workout would be bad for you, just that it wouldn’t be any different from any other time of the day.

The How
This is not rocket science.  Obtain a portable drink container and/or some tupperware and make it happen, Einstein.  Try it for two weeks and see how you feel.

Personal Observations
For the last month or so, Rebecca and I have been following up our workouts with 16 oz of milk or kefir.  We have both noticed a decrease (not an elimination – this ain’t voodoo) in DOMS, and a greater level of energy in our workouts through the week.  It’s great stuff.  If you have questions or your own PWO nutrition strategy, please share in the comments.

Note that if your goal is weight loss, you might consider intentionally NOT eating in the hour after a workout.  In the absence of glycogen and and food, the body’s response to a difficult workout will be to mobilize fat stores to replenish its immediate energy reserves.  The downside of this, of course, is that you’re missing out on the benefits of increased recovery, so you need to be very careful about walking the line between healthy and overtrained – if you push too hard, you’ll spike your cortisol and your fat won’t be going anywhere.

*As far as I’m aware, there’s really no such thing.  Not that any of us would know.

I am not a dietician.  CrossKitchen articles come from my personal experience, observations and research, and should not be construed as professional medical advice.

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Polly On Her Coffee Run Photo: Tom Campitelli

March 26, 2009

Personal Best

It’s Time to Make a Coffee Run

WELDON JOHNSON first tried caffeine as a performance enhancer in 1998. He was not a coffee drinker but had heard that caffeine could make him run faster. So he
went to a convenience store before a race and drank a cup of coffee.

For the first time in his life, he ran 10 kilometers in less than 30 minutes.

“I remember being really wired before the race,” he said in an e-mail message. “My body was shaking.”

From then on, he was a convert.

Mr. Johnson, a founder of LetsRun.com,
would avoid caffeine, even in soft drinks, for a few weeks before he
competed in a race, wanting to have the full stimulant effect.

“It may have been a huge placebo effect, but I swore by it,” Mr.

Johnson said. “Having a cup of coffee exactly one hour before the race
was part of my routine.”

Or maybe it was not a placebo effect.

Caffeine, it turns out, actually works. And it is legal, one of the
few performance enhancers that is not banned by the World Anti-Doping

So even as sports stars from baseball players to cyclists to

sprinters are pilloried for using performance enhancing drugs, one of
the best studied performance enhancers is fine for them or anyone else
to use. And it is right there in a cup of coffee or a can of soda.

Exercise physiologists have studied caffeine’s effects in nearly

every iteration: Does it help sprinters? Marathon runners? Cyclists?
Rowers? Swimmers? Athletes whose sports involve stopping and starting
like tennis players? The answers are yes and yes and yes and yes.

Starting as long ago as 1978, researchers have been publishing caffeine studies. And in study after study, they concluded that caffeine actually does improve performance.

In fact, some experts, like Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky of McMaster University
in Canada, are just incredulous that anyone could even ask if caffeine
has a performance effect.

“There is so much data on this that it’s unbelievable,” he said.

“It’s just unequivocal that caffeine improves performance. It’s been
shown in well-respected labs in multiple places around the world.”

The only new questions were how it exerts its effects and how little caffeine is needed to get an effect.

For many years, researchers thought the sole reason people could
exercise harder and longer after using caffeine was that the compound
helped muscles use fat as a fuel, sparing the glycogen stored in
muscles and increasing endurance. But there were several hints that
something else was going on. For example, caffeine improved performance
even in short intense bursts of exercise when endurance is not an issue.

Now, Dr. Tarnopolsky and others report that caffeine increases the power output of muscles by releasing calcium that is stored in muscle. The effect can enable athletes to keep going longer

or to go faster in the same length of time. Caffeine also affects the
brain’s sensation of exhaustion, that feeling that it’s time to stop,
you can’t go on any more. That may be one way it improves endurance,
Dr. Tarnopolsky said.

The performance improvement in controlled laboratory settings can be

20 to 25 percent, Dr. Tarnopolsky said. But in the real world,
including all comers, the improvement may average about 5 percent,
still significant if you want to get your best time or even win a race.

For years, researchers believed that you needed about 5 to 6

milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. An 80-kilogram, or
176-pound man, for example, would need about 400 milligrams of
caffeine, or 20 ounces of coffee.

Now, Louise M. Burke, the head of sports nutrition

department of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, reports
that athletes get the full caffeine effect with as little as 1
milligram of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. Instead of 20 ounces
of coffee, a 176-pound man could drink 4 ounces of coffee, or about two
12-ounce cans of Coke.

It’s also possible to get diminishing returns.

Terry Graham, chairman of the Department of Human Health and
Nutritional Sciences of the University of Guelph in Canada, found that
at 9 milligrams per kilogram, athletes actually did worse.

Many athletes and coaches are not caffeine fans. Mr. Johnson said he

has tried to spread the word and gets frustrated when runners don’t use
caffeine — so much so, he said, that when he sees the team his brother
coaches at Cornell, he thinks, why aren’t they all going to Starbucks?

Mike Perry, a friend who is a sculler who has competed nationally

and internationally, said that, with one exception, the rowers he knew
did not use caffeine.

“People would have psychological issues with using it,” he said.

“They would see it as against the spirit of the law, even though it’s
not against the law.”

Still, Mr. Perry wondered whether caffeine would help him. When he

retired from rowing last July, he decided to do a randomized, blinded,
placebo-controlled experiment on himself.

He noticed that the 200-milligram caffeine pills look exactly like vitamin C

pills, allowing him to code the pills so that he would not know which
one he had taken. For eight months he tested himself once a week,
taking two pills an hour before working out on a rowing machine. Then
he worked as hard as he could for an hour, recording the results, also
recording his guess about whether the pills he took contained caffeine.
Mr. Perry, who also is a runner, said that an hour on the rowing
machine is the equivalent of an hour of very fast running on the road.

When he finished his study and broke the code late last month, he

was astonished to see how much the caffeine had affected him. He was
stronger — his power output was 3 percent greater — and faster. In
fact, he said the average speed for his tests when he used caffeine was
faster than his fastest speed when he was not using caffeine.

He also guessed right most of the time about whether the pills he

took were caffeine or vitamin C. Mr. Perry said he is now sorry that he
never used caffeine when he was competing. “It would have been a pretty
harmless way to do better,” he said.

Others, including my son Stefan, disagree. I urged Stefan to try caffeine and he did. Once.

He took a caffeine pill before a track workout that involved
running a mile very quickly, resting briefly, and running a mile again,
repeatedly. Like Mr. Johnson, he was wired and shaking. But, Stefan
said, he could not recover between miles. His heart was pounding and
just would not slow down. He said he has no desire to experience that

Then there is the problem my running partner Jen Davis and I have.

We love coffee and probably have caffeine in our blood all the time
except during the middle of the night (it lasts for hours).

SO would we do better if we weaned ourselves from caffeine and then took a pill or two before a race?
I asked Dr. Tarnopolsky. It turns out, he said, that you get

habituated to two of caffeine’s effects right away. Caffeine can make
you urinate, but only if you are not used to it.

“Athletes do not get dehydrated from caffeine,” he added, “contrary to popular myth.”

And caffeine does increase the heart rate and blood pressure
in people who are not regular uses. “But after three or four days, that
potentially negative effect is gone,” Dr. Tarnopolsky said.

The beneficial effects on exercise, though, remain. Even if you are

a regular coffee drinker, if you have a cup of coffee before a workout
or a race, you will do better, Dr. Tarnopolsky said. “There is no
question about it,” he added.

He puts the caffeine research to use when he trains and competes.

Dr. Tarnopolsky is an elite triathlete, ski orienteer and trail runner
who has competed at national and international levels. And, he said, he
loves coffee: “I love the smell. I love the taste. It’s heaven.”

And before a race? He always has a cup.

Social Climbing at GWPC 6-9PM

Come climb with the CFEB crew. If you don’t know how this is a great
opportunity to learn to top-rope: you don’t need to own equipment, but
there is a nominal fee for harness and shoe rental.

Post routes completed or attempted to comments.

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Polly on the way to her #1 performance at “OPD“.
WOD 090329
11 & Noon
10 rounds for time:
10 Pull-Up (Men C2B)
15 Push-Up

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1PM – Firebreather (Advanced)
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Box Jump 24″/20″
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Jumping C2B Pull-Up
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Kettlebell Swing 1.0P
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Walking Lunge Steps
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: KTE (Knees-To-Elbows)
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Back Extensions
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Push-Press 45#
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Wall-Ball 20#/14# 10″ Target
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Burpees
AMRAP* in 90 seconds: Double-Unders

In this workout you move immediately from station to station for good score upon a call of “rotate” from the coach. There is no rest between movements. You may start at any station.
*As Many Reps As Possible

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“OPD” WOD Fundraiser 090328 from 9 a.m. to 11a.m. at CrossFit Oakland 1060 39th Street @ Adaline, Oakland CA. DIRECTIONS

Please attend. CrossFit East Bay will cover the donation of students and others who cannot afford to donate. Minimum suggested donation is $10.00.


If you want to donate directly to the trust funds that have been established:

Three trust funds have been set up to help the families of three of
the slain officers. Checks can be made out to Dunakin Children’s Family
Trust, Romans Children’s Family Trust and Sakai Family Trust. The
checks can be mailed to the Oakland Police Officers Association, Attn:
Renee Hassna, 555 Fifth St,, Oakland CA 94607.

Wire transfers can be made directly to Merrill Lynch accounts for
the three families: Dunakin Children’s Family Trust, a/c #204-04065;
Romans Children’s Family Trust, a/c #204-04066; Sakai Family Trust, a/c

Saturday Workout Details



Run 400m
40 deadlifts @ 275#/185#
40 box jumps @ 24″
40 push presses @ 115#/85#
Run 400m

The number 4 is prominent, in honor of
the four who were killed in the line of duty: Sgt Mark Dunakin, Officer
John Hege, Sgt Daniel Sakai, and Sgt Ervin Romans.

There will be as many heats as needed to get through the workout, and the first heat will be shortly after 9 AM.

Scaling of loads and reps is allowed. This is a workout that anyone can do.

Saturday 090328

Ironworks 11 & Noon

Clean and Front squat 1-1-1-1-1 reps

The athlete will clean the weight from the ground to rack position and perform two front squats. That is one rep.

Example at 1:16

Post loads to comments.


Enlarge image

Caddy – Kosice, Slovakia

CrossFit Radio Weekend Edition with Dave Young – video [wmv] [mov]

Coach Greg Glassman, along with Captain Brian Chontosh, USMC and Coach Mark Rippetoe, will introduce CrossFit to the American Society of Exercise Physiologists at their annual conference on Friday, April 3rd in Wichita Falls, TX. A special one-day CrossFit pass is available.