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An athlete is someone who uses his (her) whole body to accomplish "sports" goals. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that he doesn’t just exercise, he trains. Let's look at the first.

As we've said, the body is not a bag full of hinges, with this joint moving and that one too, maybe, as chance might have it. It’s not some child’s tumblejack toy of sticks and swivel screws that you can shake and it clatters about like bamboo chimes in the wind. No. That’s not what the body is. The body is a spring. Every part of it is used in every dynamic movement. When you pull one end of a spring, the other end participates in the action, equally. When you push on a spring, the entire structure, and every atom within it, plays its part.

Likewise, when you lift something with your right arm, the left side of your body is engaged, counterbalancing, accommodating the motion and finding a new equilibrium. What, you thought it was just the muscles of the right arm working, and maybe a little something in the shoulders, the right shoulder, and maybe the back sort of somehow too? If you think that, you’ve been living in your body without paying attention to it. What it’s really about is architecture, about load-bearing and flying buttresses and shifting foundations -- only in flesh, and moving, moving all the time.

The application here, regarding athleticism, is that the arm is more than just the biceps and a hand, and the biceps is more than just something for doing curls with. The arm, in fact, is just an extension of the shoulder, which is anchored to the trunk, which derives its power from the hips. We’re using the word “power” here in a slightly broader meaning than that required by someone doing a benchpress.

Yes, there’s a lot of strength in a strong guy’s benchpress. But unless you’re trapped under a wagonload of timber, the benchpress isn’t a terribly useful motion. Its use is very very narrow. Virtually singular, in fact. It is good at doing the one thing that it does. This is precisely the opposite of what athleticism is. If Joe Gymdude trains only the upper-body outward-pushing structure, without training the core that supports it, and without training the lower body that makes an ally of gravity -- instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away -- then he's trained precisely one third of what needs to be trained to achieve athletic goals in the real world. He's a sort of circus freak, who can perform some gimmick that may indeed be worth a dime to see it; he's a one-trick pony, or two-, or whatever the not very large number. What he is not, technically speaking, is an athlete.

If he's playing football with big manly arms and no strength in his midsection and no push in his legs, well, he’d make a good slap fighter, but he’ll be bulldozed over. He won’t be a wall, he’ll be a swinging door. He won’t be a tank, he’ll be a pushcart. If he throws a ball by swinging his arm, he’ll throw about as far as a talented nine year old. It’s when he lunges with his leg, twists with his hip, follows through with his shoulder -- that’s when he'll throw far.

Athleticism engages the whole body. It’s not about dramatic sweating and grunting and making painful faces. Bowling is athletic, and so is golf. It’s not about how long the feat takes, it’s about how engaged and integrated the body is in performing it. That’s why rolling dice isn’t athletic, and marksmanship is. The whole body is incidental with dice, regardless of manipulative skill. Whereas with marksmanship, stance and stillness and breathing and control of the heartbeat all matter. Didn’t know that, did you. It's the difference between a game and a sport. Both require skill. Only one requires integrated whole-body functionality.

It’s about harmony and balance. The Classical Greek Ideal. It’s the bodybuilder ideal too, in theory, in theoria. The bodybuilder praxis, alas, is a grotesque perversion of this. Not just in the abuse of steroids and the insane lust and quest for size. For our purposes, in the bizarre fad that it’s become with regular joes, with high school and college athletes. Why why why are they doing bodybuilding routines?

Will training individual muscles make those muscles function in closer harmony with all the others? Will making the biceps disproportionately bigger and stronger than the deltoid make them better for any sport? Will isolating and decoupling a movement from the complexity that real-world motions require somehow augment the workings of the central nervous system and its ability to recruit motor units in an integrated fashion? These questions answer themselves. Isolation exercises as they are used by bodybuilders are the opposite of athleticism. It’s almost designed to make someone less functional.

What is athleticism? It’s being able to meet the physical demands of whatever it is that some sport, or life, throws at you. It’s being fit for the task, whatever the task may be. It is mastery over your body. No promises. No guarantees. Nothing unconditional, that is, about what you will achieve. Because results depend on what you do, and how can someone else be responsible for that?

At FitWorks we think we use the correct paradigm to achieve maximal fitness at reasonable exertion. We believe that anything else is less effective. Arrogant? We think of it, with all due modesty, as reality.

Be excellent.



Day of Reckoning

We have little jokes, but it is serious business. Diet, nutrition. You know, food is what you are made of, right?  It's what you make health out of, and beauty.  Take, for example, acne. May not be your problem. Anymore. But adolescence is difficult for all kinds of reasons. Yes, then, acne is genetic, but diet is major. Stay away from dairy. And as with cardiovascular disease, it turns out to have a major inflammation factor. Omega-3, then. But that's not the point.

A useful practice would be to keep track of what you eat.  Like, write it down.  It's easy is your tastes are simple, but no matter what, it's worth doing.. Just a few jottings, really. Then maybe actually plot out the glycemic load of what you eat. It may be a bit embarrassing.  Take granola bars? No sugar, all natural ingredients. Lots of "fruit juice" -- lots of "cane syrup". Plenty sweet. Tiny little bars, six to a box. It's easy, really it is, to eat the whole box, those six tiny little itty bitty bars. But when you rough out the glycemic load: 23 grams of digestible carbs. A glycemic index value of aprox 70 -- estimated from other granola bars with on-line values. We don't have to be too precise ... but a GL of about 95, for a box of tiny GBars. That is A LOT. A boxload. A whole day's worth of GL. Remember? A day's worth typically ranges between 60 and 180, with the mean a tad below 100. Like, say, 95.

Even if you don't eat the whole box, the  GL of such an innocuous thing as a granola bar is 16 per. That is the equivalent of  a bowl of rice. Or take a bag of microwave popcorn.  No one eats a single serving. There are 2.5 "servings" in the bag. That, good sir or madam, is marketing BS. "See? A serving of our wonderful popcorn is only just a mere inconsequential 160 paltry calories!!!" True. But the bag has two and a half "servings" -- which as all math geniuses will know, amounts to 400 calories. Lies lies lies. The bag has a glycemic load, then, of 26. Adds up.

A healthful berry smoothie?  Maybe a GL score of about 8. A whole big blender full of nutrition, for free, in terms of insulin. That's the easy thing about it. The really nutritious food is free. It's the trash that costs so much, metabolically. As has been said, the Lord God Almighty, Divine Archetect of the Universe, appointed seven annual feasts unto the Hebrews. Seven pig-out days. The body can handle it. But for Americans, every day is a feast day, three times a day. This is not actually the blessing some might suppose, especially since there is hardly ever any thankfulness that goes along with it.

It's not hard, estimating glycemic load. Most people average only 10 different sorts of meals, generally.  We eat the same things over and over. For GL calculations, meat doesn't count, nor fat. It really is just the industrial carbs, and the hardcore starches -- potatoes and rice. After that it's just a matter of estimating the serving size, and that's simple too. About the size of your palm? (Palm, without fingers or thumb or wrist.) About the size of your fist? (Palm, with fingers and thumb -- twice as much.) So it's a little bit of figuring, and then you know it. It's like writing a check to pay a bill. Yes, it's a little bit of a hassle, having to spell out those words and know the date and sign your name. Such a chore. Then again, it's the price you pay to pay the price you have to pay.

A can of coke has a GL of 15. At least granola bars have a nutrient somewhere in there.  But it's a matter of being serious.  We see lots of folks at FitWorks, making beautiful progress, just a bit slower than they'd like, on the schlub.  Well?  Maybe it's time to do the math, instead of eyeballing it.  Who would have thought that Coke and Granola could be comparable problems.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

You gonna finish that?

It's time at last to look at hunger.

Carbs are like a certain ethnic food. An hour later and you're hungry. It's great to always believe stereotypes, because they are always absolutely true. Obviously, too many easily digested carbs instigates a massive insulin response, which steals too much bloodsugar and stores it away, eventually as fat. The result, low bloodsugar, is a hunger cue. Whether the cue originates from some monitoring mechanism in the brain, or emanates from energy-deprived cells, is speculation, and fundamentally irrelevant. But we'd like to know.

Because it's so odd that a calorie-restricted diet that is low-carb but includes lots of fat is not accompanied by hunger. This is the overwhelmingly reported experience of dieters, even under clinical supervision. Whether it's the absence of carbs that eliminates hunger, or the surfeit of fat, is, again, speculative. The phenomenon itself is what's important in practical terms. But it's both, of course.

Refined carbs make you hungry. Ample dietary fat satiates you. Given two calorie-restricted diets with the same number of calories, the high-carb diet will make you lethargic and fatigued and irritable, while the fat-rich diet will leave you with less blubber and more energy. The cellular starvation created by too much insulin, which overfeeds fat cells, is avoided in the absence of insulin and the presence of FFAs in the bloodstream.

Indeed, starvation and fasting are both notable for the absence of hunger. Whereas, feed a few hundred calories of carbs to someone who's fasting, and they become ravenous. So, hunger is decoupled from calorie intake. Hunger is dependent on insulin and the type of macronutrients ingested. Hunger is not about a taste, not about a fullness in the belly, not about calories per se in the bloodstream. It's about insulin acting on bloodsugar. So the data suggest.

If thermodynamics is what it's claimed to be, then leanness and obesity is a straightforward proposition. If calorie intake goes up and energy output also goes up -- as either heat or activity -- then there is no significant weight change. Likewise, if energy-in is decreased and so is output -- reduced bodyheat or activity -- same result, of no weight change. If it's more energy in and less energy out -- due to either reduced heat or increased storage -- well, obesity. And then there's less in, more out. Thinness.

That's the theory. Thermodynamics.

It's not everyone's problem, that this theory does not work for fat people. Some people are just not inclined to fat, and their example is not helpful to those who are. But the reality is that for healthy people, by which is meant people with a not-hysterical insulin response, they can eat junk food and look good. But those who tend to obesity, not so much. They store it. Likewise if their calorie intake goes down, and their activity level goes up, or down. They store it. They will always store it, regardless of thermodynamics.

Because insulin trumps physics. Biology then is a sort of metaphysics. Not really. Only sort of.

Mixed in with all this mystery, this alchemy, is hunger. Just as glycerol transforms free fatty acids into triglycerides, insulin transforms carbs into hunger. Dietary fat plays at most only a minor role in any of this. How odd.

Obese people then have two problems relevant to this discussion. Insulin hysteria is one. The other is that they release free fatty acids from adipose cells more slowly than lean people do. They hoard it. So there's less energy available between meals. Cells are starved. Hunger. Because the last meal's glucose was hoarded away by insulin. Double hoarding.

So many complex ideas, and no matter how clearly or simply expressed, hard to remember. Not because they're complex, though. Rather because, just as insulin undermines fat loss, emotion sabotages change. That's just another reason why other people are so important in making lasting change. Willpower is great. So is encouragement and objectivity.

FitWorks does fitness. Yes, exercise, because strength and speed and endurance are important. But diet too. Because we are made out of what we eat. Sort of a quality control thing. So FitWorks does nutrition too. We think of ourselves as what happens between starting, and getting there.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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