Right vs. Wrong, and approaching “the talk” about food.
There is nothing more important to us at CrossFit Petoskey than our gym culture.
Our mission is to create an accepting space for everyone that walks in the door, a space that promotes a healthier lifestyle to those who belong to our community, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The greatest part about our gym-home, our health hub, is that we acknowledge and respect that we are not all in the same place along the healthy lifestyle timeline. We encourage and support each other even when the end game might look a little different.
And that’s also what makes our place so special: You are largely in charge of what a healthier lifestyle looks like.
This is why finding our “why” is so important to us, and it should be important to you, too.
The common theme that brings our community closest together is we all want to see development in some area of health, fitness, performance. It really doesn’t matter whether you visit the gym to learn how to move well and perform functional exercise, or if you want to build strength and/or aerobic fitness, or whether you’re training to be the best athlete in your sport.
You might look forward to coming to the gym so that you can see your friends every day. This too is health(y). We all want some part or parts of our life to improve, or as Coach Coco would say (and I’m paraphrasing), “we all want to suck a little less at something(s).”
Most of you have heard or read about the “find your why” conversation at some point.
“I CrossFit so that I can be active with my wife, go hiking and skiing.”
“I CrossFit so I can improve my performance in _____ sport.”
“I CrossFit so that I can roll around with my grandchildren well into my late years.”
And we’ve all seen that tear-jerking commercial of Christmas grandpa front raising his granddaughter.
Why are we bringing it up now? As we head into a season where many fitness enthusiasts turn their thought process and focus toward their refrigerators and kitchens, nutrition, how they look, and the scale, finding your why needs to extend far beyond the ‘inside the box’ stuff and to the things that we do for our general well-being the other twenty-three hours of the day.
It’s typically easier for us to talk about our “why” when we’re ripping deadlifts off of the floor and racking up burpees. We perform and learn functional movements, and that implies these movements are skills to prepare you for the real world, not just the gym world. And that is exactly what our fitness program is designed to do. If we are able to think about our movement-related goals as functional and fitting for our purpose, may we do the same for the nutrition aspect of CrossFit?
It is the groundwork for the CrossFit method. Before metabolic conditioning, before gymnastics/bodyweight proficiency, strength and weightlifting, and sport, there is nutrition. For rather obvious reasons. Without attention and intention when putting food in our mouths, it will most likely be harder to achieve a certain level of success in the gym. If we want to improve our lives through our abilities in the gym, then coupling our exercise-efforts with our diet is going to be beneficial to our individual goals. However, outside of exercise success, our nutrition will also have a great impact on our lifestyles.
From “Theoretical Hierarchy of Development,” CrossFit 2019
Without a doubt, certain health-markers will be indicators of one’s physical health and longevity. Take blood pressure, cholesterol, bone-density, body-fat %, weight, etc. These are important markers to consider if we are talking about living longer lives and fending off chronic disease. To some extent, we will acknowledge that we all want to avoid sickness, and that we all want to live enjoyable and rather long lives. So, these markers do, and will, matter. There will absolutely be a “healthy zone” for these markers, and there will be a “sickness zone” too. Furthermore, there will be “zone” that may be above and beyond “healthy,” i.e. superfitness, or extremely low body fat %, and aesthetically driven markers, or great athletic achievements.
CrossFit methodology has determined a fantastic way of summarizing with its Sickness-Wellness-Fitness continuum. If we plot health markers on this curve, the further we can place each of our makers to the right side of the curve, the healthier we are.
From CrossFit Journal “Fitness, Luck, and Health,” Greg Glassman, 2016
However, there may be one very overlooked and ultimately the most important piece for consideration when examining the curve. And that is mental and emotional health, and maybe even more specifically in this case, the desire for where these health and physical markers should be. How does the path to pushing some of these markers to the right fit into your lifestyle, your background, and your desires?
Take a CrossFit Games Athlete for example. An athlete competing at that level definitely plots physical benchmarks (we will discuss physical markers further in Pt. III) on the sickness-to-fitness continuum, they are going to be very much on the right side of the curve. Perhaps as far to the right as one is collectively, physically capable of.
Or let’s take an aesthetics athlete like a bodybuilder. Many of their strength feats are going to be well on the right side of the curve, many (perhaps not all) of their health markers are going to be beyond health and toward fitness, such as body fat %, BMI, muscle density –they look great in the mirror!
However, let’s consider the lifestyles of these athletes. Let’s consider the dedication, the time, the focus, and the sacrifice that it takes to move this direction, obviously with the training regiment, but also their nutrition and general lifestyles. Furthermore, there is typically a certain narrow path to reach these extremes, a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Take this, and recover harder. Take that, and grow more muscle. Sleep, and sleep a lot.
How about to a much lesser degree? An example that is much more fitting to our gym community…
Many exercise enthusiasts want to look good. They want to look in the mirror and see something different, something/someone that they are not currently seeing. Maybe shed a few pounds, keep or put on some muscle.
They (you) will likely be told that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Like above, you’ll be told to eat this and take that. Perhaps adopt this thematic way of eating like keto, paleo, low fat and high carb, high fat and low carb, carnivore diet, atkins, the list is ridiculously long and difficult to navigate.
At CFP, we are not disregarding any of these approaches. Most, if not all, of them will do the trick. They will help you lose unwanted pounds.
But, to come full circle, we need to understand our why.
Why do we want to achieve the goals that we have set out to achieve? Is this short term? Or is it long? Are we looking to make changes for a moment in time? Are we in a particular season of life? Are we looking for sustainability and a new relationship with food? Are we doing this for longevity and general health? Are we taking on a new strategy to learn a new skill?
Those are genuine, rhetorical questions. And the best part is… there is not a wrong answer.
It’s your answer, and that is fine.
Maybe you can think of examples, especially during today’s social media addiction, of someone(s) who is fitter than you, more athletic than you, sexier than you. But, can you guarantee that those people are happier, and more fulfilled than you?
Back to Coach Coco’s saying (paraphrased), “We want to suck less.”
This implies that you are only comparing yourself to you. Not someone else. Not instagram. Facebook. Tik-Toc, or whatever platform Lauren uses.
Again, our culture at CFP is the most important thing to our staff, our coaches, and our mission. When we talk about food, we want to make sure that we are respecting our members, our backgrounds, our varying degrees of what health means to each and every one of us. The last thing that we want to do as a gym is exacerbate an already mentally and emotionally “unhealthy” diet culture that is already rampant on our news feeds, full of comparisons and rights and wrongs. As you know, what we are often seeing on our phones is a portrayal.
That is why we want each and every one of you to consider your why. And…
THAT is what #findyourRx is all about. And that’s how we intend to communicate beyond what happens in the box, even when we talk about food.
iNTRO TO CROSSFIT PETOSKEY NUTRITION PT. II
We have developed a great way of communicating with one another at CrossFit Petoskey as it pertains to our fitness and the choices we make in our workout; a common language, if you will.
We call this #findyourRx.
What is Rx? It is your workout prescription. It allows us to organize our thoughts about what we want out of our workouts based on our goals and experience levels.
*By the way, we want everyone to spend the majority of their time in the “fitnessRx” zone*
We wanted it visually similar to the sickness-wellness-fitness curve, but without the influence to push our members to the right side of it (we even rotated the prescription order in the gym). There is nothing “unhealthy” about being in any one of the prescriptions. It is often referred to as a stage or experience level that our members are in, but it is also a continuum. We can ebb and flow as different seasons of life come and go.
To summarize what each “prescription” means in a slightly shifted focus toward nutrition:
We are building new routines, a foundation to healthy workout habits, movement quality, exercises, relative intensity levels, new skills and other “new” concepts of our CrossFit world.
In regard to nutrition, we are developing skills. We are gaining an understanding of potentially new and potentially beneficial styles of eating (and sleeping, and recovering, and maintaining our feel good).
We understand the skills and various strategies that were introduced to us in “healthRx.” It is likely we have experimented with different strategies to find something that works with our lifestyles. We also understand that there are strategies we can use to take our fitness-nutrition relationship and turn-up the dial, so to speak, and turn it down through changing seasons of life.
We have specific goals in mind. Perhaps they are athletic ventures, or intense modes of life that are most likely NOT long term. We know that there are various tactics to use (and we are trying to use them in these seasons) to perform our best. These periods take intense focus and energy and we use various nutrition and fitness tactics to meet our expectations and desires.
Why do we want everyone to spend the majority of their time in the fitnessRx zone?
In this place on our unique continuum, we have dedicated ourselves to a routine that is sustainable for our health and wellness. Does this mean that we stress over being “perfect?” No. This means we have an understanding of what it takes to sustain a particular lifestyle that makes us happy. We know how to workout. We know what good movements looks like, and we’re constantly trying to improve. We enjoy being coached and learning, but most importantly we’re enjoying the process.
With food, this means we have developed skills. Skills are various and they are useful for all sorts of different circumstances. Perhaps a skill that you’ve obtained over your CrossFit career is how to shop at the grocery store for best success in your diet. We’re taught to spend most of our time and money on the perimeters, avoiding extremely long expiration dates and most “boxed” foods. Maybe a skill a fitnessRx person has gained is how to prepare food. Obviously, cooking is a skill. Preparing food, or meal-prepping, is another. Gauging your meal portions with hand measurements is a highly useful skill. How about the skill of eating out with friends and making choices that are best for your well-being. And if it’s simply the skill of feeling happy with splurging on dessert, that’s a great skill to have to.
The point is, we want to build skills. Whether we use them daily is a different conversation –what stage or season of life we are in. If we are spending our time in fitnessRx we understand there are skills at our disposal. There’s always more to learn, but we have set ourselves up to adapt and shift our focus.
As a gym community, that is our goal. That is a large portion of our ‘why.’
We want to help our gym community have these tools in their toolbox. And by providing a space that desires to have dialogue of these various skills and approaches, we can separate ourselves from mainstream diet culture. We can have ownership of what our personal healthy lifestyle is and what it looks like.
INTRO TO CROSSFIT PETOSKEY NUTRITION PT. III
“Challenge” is the worst
Our support system is one of our greatest assets! As we move through our CrossFit careers and through the seasons it’s always enjoyable and effective to put our heads together and work toward new nutrition and diet goals.
IT’S TIME FOR OUR 8-WEEK SUMMER BODY CHALLENGE!
Doesn’t that make you wince a little bit? There’s nothing wrong with choosing times in your life to set particular goals. We’ve all wanted to feel or look good for a specific event –a vacation, a cruise, a wedding. But the name implies a short term relationship with our lifestyle choices. The word “challenge” isn’t necessarily bad in this title’s context, but also implies we’re going to do something kind of crappy that you won’t enjoy, but is going to be totally worth it for that moment.
Another frustration with this type of title: it has us focused on markers that might not be the best approach for long term health and longevity. Most likely those markers are going to be photographs and the scale. These markers can become obsessions. They may contradict healthy choices, and they may take the joy out of the process.
What “challenge” does not imply: that we’re going to build skills (as referred to in “pt. II”) that we can use at our disposal when we want to!
Instead of being solely focussed on physical outcomes, like how we look or how much we weigh, how about we focus on what skills we have built over a period of time when working together as a community? The impact we could have on our members and our gym culture would be monumental if we talked about dietary options and food-lifestyle techniques. If we took the time to discuss varying approaches, and we experimented on ourselves, we can gain appropriate skills and individualize them.
How do you know whether certain skills work for your lifestyle? Well, we must assess their effectiveness in achieving your goals. This is where it gets really cool.
All the way back to CrossFit’s continuum of sickness-wellness-fitness. Instead of plotting health markers (again they are important), we can plot fitness related results. Because of the all-inclusive fitness that CrossFit presents and it’s unmatched variety, if we see increases in performance-related measurements, we will likely see improvements in standard health markers. For example, if you start to see improvements in your max-repetitions of pull-ups, while increasing your 1-RM Back Squat, it is likely you’ve gained muscle mass, and/or decreased body weight and likely body fat %. If you’ve also managed to increase your 5k Row you’ll likely see various health marker improvements too. Or perhaps a blend of all the above! Like a benchmark WOD like “Jackie”, that has rowing, pull-ups, and squatting. All in one! Gosh, CrossFit is awesome.
Instead of obsessing over the health markers, again it is encouraged to look at them, start training yourself to focus on how you’re improving in the gym. That is how we assess at CrossFit. It keeps it fun. It keeps you motivated. And it works. That’s how we intend to handle any coming six, eight, or whatever length session of working together with a better title than “challenge.”
Develop and keep the skills that will help you be successful.
Measure your success with gym related benchmarks, strength, and skill tests.
Adjust use of skills to match your lifestyle desires.
Understand that there are different approaches to finding different degrees of success.
Now that is an impactful “challenge.” And that’s how we aim to move forward on January 31st.
Perhaps “Skills Camp.” Yeah, maybe “8-Week Skills Camp.”
Coach Kenny, CrossFit Petoskey