Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting ready for ski season!

Last night, I went to open gym at my local Crossfit. My adrenals are not in any shape to be able to handle 15 minute met-cons, so I generally skip the WODs and stick with the strength work. Nice, slow strength progression with lots of rest in between max lifts. This was pretty easy to do last night in particular because the box was packed! All present were women (except our coach) and it was awesome to see so many ladies sweatin' it up and moving some pretty burly weight!

Crossfit-style workouts did a lot to help bump up my climbing game during the early fall. Funny thing about having increased strength for climbing- its makes the climbing more fun! When you've got the guns to hang on a little longer, or try a harder grade climb, well, climbing can become down-right addicting! The increased strength & endurance also did wonders for my leading, giving me a cooler, calmer head and fewer instances of sewing-machine leg!

For various reasons (re: excuses), I've not been working out regularly for the last two months. However, with ski season baring down on us (maybe, I'm taking this on total faith that the earth is tilted far enough away from the sun here in the northern hemisphere for winter to happen. Its currently the end of November and today's weather forecast is calling for highs near 60 deg F!), I decided it was finally time to get my ass in gear and start building some strength & endurance in my legs for skiing. Knowing now what seemed to help my climbing, I decided to apply the same principles for ski season training.

So here I am, at Crossfit, doing some back squats. Photo credit: Jennifer Steck
I did set a PR last night of a 125#, which isn't going to win me any strongwoman contests, but I felt it was pretty good for only my second time ever back squatting. After completing my strength progression, I did a round of 30-20-10 box jumps to help train some dynamic power in my legs as well. And since it is nearly 60 degrees today, I threw some assisted, static pull-ups in there for good measure, just to keep my climbing strength up :-)

Now this is what I love about Crossfit. Ladies, do not be afraid to lift heavy weights! Unfortunately, the most that typical gyms offer is a set of Nautilus-type machines that often times, are not designed for a woman's biomechanics. This is how injuries happen! Furthermore, while there is a time and place for doing isolated muscle movements (if you're a bodybuilder for example), what I've learned from my training in anatomy and kinesiology is that there is no such thing as a muscle moving in isolation in real life! The buzz word in Crossfit circles is "functional movements." Now that term can be, and is, debated endlessly. But a squat is what I would call a functional movement. Why? Because you are moving multiple muscle groups in a way very near to a situation you would use in real life- there's something on the ground and you need to pick it up. How do you accomplish this? You either bend over at the waist with your knees bent a little and then press up (deadlift!) or you squat down and then press up through your legs. Bonus for our fair sex- squatting is key to building the right amount of tone through the muscles of the thighs, hips and pelvis so that the muscles of the pelvic floor are the correct length and tone to do their job. And what is their job, you ask? Their job is to keep your pelvic organs where they belong- in your pelvis! Incontinence & prolapse of pelvic organs are symptoms that the pelvic floor is not doing its job. So if you pee when you sneeze, you need to squat! (Note: I don't want to get in to a technical discussion of the biomechanics here. But if you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend surfing on over to and purchasing the "Down There" DVD or the No More Kegels online course. Katy Bowman is an absolute wiz at the biomechanics of a woman's pelvis. She probably knows a thing or two about a man's as well.)

But I digress. What I love about Crossfit is that you can lift like this here. They actually have heavy weight plates, lots of bars and floors that you can drop weight on to if you need to dump them. In contrast, gyms these days seem focused on cardio & toning. Both are useless in my opinion. 30 minutes on the treadmill a day will probably result in just enough weight loss to keep you shelling out $10-$25-$45 bucks a month to keep walking on that treadmill 30 minutes every day, literally, going nowhere. And what about toning? If you want to build muscle, build some freakin' muscle! Lift something heavy!!! If you're a women, unless you are taking anabolic steroids or testosterone injections, it is physically impossible to get "big" lifting heavy. (I promise, the other ladies present at Crossfit last night were all devastatingly good-looking and they were moving some big weight!) You will however, get more tone and actually develop some useful strength in the process.  Which brings me back to my squat. Do you ever watch people ski? They are essentially in a squat position the entire time they are going downhill. Squatting helps train the strength & endurance to hold this position during long runs. Meaning more runs, with less pain at then end of them. Which means MORE FUN!

Which, at the end of the day, isn't that what its all about???

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