Archive for June, 2014

Are you spending money on bullshit?

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 30 2014


There’s something about spending money that makes people feel like they are going to get something in return. There’s a linearity there that’s appealing. There’s also a linearity when you say “hey, Rich Froning uses Progenex and is a great CrossFitter, so if I use Progenex, I’ll be a great CrossFitter.” However, this never works.

If I had to guess, I’d say a minimum of 50% of the folks at our gyms take something: vitamins, fish oil, protein shakes. The US as a whole spends something close to $30 billion dollars on the stuff. Here’s the rub (shockingly): it’s all bullshit. You’re pissing your money away. While there may be a tiny benefit to fish oil (if you’re not eating grass fed, pasture raised meats), everything else you can name is totally worthless.

The fundamentals of diet and training don’t really change. Nature may make understanding them somewhat complicated at the highest levels of performance, but the basics fit really well for 99% of the population and is summed up elegantly by CrossFit’s “World Class Fitness in 100 Words”: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, Rope Climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to Handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, Run, swim, Row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 131021]

Don’t Kill Yourself

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 27 2014


Important point with respect to getting better at CrossFit: Don’t kill yourself.

I type this after a weekend of barely being able to hold a plate full of food with one hand (due to severe tendonitis in my elbows) and having to modify yesterday’s WOD because I still can’t do heavy Front Squat (due to knee issues).

This ties into some guidance I often give athletes who are trying to improve relative to other folks in the gym: coming more often and training at a slightly lower intensity seems to be better than training less often at a higher intensity. This makes sense from a dose response curve similar to common medication: you’d rather take one 200mg pill three times per day than one 4200mg pill once per week.

This also ties into an interesting soccer study from the Netherlands from the book “The Sports Gene”. The study showed (and I’m trying to find a citation here but I’m doing the version of the book) that soccer players with the highest amount of fast twitch muscles didn’t make it to the top European soccer leagues. The reason for this was that they were more likely to be injured for most of their career and hence not get enough playing time to improve their game.

I feel like this is similar to folks that come three times a week and try to go balls to the wall on WODs. You’re better off coming in more often and backing off your intensity if you want to see long term gains and stay injury free.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 131015]

The Idea of Fitness

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 27 2014


The third thing on my list of things that boggles my mind is the fitness industry (see one and two). I usually illustrate this point by simply asking someone: “Where do people usually spend their money on fitness?” The answers I get usually include:

-Globo gym membership
-Yoga/Spin/Pilates classes
-”Fitness” DVDs
-Personal trainer
-Whey protein/supplements
-Home gym equipment (usually Bowflex, “The Perfect Pushup,” etc).

Then I ask, “Do you know anyone that’s gotten fit using these?” The answer 90% of the time is no, and the remaining 10% have dubious definition of fitness.

I call all of these “The Idea of Fitness.” People like the idea of being fit, they are presented with these avenues and told they will become fit. They sign up, they do what they are told to do, but they don’t see results. They are told to just stick with it, or to take this or that supplement stack (i.e., pay more money), and they’ll start seeing results.

In a way this is very frustrating for me. Here I am, providing an observable, measurable, repeatable and open-source fitness methodology and the non-CrossFit sector of the fitness market is at least 1000x larger.

But the flip side of that coin is that people can only get hustled for so long, and we see that with the continued growth of CrossFit. You can only get told that you need to pay more money and not see results so many times for you to think there might be a better way to get fit, but you might have to do some digging.

Were you hustled by the fitness industry? Who hustled you? What was your breaking point?

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 131001]

Buy Meat from Pasture Raised Farms

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 26 2014


Last Tuesday I talked about the silliness involved in vegetarianism. This ties in very neatly with modern/government Run farming.

Whether it’s an accident of bureaucracy or a dedicated effort by the government/corporate kleptocracy to eliminate competition from the mass of small businesses/farms that consumers want to buy from, the result is the same: incredibly unhealthy/easy/cheap food competing with incredibly healthy/difficult/expensive food.

We all react to supply and demand through price. The massive subsidies provided to soy, corn, wheat, and drug companies funded by our taxes assures continued consumer access to unhealthy/easy/cheap food. What we try to do at Potomac CrossFit is make healthy food available to our clients as cheaply and easily as possible.

Why pasture raised meats are so much healthier than factory farmed food seems so patently obvious at this point it seems ridiculous to have to go over it again and again. But if you want to dig into the why of this, you can take a look at the following resources:

Inside a chicken factory
Food, Inc.

You can eat healthy and fight against the government/corporate kleptocracy by buying your meat from pasture raised farms like Mount Vernon Farms.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130930]


Jumping on the Paleo Bandwagon

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 25 2014


What seems to make sense to me often doesn’t make sense to other folks. A few glaring examples are: vegetarianism versus Paleo, factory farmed food versus pasture raised food, and fitness as defined by magazines trying to sell you supplements because the training they prescribe doesn’t have any effect versus CrossFit.

To take the first example of vegetarianism (especially since it’s the hardest one for me to wrap my head around) I’ve deconstructed and dismantled the moralenvironmental and health reasons to do it (and this is completely due to Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth which you can pick up on Amazon, paperback or Kindle).

Now if you ask many folks to just try to eat another way, they just won’t do it. Heap argument over argument, appeal to their reason, appeal to empiricism, and you get “no, I can’t do it.”

I’ve tried some silly shit in my lifetime: I used to do Body-for-Life when I was in my early 20′s, I did yoga 5x/week when I was in my mid-20′s. I think the entire reason that I’m a fairly healthy, quasi-well adjusted adult is just because I tried shit and tried to figure out if it was working or not.

CrossFit and Paleo got me far and away the best results in how I look, feel and perform, so I’m pretty sold on this stuff. However, if something better comes along, I’m certainly willing to try it.

So come on vegetarians, come on board for the big win and at least give it a try. I know I have a surprisingly high number of former vegetarians in the gym who have also seen great results by changing their diet to Paleo, so you guys can feel free to gang up aka provide a more rational argument on the benefits in the comments section. What sold you guys on at least trying Paleo?


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130924]

To Low or High Bar the Squat?

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 24 2014


We’ve been programming and training the High Bar Back Squat and Front Squat exclusively at Potomac for the last five months. The rationale behind this was simple: what do we do in CrossFit? The answer is a lot of anterior work: squat snatches, squat cleans, and overhead squats to name just three. All of these use a similar setup to the High Bar Back Squat.

The “problem” with the High Bar Back Squat is that the tension during the movement is mainly sustained by the anterior chain: quads, patellar tendon, ankle, with limited contribution from the posterior chain: hamstrings and glutes. The other “problem” is that the High Bar Back Squat requires a great deal more flexibility than the low bar.

I’ve started having a few people with significant flexibility issues and/or knee pain switch over to the low bar back squat. I’ve also started incorporating more low bar back squat into my training because of knee pain. If you’re experiencing knee pain or have mobility issues that are keeping you from getting depth on the squat, talk to a coach to see if the low bar back squat is right for you.

For more info on the high bar versus low bar debate, click here and here. For more info on the low bar back squat, click here. Post questions to comments.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130923]

Sustainability and Vegetarianism

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 23 2014


Great post on sustainable agriculture by John Welbourne that got me thinking about this in relation to vegetarians/vegans. Vegetarians make the argument that meat eating isn’t sustainable because of factory farming. And I’m in complete agreement on this, which is why I eat about 70-80% grass fed meat.

Grass fed meat is by definition sustainable for two reasons. First because the grasslands are actually stronger, more fertile, and less prone to any kind of environmental damage because of herbivores (cows mostly) and the other wildlife that has a symbiotic relationship with the herbivore. However, the herbivores must have a carnivore (us) in order to balance their demand on the grassland. As long as this biosphere stays in balance, this is sustainable for as long as the sun keeps shining, or approximately 5 billion years.

Second, the grass fed beef “industry” (if you can call it that) and the pasture raised meat “industry” receive exactly zero subsidies from any governments. Therefore there is no price distortion to drive prices down and demand up.

On the flip side of this soyricecorn, and wheat receive billions of dollars of money from the government. If these subsidies didn’t exist, the cost of these foods would skyrocket. Price is the natural determination if something is sustainable or not. If the price of something is low, it is abundant. If the price of something is high, it is rare. However, subsidies grossly distort this very simple tool of using price to determine sustainability.

Also, soy, rice, corn and wheat are both net detractors of soil. Billions of dollars of hydro-carbon based fertilizer are used to keep the vast swaths of land blanketing much of the mid-west (which is completely “unnatural” by the way – the only [relatively] uniform areas of plant life on the planet are herbivore ingestible grasslands).

If you’re interested in learning more about this myth of sustainability and vegetarianism, Lierre Keith does a great job of dismantling the moral, environmental, and nutritional arguments in her book “The Vegetarian Myth”. Also, here’s a great article by George Will on what subsidies do to the environment.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130917]

Hormetic and Non-Hormetic Stimuli

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 20 2014


I talked a lot during the recent Paleo Challenge kick off about hormetic versus non-hormetic stimuli. It seems to me that we’re designed for hormetic stimuli (a low dose of a stressor causes the body to adapt in a big way to that stressor) and non-hormetic stimuli (no doses of stress causes leaves us very vulnerable to all kinds of stressors).Wikipedia does a better job of explaining this with respect to physical exercise: “Individuals with low levels of physical activity are at risk for high levels of oxidative stress, as are individuals engaged in highly intensive exercise programs; however individuals engaged in moderately intensive, regular exercise experience lower levels of oxidative stress.”

I wrote about where to be on the scale of intensity back in the day and still feel like that model is accurate. My question for you guys is how well, day to day, do you pick the right level of intensity? Another way to ask this question is how often do you jack yourself up?


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130910]

Warm Up Preferences

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 19 2014


One of the biggest deltas we see in our athletes is how they respond to warmups. We find the majority of folks do well with our combination of dynamic mobility, EMOTM and myofascial release.

Some folks really just like the dynamic mobility and myofascial, some folks just the EMOTM. I personnally vary this a lot in my warmups. If I’m real beat up, I’ll err towards more dynamic mobility and myofascial. If I’m feeling fresh, I find that EMOTM type warmups are better. In every warmup I do, I get a little of both, just skew it a bit one way or the other.

How well do you respond to our warmup as a whole and the individual parts?


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130916]

Dose-Response Curve

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Jun 18 2014


When we program, we think in terms of a “dose response curve.” Too little will have no significant effect, too much will have a severely hazardous response. Moreover, we want to maximize return on investment. We want a small amount of time and effort for a maximal result.

We’ve found through trial and error over the last five years that our programming template based on significant daily investment in barbell and gymnastic strength, coupled with a proper warmup that includes mobility, and a short, intense metabolic conditioning workout that balances push, pull, lift, squat and grip over a period of a few days gives us that maximal return on investment.

Call that my “Programming Philosophy 101” course introduction.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 130826]