CrossFit Improves Beta-Cell Function in Diabetics

In Type 2 Diabetics the insulin produced by beta-cells of the pancreas is no longer able to drive uptake of glucose into cells (insulin resistance). Beta-cells attempt to compensate for this deficiency by increasing their production of insulin. However, this upregulation is short-lived and the beta-cells will eventually fail entirely. In this situation, if an individual’s insulin resistance is eventually managed or reversed, they will be presented with a new problem – their beta-cells can no longer produce insulin and the individual will need to manage their insulin with injections/pumps just like a Type 1 Diabetic. Exercise is known to improve insulin resistance in a variety of individuals. Following this observation Nieuwoudt and co-authors (2017) conducted a study to determine if a CrossFit (functional high intensity) training program would also increase beta-cell function in adults with Type 2 diabetes.
 
 
The Takehome: There are a lot of potential limitations whenever one conducts a study in humans, but this study handles them well. CrossFit Games athlete Julie Foucher, MD was an author of this study so the CrossFit training was applied appropriately. This study showed that high intensity CrossFit training for as little as 10-20 min/day, 3 days/wk for 6 weeks improved beta-cell function and insulin processing efficiency in adults with Type 2 diabetes. However, overall glucose tolerance (the ability of the body’s cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream) was not significantly improved as some of the participants were unable to produce much, if any, insulin from the start of the study (beta-cell failure). In those participants where their beta-cells could still produce insulin, glucose intolerance was improved after 6 weeks of training suggesting that, in order for high intensity CrossFit training to improve beta-cell function, it must be employed before the cells have reached failure.
 
STUDY DETAILS
Experimental Design:

  • 12 adults with Type 2 Diabetes were studied (8 women, 4 men)
  • Exercise was 6 weeks of CrossFit Training 3-4 times per week.
  • Participants received a standardized mixed-meal dinner (55% carbohydrate, 30% fat, 15% protein) the night before testing.
  • A variety of blood/serum markers were measured before and after the 6 weeks of training.
  • Beta-cell function (DI) was individually calculated as the product of the secretory index and insulin sensitivity index x10^3 (an accepted clinical standard).

Results:

  • Body fat percentage decreased after 6 weeks of training.
  • Beta-cell function significantly improved after 6 weeks of training.
  • The proinsulin/insulin ratio, a measure of insulin processing inefficiency, was reduced after 6 weeks of training.
  • Changes in beta-cell function were significantly correlated with insulin secretion.
  • Overall, glucose tolerance was not improved after 6 weeks of training.
  • Glucose tolerance did improve in the subgroup of individuals who had better beta-cell secretory capacity at the beginning of the study.

Limitations:

  • There is no control group.
  • The sample size of the study is small.
  • The small small size of the study was limited further by the fact that two sexes, unequally represented, comprise the study group. However, the authors make note of potential sex differences and the need for further investigation.
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Client Success Story – Me!

My old High School Science Research teacher Dr. Pavlica repeatedly told us budding young scientists that you can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk. It certainly stuck and as I became more active in coaching and training clients, I made sure that I was pursuing my own health & fitness journey with the same commitment I wanted my clients to have. Given that I am now 40 years old and have achieved many of my health & fitness goals, I thought there was no better time to post a client success story featuring me. This was a 10 year journey and, as the picture below clearly shows, the transformation was significant.
 

My Initial Goals
 
In 2007 I was 30 years old and very skinny. Given my height is a whopping 6’3″, my frailty was plainly obvious to everyone no matter what I was wearing or doing. I didn’t like the way I looked. I was nowhere close to looking like models in fitness magazines – I was literally skin and bones. It was about this time that I decided to take action that would place me on the road to looking and feeling better. I knew I couldn’t do this alone and that I would need help. Yes, even coaches need a coach.
 
My Coaches
 
I had several coaches that played a very significant role in my success over these past 10 years, so I am more than pleased to be able to thank them publicly here for all their guidance. They are listed below in timestamp order from the earliest connection to the most recent:
 
 

My Parents: We now know nutrition is fundamental to meeting any physical goal, whether it be body appearance, performance in activities, or simply staying healthy and free of disease. That my parents figured this out years ago was a true blessing. From a very young age my parents raised me with a diet that centered around whole, unprocessed foods and minimized added sugar. Yes, we still had pizza night and the occasional soda on a holiday, but those weren’t staples of my diet. My mother cooked nearly every meal. And when she had to pack a lunch for school, my snacks where vegetables and real fruits. Meanwhile, my classmates were eating Cheetos and Oreos. I was ridiculed daily and often ate alone. It was a miserable experience, but my parents said this was important for my health and when I grew older I would look back and say that it was worth it and I’m all the better for it. Well, they were exactly right. My journey would have been much harder had they not instilled healthy eating habits early on in my childhood.
 
 

Me: Yes, I am listing myself as one of the coaches I need to thank. This isn’t to be egotistical, but to remind everyone that it is YOU that ultimately has to take your journey. You are the one that has to find the other coaches who are right for you, who has to learn what works and doesn’t work, who has to come to grips with what you want/need, who has to make the time to put the work in, and who has to carry through on the tough decisions. We must always give ourselves due credit when we go on our journey. I probably contributed more to my journey than my average client would to theirs because I was also a scientist and a coach. I knew a lot about biology and read materials relating to health and fitness voraciously. So, I noted and employed many approaches on my own (and still do). But invariably, even the most knowledgeable person will hit a stumbling block. As Gandalf said, “Even the wisest cannot see all ends.” And so a few years into my fitness journey I had added only a tiny bit of muscle mass and still had too much “skinny” fat in certain locations (my buttocks). It was enough to force me to do something I always had a hard time with – talking to strangers. One day I asked a fit guy sitting next to me on a plane how he got so fit and he said “CrossFit.”
 
 
 

Anthony Preischel (CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen): I read/watched everything “CrossFit” that was available in 2009 and hopped around to several CrossFit boxes until I finally landed at CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen. On my first day there Muscle-Up skill work was the first part of class. I didn’t have this movement and had been told previously I was lacking the strength. Anthony, however, sized me up and told me I did have the strength. Then, after several skill progressions spanning 20 min of practice, I got my first muscle-up on the rings. That was just the beginning. I continued to learn innumerable things from Anthony. I realized I wasn’t lifting heavy enough, wasn’t pushing hard enough in conditioning pieces, had technique/movement inefficiencies that were holding me back, and wasn’t eating enough. The list goes on and on. My skill set flourished under Anthony. Nearly every CrossFit skill I now possess was obtained under his coaching (Ring Muscle Up, Bar Muscle-up, Rope Climb, Handstand Push-Ups, Double Unders, etc.). These skills, which I never thought I’d be able to develop, all became goals and eventually realities. And of course, in the process, I added muscle and dropped some of that unwanted booty fat.
 
 
 

Michael Wolf (Wolf Strength & Conditioning/Starting Strength): In 2014 I found myself coaching at Solace New York where Wolf was running a strength cycle based on the Starting Strength method. I had read the book years ago, but it didn’t seem to click. Nobody I knew was using it in my CrossFit circle. Wolf was (and still is) big and strong. At this point in my journey I looked good. I was very lean and stronger than in 2007, but still somewhat lanky and wanting to be even bigger and stronger (it’s really hard for tall guys to not look skinny; they need a lot of muscle mass). I knew I could keep improving doing CrossFit, but I also knew that given my height and age, it would be a VERY slow progression. So, I started chatting with Wolf. I read all the Starting Strength material again and he took me under his wing, mentoring me in the program’s ways. I loved that the program was based on the biology and mechanics of the human biology. The science spoke to me and I fell in love with it. I really wanted to try the program myself, but it meant taking a break from CrossFit for a while. I was very reluctant to do this and Wolf didn’t press me. So, I tried doing both Starting Strength and CrossFit at once as a Novice and, of course, ran into trouble. Wolf came back to me after that and asked me to trust him and give it a shot. And like a good pupil, I listened to my coach. I did the program properly. The results were substantial. I was lifting more weight that I ever thought I could. All of a sudden I had new goals with more weight to lift. Although I was training for strength, I now had caught a bit of the Powerlifting bug.
 
 

Of course, deep down I am still a CrossFitter and somehow needed to marry the two training disciplines. With all I had learned, and continued guidance from my coaches above, I figured out a way to do just that. I became fitter yet again. And here I am. At 40 years old I look, feel, and perform better than I ever have before.

When I started out at 175lbs I had virtually no CrossFit skills (no Muscle-Ups, Double Unders, Handstand Push-Ups, etc.). I was also incredibly weak. A Back Squat with added weight was foreign to me, my Press was under 95lbs, my Bench Press was under 115lbs and I couldn’t Deadlift even 135lbs off the ground).

I am now 200lbs at around 9% body fat and I have the majority of CrossFit skills under my belt, along with significantly more strength. You can see a lot of my progress on my Instagram and YouTube channel, but to summarize, as of about 4 months ago when I tested them, my 1RM lifts were: 355lb Back Squat, 242.5lb Bench Press, 147.5lb Press, 455lb Deadlift.

All of these accomplishments are in large part due to the wonderful coaches I have named above. I am extremely lucky to have met them and luckier still that they continue to coach me even now.
 

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Postexercise Physical Dysfunction in CrossFit® & ACSM Training

Several months ago a research study was published by Drum and others comparing CrossFit® training to an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)-based training session. The paper begins by discussing CrossFit as an extreme/high intensity conditioning program and notes how people have been concerned about its safety, in particular, to what extent it contributes to Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ER), a condition where muscle damage causes the bloodstream to fill with proteins and other cellular material. The authors’ rationale for the study is that “ongoing high rates of perceived exertion (RPE) could cause a higher risk to suffer from ER. However there is lack of information on RPE levels during CrossFit classes in comparison to health related fitness courses meeting the ACSM prescriptive guidelines.” So the paper intends to compare RPE between the programs and also see if those values correlate with medical complications like ER.

The Takehome: I was disappointed in this study for a number of reasons. First, this study doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know from casual observation: CrossFitters (who are not beginners) work at higher levels of exertion, train with more hard days each week, and have more fatigue and soreness after training. We know this already; it’s part of the process. A closer examination of medical complications (as this study tried to perform) might have yielded novel results, but previous studies on injury rates in CrossFit compared to other activities suggested this would be a fruitless endeavor. Indeed, aside form the symptoms just listed, no differences were found (and this includes no statistical difference in ER occurence). I should also note that the authors tried to examine their chosen medical complications by using survey responses. I understand that sometimes this is a necessary tool, but when nearly half of the questions revolve around the participant’s ability to recognize symptoms without a medical professional (e.g., muscle weakness, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue etc.) there are bound to be inconsistencies across participants. Sitting as a cloud over the entire study is also the statistically significant observation, that the CrossFit participant group had a greater history of exercise training than the ACSM group. In this respect the study is comparing apples to oranges. Those with more experience will be able to perform at a higher level and also generate more fatigue. This is the heart of the stress-recovery response (and the General Adaptation Syndrome as it applies to training). Finally, as detailed in the Limitations section below, the authors make comments in the Discussion section that 1) try to link high levels of exertion in CrossFit to ER and 2) suggest that beginner CrossFitters should seek training under a ACSM or NSCA training (instead of a CrossFit coach). Neither of these claims is supported by their data, leaving the reader to wonder if there was an inherent bias against CrossFit that gave rise to this study.

STUDY DETAILS
Experimental Design:

  • A questionnaire was used for participants to record rate of perceived exertion values, medical complication occurrences (i.e., ER), and occurrences of risk factors for medical complications.
  • The study was conducted over 5 weeks.
  • 101 participants were in the CrossFit group and 56 in the ACSM group.
  • Questionnaires were sent to 25 randomly selected states in the USA. 35 States and Canada returned questionnaires as those initially receiving the questionnaires were allowed to pass them on to others they knew.
  • Independent t-test analyses were performed to compare descriptive means from CrossFit and ACSM groups.
  • Chi-square analyses were used to determine if a difference existed between symptoms of post-exercise dysfunction.

Results:

  • CrossFitters completed more weeks of the program than ACSM participants.
  • Average self-reported RPE was significantly higher in CrossFit workouts than ACSM workouts.
  • CrossFitters completed more “hard” days of training than ACSM participants.
  • CrossFitters had more prior exercise experience than ACSM participants.
  • CrossFitters reported more excessive fatigue after workouts, more muscle pain to light touch, and more limited movement in muscles during exercise.
  • No other symptoms or medical complications (i.e., ER) were significantly different between CrossFit and ACSM training groups.

Limitations:

  • Conducting a study to see if perceived exertion in CrossFit workouts is greater than ACSM workouts is not a good use of time and resources. Anyone watching the two modalities can see that CrossFit workouts will entail greater exertion from those with experience in the training modality.
  • The final two study groups had unequal participants, such that the CrossFit group had nearly twice as many as the ACSM group. The authors did not note if they had proper statistical power given this very large difference.
  • CrossFit participants completed more of the 5 week program than ACSM participants and it is not clear if those who completed only part of the program were still used in the analyses.
  • Although their data did not support a connection between ER and CrossFit, the authors still push for a connection in the discussion by saying that “muscle soreness, swelling, and pain to light touch have been reported in literature as common signs of ER.” All of these can also occur, and frequently do, when ER is not present, so making such a statement is not meaningful.
  • The study appears to be agenda-driven as the authors end by saying “…individual exercisers should make efforts to understand their individualized response to exercise with the suggestion they also consider working with a certified (e.g., ACSM-CPT, NSCA-CPT) exercise professional as a beginner CrossFit® participant.” No results from this study suggest that beginner CrossFitters need to work with a specific type of trainer.
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Client Success Story – Reinhold

Name: Reinhold
Age: 51
Height: 6’2″
 
Reinhold’s Training Program
Having lost a fair bit of his strength during a period where he had to dial back activity as a result of bone marrow cancer, Reinhold came to me wanting to get back to where he was before the diagnosis. However, he didn’t just want to regain his strength – he wanted to do so with better form. His flexibility had presented him with significant limitations ever since he started CrossFit training (unable to squat below parallel, unable to press arms straight up due to shoulder tightness, etc.) and he wanted to remedy that. To meet Reinhold’s needs, I created a customized 8-week hybrid (remote and in-person) strength program based on the Starting Strength method in which I also incorporated a series of stretches targeting the joints in his body that were most restricted.

Duration of Training
One 8-Week Cycle (performed remotely with a few in-person sessions) based on the Starting Strength methodology.
 
Before & After Statistics
 
Starting Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 165x5x3, Press 95x5x3, Bench Press 145x5x3, Deadlift 265×5, Chin-Ups: 1 Set of 12 reps @Body Weight.
 
Ending Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 240x5x3, Press 140x3x2, Bench Press 207.5x3x2, Deadlift 385×5, Chin-Ups: 3 sets of 8 reps with 27.5 lbs.
 
CrossFit Total 1-Rep Maxes (lbs):
Squat: 285, Press: 150, Deadlift: 415. Total = 855


In His Own Words
 
I’ve been doing CrossFit for 3.5 years. I had to take a break last October for a few months after I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of bone marrow cancer. Luckily, a novel daily chemotherapy is helping me keep the tumor cells in check. Its side effects are manageable and mainly consist of nausea in the morning until noon or so. In January of this year I started to go back to CrossFit classes, but after a few months I felt that I wasn’t regaining my former strength. In addition, I struggled to make progress on mobility, especially in the squat where I had a hard time breaking parallel (since I had never done squats when I was young – I’m 51 now). So, I decided to focus my efforts and address these issues, while still being mindful of my cancer. Since Hayden had impressed me with his fabulous coaching during regular CrossFit classes at Solace, I approached him to design a custom strength cycle for me. I couldn’t participate in the regular morning or evening strength cycle program, and we agreed to a hybrid remote/in-person program, in which he would coach me in person on Mondays over lunch, while sending me custom workouts via FitBot that I would do on my own on Wednesdays and Fridays. I would take videos of my work sets, upload them to FitBot, and receive written feedback and critique from Hayden. The program was a spectacular success for me. Not only did I reach PRs on my lifts well beyond anything that I had accomplished in the past, but I also improved mobility significantly. Thank you, Hayden!
 



Reinhold completing a CrossFit Total with a personal best in each lift: Squat 285, Press 150, Deadlift 415. Total: 855.

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Client Success Story – Allie

Name: Allie
Age: 26
Height: 5’2″
 
Allie’s Nutrition Program
 
Allie is one of the athletes I trained at Solace New York. When I organized a Nutrition Challenge in May of 2017 to reach a larger section of the Solace membership, Allie signed up. Nutrition Challenges aren’t for everyone. They require a great deal of dedication in a short period of time to reap the most benefit, but Allie was more than up to the task. She had attempted many diets in the past, but these approaches didn’t yield consistent and stable results. So, she was eager to find out what my approach had to offer. My challenege focused on weekly adherence to healthy habits such as eating whole food meals, minimizing alcohol and refined carbohydrate consumption, and getting 8 or more hours of sleep each night.

Duration of Program
One 8-Week Nutrition Challenge.
 
 
 
 
Before & After Statistics
 

 
In Her Own Words
 
Before starting Hayden’s nutrition challenge I had attempted and failed at many diet fads: ketogenic, Whole30, etc. I wanted a nutrition challenge that was manageable and realistic. As a PA in Cardiothoracic surgery, there are periods of times when I am unable to eat for greater than six hours. After those six hours, I would quickly run to grab a protein bar. I would snack on anything but “whole foods,” and never understood why I couldn’t lose the extra body fat, or failed to maintain energy throughout the day.

The first couple weeks on the challenge were the hardest, since my body had to get used to less sugar and refined carbs. It was hard to make sure that I packed enough whole foods so I wouldn’t succumb to protein bars. The easier challenges were staying away from alcohol, and drinking water first thing in the morning. Drinking water first thing in the morning (instead of coffee) was a simple, yet effective change. Each week brought a new challenge. A surprise was how much dairy affected me. Once I introduced it back after the week cleanse, it was horrible, to say the least. Ironically, I also noticed that I had MORE energy during the week we cut out foods high on the glycemic index. In addition, the days that I did give in to refined carbs were also the days that I did not get a full eight hours of sleep.

Positively, I lost 3 lbs. total, which does not sound like a lot, but I can physically notice less fat on my body. Over time I had more energy to train. I was able to set a personal record on the Murph CrossFit workout, finishing in 54 minutes (my first time completing the workout as prescribed with the weight vest). In addition, I noticed that functional and gymnastic movements were easier, since I was carrying around less body fat. Most importantly, though, I learned a lifetime lesson about looking at ingredients and thinking about the big picture when it comes to nutrition (cranberries, egg whites, bacon, almond milk –can all have hidden deadly ingredients). Last but not least, I learned how important pickles are as a snack.

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Client Success Story – Allyson

Name: Allyson
Age: 26
Height: 5’7″
 
Allyson’s Training Program
Allyson came to me as a former athlete, but with an injured back and suboptimal metabolic markers. She wasn’t as strong as she wanted to be and in some areas she was lacking significantly (i.e., unable to perform an unassisted pull-up or chin-up). Her schedule was such that she couldn’t train regularly at a specific time, so she opted for an 8-week cycle of remote coaching where I programed for her and gave her feedback based on the videos she uploaded to the web. As detailed below, after training with me for 8 weeks she increased strength, got rid of her back pain, and improved her metabolic markers.

Duration of Training
One 8-Week Cycle (performed remotely) based on the Starting Strength methodology.
 
 
 
 
 
Before & After Statistics
 
Starting Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 95x5x3, Press 65×5×3, Bench Press 50x5x3, Deadlift 135×5, Chin-Ups: Unable to do any at all.
 
Ending Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 170x5x3, Press 72.5x5x3, Bench Press 85x5x3, Deadlift 185×5, Chin-Ups: Able to do both an unassisted chin-up and pull-up strict.
 
CrossFit Total Maxes (lbs):
Squat: 225×1, Press: 92.5×1, Deadlift: 240×1. Total = 557.5


In Her Own Words
 
As a former athlete, I’m no stranger to hard work and dedication. However, as I entered PA school that hard work and dedication was transferred to my studies and my patients. After graduating and settling into my first job I knew it was time to get back to focusing on my health. Practice what you preach right? I had some brief exposure to CrossFit years earlier as a good friend of mine owns a local box in Virginia. I started at Solace New York and within a month knew I needed to step back and focus on proper form and my strength. With my schedule the traditional strength cycle wasn’t an option but Hayden’s remote training program was perfect. We went over the proper form at the beginning of the cycle and throughout the cycle I filmed each lift at my working weight for the day. Hayden gave great feedback online and occasionally in person if we happened to be at the gym at the same time.

There are such great mental and physical benefits to this type of training. I injured my back performing CPR for an extended period of time during school and since then have struggled with nerve pain down my right leg. I received an epidural that I was told would help with the problem for several months. It did just that. The nerve pain returned. At 26 I did not want to rely on medication for back pain. After the Starting Strength program I am completely pain free. Strengthening the muscles around the vertebrae and discs is vitally important for everyone’s longevity, but especially for those of us who have suffered an injury.

In addition to physical strength, this type of training really does have an impact on overall health. Hypercholesterolemia runs in my family. I had testing several months prior to the starting strength cycle and again just after its completion. My total cholesterol dropped over 50 points with a drastic reduction in LDL and a slight increase in HDL. Additionally I cut my triglycerides in half. Starting Strength and an improved diet made those changes possible. You can’t always fight biology but you can sure set yourself up for the best possible outcome.

I’m incredibly happy with what I’ve gained but I know my best is yet to come. I plan on many more cycles, both Powerlifting and Olympic lifting. The process is addicting. I can’t stay away for long. Seeing what your body is capable of is such a joy and being the one asked to open the pickle jar… priceless.
 



Allyson getting her first Chin-Up & Pull-Up towards the end of her remote strength cycle.

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Does CrossFit Impair Attentive Processes?

I recently caught up on the published literature pertaining to CrossFit training and decided to highlight this particular study (Perciavalle et al., 2016) as it possesses significant problems in both experimental design and results interpretation. This study sought to determine if CrossFit training results in negative effects on attention-related activities by virtue of high blood lactate levels. The underlying rationale is that high lactate levels were previously associated with negative effects on cognition (attention, memory) and CrossFit is known to raise lactate levels. Therefore, high levels of lactate may correlate with impaired cognitive ability.

The Takehome: This study presents us with many problems, the first of which is the premise. Asking whether CrossFit training will lead to attention deficits isn’t very novel. It’s known that exertion/fatigue impair cognitive function (memory, reaction time, etc.) So, the study hangs specifically on whether blood lactate levels can be correlated with poor attentional performance. However, the design does not use a correlation (regression) analysis – it compares means. In addition, the statistics applied to the comparison of the means (ANOVA) is inappropriate since the groups are simply different time points measured on the same individuals. An ANOVA requires that the groups be independent. Finally, the pool of participants had higher than normal baseline (before testing) lactate levels and were all on creatine supplementation, thereby adding additional variables the study did not explain or control for. Fortunately, the result of this study, that CrossFit training temporarily (until 15 minutes after training) impairs attentional performances, is not really novel or surprising. Therefore, the design and interpretation issues that cast doubt on the validity of this result won’t affect the broader field of study much at all.

STUDY DETAILS
Experimental Design:

  • 15 male CrossFitters were recruited for this study.
  • All participants were consuming Creatine daily (mean: 3.80+/-0.62g).
  • The CrossFit WOD 15.1 was used as the training stimulus. It consisted of 27-21-15-9 reps of Rowing (calories) and Thrusters (43kg barbell).
  • Measurements were taken at three time points: 5 min before the WOD, when the WOD ended, and 15 minutes after the WOD ended.
  • Physiological measurements included blood lactate and glucose levels.
  • Cognitive measurements included 1) Attention and Concentration Tasks (ACT) which is a series of tasks performed on a computer, 2) a Reaction Time (RT) test based on how quickly the participant can indicate when a symbol appears on a computer monitor, and 3) a selectivity of attention test was used which assessed audio and visual recognition while attention was split across two tasks.
  • A 1-way ANOVA was used to compare differences among groups (time points).

Results:

  • Levels of blood lactate before the training were significantly higher than levels that normally occur at rest.
  • Blood lactate levels increased significantly by the end of the training workout and returned to baseline by 15 minutes after.
  • Blood glucose did not change significantly as a result of training.
  • Reaction time, execution time, number of omissions, and number of errors were significantly increased at the end of training compared to before training. These values all returned to levels similar to baseline by 15 minutes after training.

Limitations:

  • No women were examined in this study (only men) and the age of the participants was not listed.
  • All participants were taking Creatine as a supplement, so any conclusions drawn can only be of the effect of CrossFit training AND Creatine supplementation. We cannot say the effect of CrossFit alone.
  • Use of a 1-Way ANOVA for statistical analysis assumes that the groups being compared are independent. If the same individuals are compared/present in all groups (as they were here), this violates the rules for use of an ANOVA. So, this approach is inappropriate. A repeated measures approach should have been used.
  • The question (hypothesis) being asked isn’t tested properly. To test for correlations between lactate levels and attention deficits, a regression analysis should have been conducted, not a comparison of means.
  • The conclusion of the study (athletes with high blood lactate before training who partake of CrossFit will have their attentional performances limited), does not match the question (hypothesis) of the study. It is a re-purposing of the work after the fact.
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Are You Training? Get A Notebook!

After all these years, one thing I constantly find myself saying to my clients/athletes is, “Get a notebook.” I want them to have a physical record of what they are doing when they take class or do sessions with me. Even when I give explanations as to why it’s important, my conversion rate is low. To be fair, there are many more reasons to have a notebook than can be said in a quick discussion. Therefore, I decided to write this article to explain in more detail why a notebook is so important.

The Assumption – Training, Not Exercising: There is an important assumption I have made when writing what follows below. The assumption is that when you go to a gym or take a fitness class you are training, not exercising. Exercise is physical activity with no purpose or desired outcome. Exercise lacks goals. Exercise is activity that will make you sweat, that isn’t part of any particular program, that you may be doing because you like the way it feels, but when all is said and done may not even make you healthier. Exercise doesn’t need a program or a coach because it is not directed towards any outcome. If, on the other hand, you have a goal (improve metabolic markers, improve body composition, get stronger, develop a new skill), then to achieve it you must partake in structured physical activity, which is referred to as training.

Why You Should Have a Physical Notebook: There are a variety of reasons you should have a physical notebook if you are training:

It Helps You Keep Track of Things You Learn. During each training session or class you may receive some interesting pieces of information or some tips on how you can improve. For example,

  • Your Coach gives you a better way to break up your reps in a conditioning piece.
  • You get a tip on how to make that first muscle-up easier.
  • Your Coach recommends a different scaling option.
  • You realize you need to use self-spotting arms now and have to remember what pin holes they should go in.
  • Your form is a bit off on a movement and you have to remember to work on it.
  • You realize you perform better when you take an extra warm-up set in your heavy squats.
  • Your Coach explains how a specific type of mobility is holding you back on your front squats and gives you a routine to improve.
  • Your progress/score in class requires that you write a score for each 30 second work interval during your 10 sec rest periods.

If you write the above notes down in your notebook they will be there to remind you in future sessions. You’ll see them as you flip through your notebook. If you don’t have a notebook to write the observations in, you will be leaving it up to chance if you’ll remember them correctly (or at all)…and odds are you won’t.

It Helps You Take Your Next Step. What you do in each training session is dependent upon what you did in prior sessions. For example,

  • 70% of your 1RM.
  • 5lbs heavier than last time.
  • 80% of your max heart rate.
  • Aim for more reps than last time.

The above are all common training directives that reference past performances. Using a notebook will make sure this information is available when you need it. Otherwise, you’ll just be guessing, and more times than not you will overshoot or undershoot what is appropriate for you.

It Helps You Track The Unexpected. Maybe when you started training things didn’t go as planned that day. Maybe you weren’t feeling good from something you ate or from not getting enough sleep. You might be able to still train, but your performance might be less than ideal. If you make a note of this in your notebook, you’ll be able to refer back to it and plan future sessions properly (i.e, not changing your programming because you just had an off day). Similarly, if you’re having a particularly good day and you decide to change things a bit (i.e., going heavier/harder), you’ll want to make a note of that so that in the future you don’t mistake that day for a typical one.

It Has Nostalgic Value. There’s nothing like going through your bookcase years in the future and thumbing through your old training notebooks. The notebooks will literally have your blood, sweat and tears in the pages. It’s a great feeling.

But I Record My Training Online. A Notebook Is Redundant!: This is a common remark nowadays because there are many online platforms for delivering workouts and tracking training data. The way I see it, just because you track your training online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a physical notebook too. I regularly track my training data online, but I also have a physical notebook. Here’s why:

Technology Can Fail. Servers can crash or go down for maintenance. In addition, cellular and wifi networks can go down or have connectivity/reception issues. This can make accessing your digital training information inconsistent, hard, or even impossible. If you are trying to access or upload information and you run into one of these problems, you start wasting valuable training time. Also, there’s really no guarantee that any online data is safe. So, think of your physical notebook as a fail-safe master copy.

Technology Is Slow. It is substantially quicker to jot notes down in your physical notebook compared to unlocking your phone, launching an app, finding the right place to write your notes, typing the notes in and then saving the notes. The same kind of time investment occurs when you use online tracking platforms to retrieve your information. Extra time is taken each way. And if you do intense conditioning, you certainly don’t want to be accessing your phone when you’re drenched in sweat, dazed and confused.

Summary: To sum things up, if you are training, get a physical notebook. If you’re not training and only exercising, then you can’t complain about not getting results, not developing skills, and so on. Well, of course you can complain, but your Coach is going to give you side-eye for the reasons listed above. On a more philosophical note, if we ignore goal achievement for the moment, training means you are on a journey and that you are trying to be better than who you were yesterday. It’s really about trying to become the best version of yourself that you can be. In other words, it’s growth process and a physical notebook is a symbolic reminder of this process. There’s always another page, chapter, or book waiting to be filled.

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Different Adaptations to Exercise in Young and Older Adults

Although the health benefits of exercise are indisputable, the cellular and molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. In addition, the extent to which these mechanisms differ among different types of exercise and in different populations (e.g., younger and older) remains unclear. A recent study by Robinson and others in Cell Metabolism examined the molecular changes taking place in young and older adults after conducting different forms of exercise: Resistance Training, High Intensity Interval Training, and Combined Training.

The Takehome: The different training modalities all improved markers for health and fitness, but in slightly different ways. High Intensity Training yielded the greatest changes, improving cardio-respiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial respiration and fat-free mass in both young and older groups. Resistance Training improved fat-free mass, leg strength and insulin sensitivity in both age groups. This is an important point as most people believe metabolic parameters cannot be improved without metabolic conditioning (aerobic/anaerobic training). Here we see that in both young and older individuals, insulin sensitivity can be improved with resistance training. Combined training (which was actually aerobic training and lower volume strength training) improved cardio-respiratory fitness, fat-free mass and leg strength in both age groups, but only improved insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial respiration in the younger age group. Since this “combined group” was not a simple combination of the two other groups, it is unclear if this decrease in effectiveness in the older group resulted from a switch to aerobic training, the reduction in resistance training volume or a combination of the two. At the molecular level, High Intensity Training resulted in the greatest changes of gene and protein expression in both young and older individuals, particularly for genes associated with mitochondrial function (the energy powerhouse of the cell). Gene expression differences resulting from Resistance Training and Combined training were less numerous than for High Intensity Training and were more prominent in older adults than younger adults. Further studies will be needed to explain the significance of these different gene expression changes in the two age groups, particularly given that one or more changes at the molecular level seldom lead to straight-forward cause and effect behaviors.

STUDY DETAILS
Experimental Design:

  • Two age groups were studied. Young (18-30 years) and Older (65-80).
  • Both groups were relatively evenly balanced with males and females.
  • Three exercise modalities were assessed: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Resistance Training (RT) and Combined Training (CT).
  • HIIT consisted of 3 days/week on a cycle ergometer with 4 cycles of 4 min high intensity (>90%) and 3 min active rest (light pedaling).
  • RT consisted of numerous machine and free weight exercises performed within 60 minutes 4 days/week. Mon and Thurs were the lower body days. Tues and Fri were the upper body days. Total sets increased in number from 2 to 4 over the course of the study and repetitions were in the 8-12 range.
  • CT was actually not a combination of the two prior modalities. It consisted of 30 minutes of cycling at 70% of each participant’s VO2max 5 days a week and a RT program similar to the RT group above, but with fewer exercises.
  • The exercise/training period was 12 weeks and measurements were taken 72 hours after the last training session.

Results:

  • HIIT training improved cardio-respiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial respiration and fat-free mass in both young and older groups.
  • RT improved fat-free mass, leg strength and insulin sensitivity in both age groups.
  • CT improved cardio-respiratory fitness, fat-free mass and leg strength in both age groups, but only improved insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial respiration in the younger age group.
  • Only HIIT improved aerobic capacity.
  • HIIT resulted in the largest gene expression changes regardless of age.
  • In older adults, HIIT resulted in greater gene expression changes than RT and CT.
  • 11 genes that were down regulated with age were upregulated after HIIT training in older adults.
  • Only HIIT increased mitochondrial protein synthesis in both younger and older participants.
  • RT and CT produced increases in mitochondrial protein levels in older groups only.

Limitations:

  • Training history of the participants was not assessed.
  • Combined training was actually a different type of training. Instead of combining HIIT training with RT, the authors directed participants to perform aerobic training 5 days per week and the resistance training they did in combination was of a lower volume than found in the RT group.
  • Because the CT group was a different stimulus althogether, we cannot say if the reduced effectiveness of this modality (particularly in older adults) is due to the switch to aerobic training, the reduction in resistance training volume or the combination of the two.
  • Just because genes are upregulated, doesn’t mean that the upregulation of those genes has beneficial effects on health.
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Client Success Story – Dan

Name: Dan
Age: 33
Height: 5′ 10″

Dan’s Training Program
Dan came to me with no formal training history. He had never even done certain basic barbell lifts (squat, deadlift). His major goals were to get instruction in proper form for the barbell lifts and to get a bit stronger. However, he presented with an added complication of constantly suffering from back pain. With no prior history of injury or serious training, I suspected the pain would disappear as he strengthened his back with proper technique.

Duration of Training
One 9-Week Cycle based on the Starting Strength methodology.
 
 
 
 
 
Before & After Statistics
 
Starting Weight: 150
Ending Weight: 165
 
Starting Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 95x5x3 (with difficulty keeping knees out), Press 65×5×3, Bench Press 105x5x3, Deadlift 110×5 (with difficulty setting back and regular back pain), Power Clean 65×3×5
 
Ending Weight for Lifts (lbs):
Squat 165×5, Press 90×5, Bench Press 145x5x3, Deadlift 180×5 (with no more back pain), Power Clean 100×3×5


In His Own Words
 
One day I was fed up with being unhealthy and decided to make a change. I joined a gym and found a 5 day split weightlifting program. I was committed and didn’t miss a day at the gym for the first two months. I felt much better but I wasn’t making any progress. My weight remained flat at 150lbs and I wasn’t getting stronger.

I did some research and discovered the Starting Strength Program. I really liked the linear progression model but I was hesitant for safety reasons. I had constant lower back pain and was afraid that lifting heavy free weights might make it worse. That’s when I decided to train with Hayden so I could learn proper technique and minimize risk of injury.

I had never done a squat or deadlift in my life. Hayden took the time to teach me proper technique and ensure that I didn’t injure my back. The results were better than I expected. Over the course of 9 weeks I gained 15 lbs, mastered the major lifts and changed my lifestyle. The best part about it was that my lower back pain completely disappeared. I tried so many different remedies including acupuncture, chiropractors, massage and stretching but nothing helped. Once I strengthened my back, my posture changed and now I’m pain free.

Starting strength was a great program for beginners and I would highly recommend Hayden as an instructor. He is very knowledgeable and professional.

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