Plateaus and Things You Should Know

Most of us at some point in our fitness journeys have hit a plateau, and if you have not yet… you will! This could be a plateau in weight loss, strength gain, performance goals, a certain way you feel, or any other type of stagnation in your fitness. 

First, plateaus are normal and going to happen, it is part of the process. We need to change our mindset around plateaus and understand they are okay, and part of the next stage of mastery. Once you hit a plateau, that means you are exiting the “beginner” phase where you can see results by doing just about anything because it is new and different and your body will adapt. The plateau can be used as a hint that it’s time to level up and take it to the next step! 

So how do we get through a plateau?! Well, it really depends on what your specific goal is, the plateau that you are going through, and where you are at in your fitness journey! But, we will go over some of the general big key things that will help you to get through most plateaus.

First thing to consider is MAYBE you are fit enough for your goals and what you need/want from health and fitness! If your goal is simply to feel good, be able to keep up with kids, and be healthy, then you may not need an extremely high level of fitness, or be able to squat hundreds of pounds. The plateau could just be you entering a maintenance phase, meaning you have a high enough level of fitness to match you goals, and now the game is to keep that level for as long as possible as you age. Maintaining a level of fitness for a long period of time is a WAY overlooked aspect of health and fitness! Just because you aren’t improving, doesn’t mean you are getting worse. Being able to keep a relatively high level of fitness consistent for years and years is amazing, even though you may not necessarily be improving any number or metrics! Now, let’s get into some ways we can break through plateaus if you find you need to for your specific goal:

  1. Dial in the other 23 hours of the day. This could be sleep, nutrition, recovery, being more active during the day, or a combination of all of these! If you workout 1 hour a day, that is awesome, but it gives you 23 other hours to screw it all up with poor sleep, diet, recovery, or being lazy. Making small improvements in these areas could be the little kick you body needs to start producing those results again. The more fit you become, the more you will HAVE to dial these things in to continue getting results.
  2. Another way to train through a plateau may be increasing the training volume. When you start brand new, you can get awesome results from 2-3 days per week. Once those begin to slow down, it may be time to kick it up to 4-5 days per week and exercise more! If you have the other 23 hours of the day dialed in and you are working out 4+ days per week, then number 3 is your key….
  3. CONSISTENCY!!! This is the most boring one, but results take time. Everyone is different, but consistency is king. You have to do the hard things over and over and over again for months and years to get the results you want AND continue to work forever to keep those results. A great quote is “Fitness is never owned, it’s rented. And rent is due everyday!” This is where I see most people fail once they have the right routines in place… simply not doing it long enough.
  4. Lastly, if you have a very specific area that you are noticing the plateau in, it may be time for you to get on a specific program and focus more on just that one thing. This is where learning what your goals are can be very helpful! If you come to realize your main goal is strength, and you notice a plateau in lifting numbers, then it might be time to do a lifting cycle and really dedicate extra time specifically to that area.

Written By: Coach Seth

You May Not Need More Volume

“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return on favorable adaptations to exercise”. Intensity is a staple of CrossFit as a training methodology, which is something that get’s lost quite often and rinsed over with volume. The issue with this is more volume doesn’t always mean better, there’s a famous line that gets used quite often and it goes like this:

“Be impressed with intensity, not volume”

It would be more beneficial for somebody to train for 60 minutes at 90 percent intensity than for 90 minutes at 60 percent intensity. 

An easy hole that many fall into is when they start to add running into their regiment. Not that running is a bad thing, but what happens is intensity starts to diminish in their workouts. Take this for example, if there’s a workout programmed for class, how would you approach it differently if you know you’re going to go for a 1 or 2 mile walk / jog / run afterwards? 

  1. You’re not going to push yourself as hard in the class workout because you are naturally going to want to save some energy for afterwards.
  2. Your walk / jog / run afterwards is going to suffer because you already burned some of your energy in the workout. 

So, you’re not getting the full benefit of either one. You’d be better off doing ONE of them and giving 100% effort towards that one thing. When you do that, you’ll see whatever results you’re looking for, whether it be aesthetics, performance, or overall health.

“Intensity is relative to each person’s physical and psychological threshold, and it’s up to the athlete and the coach to determine what that intensity looks like each day.” 

When you come to a CrossFit class, there will be a programmed workout of the day. If done correctly, this is more than enough fitness for MOST people. 

Here’s an example:

Workout

-30 DB Clean and Press

-40 Cal Bike

-30 DB Clean and Press

That workout is a BEAR. The amount of calories should be a little different for everyone so that we all hit it HARD. If you’ve ever done a 40 cal bike sprint, you know how devastating that can be. When you smash it in between two sets of DB Clean and Press, that workout should require every little bit of energy you have. It is intended to be a harder workout that will leave most people completely exhausted. That’s how you’ll get the most results for the day. 

If you were able to do that workout, rest 5 minutes, then go out and jog for a couple miles, you didn’t do the workout right AND your run is going to be half-assed because you used a lot of your energy going through the motions of the workout. As a coach, that’s my fault. The goal is for everyone to give their maximum relative effort to the workout of the day, which is how you get the most fit and how you most effectively fight off chronic disease, which is the end goal for all of us. 

“Blur the distinction between strength training and metabolic conditioning for the simple reason that nature’s challenges are typically blind to the distinction”

If you have been coming to the gym for a while and still not seeing the results you want to see, there’s 3 things right off the bat I would ask you. 

  1. How is your nutrition?
  2. How many times a week do you attend class?
  3. Where is your effort level in classes on a scale from 1-10?

Most people think they’re at an 8 or 9 on the effort level, but are actually around a 3 or 4. The fix to this is NOT adding more workouts / extra cardio. As volume increases, intensity tends to decrease. Sometimes, a hard 5 minute workout is plenty of fitness for the day. The coach will lead you through the rest of the class to work on movement, range of motion, mobility, skills, and a cool down. If you hit that 5 minute workout as hard as you can, that’s all you need. 

Once you’ve been coming to class consistently for a long time, and your physical and psychological threshold has a solid foundation, and your nutrition is on point, THEN you may benefit from adding more training. Talking to a coach about this is always beneficial, and we can lead you in the right direction on whether or not you need to add more goal-specific training. Most of the time, that’s not the case. 

 

Written By: Coach Ken

Eat For Optimum Health MOST of the Time

What do members of CrossFit Angola do differently than everyone else? There are some common threads that all members here should share. The first one being…

EATING FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH MOST OF THE TIME

That means you should take an honest look at what you’re eating and drinking, and decide whether or not you’re eating for optimum health more often than not. 

Example of CFA Member

I prepped all my meals for lunch each day last week that included lean protein, a vegetable, and some starch. I also drank 80 oz. of water every day. On top of that, I ate a breakfast with eggs and fruit every day, and used the plate method for dinners. I went out to eat for dinner 1 or 2 times and enjoyed a *insert drink of choice* with each meal, and it was delicious. 

Example of Poor Nutrition

I ate a salad once last week. I stopped by fast food a few times, had at least one drink (of alcohol) 4 or 5 nights with dinner, and went out for dinner 3 or 4 times. I didn’t prep any meals ahead of time. I went out on the boat on Saturday and ate like shit and drank all day long. I ate cereal for breakfast about half the time, and skipped breakfast the other half. I didn’t eat or drink anything before my workouts. 

Which of the above examples most resembles your nutrition?

Here’s the thing: we all joined the gym for a reason; to lose weight, gain muscle, look better, feel better, get out of pain, regain an active lifestyle, etc. Whatever that reason is, you need to pay more attention to your nutrition in order to get to where you want to be.

Eating for optimum health most of the time is one way that we, as athletes at CrossFit Angola, can separate ourselves from the rest of the general population.

Do less, but better

Written by: Coach Seth

If you would like to improve your performance, my advice to you would be to do less, but better…not more! I see this happen a lot: Someone is brand new to the gym and they make huge gains in performance extremely fast! Then that starts to slow down and they instantly think “I need to do more, to get more results”. More exercise does not always equal more results. BETTER exercise= more results. This is called virtuosity, doing the common thing uncommonly well.

Experts in anything all have one thing in common, they have MASTERED the basics. This is the boring and unsexy truth about how you get good and then great at anything (fitness included). Revisiting the basics over and over and over again with intentionality. And once you feel as though you have mastered the basics, go back through and find the 1% way to improve it again! The opposite of this would be breezing through the basics or warm-up sets and trying to get to a more advanced or heavier version of a movement or workout too quickly. You will inevitably hit a ceiling very quickly and be forced to go back and master the basics to improve!

One place I see this very commonly is in weightlifting. Too often I see people going too heavy or doing near max weights because they believe that is the best way to get stronger in those lifts. In reality, if you work just a little lighter and make the movement PERFECT, and keep the position perfect, and keep the form perfect, and squeeze every muscle that is supposed to work, you will get stronger! Period! On the flip side, if you go 20lbs heavier but maybe not quite hit full depth, or the back rounds and now the core isn’t working, or you shift out of position putting focus on the wrong muscles, you will get less results. Even though you lifted heavier, you are not building the proper form and muscles to continue progressing and to truly reach your strength potential. You are putting a low ceiling on yourself and will stop progressing quickly. It is hard to take steps back to what seems “basic” but it will undoubtedly take you further!

A personal example was when I began to learn how to barbell snatch. I had decently good technique, but I always wanted to go heavy each time I snatched. I quickly hit a weight that I could not get passed no matter how many times I tried it week after week after week. Finally, I went back to the empty barbell for a few weeks and drilled nothing but the positions and technique. Then a few weeks of only light weight, drilling the form. As I continued to build back up in weight over months, my sole focus was on mastering the technique.. The basics. If I did a lift and the form was off, the weight went down. It didn’t matter how light it felt. When I built back up to the weight I could not get previously, I hit it with ease! Then heavier, and heavier, with ease! Perfecting the foundation and basics allowed me to increase my ceiling for progress.

This is true with any lift, exercise, or movement! Mastering the basics, chasing virtuosity, will allow you to progress to the next level, whatever that may be! My challenge to you is this: Take a few workouts a week and purposefully “scale” the movements, weights, or intensity back more than you would normally and focus on mastering the movement with virtuosity! It won’t be the cool and sexy thing to put on instagram, but it will lead you to do the cool and sexy things that others can’t do! It is tough to put the ego aside and take a few steps backward, but it is worth it when you shoot forward farther than you have ever been!

How Much Ya Bench?

Written by: Coach Ken

From the time I was 14 years old up to the time I started CrossFit at 26, the Bench Press was considered the holy grail of strength movements. You were only as strong as your bench press. That spanned from the High School football team in Orland Park, Illinois to the college football team in Aurora, Illinois, all the way to Angola, Indiana. Everywhere I went, the bench press was king. 

Then I started CrossFit. 

You see the Bench Press in CrossFit workouts MAYBE once a month, more often it’s even less than that. So if benching is so good for you (based on my history of lifting weights), why don’t we do it in classes very often? And is there a time and place for it in a fitness methodology focused on building a broad, general base of fitness?

First, let’s go back to when bench pressing became more commonplace. It started back in the 1970’s, when powerlifters  and competitive weightlifters had difficulty mastering more complex movements like the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk (which are considered Olympic Lifting Movements, due to them being an olympic sport). People figured out that they could utilize their strength much more doing lifts like bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting. The Overhead Press (or “Strict Press”) was eliminated from Olympic competition in the 1970’s because it was supposedly a high-risk exercise for the lower back, and people started bench pressing in favor of overhead pressing. 

*For the record, it was never proven that pressing overhead is bad for your back. Like any other movement, if done correctly with appropriate loading, it’s perfectly safe. 

As it turned out, this transition to bench pressing brought about a rash of rotator-cuff injuries in the 1970’s. Before this time, those kinds of injuries were unheard of because people that were doing overhead pressing and olympic weightlifting did a great job of strengthening the shoulder girdle and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

This is why we place a bigger emphasis on pressing weight overhead. It builds an incredible amount of upper body strength and, if done with proper mechanics, poses very little risk for injury. It lends itself better to life outside the gym as well. Think of how many times you’ve picked something up over your head vs. how many times you were laying on your back and pressed something off of your chest. 

Having said all that, should you still be bench pressing? Absolutely! Getting a better bench press will increase your overall upper body strength and will significantly increase your overhead pressing ability. However, it should not take the place of overhead pressing. That’s where people get mixed up. 

Doing strict press, push press, and push jerks will be more beneficial than doing bench press exclusively. There’s nothing wrong with benching, as long as it’s done safely (and preferably with a spotter). Just make sure you’re getting those shoulders strong too. 

 

Article used for reference: 

“The Role of the Bench Press in Strength Training” By Bill Starr

Intensity VS Volume

Written by: Seth Fifer

I have recently had the conversation with many people about adding in more workouts vs increasing the intensity of your workouts, and which one will get more results! There becomes a point in time where I have seen people wanting more results and start to wonder if they should add in an extra session or do another workout because, more work= more results…. right?! Quick answer, NO…. More exercise does not always equal more results!!

First, let’s go over what I mean by “volume” and “intensity”. Volume just means adding in more. This could be extra programming, another workout, or simply just doing more exercise for the sake of doing more. Intensity is doing the workout harder, faster, or heavier. Intensity is equal to power. Power is: Weight x Distance divided by time (the heavier it is, the farther you move it, the faster you do it, the more powerful you are). 

The Founder of CrossFit stated, “Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with the rate of return on favorable adaptation.” Simply put, intensity brings about all the good results from working out. Increasing intensity appropriately during WODs will yield better results than adding in more exercise or sessions, but doing the multiple sessions with a lower intensity. You will be better off hitting 1 workout hard, then hitting 2 or 3 workouts easy. Take this example: Person A walks 2 miles at a leisure pace. Person B does a max effort 1 mile run as fast as possible. While Person A did more volume (went farther), Person B had much higher intensity and will have much more adaptations from the workout!

With this talk of higher intensity it is important to remember a few things:

  1. Mechanics and consistency come BEFORE intensity
  2. Intensity is relative to each person based on their physical AND psychological tolerance, and can improve over time.
  3. Not EVERY day needs to be max, or even high, intensity. 

It is also important to note that doing more volume is not inherently bad! Extra work is beneficial with things like specific goals, working towards skills, building specific muscle groups, etc.  

To sum it up, before you add in MORE exercise, add in more intensity and focus into what you are already doing! 

5 Life Lessons that CrossFit Has Taught Me

Written by: Coach James

Those that have been doing this thing with us for some time now may have noticed that there is more to what we do in the gym than the physical demand. The mental aspect to training is just as great. It provides a release, but it also teaches us things about ourselves. So, here are my personal lessons that I have learned through CrossFit and training!

Lesson 1: It’s not about what others are doing. 

This was a big lesson for me. Coming from a sports background with a competitive nature it’s hard for me not to compare. I always had the tendency to compare myself to other people and what they are doing and how they are doing it. From people within the gym as well as elite athletes found throughout the world on social media. The thing with comparison is it leads you down a steep path to self destruction, because the thing is we are all our own people. No one is the same and neither is anyone’s journey. We all start in different places. We all have different fitness levels, capacities, skills, etc. That’s the beauty of training, to build and to work on improving those things. That’s why it doesn’t matter where you are compared to someone else, it’s your journey, it’s your goals, the focus is how you are going to get where you want wherever that is. 

Lesson 2: One Step at a time.

When something seems so insurmountable or impossible to overcome, take a deep breath and take one step at a time. I learned this lesson through the various amounts of workouts I have been through. The Murph is a great example, I did it for the first time unpartitioned last year meaning I did my 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 air squats in a row with a 20lb vest. For those that have done this, know the feeling of seeing that size of a set and the pressure it places. Whether it’s Murph or some other workout I am sure you have had this feeling before. That’s why we take a step back and remember it’s all about one step at a time. Whether life hits you with some insurmountable situations or you’re facing a tough workout and that overwhelming feeling is encroaching, remember to breathe and focus on just one step at a time.

Lesson 3: Consistency is King.

I know this one sounds like a broken record for most of you, but it’s just the truth. When it comes to training or anything in life, nothing is going to be better than creating consistency around whatever you are doing. Too much thought goes into the instantaneous production when the truth is that’s not how it will work. I learned this when I started CrossFit, for those that know Seth is a fairly fit guy and I love competing when the time comes and so when Seth and I would workout he’d crush me. So, I tried to find ways I could improve my fitness level and skills to match Seth’s instantaneously. The reality hit hard when I wasn’t even close to catching him on those days we worked out and that’s where I stepped back and just focused on training 6 days a week and doing the things I needed to do. It’s not till now that I look back and see how that consistency has paid off. My fitness is 100x better than where it used to be and I am able to do cool things like muscle ups, handstand push ups and walking, all because I was consistent. It’s been three years worth of doing the things I needed to do to get where I am now. Nothing happens instantly, losing 30 lbs doesn’t happen overnight, gaining 20 pounds on your lifts doesn’t happen in two weeks, getting your first pull doesn’t happen after one strength session, all these things require consistency. The consistent effort over time compounds into your progress and success.

Lesson 4: Fall in love with the Process not the Outcome

This lesson goes hand and hand with consistency, but what I mean by this lesson is if you fall in love with the outcome and not the process it doesn’t make things as enjoyable. When I was in the sport of powerlifting that’s where I was at. I would squat, bench, and deadlift twice a week and to increase my strength and numbers. That was the only thing I was focused on: more weight, more numbers each week and eventually I got burnt out because all I was focused on was the outcome, the heavier bench, squat, and deadlift. What CrossFit has taught me is to fall in love with the process, meaning falling in love with the training. This came from the vast amount of skills within this methodology and because of that I fell in love with training these things to create the outcome. That way when the outcome or results come they are even sweeter!

Lesson 5: Sometimes it is going to be tough.

I imagine most of us have experienced this by now, but some workouts are tough. Whether it’s something we don’t like to do, we are not good at, or just challenging in general we have experienced those moments. Let me tell you these are my favorite moments personally. What this has taught me is to be better accepting when things are challenging in life, because the reality of it is sometimes stuff hits the fan and life throws some things at you, but what these workouts have taught me is that I am capable of enduring and coming out the other side. These moments have shown me I am strong. It has also given me the ability to find comfort in the uncomfortable.

I could continue with this list, but it’s important to sometimes see how much growth you have gained through what we do at the gym, not just physically, but mentally as well. It’s a cool thing to look at and it’s the gains that are often overlooked!

Are You Warming Up?

Written by: Ken Dominique

The general warmup usually takes around 10 minutes. That’s about 17% of the one hour class. If utilized correctly, it can be incredibly beneficial.

 

Here’s a few different ways to use the warmup:

 

  1.  Put your body through the ranges of motion you’ll need for the workout

 

The warmup isn’t programmed by accident. The reason we put those specific movements in there is to see how the body (specific joints) are going to feel. If we’re doing front squats in the workout, you can bet you’ll see air squats in the warmup. If a knee doesn’t feel right, that’s when we want to know about it, not after your third set of heavy squats. 

 

  1. Improve technique

 

If we’re squatting in the workout, and we do air squats in the warmup, that’s a PERFECT time to practice: getting your butt down to proper depth, keeping your core braced, leaving your heels on the ground, and forcing your knees to the outside. These skills need to be practiced with no weight and perfected before moving onto lifting weights. 

 

  1. See if you’re mentally ready to go.

 

You can only workout to your own physical and PSYCHOLOGICAL threshold. Some days I feel like shit. I remember getting warmed up before class one time, and I was completely winded after 250 meters on the rower, which isn’t normal for me. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, my nutrition had been terrible, and life was stressing me out. I took that cue (of me being out of breath) as a sign that I needed to TAKE IT EASY THAT DAY! And that’s always fine to do. Listen to your body in the warmup. If you’re physically or psychologically not prepared for the workout, dial it back and talk to the coach. As a coach, I am here for you. 

 

Let me repeat that for the people in the back:

 

  1. AM. HERE. FOR. YOU.

 

I care more about our members than any other collective of humans on the planet. I am here to help you through things like this, and sometimes that means flowing through the day instead of pushing your foot to the gas pedal. 

Consistency Over Everything.

By: Ken Dominique

How many of us have planned to start a new diet on Monday, only for it to be completely forgotten about by Tuesday afternoon? Or maybe you’ve done a 30 day cleanse, only to have gone back to where we started on day 31. 

Statistics show that 80% of people that lose weight from a diet end up gaining it back. EIGHTY PERCENT?!?!? If you spend the next 60 days losing weight, then gain it all back in the following 3 months, what was the point of going through all that work to lose the weight in the first place?

There’s something that the 20% of people do that matters most, and that is consistency. Anybody can starve themselves to lose weight, but if the goal is to live a healthy life for the long haul, you need a better plan.

The fact is that MOST diets work. There have been studies that show people losing weight on low-fat diets, high-fat (keto) diets, high carb diets, low carb diets, and everything in between. The problem that people run into is that when you get off of your “quick fix” diet, you go right back to square one. 

That’s why you need to build habits that you can do forever. 

For example, how many times have you backed out of your driveway? After the 1000th time, you don’t think while you’re doing it “Ok I need to push my foot down on the brake and hit the start button on my car, wait 3 seconds for the car to turn on, keep my foot on the brake while I switch the car into reverse gear, then look in my rear view mirror, then slowly take my foot off the brake” and so forth.

You back out of the driveway because you’ve built the habit over a lifetime, you don’t even have to think about it. 

When you can perform your nutrition habits the same way, when you can make your breakfast with your eyes closed or meal prep while having side conversations, that’s when your habits become sustainable. 

That takes time, so start small. Work on one habit at a time, and get it locked in so that you can do it forever without having to spend any mental energy on it. 

Where should you start? Try adding a vegetable to your breakfast every day. Simple, right? It makes a big difference and sets you up for success for the rest of your day. 

For more information on nutrition, send us a DM or email [email protected] to schedule your FREE nutrition intro! I’d love to talk to you about all things nutrition and answer any questions you may have!

A Quick and Easy Way to Get Your Nutrition Heading in the Right Direction!

By: Ken Dominique

Is there such a thing as a “one size fits all” diet or meal plan? 

Yes and no. 

For starters every person is different, so there can’t be one specific food or diet that every person in the world enjoys and can stick to. However, there is something that EVERYBODY can do to improve their nutrition, and it’s called the “Plate Method”.

If you’ve listened to me talk about nutrition in the past, chances are that you’ve heard me talk about the plate method, and all the benefits it brings. 

So, what exactly is the plate method?

It starts with an empty plate. From there the goal is to fill ½ of your plate up with non-starchy vegetables (I also call them “volume carbs” because you can’t eat too many of them). These can be broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower (riced or garlic cauliflower are great), brussels sprouts, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, green beans, radishes, artichokes, or any other low glycemic carbohydrate. 

Next, fill ¼ of your plate with some lean protein like grilled chicken, turkey breast, eggs or egg whites, bison, salmon, tuna, venison, tofu, or any other kind of non-fatty protein. 

The other ¼ of your plate is filled with starchy carbohydrates like beans, peas, any kind of fruit, quinoa, red potato / sweet potato, brown rice, or oatmeal. 

And there you go! This method of filling your plate is the gold standard because it forces you to have a balanced meal that includes fruits or veggies, protein, and fat (that comes from your protein source). This method can also be utilized at restaurants by ordering a steak with double veggies, or a burger without the bun and sweet potato fries. There are an endless number of possibilities, but the plate method helps keep you in the right direction.

A little pro-tip to top it off: eat the volume vegetables first! Since we are the most hungry when we first sit down to eat, those veggies are going to taste even better, and it helps fill us up quicker so we don’t end up overeating!

If you are looking for more or are interested in nutrition coaching email me at [email protected] to schedule your FREE Nutrition Into!