Searching for the Truth

I once was asked “Can you really build a Healthy CrossFit Athlete?”

I mention this not because it’s difficult question to answer, but how disheartening it was to hear — the question is an acknowledgement of a problem. Now this is not a shot at CrossFit, these days you can interchange the word CrossFit with any other name in sports. It’s all the same problem stemming from a lack of education and awareness from the coaches – Regardless of the sport.

I can see the frustration from the enlightened few coaches who are really trying to dig deep — searching for the truth. These coaches spend a lot of time and a butt load of money on their education — certs, seminars, and conferences — always looking for answers.

Maybe I have my nose in too many books but what certification is really talking about biological systems and the combination of morphological and physiological adaptation?

As far as I can tell it’s all the same — a little bit of….

energysystem

and we can’t forget about this…

Supercompensation1

Some dress it up by showing off their genetic freaks while others try to build in a perfect assessment protocol. All trying to add value to the same information being sold.

This is why writing about fitness and health on the internet is redundant. The same stories being told by different voices — some witty, some matter of fact, some copy and paste.

“If you can’t say something interesting don’t say anything at all.” — These are words I am trying to live by.

As a mentor of mine once warned me “I don’t want you to sell your soul to the internet” and he is right for saying so, because there is always someone with a cooler website, steeper marketing budget, knows the right people, or just plain talks louder and more often.

I know this because Train Adapt Evolve has been accused of the same but I can honestly say — like the “enlightened few” — we are searching for the truth.

We are 4 weeks away from our seminar Optimizing Athleticism: The Health and Performance Solution and now I am getting questions of another kind, like…

“What material are you presenting?”

Simply, all the stuff I wish I was taught early on: biological systems and the combination of morphological and physiological adaptation.

No more telling the same stories.

I won’t guarantee you will be rolling in your seats but I can guarantee that the information I will discuss you will see in action. We will have a weekend of exploring the use of not only the Omegawave technology but also Moxy Muscle Oxygenation Monitors.

The impromptu tests that can be created having a Woodway Treadmill, Jacobs Ladder, Rowers, Airdynes and all the strength equipment at our disposal combined with the different perspectives from the therapy, nutrition, and strength and conditioning fields will make for a unique learning environment.

One that I am proud to be a part of.

 

By: Aaron Davis

All Things Messy: Bioenergetics

Bioenergetics is a field in biochemistry that concerns energy flow through living systems.

We have classified these systems as:

Alactic System: Stored ATP and creatine phosphate as fuel
Anaerobic System: Requires no oxygen; Glycogen as fuel
Aerobic System: Presence of oxygen; uses stored fat, glycogen, and protein

To use in the real world we have attached both a power and capacity to each system:

Alactic Power & Capacity
Anaerobic Power & Capacity
Aerobic Power & Capacity

This makes it easy for coaches when it comes to programming and lets be honest, we love easy and clearly defined principles — not messy.

To drive my point home, one of our popular articles “Understanding Seluyanov” was in part because I wrote sets x reps protocols listed from one of Seluyanov’s seminars in Prague. This is no different than our deep affection for 5×5 for strength or Jack Daniels Running Formula for runners.

Do this. Don’t do that.

Though this proverbial line in the sand can be powerful, we get athletes that are anything but clearly defined and have a range of abilities that vary between each — leaving us coaches searching for the right mix.

Emphasis on right mix is key, because nothing is trained in isolation. We need to think of training as having an affect on everything: psychology; energetics; muscular, neuromuscular, immune, endocrine, sensory, vascular, fascial systems, etc. This is all categorized under the bio-psycho-social model.

If that’s not complicated enough, it doesn’t get better once we zero in on bioenergetics alone.

So lets get messy…

1. Since we have attached “power” to each system, how does the power of a particular system improve?

2. Playing devil’s advocate — what if anaerobic power training doesn’t improve the power of the anaerobic system?

You might call bullshit, but physiologically speaking how can we draw a line between training geared solely for capacity or solely for power?

For this example to increase power we need to speed up the time it takes for a reaction to occur within the anaerobic system. This is done by increasing the capacity of substrates and enzymes.

When we look at middle distance or events with similar duration, glycogen (the substrate for the anaerobic system) will not be pushed to depletion. Therefore the training goal should be to improve capacity (in this case enzyme concentration) that will increase power or speed of reaction.

rateofp

The messy part is that both anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power work could potentially increase enzyme concentration.

In athletes with low anaerobic capacity (slow twitch) it’s possible anaerobic power training could fulfill this adaptation. On the flip side, athletes with a high anaerobic capacity (fast twitch) anaerobic power training might not move the dial at all when it comes to improving capacity.

This is just one more reason why gathering data on individual athletes is important. So when we guess, it’s at least educated.

We also must remember that even though we prescribe traditional anaerobic power or anaerobic capacity workouts. The other systems are being trained as well.

For example at Adams State a staple workout for our 800m group was 4 sets of 5x200m@27 secs w/ a 55 sec 200m jog recovery. This would be considered a traditional anaerobic capacity workout. Yet you can’t deny this type of work also has a high demand on the aerobic system considering we would travel the mile mark around 5:30 pace — very close to our LT pace.

This is why in my heart of hearts I am not completely sold on protocols that are laser focused on improving a specific adaptation (Mitochondria or Capillarization). At times it may lack specificity.

Sorry?

I respect it and may incorporate it in situations that make sense but it’s not my bread and butter.

For me it’s about finding the right mix that is complementary to the individual.

To say I am going to focus solely on the Aerobic value on the Omegawave might take me far away from the essence of the athlete. Though I don’t want it to lessen either.

I know you what you may think.

“Didn’t this dude just write about Simple and Seluyanov’s work?”

Yea, but I am mess too.

Closing thoughts

– Most periodization schemes use a traditional approach: Capacity —> Power (though you could run a mix)

Aerobic Power + Anaerobic Capacity —-> Aerobic Power + Anaerobic Power
Anaerobic Power + Aerobic Capacity —–> Anaerobic Capacity + Aerobic Power

Realize that training one may affect the other. There is always a push and pull relationship between Aerobic and Anaerobic qualities (Athlete specific).

– HIIT can usually be categorized as either Aerobic Power, Anaerobic Power, and Anaerobic Capacity Training.

– If you decide to increase your frequency of Anaerobic Power Training — procede with caution. Very few coaches or athletes who mix power work with intense strength training get it right. (endocrine system)

– Nutrition can either amplify or hinder adaptation.

– The athlete is your system, marriage to anything outside of that will no doubt be a headache.

By: Aaron Davis

 

 

 

Olbrecht, Jan (2013). The Science of Winning. F&G Partners.

Magness, Steve (2014). The Science of Running: How to find your limit and train to maximize your performance. Origin Press.

Bosch, Frans and Ronald Klomp (2005). Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology Applied in Practice. Churchill Livingstone.

Over-Training is Very Very Real.

I know all this despite what CT Fletcher may have led you to believe. But, now the response we get most often is.

“There is no such thing as Over-Training just Under-Recovery.”

Every time I hear this bullshit I want to tie this person up and put them in a trunk of a large sedan for a couple weeks. I wouldn’t even tell them why they are there, just make them lie in the darkness, with their stupid.

Could you train more if you constantly foam rolled, got dry needled 6 times a week, incessantly froze yourself in cryotherapy, and finished every day with a deep tissue massage? Yes, but where does this money train end and more importantly is it getting you results?

What if? Just what if? That metabolic waste and damage you accumulate from exercise is meant to be there? What if in order for the body to adapt and thrive it needs time to just wallow a bit in the suffering? Our current culture loves to disrespect natural processes and rhythms, like darkness and sleep, and thus it makes sense that we would try to augment recovery to the nth degree. Like Coach Davis touched on in the previous article The Death of Superman, we are groomed from a young age to never forget that – more is always better.

If you have seen Dallas Buyers Club you know that this is not the case, some drugs, vitamins, and even water are toxic at high dosages, yet at the right dosages they can help people in profound ways. The same goes for just about anything: sex, carbs, supplements, lifestyle factors, exercise, etc. The minimum effective dose. No more. No less.

In our industry, gyms, body workers, and supplement companies make a lot of money off this more is always more philosophy. For instance, no one makes any dinero by telling you to head home, go for silent walk in the woods, and then shut down your phone and get 8 hours of sleep. They increase profits by selling you more personal training sessions or classes you may not need or more mobility contraptions that end up in the dark recesses of your ass and closet. Again what if you got results and were only mildly sore? What if you took a back off week every month to enjoy life and rein in the gainz? Would you be ok with that or would you want your money back?

Ultimately, kicking the shit out of people is a Safety Net. If these athletes/humans don’t get the results they want it cannot feasibly be the trainer’s or gym’s fault. They did everything within their power, literally everything ever. So you see writing random shit kickers on a white board and standing there yelling with a stopwatch is safe, it pacifies the population into thinking they did something unbelievably productive when really that coach has zero idea the individual stress he just put on any one of his or her human guinea pigs.

 

“Exhaustive intense training elicits a pronounced stress response as the athletes approach the upper limit of biological adaptation after three to four weeks. Continuation of such a program may lead to overtraining.”

Dan John

 

How long you can stay in the fire just depends on something called vital reserve, but don’t get it twisted, stay in long enough and you will burn.

Some of you at this point may be thinking, here they go again on this rampage against stupidity. Well Superman, let’s just keep the opinions out of it and look to the science, both anecdotal and from the research setting. In order to do this we need to cover what exactly happens when we exercise and how our bodies recover from that stress to come back stronger, faster, and more resilient than before AKA Train. Adapt…Evolve

 

Muscle Damage

“All muscle actions (concentric, eccentric, isometric), appear to be capable of damaging muscle. This damage can be specific to just a few macromolecules or result in large tears in the z-disk, sarcolemma, basal lamina, and supportive connective tissue…Exercise damages these structures when loading exceeds the limits the muscle is accustomed to.”

Koch et al., 2014

When muscle is put under mechanical or metabolic stress it releases enzymes such as creatine kinase (indicator of rhabdomyosis) and lactate dehyodrogenase and inflammatory cytokines such as (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, and TNF-α). These disturbances are catabolic and tell the body, “hey we are breaking things down over here, someone come fix this!” After the stress has subsided the body then goes to work repairing the damage and hopefully building up the muscle and supportive structures bigger and more badass than before. That is WHY we train.

Limiting rest time, increasing volume or load, choosing multi-joint over isolated exercises all increase the degree of muscle damage. Not bad. Not good. Just dosing.

“Practical applications for the coach include cautious implementation of High Intensity/Short Rest protocols, as long-term sequential use may promote overtraining.”

Szivak et al., 2014

Also, the stress response to exercise is highly individual, for example people with higher body fat are generally higher responders AKA it takes less of a stress to flood their system with this metabolic onslaught of enzymes, inflammation, and waste.

“The balance of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines after exercise seems to be important for athletes. Optimal inflammatory and immune response may help optimize exercise regimes, link physical activity with health and diagnose or prevent athletes from overtraining.”

Kimsa et al, 2014

That means monitoring and truly living by the minimum effective dose maxim to make sure that we are actually programming effectively and recovering appropriately between exercise bouts as well as microcycles and macrocycles…seems legit.

 

Free Radical Production

Like a car giving off fumes when you run your metabolic engine you are going to spit out reactive oxygen species (ROS) commonly known as free radicals. There is no stopping this. Free radical damage is powerful, too much can destroy mitochondria (your baby engines), membranes, and even DNA, but just the right amount is needed to signal an influx of those fancy enzymes that result in protein turnover – new gainz.

Not too much, not too little, just right Goldilocks.

 

Glycogen Depletion

When we exercise we use fuel. In high intensity exercise that fuel is predominantly derived from glucose or sugar (we never really just run on one fuel but this will suffice for the detail of this article). We store glucose as glycogen in muscular tissue and the liver. As we continue to exercise blood glucose levels drop as the need for insulin to transport glucose into muscle cells is decreased and glucose transporter concentration increases. In turn a hormonal signal is generated that the body needs more energy STAT, this signal is marked with increased circulating cortisol, growth hormone, and other catecholamines. Carbohydrate supplementation turns this blood sugar fiasco and increased cortisol ship around and that is why combining high intensity exercise with low carb diets is recipe for overtraining. The fire never stops and one never really refuels. Disruptions in glucose homeostasis are believed to turn on the aforementioned inflammatory cytokine reaction, indicating the interplay and concert between all of these processes.

“Muscle and liver glycogen levels are critical variables for metabolic control during and after exercise.”

Steinacker et al 2004

 

“One of the most essential things a person can do for the health and performance is work toward keeping blood sugar balanced.“
Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS, MNeuroSci, FAACP, DACBN, DABCN, DIBAK, CNS

 

Depressed Immune Function and Increased Risk of Autoimmunity

“Recent research evidence points to one system in particular being profoundly affected by overtraining; that system is the immune system.”

Hackney, 2012

 

Our immune system is our defense against disease, both internal and external. Balance within this system may be the most critical for long-term health and even performance. As you know muscular trauma from exercise results in the release of inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are the language of the immune system and increased pro-inflammatory cytokines suppress cell mediated immunity which increases our risk of illness and infections. This is why you often hear old timers saying that one should feel somewhat sick at the end of a training cycle. They are using a lagging indicator (sickness) to identify what they hope is over-reaching.

 

Moreover, a constant or incessant state of inflammation can result in an immune system that is overactive and hyper-vigilant. A lot like the cop who takes his or her job too seriously, stopping speeders going 3 mphs over during rush hour causing a traffic jam of onlookers. Increased unchecked stress, exercise or otherwise sets the stage in a number of ways for autoimmunity or the overzealous haywire of the immune system, in which it sees the host as a foreign invader. I don’t think anyone wants to come down with Hashimoto’s or inflammatory bowel disease due to beating the beat up at their local CrossFit gym. I will leave you to assess the gravity of this situation. You can think, “oh that won’t happen to me.” But what if it does, and you didn’t even PR your snatch, what a pity.

 

“Physical and psychological stress have been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease.”

Stjanovich et al., 2008

 

Decreased Hormonal Response

Overtraining is marked with a distinct overall increase in cortisol and decreased pituitary output all due to the autonomic nervous system being in a chronic sympathetic dominant state. The hypothalamus and the pituitary are like the air traffic control tower for hormones in our bodies. You piss off the pituitary with a constant swarm of stress hormones and it is going to put out the message – all flights are grounded. This means that cool stuff like growth, reproduction, libido, higher level brain functioning are all shut down or slowed to a fraction of what they could be or once were AKA endocrine dysfunction.

 

Central Nervous System (CNS) Fatigue

“Muscular damage and metabolic needs are mainly involved in the acute training response and the chronic training response leads to changes not only in tissue metabolism, somatic growth or differentiation, body composition and organ function, but also to central regulatory disturbances.”

Steinacker et al. 2004

 

Whenever we are in a sympathetic dominant state for too long we start utilizing higher level brain outputs for rudimentary tasks. It’s like using the back of your $200 drill to pound in a nail because you can’t find your hammer. Not smart or maintainable. Also, your central nervous system is the quickest to adapt to any outside stimulus like training. For example, it takes muscle tissue between 6 and 12 weeks to adapt, connective tissue can take years, but the nervous system adapts in seconds. If you piss it off long enough, it just won’t dig deep anymore. It will let you think you crushed it because it’s smarter than you, but little do you know that your high intensity training has really put a central governor on your ability to go HAM. Ironic.

“Practice going the distance, and you will teach your CNS to pace its efforts in order to last – So few recognize the dangers of a ‘just trying to last’ mentality,”

Barry Ross

 

Conclusion

There are close to 800 publications on the diagnosis, mechanisms, and effects of Over-Training. Respect the science. Respect biological rhythms. Respect your body. Reclaim your health. If you don’t, you will just end up in the graveyard of some idiot coach that we unfortunately could not find to lock up in the trunk of a rusted out Caprice Classic. We are trying. We need your help.

 

“The body has only so much adaptive capacity. Why tap it with volume and exercises that do not bring you closer to victory?”

-Pavel Tsatsouline

 

By Ben House, PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT

 

  1. Brooks K, Carter J. Overtraining, Exercise, and Adrenal Insufficiency. Journal of novel physiotherapies. Feb 16 2013;3(125).
  2. Gholamnezhad Z, Boskabady MH, Hosseini M, Sankian M, Khajavi Rad A. Evaluation of immune response after moderate and overtraining exercise in wistar rat. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences. Jan 2014;17(1):1-8.
  3. Hackney AC. Clinical management of immuno-suppression in athletes associated with exercise training: sports medicine considerations. Acta medica Iranica. 2013;51(11):751-756.
  4. Hackney AC, Koltun KJ. The immune system and overtraining in athletes: clinical implications. Acta clinica Croatica. Dec 2012;51(4):633-641.
  5. Heavens KR, Szivak TK, Hooper DR, et al. The effects of high intensity short rest resistance exercise on muscle damage markers in men and women. J Strength Cond Res. Apr 2014;28(4):1041-1049.
  6. Kimsa MC, Strzalka-Mrozik B, Kimsa MW, et al. Differential expression of inflammation-related genes after intense exercise. Prague medical report. 2014;115(1-2):24-32.
  7. Koch AJ, Pereira R, Machado M. The creatine kinase response to resistance exercise. Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions. Mar 2014;14(1):68-77.
  8. Lehmann MJ, Lormes W, Opitz-Gress A, et al. Training and overtraining: an overview and experimental results in endurance sports. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. Mar 1997;37(1):7-17.
  9. Li X, Huang WX, Lu JM, et al. Effects of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement on young males with physical overtraining: a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blinded cross-over trial. Biomedical and environmental sciences : BES. Jul 2013;26(7):599-604.
  10. Main LC, Dawson B, Heel K, Grove JR, Landers GJ, Goodman C. Relationship between inflammatory cytokines and self-report measures of training overload. Research in sports medicine. Apr 2010;18(2):127-139.
  11. Meeusen R, Duclos M, Foster C, et al. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jan 2013;45(1):186-205.
  12. Pereira BC, Pauli JR, Antunes LM, et al. Overtraining is associated with DNA damage in blood and skeletal muscle cells of Swiss mice. BMC physiology. 2013;13:11.
  13. Phillips GB, Yano K, Stemmermann GN. Serum sex hormone levels and myocardial infarction in the Honolulu Heart Program. Pitfalls in prospective studies on sex hormones. Journal of clinical epidemiology. 1988;41(12):1151-1156.
  14. Steinacker JM, Lormes W, Reissnecker S, Liu Y. New aspects of the hormone and cytokine response to training. European journal of applied physiology. Apr 2004;91(4):382-391.
  15. Stojanovich L, Marisavljevich D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity reviews. Jan 2008;7(3):209-213.
  16. Szivak TK, Hooper DR, Dunn-Lewis C, et al. Adrenal cortical responses to high-intensity, short rest, resistance exercise in men and women. J Strength Cond Res. Mar 2013;27(3):748-760.

HIIT – The Skinny – It’s Not Black and White

As humans we always want information displayed as – Do This Not That. Eat This Not That. It’s easy. It’s clear and let’s face it nuances don’t sell. Over the last few decades we have been sold High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) hard.

The research is fairly clear that HIIT overpowers steady state cardiovascular training in weight loss, fat loss, and in promoting healthy changes in blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. This all makes sense given the mechanisms of action, but it is not the end of the story or the only side. Those who despise steady state cardio now say – nope, never need it again. Deuces. (This tends to happen with a lot of things, but the best example is stretching. The people that don’t like to stretch but who need it the most don’t do it, and the people that love it tend to do too much)

I used to be a HIIT Jedi. Everything I ever did with myself and clients was in intervals. My justification was the research on fat loss. I was also an early disciple of Boyle and I bought into the ideology that we need only work inside the intervals of our sport or perhaps a little longer…but not too much! There is no debating that football players work in short bursts of activity. The average NFL play is 5-15 seconds. The most a baseball player is ever likely to run is 60 yards or about 6 to 7 seconds. Thus, the contemporary strength coach has had the mentality that speed and power athletes don’t need chronic cardio. Which is true they don’t, but they do need movement and cardiac output work. Yet, this Interval Philosophy has now been extrapolated to everyone ever. Why would I go for a hike or move throughout the day when I can just get this whole thing done in 4 minutes of negative rest intervals of Tabata. Party.

The problem isnt HIIT, it is that we aren’t building or maintaining the foundation to really use HIIT well and recover from it. HIIT is powerful. Potent. But so is cardiac output work. In fact if given the choice of whether to move throughout the day or have a structured exercise regimen, one should always chose movement. It trumps structured exercise in the research as far as longevity and health, and is much more in tune with how we have evolved into being.

 

So what are the benefits of HIIT?

 

Concentric Hypertrophy of the Heart  – Increased stroke volume

 

EPOC – Increased After Burn

 

Time Efficient

 

Weight Loss

 

Increased Insulin Sensitivity – Glycogen Depletion

 

Opioid High – Feels Soooo Good

 

Improved Buffering Capacity (Lactate)

 

Improved Anaerobic Capacity & Power if programmed correctly.

 

Increased Muscular Hypertrophy (Circuit Training)

 

What are the negatives?

 

Concentric Hypertrophy of the Heart – Limits blood volume. (If overdosed can cause excess acidosis leading to damage.)

 

Promotes the idea that you can just sit or stand still the rest of the day – Lack of time spent in movement exploration (Stuck in 2D?)

 

Sympathetic Driver – Over prescription can exhaust the endocrine system.

 

CNS Fatigue – Taps emotional energy (lingering fatigue can affect motor learning and strength)

 

Destroys Mitochondria – Heart and Muscle Fibers

 

Randomness – very few know how to progress this type of work well

 

Sacrifices in Movement Quality in Highly Fatigued States

 

Now what are the benefits of Cardiac Output or Movement Work at low heart rate ranges (120-130bm) for 30-40 min?

 

* this zone is generally a lot lower than the endurance hobbyists who creep up far too high and live in what is called the dead zone of training or Zone 3 and 4 for Ben Greenfield Disciples out there.

 

Eccentric Hypertrophy of the Heart – Increases the stretch reflex of the heart. Less energy used per beat.

 

Increased Capillarization

 

Increased Mitochondrial Density

 

Parasympathetic Driver

 

Improved Oxygen Utilization Within The Muscles

 

Increased Aerobic Capacity

 

Increased Recovery Between Sets or Intervals

 

Increases Recovery Between Workouts

 

Reduces Resting Heart Rate

 

Can Increase Time to Fatigue During Skill Acquisition – More focused training

 

What are the negatives of Cardiac Output or Movement Work?

 

Let’s Be Honest – Boredom – Few use their imaginations

 

Can Eat Up at Muscle – if done in excess and without added resistance training

 

Can Disrupt Endocrine Function – if done in excess and without added resistance training

 

Can Negatively Affect Hypertrophy and Strength – if done incorrectly

 

Increased Chances of Overuse Injuries, If Kept to a Single Modality

 

Over the last decades we have moved from the chronic cardio epidemic of the 80s and 90s to the currently regime of HIIT and self destruction. We believe the pendulum is swinging back towards people gaining an understanding and using sound principles to decide the dose and variety of conditioning that fits them best. But no matter what you choose, Cardiac Output Work is equally powerful and there aren’t a lot of negatives related to programming 3D movement in low heart rate zones. AKA accumulating steps and triplanar work throughout the day.

Yes, running from a lion is important and leaves you with a flood of opiates in the brain, but equally so is foraging, playing, and dancing. This big industrialized engine of a world has made us far more efficient, but has it ever made us healthier? The answer to that question is looking more and more to be a resounding no. HIIT is not black and white and without movement, it is probably dangerous and unproductive in a long term view.

Is it better than nothing? Depends on the Athlete.

Is it better than moving throughout the day? No way.

Is combining both in an educated manner the way to go? F@#$ Yes.

 

By: Ben House, Ph.D. Candidate, FDN, fNMT and Aaron Davis, CSCS

Fatigue: Means to an End?

over_training_blog

I was told once from a prominent coach in the CrossFit world that “adrenal fatigue is part of the game.”

He then showed me proof.  Numerous lab results from multiple athletes with low cortisol levels and blood that resembled more the unhealthy or elderly — rather than healthy.  Yet all of the athletes were able to compete. showing no signs unless you knew what to look for.

It was then suggested that for the athletes to compete they need to support the adrenals (via herbal supplementation).

Makes sense.

But it ate at me.

Why go through the trouble to plan workouts, have periodization, and worry about dose responses?  If “Fatigue/Psuedo Performance ” is the only outcome — isn’t the dose too much? Or is it our job to pretend we are not overdosing and to do it anyways — and capitalize on small infrequent gainz, even though the foundation or support systems are crumbling from within?

I asked myself these questions and many more.

Then began to research and experiment.

I failed. I failed, and I failed.

Each time I would learn something new. Write it down and put it away. I have extensive notes on my failures — gentle reminders.

March of last year I started working with the Omegawave team system, a month later began testing all of the CrossFit Austin competitors heading to regionals. Soon after I was hired to coach the team for the 2015 season.

This gave me a unique opportunity to work with a group of highly motivated athletes. The core group are veterans having competed at the regional level for the last 3 years. As well as a crop of athletes just starting their competitive journey. In total we have 20+ athletes.

To be honest I thought they all would quit.

It was such a big departure from mainstream CrossFit.

All athletes are monitored via Omegawave. Structural integrity is assessed using PRI principles. I administer soft tissue when needed via movement assessment or athlete feedback and above all I stick to a strict methodology when programming.

Periodization, Health, and Hypertrophy

Simply we program in 3 week cycles and periodization follows a complex model.

 

complex

Our cycles last three weeks because..

  1. It allows us to work at higher intensities more often throughout the year, but it also means we deload every three weeks.  Higher work intensity = More frequent recovery
  2. Short cycles force us to make hard decisions. We only work on the necessities. Increase Strength Reserve and Increase Aerobic Profile (Alactic-Aerobic, Anaerobic-Aerobic, Aerobic)

Each cycle also allows us to run through Omegawave data and performance results to see if adjustments need to be made. We run the full Omegawave test to make sure we have recovered the Hormonal System (HPA Axis) at the start of each cycle.

HPA

This allows us to manage volume and to never add more than we can handle.  We never want to drift into adrenal fatigue or a system under chronic stress. This should never be the norm. Chronic stress on the brain alters its structure and function. Increasing brain fog (memory loss), overactive sympathetic nervous system, loss of behavioral flexibility, and can increase autoimmunity — this can happen even in the perceived fit population.

Chronic Overtraining has a price.

stressbrain

Keeping the hormonal system in check we have seen increases in hypertrophy across the board. This has been accompanied by strength gains — even 10kg+ Personal Bests for the veterans in Olympic lifts, Squats, and Presses.

The emphasis on aerobic work and recovery has also shown positive changes in the Omegawave Data.

 

Omegawave Data

*Combined Men and Women Averages

 

Before After
Aerobic 115 Aerobic 123
CNS 9.4 mV CNS 19.3 mV
RMSSD 59 RMSSD 72

 

Programming Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Always respect the synergistic effect of the Alactic, Anaerobic, and Aerobic systems being trained concurrently (Complex Methodology)
  2. Always respect the synergistic effect of Max Strength, Speed-Strength, and Hypertrophy as it pertains to increasing strength (Complex Methodology)
  3. “Never do a burpee slow” — Never slog through work. Training is unbroken and at performance speeds (FT fiber fatigue resistant).
  4. If technique fails — Stop
  5. Limit Anaerobic work to under 60 seconds (FT Mitochondria? – conflicting research on both side of this)
  6. Use Static-Dynamic work to elicit structural adaptations needed to support strength endurance (Increase capillaries and sarcoplasmic content, improve connective tissue, ST fiber hypertrophy)
  7. Do not do Max Aerobic Power training when trying to elicit aerobic heart adaptations
  8. If its important, do it often (skill work, gymnastics,specific warm ups)
  9. Always balance High Intensity and Recovery
  10. Respect biological oscillations
  11. Respect Fatigue Models (Glycogen, Speed of Contractions, Central/ Peripheral Fatigue, Neuro Inflammation)
  12. Individualize as much as possible
  13. Hard Days are Hard, Easy Days are Easy.  Athletes should feel the difference.
  14. Never Overdose!!

By: Aaron Davis

High Intensity Training: Is it really High Intensity?

hamster-wheel.jpg

 

High Intensity Training might be a cliche choice of words. It’d be more appropriate to reference it as ‘intensity within sport specific conditioning’.

A growing trend emerges the more we consult with athletes and coaches: finding balance between volume and intensity (with intensity being the missing piece).  

Don’t get me wrong, coaches and athletes are attempting intense workouts, but either do too much (weekly frequency) or coaches poorly design workouts that do not appropriately challenge the athlete at the intensity needed for improved performance. 

Hamster Wheel 

I see this mostly in CrossFit, but it shows up in middle distance athletes (800-1500m) as well. 

The general rule is to have some sort of polarity in training intensity…  

Hard Day, Easy Day, Hard Day, Easy Day, etc.

We are finding that ‘easy days’ are not easy (either in intensity or volume), or in the worst cases there are not ‘easy days’ programmed at all. 

Do not make the mistake in thinking intensity = adding volume.  

It’s just volume.  

Coaches may think…“We have to do more!”

The result of this is athletes slogging through metcons or middle distance athletes doing 45 mins of general strength work or junk miles with subsequent speed and power indices (MB throws, Plyos, 30m flys) declining. 

This is what I call  “Running on the Hamster Wheel” – Work With No Purpose 

A current athlete at Train Adapt Evolve (who previously spent the last couple of years passionately grinding away with shoddy results) recently told me… 

“Hard days hurt more now.”

The perceived “hurt” is the athlete finally working at the appropriate intensities, only made possible by combining appropriate workouts that support the higher intensity pieces and respecting the athlete’s ability to recover.  

Now the athlete has ample resources, both physiologically and psychologically to attack a workout as needed, instead of entering a workout on empty just trying to survive. 

Be Specific 

Training time is valuable. The goal should always be to train qualities that will actually help you within your sport. 

I go rounds with middle distance coaches about how they should focus more on improving speed at race pace and speeds faster than race pace, instead of solely focusing on LT, Vo2 workouts (???), or adding mileage.  

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all valid given certain athletes, situations, and time of year but if you have an 800m athlete that needs the ability to run the last 200m in 27 seconds and he struggles running that time fresh, you have bigger problems that need to be addressed other than 8 mile LT runs. This is an example of not prescribing the right intensities for success. 

This is a common occurrence within CrossFit as well.  

We’ve already mentioned the ‘grind’; slogging through work slowly to survive. Now take these CrossFit athletes to a competition, add a touch of adrenaline, a sense of urgency and what you have is a recipe for athletes tanking early. 

CrossFit Coaches: prioritize high velocity and low velocity movements and pair them with specific targeted anaerobic-aerobic adaptations. Be specific!  

Or enjoy your turn on the wheel. 

By: Aaron Davis