Thursday, April 18, 2013

Would You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

My wife and I were talking about this the other day, and how the way someone approaches their time in the gym would likely reflect how they'd handle the overwhelming potential for a horrible death during an outbreak of the zombie virus.

We spend at least 1.5hrs a day in the car together.  We talk about lots of things.

Anyway, we figure that right from the start, if they're not fit and active they're going to be the first to go down.  Remember that the first rule of surviving a zombie apocalypse according to Zombieland: "cardio".  Actually, say what you will about them - at least in the initial stages of the infestation, the majority of those who survive the first wave are going to be Crossfitters.  Keep that in mind the next time you're doing a corrective exercise with bands on the floor and they're deadlifting 500lbs before sprinting on the treadmill and eating a raw steak with no hands.

Now, that being said, once the first wave eases off and you settle in to survive then every group will be made up of certain "types" - and Sash and I figure what type you are may be determined by your training style.  Below I've listed a VERY scientific breakdown of the types, their likely approach to training, and their chances of survival.

The Grinder:  The likely majority of the group, following the plans of the others.  Steady, hard workers that know when they're out of their element and will follow others if there is an intelligent, common sense approach to the plan.  Training Style:  Works out steadily and consistently, and has for years.  Keeps in moderately good shape - certainly nothing elite, but far better than sedentary.  Won't push through anything too challenging (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a hindrance).  Long Term Chance of Survival: 65%

The Whiner:  You know this person.  In the group, they're the ones who always break down when things get stressful, crying and freaking out at just the wrong times (like when you're locked in a room with no apparent escape).  While everyone else is trying to find a solution, they're sobbing in a corner.  Training Style: Steady (meaning they aren't the type who come in just after New Years, train, and then disappear until the next January) but they are inconsistent, constantly missing workouts because they have a cold, or allergies, non-specific foot pain, or something else.  And of the workouts they make, half of those are terrible because they are trying to "work through the cold" (or some other nonsense).  Long Term Chance of Survival: 10%

The Guardian:  Always quietly looking out for the whiner - usually it's a spouse or a sibling.  They never contradict the whiner, and they will often deflect the abuse that the rest of the group is directing at the whiner.  In fact, the whiner's survival is pretty much dictated by their guardian - the rest of the group will generally want the whiner gone as they're dead weight on the group.  If the guardian dies - the whiner is likely not far behind.  I should note - the guardian is often the right hand man/woman to the "leader" (see below).  Training Style: trains hard, smart and steady, and never misses a workout... unless needy spouse/sibling wants them instead.  Long Term Chance of Survival: 50% (if they can survive the death of the whiner relatively unscathed, both mentally and physically - chances increase to 80%).

The Pseudo-Hero:  Full of bravado.  Runs headlong into a room of the undead and takes them all out, allowing the group to rush through to the vehicle on the other side.  Makes them valuable, but their lack of common sense and restraint may be a liability - at least in terms of their own survival.  Their lack of fear may keep them alive longer than you might expect.  Training Style:  Injury - what injury?  "Sick" is a state of mind!  These folks will train no matter what, and always at 125% - which means they're chronically injured but somehow still find a way to pummel their bodies.  They're in great shape, but not as good as they could be with a little bit of planned moderation.  Long Term Chance of Survival: 70%

The Leader:  May or may not appear as the group's leader to begin with - not necessarily an overt captain, and may not want to be.  Steady, strong, willing to take the risks if they make sense, but won't willingly go into a situation without a plan - however, if the situation dictates, able to be creative, modifying and applying what they know.  Conviction in their thoughts and confidence in their knowledge draws others along with them. Can't do it all on their own, and know that - needs the backing of the pseudo-hero and the guardian to make it all work.  Training Style: researched, well-informed and planned - pushing themselves when new limits need to be reached, and backing off when they know they should.  Others will often ask them questions about their training because of the results they see - but few are actually interested in the patience this approach requires.  Long Term Chance of Survival: 85%

~ Guy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tired of the Crossfit Argument?

I know that I am.  I'm tired of people asking what I think about it, and then when I give an opinion it raises a whole whack of arguments for and against that almost inevitably becomes heated.

That being said, recently a colleague of mine (Dr. Ben Stevens) wrote an extremely well thought-out series of articles based on his experience with Crossfit.  Dr. Stevens himself is not actually a "Crossfitter" per se, but he works closely with a couple of the local facilities and will sometimes train out of them (if you want to read his posts, which I strongly encourage, start here).  He asked for  thoughts from a wide variety of individuals, and I was flattered to be included in the group.

I didn't want to write a quick (and possibly glib) response, and decided to read the three articles in their entirety first.  Then, a number of other items came across my metaphorical "desk" that seemed to be worth consideration in regard to my response as well - one was what I'll call "The Crossfit Study" for lack of an expeditious title (you can see the abstract here), and a review of Crossfit from an academic standpoint on one of my favorite podcasts, "The Strength of Evidence" (look for them on Facebook).

I will lead off my thoughts after reading/listening to the above with the following disclaimers:
  • I am going to be uncharacteristically serious - please note the above picture to see how serious I'm being.
  • I am going to do my very best to be sincere, unbiased and gracious - if I come across as inflammatory, sarcastic or like a douchebag, it is truly by accident.
  • I am not writing this to get into a fight with anyone - if you've had success with Crossfit and swear by it, all the power to you.  If you're offended by all things Crossfit, I'm not looking to make you a fan.  This is simply a collection of my thoughts after some recent, careful reflection of a few articles.

Firstly, the community they've created, the hype and the marketing they've managed to elicit, are extraordinary.  Getting away from machine-based, isolation movements and back to the raw, simple strength and conditioning is a good thing, as is the move towards achievement as opposed to aesthetics.  Finally, as the study (albeit a small one) and the anecdotes show - it seems to work.

The issues arise with the method itself, in my eyes, rather than the results.  As Dr. Stevens points out in his second article - there are a lot of things that are staples in the Crossfit "programming" that are, put nicely, ill-advised.  Some of the exercises are never good (high pulls, overhead swings and ballistically repetitive box jumps), some are not good in an escalating density-type format or fatigued state (Olympic lifts), and some are only good/useful/appropriate with a very small segment of well-trained individuals (handstand push-ups).  Also, while I appreciate variety for the sake of enjoyment as well as creating a broad range of skills - if there isn't some degree of repetitive, quality practice and periodization, then the sticking at certain plateaus that individuals reach (which will be different for everyone) are inescapable.  Finally, as both the study above shows in a(n admittedly) small segment, but which anecdote (and innumerable YouTube videos) demonstrate as well - I personally find the injury rate to be unacceptably high (and for the sake of this post, I use the term "injury" to refer to both acute as well as chronic/overtraining injury).

Dr. Stevens finished off his series by making suggestions to improve the Crossfit program; and one of the most common defenses of Crossfit's participants is that "we don't do x or y at our box, and the instructors adjust/modify/periodize/scale everything for each individual".  To which I ask: if you remove and/or change all of the items listed above and those suggested by Dr. Stevens, then what, exactly, are you left with that differentiates Crossfit from any other high quality strength and conditioning facility or high intensity circuit training?

As I said before, this is a general summation of my takeaways from various reviews, articles and analyses of the Crossfit phenomenon, and hardly in-depth.  My suggestion is, if you take issue with anything I've said above, simply read the references I've listed and consider your opinion again.  I'm not saying it will change your mind, nor will arguing on a blog post back and forth change mine. 

In the end, whether you take up running, cycling, mixed-martial arts, Crossfit, powerlifting, Kettlebells or even Zumba - what matters is that you are being guided and coached responsibly, that you are getting results, and that you are having fun.

In the words of Astar, the robot - "Play safe."


Smith, MM, AJ Sommer, BE Starkoff, and ST Devor. "Crossfit-based High Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Epub Ahead of Print)
Stevens, Ben, Dr. "The CrossFit Chronicles." Valeo Health Clinic. Valeo Health Clinic, 11 Mar. 2013. Web.