WOD – 9/16/11 – Get Off Your Ass: It Could Save Your Life!

- SKILL WORK -

OHS w/PVC Pipe

3 sets of 10 to practice technique

- WOD -

400m Row

- then -

5 Rounds:

20 Pull-Ups

:30 L-Sit

20 Mountain Climbers

:30 L-Sit

- then -

400m Row

- CASH OUT -

Max Distance Prowler Push in :30

Use 3x Body Weight – Should be difficult!

Separate Prowlers will be used by men and women

Kris Freeman

 

Get Off Your Ass: It Could Save Your Life!

By Steve from NerdFitness.com

I bet you’re sitting down while reading this.

Whether you’re at work at your desk, sitting in a coffee shop, lounging on your couch after a long day, or propped up in bed with your iPad, you’re probably seated firmly on your butt while reading Nerd Fitness…and I don’t blame you – sitting has become so ingrained in our culture that most of us (myself included) spend more time sitting in a chair every day than we do sleeping.

If this sounds like you, you are certainly not alone – after all, chairs are everywhere, from the seats in our car to the office chair to the restaurant booth where we eat.  Sitting seems like the most natural thing in the world, right?

However, what if sitting was actually worse for you than you realized?  What if sitting all day resulted in far more health issues than you could possibly imagine?  Hell, what if sitting was actually killing you?

Yeah, I know…that sentence sounds like ole Steve here has gone off the deep end.  Unfortunately, it’s more true than you realize, especially for people in our demographic.

Here’s why you need to get off your ass…and how it could save your life.

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of the Paleo dietand paleo lifestyle.  After all, we existed as a species for hundreds of thousands of years by living a certain way (hunting, gathering, traveling barefoot)…and although technology and advances in science and medicine have certainly helped us live longer lives, quite a few modern “conveniences” have actually made things harder for us.

Sitting is one of those conveniences that can cause all sorts of damage to our body when done to excess – a.k.a. the typical sedentary American lifestyle.  I read a great article over on Mark’s Daily Apple that compared sitting to today’s modern shoes and sneakers.  Sure, your new Nikes might seem comfortable, but they actually weaken all of the muscles and joints in your feet and ankles by doing all of the stabilization work for you – your muscles grow weak, complacent, and bored because they have nothing to do.  This is a recipe for injury and disaster.

Your core/hips/groin/legs are no different when it comes to sitting!

When you sit down, your hip flexors (the muscles that work the movements between your pelvis and thigh bones – that crease between your thigh and groin) get tightened and shortened.  Meanwhile, your hamstrings and glutes (butt) get all stretched out.  Now obviously your muscles getting stretched and contracted  is a part of life – it’s these actions that allow us to do fantastic things like…move.  However, the problems arise when we keep these muscles in this non-standard state for hours upon hours at a time.

Think of your muscles as glorified rubber bands – they can stretch and contract as you pull them.  Now, take a rubber band and wrap it around a basketball, stretching it to its limit for a few weeks.  When you come back and take that rubber band off the ball, it will have almost no elasticity and won’t be able to return to its original shape.  Or, it’ll just snap.  Crapola.

If you’ve ever tried to do a heavy leg workout after a day filled with hours of sitting then you know what I’m talking about – you feel like an old man or woman with the flexibility of a steel girder.

And that’s just for our hips!

When you factor in slouched-over shoulders, a weakened lower back, a jacked up spine, and that hunchback look that we all adore (not), sitting in an office chair all day pretty much renders our body useless.

Suck.

Now, on top of issues dealing with flexibility (which is so crucial to having proper form during your exercises), sitting on your butt can cause a litany of other health issues as well.  The most extreme case I’ve heard of recently involved a 20-year old kid who died after getting a blood clot during a marathon video game session – one of the saddest and most tragic stories I’ve ever come across.

Here are some other health issues associated with sitting, as explained in this Art of Manliness article:

A study found that men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher mortality rate than those who sat for three hours or less. The epidemiologist who conducted the study, Alpha Patel, concluded that excessive sitting literally shortens a person’s life by several years.

Another study showed that men who sat for 23 or more hours a week had a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours per week or less.

Even the New York Times has chimed in, explaining that extended bouts of sitting can huge pain in the butt (HEYOOO!) for your body.  You simply don’t expend much energy sitting down compared to standing up and/or moving around…sure it might be just a difference of a dozen calories here and there, but multiplied out over ten hours a day, 365 days a year, and ten+ years…that can equal quite a bit of weight gain.

If you’re looking for something even more extreme, though it’s clearly going for shock value, check out this infographic on “Sitting is Killing You.”  Now, as we all know, correlation does NOT prove causation, so you’d be rightly skeptical in some of the facts listed – for example, those who tend to probably spend all day sitting compared to those who are more active might have other health issues that can lead to an earlier death.

That being said, no matter which way you look at it…sitting all day is at best “not good for you” and at worst a serious health hazard. 

On top of all of the health reasons, there are productivity issues too – I find that sitting while working makes me lazy!  I don’t know about you, but when I’m seated a nice comfy chair, spending hours screwing around on the internet comes easy.  However, when standing up and working, I find it’s much easier to focus and actually get stuff done.

So, let’s do a quick recap.  Too much sitting can:

  • mess up your mobility and flexibility.
  • lead to weight gain.
  • weaken your muscles.
  • screw up your posture.
  • lead to a  tremendous amount of other health problems.
  • actually kill you.

Ruh roh, Shaggy. 

Let’s see if we can fix this problem:

The good ole standing desk!  If you work at home or in an office where standing is considered acceptable, this is probably your best option.  It promotes healthier behavior, better posture, increases circulation in your legs, will help improve your hip flexor mobility, and ingrain more of a “I’m ACTIVE” thought into your brain.  Trust me on that one.

So, what’s kind of desk should you be looking for, you ask?

  • If you have money to burn, check out GeekDesk.com- they have desks that are like robots, and can transform from a sitting desk to a standing desk at a moments notice.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the return/refund policy to protect you should your desk develop consciousness and attempt to take over the world with the Decepticons – you’ve been warned.
  • Check out this hacked desk from IkeaHackers - back when I had a home, I bought all my furniture at Ikea – easy to assemble, cheap, and you don’t feel bad when it breaks or you move cross country and have to ditch it.  A cheap desk + a few modifications = standing desk.
  • Play Tetris – if there’s no budget at your office for a new standing desk, why not modify your old desk?  Bring in some cinder blocks to prop up the bottom of your desk to a standing desk height?  Or, use some milk crates, boxes, stacks of hardcover books, orbuild a tiny desk (thanks to Mark for the link) to put up on top of your current desk to raise your computer to standing desk height?
  • Get REALLY creative – use an ironing board, a dresser, or bookshelf, start doing your work at your kitchen counter, or use a coffee shop’s tall bars on the walls – just aim for a surface height where your arms are at a natural position and you don’t need to hunch over your computer to use it.

Now, the transition to awesomeness won’t be seamless; in fact, things might feel a little funky or painful if you’re used to spending 8+ hours a day parked in your computer chair.

Here’s a report from one dude who switched to a standing desk, when asked if it hurt or bothered him:

Yes, very much. In fact, the first three days were brutal, so painful I doubted the whole endeavor. By mid-day 2, I had to sit down every hour or so. I was distracted and had a hard time focusing on anything but how much my feet hurt. At night I sat on the couch with my feet elevated. I collapsed into bed totally exhausted. I never appreciated sitting as much as I did the first three days.

Then, on the fourth day, it wasn’t so bad. On day 5, I got lost in work for 2 hours before I thought about the fact that I was on my feet once.  Now it’s my new normal.

  Here are a few other things you should keep in mind about making the switch:

  • Like the guy said above, it’s going to feel really weird for a while.  We are creatures of habit, and our bodies are a result of those habits – a big change like this is going to cause some resistance: your legs will get tired, your feet will hurt, you’ll find yourself constantly wanting to sit down, one leg will get tired and the other won’t, etc.  Try this: get yourself a tall stool to sit on when needed and set a clock/timer on your computer, aiming to stand for longer and longer periods each day.  For example – 30 minutes today, 35 minutes tomorrow, 40 minutes on Wednesday, and so on.  Baby steps people!
  • Pick one that is the right height – You don’t want to bend over at the waist or hunch over to have to use your computer.  Set it at a height when you can stand up straight and proud (and full of confidence!), with your shoulder blades pulled back, your arms at a natural height, and your gaze not too far down that it causes discomfort in your neck.  If you have an external monitor, I’d recommend setting it high (closer to eye level) so you can simply look straight ahead to see your computer screen rather than down at it.
  • Don’t just stand there – Don’t just stand in the same freaking spot for eight hours without moving; that’s almost as bad as sitting and not moving.  Shift your weight from one leg to the other, take constant walking breaks (at least every 30 minutes or so) to keep the blood flowing and your legs moving.  Personally I haven’t found this to be an issue, as I find myself constantly moving when standing anyways.

Okay, I hear you. 

Maybe you work in Cubicleland, and you at a standing desk would be incredibly awkward.  Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to take your laptop to the kitchen and use the counter there.  Maybe you’re a traveling salesman and six hours a day in the car isn’t unusual.  If you can’t convince the big boss that standing is a good idea (citing the reasons above), if the Man won’t let you build your own desk, or if your job dictates that you’re in the seated position all day, you’ll have to take a more active role in fixing yourself.

First and foremost, quit your job.

Hahaha, I’m just kidding.  

Start by fixing your posture in your chair – switch to a stool or a chair without a back support so you can work on your posture.  Sure, this won’t do much for your hip flexors, butt, and hamstrings getting stretched, but it will help strengthen your lower back and core.  “But Steve, this hurts my lower back! I NEED MOAR SUPPORT!!!1!!”  No, you need to strengthen your lower back and posterior chain, sucka!  It will take time and effort and might even be uncomfortable…but it will be worth the effort.

Get up every 30 minutes – without fail.  Set a time on your computer to force yourself to get up every 30 minutes and go for a walk – go  harass your coworkers (I hear they love that) or go chat up that  Funke around the water cooler.  Just get up and move!

Be more active – if you spend all day at your computer, try eating your lunch and dinner standing at the counter.  If you spend all day at the computer, try playing your Xbox 360 or PS3 standing up.  Yup, it’s weird.  Yeah, your legs will probably get tired.  Get over it! Be more active, even if it means making your nerdy activities a little more active than they need to be.  Don’t spend ten hours at your desk only to come home and spend five hours in front of your TV – you’re better than this.

Train to improve the weak parts -  hip raisessquats where you drop below parallel, straight leg deadliftsregular deadlifts, and lots of hip mobility work will do you well to keep the lower part of your body healthy, flexible, and useful.

Above all else, I think the area where us desk jockeys lack the most strength and power is in our hips.  And if we’ve learned anything from Happy Gilmore, it’s all in the hips.

Weak hips, glutes, and hamstrings make it incredibly difficult to have perfect form when doing squats and deadlifts – you should be able to squat so that the tops of your thighs are below parallel (or even low enough so that your butt hits the back of your calves).  If you can’t squat low enough, I’d bet my life savings that you have weak hip flexors and poor mobility in your hips!

Here’s how to fix that:

Spend at least 5-8 minutes before doing any lower body work working on your mobility with a dynamic warm up – jumping jacks, body weight squats,  hip raises, leg swings, side leg swings, and fence stepovers (taught to me by Shawn over at TheFitnessBuster).  Following a routine like this will really activate your hips and allow you to power through your lower body exercises with great form.

Here’s a video if that helps explain it more:


Hip Mobility Warm Up Video

  • Do this mobility workout of the day, but don’t say I didn’t warn you (this one too will certainly help)…I’ve been sitting a LOT while traveling in Ireland (too much work and lots of time on buses), so doing this mobility workout was incredibly difficult and painful for me when I did it this morning.  Do the best you can – don’t hurt yourself, but WORK ON IT.
  • Try yoga – does your gym offer yoga classes? Not a bad way to improve your flexibility at all.  If your gym doesn’t offer classes, a simple search on youtube will result in approximately 4.3 bazillion yoga instructional videos.
  • Sit less – the less you sit, the less damage you’ll have to undo on your hip mobility.  Take frequent breaks at work – go do squats in the bathroom stall or lunges down your hallway – just be more active.

How Not to Suck at Running – NerdFitness.com

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that a huge majority of the running population kinda sucks at running.

When most people start running, they have zero training, zero strategy, have never put any thought into their technique or method, and just kind of “go for it.”  Now, although I’m a big of getting started (do something. do anything), I think it’s incredibly important to be smart about HOW you get started when it comes to running.  I’ve already provided a “beginner’s guide to running,” but I wanted to also hook you up with an interview I did with my buddy/running guru Jason Fitzgerald of StrengthRunning.com.

Jason and I share very similar views on training, performance, diet, and more, with just a different focus (mine on weight and strength training, his on running), so when I got a chance to meet up with him at a Nerd Fitness meetup in Washington, DC in July, I knew we needed to work together.

So, on September 26th, Jason and I will be releasing the Rebel Running Guide, an ebook designed to cover every freaking aspect of getting started with running that you’ll need – including videos of proper technique and form, tips for injury prevention, how to deal with injuries when they happen, workout and running plans to get you through your first 5k, and more.

Last week I sat down with Jason and picked his brain about running.  Okay we didn’t actually “sit down,” as he’s in D.C., and I’m currently in Barcelona; though I imagine both of us were sitting when we did the interview (or were we?).  Here’s how to not suck…or at least suck less :)

Steve: Alright man, every super hero has an origin story.  What’s yours? 

Jason: I started running cross country in the fall of my freshman year of high school. I actually went out for the team because I thought it was like Track and I could do the high jump. There’s clearly no high jump in cross country and at the time, I wasn’t really into running. But the guys on the team were fun so I stuck with it and ended up running cross, indoor and outdoor track in high school and college.

Running became a consistent part of my life and I’ve never voluntarily taken a significant amount of time off (except due to injury – but I haven’t been hurt in 2 1/2 years!). It’s been a little over 13 years of being a big running nerd! I wouldn’t trade it for anything and actually, it’s what has led to some of my best friendships and even meeting my wife.

Steve:  Yeah, congrats on the recent marriage!  You do realize that because of what you just said, you’re going to pull a hamstring running to catch a taxi or something, right?  As long as you’re aware.  Moving on, give us a quick run down (zing!) of your running philosophy.

Jason: The abridged version of my running philosophy:

  • Runners need to be good athletes, not just good runners. That means a lot of strength work, flexibility, and training variety.
  • If you want to run fast, you have to run a lot. You get good at what you practice often.
  • Barefoot running can help with a lot of things, but it shouldn’t be your primary focus if you want to be a better runner. Use it sparingly.
  • Run a lot of hills, but not a lot of track workouts.
  • Distance runners need to sprint!

I tell the runners that I coach that the magic happens when you pay attention to the “little things” – your warm-up, strength routines, and recovery. Those things dictate how well you’ll run in your workouts.

Steve: “Variety is the spice of life,” as they say.  I’m not quite sure who “they are” in this instance, just roll with it.  Interesting point about the barefoot running stuff – I think a huge issue with barefoot running is that people try to do too much too fast and end up hurting themselves.    Speaking of hurting oneself,  what’s a mistake that every beginning runner makes?

Jason: Not having a plan! Running doesn’t need to be very structured, but you should lay out why you’re running and what you want to accomplish. When you know those things, you can run much more effectively and be successful.

There are also a ton of little mistakes that new runners make, like stretching before they run, wearing huge bulky shoes and aggressively heel-striking, going crazy with carbs for short runs…. the list goes on. I want to scream at runners to read my blog, but instead I do interviews :)

Steve: Haha, I know the feeling.  I once considered making business cards that just said “psst, you’re doing it wrong – nerdfitness.com” and handing them out to people at the gym, but I figured that would get me punched in the face.  So there are quite a few beginner running programs out there, most famously the Couch to 5k program.  What are your thoughts on it?

Jason: There’s nothing inherently wrong with Couch to 5k, but it fails to include “the little things” I mentioned before that help runners get better and STAY HEALTHY. C25k also is just a running plan – 3 weekly workouts for 9 weeks. That’s it. So if you want the bare minimum (like Jennifer Anniston inOffice Space) it’s a very simplistic option for you.

My biggest criticism is that it really lacks variety. You either walk or run easy for 9 weeks – there’s no other types of workouts or different paces to keep things interesting. I would find it so boring. There’s also no strength workouts, flexibility exercises, core work, or any other “extras” that keep you healthy and injury free.

Steve: I can’t believe you just referenced Office Space, you win.  That is a great point about Couch to 5k though – I think its a great starting place as it’s incredibly easy to grasp and begin, but oversimplifies at the expense of building a solid foundation of win. 

Let’s move on to diet: what’s the best way to eat to become a better runner? Do you need mountains of spaghetti and carbs like I see every runner eating?

Jason: That’s one of the big mistakes that I see a lot of runners making – piling their plates high with bad carbohydrates every meal because they think that’s what runners do. If you’re running every day (or if you’re crazy and run twice a day) and training for a marathon then of course you’re going to need more carbs to fuel your workouts. But for most runners, amodest bump in carb intake is all you need.

Timing is really important in your carb intake if you still want to eat more paleo and start a 5k training program. You can still run a killer 5k with eating Paleo 80% of the time! Stick to lots of vegetables, fruit, good cuts of meat, and high-quality carbs like sweet potatoes, yams, quinoa, oatmeal, or Oreos and Twinkies (kidding!). If you’re doing a hard workout or a long run, you should eat some simple carbs right before, during the run itself if your stomach can handle it, and immediately after. Then go back to your usual Paleo diet for the rest of your daily meals.

Steve: Makes sense to me: use the carbs to fuel your body before a workout, and then quickly help rebuild your body after a strenuous workout.  So, this is something we touched on early – injury.  It seems like every runner deals with injuries all of the time, some of which are far more intense than others.  What are your thoughts on running if you think you’re injured?

Jason: I consider “injury” as a spectrum. Most runners have some aches and pains – you can run through those if they’re just dull or achy. Just be smart and run slower and shorter. If the pain is sharp or intense, then don’t run at all. Instead, you should focus on recovery by doing some self-massage (like with a foam roller), icing the affected area frequently, and doing some type of other exercise that doesn’t hurt. I recommend cycling, pool running, or something else with no impact.

Remember, consistency is king, so you’d be better off missing a few days over a few weeks. Patience pays off.

Steve: On a similar topic, what about being sick?  Too worn down from work, push ourselves too hard, run too much, and get a cold or the flu – how to you get back on track when you’ve been sick and haven’t had time to put in the miles?


Jason: 
A good rule of thumb is that if your sickness is above the neck, like a headache or sinus infection, then you’re cleared to continue running. But if you have chest congestion or a fever, it’s best to wait a few days to resume running. It all depends on how you feel, but play it safe at first!

When you come back to training normally, you should skip your fast workouts and run easy for a few days. Your body is still recovering so don’t make it work extra hard.

Steve: How do you feel about traditional running shoes (with a thick padded heel) vs minimalist shoes like New Balance Minimus or Vibrams?

Jason: Like injuries, minimalism is a spectrum, too. I don’t think there’s a need to be on either end of the spectrum exclusively. In an ideal world, I think 95% of people should fall somewhere in the middle for most of their running. A small amount can be barefoot or in Vibrams (like 5-20 minutes a week, spread out over a few days). You get most of the benefits of barefoot and minimalist training with just few short workouts.

Take me for example – I run in 3 different types of shoes. Two of them are my trainers that I wear for 95% of my running. They’re neutral shoes that don’t have a medial post (a roll bar, or that piece of dark foam in the sole that’s supposed to control over-pronation) and they weigh in at about 9 ounces. Not too minimalist, but not very bulky either. My third pair are racing shoes and have a tiny heel and are super light. I only wear them about once a week, but they give me all the strength and efficiency benefits I’m looking for.

Steve: Again – variety.  What are your thoughts on interval training over the long slog marathon style training?

Jason: A lot of runners want to get fast so they get on the track and run intervals until they get hurt. The reality is that the majority of runners will get 90% of their speed through easy running because they lack the ability to HOLD a fast pace – not the ability to RUN a fast pace. Interval workouts are the icing on the cake.

Steve: Psssh, “icing on the cake?”  This is Nerd Fitness, you can do better.  The “bacon on top of the steak”?  Eh, we can work on it.  Here’s a question from a member of the NF rebellion.  After your first 5k, what are your thoughts on speed training (running a faster 5k time) vs. endurance training (10k/half marathon), and how do you mix the two?

Jason: If you’re trying to run a certain time, there should be a lot of variety in your training – from all out sprinting to half-marathon pace and easy jogging. Most runners should keep hard running to about 20% or less of their weekly running or else they could get hurt or just burn out (and burn out sucks – link). My favorite workouts combine different paces so you get exposure to endurance training and much faster paced running at the same time.

We’ve included plans for faster 5k’s in the Rebel Running Guide in case you want to stay at that distance and just run faster.  We’ve also created an advanced plan for those who want to move beyond a 5k and train for a 10k (for the deluxe version).

Steve: Okay enough running talk; let’s crank out a few nerdy questions:  What’s your favorite video game?

Jason: I’m going to name two: Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha and Resident Evil, both for Playstation. The Street Fighter game is the first one to have semi-3D graphics, so it’s awesome. If you have it, please invite me over and I’ll humiliate you handily.

Resident Evil needs no explanation – I started playing in 8th grade and it scared the hell out of me. The graphics were top notch, it was violent and gory, and I got to shoot huge guns – wins all around!

Steve: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

Jason: Star Wars all the way. While Lord of the Rings has its moments, it just can’t compare with Chewie, Darth Vader, and Han Solo kicking ass across the galaxy.

Steve: Words to live by?

Jason: There are two quotes that come to mind, both about hard work and consistency:

  • “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier
  • “What am I on? I’m on my bike busting my ass for 6 hours a day! What are you on?” – Lance Armstrong

Steve: Thanks Jason!  Hope all is well in DC.

So there you have it!  Jason and I are adding in last minute content to the Rebel Running Guide which will be out on September 26th, barring any last-minute unexpected changes.  I gotta say, I absolutely love Jason’s writing style, and he’s done a freaking incredible job with his sections on this guide – I’m honored to have helped put it together with him.  My dear Rebel friend, know that you and your feet are in good hands (not literally) with this guy.