Praxis Athlete of the Month – Roxie Cassidy

 

How did you get started with CrossFit?

My mom made me do it 

Did you have prior athletic experience?

Nope - my family likes to remind me that prancing about in a sequined leotard does not count as a sport 

How long have you been at Praxis?

Just about 2 years 

What is your favorite/least favorite type of WOD?

Favorite: Short; Least favorite: Long - especially those that involve running 

What has been your greatest improvement and/or achievement since joining Praxis?

Beating my brother in our family’s annual Christmas workout 

What advice do you have for Praxis rookies?

Showing up is half the battle 

What is your fitness diet like? Favorite "fun" food?

Fitness diet: I’ll have to get back to you once I find one that I stick to for more than 8 days. “Fun Food”: Vice Cream…I HATE how much I love this ice cream 

What do you like to do with your "free time" outside of the gym?

I’m on a pretty solidly mediocre/bad flag football team and I often conspire to steal dogs from Meridian Hill Park 

What motivates and pushes you to continually improve?

I really enjoy competing against myself… Kate Maitland getting in my face when I’m about to get time capped is also great motivation

If you’re not progressing, ask yourself these two questions by Coach Jen

If you’re not progressing, ask yourself these two questions by Coach Jen

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘point of arrival’ in life. Instead, I see life as a continual journey of progressing, growing, and becoming more. Whether it be with my career, relationships, health, fitness, character, spirituality, these are all aspects of my life where I don’t ever want to settle. The idea that the I can continue to grow until the day I die is prettttty inspiring! I guess that’s part of the reason I love lifting so much. I jokingly talk a lot about the ‘gainz,’ but really, I love the idea that I can keep progressing, lifting more, and improving my physique with every session in the gym. And it’s that same fire for progress that I find spills over into other areas of my life. Life gainz, naw mean?

The process of life and the many experiences we collect will surely result in our growth naturally, but sometimes, unless we’re intentional in certain areas, we won’t progress, and we may even regress. Take health, for example. Unless you’ve made healthy eating habits, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management a part of who you are, it’s quite possible that you could be gaining weight, or feeling stressed, exhausted and run down. It’s not until you’re intentional about creating healthy habits that you reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

But life can be hectic and demanding, so how do we ensure that we’re avoiding complacency and constantly progressing in all areas of our lives?

What do you value?

First, I like to start with this question: what do you value? The values-lense is a useful tool for figuring out what areas of your life you should be more intentional about. Where you’re spending most of your time and energy should be reflective of the things you value most. So, for example, if you were to rank ‘family’ higher on your list of values than ‘career,’ but you work 60 hours a week and spend only 2 hours with your family weekly, well… something's not quite lining up. ‘Family’ would then be identified as an area in which you could be more intentional.  Similarly, if you say that you value your health, but you’re not spending any time cooking at home or exercising, then, again, something’s gotta give. I recently came across a quote that gets the point across perfectly, “If you say you value something, but you’re not spending any time on it, then you should either change how you spend your time or what you say your values are.”

You can use the values-lense to make big life decisions like moving across the country, but also small decisions, like “Do I want to eat this cupcake?” If you’re trying to slim down and you have the option to order a cupcake with your morning coffee, your efforts to slim down should dictate that you pass up on the morning pastry. But, if you’re celebrating your daughter’s 1st birthday, suddenly, sharing a cupcake with your family becomes more valuable than your fat loss efforts. One cupcake isn't going to make or break your progress, and your daughter only turns one once, so celebrate.

What are the barriers?

Once you’ve identified your values and thus the areas of your life that could use more attention, the second question you should ask yourself is this: what are the barriers? What is getting in the way of you achieving your goals or growing in a certain area? This question is important for two reasons. One, if you can identify your barriers, you’ll then be able to come up with a plan to navigate them. Two, you’ll stop using barriers as excuses. Let’s take the common excuse that, “I don’t have enough time.” If you're not willing to act on it, what this really means is that you don’t value whatever it is you’re referring to more than the other things in your life. If time truly is a barrier to something you value, then it would be useful to come up with a strategy to navigate that.

Recently I was working with a nutrition client, and we identified ‘eating more vegetables’ as an area of opportunity for growth. Instead of simply telling them to “eat more vegetables,” I asked what was getting in the way of their efforts to eat veggies. One of the identified barriers was time. Vegetables can take a lot of time to wash, cut, and cook, and when you’re hungry, it’s pretty easy to skip em. The solution? Have veggies prepped ahead of time. The client was intentional about taking a few minutes at the beginning of the week to prep and cut all of their vegetables for the week ahead. This may seem like a hassle at first, but the good news is, the more you do something, the less intentional you really have to be about it. Once something becomes a habit, it’s just part of who you are, and you can move on to the next area of opportunity.

So, what do you value? And what are your barriers? These are two of the most important questions you can ask yourself to ensure that you never settle. Stay after those life gainz.

Power of Pause by Coach Noah

Power of Pause by Coach Noah

Anybody that’s trained with me for any substantial period of time knows how much value I place on the tempo component of any lift - it’s just as important a variable as how many reps or how much load. To most people tempo may simply be thought of as ‘going slow’ on the way down, but there’s much more to it than that. Today let’s explore another wrinkle relating to tempo: pauses.

The CrossFit Praxis group classes have been getting plenty of exposure to pauses lately on some of the primary lifts (squats, deadlifts, presses). It doesn’t take long to realize how brutally hard this method can be, but it’s not just hard for the sake of hard. Theses pauses have a distinct training effect, and when and where you take those pauses makes a difference.

When

In general, a pause in the middle of a lift is categorized as an ‘isometric’ contraction, which means the muscle is under tension but it is neither lengthening or shortening (the weight doesn’t go anywhere). We can categorize pauses further as eccentric pauses (pausing during the lowering phase) and concentric pauses (pausing during the lifting phase). Pausing during the eccentric phase has been shown to spike your body’s output of growth hormone, which is critically important to, among other things, fat loss and body composition. So if you’re looking to get lean for beach season think on-the-way-down-pauses. Concentric pauses don’t upregulate growth hormone in the same way, but following the pause with an up motion requires and builds some serious strength. This is why concentric pauses are often used as ‘plateau busters’ for adding weight to your lifts.

Where

Strength and performance gains with pauses really only occur at the joint angle where the pause happens (plus or minus about 10 or 15 degrees). In other words, where you pause is where you improve. So anybody doing the group classes has probably noticed that we’re choosing to pause at some of the trickier parts of each lift, such as right out of the bottom of the squat. Every lift has a strength curve, which means that certain parts of the lift are harder and others are easier. As the saying goes, the chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. So if you could stand up 200 pounds for the top half of a squat but only 150 out of the bottom half, what’s your full squat? 150, of course. So if we add a pause to the hardest part of a lift, that helps to increase our capacity at the spot that limits our total output. A pause at the bottom doesn’t get you much stronger at the top, but it does get you stronger in total.

Why

There’s a reason that I generally prefer to include pauses during the eccentric or concentric phase of a lift as opposed to fully at the bottom or at the top. Traditionally a pause squat means settling all the way down to the bottom of the squat, then standing up. A fine and challenging variation, sure, but it has some pitfalls. First of all, when you pause all the way down at the bottom, what do you suppose your muscles are doing during that pause? The answer is… not much. They’re able to relax, and your posture is supported primarily by your skeletal structure and connective tissue. Fine and good, but I often prefer methods where your musculature has to do the work of supporting the load, which helps you to get stronger in the process.

Now the traditional reason for the pause squat is to limit the effect of the myotatic reflex - more commonly known as the stretch reflex. The reason why it’s so tempting to move more quickly during a heavy lift is because your connective tissue can stretch and rebound, which provides a ton of help when moving a heavy bar. You’ve almost certainly experienced this yourself, but I think the best examples come from watching elite Weightlifters stand up a heavy clean - tons of bounce out of the bottom. It’s a powerful tool, but the trouble comes when we rely on it exclusively during your training to the exclusion of developing true muscular strength at the tough parts of a lift. So, enter pause squats. By pausing at the bottom, that elastic energy dissipates as heat, and you’re left with nothing but those muscles to move the weight. Great in theory, but the problem that I often see comes with the execution. I’d wager that of all of the videos I’ve seen of pause squats, maybe half of them include a sort of ‘jump start’ out of the bottom. There’s the pause, but then there’s a hint of a bounce to get the weight moving again. So if you let that elastic energy dissipate, then create more with a separate bounce, what’s the point? If the lift is executed perfectly then it serves a purpose, but realistically there’s a lot of temptation to cut corners with the traditional pause squat. But if the pause comes not truly at the bottom, but juuuuuust out of the bottom on the way up, there’s virtually no chance that you’ll take the same short cut. It’s cheat-proof.

….

So for those of you dealing with those torturous pauses, just remember that we never do anything that’s hard simply for the case of it being hard. It’s hard because it works. Hopefully that gives you just a bit of comfort the next time you see a paused lift on the agenda, but in case not, you could also remember that it could always be worse. How about multiple pauses? 8-second pauses? Multiple 8 second pauses? Or how about a pause-to-failure? There’s always more fun to be had.

The New Praxis Cycle by Coach Noah

The New Praxis Cycle

Hopefully it’s apparent to each of you that we put a lot of thought and effort into the workouts at Praxis. Not just the WOD on any given day, but how that day relates to the next, and how one week contributes to the month, and how each 20-week cycle feeds into the next. We recently just wrapped up a testing period and are now a little more than a week into the next cycle, and with every new cycle comes a few new wrinkles. While there are plenty of unexciting variables that we manipulate behind the scenes, there are more than a few that we suspect you’ll notice over the next few week that we’ll shine a light on here.

Olympic Weightlifting

How and when the Olympic Lifts occur is going to be just a little different than in previous weeks. First of all, the CrossFit group classes on Saturdays are no longer going have an Olympic Weightlifting portion as a part of the curriculum. This will allow every Saturday to feature a longer conditioning workout, and very often a partner workout.

Now if you enjoy your Oly lifts, fear not, because the frequency of Olympic lifting will actually be increasing. While it won't be featured in the Saturday CrossFit group classes it will be featured in some capacity every Saturday during the Competition Skills Classes. Same day, different time. And if you have hangups about the Competition classes, remember that they’re for all skill levels. They just focus more heavily on the technical and skill dependent exercises that are part of the CrossFit arsenal (like weightlifting).

 Put this together with the slightly increased schedule during the week (every week as opposed to 4 out of every 5), and the number of opportunities to practice those Oly lifts goes from about 13 days every 10 weeks to 20 days. But in every one of these cases, it’s never mandatory.

Class Variety

I admit, in previous weeks you could largely divide weekday classes into one of two categories: either strength plus a short metcon, or a ‘long’ day. This time around there will be a little more mixing of the two, and a little more variety in how long each portion will take. The A series of a class may take 12 minutes, or it may take closer to 30. Conditioning segments may be 4 minutes or 40. And we’ll also be bringing an old CrossFit favorite, tabata, back into the fold. Variety isn’t just about exercises, but also time domains and formats as well.

Paused Lifts

Certainly one thing that we do from one cycle to the next is rotate different exercises into the mix. One period we may have zercher squats, while the next we have cyclist squats. And while some exercises move in and out, there are certain cornerstone lifts that very, very seldom ever get omitted. Back squats, deadlifts and presses will always have their place. And while these key lifts remain, certain modifiers can always be used to add variety to movements themselves. In this cycle we’ll employ one such modifier - concentric pauses.

 Adding a pause to a lift, particularly a pause on the way up, is a great way to improve strength at a particular point in the lift. Very often we use momentum to carry us through a sticking point, but by pausing we ensure that our muscles, not simply inertia, have to provide the necessary movement. Thus, adding a pause on the way up right at the bottom of a squat is a sure-fire way to get stronger through the natural sticking point. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun.