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.

Eating for Gains by Coach Jen

Admittedly, I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last several months writing on topics related to fat loss. Fat loss tends to be a popular topic, but I realize that for some, the goal is to increase lean mass and build your physique, and that takes a slightly different approach. So if you find yourself wondering how you can dial in your nutrition to optimize the gains (or how to “gaintain"), then this article is for you.

If your goal is to put on a significant amount of weight, say 10-30 pounds, then you’ve probably tried or considered “bulking.” Bulking typically combines eating in a surplus above your calorie expenditure with weight training in an effort to gain muscle. Sounds simple enough, but there are plenty of factors to consider to ensure you’re actually gaining muscle and minimizing fat gain along the way.

Expectations

First, you need to consider your training age and your genetic potential and align your expectations appropriately. Someone who is brand new to lifting weights is going to gain lean mass much more rapidly than someone who has been training and gaining for years. Furthermore, someone with an ectomorphic build (naturally lean, long muscles—typical “skinny” guy or girl) should not expect to ever look like a competitive bodybuilder in their off season.

With the above variables considered, one should aim to gain about 0.5-1.5% body weight per month. The more you realistically have to gain, the more you should expect of your monthly gains. The bigger and bigger you get, the harder it is to gain, as you’re much closer to your genetic ceiling and thus the closer you should be to about 0.5% BW per month. 

Nutrition for gains, the basics

If you’re looking to maximize muscle gain, it’s important to start with a calorie surplus. Since we’re after lean gains, it’s important to dial things in appropriately and avoid the “eat anything and everything” mentality. A bit of fat gain is to be expected, but there’s certainly a way to avoid getting fat.

Start by tracking your food intake for a minimum of 10-15 days then calculate your average daily calories consumed. This is your maintenance level of calories. From there, aim to consistently eat above your maintenance calories. Since we’re going for about 0.5-1.5% BW per month, we’re looking at a 100-200 calorie/day surplus—maybe closer to 400-500 calories if you’ve got a lot to gain or if you’ve been chronically under-eating. 

There are numerous factors to dial in beyond the calories, but generally speaking, here are a few important dietary guidelines.

  • Daily protein intake: minimum of 0.8g/lb body weight
  • 3-5 servings or fruits & vegetables per day (minimum of 1 serving per 1000 calories)
  • 80/20 rule - consume roughly 80% of your calories from single-ingredient, whole foods (remaining can be whatever you want)

If you’ve been struggling with gaining weight, but you feel like you eat a lot, it’s likely that you’re really not eating as much as you think. For some, eating may feel like work, and tracking your intake will hold you accountable to getting enough nutrition when you don’t feel like eating any more.

Tracking progress

So what’s the best approach for measuring your gain-per-month progress? To get the big picture of what’s going on over several weeks or months, a reliable body composition assessment is the way to go. I’m a big fan of the DXA scan method, detailed here. In order to determine what’s happening over a shorter time period, though, I suggest using body weight averages. Using a reliable bathroom scale, measure and record your body weight daily, then calculate weekly or 14-day averages to determine trends. Looking too closely at day-to-day fluctuations will likely drive you crazy. If you find that you’re gaining too quickly or not gaining enough, adjust your calories accordingly. Progress pictures (yes, mirror selfies) and girth measurements are also cheap, easy, and reliable ways to track body composition changes over time.

Gaintaining

So what if you don’t necessarily want to bulk but you want to continue to see the gains? That’s a great question! And it’s a question that many advanced trainees will ask at some point in their fitness journeys. Most fitness-minded people may not want to settle for “maintenance” because that implies a lack of forward progress. We like the idea that you can continue to improve and continue to work for something. Well, the answer for this stage is “gaintaining.” I’m not going to take credit for the idea—or all of this information for that matter—Eric Helms is to credit for that. But here’s my take. If you’ve found yourself in this phase of maintaining the slow and steady gains, it means you likely:

  • have tracked your food intake before and determined an appropriate macronutrient/calorie breakdown for slow and steady progress
  • have established healthy dietary habits and portion-size awareness, and continue to improve habits
  • have a healthy relationship with food and body image
  • continue to see performance improvements
  • continue to see physique improvements (less noticeable over months, but evident over years)
  • generally feel awesome and healthy
  • enjoy and focus on the process
We like the idea that you can continue to improve and continue to work for something. Well, the answer for this stage is “gaintaining.”

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to achieve the most optimal gains, I’d love to work with you! Simply reach out to me for more details about the Praxis Nutrition Coaching program, and we’ll get started right away.

July Athlete of the Month – Zach Link

How did you get started with CrossFit?

Originally, I was attempting to workout on my own at a typical gym but wasn't seeing much progress (plus had no idea what I was doing). Meanwhile, Scott Southard had been coming to Praxis for a few years. So, I decided to take a visit and the rest is history.

Did you have prior athletic experience?

During middle school, I used to be on a swim team and did taekwondo. Oh, and my dad tossed a football at me once and it jammed my left ring finger so hard that it stopped growing properly. If you take a close look, you'll notice it's not a gigantic as the rest of my knuckles.

How long have you been at Praxis?

Since March 3rd, 2016. So, 1&1/3 years!

What is your favorite/least favorite type of WOD?

I really enjoy the balanced WOD's of strength and endurance. I feel like I'm able to push myself to a new limit on both ends of the spectrum in one go. It's probably weird, but I really like cyclist squats. Loathe, with the white hot intensity of the sun, thrusters.

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

Greatest achievement - being able to do pull-ups! Sad right? But it took forever, though my quantity is still limited. Overall though, my health and how I treat my body has been the greatest improvement. I've learned a lot at Praxis through our wonderfully dedicated coaches and it's definitely changed my life.

What advice do you have for Praxis rookies?

Workout with me of course! Getting to know your coaches and your fellow members is a great way to become more motivated to come. Personally, I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to approaching people, and doing it while working out seems even more difficult. Just do it! We all like to get to know our peeps and encourage each other to do their best.
Also, as much as it feels like it, no one is counting how much you are lifting or who is finishing first or last in a WOD. All we care about is you killin' what you can. Everyone starts somewhere and together we get stronger.

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

I am no poster child for most people's perception of healthy eating. I don't force myself to eat anything I don't want to, though I do try to be more conscious of my veggie intake now. It's all about portions and tracking for me. Since starting coach Jen's nutrition program in Jan '17, I've learned what I need to reduce and increase in my diet and I stick to it the best I can. Tracking EVERYTHING I consume can be a bit of a pain sometimes, but there has been so much improvement in my body with 20lbs of fat loss while gaining muscle I can't stop now! So, my fun food would have to be...chocolate - specifically Reese's!!!

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

As some of you know, I am a big fan of anime (Japanese animated series/movies) and manga (Japanese graphic novels). I'm sure some of you have seen me reading a manga in the gym before classes here and there. I greatly enjoy the other cultural perspectives they provide, plus they really will hit your feels from time to time. So, I like to host anime movie nights with friends or binge watch a series with them (or alone). I highly recommend Attack on Titan to any newbies. You'll see what I'm talking about.

What motivates and pushes you to continually improve?

Honestly, the coaches, the structure of the WOD's, and gym buddies. Everyone's encouragement and seeing them work hard makes me want to work that much harder. Plus, looking in the mirror and feeling better about myself has helped too.

June Athlete of the Month – Kate Maitland

 

How did you get started with CrossFit?

I am extremely competitive, CrossFit seemed like the perfect fit.

Did you have prior athletic experience?

I played varsity sports throughout high school, and played club basketball in college.

How long have you been at Praxis?

I started in the fall of 2013. The people at Praxis have kept me coming back year after year.

What is your favorite/least favorite type of WOD?

One would assume I’d pick an endurance WOD, but ultimately, I prefer the strength workouts that make me the most uncomfortable. I tend to favor the movements that bring me close to tears such as FFE split squats or single-leg RDL’s.

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

I feel more comfortable and confident in my body. I have done things I never thought were possible. At 31, this is the healthiest I have ever felt in my entire life. Thank you, CrossFit Praxis.

What advice do you have for Praxis rookies?

Get to know the other members. Praxis is full of remarkable human beings who lead impactful, interesting lives outside of the gym. Plus! Enduring a grueling workout is always better with friends by your side. Also, go to Open Gym or “OG” as I call it. “OG” is a great way to develop and learn new skills.

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

I joined the Praxis Nutrition Program where I began counting my macros. Since then, I have developed a healthier relationship with food. In the past I would have demonized certain foods (carbohydrates). Now I know what my body needs to perform aka I eat bread every day. Carbs are king! Changing my diet based on what my body truly needs has made a significant difference in my performance, energy level, and body composition. Fun Food: snack mixes, chips and dip, soft pretzels. Anything salty.

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

I like to spend most of my free time in the gym. Otherwise, I enjoy spending time with friends, watching documentaries, reading, and eating.

What motivates and pushes you to continually improve?

I am inspired by the many challenges CrossFit presents. The longer you train the harder it gets. You can always go faster, heavier…etc. It’s those challenges that captivate and motivate me. Furthermore, I feed off the amazing athletes and their success.