Tag Archives: crossfit

Choosing the Right Program and Coach (Beginner Level)

Here are some notes to take into consideration before the troubleshooting:

IMPORTANT: To make matters simple, coach refers to the instructor or person that is training you. Facility can mean a gym, pool, yoga studio, field, forest or any place a coach may use to perform your program. Program refers to the exercises and workouts that you are performing, whether they consistently change or have very little differentiation.

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Not all facilities, programs and coaches are created equal. It is a coach’s responsibility to tell you this. One way you can tell if a coach has YOUR health and wellness in mind is if they are honest about this piece of information. I am NOT a good businessman but I help people reach their goals because I care. It is impossible to know if your future coach will do the same but there are some signs that will help you decide whether you trust them or not and it is that…

No facility, program or coach is the gold standard. By that I mean, there is not one perfect way of reaching your goals because everyone is different. If a coach makes any mention that they, their facility or their program is the best choice for every single person, that is a red flag. I have worked with a wide array of triathletes and the first fact that I state to those interested in working with me is… “I will NOT instruct you on your bike and run. I will, however, tell you some amazing coaches to help you with those aspects. I will help with your race strategy and your swimming.” If a coach says something along those lines, it is a good sign. Honesty is obviously very important and every facility, program and coach requires…

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Specialization! This is what makes a good coach… a great coach. Every new personal trainer, inexperienced CrossFit coach, yoga instructing apprentice, etc, etc is going to be taught the basic tools of their trade. Depending on their own experience and how they are officially educated or certified, there will be some degree of differentiation. You can research your coach, on Google, and find out more about their history in the industry and it will help you decide if they are a good candidate to work with you. However, the internet only has so much information so please don’t rule out candidates solely because their online information is out of date or inaccurate. Getting back on track, as a coach continues to learn through methods including seminars, continuing education units and trial/error (hopefully… not so much that last one) they will start to develop a focus. It is similar to choosing a major in college, or something along those lines. That focus is usually a specialized part of their trade that they are very interested in or at which they are very skilled. A good coach will advertise their specialization because it was sets us apart from our competition in the industry. It also usually means that you will attract clients that are interested in your specialization, and since you love your focus, it means doing more of what you love! It’s a win-win situation, as long as…

The client has chosen the correct facility, program and coach. Now we are coming full circle on our little journey. This is the important part… we can call it the end of the road. After taking all of the previously stated and more into consideration you want to end up in the right place for you! And this is where you make important decisions. I will not tell someone why they should workout. I don’t think it’s right. That is up to their family, friends, doctors, and most importantly… themselves! If some underweight and underdeveloped feeling beginner wants to join a CrossFit box because he has a huge crush on one of the girls that works out there… GO FOR IT!

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Picture from www.carrotsncake.com, who is a CrossFit enthusiast

Just proceed anywhere with caution! Take pricing into consideration. Think about why you want to start exercising. Create some basic goals and ask around to get an idea about local facilities, programs and coaches will help you meet those goals safely, effectively and in a fun way! If you want, EMAIL ME at hungryandfit@gmail.com and I will point you in the right direction! But if you just want a general idea let me provide some information to get you started.

There are SO MANY facilities and coaches out there so I can’t help much in this department without your location and budget. There are however YMCAs, 24 Hour Fitnesses, and playgrounds all over the country. There are also hundreds of mostly free online coaches  (YouTube and Instagram) so you can always find some advice and means of exercising for little to no cost. (Feeding yourself the proper macronutrients and micronutrients is a different story that I will not touch on here.) Still… proceed with caution, again, with some of those coaches. There is nothing stopping them from providing false information about their credentials, so you have been warned. (There are some good ones!) However, going back to the troubleshooting guide, I want to present a small array of programs for you to consider. They are either popular, I approve of them, or both. Here is what some of you might have skipped straight to in order to avoid my “notes.”

Workout in Taupo, New Zealand

Workout in Taupo, New Zealand

(I hope pilates instructors, etc, are not offended because their program is not listed. This is a VERY short and basic guide, and once again, it is subjectively objective!)

Personal Training – You can find personal trainers in almost any gym or fitness facility. The YMCA, 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, L.A. Fitness, local one of a kind gyms, local one of a kind businesses. Last time I checked there were over 240,000 CERTIFIED personal trainers. The vast majority of them will cost you about $40 an hour, especially at the big name locations. Not all of them will be good but they SHOULD be one of the best candidates to point you in the right direction because their education and certification process SHOULD have included fundamentals that are seen in most programs and relate to nutrition, exercise science, anatomy, physiology, evaluations, first aid and cpr and more.

Good CPTs can be accessible, affordable, and effective for ALL individuals interested. Discover their specialty and see if it matches your goals. A great CPT can train almost any demographic that simply “wants to get in shape.” This might be the ideal path for a beginner, depending on anything that might them considered a special population. Special populations generally include individuals that may have special physical or mental needs. Most CPT educators will cover special populations, which should be somewhat comforting. Please remember to always check with your doctor before starting a program. If your coach has any doubt of your ability to perform, they SHOULD recommend or even require that you get clearance from a doctor first. But back on track, personal training can be  amazing way for the lost souls of fitness to learn the fundamentals that carry over into every other field and eventually use this as a stepping stone to move towards a more specific goal. That goal could very well keep you working with a personal trainer or move you towards one of the following options.

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CrossFit– Oh, my best friend CrossFit (Inside joke). CF was officially founded by Greg Glassman in 2000 and it has grown into a HUGE community in the fitness industry. Within in a year there will probably be 10,000 affiliated gyms throughout the world. CF utilizes exercises that have existed for far longer than the official entity has but it also has made tons of innovations. Where CF succeeds the most, in my opinion, is its, well… crossing over of different fitness programs. This is reflected in the annual Reebok CF Games, which are televised nationally. You will see athletes run, jump, push, pull, swim, lift, etc.

The general dose of CF is to join a box (their word for facility) and perform the WOD, or the workout of the day. It is very structured and easy to perform on a daily basis, but is not necessarily repetitive depending on your coaches. The growing community is in my opinion the most supportive in the fitness industry. If you want to make friends, join a box. If you want to develop a “nice and natural” physique and get “in good, great or awesome condition,” join a box. Just remember, that YOU are responsible for your own health and wellness. Listen to your coach because they should know best, and if what they say sounds stupid, don’t just do it. Feel comfortable doing it. CF is VERY challenging, includes complex Olympic lifts, advanced equipment, and timed workouts. You need to understand what that all means before you try to race to the end of a five round circuit involving all of the above. I, personally, would not recommend this for true beginners, but some facilities and coaches are exceptions to that statement. However, for those with some experience in fitness and for those that are good listeners, doing one WOD with the support of your box and community can be a VERY efficient way of achieving a better physique and having fun unless you are interested in optimal hypertrophic growth and…

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Bodybuilding – So you want to look like Arnold, Dorian, Ronnie, Flex, Jay, Phil, Kai etc. You don’t want to be able to put on your own shirt or fit through a doorway. You want your veins popping out of our bulging muscles and you want to walk up on stage with a fake tan, in a g-string, and hit that back double biceps with cameras going off making tons of flashes. I AM ALL FOR IT. Bodybuilding is, in my opinion, the optimal means to hypertrophy, or gaining muscle mass. But don’t just start lifting weights with no idea of why you are doing it. Here are some tips. Join a cheap gym with good equipment. You could win the Mr. Olympia and pay 24.99 a month to go to your local 24 Hour Fitness, or at least I think you can. The man makes the body, not the gym. (But working out in The Mecca everyday would be a real motivating factor.)

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Research the different ways to perform a rep. You are looking for hypertrophy. I believe slow reps, especially negatives are essential… but I am not a bodybuilder or BB coach, so what do I know! Find a good online coach. I recommend Marc Lobliner and Team Hollywood Militia, if you can afford it. If you can’t afford, save up money, because if you’re going to be a bodybuilder, you better do it right. Don’t follow some cookie-cutter program that is free or cheap, because it was not made for you. It didn’t take your height, injuries, body composition, current physique, etc into consideration. Also, NEVER starve yourself… it is not worth the risks. Christian Bale can starve himself for a movie because he gets paid $20 million. If you want a trophy made of plastic, go for it, but don’t risk “damaging your metabolism” or anything along those lines. Also look into Layne Norton and Jim Stoppani’s work. They are WELL-educated, passionate as anything and I agree with A LOT of their material. (I don’t know if Jim does the same level of coaching the Marc does. And for the record, I have nothing to gain from mentioning or recommending anyone. I worked out with and talked with Marc once, he swears a lot which I am cool with, but he will never see this, so don’t think I get something out of it. Remember, I am doing this for YOU ALL. FREE OF CHARGE!). Well, that was longer than expected so we will make this short with…

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Powerlifting/Strongman– Please, no one be offended. I know these are different. Powerlifting is essentially performing bench press, deadlifts and squats. You do it in a weight class, and you can do it raw (no fancy braces or shirts) or equipped with some items including belts to help you. You try to get a max weight of each and at an elite level, you have monster numbers for all three. Everyone has their best lift here. In the Olympics, you get three attempts at each. I don’t know much more except that to train for powerlifting you perform reps for strength and well… power. Do not think your bodybuilding reps will carry over, a bodybuilding bench press and a powerlifting bench press are VERY different.

Strongman, I believe is the origin of powerlifting. If you watch the MET-RX World’s Strongest Man Competition you will get a very good idea. These men and women are massively powerful and have surprisingly good agility, speed, quickness, endurance, etc. These are ELITE athletes and their bodies reflect their ability to lift, throw, and carry massive objects. They deadlift cars, squat monster truck tires, carry buckets of stones in circles, pull trucks and more. I believe this sport has a very high risk of injury so proceed with caution. (Powerlifting isn’t the safest either, IMO, but Strongman is a whole different story.) If you are getting into strongman, don’t assume you will have this ripped physique. Their fat protects their body from injury and provides a padding for the three hundred pound rocks they hold against their chest and stomach.

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Yoga – Do not be macho about this. Yoga is not easy. If you asked any of the above, with no previous Yoga experience, to take an advanced class, 99% of the time they would not do well at all. It requires flexibility, focus, relative strength, and so much more. I sincerely recommend Yoga as a supplement to all athletes. It helped me a lot in the past. It comes in all forms, from beginner to advanced. 100% approved by me.

Endurance Sports/Triathlon – Now I am getting lazy, obviously, but I did say this wouldn’t be the best guide ever. Maybe one day in the future. Endurance sports take a certain crazy individual that can tolerate repetition. You NEED to get in a groove to run 26 miles, bike 112 miles, and swim 2.5 miles. (26.2 and 2.4 so no one goes crazy on me) That is the extreme distance obviously, there are far shorter races and some people don’t even want to race. They enjoy training and staying in shape. Most endurance athletes are light and lean. Remember to watch your body fat, don’t let it drop too low and be careful! Cycling on a highway is dangerous. Cycling on a highway, listening to music is more dangerous. And when you creep into a lane for cars because you want to ride next to your partner and talk, that’s just a risk not worth taking. Aim to compete in Kona World Championships because Karlyn Pipes told me it is beautiful there.

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Aquatics/Swimming– Obviously, I am very biased here. Teaching people how to swim is my specialty. It is challenging because you can’t just breathe whenever you want. In scuba, you can if your equipment works well. In aqua-aerobics, aqua zumba, deep water running, etc you can but here is the major benefit of aquatics. Little to NO impact. Save your knees, save your ankles, save your hips and get in a nice warm pool. You can get in the water when you’re 6 months old, pregnant, physically disabled (if supervised), elderly, etc. It can forge strong athletes with attractive bodies or help an elderly person exercise for a long time. Ask me about any specific aquatic questions.

“Sports”– In my opinion, if an athlete is equally skilled at everything I listed, they will usually choose sports as the most enjoyable means of exercise. By sports, I am referring to tennis, basketball, soccer, football, lacrosse, hockey, water polo, rugby, volleyball, baseball, etc. You get the point, track and field etc. that whole family that can be recreational or highly competitive. These sports are fun because of the nature of the competition, the social aspect and the unique features that make them all different from one another. Sports can and should, usually, be combined with other training methods to produce the best results, essentially, winning. Many football players lift weights to increase size and strength. Sports are a great way of creating a very natural body.

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On a personal note, I have a much larger and stronger lower body, compared to my upper. That is a result of the massive amounts of basketball, soccer, tennis, and similar sports I played growing up. That just happens and it makes you unique. Sports can be expensive, depending on the sport. Ultimate frisbee is not expensive but can burn some serious calories and get your heart rate very high. Golf will however provide nearly the exact opposite. Give every sport a try and either play them all or choose your favorite. Join a league and practice in order to not only stay in a great active state of being but also have fun!

And I will stop here with a final note. I don’t discriminate, much, in fitness. If a program gets people off the couch and into a facility, with or without a coach, and helps them better their health and wellness, and puts them in a good mood, I can’t complain much. I didn’t mention home workouts such as Insanity or P90X because they are what they are and I won’t stop anyone from doing them. Just remember, when you are alone, the risk of serious injury or doing an exercise incorrectly increases a lot. I also obviously have “something” against cookie-cutter programs BUT with that being said, these home workouts HAVE made more people workout and for that I am thankful. I didn’t mention martial arts, which I normally would have, because I would have too much to say about. Just know that I fully support martial arts as a means of achieving many health and fitness related goals. Also, please don’t judge someone because their method is different than yours. Respect bar athletes and calisthenics (see my post about Barstarzz for more info), respect cheerleaders (I say it’s a sport and they are athletes), and appreciate what good people are trying to do and make the general fitness community as supportive as the CF community. With that being said, please follow this link (this came out of nowhere, I feel like I should do this) and help him recover. You might think the $140,000 raised so far will cover the cost, but he doesn’t have insurance, and trust me… it will not even come close. Recognize, respect, and support one another.

H&F

H&F

If you read that whole post, wow. It was almost 3000 words. You are my new favorite people. Stay hungry and fit 😉

  • Question of the Day: What is your workout/exercise type of choice?

BONUS KITTY PIC

Sajah giving kisses

Sajah giving kisses

Intro to the Barstarzz

You may have seem them walking through the streets or parks using public structures as equipment for training. You might have been walking through the subway and seen one of their videos at that sketchy shop that sells everything from candy to underwear. Or you probably saw their crazy videos on YouTube and told yourself you would never be able to do what they were doing.

The Barstarzz is an international team of individuals that use creative calisthenics in order to stay in shape mastering their own body weight while building a natural looking but ripped aesthetic. I remember watching my first “ghetto workout” years and years ago when YouTube first started. It might have even been before that when I saw Hannibal for King hanging on monkey bars in the New York City playgrounds with his 8-pack and bulging muscles for minutes at a time. But he wasn’t just hanging there… he was doing pull ups, chin ups, muscle ups, dips, push ups, levers and every other body weight exercise under the sun. It was inspiring.

Eventually when I started going to the school in the Bronx, I found myself at the same parks in the bad parts of town, playing basketball, sprinting around the track and hitting up the monkey bars or any other piece of round metal that I could. It was tough being 6′ tall because many of the bars were much shorter in those playgrounds but I had to get creative and learn to contort my body. When I started at about 155-160 pounds it was easy to hold myself up with the strength I developed from sports but at that point I had never lifted weights enough to make an impact.

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About three years later of serious training in the pool and the weight room for D1 swimming, I was the same height but packed on 65-70 pounds, topping out at 225 pounds. Even though my body fat percentage never increased (I entered school at about 9% and when I hit 225 I was actually about 6%, but usually in the 8-12% range during the regular season) it became so hard to manipulate and control all that weight on those bars with my long arms. Nevertheless, I always kept body weight exercises in my workouts. (That mostly included a lot of core work, swimming obviously, pull ups, dips, and push ups.) It was hard to focus on a single type of workout as I trained how I wanted but also how I needed to as well.

Now that’s not an issue and I have been watching more videos of the Barstarzz online. The movement has grown to an international level and guys that weren’t known years ago are know representatives of the group. I am subscribed to the group on YouTube and follow some of them on Instagram. As the movement has grown and more people are participating, their workouts and exercises have become more creative and inspiring.

And THAT is the reason why this article is being written! Not because I want to share my background of controlling my own body weight on a small scale, more so because I want to share the Barstarzz and what they do with anyone who is not familiar with them. I want to share it with you all because they are inspiring. They inspire individuals that can’t afford to pay for memberships to gyms and supplements. They inspire people who walk by them on the street. They can inspire everyone. There are Barstarzz followers out there that are sentenced to a life in a wheelchair, but the idea of creative calisthenics allows most of the population the opportunity to exercise, stay in shape, create a great aesthetic, and do all of that in a way that fits their needs and lifestyle. If you check out their YouTube page, you will see some great stories about who they have helped.

The greatest aspect of the Barstarzz is the support within their community. A lot of bodybuilders love to put other people down to make themselves feel better, powerlifters in different weight classes sometimes look down on the smaller and weaker guy, athletes come in all levels from amateur to professionals, but the Barstarzz truly want to see every first timer with a great attitude learn to muscle up and human flag one day. They travel the globe and United States running clinics to help get everyone started. And they actually stress technique in order to prevent injury and properly perform the movements. Crossfit is a great form of exercise but there are so many “bad coaches” (there are for everything, but Crossfit can be very dangerous) out there that the risk of injury is high. From my experience, I find the Barstarzz to be different, but they are just the face of this movement. People have been working out creatively using nothing but their own bodies and some tree branches or bars for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years.

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So look up these masters of creative calisthenics, get some ideas and SAFELY stop by a local park with some good bars in order to see where you hang. Make sure to bring a friend for safety reasons and also because it’s always more fun with someone else! Hungry and Fit approves of the Barstarzz and their workouts as a great way to stay… hungry and fit!

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