The Laws of Fitness: SAID Principle

When it comes to fitness there are very few things that are set in stone.  There are so many techniques, movements, and varieties of methods. It can be argued that some may be better than others but to some extent they may all hold some value. Our bodies are wonderous devices capable of far exceeding the limits that we believe them to have. So when it comes to training and preparing our bodies, there may not be a wrong or right way, but there are things that we do know to be true and are the standing concepts with which all of this running around, lifting weights, biking, running, and pure simple hours of sweat are based on.

That being the case there are several “laws” that we do know exist and operate with out fail. The first is known as the SAID Principle. For the sake of this conversation we will acknowledge it as being a “law”.  The SAID Principle is “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands”.  In simple terms our bodies get better at what we make them do. Read More

Straight Out of Line: An Understanding of Periodization

There are only so many hours in the day, only so many day in the week and only so many weeks in the year.   And then there is the fact that there always seem to be so many things to work on, snatches, jerks, cleans, handstands, double-unders and then some where in there we still just want to be able to be stronger and faster.   How do we prioritize? How do we fit it all in? How can I plan to make it all happen?


First, take a deep breath. Fitness is a marathon not a sprint. We don’t have to be better at everything RIGHT NOW.  The journey can be enjoyed just as much. But we can make a plan to make it all so much easier to manage. This is where we start talking about periodization. Read More

Them vs. You vs. Me

Everyone’s discovery of Crossfit, was not immediately followed by the statement that they were going to be the greatest Crossfitter ever.  The first time we read about it or show up at our local box, making it to the Crossfit Games was the furthest thing from out minds.  Our interest started for different reasons. We were hoping to lose weight. We were hoping to be in better shape for our kids. We wanted to be better at a sport. We wanted to be better at our jobs. We didn’t want to feel our age.  We want to prepare for a run, ride, obstacle race, etc…

Regardless of our motivations, we walked in the door and we got started.  From there we have done numerous workouts and countless reps.  Every so often we take on a benchmark WOD or even sign up for a local competition to see how we are doing.  Or we venture out and play a sport or take on some completely new challenge.  The main thing that we must understand is that there is a difference between Training and Testing.table_011

One measure that people will use is the Rate 0f Perceived Effort (RPE).  Rate of perceived effort (or exertion) simply provides a subjective way for you to describe how hard you would describe a given workout. The  Borg Rating Scale runs from 6 – 20. This may appear to be an odd range, but the intent is that the rating number multiplied by 10 should be comparable to your heart rate for that activity.  So running at an RPE  12 pace, should put you in the ball park of an 120 beats per minute pulse rate.   And similarly for someone at maximal exertion would have a heart rate very near to your max heart rate. This is generally found by subtracting your age from 220.

(Max Heart Rate = 220 – Age)

So for a 22 year old, that would mean: 220 – 22=198, their Max heart rate is 198.

The older that we get the lower our max heart rate becomes, and the more subjective this scale becomes.

Other RPE scales are based off of a more familiar  1 – 10 comparison. 0 being no exertion and a 10 being the hardest you could possibly go.  One of the best references that I have found and utilize is this.


Everyone has different strengths and can lift different weight and move different speeds. So just like I can ask someone to lift 90% of a max lift, I can also ask someone for 90% effort.


This is an important concept in training. If I  come and are working on max effort deadlifts you may not be horribly sore the next day but you aren’t going to be ready to perform at your highest level. Your body just underwent great stress both on your musculature and your central nervous system. Simply put; your circuits are going to be a little fried.  This could be potentially limiting for your training for the next day or two.  From a training standpoint, going a 100% one day, will probably put you at 80% the next day, and then possibly 60% the day after.
This is why we program a rest day every few days to give our body the opportunity to recover.   From a training stand point, we don’t need to go to our max everyday.  When we consider our RPE our best training is when we are consistent. If I can push myself and keep my RPE at about an 8 out of 10, then I will be getting a good workout but my body will be able to recover adequately before my next workout.


Testing are those times when we want to know what our MAXIMUM capacity or output can be. One Rep Maxes. Time Trials. Benchmark WODs. Competing in local competitions, or even the Crossfit Open. These are the times when we measure our progress. Every day is not a testing day.  In fact, testing days should not be that frequent.   Testing too often breaks up the consistency of a training program and slow progress not always enhance progress. This is especially the case when training for an event or competition. In these cases people set up their training programs to allow them to “peak” at the time of their competition.

One of the things that gets people in trouble tends to be impatience.  Athletes when they are following a program, especially if it s a new program, start to get curious about how well its working.  Maybe they can see some progress and they want to see where they are at now. Or maybe they aren’t seeing the immediate progress and need to know that their program is working.  In cases like this you have to trust in your coach and their programming.  Testing itself isn’t bad, just testing too often.

Testing gives us a chance to really “open up the throttle” and see how well we can do.  When done right, testing can give you an opportunity to mark your growth and improvements.  Progress can take many forms. Improved movement, increased strength, improved times.  When done wrong, it can impede our training and even give us a false sense of accomplishment or success.

Truth in Numbers


As we have just seen, most cross fitters have just finished up the Crossfit Open. Unfortunately with any competition there is always those that are trying to find a competitive edge, sometimes beyond the limits of what is permissable.  It is usually a case of pushing the standard of what is a good rep and a no rep.  For the competitors that hope to make it to Regionals or even the Crossfit Games, the lines can be blurred because of the motivations of profit and celebrity. In the case of those of us that rank much further down on the list, it tends to be a case of ego. Athletes jockeying for position on the leaderboard but willing to perform and count questionable reps. Just to try to gain a few spots or do better than the person next to them.  They are afraid of the damage their ego will take when they realize that their performance isn’t quite where they think it should be.  If we cheat our testing, or sacrifice the standard just to rank higher and to make ourselves feel better, then where we really lose out is in understanding what we can do to actually get better. Do you want to say that you ranked a few positions higher or do you want to we truly desire to get better and have our integrity in tact in the end.

In the end we need to understand where we should put forth out efforts.  Consistency is the secret. Rome was not built is a day, and neither can we expect to build ourselves to be as great as we dream unless we are willing to put in some SMART and HARD work.  We need to train to get better, and we need to test from time to time to know and see how much we have gotten better. As athletes, we need to put more trust in our training and embrace the process not just the progress.

Hey Joe, What do you know (Part 3: The Bad News)

And so now it comes to this. We have a basic understanding of what caffeine does and what it can do for us, now we have to breech the topic that plenty of people don’t want to hear.  What are the bad effects of caffeine?

Caffeine helps us delve into our “Fight or Flight” response to help increase our alertness, cognitivecaffeine-curve1 ability as well as our physical performance.  Caffeine increases our cortisol and adrenaline, even when we are at rest, so drinking caffeinated beverages actually cause our body to feel like it is under stress.   If we are continually or routinely exposing our body to the same stress our body adapts. In this case, if we are constantly taking in caffeine then the effects of the caffeine start to become weaker.  In studies, it has been found that our body almost completely adapts to the epinephrine/adrenaline effects as well as the cardiovascular effects of caffeine within about a week of regular coffee consumption. The performance boost that we get from caffeine is just that, a boost. Our body adapts to the imposed stress of caffeine and becomes resistant to its effects. Read More

Hey Joe, What do you know (Part 2: The Good News)

Some people already do it and but everyone has at least seen it, the guy with his shaker mixing up his pre-workout before they hit the gym.   We have talked about the basics of what caffeine does inside our body, but can we use it to increase our performance.

Given that we have three different energy systems, we will have to explore the effects on all three if we really want to understand how it can improve our performance. Read More

Hey Joe, What Do you know? (Part 1: The Basics)

Outside of sugar, one of the next most frequently abused and misunderstood ingredients hiding in our diet is caffeine.  For some it is our morning ritual to have a nice hot cup of Joe to get us started, For others it might be that caffeine that is in our favorite can of soda, or those that like to mix up a pre-workout before they hit the gym,  even worse yet there those that frequent one of the many brands of energy drinks or products. What does caffeine do and what does it do for me? Lets start with The Basics.

The largest source of caffeine in the western diet is Coffee. In and of itself coffee is not that bad for us, at least not until we start adding sugars and other ingredients to counter some of the bitterness in coffee. Soda, as we read before is already packed with sugar, but then there are energy drinks. Some of the early products were loaded with sugar but now we are starting to see more “low sugar” and  “no sugar”. Regardless of how much sugar is present, the caffeine is still there. Read More

Come Out and Play

In the never ending talk and pursuit of working towards that next PR on our lifts, WOD times, rep counts, we can sometimes lose focus.  Why do we workout? Not just the heart health, nutrition-conscious reasons. But what does it do for us?

Fitness is freedom.  And in several different ways. For starters, there is therapy that can be found in going to the gym, shouldering some heavy weight and being able to stand up. Regardless of our daily problems for an hour or so those problems don’t seem as bad. When I am doing deadlifts, my mind is not on bills, or meetings or emails.  My mind is able to focus on one thing, moving this weight off the ground. Standing up regardless of what’s going on.  Its a reassuring reminder that hard work can pay off, that progress, how ever slight, I still progress. Small improvements one day will be large improvements. Read More

Kick Out the Jams

If you want to cause an uproar in the gym or Crossfit box, turn off the music in the middle of a workout and watch how quickly you become disliked.  Guaranteed you will at least get some dirty looks and probably an earful to go with it.

But why? What is our obsession with working out and music? Is it simply a tool to distract us from our discomfort or is it something more? Does music really improve our performance?

Most people getting ready to go on a run will put in a set of headphones before they start and then find ourselves mouthing the words and running in sync with the rhythm of the music.  Military formations will sing cadence when going on a battalion or unit run. We get ready for the “3, 2, 1, Go” of a Crossfit WOD by turning up the volume and blasting some music through the speakers.  In preparation of banging out some heavy lifts, we might find some loud aggressive music with the intent of getting pumped up for our lift.  Regardless of our activity, music tends to find its way in to our preparation or our workout.  What, if anything, does it do for us? Read More

Pour Some Sugar on Me

Anytime I talk to individuals or groups about nutrition, I always start with one not-so-simple step. You have to GIVE UP THE CRAP.  It doesn’t matter whether you want to follow a Paleo Diet, a Zone diet, or anything else,  there are things we all know we should stay away from. The problem lies with all the things that pull us away from the healthy things that we should be eating.  As a culture, we are being over whelmed with advertisements for food and beverages with promises of “low-fat”, “low-sodium”,  “fat-free”,  “reduced fat”, “No sugar added”, etc etc… These all sound great, but what we think they mean and what they actually mean are some times light years apart.  We become victims of relying on our nutritional knowledge from the people who wish to sell us their products.  One of the most notorious is the things that we hear about sugar.

We find sugars in just about every type of food that we consume, and we can get down to how these sugars are used in our body for energy and to support life, but the most pressing issue is excess sugar.  We all know what this means without much explanation. I am not talking about fruits and veggies. I am talking about the candy, soda, and fruit drinks.  The things that should not be part of our balanced diet.  Oddly enough, even if you look at the Food and Drug Administration requirements for what foods can be considered healthy, Sugar is not even one of the considerations. Read More