Thursday 150219

Workout

500m Row
21 Thrusters
21 Kettlebell Swings
21 Pull Ups

500m Row
15 Thrusters
15 Kettlebell Swings
15 Pull Ups

500m Row
9 Thrusters
9 Kettlebell Swings
9 Pull Ups

Thrusters are 95M / 65F.  KBs are 53M / 35F

Who’s still wearing those 5 finger shoes?  From The New York Times

Athletes who spent the past few years embracing or scorning barefoot running can now consider whether increasingly popular “maximalist” shoes — with their chunky, heavily cushioned soles — are the sport’s new wonder product.

Some dismiss the shoes as gimmicky, or just silly-looking. Others, including injury-prone joggers and Olympians, are apostolic converts.

Leo Manzano, an Olympic medalist in the 1,500 meters, runs in the most popular maximalist shoe brand, Hoka One One, which has double the cushioning of standard running shoes. Plagued by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in his foot, Manzano said the condition disappeared just a week after he tried the shoes last March. In July, he became the fifth fastest American in the 1,500. Manzano is now sponsored by Hoka, which has been accruing a roster of competitive distance runners. “They’re not your normal shoe, but I actually think they’re better than normal,” Manzano, 30, said. “When I first saw them, because they’re so big, I thought they’d be heavy. But they’re incredibly light. My legs felt really fresh after a long run in them. It’s like running on a cloud.”

The Stinson Lite model from Hoka One One, whose initial customers were ultrarunners who felt extra cushioning helped protect their legs from the shock of running long races. CreditHoka One One

Hoka One One’s initial customers were ultrarunners, who felt the extra cushioning helped protect their legs from the shock of running up to 200-mile races. But the brand is gaining a following with more recreational athletes. Last year it sold more than 550,000 pairs, which cost $130 to $170 each, and its $48 million in sales were up 350 percent from 2013. Founded in 2009 by French athletes and based in the Bay Area, the company was acquired in 2012 by Deckers Brands, which also owns UGG Australia and Teva.

Solutions for injury prevention, on the extremes of the athletic footwear spectrum, have reached panacea-like proportions in recent years. The rise of maximalism counters the fall of minimalism, particularly the barefoot running movement. Boosted by terms like “proprioception” (feel for the road) and the best-selling book “Born to Run,” which argued that the human body was naturally built for running without corrective footwear, American sales of minimalist shoes peaked at $400 million in 2012.

They have been declining since. The most visible minimalist shoe was theVibram FiveFinger, which looked like gloves for your feet. But in May, Vibram agreed to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company made false claims about the health benefits of its footwear.

Despite the heavy supply of potential solutions, demand for injury prevention remains high.

“People are frustrated, and we’re told so often there’s a magic shoe that will stop our injuries,” said Jay Dicharry, a biomechanist in Bend, Ore., and author of “Anatomy for Runners.”  “But that’s just not true.”

Rich Mendelowitz, a longtime runner from Arlington, Va., started wearing Hokas while training to qualify for the Boston Marathon last year at age 55.

“I’ve had more comments on these shoes than I’ve had hot meals since wearing them,” he said. “But as a relatively older runner, staying injury-free is particularly important to me. I’m convinced that these are the shoes that will extend your running life.”

Mindful of the Vibram lawsuit, Hoka has been careful not to make any evidence-based health claims, and few studies exist on the effectiveness of extreme cushioning. One prominent University of Colorado study in 2012found that the benefits of cushioning underfoot were finite: 10 millimeters of cushioning on a treadmill saved energy, while 20 millimeters of cushioning did not.

Lauren Fleshman, a national champion in the 5,000 meters, likened the maximalist upswing to past footwear phenomena, now rejected as passé.

“To me, maximalist shoes fall right in the line of every other shoe trend,” she said. “There’s some good reasoning, but we don’t know enough about how it affects the body longer term, and we won’t know until everyone has been using it a while and all the other research comes out about how it destroys your body or whatever, and then there’s a lawsuit, and then there’s a campaign about how to use the technology properly, and then in the midst of all this confusion the next trend takes off. There is no shoe savior coming for us.”

Dicharry, the biomechanist, suggested that extreme shoes like the Hokas might be best used in moderation.

“Some people have a road bike, a commuter bike and a mountain bike, and they all have their purpose,” Dicharry said. “Maximalism is the new fat-tire bike of running shoes.”

Despite his devotion to Hokas, Manzano said he still ran short distances barefoot to keep his feet strong.

Jonathan Beverly, the shoe editor for Runners World, said maximalist shoes like the Hoka incorporated many of the qualities that made minimalism popular, while also mitigating the impact of running on hard surfaces.

“The benefit of the big sole is actually similar to what the minimal movement did; with both types of shoes you have to keep your body and your center of gravity above your feet,” Beverly said. “So you’re running with the same posture as you would if you were barefoot, but with all this cushioning.”

A move toward extra cushioning extends beyond the Hokas to more mainstream brands. Sales of one of Brooks’s most cushioned shoes, Glycerin, increased 29 percent in 2014, and the company also added a new higher-cushioned shoe last year.

“When we were doing the research behind lightweight shoes, 70 to 80 percent of runners we surveyed felt that cushioning was the attribute they most wanted,” said Carson Caprara, a senior product manager for Brooks Running. “Our goal is not to make it look like you’re wearing something crazy different. It looks for the most part like a regular running shoe, but it’s done differently. It’s designed to make you feel like you’re not hitting the ground.”

Dicharry said maximalist shoes were not necessarily suited for running fast.

“They could be good for easy runs,” he said. “But when you’re doing a speed workout, you want to go back to firmer footwear that helps your body explode off the ground.”

Manzano felt that the higher cushioning of his Hokas suited his higher mileage.

“I run 70-80 miles a week, which is extreme, and I was suffering from extreme issues,” he said. “So I need extreme support.”

Ultimately, most runners may need to resort to more traditional solutions.

“Of course what’s on your feet is important,” Dicharry said. “But there is a lot of evidence to show that people who spend more time improving their bodies as opposed to shopping for shoes are the ones who are going to run better.”

Monday 141006

Workout

“Frellen”

400m Run
21 Thrusters
21 Kettlebell Swings
21 Pull Ups

400m Run
15 Thrusters
15 Kettlebell Swings
15 Pull Ups

400m Run
9 Thrusters
9 Kettlebell Swings
9 Pull Ups

From The Huffington Post

What Weightlifting For Just 20 Minutes Does To Your Brain

Another reason why it’s a good idea to hit the gym: it can improve memory. A new Georgia Institute of Technology study shows that an intense workout of as little as 20 minutes can enhance episodic memory, also known as long-term memory for previous events, by about 10 percent in healthy young adults.

You may be surprised by what a quick workout session can do for your brain.

It’s no secret that weightlifting is good for you — from building muscle tissue torelieving stress — but now a new study on brains and brawn suggests that going hard in the gym for as little as 20 minutes can boost your long-term memory by around 10 percent.

“Our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost,” study leader Lisa Weinberg, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a written statement. Just check out a video describing the study above.

 For the study, researchers asked 46 healthy young adults to try to remember a series of 90 photographs that were shown on a computer screen. Then half of the group worked out on a leg-extension exercise machine — doing 50 reps — while the other half sat in a chair and didn’t exercise. The researchers then took saliva samples from each person.

Two days later, the same men and women met with the researchers again to look at a series of 180 photographs, which included the 90 photos that were shown before. This time, the men and women were asked to recall which photos they had seen previously and which were new.

What did the researchers find?

The people who exercised remembered around 60 percent of the photos they had seen before, while those who didn’t exercise remembered only around 50 percent.

Previous research in older men and women (50 to 85 years old) has found that a brief workout improves memory due to the exercise-induced release of the stress hormone norepinephrine. Scientists have long known that the hormone, a chemical messenger in the brain, plays a strong role in memory.

And it turns out that, in this new study, those people who exercised had increased measures of norepinephrine in their saliva samples. See the connection?

“The findings are encouraging,” study co-author Dr. Audrey Duarte, an associate professor of psychology at the institute, said in the statement. “Even without doing expensive fMRI scans, our results give us an idea of what areas of the brain might be supporting these exercise-induced memory benefits.”

The study was published online in the journal Acta Psychologica on Sept. 28, 2014.

Thursday 140410

Workout

“Frellen”

400m Run
21 Thrusters
21 Kettlebell Swings
21 Pull Ups

400m Run
15 Thrusters
15 Kettlebell Swings
15 Pull Ups

400m Run
9 Thrusters
9 Kettlebell Swings
9 Pull Ups

From Vogue

CrossFit Phenom Annie Thorisdottir: The Fittest Woman on the Planet?

by Adam Green | photographed by Bruce Weber

from-the-magazine-april-annie-thorisdottir-01_162930464038.jpg_article_gallery_slideshow_v2

For Annie Thorisdottir, the fittest woman on the planet, working out means pushing her body to the outer limits of performance—and crushing it.

If you were to search a collection of stock images for the words women and exercise, you’d end up staring at a lot of willowy young moms standing in tree pose and skinny aerobics instructors brandishing pastel-colored dumbbells. Earlier this year, though, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit LeanIn.Org foundation teamed with Getty Images to create a collection of photos that portray women in a more empowering light. The athletes it depicts have actual, visible muscles, which they can be seen putting to use in pictures with such descriptions as “Woman pressing barbell overhead in CrossFit gym,” “Woman climbing rope in CrossFit gym,” and “Smiling group of friends working out in CrossFit gym.”

CrossFit—the high-intensity workout that, depending on whom you ask, will either turn you into a superhuman or leave you in pieces—has clearly reached a tipping point as more and more women embrace its credo that, as one officially branded T-shirt puts it, “strength is beautiful.” But stock images are one thing. The face—and body—of that emerging paradigm belongs to Annie Thorisdottir, a 24-year-old Iceland native and two-time CrossFit Games champion who, after being sidelined by an injury last year, is returning to competition to try and reclaim her title as the fittest woman on Earth.

That last name translates as “Thor’s daughter,” and one look at her as she goes through her paces in front of a crowd of buff hipsters in a Brooklyn gym last spring makes the connection to the hammer-wielding Norse god clear: the long, strawberry-blonde hair; the ice-blue, almond-shaped eyes; and the complexion glowing with rude health, not to mention broad shoulders, powerful thighs, and take-no-prisoners abs. It’s a body built by (and for) hoisting barbells, flipping tractor tires, hauling sandbags, running, rowing, and, yes, swinging hammers.

Thorisdottir is currently dominating, with relentless efficiency, in a ten-minute contest of presses, dead lifts, and box jumps, against the American Lindsey Valenzuela (who will go on to finish second at the 2013 Games). “CrossFit is about living a healthy life and finding new ways to challenge myself,” Thorisdottir says, dressed for battle in a white tank top, tiny red shorts, and striped knee socks. “How can I push myself to find out what my body’s capable of? Where can it take me?”

So far, it’s helped make her (along with the three-time men’s champion Rich Froning, a former firefighter from Tennessee) CrossFit’s first real star, winning her endorsements from such brands as Reebok. The company has sent her around the world as an ambassador, added “Annie” sneakers and T-shirts to its line of apparel, and introduced her to a wider audience in a TV spot that shows her going head-to-head in the gym with former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson.

The CrossFit recipe was first cooked up in the mid-nineties in a small gym in Santa Cruz, California, where an iconoclastic personal trainer named Greg Glassman tortured his clients with medieval workouts that combined weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics. From the start, Glassman’s classes were equally divided between men and women—a ratio that’s held as CrossFit has exploded from a cultish regimen with a handful of affiliate gyms (known as boxes) to a global phenomenon with more than 9,000 boxes worldwide. Along the way, it’s evolved into a competitive sport with an annual gladiatorial contest, the CrossFit Games, which offers $275,000 to its champions along with those fittest-on-the-planet titles.

Though Thorisdottir now lives and trains in Reykjavík, she spent the first six years of her life in Vík í Mýrdal, a tiny coastal village two-and-a-half-hours southeast of the capital, and she learned how to navigate the world on its Viking-like terrain. She continues to be drawn to the outdoors (when it’s warm, she runs in the Esjan mountain range, which broods over Reykjavík from across the bay), particularly to spots where nature is at its most intense—Vík í Mýrdal’s wave-lashed black-sand beach, the breathtaking Gullfoss (Golden Falls). When the ice-capped volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in the spring of 2010, she and her family made a pilgrimage. “It’s insane how much power is in this earth, and you feel so close to it here,” she says. “It flows through you.”

When I visit Thorisdottir in Reykjavík just before Christmas, she invites me to her parents’ house for a dinner party that includes her two older brothers and their wives and kids. The decor is Scandinavian modern meets ski lodge, replete with a rack of reindeer antlers mounted on the wall—a trophy from one of her father’s hunting expeditions. It is a strapping, healthy-looking clan, and I’m not surprised to learn that the entire assembled throng is devoted to CrossFit.

By her family’s account, Thorisdottir showed signs of being a natural athlete when she was still in diapers, scudding across the floor on her backside instead of crawling. (“It was faster,” she explains.) Soon she was swinging from tabletops, climbing kitchen cabinets, and beating her brothers and cousins in pull-up competitions arranged by her grandfather, once receiving a prize of the Icelandic equivalent of $27—a dollar for each pull-up. “If there was a challenge, especially one with a reward, I had to win it,” Thorisdottir says.

Today she spends most of her time at the gym she co-owns, CrossFit Reykjavík, whose airplane hangar–size training floor is stocked with the tools of her trade—barbells, kettlebells, gymnastics rings, plyometric boxes, medicine balls, rowing ergometers. She trains for 90 minutes to two hours twice a day, five or six days a week, devoting morning sessions to metabolic conditioning and afternoons to strength, with a lot of mobility work and Instagram posts in between. (She also coaches three or four CrossFit classes a day.) Thorisdottir fuels all this activity with a Paleo-ish diet heavy on meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables (but free of rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, and sugar), along with a lot of non-Paleo dairy (she needs the calories). She drinks alcohol only two or three times a year but treats herself to a cheat night of ice cream and chocolate cake every Saturday.

Thorisdottir’s favorite training partner is her boyfriend, Frederik Aegidius, a 26-year-old biotechnology and business student from Denmark who also happens to be Europe’s top-ranked male CrossFit athlete. (They won their respective divisions at the Dubai Fitness Championship last fall, cementing their standing as CrossFit’s First Couple.) When I ask Aegidius how they met, he tells me that a female friend of his—as a joke—told him she’d found the perfect girl for him and then showed him a picture of Thorisdottir performing a dead lift at the 2009 Games.

Thorisdottir covers her eyes. “I was pulling on the bar, and it made me look like I had this insane six-pack,” she says. “And Frederik looked at it and said, ‘I don’t know. . . .’ ”

I point out that it probably didn’t help that the face one makes while hoisting a barbell loaded with a few hundred pounds is not one you’d put forward on, say, a dating profile.

“Annie never makes a face,” Aegidius says.

She also rarely wears anything but workout clothes. Thorisdottir swears she loves dressing up—and says that she’s come to learn what’s flattering to her body (sleeveless dresses that are clingy and low-cut) and what’s not (shirts too short to cover her midriff). And the Reebok Nanos on her feet notwithstanding, she’s got a thing for a different kind of high-performance shoe. “As a treat for winning the 2012 Games, I bought myself two pairs of heels—one Valentino and one Prada,” she says.

As a child, Thorisdottir practiced gymnastics and made the national team before quitting at age fifteen because, as she puts it, “I knew that I would never be the best in the world.” She took up ballet, studying at the Icelandic Ballet School until one day in class when she caught a glimpse of her broad shoulders in the mirror and realized, she says, “this wasn’t the body of a ballerina.” Next she tried pole vaulting and became the national champion for two years running, with an eye on the 2012 Olympics. In the end, though, she decided “it was too much of one thing, over and over.”

At a boot camp–style exercise class, she caught the eye of her instructor, Evert Víglundsson, a former soccer player and ballroom dancer who saw something in her immediately. “The efficiency of her movement was just amazing—nothing wasted, no struggle,” he recalls. Víglundsson, who had recently discovered CrossFit, encouraged her to enter the upcoming CrossFit regionals, where, he says, “she absolutely crushed it,” winning herself a spot at the 2009 Games in Aromas, California.

Thorisdottir, who would soon become known on the circuit as the indomitable “Iceland Annie,” worked her way up to winning first place in the 2011 Games, and did it again in 2012. But a few months later she severely injured herself lifting weights. She had just set a personal record of nearly 285 pounds for her back squat and, as she puts it, “got greedy,” moving on to dead lifts without an adequate warm-up. “I could feel something moving in my back, and right away I knew that this was bad,” she says. When she collapsed to the floor and couldn’t move her legs, she started to panic. The pain was so intense that it took paramedics more than an hour to get her into an ambulance. An MRI revealed that she had a bulging disc in her back, and she spent the next week in bed on painkillers, crying.

Within six weeks, though, she started rehab and returned to the gym; two months after that, she was competing in the CrossFit Open. But then she reinjured her back, this time causing nerve damage that rendered her left leg numb for months, forcing her to sit out the Games. While recovering, Thorisdottir found a pair of physical therapists in London who taught her a series of exercises designed to help nerves work more freely. Under the supervision of her coaches, she slowly returned to lifting light weights, focusing on proper form and incorporating exercises to strengthen the attachment of her core muscles to her spine. By the time I see her work out in Reykjavík, she is executing heavy snatches and thrusters with a well-oiled precision, power, and grace that she makes look effortless. Now, with little more than three months until the July Games in Carson, California, Thorisdottir can clean-and-jerk 210 pounds and is back to heavy dead lifts. “My legs are getting stronger really fast,” she says.

“She doesn’t relax,” says Carl Paoli, Thorisdottir’s current gymnastics guru. “She thrives under pressure. When you take her to the edge where she’s about to break, she will turn around, look at you, and say, ‘Watch me do this.’ And she gets it done.”

If Thorisdottir manages to get it done at this summer’s Games, it will mean another big payday, along with bragging rights as the first three-time women’s champ. The renewed exposure will also give her the leverage to expand her roster of sponsorships beyond the realm of protein powders, knee braces, and CrossFit gear. That’s not what’s driving her, though. Looking back on the first days after her injury, she remembers how vulnerable and helpless she felt, scared that she might never walk, much less compete, again. “Of course I want to win the Games, but I want to do it to show people that if there’s something you want, no matter what happens, you can find a way to do it—if there’s an obstacle in your way, you have to figure out how to get over it.”

She also wants to inspire women, especially young girls, to focus more on what their bodies can do than on how they look. “I’m not preaching that everyone should try to become a CrossFit champion,” she says. “But I want to show them that training can give them more confidence—and that being strong is beautiful.”