So you want to be able to do pull-ups…

Pull-ups are consistently one of the most sought after feats of strength we see at 5 Valleys CrossFit. As they should be. It looks really badass when someone is ripping out pull-ups with ease. They take time and dedication to master though so if you want the reward you’ve got to be willing to put in the work.

We’ve put together a progression to help you reach that goal of getting a strict pull-up. Below are the different exercises you will use to build up to the pull-up. Below that are the phases as well as sets and reps of each exercise to get you there. Make sure and master each phase before moving on. If you get stuck or don’t seem to be progressing anymore be sure and hit me up (ian@5valleyscrossfit.com). We can figure out what we need to do to break through that plateau and get you smashing pull-ups! Remember consistency is key so commit to spending 10-15 minutes 2 to 3 days per week.

Ring Rows/Inverted Rows

These are great start to developing the pulling power necessary for a pull-up. You can also easily adjust your foot placement to make them easier or harder. Because you are pulling in a horizontal rather than vertical plane you can’t rely on these alone to get you to that pull-up. To build necessary strength every rep should use full range of motion and be controlled.

Hang from the bar

A big part of being able to perform a solid pull-up is grip strength. Simply grab the bar in an overhand grip and hang. The goal is to get to a 45 sec hang but start with 4 or 5 sets of 5 to 10 seconds with little rest until you can go longer. You can also use a band when first doing these to give some assistance. Once you build up to 45 seconds with the band move to a lighter band or go to full body weight hanging.

 

Chin Over Bar Hold

This is the finish position of the pull-up. Use a box or bench to help get yourself in position. You want to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades back and down, keeping your elbows by your side, and your abs and butt tight. Build up to a 20 sec Chin Over Bar Hold and again use a band to assist at first.

Controlled Lowering/Negatives

Again use a box or bench and start with a chin over bar hold. Take about 5 seconds to lower yourself under control from chin over the bar position to fully hanging position. Rest 5 to 10 seconds and repeat for between 3 to 5 reps. If you find you can’t control the lowering anymore stop there.

Self/Partner Assisted

Have a partner assist you through the movement or put one foot on a box or bench to assist yourself. Use only enough assistance that you can do 3 or 4 quality controlled reps in a row before needing to rest.

 

Full Pull-ups

Hang from the bar with arms starting totally straight. Pull yourself up until your chin is completely over the bar. Control yourself back down to hanging with straight arms.

How to get there:

Here is the progression to work towards those full pull-ups. Spend as much time at each phase as you need until you have mastered it before moving to the next one.

Phase 1 – 2 to 3 days per week

Ring Rows 3 sets 5 to 10 reps

Hang from Bar 4 or 5 sets of 10 to 20 seconds

Before moving onto the next phase you should be able to:

  • Do 5 ring rows starting with shoulders under the rings and touching the rings to the chest each rep.
  • Hang from the Bar for 45 seconds

Phase 2 – 2 to 3 days per week

Chin over bar hold 3 sets of 10 sec hold rest about 90 seconds between each set (start with a band to assist)

Ring Rows 4 sets of 5 reps at hardest level you can do with good form for all reps

Before moving onto the next phase you should be able to:

  • Hold Chin Over Bar for 30 seconds

Phase 3 – 2 to 3 days per week

Controlled lowering/Negative Pull-ups 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps taking 5 full seconds to lower (rest 2 minutes between sets)

Self/Partner Assist 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps (rest 2 minutes between sets)

Before moving onto the next phase you should be able to:

  • Do 5 controlled Negative pull-ups taking 5 seconds to lower

Phase 4 – Do a Pull-up!!

5 Simple Ways to Start Feeling Better Now

Most people that come to check out the gym, tell us they just want to feel better. After talking through their challenges, a common theme is trying to do everything or to make too many changes all at the same time. This creates a lot of pressure and one slip up commonly leads to quitting entirely. Instead start small to win big! Pick the one thing that you think will be the easiest to implement and sustain and get started. Developing a solid habit with one thing will help keep the ball rolling as you add in the next new habit. You don’t need to join a gym or buy a bunch of supplements to create a healthy lifestyle, but having an awesome community like the one at 5 Valleys CrossFit sure doesn’t hurt:)

If you need a little guidance on what you can do today to help you feel better, here is a list of 5 things you can do to help yourself feel great.

1 – Drink more water

Here is a lemon and the thing I squeeze it with to make fresh lemon juice. Also an awesome cutting board!

 

Even slight dehydration can cause all kinds of problems including: fatigue, dry skin, headaches, muscle cramps, and sugar cravings. It’s really easy to get busy and forget about drinking water throughout the day. Or if you are like me, you might drink coffee all morning and forgo any other beverages. The recommended daily water intake is 11 cups for ladies and 15 cups for guys. Remember these are averages, and you might need a bit less or a bit more. If you know you could use some more H2O, worrying about the exact amount isn’t your biggest problem. Instead, start by increasing your current intake in a way that is sustainable. I started having a large glass of water every morning before I have my first cup of coffee. I add a little lemon juice and sea salt to help with absorption. I have been able to be really consistent with this and it definitely makes a difference. I’ve also noticed that this early morning habit has helped me drink more water throughout the day.

2 – Eat 10 Shades of fruits and veggies a day

Check out the blog about this here. There are all kinds of reasons that eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies is important, but the biggie is gut health. The gut has been called the 2nd brain and can influence not only your physical but mental well being. If you are not a big fruit and veggie eater and 10 different types sounds like a ton, start small. Add an additional fruit or veggie to your current diet and have it every day. Once you’ve tackled that and been consistent for 3 or 4 weeks, add one more and do the same thing. It may seem like it will take a long time to get to 10 but if you can stick with it, in less than a year you will have a life-long habit.

3 – Get out in nature

Norman looking like a drowned rat while we are getting some quality outside time last summer.

 

We live in Montana, so likely we already enjoy the outdoors. You don’t need to take a week long backpacking trip to get the benefits from being outside though. Regularly getting out in nature has been shown to improve short term memory, decrease stress and reduce inflammation. Luckily, we live so close to all kinds of great trails to help us get these benefits. If you are short on time though, heading to a park on your lunch break, taking a morning walk or even sitting on your porch or deck and enjoying the views can make a difference.

4 – Regular Exercise

This is a no brainer. We all know we feel way better when we exercise regularly. Sometimes we put it off because we are too busy, or tired, or don’t know what to do etc. This is despite knowing we will be more productive and have more energy if we do exercise. If you are strapped for time or can’t make it to the gym, don’t let that stop you. Even just 10 minutes of activity will help you feel good. Go for a short run or do some squats, push-ups and sit-ups in your living room. We were made to move so get the blood pumping and get after it. You will thank yourself for it after.

5 – Meditate

Meditation does not have to be this fancy to be effective. It does look pretty pleasant though.

 

You’ve probably heard meditation is good for you but click here for a comprehensive list of 76 benefits of meditation. I used to think meditation was too out there for me, but after reading how many top performers meditate regularly, I thought it would be good to check it out. I am not the most consistent, but any time I am feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed I will get back on it and always feel much more relaxed and focused. I currently use the 10% Happier app which is also called “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics”. I’ve also used the Headspace app which is awesome too. They both have free introductory meditations that can help you get started.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I would love to hear about any other simple habits you’ve used to feel your best. Also if you are ready to get started send me an email and let me know which habit you are going to tackle first! (ian@5valleyscrossfit.com)

Stepping my Fruit and Veggie Game Up

Being a gym owner many people think I must be some kind of hardcore health fanatic. While I greatly value health and fitness, I am anything but perfect when it comes to eating (or my fitness for that matter!). I have a wicked sweet tooth, enjoy all kinds of adult beverages, and am partial to salt and vinegar chips. For the most part, I can keep these to a moderate enough level that my indulgences aren’t especially detrimental to feeling pretty good. When I do go a bit overboard, my body is quick to let me know and I feel sluggish and unmotivated.

For about the past week I have been crushing fruits and veggies. It’s common knowledge that you should be regularly eating a variety of fruits and veggies, but it seems like very few people actually do. I’m not going to go into all the benefits, but if you want more info check out the articles linked below.  While I have always eaten some fruit and veggies, I have definitely lacked in the variety department and consumption has not been a priority. After seeing several posts about eating 10 shades a day on a blog I follow (OPEX Fitness), I decided it was time to step my game up. So far it’s been way easier than I thought it would be. Liz has been on board as well so each evening we check in and tell each other what we ate that day.

In the past I’ve done the Whole 30 or various paleo challenges and they have helped me dial in my eating and feel really good. But they have all had a specific timeline, and when I finished I would eventually revert back to old habits that included not having much of a plan or consistency with my nutrition. I learned a lot by doing these challenges, but this time around I wanted to see if I could create a long-term habit rather than more of a temporary reset. I liked that instead of having to eliminate a bunch of foods I could simply focus on adding something nutritious.

This was my lunch yesterday. It was fantastic!

 

My daily game plan to get 10 shades in:

  • Morning Smoothie (6 shades): 1 scoop of Driven Whey, a handful of Antioxidant Blend Frozen Berries (from Costco, it has 5 types of berries), a handful of spinach, and water. This takes me about 1 minute to make and is delicious.
  • Late Breakfast/early lunch (4-5 shades): 2 eggs, bacon, piece of toast, mixed green lettuce mix, carrots, purple cabbage. Sometimes I will sub bell peppers for carrots or cabbage or add tomatos or avocado to the mix.
  • Dinner (2-5 shades): Usually some type of meat or fish with a couple veggies on the side: Roasted potato or sweet potato, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bell peppers etc. If I don’t have the smoothie in the morning I will add some more veggies at dinner.

So far I haven’t had any issues getting 10 in and plan on continuing indefinitely. I have found there are a couple keys to my success:

1) Buy enough fruits and veggies. Pretty simple but if they aren’t readily available what are the chances you will eat them?

2) Get a large variety in one meal. With a smoothie or a salad you can easily add a bunch in one go. Likewise if you are roasting or sauteing. Just chop more up than you might normally and throw them in.

3) Don’t be overly concerned with serving size. I’m not going to try to game the system by eating one baby carrot and counting it but I’m also not weighing and measuring everything either.

Here are a couple articles on why it’s important to get your fruits and veggies in.

https://opexfit.com/blog/colorful-eating/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/color-chart

If you don’t like vegetables here is a great article explaining why and giving you a method to make them more enjoyable or tolerable depending on your outlook.

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/dont-like-vegetables

I’ve got a few more nutrition habits I will be implementing in the months to come but want to make sure I have this one fully dialed in first. If you are reading this and ready to give it a go yourself shoot me an email and let me know (ian@5valleyscrossfit.com). I’m always more motivated when I’ve got some buddies around.:)

8 things I’ve learned after participating in 8 CrossFit Opens

1) I’m not going to the CrossFit Games.  I know it’s shocking. Early on though I thought I might be able to. The first couple years not a lot of people were participating in the Open so it didn’t seem that far off. I told myself if I can get better at x, y and z, I will have a shot. While I did get better at x, y and z, I only got further and further away as more people and higher level athletes started participating. For me to have a chance I would have to add about 100lbs to every lift and improve my conditioning by a huge amount. No matter how much I train this is not going to happen, so my focus for the Open is to have fun myself and make sure everyone at the gym has a great time too. So unless I go as a spectator I will not be going to the Games.

2) Be well fed and rested. In the first Open workout last year I was planning on doing the workout at about 3:30pm and had timed my meals accordingly. A few things got in my way and I didn’t end up going until the last heat of the night at around 8pm. I hadn’t eaten since about noon, so this was a very bad idea. About two minutes into what turned into a 19 minute workout I felt really weak and terrible. Lesson learned. For the rest of last year’s Open workouts and all of this year’s I made sure my eating was timed right. If something had thrown it off, I likely would have pulled the plug and done the workout at a different time.

3) Constantly watching the leaderboard is a terrible waste of time. Checking your ranking every couple hours after you submit your score and researching your “leaderboard rivals” can be entertaining but in the end usually just makes you feel worse about yourself. I used to do this every week and by the end of the Open I would be more worried about what score I got relative to others rather than going for it and having fun. If you gave your best effort you should feel really good about that and avoid deriving value about yourself from how anyone else performs.

4) Watching strategy videos is generally a waste of time. All the strategy videos out there are geared towards athletes essentially trying to make Regionals. None of these strategies apply to me because I’m not capable of doing what they say for the entire workout. Here is my simple strategy for every workout: Get a good warm-up, organize your equipment nicely and don’t go too fast at the start.

5) Use the correct weights. Personally I’ve never had an issue here but we had this happen a few times this year. Even a couple coaches made this mistake, ahem… Katie, Andie:) I will definitely triple check what weights I’m using so I don’t have to redo any workouts.

6) Judging is really fun. In the past I haven’t judged that much because I was focused on organizing the heats, running the clock, and making sure everyone had all their equipment set up. This year Jessie stepped up taking on those tasks. This freed me up to be a judge and it was awesome. I had a ton of fun helping people stay focused, giving some coaching tips, and pushing them to keep moving all the way to the end of the workout.

7) I’m terrible at handstand push-ups. I can do some good ones but burn out really quickly and it turns into me staring at the wall for long periods of time during the workout. The recipe to getting better at them isn’t more handstand push-ups in workouts. Practicing them while not under fatigue and gradually build up the volume of reps I do, is a much better strategy. This goes for any movement or skill development. If you struggle with double unders it is really hard to get better at them during a workout with a bunch of burpees and kettlebell swings. Carving out some time to practice without worrying about the clock or having a heart rate through the roof is a much smarter approach.

8) Lower your expectations (or don’t have any). There is a psychology formula: happiness = reality/expectations. So if you set an expectation of a certain score and in reality you don’t reach it your happiness will decrease. The opposite is also true, if your reality exceeds your expectations you will increase your happiness. Say person A thinks they can get a certain number of rounds but fall short and are upset afterward. Person B is a bit scared of the weight in the workout and thinks they won’t do very well but is able to get several more reps than they thought possible and is ecstatic. Did person A not work as hard and be disappointed? I would bet Person A just set their expectations too high. I used to calculate out how fast I thought I could go each round and what final score I could get. At some stage during the workout I would realize that wasn’t going to happen and start to feel disappointed even during the workout. Not a recipe for feeling good about myself. Now I try to keep my expectations to a minimum and focus on performing my best in the moment.  And that has led, you guessed it, to greater happiness after each workout and overall about the Open.

 

If you participated in the Open this year or years past I would love to hear what lessons you’ve learned! Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Are you ready for the Holidays??

 

It always feels like the end of the year is a mad rush. Between working, Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and organizing travel arrangements or hosting family, everything seems to be happening at once. At this time of year it is pretty easy to let things slide fitness wise. Fill out the form below to get our Holiday Readiness Quiz. See how you stack up and get some excellent ideas on how to navigate this holiday season and keep your health and fitness on track.

What the Heck is Heart Rate Variability??

 

There are so many things that you could track in the health and wellness industry. What’s the new superfood? What’s the best way to get abs fast? The best diets, and exercises to stay young, lean and fit. But how do you know when something is actually worth reading about? To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that. It definitely has a lot to do with what you’re interested in. For example, do you like to know about nutrition? Then you should read about the latest superfood and make up your own mind. All that being said, I’m sure all of us are interested in keeping ourselves in shape, otherwise you wouldn’t enjoy working out at 5VCF. While many of you may not be super interested in tracking anything to do with your workouts, there are certain things you can do to maximize your results in the gym, that don’t require food or workout logs. This post is going to highlight one thing in particular, clue the title of this post gave it away 🙂

I’m talking about heart rate variability (HRV). This is a test that is done to see how variable or changeable your heart rate and rhythm is. Why is this important? Well, the research shows that the more variable your heart is, the more adaptable you are to stress. When we are adaptable to stress we are less likely to break down and get sick or hurt ourselves doing something inane. Athletes are using this technology as a way to monitor whether they are over training. When their HRV decreases, it means that their body is becoming overwhelmed and needs rest and recovery. The cool thing is that it isn’t limited to and for elite level athletes. It’s something you and I can test. There are apps out there that you can use, coupled with a heart rate monitor that will test this for you. Talk about hacking your health. This goes far beyond listening to your body’s cues, you have tangible evidence of when your body needs a break. Pretty cool, huh?

I use this technology in my Chiropractic office because of the objective data it gives. The research also shows that a Chiropractic adjustment improves your HRV, making you more adaptable to your daily stressors. Before you go out and purchase your own system, I’m going to bring it to you! On Tuesday Nov 7th, I’ll be at the gym from 3:30pm onwards, and you’ll be able to test your HRV. Ideally, this will be before you workout. It takes about 3 mins for the actual scan and then we will go over the results, so let’s say a total of 6 mins. Not long in the scheme of things but it could completely change how you approach the upcoming workout. From today onwards there will be a sign-up sheet outside Ian’s office, so we can maximize your time. If you usually workout in the morning feel free to come by just to get scanned as see what your HRV is up to!


Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor

www.primalpracticemt.com

Member Success Story – John Heaney

A big shout out to member John Heaney! John has been attending 5 Valleys for 2 years now and has seen steady improvements in his strength and fitness. He has been very consistent with his workouts during that time and recently decided it was time to step up his nutrition game as well.

Through his work he has a regular wellness check-up and his cholesterol levels were high enough that they were recommending he start taking statins to lower those levels. Not wanting to take medication the rest of his life John decided to hold off and see what he could do on his own.

Taking part in a 6 week Challenge at the gym John made some adjustments and was diligent with his nutrition. The results of his hard work speak for themselves. John dropped 17lbs!!, lost 3 inches around his waist, improved on his before and after fitness test, and at his most recent wellness check-up his cholesterol levels were back down in the normal range! He did all this while continuing to hit new strength PRs!

He didn’t stress out, count every single calorie, and only eat chicken and broccoli the whole time either. What he did do was:
-Cut out diet sodas
-Made a point to eat vegetables every day
-Lowered his carb intake by eating more protein and fat and getting his carbs from quality vegetable sources
-Allowed himself an indulgent “cheat” meal once per week so he didn’t like he was depriving himself

We all know combing solid nutrition with exercise plays a huge roll in feeling good, looking good and performing your best. It starts with identifying some habits that are holding you back and creating new habits that help you move forward.

Keep up the awesome work John!!

You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

Ever realized that you didn’t know something, that you didn’t even have knowledge of a certain fact, until you learnt it wasn’t even in your wheelhouse of knowledge? Yep, that was me the other week when I spent 4 days in Venice Beach, CA for a seminar. It got me thinking about the fear and hesitation we see in new clients coming into the gym. The unknown freaks them out. For those that take the step into the alien world that is a CrossFit gym, they realize that there isn’t anything to actually fear, just a whole lot of learning.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is where growth happens as an athlete, but more importantly, as a human. The learning curve in the gym probably pales into significance when compared to other areas of your life. But it can serve as a stepping stone to being more brave and to take on new challenges. We need to work the bravery muscle, strengthen it, and train it so when the time comes to really go for what we want, there is no option but to do it.

What have you been meaning to try in the gym, but haven’t quite worked up the courage to do yet? Maybe it’s kicking up into a handstand. Or really dropping under the bar when snatching. Whatever it is, on the other side of fear, is a sense of accomplishment. Whether you achieved what you set out to do, the very act of pushing through the unknown and uncertainty is an accomplishment. This upcoming week, I encourage you to try something new. You never know, you might just surprise yourself.


Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor

www.primalpracticemt.com

Member Highlight – Sara

 

Massive shout out to member Sara Markuson who took 2nd place in the MT Women’s Triathlon in Helena! A competitive triathlete when she came to 5 Valleys she had been forced to reduce her normal training due to some ongoing IT band problems. She has been working hard at the gym while being smart about her triathlon training so as not to overdo it. It looks like it is paying off!

Here is what she had to say:

“While you guys were crushing it at your hosted comp, I was competing in Helena. I just wanted to let you know that I believe the overall fitness I’ve gained from CrossFit assisted me in taking 2nd place overall at the MT Women’s Triathlon in Helena over the weekend. As you know, the issues I’ve had with my IT bands has limited my ability to train at the level of intensity I usually would. I wasn’t sure how my race would go because of the reduction in my regular training. I executed a solid race, and attribute much of my success this weekend to the strength gains I’ve made in the gym. You have a stellar team of coaches and I have learned an immense amount from my time at 5 Valleys.”

Way to go Sara!!!

We love hearing stories from members about how their training at 5 Valleys helps them outside the gym. If you are out there using your fitness let us know so we can share your story and inspire others to go get after it! Just email me at ian@5valleyscrossfit.com

Is Posture Actually All That?

Most people know the importance of posture. As kids we are told to stand up straight and to sit up in our chairs, and finally as adults we set up our workstations to be in the most ergonomic position to sit still for up to 8+ hours per day (obviously depending on our jobs). I also think that while most know that posture is important they may underestimate just how important it is to nearly every system in our body. As an athlete, your posture can make or break your success in the gym. Check out how below!

Your posture is the best external representation of how your nervous system is functioning. You live in your body 24/7, there are no lunch breaks, timeouts or holidays. It may sound obvious but poor posture in the gym can be the cause of injury and nobody likes or wants to be injured! Rounded shoulders, forward head posture and a tucked tailbone all indicate simultaneously muscles that are working too hard and other muscles that are switched off and not firing. This leads to compensation in other muscles that are not designed to take certain loads and subsequent injury. You always hear the coaches emphasizing good form, but great technique starts outside the gym. The key to this is great posture because it means our bones are aligned, your muscles, ligaments and tendons are working efficiently and they are as balanced as possible.

That dreaded poor posture not only wreaks havoc on increasing the risk of injury but it could actually be hindering your progress. Unfortunately, as we become more reliant and addicted to technology, we live our life in a forward head position with rounded shoulders. This body position is so prevalent that it has a name ‘text neck’. But how can it hinder your progress in the gym, I hear you ask? Well as your body adapts to this new way of living it impacts the way your internal organs function, especially your diaphragm. This muscle is pretty important when it comes to breathing. I don’t know about you but I do some pretty heavy breathing (gulping of air!) during a workout. If your diaphragm is unable to work to full capacity, you don’t take in enough oxygen, which then impacts the muscles as they become deprived and finally this leads to a smaller adaptation of the body for improved fitness. There are a whole host of other repercussions that occur when the diaphragm is hindered, but it would make for an essay rather than a blog post so I will refrain, but one of them is pelvic floor issues (you know the ones that nobody really likes to talk about).This ‘text neck’ posture can also effect other internal functions such as digestion, elimination, energy levels and mood.

So I would say that how you hold yourself has been taken to a whole new level of importance. As a Chiropractor I work with improving posture on a daily basis. Next week I will be available in the gym to check out your posture and discuss any other concerns you may have about your health. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday I will be there from 4:45pm to 6:45pm. You can have your posture photos taken and emailed to you and if needed we can create a plan to overcome any postural abnormalities you are having. This is free to all – including friends or family members that don’t workout at 5VCF. I hope you take advantage of me and I will see you next week!


Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor

www.primalpracticemt.com