Welcome to RWS CrossFit! We’re excited to have you with us for your fitness journey. The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of what CrossFit is, how it works, what you should eat, and what you should expect. Bear with me, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
But first, a disclaimer.
CrossFit is not magic. It is hard work. Nothing about it is easy. Ever.
If you haven’t already chucked your keyboard (or laptop, or smartphone, or whatever new-fangled device you’re reading this on), said “fuck this” and walked away, congratulations—there’s hope for you yet. I guarantee that if you follow our program, including the homework and nutrition guidelines I’ll mention later, you will get in the best shape of your life and then some for years to come.
To get into what CrossFit is, we need to examine what fitness is. The simplest, most thorough definition of fitness is the ability to do anything for any length of time—“increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” is the term we use. If you can lift something heavy, move your body quickly through space with good control, and do any combination of these things for short and/or long efforts, you’re fit by any measure.
We achieve that lofty goal through constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. You do things that are intrinsically useful (like moving your body and/or external objects), you work as hard as you can (without hurting yourself or cheating movement), and you mix it up every day. We end up with a nice balance of getting better at movement skills while still adapting to new stimuli. If you get good at enough things in enough settings, eventually you can do anything that comes your way. A strong, experienced CrossFitter can quickly clear an eight-foot wall and push a car a quarter-mile…repeatedly without stopping if need be, without having practiced either of those things. This is the kind of fitness we strive to attain—to be ready for the unknown and unknowable.
And what is CrossFit, exactly? Well, it started in Greg Glassman’s garage. Glassman was a high school gymnast who hypothesized that if he used free weights to get stronger—by cross-training with functional movements at high intensity—he would get better at his sport. Sure enough, he started surpassing his friends in ability as his strength improved from weightlifting. He kept this in mind when he became a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach and used it to get his clients far better results than with more traditional methods. After getting kicked out of gym after gym for being too unconventional, he opened his own place in Santa Cruz in 2000 and posted a “WOD” (workout of the day) on the internet for people to follow along at home. Eventually he started doing seminars and allowing people to open independent CrossFit-affiliated gyms, and the 8,000th affiliate worldwide opened in 2014. Our affiliate, RWS CrossFit, opened in October 2010. We were around the 1,700th “box,” just before CrossFit HQ signed the multi-million-dollar partnership with Reebok that brought widespread publicity and ESPN coverage. Each affiliate is allowed to operate as it sees fit within the CrossFit methodology, so your experience at RWS will be unlike any other place you’ll go.
We focus on quality of movement, for all levels. We improve ranges of motion, develop a strength base, and spend a great deal of time on fundamentals before throwing any advanced skills at you. By the way, this is a central principle of CrossFit—establish competency with the mechanics of movement, then gain the ability to consistently execute movement correctly even under conditions of fatigue, then focus on maximizing intensity of workouts.
Another cornerstone of the RWS philosophy is that all humans can benefit from increasing absolute strength through full range of motion, and a great deal of the results that people seek from exercise come solely from increased muscular strength and mass. Strength is the basis for being able to do anything physical, and without it the human organism is physically worthless. Would you ask a marathon runner to help you move, or a football player? I rest my case. Also, muscle is far denser than fat is, so getting stronger will not make you “bulky.” Excess body fat makes you bulky. Unless you take steroids, any amount of muscle you can build will look good on you and help you burn off any excess fat you might be carrying around. This is equally true for women and men.
Now that you know why it’s important to develop your fitness, let’s talk about work capacity and how we go about improving it at RWS. Remember, work capacity = fitness = look better naked. We also define fitness with ten physical attributes—strength, stamina, cardio, flexibility, accuracy, balance, coordination, agility, power, and speed—which we can distill down to three essential attributes: strength, endurance, and mobility. We work on all three of these facets every single day.
Strength is the ability to exert productive force to overcome a load. We train it through high-intensity weightlifting and gymnastics—“intensity” here meaning load relative to the heaviest you can lift.
Endurance is the ability to resist fatigue. This is developed with high-intensity conditioning, which includes sprinting, running, jump rope, rowing, and circuit training. For this we use the CrossFit definition of “intensity”—total work output relative to your maximum possible for that particular task.
Mobility is possessing adequate skill, body control, and range of motion to execute a given task. We develop this with skill-based, full-range-of-motion movement, along with supplemental stretching and mobilization exercises.
A fitness program that neglects any of these three key components is inferior to one that gives them the attention they each deserve. Many CrossFit boxes favor endurance over strength out of convenience; this is a big mistake and ends up being self-defeating. Strength and endurance are interrelated and deserve equal attention, and our program reflects that. RWS stands for Real World Strength, after all.
The key to elite fitness is consistency—both in training and in recovery. This means work hard in the gym and/or at home 3-5 times per week, eat for performance before pleasure, minimize stress wherever possible, and maximize sleep quality and quantity.
And now a neat little picture on how fitness gains work. Remember, more fitness = look better naked.
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I didn’t draw this picture, but I can explain it easily enough. The fitness baseline is your starting point, and the “train” arrow is you coming in here and working. Immediately after the workout you’re all messed up and tired (fatigue), then you recover by sleeping, eating well, and minimizing interferences (recovery), leading to being able to do more stuff next time and looking just a little bit better naked (supercompensation). If you sit on your butt and stop working out, eventually you go right the hell back to where you were (return to baseline). However, if you repeat the process, you get another fatigue-recovery-supercompensation cycle and end up even better. Rinse, repeat, continue to make progress, continue to improve. As you get stronger and stronger this adaptation curve will look really, really complicated (think multiple concurrent lines all waving around each other in an upward trend), but you don’t need to worry about that. That’s my job.
Now where does soreness come in? Well, it’s pretty much an unavoidable part of training, but it’s not really a good or a bad thing. When you train, you cause microscopic damage to your muscle fibers. This is a big part of the growth stimulus, but it gets painful in the aftermath. Your body sends inflammation to the damaged cells as part of the repair process, and as the inflammation increases over the course of a day or two so does the pain. Days later when the inflammation and residual fatigue dissipate, you’ll end up stronger and more resilient than you were before. In the meantime, you’ll be doing workouts that provide active rest to the afflicted muscle groups and expedite the recovery process—I plan it out this way. Soreness is NOT a reason to stay home. When you’re sore, no matter how bad, NEVER DO NOTHING; that’s the worst thing you can possibly do as your muscles will tighten up and impede circulation. If nothing else, do some light stretching and bodyweight movements to get the blood pumping or you will feel like you’re in a full-body cast the next day.
Also, over the course of training you’ll get kinks in your muscle tissues and the fascia surrounding it, putting excess tension on the attachment points and causing aches and pains in weird places. When this happens, rest does not fix it—you need to roll it out. Ask a coach how to take care of your owies when they come up. Lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and compression bands are some of the tools at our disposal and they work pretty darn well at fixing muscle kinks.
As far as how our program is set up, you can expect a full-body workout every day. The emphasis will shift so we avoid overtraining any movements or muscle groups while getting as strong and fit as possible. Contrary to what many seem to think, a good “constantly varied” protocol doesn’t mean “random and stupid.” We can plan things out in advance to get a very well-rounded training stimulus that addresses common movement flaws and gets everyone closer to their goals. Again, that’s my job. All you need to do is show up and work, eat right, practice at home, and sleep.
You may have already heard that changing your body is 80% diet. If anything, that’s an understatement. This is a big subject, so I have a separate 9-page booklet summarizing all of my accumulated nutritional knowledge; it took me a long time to write, so it’s $5 for a copy. I’ll cover the essentials of “what to do” in this freebie here (and everything I tell you to do is backed by plenty of scientific research that you could Google on your own), but for the details of “why” and “how” get the booklet.
There are four macronutrients: fat, protein, carbohydrate, and water. Your body can make all the carbs it needs, but fat, protein, and water are essential in that you’ll get sick and die without them.
Imagine building your body as you would a house. Protein is construction material; these are basically the Lego’s of your body (you played with Lego’s, right?). Fat is skilled labor; this is your body’s preferred source of fuel, along with other crucial functions in your musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Carbohydrate is under-the-table labor; it’s quick, works in a pinch, and helpful in the right situations, but if you rely on it or put it on your taxes you’ll be in trouble. Water is the ground the house is built on. Without water you will die in days, and you pretty much have to try to drink too much of it.
Besides water, everything you need comes from plants and animals; they should comprise 90+% of what you consume. Meat supplies protein & fat, vegetables provide slow-release carbohydrate, and both contain the vitamins and minerals needed for normal function. You are genetically designed to consume literally as much as you can stomach of unprocessed meats and vegetables.
Meat & Eggs
Mmm…meat. Animal protein is unsurpassed in terms of overall quality and bioavailability for the human organism. You have pointy teeth for a reason—you’re designed to eat animals that you hunted, killed, disemboweled, and cooked over an open fire, but since we live in 21st century suburbia we have to go pretty far out of our way for that opportunity. The next best thing is pasture-raised meat from a farmer’s market; the next best thing after that is regular meat from a butcher shop; less ideal are processed meats like bacon and sausage; and the worst thing you can do is to not eat animal flesh at all.
As a rule of thumb, take your bodyweight in pounds and eat that many protein grams every day—men should add 50 to that number if possible. It’s a lot, but it’s necessary to repair your muscle tissue after breaking it down in the gym. Even if you’re not working out that day, you need protein to keep your immune system up.
1 pound of meat = 80-100g protein (depending on fat content); 1 dozen eggs = app. 80g protein
Piece of meat the size & thickness of a deck of cards = app. 3 oz. = 15-20g protein
Therefore, a hypothetical 160# person would eat just over 2# of lean meat every day. This is doable, but it’s not easy—this is why protein shakes exist. Get protein from meat first, supplements second (your body responds better to whole foods). The closer to that ideal BW(+50) number you eat, the easier it will be for your body to recover from workouts and therefore for you to make progress. It’s also damn near impossible to overeat good-quality meat to the point of negative effects, so don’t worry about that. Think about it—have you ever seen a fat tiger?
And now a word on soy. It’s bad. Like really bad. It’s poor-quality protein, contains phytoestrogen compounds that cancel out the effects of testosterone (super bad for infants), and it’s in the legume family with peanuts and beans so it disrupts absorption of protein and essential minerals. Stay away.
“What about saturated fat & cholesterol?” They are NOT bad for you and there was never any real evidence that they were; your body requires these things to function, cholesterol is used to produce hormones and is found in every cell in your body, and your body manufactures most of its cholesterol regardless of what you eat. Research in the last decade has exonerated our fatty friends, but most people haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.
Regarding vegetarians: Simply put, omitting animal protein from the diet goes against our evolutionary history. There are complete vegan protein supplement options available at a reasonable price, but meat and eggs are the cheapest, all-around best option and by far the easiest to implement.
So now that we’ve established that meat is the greatest thing ever, why bother with vegetables? Veggies give you vitamins and minerals needed for optimal function, and the fastest way to improve health and performance is to up your intake if it’s low. They also have lots of fiber which helps you poop—this is important. A good guideline is to fill your dinner dish with equal parts plant and animal.
And last of our major nutrition topics, what to avoid. There’s a category of edible items that we call STWKY, or Shit That Will Kill You (after making you fat). This primarily consists of gluten (flour, wheat, etc), sugar, and alcohol. These things are straight-up motherfucking POISON, and the less of it you consume, the better—no exceptions.
Here’s how chronic disease works: Eat lots of refined carbs → chronically elevated insulin levels → ALL KINDS OF BAD. Excess body fat, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s…all from flour, sugar, and alcohol. Basically, if you consume STWKY frequently for an extended period of time, you will get fat and sick. Conversely, if you eat clean, you will not be fat or sick. For more information on this, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.
Fruit is a little more complicated. It’s not completely “bad” since it does have good nutrients in it, but because of the way the body handles fructose it interferes with fat loss and contributes to metabolic derangement. If you are trying to lean out stay the fuck away from fruit, but if you’re not, fruit is fine.
Nuts—including seeds, macadamia, hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews—are similar to fruit in our prescription. There are good aspects and not-so-good; in a nutshell (pun totally intended), the rules for nuts and seeds are the same as for fruit—stay away if you’re trying to lean out. That said, seed oils—cottonseed, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower—are very bad. They throw your omega-6/omega-3 balance all out of whack, contributing to systemic inflammation and dramatically increasing your risk for cancer and heart disease. These oils have become incredibly prevalent in our food supply as it is, which is one of the contributing factors to the recent increase in heart disease.
Dairy is technically not “Paleo” but it has benefits for people deemed “too skinny”—little body fat and lots of room to get stronger. Milk is nature’s protein shake, with good fats, carbs, and high-quality proteins for post-workout consumption; it helps you get bigger, so if you’re trying to shrink it gets in the way. If dairy is not tolerated, take extra whey protein; if that’s also a no-go, eat extra meat.
And now for supplements. My stance on supplements is pretty simple—take what works and avoid crazy shit. For example, my daily supplement regimen consists of a multivitamin, vitamins C, D, and a B-complex, magnesium, zinc, and fish oil (or I eat salmon). All of these are basic nutrients that we need for normal function. The two I’ll go into more detail on here are fish oil and vitamin D.
Fish oil replaces the essential O-3 fatty acids that should be in our food supply but aren’t, thanks to modern agricultural practices. If you’re not eating salmon or grass-fed beef every day, you need to take fish oil. Fish oil makes owies go away, helps you get and stay lean, and makes you less likely to die. Ideal dosage is 2-3 g EPA/DHA per day. The dose typically used in the studies validating fish oil’s health benefits is 2g EPA/DHA. That’s what I take daily.
Vitamin D acts much like a hormone and is required for normal function of all cells. In short, it makes you stronger and harder to kill, and if you aren’t in the sun at mid-day on a daily basis you need to supplement. For dosage, 2500-5000 IU per day works for getting you to normal range.
Pre-WOD nutrition: Since virtually all of our workouts have strength and conditioning elements, you’re best off with a half-full tank. Eat a snack with a little fat, protein, and maybe some carbs about an hour or two before the workout. My ritual is to eat a Quest bar and wash it down with coffee. Delicious and effective.
As for post-WOD nutrition, faster is better. You want to get fast-absorbing protein into your body to expedite the recovery process (carbs help too), ideally between a half hour and two hours post-WOD. You want to eat something similar to your pre-workout snack ASAP (a good shake with whey protein works phenomenally well here), then eat a big meat-and-vegetable meal somewhat soon after.
Eating for specific goals:
If you want to get leaner, you have to eat strict Paleo, ALL THE TIME. No fruit (except post-workout), dairy, or alcohol, and minimal nut/seed/avocado intake. Eat to satisfy hunger, and avoid eating until stuffed. Meat first, everything else later. Cutting out STWKY will probably be hard, but remember that you’re not as lean as you want to be because of how you’ve been eating. Take baby steps. It’s okay. Just keep stepping.
If you’re skinny and want to get bigger, you must eat until you are uncomfortably full, ALL THE TIME. Whole milk and/or non-glutinous carbs (rice, potatoes) are your best friend. Try to keep food quality high, but quantity takes priority. Again, meat comes first, but then you have to eat until you hate yourself. You’re skinny because your body is not used to eating a lot of food, and you have habits to break if you’re going to change that.
Priority one = eat more meat, and eliminate STWKY. Everything good about your body is inversely proportional to STWKY consumption. Flour, alcohol, and any kind of sugar go bye-bye. White rice & potatoes are okay in small doses for people trying to get bigger, but absolutely not for leaning out.
Priority two = eat more veggies, and eliminate legumes, soy, seeds, and seed oils, and minimize nuts. These are less toxic than STWKY but still measurably detrimental to your health and fitness. No beans, peanuts, or soy. For cooking, olive and canola oil are inexpensive alternatives to seed oils; coconut oil or grass-fed animal fat is better, and butter works too. Sesame oil is acceptable in condiments.
Priority three = eliminate milk, cheese, and other dairy, but only if you’re trying to lean out.
As far as how to shop for groceries, substitute for STWKY in cooking recipes, eat out in restaurants, and get people off your back about your lifestyle, along with the detailed science behind all this, that’s all in the nutrition booklet and we don’t have space for it here. In short, STWKY is not an option. As long as you adopt that mindset, you’ll be fine. Take responsibility for everything you put into your body and never make excuses. You should be full from all the meat you’re eating anyway.
Now what can you expect in your first month (and beyond) of CrossFit at RWS?
The short answer is simply that you get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you never show up or practice at home, you ain’t getting results, period. If you don’t change your eating habits, you’ll get some results but not what you really want. Yes, it’s hard. We’ve established that. I’ll only say this once, and don’t get mad at me for being blunt: IF IT WERE EASY, YOU’D ALREADY BE DOING IT, YOU’D ALREADY HAVE THE RESULTS YOU WANT, AND THIS IS WHY YOU ARE HERE. I’ll stop yelling now. I generally don’t yell at people unless they’re working out.
If you plateau at any point in your first year, it’s probably because of nutrition. If this happens, ask a coach what to change. We’re here to help.
I realize that very few people can go from eating like crap to 100% strict Paleo right off the bat, and I am in no way demanding that you do so. Just be aware that eventually you will stop making progress in the gym—and on your body—until you make progress on your eating habits. Your food is your fuel, and eventually you have to upgrade to high-octane if you want to drive a sleek, sexy sports car.
Well, that’s all the basic info I got for ya. Feel free to ask any questions via e-mail, text, or in person. If you’re willing to try your best, I’ll do everything I can to help you achieve your goals.
See you in the gym!