Attributions

 

You are a self fulfilling prophecy! Your early teachers, the trainers you have met, the sports you have tried and failed at  have  pretty much taught you that you are weak, uncoordinated and basically crap. So, when you look at the WODs we publish on the Crossfit London UK site, you must to be thinking: “you have to be joking!  I cant do that!”

How you account for failure and success and the feelings these evoke  is the subject of  attributions;  the perceived causes of events and behaviours. Theories about attributions focus on your perceptions and interpretations that affect your behaviour.

The attributions we make about ourselves and others affect our behaviour.

If you cannot snatch (an olympic lift) you would behave differently depending on why you think you cannot. Perhaps you don’t know how, or need more practice; in which case you may  attend a Crossfit London UK skill seminar. However if you think its because you are weak and too uncoordinated to learn, you could simply give up and go back to a leg extension machine in your local fitness centre. The attributions you  make about others also effects  how you feel about them. If you watch a classmate attempt a snatch , how you perceive their attempt will be different if you think they lack the strength or that they are lazy!

Weiner  et al (1974) has  been credited with  bringing attribution theory to prominence by developing an attributional theory of achievement behaviour. He specifically felt that the difference between high and low achievers is the difference in attributional patterns (or how you think about stuff)

According to Weiner, if you had to assess why you screwed up a workout, or came last in the Crossfit games, your explanations could fall into one of 4 categories: ability, effort, luck, task difficulty.

However these four categories are not the critical aspect, the locus of causality (where the “blame” lies) and stability are the two essential dimensions.

The locus of causality can either be internal or external, ie ability and effort are internal,  luck and task difficulty are external. Are these stable?  Your ability is stable, however your effort is unstable and can vary from workout to workout: luck, unstable.

Later Weiner added a third dimension; controllability. Some factors are internal, but not very controllable, ie aptitude and natural ability.

Often people make internal attributions for winning and external ones for failure. In team sports, external attributions normally seem to come from the loosing side (lucky breaks, officials’ calls, weather). The tendency to attribute success internally and failure externally  can be seen as setting up a self serving bias. If you complete a workout faster than class mate, you would prefer to think that your extra effort won the day, not that your rival was ill that day.

Weiner suggests that the internal/external dimension can correlate to feelings of pride and shame, with the internal attributions provoking stronger feelings: you take a greater pride in a victory you earned!

The stability of these factors also has an effect: a stable attribution  leads you to expect the same outcome: if you have failed in the snatch because you its too complicated for you, you can expect the same results in the future. The controllability of the factor effects our moral judgements: we praise those who give extra effort and  dislike those who shirk.

However, the results of studies are confusing. Some have identified winners as internal stable and controllable, others that winners make more stable and controllable, but not more internal, attributions.

Spink and Roberts (1980) showed winners made more internal attributions, more importantly  they actually found two types of winners satisfied, and dissatisfied winners who felt the victory was too easy. Satisfied losers attributed losses to task difficulty, dissatisfied losers looked to their own low ability. Essentially, McAuley(1985)  found perceived success  to be a better predictor  of internal stable controllable atttributions  than objective success.

Attributions and Emotions.

It is quite popular to link attributions and emotions. Weiner identified outcome-dependent emotions (associated with actual outcomes)  and attribution-dependent emotions (the reason for the outcomes)

Work  by Biddle ( 1993) indicated performance satisfaction (or subjective appraisal)  is one of the best predictors of emotion, and that attributions play a role.

Dweck (1978)  deploys attributional theory in the field of learned helplessness.  We all come across those individuals ( do you think this of yourself)  who “know” they are slow, uncoordinated and too un-athletic to take part in sports or get fit ( or Crossfit) Here we can help by making these people attribute their failings to unstable, controllable factors including a lack of practice, instruction and techniques.

In reality, at Crossfit London, we find that many people who have been dismissed as weaklings, or overweight, uncoordinated failures can often make substantial improvements in performance and fitness. Our focus is to get you to work on those things you can control, and make stable; we do our best to get you to forget the vicious labels that incompetent sports teachers and trainers may have lazily given you. Our teaching is made progressive so that we can take beginners and make them skilled performers. Our approach will get the best out of your efforts and enhance your feelings of personal control.

Prilepin table

Assuming you get to a decent gym, that allows your to do some barbell movements, how do you go about developing the strength you so long for? The reality is that the average Gym instructor may know  a bit about hypertrophy ( ” 3 sets of 10 mate!”) but thats about it. Sitting in a Globo gym among a pile of machines does that to people. Its tragic. But, lets say, you have something heavy and you want to lift it, how many sets, how many reps?

One of the secrets of elite trainers, like me,is that we are quite well read: we look at British, American and Russian  strength training literature. ( mind you, if  Tabata is Japanese, add Japanese literature to that list).An interesting piece of research was carried out by   soviet Sports scientist, AS Prilepin, who studied the training logs of  1000 leading weightlifting champions .The table below  is an averaging of these logs and shows the % of 1 rep max , the amount of reps performed per set,  the optimal amount of reps per workout, and   the range of reps used indicated by the research. This table is specifically for gaining maximal strength

The Prilepin Table: 
Intensity Reps per set Recommended optimal Total of Reps Range of reps seen in research
Below 70% 3 – 6 24 18-30
70 – 79% 3 – 6 18 12 – 24
80 – 89% 2 – 4 15 10 – 20
90% and above 1 – 2 7 4 – 10

There are ofcourse a few points worthy of mention. These tables were extracted from the training journals of olympic weight lifters and its possible to argue that this would not apply to other lifts ( the slower lifts like the squat, deadlift press etc).

This also assumes you have a reliable 1 rep max figure, and for that matter, an up to date one.

What I don’t know ( and if anyone does , please let me know) does he use the idea of a 1 rep max as your best ever lift. If you look at Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, they establish a difference between a training max and a competition 1 rep max. They suggest that the difference is about 12.5%  +/- 2.5% in  superior weightlifters. The further make the distinction that a training max is  a load you lift with no emotional arousal which can be monitored by your heart rate. If someone says, lift that weight, and your heart rate zooms up in anticipation, that load is  (probably)  above your training max. This  ,ofcourse, assumes some experience. Stopping the average sedentary person and saying, lift that weight, will probably get most people heart rate up!

These tables and information are, of course a snap shot. Im not discussing long term fatigue, issues of scheduling. Yet.

 

Pull ups and girls

I  love the pull up.

It is seen by many as a useful test for measuring the strength and endurance of the arm and shoulder girdle, and useful for those occupations where you need to manipulate your body weight: fire fighters, climbing into lovers’ bedrooms, showing off in front of kids, and getting out of holes when the zombie apocalypse strikes.
In Dec (2012) The media (papers and blogs) were all a-thither with the scientific proof that women cannot do pull ups. Even the Marines (“hoo-rah”) expect men to do 3, but women don’t have to do even one.

Zilch.

If you boil down the current research on women and pull ups, you will find two physiological reasons why most women cannot pull up.

They are fat and weak. (Don’t hate me, it’s science! )

It is generally accepted that women have a higher % of body fat (Heyward and Stolarczyk 1996) and according to an average of the research, women have upper body strength ½ of that of a man. (ranges from 35-79%: Laubach 1976).

But, as Kate said “It may be true, but God help you if you say that out loud to a girl!”

To be diplomatic and soften this up, it can easily be spun into the standard gym nonsense that women don’t have to do pull ups. Woo hoo, here comes your next Yoga class….after all strength is for smelly noisy boys.

We must accept that (Western) women have been sold a pernicious type of cultural weakness that blurs fitness with the spa. It palms off competence in Zumba as a substitute for the fitness that most women in the developing world need purely to survive the day. Elsewhere in the world women have to be tough, they have to plant food, haul goods, build stuff. A heroin-chic stick insect clinging to a partner’s arm isn’t available as a job option.

In fact, to be slightly political, the only reason Western women can prance around an aerobic studio and claim to be fit, is because their ancestors had the decency and foresight to be pirates, drug dealers and slavers who not only stole wealth, but saved it.
The poorest of us lives in comparative luxury based on this accumulated wealth, and it doesn’t matter if you have no physical competence
But what did this science experiment have to do, to validate the proposition that women don’t have to pull up?
“Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat”
And the result of this exciting “lat” challenging, bicep-strengthening routine was: “By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 per cent and lowered their body fat by 2 per cent”
Wowee!
“But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.”
“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology”

A few interesting points.
1) This “hot news” (New York times dated 2012) was based on a report published in 2003 (“Training college-age women to perform the pull-up exercise.”) Shows how behind the times fitness media is.

2) It has been presented by much of the blogging world as justification for women having no pull ups, with the implication that they ought not to bother.

3) It shows that no one reads the small print. The researchers did not set out to produce a pull up specific routine
“We designed our training program with certain delimitations ..a whole body workout and not just a workout to improve pull ups”

4) It shows the impatience of “fitness regimes”. Why should the ability to achieve a certain goal in an arbitrary 12 weeks hold any sway? What’s wrong with spending 6 (+) months learning a skill?

5) The ineffectiveness of looking at movement in the simple terms of the strength of individual muscles.
All worthwhile “exercise” movements are analogues of human movement: they need to be learned, and they all, all combine numerous components of fitness: co-ordination, accuracy , agility, flexibility, strength, strength endurance, and to be frank some mental toughness and determination.

6) If you will permit me to sling a cat in among the pigeons, my final point is this : are pull ups a proper marker of fitness, or is “fit” a guesstimate of VO2 max.

If the girls we train can haul weight, including themselves, we begin to think “ tough chick” ( yes I know that’s a bit demeaning, but its meant nicely), but when flexible stick insects swoon into our gym with chocolate denial etched into their dulled eyes and the whiff of bulimia induced vomit around them, but a “really low resting heart rate”, we don’t think , “wow you’re fit”, we think “ Eat something and man up” .
Or to be more specific, get some steak and a pull up bar!

 

Gymnastics: do some

As some of you know, Im always playing with gymnastics. Im doing this  as part of my on-going “remember what its like to be a beginner”,  because as a gymnast, I suck big time.

Im appalling.

But equally, Im  a crossfitter.

As a crossfitter, I’m led by the 100 words. These words, written by the only fitness genius of  our times   are  not, unfortunately what happens in most crossfit gyms.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, push-ups, sit-ups. Bike, run,  row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. “

~Greg Glassman

What wrong with that you may ask?

It seems to be the pool from which Games WODs  are drawn: I suppose we kettlebell,  do  “pull throughs”  and bench, but thats not too bad. Is it?

I’ve been nasty. Ive amended the above  100 words to reflect what most people  want Crossfit to be: Below is the often ignored  true  100 words .

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. 
~Greg Glassman

 

So here is the Crossfit  message: Whatever effort you put into your snatch, you must put into your flip. The deadlift must be trained as much as your pirouette.

I know its very common  and attractive  to proclaim that  the “snatch is king”, or the secret is “Deadlifting” or simply having a big back squat will get you through. These are important moves and its fantastic that we both train and practise them as the 100 words always told us to do. My apologies if anyone  thought “Outlaw” had produced a novel training approach. They simply read Greg Glassman.

Long term we need more gymnastics in our classes. This is  part of my long term mission: learn it, learn how to teach it, teach it, then teach others how to teach it. This formula has worked so far.

The problem with Gymnastics is that its easy to mistake  hot air, hanging around in gyms,  feeling sorry for yourself and  cruising the internet,  as practice. Many people give up  on gymnastics  as the skills seem too hard. The reality is that most people only spend about  2 to 3 minutes on  a skill before  throwing in the gym towel.

We need to deal with this crushing blow  to the ego, before we push more gymnastics onto our poor crossfitters.

A gymnastics lesson doesn’t focus on one skill: it focuses on many skills, or certainly the foundational skills that  underpin most  obvious gymnastic skills.

To be very specific, most clients will attempt 5  (4 -8) handstands in most sessions.  Maybe each attempt takes 10 seconds ( Oh, who cares… call it 20 seconds) Even being generous that amounts to  less than 2 minutes practice of  handstand skill. Of course the dish work is a handstand prep drill,  blah, blah, but the hanging around before class starts,  moaning about how band your handtand is, loosing yourself in internet articles about handstand mechanics, is not practicing. If you went to one gymnastic class this week, you practised the handstand for maybe 2 minutres ( you also, rolled and  jumped etc, but  at 2 minutes a time: it takes a while)

So I thought Id invent the Stemler Grid  for those times I get demotivated.

I cannot judge my current improvement in the numerous  teeny improvements I always make: I unfairly judge,  can I now “back tuck” can I  now “front flip”. If i cannot do the whole thing now, I declare the lesson a failure (the medical  term for this is  “being a tosser”).

So, if Im going to judge myself so unreasonably,  I ought to record what practice I actually  do .

So, if you do the same,  draw up a Stemler grid: Make each square  30 seconds and record the amount of time (each week /day/month) you  actually do the skill.

If its  handstand, are you on your hands? Thats the amount of time you record. When your feet  get back on the floor, the clock stops.

Thats what you record.

The lectures, the feedback, the diagrams, the  group observation, the videoing, the self pity, the “whatever”, at this basic level, doesn’t count. Of course  this is an extreme view, because in reality … it all helps. Even self pity (believe me I know!).

Sure its skewed , you still have to get to the gym,  and that takes time. But before you give up on skills that are supercool, and properly demonstrate that you have control of your body because ” I cannot do it”,  do make sure you have spent enough time  on that  skill to judge. Why not shoot for 30 minutes?

The romance of strength Training

Successful Strength training like marriage  is measured in years not  weeks or months

Pay attention to the basics . Lift often, lift heavy (5 plus, but vary from 5 to 1)  be happy with small increases. Every relationship or  “thing”  in your life requires consistency

Don’t panic if  you plateau.

In what other part of  (real) human existence  do we expect to have increases all the time . We can tamper with economics and pretend we have yearly growth:  some  NHS workers ( apparently ) get a  grade increase each year , but that always, always  unravels. “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…….’

The hall marks of successful  strength training  (marriage) is patience and maturity: watch for the opportunity to improve but don’t obsess., be happy with consolidation,  treasure consistency and above all, be confident enough to rest and take it easy.

Eat well and sleep well

Bear in mind  that all advanced programming is dedicated to one phenomenon, failure.   Many marriages fail because one partner isn’t happy with the perfection they have, and instead   indulges in fantasy . Don’t let the strength porn of a few gifted ( psychotic) individuals deprave and corrupt your  normal image of how things are.

Failure is rushing at  fantasy  target too hard and fast.

Having preached consistency, it’s equally essential to mix it up and be creative. Add  and vary assistance exercises.

Variety has always been the spice of life   But variety is still just a spice. It makes the fundamentals seem a bit different that’s all. It still needs the fundamentals/

In short, don’t see strength as something geeky or the preserve of experts. See it as the perfect romance or marriage, demanding consistent loyalty commitment and work , along with romance and variation.

So to be successful, research how to be romantic and simply build it into your strength regime

the 48 injuries I got not doing crossfit

Misrepresenting Crossfit injuries is simple click theft!

Obese reporters, lazy bloggers out to “steal clicks”, and those seeking to curry favour with critics  throw their hands up in horror at the thought that any sporting activity could result in any type of injury.

“Surely”, they ooze, “If we could rid ourselves of rugby, MMA, boxing, indeed all martial arts (except that nice Tai Chi, that’s ok) and Crossfit, no one would be injured again.”

I reflected on this and thought about my Crossfit injuries, then I thought about my pre-Crossfit injuries as a “fit” person, then I thought about my injuries as a normal member of the public.

I’m proving nothing, other than saying injury, biffs, cuts and stuff are probably part of life unless you are very unfit and sedentary. In which case, it’s just the bed sores.

An overview of my injuries

As a sedentary 100 day a smoker who avoided physical activity till I was 37.

  • I got run over by a car.
  • I fell of a ladder while painting,
  • I burnt my chest in a garden fire.
  • I had back pain from slouching.
  • I had back pain from moving stuff badly.
  • I had numerous hangovers from drinking too much.
  • A disastrous smokers’ cough with the associated high blood pressure.
  • I skipped down a low corridor and bounced so high that I smashed my head on the ceiling and landed on my elbow.
  • I stood up too fast while filing and smashed my head against the bottom of a draw that was pulled out above me.
  • I cut my lip by trying to lick the top of a soup tin, which I had opened with an opener .
  • I  nearly mandolin-ed the top of my finger off.
  • I’ve caught my fingers in the car door,
  • I’ve banged my fingers with hammers, sliced my skin open with knives so many times that I should have therapy for self harming.
  • I’ve electrocuted my self, twice.
  • I’ve burned myself on the iron, on the oven, and by seeing what would happen if I poked a straw into the 2 bar fire in the lounge.
  • Cigarette burns galore.
  • I’ve walked into too many doors.
  • Tripped down stairs, and slipped on slippery things .
  • I have left shoulder pain as I sleep on it… (for 54 years!!)
  • I got several bouts of carpet burn knees after having sex on the floor
  • I’ve caught my foreskin in my zip, unbelievably, 3 times.
  • I fell off a wall while having a cigarette and dislocated my finger.
  • Why do I continue to stub my toe?

As a child learning to ride my bike, I scraped both knees, badly, and my mum screwed up the bandage so the scab meshed into the material, so that had to be ripped off. I often slammed the breaks on  and often went sailing over the handlebars.

Often.

 From when I started to get fit  at  age 37

  • I tumbled off the treadmill,
  • Dropped a dumbbell on my foot,
  • Caught my finger on the safety catch on the leg extension machine
  • At martial arts, 5 years of black eyes, numerous with kicks to my poor testicles.
  • Learning to swim at the age of 40 (God knows how much pool water I drank).
  • While wrestling, I caught my big toe between two mats and twisted it.
  •  As  a doorman and on security contracts, I got slashed with a bottle on my arm, then split a knuckle punching someone in the mouth. And I had someone try and scoop my eye out with their finger (I’m sure I got a knee in the groin too).
  • From running  I developed severe knee pain and shin splints, and Achillies tendonitis. I compounded my shoulder damage by dropping that bench press
  •  Since I started Crossfit: 
  • Callus tears
  • 4 bouts of deadlift- induced bad back pain (1 during a wod, the other 3 during strength sessions)
  • A nasty psoas injury, which I got demonstrating an unweighted split jerk.
  • My Achilles and shoulder continue to bother me.
  • I got a nasty dose of  plantar fasciitis
  • My wrists don’t like high rep bar push presses.

There are injuries in Crossfit, but bearing in mind it taught me sooo much, I think, on balance, for me, it was safer than normal living. Certainly I’ve not zipped up my foreskin since I became a bit more co-ordinated.

Get me to the safety of 30 power snatches for time.

The Stemler Bag

Self defence is a misunderstood subject.

 Self defence is a bundle of activities that you may on rare occasions be forced to use if you are unlawfully attacked or threatened . it’s not nice, it’s certainly not pretty

Self defence is not a sport, a martial art or a spiritual pursuit. It is not a pleasant restraint that you can use against an angry customer, a hysterical child or for that matter a slightly over amorous date.

It’s what you will do to someone who wants to rob,  beat,  rape and kill you.

Self defence begins with a thorough understanding of the law of self defence and a thorough appreciation of the human rights of others .

Self defence  also begins way before  any physical attack occurs. It relies on an effective scanning and awareness system. Most effective attacks take the victim by surprise. The attacker ” suddenly turned  nasty”  or “jumped out of no where”

There are a few courses that teach awareness : however, they lack the “Stemler bag” concept. It’s simply a sobering security visualisation.If you “Stemler Bag” properly, you will probably never have any type of physical confrontation

Imagine a see through bag stuffed full of cash. A lot of cash . Its yours. You can keep it, but you still have to do your normal week and carry it around with you, so its visible.

How would It change  your behaviour ? Would you take it to dark strange places where you are not familiar . Would you get drunk and take a snooze in a park. Would you willingly chat to strangers who wanted to ask where you alone? Did you have any martial arts experience ? Was the money bag a joke and where you being filmed.? Or, would you be a bit suspicious of absolute strangers approaching you and being weirdly friendly ? Would you listen out and notice if someone was following you  or would you listen to your i-pod instead? Would you  fumble for your keys while you put your bag down at your front door or would you have your keys ready to go. Maybe you would plan your journey, maybe you’d have a back up plan ?

I think it was James Coburn who said, ‘avoid arseholes and big egos, avoid places where arseholes and big egos hang out’. A good friend of mine, Geoff Thompson added ‘don’t be an arsehole and don’t have a big ego yourself’. It helps”

If you breach this Rule: you have screwed up: everything from here on is making the best out of the poor situation that you created!

If you are approached and a dialogue starts ( known as the interview), take up a small inconspicuous 45° stance place your lead hand in that all-important space between you and your antagonist to maintain a safe gap. This is called The fence. It gives you a degree of control without  alerting your  potential aggressor

Don’t let a potential attacker touch you at any time, The more weirdly friendly, the more deadly and dangerous

You will get scared. Its ok to be scared. The shaking leg, the swirling  tummy is your body gearing up for a fight. You may need that extra energy buzz

Try and talk your way out  If talking fails , it can you could try posturing.

Create a gap between you and your attacker by shoving the attacker hard on the chest. Once the gap has been secured “go crazy; shout, salivate, spread your arms, bulge your eyes and drop into single syllables” ( Geoff Thompson) This triggers the opponent’s flight response and often scares him into capitulation.

If that fails, one of 2 things happen: the language and the look of the attacker changes: their speech will become more and more limited, you’ll notice them scanning the area to see who could help you or be a witness , they will try and get super close the moment they close the gap, you are getting hit OR the attacker steams back in . Either way, after the shove, if they touch your fence for a second time, knock them out.

If that fails ( and you have really screwed up, we will teach  you an eye gouge, groin strike, so at least, on the way down, you do some damage).