Building Toughness in the Gym

Many of us have seen the person in the gym who may not be the strongest, may not be the most fit, or may not have the highest skill level.  What this person has is something called toughness.  Toughness is characterized the ability to overcome challenges, ignoring the voice in your head when the odds don’t seem to be in your favor.

So how do you build toughness in the gym?

Little challenges are helpful to building up toughness and allowing you to better yourself inside and out of the gym.  Here are some examples of challenges that I and others have used.

Set Challenging Goals. When performing major lifts try to push. We did this with the Wendler program and I believe a lot of you surprised yourselves. Take a front squat for instance, pick a weight that is challenging for 5 reps and push to 10. Keep the bar racked until that full set of 10 is done. Just make sure you are staying safe. Do not push yourself too far to the point where form is compensated.

Intervals. What is worse than having to do the same thing over and over while also getting more and more tired.  This is the epitome of building toughness.  Set goals for yourself here too, but make sure they are reasonable so you are able to get yourself to the “redline” point without complete failure.  For instance, using the assault bike 6 sets 30 seconds on, 15 seconds of rest I know I can complete 8 cals if I really push myself.  Through all 6 sets I want to get to at least 8 cals.

150 Unbroken Wallballs.  Using a movement with less skill but which requires a mental push is a great way to build toughness.  The goal here is to keep the ball moving until all reps are complete.  If this seems a little too out of reach cut the reps down or break into sets.  I have personally used this one myself.  During a workout, I pushed myself to complete 50 wallballs unbroken, I honestly didn’t think I could but I surprised myself, and then I did it twice more in the same workout.  Now I know, during workouts, where I stand and how far I can push myself.

50 Unbroken Back Squats at Bodyweight. This is a great goal to try to work up to or to push your body into doing every year to show progress. Make sure to warm yourself up for this properly by warming up to the working weight through a series of sets. If bodyweight is a little aggressive right now choose a load that you can do for 30 reps and then challenge yourself to do it for 40, then 50 and work yourself up. You will get there one day! Of course ensure that you are a strong squatter first as mediocre form and technique can become dangerous with all of the volume accumulation and time under tension.

Nine Minutes of Hell. We have done a workout in the past similar to this one. The title is not my own, but definitely describes the workout well. As stated above, please make sure proper form is first and foremost before attempting this challenge or adding weight. Take roughly 35-50% of your 1RM back squat and perform the following:

3 minutes of Back Squats without racking the bar
2 minutes of Rest
2 minutes of Back Squats without racking the bar
1 minute of Rest
1 minute of Back Squats without racking the bar

In addition, if you are pressed for time, this workout gets you in and out of the gym pretty quick so you can get back to your daily life.

Good luck and enjoy!

How to Workout When You’re Feeling Sick

It’s that time of year when it seems everyone is getting sick.  As the temperature changes germs seem to be spreading like wildfire and it’s hard to avoid the inevitable.  Our goal at Kendall Square CrossFit is to improve our members overall well-being, which includes keeping them healthy and happy throughout the year.  Of course, we love seeing your faces every day but we know that an illness may sneak itself in there at some point and we want to make sure you are taking the proper precautions to get yourself better and back to your best self.

Let’s face it, we have all thought ‘exercise is healthy’, ‘I can just sweat out my illness’, but is that really the case?

Exercise is a stressor, which means it awakens a stress response on the body and though it may make you feel better after a nice workout, it is compromising when your body is trying to fight something off.  A healthy body can adapt to this stress, progressively making us fitter and stronger but hitting that tough workout while sick can be more than our immune system can handle.

Recommendations show that a minimum of two weeks should be taken before engaging in intense physical activity after suffering from “below the neck symptoms” (coughing, vomiting, diarrhea).  While you may feel a bit better with “above the neck symptoms” (runny nose, sore throat) and think its a good idea to get into the gym, you may be more susceptible to passing it on to someone else.  Be smart with your choices when deciding when to come back to the gym because it may not be just you but others who will suffer as well.

This doesn’t mean you cannot go out and move around. In fact, non-strenuous movement (walking, bike riding, gardening, T’ai Chi) has been shown to boost immunity, resulting in a faster recovery time.  So when you’re, sick get outside and go for a walk, making sure not to increase your heart rate too high!