This just in – it’s perfectly ok to do CrossFit for the sole purpose of wanting to look hot. It’s not always about winning competitions and beating your friends in the gym. As a matter of fact, this type of training – whether you officially call it CrossFit, High Intensity Interval Training, or whatever you want to say – is the quickest way to get the body you want. Follow these 10 rules to using CrossFit to get the body you want. And no, you are not going to wake up “bulky”.
1 – TRAIN WITH INTENSITY
If your goal is to look fit, the best way to do that is to actually BE fit. I am not talking about “winning the CrossFit Games” fit, but increasing your strength, cardio respiratory endurance, power, speed etc by training with intensity and doing workouts that challenge your current level of fitness is critical in changing your body long term. Training with intensity has been shown time and time again to be the number one most common denominator in getting great results as quickly as possible – regardless of the goal.
What does “intensity” mean? “Intense” and “hard” are not the same thing. Intensity is defined as power output – or doing work quickly. Sprints are more effective than jogging. Jogging is more effective than walking. You get the point. Intense training creates enough stress for your body to adapt. Also intensity creates an environment where your body is working much harder to recover when you are NOT at the gym.
Go in and push yourself mentally and physically in the workouts. And most importantly – stop taking advice from these “fitness celebrities” who will have you believe that you can do a couple lunges and plank holds to gain the body of your dreams. Hate to burst your bubble – but you aren’t going to get that body without ever smudging your contour or causing your mascara to run.
2 – DON’T SKIP THE HEAVY LIFTING
Wait! Won’t that make me BULKY???
If you lift like a power lifter and eat like a power lifter – for years – you will look like a power lifter. If you eat like a Games athlete, and train like a Games athlete – FOR YEARS – you will look like a Games athlete. Doing roughly 2-3 heavy lifting sessions a week as part of a varied program will NOT make you “bulky”.
What it will do is build muscle and shape your body beautifully. Compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, strict press have a systemic affect on the body that creates a major hormonal response. These lifts along with movements like weighted lunges, step ups, and the olympic lifts will also increase your HGH (growth hormone) production. HGH is to women what testosterone is to men. It is critical in keeping us looking younger and leaner!! It is so important for cell growth. That means muscle, hair, skin, nails…..you see the pattern.
If you are lifting heavy and getting “too thick” – refer to step #3 below.
3 – EAT CLEAN
“Eat clean. Train dirty.” Right? What does that even mean??
We are looking at QUALITY – meaning real foods, whole foods. Think high quality meats and fat. Lots of veggies and fruit. Clean starches for energy pre and post workout – like sweet potatoes, quinoa, occasional rice or oatmeal. No nutrition label needed.
Find a high quality protein and potentially even carb supplement to help you recover post workout, but stay away from the hype of “fat burners” and anything that promises to “melt your fat.”
Making the switch from crappy processed, or fast food that has a crazy shelf life, no nutrients and tons of added sugar will take you REALLY far. But once you have this dialed you need to take it a step further to really get where you want to go….
4 – EAT THE RIGHT AMOUNT
I have said over and over again – the quickest way to gain 10 lbs is to buy Paleo cookbooks. Unlock the world of “clean eating” in the form of paleo pancakes, paleo brownies and cookies without an understanding that quantity of food is equally important to quantity is a sure fire way to pack on the pounds.
Just because something is “paleo” doesn’t mean you can eat it in mass quantities – it’s STILL FOOD! And just because something is “organic” does NOT make it healthy. You can buy organic sugar for crying out loud. IT’S STILL SUGAR PEOPLE!!
Using some sort of system like The Zone or counting “macros” and balancing your calorie and protein, carb, and fat intake with how big and how active you are is critical if you are going to get lean and maintain muscle mass and intensity in training.
Eat too much, specifically carbohydrates – even if it’s quality food – and you won’t see the changes you want to see. This is where “bulky” happens.
Even worse – don’t eat enough to fuel your training and you can say goodbye to building the booty you are trying to build. Your body has nothing to build it with! It’s counterintuitive to think that maybe the reason you aren’t LOSING weight is because you aren’t eating enough!! But without proper consumption of carbs, protein, and fat your body doesn’t have the energy to train hard, let alone burn fat stores when you aren’t training.
Fat is burned in a carbohydrate fire.
Start following some sort of plan diligently and track your progress. Place the bulk of your carbohydrate intake around when you are most active. Make tweaks based on your results both in the gym and by taking pictures of what your body looks like.
5 – DRINK WATER
Hold on – I’m going to go get a water right now. As a major coffee addict, I struggle with this one a lot.
Ok, I am back. Grabbed a delicious Pellegrino.
Remember that HGH we talked about earlier? Well, turns out that HGH production is hugely reduced when the body is dehydrated, slowing down fat metabolism.
On top of this, performance and intensity will suffer when we are dehydrated. With less intensity comes fewer results as we mentioned earlier.
AND – when you are dehydrated all of the time your body is actually more likely to RETAIN water – making you look and feel puffier than you should.
6 – SLEEP
This one is also really huge for me and I have felt the effects of this over and over again. When I don’t get enough sleep and water combined – welcome to chubsville.
Lack of sleep is strongly linked to elevated daytime cortisol levels. Cortisol in general isn’t a bad guy. It’s the fight or flight hormone that kicks in when we are stressed or even when we are training. However, if this hormone is elevated when we don’t need it to be it can cause some serious problems for trying to lose weight or even gain muscle.
Cortisol will mess with your body’s ability to feel full and is often what makes us crave foods like pancakes and high sugar/salty foods when we are sleep deprived. Sound familiar?
Sleep is also when your body produces and releases the most HGH as well. So don’t waste all of the hard work in the gym and all of the clean eating you are doing by messing up your hormones with lack of sleep. The goal should be to get a MINIMUM of 6-7 hours per night. 8-9 hours would be ideal.
7 – CHASE PERFORMANCE
HOLD ON – this whole post is about how it’s ok to CrossFit and not give a damn about your Open scores. It is. Don’t you worry.
Giving yourself small performance goals in each workout, like a goal score or time, is not about beating anyone or feeling like you need to turn yourself into Sara Sigmundsdottir in order to feel good about your fitness. These small performance related goals will keep you motivated on days that maybe you can’t get motivated by the idea of being seen in your swimsuit. Some days, when the workout is getting uncomfortable, that motivation just might not be enough.
Chasing performance means learning to move correctly. It means creating small victories that aren’t tied to the number on the scale. It’s understanding that if you are getting fitter – decreasing your times and increasing your loads in the gym – it might not feel like it right now – but you are training the way you need to train to get to where you want to go. It also keeps training interesting and fun to give yourself a performance marker to shoot for. Leave the gym every day feeling accomplished regardless of whether or not eating was perfect or what the scale said that day.
8 – DON’T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT
Speaking of scales…
I am guilty of weighing myself. As a matter of fact I weigh myself pretty much every day. But realize that your weight is just ONE marker toward success. And, ultimately what you weigh in pounds says VERY little to how you actual look and feel. A woman who is 140 lbs at 10% body fat looks entirely different than a woman who is 140 lbs at 30% body fat. Potentially you could completely transform your body without your weight changing at all. If anything, combine weighing yourself with taking some awesome mirror selfies and compare those results about once a week.
9 – FIND A CREW
Find a group of people who also want to live the type of lifestyle we have been talking about here. I promise you – it might be the most important step in this whole thing. There are days you won’t want to work out. If you have a group of 5 people you train with, chances are at least one of you will have the motivation and will drag everyone else along.
You don’t necessarily need a group with the same goals, just a group of like minded individuals who encourage you and will call you out when you need to be called out. I attribute 80% of the fitness I gained when I was training for the CrossFit Games to the crew that I was training with. It’s REALLY hard to push yourself alone day in and day out. Even if you can’t physically train with the group you create, even just knowing that someone is going to ask how the training and eating are going is often strong enough to get you to make better decisions a lot more often.
10 – USE YOUR FITNESS
You know what’s sexy? Confidence. You know what builds confidence? Doing things you’ve never done before and learning to do things you didn’t think you would ever be able to do.
For the past year I have made it a point to include as many different things into my training as I can find time for. I have learned to salsa dance, I do yoga, boxing, surf, paddle board – heck, I even swam with the damn sharks! I don’t spend all of this time in the gym getting fit JUST so I can look hot in a pair of jeans on the weekend! You’ve worked hard to create a body that can go do cool stuff – don’t waste it! Some of the best memories of your life will be the adventures you take and things that require you to be physical and outdoors. Hike, bike, swim, get dirty – and look good doing it.