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Dizzy Daze

CrossFit Victoria BC - Colleen is not dizzy... she is energized!
Colleen is not dizzy... she is energized!

Several times I’ve heard the question: Why do I get dizzy when I work out?

I’m no medical professional, but I did some reading on the subject. If you’re feeling dizzy during a WOD, especially if it’s some sort of a heavy lift, chances are it could be a reaction due to pressure on your Vagus nerve. The light-headedness felt under heavy strain can often result from this pressure. This nerve starts in the brainstem and extends, through the jugular foramen, down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen. It is responsible for a host of bodily actions including heart rate, blood pressure, etc., and this can be affected under stress, physically and emotionally. If too much pressure is put on the nerve under stress, a drop in blood pressure and heart rate can occur. This in turn can lead to dizziness and/or fainting spells.

I have also come across several suggestions to help prevent this dizziness from happening. One solution could be to try not holding your breath under max loads. A slight release of pressure throughout the maximal effort portion of the lift will keep the core tight, yet take some of the strain off of your cardio-respiratory system. On the other hand, some are of the belief that you should hold your breath, especially on maximal load lifts. Holding your breath allows you to use your diaphragm as a natural thoracic brace (think: lifting belt). It keeps all of your organs and muscle tissue in the core locked in by using counter pressure, and ultimately aids in locking in the lever that you are using your back for. Mark Rippetoe himself advocates that holding your breath is actually better than breathing in and out during the exercise. He recommends a technique for this called the Valsalva Maneuver. Essentially, the Valsalva Maneuver involves trapping air inside the lungs in order to provide air pressure, against which you push for things like childbirth, or stabilization for lifting. I think the guideline for applying the Valsalva Maneuver (simply put – when you hold your breath during the lift) is that it’s most necessary any time your spine is being loaded. It helps you keep your core tight and your back locked in extension, which is vital for back safety. This is also called “thoracic fixation”.

To recap on this idea: Just take a big breath, hold it, lock out, put the bar down, breathe out, repeat. If you’re moving a bar, hold your breath. In fact, if you’re moving anything heavy, take a big breath before you move it, then move it while you hold your breath. Later, you can apply breathing at the top of the movement, but note that when you breathe at the top of a move, (e.g. a press, or a deadlift lockout), the bar isn’t moving. As a general rule, if something heavy is being raised/lowered/shoved/pulled/moved-in-any-way by you, take a big breath before it happens, and hold your breath until you’re no longer moving that object.

I’m not at liberty to say which technique is best to reduce dizziness during WODs and lifting. But if this is a problem for you, do some reading, get some advice, and try out a few different techniques until you find what works best for you.

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – 500M Row

WOD – 5 Rounds not for time:

Deadlifts x 3 reps working up in weight each set
LSit Holds 10-20seconds
Handstand Pushups (can be modified) x 6 reps
Turkish Get-ups x 3 reps per side

* move slowly in between exercises and the focus is on technique, not speed!!!

Compare to August 13th, 2009

Cash Out – 500M Row

Lactic Acid: Friend or Foe?

Crossfit Victoria BC - way to go CrossFit Mom!
Way to go CrossFit Mom!

Contrary to what it may feel like, lactic acid is actually not your foe.  It’s fuel for your muscles!

I’m sure most of you have heard the warnings about lactic acid.  It builds up in your muscles, and is what creates that awful burning feeling. It is this same lactic acid buildup that makes your muscles tire and give out during a WOD.

Coaches and personal trainers often tell clients that they have to learn to work out just below their perceived “lactic threshold,” which is essentially that point of diminishing returns when lactic acid starts to accumulate.

But according to some compelling research, it turns out that we’ve been all wrong!  Lactic acid is actually a fuel, not a corrosive waste product.  What is it exactly?  Lactic acid is a substance made deliberately by your muscles, and is produced from glucose, and then burned to obtain energy.   The reason properly trained athletes can perform so hard and so long is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb lactic acid.

After some intensive experimentation and research by Nobel Laureate Otto Meyerhof, a new theory about lactic acid was born.  Lack of oxygen to muscles leads to lactic acid, leads to fatigue.

In the past, athletes have been told that they should spend most of their effort exercising aerobically, using glucose as a fuel.  If they tried to spend too much time exercising harder, in the anaerobic zone, they were warned that they would pay a price.  This price would be in the form of that painful lactic acid accumulating in the muscles, forcing them to stop.

However, recent science has declared that it appears as though lactic acid exists for a reason.  It is a source of energy.  The evidence has continued to mount against the idea that lactic acid is a bad thing and it causes fatigue.

As for the idea that lactic acid causes muscle soreness, we’re now told that, too, is wrong.  Lactic acid will be gone from your muscles within an hour of exercise, yet you don’t experience muscle soreness until one to three days later.  Therefore, the time frame is inconsistent.

So, if we’re following along correctly with the scientific studies, the understanding now is that muscle cells convert glucose or glycogen to lactic acid.  The lactic acid is taken up and used as a fuel by mitochondria, which are the energy factories in muscle cells.   Intense training, like that of CrossFit, makes a difference because it can help to double your mitochondrial mass. Through trial and error, coaches have learned that athletic performance improved when athletes worked on endurance (e.g. running longer and longer distances).  That, it turns out, increased the mass of their muscle mitochondria, letting them burn more lactic acid and allowing the muscles to work harder and longer.   Just before a race, coaches often tell athletes to train very hard in brief spurts.  In turn, that extra stress increases the mitochondria mass even more, and is the reason for overall improved performance.

Long story short?  Embrace the pain, reap the gain!

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – 10 pass-throughs, 10 overhead squats, 10 double crunch x 3 sets

WOD – “Good vs. Evil 2”

Choose one exercise that you are good at and choose one exercise that you are not good at (A.K.A. – a goat). You will perform 21-15-9 reps of these two exercises.  If it is a weighted exercise, please choose a moderate weight (i.e. – 75% of 1 Rep Max).

For Time:

  • Run 800M
  • 21 reps – Good
  • 21 reps – Evil
  • Row 250M
  • 15 reps – Good
  • 15 reps – Evil
  • Row 250M
  • 9 reps – Good
  • 9 reps – Evil
  • Run 800M

Cash Out – yes…. stretch again!

Happy Canada Day!

Just a reminder that classes for today are cancelled. See you on Thursday!

Wishing all you CrossFit Zoners a Happy Canada Day!
Wishing all you CrossFit Zoners a Happy Canada Day!

It’s great to be Canadian!  Just look at all the famous Canadians we have to be proud of… 

TERRY FOX: His name has become synonymous with heroism in this country. Terry Fox Runs worldwide have raised more than $270 million for cancer research.

SILKEN LAUMANN: Nothing to sneeze at, this Mississauga-born rower personifies grit and determination. She received a leg injury two months before the 1992 Olympics and still came back to win a bronze medal.

WAYNE GRETZKY: He was perhaps the greatest hockey player ever to lace up a pair of skates, and the worst to ever appear on The Young and the Restless.

MICHAEL J. FOX: The boy from Burnaby made it big on the sets of Back to the Future and Spin City. Parkinson’s disease has slowed some of his spinning, but he’s still going strong as a powerful fundraiser for the disease.

WILLIAM SHATNER: For a long, long time to come in syndication, Captain James Tiberius Kirk will banter with McCoy, make Spock reveal human emotions, and watch helplessly as the officer in the red uniform gets killed.

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL: The inventor of the telephone. For more information, press 1.

JIM CARREY: Mr. funny guy found his calling early in life, performing in front of classmates in elementary school in Newmarket, Ont. At 19, he packed his bags for Los Angeles. He starred in Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, The Truman Show and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. He stole our hearts.

ALEX TREBEK: Who is the host of the popular game show, Jeopardy, and the guy who can be oh-so patronizing to people when they get the wrong answer?

SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD: The father of Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister, Macdonald led the Conservative Party for 24 years from 1867 to 1891, dying while still in the office.

Today’s Workout:

Buy-in: 1 mile run (1600 m)

WOD: 21 – 15 – 9 reps
Jump Squats

Cash-Out: Ask a loved one to help you with a full body stretch. 😉  

Press Time!

CrossFit Zone Victoria BC

Muscle and Fitness Article

Much has been written in the press about CrossFit.  When you present something as unique and powerful as the CrossFit method, guaranteed that people are going to talk and ask questions.  The New York Times wrote a flattering article about the sport of CrossFit fitness, in which they seem to really understand what we’re all about.  Reading it made me feel that familiar glow of pride!  Follow the link and give the article a read, and see why you’re one of the smart folks for choosing to follow the CrossFit method!

CrossFit LA had a visit from the press of  “Muscle in Fitness,” Check out the pdf There is a schedule of WOD’s in the article called “Hell Week.” That is a regular week for us CrossFitter’s!

Today’s Workout:


150 Wall Ball shots