A Brand-New Start!

I read this article today and had to share it, this is what CrossFit is all about, read and enjoy.
A personal story of different kind of success .
Wow. I’m completely overwhelmed with love and support from yesterday! In case you didn’t see the millions of posts, yesterday I competed in my first individual scaled competition at CrossFit781 in Weymouth. I was apprehensive to sign up, because I’m not an athlete- by any stretch of the imagination. I never have been. So I talked to my coach, and he sort of eased my mind, and I signed up. I was fine for a while- there were a lot of people from my box in the competition- so I would be at ease. Then the wods were released. One of them included 25 20″ box step ups. If you’ve followed me before, you know that anything having to do with a box is the bane of my existence. About a year and a half ago, I fell off of a box while doing box jumps and have had a mental struggle with any kind of box ever since. It’s just a stupid box, but it has caused me so much trouble! As soon as the wods were released, I knew I had to start stepping on that box- before class/after class/during wods- I just had to do it. So many people from my box (the box and the box- something I love and hate! HA), gave me tips, and stayed with me, held my hand and helped me get on the box. But I knew I had to do this one myself. This competition was real, and I wouldn’t be in the comforts or familiarity of my own box.
A week before the competition, one of my amazing coaches, Mike M, opened up the box on Sunday and allowed us to come and do a dry run of all of the wods, just so we could get a feel for what was in store next week. It was an understatement to say I was scared. Although the weight was light for the power cleans and thrusters (45lbs), it still took me longer than I expected. The burpees and the wallballs were gross- it’s two movements that I HATE, and that gas me so quickly. It takes me forever to do burpees, but I can do them. But it was the chipper wod that got me. 25 deadlifts, 25 box stepups, 25 abmat situps, 25 cal row, 25 jumping pullups, 25 stepups, & 25 deadlifts. All to be finished in 13 minutes. Yeah, ok- never happening. During practice, I struggled to get 12 stepups…Like really struggled, and I was completely discouraged for the competition. I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of all those people. I’m already self-conscious as it is, being the biggest competitor, but not being able to get on that box would crush my self-confidence completely.
Finally, it was competition day. I was nervous and anxious and excited all in one. I saw a bunch of familiar faces from my box, so I got a little more comfortable, but I knew those step ups were coming, so I would never be comfortable until those were over with! Of course they were programmed last! First up was the wall ball/burpee nastiness. Dan was my judge, and I’m so glad he was there. He made me focus on just me and him and the task at hand- just block everyone else out. Dan- you don’t know how much you making me focus helped. I did the burpees at the best pace I’ve ever done before. It was awesome.
After that little number, came a 10min AMRAP of 5 power cleans; 7 thrusters (gross), and 9 KB swings. I thought this would be easier than it was, but it wasn’t. I had our head coach Mike L as my judge (I basically told all of the girls in our heat that I claimed him…hahahah). My sister and her boyfriend along with my best friend and her husband were there, and now I knew I had to bring it. This was my time to prove to my non-crossfit family and friends what we are all about. Mike- your coaching during that wod, was incredible- I’m forever grateful for you. After that wod, I was gassed, but luckily I had a few hours to kill before the final chipper wod was up. More time to kill = more time to think. I started to get into my own head and second guess my decision to sign up again.
Seeing all of these incredibly athletes made me think that there’s no way I should be here as a participant. I’m no where near their level of athleticism and what was I thinking, signing up for a competition at my size? How do I always get myself into these problems? I broke down while waiting and watching the men’s heat (I would normally be completely focused on no shirt wearing men, so that’s when I knew something was wrong)! Michelle- my biggest fan, tried to give me a pep talk, but it wasn’t working, and my heat was coming up. I don’t know who told him to come and find me, but Mike M, my coach, friend, and teammate came over just as my heat was announced. He just looked me in the eye and told me I could do this. I did it last week, and I could do it now. It was everything I needed. Of course I claimed Mike L as my judge again- I needed him a lot during yesterday, but especially during this one. I finished the 25 dead-lifts in no time, and then it was time for the box. I missed the first time I tried to get on there. Mike told me to shake it off and go again. So that’s what I did. I took some advice that Elena had given me a while back- just treat them like stairs-you go up stairs all the time. So I backed up, got some momentum, and got on that box. Then Jason, the head coach from CF781 came up and started cheering me on. Let me tell you about Jason. He’s on my man calendar at work (yes, of course I have a man calendar) I posted a pic of the calendar, and low and behold, one of my friends knows him and tagged him in it. We became facebook friends, and then his box hosted battle of the south shore boxes! He is such a nice guy, and completely welcomed me and my bare cove family to his gym. And yes ladies, he’s just as handsome in real life! hahaha. His fiance, Dani is gorgeous as well, and just as nice! So back to the box….It took all I had to get up there. But every time I did, the whole entire place erupted with cheers. It was so loud, amazing, awesome, incredible, and every other adjective!  Every time my stepped up there, the cheers got louder and louder. People that didn’t even know me- getting excited for me and cheering me on. I’ve never felt love like that before (wait- isn’t that a song? haha). I focused on Chris, Sharon, and Lauren in the back of the room. Their faces were familiar and everything I needed to keep going. Before I knew it, I was on my last step up. I got up there and the place went wild. I started crying, I’m almost certain everyone was crying. It was an amazing feeling. But there was still time before the 13 min time cap was up. I got myself off the box, and busted out my 25 situps, and then hopped on the rower. Was this real life? Did I really have enough time left to be on the rower? It was nuts. I said to Andrea before my heat went up- “my goal is to just get one step up in the time cap. Just one and I’ll be happy.” And then I got 25, followed by 25 situps, followed by 22ish cals on the rower. Yes, I was the last one to finish, but you know what, who cares? I far surpassed my goal and it was awesome. The entire bare cove crew busted through the caution tape and hopped over rowers and we had an amazing group hug and cry. So many people came up to me after the wod and said that I was awesome and I made them cry. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do those step ups! But I’m glad to have inspired people along the way!  A lot of people, including Katherine, caught it on tape and posted it to facebook. There are so many likes and shares, I can’t even begin to count them. Then something really cool happened. Someone posted that video, and Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, aka the fittest woman on earth reposted it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? And how could I forget this awesome bit- one of my coaches, Chris also works for Reebok, and gave Rich Froning AKA fittest man on earth 4 years in a row, my number and he SENT ME A TEXT MESSAGE congratulating me! I was shaking and freaking out- it was nuts.

Alex, me, and Mike! <3
Actual text message from the champ!

Since yesterday’s video, I’ve received so many messages, texts, wall posts, etc from people from all over the country and the world. Complete strangers telling me that I inspired them. Me- the fat chick who crossfits inspired other people. It just doesn’t seem real. I’m so incredibly appreciative for every single person who was at the competition yesterday, as well as everyone who sent me a message or gave me a hug, etc. I am completely overwhelmed with love and happiness. Our community is the reason why our sport is the best. I am forever grateful for yesterday. I can’t even begin to describe everything I’m feeling. Just love!
But, I don’t want to overshadow everyone else from my box who competed yesterday too! Kate- my girl- it was her first comp too! You did so awesome, and I’m so glad you decided to sign up! Nina, Christy, Toni, Carol, Sadie, Katherine, Ali, & Nanette- you ladies are amazing. Such strong women, and incredibly role models. I aspire to be as strong as you some day. Scott G, Scott B, Brian, & Mike M- you guys are some seriously tough dudes. You all performed so well, and I’m glad to call you friends.

How could I forget the amazing bare cove supporters! Michelle- my number one fan- you are amazing and I can’t thank you enough for staying the whole day and cheering for each and every one of us. Chris, Sharon & the kids- You are truly an incredible family. Your kids are two of the most amazing children and I’m so glad you two decided to open up RCFBC. My life is completely changed because of you two. Chris- you don’t know how much you made my day by hooking it up with the Rich text. I’m still smiling! And yes, I promise I won’t text him or stalk him! haha. Elena & the girls, Sarah, Bob, Jami, Dan, Alex, Lauren, Kaylee, JD, Janine, Harrison, Mary Lenore, Phil, Hillary, & Hayden (and anyone else I may have forgotten)- Thank you. Just thank you so much. I can’t even begin to find the words to thank you. My life is infinitely better with all of you in it. Crossfit has completely changed my life, and yesterday’s support is what it’s all about. People helping people and respect. I’m completely overjoyed and bursting at the seems with happiness and love. Just a huge thank you to every one! If you need any more proof that crossfit is a cult- here it is. Yes we are a cult, and a pretty inspiring one at that. Much love to everyone. <3

Thrusters….the struggle is real.
AMAZING. Love this so much.
Bare Cove team!!
Super strong Bare Cove ladies! <3
Our crazy crew! xoxo
Simply the best feeling in the world.

Here are some links, in case you didn’t see the videos:




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Not Everyone Is Beautiful

Every two or three days, I see an article or blog post or forwarded inspirational quote about beauty. It’s usually something affirming like

“You are beautiful, whether you know it or not.”

“We are all beautiful.”

“Everyone is beautiful to somebody.”

It’s cheerful stuff. It builds the self-esteem, makes people feel valued, and spreads joy and happiness across the internet.

It’s also bullshit.

angry face enraged

And you know it’s bullshit, because you really wanted to laugh at that picture.

Everyone is not beautiful. Some people have tumors the size of a second head growing out of their ears. Some people have skin like the Michelin man. Some people lose fingers, legs, or eyes in horrific assembly-line machine accidents. People have warts and blemishes and hair loss and dead teeth and lazy eyes and cleft palates and third nipples and unibrows.

There are plenty of people that are not physically appealing to look at, the primary and most widely used meaning of the word “beautiful”. So why do we use the word as a catch-all for any sort of positive attribute?

Nobody says, “Everybody is a good listener.” Nobody says, “Everyone is athletic to somebody.” Nobody says, “You are an amazing writer, whether you know it or not.” I keep waiting, but they never say it.

Beauty is the only trait that everyone gets free access to. Why?

Because we have created a culture that values beauty above all other innate traits…for women, at least. Men are generally valued by their success, which is seen solely as a result of talent and hard work, despite how much it depends on luck and knowing the right people.

But women are pretty much a one-note instrument. Society says, you’re hot, or you’re not. Your looks affect your choice of mate, the friends you have, and even your job. And this factor that will affect every part of your life is something you have virtually no control over.

This, of course, is a horrible thing to say, and society knows better. It knows that saying this acknowledges that this is an unfair and unreasonable way to run things. So it reassures you that

everyone is beautiful feet

Because if everyone is beautiful or everyone can be beautiful or everyone is beautiful to someone, it’s okay to base a civilization around it.

And we have based a civilization around it. Movies, television, and music thrive on the young and attractive. Fashion and cosmetics industries thrive off your lowered self-esteem, selling you product after product promising to make you beautiful and valuable to society. Pornography generates billions of dollars a year selling you a sexual experience with people that are, in terms of looks, permanently out of your league.

And these industries aren’t going to do anything to jeopardize that. They’ll act like it, sure. American Eagle promises not to Photoshop their models…by being sure to hire peopwho are naturally photogenic.

aerie no photoshop ad campaign

Yes, the real you is sexy…if, you know, you’re born that way.

Or Dove will use their Real Beauty campaign to widen the narrow standards of beauty by showcasing models with a diverse range of body types.

dove real beauty models ad campaign

Lots of diversity there.

So what can we do to overthrow the system once and for all?

Honestly, nothing. You and I can’t take on corporations and multibillion-dollar industries on our own. They’ve stacked the deck against us in more ways than we can count, and will counteract every move we make.

When you’re playing a game where the rules are unfair and everything’s bent in someone else’s favor, it’s time to stop playing.

Let go of “beautiful”. Not everyone can be beautiful, just like not everyone can climb Everest or play saxophone or become a millionaire.

I know what you mean when you say “Everyone is beautiful.” You mean that everyone is valuable, everyone has worth, everyone has good qualities that make them someone to be loved. And if we could reclaim the word and make it mean that, I’d say go for it.

But the fact is, we don’t own the word. The world owns the word, and to the world, “beauty” is physical attractiveness and nothing more. To use “beautiful” in our wider, deeper, more important meaning only confuses the issue. It sends our young women horrible mixed messages, telling them that everyone is beautiful, and sending them into despair when the boys flock after someone with a thinner waistline and a wider bust.

It’s semantics. That’s all the issue is, down at the roots. But semantics hurt more than we realize. So let’s try to step past them.

I want to tell you something, whoever you are. I don’t know if you’re beautiful, funny, smart, friendly, musical, caring, diligent, athletic, or anything else about you. All I know is this:

You are valuable.

You are important.

You are interesting.

You are worth loving.

So forget about “beautiful”. It’s become an ugly word anyway

Mindless Productivity  (Blog)


Butter Is Back


Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.

That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close.

The tip of this iceberg has been visible for years, and we’re finally beginning to see the base. Of course, no study is perfect and few are definitive. But the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.

This doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food, and in that category of real food you can include good meat and dairy. I would argue, however, that you might not include most industrially produced animal products; stand by.

Since the 1970s almost everyone in this country has been subjected to a barrage of propaganda about saturated fat. It was bad for you; it would kill you. Never mind that much of the nonsaturated fat was in the form of trans fats, now demonstrated to be harmful. Never mind that many polyunsaturated fats are chemically extracted oils that may also, in the long run, be shown to be problematic.

Never mind, too, that the industry’s idea of “low fat” became the emblematic SnackWell’s and other highly processed “low-fat” carbs (a substitution that is probably the single most important factor in our overweight/obesity problem), as well as reduced fat and even fat-free dairy, on which it made billions of dollars. (How you could produce fat-free “sour cream” is something worth contemplating.)

But let’s not cry over the chicharrones or even nicely buttered toast we passed up. And let’s not think about the literally millions of people who are repelled by fat, not because it doesn’t taste good (any chef will tell you that “fat is flavor”) but because they have been brainwashed.

Rather, let’s try once again to pause and think for a moment about how it makes sense for us to eat, and in whose interest it is for us to eat hyperprocessed junk. The most efficient summary might be to say “eat real food” and “avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.” You might consider a dried apricot (one ingredient) versus a Fruit Roll-Up (13 ingredients, numbers 2, 3 and 4 of which are sugar or forms of added sugar). Or you might reflect that real yogurt has two or three ingredients (milk plus bacteria, with some jam or honey if you like) and that the number in Breyers YoCrunch Cookies n’ Cream Yogurt is unknowable (there are a few instances of “and/or”) but certainly at least 18.

Many things have gone awry with the way we produce food. And it isn’t just the existence of junk food but the transformation of ingredients we could once take for granted or thought of as “healthy.” Indeed, meat, dairy, wheat and corn have become foods that frequently contain antibiotics and largely untested chemicals, or are produced using hybrids or methods that have increased yield but may have produced unwanted results.


Although the whole “avoid saturated fat” thing came about largely because regulators were too timid to recommend that we “eat less meat,” meat in itself isn’t “bad”; it’s about quantity and quality. So at this juncture it would be natural for a person who does not read volumes of material about agriculture, diet and health to ask, “If saturated fat isn’t bad for me, why should I eat less meat?”

The best current answer to that: It’s possible to eat as much meat as we do only if it’s grown in ways that are damaging. They’re damaging to our health and the environment (not to mention the tortured animals) for a variety of reasons, including rampant antibiotic use; the devotion of more than a third of our global cropland to feeding animals; and the resulting degradation of the environment from that crop and its unimaginable overuse of chemicals, soil and water.

Even if large quantities of industrially produced animal products were safe to eat, the environmental costs are demonstrable and huge. And so the argument “eat less meat but eat better meat” makes sense from every perspective. If you raise fewer animals, you can treat them more humanely and reduce their environmental impact. And we can enjoy the better butter, too.



Look Up

I know it has nothing to do with Cross-Fit but I think it’s a very important message. I see so many people do it everywhere all the time. A couple in a restaurant do it, a family sitting together do it, even mommies in the playground do it, they look down at their phone instead of the person who’s in front of them. It’s time to put the phone down and really look at the person who’s sitting next to you.

Look Up

Gym Etiquette

Some apply, some don’t. They are all important in terms of safety and respect for yourself and your fellow gym members, as well as taking care of epuipment. Written by Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics.

The way you treat the equipment in your gym says a lot about you, not just as an athlete, but as a person. Whether or not you know it, you’re being judged, and if it’s by me, it’s probably harshly. For those of you with good hearts, but not enough experience to know proper facility etiquette yet, here is a handy list of rules to help you take care of the gym you train in, show the people around you that you care, and be safe.

Back Away from the Squat Rack
If you’re doing an exercise using a squat rack, whether it’s squatting, jerking, or anything else, take more than half a step back from the squat rack. It’s not a lot of effort, and if you miss a lift, you won’t drop the bar on the base of the rack. When bumper plates land on racks, it will often chip pieces of the rubber away and the rack can be dented or certain plastic parts broken completely (for some perspective, the Werksan bumper plates we use at Catalyst Athletics range in price from $210/pair for 10kg to $410/pair for 25kg and Werksan squat racks are $565 each). You also won’t have a near-death experience getting yourself tangled up with the bar and rack.

If You’re Sketchy, Use Collars
We weightlifters often train without collars on our bars. That’s because we lift them straight up and put them straight down, so there’s no sliding of plates on the bar. If you’re new, unsure, or otherwise sketchy when you lift, use collars. Weights sliding on your bar can be disastrous—the shift in weight magnifies whatever imbalance caused it, and your attempts to correct are usually too little, too much, or too late. Spare us all the fear of seeing you die and protect the rest of us and the equipment by keeping your weights secured safely on your bar with collars. If you don’t know whether or not you’re a sketchy lifter, you’re a sketchy lifter.

Contain Yourself in Your Lifting Area
This is usually a platform, but it may also just be a designated space on rubber flooring. If you’re fighting a bad lift, and the only way you think you can save it is to chase the bar off your platform or outside of your lifting area, it’s already over—drop the bar (under your control) inside your lifting area. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting the people around you in danger, and that’s not cool. If you want to do irresponsible things that risk injury to your person that don’t threaten the safety of others, knock yourself out. Do not do those things in a public place where you’re around people who don’t share your lack of regard for personal physical wellbeing. If you’re not sure you can contain yourself in your designated lifting area, you shouldn’t be doing whatever you’re doing. Just because someone or something wasn’t somewhere before your lift went sideways doesn’t mean that remains true afterward—someone may have wandered into the space you think is clear, and may very well not be paying attention to you, operating under the assumption that you know what you’re doing and you’re not going to be running around the gym throwing barbells.

Keep Your Lifting Area Clear
Whatever your lifting area is, whether a platform or a nice cozy spot of floor, keep it clear. Don’t leave change plates, collars, bumper plates, clothing, training journals, or ANYTHING on the floor in that lifting area. Hard, solid objects are things that a dropped bar can bounce unpredictably off of, causing a loaded bar to collide with you or someone near, or go crashing into other equipment. Soft items (clothing, towels, journals) are trip hazards, whether during a lift or not.

Don’t Use Nice Bars in the Rack
Quality weightlifting barbells are expensive. The Werksan barbells our weightlifting team trains on are $900 each. These bars need to perform very well and safely, and in order to do that, they need to be taken care of (like everything else, but especially these). Using barbells in squat or power racks, even when lifters are careful, over time results in the knurling being worn down where the bar rests in the rack. This means less secure grips on the bar during any exercise with a snatch-width grip, and this is not a problem that can be fixed. Use less expensive bars when doing rack work—especially squats.

Don’t Spin or Slide Bars in Racks
Related to the previous rule, when using a bar in a rack—whether it’s the best or worst bar in the gym—don’t spin it or slide it side to side in the cradles. If the bar is off center in the rack, it’s your own fault for putting it back that way after your last set (see the next rule). If you got it in there that way, you can get it out from the same place—there’s no way the bar is so off-center that you can’t possibly lift it out of the rack. And I promise that the entire circumference of the barbell is the same—don’t spin it looking for some magical alignment of the surface with your hand. If you spin the bar in the rack when setting your rack position for jerks or pressing exercises, stop. Get your grip set loosely and let your hands spin around the bar as needed to get into position. You don’t need to be choking the bar to death before you’re even in position to lift it out of the rack. This sliding and spinning wears down the knurling and ruins the barbell, and adding insult to injury, is completely unnecessary.

Set Your Bar Down in the Rack
When using a barbell from a squat rack, replace it under control when you’re finished with your set. Don’t throw the bar back into the rack, or slam it down into the cradles. This is either a sign of laziness, a lack of respect for the gym, or attention-seeking. If your set was so incredibly difficult that you can’t possibly set the barbell down into the rack the way you should, you shouldn’t be putting it into the rack—drop it on the platform like you would a snatch or clean & jerk. Even after the most difficult set of squats, it’s not hard to lower a bar a few inches down into a rack until you feel it supported and can move out from under it. Aside from taking care of the equipment (both the bar and the rack), this is also an issue of safety. When dropping or throwing a bar into a rack, it’s easy to miss the cradles, especially on one side only, resulting in a potentially injurious explosion of bar, rack and plates. (As an extension of this, move out from under the bar cautiously at first until you’re sure it’s actually in the rack completely.)

Don’t Drop Empty Bars on the Floor
I know you see all the cool European lifter on the IronMind training hall videos dropping their empty barbells right onto the platform after doing some warm-up exercises, but you’re not those guys and their gym, coach, federation or competition host isn’t paying for the bar you’re dropping. Bars are meant to be dropped on the floor when loaded with bumper plates—dropping an empty bar directly onto a platform is unnecessary stress on an expensive piece of equipment that already has to survive a great deal of stress day to day. If you’re not strong enough to set an empty bar down when you’re done with it, you’re not a weightlifter and you have zero chance of ever becoming one.

Don’t Put More Than 10 kg of Change on One Side of a Bar
If you have more than 10 kg of metal plates on one side of a barbell outside the bumper plates, you need to put another or a heavier bumper plate on instead. This is especially true when there is only a single bumper plate on each side, and even more especially when that single bumper plate is a light one, like a 10 kg plate. Dropping a bar loaded this way puts undue stress on the bumper plate: first, it’s absorbing more force than it’s meant to, but more importantly, it likely will not land perfectly evenly between the two sides, which means the bumpers are hitting at an angle and being torqued sideways by the additional weight. This can cause plates to crack and/or bend, and the hubs to deform so they don’t fit onto the barbell as well. Suck it up and throw the right bumpers on the bar (and don’t load heavier plates outside lighter plates in most cases).

Reset Squat Racks
If you adjust the uprights of a squat rack to be narrower or wider, return them to the position they’re supposed to be in before you put the rack away. If you don’t know how to do this or where they’re supposed to be set, you shouldn’t be adjusting them in the first place. You more than likely never need to adjust a rack this way. The only time the width of squat racks at Catalyst Athletics need to be adjusted is to use them as dip bars. If you’re not using the rack for such a purpose, leave it alone. Don’t be the guy who narrows the rack so you can grip the bar directly for your overhead squat (outside the uprights)—do what you should and adjust your hands wider after you take the bar out of the rack on your back. It’s unnecessary, and it’s dangerous to load and unload a barbell with such a narrow base of support (See the loading/unloading rule below).

Keep Chalk Where it Belongs
You’re not flocking Christmas trees—you’re lifting weights. Chalk all over the floor and elsewhere in the gym is not helping you hold onto your bar. Stick your hands in the chalk bucket and keep them in there while you rub the chalk in. Don’t grab a handful of powder or a chunk and then proceed to rub it in outside the bucket, and don’t slap your freshly-chalked hands together like an emotional slow-motion montage in a Lifetime original gymnastics movie. Yes, some chalk is going to end up on the floor in lifting areas—let it get there in unavoidable manners—don’t be lame and lazy and spread it around. Not only is it a pain in the ass to clean up, it clogs HVAC filters and forces more frequent replacement, and it’s a slipping hazard for lifters on the platform.

Don’t Mix Bumper Plates
Use matching bumper plates on each side of the bar. Different brands and models (and even the same model manufactured in different time periods) can be different widths, different diameters, and different durometers (hardness). This means that when dropped, the two sides of the bar bounce differently and different points of the bar receive the impact, and the bumper plates are torqued sideways. This can mean anything from a dangerously unpredictable bounce of the bar into you or a neighboring lifter, to damage to the barbell and the bumpers from hitting at odd angles.

Control Your Bar When You Drop It
After a snatch, clean or jerk, return the bar under control to the platform. This doesn’t mean you can’t drop it—it means keep your hands connected to it until it’s fairly close to the floor, and pay attention to it until it’s done moving. Don’t be the moron who lets go of the bar from overhead and walks away, letting it bounce across the platform into another lifter, off of something back into your own legs, or into other equipment. This is just common sense and a low threshold of respect and awareness.

Don’t Stand on Bumper Plates
I realize you think bumper plates are indestructible because you drop them when you lift, but they’re meant to be durable for exactly one thing—being dropped on an evenly loaded barbell on a proper lifting surface. Many times a bumper will be lying partially on top of something (a change plate, another bumper plate, or the edge of a platform, for example), and by standing on it, you’re stressing the plate in a way it’s not meant to be stressed—like being folded in half. Which leads us nicely into the next rule:

Lay Bumpers Flat on the Floor or Stand Them Up
If you need to lay a bumper plate on the floor, lay it flat so it’s evenly supported by the floor in case someone isn’t paying attention and breaks the previous rule or drops more weights on top of it. You can also lean them up against something if they’re close enough to vertical to not be stepped on or end up on the bottom of a stack. Otherwise, put them away where they belong.

Don’t Step on Barbells
Yes, they’re strong, and yes, I get it, they’re surprisingly springy and this entertains you, but barbells are not meant to be stood on. If you’re curious about how elastic the bar is, load some weight on it and lift it. Don’t put your foot on the middle of the bar and step on it to see how much it gives. Don’t slam your foot down on it to spin it before you lift, don’t kick it after you miss that lift, and don’t sit on it between lifts. Want to know if the bar spins? Do it with your hand. Want to express your rage after proving to the world you suck at lifting? Buy a punching bag. Want to sit down and rest? Find a bench or a chair or a box or anything else that’s build to keep your big butt from hitting the floor.

Load/Unload One Plate Per Side at a Time
When you’re loading or unloading a barbell in a rack, do it one plate on one side, then one plate on the other side, and alternate in this way until all of the plates are on or off. Don’t take multiple plates off the same side first, as this leaves the bar unbalanced and creates the potential for tipping out of the rack. Even if you’re a world class physicist and are convinced that the relative weights and the positions of the rack supporting the bar prohibit such tipping, it’s still possible when, for example, you bump the unloaded or less-loaded end with your shoulder or a plate, and suddenly your safely balanced system is flying through the air. The whipping end of a 6-7-foot long barbell will do very serious damage to whatever it comes into contact with, especially human tissue. I’ve seen someone nearly lose an eye from this—instead he got lucky with just a lot stitches to seal up a 2-inch wide gash just below his eye. Don’t make yourself a one-eyed asshole, and don’t be the asshole who made someone else one-eyed.

Don’t Throw Plates into Plate Racks
Set your plates into the racks they belong in—don’t throw them or drop them. Even if those racks are made of metal and you think they’re the toughest things on Earth, it’s just being lazy and will likely bounce the rack around on the floor, shifting it from where it’s supposed to be and pissing off the person who put it where it belongs and has to continue putting it back there. If you’re a weak little baby who can’t lower a plate to the ground, roll it in from the side, or don’t lift it in the first place.

Don’t Drop Bars into Vertical Racks
If your gym stores barbells in vertical storage racks, slide them in gently. Don’t stick the end of the bar into the top of the hole and then drop it—slamming a bar on its end damages the snap rings, the bearings, and the end cap. How hard is it to hold onto the bar and lower it under your control until it’s all the way down into the rack? I promise it’s a lot easier than whatever you were doing with the barbell before, so don’t make excuses.

Don’t Throw Your Stuff Against Walls
Unless you train in an unpainted, cement-walled shithole (especially one that you own yourself), use some common sense and don’t slam heavy, hard items like bumper plates or squat racks into sheetrock walls. Set them down where they belong like someone who cares about the place he/she trains in.

Don’t Drop Dumbbells
Rubber hex head dumbbells are great, but they’re not indestructible, and every time you throw or drop them because you don’t have enough energy to lean down and set them on the floor (but you somehow still have enough energy to start doing burpees immediately), you’re bringing that dumbbell one step closer to breaking. The heads of these dumbbells will eventually shake loose on the handles with enough trauma. If you can’t be bothered to concern yourself with taking care of the equipment in the gym, then consider the safety of yourself and those around you—these things will bounce unpredictably and people can get injured, whether from the actual collision, by suddenly encountering a trip hazard, or through the course of their trying to avoid a collision or tripping.

Clean up Your Blood
Sharing can be great, but not when it comes to blood borne pathogens. If you bleed on a bar from a torn callus, accidentally hooking your shin, or in any other way get your disgusting internal fluids on any other public surface, clean it up properly, such as with Clorox, Lysol or a similar cleaning agent. If it’s a bar or another metal surface, dry it off immediately after using any cleaning solution and put some chalk on the cleaned area to help prevent it from oxidizing.

Clean up Your Spills
Accidentally kicked your water or coffee or favorite pre-workout muscle-swelling beverage? Clean it up—this isn’t astrophysics. If you don’t know how to clean it up or what to clean it up with, find a responsible adult and ask. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen and leave it for that responsible adult to find later when it’s sticky, nasty and staining.

Put Away Whatever You Use 
You went over this in kindergarten—put your shit away. You got it from somewhere. If the person who used it before you was not a slob, that place was where it belongs, and that’s exactly—I mean EXACTLY—where and how you should be returning it when you’re finished. It doesn’t mean nearby, it doesn’t mean in a different way, and it certainly doesn’t mean you choose a new place to store it that you like better for some reason. If you want to decide where things go, you can build your own gym and go wild. If the person before you didn’t put it away where it belongs, be the better person and do it right because it’s the right thing to do, then tell the offender to do it right next time when you get the chance.

Every single time you do something in the gym, you’re a model for other members. Set a good example and help others follow it. Be a contributor, not a drain; be safe and respectful and courteous. Take a moment and think about what your actions tell everyone around you, and if you like your gym and respect its owners, staff and members, prove it with the way you treat the facility.

Younger Skin Through Exercise

Exercise not only appears to keep skin younger, it may also even reverse skin aging in people who start exercising late in life, according to surprising new research.

As many of us know from woeful experience, our skin changes as the years advance, resulting in wrinkles, crow’s feet and sagging. This occurs because of changes within our layers of skin. After about age 40, most of us begin to experience a thickening of our stratum corneum, the final, protective, outer layer of the epidermis, itself the top layer of your skin. The stratum corneum is the portion of the skin that you see and feel. Composed mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, it gets drier, flakier and denser with age.

At the same time, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, the dermis, begins to thin. It loses cells and elasticity, giving the skin a more translucent and often saggier appearance.

These changes are independent of any skin damage from the sun. They are solely the result of the passage of time.

But recently, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario began to wonder if such alterations were inevitable. Earlier studies at McMaster involving mice that were bred to age prematurely had shown that a steady regimen of exercise could stave off or even undo the signs of early aging in these animals. When members of this breed of mice remained sedentary, they rapidly grew wizened, frail, ill, demented, and graying or bald. But if they were given access to running wheels, they maintained healthy brains, hearts, muscles, reproductive organs, and fur far longer than their sedentary labmates. Their fur never even turned gray.

Of course, we humans long ago swapped our fur for naked skin. But if exercise could keep animals’ outer layer from changing with age, it might, the researchers speculated, do the same for our skin.

To test that possibility, the scientists first gathered 29 local male and female volunteers ages 20 to 84. About half of the participants were active, performing at least three hours of moderate or vigorous physical activity every week, while the others were resolutely sedentary, exercising for less than an hour per week. Then the researchers asked each volunteer to uncover a buttock.

“We wanted to examine skin that had not been frequently exposed to the sun,” said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster who oversaw the study, which was presented this month at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.

The scientists biopsied skin samples from each volunteer and examined them microscopically. When compared strictly by age, the skin samples overall aligned with what would be expected. Older volunteers generally had thicker outer layers of skin and significantly thinner inner layers.

But those results shifted noticeably when the researchers further subdivided their samples by exercise habits. They found that after age 40, the men and women who exercised frequently had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin. Their skin was much closer in composition to that of the 20- and 30-year-olds than to that of others of their age, even if they were past age 65.

But as the researchers realized, other factors, including diet, genes and lifestyles, might have influenced the differences in skin condition between the exercising and sedentary groups. It was impossible to know whether exercise by itself had affected people’s skin or been incidental to lucky genetics and healthy lives.

So the researchers next set a group of sedentary volunteers to exercising, after first obtaining skin samples from their buttocks. The volunteers were aged at 65 or older and, at the study’s start, had normal skin for their age. They began a fairly straightforward endurance training program, working out twice a week by jogging or cycling at a moderately strenuous pace, equivalent to at least 65 percent of their maximum aerobic capacity for 30 minutes. This continued for three months. At the end of that time, the researchers again biopsied the volunteers’ skin.

But now the samples looked quite different, with outer and inner layers that looked very similar to those of 20- to 40-year-olds. “I don’t want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see,” said Dr. Tarnopolsky, himself a middle-aged exerciser. Under a microscope, the volunteers’ skin “looked like that of a much younger person, and all that they had done differently was exercise.”

How exercise changes skin composition is not completely clear, but in a separate portion of the study, the researchers checked for alterations in the levels of certain substances created by working muscles. Called myokines, these substances are known to enter the bloodstream and jump-start changes in cells far from the muscles themselves. In this case, the scientists found greatly augmented levels of a myokine called IL-15 in the skin samples of volunteers after exercise. Their skin samples contained almost 50 percent more IL-15 after they had been exercising than at the start of the study.

The researchers suspect that additional myokines and substances are also involved in the skin changes related to exercise, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, making it unlikely that any IL-15 pill, salve or injection will ever replicate the skin benefits of a workout.

Nor is there evidence that exercise reverses wrinkling and other damage from the sun, some of which many of us accumulate during outdoor exercise. Still, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, “it is astonishing to consider all of the intricate ways in which exercise changes our bodies” —including the skin beneath our shorts.

April 16, 2014

The New York Times