Blog Archives: General

Aim for a B+ on Nutrition. A Jesse Thomas Re-Post, By Nate Helming

I first came across this insightful and funny article by pro triathlete Jesse Thomas about a month ago. I was finishing up my recent article comparing solid versus liquid fueling for triathlon, and I wanted to get some personal input from professional triathletes that I could add to my article.

While Jesse briefly touches upon fueling, I immediately gravitated toward his daily nutritional philosophy. Simply put, it’s refreshing to hear a competitive athlete who does not obsess about their day-day nutrition for their racing performance. And while we always strive for, encourage, and admire perfection, it’s nice to hear from a top athlete who proudly enjoys not being the first student in class in all subjects.

Below is a link to the full article, but here are a few nuggets I gleaned from his post:

–He’s funny and clearly enjoys competing and writing about his tinkerings.

–Calorie counting doesn’t necessarily work in the long run. The body’s a complex system, with constantly shifting caloric needs. It costs significant mental and physical energy to nail it each day. Additionally, counting doesn’t teach you to listen to the body’s internal messages about its needs.

–Racing weight: Jesse realized he races best when he trains consistently, eats “mostly healthy” and mostly ignores the scale. Forcing your body one weight or another can work, but it’s a dangerous game with significant downsides. And for mos athletes that mental and physical energy could be better applied to other aspects of one’s training, racing, and recovery.

–Aim for a B+! I think this is somewhat facetiously stated but true. A perfect diet is just too hard sometimes. It’s best to nutritionally aim for a “mostly healthy” nutritional approach that includes the occasional beer, dessert, or sibling inspired burger throw down.

While this advice is catered more towards endurance athletes, it equally applies to the paleo-enthused CrossFit population. Paleo challenges are transformative and powerful, but those who’ve done them know how hard it is to stay strict paleo once the 30 day challenge ends!

So there you go. Straight from the gut…er…mouth of a 2x WildFlower Long Course Champion!

Read Jesse’s Full Article Here

Train (and Eat) Well,


Devan Green Wins Gold at the US Open!

Two weekends ago, Devan Green won Gold at the U.S. Open XVII Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament in San Jose.   He beat out almost 40 other competitors and went undefeated to take first place!!!   Here is a quote from Devan about the experience:  “My body and mind felt incredible during the whole tournament! Although my opponents were incredibly strong, well trained, well seasoned, and considerably outweighed me, I never felt overpowered or outgunned and was able to play smart, play strong, and keep pace throughout the entire day!  San Francisco Crossfit WORKS”   Major Congratulations Devan!!!! Keep it up.



Check out this video of Devan’s final match!


Schedule Changes THIS Saturday

SFCF Members!

Apologies for the inconvenience but the Sports Basement has requested that we cancel our 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. group classes this Saturday – October 6th – because they have a race starting at 8:00 a.m. and also because the Presidio is going to be mass chaos on Saturday because of Fleet Week, America’s Cup, etc.

In lieu of the two Level 1 classes, we have scheduled an additional hour of Open Gym from 10:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. and added 2 hours of Open Gym on Sunday morning from 9-11 a.m. The 7:30 a.m. Level 2 Class, the 9:30 a.m. Basics Class, and Oly Club will all continue as scheduled.    Please leave yourself plenty of time to park

Check out our Group Class Schedule for details and to register for Open Gym.

Should You Eat Or Drink Your Calories? By Nate Helming

Bonk or cramp? There’s a thin line between the two and that’s the line triathletes walk in long-distance training and racing. If you don’t take in the right amount of food and fluid, you’ll bonk. Take in the wrong stuff, or at the wrong rate, and you face a wide array of GI issues, cramping among the least of them.

So how do you get the calories and fluid you need without taxing your GI system? This article compares the two primary fueling methods triathletes use while training and racing—chewing calories versus drinking them.

There is general consensus among coaches, exercise physiologists and nutritionists that for training sessions and races beyond two hours, athletes should supplement with something in order to maintain their performance output. When an athlete’s glycogen stores drop too low, they experience significant fatigue and a sharp decrease in performance. In its most extreme form, athletes hit the wall or bonk.


That’s where energy drinks and bars come in—to provide a ready-made energy supply that helps athletes continue to train and race at their best.

But, eat too much or at the wrong times and you can experience all types of complications in the form of gastrointestinal (GI) problems, stomach aches and nausea, which can slow you down. Alternatively, if you don’t consume enough fuel, you can experience early fatigue and a decrease in performance. Finding the right balance is imperative.


In addition to fueling, athletes need to hydrate to perform well. Let’s highlight two of the ways dehydration negatively affects the body.

First, as blood plasma depletes due to dehydration, the heart’s stroke volume—the volume of blood pumped per heartbeat—diminishes. Due to this reduced cardiac output the heart has to pump faster just to deliver the same number of oxygenated blood cells to working muscles. This phenomenon is known as cardiac drift and reflects the additional stress heat places on the body. If you’ve ever experienced an elevated heart rate that stays way above your effort level, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon.

Second, dehydration compromises the body’s thermoregulatory response and its ability to stay in homeostasis. As part of the body’s cooling mechanism, it pulls heat away from the body through sweat evaporation. The body also cools through the principals of convection (dispersal of heat through blood circulation) and conduction (body heat radiating away). The blood vessels expand to allow additional blood to circulate into the superficial capillaries in the skin to pull heat away from the body.

Without taking in additional fluids, your body can only perform for so long without purposely slowing down to protect the vital organs from overheating. You can usually tolerate up to a 2 to 3 percent loss in body water and still perform, but beyond that you may start to develop minor symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, disorientation and sluggishness.

Ultimately, athletes need to manage the twin perils of glycogen depletion and dehydration in order to perform at peak levels in events lasting longer than 2 to 3 hours, and especially in hot and humid conditions. For hot Ironman events such as Kona, it’s imperative to nail down a solid nutrition and hydration strategy.

Let’s compare two different fueling strategies to see what’s best for you.

Drinking: The High-Calorie Bottle

This fueling method tackles both fueling and hydration needs at the same time. These super-calorie bottles contain mostly carbohydrate (some with additional fat and protein) and are specifically targeted for the 2- to 3-plus hour events with greater fueling requirements.

The Pros: Chewing solid food can slow the digestive system down. Drinking calories is an alternative way to get them in, especially for athletes who deal with stomach cramps. Athletes can conveniently fuel and hydrate at the same time with these sports drinks and powders. This makes it easy to grab and go when constantly on the move. If done correctly, athletes can meet their fueling requirements while also tackling some of their hydration requirements.

The Cons: Some people believe that these high-calorie bottles are responsible for the majority of GI issues experienced by racers, and they offer compelling evidence in support. As it turns out, the rate at which we should hydrate is different from of the rate of fueling, making it unrealistic for one product to optimally address both.

High-calorie bottles actually slow fluid absorption through the gut, hampering hydration efforts. When the body encounters a fluid that is thicker than blood, it has to pull fluid from the body into the small intestine to dilute it to an acceptable level. This process can only help so much before it contributes to both dehydration and backing up the GI system.

It’s way too easy to slurp down large amounts of calories in liquid form that far surpass the gut’s ability to handle them. Think of the gut as a tollbooth and the fuel, in this case carbohydrates (CHO), as the cars passing through. On any given day, cars (CHO) must stop to go through the tollbooth (gut). During regular traffic hours, the gut can more than handle the amount of carbohydrates coming its way with minimal backup.

Now picture this tollbooth during rush hour traffic. The rate at which carbohydrates show up far surpasses the rate at which the gut can process them, contributing to a nasty build up in traffic. Since the gut cannot double its rate of absorption, athletes experience stomach cramps, bloating and nausea when ingesting too much carbohydrate too quickly. So while super-calorie bottles work to get fuel in, they can be too effective, creating serious backup and GI issues that slow athletes down in a different way.

Regardless of this innovative solution, athletes still risk failing to meet their hydration requirements as the processing of carbohydrates slows down the ability to take in fluids. Simply put, with the high-calorie bottle athletes are either well fueled but under hydrated or properly hydrated but over fueled.

Chewing: The Separation of Nutrition and Hydration

While the super-calorie bottle does have its merits, some coaches and athletes would rather simplify their approach to fueling and hydration to minimize potential GI issues. People in this camp believe you should chew your food and focus on hydration in your bottles.

The Pros: When athletes chew solid foods, the entire digestion process slows down the rate at which fuel goes from the stomach to the small intestine and from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Digestion in the stomach is the key regulator here. Chewing your food slows down the rush of calories to the gut. This gives the body time to process what you’re putting into it, significantly reducing the possibility of GI issues.

Also, without significant calories in the bottle, athletes can focus on optimal hydration. While temperature does not significantly affect fueling demands for an event, it most certainly affects hydration demands. By keeping nutrition and hydration separate, you can more effectively address both needs.

The Cons: The biggest downside of this approach is the need to carry solid foods while training and racing. It’s impractical to carry enough food for an entire Ironman so athletes often have to refuel with what’s available on the course. Sports gels, drinks and powders are popular for a reason: they are convenient and they can be found on most racecourses. While they may not be perfect, some fueling is better than no fueling and these products are easy. Coaches recommend their athletes actually train with these on-course products so they can get used to them before the event.

Another downside is potential stomach cramps that creep up while chewing food on the run. While it’s relatively easy to fuel on solids on the bike, it’s difficult to ingest the same amount while running without feeling any repercussions. As most of you can attest, trying to run too soon after a big meal and you’ll experience cramps and even nausea. The energy requirements of running combined with the constant jostling stress the stomach and its digestion too much. A high-calorie bottle provides the energy needed while minimizing stomach cramping and digestion.

What’s Better?

Significant variability exists between athletes. Some do quite well on snickers bars and coke (one of my personal favorites), while other guts are quite sensitive to even the slightest changes.

A high-calorie, high-concentrated bottle is convenient, making it easy to deliver the much-needed calories while racing and training. It’s also relieves the digestive system when chewing becomes difficult. Plus, gels, drinks and powders dominate most aid stations at long triathlon events, making it a virtual prerequisite for athletes to fuel on them just so they can get used to what’s being offered on race day.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to surpass the gut’s absorption ability with this strategy. This can cause serious backup, resulting in tough GI issues and even dehydration. This can have more serious consequences in hot and humid environments when the hydration demands are especially high.

On the other hand, athletes can more optimally address both their hydration and fueling demands by keeping them separate. While some sloshing may occur, this digestive process helps ensure that you don’t flood the small intestine with more calories than it can handle. By drinking lower concentration fluids, the body can more easily absorb the fluids with minimal backup and less dehydration.

Regardless of the strategy you employ, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of both. If you fuel and hydrate with high-calorie bottles, be careful not to take in too much at any one time. If you fuel and hydrate separately, be sure to pick foods that you can chew and digest easily.

Practice, refine, and revisit your approach constantly. Nutrition should be part of your training regimen. If you do experience GI issues while racing, it’s safe to say your approach could use some tweaking. You’ll also want to modify your strategy depending on the duration and type of event or training session.

Your approach will continue to evolve and change as you mature as an athlete, especially as you start pushing harder for longer periods of time.

And while every athlete is different, it’s still worth finding out what works for others and experimenting with those methods yourself. Just don’t tweak anything too close to your next race.


Big Weekend of Competition For SFCFers

This was a huge weekend of competition for SFCF athletes.   Check out what SFCF athletes were up to this weekend:

Pon™ – Headlands 50 Miler

This Saturday, Pon™ raced in the Headlands 50 miler which is a grueling course with tons of elevation change.   Last year, Pon™ posted a time of 13 hours and 45 minutes and this year he absolutely crushed his time by more than three hours, finishing the race in 10 hours and 40 minutes.   Not only is that time awesome in and of itself but the time also qualifies Pon™ for a lottery spot for the Western States 100 miler.   The Western States is so popular that there is a lottery to enter and to even be considered for the lottery, athletes must post a time of under 11 hours in a qualifying event.   At well under 11 hours, Pon’s time last weekend qualifies him to enter the lottery, and hopefully a spot in the 2013 Western States.   Go Pon™!






Team SFCF v. TJ’s Gym – Throwdown

On Sunday, six SFCF athletes Brian Thompson, Joe Herrle, Lucas Robinson, Katy Verry, Lisa Warren, and Danielle Rabkin participated in three grueling workouts – pretty much back-to-back – versus TJ’s Gym in Mill Valley.   Team SFCF won all three workouts handily and kept the Pimp Cup in San Francisco!   Super extra congratulations to Katy Verry for participating in her first ever Crossfit competition and to Joe Herrle who showed up and crushed after taking second place with Beth Helton the day before in the adventure race (details below).   Thanks so much to TJ’s for hosting, to our resident photographer Tory Kornblum for taking some awesome photos – you can view the whole gallery on our SFCF facebook page, and to all the spectators/supports who showed up to cheer on our team.   Go Team SFCF!






Joe Herrle & Beth Helton – Crossfit Anywhere Adventure Race

Congratulations to Beth Helton and Joe Herrle for taking 2nd Place overall in the Crossfit Anywhere Adventure Race on Saturday.   This race was a cool combination of Crossfit and adventure racing that included kayaking (obviously), running, partner squats, and more.   During the partner squats, Joe squatted Beth 85 times!   Awesome job Joe and Beth!







Devan Green – NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship

SFCFer and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor Devan Green competed on Saturday in the NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship at Kezar Stadium.  Devan played in 3 divisions and finished with two bronze medals and a final silver medal.  Congratulations Devan!


Upcoming Events This Weekend!

Congratulations again to Coach Tuller (who you may not recognize with this new beard) for completing the Wasatch 100 miler last weekend for the 12th time.   This was a grueling event that required Coach Tuller to be on the trail for  more than 35 hours.   If you see him limping around the gym this week, you’ll now understand why.    Awesome job Coach!

We also have quite a few other SFCF athletes competing in various events this weekend so come on out to support them!   Here’s what’s happening:

Saturday, September 15th:  SFCFer and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor Devan Green will be competing in the NAGA San Francisco Grappling Championship at Kezar Stadium.    Devan will be competing in two divisions at approximately 2 and 4 pm.   Tickets are $15 dollars and can be bought at the door or online HERE.

Sunday, September 16th:  Team SFCF Joe Herrle, Danielle Rabkin, Katy Verry, Lisa Warren, Lucas Robinson, and Brian Thompson will be defending the PIMP CUP at TJ’s Gym Mill Valley starting at 9:30 a.m.   215 Shoreline Avenue in Mill Valley.

Labor Day Schedule, Schedule Updates, & Signing In

Greetings SFCF Members!  We have a lot of schedule updates and a new sign-in procedure starting next week so please read on:

Labor Day Schedule

9 – 11 a.m. – Open Gym – Coach James will be posting a couple of optional epic Hero WODs on the whiteboard so come on by to do one of those, work on skills, or do some strength work.

Schedule Updates

* Level 2 Classes Start Next Tuesday:

  • Monday – 6 p.m. – Brian MacKenzie (no class on Labor Day)
  • Tuesday – 6 a.m. – Kelly Starrett
  • Wednesday 6 p.m. – Diane Fu
  • Thursday 6 a.m. – Carl Paoli
These classes are designed to develop our veteran Crossfit athletes and are limited to 8 athletes/class. The prerequisites for this class include: completion of at least 1-year of Crossfit classes, proficiency in the the basic Crossfit skills, and the ability to complete some workouts at the prescribed weight/intensity. The goal of these classes is to develop and master the more complex Crossfit skills (like hand-stand push ups/muscle-ups, Olympic lifts, etc.) and the programming is more complex with higher skill demand and increased work load. If you are interested in and ready to join our Level 2 classes, please talk to one of our coaches or email us.

* Strength & Skills Classes are cancelled for now

* 3:30 p.m. classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday are starting next Wednesday.

NEW Sign-In Procedure

Starting on Tuesday, September 4th, we are switching to advance sign ups for classes.   You can sign up for classes as early as 2 weeks in advance and as late as 15 minutes before the class start time.   Just go to the Group Class Schedule on our website, find the class you want to attend, and click on the “Sign-Up Now” button, and sign up.   Please bear with us during this transition as we will probably continue with the paper sign-up on site until all of our members transition to this new system.




Inside The Box, How Crossfit Shredded the Rules, Stripped Down the Gym, and Rebuilt My Body, by TJ Murphy

I have a new book out, “Inside the Box: How CrossFit Shredded the Rules, Stripped Down the Gym and Rebuilt My Broken Down Body.” Juliet asked if I could write a quick blog describing what the book is about. It started off, as a matter of fact, the first time I limped into the parking lot behind the Sports Basement that you all know so well.

Two years ago I was working on a story for Triathlete Magazine (I was editorial director at the time) on Brian MacKenzie’s program, CrossFit Endurance. Pick up most copies of newsstand fitness magazines and you generally will see stories on “how to train” that are all fairly similar.The same can certainly be said for triathlon magazines. CrossFit Endurance was by all measures radical. Traditional endurance training plans have long emphasized periods of base building and have spent little time on subjects like nutrition, stretching and strength training. CFE did away with periodization and instead relied on a matrix of high-intensity sport-specific work, drills for proper technique, nutrition, CrossFit and mobility.

Ironically enough, at the time I was reporting on the story my 25 years as a competitive distance runner/triathlete were grinding to a painful halt. In the early 1990s, living in San Francisco, I was a founding member of the Golden Gate Tri Club and a fairly decent marathoner, running Cal International in 2:38. That was 1991. And if I look back at the record now the following 20 years slowly turned into a downward spiral of spending more time being injured and less time running. I recorded some good races through 1995 but since then I can’t recall the traditional style of training that I kept trying to put in motion, over and over, did me much good. I was able to cross the finish line once in a while but increasingly injuries derailed my race goals long before the gun went off.

So it was in November of 2010 when I first met MacKenzie. I spoke to enough people who told me about the value of CrossFit in not only preventing injury but in helping them break plateaus and record personal records that it would be ridiculous to not try it. From November 2009 to November 2010 I had spent a lot of money on a popular online running program that had left me with a severe limp and unable to run a quarter mile.

After talking about it all some, Brian told me the first thing I needed to do was see Kelly Starrett. The next month I limped into San Francisco CrossFit (I was living in San Diego at the time). I had paid many visits to many different physical therapists in my time and this was the first time the PT didn’t just hook me up to an ultrasound machine and send me on my way. Rather, a lot of the session focused on what happened when I tried to do an air squat (knees caving in, etc).

Kelly took a look at my severe restrictions in range of motion, the back pain and knee pain I had begun to assume were my due for so many years of being a distance runner. After I ticked off the various ailments and weaknesses and the fact that I couldn’t run a lap around the track, he gave me a sharp look.

“Are you OK with that?” he asked.

I considered the undertone to his question. You mean I have a choice here? “Well–since you put it that way—uh…No! I’m not ok with that.”

The implication was obvious—I had been OK with the injuries because I thought it was just the way it was when the running odometer reached certain levels. Kelly was suggesting that there were alternatives.

That was the beginning of my journey into CrossFit and some of the surprises that are in store for all of us. It was definitely a “Matrix”-like Morpheus/red-pill adventure. At the time I started the idea of hopping onto a 12-inch box was barely within my comprehension. Let along kipping pull-ups, Olympic lifts and hand stands. At first of course it was just about the couch stretch and such but within the next year I would establish a degree of athletic capacity that I had not had since high school. If ever.

By last October I had written several stories about CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance and the MWOD when I was asked to write a book for VeloPress. Like so many others at CrossFit gyms I’ve talked to, CrossFit had changed their lives to the better in one way or another. Or several ways. The book traces my at first reluctant journey into CrossFit and then some of my discoveries about the culture and history within.

Last March I moved to San Francisco and joined SFCF. One of the inspiring folks for me at SFCF has been Pon Sohmnhot, who seems to be alternating 50ks and 50-milers every two weeks. He’s one of the reasons I believe the rules are being re-written in terms of how one can train for a running race.

Now that CrossFit has allowed me to overhaul the physical infrastructure that seemed to be teetering on collapse 20 months ago—and having been inspired by the likes of Pon–I’m planning on spending the next few months getting into race form again, purely through this route of CrossFit Endurance-style training.

The book was an honor to write. I hope it gets in the hands of others out there the way I was, adrift in a diminishing state of health that may have some rather surprising alternatives at hand.

Please also join us for a Taco Social & Book Launch Party for Inside the Box at SFCF on Friday, October 5th


Devan Green – Brazilian Ju-Jitsu Athlete & Crossfitter

We love to highlight SFCF athletes who are out there competing in sports.   SFCFer Devan Green competes in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (“BJJ”), which is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.  BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

Last weekend, Devan participated in a tournament in Daly City where he competed in two divisions and took first in both, defeating all of his opponents by submission with the exception of the first match where his opponent quit.    Devan will be competing again at Kezar Stadium on September 15th and we will send details as the event gets closer but save the date to come out and watch Devan do his thing!   Congratulations Devan!

Check out this cool video of the finals of one of Devan’s matches:


Crossfit Kids Fall Session Starts September 4th

San Francisco CrossFit’s Kids program is a multifaceted, challenging, socially interactive strength and conditioning program for kids from ages 6 to 13 taught by Coach Tonya.   The fall program goes for 15 weeks from September 4 – December 11th on Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. (6-9 year olds) and 5-6 p.m. (10-13 year olds).

What is Crossfit Kids?

CrossFit Kids is not simply a scaled down version of CrossFit, it is entirely and absolutely CrossFit geared toward kids and their specific developmental needs.

CrossFit Kids is the principal strength and conditioning program for many young athletes and the primary P.E. program for many home schools, charter schools. It is used by athletic teams, martial arts schools and many parents that want their kids to grow up healthy, strong and have a life long love of working out thus avoiding the common problems associated with childhood inactivity and obesity. Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Healthy living requires that our kids push, pull, run, throw, climb, lift, jump, effectively and safely regardless of whether or not they play athletics. Athletics is a specialized pursuit. Our goal is to support the specialist, but reward the generalist.

The CrossFit Kids program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for 4 year olds and elite high school athletes. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs. The needs of our second graders and our high school wrestler differ by degree not kind.

– Jeff & Mikki Martin – Founders, CrossFit Kids


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