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October IronFest

A Stonglifting Meet at CrossFit Oaklandby coach Leah Lutz

Capping off their work in the Barbell Club, three CrossFit West lifters competed in the CrossFit Total-style lifting meet this past Saturday, October 25th.  Aimee, Kelly, and Bianca joined  39 other competitors in Oakland and dozens more at 7 concurrent strengthlifting meets across the US to test their training in an environment very unlike the average day in the gym.

Aimee, Leah, Kelly, and Bianca

Aimee, Leah, Kelly, and Bianca

Each competitor is placed into a flight of a dozen lifters, and each competitor takes the stage to make their best lifts. Competitors took up to three attempts to establish their best squat, press, and deadlift. The meet was run just like a powerlifting meet, but with the standing press instead of the bench press.

With a platform, an enthusiastic audience, and three judges, this was definitely a new experience for all three ladies.  Adding to the stress of hitting your max lift, they now also have to keep in mind the rules, plan their warm-ups and rest based on the pace of the event,  lift on center stage, and decide on each subsequent attempt with-in seconds of completing a lift.  With several flights of other lifters, you have one busy, slightly nerve-racking, yet thrilling and fun day.

After several months of extra strength training, Aimee, Kelly, and Bianca all went into this meet prepared and ready to compete.  As their coach for this event, I couldn’t be more proud of each one, knowing first-hand how dedicated these ladies have been to this meet.  There were fun times in training, some pretty tough times, and lots of support and encouragement between all of them and so many of you at the gym.

Job very well done, Ladies!

Aimee Shoemaker took third place in the Women’s lightweight division.

Bianca Toreno took first place in her weight class.

All accomplished something that seemed so daunting at times!

Move Like Sugar Ray

Sugar Ray Robinson is usually considered the best pound-for-pound boxer ever. Boxing has fallen in prestige a lot in the past 20 years, but for just about all of the 20th century, it was probably the most popular sport in the world, certainly America. Many boxers of nearly a century ago are still well-known names today, Joe Louis for example. Click here for a highlight reel of Robinson’s fights and here for a post I wrote about him a couple years ago, which includes a clip of him training (check out his jump roping, I don’t think he would have any problem with double unders).

Robinson amassed an incredible 85-0 amateur record with 69 knockouts (40 coming in the first round) before turning pro. He then went on a 40 fight win streak before losing for the first time to Jake LaMotta of Scorsese’s Raging Bull fame (Robinson and LaMotta would fight a total of six times with five going to Robinson). Robinson’s professional record was an astounding 173-19 with 108 knockouts across five weight divisions. Most of his losses came in his 40s when he was at the end of his 25-year professional career. He was only knocked out once, when fighting in 103 degree heat in a New York City summer, he failed to answer the bell for the 14 round due to the heat (he was ahead on all three judges score cards when he passed out). The ref had to be replaced twice during the fight.

In 1947, in a title fight, Robinson knocked out his opponent decisively. The opponent never regained consciousness and died later that night. Devastated, Robinson donated the winnings from his next four fights to his opponent’s mother.

Ok, by now you get that Sugar Ray Robinson was a pretty fantastic fighter, worthy of being called the best pound-for-pound boxer ever. He was fast, powerful, strong, and had great endurance and stamina. But, that could describe so many of his opponents as well. Robinson also possessed an absolute abundance of coordination, dexterity, balance, agility. And that’s what made him such an unbeatable fighter. He moved so well that one of the words used to describe him often is ‘graceful’, not an everyday word in conjunction with fighters, or any male athlete.

Robinson was a great dancer, as in professional level. He often credited his boxing ability to his dancing ability. Below is a very interesting clip of the dancer and movie star Gene Kelly and Robinson dancing together. It also shows Kelly imitating the movement of sports stars from that era (1958).

Dancing is a great path to improved coordination, dexterity, balance, agility, and mobility–the very physical attributes so prized by Robinson, but also the ones usually neglected in most CrossFitters’ training. When I watch Rich Froning knock out snatch after snatch in a WOD, or Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet rep out pullups, I’m most impressed with how graceful their movements are, not just how strong they are. It’s that perfect confluence of strength and power and excellence of movement that makes them so good.

Focus on quality of movement–coordination, dexterity, balance, agility, mobility–might not have the short term recognizable progress that a back squat progression might, but it’s that very quality that is possessed by the absolute best in every sport or physical activity.

In the seminal Fitness in 100 Words, CrossFit founder Greg Glassman writes to “regularly learn and play new sports.” Perhaps he should have added to regularly learn and practice new dance styles.

New Week

Joe W looking good at the top of his pull

Joe W looking good at the top of his pull

It’s a new week. What are you going to do better this week? How are you going to improve? What’s your game plan?