Risk vs Reward: Why Things are Different Here!

At MJCF we refer to the concept of risk vs reward often, and nowhere is it more apparent than in movement selection.
At a later date we’ll deal in depth with WHY CrossFit biases towards some movements and avoids others, but for brevity’s sake we’ll focus here on which movement’s have the worst risk vs reward ratios, what to do instead of them, and how to minimize the risk IF you decide to take them on.
“Don’t break your neck”–Inversions. (handstand pushups, handstand holds, wall walk ups) 
Inversions are a personal pet peeve.  It takes an awful lot of philosophical hoop-jumping to say inversions are remotely “functional”.   The best thing I can say for them is that they are about the only tool available to drive shoulder strength without equipment.  MJCF will program them on occasion, BUT we’ll never encourage anyone to throw themselves from their feet to their hands and expose the cervical vertebrae to an uncontrolled impact.
What to do instead?–  Overhead presses.  My very first choice would be standing overhead press with dumbells.  MOST of the reward,  NONE of the risk.
How to do them safely if you must?–  PLEASE!  Pad the landing surface.  An ab mat or two is great and most CrossFit’s have them.  At MJCF we have 1″ hi density foam strips that have great grip and great cushioning.  Make sure your chin is neutral and your not lifting your chin away from or lowering your chin into your chest.   Lastly,  regardless of the workout specs, if you start to descend hard and “Bonk” your head on any given rep,  it’s time to take a short break before continuing.
“Don’t tear your hands”–  (Kipping pullups, toes to bar) 
While you see tears on some barbell stuff and some kettlbell actions, the really nasty rips usually come from the kipping pullups and toes to bar.
What to do instead?  Strict pullups instead of kipping solves this problem 99% of the time.  Rotation not load is the issue, and your strict pullup has minimal spin affecting the grip.   Ab straps or Hanging knee Raise instead of toes to bar.  HERE especially, I am quick to recommend scaling.  The Pullup has some functional value.  Toes to bar has almost none.  A good test of scapular strength and control to be sure, but I am hard pressed to remember a time life demanded I put my feet on the surface I happened to be hanging from.   The ab straps we’ve got at MJCF start to build the necessary strength in the scapulae and shoulder capsule, and take any concerns about hand abrasions completely out of it.  Hanging knee raise DOES have a grip component, but much less swinging and therefore much less shear on the hands.
How to do them safely if you must?  Here is a helpful link to a decent article about preventing rips.  Meanwhile, here’s two essential tips 1) Grip tight!  Tears come from the pullup bar spinning within your grip.  You want to minimize this spin with a secure and aggressive clamp. During the kip, your wrist angle will change, but your palm should remain fairly still.  2) Calluses are not your friend.  You want your hands tough but flat.  A raised callus gets trapped as the bar rotates within your grip and shears off, taking good skin with it.
“Don’t Ruin your Shoulders”– (Ring Dips, Heavy Snatching, Kipping pullups/Toes to Bar)
The shoulder is uniquely complex, easily injured and slow to heal.  Even versus knees and back,  we tread softly around the shoulder.  Here are the most shoulder troubling CrossFit movements in my opinion.
Ring Dips-  Elbow behind the spine, shoulder loaded, mounted on two very unstable rings is a bleak scenario.
Snatching (heavy)-  We’re taking a weight we lift ballistically with the legs, and asking  a fully extended shoulder to decelerate it in a safe and controlled manner.  That’s a tall task.
Kipping while hanging-  We are hyperextending the shoulder (elbow behind the ear) while bearing ALL our bodyweight, then applying torque (force in multiple directions)  usually over and over again with a brief release every repetition that further complicates staying in goo mechanical position.
What to do instead? —
Ring dips:  Do your dips on a bar.  Even then, moderate your load and stop the set as soon as your control on the descent begins to waiver.
Heavy Snatching:  Don’t.  Snatch light/medium.  The snatch is a GREAT driver of gross motor skills, coordination, speed, power and accuracy.  But 90 % of the benefit remains at medium loads.
Kipping While Hanging-– Sub the strict versions or use our abstraps.  See above.
And lastly….
“Don’t Split your Shins”– (Box jumps):
Reward vs Risk… What is the reward of jumping vs. stepping up? Small increase in work capacity and a bit more athletic demand. Risk? Nasty scars for life, stitches, and leaving chunks of your shin on the box.
What to do instead? Step up and don’t jump or use a padded box.
How to do them safely? 90% of you should step up on the box instead of jumping. If you’re in the other 10% and want the added athletic demands of jumping, MJCF has 7 padded boxes for your shin’s safety.  As always, feel free to ask your coach for the best option for you and your goals! No one wants to end up in the emergency room because of a misguided CrossFit workout. You can trust MJCF to steer you right and provide you with safe equipment!

Diet Contest Details and Procedures

Hello MJCF Members-

Holy Shi…Smokes!!!  It’s almost 2018.
We are wrapping up the year with a special offer!  For the month of December, our Foundations Sessions are reduced from $150 to $99, and please: tell interested friends and family to act now so that they can participate in our 2018 Diet Contest.  
The Diet Contest is a great way to put the holidays behind you and refocus your fitness efforts for the upcoming year.  We’ve selected the 6 weeks just after the holidays as a great time to retool.  Celebrations are behind you and there’s very little in the way of “Big Social Events” in that timeframe; really, just the Valentine’s and the Super Bowl.
The Diet Contest works as follows:  On Saturday , 1-6-18 we’ll start things off with a short nutrition presentation.  We’ll examine the three eating plans that permeate the CrossFit Community (PALEO, ZONE and MACRO’S) and answer questions,  Then the contest starts.
Following a format we’ve used in year’s past it goes like this

Start- Saturday, Jan 6st  10am-1 pm.  Short eating discussion will start at 10 discuss, give out some links and resources that’ll provide further detail, and field questions.  Thereafter we will Weigh you, Measure, get Bodyfat Numbers and take pictures.

End of Contest- Saturday February 17th.  10 am – 12 noon.  Weigh, Measure, Pinch and after pictures.

Awards Ceremony- Saturday February 24th. Approx 8pm. Location TBD

Cost– $25.  This money is pooled and, minus contest expenses, all of it is distributed evenly among the two winners.

Rules- Only two…

1) You MUST get weighed/measured/BF % pinched and photographed on or after the Start date and on or before the end date.

2 )To win the contest and therefore the money, you must be present at the awards ceremony!


We will take bodyweight, circumference measurements at the waist, arm and leg, and 3 site skinfold bodyfat measurements on all contestants.  We will take 3 Photos of each contestant. Front, Back, and 1 Athletes choice posed.   6 weeks later, we will repeat all of the above.  Then, in the week between the close of contest and the voting we will develop the pictures and place them in a photo album that will be present at the awards ceremony.  All contestants who have completed the contest can then vote on 1 female and 1 male contestant to win.  The most first place votes wins the contest.  Your bodyweights, measurements, and fat % are not released to the other contestants and are not a factor in the voting process.  The photos are the only relevant information.  This is done in order to allow the relatively fit to participate and still win.

Differences from Years Past

There is no demand to log your food.  We will establish an online platform and happily assist and advise anyone who wants our input, but there is no mandatory minimum log requirements.

Pictures will be taken in what we euphemistically refer to as our “storeroom”.  This will provide a greater degree of privacy than prior contests have had.

Frequently asked questions

Can I do the contest but not pay, if I don’t care about winning?

No, this is CrossFit and winning matters, but even if you dont care, the fee remains.  Plus we need your money for party supplies, and by party supplies I mean beer and wine.

I dont want to get my pictures taken, can I still do the contest?

No. But we will keep them out of any public domain (like the photo album and/or off the website) if you ask.

I’m bashful, Puritantical, or leprous.  I don’t want to wear clothes that show my body.  Can I still do the contest?

Yes.  Wear whatever you want, but a) the more you cover the less obvious the change and b) wear the same thing.  2 different sweaters disguise change more than wearing the same sweater.

I cant make the Saturday photo times, can you take my picture on some other day.

Yes, we’ll have at least 1 alternate day, BUT even a few days of a late start is somewhat of a disadvantage, the contest is quite short already.

Can my spouse/friend/parole officer participate?

Yes. Provided they get before and after photos and attend the Awards Ceremony.

I hate parties, why do I have to go to win?

Ummmm….You may hate NORMAL parties, but this is a MJCF party, where handstands, human pyramids and feats of strength abound.   You will enjoy yourself and your alcohol tolerance will be so low it’ll be like 8th grade all over again.

It’s worth noting.  This Contest can be approached from a number of different vantage points.  Some people use it as a gentle kickstart to a long term, sustainable eating plan, lifestyle change etc etc,  and some people are in it for the money and get their teeth whitened,  go tanning, and spend the last 36 hours of the contest shedding water with diuretics and a sauna suit. Both approaches are OK by us. You are adults and we’re not here to judge.  Like the VAST majority of the fitness industry, we aren’t is credentialed in any sort of nutrition science. I’m of the strong opinion that in this day and age with the nutrition information readily available from VERY esteemed sources, you shouldn’t be paying anyone for nutrition advice unless they have a PhD after their name.

You are all strongly encouraged to participate.  We keep it short and we hold it at new year’s every year on purpose.  The Holiday’s have come and gone, and people are galvanized by a fresh start and new beginnings.   An athlete who is thorough and committed to both diet and exercise frequency can make DRAMATIC visible change in 6 weeks.  That said,  if you arent fired up to participate, you will not become so as the contest proceeds.  If your life is in disarray, if you’d rather wait until warm weather spurs you to action, if you just “need to work at your own pace” then you will probably drop out, be non compliant and fail to make changes.

We urge you to take this seriously.  Realize that there IS indeed some sacrifice and discomfort in your future.   Bear down and stick to it.  You can always go back being the way you were, but you’ll get some good pictures out of it.

Good luck, athletes!

Strength Cycle Overview

Starting Monday November 6 we will kick off an 8 Week Strength program.  While there are 10 Attributes that go into CrossFit’s definition of fitness, strength likely has the greatest spillover benefit and as such is worth developing.   A number of factor’s influence the program’s design:

Safety:  MOST IMPORTANTLY, the program as structured should minimize (unfortunately not eliminate) your risk of injury, but to that end it’d be really helpful if your read this brief outline.

Simplicity:  In both execution and in record keeping, this program is extremely simple.

Efficacy:  The scheme is commonplace, has been around for quite some time, and almost always results in an 7-15% jump in measurable strength.  If you are new to lifting weights you can expect a figure in the double digits.  If you’re more experienced you’re aiming for 7-8% gains.

Appropriateness:  Strength IS important, but we aren’t abandoning the goal of being “A minus” at everything having to do with human movement.  It’s still CrossFit, thus we still have scheduled work capacity and skill development periods.

We start this week and conclude in the last week of December, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  Immediately thereafter, we start our 6 week MJCF Diet Contest on 1/1/18 and the workout focus will change dramatically to longer, more rigorous work periods.  A solid foundation of strength will set the table nicely for the work capacity tests in Jan/Feb.

Here’s how it all works.



Monday-Shoulder Press.

Tuesday- Deadlift or Sumo Deadlift

Wednesday- Pullup

Thursday- Bench Press

Friday- Back Or Front Squat


You will test in by determining your 5 rep max in all of the above lifts.  It’s important to note that the Upper Body Lifts (Shoulder Press, Pullup, Bench Press)can be safely pushed to failure but the Lower Body lifts (any of the Squats/Deadlifts) are of greater concern.  Thus, your test-in here would be limited slightly.  Ideally you are finishing the set under great duress, BUT WITH FORM UNCOMPROMISED!  If you get the fifth rep of a test-in set, and have serious doubts about your ability to get a sixth rep that maintains good form, for safety’s sake, thats just about perfect intensity.

Think about the results of a missed shoulder press or pullup….No big deal.  Same with the bench press (with an appropriate spotter, of course).  But a missed back squat has some inherent danger to it, a deadlift where the spine, even briefly, leaves good positioning can injure quickly and unexpectedly.  Consistent with our ethos of weighing risk vs reward AND preserving you for the long haul, we want to tread very softly when it comes to max effort squats and deadlifts.

Mitigating risk is also why we are testing a 5 rep max as opposed to a 1 rep.  If you are in over your head on a set of 5 chances are you recognize such on rep 3 or 4 and (hopefully) have the good sense to stop, or perhaps a coach spots your form degrading and stops you.   With 1 rep maxes, there’s no early warning and correcting an error in technique mid rep is that much harder because the loads are x amount heavier

Thereafter you will, on the corresponding day of the week, do 1 light warmup set of 10 reps,  a medium warmup set of 6 reps and then 2 working sets of 5 reps each.  The 5th and final set you will take to either full fatigue (upper body) or to a point where you have doubts about your ability to safely get 1 more (squats/deadlifts).  The last set will determine next week’s loading.  If you get 5 reps you’d go up in weight likely by 5% or so.  If you got 6-7 reps, you’d go up more and 8 or more you’re weight jump would increase etc.  It is therefore essential that you get on SugarWOD and record your scores.  No more putting it off.  You are paying for more than “stroll in, do what’s put in front of you,  stroll out, think/hope you’re getting better/stronger/fitter”.  Please take advantage of the tools at your disposal.  Your fitness will improve at a faster rate and to a higher level.

After finishing your primary lifts  (15 minutes) You’ll perform 1 accessory lift,  whose purpose is solely to drive progress in the primary lift.   these accessory lifts will change week to week, providing a little mental variety and changing stimulus. Early on this accessory movement will have a tempo control, meaning that the athlete is meant to take a certain amount of time in each phase of the lift.  For example,  a tempo designated 2-2-x-1 would mean translate to 2 seconds on the descent, 2 second pause at the bottom, Up as fast as possible and 1 second at the top.  The goal of the accessory work is muscle fatigue, and all 3 sets are meant to be a significant challenge.

Lastly, we will have a work capacity period most days.  This will “feel like CrossFit” although most days will trend a little short.  Expect hard, fast 2 and 3 element workouts in the 8-12 minute range.

Your coaches will fill in the details.  Meanwhile, get up to speed on SugarWOD asap, eat clean, get some sleep and get ready to get stronger.

We’re excited!!!

Southern Tour Ultra Relay Info

Hello All-

We’ve been very excited about the response to the Southern Tour Ultra Relay.  As such we’re adding a 3x week program onto sugarwod that will serve as specific run prep for those of you that want to make training for this event a priority (and of course, if you’re just jumping on board for the fun of it, and not interested in specialized training, no problem).
Nick M. has been doing a fair amount of run training as he plans to run 50K solo, and has done a decent amount of distance work in his pre-CrossFit military life.  He was kind enough to set up and share his program.
This program depends on accurately  judging your running intensity at any given time.  This is referred to as your Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) .  There are tons of RPE interpretations, but we’ve developed one all our own!!  Here’s a CrossFit Specific RPE Gauge.
1- I’m awake but not even moving.
2- I’m walking slowly, with my toddler or elderly relative.
3- I’m moving with focus and determination, but this is not hard.
4- I am aware of the beginnings of distress.
5- This reminds me of my old health club days in BodyAttack or on the eliptical.
6- I am distressed and questioning my life choices.  I want this to end sooner vs later.
7- This is Bullsh*t. I hate wallballs.  This is the first of 3 rounds?!?! I should’ve scaled more.
8- I am in extreme discomfort. But  I CAN sustain my pace for a short while longer.  I appear very distressed to any and all observers.  I hate CrossFit.
9- I must stop immediately and lie down on the floor for a short while.  I am not sure what 2+2 equals.  After I recover I could continue if I must.
10- All of 9, plus nausea and flashing lights, real or imagined.  I am done for the day.  I cannot continue.  I may never come back.
Nick Has suggested and EVEN simpler RPE based on how long you can speak.
9/10- Single word-“Shit/FML/Help”
7/8 – 5-7 word sentence 
6/7 – 2-3 sentence abilty
5/6 – Moderate conversation 
4  – Ability to run and drink beer at the same time
There are 3 workouts each week(On SugarWOD they are penciled in for Wed, Fri and Sunday), each has a different focus.
Day 1 – VO2 Max day.  Here your intensities are highest.  For simplicities sake you have two options:  1) do the Wednesday CrossFit Workout.  It is most often a short burst, high intensity interval scheme that will dovetail beautifully with your running, and quite possibly give your legs a break while still challenging your lungs.  2) Keep the work/rest ratio’s from the CrossFit wod, but run instead of the action we’re doing.  So if we are rowing for 2 minutes, then resting for 4 minutes x 5 rounds,  you could run for 2 and rest for 4, if that suits you better. Your RPE’s at the end of each interval should be solid 9’s.  PAINFUL and unsustainable.
Day 2- Lactate Threshold Training.  Here you will operate for longer periods at medium-high intensities.  You will accumulate a given amount of total mileage, within which will be a progressivley increasing dose of harder work.  For example, the first week’s lactate day looks like this:  1/2 mile Warmup RPE 3/4.  1/2 Mile Tempo/Lactate pace RPE 7 maybe 8 at the end.  Uncomfortable but sustainaable.  1/2 Mile Recovery RPE 3/4 1/2 Mile Tempo/Lactate pace RPE 7 maybe 8 at the end. 1 Mile Recovery RPE 3/4 maybe up to a 5 at the end again.  TOTAL MILEAGE:  3. the following week, the total mileage stays the same, but there’s 1 more tempo run thrown in.
Day 3- Long Slow DIstance.  The name of the game on LSD day is Mileage and volume.  Set a pace you can sustain and don’t stop.  RPE remains a constant 5.
DAY 3 LSD will be a group run with a announced venue and start time, if you like running with a group.  The other 2 days will be as you see fit.
I’m looking forward to seeing your progress over the next 9 or 10 weeks.  Please grab an instructor for further info.
Happy Trails!

Newbie Tips and Tricks

Hello All!  Welcome to MJCF!

It’s been great to see all the new faces tracking through our FOUNDATIONS program. Congrats on seeing that through and Welcome Aboard!  We hope you come to enjoy this type of fitness system as much as we do, and to that end, here’s some things worth mentioning that we feel will help you adapt and acclimatize sooner rather than later.
After seeing many examples of  “too much too soon”, over the years,  we really stress doing less, not more for as long as it takes to know how you’ll react to a given workout.
 “OOh, I really feel my biceps, abs, butt etc” is a normal and appropriate reaction to starting CrossFit.  “I fell down the stairs accidentally, but I’m OK with that because that was less painful than walking down them!”  is not appropriate and unfortunately all too common.  A very good rule of thumb is –
ANYTIME IN YOUR FIRST MONTH OF CROSSFIT, IF IN DOUBT ABOUT PUSHING HARDER OR BACKING OFF, OPT FOR THE LATTER AND SEE HOW YOU FEEL THE NEXT DAY.   We do A LOT of risk/reward considerations when we put workouts together, but at best it’s more art than science.  There are SO many variables from day to day and person to person that hitting the sweet spot where progress occurs but soreness remains mangaeable is impossible to achieve for every person in every workout.  It’s your gym and your body!  Be patient and opt for less in that first month.
Here are some purposeful steps you can take to reduce soreness:
1) Post Workout Foam Roll.  While you most likely just want to lay on the ground for ten minutes, then go about your day, you will offset a lot of the soreness heading your way if you spend 5-7 minutes rolling out the at risk muscles.  Basic foam roll video is HERE:
2) Stretch.  Hand in hand with foam rolling, stretching speeds all the recovery processes and post workout is a great time to stretch well, as your muscle temperature is likely up.
3) Supplements.  See below
4) Hydration.  Nothing Fancy but if you’re low on water, everything just takes that much longer to work and process.
Man, this is a big one, but for right now, it need not be super complex.
Here are some REALLY BROAD strokes that aren’t a bad place to start, if eating to perform is unfamiliar to you.
A very simple maxim is “Eat whole foods, not too much, mostly plants”.  Too much in this case, is beyond hunger.
Here’s another one sentence guideline that works for MOST people:  “Every 4 hours eat a protein source as big as the palm of your hand, a plant/vegetable source as big or 2x as big, a fat source half as big.”
Specific to Protein:  Most people would benefit from eating more than they currently do (Again, BIG BROAD GENERALIZATIONS here).  A good rule of thumb is 1.0 grams per day per lean body mass.  This requires knowing your Bodyfat Percentage.  If you don;t know your bodyfat percentage we can help you find it out ( we need to schedule that, but there’s no fee!) in the meanwhile eat .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.  So if you are 140lbs  140x .8 = 112 grams of protein per day.
Most people starting off CrossFit find there appetite goes UP to some degree, due to the increased energy they are putting out.
Supplements.  Do I need them.  Definitely not, BUT there are some we recommend because the science is pretty strong (although NOT absolute by any means). Supplements may reduce your soreness and assist your fitness efforts.
Here’s the ones we like for a beginner:
Branched Chain Amino Acids-  (BCAA’s) These kind of serve as protein amplifiers, and the net effect is often (not always) a marked reduction in soreness.  We recommend the 1)Least Expensive 2)Flavorless 3) Powder BCAA’s you can find.  The manufacturing process is very simple and you do not need a premium brand.  Anything with a flavor additive usually drives up the cost considerably.  You could achieve the same end with the addition of your own flavor agent (like a MIO shot or Crystal Lite etc).  Lastly, we like powders over pills becuase the dosing is somehwat high.  Start with 5 grams and see if there’s any stomach upset (usually there is not) and if not work up to 10 grams post workout.  This would be a total of 10 pills!!  We prefer two 5 gram scoops in some sort of flavored water.
Protein/Recovery Shakes–   There are hundreds of types of recovery shakes out there and all of them will claim to have “special proprietary technology” or some other similar verbage.  We think the convenience and concentrated nutrition of a well manufactured shake can be advantageous given the demands of modern life.  We have been impressed by the efficacy (and the flavor) of a brand called Progenex and we hope to stock them soon. But we recognize that Progenex is on the high end of the market price point, so if you find a less expensive shake that is doing you good, please let us know about it.
Despite selling a shake and not selling BCAA’s, if you only get one recovery agent get the BCAA’s.  Bang for your buck, they are more valuable.
Fish Oil–  Here you DO want a premium brand.  WalMart FishOil wont cut it.  Regrettably, this is an expensive item, but the anti inflammatory effect are often substantial.
If one area has changed since we first discovered CrossFit Methodology it’s gear.  Here’s the essentials.
SHOES:  You want FLAT shoes, often called “Minimal” shoes.  In industry parlance, you want shoes with a small or zero “drop”.  That means the heel height is close to or equal to the forefoot.  Most Running shoes have a marked “drop”,  the heel is substantially higher than the forefoot.  Whether that’s good for running is debateable but it’s definitely a disadvantage for most of what we do in CrossFit.  That sloping drop encourages forward migration of the shin and “living in your toes/balls of your feet”.   Do you need to run right out and buy flat shoes?  No, BUT make the next pair you buy a “flat” shoe.  Here are links to REEBOKS,  NIKE’S and NEW BALANCE Functional Fitness Shoes.
What about Olympic Lifting Shoes?  Don’t bother just yet.
JUMP ROPE:  We have tons at the gym, but if you are motivated to work the “Double Under” on your own, you may want to pick up your own and get the length exactly to where it suits you and only you best.  If so,  you want waht would commonly be called a “Speed Rope”.  Don’t get anything leather or cloth.  Speed ropes will have some sort of coated cable.  Make sure the length of the rope is adjustable!  Expect to spend 12 to 25 dollars.  More than that is more than you need at this stage.  HERE is a link to amazon’s page SPEED ROPES FOR CROSSFIT.
That’s it!  See you out there!