CrossFit 101: Function, Fitness, Community

This post courtesy of guest expert
Josh Newton, MS, PES, CH-L1 Trainer
Manager, DMH CrossFit Enhance

CrossFit is an evidence-based fitness program. Meaningful statements about safety, efficacy and efficiency — the three most important and interdependent facets of any fitness program — can be supported only by measurable, observable, and repeatable facts, (i.e. data). The CrossFit methodology depends on full disclosure of methods, results and criticisms, and it has cultivated a strong online community to support these values. This open, collaborative charter allows coaches, athletes and trainers to be developers and evolvers of this program. CrossFit is factually driven, scientifically tested and collectively developed.
Crossfit classCrossFit employs a constantly varied approach to training and focuses on functional movements at maximum intensity. Intensity is essential for results – the more work you do in less time, the more intense the effort. And that’s what leads to dramatic gains in fitness. Thought some people are scared off merely by the word CrossFit, it doesn’t have to be a source of fear and trepidation. All movements can be scaled to each individual’s physical and psychological ability. Life is unpredictable, so real world fitness must be broad, both in terms of duration and type of effort.

The goal of CrossFit is to make you a fitter and healthier human being. The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad and inclusive fitness that prepared participants for anything life throws at them – expected or unexpected, unknown and unknowable. We want you to be well-prepared physically (and mentally) for every facet of life, from lifting a laundry basket from the ground to putting a box on the top shelf of the closet or even getting out of the car and everything in between.

The magic is in the movements. All of CrossFit’s workouts are based on functional movements. These are the core movements of life, found everywhere, and built naturally into our DNA. They move the largest loads the longest distances so they are ideal for maximizing intensity.

In CrossFit, trainers and trainees work together to cultivate an atmosphere of hard-work, dedication and encouragement. Finishing first or last in a workout does not matter. You will find your peers and coaches cheering and encouraging you to be better than yesterday. That is what we thrive on and what the CrossFit spirit is all about.

Weekly Health Roundup – May 12-16

We cover all the corners of health in this week’s Weekly Health Roundup!

Today is Going to be Awesome

Mental and emotional health is one corner of the overall health triangle that is often ignored or forgotten completely in our culture. In reality, it is an essential part of our total health and the way we see and experience the world. Mental/Emotional health, especially through positivity leads “to greater joy, fulfillment, and happiness (and just as important, help[s] eliminate or reduce negative thinking, which reduces unhappiness),” says Examiner’s Jimmy DeMesa. From reducing negative thoughts to promoting positive thoughts, he offers 10 simple tips to develop a “positive thinking” habit. Take one tip per week and watch your outlook change.

Attention tech nerds! This is the article for you. Natasha Baker of Reuters has investigated music apps for runners that track your pace and match the music to your step counts. “The app uses the device’s sensors to detect the runner’s steps per minute and then automatically adjusts the music’s beats per minute to match the step count,” writes Baker. Makers of apps like DjRun (Android), RockMyRun and TempoRun (iPhone) claim that this system not only increases motivation but also increase enjoyment of the sport, leading to better, more sustained exercise plans.

For transformational fitness this season, don’t be afraid to push yourself harder. You always have more in you than you think you do. “The truth is, you need to be constantly improving your fitness level, most trainers say. That means cranking up the speed, adding one more rep, and pushing past your comfort zone,” says FitSugar’s Leta Shy. Just be sure that while you’re pushing your body during some workouts, you strike a balance with moderate and easy workouts as well. Trainer Michelle Bridge says its best to “schedule six workouts per week, making sure that three of them are intense, two moderate, and one easy.” Your body will thank you.

What are the best words to hear when talking about cooking at home? CHEAP and HEALTHY. The Greatist has come to the meal rescue.  Each recipe in their list of 400+ Healthy Recipes (That Won’t Break the Bank), “requires eight of fewer ingredients and takes less than 20 minutes to prep.” They cover it all, heart breakfasts, nutrient-packed lunches and dinners, lighter snacks and sides, and even a few indulgent (and still healthy) sweet treats. Chefs, start your ovens!

Do you get intimidated by the pictures of human pretzels that are the yoga pros? Does the simple thought of clearing your mind of all thoughts to meditate send your mind reeling in every direction imaginable? These assumptions of what yoga is or “should be” deter many people from the practice. However, Greatist’s Taylor Wells says the most important part of yoga is to show up and breathe. “I believe that emotional, mental, and spiritual flexibility are virtuous and life-enhancing, and when it comes to yoga practice, paramount,” Wells says.  It’s about setting an intention and analyzing your reaction to changes. “Think of it as a journey, not a judgment of yourself,” Wells continues. He also offers 6 easy steps to let yoga practice saturate your life and improve your days.

The Powerlift Bench Press: A Safer and More Effective Lift

This post courtesy of guest expert
Zach Roberts, CPT CHWC
DMH Wellness Center

Anyone who has been in a standard gym on a Monday knows that your odds of snagging a bench press bench are only slightly better than that of winning the Powerball lottery.  Jokingly referred to as “International Bench Press Monday” in the strength and conditioning world, it’s become the standard for judging strength in gyms and locker rooms everywhere.  It’s beyond the scope of this post to discuss whether that’s entirely appropriate or not (Can I get an AMEN for squat and deadlift?), so instead we’ll take a look at form and technique.

A powerlifting style of bench press – utilizing leg drive, high arch from hips to upper back and shoulder rotation – can reduce the risk of injury and improve performance. Many bodybuilders and physique competitors have a distinct style of benching – less leg drive, flat on the bench, elbow and upper arm at a right angle to the body during the lift. This is designed to impart maximum stimulation to the pectoral muscles and promote muscular growth.

Fortunately for everybody involved, increasing an athlete’s efficiency by ensuring effective mechanics will result in a safer lift and improved power output. And here’s how.

1)      LEGS. Keeping your legs engaged, tight and grounded creates a stable platform and utilizes the added force that your legs provide. Ever seen somebody kicking their feet around while performing a heavy bench? That loss of tension and force from the legs is often the difference between a missed lift and a new PR.

2)      BACK and SHOULDERS. The purpose of a high arch in the back is to decrease bar path – the distance you have to move the bar, thereby reducing the amount of work necessary to perform the movement. As this arch also shifts the angle from a horizontal one to a slightly downward, it prompts external rotation at the shoulder that stabilizes the lift and reduces strain across the chest (picture trying to bend or break the bar).

3)      LATS and TRIS. In this technique, the lats and triceps become the primary movers – the lats lowering the weight as they stabilize the shoulders and the triceps driving the weight back up through extension at the elbow. Similarly, the shortest path to the top of the lift is a straight line up from the sternum. Rather than making a “C” shape with the bar as you lift, ideally the bar should touch the chest, then travel in straight line to the top of the lift. This keeps the lats engaged and decreasing any unnecessary movement or exertion.

So there you have it. Engage your legs, arch your back, rotate the shoulders, and lift straight up. This powerlifting style bench press reduces the risk of injury and improves performance in competitive strength sports. If you’re interested in learning more about technique for the bench press or any other lift, or if you’re ready for new approach to fitness and weight loss, please feel free to contact the DMH Wellness Center at 876-4249.

By Zach Roberts, CPT CHWC, DMH Wellness Center

Weekly Health Roundup: May 5-9

Ideas for Mother’s Day, tips for Summer Vacay, and advice for longevity in this week’s Health Roundup!

24 simple tips for fitter vacay

Photo Credit | Kissairis Munoz,

Summer Vacation Season is just around the corner, and usually vacation also means vacation from healthy foods and exercise…which doesn’t make you feel very refreshed when you get home. Thankfully, Kissairis Munoz of Greatist has come to the rescue. “The good news is feeling healthy during and post-vacay is totally possible,” she says. “Making just a few smart choices will keep you active and energized and help you get the most out of that vacay – and looking forward to the next one.” From snack advice to relaxation tips to exercise anywhere recommendations, 24 Simple Tips for a Fitter, Happier Vacation is a must-read before your trip.

Still struggling to find a last-minute gift for Mom this Sunday? Well, whether she’s a fitness guru or just starting out on her health and fitness journey, Leta She at FitSugar has compiled a great list of gift ideas for Mom in Give Mom a Little Health and Happiness: Our Mother’s Day Gift Guide. Get matching gifts for both of you and start on your fitness journey together! Challenge each other and keep one another accountable for a gift that lasts beyond just a one day holiday.

Almost everyone is aware that staying fit as a young adult  can prevent heart disease and other health problems later in life, but a new study published in Neuology, claims that young adult fitness may actually improve brain health later in life as well. In Gretchen Reynolds’s article, Early Fitness Can Improve the Middle-Age Brain, for the New York Times Well Blog, she says, “the more physically active you are at age 25, the better your thinking tends to be when you reach middle age.” There’s even more good news as well. Even if you are over 25 and haven’t had a moderate – rigorous exercise schedule, it’s not too late. You can start exercising now and still improve brain function. According to the doctors who conducted the study, the biggest lesson to learn is to stay active throughout your life.

Whether it’s Cinco de Mayo or any other day of the year, Mexican restaurants in Decatur are steadily packed with hungry crowds. Often however, the sugary margaritas and cheese-drenched burritos mean busting your diet (and your pants button) wide open. If you look closely though and make a couple simple requests, Mexican food can actually be healthy – chock full of veggies and protein. According to Greatist’s Nicole McDermott, “there are other items that can easily be altered to keep them from obliterating your diet.” Check out these simple alterations to dishes and drinks in the ultimate How to Navigate a Mexican Menu guide.

We’ve asked the question before: What is the secret to living forever? Well, who better to ask than the oldest man on Earth – 111 ¼-year-old, Alexander Imich. During his life, he’s travelled all over the world, studied the paranormal and even mastered the computer. Imich attributes much his longevity to healthy living, moderation, and good genes. Michael mannion and Trish Corbett – founders of the Mindshift Institute – “lay his survival to an ever-curious mind. Mr. Imich noted in an interview with them, “The compensation for dying is that I will learn all the things I was not able to learn here on Earth.” Read more about his journey in Ralph Blumenthal’s article An Ever-Curious Spirit, Unbeaten After 111 Years.

Weekly Health Roundup: April 28 – May 2

Stay on the track to healthy this weekend with our Weekly Health Roundup!

Greens and Ham
Photo: Nick / Macheesmo –

Cooking for one can be an exciting adventure and provide a delicious sense of accomplishment. “Not only can cooking for yourself provide some much-needed alone time, but a healthy home-cooked meal can help you feel energized for whatever life throws your way,” says Kissairis Munos of Greatist. And any headline with the words EASY, HEALTHY and IN MINUTES has to be good. Munos has gathered recipes for every meal including some recipe-free meals that let you bring out your creative cookie side.

“Few things drive an emergency room staff quite as nuts as a patient who has, yes, carefully considered her preferences, designated a health care decision-maker should she become incapacitated, and documented all that information in an advance directive — which is sitting in a locked safe deposit box or stashed in a bureau drawer at home.” Paula Span’s article for the New York Times The New Old Age blog introduces audiences to a series of apps that allow you to digitally store medical information and other documents that can be accessed by email or bluetooth in case of an emergency.

Total wellness is more than just eating right and exercising regularly. Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as loading up on veggies and perfecting your plank form. To retrain her brain,’s Jancee Dunn tried “an array of research-backed brain-sharpening techniques over one six-week period.” From playing brain games to mastering new skills to getting enough sleep, you can jump start your memory and keep your mind sharp with her techniques.

Life is demanding between work, family, and attempting to keep up a social life of some sort. In the midst of all that, where does fitness fit in? “Only by taking care of ourselves do we stand a chance of being the kind of person we strive to be on the job, at home with our loved ones, and in our communities. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy,” says Greatist’s Martin Bjergegaard. There are simple ways you can increase your activity and make it part of your daily routine.

  1. Work Out Efficiently.
  2. Cater to Your Own Likes and Dislikes.
  3. Use Competitions as Motivation.
  4. Make a Schedule and Commit to It.
  5. Track Your Activity Levels.
  6. Choose Something Over Nothing.

Set yourself up for success with this article.

What drives athletes to run 250 miles across a desert? To bike 3,000 miles across the USA? To compete in extreme triathlons through ocean, sand and hills? Mental toughness. As Sally Tamarkin says, “In fact, mental toughness (or ‘grit’) may be the defining factor between finishing at the front of the pack and not finishing at all.” Get inspired by five extreme athletes and their stories of training, competition and extreme grit.

Weekly Health Roundup: April 21 – 25

For a boost of healthy energy for your weekend, here is your Weekly Health Roundup!

When you start a new fitness routine, it’s tempting to push yourself too hard, looking for immediate results. You can be impatient with your body, but in the long run, that impatience can lead to injury, exhaustion and a lack of motivation. Experts recently told Reuters Health, take it slow as you get out there this season. Make sure your running form is safe and comfortable (check out the above video for beginner’s tips). Also, try these tips for transitioning from treadmill to pavement from FitSugar to keep you on the path to success. If you’re looking to set a goal, check out for races of all distances in Central Illinois.

The budding trees, the warm sunshine, the beautiful flowers…the sneezing, the tissues, the allergy meds. It is officially allergy season and almost everyone is feeling it. Don’t let the pollen and dust get you down. Treat your symptoms early to prevent a full-blown infection and try these tips to fight the itchy eyes and runny nose. As always, talk to your doctor to find the plan that best works for you. Now, get out there and bask in the Illinois Springtime!

Love it or leave it, quinoa is one of the trendiest kitchen essentials. But what exactly is it? Until last year, you’d be hard pressed to find an average consumer who could give you a straight answer. Since then, it’s been embraced by health nuts and made fun of by the likes of Bud Light. So the New York Times Well Blog took to the experts to give you 5 Things to Know About Quinoa. Some of the facts may surprise you. If you want to try it out, check out New York Times’s Recipes for Health: Great Grain Salads for inspiration.

Old, young, honeymoon phase, or Golden Anniversary, optimism may lead to happiness and health in relationships. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research indicates that your spouse’s optimistic outlook may be a key secret to a long-lasting relationship. “The results showed that people with an optimistic spouse had better physical mobility and fewer chronic illnesses…higher levels of relationship satisfaction and better team problem solving,” the author noted.

Weight loss efforts do not have to be confined to a 50-minute gut-busting exercise routine or skipping out on French toast for a breakfast smoothie. The writers at FitSugar have put together an outline of simple things you can do throughout your day to help you reach your goal weight. Try a little tip every hour to cultivate successful, healthy habits.


Weekly Health Roundup: April 14 – 18

To keep you updated on the latest and greatest in healthy lifestyle and medical news, we present the Healthy Central Illinois Weekly Roundup – a collection of articles, recipes and tips to keep you on your way the a healthier you!

Now that we’re finally seeing the sun, many avid and beginning exercisers are starting the great seasonal debate: Cardio inside or outside? Of course, there are major advocates on both sides of the line, but this article from the New York Times Well Blog may help sway people who are still on the fence…or in the doorway. By comparing 2 of the most popular forms of exercise, walking vs. elliptical training, Well aims to inform cardio beginners and pros on key aspects of similarity and difference from muscle activation to calorie burn.

Spring Cleaning the house may be on everyone’s to-do list (or honey-do list) now that spring has sprung, but what about Spring Cleaning your overall health? Maybe you’re preparing for a trip to the beach this summer. Or perhaps you need a little reminder of that New Year’s Resolution that you’ve already started breaking. Whatever the case, the writers at Pop Sugar have gathered a list of simple habits you can start today to make you feel healthier, physically and mentally.

Beans, lentils and peas usually get a bad rap. However, a new study shows that they contain more health benefits that may surprise you. Not only are legumes rich in protein, but eating just one serving a day may help eliminate LDL, or bad cholesterol, and lower your risk of heart disease. So, jump start your healthier diet with these legume recipes.

From the mid-morning hunger pangs to the 2:30 p.m. slump, sustaining energy throughout the workday can be difficult. Many people turn to candy, chips and energy drinks only to find they feel more terrible after eating them than before. Snacking is essential to boost brain power and productivity, but you have to snack right to get you through. Try these 10 health-conscious snacks at work to fuel your body with nutrition and combat unhealthy cravings.

While living forever may not currently be possible, there are dozens of ways to help you live longer. One 15-year Australian study further reinforces the suggestion that exercise can lengthen your life. Researchers found that those who exercised least had about twice the risk of heart disease as those who exercised moderately and six times the risk of those who exercised vigorously. This NYT article shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore other risk factors, of course, but increasing physical activity can be a key factoring in lowering your risk.

Whether you’re looking to conquer a new paleo recipe or just hoping to spice up taco night, NerdFitness has the perfect recipe to kick off your weekend. Noel Fernando’s Paleo Tacos are easy, flexible and even includes a recipe for homemade guac! They make it even easier with step-by-step pics and printable grocery list.

How Group Fitness Can Boost Motivation and Results

This post courtesy of guest expert
Elisabeth Lee
Fitness Supervisor, Decatur Indoor Sports Center

Group fitness classes are a great way to get in shape. For a beginner, classes offer structure; for a novice, classes offer a break from routine. Regardless of your fitness expertise, classes offer motivation and fun while getting in shape.

group fitness









Don’t know what group fitness is? It is exactly what it sounds like – a variety of classes you take with a group of people led by a qualified instructor. Designed to teach you how to effectively work out, classes also offer another level of motivation and accountability.

Between Pilates, Zumba and Cycling, how do you choose which class to take? Negate your inhibition and pick a class that sounds like fun, something you can and will commit to. Classes are designed for all levels offering modifications for more advanced exercises and letting participants choose their own weights. Boot camp style classes are the most common using cardio, weights and core exercises to provide overall fitness while pushing participants to achieve a higher level of fitness. Specialty classes are offered for those looking for something more specific, whether that’s more cardio, more weights or more fun.

From a teacher and participant perspective, I can honestly say that I enjoy all types of group fitness classes, because I enjoy working out in a variety of ways. It may have to do with my attention span and wanting to meet new people, but it also has to do with a desire to be well rounded in fitness and find what works best for my body.

You are an individual. Your body is not like anyone else’s. Because your sibling advocates one class and your coworker another, doesn’t mean that one of them is wrong. That is why there are so many classes – people have different interests and abilities. And these classes are not just for the ladies, they are for you too, gentlemen!

Not convinced that group fitness is for you? Find a friend to join too, try different classes before committing to a specific one, or talk to the teacher.

Most, if not all, gyms offer group fitness classes. Check your local gym for a schedule and rates. The Decatur Indoor Sports Center offers everything from Body Sculpting and Boot Camp to Cycling and Yoga. Classes are 30-60 minutes morning, noon, and night. Find a class that motivates you – you will be surprised at how much fun you have!

A Case for Exercise: Controlling Diabetes by Getting Active

This post courtesy of guest experts
Marie Stauder, RN and Shannel Jones, RD
DMH Wellness Center

Having difficulty controlling your blood sugar? Feeling stressed out? Energy low? Exercise can help improve all of these things and more!

  • Here are some tips for how to make exercising with diabetes more successful:
  • Check with your doctor to make sure you have no physical restrictions prior to exercising.
  • Check your blood sugar before, during, and after exercise to have an idea of how that exercise can affect your blood sugar.
  • You may need a carb- or protein-packed snack before you exercise, especially if you have skipped a meal or snack.
  • Avoid exercise when fasting blood sugar is above 250 mg/dl, or, below 70 mg/dl. For those with Type 1 Diabetes, check for ketones when blood sugar is over 250. If negative for ketones, exercise with caution. If ketones are present, notify Dr. immediately.
  • Wear diabetes identification, and inform someone about potential low and high blood sugar levels.
  • Carry a simple form of sugar in case of low blood sugars: Like 3-4 glucose tablets, a hard candy, 1/2 cup of juice
  • Keep hydrated, drink plenty non-caffeinated, sugar-free fluids.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks.
  • Warm up and stretch before exercise, and cool down when you’re finished exercising.
  • Know what your abilities, and start out slow. Any activity is better than none.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. Have fun!

How can Exercise help you to control your Diabetes?

  • Reduces stress
  • Increases energy
  • Increases strength
  • Improves blood fats
  • Improves mood
  • Improves blood sugar control
  • Improves blood pressure
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Lowers HgbA1c (three month blood sugar average) at least 1 % point

Get Started:

  • Start out small and increase length of time and difficulty gradually.
  • Be active for at least 30 minutes, at least 5 days a week.
  • People with Type 2 diabetes should add strength training to their activity plan 3 times a week. Talk with your Diabetes care team to find out what kind of strength training is best for you.
  • Have a Plan B to accommodate weather, illness, travels and other circumstances that life throws at you.

Ideas and Inspiration:

  • Grab a grocery cart and go up and down all of the aisles of large store centers rather than just the isles that you need something from.
  • Wear a pedometer.
    • Moderately active lifestyle: 5,000-7,500 steps/day.
    • Active lifestyle: 10,000-12,500 steps/day.
    • Walk your dog, or offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.
    • Park farther away in store parking lots.
    • At work: Walk to a restroom, water fountain, or copy machine on a different floor.
    • Explore DMH Cardiac Rehabilitation’s Phase 3 exercise program (if you have physical limitation and do not have or use an “exercise membership”), by calling 876-2496.

Sample Goals:

  • I will stay on my feet for the first 10 to 15 minutes after meals, around the house and at work, to improve my after-meal glucose levels.
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will walk my dog to the park and back, approximately a 15 minute walk each way.
  • I will increase my exercise after I get my doctor’s approval. I should safely increase my exercise to a goal of 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • I will investigate fitness apps on my smart phone.
5 Ways to Fight the Seasonal Slump



In a winter wonderland like Central Illinois, the cold weather can seem endless – with surprise ice storms this week andstraight back to freezing temps next week. Even into March, the snow just keeps falling and the wind just keeps howling. Have you noticed, especially in this particularly brutal-polar-vortex-negative-temperature-snowpocalypse winter we’re having, that you don’t feel quite like yourself?

Well, first, know that you are not alone. Feeling down in the dumps during the colder months is completely normal because of shifts in your brain chemistry and circadian rhythm – your internal clock. Because we naturally become less energetic in the winter, we have to make a more concerted effort to combat lethargy and live it up in the beautiful scenery that a brisk Central Illinois winter provides (or at least make it through to the summer). So, combat crankiness, defeat depression and fight the funk with these tips and tricks.

1. Keep exercising (even outside!). Most everyone knows that exercising increases the endorphin release in your brain, but staying on the exercise wagon can have added benefits too. Getting some fresh air on a long walk outside (just make sure you’re properly bundled!) can make you feel refreshed, and the extra dose of vitamin D can have some serious positive power. Or if you prefer to stay inside, try joining a group class at the gym. It can be a great way to stay accountable for getting fit in the cold.

2. Make your house a warm and healthy haven. Because you typically spend more time inside in the winter, it’s even more important to have a clean and soothing environment (check out tips 5-11 here). Keep the air fresh with indoor greens or air purifiers. Or snuggle in with the comforting scents of lavender or vanilla with candles, essential oils, and homemade room remedies.

3. Eat your way to a better mood. Eat smart this winter by choosing foods that make you feel better – mind, body and soul. There are specific nutrients proven to boost your mood. From a dose of calcium in kale or a delicious yogurt smoothie to folate and iron found in the superfood, avocados, you can eat more of your favorite foods, discover new favorites, try some adventurous recipes and feel better doing it.

4. Stay social. Reaching out to friends and making new ones is a powerful way to prevent the seasonal slump. Indulge in a girls’ night or escape the winter weather altogether with a weekend getaway. Even just grabbing lunch and catching up with an old friend can keep you feeling warm and fuzzy no matter what the temperature. Share the positive energy!

5. Make a list. The Art of Simple had it right with their suggestion to make a Feel Good Menu (tip 20). Make a checklist of all the little things that make you happy and peaceful. These can include staying in and watching your favorite movie, making a classic hot toddy, or enjoying all the wintery season has to offer – sledding, skiing or just sitting on the porch and watching the snow.

What’s in your plan to keep yourself lighthearted and spirited through the winter?