10 Must Haves for New CrossFitters

It’s been only eight months since stepping into my first CrossFit gym, but I’m at the point of where I have my gear bag pretty dialed and ready for any WOD that comes my way.

I wanted to share 10 things that have been vital to my success in the gym.

10. High Quality Workout Clothes


This may sound like common sense, but if you’re dedicating three, four, or even five days a week to working out- you’re going to want clothes that can take a beating. Try investing in clothing that are well made. Look at the materials, stitching quality, and read reviews.

My wardrobe is made up of pieces that came in at various price points. You don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars at high end places like Schmu Schmu Schlemon, but it doesn’t hurt to add some higher end pieces in the mix. I’ve collected some pretty inexpensive items from big box stores, but made sure to try the items on and inspect their quality before investing.

I wash my workout clothes every time I have worn them to the box. You’re spending a lot of time on equipment and flooring that other people have sweat on. It’s also not good for your skin to wear dirty, dead skin riddled clothing.

9. Shoes Meant for Weight Lifting and Cross Training


I started out training in running shoes at the box. They were fine for a beginner, as I wasn’t sure if I would stick to CrossFit, but as I started getting more dedicated I realized I was going to need better shoes for the type of movements we were doing. Running shoes are designed with a curved platform for the forward running motion and have a lot of cushion for the repetitive motion of your feet hitting the ground. Great for propelling you forward, but not so great for keeping you stable during a heavy deadlift.

CrossFit shoes were designed with flat, stable bases for lifting weight. They are made with light materials and often even some type of protection and grip on the sides/mid-soles for things like rope climbs. They also to tend to have good flexibility for agility training.

There are many wonderful options on the market. My recommendation is try on some different brands and purchase whichever feels the most comfortable on your feet. I have some personal preferences on what I look for in a shoe, but I’ll cover that in another post.

8. Grips for Hand Protection

JAW-Pullup-Grips-Royal-Blue
If you are new to weightlifting or doing gymnastic movements such as kipping pull-ups, you will be putting your hands through a lot of stress. It takes time to build up calluses that protect the hands from movement on the bar, so learning to lift and do gymnastics with grips is a good idea.

Your grip strength will improve and you are less likely to create friction and tears on your hands that can be painful.

There are a plethora of grips on the marketplace. Some of heavy duty textured leather, some are a sort of light neoprene. My personal favorites are made of a stretchy almost cut up Ace bandage material that holds chalk well.

It takes time to get used to grips, so it’s a good idea to slowly incorporate them into your workouts. I primarily broke mine in will doing barbell movements and then started using them for gymnastics such as working on the rings and pull ups.

7. A Hand Care Kit

the-natural-grip-handcare-kit-web1
Everyone tears a callus. I would say it’s sort of a right of passage when you become a CrossFitter. It’s something that all of us would like to avoid and if you can avoid it, that’s better than having a painful, open tear on your hands.

Kits can be purchased from a number of reputable CrossFit outfitters. Mine consists of a pumice stone, light hand lotion, some athletic tape, and a stick that can be rubbed on open tears to help heal as well as protect any open tears on my hands against infection.

When grips aren’t enough or if I get a tear, I use tape to cover things up and help try to keep the flap of skin in tact. I also plan on doing a post talking more about how to handle a tear, so stay tuned for that.

6. Knee Sleeves

Exo-Sleeves
A good investment if you love your joints. There’s lot of lower body work that is being done in the box. Squats, box jumps, wall balls, lunges, running, lifting, and everything in between.

Knee sleeves will help provide protection during those movements. They may not be necessary for all workouts and some people refuse to use them, but I personally think they are worth the investment to keep your knees healthy and happy.

5. Wrist Wraps

rogue-wrist-wraps-b_w-th1_4
In the same vein as knee sleeves, wrist wraps add a layer of support and protection during overhead movements. There are several different types on the market. Some offer more support than others, but they all serve the same purpose.

It may be a good idea to experiment with a couple of different styles and see what works best for your workouts.

4. Epsom Salt
Anytime you start a new fitness routine, you’re bound to have some aches and pains. Particularly if you are starting from square one and don’t have any base fitness. An Epsom salt bath or scrub down helps ease the pain of sore muscles.

There are many brands available and some offer aromatherapy or additional muscle soothers. Be sure to check if Epsom baths may have any health implications for you before adding it to your recovery routine.

3. Active Hydration/Recovery Aids

equipfoods
When putting your body through the ringer, it is important to stay hydrated. Your body loses not only water, but electrolytes that come out in the form of a salt like substance on your skin.

You may notice that your clothes or skin show a white crystal like residue. That’s a sign that you have exerted yourself and likely need to replenish.

I prefer to use active hydration with electrolyte tablets in my water. That way I know I’m not going to get the sort of workout hangover feeling when I have pushed myself hard. It also helps ensure that I won’t get painful muscle cramps.

Along with that is recovery aids. Some people will use both active hydration a recovery product to aid their body in building muscle and flushing out toxins. Research any companies you are interested in purchasing supplements or recovery aids from.

It may also be a good idea to work with a physician or nutrition expert before deciding to add supplements to your daily intake.

I often will chose what combination of items to use based off how I feel after a workout. I sometimes will use a protein shake with some probiotics as a meal replacement or as a go to between meals on a workout day.

Recovery aids are very personal to your body, so what may work for someone else may not be for you.

2. Mobility Tools

tpball
Recovery isn’t just done via supplements. Mobility tools such as foam rollers or pressure point balls help target muscles that are sore or have limited flexibility. Breaking up stiff muscle tissue promotes blood flow and keeps muscles, ligaments, and joints loose.

It’s important to do some research on how to properly utilize these tools, so as to not cause tissue damage. When used correctly, they can do a world of good and help your body feel better between workouts.

It’s not always like getting a deep tissue massage, I will admit it hurts often to use them. It’s still great to have them on hand though.

1. High Quality Jump-rope

Double Under Wonder make great starter jump-ropes that can be customized to your style and height!


Using the jump-ropes provided at your box isn’t the worst thing to have to do, but it’s nice to get a jump-rope tailored specifically to your level of skill and your height.

There are many a speed-rope on the market. I decided to go the custom route and purchase a rope that I could get at an exact length. Having messed around with adjustable ropes left me frustrated with setting the hardware. I also had to fuss with it to get the length just right and if you have too much excess rope or cut the rope too short, you are SOL.

There’s not a lot of opportunities to try different rope models unless you maybe go to an expo or an event like a CrossFit competition with vendors on site. I recommend doing some research online, reading reviews, and getting a feel for what type of rope suits your needs. You can graduate to an extremely high speed and high quality model once you have mastered the art of the double under. Usually you can find a decent quality rope in the $20-30 range to start.

That’s it for my list and I plan on elaborating on each of those items in future posts. I’ll discuss the products I have chosen, why, and do some reviews. It can often be confusing or difficult to know what exactly you need when you step into a CrossFit box, but hopefully this will help guide you.

Starting any new sport or activity is always in investment, but it’s an investment in yourself and your health. If you think about how many times in a year you use a particular item, you will often come to find it is literally pennies a day you are spending per use of that piece of gear.

Remember that cheapest is usually not going to be the best option, but buying the best of the best isn’t necessary either. Try to find items that fit your budget and will perform to your standards.

Thank you for reading if you like fitness and nutritional content please give a follow to @twowheelfitness on Instagram or if you’re more into the cycling and outdoorsy content and want to see what’s going on live please follow @spokehaven

Spoke Haven also has a budding YouTube channel that you can check out at YouTube.com/spokehaven with short videos, reviews, vlogs and more!

Disclosure: While I always encourage people to buy products locally and support small business. If you see something linked in an article, it’s because it’s something I’ve used myself and approve of. Purchasing from any of the embedded links helps maintain the website and keeps me producing regularly scheduled content.

Picking Up a Damn Barbell

IMG_2716
Practicing strict presses. Photo courtesy of CFBD

Never in my life would I have thought that I would call myself a…Cross Fitter. It sounds so pretentious and often when I talk to non-Cross Fitters about Cross Fit, I can see there eyes sort of glaze over.

I know, you’re probably either thinking I joined a fitness cult or you too are a Cross Fitter and will completely relate to what I’m about to say. Either way, I’m just glad you are here to read my ramblings.

I have my friend Mary to thank for getting me to, as my title states, pick up a damn barbell. Mary and her husband joined a Cross Fit gym (aka box) roughly two years ago. Actually, let me back up a bit. I met Mary through working in the cycling industry. We worked for the same company and our departments were literally right next to each other.

We got along almost instantaneously. We had similar taste is beer, music, dogs, food, and also had a love of cycling. Duh, why else would you work in the cycling industry, it’s not like you make millions doing that!

It was no surprise that she also tried to convince me that I would enjoy this Cross Fit thing. I was the person that made fun of Cross Fit. All the YouTube videos of people doing “pull ups” in the air looking like they are doing the worm- no thanks. I had also seen so many Cross Fit lift fail videos that it was easy to say I wanted nothing to do with it.

Fast forward to March of 2017. I had been at a new job for about five months. It was still winter, I was unhappy, and realized I had let myself go. The previous year had been rough. I had started it off thinking I was hitting a nice point in my career in the cycling industry (different place of employment from where Mary and I met), had just been awarded a scholarship through a major cycling company to attend United Bicycle Institute to hone my mechanical skills.

I then came back to then lose my job after being home for only two weeks or so after my training program. Luckily I was able to get a job at a new shop, but my self esteem and my finances had hit an all time low.

I had always struggled with depression, weight that yo-yo’d, getting in and out of shape, and frankly needed to do something about it.

Mary had convinced my partner to finally join the Cross Fit box. She had been putting it off as she had been the primary bread winner and to pay for two people to attend Cross Fit classes is fairly expensive. Once our finances stabilized, we did a two week On Ramp program. I had done personal training in the past, but had never done an Olympic style lift in my life. Deadlifts, OK, I got what those were. Jerks? Cleans? Presses? Split Jerks? Snatches? What? I had no freaking clue what I was doing.

I was glad to see that a woman was teaching the On Ramp. Not that if a guy had taught it, it would have made me change my mind, but there is a sort of bro stigma that comes with working out in general.

Samantha was the coach who was going to get us up to speed with what exactly Cross Fit was and how to properly and safely do the necessary movements. She introduced herself as the fiance to the box owner, Barrett. She also let us know that she did occupational therapy as her full time job. This help put my mind at ease. Clearly she wasn’t going to let us do things that would injury us, as it’s literally her job to help people prevent injury or address injuries they have sustained with movement.

I could not believe how sore and out of shape I was. “I’m a cyclist damnit! Why is this so hard?!” I kept thinking to myself and possibly saying out loud over and over again. While cycling was a great cardio activity, the fact that I often followed it with eating burritos and drinking after doing it was probably cancelling out the benefits of the activity.

IMG_2730
Getting instruction from coach Tyler. Photo courtesy of CFBD

After our two weeks, we decided that even though we were the most sore we had ever felt in our lives, Cross Fit would be something we could see doing on a regular basis.

I’m happy to say that eight months later, we are still at it! I personally average 3-4 classes a week depending on my work and school schedule. I’ve seen changes in my physical abilities and appearance. It’s been absolutely incredible and I continue to still really enjoy the challenge that Cross Fit provides me. I also attribute a lot of my success and dedication to the coaches and people who I attend classes with.

19959401_1430050593739835_8894471134360010009_n
Hitting a dead lift PR. Photo courtesy of CFBD

It’s a nice, tight knit community that is welcoming to new people. I plan on writing more about my experiences, specific goals, and personal achievements within Cross Fit, but I thought for starters I would just tell the story of how it was that I got into the sport.

Considering picking up a damn barbell? I’d say give it a try, you may surprise yourself!

Liv Cycling Ambassadorship

It’s halfway through the year. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!

So much amazing stuff has happened this year and it continues to be a whirlwind. Last fall I applied to be an ambassador for Liv Cycling and was chosen to be one of many women who will be representing the largest women’s cycling brand IN THE WORLD!

It’s an incredible honor and it’s been a wonderful experience up to this point. I look forward to telling you all about it.

For those of you who don’t know, Liv is the sister brand to Giant Bicycles. Liv was created in 2008 and was the brain child of Bonnie TU. TU is a petite and highly stylish woman whose idea for creating a women’s brand stemmed from her own experience while shopping for a bike and clothing for the Tour of Taiwan. The lack of bike sizes for smaller women and comfortable clothing inspired her to get Giant on board with creating products for the women’s market.

bonnietu
Bonnie TU of Liv Cycling

The very first products were co-branded with Giant’s name on them and were often shrunk down versions of some of the brand’s most popular men’s models. Giant eventually decided to go ALL IN on Liv being its own brand, wiping the slate clean and going back to the drawing board when it came to bike design, accessories, clothing, and more for women.

Liv brought in female engineers for designing the new bike models, they focused on graphics that were fun and bold, but didn’t scream “girly bike”. They dedicated countless hours to developing comfortable touch points on the bikes such as their women’s saddles. What came out of it was one hell of a line up of bikes for women to choose from.

Liv offers a full line up of kids, hybrid, city, road, cyclocross, and mountain bikes. Liv is the first women’s bike brand to launch a long travel, full suspension downhill bike which is the Hail model for 2017. An inspiring feat, as no other brand has dedicated themselves to creating such a magnificent offering to the women’s market.

The brand works closely with athletes such as Leigh Donovan, professional down hill rider and mountain bike coach, to develop their products to be best in class. They also utilize women like myself who are ambassadors of the brand, who work in the field and can give real world feedback from women we ride with to continue to improve the products coming to market.

Hail_suspension
Up close and personal with the Liv Hail

Okay, enough of the kool-aid talk. My journey as an ambassador first started in January with our first webinar to discuss the brand history and get familiar with our responsibilities.

Each brand ambassador is provided with gear from Liv including swag for events, clothing,  and other promotional materials. We submit an event calendar for the year and our goal is to simply get more women out riding.

After each event, we report back on how things went and provide feedback on what we hear from women at our events.

Liv also offers ambassadors an opportunity to attend an ambassador camp. This year there were two camps due to the sheer number of women who are a part of the program (somewhere around 125 women).  The first camp was in California near Newbury Park, the home of Giant’s USA headquarters. Attendees had road and mountain bike riding options, as well as workshops, yoga classes, and brand seminars.

17309973_10208078952163913_2907762421118114240_o
Getting crafty with Jen Audia at the Mulberry Gap barn

The second camp location was a mountain bike specific location at Mulberry Gap, a lovely family owned get-a-way in the Appalachian mountains near Elijay, GA.

I had opted to attend the second camp as I’m getting much more into mountain biking these days, I had never been to Georgia, and I really didn’t want to sit on a plane for 4 hours!

The flight to Atlanta is a little over two hours from Milwaukee, WI. There is really no comparison to having to fly into LAX, even though ATL is the busiest hub in the nation.

My time in Elijay reminded me quite a bit of when I went to bike school for two weeks in Ashland, only much less cramped!

I stayed in a large group cabin with five other women. We had probably 20-25 women total at our camp. We spent our days attending clinics, seminars, riding some of the best mountain bike trails in the country, and bonding over our love of cycling and the Liv brand.

17390451_10208099498397556_8032552047549437278_o
Post Pinhoti re-group at the bottom of the trail with my Pique 2

I met so many incredible women, who continue to inspire me through my journey as an ambassador. They come up with so many fun and unique ideas for inspiring the women in their communities to ride!

I also have to give a huge shout out to Jen, Dorothy, Stephanie, and Liz from Liv for creating such an awesome experience for us.

17757602_10208171121028077_6202048716748984394_n.jpg
How We Liv @ Mulberry Gap Ambassador Camp 2017

Kate and her family at Mulberry Gap are also some amazing people. I can’t wait to return there for more adventuring in the future. Their hospitality is unmatched and the riding is challenging, but incredibly fun!

Liv ambassadors are offered some great purchasing opportunities for bikes. We are encouraged to get the latest and greatest, so we can speak to the quality of the bikes.

I personally decided to purchase not one, but TWO new Liv bikes. Fitchburg Cycles is the shop I work through as an ambassador, as they are a Liv dealer. Through the shop I landed on the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1. A full carbon road bike with tubeless setup carbon wheels and Shimano Ultegra components.

15267863_10207194975785056_6082537181789590178_n
My beloved Avail Advanced Pro 1

When I discovered that Mulberry Gap would be an option for attending Liv’s annual ambassador camp, I also jumped at the chance to order the Liv Pique 2 full suspension mountain bike.

It may be the kool-aid talking, but they are two of the best riding bikes I have ever owned and I’ve owned A LOT of bikes.

Out of the box they were both extremely comfortable. The only change I made to the Avail was swapping out the saddle, as I’m very particular about my saddle choice. The bike feels fast and stable at the same time. It’s an endurance road bike, so it’s great for spending all day in the saddle or for someone who may not want quite as an aggressive position on a road bike.

The Pique 2 took some dialing in as I had never owned a full suspension bike before. It comes with a dropper seat post, which is a welcomed addition to my bike. It makes clearing obstacles a lot more comfortable! I eventually found that I needed to set the rear shock at the stiffest setting and then dial in the pressure and rebound to suite my needs.

17353450_10208093612450411_1223326358384603518_n
A trail with a view! Getting ready to descend the Pinhoti with the Pique 2

I’m used to riding a plus sided bike with no suspension, so I like a little more stiffness in the rear end, but like the forgiving nature of full suspension. It climbs incredibly well and I haven’t changed much parts wise on it with the exception of the rear tire, which I opted for a slightly wider 2.4″ tire as opposed to the 2.25″ tire that came on the bike. I like wider tires for the extra grip on some of the loose stuff. I also opted to put my favorite ESI silicone grips on as I don’t really like plastic/rubbery lock on grips.

The saddle is incredibly comfortable on the Pique and I tend to forget it’s even there. The SLX drivetrain performs flawlessly and I’ve never come to wish I had more gears on the 1×11 setup.

When women ask me how/why I am a Liv ambassador I often reply that I wouldn’t represent a brand I didn’t believe in and if the products sucked, I wouldn’t want to be a part of what they are doing. Good news, the products kick ass and I’m proud to be riding their stuff!

16835737_10207874920223242_1269193603995628774_o
Liv Cycling Social @ Fitchburg Cycles

My ambassadorship is no where near over yet for the year. I have some really wonderful plans for events coming down the pipeline.

Sunday June 25th is a brunch ride to Paoli with a coffee stop at True Coffee roasters leaving from Fitchburg Cycles at 10am.

Sunday July 9th is a my Functional Fitness for Cyclists clinic at Cross Fit Big Dane- currently full, but e-mail info@spokehaven.com if you are interested in attending!

August will most likely be a fun Tour de Breweries ride featuring some awesome local breweries!

September will be an in shop maintenance clinic at Fitchburg Cycles

October will most likely be the last event which is kind of a toss up, but a costume ride or bike camping outing isn’t out of the question. I’ll have to see what options folks would be interested in.

All upcoming events will be posted at fitchburgcycles.com and facebook.com/fitchburgcycleswi not to mention the Spoke Haven Facebook page!

Wisconsin Indoor Cycling Hosts a B.A.S.I.C Class for New Riders

16166_147303005418899_1950762264_n

Fall is officially here! Mornings are crisp with frost covered grass and you can see your breath in the air. It’s one of my favorite times of year as a cyclist. There’s nothing more refreshing than waking up in the morning and going for a ride. The only downside is that after work rides are either cut insanely short or they don’t happen at all.

That’s where places like Wisconsin Indoor Cycling come in. They help serve a large population of cyclists who want to continue riding, but can’t because of our lack of daylight. Their studio is lined up with indoor trainers, trainer mats, fans, towels, water, and anything else a rider could ever need.

Until recently, many of indoor cycling and training facilities have been perceived as elitist or for “hardcore” cyclists training for races or Ironman events. Wisconsin Indoor Cycling wanted to change that. They saw a need for everyday riders or beginner cyclists who just wanted a way to stay fit in the winter. This is where their new B.A.S.I.C classes came into play.

The B.A.S.I.C class is a fabulous introduction to indoor riding and cycling in general. The class runs for four consecutive weeks and incorporates a 30-40 minute ride and about 20 minutes of a post ride presentation. The presenters are various folks within the local cycling industry.

In the B.A.S.I.C class, riders learn how to mount their bike to a trainer. This includes learning how to swap in a trainer skewer as well as getting positioned correctly and comfortably on the bike. Other topics that are covered during the rides is correct pedaling stroke, clipping in and out of pedals, what RPM’s mean, and how to keep proper relaxed riding form.

Presenters also cover topics such as fixing a flat tire, why getting a bike fit is good for all types of cyclists, cycling advocacy, information about cycling clubs, and how to transition from the basic class into a regular indoor training routine.

I was lucky enough to be asked to come in and present at last night’s class. The best part of it was being able to ride with the group and experience the class first hand. With all of the projects and work I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been neglecting my workout routine and the class was a good reminder that I need to keep with it if I plan on being a strong rider next spring.

15584545696_06f990d29e_b
My bike in the trainer as well as the fun pink towels WIC provides for riders to keep the sweat off.

The riding started with a good warm up and a lot of great 3×3 tempo intervals. Ramping up to 90 RPMs first in the small chain ring for a faster, easier spin and then up to the big chain ring to work the larger muscle groups. Recovery was going down to 70 RPM’s with a mid level of resistance. There were also some one legged intervals to work on pedal stroke and leg strength. That too was a good reminder that I needed to get back into a training regimen!

15422115158_5042d09428_k
A projector is used to show what the intervals are as well as helpful tips to keep in mind while riding.

Overall, I was really pleased with the training aspect of the class. The feedback that ride leader, Zeus, gave to riders regarding bike fit and pedal stroke was really helpful as well. It opened up the opportunity to discuss what changes can be made to maintain comfort on the bike. Also…HEELS DOWN.

When it came time for my presentation, I casually talked about what we at Spoke Haven do as well as the Women & Bicycles program. I felt a little bad only preaching to the ladies in the class, but the guys didn’t mind too much and actually had some ladies they knew that would love to know about what we’re doing.

The B.A.S.I.C riders including mentor Krista in the WIC Jersey and myself in the Spoke Haven jersey.
The B.A.S.I.C riders including mentor Krista in the WIC Jersey and myself in the Spoke Haven jersey.

I had asked the group if they had ever done a class like this and what their cycling level was.  A lot of them were fairly new riders and this was their first real indoor riding experience. I was glad to hear that and glad to see they were getting something out of the class. Zeus, Aaron, and Krista did a great job with putting the B.A.S.I.C program together and hope they continue with it.

If you are reading this and interested in the program, there are tentative plans for it picking up again in January! I would suggest contacting Wisconsin Indoor Cycling on their website or Facebook page to let them know that you’d like to be a part of the program.