No one will argue that core strength and conditioning are fundamental to all athletic disciplines, or that proper nutrition that supports core strength is a crucial part of overall fitness and health. Running, jumping, punching and throwing all come from the core. The importance of core strength and conditioning is validated by the basic observation that powerful hip extension alone is necessary and must be developed in most athletes if they want to attain the highest levels of athletic performance. No one without the capacity for powerful hip extension achieves great athletic performance, and conversely, most every athlete with powerful hip extension is a great athlete.
In 1995, a former high school gymnast by the name of Greg Glassman and his ex-wife, Lauren Glassman, founded CrossFit, a brand of training that incorporates a focus on the major functional axis of the human body, the extension and flexion of the hips, and the extension, flexion, and rotation of the torso or trunk. Core strength is developed from the inside out, from core to extremity, which is how good functional movements recruit muscle.
CrossFit has exploded from one gym to over 2,000 gyms that now use it. Anyone can benefit from this elite strength and conditioning program. It combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, power lifting, kettlebell training, rowing, medicine ball training, and plyometrics—which is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements and improve the function of the nervous system and sports performance.
Nicole Bedard’s CrossFit journey began a year and a half ago when she did not feel she was getting the results she wanted from going to a regular gym. “It’s easy to get into a rut at a regular gym,” Nicole explained. “CrossFit offered great community encouragement and an intense hour of working out that brought much more results than I had previously achieved from any other type of workout, like running or working out different muscle groups in a gym.”
Nicole continued, “The beauty of CrossFit training is that you achieve all-around fitness that you can then use to your advantage in a specialty sport, such as cycling or running or triathlete competition. It builds a high level of cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, and coordination fitness. And along the way you come to understand your body, to know and respect it, and then to push it harder than ever before.”
Nicole, who is a fitness enthusiast and a professional photographer, initially started CrossFit to tone up but found that she was becoming much fitter than she had ever expected and began to push herself harder and harder to achieve her highest level of fitness ever.
She ended up going to the CrossFit gym five times a week but started feeling this was putting too much stress on her body and didn’t give her enough time for recovery, so she reduced her training to three days a week. Coincidentally, a fellow CrossFit athlete recommended she try Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm®, which, she says, “immediately helped me to have a better night’s sleep and to feel more energy to push myself harder and even reach some personal records. When I first started CrossFit two years ago, I could dead lift 155 lbs, and now with the help of Natural Calm and the CrossFit training, I got up to 255 lbs, and just three weeks ago, I dead lifted 265 lbs, which I never thought possible.”
There is a certain purity or down-to-earth, back-to-the-roots feeling one experiences at a CrossFit facility. You won’t find floor-to-ceiling mirrors, fancy exercise machines, or a juice bar in a typical CrossFit gym. What you will find are all the tools necessary to build elite levels of fitness no matter where your starting point is. In most gyms, things like barbells, dumbbells, rowers, kettlebells, wall balls, rings, pull-up bars, and other “old-school” fitness equipment is usually relegated to a dark, dusty corner that doesn’t see the light of day. In a CrossFit gym, this type of equipment is valued above all else.
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But achieving elite levels of fitness is a process that takes time, determination, expert supervision, coaching, and proper nutrition. The very same methods that elicit optimal response in the Olympic or professional athlete will optimize the same response in a weekend warrior, a reformed couch potato, a young fitness enthusiast, or a motivated senior citizen.
Nicole added, “Another thing I love about CrossFit is the variety of activities and exercises you are introduced to. You get to run, row, jump rope, climb rope, and carry odd objects like sand bags. You get to move large loads quickly over short distances, and use powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting techniques. We use dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, and do many body weight exercises. This makes it fun, challenging, and always interesting as you slowly ramp up the intensity and watch your body adjust to these new movements and weights.
“Energy 28™ was another product from Natural Vitality that helped me a lot. I would take a shot of this about a half hour before doing a CrossFit workout. It gave me a good boost of energy and focus that helped push me through tough workouts. I have taken a lot of pre-workout supplements, and these tend to increase my heart rate and make me a bit jittery. Energy 28 provided a really nice boost of energy but without any of the side effects and no post-workout crash. A great quality of this supplement is that unlike coffee, I can take this prior to an evening workout and it won’t keep me up all night.
“It’s crucial to remember that an important part of the CrossFit philosophy includes the other 23 hours of the day that you are not working out, when you are eating properly and getting good nutrition, and that’s why Natural Vitality’s products are so complementary to CrossFit.
“That’s why I also take the Organic Life Vitamins®, which have a blend of vitamins and aminos that I think are much better than taking a typical store-bought multivitamin. The fact that it has organic veggies and fruits makes this a huge winner over regular multivitamins for me.”
Although Nicole’s primary reason for getting into CrossFit was not to compete but rather to build and maintain her fitness, she is now looking at entering the world of CrossFit competition. And what better way to get a taste of this than to witness it firsthand at the highest levels? Nicole has been invited to be one of the photographers covering the 2011 CrossFit Games. The CrossFit Games are the world’s premier test to find the fittest on Earth. The Games season is a grueling multistage experience that culminates in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, California.
We look forward to seeing some great photos from Nicole covering this event, and perhaps we will see her competing in these same games in the future.
See more of Nicole’s work at www.NicoleBedardPhotography.com.