9/13 Transformation Tuesday
We are starting our second week of our September Fitness Level UP Challenge and already we're seeing folks unlock their Fitness Levels and some people are seeing tier overall Fitness Level increase. All of our Coaches have been asked, "How long does it take to increase my fitness level?" It Depends.
The answer, it depends, is not satisfying. However, it does put YOU in control of your fitness journey. That's a satisfying thought, your improvement is not up to chance, it's up to you.
It depends on your current level of conditioning, it depends on how consistently you attend classes, it depends on how much extra work you put towards skill development by taking specialty seminars, skill sessions or private training. It depends on how well you eat, how well you recover, how many hours you sleep. It depends on your lifestyle.
However, our good friends at Beyond the Whiteboard, who are data geeks like us, have crunched the numbers for us. They looked at Fitness Level data from over 65,000 athletes over the past 6 years and analyzed it to see how long it takes to increase your Fitness Level. They found, on average, it takes 5-6 months of consistent CrossFit to improve your Fitness Level by 10 points.
BTWB looked at Fitness Level data from over 65,000 athletes over the past 6 years. They found it takes 5-6 months of consistent (3 days per week or more) to improve your Fitness Level by 10 points. Of course, you have to be able to do most of the workouts as Rx for them to count towards your Fitness Level.
They also found that working out 5 days per week week produced 27% faster improvement than 3 days per week. Even increasing from 3 to 4 days per week is associated with 10% faster improvement. We’ve often heard people discount the value of only working out 2 days per week, but the data shows that those athletes only progressed 7.5% slower than their 3 day per week counterparts.
Of course, you need to be able to do the Fitness Level workouts as prescribed. Do you notice how many BTWB Fitness Level workouts we do every week? How many of those are doable by everyone? All of the Speed, Power Lifts, Olympic Lifts and Endurance workouts can be performed as prescribed by everyone.
Many of the Bodyweight workouts such as 100 sit-ups or 100 burpees for time, 2, 3 or 5 min max reps double unders, can be done by most people. Even if you get ONE double under in that time you still did it as prescribed. It all counts. This week alone, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's workouts all count to your BTWB Fitness Level. Next week, 5 of the workouts count toward the BTWB Fitness Level. We program these workouts regularly so that you can keep working on your BTWB Fitness Level.
The BTWB folks found that improvements come quickly for new CrossFitters, and those of who who've been doing it for a while have a diminishing margin of return. They also found that improvement depends upon nutrition, sleep and recovery.
New & Intermediate CrossFitters can improve quickly
The bottom line is fitness is a journey. It takes consistent daily effort. You may have breakthrough workouts, you may regress. Improvement, while an upward trending line, is never exactly linear. You will have ups and downs, your diet may go sideways. No matter what happens, just keep on trucking. Get back on track, get your ass to the gym, eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Good luck!
Backyard Habitat is for the Birds
Providing a safe and inviting habitat for birds in your backyard is simple and will help our feathered friends thrive in the summer and survive during the winter. I have had a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat in every home I've lived in. My Montana home is Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat #197,214. All you need to provide is four things: food, water, cover, and places to raise young.
Providing water in the summer is not as critical as in the winter. In the winter, many natural sources of fresh water are frozen, but birds still need clean, fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finches, sparrows, warblers and towhees will eagerly visit a birdbath in the winter. To prevent the water from freezing, install a birdbath heater or a “water wiggler,” or dump out the water in the evening before it has a chance to freeze. Either way, change the water frequently. To keep the birds healthy, scrub the bath with a stiff brush every few days. If it is really soiled, use a dilute vinegar solution or mild soap and water to clean it. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse it.
Food is easiest to provide by hanging a feeder. There are many different types, and each feeder is designed to replicate a specific feeding niche in the ecosystem. The most common feeders are tubes filled with black-oil sunflower seeds that attract house finches; thistle sock feeders that attract colorful goldfinches; and suet feeders that attract flickers, sapsuckers and some woodpeckers. These feeders can be purchased in most nurseries and garden centers.
Cover is any place a bird utilizes to perch, seek shelter or escape predation. Just about anything can be used for cover, including living plant material, snags and rock or brush piles. But, the best way to provide cover is by planting a diverse selection of perennials, annuals, grasses, shrubs, vines, and of course, trees. Grasses are especially important because they provide cover during the winter. Leaving spent flowers and stalks through the winter will also provide cover.
Installing a nesting box is the best way to provide a place for your backyard birds to raise their young. Birds can be very choosey when it comes to selecting a nesting place. It pays to do some research and provide a nesting box with the appropriate size and dimensions. There are local stores that specialize in birding and wildlife habitat, as well as online sources. An excellent resource for information on nesting boxes is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website section devoted to nesting box characteristics, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/instructions/. It provides bird-specific nesting box requirements and downloadable plans on how to build your own box. Building nesting boxes is an excellent woodworking project for the entire family. They also make wonderful handcrafted holiday gifts.
Providing habitat for our native birds not only helps them survive, but it can also bring us great joy and contentment, as we watch them frolic in our yards. However, be aware that attracting small wildlife to your yard can also attract larger wildlife, such as deer or bears, so always be cautious. Once you have all of the critical habitat pieces in place, you can get your backyard wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation. The online application is available at http://www.nwf.org/backyard/.
This is a reprint of an article I wrote when I was the commercial horticulture program coordinator for the western area of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
AT HOME WORKOUT OF THE DAY
BTWB Endurance Fitness Level Workout: Run 5 Km for time
Post your score in BTWB when completed
8/25 Homegrown Paleo Thursday
Beneficial insects are those helpful little critters that eat other insects that damage and attack our plants. There are far more beneficial insects than bad ones. Scientists estimate that more than 95 percent of the insect species we see in our landscapes are beneficial.
Many beneficial insects are predators that consume other insect pests. Some well-known predators include lady bird beetles (lady bugs), praying mantis, and ambush bugs. While most of these insects are pretty easy to identify in their adult form, they are not as easily recognized in their juvenile or larval stages. Lady bird beetles, for example, are pretty scary looking when young. They look like little black and red alligators! It is important to correctly identify an insect before taking any action. If you need help identifying an insect, place it in a jar and bring it to your local Cooperative Extension office for identification.
Spiders are pretty easy to identify, but are often overlooked as predators. They are invaluable at keeping backyard insect populations in check. Resist your urge to kill every spider you see. They are the top predators in your garden and you WANT them there!
Many parasitoids are also beneficial. These insects lay their eggs inside or on top of an insect host. A parasitoid wasp must have been the inspiration for the movie, “Alien.” These tiny wasps inject their eggs into a host, where the larvae eat the host from the inside out. Many parasitoid wasps are no bigger than a grain of rice. Some species lay their eggs exclusively in aphids, infamous for munching roses and many other landscape treasures.
Attracting beneficial insects to the garden is easy. Some gardeners even plant special “insectaries” near their vegetable garden to ensure good pollination and natural pest control. Two of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, were farmers and relied on their insectaries to pollinate and protect their crops.
The best way to create an insectary is through plant diversity. Flowering plants, such as yarrow, black-eyed Susan, milkweed, Cosmos, sunflowers, and pincushion flower, provide nectar and pollen that attract many beneficial insects, while ornamental grasses and woody shrubs provide cover and ambush areas.
It is important to note that predator populations often lag behind those of their prey. However, when nonselective pesticides are used to control pest populations, predators are also killed. The pests will usually recover pretty well, and can go through two or three population explosions before the next pesticide application. The predators, however, are usually less resilient and have a more difficult time recovering. Therefore, less toxic control methods, such as spraying water to knock off and kill aphids, are often recommended for additional control when predators are not quite keeping up with pests. That way, you keep the beneficials around to continue helping with the problem.
Remember that 95 percent of the insect species in your backyard are beneficial. As you become familiar with the natural cycles of your garden, you can actually shape the ecology of your backyard, attracting and encouraging beneficial insects to work for you!
Here are excellent resources from Montana Cooperative Extension on two very important beneficial garden insects.
8/18 Homegrown Paleo
When I first started growing vegetables, I was confused at harvest time because I didn’t know just when to pick my veggies. I discovered I’m not alone. For many novice gardeners, our only knowledge of what ripe fruits and vegetables look like comes from the grocery store. Yet, when we begin to grow our own produce, it rarely looks like the blemish-free, polished and waxed fruit and vegetables at the store.
Here are some tips on how to harvest three popular homegrown goodies at the peak of their ripeness and flavor.
Nothing can compare with a homegrown tomato. After one season of growing your own, you may never want to buy a tomato in the store again. Store-bought tomatoes can often be almost tasteless because they are often picked while they’re still green, and then sprayed with ethylene gas to force artificial ripening. The picking, transporting and storage process prevents natural ripening and sugar accumulation.
Tomatoes undergo a very interesting physiological change when they are about half pinkish-red and half green. At this “breaker” stage, they form a thin layer of cells that seals the fruit from the stem. This layer of cells prevents any nutrient flow from the plant to the fruit. Tomatoes can be harvested at or after the breaker stage and they will ripen normally, but they need to ripen in the sun, such as on a windowsill, for the sugars to fully develop. Tomatoes that are left on the vine continue to ripen and develop sugars because they are exposed to sunlight, not because they are gaining anything from the plant. Store freshly harvested tomatoes on the counter or in a basket, as refrigeration kills their flavor.
Some tomatoes, such as green zebra, German grapefruit, and lemon boy, never turn red. So, be sure to save your seed packets or plant tags, as these will often have pictures of the ripe fruit that you can refer to when deciding if it’s time to harvest.
Generally, eggplant should be harvested when the flesh is springy, and the skin is shiny purple and tight. Test for springiness by pressing into the side with your finger. If the flesh springs back, the eggplant is ready for picking. Eggplants that are past their prime are dull and soft with wrinkled skin. When ripe, white-skinned eggplant, such as Rosa Bianca, will have skin that is glossy white with pink stripes.
When trying to determine a melon’s ripeness, look at the condition of the stem and skin color. Cantaloupes “slip” from the vine, leaving a scar where the stem was attached. The bottom, or end opposite the stem, will be soft and fragrant. Their straw-colored skin should be bright. A ripe honeydew may remain attached to the vine, but should also be soft on the bottom side, opposite the stem. While on the vine, watermelons will have a small, curled tendril extending from the vine opposite from where the stem is attached to the vine. This tendril will turn brown and dry out when the melon is ripe. The stem should still be green and difficult to remove from the vine. The skin touching the ground should be buttery yellow. All melons continue to ripen after they have been removed from the vine, and should be stored in the refrigerator or a cool place.
This is a reprint of an article I wrote when I was the commercial horticulture program coordinator for the western area of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. For more specific gardening and horticulture advice be sure to visit your local Cooperative Extension office.
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