The Chalk Conundrum

Written by Mike Hom from CrossFit Invictus

It began as an off-handed joke. It progressed into semi-serious statements. It evolved into full-blown declarations.

“Chalk is overrated.”

I used to be pro-chalk. I used to believe dusting up my hands to a coat of pearly, bleached white would ensure victory in my workouts and help bring about improved performance. I would clap my hands and kick up white dust to provide self-encouragement. My “breaks” would give me an opportunity to re-chalkify. I avidly thought chalk was the reason I could do more pull-ups. I thought chalk was the reason I could pull more weight. Chalk was the driver to help me press more weight overhead. Running with chalk on my hands would get me in and out the door faster. Chalk was the hero of my work out. Chalk drove me to success.

Then something happened. My hands started tearing more. I spent more and more time letting my hands heal. Chalk slowed me down from the constant re-application. A friend gently told me I was using chalk as a crutch to rest more. After hearing that, I tried my hand at a few benchmark workouts while forgoing chalk. My times improved. I tore my hands less. I attributed my success to giving up chalk. Thus, this began the

No-Chalk Era.
I used to be no-chalk. I used to think chalk was unnecessary. I would avoid using chalk at all costs, even if there was a legitimate need for it. I thought chalk was something newbies used as a means to sneak in more rest. Chalk made people tear and bleed. Chalk was a downright detriment to performance gains.

Then something happened. With sweat coming down my forearms to my wrists one day, I was performing muscle-ups in my workout. Just another set until I was back out the door. Just another rep. Roll my shoulders over the rings, dip, and lock out. And then my right wrist slipped and my armpit met the ring. I lost control and let go of the left ring. Bless my moderate reflexes for saving me from any permanent damage to my limbs. After some rapid introspection, I chalked up my wrists (and just my wrists) and finished my workout. But, I began to re-think my position on chalk. Thus, this began my most pragmatic era, the Some-Chalk era.

Chalk is great when used responsibly.

This means using the minimal amount of chalk necessary to help with certain exercises–mostly pulling exercises. Some people, however, take chalk-use to the extreme and use it for EVERY exercise, which is completely unnecessary and creates additional clean-up work. Is it really necessary to chalk up when doing push-ups? How about squats? Push presses? The fact is, some people view chalk not as a tool but as a habit. These are the ones creating a dust storm around them by over-chalking and then clapping their hands to get rid of the excess. This not only accelerates the consumption of chalk for those that genuinely need it, like those who sweat excessively, but it also simply annoys those around you. A crime scene is not a look we’re going for at the gym. I know the rebuttal is that we at CrossFit Invictus are not a globo-gym and chalk usage is one of the appeals for some people. But let’s be candid for a moment. If you don’t get sweaty hands, how much chalk do you need to get through your workouts?

How To Chalk
Chalk serves the purpose of drying hands to assist with grip issues. It is not magical fairy dust that will make your grip hulk strong. A little bit can go a long away provided you understand where the chalk needs to go. The only part of your hand that needs chalk is the part that will be in contract with the bar, ring, or other apparatus you are utilizing at that moment. The back of your hand does not warrant chalking. The next time you chalk up, understand where your hands are making contact. Take a bit of chalk and rub it in that area. You don’t need a lot, just a light coating. Take your other hand and rub it against the chalked one. Carry on with your bad self.

An Alternative
If you are part of the population that depends on chalk, let me present an alternative: wrist bands. You may see some people in the gym using them already. They are great for the primary reason of soaking up sweat that would otherwise run into your hands. Barring the obvious swagger you gain from wearing them, the wrist band will help control your chalk usage and possibly eliminate your need for it.

In closing, let me reiterate that chalk is a great tool when used responsibly. Over-do it and you run the risk of doing more damage to your hands than good, as well as annoying your fellow CrossFitters. Do yourself and your CF family a favor, use the chalk responsibly.

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Rx and Hydration

Some of you may have noticed that lately that we have started putting an Rx symbol by peoples name on the board after the workout. The Rx symbol stands for “as prescribed”.  To get the Rx by your name you must do the workout with the weights and reps that we put on the board.

Also to get the Rx you must go through with “Full Range of Motion”. Some examples of FRM is, when doing wall ball getting the ball above the line, not hitting the line,  and doing the full squat, or doing the jump and clap overhead when doing burpees.

I would rather see somebody have a slower time but do every rep with FRM, then have the best time on the board and only do the reps half assed. Don’t be offended if we don’t put an Rx by your name, just try to be better the next workout. To get a RX by your name the coaches are going to be very strict with your workout. Take it upon yourself to call a rep no good, we as coaches can’t watch everybody do every rep.

There has been a lot of talk around the gym about doing Crossfit Games next year. Those who are thinking about participating should defiantly start doing every workout and every movement Rx. I will write later about participating in CrossFit Games.

The next thing we need to talk about is “Hydration”. Last week many of you experienced what it’s going to be like in the gym this summer. It is going to be very warm in the gym, we are going to purchase some large fans to help move the air. It is going to be very important that people show up for their workouts well hydrated. Everybody should be pushing for a gallon of water per day.

We now have a small refrigerator in the gym that we have been putting the water bottles in. We are going to start charging $.25 for each bottle. We are not looking to make any money off the water, just basically cover the cost of the water.  And you don’t have to pay for each bottle every time you take one. There will be a can on top of the refrigerator for you to drop your money into when you have it.

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Oh for fun

I had a recent revelation of sorts while reading Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint.” I reference Sisson’s blog, MDA, a lot because I like his approach and his common-sense advice. Although he is zealous about primal eating, he is not fanatical. In a health industry run amok by fitness nazis, it’s refreshing to find someone who admits that hey, life happens. You can’t be 100 percent perfect all of the time, and honestly, why would anyone want to?

At the conclusion of his book, there’s a page or so about fun. In fact, fun — more specifically the element of play — is part of his primal blueprint. But this passage in particular talks about the importance of fun and how it’s ill advised to not consider that aspect of your eating and exercise.

I think about fun in kind of an abstract way when it comes to fitness. There are physical activities that I find fun — walking, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, biking, etc. But when it comes to my weekly workouts, I definitely don’t approach them from the fun angle. I work out because I Have Goals. Sisson’s point, roughly, is that goals are fine, but if you’re so focussed on achieving your goals that you’re not enjoying the journey, then what happens when you meet those goals and you’ve nothing left to strive for? Yes, you can always set new goals, but if you’re not enjoying the process of reaching those goals, then it’s just going to be this constant cycle of up and down. Set a goal, work toward it, reach it … and then do it all over again.

Life is not a giant task list where we just check off to-do’s as we complete them. And I don’t think fitness should be either. Life is messy and fluid and flawed and beautiful and horrible and amazing and frustrating, and if fitness is just one component of all of that, there’s no reason it shouldn’t mirror it.

Recently, I switched around my CrossFit schedule so that I could start going to open gym on Saturdays. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. On Saturdays, I get to do what I want and don’t have to do what I don’t. Essentially, I’m there to have fun. I talk to the other members and lift heavy things and climb the rope and try for the 40,000 time to do a stupid kipping pull up. I might do the WOD, and I might not. I always get in a good workout and feel like I’ve accomplished something (it’s hard to get out of the “Must. Do. Something. Productive.” mentality, but I’m trying.) I might be there for an hour and a half or more, and honestly, it’s probably one of the highlights of my week.

I’m going to try to incorporate that same attitude toward my other CrossFit workouts. Instead of viewing the WOD as something to be endured, I’m going to enjoy it — the sweat, the straining, the breathlessness — all of it. So, yes, I’m going to set a goal to have more fun. But I think that will be a goal I won’t mind striving toward.

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May Schedule

The rest of the schedule for May is complete. There are a couple of days that we are going to have to be closed. Please check the schedule on a reqular basis, in case it changes. Again i apologize and we will soon get back to our regular schedule.

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Why do you workout


Before the age of physical maturity at about 25 years, our body is continually growing and developing and during this phase muscles and the entire body stays strong even without specific exercise. After we reach the age of 30, we basically have two options available to us. We can either begin the long process of becoming weaker or we can work to maintain our strength for the rest of our life.

After this point, if the body does not receive the necessary stimulus to trigger muscle growth, a slow process of muscle wasting begins. This loss of muscle tissue hastens the degenerative processes and conditions that characterize the dreaded aging process.

Muscles and the bones they are attached to become weaker, joints deteriorate without strong muscles to support and cushion them; the metabolism slows (the rate the body burns fuel) allowing body fat to accumulate; body shape and appearance change. All body systems weaken including the immune system leaving one exposed to life threatening disease and illness.

Anti-aging remedies and procedures are increasingly in high demand to stave off the ravages of aging but before we complain too much we should remember getting older is a privilege denied to many.
This privilege does not come without its challenges though.

Superficial changes on the outside may help one look and feel better, but aging youthfully really requires enduring methods that improves one’s physical health on the inside. It has been well proven that the elusive fountain of youth that we all desire is actually found in maintaining or rebuilding muscle strength.

It is important that the right exercise is performed if you wish to reclaim your youth. Recreational type activities like walking, jogging or cycling etc will not challenge the muscles sufficiently to rebuild lost strength. Proper exercise means strength training exercise using the right exercises, at the right level of intensity, at the right duration and the right frequency. Anything less is unlikely to give you the results you are looking for.

The really good news is that it does not matter how old you are when you start, 60 year old muscles respond to strength training in exactly the same way 20 year old muscles respond – they get stronger. It is easily possible to become 100 to 175 percent stronger, even stronger than you have ever been in your life.

Imagine the possibilities; imagine having this new strength and energy to pursue hobbies, start new careers, and travel. Become or stay highly active and pack each day with so much more living. The opposite is not to be considered, do nothing and experience less and less and less till finally there is no more.

Start your Crossfit journey now, you will never regret it. It is all there for you, just reach out and take it and make it yours.

So I leave you all with this knowing when I come back in few weeks or so you will all be stronger, faster and in better heath.

One comment.

May 11, 2010


9 thrusters

bear crawl

15 wall ball

bear crawl

21 kb swings

A.M.R.A.P in 20 minutes

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Congratulations Kelie

We would like to congratulate Kelie Wilson on earning her Level 1 certification. Kelie has been with Black Hills CrossFit since we opened our doors. Kelie will be a great addition to our training staff.

On another note, many of you know that Keith and his wife are expecting their 2nd child. For a couple of weeks after the baby is born Keith will be absent from the gym. During this time we will be having some schedule changes. We will have Kelie covering some of the classes when Justin is at the fire department. But she will not be able to cover all the classes. Please check the schedule on a regular basis to see any changes. The schedule changes will only last for a couple of weeks. We will do everything we can to make sure everybody gets in their workouts.


Black Hills CrossFit Staff

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May 10, W.O.D

Monday May 10 2010


5 Rounds Each Round For Time:

20 Pull-up

30 Push-up

40 Sit-ups

50 Squats

3 Min rest between each Round

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Goal Setting.

Hi.  So some of you may have heard me talking about weekly goal setting.  The idea is to set a goal that will challenge you mentality and phisicaly.  To say something like i want to lost 10 lbs and get toner is a great goal to have but very hard to achieve in a week.  So for example this weeks goal is to do: 500 push-up and 1000 squats.   (PS you can thank Kat for this one.)   

When goal setting its a good idea to think about some thing you may be working on like kipping pull-up, ring dip’s and write down exactly what it is you want to do.    ex.  do one ring dip by the end of the week,  climb the rope.  Next it is always helpful to tell everyone, so we can help and maybe participate.   The weekly goals go above and beyond the daily work out,  These for the time being  are done on the honer system, as Paula so well said i don’t cheat this referring to herself.  The weekly goals should be completed at 1200pm Friday..  So 500 push-up and 1000 squat if you like or set your own.


Twists and turns

If I had my druthers (By the way, druthers is a great word. Feel free to use it as often as you’d like. In fact, consider it your word WOD. As many druthers as you can work into a conversation. For time. … But I digress.), upon entering this world, I would have been handed a “How to Survive Life” manual, that among useful get-rich-quick tips, would have contained an eating and exercising plan that I could use for my whole life.

But obviously, that didn’t happen. Not only do I have to figure out most of life all by myself, but I also had to figure out how to eat and when to eat and what to eat and how much to eat and then when to exercise and how to exercise and how much to exercise … You get the idea.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I decided it was time to lose weight, I started by eliminating refined carbs and by walking about four times a week. When I eventually plateaued, I joined Weight Watchers and joined a gym. And then of course, this year, which has morphed into more maintaining my weight or shooting for those last five to 10 pounds, I joined CrossFit and started eating paleo/primal.

At each step along this long, often tear-my-hair-out-in-frustration journey, I have learned an incredible amount. About food and exercise, obviously, but also about myself and my body and what works and what doesn’t. When I first started losing weight, I had no idea how many calories I was suppose to consume or about portion control. I learned about that through Weight Watchers. While I did Weight Watchers, I didn’t really realize how much processed junk I was eating — even if it was “low cal.” I learned about that through the paleo diet.

The same goes for exercising. When I started, I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I could walk. So that’s what I did. (As a side note, I still love to walk and maintain that walking is probably one of the best exercises you can do. I love CrossFit, but walking makes me feel holy. Don’t ask why. And yes, I know that sounds weird. Just deal with it.) Anyway, eventually I learned about the importance of lifting weights and how to do so properly. Through CrossFit, I learned I could ramp up my heart rate to previously unknown highs for about 20 minutes or so and mostly not die afterward.

While reading Mark’s Daily Apple recently, I came across the most useful piece of advice I’d ever learned about this whole process: what works today may not work tomorrow. Whether it’s losing weight or lifting weights, you can’t always take the same approach and be successful. You have to adapt. You have to be open to change. And you have to accept that frustration is a part of all of this. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose 10 pounds, gain 10 pounds of muscle or lift 10 more pounds.

But honestly, that’s what’s exciting about all of this. There’s always another exercise to try or a new twist on an movement you thought you mastered. In terms of eating, there are billions of recipes to try and new research coming out every day that tells us the best way to eat. Sure, it can lead to information overload, but once you master the basics, you can learn what to filter out and what to keep.

And if nothing else, you can always go for a walk.



I am not an expert at most — well, really any — forms or kinds of exercise. But I do know how to rest. I can rest like nobody’s business. I am a Super Rester.

But honestly, a lot of times, the importance of rest, of letting your body heal and recover and strengthen, gets overlooked. We get so focused on form or kinds of exercises or intensity levels that we forget that the time in between workouts can be just as important as the actual workout.

I’m not advocating taking two weeks off between every workout. But if you’re going all out, day after day after day, you’re running the risk of burnout and worse, injury.

How you rest is up to you. Some people need a day or two off completely. Others just need a lower-frequency day where they walk the dog instead of doing a WOD. Whatever works for you. Listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t use it as excuse to slack, but if you’re exhausted, there’s probably a reason why, and rather than another workout, what you probably need is a nap.

I’m not going to veer off topic and start talking about religion, but for me, knowing that even God took a day off after creating the world (I’m guessing that’s at least a little strenuous) means it’s probably OK for me to ease up once in a while.

Plus, a nap just sounds really good right about now.

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Workout Of the Day

Thursday April 22 2010

For Time:

20 Double unders (100 singles unbroken), 20 Mt. Climbers, 20 Box Jumps.  6 rounds

One comment.

Workout Of the Day

Tuesday April 20  2010

For Time:


Box Jumps,  K.B. Swings,  S.D.H.P (95lbs men, 65 women)

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

In case you were wondering about the title of today’s blog, you probably realized it’s from “The Sound of Music” song “My Favorite Things,” which is what today’s post is about. I complain a lot — endless, actually — about the exercises I hate in certain WODs, but there are some movements I really do love.

They are, in no particular order:

  • Deadlifts — They make me feel like some massive Olympic weightlifter. I’ve no idea why I’d want to feel like a massive Olympic weightlifter, but still. Deadlifts are fun.
  • Push ups — Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned pull up?
  • Pull up — Some day, I will learn how to do a kipping pull up. Just as an aside, the YouTube video for pull ups makes me giggle.
  • Sit ups — Core work can be fun! Kinda!
  • Kettlebell swings — Something deeply satisfying about swinging a weight over my head that could crush my skull if I dropped it.
  • Burpees — I realize this will gain me no fans because even though Justin always says “God loves a burpee,” apparently no one else does. I actually don’t mind burpees; they can be kinda fun. What I don’t like is doing about 8 gazillion (actual number from a recent WOD) during any given workout.

Fat Girl explainer

I had a couple of comments recently about the “Fat Girl” name. If you haven’t already done so — and you have like an hour to kill because I went on and on for way too long — you can go here to read my story. No, technically, I’m not overweight, at least not any more. But once you’re a fat kid, you’re always a fat kid. Which really, isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Also, I’m posting a picture of myself so you’ll know what I’m talking about and so you can say “hi” to me if you see me around. It was taken in November of last year. And hell yes it’s the best picture I have of myself. Did you really think I’d post a pic of me in sweaty gym clothes? Please. I have my vanity. And if you think I’m going to post a picture of myself as a fat kid, you are sadly and utterly mistaken. … Although, for the right price, I might be convinced to do a “before and after.” The right price being in the millions of dollars range.

One comment.

Balancing the scales

diet scaleI’ve thought a lot recently about Justin’s recent post “Stay off the Scale.” In theory, I would love to agree with everything he said (editor’s note to Justin: I’m going to only partially throw you under the bus here. Please don’t raise my membership fee. Or make me do extra burpees.). Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to wholeheartedly endorse everyone throwing their scales in the trash can.

The problem is I know that if I myself did that, my weight’d shoot up 20 pounds by the end of the month. That’s not an exaggeration. And not only would I balloon up, I’d be really miserable, too.

I am aware that I am more than the sum of my weight and the inches around my waist. I know that there are many other indicators — other than weight — that comprise my overall health. The thing is, I kind of enjoy weighing myself — and not because I ever like or agree with the number that the scale displays. But I do like concrete, tangible information. I like knowing exactly how much I weigh and how many inches around my waist is. Why? No idea. I’m kinda broken, if you haven’t already figured that out. But for me, how tight or loose my pants are or how I feel physically at any given moment is not concrete enough information to keep my mind from freaking out.

Obviously and thankfully, not everyone is like me. What’s important is for you to figure out what’s right for you. If you could not care less about your weight and want to feel good and look good, then please, do throw your scale in the trash, post haste. If you like numbers and don’t develop a stress or eating disorder while carefully monitoring your weight, then keep your scale.

Find what makes you — not necessarily happy because that’s a moving target — but at least content.

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Workout Of the Day

Monday April 19 2010

For Time:

500 m Run,  300 Squats, 200, Push-ups, 100 Pull-ups.  500 m Run

As many set as need: ex (30-20-10 x 10 r)