From the Blog



Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner – Overtraining Syndrome:  Who needs rest days anyway?

As I started to think about what to write about this week I really wanted to touch on a topic that we discussed in the past.  Overtraining is real and needs to be discussed on a relatively frequent basis to ensure that everyone is not causing damage to themselves by training too much.  Below is an article I wrote several months ago with a few tweaks.

Instead of focusing on a particular mobility exercise I am going to spend some time talking about rest days and active recovery days and why they are important.  

As with anything in the fitness world, it is really hard to find a black and white rule that works for everyone.  Instead there are guidelines and suggestions that everyone needs to know and then modify them to their particular body as everyone is a little different.  This thought process holds true for the idea of overtraining.  The amount of rest days and active recovery days that someone needs is not based upon what kind of workout they are doing but rather how their body is responding to their workouts.  

The biggest problem that people have is that they base their rest days and active recovery days around someone that they are working out with.  These days must be incorporated into your weekly training schedules based on what YOUR body is telling you and nothing else.  Trying to follow a program that is designed for an elite athlete will certainly result in overtraining and perhaps even a loss of gains and strength.

I will give you a brief example of why it is so important to avoid over training.  A young girl who runs a sub 6 min. mile on a regular basis and who has completed several marathons (at a really fast pace) decided to see if she could push her marathon training to the next level.  While trying to do this she entered the over training cycle and refused to stop training because she was close to her race.  Following her race (which was timed much slower than her previous best) she had a minor mental breakdown and her body “fell apart”.  She had random muscular injuries, was feeling drained all the time and had a hard time concentrating.  It has been a few months now (with no working out) and she is just starting to feel better.  

This all could have been avoided if she listened to her body, took more “rest days” and didn’t continually push herself.  Don’t read this the wrong way and think that I am trying to say not to push yourself at the gym.  On those days that you are feeling good/fresh take advantage of those days and go all out at the gym.  However, if you are having one of “those” days or weeks where everything feels heavy and you just don’t feel good use those days to focus on lighter weights, your form or mobility exercises.  There is nothing wrong with listening to your body as we all could use some more time to work on form or mobility.  

From now on try to listen to your body so that you can avoid falling into the overtraining cycle.  Take those rest days that everyone needs and push yourself when your body will allow.



Perfect Spotting!

Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner

Creating a Stable Lifting Position – Bracing your Spine

  Every once in awhile I like to go back through some of my post blogs and re-visit them – not only as a reminder for those that have read them in the past but also as some new information for those members that have recently joined.  Below is an article I posted some time ago in regards to the bracing sequence that should be utilized when starting a lift.

    Reading books has never been something I spent a lot of time trying to fit into my schedule unless of course a book comes out about Injury Prevention and Treating Sports Injuries.  Yes I am a nerd and yes I spent some of this gorgeous weekend reading about how to prevent injuries while sitting in the sun.  What that doesn’t sound like fun!?!  Anyway the book of choice now is something that I have been anxiously awaiting for about 6 months – Creating a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett.  If you are a frequent visitor to then you know who he is – if you don’t know who he is check out his website and you will no doubt get smarter and healthier.
  As I progress through the book I will touch on the high points each week.  The best things that I have read so far are the importance of lifting with the right goals, the creation of a stable lifting position (braced spine) and a quick 4 step approach to creating this position. 

One of the first things that he mentions in his book is the reason for many of the injuries that occur as a result of lifting.  There are so many people that go into a workout session knowing that they will do anything to get their desired end result.  This means that they will sacrifice form to get a PR.  As there are times when this is understandable (competitions, Olympics or other important once in a lifetime events) most of the times we would be better served to focus on form.  It is important to change your mindset of PR or bust – you should rather be thinking PR with good form or bust.  Once you feel your form collapse let go of the bar and drop the weight.  Do not sacrifice your form / braced spine to get that 5 lb PR because you are flirting with an injury that will set you back weeks or months.  I am more than included in this conversation and maybe will start to listen to what I tell other people!

The next topic that he touches on is creating and maintaining your stable lifting position/braced spine.  Any lift should be done while you are in a stable lifting position where you can effectively brace your spine.  This means that your head, rib cage and pelvis are all in alignment and your spine is properly braced.  Without this proper position injuries are sure to occur.  If you have ever injured your back performing deadlifts or backsquats you can probably think back to the moment just before you hurt yourself and realize that your form collapsed.  Learning and practicing this bracing sequence will allow you to maintain proper positioning throughout your lifts.

I will only briefly touch on the 4 steps this week and then will devote the entire next blog to these 4 steps. 

1.  Squeeze your butt as hard as you can – creates a neutral pelvis
2.  Pull your ribcage down – prevents overextension / over flexion
3.  Get your belly tight – lock in your pelvis and your rib cage in their positions
4.  Set your head in a neutral position and screw your shoulders into a stable position – creates a neutral head and shoulders


Bob and Phil

Southington CrossFit Blog – Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner

Taking care of your body 

            This week we are not going to talk about a specific mobility exercise but rather the importance as well as some tips of how to take care of your body.  Being able to work out how we all want for a long period of time puts a lot of stress on your body.  The only way that you are going to maintain this type of workout schedule/routine is if you make taking care of your body a priority.  Typically you realize this at about month 3-6 after starting CrossFit – it is at this time that you begin to realize how much “fun” can be had at the gym and how stiff and sore you can get if you don’t take care of yourself.  At this 3-6 month mark people tend to realize that they are not spending enough time performing mobility work or they are not eating or sleeping how they need to in order to maintain this schedule.

  Sleep is one of the most important aspects of being able to stick to a good workout routine.  The amount of time your body needs to recover from a hard workout can surprise you.  When you add in the amount of time it takes to recover from work and life stress a person could easily need a solid 8 hours of sleep or even more.  If you perform a quick Google search on what is the most important part of seeing gains while working out –  sleep with always be on that list.  If you think you are not getting enough sleep see if you can modify your schedule to try and accommodate it.

 Another huge topic is nutrition.  Feeding your body the appropriate fuel sources to not only help during the workouts but also the recovery phase is of the utmost importance.  For people starting to eat healthy they tend to get too caught up in the minutia and miss the overall idea.  It is usually these same people who “fail” in their attempt to eat healthy because it becomes too overwhelming and too complicated.  Getting started can be pretty easy: stick with eating lean meats/protein (chicken, fish, poultry, eggs, and venison – yes the occasional red meat is fine!), fruits and vegetables.  From here you can then start to cut out the junk food from your diet such as candy, soda and basically anything that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup or that comes from a fast food restaurant.  If you can stick to the above basics you don’t need to worry about how much you are eating – it’s almost impossible to overeat if you are making healthy choices.  I would suggest that you stick with the above ideas for a couple of months until you think you have that mastered and then try to dive into more complicated ideas but for starters always remember to start with what you can handle or you will become frustrated and end up quitting before you see the results.

One of the last pieces of the puzzle is taking care of your physical health.  This is where mobility, stretching and the dreaded rest days come in.  Personally I have a “small” workout obsession (those of you who know me will be surprised to hear this I know) so finally coming to terms that rest days are needed took some time.  The amount of rest days can vary from week to week and person to person but I would recommend at least 2 days a week where you do not do anything “workouts” – this does not mean you cannot be active but working out should not be performed.  This allows your body to repair from the previous week but also helps you not focus so much on working out and not wear yourself out mentally.  In addition to rest days make sure you are taking the appropriate amount of time to perform your mobility exercises (2-4 days a week for 2-4 minutes per region) and if need be schedule that massage, physical therapy or chiropractic appointment to ensure you are staying and physically healthy as possible.

  Take some time this week to see if you are doing enough to take care of yourself.  If you think you are not create a new plan that incorporates more sleep, better nutrition and more time to rest/refuel!! 


Matt L killing the knees the elbow, nice job!


Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner – Anterior Hip Pain

First let’s take some time to talk about how great this past Friday was!!  What a great turnout for a great cause.  Those kinds of events are my favorite for a few reasons.  It is great to meet other members of the gym that don’t want to wake up at 5 am (I don’t know who doesn’t want to workout at 5 am but that’s neither here nor there) but it is also great to see so much support for everyone working out!!!  I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Going through the past several blogs I realized that we have not spent much time if any discussing the issues that involve the front part of our legs.  Which I guess makes sense since we never really squat that much anyways – yea right.  So let’s take some time this week to look at the front part of our legs/thighs and how that could be an issue when performing certain tasks.

The front part of your leg/thigh is essentially made up of 2 groups of muscles: Quadriceps and Psoas/Iliacus.  These muscles are primarily involved in extending your knee and flexing your hip: most notably the upward motion involved in squatting.  However, another very important aspect of these muscles in the lengthening component when you are performing the downward motion of squatting or wall balls.  

If these muscles are too tight/stiff your hip joint will not move smoothly when performing the downward motion and you will feel a pinch in the front part of your thigh near the upper inside region.  Usually you can move your leg position a bit to make the pain go away but this just resembles a Band-Aid treatment.  Fixing this issue will come with stretching and smashing your quads/psoas.  

One of the best stretches is called “The Couch Stretch”.  Performing this stretch is quite easy yet painful all at the same time.  All you need is an Ab mat (or rolled up towel) and a wall.  Place the Ab mat near the wall and place your knee on the ab mat while facing away from the wall.  From here place your foot on the wall.  The goal is to get your leg flush with the wall while maintaining an upright position – this will not be easy the first time and you will probably not enjoy this.  Performing this a few times a week is the best way to stretch your anterior hip musculature which will make your squats feel better.  If there still are some sticky points spend some time on the foam roller/lacrosse ball or find a friend to smash your quads for you.

 If you are someone who finds squatting down painful in the front part of your hips I would suggest incorporating this into your daily routine.

  “The Couch Stretch”





Jess getting low!

Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner

When and how should I mobilize?

First off who had sore legs this past week?  What did you do to relieve some of that soreness?  The workout that we had on Wednesday is a prime example of why it is important to mobilize before working out (due to the heavy squats) and also post workout to start muscle repair.  If were able to spend some time mobilizing post workout you would have felt less soreness than your friends the following few days!

Secondly there was a great video on MobilityWOD this past week in regards to how and when to mobilize.  There are a few basic concepts to mobilizing and Kelly Starrett does a great job and creating a systematic approach.  The first piece is to make sure the athlete has the proper technique or skill for that given movement and then focus on the joint capsule (band distraction work).  Both of these should be done prior to working out.  The next two steps – myofascial work (foam rolling) and trigger point work should both be done after the workout.

To better understand that last paragraph I will explain in a bit more depth.  The biggest problem that many athletes have is their warm up is flawed.  If you ever want to see what a real warm up should look like take a look at a boxer or MMA fighter when they get in the ring.  They are soaked with sweat!  Before the fight they are performing actions similar to those they are going to use in the ring and are not spending time foam rolling out their hip flexor.  With that being said your warm-ups in the CrossFit gym should be movements that are similar to those you are going to be performing that given day.  If we are going to be performing a lot of barbell work your warm up should mimic those movements.  Some great warm ups can be found online.  The ones that I think are the best are The Thacker Warm-up (compliments of Coach Jon for showing me this) and The Burgener Warm-up.  If you do this right you will be sweating by the time you are done and you will be feeling loose and ready to workout.  If you have ever felt better during the middle or end of a workout that usually means you were not warmed up enough at the start of the workout.  The only time that you should consider foam rolling or using a lacrosse ball at the start of a workout is after you have done some dynamic warm ups (ie. Jump rope, the above mentioned warm ups) and still feel like there is one sticking spot you want to address.  

Foam rolling and lacrosse ball work should be left for after the workout as this will get you ready for the next workout.  Foam rolling and lacrosse ball work has been shown to inhibit your muscles to the point of making them a little weaker and slower to fire.  Both of which are not good for trying hit a new PR!

From now on if you arrive to the gym a few minutes early try to get started on your dynamic warm up (light jog, jump rope, barbell movements) as opposed to lying on a foam roller.  The key is that you want to be sweating before starting your working sets for the day.  

I provided links to the above mentioned warm-ups if you wanted to take a look.

The Burgener Warm-Up

The Thacker Warm-Up





The day after Fran

I was glad to see Fran pop up last week, as it is a great workout to test how well those last two blogs I wrote worked out for each of you.  Over the past 2 weeks I spent some time writing about squatting more efficiently and performing overhead activities in a manner that protected your shoulders and also saved some of your strength.  If you spent some time working on those mobility exercises I spoke about the last two weeks you would have noticed your squats become a little more efficient and your overhead lifts not as cumbersome.  If you were still feeling like these movements were tricky we can re-visit the last two weeks information now.

When performing a workout that involves high rep. squatting you have to be able to put yourself in a position where this motion is efficient so that you are not taxing your muscles too early in the workout.  Just for a quick refresher you ideally would like your knees to always be pointing away from each other and not collapsing inward or forward.  If you allow your knees to collapse inward or forward you being to put a lot of tension on your muscles and tendons which will cause premature muscle failure.  If you are able to position yourself with knees out and “spreading the floor apart” with your feet you will be using more of your capsule than your muscles allowing you to save you muscles for later in the workout.  Try to focus on this next time you do Wall Balls or Fran and see if this makes a difference.

The same goes for the up Thruster position as well as the Pull-ups.  If you were able to keep good positioning (ie. External rotation and with full shoulder flexion) you would be able to chain more of those movements together without feeling such fatigue.  When performing a workout with multiple pull-ups keeping good position and your body fully engaged would allow you to use minimal muscle activity creating an environment where you can save your muscles later in the workout.  If you do not keep your body fully engaged chaining more than one kipping pull-up together would be very difficult.  If you don’t fully understand this next time you are trying pull-ups keep your core tight and your shoulders down with full external rotation and try stringing a few together.  Now try stringing a few together without keeping everything engaged.  You will easily see a big difference.  A great way to train your body to stay engaged is to start performing a few pull-ups in a row with perfect form.  Do not go to exhaustion and perform this a few times a day for 2-3 days a week.  You will begin to see how different this feels and how much easier it is to string a few together.

I hope that over the next few weeks as we perform different workouts you are able to incorporate some of these biomechanical thoughts into the movements creating more efficient and safer movement pattern.

If you are still having some issues with hip or shoulder mobility go back and take a look at the previous blogs and start getting to work!