THE WEEKLY HOWL IS JOINING THE ARMY

Beer: My track coach in college once told us something that has always stuck with me. He told us that we were smart people so we could rationalize anything but that didn’t mean that we should ignore common sense. He was talking to us about alcohol. He didn’t want his athletes drinking because it would hinder performance and he knew that some of us would invent reasons to justify why it was okay to imbibe. What he didn’t tell us was that there was a whole cottage industry devoted to justifying the consumption of alcohol. The Ringer sent Molly McHugh down the rabbit-hole of the Beer Mile, a competition that entails drinking 4 beers and running 1 mile as fast you can. She survived to write about it and came back armed with pseudo-science about the health benefits of beer.

While ingesting beer before running certainly won’t make you go faster, Neilson isn’t the only one who thinks that it could be beneficial after exercise. Some breweries are creating beer with exactly this factor in mind. Chief among them is Sufferfest Beer, a San Francisco–based brewery with the slogan “will sweat for beer.” The aim of Sufferfest is to make a beer with some physical benefits that doesn’t sacrifice taste—though it doesn’t claim the drink aids recovery. The Sufferfest team like to qualify theirs as a “functional” beer, which means it’s meant to do something beyond tasting good and giving patrons a nice buzz. Sufferfest beer is gluten-free and has nutrients runners look for in both training and recovery—sodium, iron, potassium, and fiber. It’s also a probiotic. ABV ranges from 3.5 percent to 7.5, fairly strong for what’s deemed a “beer with benefits.” It’s sold not just in grocery stores, but also in climbing gyms and CrossFit studios. “Beer is actually really healthy,” says Sufferfest director of marketing Margaret Link, who recently completed a 50K race. The beverage is high in fiber and electrolytes, and it’s also around 90 to 95 percent water. It’s no wonder that runners crave a beer immediately after crossing the finish line, she says.

              What if I told you that there was a liquid that is 100% water? It’s called water. Alcohol is a diuretic, it is not a good thing to drink post-exercise.

“Exercise provides a wealth of benefits to brain and body, and is regarded as a protective factor against disease,” the researchers wrote. “Protective factors tend to cluster together—that is, people who engage in one healthy behavior, such as exercise, also engage in other healthy behaviors, such as maintaining a nutritious diet and getting sufficient sleep. In contrast to exercise, alcohol consumption is not typically regarded as a health-promoting behavior. … Surprisingly, several large, population-based studies have shown a positive association between physical activity and alcohol intake.” That same study’s survey of college students found that those who classified themselves as moderate drinkers were more likely to be physically active, and that as the intensity of their physical activity went up, so did their drinking. Other, broader surveys confirm the correlation beyond college students.

              So alcohol might be good for you because healthy people tend to do healthy things. This is pure rationalization. If you enjoy drinking beer, then go ahead and enjoy it. But please stop trying to convince anyone that it is good for you. It is not. Alcohol has been designated as a Level 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Take a look at the list and ask yourself if you would want to put some of those substances in your body. It’s not a recovery drink and it’s not going to help you live longer. It will do the exact opposite. People will always choose to drink alcohol and that’s okay but it is dangerous to tell them that it’s actually good for you.         

Dear Gym: Gyms are notorious for making it hard for members to cancel. It’s the seedy underbelly to the fitness industry. And it not uncommon for the media to pick up on some of the most outrageous examples. From WILX 10:

Gym memberships can be a major headache when you try to cancel them. But for one Jackson woman, her health prevented her from going to the gym and being able to cancel it. Kathie Pagan was diagnosed with temporal bone infection. She has to take antibiotics through an IV often, and that prevents her from going places. She was told the only way she can cancel her gym membership is to do it in person, something she says is just not possible.

"I told him that it could possibly harm his employees and patrons," she said.

Pagan says cancelling her membership in person wouldn't be fair to her or the gym's employees and patrons.

"I wanted to stay there, I wanted to work out, I didn't think that I was going to be sick all this time. I thought he would work with me, and then when I got better I would just go back. I don't plan on not being able to work out. I hope that one day I can feel good and get physically fit."

Pagan says she tried to explain the situation to the owner, but didn't feel like she was getting anywhere.

Dear gym operators, stop making it so hard to cancel! It’s short-term thinking. Yes, you will probably get a few more months of membership dues out of that person but there is a cost to that. Think long-term. You could get that member back one day or they could even refer other people to your gym. Or you could avoid negative headlines like this one. Have more confidence. You have the privilege of selling the best product in the world: fitness. Stop acting like you’re selling time shares. You don’t need to do this kind of stuff.

This is very 20th century to me, treating the consumer as if they’re not sophisticated and basically trying to rip them off and thinking that they won’t understand what’s going on. 21st century companies excel by being customer-centric and confident in their product/service. I’ve canceled my Netflix subscription because I wasn’t using it. The process was easy and hassle-free and you know what, I ended up coming back. There have been other subscription services that I have used before that made it a pain to cancel and I’ll never go back. Because that was my last impression of the company, that they were trying to rip me off. I would never recommend those services to anyone either. That’s not good business.  

Military: One of my instructors at boot camp used to brag that he only worked out twice a year, when he was forced to take the Navy’s PFT. The PFT is max push-ups, max curl-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. It’s not terribly demanding especially considering how rampant cheating is on the push-ups and curl-ups. Basically, you could fake your way through the strength portion and then suck it up for a short run. A lot of people would cram for it, try to get in good-enough shape in the 2 months before the test and you could. Other people would fake injuries, I remember one guy who would mysteriously develop a limp the month of the PFT. The Army PFT is similar, the main difference being a slightly longer run (2 miles). But times are changing and the Army Combat Fitness Test is going to re-define what a military fitness test can look like. From Military.com

The secretary of the Army said Monday he has no doubt that soldiers will "rise to the challenge to meet the requirements" of the new Army Combat Fitness Test in October 2020.

The chief of staff of the Army put his views more bluntly.

"If you can't get in shape in 24 months, then maybe you should hit the road," Gen. Mark Milley said, referring to the Army's commitment to the new six-event ACFT.

"We don't want to lose thousands of soldiers to [the ACFT]. This fitness test is hard. No one should be under any illusions about it," he said. "But we really don't want to lose soldiers on the battlefield. We don't want young men and women to get killed in action because they weren't fit."

              The main impetus for this change is to more accurately prepare people for the rigors of combat. Push-ups, sit-ups, and running isn’t comprehensive enough. An added benefit of this overhaul will be that it will be very difficult to cram for it. The old PFT model isn’t rigorous enough. You can suck it up through some sit-ups, push-ups, and a short run, especially when you’re young which most service members are. I always preferred the USMC test (Pull-ups, Sit-ups, 3 mile run) because pull-ups are much tougher than push-ups (you have to train them!) and a 3 mile run really keeps you honest. The new Army test will require people to train year-round, you’re not going to be able to cram for this one.

Drugs are bad: Are we at a point in which everything is a thing now? It sure seems that way. Why do I say that? Because apparently taking Viagra before working out is a thing now. From Men’s Health:

Last year, Sam*, 27, started taking anabolic steroids. “I always wanted to be big and strong,” he told MensHealth.com, “At some point I realized my goals were unattainable naturally, so I hopped on the juice.” He had heard that steroid use could potentially lead to erectile dysfunction, so he started taking 10mg a day of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis.

Then Sam started spending a lot of time on Reddit. He quickly discovered another potential benefit for Cialis. “I saw that people were taking it before their workouts,” he said. “So I changed the timing of my doses to about an hour prior to training.”

To hear Sam tell it, he noticed the difference right away. “I noticed increased vascularity and good pumps,” he said. “Plus, it seems to help reduce cramping/debilitating pumps from oral steroids. I have better erection quality as well, which is obviously pretty great.” Though he eventually dropped to 5mg per day to improve nasal congestion (a common side effect of erectile dysfunction drugs), he continues to take it before his workouts.

This encapsulates the insanity of taking PED’s. You start taking a drug to boost performance but there are side effects to the original drug so you start taking another drug to counteract those side effects but now you have to worry about the side effects of the other drug that you’re on.

And will getting a better pump (more blood in your muscles) even translate to greater muscle growth?

“Sildenafil increases blood flow to the penis and surrounding muscles, which translates into a nice strong erection,” says urologist and assistant professor at the UCF College of Medicine, Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD. “This increased blood flow is what some athletes hope to have to get them to build up their bodies faster.” Viagra also contains nitric oxide, a key ingredient in many legal bodybuilding supplements (though it's worth noting that the benefits of nitric oxide for building muscle are pretty unclear).

There's a small amount of research to support these claims. A few studies have suggested that taking sildenafil can benefit athletes competing at high altitudes, such as cyclists or long-distance runners, by delivering more oxygen to their muscles. Additionally, a 2013 study in the journal of Clinical and Translational Science suggested that sildenafil could increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle fatigue, concluding that it may “represent a potential pharmacologic strategy to improve skeletal muscle function.”

But Brahmbhatt says there were serious limitations to this study. “The study found some potential benefit in gaining muscle mass if you took low doses of Viagra,” continues Dr. Brahmbhatt, “but that study was flawed by its small size. This is a great example of how you should not get caught up in the hype of one study.”

              In other words: who knows. Kids, don’t do drugs.

World Domination: CrossFit has announced another 4 events that will become a part of the 16 event qualifying circuit that will replace the Regionals. And what is definitely a trend now, all 4 events will be contested outside of the U.S. From Morning Chalk-Up:

The 2019 CrossFit Games season officially kicked off last week with the start of the Dubai CrossFit Championship and Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival online qualifiers. Athletes and fans will now have eight months of uninterrupted CrossFit competitions leading up to the CrossFit Games in August. 

Today, CrossFit HQ added four new sanctioned events, bringing the total to 10 with several more expected in coming weeks.

CrossFit Strength in Depth, the CrossFit Italian Showdown, the CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown, have all gained sanctioned status and will be qualifying one male and female athlete and one team to the CrossFit Games. The only exception to that is the CrossFit Italian Showdown, which will not include a team competition. 

Due to SouthFit CrossFit Challenge kicking off next month, it won’t become a sanctioned event until the 2020 season. 

              Strength in Depth is held in London, The Italian Showdown in Milan, the Lowlands Throwdown in the Netherlands, and the SouthFit CrossFit Challenge in Buenos Aires. That gives us 3 U.S. events (Wodapalooza, Granite Games, Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge), 2 South American events (Brazil CrossFit Championship, SouthFit CrossFit Challenge), 4 European events (Italian Showdown, Lowlands Throwdown, French Throwdown, Strength in Depth), 1 African event (Fittest in Cape Town), and one Middle Eastern event(Dubai CrossFit Championship). This is what the circuit for a sport with global aspirations looks like. It’s also something that would have been very expensive and time-consuming for CrossFit to organize itself. The downside is that it will be expensive for U.S. based athletes to travel to these events.

              We’re also starting to see athletes figure out their qualifying strategies. Moving the Open from February to November seems less than ideal for Games competitors. Trying to compete in both basically means that you can’t take anytime off after the Games. Some athletes mused about not competing in the Open but it appears that CrossFit is putting the kibosh on that strategy.

Since Greg Glassman first announced changes to the CrossFit Games season six weeks ago, it was unclear what role, if any, the Open would play. As only country winners and the top 20 worldwide would receive invitations to the CrossFit Games, it appeared that the Open would offer little to no benefit for a majority of would be competitors.

Some were even expressing interest in skipping it altogether.

“The likelihood of me doing the Open is small, I think,” said Brent Fikowski in an interview with TeamRICHEY, who placed 184th worldwide and 20th in Canada in 2018. “It’s likely that I’ll probably just go to a lot of competitions and try to qualify through the competitions. I think it’s a much better use of my time for me to do that to go to the Games” 

However, with today’s updated announcement, athletes will want to think twice about skipping the 2019 CrossFit Open. 

According to a press release, “Overall competitor seeding at the Games will be determined by athletes’ scores in the 2019 worldwide CrossFit Open. Athletes who do not participate in the Open (and thus do not receive an Open score) will receive the lowest seeding and will compete in the first qualifying heats at the 2019 Games. Higher seeded athletes will compete in later heats.”

Glassman has teased the idea of elimination rounds in several interviews over the past month. CrossFit HQ confirmed that the CrossFit Games will open with mass elimination rounds to whittle the competition down to only 10 athletes, hence the emphasis placed on seeding from the Open. 

For example, the Fittest Man in Bolivia — Carlos Hurtado — ranked 5653 worldwide and 250th in the Latin America region. By comparison, Alex Vigneault was the Fittest Man in Canada and 2nd worldwide. Vigneault would compete in later heats with fitter athletes. 

CrossFit also confirmed that winners of sanctioned events will be seeded higher than national champions and possibly receive a bye out of the first elimination round. 

              Figuring out how to approach the new qualifying format is going to be tricky. Everyone will probably want to compete in the Open which means that Games competitors will need to keep training hard between the Games and the Open before taking a break. Does that make Dubai an attractive event? You could train all year to be in peak shape for August-December. And then if you don’t qualify, you have the rest of the year to make another attempt. It will be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Tidbits:

-SoulCycle’s new media division is getting into music

-Meanwhile in the sleep economy…

-Your fitness tracker might not be as accurate as you want it to be

-The Science of Gym Selfies

-I don’t think that fitness snacking is a good way to describe this

-Ruth Zukerman, founder of SoulCycle and FlyWheel Sports, has a book coming out

-I need a vacation