Hi, I’m Doc Danny Matta. I’m a physical therapist, strength coach and an instructor on the MobilityWOD team. I’ve worked with countless CrossFit athletes, soldiers and weekend warriors over the past 6 years as a physical therapist. These are just my views. If you don’t like them, stop reading and start your own blog.
Last year during the 4th workout of CrossFit Open Week, I saw an epidemic. That epidemic was a ridiculous increase in acute neck injuries. I thought to myself, did everyone get in a car accident and sustain a whiplash injury in the same week? I quickly realized that it wasn’t car accidents crushing people’s necks, it was handstand push ups!
Don't be this guy!!
If you don’t remember the 4th workout last year it was as many rounds as possible in 8 minutes:
3 cleans (men use 185 pounds and women use 125 pounds)
3 handstand push ups
6 handstand push ups
9 handstand push ups and so on for the entire 8 minutes.
I actually really liked this workout when I saw it. It’s a nice push pull couplet. It’s moderately heavy but light enough where many people would be able to at least do a few rounds. What I didn’t expect was that I would see people pile driving themselves into the ground to get one extra hand stand push up!
Let’s be real with each other, if you’re reading this and you honestly have a shot to go to the CrossFit Regionals or Games I understand why you might sacrifice your neck to achieve a long term goal. Look, I’m as competitive as anyone. I once kicked a guy off an intramural flag football team I was on mid-game because he sucked. Do your thing, and I hope you achieve your goal.
The rest of you, honestly probably 99% of you reading this need to look at this from another perspective. You are not going to the CrossFit Regionals, let alone Games. You are doing CrossFit because you’re trying to be healthy, look good and have a supportive community to keep you motivated. You need to look at the Open as a way to test yourself, try new things, have fun and compete with your friends/family.
I only have one person that I compete against when I do the CrossFit open- my brother. I bet you thought I was going to say myself. Sorry but that’s cliche bullshit! You need to compete against another human being if you really want some competition. In my case it’s my older brother and I look forward to crushing him again this year because I know he and his wife just had a baby and he’s going to be in less than ideal shape!
So, for those of us falling into the non-CrossFit Games/Regionals category here’s my advice: Do not do something that subjects you to injury that can limit your ability to function at work or with your family. Get with your coach and get a game plan for the workouts. Maybe you do your best with the RX weight but don’t do something stupid. You still get a score. After you do that, scale what you need to scale and then get a good solid workout in.
Go to your gym’s Friday Night Lights workouts. Get involved in the fun of the Open and enjoy it. Have a fun 5 weeks, this is your season. You’ve been training all year for this. Once it’s over, get back in the gym and work on your weaknesses. Follow my advice and you’ll get to that point without breaking your neck!
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
It’s the day after Christmas and as my wife and I break down the endless boxes that my kids' toys came in, I had some time to reflect on this past year. I’ve learned a lot of lessons this year and since we all have such short attention spans these days, I will share this with you in bullet point format!
1. Age is just a number.
If you didn’t know your age, how old would you say you are? How old do you feel? I turned 30 this year and supposedly that means it’s all downhill from there. I disagree with that, I feel like I’m just hitting my prime. Age is just a number, don’t pay attention to it.
2. Treat your body better than your car.
Because of the nature of my practice I get some very successful people as patients. Many of these clients have the newest German luxury, badass cars that’s detailed and shiny as could be. The car is taken care of as if it’s going to need to be show-ready at anytime.
Many of us treat our vehicles better than our own bodies. Listen people, you can get tons of different vehicles in your lifetime but you only get one body. That means treat it with respect. Put good food in your body. Exercise and perform some basic maintenance. That means you either do some body maintenance on yourself or go see someone to get a massage, do some dry needling or some whole body cryotherapy.
You can either put the work in now or pay the price when you’re body breaks down on you.
3. You can’t appreciate how comfortable you are unless you are uncomfortable sometimes.I read a book this year that I really enjoyed called Living With A SEAL by Jesse Itzler. I recommend you all read it. It’s a short read, hilarious and the message really resonated with me. In the book, the SEAL Jesse hires to train with him makes him sleep in a wooden chair all night. His rationale was he was too comfortable. He wanted him to experience something uncomfortable so he could appreciate what he had.
Push your body, expose yourself to uncomfortable things and have a better appreciation for how comfortable our lives really are.
4. Embrace the cold.
For the past few months I’ve been exposing myself to cold immersion work. I’ve done things like cold showers, ice baths and running in cold temperatures in shorts and no shirt.
I was inspired by a man named Wim Hof who is called the Iceman. He believes that cold exposure and breath control is the way to unlock our human potential.
I have to say, I hate being cold. It’s such a mental hurdle to step into a cold shower or get in an ice bath. Once you do it, it’s so cold it literally takes your breath away. This is where the magic happens. If you can expose yourself to something cold enough to take your breath away and then control your breathing, you’re in charge again. You are overriding your body’s fear mechanism.
This has been one of the coolest things I’ve learned in the past year. You might be standing in a whole body cryotherapy tube that’s -200 degrees but in your mind it can be 75 degrees and sunny!
5. You need to actually warm up before training.
I know, this sounds crazy right? Actually warming up before doing a workout- what a creative idea! Here’s the reality: very few people actually warm up before training. Some gyms run people through a structured warm up but some leave it up to the athletes to warm themselves up. I think this is too important to be left up to chance.
Take your athletes through a thorough warm up specific to the training for that day. 3 rounds of Cindy does not count as a warm up unless you are doing Cindy!
This could very well be the most important injury prevention tool you have as a strength coach, use it!
6. Your diaphragm is the second largest muscle in your body, use it.
Most of us take somewhere around 15,000- 20,000 breaths in a day. That’s a ton of breaths and you can live a long, happy life breathing like crap. If you’re an athlete you’re missing out on a golden opportunity if you aren’t working on your breathing.
I’m talking better endurance, better spinal stability and stronger lifts. I’m not selling you snake oil. Learn how to control your diaphragm along with the structures that connect into it and you will be a better athlete.
7. Everyone is deficient in Vitamin D.
Well maybe not everyone, but basically everyone who’s blood work I looked at this year was deficient in Vitamin D. Get your Vitamin D 25-hydroxy tested. Optimal values should be in the 50-80 ng/mL range.
8. Everyone should be taking a probiotic.
Probiotics have been mainstream ever since Jamie Lee Curtis became the spokesperson for the probiotic yogurt, Activia. Well, in the past few years more and more research has been done on gut health, gut bacteria and the link between poor gut health and neurologic disease. A probiotic is an easy way to make sure you’re getting healthy gut bacteria. You can also throw in some fermented foods like pickles, greek yogurt with live cultures, kombucha tea and kimchi. Adding a probiotic into my daily diet has had the best health effects on me than anything else I’ve done this year.
Check out the great conversation we had about functional medicine for more info on this.
You’ve got to get high quality sleep. It’s so important for so many body functions. In the worlds of Dr. Kirk Parsley (check out our podcast with him if you haven’t listened yet) “Good sleep is the most anabolic thing you can do for your body.” Get 7.5-8.5 hours ideally. Make sure the room is pitch black and cold.
10. Do something to utilize all that time you put in at the gym.
Play a sport again. It doesn’t have to consume your life like when you were in high school and college. Pick something and start utilizing all that great training you put in at the gym. Go out there and dominate some overweight frat boys and guys with dad bods. You’re a fucking stud, go dominate!
I was challenged earlier this year by one of my patients. She bet me that I couldn’t make it 3 minutes without thinking about something. I took the bet and lost. I made it about 20 seconds into my 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation before I started thinking about my to do list. Add in just 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation everyday. If you don’t have 3 minutes to work on your own mental mindset then you have bigger problems.
12. Do or do not. There is no try.
Yes, I stole this from Yoda. We’ve been re-watching all of the Star Wars movies with my 4 year old son. He told me that I didn’t know the power of the dark side the other day. I think we’ve created a Star Wars maniac.
What this means for you is stop telling other people and yourself that you’re going to do something. Stop putting things off until tomorrow. Tomorrow is a magical place where nothing ever happens! Whatever it is that you’ve been holding off on, do it this year. Run that marathon, do that triathlon, start that business you’ve been thinking about, ask that cute girl at your CrossFit gym out on a date. Stop procrastinating, just do it already.
13. Earn your carbs
This is something I got from my friend and podcast co-host, Joe Szymanek. I love his philosophy of earning your carbs. Carbs are great! In fact, you could argue that it’s the most delicious macronutrient.
Too many carbs, along with poor intake timing and a sedentary lifestyle will turn you into a fat lazy person with type II diabetes. Timing your carb intake around your training session will help you recovery and have more energy. You’ve gotta earn your carbs.
14. A pyramid is only as tall as it’s base.
This is something that Louie Simmons has famously said. What he means by this is you have to build a strong athletic base if you want to build a serious athlete.
If you can’t control your own spine under load, do you think you’ll be squatting 1000 pounds? That’s what people that go to work with Louie Simmons do on a regular basis. They work on their base constantly so they can build a taller pyramid.
You have to prioritize the fundamentals and doing the non-sexy auxiliary work. Think reverse hyper, hollow to arch progressions, single leg deadlifts and good mornings. This stuff is just as important as doing metabolic conditioning.
15. Listen to podcasts
I might be slightly bias because I have a podcast but it’s the truth, podcasts are the best. It’s completely free and you can learn some amazing things by listening to podcasts. I can tell you without a doubt my business and my professional skill set have improved because of listening to podcasts. Try it on your commute to work. Just think, if you’re sitting in your car for an hour a day, 5 days a week and you listen to a podcast 50 weeks out of the year, you’ll listen to 250 hours of content a year. That’s a lot of information! If you don’t know where to start, check out Doc and Jock first.
Thanks for being a part of the Athletes’ Potential family in 2015. Have a great 2016!
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
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Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.