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“Sodium and What Does it Mean to You” by Coach Crystal McCullough, MSN, CSCS

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Sodium and What Does it Mean to You

by Coach Crystal McCullough, MSN, CSCS

Sodium in and of itself is considered both a mineral AND an electrolyte and is essential for several functions in the human body. Some key roles are blood pressure regulation, maintaining fluid balance, and it also plays a supportive role in muscle and nerve function. The problem is that most people have a higher than suggested sodium (salt) intake from their diets and this can lead to health issues or exacerbate current health issues if it becomes chronic.

The human body is made up of about 60% water. Sodium and water have an interdependent relationship. To keep it simple, water follows sodium. Have you ever wondered why after eating Mexican food you feel all bloated and the next day you have gained 2 pounds? Did you really gain 2 pounds of fat? No. You actually had a high sodium meal and your body retained the water leading to excess water weight.

According to the FDA, the maximal safe limit of dietary sodium intake for healthy adults is 2,300 mg, but most adults should take in no more than 1,500, even if they are losing sodium through sweat. The average American takes in upwards of 3,400 mg per day, and this can lead to elevated blood pressure and other health issues. Sodium is found naturally in our foods like meats, shellfish, dairy, vegetables, and even our drinking water. It isn’t hard to reach that 1,500 mg/day just by eating whole foods. Sodium is actually added in the manufacturing process of most processed foods. Many Americans don’t consider their sodium intake when they make food choices because they are unaware of the effects too much sodium can have on their bodies. For some, they may not realize elevated blood pressure comes from the excess dietary intake of sodium while others, like my father who has congestive heart failure, must eat a low sodium diet in order to stay alive. Being aware of sodium content of our foods will help us to reduce water weight and regulate our body systems more effectively.

From here, let’s keep it simple and how it affects you as an athlete.

Sweating, or perspiration, is completely normal and is actually an essential bodily function that helps to control body temperature. When your body temperature rises like in exercising, sweat dampens the skin and cools it down as it evaporates. Sweat is made up of mostly water, BUT sweat is salt-based, so when you sweat, electrolytes like sodium and potassium are depleted and need to be restored. Drinking water during shorter workout sessions will prevent dehydration, but longer workout sessions especially in hot weather, require electrolyte-replenishing drinks.

We can also use sodium to manipulate our weight when we are cutting for a meet. It is done in conjunction with water manipulation. If you recall, the simplistic ‘water follows sodium’, if you increase your sodium a few days out while water loading, you will retain a little water and then once you drastically reduce your water and sodium intake, your body will continue to dump out extra water because of the delayed effect of the body’s regulatory system. This leads to quick water weight loss.

Sometimes, all it takes is making informed choices as consumers to get on the right path. Many of my nutrition clients struggle with sodium intake because they are thinking more on the lines of hitting their macros and not taking into consideration their sodium intake. When one of them adds 2-5 pounds on in a week and they say they were hitting their macros, my first question is ‘how often did you eat out?’ The usual reply is, “OH!”

Here are some helpful tips!

1. Fresh veggies are best! Frozen veggies are a good alternative because they don’t spoil as fast and are less expensive. Canned veggies have higher sodium content. If you choose to buy canned veggies, be sure to look for no salt added.
2. Limit how often you eat out. Even when we think we are making good food choices, sauces and added salt to make food taste good are hidden with loads of sodium.
3. Look at your food labels. You will be surprised at what has a lot of sodium in it. Frozen meals, salted nuts, canned foods like ravioli, and deli meat are all examples. Search for alternatives or lower sodium options.
4. When choosing sports drinks, be sure to look at the ratio of potassium to sodium and the sugar content. Drinks like Gatorade have loads of processed sugar in them. They taste good, yes, but beware. Great alternatives are NUUN tablets added to water or pure coconut water.
5. Drink water! A good rule of thumb is to try to reach upwards of a gallon a day as an athlete. Other recommendations may be needed for people with chronic illnesses who may need to restrict water intake.

I like to enjoy Mexican food every once in a while. Chips and salsa is one of my favorite all time snacks. But, just like with your macronutrients, be aware of how much sodium the foods you are choosing on a daily basis. Make informed decisions. Realize that when you eat higher sodium foods on a regular basis, you are going to feel bloated and carry around some excess water weight. I KNOW that the morning after I eat Mexican food, I am not going to like what the scale says. It is not uncommon to see an extra pound or so on the scale following a meal like that.

My hope is that by reading this article, you are more informed and are equipped now to make better food choices.

Check out The “Eat What You Want” E-Book to understand nutrition better. With a built-in Macro Calculator, you will have all the tools necessary to getting your nutrition in check.

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About Crystal: Crystal is one of our Mash Elite coaches. She is a nationally ranked 72k USAPL Open and Masters powerlifter. Her best lifts are 147k squat, 88k bench, and 177k deadlift. She is an RN with a Masters degree in Nurse Education and has her CSCS. She was a CrossFit affiliate owner from 2015-2017 before relocating to Mash Headquarters. She is also the mom of 14 year old, Morgan. Follow her journey on Instagram @crystalmac_72

Fuel Your Body Appropriately: Stop the Madness! by Coach Crystal McCullough,

Check out The “Eat What You Want” E-Book to understand nutrition better. With a built-in Macro Calculator, you will have all the tools necessary to getting your nutrition in check.

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Fuel Your Body Appropriately: Stop the Madness!

What kind of relationship do you have with food? Is it healthy or unhealthy?

by Coach Crystal McCullough (Instagram: @crystalmac_72 )

My family and I just got back from an amazing week in Nashville with great friends. We went to the CrossFit Central Regional and witnessed some very fit adults compete all weekend and do some very fit things. The top 5 athletes (men, women, and team) punched their ticket to the next level, The CrossFit Games in Madison, WI. It was very motivating and fueled my fire to continue to train hard for my own goals. This last week was not all fun and games, however, as I sat in the hospital room with my very sick father on Tuesday and Wednesday, who is awaiting a major heart surgery. He was supposed to have surgery this admission, but unfortunately, his blood sugar is way too high and they couldn’t safely do the surgery and provide a positive prognosis for his outcome. So, now, he has to go back home and get his blood sugar under control before he can have the surgery that will ultimately save his life.

These athletes and my father are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The athletes are trying to be as fit as possible, while my father is trying to maintain some quality of life. What they have in common is nutrition plays a huge role in their goals. In the United States, we have access to more food in a day than people in other countries might see in a month, even a year. We walk into a gas station and candy bars are staring us in the face, sodas are on the end aisle, and Little Debbies scream our name. There is a fast food restaurant on every street corner and a rainbow colored Frappuccino the size of a small dog. Social gatherings and family get-togethers are centered around food! With all of this access, no wonder we are facing an obesity epidemic in this country. And there IS an epidemic.

The National Council on Aging reports that upwards of 92% of all older adults are suffering from one chronic illness and around 77% have at least two. Heart disease and type II diabetes (both of which are often preventable) at the top of the list of chronic illnesses that are responsible for up to two-thirds of deaths in older adults each year. More shockingly, according to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity has tripled since the 1960s, where, now 1 in 3 children and adolescents are considered obese. It has become the top health concern among medical professionals. This is crazy!! We are doing our children a disservice!! What do you think will be the quality of life for our already obese children when they reach senior status? Stop the madness!!

I will use the analogy of a car. Petroleum is the fuel that we use to run our cars. In order to keep our cars in top working condition, they require quality fuel and maintenance. They also have to be driven regularly in order to keep them running. Now, think about that. Food is our fuel. We need quality food, maintenance, and regular exercise in order to stay in top working condition.

Am I saying don’t enjoy food? NO, that isn’t what I am saying at all. What I AM saying is, on a regular daily basis, put food in your mouth that will support your goals and promote health and well-being. This will look different for everyone. What the CrossFit athlete can and needs to eat to perform at the top of their sport will look much different than what my father needs to eat in order maintain quality of life.

So, how do we reverse the already deteriorating future of our obese youth as well as give quality of life back to our older adults? Here are some ideas I have that might help:

1. Realize where you are on the spectrum – what I mean by this is, if you are an athlete, you are fueling your body for performance. You can eat quality foods most of the time and indulge every once in a while with no issue. If you are suffering from a chronic illness, those indulgences can be detrimental. You won’t have the same luxuries as the athlete.
2. Be an example – as a parent, our children mimic us. Drew just recently posted a picture on Instagram of Rock weighing his strawberry. They are watching and we can teach them so much. Providing our children with quality food is step 1. Teaching them about quality food and how to prepare it is step 2. Showing them how to exercise self-control when we do indulge is step 3. They will carry what we teach them into their adult life.
3. Exercise self-control – when we do indulge, maybe get the Like It size at Coldstone rather than the Gotta Have it. Put it in a cup rather than a cone. Eat two slices of pizza rather than a whole one by yourself. This list can go on.
4. Exercise! – obviously athletes will exercise. It is part of their sport. I’m talking to my kids and my average adults. Get moving!!!

The only way we are going to turn this around and become a more fit society as a whole is to target our kids. They are the future and if we don’t teach them how to be healthy and the importance of wellness and exercise, we are doomed as a society. We can create such bright futures for them!! Let’s GO!!

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Crystal McCullough (Instagram: @crystalmac_72 )

41-year old Army wife and Mom to a genetic 13-year-old freak. Basketball player turned runner turned CrossFitter turned powerlifter. Crystal has podiumed over the years at 5k and 10k road races and local CrossFit competitions. She is currently a 72k USAPL National Level powerlifter.  Her best competition lifts are 145k squat, 77.5k bench, and 170k deadlift. She is an RN with a Masters degree in Nursing Education, a CrossFit affiliate owner, and a Mash Elite Performance coach. She has several years of coaching experience in the CrossFit community and is a life long learner of the art and science of the vast strength and conditioning world. She is currently studying for her CSCS.

My Rehab Workout, Easter Thoughts, and a Final Recap of Last Week

“MashJacked” and “Train Stupid” drop Friday April 21st. Until then check out one of our seven E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day”
• “Eat What You Want”
• “Squat Every Day 2”
• “No Weaknesses”
• “Mash Program Sampler”
• “The Mash Blueprint for Program Design”
• “Performance Zone”

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Elite E-Books

More Workouts and Easter Thoughts

I started back training last Monday with a 143kg/315lb Back Squat that felt terrible. Then I squatted 182kg/400lb on Wednesday, and finally I hit 210kg/462lb on Friday. That was the fastest that I have ever progressed. I think there is a reason.

All of these injuries have lit a new fire. It’s one thing to be lazy and choose not to train. It’s a whole other thing to not have a choice because of injury. All of a sudden you learn to appreciate the ability to train. For the first time in a while I have a desire to train hard. I want to see exactly where I can take things.

I want to see how strong that I can get, while keeping family, God, team, and my business as a priority. I want to show people that you can be balanced, and still be a champion. I hate when people say that you have to be selfish to be a great athlete. Says who? And why do they say that? That’s a cop out in my opinion. That’s the easy way, and in my opinion that’s a pointless existence.

What’s the point in being a champion if you can’t maintain the relationships in your life? What if you win the Olympics, and you have no loved ones in your corner? I mean who cares about anything without love in your life? Winning isn’t worth it. I can say that from experience.

Personally I want to inspire the people around me. I want my children to see me living a balanced life. I want to train hard and compete well while loving my family and friends. It can be done.

Friday 4/14/17

Back Squats worked up to 210kg/462lb x 1
DB Flies 3 x 10
Plate Front Raises 3 x 10

Saturday 4/15/17

Deadlifts Warmed up to 315lbx3 sumo, and then worked up to 425lb 2×1. I had to stop because I felt a pulling on my triceps. I am a few weeks away from starting the rehab process.

Belt Squat RDLs with Kettlebells- if you don’t have a belt squat machine. I highly recommend the investment. I love the emphasis that it puts on hip extension. I also love traction on the low back. I performed 3 x 8 reps.

Lunges 3 x 10

Last week was just a time to get things moving. Here is my plan for next week:
Back Squats Hypertrophy 3 x (80% for 3 and 60% for 10)
Lunge ss Leg Curls 3 x 10ea ss 10
DB Flies ss DB Flies 3 x 10 ss 10
Pec Deck ss Pullovers 3 x 10 ss 10

Box Squats 75% 5×5
Deadlifts Alt Stance 5RM with 5 sec eccentric
No Weaknesses TBD

Back Squats Max Effort 1-3RM paused or not paused and with or without chains or bands
DB Flies 5 x 10
Pullover ss Rows 3 x 10 ss 10

Deadlifts 1-3RM paused or not paused and with or without chains or bands
RDLs on the Belt Squat 5 x 8
No Weaknesses TBD

The no weaknesses training will be decided by Coach Chris Mason, and it will consist of a combination of carries, mobility, and metabolic work. Each week I will let you guys look at what’s coming up the next week. It will change as I progress, and of course as I am allowed to rehab my triceps tendon. As my work capacity goes up, so will my volume until I am at a solid volume level. Then I will develop a plan that is more aggressive. Right now my goals are hypertrophy, movement, and work capacity. I am ready to turn things up.

Here are my final thoughts on this Easter Sunday. If you’re a Christian, then you realize that Christ died on the cross and three days later walked out of the tomb. He defeated death that day for all that would believe. The next time that you get stressed out about anything I want you to think about that. What are you stressing about? Did you gain 3lb in this temporal life? Did your bench press or clean & jerk plateau for 3-weeks? If you are a believer, none of this really matters at all.

You might ask, “So why do anything at all?” For me it’s to inspire and encourage. If I can lift big weights and encourage someone else to do something cool, that’s exciting. If someone sees me lifting big weights, passionately coaching by team, loving my family, and loving God all at the same time, maybe it will encourage them to do the same. Maybe it’s someone that doesn’t believe that sees a Christian practicing what they preach. No matter it’s all worth it if I am helping someone else on this earth.

Love you guys and Happy Easter!

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Working Out Again and Update

We are eight days away from releasing our two new E-Books “MashJacked: Hypertrophy to Improve all Sports” and “Train Stupid: Philosophy and Programming of Nathan Damron”. You can pick up my Free E-Book “Mash Method” to learn several ways to crush plateaus, and that will get you on the list as well.

==> Free Copy of “The Mash Method”

Working Out Again and Update

Man this has been a crazy year. By January I was well on my way to getting in the best shape of my life, and then tragedy struck. I tore my right triceps tendon performing a routine Power Snatch. There were definite warning signs that I ignored like major pain in my elbow. Lesson learned!

Then I was getting ready to start the rehab process, and then I fell down the stairs late one night. I tore the same tendon again. Now two surgeries later, I am working out again. This week has looked like this:

Monday 4/10/17
Back Squat worked up to 143kg/315lb x1
Leg Extension 4 x 12
DB Lateral Raises 3×10
DB Flies 3×10
Pec Deck 3 x 10

Wednesday 4/12
Back Squat 182kb/400lb x 1, 140kg/308lb x 3
Goodmornings Wide Stance 3×5 with 70kg/154lb
Lateral Raises 3 x 10
Plate Front Raises 3 x 10

As you can see I am trying to strengthen all the muscles around the damaged tendon. Range of Motion is the real concern. I can flex my arm to about 90 degree right now, and that’s it. I have a long ways to go to perform Cleans again.

My goal right now is to get back into descent shape in the strength department. Next week I will add some “No Weaknesses” Conditioning with Coach Ox Mason, and then I will just progress from there.

I really want to focus on four main lifts:

• Clean
• Squat
• Bench Press
• Deadlift

That is when I am rehabbed and ready to go. Here are my main goals:

• Compete at a high level in Powerlifting
• Clean 400lb
• Cut my body fat with our “Eat What You Want” Nutrition Program!
• And one athletic goal that I am not releasing yet. I need to see if I can get fast and jump high again. I will need my friend Coach William Bradley for this endeavor.

Basically I want to get strong, be athletic, lean up, and get healthy. As long as I can squat, I enjoy going into the gym. I am excited to be back. Hopefully I can stay healthy the rest of the year, and maybe along the way I can inspire some of you to reach for your own goals.

I won’t lie. These injuries have been rough mentally for me. My wife has kept me sane and grounded. She asked me multiple times, “What’s God trying to teach you?” I am still fleshing that out. I have some ideas, but I need more time to understand. I am sure that God will reveal that answer in His own perfect timing.

Check out one of our seven E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day” (High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “Eat What You Want” (Nutrition, Macros, and a built-in Macro Calculator
• “Squat Every Day 2” (Part 2 of High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “No Weaknesses” (Defeat Muscular Imbalances crush the Recovery Game)
• “Mash Program Sampler” (Athletic Performance, Oly, Powerlifting, and Functional Programming)
• “The Mash Blueprint for Program Design” (Learn all about Programming)
• “Performance Zone” (Defeat all Mental Roadblocks)
• “Train Stupid” and “MashJacked” drop April 21st

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Elite E-Books

Battle on the Border 2017 – Meet Recap

First and foremost, I want to thank Travis Mash!! He has given me a program that has made me stronger than I ever have been and I continue to keep getting stronger! And I’m 40 (soon to be 41)!! Keep that in mind as you read this 🙂 I also want to thank him for coming down and coaching me! It was such a good day! I also want to thank Krystal Reynolds and her kiddos for always being so supportive and coming out to support me! Thanks to everyone who took time to wish me luck as well!

Wow! Just wow! It is such a surreal feeling when you exceed your own expectations.

I haven’t been on a platform since October when I competed at the USAPL Raw Nationals in Atlanta. I had set a goal for myself to total 800+ on that day. I missed that goal by a measly eight pounds. I competed at 69.1k in the 72k weight class. My best lifts on that day were 130k/286# PR Squat, 75k/165# Bench, and 155k/341# Deadlift. My total was 360k/792#. My Wilkes Score was 361.37 . I was a little disappointed in my performance (even with a meet total PR) because I knew I was better on the bench and the deadlift. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you think you should have done. It only matters what you did. The disappointment lasted only seconds before I was determined to simply continue to get stronger and consistent!

Fast forward six months to Saturday’s meet. I knew I could hit that 800+ goal with relative ease as long as I did my part and hit the numbers Travis told me to. I had that silly toothache for a couple of weeks before the meet and ended up having a root canal the Tuesday prior, so I could only pray it wouldn’t give me trouble.

My weigh in went better than Nationals and I finally filled out the 72k weight class with an official weight of 71.62k. My donut tradition continued post weigh in 🙂 I think I actually managed to eat five from weigh-in until I started warming up.

The meet ran three platforms: lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. My weight class fell in the third flight on the lightweight platform. For the most part, the meet ran smoothly once it got started and the judging was accurate and fair.


I had hit a little above my openers the beginning of the week, so I was confident in hitting my first attempt no problem. This last couple of training cycles, we’ve really focused on my squats. Volume has been high and we lowered the height of the barbell to be more low bar (still not as low as most powerlifters). It is crazy still that I opened up 5k/11# higher than my third attempt PR just 6 months prior! I also broke my own North Carolina Masters 1a State Record with my first attempt.

First attempt: 135k/297#

Second attempt: 140k/308#

Squat attempt 3: 145k/319# (this matches my training PR)

Bench Press

This is my most inconsistent of the three lifts, but continuing to try to perfect my technique and work on consistency. And, of course always get stronger! I broke the North Carolina Masters 1a State Record with my second attempt!

Attempt 1: 72.5#/159.5

Attempt 2: 77.5k/171# (meet PR)

Attempt 3: 80k/176# (FAIL)


To be honest, I am most proud of this lift. It used to be inconsistent for me. One day I would hit a number for three and then turn around and it be beyond hard for a single. I also used to have a terrible sticking point below the knee and a very slow start off the ground. It has improved so much! I also broke the North Carolina Masters 1a State Record with my second attempt!

Attempt 1: 150k/330#

Attempt 2: 160k/352#

Attempt 3: 170k/374# LIFETIME PR

Total for the day was 392.5k/864# which is a 32.5k/72# MEET PR in 6 months! This also crushed my own North Carolina Masters 1a State Record for total! My Wilkes Score also increased to 384.45!! This Wilkes Score also had my just shy of breaking into the top 10 of all time for this meet. I took 1st place in my weight class as well as Masters 1a overall.

It’s going to be a long off season to continue to get stronger and break that 900# barrier at USAPL Raw Nationals in October! Looking forward to whatever Travis throws at me next! Let’s GO!!

Training Log – Taper Week and the Work is Done

I am now 24 hours out from my meet. Lots of excitement, nerves, and so ready to get on that platform. I’ve put in a lot of work since Nationals to increase my total, so looking forward to it showing tomorrow!

This final week has been great! Hit my openers on Monday and Tuesday followed by some lighter squat and bench work on Wednesday and Thursday. Turns out I did need a root canal, which I had on Tuesday afternoon. My mouth was quite sore on Wednesday, but it is extremely manageable with Motrin 🙂 My biggest concern from the dental work was being able to hold my weight. Sitting at 71.5k and holding steady.

Monday Day 1 

Squat Opener 2 x 1 – we decided to open at 135k/297#. Without fractional plates, I decided to jump up to 300# for my two singles. They felt great!

Deadlift Opener 1 x 1 – we decided to open at 150k/330#. Felt light and easy!! So pumped!!

Tuesday Day 2 

Bench Press Opener 2 x 1 – we’ve talked about 72.5k/159# and 75k/165#, so I decided to do one at each. Made sure the pause was substantial and mimicked the cues from the judge in my head.

Accessory Work: 

  • Chest supported Bat Wing Rows 3 x 5 with 25# DBs

Wednesday Day 3

High Bar Back Squat 2 x 1 with 85% (250#) – Felt great considering less than 24 hours post root canal and minimal warm up!

Accessory Work:

  • 4″ deficit Suitcase Deadlifts 3 x 5 each side RPE 7 with 115#
  • Sled drag forward and sled drag backward 1 x 60 seconds with e-sled and 45# plate

Thursday Day 4

Bench Press 3 x 1 with 75% (135#) – these felt great and I paused an extended amount of time to work on the explosive drive off of my chest.

Accessory Work:

  • Legs elevated horizontal body weight rows 3 x submaximal – 11/11/10
  • Lying DB external rotations 3 x 10 with 10# DB

The work has been put in and so excited to showcase it on the platform tomorrow at the Battle on the Border in Fort Mill, SC!!




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