Time to firm up a bit, I think. LOL
After Tuesday's workout, I spend a few minutes to roll out my back. Charlie took advantage of my recovery position and jumped up for some luvin'. As I dug into the knots in my back, Charlie settled into my soft, warm belly like it was a doggie bed.
Time to firm up a bit, I think. LOL
We did 13.5 again on Monday. That turned in to an awful workout for me - here's why. In the morning, I looked up my score from April for this workout and wrote it down. At the gym, as we prepared to start the 4 minutes of thrusters and chest-to-bar pull-ups, I "mis-remembered" my score and thought I had a 67. I wanted to improve, so I was shooting for about 73 reps.
After the first round of 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups (30 reps), there was about 1:20 left. What?? I was way more than 50% done on the clock and way behind on reps. I was never going to get close to 73 or my old 67. I was pissed and, rather than work hard, stewed of and on for the rest of the workout and only did 5 more thrusters. Final score: 35.
About 10 minutes later, I went to my phone and looked up my score again from April. NOT 67, BUT 37!! Now I was pissed all over again because I dogged the workout and still almost matched my score. If I had just kept working, I would have beaten it easily. Nicole assured me, "You can always do it again."
I took her up on that today. I had gotten a couple days of good eating and good rest and was ready to hit it again. I got the first 15 thrusters unbroken. Pull-ups took more time - 5 then 3, then a mix of ones and twos. I finished the first round with just about 2 minutes left. The next set of thrusters seems to weigh twice as much. I did these as 5, 5, 2, and 3. I had a few seconds left to get 3 more pull-ups. Final score: 48. This was a 29% improvement over my April score. Checking the Opens' Leaderboard, I would move up 6,376 spots (worldwide) with this score.
It is amazing the impact of having started the first workout with an unrealistic goal had on my performance. When I realized I was not going to make it, I let myself stop working. If I had just adhered to the mantra "Every Rep Counts" I would have done much better on Monday and not needed to do this beast twice this week.
Anyway, I am happy with my new score. It at least confirms the conclusion from re-testing the other Open workouts; I am about 10-20% better at CrossFit than I was 6 months ago. I'll take that kind of progress all day long.
We re-tested Opens 13.4 on Monday. Six months ago, I completed 40 reps of this 7-minute workout. The task was to complete 3 Clean+Jerks @ 135# and 3 Toes to Bar, then 6 C+J/6 T2B, then 12 C+J/12 T2B, etc. Last try, I finished the round of 9 plus 4 more C+J. I expected to get to 44 reps this time (10% improvement would be consistent with my other workouts). However, my C+J is much better and 135# is not terribly challenging any more. I finished the round of 9, plus all 12 C+J - with about 2 seconds left. Total was 48 reps, 20% better than 6 months ago.
Today, we went for 1 rep max squat cleans. My previous PR was 195#. Today I got 205# but could not get 210#. Thanks go out to Nicole at 2A and John at Craic for all their help!
This was by far my most uncomfortable workout in the opens. Worse, I did it twice in March to get a better score. The workout is 12 minutes of 150 wall ball shots, 90 double unders, and then 30 muscle-ups. The first time I tried this, I ran out of time before finishing Karen (150 wall balls). The second time, I finished Karen in 11:39 and forced my body to do 3 double unders as time ran out - a total of 153 reps.
Today, we did it again. It was still awful. I completed the first 30 wall balls unbroken, then did 12 sets of 10 wall balls. I finished Karen in 10:30 (a shocking 1:09 improvement over my last attempt 6 months ago). I struggled with double unders (and breathing), but managed to get 18 this time. Total reps of 168. Almost exactly 10% better than 6 months ago. This seems to be consistent with how I have improved on 13.1 and 13.2.
Even with this improvement, I hope not to see Karen again for quite some time.
Monday: 1 mile run in 8:00 flat
Wednesday: Front squat 235# (build up was 135, 185, 225, 235)
Thursday: Strict Press 125# (build up was 95, 105, 115, 125)
Also, Thursday was the first day that I used a 62# KB in a WOD. 3 Rounds that included 250m Row, 15KBS @ 62#, and 400m Run.
Sunday: First ever barbell club. 145# Snatch, 150# OH Squat. Tried to push my front squat to 245#, but failed to complete the lift (2 attempts).
It has been 6 months since we all did the Opens and CrossFit 2A has started re-testing those workouts. We have completed 13.1 and 13.2 and the results (for me) are eye-opening.
13.1 was 40 burpees, 30 #75 snatches, 30 burpees, 30 #135 snatches (and the rest does not matter to me). In March, I scored 106 which was 40 burpees, 30 snatches, 30 more burpees, and 6 heavy snatches (#135 was previously my 1RM at the time).
In the re-test last Monday, I got 19 of the heavy snatches - an improvement of 13 reps. That may not seem like a lot, but consider this table:
That's right, I would have improved by almost 15,000 spots if I was in the shape I am now six months ago. That blows me away.
This past Monday, we re-tested 13.2. This WOD was 5 shoulder to overhead @115#, 10 dead lifts @ 115#, and 15 box jumps @ 24". This was a 10 minute AMRAP. My score in March was 177 (3 reps shy of 6 rounds). Monday, I finished 6 full rounds plus 5 shoulder to OH and 10 dead lifts. This raised my score to 195. This is how that would have impacted my placement in the Opens:
OK, it's not 15,000, but improving by over 8,500 spots kicks major ass, too!
The point of all this is to realize that the small, weekly gains that we make all add up to dramatic changes - even in just 6 months. Now I am already looking forward to next Spring when we take on the 2014 Opens.
I spent all of Sunday with a huge crowd of athletes raising money for Braveheart Rescue and Standish Humane Society. We were rewarded with great weather and a long day of partner WODs that were both hard and fun (and ridiculous at times). I partnered with Maria Maramag and we performed quite well; we placed 10th of 33 teams in our division. Maria soldiered through the workouts even after injuring her foot during the "Leap Frog" part of WOD 1. Now she is in a boot for 2 weeks!
Now I am back to more serious effort as our Performance Nutrition Challenge kicks off with 3 benchmark tests and we continue to do a 6-month re-test of the 2013 Open workouts.
It only took 15 months, but today I completed my first Rx Fran. I have done this workout 3 times in the past - all with 75# thrusters.
Just yesterday I was convinced that my shoulder would keep me from getting this workout done. I was pretty sure I could get the 95# thrusters, but 45 unassisted pull-ups seemed unlikely - and I did not want to re-injure myself with the charity competition just 3 days away.
I did a few test pull-ups during the warmup today. My shoulder felt better than it has in weeks. Game on!
My plan was to get this done in under 10 minutes. I broke up the thrusters into 7-7-7 and 5-5-5 and then 5-4. Pull-ups started the same way, but I ended up breaking it up even more to spare my shoulder.
I got to the last set of pull-ups and 9:34. I did 7+1+1 and finished at 9:55. Not going to the games with that time, but I was ecstatic!
My shoulder felt much better toward the end of last week. I started doing light work on it on Thursday. I have worked up to a few push-ups and a few pull-ups.
We took on back squats yesterday. My previous PR was 255#. I got 275# 1RM. The first attempt was not quite deep enough (according to Jim), so I did it again and got full credit.
Today was hang cleans. I did the 6x3 working sets then jumped up to 185# (old PR was 195#). That weight felt good so I went to 200#. I got it cleaned on the second attempt. Went to 205# and failed twice. I got it racked in the squat position but could not stand up with it.
I tested the rings after class - my shoulder is not ready for that.
Nutritional seminar Saturday, competition with Maria on Sunday and the next Paleo Challenge starts Monday. More updates coming as that all unfolds.
I have been giving a lot of though about obsession and addiction lately. When I look at my own lifestyle, I see signs of addictive behavior in many aspects. I am not a drug user, nor a smoker, but I find that the things I enjoy in life, the good and the bad, I tend to fixate on, repeat, and escalate. So I had to ask myself, "Is this pattern an indication of unhealthy addiction?"
The reason for reflection has been my left shoulder injury. The soreness has limited my exercise options for two weeks, and I am starting to worry about getting back to 100% in time for the next competition. I stopped working my shoulder after a hard workout and the pain became too much to handle. However, in hindsight, I was in pain for a few days leading up to this. I ignored it at first and "worked through it" and ended the week with short changing one shoulder workout so I would have enough to get through Nancy.
Looking back, I can't deny knowing that the work I was doing was causing me pain that was getting worse each time I pushed it. Rather than back off, I suffered, continued, and made it worse. Now, I reflect on this and think, "What's wrong with me? I knew it was painful, but I kept making it worse. Is this addiction?"
To answer this, I started doing some research into addictive behavior and exercise. There is a ton of information on the subject and I have been able to draw conclusions about myself based on my readings. However, before I get to that, I want to define some terms about the scale of dependence on exercise:
Phase 1 – Recreational
Phase 2 - At risk
Phase 3 - Problematic
Phase 4 - Addiction
Each of these four phases addresses an athlete's motivation, frequency, and the consequences of not working out. As motivation moves away from having fun and toward avoiding withdrawal, the frequency and the feeling that you "need" to work out increases. The impact on life outside the gym increases with each level.
At the same time, there are terms such as "positive addiction" and "negative addiction" that have been in use in psychology circles since the 70's.
So, with all these terms and indicators defined, I look at my own track record. I clearly started CrossFit last year in Phase 1 (Recreational) and was quickly in the "Positive Addiction" arena. I was going to CrossFit 2A three times a week and getting healthy. At some point early this summer, I crossed over to something more. I bumped up to an unlimited membership and started competing almost every 2 weeks.
I don't think I work out to relieve stress or escape unpleasant feelings, so I am not Phase 2. Also, my life is not in ruins because of my need to work out. However, Phase 3 (Problematic) fits pretty well. I do schedule my regular, daily routine around getting to the gym, and I have been trying to push myself further every day. I do not have withdrawal symptoms if I can't make it to the gym, though. I just wish I had been able to go. I'm not sad or anxious about it; just disappointed.
Within the Glaser terms, I can see that exercising despite injury looked like exercise dependence. However, I do schedule workouts along side other commitments and can control my participation. Wanting to work out a lot is not the same as needing to exercise all the time.
I concluded that I was in the Problematic Exerciser category and close to exercise dependent. My goal now is to get back to Phase 1 and focus on recreation and fun without injury. This will likely mean a few more days off and more emphasis on mobility and rest.
I have been taking it easy this week because I hurt my left shoulder over the course of last week. How? Too much overhead lifting and butterfly pullup practice. I did 6 workouts in 4 days last week; 4 regular, lunchtime WODs and CrossFit 2A and 2 oly lifting sessions with John McEvoy at CrossFit Craic. Wednesday was a lunchtime workout of snatches followed by some butterfly pullup work. Wednesday night turned out to be snatch form and butterfly practice at Craic. This was all followed by an Rx Nancy on Thursday. That was it for my left shoulder.
So I took Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. This week I am skipping all shoulder work (to the distinct displeasure of my legs and butt). Nicole has been giving me (and a few other shoulder-impaired members) some killer workouts to do instead of the regular WODs. Working around the injury feels like regressing a bit, but I recognize that I have been over-training (a lot) and need some extended recovery time to avoid serious injury.
I am doing very light rehab work with my shoulder and icing it 2 or 3 times a day. I can feel it slowly getting better, but I will not ramp back up until it is well repaired.
However, when I look back at last week, I am still very pleased with how I performed. I felt great and saw Nicole's photo of me working through Nancy - this is the second photo of me that I look at and think "Hey, I look like a Crossfitter!" It really has been amazing progress over the last 13 months and the last 2 or 3 have been slow but steady changes that I can see in the mirror.
Can't wait to recover and get back into it.
After the recent renovations at CrossFit 2A, I realized that an important element of the "old box" was lost - the members' "Goals" board. For the first year, we had a pretty basic white board where we would all track the short-term goals. For many of those months, my goals included things like:
Now, the board is gone, but I am encouraging everyone to find a spot of blackboard and write a goal or two. Make it something realistic and set a time limit (like August or by the end of September). Ideally, put those goals out front where you and everyone else can track what you are working toward. You can have one goal or a handful. Here are some suggestions:
This comes up today because I finally reached two of my (related) goals today - full range handstand push-ups and kipping handstand push-ups.
My current short-term goal is butterfly kipping pull-ups. I will be working on those almost daily because they are awkward for me right now, but I can feel myself getting closer each time I try.
Get your goals on the wall soon so you can start crossing them off!
I have been thinking and researching this topic for some time now. Can you overcome your general genetic body type? I have been told by many people since high school that I could never get a muscular physique. During those years, I was painfully thin. After college, the opposite was true. I had gained over one hundred pounds and was generally built like a sack of potatoes. I was told again that I could not be muscular because I did not have the right genetics.
I have to say that every time I hear that (usually from very fit and muscular guys), I get a bit annoyed. There must be a solution that allows just about anyone to lose fat and gain muscle despite their current physical condition. In fact, the levels of diet and exercise (and metabolism) directly produced my thin appearance AND my chunky years. If I spent many years thin and many years fat, which (if either) was representative of my true genetic disposition?
In my research, I have learned that there are three basic body types:
I spent years 0 through 25 as an ectomorph and 26 to 46 as an endomorph. Which is really me? Is either one right? Maybe my levels of diet and exercise where determining my appearance more than genetics. During both of these long periods, exercise was notably absent from my lifestyle (as compared to the levels of work I have put in for the last 13 months).
If you really are an ectomorph or an endomorph, can you build your physique to have a more mesomorph-like appearance? Many articles I have found suggest the answer is "yes." Here is a summary of the strategies for each:
ECTOMORPH : Thin, frail and struggling to add any weight at all
General: Training will improve "engine" or the stamina required for intense physical activity
Training: Ectomorphs will gain muscle slowly if they stick to training and dieting. It's not like muscles are staying the same, ectomorphs just need more time to build. Every intense workout that causes the muscle breakdown will be followed by adaptation. This recovery builds the muscle back stronger and larger than before.
Rather than blasting away at one muscle group, ectomorphs should be doing a low number of sets but targeting a wider range of muscles during each workout. Also, isolating a single muscle is less desirable than compound movements that work many muscles at once (think squats, presses and dead lifts).
Diet: Eating a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats is, of course, necessary for mainining muscle growth. Since ectomorphs don't gain much fat, the emphasis is on consuming slow absorbing carbs and proteins. Also, eating many meals a day (about every 2 waking hours) will ensure that muscles have fuel to rebuild. Ectomorphs should be looking to have a calorie surplus of 500 to 1000 calories each day.
ENDOMORPH: Gains fat quickly, struggles to gain muscle mass
General: Endomorphs are characterized by flabby and rounded muscles and have a mushy look to them. Training and diet should emphasize losing fat. Diligent dieting is key - even after a target weight has been achieved. It is too easy to bounce back up the scale because you say "I worked out today, so I can eat more X today."
Training: The traditional approach to losing fat is cardio, cardio, and more cardio. Weight training is usually added after the bulk has been shed. I say this is crap! Cardio does not have to be treadmill drudgery, elliptical boredom, or long slow jogs on the street. My transformation through CrossFit used the full arsenal of weights, gymnastics/body weight exercises, sprints, wall balls, kettlebells, rowing. This philosophy is shown in the t-shirt: "What do you do for exercise? I lift weights. What do you do for cardio? I lift weights faster." This training has the fat burning benefits of cardio and the muscle building benefit of weight training.
Diet: Once the endomorph is hitting the gym, diet becomes 95% of the solution. Working out without dieting will not work. Some basics are:
Just make sure you shake it off when someone says you can only do so much because you drew the short genetic straw. Screw that! Work hard, eat right, and overcome!
The family traveled to Carson, CA for the CrossFit Games. We watched the individual and team competitions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
There were, of course, many inspiring stories during the 3 days of competition. Notable among them were Kristen Clever working through a twisted ankle - despite the injury guaranteeing that she would finish out of medal contention. Also, the North East region's small but super-strong Amanda Goodman; she was well out of it by the time the clean and jerk ladder event came around, but she got the crowd roaring with her unbelievable form and huge weight lifted - taking first in that workout.
My favorites, surprisingly, were all the team competition. It was inspiring to see the dynamics at work with each team. Part of each workout is the strategy in deciding who does which part of each workout. One team lost a member's right hand in an early workout, but he still competed in the GHD med ball toss - working around his injury to get a few more points for the team.
Several workouts required teammates (or the whole team) to execute movements together. Teams had to communicate and observe each other to make sure every member reached a checkpoint at the same time (all in the bottom of a squat, or with weight on the same shoulder).
The recurring workout device that showed up three times over the weekend for the teams was the "Worm." This was essentially a 12-foot log cut into 6 2-foot sections and strung together with rope. This ensured that each teammate was bearing part of the load of the log. Dave Castro then had the teams run, squat, deadlift, switch shoulders, and otherwise manipulate the "worm" to complete movements. The final (shown below) included many teams working the "worm" at the same time, close together, and in a complex sequence of lifts and squats. The effect for the fans was an undulating sea of log waves that went up, down, forward, and back in an almost random motion. Lots of work for the athletes, but total chaos from the stands.
Going into the games, I was wondering what drew some athletes to compete as a team. Now that I have seen it in person, I can see that the bond of 6 athletes working together, completing workouts that were hard, but fun and creative tests of their abilities would be unforgettable. I would even think that competing as part of a team would be a better experience than struggling as an individual.
As much as I love going to the box every day and pushing myself to do well in each WOD, I have discovered that I reach new heights in every competition I join. However, I don't think it is just signing up, packing the car with chairs, food, drink and gear that does the trick.
Every competition announces the workouts a week or two before the event. This creates short term goals to perform well in some specific disciplines. For the days leading up to the competition, I make sure to do a little extra during each visit to the box. If there axle bar dead lifts coming in the competition, I will make sure I get in a couple sessions with the Fat Gripz and load up with a few extra pounds to make sure the lifts are comfortable (or tolerable) come game day. If there will be rope climbs, I make sure to work on those. Unlike other days, the days leading up to the competition have focus. I will use our coaches as much as possible to get movement and efficiency tips.
As the event gets to be a few days away, I look for the chance to get to an open gym and work through all the WODs that I will see in the competition. This does not mean I will do 4 full workouts in one session (I want to be prepared, not injured). Instead, I will take each WOD and create a scaled version of it to run through. I reduce the reps and/or rounds but not the weight nor the movement standards. This attempts to get my body used to the work required in each event.
For the last two days before the event, I focus on food and rest. I want to make sure that I feel my best by the morning of check-in. I eat clean almost always, but I focus on getting the timing and size of each meal right. I also get some sleep. I know that my body feels the most rested after two nights of long sleep. The key for me is to make sure that the list of things to do before the competition is written and as complete as possible before I lay down for the night. The last thing I want to do is be wondering if I am ready to go when I should be asleep.
When competition day starts, I figure out who will be in my heats for each workout. I size up the field and try to find one or two people that are a bit better (more fit?) than me. I need a rabbit to chase to do my best. I'm not disheartened if I don't beat the rabbit, but I want to hang with the rabbit as much as possible.
In the events, my adrenalin cranks up and I get focused on the immediate task at hand. I love the sound of the host getting us in place. Meeting my judge for the workout and running through a couple reps tunes me into the job. "3-2-1 Go" and the crowd starts yelling for us to "pick it up!" "keep moving!" "pull! push! jump!" and everything else.
I have PR'ed in something for every competition I have joined so far. I used to think that the event itself brought out the best, but I can see now that it is the combination of setting goals, preparation, focus, diet, rest, adrenalin and cheering that makes it happen. I believe that repeating this pattern will keep pushing me to improve bit by bit in this sport. So, for me, the future looks like AMRAP Competitions.
Katie and I spent about 30 minutes last night working on a clean/squat/jerk complex that is coming up at the scaled competition on Sunday at CrossFit Free. We setup the bar and weights to replicate the conditions we are expecting and added some music to our "box." The best part was the curious look from the steady stream of walkers and joggers in the neighborhood. I expect this will not be the last time we do this, so they will have to get used to the weird CrossFitters.
After an indulgent week of vacation, I was hesitant to try muscle-ups again. Before I left, I had spent about 2 weeks avoiding the rings because of a mild pain in my shoulder that I am pretty sure I collected when I tried to string two MUs together. While on vacation, I only hit the box once, and the pain dissipated.
Yesterday's workout involved a ton of handstand pushups, so I was not surprised that muscle-up attempts were unsuccessful. Today was light cleans and running. I wrapped my wrists in purple pre-wrap and tape, chalked up, and went for it. I flailed like a fish on the first one, but got up there! I tried a second one a minute later with a much better, controlled kip that focused more momentum up (rather than up and out). That attempt was much better and was an easy success.
I am avoiding stringing them together for the time being. I want to focus on building up my shoulder strength and mobility before I dive back into that pool.
Katie getting some handstand practice near the beach in Ibiza.
The family traveled to Barcelona for a week of sightseeing, and Katie and I took an afternoon off to visit Reebok CrossFit BCN. The workout was right up my alley - clean & jerks and running. It took help from a couple members to get through some information - translating the warm-up instructions was a bit challenging.
It was a great visit and the members and coaches made us feel welcome, and we left good and sweaty.