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Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

One Step at a Time

In General, Training, WOD on January 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm

The Jomad’s First Muscle-Up!

Well, so I thought I’d be starting this post very differently, but apparently I achieved my first (very ugly) muscle-up today… and I would like to plaster the video everywhere, despite its hideousness. I still don’t totally endorse CrossFit’s fascination with the muscle-up– because I think many people develop a fixation with it before they’ve learned the proper mechanics of more basic movements (pull-up, dip)– and also because I’ve found that it’s really strenuous on the body. That said, I admit it’s a little fun to have achieved one of my 2013 goals, to be able to perform one of the more “advanced” movements, etc… I’m going to do my best in the following days to resist jumping right back on the rings and instead, do more work on the transition. As you can tell from the video, my shoulders are barely clearing the rings… The movement would be much easier if I could land in the right position rather than literally “muscle” my way up there. All things in time, I suppose.

That said, it is time for Jo to switch up her training again. I’ve been feeling discontent with my routine lately. My results have been inconsistent, but mostly I’ve just been less… enthused. And thanks to a good talk with Zebrapants, I think he pinpointed the root of my problem– for someone aspiring to become a CrossFit coach, I’ve been doing increasingly less CrossFit. At first, it made sense to me because I desperately need to become stronger… and I’m still not where I’d like to be in terms of strength, but right now I’d like to be a more participatory CrossFitter. So… after some consideration, even more consultation with people more knowledgeable than myself, and even more reading (because, well, that’s what I do), I’ve decided that I can do with two days of dedicated strength per week. Zebrapants also praises the benefits of one longer metcon or hero WOD per week, and I like that idea for now because I want to work on my muscular endurance– a huge, huge weakness of mine after so much powerlifting training. That leaves two days of just doing the box’s regular programming, and two rest days per week– which is more than I’ve rested in a while now (I’ve been a one-rest-day/week person for probably too long).

Though only two CrossFit classes a week still isn’t as many as I’d like to attend, I think it’s a balanced compromise for now, and for the first time in a long time, I get to be fully present for the class– I won’t have to worry about other lifts or accessory work before or between classes. I will also enjoy CrossFitting again… and refamiliarizing myself with all the skillwork that I’ve left untouched.

Tentatively, my new training schedule will look like this:

Monday

Rest

Tuesday

Press 5, 5, 5+

Squat 5, 5, 5+

Weighted Pull Ups 2 x 6-8

Weighted Dips 2 x 6-8

Weighted Lunges

Wednesday

Box Programming

Thursday

Rest/Mobility/Technique

Friday

Bench 5, 5, 5+

Deadlift 5+

Weighted Lunges

Heavy KB Swings

Saturday

Box’s Programming

Sunday

Long Metcon/Hero WOD at 80% Intensity

The strength template is derived from Greyskull Linear Progression, which has a loyal following and is highly adaptable. My two strength days are modeled after what’s been tested and approved by different power athletes (mostly rugby players). As for the CrossFit classes I attend, I want to ensure I do everything with 100% movement integrity, that I just do the best damn job I can regardless of how much I suck or how long it takes me. If it’s suitable for a WOD, I may try to scale down the reps and keep the weight high rather than vise versa to keep more of a strength bias. I’m going to trust the coaches here… and just commit entirely and if it’s taking me too long to do everything with good form and the right weight, I’m sure they’ll tell me what to scale and how. And for Sundays, I’m thinking 80% intensity is a good way to build muscular endurance and get used to longer slogs without burning myself out. Fortunately, it’s also right before my not-doing-jack-shit day 🙂

Anyway, that’s the news for Jo for now. I’m very excited about spending more time with our members and in classes. I’m excited about doing more CrossFit again, and dedicating more time to things like snatch drills with a PVC pipe rather than a bunch of accessory lifts. If I want to be a virtuous CrossFitter, I should be paying more attention to things like technique work and mobility. I should spend more time working on flexibility and recovery… even though it feels less gratifying than the brute force workouts. I won’t know how well this works until I just plain try, so… I plan on just throwing myself in 110% and reevaluating in another month or month and a half.

Thanks so much to everyone that helped me work through my issues and figure out a plan. To quote a good friend, “I’m a plan-based mammal.” I feel better when I’m building towards my goals with concrete steps in mind. Long journeys are okay– stagnation drives me crazy.

Happy Thursday!

 

EDIT: SCRATCH THAT. Training schedule still up in the air. Zebrapants advises against my plan… and the whole point of having a coach is… that someone is probably wiser and better at looking at what you’re doing wrong than you are… right?

Keep Walking

In General, Training, Writing on January 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

I would like to share with you all this post by Juli Bauer of PaleOMG (a host of fantastic recipes for those more culinarily inclined than myself… all her food looks fantastic, but I never try any of it because it looks complicated and I’m lazy :p). Anyway, Juli is a major figure in the paleo world, and a rather accomplished CrossFit athlete. Last year, she placed 8th in the Southwest regionals. However, this blog post announces Juli’s hiatus from competitive CrossFit. She says:

I noticed that I hadn’t been happy for a while. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. And for me, that is very important. I started competing because it made me happy. And made me confident. I never cared if I did poorly, I never worried about not finishing a workout. I just tried my hardest and tried to smile through it. But when disappointment began to appear on others faces, I knew it was absolutely time for me to take a step back. I never want my performance in the gym to disappoint someone. That is not why I work out. I work out to better myself. To improve myself physically and mentally. Not to upset someone because I didn’t do all my wall balls unbroken. Or because I didn’t set a PR.

This has been a hard thing for me to come to terms with. I haven’t wanted to admit it, but I don’t want to compete right now. I don’t want to train to the point that I’m spending hours in the gyms, aching constantly, and gaining 15-20lbs to be able to keep up with the amazing CrossFit ladies in my Region. That’s not what I want nor is it what my body wants. And since I’ve stopped training to my max every day, I feel better. Even though I’ve lost a ton of strength and endurance, I’m happier. I feel better in my own skin and I’m finally not crying on a regular basis because I was unhappy with how I looked. Yeah, I cried because of that. No fun. I’m an emotional mess without that crap on my mind.

I have the utmost respect for professional athletes– for the discipline they have, the dedication, talent, and exceptional masochism– but Juli’s above post is one of the many reasons I could never become one. I actually enjoy CrossFit too much to turn it into something so laden with anxiety and pressure. We know I’m anxious enough… when I underperform or when my progress backslides, I somehow feel like I’ve failed my coaches who probably really don’t give a damn if I lifted 5 lbs more or less this morning beyond whether or not it makes me gripe at them for the next ten minutes. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to go so far beyond that line between training for health and training for competitive performance.

Interestingly (I’m playing it fast and loose with the term “interesting”), I kept thinking about Juli’s post in conjunction with a book I’d heard about: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, written by a palliative care nurse, drawn from her experience with terminal patients. According to nurse Bronnie Ware, the top five regrets of individuals at the end of their lives are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I’ll be frank… there’s a lot of shit I want to do in life. I want to write– I want to write things worth reading, things that move, things that challenge the boundaries of language. I want to teach– in a way that provokes and inspires. I want to travel and see and experience and try to understand. I want to coach and to help people find their bodily potential… to help them feel more confident and capable. I want to love– to care and to be cared for, to protect and be protected, to give so much of myself to communities and friendships and the power of human interaction. But of course it’s easy to say all of this– a lot harder when I look at the long, daunting list at the end of a day when it was an accomplishment just to don all my winter-wear and trek to my classroom.

So the only way I’ve been able to continue caring about these ambitions yet maintain my sanity and still live my daily life is to try and keep things in perspective. There’s no end to the things I could do in pursuit of all of these goals… I could spend day after day planning lessons, and still fall short of helping my students find their potential. I could dedicate an entire life to writing, and still have so many stories untold. I could train until everything hurts and everything aches, but there would still be an infinite number of ways that I’m doing things inefficiently… ways that I could tweak my schedule and my diet to be better.

So… I’m taking things one day, one step at a time with the longer journey in mind. I continue to work hard each day because it matters– because I think the extra time I spend lesson planning here might help my students write a better story, or because I think these extra ten minutes on the pull-up bar might improve my form. But also, I try to keep the scale of things in perspective… will the two hours I spent talking to a friend instead of working really ruin my career in the long run? Will one extra rest day or one bad WOD prevent me from becoming an effective coach? It’s helping me arrange my priorities… I will need to sacrifice things in pursuit of others. Not everything will be happy or perfect or even pleasant… but I’m trying to figure out which sacrifices are worthwhile, and which I would regret… what will I care about when all is said and done? Chances are, that two hour phone conversation will mean more to me than the perfectly-researched essay. That friendship will carry me further than the right transition between paragraphs. I can’t be the best writer, teacher, student, athlete, friend, girlfriend, daughter… human being all at once, every single day. I can do my damnedest and apply myself to what’s important, pray that those who love me will forgive me when I slip up, and just… keep walking, and hope  it’s enough.

————-

Also, today’s WOD– just because it was fun and, I think if there were a “girl” WOD named “Jo,” this would be it…:

21-15-9 Pull-ups and Burpees. 6:27… I had to drop from the bar more times than I would have liked. By the end, I was doing them in sets of twos. I started with 12 kipping pull-ups, so I’m guessing I need to work on muscular endurance… Ah well, something more to add to the list!

Balance

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2013 at 12:10 am

As someone frequently failed by mind-body coordination, I often overlook the abiding connection between the mental, the physical, and the emotional. When I plot my training regimen, I weigh the stress of each workout– evenly spacing upper and lower body, scattering core work, trying not to overburden or neglect any muscle group. When I wake more sore than anticipated, when the DOMS takes too long to fade, and when unplanned tweaks and twinges appear, I wonder why– I planned, I scheduled, I rested– why does my body rebel?

What I often forget is the other factors that tax our bodies… mental and emotional stress– the hour of sleep missed one night, or the impending deadline in class. For example– the recent decline in my lifts. I did make sure to get my butt to the gym and follow my Westside training template, but my schedule became a lot more hectic. I spent more nights out with friends– took in more empty calories, and didn’t refuel with good ones when I should. I slept less, and (much to my dismay) had a few holiday family blowups– which have thankfully since been resolved. Regardless, I took none of these things into consideration when planning my daily lifts and when anticipating my daily performance. It’s quite possibly that all that stress plus the travel was enough to upset my body and keep it performing well below its potential.

Conversely… and thankfully, I’ve found a better rhythm these past few weeks. I’ve since PR’d my deadlift 3 rep max as well as my floor press 3 rep max. At the same time, my 5k rowing time has continued to improve. Because of that month of backsliding, I’m not nearly where I’d like to be. My cleans are still well below my former max, my pull-ups are creeping back up but still not where they used to be, but it’s nice to see my numbers moving in a positive direction again. 

I don’t want to get too sappy on you guys, but I think I’m finding my rhythm again because I feel… at peace lately. My students are wonderful, engaged, and inquisitive. My classes are challenging, but at least thus far I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I have delightful, supportive friends who make sure I don’t spend all my time holed up in my basement (which has spent far too much of the past 3 days in the 50 degree rage… though thankfully, I have a much more powerful heater now). I’m also learning to treat myself better. 

I’ll readily admit that I have lazy days at the gym. I have awful, unproductive days at work where I spend more time reading blogs than articles– days when the only things I write are facebook statuses bemoaning my lack of writing. However, as a WOD-addict and a grad student, I’m also a glutton for self-flagellation. The more behind and stressed out I feel, the more I feel like I’m failing, the more destructive I become. When I’m frustrated by my lack of progress at the gym, I train past the point of pain, past productive muscle breakdown and into a zone of just exhaustion for the sake of venting physical fury. When I’m trying to write for a deadline, I’ll attach myself to a desk and abstain from food and rest and uncaffeinated drinks for too long. I become angry with myself for being “not good enough,” and I become monomaniacal about trying to “fix” it/me.

This semester (the few weeks of it we’ve had), I’ve been better about that. If I have a bad workout, I finish up and tell myself I’ll do better with rest, recovery, and a clear mind next time. If something stressful or unexpected (like no heat in single-digit weather) happens, I figure it out with a level head. I’ve been better about foam rolling and stretching and doing mobility work. I’ve been taking walks just because I feel like it… letting myself forget deadlines for just brief periods of time. I’ve even called and caught up with old friends with whom I’d lost touch. It’s strange, but I owe this a lot to a new presence in my life. Blogging about my relationship status feels a little too “high school,” but I can’t get through this post without mentioning that a good (fantastic, phenomenal, just freaking incredible) friend and I decided that, despite the trials of long-distance, we should be more-than-friends. I’m superstitious and nervous and terrified of so many things that could go wrong, so I don’t want to say too much, but really I’d been so convinced that I was an emotional wreck that I’d decided just to be broken forever. As it turns out, there are some people whose jagged edges fit yours… and make you feel   whole again. I don’t totally know what it means that it took someone to care about me for me to care about me again. But I’m so grateful for it. I’m grateful for someone who not only puts up with and tolerates my oddities, but embraces them, and knows how to reassure me through them– someone who will debate with me the merits of different literary eras (sorry, babe, I still want to set fire to all things Joyce), someone who understands that sometimes I need to be melodramatic about the fact that I failed to lift some amount of weight some amount of times, and someone who will remind me that I matter, even if I failed to lift that weight or meet this deadline.. even if today all the words are ugly and all the iron is too heavy. 

Growing up, I wanted to think that I could do everything alone. That I could always stand alone… that I would hold myself up on my own. And I can– I can support myself, I will take care of myself… but it is so much easier to do so, to be good to myself when someone cares

So that reminds me of my friend George (of Civilized Caveman) who so often tells his readers never to underestimate how they can change someone’s life with small kindnesses. You never know what an impact you can make with a gentle word, or a smile… how you can uplift someone just by taking a few minutes out of your day and addressing her as a human being– seeing her, listening to her, treating her as a person who is worthy of respect and consideration.

I don’t wanna jinx it now (*knock on wood*), but I’m beginning to feel balanced… Nothing’s perfect, and I don’t expect things to be. This semester will eventually become more stressful… frustrations and insecurities will creep back in in strange ways… I’m sure something else in this apartment will ambush me in good time, but hopefully I’ll be able to field them with a measure of grace… 

The Jomad’s journey continues, and though I still can’t see the road ahead, I walk with optimism. Thank you all for your company. Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to take care of yourselves.

Much love,

Jomad

Why We Lie

In General, Training on January 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

I’m going to guess that most of you have read about the bizarre Manti Te’o story. As one entirely ignorant of football, I had never even heard of Manti Te’o before reading the article, and was just stunned by many elaborate twists in this tale. A quick summary for those who might live in just as much of a cave as I do: Manti Te’o is a linebacker for Notre Dame who garnered a lot of press in 2012. Apparently, he’s the most decorated collegiate football player of all time (thank you, Wikipedia). But that’s not the full explanation for why he’s received so much attention in the past year.

In September 2012, Te’o announced that he’d lost his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, within twenty-four hours. Kekua apparently suffered a car accident after a long bout of leukemia, yet Te’o bravely played on and led his football team to dramatic triumph. It would be inspirational, if it were true. Probing media inquiries have found that no one by the name of Lennay Kekua ever enrolled at Stanford– where she allegedly studied. Government records reveal no deaths under the name of Lennay Kekua. Now the story splits. Many media reports implicate Te’o in the scam and accuse him of contriving the story for publicity’s sake. Te’o himself, and Notre Dame, insist that he was innocent– lured into an internet relationship, which he believed to be genuine… and he suffered a very real heartbreak as the dupe of some depraved scammer.

The story has weirder details and twists, but I’ll let you read the actual press if you’re interested.

On a different, but similar thread, I discovered this article this morning about Kip Litton. Actually, Litton’s story ate up my entire designated morning work time. Litton’s a curious character, who appeared on the marathon scene with relatively impressive race times. However, one reporter’s very thorough investigation discovered many questionable gaps in Litton’s achievements. Race photos frequently show Litton at the beginning or end of a race, but rarely in the middle. His race times show questionably superhuman negative splits. He admits to making up the website for one of his first marathons… he has slippery stories and explanations for most things. Despite all the questionable evidence, no one has been able to figure out how he has cheated the system– how his tracker makes it cross all the checkpoints, etc… yet all evidence heavily suggests that he has cheated.

As I read Litton’s story (and in part, Te’os– when I wasn’t being weirded out by the whole idea of a made-up person), I was just… profoundly sad. What resonates beneath both these narratives is this terrible sense of insufficiency.

Whether or not Te’o had to overcome his girlfriend’s death, he is undoubtedly a phenomenal football player. Before Litton started sneaking his way across finish lines, he had impressive run times– and he actually did progress from an out-of-shape middle-aged man to an actual runner (I think…). But… for either of these people to lie (hypothetically– I won’t make assumptions about Te’o, despite where the evidence points), he would do so out of insecurity– that what he has accomplished is not enough.

I’m actually a little haunted by the Litton article. I can’t stop thinking about this man… how empty it would feel to wait quietly by the finish line and step across it for the last two seconds of a race– how hollow it would feel to be surrounded by exhausted, wearied but satisfied, sweaty bodies that had slogged through 26.2 miles (that’s the length of a marathon right? #notarunner), knowing that he’d sat his lazy ass by the finish line just so he could put down a faster number than everyone else. I think about how good I feel after a hero WOD– after forty-some minutes when everyone’s splayed on the floor of the box… when rounds and times don’t matter because everyone gave themselves to the moment, and that satisfaction of having held nothing back. No wonder Litton’s “fake” marathons became something of an addiction– it seems to me like he’s trying to fill himself with empty praise because he can’t find actual fulfillment… and that satiety comes from within, not from times you can post on a website and compare with others.

But I can’t entirely demonize people like Te’o and Litton (okay, if Te’o made up a dying girlfriend to manipulate viewer sympathetic, I do hate him a little)… but I get it– it’s so easy to feel… not good enough. Human beings are fragile and insecure (many of us anyway– if you’re not, way to go!), and if that desperate yearning for recognition and accomplishment goes ignored for too long, the world feels hopeless and isolating. Obviously, these people went about it the wrong way… and Litton will actually never feel good enough if he keeps making up marathon times. But I think that’s where it originates from– not some malicious desire to deceive the world… just a sad, pathetic man’s longing to be better than he is.

With my last month of backsliding, I’m a little discouraged– but, for now, I still feel unusually optimistic. I know that I’ve been giving this my all… I’ve spent countless hours (days? months?) of research and talking to coaches– in person and online– to figure out a training program. I’ve scrutinized and documented my diet to the point that I can now tinker with macros in isolation and figure out what works best for me. I lift with everything I have when I’m in there and… yeah, the numbers aren’t where I want them now, but I’m working on it… And when I leave the gym, I can be happy with that. And, more importantly (for my sanity and my career), I can also forget the gym for the periods I need to to focus on my schoolwork and my teaching (not that I’m not still reading CrossFit Journal in my cubicle…)

Also… many thanks to my friends for these moments of clarity that I’ve been having lately. I know a sense of self-worth has to come from within and from making peace with yourself… but all your support and your understanding have definitely been the key to getting me here.

So many hugs to the universe.

Fear and Faith

In General, Training on January 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm

My new classroom disciplinary method

Hello readers!

So… it’s a certainty. My strength has definitely declined. My squat is where it was months ago, my press and bench have both stalled out at one rep of my old three rep max… I’m terrified to test my deadlift on Thursday because– as we know– that’s a point of pride for me. Worse yet, my pull-up numbers are down.

Strangely, I’m not feeling nearly as crushed I normally would be. Don’t get me wrong– there was lots of blasphemous swearing today when I dropped my old 3RM push press for the second time. The wonderful Scotchy bore the brunt of my verbal sacrilege, and laughed at my general frustration. But I think that’s the key. Thankfully, the past few days ,I’ve been around people again. Saturday, I got to join the class for a normal WOD (I won’t lie, I sort of deviate from my should-be template so I can sneak in a Saturday WOD because that’s the only time it can fit in without royally fucking up my training schedule). Sunday, there were a few friends around the box, and generally the box has been more lively. I’ll diligently slog away at my lifts every day if I have to, but this whole get-Jo-fast-‘n-strong endeavor feels less hopeless when there’s company.

I am very disappointed in myself for losing a month’s of progress… I feel I work too hard and spend too much time on this to be that careless. Part of it, I think, is the creatine. As terrified as I was to try it, and as much as I still don’t trust/like introducing supplements to my system, I think its sudden absence might be partially to blame for my sudden decrease in strength. I also blame my nutrition for the two weeks I was home. Even though I was ingesting overall a lot more food than usual, my post-workout nutrition was… nonexistant. I didn’t bring any protein powder to Phoenix, and I was usually on the run directly after a workout. Because I respond so poorly to whey, buying more protein powder is both expensive and inconvenient, so I didn’t bother… thinking (apparently mistakenly) that two weeks wouldn’t make that big an impact. Next time I’ll know better and at least invest in some fruit and jerky to throw in my bag for a post-workout refuel.

All that said, I’m not feeling too discouraged just yet. I’m going to reintroduce creatine, and be more diligent about my post-workout nutrition. I’m limiting my WODs to one or two a week, and I’m hoping to get my strength numbers back up. If everything’s still stagnant in another two weeks, I’ll have to reassess.

Whereas my strength numbers are down, my 5k row time was a bit faster Monday than it has previously been. I did the “Polish Crippler” today with Jefe (yay WOD company!), and completed it in 7:57. I don’t absolutely remember my last time for it, but I know it was over ten minutes… For those who don’t know, the Polish Crippler is:

100 Burpees for time

10 Double-Unders EMOM

I’m learning to make peace with the fact that not every day at the gym will be perfect. There will be bad days, bad weeks, (and right now) even bad months. But… if I go and commit 100% of how much I can give that day (even if that 100% is 90% of my old 1RM), I can’t demand anything more of myself… and if I dwell on it, I’m just wasting energy– energy I can devote to my courses, my students and this wonderfully encouraging creative writing class that I’m teaching. I’m reminded again this semester of how lucky I am that I’m paid to do this– to spend my days planning to teach thoughtful young writers… to have time to investigate my own academic interests. I’m surrounded by intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate people… Sure, life has issues– I have more deadlines than I can bear to write down, less money than I’d like to feel secure, and miss so many people that I can’t see and haven’t seen for so long every day. I wonder often if, after six years of graduate school, I’ll have a job or a place in academia– if I’ll love this enough to live and breathe it for the rest of my life. I wonder if I’ll ever be a CrossFit coach– if the work I’m putting in at the gym will take me in the right direction to becoming a trainer. Sometimes life seems like a continual stream of work for a distant and possibly unattainable future. But… for now, I have a small yet steady candle-wick’s gleam of faith. I will put all I can into this strange little journey I’ve started and follow it to where it takes me.

Just DO

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm

At long last, Alex Viada published part II of his hybrid strength and endurance program: here. The article is very thorough and provides sample training schedules for varied goals– a CrossFitter looking to reduce her mile time (like yours truly), a competitive powerlifter looking to complete a 5k, a CrossFitter who’d like to run a marathon, and a powerlifter who endeavors to do a triathalon (why, God, why?). Anyway… it doesn’t change much of what I’m doing. Unfortunately, since I’m a pansy when it comes to this drippy, gross, sleet-ish, wet Pennsylvanian weather (god, weather… what a hassle. Arizona requires no forecast. Dry. Hot. Done.), I’ll be prioritizing rowing for the winter… which means my long “run” and intervals will be on the rower. I figure, at the very least, it’ll increase my aerobic capacity in the winter, which will hopefully transfer a bit to my running. Rowing is equally important in CrossFit, and I suck at it just as much (possibly more) as I do at running…

Yesterday was my Max Effort squat day. It’s been about two months since I last tested my squat 1rm, so I tried that… I’ve regained my old max, which really means it only went up 2.5 lbs in the last month. I mean, I’m glad it hasn’t gone down as my upper body lifts have… But I still wasn’t too thrilled. This morning, I did the box’s prescribed WOD:

15-12-9, Overhead Squats and Pull-ups.

There was no set prescription for the WOD, but rather weights were chosen at the coach’s discretion (possibly the best approach). Since I couldn’t attend a class time, however, I decided the weight for myself. I went with 65– which is the prescribed weight for Nancy. Actually since I never practice my OHS, I’ve never even overhead squatted 65 before. But I managed to finished the WOD within the 12 minute time cap (barely– 11:11). Again… you’d think I’d be thrilled, since I technically PR’d a lift and did it for reps and time. However… I guess I’m still feeling a bit down.

I’ve been doing this for a year and a half, and my squat-based lifts are hitting markers that many women reach within their first few months. The only lift I’m proud of is my deadlift (which, btw, now matches that of CrossFit Games women who have over twenty lbs on me). But… my clean is still 2.5 lbs short of that 100 mark, which means it’s now over 10 lbs less than body weight (the scale reads between 108 and 110 right now). My snatch is abominable… My press has been teasing 75% body weight for like six months, just as my bench keeps approaching the body weight marker, but never quite gets there. Unfortunately, my pull-ups have dropped down quite a bit in the past month, though I can’t explain why. I feel like a mess. On the more positive side, I managed to string together 45 double-unders over break (again, a milestone that many better-coordinated athletes reach within months)… I uploaded a video of my attempt at a strict muscle-up to the CrossFit forums, and I received encouraging feedback. Most people seem to agree that I’m damn close… This sums up the general response:

I have seen transition work fron the knees so you can use your feet to push you through the transition. I think that would be good too as you get the feel of what it is like and know the movements.

To me you have the MU you juts need to do it. YOu looke that close

(I’m going to forgive Nik’s typos because I appreciate the response). Anyway… I should be practicing transition drills, so I’ve been doing those when I can and letting up when I’m sore. But… the problem with “You have the muscle up you just need to do it,” is I can’t just do it. People make these statements in CrossFit as if it comes naturally, but none of this comes naturally to me. My body doesn’t just do. It doesn’t respond as it should. It fights me every step of the way… I couldn’t land a freaking box jump for months because my knees just would not lift into the air. It didn’t matter how hard I willed my legs to bend– they just wouldn’t. And I don’t know how to force that other than to keep trying and failing and getting beat down by my own incompetence.

In a way, I understand… I’m working on being a more understanding, more empathetic writing teacher, but when I first started I struggled with explaining a lot of things that I naturally just did. Some sentences sound “better.” Some words resonate more. Some images leave you trembling. I believe a lot of writing is practice and discipline, but that practice and discipline also hones a sort of natural intuition– one I believe most people have, but haven’t honed their ability to listen to it.

But for me, the physical is the polar opposite. Nothing feels intuitive. I’m trying to get a strict muscle up because I worry I’d never find the natural kip and at least working on it through brute force gives me a strategy…

But it’s the fact that nothing comes intuitively that also makes me worry about this new training schedule. My agenda is such that I can’t really make class times if I want to maintain a strength focus. My lifts take longer than the class’s usual strength component, which means I have to complete my lifts sometime outside of classes.. which means the only class I can is attend 4:00pm if I want to lift before the WOD. I teach until 3:30, which doesn’t give me enough time to complete my lifts before class (it takes me 20-30minutes to walk home, then I have to drive to the box, and my lifts + accessory work take about 45 minutes). Technically, I could also make the 8am class and try to get to the gym by 7 to lift… but unfortunately I’m much weaker that early in the morning and I’m afraid that I won’t make as many gains if I do that… also, I’d have to wake by 6 to get food in me before lifting… and then I’d have to get to bed early enough to recover well enough for all of this work to even have any impact. I know a lot of these restrictions are my own damn fault. If I weren’t so concerned about paring down my weaknesses, I could just attend the classes, and not give a shit about my own programming. If I wanted to miss a bit of sleep and train a little tired, I could start waking really early in the morning (which I may do if this continues to frustrate me). But… this is my blog so I’m whining while I have a captive audience ;). Anyway…. the reason I worry about it so much is because 1) training alone kind of sucks. It’s so much less fun than hanging out with the lovely members of our box, and I actually really hate that I never get to see anyone right now since I’m always working out alone. 2) training alone means I don’t have a coach watching my movements. With this in mind, I’m trying to remain hyper-vigilant … Today’s overhead squats had to be rock-bottom or else I didn’t count them, but we know that I lack body-awareness. I may start videotaping just to be sure. course, this whole time, I’m still not sure of any of this programming is right for me… if this is the ideal, most efficient way to help me become a better, more capable CrossFit athlete. I hope I don’t sound like I’m complaining because I know I’m damn lucky to have the box’s open gym hours to use the equipment when I can. I just… miss people, and something small and needy and all-too-easily wounded inside me tends to wilt when I spend too much time training in an empty gym with just my headphones on. I do love CrossFit for its interactive potential, after all.

I don’t want to use “I’m not an athlete” and “I suck at this as an excuse.” It’s not an excuse. It’s not acceptable. I should be doing better than I am; I just don’t know how. I have this constant terror that I’m screwing up and just unaware of the ways that I’m doing it. For now, I feel I have no option but to keep trying what I’m trying and see adjust if I’m still dissatisfied. But right now, I’m very disappointed in myself.

Bleh… Okay I think the lack-of-interacting-with-people-outside-a-classroom setting is probably also contributing to the grey cloud over my head– that and possibly the actual grey clouds overhead right now (damn you Pennsylvania weather). But I’m glad to get that off my chest. Thanks for reading… I hope you’ve all had a lovely week.

… in a small attempt to counterbalance the negativity of my post, here are three things for which I’m grateful:

1. Brief moments with good friends– the passing conversations I’ve managed to have this week…

2. Letters in the mail– who doesn’t love snail mail? 😀

3. A possible paper idea for my Milton class (though this is a large stretch and will require a lot of generosity and leeway on the part of the professor… I foresee much groveling in my future)

Self-Sabotage: even the pros do it…

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I read a very good post recently by Joy Bruening, a CrossFit Masters athlete (which is totally what I dream of being after a fulfilling imaginary career as writer extraordinaire/beloved professor/CrossFit Coach). An accomplished, experienced, very capable athlete, Joy still gets in her own way sometimes– like us bumbling amateurs. She explains that she has her own insecurities– about her conditioning, etc– and sometimes in an effort to remedy her shortcomings, she screws up her training. A few days ago, instead of taking her rest day, Joy decided to deviate from her personally-designed program (as a professional athlete, I believe she has her own coach if not a team of them). She participated in “Chelsea” with the rest of her box. She decimated her legs and set back her training by about ten days (her estimation). On the larger scale of things, she’ll be fine. If this is one isolated incident, then it’s a lesson learned (or a reminder made) and she’ll regain her place in her training schedule. However, I feel like most of us (maybe just me?) do this too often. Before I started my big 70’s Big adventure, I jumped from strength program to strength program, probably giving them all up before any of them had a chance to work. Or, I just played with too many factors at once– diet, protein powders, workout regimen. It’s so easy to become impatient, especially when a lot of what we’re developing requires gradual change.

Joy’s post lingered with me because I’ve been rather frustrated this past week. Since my return from my vacation, I’ve had a few rather discouraging days at the gym. My numbers have definitely backslid. Both my strict press and bench have gotten weaker… I can do actually only half the number of dead-hang pull-ups I used to be able to do (well, 60%). My clean is down by at least five pounds… I’m terrified of testing my squat tomorrow. Weirder still, my body weight is up by four pounds– though that explains why I’m sucking at the bodyweight movements.

Part of it could be the holidays… though I did make it to LA fitness for all my strength days, the equipment was unfamiliar, and I’m sure I got lesser workouts than I otherwise would have. Of course, it must have something to do with diet since I always eat entirely differently when I go home. It’s also possibly related to creatine? I started creatine about three months before the holidays, so I decided to cycle off for a month just to be safe (though the trend now seems to indicate that creatine’s safe for continual use, I figured… better safe…) Anyway, I didn’t feel an extreme difference while on creatine, but my numbers were going up… and now they’re not so much. I’m considering starting the creatine this Sunday again, which would be a week early. But it only takes two weeks to clear your system, from what I understand. I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet, but I’ll be interested to see how that goes…

At the same time, I’ve also been adding more carbs to my diet and I actually haven’t done a metcon since Saturday. Could that be playing with too many things at once? I struggle to reel in my own impatience.

As for the rest of life. I’m feeling pretty positive about my courses this semester. The stakes seem rather high for one of them, but I’ll be grateful for the productivity I get out of it. The pre-1800 seems less demanding and more flexible than my last, which I appreciate. I feel rather fortunate that my own class– the one I’m teaching– is populated with engaged, thoughtful students (at least that’s how they are this early in the semester– ha!) though… even now that means I’ve spent over 75% of my work time finding new reading material and writing and revising my lectures. It’s still too early in the semester to tell how busy I’ll really be. I just want to settle into the rhythm of things.

Anyway, I hope 2013 is looking great for all of you! Drop me a note with how you’re doing if you get the chance.

The Nineteenth Grade

In General, Training on January 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Technically, I’m about to start the second semester of the 19th grade. After elementary, middle and high school, college, a Master’s of Fine Arts, and the first semester of my PhD… I still get anxious about the first day of school. It’s worse when I’m teaching… I don’t worry about public speaking, but I worry that I’ll fail my students. That all the good intents I have for the class will be jumbled by poor delivery and somehow I’ll ruin their creative writing experience (that’s what I’m teaching this semester). I’m particularly nervous this semester, though, because I’m not yet certain if I’ve taken on too much to do it all well. But I hope not… I hope with enough discipline, I’ll survive.

In addition to the classes I’m taking (which includes yet another dreaded pre-1800 requirement), I’ll be taking a Teaching with Technology course (which shouldn’t be all that demanding) so that I can teach online courses (which I think will be useful in the future). As I mentioned, I’ll be teaching creative writing, which I love, though from past experience I know I spend exorbitant amounts of time researching new material for the class, reading and rereading my students’ works, etc… I need to start setting a wall clock and grade “for time” or AMRAP in a limited time frame… perhaps an EMOM (Every minute on the minute)? :p. Anyway… in addition to that, I’ll be working with my adviser for an extra two credit hours, editing the special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly. And, finally… I’m going to get bigger, stronger, and become an overall more detail-oriented, virtuous CrossFitter…

Anyway, given all that, I’ve been getting frustrated by the technicalities of my training schedule– how to work my lifts around open gym hours, to avoid crowding class hours, how to still remain a member of the box’s community while following my strength/endurance template and participate in a few WODs without burning out. I’d like to continue doing my lower body lifts on Thursday and Sunday because they take so long and then I have the day’s worth of open gym to use the facilities. Also, I like doing ME lower body on Thursday because then I have a better chance of finding someone to spot my squat– though now that we have access to the general Lionheart facilities, I can also use the safety rails on the squat rack, assuming it isn’t occupied by someone else. But also I like isolating my lower body days because they take enough out of me that I can’t (and shouldn’t) WOD afterwards, so if I do them on Thursdays and Sundays I won’t be tempted to jump in with a class.

Anyway… my tentative, very tentative schedule will look like this:

Monday: “Long” run or row (2-3 miles running, or 5k rowing). I’m going to have to do this early morning because I then teach and have a grad seminar until 9:35pm… which really means I’ll get home around 10:15pm, and I have to wake up for another class at 9:00am, which means waking by 7:30am (I need waking-up/breakfast time). Really I kind of worry that my nutrition and rest/recovery will go to shit in this time frame… but I will be diligent about that.

Tuesday: Max Effort Upper Body and skill work, or recovery run, or light (skill-focused) wod (depending on how I feel)

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Max Effort Lower Body, sprint work (uphill tabatas on a treadmill or rowing sprints)

Friday: Dynamic Effort Upper Body, Running form drills or WOD

Saturday: WOD or short pace run/row (also want to do technique drills on oly lifts on this day)

Sunday: Dynamic Effort Lower Body

I’m not sure how I’ll feel waking up early for endurance work before a longish day of school, but we’ll see. If it doesn’t burn me out too much, I’ll keep it. If it does, I’ll need to figure out some way to rearrange my schedule. I’m also really going to focus on getting a muscle up, but I’m not sure how to do that– should be concentrate on weighted pull ups? On strict chest-to-bars? Should I do pull-ups on the rings more? Negative muscle-ups? Transition drills? I’d love any advice from all you lovely, better-informed folks out there. I’ve been doing the Armstrong Pull-Up progression for my pull-ups, which helped enormously and brought me up to ten strict dead-hangs. However, I frustratingly lost a huge amount of that capacity in the past two weeks of vacation (when I lost regular access to a pull-up bar), and now I’m not sure whether to continue because I know that doing more muscle-up skill work will also train the same muscles and I don’t want to overwork them… Thoughts?

That’s the Jo-update the night before the start of her next adventure. I had a lovely, relaxing day yesterday, catching up with State College friends after the holidays. I’d also like to do that more… As much as I love my work, I need to remember to be a human being outside of it more often– otherwise, I develop this awful, hollow feeling and I lose myself in day after night after day of writing and research. It becomes difficult to put my work aside, and I develop this miserable tunnel-vision that feels isolating and hopeless. SO! Let’s not let that happen this semester.

Good luck to those of you also starting your new semesters. Happy Monday to those of you with those fancy, stable, secure jobs. As always, thank you for reading.

The Jomad’s Journey Continues

In General, Rhetoric, Training, Writing on January 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

Jo bought Jobot Coffee! New wonderful indie coffee discovery in downtown Phoenix.

Activities witnessed in the LA Fitness squat rack, December 2012-January 2013:

– Bicep curls with a straight bar

– Bicep curls with dumbbells

– Bicep curls with an EZ curl bar

– Calf raises

– Unweighted calf raises by the woman that glared at me until I rushed through my good mornings and vacated the squat rack for her. Apparently she can only perform her calf raises while lightly caressing the frame of the squat rack.

– Shoulder shrugs with a straight bar

– Dumbbell shoulder shrugs

– Half squats

– Quarter squats

– Dude-are-your-knees-even-bent squats

My actual favorite:

– Pull-ups (by racking the bar at the highest possible position), since the gym has no actual straight bar available for pull-ups

… long story short, there’s a (un)suprising lack of squatting in the LA Fitness squat racks– the frustratingly limited amount of LA Fitness squat racks, that are somehow, confoundingly, frequently occupied by people who use them for unneccessary exercises.

You’re getting this wrap-up because this morning marked my last LA Fitness visit for a while. Tomorrow, I shall fly for State College and return to home-sweet-box where squatting is a part of everyone’s vocabulary.

Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit a workout in tomorrow (literally traveling from 9am to 9pm), I did my Max Effort lower body work today. It was a deadlift week, but I was really reluctant to deadlift from the floor with the obnoxious decagonal plates that roll off their corners each time they hit the ground. Even when I did dynamic effort work these weeks, the plates really screwed me up– either banging into my shins or rolling away from me before I could set up for the next rep. So… I tried rack pulls for the first time. Unfortunately, the very lowest position I could set up a rack pull was just above the knee, but youtube tells me that’s a legitimate training position, so I tried that and managed to pull 255×3 for a new max. It was an interesting experience– just to hold that much weight in my hands. I don’t think I’m going to keep it in my repertoire though because I’m pretty sure my back is the stronger part of my lifts, and I have more trouble getting my deadlift off the ground than locking out at the top.

I’ll be happy to be back where I can train with familiar equipment and familiar resources– even more happy to be among friends. I’ll even enjoy the small comforts of my little basement space, assuming it hasn’t iced over due to two weeks without heating with all the snow that’s hit PA in the past couple weeks. However, I get melancholy every time I have to leave Arizona. It actually works both ways… I’m always reluctant to leave State College, then I remember how much I love my hometown and want to cling to its security, then our little pocket of Pennsylvania eventually reminds me of all its small joys. It’s really the distance I hate– the fact that I feel constantly incomplete. And that’s a fault of my mindset rather than my situation, I feel…

Honestly, that’s what I’d like to change most about 2013. I want to feel more comfortable with where I am (physically, emotionally, professionally, etc). On the one hand, I’m more determined than every to prove my worthiness. I want to become a better, more capable CrossFitter– one deserving of a coaching position. I want to settle in as a PhD student and really dig into my niche of scholarship. I want to be a better teacher…. I want to structure this creative writing class that I’m teaching so that the students really get something from the experience– so that they walk away with at least a new appreciation/understanding of stories and why we tell them, and how and why they matter. I want all of that and I’m determined to work my damnedest for all of that. But at the very same time, I know and I really want to be able to chill out more. I’m… really, very tightly wound too often. I know. I know. I know. I spent too much of last year– too much of the last two and a half years feeling like I’m madly flailing just trying to keep my head above water. If that’s all life is, it’s not worth living, right? I need to be able to sit back and enjoy. That’s strangely difficult for me. I need to be honest with myself about my faults, but also be able to accept that– for now, they’re there, and I can work on them, but I can’t frantically punish myself for them either. I need to continue striving towards my goals but at the same time learn patience… be satisfied with working towards and hoping that’s enough. I also need to spend less time hoping and more time enjoying the doing because– let’s face it– the PhD is a 5 year degree and after that there’s finding a tenure track job, working towards tenure, etc… even if that’s just an isolated metaphor for all the other aspects of life, we spend more time journeying than we do at the destination, so we must learn to embrace the journey. 

Even just thinking about my neuroses makes me want to apologize to those of you who put up with it all the time. Thank you! Here’s hoping the Jomad’s journey continues with a little more grace, and a little more calm this coming year. Here’s hoping you’ll journey with me– a few steps, or vast distances, your company is always appreciated 🙂

Happy New Year, friends.