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Posts Tagged ‘workout’


In Training, WOD on September 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm


Five rounds for time of:
22 Kettlebell swings, 2 pood/1.5
22 Box jump, 24 inch box/20
Run 400 meters
22 Burpees
22 Wall ball shots, 20#/14#

On paper, it doesn’t look terrible. But if you consult the CrossFit mainsite, it delivers discouraging news: CrossFit titans such as Austin Malleolo and Kristan Clever took 30-35 minutes to complete the workout. Our box listed this morning’s WOD with a 45 minute time cap, which usually implies that… most members will exceed the limit. I went in with the hope of coming in just under 45, but I had no idea if that was feasible.

Caveat: I scaled the KB swings to 1pd. I’m actually rather proud that I can do a full American with 1.5 now, but 22 would take me so long that the swings would have been the bulk of my WOD. Nevertheless, I’m a slow runner and I pause too often in my box jumps, so I figured the workout would still take me a long while. And it probably would have, if it weren’t for a little external motivation.

I started at a comfortable pace– pushing to a point of discomfort, but nothing terrible. Then Coach Cyborg reminded me exactly why my most humbling workouts have always been in his company. Sometime near round 3, he started paying more attention to me– elbows weren’t locked out at the top of that swing, hips didn’t reach full extension on that box jump, squat lower for the wall ball. Something he’s reminded me often, and something I try to keep in mind for every workout– if I want to be a coach, I should perform in a manner that I would want others to emulate. When I was new to CrossFit, I allowed my form to degrade deplorably because I cared more about the clock or the rounds, or the abstract idea of “intensity” than the integrity of my movements. These days, I try to focus on precision and cleanliness. But somewhere in there, I’ve become a little too comfortable. No longer made anxious by the clock, and now strong enough to handle wall balls and box jumps without delirium, I’ve forgotten the vast divide between what our brains think we can do and what our bodies can actually do.

For the 4th 400m, The Cyborg told me to make it in in 1:30. I have no idea what time I took, but it was certainly longer. My lungs were seizing, my legs were shot, and I thought I was moving as hard as I could. But when I stumbled through the door, he told me that I’d taken forever and I should make up the time on my burpees. I’d like to take this moment to retract everything nice I’ve ever said about burpees. Yeah, they’re a delight when you’re 88 pounds of nothing. 30 pounds later, they’re a shitshow. Sorry everyone– you’ve been right all along– burpees suck ass. The Cyborg screamed my reps aloud, remarking every time I slowed down. My asthma, which started during the runs had pushed mucus from my lungs into my throat. My head was a complete fog, and the world shrank to nothing but the five inches of rubber in front of my face each time I flopped to the floor. I was beyond pain– where intensity had exploded into annihilation, and mind was trying to shut itself down. But I managed those burpees. And then the wall balls, and another set of swings and another 22 box jumps. For my last 400m, The Cyborg appeared alongside me and ran just two steps ahead the entire way, calling back to me. I was breathing so heavy that I couldn’t hear the traffic around me. I thought my chest would explode with each inhalation, but he kept on yelling and somehow, my legs, these alien appendages, just pedaled away beneath me. I made it back in the door at 1:35. More burpees. And then the wall balls. Wall balls aren’t nearly as bad for me as they used to be, but at this point, I was spent. I thought those 14 pounds would carry me to the ground each time the leather struck my hands. But The Cyborg was unforgiving. I could not rest. Not now. At 15 reps, I got a few seconds, and then up again. No, not now. No you can’t rest. No you’re not done. Seven more. Don’t put it down. Five more. Three. And done, at 40:01.

I’ve become complacent in the past few months of training. When I first started CrossFit, I was so weak that everything sucked– even 10lb balls with an 8ft target. But as I got stronger, movements became easier and I forgot to carry that same exertion with me. No, I probably should not work to this intensity too frequently, but I should remember that when I think I’m done, when I think I’m tired, there’s so much more left untapped. Your body is smart– it’s made to protect itself… it will want to take the easy way out not because it’s lazy, but because it’s trying to conserve resources. But your body is also resilient. If you demand more of it, it will rise to the challenge.

After yesterday’s post, today provided a truly satisfying reminder. I don’t give a shit what my body was or wasn’t built for. I will beat it into submission ;).

Also, with The Cyborg’s remarks, I’m reminded so much of why I want to be a CrossFit coach someday. I want to help people find these moments– to see in them potential that they have yet to recognize and to rally those resources until they convert weakness to strength and overcome all that self-doubt. We have such tremendous trainers here, and beyond working on the integrity of my movements, I hope someday to incorporate much of what I’ve learned from them. I want to be able to have the Mean Machine’s positivity, and Zebrapants’s raw passion. I want to emulate Jefe’s patient, acute observation, his inquisitiveness, and generosity with his knowledge. And, like The Cyborg, I want to be able to drive people– to know when some athletes require gentle guidance, and when others need to be bitchslapped into high gear. And I’d like to think I’d bring my own individual experience to it too– to know what it’s like to start from nothing, to demand muscle from bone, to unlearn all the awful habits of your body… to do this while watching all the lifelong and natural athletes exceed you… to watch beginners PR with weights well beyond your reach… to want it all so bad that it doesn’t fucking matter, that you will work for it if you have to measure your progress in years.

One more bit of wisdom from The Cyborg. Before every “Hero” WOD, he makes a statement about how these remind him that “life is pretty good.” Whenever we undertake a Hero, I look up the individual after whom it was named. Army Captain Dan Whitten was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. On February 2, 2010, Whitten’s vehicle was struck by an explosive device. He died that same day. I assume the date (2/2) corresponds with the 22 reps in the workout. But as much as I’ve whined about my lungs seizing and my legs flailing until they lost sensation, that’s… all negligible. My forty minutes of “suffering” is incomparable to his sacrifice– to that of his family. And if I’m going to do something like this in “his honor,” then I damned well better give it my all. And… I’m glad someone was there this morning to remind me that my “all” is more than I thought.

CrossFit: Lessons in How to Live

In General, Training, WOD on September 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Today, a friend of mine was tagged in a Facebook photo. He’s doing a handstand on a bridge in Pittsburgh. Actually, he’s doing a handstand on the railing of a bridge in Pittsburgh. He’s gripping a steel bar, inverted hundreds of feet above the Pittsburgh skyline, with nothing between him and a fateful plummet but 20-odd years as a gymnast. That’s probably enough… that trust, and familiarity with his body and balance must give him the confidence to do such a thing (such a thing that most people would still call stupid). Regardless of how I train, I still don’t endorse death-defying handstands. But the photo looked so carefree, so bold and celebratory, that it reminded me of a sentiment that frequently delights me in CrossFit. This sport hasn’t just taught me how to train, or how to be fit. The athletes around me so often remind me of how I want to live.

I have a strange relationship with my fears. As a child, I was terrified of heights. A memory that I still don’t entirely know what to do with… on a hiking trip with my family, my father picked me up and held me over the Grand Canyon until I stopped crying. It didn’t cure me of my fear. In fact, I shirked from the railings on the second stories of shopping malls for years. I was thrown from horseback at age 12, and decided that that– too– was too high. But as I got older, that fear became an obnoxious impediment. And though my day above the Grand Canyon did nothing to dispel my terror, it’s instilled in me a will to confront my demons. In order to become certified as a stage technician, I had to scale 15′ up a ladder to hang a stage lamp. I did it, hands shaking, teeth clenched, remembering my father’s grip beneath my arms and the way the hard, desert earth gaped open beneath my swinging feet. Even during my first rope climb, my heart skipped a beat the first time I reached the top and looked down. (For those that are curious, I also avidly avoided horses for two years before enrolling as a stablehand at the zoo, where I became a competent rider… and fantastically good at cleaning hooves).

That said… I’m still a very cautious– overly cautious– individual. I plan for everything. I start assignments the day they’re given. I cannot relax unless I’ve checked off my entire to-do list– and, since to-do lists in graduate school are actually neverending, I live in a perpetual, overly-wound psychosis. But the gym allows me moments of reprieve. We did “Wood” on Monday (5 Rounds for time of: Run 400 meters,10 Burpee box jumps, 10 sumo-deadlift high-pulls, 10 thrusters, rest 1 minute between rounds) and– despite the inconquerable mountain of work I had awaiting atop my desk, I felt entirely weightless by my 4th round. I was running through the rain, soaked to the point that I could feel the water splashing off my sneakers each time I landed a box jump, but for those twenty-some minutes, nothing mattered but this moment and the strength of the athletes beside me.

Some athletes like the Gymnast remind me to live, occasionally, with abandon. To shed our fears and celebrate what we have. To break free of my chronic timidity. Others, like Jefe, remind me to live with integrity. Some members were discussing– in good-nature– this coach’s high standards earlier this week, about how he’ll “no rep” anything short of perfect form. But the thing is, he does so because he holds himself to those same standards– or higher. I’ve never seen an athlete more honest about good form, solid reps, refusing to let anything count unless it’s completed 100% in compliance with the spirit of the movement. I think I’ve also (in a possibly tipsy stupor) told Coach Zebrapants that I want to live like he WODs… which is still entirely true. An absurdly gifted athlete, he’s now a hell of a competitor and likely to make a sincere splash in the professional world of CrossFit soon. However, I was lucky enough to be there at the start of his CrossFit career– when he had nothing going for him but sheer strength and dedication. It was actually a hell of a sight to see someone with no sense of technique, no finesse, just plow through workouts with sheer will. (I can say this now, because his form and technique and well beyond anything I could critique these days). But regardless… I want to live like that– to approach the things that I don’t yet have the knowledge of skill for with enough heart and determination to make it, with enough enthusiasm to absorb technique and finesse and the finer details along the way, with passion and wild abandon.

But it’s not just the gifted athletes that are inspiring. I know I mention it lots, but there’s always a soft spot in my heart (or perhaps a shared camaraderie/inborn empathy) for the not-at-all-natural-athletes at our box– for those that have never seen a barbell before, picking one up for the first time. With the wealth of new members we’ve acquired this month, I love seeing the ones that come in during open gym times to drill their power cleans or double-unders, to strap bands to the pull-up bars and work their way to their first kip. I love all that CrossFit teaches us about persistence, about picking ourselves back up after we’ve stumbled, or fallen, or smashed our shins against the plyo box (so many sympathetic hugs for Scotchy who did just that this week).

Anyway… that’s my thought for the week.

Also, this morning, I repeated a WOD I do on a fairly regular basis now:

4x prowler push 40m

25 burpees

4x prowler push 40m

200m sprint

4x prowler push 40m

25 burpees

As I mentioned a while ago, I’m trying to learn to “push through the suck,” so I tried giving myself less rest time this go-around. Anytime I stopped, I only let myself count thirty seconds before I started again– which, if you’ve ever done prowler pushes, you’ll know is fantastically awful. At some point, I may have actually lost the ability to count… my brain was spinning circles in: “twenty-six mississippi… twenty fi-six mississippi… twenty-eight missisipi… twenty— should I be going now?” But I still love this workout. It gets my heart working, but doesn’t leave me trashed for the rest of the day.

Also, a little bit of bookkeeping:

Friday marked the end of my Coconut oil giveaway. Many thanks, hugs, and general good karma to all those who entered. Also thanks again to Tropical Traditions for the fantastic opportunity to share their lovely product. To keep my process transparent, here’s what I did for entirely randomized winner selection: I inputted the number of entries into a “True Random Number Generator” (thank you internets) to determine the winner. So don’t blame me. Blame computers.

As it so happens, 8 is my favorite number. 8 also belongs to a lucky lady named Krista, who’s about to enjoy a wealth of coconutty goodness in her life. Congratulations Krista, do let us know what you make with your delicious winnings!

Homemade Sandbag!

In Food, Training, WOD on July 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

So, I’ve reached the final day of my “Whole 14,” and I thank you all for bearing with me as I whined about my digestive dilemmas. The verdict? I’m glad I did it. There were some definite benefits to eating cleanly “paleo.” As I mentioned before, I slept better than I have in years. Though I still experienced (disappointingly) the occasional IBS symptoms, they were dramatically reduced and much more infrequent.  I didn’t experience sugar highs or crashes (at least not after those initial four days of awful withdrawal). Also, I felt satiated after meals. I stayed full for a lot longer, and when I felt hungry, my blood sugar didn’t swing (so no dizziness, no irritability– I’m usually irreducibly hAngry when I’m hungry… which is also usually too frequent). The downside is that my recovery never made it back up from what it used to be, which baffles me. If I feel so much better in so many other ways, why does my body struggle to repair itself now? Other inconveniences: I was never particularly handy in the kitchen to begin with, so I spend way too much of my time cooking. And, really, I don’t see this as a fully sustainable lifestyle for me. I’d like to be able to go out and have a few drinks with friends (though I know that alcohol aggravates my symptoms, but I make concessions anyway…); I’d like to enjoy meals out without worrying about all the ingredients, etc… I also need to be able to buy cheaper… not-grass-fed-everything. A grad student’s salary doesn’t quite support a paleo pantry. Nevertheless, there are a few things from this experiment that I would like to keep: 1) COCONUT BUTTER. 2) fewer sweetened things. I don’t think I’ll abandon sweeteners altogether, but I like not getting sugar cravings… and not being shaky when I’m hungry… but I wonder if I can keep the cravings at bay if I reintroduce a few sweetened things? I guess we’ll find out. 3) Less caffeine. I’m curious as to whether or not caffeine screws with my stomach… I intend to try something like a half-caff americano when I start back up to see… but I also like not needing that afternoon cup anymore.

Unfortunately, my strength progression has definitely slowed, and I’m hoping it will revive with the reintroduction of (hopefully) most foods. I’m hoping that I can find the worst triggers and eliminate those while not adhering to nearly so rigid a set of guidelines.

Anyway, yesterday’s deadlifts were a little shakey– 5 at 175lbs (~1.75x bodyweight). I’m going to bump it up another 5 for next week, but I’m nervous. My grip is actually my limiting factor on my deadlifts. With 175, by the time I stand, my hands are already half un-clenched, and from there it slips to the ground. I intend to incorporate more farmer’s walks into my supplementary work and hopefully that’ll help.

This morning, I woke with a bit of extra energy, so I played around with my new homemade sandbag:

1 duffel bag + rubber mulch bound in trashbags (and then in contractor trash bags– not pictured) + obscene amounts of duct tape.

The duffel bag is bigger than I’d like it to be, so I’ve ordered some rope from Amazon and I hope to tie off the extra fabric at the end so the garbage bags/mulch don’t slide around as much. To christen my new toy, I started this morning with Ross Training’s 25 Repetition Roulette:

1 burpee

clean sandbag to shoulders

press bag overhead

overhead lunge with each leg.

Repeat for 25 total reps. Quick and simple, but effective. I like the amorphousness of the bag and how it forces you to adapt to the shifting weight.

Afterwards, I also did ten reps of my own invented dumbbell complex. It’s basically a renegade row with a squat clean thruster afterwards. So the full movement is:

Push up (with hands on dumbbells– for me this was 25lbs)

“Row” (pull the dumbell up) with your left arm

Push up

Right-arm row


Squat clean the dumbbells to your shoulders

Thruster the weights overhead

That’s one rep. I only did ten, but that was enough for a quick morning workout.

In direct contrast to my stunning productivity yesterday, I have achieved close to nothing today. So… I should probably get on that before tonight’s activities. Happy Tuesday, all.

Strength Losses and Women’s CrossFit

In Training, WOD on June 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Well, I’m back in the States but not at all feeling normal yet. I’m still trying to shake the jetlag and general headfog of being relocated by 7,000 miles and 15 hours. Despite that, I thought I’d write you all a general fitness update. My lifts are actually… tragically disappointing at the moment, though I’d anticipated a measurable setback. After some tentative testing at LA fitness, I’ve found that my squats still feel strong, but my press 5rm has dropped by at least 5 lbs and my power cleans by 10lbs. I’d really like to attribute that power clean loss to the lack of bumper plates, but I suppose we’ll find out. I have another week here in Arizona before I return home and reacquaint myself with the comforts of the Rogue rig and rubber plates.

Speaking of bumper plates, I did manage to pay a visit to a local CrossFit gym. I won’t name them here due to the nature of my commentary, however. For a while, I’ve been nervous about visiting another affiliate. Worried that I’d both embarrass myself and my gym. When I rolled my jetlagged butt out of bed and realized I had only ten minutes to get dressed and get to the box for the scheduled class time, I deliberated over whether or not to wear my Lionheart shirt for fear that I’d make a fool of myself. Again, I overthink things. At any rate, I eventually shoved on the Lionheart shirt and sped my way to the gym where I was told to hop in during their WOD.

The owner/trainer of the box was very inviting. She allowed me to work out for free and after my WOD actually invited me to return and join them anytime I’m in town. This gym is actually a “women-only” CrossFit gym. I didn’t attend it for that reason; I chose it because it was closest to my house. Structurally, the class wasn’t all that different from that of my own gym. We started with a warm-up that involved tabata-based core work, then we moved to 5/3/1 deadlifts. However, instead of having each individual class member lift according to her own strength stats, there were only three “tiers” with prescribed weight numbers. For me, the tiers seemed surprisingly low. I lifted the prescribed weights for the top “tier,” which was actually still lower than what my actual 5/3/1 programming would be. I say this without any sort of an inflated ego because my deadlifts are on the low end among the women at our gym. Yet, in a class of maybe 12 women, I was one of only two that lifted in “tier one,” and I was still easily one of the smallest individuals in the gym.

The WOD that followed was rx’d at:

5 Rounds

10 clean and jerks (55lbs)

15 squats

The board simply stated “squats,” so with that weight, I actually assumed front squats with the bar. However, the intended prescription involved air squats. Again, I was only one of two attendees lifting the prescribed weight.

Now, I’m the last person to recommend rash entry into the world of lifting heavy…. and I’ve had my ruminations on the dangers of the too-much, too-fast CrossFit attitude, but I almost felt as if this class had underestimated the women in the room. Looking around, I felt as if a number of the girls could be/probably are more powerful athletes than I. They were simply fearful of adding weight to the bar. Similarly, I was a little stunned when a couple women paused mid-wod to start a casual conversation. It’s not that I think CrossFit should involve “killing it” every second. I don’t think every workout needs to leave you breathless, slack-limbed, and incoherent. But I also felt a little strange lifting more weight than women twice my size who were sort of halfheartedy swinging up 30lbs with poor form.

I guess it was just a very different environment than that to which I’m accustomed. I’ve heard visitors remark that our gym is already a lot less competitive than other CrossFit gyms (which I love), though we also know how to bring the intensity. I could see how someone might feel more comfortable in a low-key environment. Considering the fitness woes faced by our country, I think most activities that get people up and moving are fairly commendable. My bigger disappointment was that the athletes weren’t given much advice on form for their lifts– in which case, it’s probably safer that they remain with lighter loads. It’s just also a shame considering that I could see how much stronger some of these women were; they just don’t know it.

That said, I’d like to revisit this gym–perhaps just because they were kind enough to invite me back. But they don’t have open gym hours and I can’t do anything there but the prescribed WOD, so… for right now, I’m a little more concerned about getting back to my linear progression program– of which I’ve been entirely neglectful for the past two and a half weeks.

This morning’s visit to LA fitness (whereupon I swear I witnessed a man standing in front of the dumbbell rack, conducting pelvic thrusts with a dumbbell held to his crotch….) involved the following (after I finished gawking at the dumbbell-violation)**:

**For once I wasn’t the most noticeable weirdo at the LA Fitness…

Power cleans: 5×3 (had to drop 10lbs lower than my pre-vacation weight… not thrilled about this… hoping to recover soon)

Dips (also felt very weak)

WOD: 15 min EMOM

2 power cleans (2x @ 60% 3RM)*

5 pull-ups

* I have to admit I succumbed to my ego a bit here and used my old 3rm rather than my shitty one from this morning…

Also, for the hell of it, I tried tabata sprints on the treadmill (just four minutes worth) 12% incline on the 6.5 setting. If you want to meet Jesus in four minutes of running, I’d say that’s the way to go.


EDIT: On an unrelated note, if you’re wondering where you stack up against the average Games athlete, here’s a nifty breakdown of the “average” 2010 Games competitors:,614/