Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Humbling Journey...

I was asked to do a Q&A on our gym's blog this month, as recently I celebrated my one-year anniversary with Crossfit NYC.  It's unreal that a year has past since I walked into Elements, couldn't do five push-ups, couldn't breathe after less than 10 wall balls, and yet here I am:

I can Deadlift over 400 pounds.  Give me a month and I can back squat over 400 pounds.  I am mere months away from doing unassisted pull-ups, but even with bands I can do over 100 of them in a workout.  I've done close to 250 WODs, and some of the more recent ones have been at RX'ed weights.  I've been inspired by and inspired hundreds of people, not only in my gym, but apparently around the world.

This is not a unique journey, but for those out there just starting, or even just contemplating need to know how possible, yet necessary, this really is.  Do know that I have experienced physical pain like I have never, ever known.  Some days I can barely limp my way down the subway platform. But the world is a new place.  I can lift my son up and swing him around...I can run up and down the stairs, and when I forget something at the bottom, I can go back down, and come back up again and again, and I don't breathe heavy anymore.  My blood pressure is exceptional.  I run from the train to my car BY CHOICE.  Absolutely everything has changed for the better because of my newfound strength and stamina.  It's some of the hardest work I've ever done, but naturally because of that it's been some of the most rewarding.

Click to check out my Q&A.  This is an amazing journey.  I'm honored that I've been able to impart the wisdom I've picked up along the way.  I'll continue to do so here, and more frequently at that.  I appreciate your curiosity, and I hope you've enjoyed my story so far.  It's just barely begun...

Love and Peace...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recovery Pt. III - Rest

I'm kind of going out of order today, as I felt like this topic should cap the whole recovery series (there are still several editions to come), but it's too appropriate, as I've opted to take a rest day after three days in a row of hardcore WODs.  It's 8:30 AM and I'm already feeling the benefits of rest...a bit of a tingle body-wide as my muscles reset themseves from three days of all-out explosive power output.  It is truly amazing that what amounts to an hour of work among the three days has put my body in a state of necessary rest, to stave off potential over-training and/or injury.

Embarrasingly enough my decision to rest was guided by the choice of upcoming WODs today and tomorrow, more than the absolute need to rest that I'm now recognizing and embracing.  Today's WOD amounted to 250 air squats and 500 rope jumps.  But tomorrow is ten rounds of Cindy, with a Clean & Jerk added to the beginning of each round.  Now THAT's what I'm talkin about.  Not to take away from the training benefits of today's WOD but anytime I can combine a cool lift like the clean & jerk with a benchmark like Cindy, SIGN ME UP!

Anyway...back to rest.  In no way does "rest" suggest taking out the daily routines that maintain and support your body.  Ideal nutrition, sufficient protein, electrolyte maintenance (more on this very soon!), icing muscles, stretching & mobility work, foam rolling, good posture and of course adequate sleep...  All of these elements combine to provide your body with a collective rest...truly an abbreviation for the restoration that you're providing your body in the wake of the blaring intensity of Crossfit.

I read a brilliant blog article about the stages of Crossfit which addresses the absolute WOD addiction that kicks in.  Earlier this year I couldn't imagine doing 4-5 days a week, especially in a row.  But I've put a few 5-day weeks behind me in recent months. Often those result in a pretty poor performance on the Friday, as the aggregate effects of days 1-4 just do not allow for the same strength and explosive performance that your average WOD requires.  So I've learned to balance out my need to get to the gym with the recognition of my body's need to rest.  Take last week for instance...
Last week was probably the most demanding week of Crossfit I've ever experienced.  Monday was Fran, Tuesday was 75 handstand pushups & 150 walking lunges, Wednesday was Helen, Thursday Crossfit Total, and Friday Filthy 50. So when would YOU rest? It shook me to the core, and I was in disbelief as I decided, but I knew that even if I powered through and showed up for the Crossfit Total I would not have come close to hitting a PR, and that's really the essence of that WOD.  Right now my Total is 890, but with the strides I've made in recent months it's realistic that on a good, strong day I can get my Total toward 1000.  But I knew it was time to rest.  And because I did I was able to PR my Filthy 50 on Friday by over 4 minutes.

And by no means should rest always take the form of sleep or relaxation.  Get out and ride your bike.  Play with your kids / friends / family.  Go out for a walk or a jog.  There are thousands of articles on active recovery, and many interviews with Crossfitters about "applying your fitness".  These are huge things to consider when making the most of your rest.  So don't think of this as boring or something to avoid.  Make it the rewarding, fun part of the process that it is.  Eventually you'll look forward to it as much as the WODs.

So the moral of this story is that we are in this for the long haul.  It's just another WOD.  Crossfit is a lifelong pursuit.  Balance in your training is as important as balance in everything else in life.  Rest is as necessary as hitting a PR on your back squat or improving your Fran time.  You must give your body what it needs in order to live to fight another day with every ounce of the fight that is in you.  Glassman was onto something when he came up with the 3 on 1 off concept.  There is profound truth in it, and while only you will know when you can push that envelope, sufficient rest needs to have a place in your training if you're going to be successful in the long run.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recovery Pt. II: Foam Rolling

In Crossfit your workout stays with you all day.  After I walk (or sometimes limp) to work, I spend the morning recharging my system. TONS of water, some caffeine (either black coffee or coffee with almond milk), some fruit and a little sodium replenishment (more on that later).  Throughout the day and night I'm in a constant state of either recovery or preparation for the next WOD.  The Paleo Diet is a major contributor to my nutritional approach to recovery.  But there are far more things to consider beyond nutrition if you're going to optimize your Crossfit experience.  Lately I've been doing five WODs a week, which by my standards even a few months ago is a lot, but I've basically accepted my addiction and I'm making the most of it.  Today's recovery segment deals with one aspect of my evening preparation for the next day's WOD.  This is a simple but beautiful way to reset your spine, your hips, glutes and your legs so that you're primed and ready for more intensity, while minimizing the chance of injury and/or soreness.  This amazing daily practice is foam rolling.

Standard Firm Foam Rollers
I first got a foam roller from my buddy Scott for the holidays last year.  It's a standard foam cylinder, very firm on the outside...much harder than the rollers we have at Crossfit NYC.  At first it was very painful to roll out my back, but I stuck with it because I studied up on the benefits of "delamination".  This is a process of kneading away superficial layers of a type of tissue in our bodies called "fascia". Picture a thin layer of malleable saran wrap around the outer layers of our muscles.  Over time it can adhere to our muscles, essentially laminating them and causing tightness.  The less we pull fascia apart the more it wraps tightly around our muscles, causing inflammation and restricting our range of motion.  In a practice like Crossfit, compromising your range of motion by limiting activities like foam rolling can be dangerous over time.  No doubt this activity is painful at first, and will be for some time.  But this pain is something to embrace and work through.  Without working through this pain you will not see benefits of foam rolling, and you will not keep your fascia in check, which is terrible for your Crossfitting.  I noticed as the weeks went by that rolling out my back, quads, and IT bands (lengthy muscles on your side that stretch from below your hips to your midsection) became less and less painful, and foam rolling at night became more of a way to self-adjust my back (saves visits to the chiropractor and feels GREAT!) and reset my muscles, preparing them for more work.  That's when I stepped it up and got myself a RUMBLE ROLLER.
Various models of the Rumble Roller

The Rumble Roller is absolutely no joke.  This thing is insane.  It's basically a firm foam roller with hard little nubs surrounding it.  The nubs provide an advanced level of kneading and pulling as you roll, and at first I was in absolute agony using this thing.  But over time, just like with it's traditional predecessor, the Rumble Roller has now become pretty standard during my evening recovery exercises.  I start by rolling out my back and hips with the standard roller, and then I use the Rumble to get into deeper, more painful spots.  The difference has been phenomenal, and just last week I rolled out my back and hips, and along with some mobility work to prepare (more on this later) I set a 40-lb deadlift PR at 425 lbs.  Now I will never point to anything as a silver bullet, so if your nutrition is weak, you barely stretch, and you're new to foam rolling you will not see explosive gains in your Crossfitting just from foam rolling.  But if you combine this activity with a solid arsenal of recovery methods, you will notice major differences in performance, and Crossfit will become an even better, safer experience.

Foam Rolling Videos -
Mobility WOD I
Mobility WOD II

Foam Rolling Articles
- Crossfit Nor'Easter
                                    Crossfit Invictus

Puchase LinksStandard Foam Roller
                         Rumble Roller

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Recovery Pt. I: Protein

I'll make this the first of several posts that deal with recovery.  A common thread throughout my eight months of Crossfit is pain.  At first, the muscle soreness in the days after workouts was downright debilitating.  Now it's something I pretty much depend on, to indicate that yesterday's work is yielding progress, and today's work will adjust according to how heavily I'm in recovery.  What I rarely do is skip a WOD day simply because of soreness.  There are many things that help with recovery, and a very major one of them is protein.

This started as an email to Wayne, one of my Crossfit NYC buddies.  He asked me about my experience with protein and my response morphed into a decent enough passage to share with everyone here...

You can Google all variations imaginable on post-workout nutrition and read for days.  After I did that, I came to the collective conclusion that:

1> Protein ingestion within 15-30 minutes post-WOD is a net positive for muscle growth and accelerating recovery.

2> Combining proteins will enhance the effectiveness of post-WOD nutrition, so it's best to find a product that combines whey with egg and/or casein proteins.  The whey gives you immediate benefit, the egg is nutrient-rich, and the casein is slow-digesting to allow for a steady stream of muscular protein ingestion for several hours (though not as effective as the post-WOD time window).  I happen to use Nitrean, which is made by Chris Mason of At Large Nutrition.  He has written several articles for the Crossfit Journal and I've found him to be a stand up businessman with excellent products.  Nitrean is a powdered shake that comes in several tasty flavors, with minimal sugar content and very low carbs.  Each scoop provides 23-24 grams of protein (a mixture of the ones I mention above).

What is whey protein you ask? Whey is a dairy product (don't tell the Paleo police) that is separated from milk during the process of making cheese.  The whey is dehydrated, or often "hydrolized" to preserve its nutritional benefits and shelflife.  Whey contains amino acids that are hugely valuable to muscle recovery.  Most of the time whey comes in powder form.

The importance of timing your protein ingestion post-WOD deals with the torn-down state of your muscle tissue.  Picture your muscles like a sponge...after a workout they are highly absorbent for the first 30 minutes, and the amino acids in whey protein are absorbed most efficiently during this time. 

3> People who are looking to gain mass (or are at least not focused on weight loss) have an ideal opportunity to maximize their recovery by adding a significant amount of carbohydrate to their post-WOD meal/shake.  The general thought on carbs is that a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein) results in optimal protein/amino acid synthesis.  The carbs cause an insulin spike (as carbs convert to glycogen, or blood glucose [sugar]), which serves as a vehicle for the protein to absorb optimally into the muscle tissue within the 30-minute window.  Apparently the absorption level drops off significantly after the first 30 minutes.  The above 3:1 theory is the basis for chocolate milk being the post-workout meal of choice for so many athletes (both in and out of Crossfit).  I have found that a 16-oz Nesquick has 8g of protein, and that's only 33% of the protein content in a scoop of  Nitrean.  But with 24 grams of carbs it nails the 3:1 ratio on the head.  Milk protein, however, differs from whey in its ability to be absorbed as efficiently.  Also, since I am looking to lean out, I can't see ingesting 75g of carbs to balance out my standard 24g of protein, so I ingest the protein with little to no carbs, and feel that I still get benefits, even if they are sub-optimal.  There is a significant amount of discussion about the benefits of ingesting low-glycemic carbs (like sweet potatoes) post-WOD.  I could see eventually adding this once my weight comes down.

4> Casein before bed - For those looking to continue the protein intake beyond post-WOD for muscle recovery, it's recommended to consume casein protein before bedtime (or at least have it be the last thing you eat).  Casein is the protein found in the chunks in cottage cheese.  It is also known as "curds" (remember Little Miss Muffett eating her curds & whey?) This slow-digesting protein activates your metabolism as you sleep, while giving your muscles a steady stream of protein for recovery.  I've had great success with this.  I use Optimum Nutrition's casein protein (low sugar, no carbs), which is typically best priced online through either Vitamin Shoppe or Amazon.

5>  How much protein is enough? Well it seems the mean theory suggests one gram of protein daily for every pound of lean body mass.  So for instance I'm now around 280 lbs, and while I haven't measured body fat I'm guessing I'm still in the range of 30% body fat despite my sizable weight loss.  Based on this I estimate that I have a lean body mass of around 185 lbs.  Now I'm not at all suggesting that I consume 185 grams of protein daily, but I make sure that I get into the triple digits if i can help it.  Just with shakes post-WOD and at bedtime I cover 50 grams, so that leaves 135 more throughout the day and night...I usually get somewhere around half that, and I've had excellent results.  Some doctors have expressed concern with overdoing it on daily protein intake volume.  Some mentioned potential kidney issues, and a common thread was to space the intake out throughout the day.

In the coming weeks I will also feature non-protein supplements and foods I've added to the recovery menu.  By no means am I saying that the above info will work for everyone, but having made so much progress in such a short time I figured it would benefit at least some of you.  I hope so anyway...drop me a line in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

Here are some interesting articles/discussions on workout recovery:

Journal of Applied Physiology 

Health & Fitness

Running Times 2009

Crossfit Board

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hiatus Sucks

I followed a band around the country when I was in college and a while back they took a couple of years off.  I remember seeing a shirt someone had on that said "Hiatus Sucks". Now obviously I have more readers than they do fans ;), so I can understand the weight of my own hiatus as well.  Thanks for fighting the urge to create your own custom WOD Almighty merchandise in response to my drop off the face of the planet for the last couple of months.  But there is an upside to the story I can assure you...

Progress Report
Starting Weight (Nov 2010) - 335 lbs
Current Weight (June 2011) - 281 lbs (net loss 54 lbs)

Starting Waist - 56 inches
Current Waist - 46 inches (net loss 10 inches)

No my absence from the blog does not mean I gave up my Crossfit/Paleo journey.  Work became hell for a while, and everything else just kind of spun out of control.  But through it all the least amount of days I dedicated to Crossfit was two, though most weeks saw me at the gym 4-5 days.  I come back to the blog with a fresh perspective and some changes in mind.

I'm going to try to put up more lifestyle-based material.  While I still want to document my WODs there are so many other things about the experience I want to I'm eating, mobility work, equipment that's helped me maintain, supplements, etc.  There's so much that goes into being a healthy person and if just one of you reads this and gets inspired, informed, or changed in even a small way I think that's a lot more constructive than just making this about documenting my workouts.

It really just comes down to how much time I have to devote to the blog, amidst everything else.  Between marriage, parenthood, home ownership, work, Crossfit, and everything else in life it can be tough to sit down for even five minutes to crank out a quick post.  So I'm going to make the most out of my time with you, and not worry so much if you can't read about how hard it was to do 39 handstand pushups today :).

So on we go...let's get healthy together, and as always let me know you're out there.  We're certainly all out there, aren't we ;).


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking Back...Literally...

Some days you feel like you're running backwards.  Today is a rare exception in that, well, I was actually running backwards.  Folks, meet another of Crossfit's sadistic brethren, "Griff"...

WOD - "Griff"
For time:
Run 800 meters
Run 400 meters backwards
Run 800 meters
Run 400 meters backwards

Um...OK...what the fuck?  Run BACKWARDS?  You want these tree trunks to run a mile forwards and a half mile BACKWARDS?  REALLY?  BACKWARDS?!?!?  Man this shit should get really interesting on the famed streets of NYC.

I was equally intrigued an terrified as I came into the box today to find Jeff, another trainer who joined Sara to teach & time today's WOD.  Jeff put me through a warmup that had me dripping.  I was all prepped to do my typical handstand pushups, ring pushups, OH squats, etc and Jeff throws this at me:

Samson Stretch (both sides) - Inch Worm* - Crab Walk*  - Twisting Lunges* - Bear Crawl*(*Length of the room)

Shit man that's a warmup?  Geesh!  I was warm, that's for sure...drenched as well.  Safe to say I was nice and warm as we hit the street.

3...2...1...go!  I was off at a comfortable pace as I felt great rounding 24th St.  Every time I come back to running I feel better and better as I still run 800m sets unbroken.  Will I do an unbroken mile?  Certainly by the summer I think that's a reality.  Granted I haven't seen a WOD with a mile run in it except for Murph, and, well, yeah let's not hope for that day to come anytime soon...

I finished the first 800 in less than seven minutes, which I thought was a great pace for me...a 12-minute mile for someone who is close to 300 lbs (though not as close as I used to be ;) isn't bad.  Now the real fun began...I didn't have to look over my shoulder nearly as much as I thought.  I think I trusted that whoever I didn't see would just get out of the way.  I turned around at the Starbuck's on 6th and got a few double takes, and a random street guy started beeping as I was going by like the sound a truck makes when you back up.  For the most part though it wasn't so bad...I turned back around for the next 800 at about 10-11 minutes and kept going.  Surprisingly I did the WOD unbroken, so technically I guess you could say this was my first unbroken mile, split into two segments and sandwiched by a half mile of backwards running craziness.  But I hit the finish line with a decent time.

WOD TIME: 20:44

I was surprisingly peppy after I finished, which turned out to be a good thing, because with time left on the clock Jeff & Sara presented the following cashout:

Run the stairs (all five flights)
3 Rounds for Time (10-minute limit)

Richard (who finished the WOD in like 1/2 the time I did) was with me for this one, and while he lapped me again (he always does), we were both slowing down bigtime getting the top couple of flights on the way up.  The way down was cake, even though I didn't know it but my calves were going to be cooked shortly thereafter.

Cashout Time: 8:48

Man that was definitely a massive day.  Between the warmup, the WOD and the cashout I'm TOAST.  Not sure if tomorrow's a reality.  If so I'll need to hit the sack super-early tonight.  We'll see.  For now I'm psyched I got through it.  It's not every day you can start off with some backwards running and keep a smile on your face.  Today was a pleasant, rare exception :).


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jeremy's Spoken

I guess if you do Crossfit long enough your expectations for intensity go through the roof. So it's no wonder that when they posted today's WOD I assumed it was 3x as brutal as it actually was going to be. Here it is as posted:

In honor of “Jeremy”
Three rounds, 21-15-and 9 reps, for time of:
95 pound Overhead squats

So while the 21-15-9 rep scheme is the most common (and cool I must say), I still thought by "three rounds" they meant three rounds of 21-15-9, yielding 63, 45, and 27 reps of each exercise respectively. I called Scott and told him I expected to not be able to move after this one. Lo and behold I walked into the Black Box this morning and found out that it was just straight-up 21-15-9. OK...back to reality...

I told Sara because I expected it to be so brutal I was thinking I was going to use the bar for the OH Squats.  She said "well it's good for you then, since now you're lifting 95 lbs".  I guess that settled it.  RX'ing a WOD is a ton of fun, and while this one wasn't brutally heavy I knew the burpees were going to crush me.  Sara was laughing as I put big band aids on my knees to stave off the bleeding that typically happens when i do tons of burpees, but I was sweating enough from the warmup that this was a fruitless effort.  We set up the bars and got ready to...

...3...2...1...Go!  I knew the overheads wouldn't be too bad.  I start to struggle at around 150 lbs, but 95 lbs was well within my capability.  I fired off the round of 21 unbroken and we were off to the races...the burpee races, that is.  And that is by no stretch a fun race to run.  I was sloppy by rep # 10 and just getting through them was a mess.  I really need to work on these, as brutal as they are.  Despite the tough time the burpees gave me I cranked through the sets of 15 and 9, only breaking up the overheads in the round of 15 (5-5-5), and blasting through the last set.

WOD Time: 11:12

It feels good to RX a WOD and put up a sub-15 minute time.  Granted this one is in the realm of Fran and other workouts that CF superstars can do in 5 minutes or less.  But hey this is absolute progress, and I felt great afterwards...need to work on those burpees though...sheer brutality for sure.


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Front Squat - Reunited and it Feels so...

Monday rest days simply kick ass.  Ease into the week after a weekend of recovery with some strength coaching from Kevin P.  Solid.

BLACK BOX WOD (current skill: front squat):
front squat 5-5-5-5-5

Today I reunited with the front squat for the first time on a strength day since February.  Back then I did triples and got to 200 lbs.  Today was sets of five, so I treated this like uncharted territory, not knowing or expecting where I would go with this amount of reps.  Sure I've had months of training, but every strength day is different, so I was happy to just get something on the bar and lift without expectations.

Warmup – 45×5 – 65×3 – 95×3 – 145×3

I felt pretty damn good once I got some decent weight on the bar, so I figured I would just go for it and hope for the best.  I felt like it wasn't out of the realm of possibility to hit my 3-rep max PR on my first WOD with sets of 5.  Here's how it went:

WOD (sets of 5) 145 – 165 – 175 – 185 – 200*

Fail on #5 at 200, but that was essentially the goal...reach your max set of 5, and getting four solid reps was good enough for me at 200 lbs.  I think honestly once my shoulders get more comfortable in the rack position I'll be able to really get into front squats more.  But I can't expect them to be as productive as back squats, so I feel pretty good about where I'm at.

Ready for tomorrow...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Moore and More

Nothing caps off a week at Crossfit better than a hero WOD.  It's a shame we have to do them at all, as they are created in tribute to either a fallen soldier or man/woman of service.  Today I felt like I was going to put up a good showing in tribute to 29-year-old David Moore of Indianapolis, who sadly was shot to death as he approached a pulled-over stolen vehicle this past January.

WOD: "Moore"
Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
15 ft Rope Climb, 1 ascent
Run 400 meters
Max rep Handstand push-up

I've been steadily progressing with handstand pushups, and I was psyched for today because I hadn't run in a while, and it's been some time since I've been able to do a metcon with handstand pushups.

We did the standard sub for a rope climb, which was three two-handed ring pullups.  I lowered the ring just enough to be able to jump into it, as I'm definitely not ready for dead-hang ring pullups yet.  All in due time...the rope climb started the WOD.  We got set up and we were ready to...

3...2...1...Go!  We were out the door and down the stairs in a pack, and as is typically the case my immediate pace out the door found me many steps behind the pack.  I didn't want to gas myself too early, because I wanted to really give the handstand pushups my best effort.  That said I was running pretty much as fast as I can without sprinting...

I came charging back into the box and already had my plates set up against the 45, one 25 and one 10 pounder.  OK so that only gives me like 3-6 inches of depth, but it's what I need to gain the strength and confidence to develop this exercise.  As it is I'm amazed that I've been able to hold handstands for as long as I have, so any significant amount of reps at this point is a bonus.

I cranked through the first set and felt like I could keep going, but I didn't want to make this WOD like others where I've pushed too far on handstand pushups and almost messed up the workout (and myself in general).  I stopped after 14 reps.

On I went through the next few rounds...feeling great entering round four, as I wanted to at least get four rounds under my belt.  I finished the handstand pushups and we had 30 seconds, so Sara said to run the stairs and try to make it back up.  We heard her yell "Time" as we hit the bottom.

WOD Results: Four Rounds - Handstand Pushup Reps: 14 - 12 - 12 - 10

Wow...48 handstand pushups.  That's no joke.  Sara said it was time to take out the 10-lb plate.  I was pretty psyched.  I felt great to hit another benchmark with an exercise that a lot of people dread.  I kind of love these, so I look forward to getting more depth in the future.

Yet another great week at Crossfit NYC.  See you Monday!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Games Finale 2011 (for me anyway)

I am truly humbled.  I've been waiting for the chance to do Fran again, since I've gained some ground on pullups with bands, and I feel like RX'ing the weight is very doable now.  But today had a bit of a wake up call in store for me, as I truly battled through this one to get what I would describe as a meager result at best. 

CrossFit Games Open 11.6

Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes of the following rep scheme:
Thruster, 3 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
3 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 6 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
6 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 9 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
9 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 12 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
12 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 15 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
15 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 18 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
18 Chest to bar Pull-ups
Thruster, 21 reps (men: 100# / women: 65#)
21 Chest to bar Pull-ups…

This is a timed workout. If you complete the round of 21, go on to 24. If you complete 24, go on to 27, etc.

OK so it's seven minutes.  I'm treating this one like Fran because I am doing the pullups the same way I would do them in Fran.  My original Fran time is 8:08, and that was with ring rows subbed for pullups and light weight.  Now I know that the difference between 95 lbs and 100 lbs is more significant than people think.  After 30 reps that's an extra 150lbs of aggregate weight moved I'm not being fair to say it's exactly the same, but I do feel like this is a valid test of my ability to improve my Fran time.  Completing the round of 15 on this WOD will be the same amount of reps as Fran, so I know where I need to get to if I think I stand a chance of improving next time I face the 21-15-9.  I was on a sole mission this time.  Most people did the WOD yesterday, and the official WOD (since today was a rest day on the CF Main Site) in the gym was more deadlifts.  I think we can agree I blew my load on those a couple days ago ;).  Anyway I got set up, got psyched up, and was as ready as I'll ever be...

3...2...1...Go!  The thrusters felt heavy, but I still felt solid in the first few rounds.  I was using both bands for the pullups, so I didn't really slow down until after the round of 6.  I think the explosiveness of the thrusters took away from my ability to cruise through more than a few pullups at a time.  But as the minutes left morphed into seconds left I was attacking the round of 12 as best I could.  I finished the thrusters and was really pulling from the depths of my soul on the pullups, but I was only able to get two at a time, then one at a time.  And inevitably my end came just after I hit eight reps into the set.

Could it have been the end-of-week shred on my shoulders?  Maybe.  I've certainly done more pullups than this in plenty of WODs before.  But likely time domain is the main issue here.  Anytime I've put up higher numbers of pullups it's been in far longer time domains than seven minutes.  In that respect this was a fantastic exercise to show me how far I still have to go to link a serious amount of pullups together.

Before any major regrets set in I had the pleasure of watching Sara do the games WOD just minutes after I finished.  She did chest-to-bar chinups and (in my opinion) crushed it by making the full round of 15 at the buzzer.  I was psyched for her, but also realized that she hit the goal I had set for myself.  If Sara, who is years into her Crossfit journey, hit 90 reps in seven minutes, all of a sudden I don't feel so terrible about my meager score of 56.

I'm learning every day, but I'm finding encouragement around every corner.  I'm psyched to work harder on making the most of my Fran time, but coming away from this WOD I realize that there are far more telling benchmarks than beating my 8:08 time.  At this point a tie would be nice.  We'll see soon enough ;).


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Deadlifts...We Meet Again

I should've shown up to the gym today in warpaint.  The deadlift singles would stop eluding me today.  This was the day.  The day we turn the dial from "heavy" to "fuckin heavy".  I told Sara I was going to start with a few warmups with the bar and then some light weight before I really got to work.  With this being my first foray into deadlifting after my hip issue, there was no reason to get stupid.

Deadlift 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

Sara paired everybody up, but she let me have my own bar.  I had a little talk with the bar about playing nice, and I got started setting up.  I threw a couple of 25s on just so I could review some form and get comfortable, then start the jumps toward heavyland.  My last deadlift singles were on January 26th and I pulled 315 lbs, so I was ready to see what a few months of Crossfitting was going to do to that PR.

Warmup: 95×1 – 185×3

Feels good...check.  No hip weirdness...check.  Time to get going.

WOD: 235 – 275 – 295 – 325* – 345* (*1-Rep Max PR)

The first five sets were pretty much a breeze.  No problem dusting my former PR by 30 lbs with two pulls to go.  My jumps in weight up until this point were anywhere from 20 to 40 lbs.  Hmmm...345 felt pretty damn good.  Time to turn the dial a bit.  Let's see if 30 more lbs would bury the needle...


Wow.  That was sick.  Came up feelin great, full extension, but I felt my grip slipping on the way down.  I needed to pay super-close attention to that for the next pull.  We can't drop weight at the Black Box so we need to put the weight down as carefully as we pull it up.  But man I did it...375.  The question remained, was I able to pull heavier?  I didn't feel strained, and 375 didn't feel like it took absolutely everything I had, though we were definitely in the fuckin heavy zone.  I grabbed a couple of 5s and slipped them onto what was left of the bar...I made a comment that it was comical how many plates there were on the bar and here I am throwing on a couple of 5s.  I think I took a little too much time setting up.  A few extra breaths and all of a sudden here comes the CF Endurance team up the I've got a crowd, a ridiculously heavy bar, and sudden pressure to pull this quite insane amount of weight.  I blocked it all out, grabbed the bar, tightened up, and pulled....


Up it went, I pulled, pulled more, got up...further up...grabbed with everything I had and shot my hips up for full extension.  People were clapping as I searched for that full standing position...

...I blinked and I looked up.  The weight was on the floor and there were smiles all around.  I searched out Tim in the crowd of folks at the top of the stairs.  I asked him if I got full extension and he winced a little as if to say "not really".  Then everyone was hi-fiving me and congratulating me and I still didn't know if I actually lifted this weight.  Sara said there was no doubt I made the lift.  Hari, co-owner of CFNYC said he wouldn't have called the rep back if it was competition...he didn't see why I would question it at all.  Frankly I was just so in the moment that I had no idea how far up I really got.  It definitely didn't feel as solid as 375, but I'm not going to argue with Sara and Hari.  Hari said "How do you feel about adding those 5s now?"  He was so right.  Once you get into the zone of your PR every added pound of weight can be the difference between feeling like a superstar and getting your soul crushed.  It's pretty amazing.

What a great day.  I'm psyched to have the confidence and the training to make these big breakthroughs.  It's so obvious how huge regular Crossfit training is for major fitness gains.  I can't imagine what I'll be deadlifting by the end of this year, but something tells me there's going to be a 4 in front of the number.

Until then...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not-So-Gently Down the Stream

I completely get it when even elite Crossfitters complain about running.  Long runs are brutal...hell, even sprints aren't much of a party.  But I can get into some rowing bigtime, and I'm surprised that so many CFers also hate to hit the rower.

It was a pretty mellow Friday at the Black Box.  I was excited to see what rowing a 2k would be like.  I walked in to five empty rowers and a few folks milling about, either doing strength work or recovering from today's WOD:

WOD: Row 2K

I was lucky to see Tim, who clued me in on some tips for pacing.  He helped me visualize the WOD in steps.  I knew I was going to pace myself right out of the gate, but breaking it up in my mind into four separate 500M rows helped me gain some perspective on when to cut loose, when to keep a steady pace, and for the last 200M just go balls to the wall.

Rory and I were the only ones who showed up for the 7:00 class (very rare for a non-rest day).  Sara didn't have much to impart as this was a straight-forward as it gets.

3...2...1...Go!  I started out at a solid pace, just ahead of Sara's recommended pace of 2:00 (the rower paces according to 500m increments, and I've done as well as 1:45 when I'm all-out shredding).  I recalled Kelly Starrett's video on rowing technique, and his emphasis on staying "tall" and only hinging on the upper body motion.  I got so much more out of my strokes on this one piece of advice alone.  I felt an efficiency on the rower for the first time.

The combination of Tim's advice, my choice of pace, and Starrett's gems really put me in a confident space that I would oblierate my expectation of 10-15 minutes for this WOD.

Wod Time: 7:47

Whaaaaat???  I mean that is just a bit silly.  Rory and I actually clocked in at exactly the same time.  I couldn't believe it.  I mean I'm no firebreather but that is far above my expectation for this (or any other rowing) WOD.  I ended up doing five sets of five thrusters as a cashout because I had so much time left after I was done.  Craziness...

Well sometimes I surprise was definitely one of those days.  I'm happy that one man's goat is another man's strength, and it seems when it comes to both handstand pushups, thrusters and rowing, I'm having a much better time than most.

See you next week :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Games WOD 5 - Getting Crushed on Film

So there's a reporter who's taken some interest in Crossfit, and he's writing a story that will feature my recent fitness escapades (not sure when it's coming out).  He came by the Black Box today to check out Games WOD #5; my first competition WOD in three weeks.  I missed #3 because I tweaked my hip, and I missed #4 because I was working late, and AMRAP Clean & Jerks on two hours of sleep is likely less than healthy.  So here I was...ready to take on another Games WOD and put up some numbers for the team.  Safe to say those numbers figure to round out the lesser end of the spectrum, but I was giving it everything I got, and would hopefully be in for a surprise.  Meantime the reporter requested to see a handstand, and it just so happened that today's warmup was Gymnastics Warmup #1:

5 Handstand Pushups
Frog Stand (10 secs)
5 Ring Pushups
10 Overhead Squats (PVC)
10 Kettlebell Deadlifts

I ran through the warmup a few times amidst conversations with the reporter, and we got to talking about today's Games WOD:

Crossfit Games Sectionals
WOD #5

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 20 minutes of:
5 Power cleans (145# for men / 100# for women)
10 Toes to bar
15 Wall balls (20# to 10′ target for men / 14# to 9′ target for women)

The Power Clean
Power Cleans?  Not a problem, but not at that weight.  I think it had been too long since I did a bunch of them in a WOD.  I decided to do women's weight.  Toes to Bar?  More like a very spirited knees to elbows...I'd give it my best but that one figured to look a little ugly.  Wall Balls?  That's my shit problem.  Squats, Thrusters, Wall Ball, name an exercise that uses my lower body and I'll sum up my strengths in Crossfit.  This one was gonna be fun.  Load the bar?  Check.  Chalk the hands?  Check. Set up the ball?  Check.

3...2...1...Go!  OK so maybe I went a little light on the cleans.  These were fine...I should have made them a little tougher.  Toes to bar found me getting my knees up to just above parallel.  I broke these up into two sets when I could, but eventually I'd be doing 3-4 at a time.  Wall Balls were cake, even with the caveat that we had to hit the ceiling because of the height requirements from the Games folk.  I powered through the first few rounds without a problem.  Being a 20-minute amrap I just wanted to keep a decent pace but not gas myself too early.  I noticed the reporter snapping pictures of me...can't imagine he got too many ideal shots, as I was doing knees to elbows and that likely didn't make for good photo...we'll see I guess.

Before I knew it six rounds were in the can and I had to do the toes to bar six at a time.  If I only got through those a bit quicker I would have maybe nailed seven rounds...that would have been sweet, and was so attainable...BUT...with the countdown fast approaching I hit the wall balls hard, but still came up four reps short of seven rounds.

WOD Results
Six Rounds plus 11 Wall Balls

I'm definitely happy with the results, but you always look back and know that there were extra seconds you could have shaved off the clock by picking up the bar quicker, cranking out just one more rep per set, etc.  But at the end of the day this is what I had in me, and as I lay on the floor recovering I felt like I put up some solid numbers for where I'm at.  I thought this was a great workout...I can see myself doing this one again someday.  Not this week though ;).


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Return of the Snatch

Snatch 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 reps

I've been watching a lot of videos featuring elite Crossfitters, power lifters, and lots of people who have a much greater handle on the Olympic lifts than I do.  The snatch is such an elusive lift.  There are so many things to be aware of when you're in the movement.  Oftentimes I forget one key thing and the end result is shit.  But every once in a while I put up a decent snatch, and, like today, I get encouraged that one day I might actually be capable of doing these.

Sara ran us through the Bergener Warmup, ran through the movement a couple of times, and we got setup and got ready to do our best.

65 – 85 – 85 – 85 – 95 – 95 – 100

So the last one definitely belongs in the Shit category, but leading up to that I felt like I was on to something.  Needless to say I was pulling a little less than the guys in the above video today. I didn’t feel as lost as I typically do with the snatch…I just don’t think it comes up often enough for me to gain much ground on this lift.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Outside-Inside WOD

I rolled up to an incredible sight on the sidewalk out in front of the building that houses Crossfit NYC.  People were doing the WOD right there on the sidewalk...pushups, sit-ups, squats and Supermans subbed for back extensions.  Not that I'd be embarrassed to hit the streets with them, but something about the discomfort of pavement and/or cement takes a bit of the charm out of the WOD.  Granted if you're going to do a workout that would make the everyman vomit, you might as well throw in some unforgiving hard ground for good measure.  Safe to say though, if I had the option to do the WOD inside I'd happily take what comforts the floors of the Black Box afford me.

Three rounds for time of:
Run 100 meters
50 Push-ups
Run 100 meters
50 Sit-ups
Run 100 meters
50 Squats
Run 100 meters
50 Back extensions

Kevin went over the movements and gave us the choice to do the WOD inside.  There were cones set up on opposite sides of the room to measure out the runs.  Three lengths of the room equaled 100 meters.  I knew the volume of pushups was going to be challenging, but I figured at this point if I can't crank out 150 pushups in a WOD, well, I guess I'll just have to do less :).  And that, unfortunately, is exactly what I did...but for reasons other than capacity...

3...2...1...Go! I hobbled a bit through the first run...those lunges weren't letting go of me just yet, but I wasn't in enough pain to slow my pace down.  Either way 100 meters at a time was very doable, even if I needed to warm up through the first round before the soreness subsided.  I cranked out pushups 10 at a time, swung my arms out between sets, and got through them without much trouble.  Round after round the runs got better, the reps more fluid, and I definitely hit my stride, but I realized my pace wasn't to fantastic...

As the clock was in the 50s and I was starting the third round, I did the math and I simply didn't have time to finish and make it to work on time if I did 50 reps of each exercise.  Kevin told us before the WOD started that we could scale to 35 reps, and I didn't consider this for a second until now.  So I figured that's just how it had to be...rounds 1 & 2 RX'ed, round 3 scaled...not a big deal...still more than 500 reps total, and one hell of a workout.

WOD Time: 39:43

A big thanks to Anthony & Tim for continuing their tradition of doing the exercises alongside me for my last round, even though their workout was already done. Shout out to the street people…I’m sure there were plenty of Paleo-friendly snacks on the sidewalk no matter which way you turned your head. If you looked hard enough I’m sure you could see the remains of my quadriceps, which have been MIA ever since International Lunge Day.

And of course, thanks to Kevin P for allowing me to demonstrate back extensions going into minute 40 of my WOD, so the new folks can see what it looks like to lose control of your form, your balance, and your glands after 540 reps and running a 1/4 mile.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dude...More Bench!

I was absolutely shocked this morning that I was able to walk (OK limp was more like it), but after 90 minutes of solid stretching and some light mobility work I made my way to the Back Box, ready for my second attempt at the bench press since starting Crossfit.

WOD - "Lynne"
Five rounds for max reps of:
Body weight bench press

We buddied up two to a bench and got started.  I remembered the two crucial things that Sara imparted to us last time...squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your feet through the floor.  I ended up doing OK, given that I wasn't expecting to be physically capable of working out today...

Bench Press @ 155
12 – 10 – 7 – 6 – 6

16 – 11 – 7 – 8 – 10

155 turned out to be a decent weight for the bench.  I'm capable of more, but not much more to get 10+ reps.  I'll likely go heavier next time.  As always I did the pullups double-banded.  I know this will eventually change, but I'm not rushing anything.  It's still very challenging.  I was happy to do 50+ Pullups no matter how I was getting over the bar.

It's hard not to consider this a bonus WOD, so I feel great about another solid week on the books. 

More to come...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Taking the pLUNGE

"Just so we get things straight here, you will not be able to walk tomorrow"

...such were the words of our trainer Sara as we contemplated today's creative, yet sadistic WOD:

400 meter Walking lunge

As I walked toward the Black Box this morning I saw the 6:15 class lunging their way down 6th Avenue and I knew I was in for some pain.  I was happy this past month when Kevin put some lunges into our warmup and I got through them without a problem, but this was another level entirely.  400 Meters.  A quarter mile!

3...2...1...Go! We got started and I gravitated toward the back of the pack, keeping a slow pace alongside Sam, a cool guy who does the level 2 (advanced) WODs, and had just completed the newest Games WOD.  Great...I'm pacing myself behind a guy who already finished a brutal workout...sounds about right ;)

I kept it slow & steady, and got to 1/4 of the way there when Sara dropped the bomb on me that would seal my fate for days to come - "Reis I think you should scale this one to 200 meters".  "OK" I said, knowing full well I simply had to RX this one now.  I was well behind the pack at this point and Sara told me she had to go inside with the rest of the class, so I wouldn't be able to know my time.  I was fine with this point she didn't know I intended to finish the full 400, and finishing was now all I cared about.  I waved her off and away they all went, leaving me, myself and my lunges, getting occasional encouragement from random passers by as I lunged step after step in sheer agony.

Turning the corner with the last 100 meters to go, Richard (a friendly CF regular) came back to check on me and actually cranked out a few lunges next to me.  Then Sara came running down..."I told you to scale" she said.  "I'm not responsible if you get Rhabdo".  I smiled and said "yes, you got me to this point".  She really did...thanks to Sara I've gained more confidence in pushing my limits, and while this might have flipped the equation into the danger category, I was ready to accept the pain.  I wasn't stopping now.  Lunge after painful lunge I kept at it...there was like 30 feet to go and with every step I had to wave away the easy option of quitting right then and there.  She broke up sets for me into about 10 feet at a time.  Of course for the last few steps my knee had to come down on hard metal...oh the advantages of Crossfitting on the streets on NYC...

I yelled with each final step, and embraced the pain as I finally completed the WOD, and hey...I got my time!

WOD TIME: 27:14

My legs are I sit in my sedentary job atmosphere I feel the tightness rolling in like a fog over my legs.  I'm doubling the stretch/mobility sessions tonight.  If I don't get ahead of the recovery curve this one could take me out for days...

I love it :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Jerked Up

BLACK BOX WOD (current skill: the jerk):
jerk 3-3-3-3-3

I love the Push Jerk, but haven't been able to do it in a WOD in a few months. It was cool to get back to this exercise. Another fun strength day at the Black Box.

Warmup: 45x3 - 65x3
WOD (x3): 95 - 115 - 135 - 135 - 155 

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Minute to Win It

Looks like it was max effort day. 
He's really on the ball
My hip is feeling a lot better, and it helps that there's no running, deadlifts or any other hip-heavy exercises today, so I can keep away from it one more day...every little bit helps.  I haven't tried to mobilize the hip capsule again yet, and I think I'll wait a while until I'm confident I won't mess it up again.

Today was mellow, as is the case with a lot of strength days.  It's good that we're focusing on the shoulder press, because I feel like I need all of the shoulder strength I can muster if I want to improve with pullups, handstand pushups, ring dips, and heavier lifting overhead.

Warmup (3 Rounds with PVC):
10 Shoulder Dislocates
10 Good Mornings
10-second handstand hold

Resting 60 seconds between sets:
Press 2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2

We paired up on the racks and got going quicky.  Pretty cool WOD, though in retrospect we didn't think ahead about how limiting the minute rest time was as far as increasing weight goes.  Frankly neither of us was a superstar on the press, so we were happy to stay around 85-95 lbs for the whole WOD and just focused on pressing well with good speed, and fighting my urge to push press.  We got through it quickly, and Kevin programmed a little "cashout" metcon since we had some spare time left:

Five Rounds for Time:
10 Ring Rows
10 Situps

Time: 7:11

That was a nice little workout.  Not the most blistering day of work at Crossfit but a good sweat and some solid strength work.

Ready for more tomorrow...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home WOD #1

So it's been a couple of days and I have been on the foam roller, doing light (non-hip) mobility work, and taking Wobenzym regularly, and it's been working well.  I feel my hip far less than I did on Tuesday, and it seems I just had to give it some time.  So hmmm...a Saturday night at home...just me, my Abmat and a random crazy thought...


What better way to get back in action than a little home-grown Crossfit programming?  Maybe some air squats...yeah just air squats...and a lot of 100 or 200...yeah that'll do it.  Then I called Scott in Miami, and he had the great idea of throwing in some situps.  Ahh...a couplet...GENIUS I thought (I'm a little slow on weekends).  So here it is....

Home WOD #1
4 Rounds for time
50 Air Squats
25 Situps

The tough choice was selecting the heavy metal channel or the hip hop classics channel...hip hop won, as it seemed they were in the midst of an LL Cool J-a-thon and that seemed like the right prescription for this WOD.  Got my towel laid out, filled the water bottle and it was go time...

3...2...1...GO! Man I have to say squats are my thing...I guess I violated the enduring rule in CF programming, which says when programming your own workouts, program your "Goats", or your absolute weaknesses.  Not this time folks...I was crankin out squats like they were nothing.  At less than 2 minutes per exercise I had a good pace going...the situps were like nothing (the Abmat really really helps).  I guess I'll program 50 of those per round next time.  But before I knew it I was cranking out the last round...20 unbroken squats, then sets of 10...unbroken situps and I was done...

WOD Time: 14:55

Felt great!  No hip issues, and so easy to get a solid sweat on...SO much better than surfing the web, blogging (sorry) or watching the tube.  Seems this might be a trend on Saturdays if I have any more three day weeks at the Black Box.  The jury's out on whether it'll make sense to do a home WOD if I've done four days already.  But this was a good one, and I'm preparing for mad quad burn tomorrow.  Hopefully by Monday I'll be fresh and ready to go...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bonus WOD

So while resting my hip I won my weekly poker game on Tuesday night, which would have not happened if I was in shape to do the new Games WOD on Wednesday.  Sometimes it pays to rest :).  It felt almost weird to take a day off, knowing I wasn't coming in for the rest of the week.  And then the CF main site posts this for Thursday:

WOD - "J.T."
21-15-9 reps of:
Handstand push-ups
Ring dips

Hmmm...arms, arms, and more arms.  I texted Sara right away to ask if I was missing anything about this workout that would compromise my hip's recovery.  While I didn't hear back from her I figured even if I scaled the shit out of this one at least I'd be doing SOMETHING, and likely not putting my hip at much risk.

Sara texted me back as I was already boarding the train to NYC, but it was reassuring to see that she told me to come on in.  She would have easily told me to not be an idiot if I was going to be at any bit of risk.  So I was psyched to get my handstands on...

I didn't do much of a warmup...just some stuff with the PVC.  Sara suggested that we strongly consider 15-12-9 for the rep scheme, as she was confident that none of us would make it through to the final 9.  I felt fine scaling...I was just happy to be there and put in a third workout this week.  So scale I did.

3...2...1...GO!  I was off and, well, handstanding...I put a few plates under my head to reduce my required depth. Though I had been using three Abmats for this purpose, Sara said she didn't like using  those because if our head hit them it would go down further than our desired depth.  So I put a 45, a 25, and a 10-lb plate, which gave me like 3 inches of depth...fine for a WOD with this many HSPUs.

The ring dips were fine, as I used the thick band again.  I tried during warmups time to use the half-thick band and it was too weak, so i stuck with the thick band, even though it made the ring dips pretty easy...I still felt it in my arms, which I guess is mission accomplished.  Pushups got tough as the WOD went on, and I had to finish in sets of three.  But I finished, and with everyone's encouragement, got there before the 20-minute mark.

WOD Time - 19:57

I have zero complaints.  I got a great workout and a bonus day when I thought I had to rest no matter what.  That makes three workouts this week, which is really what I would consider my minimum at this point.  It seems like I really have to step up my game on those pushups...anytime they are in a WOD I am crushed.

Hopefully by Monday I'll be fresh as a daisy...until then...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011



I'm as careful as the next guy when doing these workouts, and while I finish all of my WODs I'm hugely conscious of not taking myself to the point of injury by doing something too quickly or recklessly.  And while my trainers would have a word or two about how well I do this, I'm very conscious of maintaining the best form possible so I don't tweak, pull, tear, or anything else that could put the kibosh on this whole process.  So leave it to the Mobility WOD to be the source of my first stumbling block since my bruised knee this past winter.

I had been doing hip MOBs (short for mobilizations) courtesy of Kelly Starrett of San Francisco Crossfit and his free site Mobility WOD.  The site has truly blown open a new dimension in my training and performance, and I dedicate 5-10 minutes each evening to stretching and mobilizing my body...usually things that will help with the following day's workout.  So there I am, well, mobilizing one night and I get up to find that I can feel the back of my hip.  No pain, but a noticeable feeling that somehow my femur has gained some wanderlust and isn't tightly resting in the back of my hip capsule.  FUCKIN GREAT! 
So coming in this morning I decided to try some gentler mobility stuff to get things working again, and while it helped for a few minutes, the feeling would come back to my hip pretty quickly.  It wasn't getting in the way of my warmup, but I dealifted a kettlebell and could tell I shouldn't be lifting from the ground anytime soon.  I should mention today's WOD to put the rest in perspective:

WOD - "Michael"

Three rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
50 Back Extensions
50 Sit-ups

I told Sara about my hip and we agreed that I'd run the first round, and if I felt like it was getting worse I should row the next two.  The WOD was pretty straight-forward, so I hit the ground running with the first group and got started.

3...2...1...GO!  I did the 800m run in round 1 unbroken...felt quite a bit faster than last time I had 800m runs as part of a WOD but I didn't time myself.  I can't say that it got any worse, but weighing my options I came to the (rather uninformed) conclusion that I should row the rest just to be safe.  The situps weren't too brutal (I ended up doing those first because the GHDs were all occupied after I finished the run) but MAN those back extensions were intense...especially the last 20 of each round.  And finishing the back extensions and hitting the rower right away was absolutely back was in WTF mode for the first half of each round...tough to get a solid pace going with that painful transition.  But I got through it and put up an OK time, considering the situation...

WOD Time: 36:53

Later on after the workout I got into a really helpful dialogue with Sean M. and Mike K on the CFNYC blog comments discussion, and they helped me to realize I needed a few days off.  Another CFer named "MC" recommended an anti-inflammatory named "Wobenzym".  I just bought some, as I've read a few things recently about Ibuprofen and it seems it might be best for Advil to not be my goto (in addition to fish oil) each night to reduce inflammation.

So hip actually felt better after the WOD, but the feeling is back now and I need to give this thing time to settle down.  Looks like this might be a 2-WOD week.  Sucks, but I'm sure my body will appreciate the rest.


Monday, April 4, 2011

PWNing the Back Squat - A Tale of Whoa

This is what 375 looks like...i.e. that's me next time :)
I'd like to thank my Mom & Dad, my hamstrings and that whole posterior chain that's been so supportive all these years.  You all knew I could do it, even in my dreariest moments of doubt...

OK, so you have to allow me a moment of self-indulgent gloating.  I'm not that guy...I don't normally think this way...maybe I just rarely get put in the position to say things like this but here goes...

I fucking destroyed this WOD.  I killed it.  The bar gave me everything it had and the damn thing was coming back up like styrofoam every time.  For almost five months I've been bitch-slapped by the majority of workouts in Crossfit.  But today I slapped back...hard.

I PR'ed my back squat by 50 lbs and I left what seemed like an easy additional 50 lbs on the table.  335 lbs.  A highly-symbolic weight, as I started this journey tipping the scale right around that very mark.  I saw the WOD come up last night and I could taste this moment.  I've missed back squat singles several times since I started, and endured limiting shoulder pain, triples instead of singles, metcons with high reps but less many explorations of this exercise but never a chance at a max effort...until today.

We warmed up with three rounds of:

20 Walking Lunges
10 GHD situps
10 back extensions

I got my sweat on nicely and was ready to dig in...

BLACK BOX WOD (current skill: back squat):
back squat 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

Seven rounds of singles.  I knew I could start light and warm up before the true WOD kicked in, so I paired up with CFNYC regulars Lucio and Jeff and we got to work.  Kevin went through the movement, the low bar position, and (as always) some helpful hints on getting the most out of this lift.  Kevin is the shit when it comes to Olympic lift coaching.

We started with the bar and I let the other guys set the pace on loads.  I was ready to stay for hours until I got into the heavy zone.  After a while I lost count and just kept adding plates.

Warmup (Sets of 1): 45 – 135 – 155 – 175 – 185

I was putting these singles up quickly...Kevin said to not count reps toward the WOD until we got close to our former PR.  Since mine was 285, we had plenty of sets to go.  I was happy to make 20 or 30 lb jumps until I felt it getting heavy.  Turns out that moment wouldn't come until I got well over 300 lbs.

WOD (Sets of 1): 205 – 225 – 245 – 275 – 295* – 315* – 335*
*1-Rep Max PR

Every time I came up I heard Kevin bust out laughing behind me...he said my heavier reps came up quicker than the warmups.  The other guys were getting a kick out of it too.  Lucio always ribs me that I make them look bad on back squat days, but frankly it's my only time to shine.  The minute we switch from strength to bodyweight stuff I get hey I'll soak up this moment no problem :).  I told them that when you carry this much weight around for that long, any leg-heavy work is going to be no problem.  Today was case in point.

I've been reading a lot of articles on Westside Barbell and their philosophy on lifts.  They talk a lot about prepping your nervous system to get it accustomed to certain ranges of weight.  I truly could have put up 350+, but as I was thinking it Kevin said it.  Stop here.  Let your body absorb this one.  It was the right call.  This was 50 lbs heavier than anything I've ever lifted.  No reason to push.  I was in uncharted waters.  best to right the ship and sail home triumphantly.

I play poker a lot and there's a term for those nights when you just can't lose.  It used to be that you "owned".  Nowadays people say that you PWNed (pronounced "poned").  I played heads up against the back squat and I PWNed.  I look forward to cashing in my winnings in the weeks to come. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Easy Dippin

Sometimes you look at a WOD and you laugh because you KNOW there's no way it's happening today.  I literally looked at it and chuckled, but I still made the journey to Crossfit NYC for some reason.  I remember thinking that maybe Sara would let me do 150 kettle bell swings for time, which is a rest day WOD I missed last month and would LOVE to do sometime...funny how you always gravitate to the exercises you're good at.  Maybe that's why I couldn't imagine doing this one, even if it was ridiculously scaled:

30 Muscle-ups for time
If you cannot do the muscle-ups do 120 pull-ups and 120 dips.

OH I see...just 120 pullups and 120 ring dips...Wasn't it Monday when I almost collapsed doing 70 pullups and 40 ring dips?, no...obviously I'm a year or so away from doing muscle ups, so I didn't even consider attempting those...

Sara mentioned scaling to 60 of each.  OK now we're talkin, even though she suggested that they needed to be strict pullups and dips.  I was happy to set up my bands and make it happen.  For the dips Sara said we could put bands across the rings.  This is something Kevin shied away from on Monday, as he said the stability of doing box dips builds strength for ring dips without the dynamic, unpredictable motion of the rings.  But in the spirit of being constantly varied, I was excited to try both approaches in the same week and see how I did.  Sara said I could break up the sets into whatever combinations made sense, so I settled on alternating sets of 10.

3...2...1...GO!  I knew pretty early on that I made the ring dips too easy with the thick band...swapping sets of 10 made the earlier rounds pretty quick.  The latter two rounds were much slower, but doing three and four reps at a time I got through it without much problem.

WOD Time: 14:42

Dare I say it, but I made this workout too easy...maybe I should have done more reps...maybe I should have used a lesser band for the last half of the dips.  I dunno...but it's the first time ever after a Crossfit workout that I was comfortably on my feet.  I guess there's something to be said for my progress, but this was much more of a strength workout than a metcon.  C'est la vie...I'm not disappointed at all...just surprised.  I'll be back on Monday to satisfy my inner masochist.  For now I'm happy to end another strong 4-day week at Crossfit on a solid note.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Don't get me wrong...this WOD was absolutely crushing, but in a way my body understands.  Three familiar exercises that gas me to the core, but at least it wasn't the fitness Wild West like Games WOD I.  That shit was insane...

After some major glitches in the Games website that delayed the WODs for a week, we finally see another competition WOD today for the 2011 Crossfit Games.  This one seemed right off the bat that it was going to be MUCH more my style, even if I knew deep down that after the first couple of rounds it would be sheer brutality:

CrossFit Games Open 11.2

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
155 pound Deadlift, 9 reps
12 Push-ups
15 Box jumps, 24" box

So initially I'm bummed because I know I'll have to scale pushups to knees and box jumps to 20".  I'd love for there to be at least one workout I don't have to scale for the Games, but I think 2012 will be a better shot.  Unless we do 100 back squats for time I don't see there being a way.  And I guess in the context of my scaling I shouldn't be disappointed.  It's March.  In January I was still doing step-ups instead of box jumps and the thought of doing more than 30 pushups was ludicrous.  So yes, I will shut the fuck up (about scaling anyway ;) and appreciate where I'm at in this journey.  As far as the deadlifts go, no problem...

I had the honor and privilege of tracking the progress of Tim Broder, a fellow CFNYCer who has been encouraging and inspiring throughout my experience at the Black Box.  He and I were two of 6-8 people doing the WOD officially for competition (even though my scaling takes me out of actual consideration for the Games).  The box was slammed today, with full Elements classes in the back and a ton of people ready to do the WOD.  We cleared some space for the competitors and Tim RIPPED through eight rounds like a champion.

Inspired but nervous, I got my bar and box set up, and Tim (of course fully recovered in the 3-4 minutes since he crushed this WOD) got his game face on once again.  It felt like we were truly a in crime against, could say could say my old self...but either way we were both ready.  Tim had some helpful words about pacing before we got started, and then it was go time...

3...2...1...GO!  I cranked through the deadlifts without a problem...I've pulled 315 before, so doing nine of these at 155 was pretty standard.  Pushups were fine the first round, but oh how things change so quickly.  Box jumps were tough, but round one went by without much of a hitch.  I just kept as steady a pace as I could.  Tim helped break up the reps so I had sets of three or four at a time, and I just kept at it...two rounds done...three rounds done...four.  After five rounds I got into fumes mode, and even had to break up the deadlifts into sets of three.  Tim would let me rest for a five count then get me back on the bar...same with pushups.  Set of four.  Set of three.  It took every drop of gas in the tank to finish pushups, which I did at the buzzer.

WOD Total: Five Rounds plus deadlifts and pushups.

Like every other AMRAP WOD, five minutes went by and I was kicking myself that if I shaved off a few seconds from every rest I could've hit six rounds.  But Tim said there's no reason to regret things like that, and he's right.  I scaled the WOD, so it's not like I would have been a contender for the games even if I did twice as many rounds.  But I got after it and put up decent numbers, and at the end of the day I can't be disappointed.  After all us athletes are never satisfied...that's why we keep coming back ;-).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Miss Fran :(

I can't fucking wait to do Fran again.

That's right Crossfitters, I dig thrusters.  Deal with it.  I think it's one of the coolest exercises in Crossfit, and today I proved to myself that I'm going to annihilate my last Fran time  (Fran is sets of 21-15 and 9 reps of thrusters at 95 lbs and pullups, for time). Not to put myself down too heavily.  I went sub-10 minutes when I was only able to do ring rows and 75-lbs, and frankly I'm still using bands the size of truck tire to do my pullups so if I go sub-5-minutes it's not like I can measure myself against the upper eschelon of Crossfitters.  But I can measure against myself, and if Fran comes up within six months of the beginning of this little fitness journey I started in November it will tell quite a tale even if I can shave it by a couple of minutes.

Thruster 3-3-3-3-3-3-3

Heavy thrusters...I LOVE this concept.  Never done it before, and it's getting more rare to explore things I haven't yet done in Crossfit.  I was pretty psyched for today.

We started with the bar to warmup and then got right into the rounds of three.  We started at 95 lbs, which is Fran weight.  MAN I can't wait for the next Fran.  Now...I know once I get 10 reps into the first set of Fran I will likely get the big wake up call that it ain't easy, and it might be downright treacherous, but after putting up three reps at 95 lbs. I was shocked at how easy it was for is how it unfolded:

Warmup: 45-lb bar x6
WOD (sets of 3): 95 - 115 - 135 - 145 - 155 - 155 - 165

Sara said the last set looked like it was still easy for me.  I was trying to manage the weight so I was still able to get the explosiveness in my hips and not struggle at the top.  Thrusters are best when there's no arm involvement whatsoever, except for holding the bar.  If you come out of the bottom of your squat with explosive hips that momentum alone should get the bar to the top.  Turns out I should have tried more weight, even if I had to get the arms involved to get the bar up there...there's always next time.

Throw this on the pile of the strength days where in retrospect I feel like I could have done more weight, but I was very happy with my progress.  Sara said she's confident I can put up 185 without a problem.  I guess we'll wait until next time.  But I hope I don't have to wait too long for Fran...seems like it's time she paid us another visit :).