Monday, February 28, 2011

Snatch Day

Something Kevin said at the beginning of today's class was a little discouraging, albeit true.  He said that adding weight of any significance when you do an exercise like the snatch (as infrequently as Crossfitters do) will only yield bad results.  So he encouraged us to check the egos at the door, focus strictly on form today, and not worry so much about weight.  So the result was fun because I am far from a skilled Olympic lifter and I realized I needed to live those words, even though every time I walk in on a skill day I can't help but think "lift heavy".  So much for that theory...

Hang power snatch

3-3-3-3-3 reps

We did the ever-famous "Bergener Warmup" with PVC pipes to go through the complete range of motion represented in the snatch (as well as many other lifts).  After that we were on our way, starting with the bar alone, then adding minimal weight each round.

My weights were 55 - 65 - 75 - 75 - 75.

By the final set I felt myself losing it...losing the ability to safely get under the bar with the speed necessary to do the exercise properly. So not only did Kevin nail it with his class intro, but he spared me a likely bit of pain (as I'd be inclined to throw some more weight on).

I guess I should never argue with another day to recover more and come back fresh for the average Crossfit thrashing.  After doing snatches I can't say I'm nearly as cooked as I am after deadlifts, front squats or hang power cleans.  But I progressed enough to know that I hit my limit, and I guess if nothing else I have some valuable perspective when approaching the next snatch skill day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heavy Lifting on a Mellow Friday

Sara asked me in front of the class today where you place the bar to get it into the low-bar position. I said "keep placing it lower until your shoulders are writhing in pain, then go lower".  I had such a tough time with my shoulders the last time I back-squatted that I didn't even get close on the weight I was capable of squatting.  But every lifting experience is a learning experience, and I went into today with an open mind, hopeful that I could move past the pain and really get into some heavy lifting.

Chris and Lucio, regulars from my class, were super-helpful in getting me comfortable with my form.  We started off light and built up to some decent weight once we all felt warmed up.  Seems thanks to the strength and flexibility in my posterior chain I was in store for a nice surprise as far as the loads were concerned.

Back Squat


Warmup - Sets of 5:
95 – 135 – 155

WOD: Sets of 3
165 – 185 – 205 – 225 – 245 (new PR!)

Sara laughed at me and said my last set at 245 looked like a warmup.  Seems consensus was that I could easily have squatted 300.  But I'll take the new PR, and now I know what I'm shooting for next time.

I'm psyched that my shoulders weren't botherihng me this time.  I felt great, and all the feedback was positive. Solid WOD!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dumbbell Madness

Every once in a while the folks at Crossfit HQ throw in a random, uncommon exercise that leaves you apprehensive about the next day's WOD.  Typically anything with dumbbells falls into this category for me.  But I've been learning to push through and rise to the challenge.  I was pretty happy with today's results.

For time:
Row 1K
40 pound Dumbbell snatch, 50 reps
Row 750m
40 pound Dumbbell snatch, 35 reps
Row 500m
40 pound Dumbbell snatch, 20 reps

These are one-arm squat snatches, alternating arms.

Sara asked me if I wanted to scale the reps and I joked that I didn't understand her question.  I knew I had this rowing has been solid lately and I figured I would get the dumbbell snatches down enough along the way to get all of them NOT easily, but I'd definitely finish.

Row times: 4:00 - 3:15 - 2:06

I was pretty psyched to power through the rowing as fast as I did.  I'm feeling great about that exercise.

WOD Time: 22:55

I mean when have I put up a sub-30 minute WOD time?  Have I?  I don't know. Seeing a "2" in front of a WOD time for me was crazy...granted as usual I finished last.  These two new ladies were adorable...they clapped after every rep in my last round.  Not that I don't appreciate it, but it was hard to keep a straight face.  Then again, maybe I'll start doing that for people when I can finally be better than last.  I sense that this day is coming sooner than I originally planned.  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cindy - 2011-02-22

Today's WOD caused a major conflict for me, because I love deadlifts and would love to see where I'm at for sets of 3. But I've never done Cindy before, and I just had to set a benchmark to see where I'm at for that workout.  I missed it on Monday (we had the choice between Cindy and Mary), and as soon as I saw it on the schedule I knew I HAD to make up Cindy.  It seems to be one of the quintessential Crossfit workouts.  Firebreather Matt Chan says that Crossfit comes down to pushups, pullups & squats, so in a way Cindy is a true marker of your Crossfit metcon performance.

Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats

I warmed up with four sets of three handstand pushups, with three abmats under my head.  I'm feeling great about these, and hopefully next time they show up in a WOD I can do them with some depth.  We'll see...
I also did some stretches with the PVC (shoulder rolls, shoulder dislocates, overhead squats).

Sara and I discussed where I'm at with pushups, as I still have to scale to knees.  I can do like 5 actual unbroken pushups, but my belly still drags me down and they're really brutal to try RX'ed.  So for something like Cindy I didn't have much choice if I wanted to get through multiple rounds.  Also Sara was saying that 10 rounds was a realistic expectation given my recent gains (isn't she always the optimist ;)  I was also planning on scaling the pullups using the 1.5 bands I've been using recently.  i wasn't anticipating a problem with the air squats, as I was actually not in any sort of leg pain for the first time in a while.  I crush squats under these conditions, and today was no exception.

3...2...1...Go!  I was doin pretty well out of the gate, and if pullups weren't involved I feel like I might have actually gotten 10 rounds.  But after the third or fourth round it was really challenging to get more than one pullup at a time.

Result: 7 Rounds plus 4 Pullups

I'm happy, even though it would have been nice to put up double digits.  Sara asked me what my Cindy number was in Elements, and I remembered that we did a half Cindy, and I couldn't get past the first round of pushups.  So if I was looking for perspective, there it is.  Progress is good, and today showed that my few months of Crossfit have paid massive dividends.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Kelly Kicks Me in the (Wall) Balls!!

So the calf pain has diminished, but it's definitely still there...and I figured if I did today's WOD as RX'ed it would come out of hiding in a big way.  So I was curious how we were going to scale this one.

WOD - "Kelly"

Five rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
30 Box jump, 24 inch box
30 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball

Sara said as much as she knew I wanted to do the box jumps (especially based on last week), she'd prefer I did step ups today and hit the wall balls as RX'ed.  I was a little bummed, but there's no need to push it, and it would be ideal to come back next week and have no more pain to deal with.  We also agreed rowing for the runs was mandatory.

During the warmup I cranked out three sets of three handstand pushups, which felt great, and Matt (one of the CFNYC regulars) suggested I remove one of the mats.  I typically load up three abmats to go below my head so my pushups have minimal dip, but I guess it would be fun next time to see if I can make those happen with two.  No need to rush, that's for sure...we'll see how I feel.

3...2...1...Go!  I was off at a blistering pace as usual...I knew I should settle into a pace that wasn't going to make the stepups or wall balls any tougher, but it felt good to row quickly.  Here are my row times for each set: 1:27 - 1:42 - 1:42 - 1:44 - 1:44

The step ups got harder in round three, and I found myself doing them 5 at a time...the second and third rounds of wall ball were challenging, but Sara said my reps were looking good, which probably influenced me in rounds 4 & 5, because I somehow was able to crank out 10 at a time instead of 5, which is how I typically roll with wall balls.

Props to Tim and many in the morning crew who egged me on for the last round.  Tim really helped me pound through the rowing...he also stepped up opposite me to get me through those, and Sara finished me off during the wall balls.  I was really spent for a few minutes after this one, but my calf felt great and I was psyched to squeeze in another WOD this week.

WOD Time: 34:18

Tomorrow we travel to NC for a few days and I'm back for more on Tuesday.  I'll likely do every day next week as my wife and son don't return until Saturday.  I was even thinking of doubling up on Tuesday to get some skill work in after office hours...we'll see how that goes.  For now I'll say this week was great...Eva and Kelly kicked my ass and I was careful enough with my leg to hopefully be back next week 100%.  WORD

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

EVA - My (heavily-banded) Pullups Debut

Today was a bit of a gamble.  The pain in my left calf came back with a vengeance on Monday.  Granted I hadn't been doing any of the things I did to give it relief last week (i.e. aspirin & Advil, as well as heating pad while sleeping) for a few days.  I honestly thought it was gone by my third workout last week.  So I stayed away from Crossfit Monday and Tuesday, and I reintroduced all of the above therapies, which slowly started working again.  But I saw a glimmer of hope when the main site posted today's workout last night:

Five rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
2 pood Kettlebell swing, 30 reps
30 Pull-ups

I figured if I could scale the running to rowing I would be able to power through everything with minimal impact on my calf. I got to the Black Box this morning and Sara didn't flinch when I told her about my leg...she was all about the rowing.  In fact she said she was impressed that I found a way to make this WOD even worse :). I was actually fine with it, as I've killed my rowing sets lately, and as it turned out today was no exception.

We discussed scaling for the WOD, and I decided to do 1/2 reps with a 1.5 pood kettlebell.  That's a 54-lb kettlebell, which is no joke and one level up from the one I used to power through last week's KBS WOD.  That plus my standard 1.5 resistance bands on the pullup bar.

WAIT...hold up...PULLUPS AS PART OF A WOD & I'M DOING PULLUPS!!!  WOO HOO!! Well I ain't tootin my horn that loud because I have a long way to go before doing them unassisted, but just hitting the pullup bar as part of a WOD feels damn good.  It took me exactly three full months of post-Elements Crossfitting to get here...what an amazing milestone!

3...2...1...Go! I was flying on the rower, but I remembered something Jeff Yan said months ago about cooking yourself too early when you have a lot of rowing to do.  I had 4000 meters ahead of me, so there was no reason to treat this like a sprint.  Still, once I got going it was tough to settle into a moderate pace.  I was crankin it and feelin great.  Here are my rowing times:

3:20 - 3:36 - 3:31 - 3:34 - 3:33

I was much more used to rowing 400 meter sets before today, so I was very conscious of my time when I hit the 1/2 way mark.  I was hovering around 1:40 to 1:48 on average.  For me that's pretty exceptional, though I'm sure many of the people at my gym are much closer to 1:30.

Not much to say about the kettle bell swings except for the fact that each set was unbroken, and once again I feel like I could have gone heavier.  As for the pullups, well things were cruising pretty well...UNTIL...

Anthony (random cool dude from the gym) has been awesome in helping me really push through the end of WODs, many times electing to do the exercises with me, even if he's not doing the WOD, or, more ridiculously, if he's already completed the WOD.  He was walking by when I had six pullups left in round 5.  I jokingly asked if he could just do them for me.  Being the saint that he is he said "no but I'll do them with you.  Then of course I had to make him regret that decision.  Somehow I got five more.  One more to go and I'm done...I wiggled a bit trying to hold my right foot in both resistance bands, got my balance back, and went for it.  I gave it everything, let out a yelp, fell short, hit the box (which was 2 feet above the ground, then fell back.  I held onto the bands to stay upright, and Anthony came down to help me steady myself.  Only then, of course, did I start falling I could be sure to take Anthony out with anything else that was unlucky enough to be behind and/or under me.  I felt horrible, but he seemed unfazed (sorry buddy).  I got back up, got on the box, stepped into the bands, and somehow got one more pullup.  The last set was ugly that's for sure, but I was DONE.

WOD Time: 46:45

I was actually shocked that I took this long because it seemed like I cruised through both the rowing and the swings.  Looks like those pullups are a major time-eater for now.  MAN...those pullups are a nasty biotch of an exercise.  But hey, my leg felt great!  I got a long way to go...but the great thing is, I've already come so far.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Reis Recommends: Carlson Fish Oil


I figured I would crack the seal on some topics that revolve around my diet.  Over time you can click on "Reis Recommends" on the right hand side of the blog in the tag cloud, or just search the term at the top.  That way you can pull up all of my recommendations of things that have worked for me in my journey towards optimal health and fitness.

Since I just got done with dinner and took my evening dose of fish oil, I figure there's no better place to start.  My recommendation for today is Carlson Fish Oil (liquid - Lemon flavor).  I've been taking this off and on for about a year, but have been trying to boost the frequency of my dosage so I take in 5-6 grams a day (two hefty tablespoons).  Tastes and feels great!

You can typically find the best post-shipping price at Amazon, but if you're in the NYC area there's a great place on 7th Ave at 21st St. called Health is Wealth where I get it for $17.50 a bottle (super cheap!).

There are tons of medical resources touting the health benefits of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids in general, but assuming you have a working knowledge of this, I'll just stick to the above recommendation and leave the evangelism to the more knowledgeable.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Front Squat Friday

Not Reis
What a cool, mellow morning today at The Black Box. Not a lot of people, and plenty of space to get your warmup on, and get into some serious front squats.  It's another rest day for the CF Main Site so as usual NYC has a skill day.  Our skill for the day?  The front squat.

Front Squats (Seven rounds of three)
3 3 3 3 3 3 3

My most recent session with rounds of three front squats yielded a PR of 185 lbs.  I was definitely looking to break that record today, as I've been getting more comfortable pushing the weight higher.

Handstands (x3) (I attempted some handstand pushups with three stacked abmats to support my head.  Sara said from now on when the warmup calls for handstand attempts I should do hree handstand pushups with the abmats)
Pushups (10)

Elbow Stretch (30 seconds) x2 (we got in rack position under the bar and just stretched our elbows forward and up, to try and loosen up for the front squats).

Front Squats
Warmup Sets:  10 x 95 - 5 x 115

WOD:  135 - 155 - 175 - 185 - 185 - 195 - 200 (3-rep max PR)

Wow...that was some weight for sure!!  I feel great getting into the zone where I can really start establishing my benchmarks with the lifting exercises.

I was able to fit into the 3X Crossfit shirt I bought from the main site last month.  When I got it in the mail I laughed because I'm a comfortable 3X across most brands, and this thing barely fit over my chest and not at all around my belly.  SIZING FAIL!  Either way I decided to try it on last night and BOOM...IT FITS!  So I sported it at the gym today.

Feelin great, hittin PRs, setting new benchmarks...a great week all around!

I think I'll get into some more diet stuff over the weekend.  It's such a big part of my daily life and I feel most of my posts have been CF-centric as of late.  Expect some of that soon.

Thanks again for checkin out the blog!  Enjoy your weekend...


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Might as Well JUMP!

Chalk outlines are for the weak - I leave a sweat puddle
I watched the sample video of today's WOD last night and was psyched to get into what seemed to be a classic Crossfit workout.

Seven rounds for time of:
1.5 pood Kettlebell swing, 15 reps
95 pound Power clean, 15 reps
15 Box jumps, 24" box

Sara was back and I chose one of her two standard warmups, which typically call for dead-hang pullups, L-hang from the bar, and Kettle Bell swings.  Since there were 105 KBS in the WOD I chose to just focus on pullups, and I got 20 of them (broken up into sets of 5) using two resistance bands.  Elliott commented about my improvement and said I looked like I knew what I was doing. I'm glad I at least have him fooled ;).  I mixed in some shoulder rolls and shoulder dislocates with the PVC, because I was still hurting pretty good from Monday's WOD.

I had one of those mornings where I woke up in serious pain (I was tellin people I felt like I had a pain vest on), but I hoped by the time I arrived and warmed up I'd be ready to go.  That's actually how it panned out, which was great because I needed every ounce of my energy to get this one done.

I scaled as follows:

35 lb Kettle Bell
65 lb Power Clean
20" Box Jumps

As is the case with any WOD involving box jumps, I promised myself I would at least do the first round of them before switching to step-ups.  I'm still trying to be conscious of my leg, but the only pain I felt was in my quads, which were pretty shredded from Monday.  Boy was I in for a surprise.

WOD Time: 32:11


This is pretty damn huge.  Not only did I finish the WOD, but I've never even done a DOZEN box jumps.  Today I did 105!!  I think all these weeks of shredding my legs is starting to reap rewards.  I struggled through the last rounds a bit, but nothing like I have in the past.  Sara felt that my choices of weight for both KBS and Cleans were too light.  I really thought I was planning ahead for the final 2-3 rounds but I think she's right.  I could've gone 50 lbs on the KBS and 75-85 on the Cleans. 

Either way I was leveled after it was done, and every inch of my clothes was drenched.  Mission accomplished I say.  We'll tighten up the weight next time.  Sara even mentioned that we should explore RX'ing the weights and paring down the reps so I get more accustomed to RX'ed weight.  We'll work on it moving forward, but for now I'm psyched that I was able to hit this one hard and finish it.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Quest for My Inner-Gymnast

Sara was out today and our trainer was Josh, a cool funny guy who was super-knowledgable about mobility.  He discussed mobility vs. flexibility (I never thought there was much of a difference, but there is). He had us do very interesting movements to warm up. Some laying on our side, moving limbs to the opposite side...some crazy gymnastics-like movements on paralettes, but nothing that we did would prepare me for the pain that followed today's workout.

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
5 Parallette handstand push-ups
10 Toes through rings
20 pound Medicine ball cleans, 15 reps

(check out the video of the WOD, with an incredible performace from Austin Malleolo of Crossfit Albany, complete with horrible musical selections)

I got into a handstand and tried half a pushup before the warmup today, but no way do I feel like I'm ready to tackle the exercise as part of a WOD.  So I scaled those to pike pushups off a 24" box with my butt straight up in the air.  Josh saw me crank out the first round of them and said I can't be more than a couple of weeks away from doing handstand pushups...pretty crazy...

The biggest surprise though was my ability to jump my feet into the rings consistently throughout each round.  It takes a lot of momentum to get my body even semi-inverted, so this movement was super-challenging.  But somehow I found the strength to get my toes through those rings a lot, and when they didn't quite make it they were damn close. 

As far as the medball cleans, the less said about those the better. After watching the video I envisioned a fluid, steady motion between reps. But after Josh was done with me I was second guessing every rep, thinking about whether I was extending upward enough before dropping down under the ball.  So that hesitation translated into longer rounds, which resulted in more pain.

I got through four rounds, plus five pike pushups. I'm not going to say I took it easy, because a WOD like this (or any WOD for that matter) takes balls-to-the-wall energy to get through.  But I was still conscious of my Phlebitis, and while my leg was feeling better the bump was still there on my calf, so I didn't want to get stupid about it.  I was psyched to be back...anything on top of that was a bonus.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What Rhymes with Phlebitis?

This is what I look like with Phlebitis
So last spring I was the shit.  I strutted my stuff around Planet Fitness like I owned the place.  I mean after all I was back up to an hour a night (and sometimes each morning too) on the elliptical machines.  But in April I kicked it up huge and went for those vertical super-motherfucker elliptical machines that made you look like you were rock-climbing your way through a seizure.  One night I finished 30 minutes on one of those bad boys and the pain in my knee was just mixed into my standard post-"workout" euphoria...that is, until I went to the doctor a few days later to explore the three bumps around my knee and calf that were hot to the touch.  Yep...Phlebitis. An inflammation of my veins that meant an increased chance I could end up with a blood clot.  Turns out all I could do (once they confirmed it wasn't in my "deep system", which would be bad) is wear compression stockings (think Tim Curry in Rocky Horror) for a few weeks and hope for the best.  I asked the vascular doc if the benchmark exercise had anything to do with it and he was certain that it didn't.

Fast forward to last week.  I'm coming off a week where I was near-debilitated from 225 air squats in a kick-ass WOD. I recover just in time for three epic days of snowboarding in Utah.  Just before the trip I discover a nickel-sized bump on my left calf.  By day three my quads are pretty cooked, so I take it easy and do half the runs I did the previous two days.  Regardless, the trip leaves me with some serious pain, mainly in my left calf. Fast forward to Saturday night (after seeing the doctor on Friday). Yep...easy to figure this one out.  I have Phlebitis again, albeit far smaller and more superficial than last time. So I promised myself that I would listen to my body and give it the time it needed to heal.  After skipping today's skill day (it would have been my first day back at CF in over a week) I tried some air squats tonight and it seems while the bump is there the pain in my calves has subsided.  I'm going to try tomorrow's WOD and see how it goes.  If the pain comes back at all I might just cash out with some pushups, pullups or something else that's not leg-intensive.  I know this life change is a marathon not a sprint, but it's hard not to at least get back in there and make SOMETHING happen.

A random part of the triage checkin at the hospital they asked me to hop on the scale to get a weight.  This turned into a pretty big moment as I haven't weighed myself since last spring. While that weight was 320 pounds I easily packed on 10-20 more before starting Crossfit in November. So here it went...the moment I was sparing myself as I realized that weight isn't nearly as important as the size of my pants (which it's not).  But lo and behold, even considering that I'm 4-5 inches smaller around the waist, and I know I'm so much stronger, I couldn't help but get pumped when she read off the number:


Holy shit I haven't weighed 2-something in YEARS. What a crazy milestone. It feels amazing to have come so far in such a short time.  And considering what must be significant muscle gain I feel GREAT about losing that much weight.  I've recently been thinking about tightening up my Paleo into the Zone but it seems what I'm doing is working well enough for now.  I'm maintaining probably about 90% Paleo, with the other 10% being the whey & casein protein I eat for recovery, as well as balsamic vinaigrette 1-2 times a week (many of my lunch salads have olive oil & balsamic vinegar).  I guess it's time for a post about diet sometime soon so we can break it down and maybe I can get some feedback.  For now I coast back into the Black Box tomorrow on a cloud.  This stuff is working so well.  I hope my veins hold out until I drop another 75 pounds or so :).

Peace and Love to you all...