CrossFit Open Update

This one is going to be short and sweet. I had intentions to continue the story from last night but it’s 11:11 (always one of my favorite times) and frankly, that’s going to have to wait for another day. I’ve been hacking on Rails tonight trying to get a working first cut of a new pool for The Sports Pool Hub and time got way. So since every one of my 3 readers has been dying to hear about how my experience with the Open is going, here it is.

Tonight was 14.3, the third workout of 5. So far, I’ve been happy with the workouts but not my performance in them. Nothing has come up that exposes any of my weaknesses too badly but I’ve had some troubles actually taking advantage of that during the workouts. 14.1 was double unders and 75lb ground to overhead. I had trouble with the double unders which hurt my overall score. Last week, 14.2 saw 95lb overhead squats and chest to bar pullups. Again, neither of those things are troublesome for me but I couldn’t figure out how to balance the bar on the OHS and it cost me.

This week, 14.3 was AMRAP in 8 minutes of deadlifts and box jumps. Of course, it was slightly more interesting than that. The box jumps stayed the same throughout the 8 minutes, 15 reps to a 24inch box. Step ups were allowed and this was the route I took. The deadlifts on the other hand had some fun built in. Round 1 was 10 at 135 lbs. Round 2 was 15 at 185. Round 3 was 20 at 225. Round 4 was 25 at 275. It continued from there though I didn’t get far enough to worry about a 315 lb deadlift.

This week, instead of having high expectations, I went in with the hopes of completing 2 rounds. We had to change our own weights out each round and my judge and I worked out the math for three rounds. Even though I had low expectations, I was happy to see deadlifts instead of something like clean and jerks. I’m short and I have a strong back/posterior chain so deadlifts are a strong point. Box jumps aren’t my favorite but with step ups being allowed, they didn’t worry me especially since they didn’t increase in number.

To make a long story longer, I flew through 3 rounds in 5:36 and actually felt pretty strong. I knew I wasn’t going to finish the round of 25 at 275 without having a hernia Still, I managed 7 reps at 275 which is within sight of my all time high deadlift. My total was 97 reps. Of course, even been really good at deadlifts, I’m at a disadvantage over guys who are 50 pounds bigger than I am. The box jumps won’t hurt them much and they’ll be able to keep lifting 275. But given my bodyweight (155), I’m thrilled with the result.

It’s been a lot of work this year to get to this point. I’ve put in over 45 workouts in the first 70 days of the year, undoubtedly a record for me. I’m doing many of the regular CrossFit workouts as prescribed. I feel as strong and fit as I ever have. Even though the first two workouts were substandard (or at least sub expectations), I think I’m in the top 50% of all competitors in the Masters division which is definitely something I’m proud of.

Of course, given the fact we haven’t had a workout with something I’m terrible at yet, all this rah rah stuff will probably result in muscle ups and wall balls next week. Still, 60% of the way through, I’m happy with the result. My goal is to finish in the top 50% of the Masters division so I better get to working on the muscle ups.

Playing With The Hand You’re Dealt

“Poker is a combination of luck and skill. People think mastering the skill part is hard, but they’re wrong. The trick to poker is mastering the luck.”

Tonight was workout number 2 of the CrossFit Games Open, affectionately named 14.2 by those of us in the know. Last week, we had to do as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of 30 double unders and 15 75 lb power snatch. For those not in the know, that means you had to jump a bunch of rope except every time the rope had to pass under your feet twice instead of once to be counted and you had to throw 75lbs over your head 15 times.

This week was a little more complex. The exercises were 95 lb overhead squats and chest to bar pullups. An overhead squat involves holding weight on a bar over your head, in this case 95 pounds, and doing squats with it. It is the ultimate core exercise as any weakness in your midline (read: abs) causes the bar to get all wobbly (which is the scientific term) and tends to come back to earth. Chest to bar pullups involve regular pullups except some part of your chest below your collarbone has to actually touch the bar.

This post started out in my head as a manifesto on how CrossFit, while a meritocracy, has become unbalanced in favor of those who are genetically gifted. That post may still happen (because I believe it’s true) but instead, I think it’s more important to talk about what CrossFit is on an individual level apart from any Games hyperbole or fluff. For most of the year, CrossFit is without a doubt the most effective way to increased health and fitness. The Games is a special time when we focus on the best in the world and that’s good. But the real story is how CrossFit makes you a stronger, healthier human being.

Last week, I wrote about my experience with 14.1. In that post, I complained about not bringing my own rope, about the gym being crowded making a warm up hard and about the fact that people who were more genetically gifted had a better chance at workouts involving weights. Tonight, I started to write about how the bar was wobbly and that 95 lbs was almost half my body weight which put me at a disadvantage. However, what I realized before I wrote that post (thankfully) was that CrossFit generally and the Open in particular aren’t about a level playing field. They aren’t about equal competition or fair play or any of that. CrossFit is about being stronger and healthier in the most effective way possible. On top of that, CrossFit allows me and other athletes (and we’re all athletes, regardless of skill level) to achieve things we never thought possible on an INDIVIDUAL level. That’s what’s important.

I wrote last week that 3 years ago, I did the same workout and managed 125 reps. This year, 3 years older and at an age when lots of people feel like the best is behind them, I did 165 reps. That’s a 32% improvement. It’s the opposite of the idea of aging we have been taught to believe in. It’s proof that no matter where you start, it’s possible to heal the things that afflict you and grow stronger and healthier.

While at this time of year, the Open causes many of us to focus on the competition of CrossFit, the real benefit of CrossFit is the improvement in health and well being of individuals across the world. While I could complain about being smaller than most people and thus at a disadvantage, it misses the very important point that without CrossFit, I would be a weaker individual physically, mentally and emotionally. We aren’t guaranteed to be dealt a fair hand in life. We have afflictions, we have shitty bosses, we have distant families, we have pain and anguish and sorrow. The hand itself isn’t what is important. It’s what we choose to do with that hand. We all make decisions every single day as to how we face life. Most of us choose to complain and wish for something better. That’s the path I started down tonight when I was disappointed in my performance on 14.2. I didn’t want to think that instead of wishing everything was just right, I made the most of what I had. I wanted it all to be equal. But that’s not how life works. And the happiest people in the world are those that realize that and refuse to let it affect them.

That quote in the beginning is hard to understand for lots of people. How do you master the luck? Some people are lucky and some people are unlucky. But almost everyone can take the luck they have and turn it into something. We worry about jobs and bosses and spouses and fortune when we should worry about taking the cards we’re dealt and playing the absolute best way we can. Tonight, I didn’t do nearly as many reps as I wanted to. If I’m honest with myself, that’s because I wanted more than I was capable given the amount of work I had put in. Instead of having expectations, take what you have and do the very best with it. And then do what you can between performances, whether it’s CrossFit or work or whatever and concentrate on getting better individually. Because it’s not about what you did compared to everyone else. It’s about what you made out of the abilities you had. That’s what CrossFit is about.

CrossFit Open 14.1

My first thought on Thursday night when they announced the workout was “Hey I can do that”. As it turns out, that was only partially the case. The workout was as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of 30 double unders and 15 75lb snatches. My double unders lately have been pretty good so I felt confident in those. Keeping the weight the same throughout the exercise made the snatches possible unlike last year when they went up to 135lbs in round 2, well past my max of 115. So overall, I was happy. I initially thought I would be able to do about 200 reps.

This workout was a repeat from the 2011 Open which I also participated in. In looking back at what I did then, I got 2 rounds + 30 double unders + 5 snatches for a total of 135 reps. So much for my dreams of 200 reps. I’m not sure how much training I was doing back then though so I was pretty confident I could beat that. My strategy was to shoot for 2 minute rounds.

The gym was crowded tonight and it made it hard to warm up. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my fitness, I am a slow starter. I would prefer to be dripping wet and panting when I start a workout. I had to start almost cold tonight which was problematic. Also, I didn’t bring my own rope for whatever reason which was a big mistake. The double unders, which should have been the strong point of the workout, were disjointed and difficult. I had to work way too hard at them which caused cascading problems in the snatch. I think the most I strung together was 17 and that was in the last round.

As it turns out, while 75 lbs is doable, it’s still almost half my body weight. I watched guys there who were 200-225 pounds and a 75 lb snatch for them is much easier. I resorted to clean and jerks in the last set. Starting out cold with an uncomfortable rope meant the entire affair was a struggle. I ended up at 165 which given my previous total is fantastic. Still, I was hoping for a better performance on this one since it included exercises I felt semi-decent at.

Next week, I’m going to have to figure out a warmup strategy. Instead of cheering people on beforehand, I’m probably going to run around the neighborhood. Starting cold will lead to further poor performances and should be an easy fix. Plus if there are any more double unders, I’ll definitely bring my own rope.

Right now, I’m ranked in the top 50 of South Central but I’m sure that will drop as the week goes by. Overall, I’m glad to have the first workout behind me and will look forward to the next four weeks.

Going Without

Yesterday, I did a 24 hour fast as a first step into Intermittent Fasting (IF). For the uninitiated, IF is a eating pattern where you do not eat for certain periods of time. This can be 1-2 24 hour fasts during a week, skipping a meal like breakfast and only eating between the hours of 12 and 8 PM or restricting caloric intake to a fraction of normal on fast days, say 400 calories while eating normally on all other days.

The reasoning behind IF often is historic in nature, i.e during our evolution we did not have access to McDonald’s 24-7 and thus our bodies are acclimated and even tuned for periods of feasting and famine. The constant availability of any calories we want is a fairly new phenomenon in human history and may have a negative impact on our overall health. The scientific literature in support of fasting is almost entirely positive. Of the many benefits are weight loss, increased sensitivity to insulin, decreased LDL and triglyceride counts and increased growth hormone production.

I have been considering playing with IF for a little while. In many ways, it’s always been a part of my eating habits as I’m prone to not eating dinner occasionally though that could be an artifact of snacking throughout the day occasionally. Being mostly unaware of the types of IF, I decided to start with a 24 hour fast, eating a meal Monday night at 8 PM and then not eating again until Tuesday evening at 8 PM. In theory, this sounds relatively easy. Who couldn’t go 24 hours without food? As it turns out, this guy can’t go 24 hours without food (though I did go 22 which I figure is close enough).

Obviously, sleeping and fasting is something most of us do all the time. I’m assuming there is probably some aberrant portion of the population who sleep eats but as a general rule, we fast when we sleep. This makes the first 12 hours or so of a 24 hour fast reasonably easy. As the astute reader will know, I’ve recently been doing non trademarked something less than Kevlar protected coffee for breakfast lately so I was prepared to fast through the morning. Though the coffee drinks have a substantial amount of calories, they are still liquid and tend to disappear fairly quickly. All this to say, yesterday morning wasn’t bad and actually was very productive and focused. The work I did in the morning was pretty good in quality (says the guy who hasn’t been to work yet today to actually verify that since he was in no state to verify anything yesterday afternoon though we’ll get to that shortly). I felt mentally alert and not overly distracted by hunger. I’m the type of person who doesn’t ever skip breakfast so I took this as a positive sign.

About 11, the hunger set in. At first, it was normal run of the mill “hey it’s time for a meal” hunger. I treated that with more coffee which is what I tried to use all day. By 12:30, I could tell this was going to be a much harder challenge than I anticipated. Working alone over lunch, I found it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that my body seemed to be willing to sacrifice a kidney for a meal. My ability to focus began to degrade and continued to get worse throughout the remaining hours of the fast. No amount of coffee or water seemed to slake the desire for food. My body is apparently so used to regular meals that when they disappear for just 24 hours, nothing else of importance can rise above the hunger. I did manage to do some basic work in the afternoon but only through pair programming. I’m afraid I would have stared at the computer for 3 hours without that. The low throbbing headache that had shown up about 2 PM got worse and worse.

My original plan had been to workout around 6 PM as there are anecdotal studies that show a workout towards the tail end of a fast has increased effect on muscle growth and strength gain, likely due to the increase in growth hormone during the fast. However, at 4:30, I was at the point where further work was practically impossible so I headed out. I could tell that there was no way I was going to go home and manage a workout. I did manage to ignore the siren song of every fast food joint on the way home, a feat of willpower only surpassed by the fact I had to go to the grocery store to get cat food and I managed to exit with only the cat food, a rotisserie chicken and a Snicker’s almond bar in tow. There was a moment where I nearly sat down in the cookie aisle and ate an entire bag of Oreos on the floor of Brookshires but I assume the store management would have frowned on that.

They say you should never go to the grocery store hungry because you’ll buy stuff you’ll never eat like hominy. That may be true but go to the store after a 22 hour fast and you’ll eat practically anything. Without that Snickers, I’m pretty sure I would have eaten a can of cat food on the way home. The destruction I did to the chicken would shame normal human beings.

Once I had eaten (and by eaten I mean taken a tour through the kitchen stuffing anything I could find into my greedy maw, leaving the kitchen in a state that looked like they filmed 9 1/2 weeks there), the mental clarity returned with some slight modifications. For a little while, I wasn’t terribly sure what day it was or what I was supposed to be doing. Often after a big meal, I want to take a nap. My body seemed to want this as well but my mind was completely alert though uninterested in actually doing anything other than watching TV.

Throughout this first world ordeal, I regularly considered what it must be like to deal with actual hunger. I was voluntarily giving up food in pursuit of better health. That must seem like an insane act to those who deal with hunger all the time. We are fortunate to be born in a civilization where even the poor often eat enough food. Going without is a way of life for many people around the globe and it puts many things in perspective.

Things I learned from this:

  • Don’t do a 24 hour fast if you’re a knowledge worker and think you’ll be productive at all during the latter parts of the fast.
  • Be prepared for a sensation considerably worse than “I sure am hungry.” It will dominate your focus in the latter part of the fast unless you can ever manage to get over the hunger pains. I expected them to fade somewhat but they never did. Perhaps future fasts will be better.
  • The food you eat will increase in gustatory enjoyment. That was the best rotisserie chicken I’ve ever had and it was nothing special at all.
  • Normal functioning will be difficult towards the end of the fast. Leaving work, I felt slightly disoriented. I did’t remember the cat food until I was practically home which is unlike me.

Was it a positive experience? Yes. Not only did I feel good for a portion of the fast, it is humbling to think how easy it is for us to get whatever food we want whenever we want it. I’m not sure if there were any health gains obviously but I plan to keep playing with IF to see what’s involved. Several people I know responded on Twitter with their results and they were all very positive. They all chose to do a regular 12-8 PM feeding time with a fast overnight and through the morning which is probably a great deal more pragmatic for knowledge workers. Going forward, my 24 hour fasts will all be done on the weekends when I have less need to mentally focus on tasks. In fact, I think a 24 hour fast from 8 PM Saturday through 8 PM Sunday would be both easier and less likely to result in my eating a raw steak at Brookshires.

If you’ve been considering IF or if you are now considering it after reading about it, I do encourage it. The science is starting to strengthen in support of it as well as strengthen against our normal diet of eating constantly throughout the day. Our bodies respond well to periods of feast and famine and I’m looking forward to giving it another try. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat a dozen eggs for breakfast.

Random Amalgamation Of Thoughts

That’s a fun post title, no? I’m ten hours into a 24 hour fast and while not hungry, I woke up thinking about food. It’s interesting what your body and mind think are important. Mara is doing a three day fruit fast and I didn’t want her to be the only one who could complain about things. The Open is seventeen days away and I feel like I’m making some progress towards it though I’m nowhere near strong enough at this stage. Yesterday I worked on GHD situps which I have to hope don’t show up in a WOD since my ability to do them is limited by equipment (only have the necessary contraption at Gold’s) and therefore by my reps in preparation. Also rowed 2000 as a benchmark, hoping for something sub 8 minutes but came in at 8:10. So while I feel like I’ve been working out a lot more than the last six months, there is definitely a deficit of training that isn’t going to go away in 40 days.

The fast comes about because I’ve heard quite a bit about intermittent fasting and have been curious to try it. In some ways, I’ve been doing it already on days that breakfast consists of pseudo not trademarked bulletproof coffee. However, even on those days, I’ve eaten fruit when hungry so I don’t think that exactly qualifies. I read a good summary of the literature over on Nerd Fitness and there are two main ways to do IF, skip a meal all the time or 1-2 times a week go 24 hours without eating. I’d rather be really miserable occasionally rather than slightly miserable every day so I’m starting with the 24 hour fast. Today is a semi rest day though that’s been altered a little by a lifting schedule that involves lifting every day as well as the desire to see what doing a solid metcon after a fast is like.

IF has the known effect of increasing insulin sensitivity. When you combine that with decreased glycogen stores in the liver after a fast, you have the body primed to actually use the food you eat instead of having it store it as fat. Of course, I’m not as worried about storing food as fat. However, fasting has a known positive effect on the production of growth hormone and thus, the theory is that combined effect of increased insulin sensitivity and increased production of growth hormone after a fast will result in more muscle growth as well. On top of all that, everyone thinks I like to torture myself so this just adds fuel to that fire as well. My plan is to go 8 PM to 8 PM occasionally and see if there are any noticeable strength or muscle gains. I’ll lift heavy at the tail end of a fast as well as pretend like I’m chasing down an antelope on the African plains by doing some metcon work greater than 10 minutes in length because the medical evidence seems to point out that high intensity exercise longer than 10 minutes produces the most growth hormone.

Given that this is a random amalgamation of thoughts, I really hate the currently popular meme epitomized over on Nerd Fitness of using BOLD TEXT everywhere in a post. It’s popping up everywhere and tells me that our ability to make a point with our language is continuing to diminish and we are resorting to tricks. Your words should carry the power to entertain, inform and engage the reader. All that bolding and italicizing is annoying to anyone paying attention and probably doesn’t help engage those people who can only intake information in 140 character chunks. While it might be the literary logical conclusion to a world where everyone has to scream to get attention, let’s take a moment and try to assume our reader (all 13 of mine, each of which is intelligent and well versed) can get the emphasis without the need to reach for the strong tag every paragraph.

The price of gold and silver are going up after a long repression through shenanigans in the paper market. That will be a critical piece of the coming changes in the world currency markets. Just an FYI.

While we’re on an FYI note, if you like live theater, go see On The Eve at Theatre Three while you still can (extended through the weekend). It’s a rock musical written by a local band (among others) and it’s really good.

CrossFit Games Prep Minus 29 Days

Five and a half years ago on August 25th, 2008, I started on this crazy CrossFit journey with a workout called Murph. I started CrossFit in the same way I start lots of things in my life. I heard about it on a website, spent about 5 days researching it and then said, what the hell. Of course, I had no clue what I was doing. Murph is what’s called a Hero WOD in the CrossFit terminology. What that means is that occasionally CrossFit chooses to honor a fallen soldier, police officer or fire fighter with a workout named after them. Murph was Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. The Hero WODs are always a step (or two or three) above the normal workout. Murph is a WOD consisting of run 1 mile then do 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 squats partitioned anyway you like (meaning you don’t have to do all the pullups before moving on) and then run another mile. If you have a 20lb vest or body armor, wear it.

As a CrossFit newbie, I looked at that workout and seriously didn’t understand it. Not the meaning of it, the effort required, nothing. At the time, my workout regimen was go to the gym, run a little, lift some weights, play some softball or soccer occasionally and I thought I was in good shape. I couldn’t imagine doing bodyweight squats so I decided to at least do it with a bar to make it hard. Ha! Experienced CrossFit people are shaking their heads in sympathy I hope. Anyway, I ran that first mile at 24 Hour Fitness on the treadmill and then moved over to the squat/pullup rack. I did 6 sets of 3 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats. Then I went and ran another mile.

People doing the main site WODs typically log their workouts in the comments so that the following time, they can know what they did for comparisons. Here’s what I said: “First time crossfit exercise. Both miles, 6 sets of 3 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats. 35 minutesish. Looking forward to the next Murph to see the changes.” Ha again! I took a workout that required 100 pullups and did 18 of them. Changes indeed. It’s weird how you remember certain things in your life. I distinctly remember that day at lunch at 24 Hour Fitness, feeling distinctly out of place as other people did their arm raises and leg curls while I stared at the bar on the squat rack wondering what in the hell I was thinking when I decided to add weight to this workout.

I didn’t know anything about scaling at the time but somehow, I essentially did the Buttercup scaling from CrossFit BrandX. This is one of the beauties of CrossFit, that each workout can be scaled appropriately. Good coaching and good scaling make all the difference in CrossFit. It took me about 8 months to be able to complete Murph and when I did, it took 60 minutes and change. I’ve done it in full sans vest probably 4 times since then. Today was one of them which is why all of this is relevant. My PR (personal record) before today was 49:51. Today, five and a half years after starting CrossFit, at the age of 41, I did it in 41:26. I doubt we’d ever do Murph in the Games but it sure would be OK with me.

Today, in the Wylie News, there was an article highlighting several “new” fitness programs. They included Pound (apparently a way to channel your inner rock star to improve muscular skeletal conditioning), Bar Method (a class that uses a bar from ballet in a variety of ways, hot with the ladies, not so much with the guys, did I ever mention the time I was in beginning ballet but I was 14, the only guy and all the other students were 7 year old girls? I didn’t tell you for a reason), Flywheel (a spin class on drugs, those drugs being a cross between black tar heroin and meth from the sounds of things because it’s $40 a class and you have to wear earplugs because they turn up the music so loud), Fusion (a method nebulous in description but apparently it is a fusion of whatever people want it to be, most people probably choose pizza eating and napping) and CrossFit. These methods were reviewed by two fitness experts from California, Meg Jordan who is editor-in-chief of American Fitness Magazine and Kathy Stevens, educational director at The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Not surprisingly I suppose, they loved The Bar Method and thought CrossFit was horrifyingly dangerous. Of The Bar Method, Jordan said:

“I think it’s a great thing. It was founded here in San Francisco. It’s so huge in San Francisco. It’s the high-end in terms of calorie-burning moves. It’s well known as being a fat buster…You talk to someone who has done a bar method and their butt is so sore…”

Sigh. Of CrossFit, they had the following to say:

Stevens:…CrossFit is definitely reigniting the idea of group exercise with the younger generation in a more jockish, less aerobic-y way with a regimen that offers a changing mix of weight lifting, aerobic exercise and body weight exercises. But these workouts are based on highly athletic and competitive exercise routines and not for the faint of heart or joint compromised. It’s great for the already fit who want to be the fittest they can be. Jordan: Chriropractors say they have more patients now with CrossFit injuries. The workout is notorious for people doing too much too soon. Low back and disk injuries. The overhead presses and deadlifts are too competitive.

Double sigh. How can something be less aerobic-y but still have aerobic exercise? Not for the joint compromised? What does that even mean? And how many people who are joint compromised got joint compromised because they didn’t do any multi joint, functional exercise for 20 years or so? If CrossFit is only great for those who are already fit, how did Caitlyn from CrossFit Incendia do so well? What about Sue who couldn’t walk up 13 stairs without being out of breath? These people weren’t extremely fit athletes. They were people who were tired of being weak. They were tired of the dieting yo-yo. They didn’t care about being the fittest they could be, they wanted help and through CrossFit found a purpose.

The quote from Jordan is just vitriolic and misguided. This is our friend who loved that The Bar Method made people’s butt sore. Deadlifts are too competitive? That doesn’t even make sense. Her offhand remarks about low back and disk injuries show no understanding of basic coaching and scaling not to mention deadlifts are the very type of exercise that prevent those injuries. How many people have hurt their back because of deadlifts versus picking up their kid the wrong way?

The exercises in CrossFit transfer directly to life. Increase your ability to squat and you’re more likely to be able to bend down and pick something up without throwing out your back. Pick up heavy weights off the ground and you won’t get a disk injury getting the Christmas decorations out of the attic.

I’m not out to bash other exercise programs and most people in CrossFit aren’t either. Greg Glassman famously says that any exercise is better than no exercise. It’s amazing how many other fitness programs and so called fitness experts bash CrossFit though when it’s not too much to assume that any proficient CrossFitter is going to be healthier and more fit than a similar participant in most other exercise programs. I could walk into a Bar Method class tomorrow and hold my own. Would I get a good workout? Sure. Would I be sore? Maybe. But I could hold my own. My guess is that 90% of people from that program or any other couldn’t do the same in CrossFit. CrossFit prepares you for the unknown and the unknowable through constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. Nothing else does so in as an efficient manner.

And I guess that’s my rant for the week. Games prep continues apace. Diet has been pretty good though gluten free tortilla chips are currently a problem. Good salsa makes them a bigger problem. Tomorrow will probably be a lifting day since I skipped yesterday. Haven’t even done snatches recently and given their prominence in the Games the last few years, I probably need to start focusing on them.

CrossFit Games Prep Minus 30 Days

I privately thought it might be a little ambitious to both workout and write something about said workout for each day up until the Games start. I took a few days off at the end of last week for a variety of reasons, some of them good, some of them silly, none of them worth mentioning. At last glance, I was fighting off the Blerch and apparently he was heavier and stronger than I thought. Still need to get that T-shirt.

I picked backup on Sunday morning with a ton of back squats followed by 150 double unders for time. I desperately hope that there are no workouts in the 5 weeks that include double unders. At one point, I thought I was capable at the movement but that apparently was either self delusion or a stronger time in my history. I’m having trouble stringing 5-10 of them together which is pretty poor. I’ve been working on them a lot and they are getting better. I’m sure this means every workout will have them.

Yesterday, I did the main page workout which was actually fun but painful, a common occurrence in CrossFit. It was 15 minutes starting with 1 minute of squats, 2 minutes of double unders (AGAIN!), 3 minutes of pushups, 4 minutes of back extensions and 5 minutes of pullups. I thought double unders were hard until I did them after a solid minute of squats. I haven’t done back extensions in probably a year which means I’ll be laying in the middle of the floor a lot today. My reps for the exercises were 52,74,64,74,65 for a grand total in 15 minutes of 329.

For the CrossFit uninitiated, I’m above average in strength and fitness when compared to the general population. Lots of people think I’m in great shape (I tend to disagree since I do CrossFit which constantly exposes how terrible my fitness really is by regularly giving me things like double unders to do). Actually, I was pretty proud of my 329. I went to log it on the site and four comments right above mine is one Jason Khalipa. Google him and that will save me the trouble but the short version is he actually competes in the Games every year. Not the Open like I’m doing, he qualifies for the Games. He’s one of the Elite they talk about. He’s a big dude, can snatch like 250 pounds or something ridiculous so you’d think I’d have an advantage on a body weight WOD like this one. He reps were 50, 152, 75, 107, 100 for a total of 484.

I actually did more squats than him (probably my first mistake since then I could barely get off the ground for the double unders) and then he just blew me away in every thing else with maybe the exception of the pushups. He’s truly Elite. But one of the beauties of this program is that anyone can do it. We just did the same workout, this Elite athlete and I, and we both were challenged to our max by it. The egalitarianism is one of the best qualities of CrossFit. On top of that, right there in the same comments on the same web page is an entry by one of the elites of the sport. It’s a community, one that trains together in many aspects and grows together as well. If I ran into Jason on the street and mentioned that he and I did the workout at about the same time, he’d probably laugh and discuss how hard it was. Imagine that happening in any other sport.

On the social front, we went to the symphony on Friday night and it was fantastic. They opened with Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Britten and it was truly mesmerizing. The second piece took some getting used to as it was 32 minutes of German folk songs by Mahler. I don’t have the experience to say that German is a pretty language but I’m pretty sure it isn’t. The soloist, Matthias Goerne, was incredibly emotive and it was fun to listen to the songs. After intermission was the Brahms Fourth symphony and it was spell binding. The DSO is really doing some great work under van Zweden.

Sunday I built a standing desk out of Rubbermaid closet shelving and an oak dowel from Home Depot. Pretty happy with the results.

CrossFit Game Prep Day Minus 37

Today wasn’t intended to be a strength day but at 5:15 when the alarm went off, The Blerch won out and I worked on trying to figure out why my photoblog is suddenly broken in the warmth of the kitchen instead of doing situps and back extensions and thrusters and clean & jerks in the cold garage. So I lifted heavy tonight when I got home. 3×5 185 lb squats, 1×5 245 lb deadlift worked up from 185 and 3×5 105 lb presses. I was wondering tonight when exactly I started the strength program and thanks to dedicated tracking on WODStack, I found out that it’s only been 2 weeks. Exactly two weeks ago, I did 3×5 at 135 lbs for back squats and today, 14 days later, I’m doing 185. That’s some pretty remarkable gains. It’s amazing what lifting heavy weights will do.

I tweaked something in my lower left kidney area tonight or did something to make a previous injury flare up. I don’t think it’s anything to be too concerned about, doesn’t feel like an injury, just a “hey dummy, don’t go letting your ego write checks you can’t cash.” I’ll probably ice it a little before bed and see where we stand in the morning.

The latest 10 day cycle on the CrossFit mainsite had a CrossFit total which got me thinking about where I’m at currently from a strength perspective and where I have been in the past. I had to go back a long ways, almost 2 years, to find the last time I did a CrossFit total. In February of 2012 (search for brett_from_wylie if you care), I deadlifted 305, back squatted 245 and pressed 135 for a total of 685. That’s probably 20 pounds lower than my all time best but gives me something to shoot for over the next 5 weeks. If I could get back to that, I’d feel pretty good. I haven’t maxed anything lately but my best guess estimate is probably a 285 DL, 225 BS and 125 press for a total of 635.

It’s funny how easily we can convince ourselves of something. I never realize how little I’ve been working out until I start seeing past measurements. Up until recently, I thought I was in decent shape but if I’m honest, I know that’s not true. Working out 5 times a month doesn’t get you in decent shape and avoiding heavy weights in general is a guaranteed way to be weak. In just 2 weeks, it’s amazing how different my mindset, posture and strength is. Lifting heavy is important. Weight lifting has consistently been shown to increase bone density and reduce osteoporosis. Yet it’s easy to forget the benefits and fall into a routine of ignoring the weights. But the body thrives when it is occasionally put under moderate to high stress and we ignore that at our own peril.

Tomorrow morning I resolve not to give into the Blerch and actually get some met con training in. The row yesterday was good but it’s time for some high intensity work.

On the midterm goals front, I held a freestanding handstand for 10 seconds last night (16 total) and I did 10 strict straight leg toes to bar tonight, both of which are checkboxes on the CrossFit Rockwall level 3 test. I’m pretty happy with both of those but they are just the easy ones. There are others like a bodyweight snatch and a 7 minute 2000 meter row that make me nervous.

CrossFit Open Prep Day Minus 38

It’s funny how fast days seem to go when you’re counting them down towards something. Already four days into this journey and feels like it’s only a month away. Today, the plan was to go to the gym at lunch to lift and then do boot camp after work. But then the WOD on the main site was row 5k so I decided to do that instead. Ran to warmup and then did 5K in 22:03. This was the first time I’ve done a row of this length and I prefer it to running. It’s hard but there are so many variables to play with on the monitor on a Concept 2 that I can keep entertained, even on a day like this when I forgot my phone holder and had no external amusements. Stretched for cool down and then ran the boot camp after work without participating in it which was another first. I didn’t think an additional workout of intensity would be beneficial, especially when I plan to yesterday’s brutal main site WOD tomorrow.

When did we start naming our winter storms? I understand hurricanes to some degree, there is a precedent there but isn’t this just sensationalism? The Weather Channel has become the CNN of meteorology and I know I can always find a video there of a black widow spider found in a bag of beans or a python eating an alligator which must affect the weather in Japan like a butterfly flapping its wings. Still, this ever increasing need to grab attention seems to be a slippery slope for which we have no good way of stopping the slide. Naming winter storms and shoving that in a headline is just link bait, a way to get more eyeballs on another page which ironically (possibly the Alanis Morrissette kind) I just supported by linking. It’s enough to keep me from going to the Weather Channel website. I remember the days when you could watch the Weather Channel on TV and actually see local weather. Now Weather on the Eights has probably become Weather on the Eight O’clocks and sensational weather related terror all other times. And ESPN used to show sports and MTV showed music videos. Hey you kids! Get off my damn lawn!

Tonight, I made Stuffed Peppers from a recipe out of Paleo Comfort Foods which is a fantastic cookbook if you’re looking for low carb, paleo friendly recipes. One word to the wise, if you’re really going to be committed to paleo, there are some things you have to give up and I’ve decided fried foods are on the list. They have pictures in this cookbook of fantastic looking fried chicken and okra made with coconut and almond flour. I’ve tried both and frankly, what you get is coconut flavored goo encased chicken and okra.

Other than that, the recipes have been outstanding including some to die for like the beef short ribs and the gumbo. Oddly, coconut flour and almond flour do not materially alter the roux for Cajun food. Highly recommended if you’re looking for variety in your Paleo cooking. Also Nom Nom Paleo’s latest cookbook Food for Humans comes highly recommended though I haven’t gotten it yet.

In other news, Mara is starting a 40 day challenge thing-a-ma-bob with Yogasport and included in that is “drinking in moderation” which for us probably means “drinking on her birthday and Super Bowl but no other times”. And overall, that’s probably a good thing in the general scheme of things. I planted tomato and pepper seeds for transplants on Saturday, hope springing eternal especially after last spring’s 2 tomato harvest. 270 plants total though we’ll have to wait and see how many actually come up. I’ve got room to plant about 20 so the hope would be to sell the others for a buck or two each and recoop costs. It’s good to have a plan.

CrossFit Open Prep Day Minus 39

Today is shaping up to be a rest day other than a dog walk and that’s probably a good thing. I may do some stretching and skill work later this evening but there are plans to smoke ribs so I may also sit in the lawn chair with a glass of bourbon and contemplate life while the smoke does its magic. These will be the first two racks of ribs from the hog I got back in October and I’m interested to see how they turn out. I’m only doing a dry rub, no marinade or mustard so it will be slightly different from most ribs I’ve done in the past.

On the diet note (because one of my fabulous readers asked), here’s a link to Bulletproof Coffee from the source. I’ve made some modifications mostly just for ease of use. For one, I have only so much room in my life to worry about things diet related and moldy coffee isn’t on that list. So I use plain old Folger’s Dark Roast because good coffee is another thing I don’t worry too much about. We’re currently using Kerrygold salted butter because that’s what comes in the big tubs from Sam’s. It’s not nearly as evil as it’s made out to be. I may switch to unsalted Horizon Farms or something in the future just to see if it’s any different tasting. I use plain old coconut oil from Sam’s or Sprouts as well. The original calls for MCT oil but again, my inner caveman takes over and I just use what I can get relatively easily.

My process is to put 1-2 tablespoons of butter and 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a big coffee mug and make coffee using the large Keurig setting. I put a scoop of Sprouts Whey Protein powder in a Magic Bullet container, dump the coffee, butter and oil into it and mix it in the Magic Bullet for about 10 seconds or so. Without a Magic Bullet, I’d use a blender because I don’t think a shaker ball will get you the same consistency. I typically transfer the entire thing to a big plastic cup with some added milk for the morning commute. I usually take a piece of fruit and have it for a snack around 11 but for the most part, I don’t get hungry until lunch with this as breakfast. Depending on the amounts you use, this is typically around 400 calories but it’s almost entirely good healthy fats.