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.

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 40

I did not get the fastest start in the world this morning but I suppose that’s what weekends are for a little bit. In the garage at 7:45 planning to do some strength work and then a metcon. However, ended up going with slightly more strength work plus some skills work at the end. I also outlined a Goat List of several things that need ongoing work.

I’m using Starting Strength as a basis to build up towards the levels I need in the main lifts. I moved up to 175 back squat today, the most I’ve done in probably a couple of years. I’d plateaued briefly on 165 but now think that was a result of just several hard days of workouts more than an actual plateau. 175 was reasonably easy this morning. Remaining strength work was cleans, something I’ve been neglecting in a big way. I like the move as well as the snatch but just haven’t worked them in much lately. I did a cycle I picked up from CrossFit Rockwall, 5 sets of 8,6,5,3 and 5 reps increasing in weight up through the 3 rep set and then dropping back. I started at 95 and had more trouble with 8 of those than I did with 3 of 125. My metabolic conditioning is probably holding me back some if that’s the case.

In thinking through goals other than strength, the level tests from CrossFit Rockwall came to mind and they seem like a good reference for measuring fitness and preparation. In the past, I’ve done almost all of the Level 2 so I’m shooting for as many of the Level 3 skills completed before February 27th. In looking through them in the cold garage this morning, only the 10 second freestanding handstand looked doable so I worked on handstands for 5 minutes. Didn’t actually get to 10 seconds but got close several times. I think that’s doable with just a days work. Lots of the other ones are going to take some dedication.

My diet has been pretty good up until yesterday which involved way too much Crispin cider at lunch and pizza for dinner with some bourbon as a nightcap. I woke up this morning allergies aflame and I’m pretty sure it had to do as much with diet as anything since I wasn’t suffering badly in the days preceding. My breakfast lately has been a modified Bulletproof Coffee with butter, coconut oil, protein powder and milk. I seem to stay focused and attentive longer with this breakfast.

Tomorrow is technically a rest day but given no metcon today, I may do something short with more skill work.

Crossfit Update

I started CrossFit just over 4 months ago with one of the hardest workouts in a laundry list of hard workouts. I was attracted to CrossFit because of its focus on functional, wide-ranging exercises as well as the emphasis on self-reliance and responsibility. I also like that it averages about 20 minutes per day, much less than many regimens but with better results. It’s a pretty brutal approach to fitness but it’s extremely effective. When I started CrossFit, I thought I was in reasonable shape, nothing spectacular but at least decent. I had no idea what I was getting into.

The workout I did on that first day is called Murph. CrossFit uses a lot of bodyweight exercises and this is an example of that. The workout as prescribed is a 1 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats (broken up anyway you have to) and then another 1 mile run, all for time. It’s just as hard as it sounds. When I did it back in August, I had no trouble with the miles but I could only muster 6 sets of 3 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats. Plus it took me 35 minutes to do just that. I realized quickly that I wasn’t in very good shape after all.

Today, I did Murph again after 4 months of working out regularly with only the workout of the day. I couldn’t quite manage to complete it but my performance was greatly improved. I did both miles plus 8 sets of 10 pullups, 20 pushups and 30 squats in 45:26. I’m still way off from the performance of even average Crossfit athletes who can do Murph in under 35 minutes, some with a weighted vest, but I’m getting stronger faster which I love.

Crossfit is intense but it produces results. I’m looking forward to another 4 months of progress to see what I can accomplish.

Crossfit Update

So I’ve been doing Crossfit for 2 weeks now and I can safely say that while my body hates it, my mind loves it. It’s brutally hard physically at times and it really emphasizes a breadth of training versus specialization. I’m looking forward to each day’s workout in a way I haven’t in quite awhile. I’m already feeling much stronger though this weekend’s two workouts have basically destroyed every muscle in my body.

Yesterday’s workout in particular was challenging. 10 sets starting with 10 reps in set 1, 9 reps in set 2 and so on down to 1 rep in the last set of deadlift, clean and bench press and you try to do it as quickly as possible. As prescribed, it’s supposed to be done with 1 1/2 your body weight in deadlift, your body weight in bench and 3/4ths body weight in clean. I’m not nearly at those levels but by scaling down the weight, I managed to make it through without dying.

Overall, I like that the workouts take about 30 minutes tops and that they focus so much on strength, speed and athleticism. I’m looking forward to making it part of my regular routine.

Crossfit Training (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Enjoy Pain)

I ran across Crossfit Training last week after seeing a link on Instapundit and I started to look into what it was about. The variety of exercises, the emphasis on free weights and intensity of the training all appealed to me so I thought I’d give it a try. This morning marked my first workout using the Crossfit exercises and I picked a doozy to start on. “Murph” is the name of today’s WOD and it’s a killer.

Given that this was my first workout, I knew I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the totals but I gave it the old college try. I did both miles sandwiching 6 sets of 3 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats. I made a critical error and chose to do the squats with just the bar and that’s not a particularly good idea. I ended up finishing in about 35 minutes. It was pretty brutal but it felt good.

Overall, I like the emphasis on being an athlete that Crossfit stresses versus just being able to run a lot or just being able to lift a lot. On top of that, the intensity really appeals to me because they push exercises that surpass what is normally recommended. I’m looking forward to sticking with the program and seeing how the results turn out in a couple of months.