Sunday, May 31, 2009

Strengthening the Chain

Back in March, after the first NorCal Throwdown CFEB attended at Diablo CrossFit, I wrote this post: "I Am The Weakest Link".

I identified a lack of conditioning and bad body composition as the culprits.

10 weeks of intense training later, Team CFEB and I are at an order of magnitude higher of conditioning, and it seems, personally, every I time I touch a barbell lately I get a PR. Did I mention I'm pushing 43?

Our conditioning was evident at the CF1W Throwdown yesterday, where we won by a nose. In the first event we screwed up our strategy a bit and were behind on the 800 meter 100# sandbag carry. All three of us (Andy, Alex, Me) passed the slowest guy on their team: personally, while the other teams were wearing out, I had what it took to go faster and faster at the end. On the second event, which involved running with a barbell overhead, only Andy and I were able to overhead 195 pounds which contributed to our victory.

Also lately CFEB records are falling left and right and many of us are setting PRs frequently: this is more impressive as I am not talking about beginners, but long-time athletes. I have deadlifted 400, overhead squatted 195, strict pressed a 71 pound kettlebell, hit new metcon PRs, and as above we won the latest throwdown.

Torquemada has convinced me somewhat reluctantly not to publicize our training but I will say this:

It is not the .coms.
It is most certainly pure CrossFit
It is unconventional
It improves teamwork
It recognizes individual differences
It falls on the outside of the typical CF time domain
It is somewhat high volume
It relys on, rather than strength bias, weakness bias. Figure that one out and you will start making huge progress, I guarantee it.

I am no longer the weakest link.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Long Time Coming

I finally broke the mental barrier and Deadlifted 400 pounds! I'm fairly certain I will start making linear progress again now. I think I can officially say I am now as strong as I have ever been, and while it may not be at an all time high, my capacity is now decent: the last time I was almost this strong coming off of a pure strength cycle in 07 I was glacially slow, could barely run or do pull-ups.

Interestingly I have been doing almost no direct strength work, but lots of "stengthcons", like the "Catch 22" WOD that started with 22 Deadlifts at 315#. Just lots of brutally hard metcons and big volume in general.

I addition my running is decent again, I suspect I could break 3:00 in an 800 again. I have gotten a bunch of new PRs lately, 5 HSPU, Strict Press 2.0P Kettlebell, 185X2 OHS, etc.

The only things that are not at peak are pure capacity, pull-ups and muscle-ups (have not done one in almost a year). This is a combo of my weight, and my elbow issues.

However: if my bodyfat scale is at all accurate, I am now at an all time peak of lean mass 158.5 pounds at a bodyweight of 192, 17.5% bodyfat.

When I started this journey, I was 215 pounds, 36% bodyfat and only 138 pounds of lean mass. That means I have stacked on 20 pounds of solid lean mass, from my late 30s to my early 40s. Not bad!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The last week has been of (for me) high volume for various reasons. Mostly planned. I am trying to cultivate a mindset of being ready for anything, anytime. This is of course primarily athletic, but, again, it seems to be creeping into my regular life, in a good way. Ramping up for the Affiliate Cup, I have added both volume and intensity to my training and that of the Affiliate Cup team. I really pushed myself to the ragged edge last week. More on that in a moment, but first let's look at what I did:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: 2 mile hill run
Wednesday: Deadlift 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

325-375-385-395-395-400 (fail, moved it)-400 (fail nailed to the deck).

This was a major math fail. I somehow failed to put 400 on the bar, and I got just insanely pumped up to do it. I did 395 twice. It came up easily, and, on the plus side I BELIEVED it was 400, so I may be over my metal problems with 400. I am certainly going to try this again next week.

395 is tied for a lifetime PR, and I have not lifted this much since 2007.

Run One Mile
100 Squats
Run 800 Meters
75 Push-Ups
Run 400 Meters
50 Burpees
Run 200 Meters
25 "GI Janes"
Run One Mile

Time: 41:25


Five rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
75 pound Sumo deadlift high-pull, 21 reps
75 pound Thruster, 21 reps

Time: 25:20



Ring Dip

Time: 7:59

Olympic Lifting Seminar (3 hours in hot sun)
C&J 175, tied for lifetime PR.

Time: 7:30, far off of PR

Affiliate Cup WOD "A"
15 minutes of very hard work

Affiliate Cup WOD "B"
90 minutes of slog

+25 plus hours of training others.

By the time we got to WOD "B" I was cooked. I tried to get myself psyched up, but I simply ran out of energy. I could not get any intensity going, no matter how hard I tried. What should have been a 45 minute workout took me 90 minutes. I have never hit the wall this hard and not DNF'd. Whether this was a good idea remains to be seen. I have, for a long time, considered volume for the sake of volume to be akin to "junk miles". However, I committed myself and my team to this course of action, and I never considered not following through. I realized pretty quickly I was going to be Dead Fucking Last, and I just plodded through it. I really enjoyed the 50 penalty burpees at the end. Thanks Gita.

So: what is readiness? Committing to a course of action and following through no matter what. Will this yield the results we are hoping for? New strength, capacity and intensity PRs this week for most should tell the tale.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CrossFit Stopwatch Whores

Spencer Nix Of Dallas CrossFit leaves nothing on the table.

This post was inspired by the following response from Spencer Nix of Dallas CrossFit on Dutch Lowry's Blog.

"-THESE GUYS ARE FOCUSED ON THE PROCESS NOT THE OUTCOME. How many of you guys out there are ’stop-watch whores’? You put out a sub 3 minute Fran but half of your thrusters you didn’t push your head all the way through, and 10 of your butterfly pull-ups were technically over the bar but not really? These guys aren’t like that. I get to workout with dutch pretty regularly and ALL his reps count. He is focused on the execution of the rep and not really the stopwatch. OPT - same way; look at all his videos and read the ROM requirements on the blog (borderline obsessed with the process). These guys focus FIRST on doing the movement flawlessly and SECOND on the clock. If your goal is to be the stud of your garage or gym, then this might not pertain to you BUT if your goal is to compete, then this has to be your mindset."

(As an aside, I got the idea for the 50 unbroken burpee finisher yesterday from Spencer).

I definitely started out CF as a SW (Stopwatch Whore). My form was abysmal, and I kidded myself into counting every ugly rep and posting some pretty good times, that, in retrospect, were a joke.

I am very strict with form at my affiliate, and we have transitioned to C2B pull-ups for all WODs for men, with women to join them after the games this year. Some (Andrea, Elaine, Polly, Ynez, Hodges) have made the transition already.

I feel that true excellence in CrossFit requires excellent form, regardless of speed. In some ways I am more impressed with a middle-of-the-pack athlete with HEART who does everything right, than a Firebreathing animal who cuts corners to make their blazing times even hotter. Of course what I really love to see is blazing intensity with excellent form. We want virtuosity!

A search of what people have posted on YouTube is downright embarrassing. I recently saw a 30+ round Cindy and a 2:30-ish Fran in both of which, in my gym, NOT ONE REP would have counted!

And, as pointed out, if you are going to enter the brand-new sport of Competitive CrossFit, your shitty 1/2 reps are not going to cut it.

I am striving to become mentally stronger all the time these days, and part of that is total honesty with myself about my workouts. In the past if I got confused about reps/rounds, etc. I would probably engage in "wishful counting" some of the time. Lately any time I become confused or don't know if I got full ROM (I do the WODs by myself most of the time) I just don't count it and do the extra reps. I have been much more satisfied with my WOD times since doing this. I don't care about being the fastest or the best, but I do care about doing CrossFit with integrity and what I can approach of virtuosity.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mental Fitness

I am continuing to improve in my ability to recognize and interrupt negative-self talk and replace it with, as I have heard it said "a different conversation with myself". Interestingly this started as a purely athletic pursuit but it is starting to bleed over into other areas of my life.

I'm resolving to recognize and interrupt all negative self-talk in all areas of my life and replace them with positive and/or useful messages. There is of course a balance, I don't want to become blind to my shortcomings or Pollyanna-ish. for the moment there is no such danger.

I'm working on being able to create the emotional and physical components of successful performance on short notice. All of my recent workouts have been excellent. I turned a moment of doubt into a new PR yesterday: 185#x2 Overhead Squat at a bodyweight of 188#. I'm calling that a double bodyweight squat.

I figured out the kipping HSPU yesterday as well, and was able to get 4 in a row in the WOD.

Today I rowed 1K and I found myself thinking/saying "I don't know if I can hold this pace" at one point. I instantly recognized it and replaced it with "I CAN I MUST I WILL" for the remainder of the row - 3:37 and I ended strong. Happy with it.

I also worked on my snatch form. I got 125# but anything over 115# is with some fairy awful form. I used the Mid-Atlantic Qualifier form, in the video, above, yes I know there is an error in it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hill Repeats

The 22 C2B Pull-Ups in "Catch 22"

I did hill repeats yesterday, which, I am, to say the least, not stellar at. I really had to keep interrupting any negative self-talk (I've done enough, I'm going to be slow, etc.) with positive self-talk (I'm going to fly up this hill, I love doing this, this is going to get me closer to my goals).

I have really resolved not to complain about my workouts to others or myself, just do them and accept them for what they are. After all, I'm really just doing this for my own satisfaction.

Anyway: I managed to go from a state of dread and wimpiness to feeling invincible, powerful and fast on the third repeat I cleared the hill in 52 seconds, first attempts were more like 1:05. While it is unmeasured I suspect that is the hardest I have run in some time.

About 4 hours later I worked with YPFA of team CFEB on some skills. I did some decent rowing. She nailed some of her goals. Nice work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2009 CrossFit Regional Qualifiers

315# Deadlift X 22. Got 16 consecutive.

"Catch 22" (course pictured above).

Sunday Morning WOD

"Catch 22"
22 Deadlift 315/185
DB Farmers Walk 45's/25's Up Hill To #3
22 DB Thrusters 45's/25's
DB Farmers Walk 45's/25's Downhill To #4
22 Chest To Bar Pull Ups
Run To Top of Ridiculous Hill #5
22 Overhear Squats 95/65
Run Down Hill To Finish

I went as a Judge to the CrossFit Norcal Qualifier. My athlete, Apollonia Helm came in fifth and is going on to the 2009 CrossFit Games. This is incredibly exciting, and needless to say kind of big deal.

A Thousand tips of the hat to Gita Dombrowski who realized Polly had what it took to make it this year (I was going to have her try in 2010) and put together a stunningly effective 11 day competition peaking program using, shall we say, very creative methods (still top-secret).

After the competition we mortals were allowed to do the day 2 WOD, "Catch 22" above. I completed it RX but slow as hell, 28:31 right under the 30:00 DNF limit. This would have put me around 47th place or so, including the 10 or so folks who did this RX "for fun" after the competition. Of course we won't mention there is little chance I could have RX'd WOD "B" and no chance I could have made it to day 2.

This was interesting - while I am still on the heavy side, due to all the competition ramp-up I have been involved in I have done tons of heavy-bias metcon in the last six weeks or so. I am fairly sure I am at the greatest lean mass I have ever achieved, around 158 pounds at a bodyweight of 192 or so. My bodyfat has been holding steady or dropping a little since I went back to the Zone.

To put this in perspective, in December of 07, at my lightest, around 168, I tried to Deadlift 315 ONCE in a CrossFit total and it felt nailed to the floor, it might as well have weighed 1000 pounds or a million. On Sunday that shit flew off the ground and I got 16 consecutive - I think my grip failed or I would have gotten all of them. In addition I did 21 consecutive OHS with true full depth in the WOD and 24 as a warm-up. All told I did 38 315 DLs on Sunday. By the way this is predictive of a 466# deadlift, far past my stuck point of 400 or so. It really must be mental! I am positive I am about to blast past my PRs in the total, and I feel like I might even be close to a 250 bench again. Also I can still do HSPU (one at a time) which I never could above 185 before. I'm also working on rehabing my elbow with jump-through muscle-ups of the type done for the scaled WOD at the NRQ. I'm optimistic I can get them back even at this weight, if my elbow heals.

I don't know exactly why, probably zone, adequate calories and hitting just the right mix and amount of WODs, but I feel fantastic and powerful, really ready for anything WOD-wise. Another possibility is that the two weeks of caloric deprivation and massive volume (for me)was actually a beneficial stimulus once recuperation was allowed to take place - I'm at a fairly advanced level and almost certainly need to stack several weeks of tough stimulus together to disrupt homeostasis.

I also seem to have successfully adjusted my attitude and stopped the negative self-talk and self-defeating bullshit. Watching all the amazing athletes and feeling the positively electric atmosphere at the games (my limited hair really stood on end) really brought home to me how much I love this shit. As Patton said "God Help Me I love it so, more than life itself". We jokingly call it a cult but it is really getting to be less and less of joke for me over time: CrossFit is my religion.