Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Industrial Park Chipper

Workout of the Day:

The Industrial Park Chipper:

5 meter spider climb

20 burpees to a 9 foot target

20 overhead lunges (25 kg)

8 step under-stair climb

20 strict toes to bar

20 stone squats

20 handstand pushups

20 KB swings (25 kg)

200 meter weighted run (25 kg)

I went back to the East Seine docks this morning feeling great. My shoulder had no pain, my legs and butt were the right amount of sore from the single leg deadlifts yesterday, and I was well rested. The perfect storm of circumstances to tackle a challenging routine, and Didzis was there to make sure I didn't wimp out (pictured above).

The spider climbs were an exercise that were screaming to be attempted, just from the construction of the staircase down by the river. Hooking my heels on top of the lip of the I-beam running parallel to the ground 8 feet up, I pulled myself up along the 45 degree angle to the top, a distance of about 5 meters. I then reversed course and carefully slid/climbed back to the bottom. This was the most dangerous element of the workout, so it had to be done first while I was fresh, and it was worth it. It was a very cool combination of grip/arm strength, coordination, and lower body stability. Finding a spot to do this type of inverted exercise will do anyone good.

The burpees were tough. A 9 foot target is much higher than I thought it was, and re-emphasized how pathetically I normally jump during burpees. This was a good change of pace in that respect. The overhead lunges weren’t too challenging. 20 steps just isn’t very many, but that was okay considering the rest of the workload still to come.

Heading back to the staircase, I jumped up and grabbed the under side of a step probably 9 ½ feet up (it took me 2 jumps to catch the ledge), and began reverse climbing up the stairs. Going one at a time was the safest play, as my lower body was definitely not keeping itself as steady as I would’ve liked. There were 8 stairs between the cross beams, so that was as far as I could go. Coming down was actually the most challenging part. Controlling momentum and being accurate with the hand placement as the grip starts to fail is a challenge.

And my grip was failing, so the toes to bar were the perfect exercise to follow. I did them strict while gripping either side of the I beam from underneath. These felt great because there was no bar to kick. I actually increased the range of motion by kicking back beyond my hands on most of the repetitions.

Next came the stone squats. Ouch. The parking median weighed around 50 kg if I had to guess, but felt like more. Holding it vertically in both hands and leaning it back against my chest, I squatted down until my hands nearly touched the ground. Doing squats this way really lets you get deep. My legs fatigued quickly, and all over. This exercise was phenomenal. I’m planning on coming back here on a strength day and doing these with a heavier stone because they were so effective. The balance and weight distribution are perfect. Much better than doing barbell squats.

The handstand pushups were next up, and I was a little nervous because of my shoulder. Non-issue. I got 10 in a row the first go, then finish with 5, 3, and 2. Definitely getting better here. The KB swings were much more difficult. Swinging the fence post anchor was really awkward and my hands couldn’t really fit in the handle because of the gloves I was wearing. It took me 3 sets to finish 20… not so impressive. However, much more impressive than the weighted run to finish. I had assumed this would be no problem, but as soon as I took off with the 25 kg weight wrapped to my chest, my posterior chain lit up. Ass, lower back, everything. I dropped for a rest after the first 100 meters, and again with about 60 meters to go.

Finally I was able to finish, stopping the clock at 13:29. Overall, the time wasn’t bad, but certainly could stand improvement in a few areas. The video is posted below. Looking forward to a day of rest and enjoying the impending American gold medal in ice hockey. Let’s hear that anthem…

Friday, February 26, 2010

One leg at a time

Flamingo standing on one leg
Workout of the Day:
Single leg barbell deadlift 4, 4, 4, 4, 4
Good Mornings 10, 10, 10
I took it easy today, trying to avoid using my shoulder too much. Honestly, it feels much better. I haven't even noticed it since this morning. I'm going back to the banks of the Seine tomorrow afternoon to get creative, so hopefully things are back in order.
Tonight's workout felt great overall. I can definitely feel a strength difference between my left and right legs, though. Initially it was as though my right hamstring was doing all of the work and the glute was disengaged. I did a few hip stretches and single leg bridges in between sets (a trick to activate the glutes I picked up from T-Nation a few years back) and things felt better. My weights were: 70 kg, 80 kg, 85 kg, 90 kg, and 90 kg, respectively. Being that I could get 4 repetitions on single leg with this weight, it seems even more obvious that the limiting factor in my deadlifting is not my lower body.
I finished with 3 sets of 10 bent knee good mornings with 40 kg. The goal here was to try and use only my lower back to lift the weight, since that's the area needing the most work. These felt fine also, so I probably could have used a little heavier weight.
Looking forward to tomorrow.

Fitness is...

Dealing with injury.

As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, our bodies are perishable items.

It’s pretty common to describe impressive athletes as machines or beasts, but they’re not. Olympic Biathletes are the same mix of blood, bone, and tissue as everybody else; subject to the same wear and tear, susceptible to the same bumps, bruises, and breakdowns. The most elite CrossFitter’s body and psyche wilts under heavy stress just like yours or mine, albeit at a seemingly much slower rate. The point is, everyone has limits. While pushing them is necessary to progress, ignoring them will put you on the shelf more often than not. And I don’t see too many people PR’ing from the rehab room.

I was reminded of my limits the other night at the Cite gym. I was doing weighted dips, and at some point during my 4th set I felt a twinge in my right shoulder. I shook my arm a little, rotated the joint forward and back, massaged the area (doing all those clinical tests that determine whether an injury is serious or not…) and prepared to get back on the bars. Trying to do the first repetition, I could feel things still weren’t quite right. The pain wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t have continued, but it was awkward enough to make me think twice. This was the critical moment where so many people lose their natural capacity for rational thought and decide to just “work through it.” Thankfully, I decided to call it a night rather than pushing my luck. It was frustrating, annoying, and I didn’t want to do it, but it was the right thing to do. After leaving the gym, it started to tighten up and I could tell that I had definitely strained the muscle to some degree. If I had stayed and continued with the program I had set out to do, things could very easily have gotten worse. As it is, I rested last night, rested today, and it’s starting to feel better already.

It was a pretty simple decision that is easy to justify on a number of levels. The question is, why is this so hard to do for so many people? I have a few theories.

First, there’s the hourglass phenomenon. All too often, people convince themselves that every day not working is a day wasted; as if the realization of their ultimate physical potential depends most urgently upon the number of training days they check off the calendar. Training programs become planned to the point that one is so mentally invested in the process of squeezing everything in that he can’t bring himself to walk away from a bad physical situation. This is so blatantly illogical that a profound ignorance/imposed blindness of physiology is the only explanation. To quote one of my dearest friends and teammates, “you have to rest to progress.” It’s trite, but true. Working every day without recovery, or every week without a break, will keep your body in a constant state of recovery, never reaching 100% of its work capacity. In fact, it will drop lower and lower as you go on, raising the risk of injury as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints wear out along the way. It makes no sense to ask 100% of your body when it only has 60% to give. The human body is born of the natural world, and is governed by waves and periods just like orbits, seasons, and tides. Treat it that way and we find ourselves in a healthy rhythm with huge performance benefits. Treat it otherwise and we grind our gears until they stop.

Second, people don’t know how to listen to their bodies. It takes a good deal of experience to know the difference between pain and injury, and even more to know what types of injuries pose the risk of becoming serious. Knowing the difference between joint pain and muscle pain, between soreness and strains, between physical weakness and mental weakness: these are nuanced senses that you have to develop. Then, once you develop them, you have to listen. What good is knowing that my shoulder just tweaked if I ignore the message and go on pressing like nothing happened? I know too many people who sustain minor injuries to their knees, ankles, shoulders, or backs and refuse to acknowledge the problem. Total shocker: those problems are still there, and they’ve usually led to new injuries in other areas.

Third, most of us don’t know how to deal with injuries once we get them. Most injuries sustained during the course of a given workout are not career-enders. If something serious happens (tear/break/rupture) and you need surgery or extended immobilization, this is obviously a different matter and you’re likely going to be laid up a while whether you like it or not. However, if something tweaks, strains, or pulls, chances are its minor and just needs the right blend of rest, recovery, and mild activity to heal itself. The good news is, the right blend isn’t hard to figure out. Different injuries require different treatments, most of which will include ice, massage/stretching, and mild activity (All these salves are designed to circulate nutrients and blood through the affected area). Talking to others who have had similar problems and using resources online are great ways to find the right method for treating whatever it is that’s bothering you. What’s NOT effective is pretending like nothing’s wrong, or “testing it out” on Fight Gone Bad before it’s ready.

Lastly, people often think an injury is a matter of toughness. This is the unfortunate offspring of a culture obsessed with winning and sacrifice. The stories in American sports alone (the area I know most about) abound: Ronnie Lott choosing to amputate his finger on the sidelines rather than leave the football field to have it treated, Michael Jordan scoring 45 points while doubled over with a stomach flu, Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open with a torn ACL. These feats are worshiped for their toughness, and for good reason. These were calculated sacrifices for a goal worthy of physical injury, both in dollar amounts and in the commitment to their teammates and fans. What these men did is, and never will be, the same as someone tearing their hands open on a pullup bar at their local gym, then doing 50 more pullups. It’s not the same as gimping your way through a mainsite WOD of box jumps and double unders when you have a sprained ankle. Daily training is about improvement and progress, so what could be the possible benefit of standing on a branch that’s about to break? You risk days, weeks, or months of recovery for the ego boost you got for “toughing it out.”

I’m no cyborg, so I’m going to take it easy the next few days, ice, stretch, and make sure my shoulder is okay before doing anything serious with it. There are plenty of areas that don't involve the shoulder joint where I need work, so it shouldn't be too big a deal if I lay that hourglass on its side. Gotta rest to progress.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Workout of the Day:

In the morning…

30 minutes low intensity run

In the afternoon…

Snatch 2, 2, 2, 1, 1

Back Squat 5, 5, 3, 3, 3

The small space didn’t prove too much of an issue today, though it is definitely hard to concentrate with people milling around a few feet away. And I was too scared to push my limits on the weight because getting it down from overhead is a bit of a chore (I’m still hesitant to drop it from the top in the middle of the class, so I half catch, half drop). My weights were: 70 kg, 80 kg, 85 kg (miss 2nd), 85 kg, and 90 kg. The last repetition of the day went up really easy and clean, so that was a great way to finish things off.

The back squats felt heavy. My weights were: 125 kg, 135 kg, 145 kg, 155 kg, and 160 kg. The last repetition on each of the last 2 sets was a pretty good fight, and I could definitely feel my knees diving in as I pushed to get each up. Getting 3 repetitions at 160 kg is ok, but not great. I think a 3 rep max at 175 kg is going to be my goal for these next few months. Hopefully that will help me get my 1 RM to 200 kg.

I connected with my friend Richard in Brussels today over Facebook because he has a line on a set of lifting shoes. It’s long overdue, but I’m going to find a way to get them in the next few weeks, hopefully. Squatting and snatching in Airwalks has its advantages, but I don’t think optimum performance is one of them.

Running the Eiffel Tower tomorrow afternoon. Hoping to crack 5 minutes to the top.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Down with Canada!

Workout of the Day:

8 sets strict pullup variations

3 sets lateral toes to bar

3 sets back extension

24 Feb 2002:  Team Canada celebrates winning the 5-2 over the USA in the men's ice hockey gold medal game.

After staying up til 5am watching the U.S. beat Canada in Olympic hockey, I was feeling a little rough this morning. There were quite a few celebratory shots taken at the Great Canadian Pub in Paris so today’s workout was more of a recovery effort than anything else.

I decided to take a page from my friend and pullup aficionado Frank Passanante @ Steelfit and spend the evening getting creative with various strict pullups. I did 2 sets pulling as high as possible, getting my sternum to the bar. I did 3 sets with a towel thrown across the support beam and using it to pull myself up until my head cleared the bar on either side. I did the next 2 sets pulling away from the bar so that my legs and hips raised up as my head and chest peeled back. This variation was cool because it engaged a different part of the back entirely. The last 2 sets were L-sit chin ups. I was getting between 6-10 repetitions for all of these.

Continuing in the creative vein, I worked 3 sets of lateral toes to bar. This is where you try to pull your legs up at an oblique angle. I couldn’t get close to the bar but felt the effects nonetheless. I also did a few sets of hanging rotational L-sits, continually rotating from side to side without dropping the thighs below parallel.

Finishing up with the back extensions put the finishing touches on my hangover. I walked out of the gym feeling much better than when I walked in and I’m always happy with that. Tomorrow I’m going to try to snatch in the cramped space available, but I may need an alternate plan just in case. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Part I... Part II

Workout of the Day:

Part I:

3 rounds for time:

250 meter sandbag run (30 kg)

9, 6, 3 wall climbs & burpee box jumps

Rest 1 hour

Part II:

20 minute progression ladder

Alternate between pullups and OH squat (40 kg)

Coach Didzis came with me today to help film and encourage. I’d been waiting for a sunny day to do Part I for a while now, and finally Paris obliged. The sandbag runs were terrible, just as I remembered them being. The stretch of road we used had a slight incline so that on the way out things felt okay. Coming back, however, was another story. Each of these sets got progressively slower, but I never had to stop or drop the bag. That’s a victory.

The wall climbs were great! This is a really exercise that is much harder than it looks and teaches you how to move your body around an object that isn’t moving. It was especially difficult today because the area just in front of the wall was wet, causing my feet to slip off the stone surface when I went to plant and spring upward. I probably would have been better off not even trying to use my feet for help given the conditions. Either way it was exhausting and fun at the same time.

The burpee box jumps were equally fun. I used the other side of the wall (just over waist high) and got a rolling start into every jump just to be sure I could get all the way up. The whole sequence took 13:26 to complete, but it felt like much longer. My forearms are a little nicked up from the stone but, all in all, no major damage done.

I rested exactly an hour then headed into the Cite gym to do the progression ladder. The heaviest weight available on Saturdays was a 40 kg relic of a barbell with welded weights on either end. This wound up being too light for the OH squats, but it had to do. I completed the first 8 sets of pullups unbroken, but had to split on the 17 and 19 repetition rounds. The squats I never broke. I contemplated continuing past the 20 minute mark, but decided against it. 60 kg is the weight that should be used for this sequence, then 20 rounds would be a serious challenge.

The video footage from both parts is below…

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Workout of the Day:

Deadlift - 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 (dead stop between repetitions)

Bench Press – 4, 4, 3, 3

3 x 1 minute rounds of:

Handstand pushup

Strict toes to bar

Double unders

Rest 1 minute

The heavy training resumed today, and with decent results. My deadlift weights were 140 kg, 145 kg, 150 kg, 155 kg, and 160 kg. The last repetition of the 5th set was ugly I think, but all the rest were good. My lower back is still the weak link in the chain, but it’s getting better. Hopefully I’m not too sore tomorrow.

I’ve definitely lost some strength on the bench. I lifted 110 kg, 120 kg, 125 kg, and 125 kg. I know that I could do 130 kg for 3 repetitions a few months ago, so this was disappointing. But I guess that’s what I should have expected not having done the movement for so long.

The last element was really fun. With a running clock, I worked for 3 minutes and rested for 1, going straight from hspu’s to toes to bar to double unders. The first set I recorded 13, 14, and 75 repetitions, respectively. The second set was 11, 14, and 67. The last was 10, 10, and 68. Transition time affected these totals a bit from set to set, but that’s all part of it. I was really happy that I got double digit hspu’s on all three sets, especially after the heavy bench presses. Hopefully this means my muscular endurance and stamina is finally improving in this movement.

Been really enjoying the sightseeing with Bob, Jonathan, and Denise these past few days. They've been showing me a side of Paris I had yet to experience and I'm very grateful.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just keep rowing...

Workout of the Day:

For time:

2000 meter row

50 x 2 for 1 burpees

1000 meter row


Sadly, I'm not as tough as these stone-faced ironmen. But I do my best. This morning I woke up very sore in my chest, traps, and shoulders, very sore in my arms, and with a dull headache I can only assume was a result of the combined effects of the formerly mentioned. An exertion hangover perhaps? As the day wore on, things did not improve and I was suffering from a sizeable energy deficit by the time 6 pm rolled around. Honestly, I really did not want to train. I felt like shit, I was tired and sore, and I knew the workout I had written was not going to be fun. The biggest reason I made it out the door anyways was because I had enlisted a training partner for this week’s WODs back in DC. If I hadn’t committed to him that I was going to do the work today, I probably would not have done it.

I warmed up like usual, but with little enthusiasm. I got on the rower, pulled a few hundred meters to loosen up, got off and really considered just stretching instead. Surely everyone has been at this crossroads more than once when it comes to training on days you really aren’t feeling it. Usually, someone else in the gym will help you through it. Today, I had no one. No one except my imaginary training partner in Washington. Turns out it was enough. It also turns out that it was a good decision. Much like a beer the morning after a big night can cure a hangover, this WOD pulled my head out of its fog and loosened my body up considerably.

The initial 2000 meters started off okay, though I definitely didn’t feel like I was imparting the same snap as usual. With little strategy other than trying to save enough juice to get through the burpees without puking, I finished this first leg in 7:06. Didn’t feel too bad actually. I was able to get off, take a few breaths and go right into the 2 for 1’s (this means 2 pushups per burpee). The challenge here was definitely the breath. Coming off the rower and going straight into this exercise, you just can’t catch up with the oxygen demand. I did them in groups of 5, resting a few breaths between. It should be noted that never was I bouncing up and down like a full paced burpee. Didn’t quite have the mustard for that, but I did finish in 5:30, which I didn’t feel was too bad considering all factors. I think a good time for this would be closer to 3 minutes. Maybe next time.

The last 1000 meters was grueling mentally. I kept the pace around 1:50 most of the way, but the meters just seemed to click by slower than they ever have. Kept telling myself, "just keep rowing, just keep rowing." It took me 3:48 to finish this leg, putting my final time at 16:24. I think sub 15:00 is definitely within reason, but considering my state of mind entering the gym, tonight was a success. A marginal one. My effort level was high, but not topped out, and I hate that it took the shame of hanging my buddy out to dry back in DC to convince me to put in the work. Ah well. End result is that I feel better and the job got done.

Rest day tomorrow and Bob Vastine in town the weekend? Hallelujah Jaffar.

Eating and Recovery During Events

This is not meant to be an overly in depth post on this subject, and I am certainly no mad scientist when it comes to game day nutrition and recovery techniques. Rather, this is more of a rundown of what I like to do during an event to combat fatigue and exhaustion. In anticipation of the upcoming sectional qualifiers in March and to follow up the competition just finished in Copenhagen, and in response to questions on the topic, it seemed a fitting time to raise the issue.

These days tend to be very long, with a few breaks of an hour or so in duration, so timing food and recovery snacks proves to be one of the more important considerations. My attitude towards this is simple: Eat big early; eat easily digestable nutrients in small portions throughout the day; and LIE DOWN.

The reason for the big early meal is because this is really the only chance you will have to let your body properly digest some real food. Chances are, you can get up early enough to give yourself 2-3 hours processing time before your first event whereas the rest of the day will not afford you this opportunity. I don’t advise eating anything out of the ordinary. It’s probably not a good idea to experiment with some radical “energy” food the day of an event. Stick with what your body is used to and give yourself enough time to be ready for the first WOD.

By eating easily digestable nutrients I mean protein, creatine, amino acids, electrolytes, and other supplements immediately after an event to speed recovery; but also trail mix, fruit, sweet potatoes, and other “real” foods in small quantities to give you energy throughout the day. Again, it doesn’t pay to experiment with things your body isn’t used to. If you never drink protein shakes after workouts (you should), don’t start doing it during a contest. If you don’t take creatine or amino acids (you should), don’t go out and buy a bunch of it for a qualifier. Same goes for snacks. Eat what you’re used to, just more frequently and in smaller portions. The idea behind eating small quantities, in addition to avoiding the risk of throwing up, is to avoid pushing too much blood to your stomach as it digests your meal. Necessarily, there would then be less blood available to help your muscles meet their imposed demands, lowering your level of performance. For me, whey protein mixed with creatine, amino acids, and Gatorade is the go-to shake after an event. For snacks, bananas, sweet potatoes, almonds, raisins, apples, and maybe some deli meat constitute the bulk of it.

It should go without saying that if there’s a 3-hour break in the event, you should go eat a real meal, similar to what you normally would.

Regardless of how well you snack and replenish during a day filled with taxing events, it’s just as important that you get off your feet between workouts. It’s easy to get caught up in other heats or watching friends compete, which is all well and good. But giving your body time to recover and to use the nutrients you’re pumping into it is invaluable. This goes beyond simple muscular fatigue, so even if your legs feel fine, go lie down. Just consider the total time your body is expected to work and focus during a typical qualifier, and compare that to what it’s used to on a typical day. In Copenhagen, for example, I was at or near 100% effort for close to 37 minutes. Imagine what sprinting for 37 minutes would do to the central nervous system. Or what being in a 37-minute match of tug of war does to stress levels. Day 1 of last summers Games was even worse: just over 70 minutes of maximum concentration and effort. The simple act of not quitting is hard after that much time under pressure. My nerves were just as fried as my muscles, if not more.

More specialized recovery tools include massage and ice. If you have access to them, use them. Ice baths are amazing. They utilize the body’s natural reaction to the lowering of extremity temperature by pumping blood to the area in an effort to warm it back up, involuntarily circulating nutrients that help your muscles recover. It is the most effective way to keep legs fresh, in my experience. Massage is great as well. Circulation and relaxation of affected areas in between workouts helps prepare the body for the upcoming load to bear. Foam rollers, Sticks, a masseur (if you’re lucky enough to know one), whatever. Find them and use them.

That’s about all I’ve got on nutrition and recovery. There are many other sources out there far more scientific and better researched, so you don’t have to take my word on any of these things if you don’t want to. These are just methods that I have learned from personal experience to work well. If anybody has other ideas/methods that they know to work, please share them.

(Reading back over this, I failed to mention water. Duh. This should be obvious, but I’ll say it. Drink as much as you can. You’ll never have enough.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Heavy weights

Workout of the Day:

Squat Clean – 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

Front Squat – 5, 5, 3, 3

4 minute Tabata Rounds with no rest between: pullups, pushups, butterfly situps, squats

So, a good and bad review for the return to heavy weight training. It looks like any heavy lifting I want to do will be no problem. Heavy dropping may be another issue. The space is crowded and I don’t think dumping weight from overhead is going to fly. Obviously, this is disappointing for maximum efforts in jerk and snatch attempts. But I think I will survive using slightly less weight and doing doubles and triples for a while, then hope that people will get used to my presence and be less shocked if I miss a jerk and have to drop the weight from 7 feet.

Today’s session was the perfect workload. My weights for the squat cleans were: 100 kg x 3, 105 kg x 3, 105 kg x 3, 105 kg x 2, 105 kg x 2. The last 2 sets I couldn’t get the 3rd clean up out of the hole, once because my stance was too wide, and the other because I just didn’t have the pop left. These tired me out and were challenging from a concentration standpoint as well. Imagine about a meter of space in every direction from my center, with people milling about refusing to grant me any breathing room whatsoever. Given these factors, I’m very happy with how these went.

Moving to the squat sets, I knew they would be tough after the cleans. My weights were: 100 kg, 100 kg, 110 kg, 110 kg for each set, respectively. The focus was on getting great depth and maintaining my upper body posture throughout the movement. Depth was not a problem. Posture was a problem. 5 heavy front squats is a lot, and I could feel my balance shaking towards the end. Same story on the 110 kg sets of 3. I did everything in my five fingers, which is not ideal. I really need some Olympic lifting shoes.

The Tabata rounds went fine as well. I scored 82 pullups, 78 pushups, 65 situps, and 119 air squats. After the heavy stuff, I really didn’t feel like doing a bodyweight metcon, but was so glad I did it in the end. My lungs felt much better than yesterday, and the muscle recovery between intervals wasn’t too bad. Minus some shoulder soreness from yesterday, everything felt good. Of course, as I write that I am noticing my chest and triceps hurting more and more from all the dips. In a good way, naturally.

Afterwards I joined Didzis, Maurice, and Liza to go explore 2 of Paris's parks, one of which was absolutely unbelievable. There is what appears to be an ancient temple up on top of an enormous rock jetty right in the middle. There's a full blown moat/pond around it and a waterfall behind. Truly incredible to find something like this in the middle of the city. I hope to return with my rings and some sand later this month...

Monday, February 15, 2010


Workout of the Day:

In the morning…

4 rounds: 10 clapping pushups/sprint 400 meters

Rest 1 minute between sets

In the evening…

15 minutes of EDDs

5 x max reps of close grip handstand pushups (on 25 kg bumper plate), rest as needed

3 x 4 DB push press (30 kg) w/ 6 second eccentric, done from the knees

5 rounds for time:

20 bar dips

10 glute ham pushups

Back in the drivers seat and feeling good! After 8 solid days of rest my body is feeling recovered and ready to build towards May’s European Qualifier. Also, I now have access to heavy weights again. First time since arriving in Paris on January 4th. I get to lift with the big boys on Tuesdays and Fridays, with supposedly no limitations. How much of this is true still remains to be seen.

One thing that is without doubt, though, is my return to a cornerstone training program. Now that I know exactly what I have at my disposal and on which days I will be able to dispose of it, I am forced to organize my programming around those days. So, from now until I leave Paris in 6 weeks, Tuesday is for Olympic lifting and squatting, and Friday is for deadlifting and heavy pressing. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays will be AM/PM days, pairing outdoor challenges with gymnastic & lighter weight metcons. It's going to be a heavy workload. Love it.

This morning went pretty well, although the sprints felt like death, if I’m being honest. I went over to the track around 10:30 this morning, so it wasn’t too busy. But it was chilly outside. I’m not sure if it was because of the cold weather, the lingering effects of a chest cold I had last week, or just 8 days away from any heavy cardio, but my lungs were collapsing during the sprints. Going from a plyometric upper body movement directly to an explosive lower body movement probably didn't help matters either. The initial 100 meters after doing the clapping pushups made me want to puke on every round. My times got consistently slower, as should be expected, starting just under 1:30 and dropping back close to 1:45 by the last (this is pushups and run combined).

Important point to be made here. If somebody did this workout and their times didn’t get worse, they weren't sprinting. We say “sprint” a lot when we write workouts on white boards, but people do not sprint. Easy answer for this one: sprinting sucks! I was at 90% of capacity or higher on every round, and that’s an honest assessment. I should have been going harder rounds 3 and 4, but I softened and got scared I was going to lose my breakfast. If you really sprint 400 meters, you’re a puddle of worthlessness for at least a minute. No way you can recover to 100% of your resting potential in that time, but that’s the point. Going to 100% of whatever your current potential is, that’s the goal of a sprint. No saving up. The only way to get better at maximal efforts is to do them over and over and over again (See John Broz). This counts for sprinting as well.

This evening I was back at the Cite gym, battling for space and sanity in a room filled with neither. Despite these impediments, the workout was awesome. Starting with the EDDs, I was ecstatic to discover that pistol squats are improving dramatically. I’m still not all the way there, but much, much closer. They say practice makes perfect. Maybe they were right.

The close grip handstand pushups felt great as well. It’s still a little awkward trying to generate force from such a narrow base position, but the muscles adapted well by the latter sets. My repetitions per set were: 4, 3, 4, 4, 5. I’m confident that the next time I do this I can get 5 every set. The DB push presses from the knees with a 6 second eccentric were an exercise designed to do 2 things. First: hip drive on the push press, and second: stability/strength through the range of motion on the descent. GREAT exercise. Going to try this with a barbell as well because it will be a very effective way to improve OH press and push jerks.

I finished with the 5 rounds for time of 20 dips and 10 glute ham pushups. Didzis was good enough to hold my ankles for me during this sequence. I finished in 8:34. Because both of these movements are pretty isolated, this was predominantly a muscle failure routine. I was out of breath, but not so terribly that it was in any way limiting. Triceps strength was a factor, especially after all the pressing done early in the workout, and my hamstrings were screaming during the glute hams. I can feel them now, in fact. It’s a great bodyweight test that few people include. My friend Robert from Copenhagen (pictured above) reminded me of them while we were chatting between events last weekend. He's convinced that they are going to really help build strength in the deadlift. I'm inclined to agree.

That's all for now. Getting Olympic tomorrow morning for the first time in well over a month. Could be ugly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Danish CrossFit Open 2010 - WOD 5

Coming into the final event, the standings were tight. I had a 2-point cushion over Rasmus, last year’s champion, and a 6-point edge over Frederik, the WOD 4 winner. We were set to do 3 rounds of 500 meter row, 21 kettlebell swings w/2 pood, and 15 burpees. It’s a classic CrossFit style routine that would prove crippling after all the lower body taxation that had occurred earlier in the day.

The organizers at CrossFit Copenhagen decided the 5th WOD would be worth double points, making it more dramatic and more impactful than any of the previous 4. This meant that first place would receive 1 point, 2nd would receive 4 points, 3rd would receive 6 points, etc.

A great deal was made about this before the event, since 1st and 2nd were separated by just 2 points. Too great a deal, in fact. Entering the WOD, I was far too focused on beating Rasmus and not focused enough on the workout itself. Perhaps this was a result of misguided strategy, getting caught up in the moment, or my recent lack of exposure to group training dynamics, but it’s a fundamental rule that you can never break without consequences in a competitive environment. This lesson I narrowly escaped learning the hard way.

My plan was to keep my first 500 meters around 1:40, maybe giving a little time to Rasmus, and try to take advantage of my shorter height to make it up on the kettlebell swings and burpees. This worked from the start. Everyone was about even off the rowers, but when we returned for the 2nd round, Martin Moller and I had sidled into the lead. My second 500 meters was around 1:45 and when I hit the kettlebell for the second time I had the lead to myself. Rasmus was still only about 50 meters behind me from what I could tell on the rower, so I was pushing hard on the swings and burpees. Fatigue was setting in, but with the whole day on the line, it was easily an afterthought. I broke the kettlebells in half and the burpees were consistent but not as fast as the first.

I was alone heading back to the rower for the last time and I had already hit 250 meters before Rasmus made his way over. And here is where things went wrong. I was tired. VERY tired. But to this point the competition between he and I was still mentally in doubt. After this point, I knew that my lead was substantial enough to hold him off even if I slowed down considerably. As soon as this mental crack appeared, it widened into physical exhaustion. Suddenly, all the fatigue and pain that was necessary to the cause was no longer essential, and I started to break down. I got off the rower first, but spent a good 10 seconds with my hands on my knees before picking up the kettlebell. I then stopped after 7, 13, and 18 repetitions, respectively. With each of these breaks I could see Martin, Frederik, and Anders catching me at the other end, but their efforts made no difference to my psyche. I was only concerned with what Rasmus was doing and he was still on the rower. I went to the burpees with zero sense of urgency, a fact easily perceptible on film. On the contrary, the 3 guys at the other end were giving it their absolute all, sprinting to the finish. Watching clips of them (from other video sources) is inspiring. With incredible energy, Martin finished first and roared into the crowd. Frederik followed him just a handful of seconds later, and Anders 10 or so after that. I limped in with the same pathetic pace I had set for myself from the moment I knew Rasmus would not overtake me.

Now, one might wonder what is wrong with my approach. Why not focus on the individual upon whose defeat the ultimate victory rests? Fair enough, but what I failed to consider going into the event was that if Frederik finished 1st and I finished 4th or worse, he would overtake me and win the overall. I, in fact, finished 4th. Frederik finished 2nd, and not by much. He was first to the burpees, actually, and it took a mammoth effort by Martin to overtake him down the stretch. All of this was occurring in front of my face, but outside of my consciousness. I didn’t even know that Frederik had come so close to winning it all until that night at the after party when he told me. I was floored. Thankfully it didn’t happen that way, but, in a certain sense, this feels like a victory undeserved. I can look at this as an error in math before the event, that I didn't fully inform myself of all possible scenarios. Or, I can accept that my mental approach was wrong, and it manifested its flaws in physical form during that final round.

The lesson is this: in circumstances that are taxing and uncomfortable (CrossFit WODs, for example) your body will seize every opportunity to avoid pain. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to remove every excuse to do so. Essentially, every excuse is equally detrimental and, thus, equally shitty. I shouldn’t have been competing against Rasmus. I shouldn’t have been competing for the podium. I should have been competing with the rower, the kettlebell, and the burpees. I should have been competing with anyone in the gym that was threatening to finish before I did. Doing anything else, for any other reason is just the same shitty excuse in new shoes.

Finishing this workout was a real chore, and reflecting on its last 3 minutes or so has taught me a lot. Like has been said before, failure is the best teacher. Pay attention.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Danish CrossFit Open 2010 - WOD 4

Today marks a break in the storm. My legs are finally starting to recover, and with a few more days rest and relaxation I think I should be good to resume training again. On to the 4th event.

WOD 4 of the Danish CrossFit Open was a barbell complex. With 50 kg, we were required to perform 15 rounds of 1 power snatch, 1 OH squat, 1 back thruster, 1 squat jump, and another back thruster (I forgot to note the OH squat in the video). The standings going into this event were tied at the top, with Rasmus and I both totaling 8 points, so placement here was really important before the final. My strategy was to drop the bar between rounds to try and save my grip and lower back. Having already done virtual shoveling, bodyweight squats, and max effort deadlifts, the lower half was starting to feel pretty fatigued and hanging onto the bar from overhead to the ground just felt like too much effort.

My pace at the beginning was quick and strong, and I could feel myself in the lead for the heat. At around 10, I started to slow a bit, breaking for a count between the thrusters and the jump. This proved to be a mistake. Frederik from Butchers Lab was only a round behind me at that point and he quickly made it up. He picked up his pace at the end while I started to slow and ended up beating me by around 10 seconds. I finished second in the heat and still managed to put some space between myself and Rasmus heading into the final, but I came away disappointed in the event. I think I could have performed better and pushed harder for the last few rounds and maybe have been able to hold Frederik off. As it turned out, he was the better man and kept himself within striking distance, a point that proved very important in the finals.

The standings after the 4th event were Blair: 10 pts, Rasmus: 12 pts, Frederik: 16 pts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Danish CrossFit Open 2010 - WOD 3

The third workout of the day was a 1RM deadlift, to be completed in an 8 minute window. Of all the strength events that could have been drawn, this is definitely my worst in relation to my peers. It seems to always come up, though, so it’s a weakness I’m learning to overcome.

Coming into the event, my personal record for deadlift was a 200 kg lift I did in the Netherlands with the help of a back belt. Without the belt, the most I had done was 190 kg. Getting stronger in this lift has been a priority since moving to Europe last September, but in the last month I have had no access to heavy weights. My expectations were minimal, but I was hoping to match my 200 kg PR and not fall too far behind the field.

My first lift was at 176 kg. Felt fine. My second was intended to be at 191 kg, but actually was at 181 kg. This was a whoops moment and an extra lift I didn’t need to do. For the third attempt, I loaded 196 kg and had to fight a little to get it up. But, considering it was 6 kg above my highest non-belt lift, I still felt pretty good. I then went for 201 kg. This weight felt about the same as the 196, to be honest. It was heavy around the shins, but once I got it past my knees I knew it was coming up. With less than a minute left I decided to go for 206 kg, but it didn’t budge. I think that if I hadn’t taken the unnecessary lift early on, I may have had enough time and juice left to put a better move on that weight. Either way, I PR’d and was happy with the lifts.

More than anything, I was surprised at how little stiffness I felt in my back after these attempts. My form wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t too bad, and usually after a max effort series I can really feel it in my lower back. I see this as a positive sign for the strength gains I have made, even if I still have a ways to go to keep up with the rest of the field. Two guys pulled over 230 kg, one pulled 221 kg, and two others were between 202 and 220 kg. People were PRing all over the gym. It really was an incredible scene that you couldn’t help getting caught up in. The women’s competition was particularly exciting with three of the girls dueling back and forth during the last few minutes trying to one-up each other. Sarah, Ditte, and Liz were all adding 1 or 2 kilograms at a time to out lift the others. Pretty cool.

After the event, I was in a tie for first with Rasmus, who took 3rd in the event, compared to my 6th. Things were shaping up for an exciting finish, and they wouldn’t disappoint.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Danish CrossFit Open 2010 - WOD 2

Back in Paris now, and things have not improved on the soreness front. I went with Sarah and my buddies Jess and Lars over to CrossFit Copenhagen to try and stretch out/loosen up a bit, but nothing really seemed to help. Getting off the plane at Charles de Gaulle was a series of stiff and short steps that I was embarrassed to put forth.

I felt a little sad to leave Denmark today. Between this past weekend and my time there last November, I’ve really grown to love the place and the people. In particular, Sarah and her husband Frederick have become people I greatly admire and respect, and whose friendship I can’t value enough. Attachment is funny that way, I guess. It’s hard for me to be satisfied with knowing people like them and others with whom I’ve grown close without resenting the limited contact our geographical differences allow us. I think it says a lot about the city of Copenhagen, the CrossFit community there, and about people like Sarah and Frederick that I can feel an emotive connection after such limited experiences. I can honestly say that I miss it, and them, when I'm gone.

Anyways, enough emotional indulgence. Here is the recap of the second WOD...

The second event of the Danish CrossFit Open began about an hour after the first ended. It featured a 2:30 running clock, in which time the athletes had to row 500 meters then do as many repetitions of back squat with their bodyweight on the bar. For me, that total was 83 kg, as determined by our early morning weigh in at the gym.

Going in, this was the event I felt most confident in. 83 kg is less than 45% of my 1RM, so I figured that coming off the rower I should be able to do a sizeable number of these without much trouble. I rowed the 500 meters in around 1:35, not trying to push things too hard and zap my legs as a few others in the early heats had done. The first 3-4 reps did not feel so hot, if I’m honest. The best total to that point had been 20, by my friend Anders from Butchers Lab (pictured above). This is another guy I've grown to really appreciate. He's a great guy, super strong, a serious olympic lifter, and tough like a coffin nail. He finished 20 repetitions by doing all of them unbroken and just barely finished under the time limit. So when I felt I needed to lock out for a count after my 6th rep, I thought I was screwed. However, my legs felt progressively better as my rep count increased, so that by the time I hit 15 things were cruising along. I wound up completing 21 total repetitions and taking first in the event (thought from the video it looks like I get 22 before they call time. Maybe one didn't count). I think I rowed the 500 around 10 seconds faster than he did, accounting for my having more time to complete the squats.

Anders took second and Rasmus third, leaving the gap between my position and second place at just 3 points. This event suited my strengths more than any other in the competition, so I was happy to have won it. The rest of the day would not be so comfortable.

Danish CrossFit Open 2010 - WOD 1

The 2010 Danish CrossFit Open is now in the books and I wound up finishing first. My current state of being is happy but broken. I’m sitting on the couch next to the female champion (Sarah-picture right) watching the super bowl on Danish television, unable to move my legs without pain. Every time I have to stand up to get a glass of water or go to the bathroom it’s a struggle getting down the hall. The workouts, programming, and organization were top notch and the crowd was insane! “Atmosphere” doesn’t do it justice. Needless to say, I’m exhausted and a week of rest is needed.

In recounting the happenings of this past weekend, I’ve decided to break the event up and write about one workout per day over the course of the next 5, and do a general wrap up on the sixth. There’s so much to tell, so I’ll start with the day’s first WOD.

WOD 1: 10 minute AMRAP of 20 virtual shovels (40 kg), 10 box jumps (24”), 6 meter rope climb

The standards for the shoveling movement were to raise a bar with a 20 kg bumper over a 24 inch box and touch it down on either side without bringing it around the box in the process. The box jumps required vertical extension above the box, and there were no rules for the climbs. 10 minutes wasn’t a long time, but the shoveling movement was awkward and the ropes were thick and slick nylon so it felt like much longer. Watching the early heats, it became obvious that the competition was strong and skilled. Some of these guys climb ropes like I walk through a supermarket: with no wasted effort or time whatsoever. They have inspired me to change my technique entirely. Last years champion, Rasmus Andresen, was especially impressive. He completed 8 rounds plus 16 shovels before running out of time in the first heat. He’s in the Danish special forces, is extremely mentally tough, and I think he could have gone on indefinitely. This was not the case for me. I was able to edge him at the end with 20 shovels on my 9th round, but I don’t think I could have continued much longer. My arms were pretty tired from my inferior climbing technique and I was losing steam.

My number ended up being the highest, so I walked away from the first event in first place. I was really surprised by this and felt fortunate it wasn’t an 11 minute AMRAP instead. Heading back to Paris tomorrow and I’m expecting a continuation of the delayed onset muscle soreness that I’m feeling now.

Below is a compilation video from the weekend.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Copenhagen

I'm leaving early in the morning for Copenhagen to compete in their 2010 Danish CrossFit Open. It consists of 5 events Saturday, with cuts after the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th events. None of the workouts will be posted until an hour before things start Saturday, so we have no real idea of what we're in for. I probably will not get the chance to recap or post until Sunday, but if anyone wants to follow CrossFit Copenhagen will be broadcasting live stream on their site:
That's all for now. See you on the other side, Ray.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010


Workout of the Day:

15 minutes of EDD’s, with pistol squat focus

5 x 3 manual resistance bench press

4 x max reps muscle ups (rest as needed)

This workout was not my highest point. The place was crazy packed with people just milling around and I was constantly feeling in the way. I found myself very frustrated with the situation to the point where I was ready to call it a night at several different points before I actually did. Originally I had planned to pair the muscle ups with weighted box jumps, a sequence I was excited about, but there was no way that was happening with all the traffic. Perhaps it’s for the better. A few low workload sessions before this weekend may not be the worst thing in the world, but I just hate the fact that I only get to use this facility 2 times per week and having one of those hours feel like a waste. Oh well. I’m really excited for Copenhagen, and looking forward to a week off to recharge immediately following.

For the workout, I got my friend Didzis to provide pressure to a 60 kg bar while I tried to press upward. Each repetition was probably an 8-10 second fight, so these actually felt pretty effective. The muscle ups were tough due to height and space restrictions. Getting a full kip wasn’t really possible, so the numbers wound up a little lower than I think they should have been. I got 10, 7, 6, and 5 for each of the four respective sets.

Every day can't be a winner, I guess. On the up side, I’ve been eating like a horse. A paleo horse. Here’s hoping good nutrition carries me through the weekend.